Berean cogitations

Sunday, December 18, 2005

An atheist's comment on why theists believe

Every now and then, I like to participate in some Internet discussions on matters of the faith--theism, Christianity, the pro-life view, and so forth. I've found that this can be a valuable way to gain experience in defending the faith, provided that one can avoid becoming infuriated at some of the more ridiculous attacks on Christianity.

Today, I encountered one fellow who said,

People who believe in God (in my experience) do not do a scientific analysis and after years of study reach the conclusion that there must be a God. People believe there is a God because they just feel it, or they were raised to believe.

Now, there are a number of ways to respond to such comments. One could cite people like C.S. Lewis, for example, who was compelled to believe in God due to the weight of the evidence for his existence. Instead though, I responded with another approach. I simply asked,

And how did you come to this conclusion? Did you perform some manner of scientific study, or do you simply feel it to be true?

I felt those were fair questions to ask. It's a safe bet that this person did not thoroughly examine the reasons why people believe in God. In all likelihood, there was no true methodology behind his claim; indeed, if there were, then he would have learned that many do come to believe in God due to the weight of the evidence. Any thorough philosophy text would have demonstrated that. Consider the following, for example:

  • The cosmological argument for the origin of the universe
  • The ontological argument for a maximally great being
  • The teleological argument for an intelligent designer
  • The moral argument that certain absolute moral rules exist
  • The axiological argument for an ultimate, personally embodied Good
  • The no├Âlogical argument for an ultimate mind
  • The historical arguments for the historicity of the Resurrection and other Biblical accounts
  • The evidence of miracles, fulfilled prophecies and transformed lives

Now, I'm not saying that these arguments (compelling as they may be) would convince everyone. They surely would not. However, they do demonstrate that people don't necessarily believe in God based on some vague feeling. Any person who makes that claim is speaking recklessly, out of true ignorance.