What is Enough Evidence for an Atheist or a Christian?

Today I heard a panel discussion by three atheists who were kind and brave enough to address our Christian apologetics organization, Ratio Christi. The panel was asked to explain their thoughts about atheism and Christianity. One of the participants repeatedly told us that he flatly dismissed any and all philosophical reasoning as evidence for Christianity. He considered philosophy as so much sophistry and illusion, mere words capable of deception. He hammered philosophy quite thoroughly, making it clear that he put no confidence in the philosophical arguments for God, such as, for example, a logical cosmological argument presented by William Lane Craig. What he did consider valid is empirical evidence, things we can test and hold as hard data.

The atheist claimed that he had objections that no Christians had been able to answer, that they always stopped talking before he did. This made me a bit suspicious, for all people, atheist or Christians, tend to stop talking when the other side becomes unreasonable. More often, the most annoying person is the last one speaking.

One of our apologists asked him what were the questions that Christians were not able to answer. His list was:

–how do we know that what you believe is true?
–how would you know if it’s false?
–how would superior evidence overwhelm your belief?
–what’s more probable: your position being true or it being false?

Now from someone who had just told me several times that he only focused on empirical evidence, not philosophy, I would have expected some questions that involved empirical data–some answer that involved pressure, temperature, or quantity. But when asked about his most troubling questions, he mentioned how to draw a logical conclusion. The only way to answer the questions he provided is to see if proper conclusions are drawn from valid premises. This man, while decrying philosophy, asked for philosophical answers. His statements were self refuting.

Why he would ask for philosophical answers is obvious, for philosophy is merely thinking. We do not have the option of whether or not to think, but only whether or not to do it poorly or well. Etienne Gilson has wisely stated “Philosophy buries its own undertakers.”

It would appear that this atheist only dismisses philosophy when it is convenient for him to ignore such principles as things not arising without a cause. He is quick to tell Christians that their claims must follow the law of noncontradiction and valid principles of epistemology.


About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
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One Response to What is Enough Evidence for an Atheist or a Christian?

  1. The Thinker says:

    I sympathize. i’m trying to get my fellow atheists to stop knocking philosophy and sometimes it’s hard. I tell them that you cannot have a coherent worldview without philosophy, but some just don’t get it. These kinds of atheists embarrass me the same way young earth creationists must embarrass you.

    But while on topic, here is a short list of things that would convince me that atheism or at least materialism was false:

    1. If there was direct, verifiable, empirical, scientific evidence for god, I would accept that god is real. This would be fantastically easy for any omnipotent god to provide. Now a critic would say this is too much down the line of logical positivism, but there is no reason why, in principle, god wouldn’t or couldn’t give us verifiable evidence for his existence. Many would say that if we had proof god existed, then we wouldn’t be able to voluntary reject god. I disagree. I can reject my parents or my friends even though I don’t deny that they exist, and so I can do the same with god. Thus I feel that the objections against why god wouldn’t/couldn’t give us proof don’t hold up.

    2. If, for example, all of the scientific evidence pointed to an earth and universe that was less than 10,000 years old and there was no evidence for evolution (as many creationists believe), or, if all the scientific evidence pointed to a relatively small, geocentric-model of the universe with earth at the center and all the planets and stars revolving around it, then I would say that there would certainly have to be a god, or some kind of creator that made the world for human beings.

    3. If there was a religion that accurately described the world historically and scientifically, such as with the universe and earth’s true age, the cosmic and biological evolutionary process, germs, DNA, human sexuality, or something very detailed and specific that no human could have known at the time, and if it was free of irrational dogma and made logical sense, that would convince me that it was likely true. The existence of such a religion would convince me that its deity was most certainly real, or at least more likely true than not.

    4. If there was good scientific evidence that free will existed or that mental events came prior to and caused physical brain events, that might push me towards some sort of agnosticism that dualism could be true. It would not necessarily convince me that there is a theistic god that exists, but it might make me jettison materialism. If this evidence existed in tandem with any of the other above evidences, that would further convince me that materialism is false, and that theism is more probable.

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