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.