Forty-four questions for a non-believer
The other day while listening to the campus preacher in Turlington plaza, I was confronted and two Christians ganged up on me, trying to convert me. It got me thinking about what arguments there are for Christianity, and I managed to find a website that listed forty-four questions designed to convert a nonbeliever into a believer.
1. How do you explain the high degree of design and order in the universe?
Natural laws can produce beautiful ordered universe, in the same way that an arbitrary mathematic equation can produce a beautiful fractal. Also, it’s important to realize that design and order are subjective terms. I don’t see evidence for design in the universe, and the total order or entropy of the universe is decreasing.
2. How do you account for the vast archaeological documentation of Biblical stories, places, and people?
I don’t refute the fact that parts of the Bible are backed up by archaeological documentation, as parts of it are in all likelihood, historically accurate. However, there are also large sections of the Bible that are not backed up by archeological data, such as the exodus of the Jews from Egypt, the great flood and Noah’s ark, the resurrection of Jesus, and the Biblical account of creation.
3. Since absolutely no Bible prophecy has ever failed (and there are hundreds), how can one realistically remain unconvinced that the Bible is of Divine origin?
It’s not true that Biblical prophecies have never failed. Ezekiel chapter 26 predicted that the city of Tyre would be destroyed during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar. The prophesy predicted that the entire city would be left as bare rock and never be rebuilt. Instead the city was never completely destroyed, and is currently a metropolitan area of over 100,000 inhabitants.
Matt 12:40 predicts that the son of God will be in the belly of the earth for three days and three nights, however all four gospels say that Jesus died Friday evening and rose Sunday at dawn, allowing him less than 36 hours to be in the belly of the earth.
In Matt 24:34, Jesus predicts that the end of the world and all the fantastic “signs” he describes will occur within the lifetimes of the “current generation” or those currently living at the time Jesus spoke those words. Clearly, this prophecy failed.
Isaiah 7:14 predicted that the messiah would be given the name “Immanuel” however, there is no reference to Jesus ever being called Immanuel.
It’s also important to note that many of the prophesies in the Bible are self-fufilling prophesies, lending no credence to the statement that the Bible is divinely inspired.
4. How can anyone doubt the reliability of Scripture considering the number and proximity to originals of its many copied manuscripts?
Given the number of translations and copies made of the Bible over the generations, I find this to be an argument against the Bible. For example, the latin word for “virgin” also means “young girl”. Over a thousand years later, when the Bible was translated out of latin, how did they know that Mary was a virgin instead of just a young girl?
5. Are you able to live consistently with your present worldview?
Yes. I’m satisfied and fulfilled with my current world view as well.
6. Wouldn’t it make better sense, even pragmatically, to live as though the God of the Bible does exist than as though He doesn’t?
Honestly, I think this is the one argument which is the most convincing, but that isn’t saying much. I would rather risk eternal torture than twiddle my thumbs waiting for the Christian’s eternal life, wasting my one chance at taking control of my own existence, and deluding myself of reality. So no, that doesn’t make better sense. This is essentially the same argument at Pascal’s wager. Who’s to say that God rewards Christians in the afterlife and not Muslims, or some other religion?
7. In what sense was Jesus a ‘Good Man’ if He was lying in His claim to be God?
Jesus may have been a nice guy, but I’m not sure he was a ‘Good Man’ considering that the was lying in His claim to be God.
8. Do you think that Jesus was misguided in affirming the truthfulness of Scripture, i.e. John 10:35, Matthew 24, Luke 24:44?
9. If the Bible is not true, why is it so universally regarded as the ‘Good Book’?
Since when is the Bible universally regarded as the ‘Good Book’ when it portrays the stoning of disobedient women and children, genocide, a wrathful and vengeful God, and slavery? Honestly, I’m surprised anyone who’s read the Bible regards it as a ‘Good Book’.
10. From whence comes humanity’s universal moral sense?
As people became social creatures, a genetic, ingrained social structure was neccessary for the success of our species. Evolution genetically programmed rough ideas of good, associated with pleasure and happiness, and bad, associated with pain and suffering. Our intelligence and social ties form (or subvert) the rest of our conscience.
11. If man is nothing but the random arrangement of molecules, what motivates you to care and to live honorably in the world?
I care and live honorably in this world because I love life and enjoy my existence, however meaningless and pointless it may be. I can assign value to my life and take pleasure in it.
12. Explain how personality could have ever evolved from the impersonal, or how order could have ever resulted from chaos.
I’m not sure what they mean by personality evolving from the impersonal, but order frequently results from chaos, due to the input of energy into a system.
13. If Jesus’ resurrection was faked, why would twelve intelligent men (Jesus’ disciples) have died for what they knew to be a lie?
Perhaps they weren’t as intelligent as you assume? How should I know? I didn’t personally know them. There are plenty of cult sacrifices and suicides.
14. How do you explain the fact that a single, relatively uneducated and virtually untraveled man, dead at age 33, radically changed lives and society to this day?
Everyone changes society more than others. Just because Jesus radically changed society does not lend any more credence to Christianity or the Bible; all it says is that Jesus managed to fool a lot of people, and people to this day are still fooled by such fairy tales.
15. Why have so many of history’s greatest thinkers been believers? Have you ever wondered why thousands of intelligent scientists, living and dead, have been men and women of great faith?
Many great thinkers have believed in God, and many great thinkers have also been atheists. However, a disproportionate number of great thinkers have been atheists. People’s belief in God is their own choice, and just because a great thinker believed or didn’t believe in God does not convince me that there is or isn’t a God. I think for myself, thank you very much.
16. Isn’t it somewhat arrogant to suggest that countless churches and people (including men like Abraham Lincoln) are all radically in error in their view of the Bible?
I never suggest that they are flat wrong in believing in God. They are free to believe in whatever they want and to engage in whatever forms of ignorance they choose, just as I am.
17. How do you account for the origin of life considering the irreducible complexity of its essential components?
Irreducible complexity is a tired old horse which has been disproved many times over. Evangelicals should save this question for people who know nothing about evolutionary biology.
18. How can the Second Law of Thermodynamics be reconciled with progressive, naturalistic evolutionary theory?
I hate it when people misinterpret the Second Law of Thermodynamics, thinking they’ve cornered an evolutionist with some obscure law of physics. The Second Law of Thermodynamics only operates under a closed system. Considering that the universe is a closed system, entropy has been increasing since the big bang. The earth, on the other hand, has never been a closed system, which means that entropy does not necessarily increase or decrease over time. Again, evangelicals should save this question for people who have never heard of the Law of Entropy.
19. Why does the Bible alone, of all of the world’s ‘holy’ books, contain such detailed prophecies of future events?
Most of the Bible’s predictions are vague or are self-fufilling, and many of the prophesies have turned out to be false.
20. On what basis can the Bible (interpreted as per historic Christian orthodoxy) be challenged as a sole, final truth-standard (Galatians 1:8)?
It’s a book, written by man, filled with failed prophesies and contradictions, interpreted and translated by hundreds, if not thousands of people over hundreds of generations. I think that’s plenty sufficient basis. It’s a fallible historical document (like any other), not a magic book.
21. Is it absolutely true that “truth is not absolute” or only relatively true that “all things are relative?”
Evangelicals must expect to trip up many an unsuspecting naturalist with this question. Absolutism and relativism are both beside the point. The fact of the matter is that (almost) all of our knowledge is based on our senses, in one way or another. Since we are constantly experiencing new things, we must be open to the idea that what we once held true, could turn out to be false. This is called falsifiability, and that’s the real thing I’d like to see Christians address.
22. Is it possible that your unbelief in God is actually an unwillingness to submit to Him?
I can’t be unwilling to submit to him if I don’t believe in Him first. This argument makes no sense.
23. Does your present worldview provide you with an adequate sense of meaning and purpose?
Yes, it does. I hope yours does the same for you.
24. How do you explain the radically changed lives of so many Christian believers down through history?
Those who have had their lives radically changed by Christianity have changed their own lives by choosing to believe in the Bible and following it’s tenets. No God helped them to turn their lives around, they did it themselves. There are examples of people radically changing their lives due to conversion to hundreds of different religions. There is nothing specific or special about the effect which Christianity has on it’s followers.
25. Are you aware that every alleged Bible contradiction has been answered in an intelligible and credible manner?
If I say that the sky is blue, then later I mention that the sky is red, that could considered a contradiction, as the sky cannot be simultaneously blue and red. Logically, it could be resolved by assuming that the sky was blue during the day, and it was red later in the day while the sun was setting. Of course, equally likely, you could have resolved the contradiction by saying that I was talking about two photoshopped photographs. Or I could have just been lying in one of the statements. The fact is that anyone can come up with an explanation to solve a contradiction, but just because it can be explained, does not make it any less of a contradiction. Furthermore, I highly doubt that every contradiction has been answered, and that every answer is both intelligible and credible.
26. What do you say about the hundreds of scholarly books that carefully document the veracity and reliability of the Bible?
I agree that some parts of the Bible are historically accurate. There are also parts of the Bible which are not supported by secular historical documents, and I don’t regard those parts as historically true or reliable.
27. Why and how has the Bible survived and even flourished in spite of centuries of worldwide attempts to destroy and ban its message?
Because there were crazy people who were brainwashed by it and wouldn’t let it go? The fact of the matter is there never was a worldwide attempt to destroy and ban the message of the Bible. Granted, it was a quiet cult for about 300 years after the death of Jesus, but after that, it was legally tolerated within the Roman empire, eventually becoming practically the exclusive state sponsored religion of Europe, which would eventually come to culturally dominate the western world. Compared to many religions, christians have been persecuted much less than others.
28. Why isn’t it absurd to try to speak or even conceive of a non-existent ‘God’ when an existing God would, by definition, be greater?
I don’t understand what is meant by this question. In what sense would an existing God be greater or better than a non-existing God?
29. Have you ever considered the fact that Christianity is the only religion whose leader is said to have risen from the dead?
If I told you that my grandmother rose from the dead, would you believe me? Perhaps if I wrote about it in a book, you might believe me in 2000 years? Yeah, I don’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead either. Claims don’t mean a thing.
30. How do you explain the empty tomb of Jesus in light of all the evidence that has now proven essentially irrefutable for twenty centuries?
An empty tomb is hardly evidence for Jesus’ resurrection. If I showed you an empty tomb and told you that my grandmother used to be in there, would you assume she rose from the dead and walked out of there?
31. If Jesus did not actually die and rise from the dead, how could He (in His condition) have circumvented all of the security measures in place at His tomb?
Ok, so now I’m going to tell you there were guards at my grandmother’s tomb. Do you believe me now?
32. If the authorities stole Jesus’ body, why? Why would they have perpetrated the very scenario that they most wanted to prevent?
I don’t pretend to know the motives of politicians from 2000 years ago, and neither should you.
33. If Jesus merely resuscitated in the tomb, how did He deal with the Roman guard posted just outside its entrance?
Ever heard of a thing called bribery?
34. How can one realistically discount the testimony of over 500 witnesses to a living Jesus following His crucifixion (see 1 Corinthians 15:6)?
So now the standard of truth and reality is whatever 500+ people tell you it is? I’m sure its possible to find 500 witnesses who will testify to the life changing ability and veracity of the Koran. How can one realistically discount their testimony?
35. If all of Jesus’ claims to be God were the result of His own self-delusion, why didn’t He evidence lunacy in any other areas of His life?
Whose to say He didn’t exhibit lunacy in other areas of His life? Furthermore, I would argue that claiming to be the son of a supernatural deity is enough evidence of lunacy.
36. If God is unchanging, wouldn’t it be true that one who changes by suddenly “realizing” that he/she is “God” therefore isn’t God?
I don’t believe in a changing or unchanging God.
37. Is your unbelief in a perfect God possibly the result of a bad experience with an imperfect Church or a misunderstanding of the facts, and therefore an unfair rejection of God Himself?
No, I have yet to see how the Christian’s God is perfect. How is it that a vengeful, wrathful God who endorses slavery and genocide is perfect? Furthermore, the arguments I have heard concerning why God created evil, or allowed evil to occur have been unconvincing. Christians claim that God created evil so that we could have fee will, then freely choose to love him, but why didn’t God create a world in which we freely choose to love God without all the pain and suffering caused by evil. If God is perfect and all powerful, he could have done that. He would rather see some people suffer so that others will freely worship and glorify Him.
38. How did 35-40 men, spanning 1500 years and living on three separate continents, ever manage to author one unified message, i.e. the Bible?
The Bible was edited very carefully by the Catholics, leaving out books from the Cannon which they felt did not belong. It’s not that difficult to mix, match, and put together a cohesive book from disparate pieces when some of those pieces can be discarded.
39. Would you charge the Declaration of Independence with error in affirming that “all men are endowed by their Creator…”?
I fault the Declaration of Independence no more than I fault the Iliad for referencing Zeus, Hera, Apollo, and Aphrodite. Each are important works of literature which reflect that time period’s culture.
40. Because life origins are not observable, verifiable, or falsifiable, how does historical ‘science’ amount to anything more than just another faith system?
A great many things in science are not observable, verifiable, or falsifiable yet. A God based on this fact would be nothing more than a God of the gaps and an argument for such a God is simply a plea from ignorance.
41. What do you make of all the anthropological studies indicating that even the most remote tribes show some sort of theological awareness?
Ignorance fosters belief in the supernatural. If I don’t understand what lightning is, or where it comes from, it isn’t much of a stretch to make up a supernatural explanation.
42. Why subscribe to the incredible odds that the tilt and position of our planet relative to the sun are merely coincidental?
I’m drawn to the a Richard Dawkin’s quote here: “. . . imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’ This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it’s still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise.”
43. If every effect has a cause, and if God Himself is the universe (i.e. is one with the universe, as some non-Christians suggest), what or who then caused the universe?
Christians constantly press naturalists on precisely what “created” the universe, but who presses the Christians on precisely what “created” God? Christians are eager to say that everything has a cause or a creator, of course, except God, yet they can’t accept the same reasoning for the universe.
44. What would be required to persuade you to become a believer?
Unforeseeable and exceptional first-hand personal experience. When I die, I’ll find out whether I’m right or wrong.
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- 12 February 2007 / 1:57 pm