Sunday, April 17, 2016

No Evidence For God's Existence?

In interacting with atheists on-line one of the most common lines you run into is the bold assertion that "There is no evidence for the existence of God" usually emphasized with all caps or exclamation points or something. It is a hard thing to respond to without being insulting. Think about it logically. They are not saying the evidence for God is insufficient. They are saying there is none. What is evidence? Evidence for something is data that makes that something at least a little more probable. It does not have to prove that thing. It just has to provide some weight towards that proof.

What is being denied is even the existence of very weak evidence. The vast majority of people in the world believe in God but not a single one of them has even the weakest piece of evidence for that belief. How do you respond to such a mind-boggling claim? It is even more amazing that many of these atheists assume all smart people would accept such a claim as obvious. If you respond by trying to explain how crazy their reasoning is then you quickly get into a name-calling exchange which has no value. So rational discussion ends up shut down. Ironically enough, atheists are actually a very hard people group to reason with.

This is what made Fr Robert J. Spitzer's book, The Soul's Upward Yearning, so refreshing. He goes over some very interesting thinking about what evidence there actually is for the existence of God. There have actually been some very good scholars that have looked at the question from many different perspectives. The book contains many arguments involving miracles and astrophysics and on and on. The one I want to focus on here is the human person's innate tendency to become religious. That seems to be the most obvious line of inquiry. If almost all humans in all cultures throughout all of history believe in God then you might want to ask why. Just assuming you are smart and all of those billions of other people are not is a bit of a stretch. 

The first thing that stuck me was how similar the different experiences and expressions were across cultures and throughout history. They looked 3 datasets. 
  1. The psychological belief in transcendence and significance
  2. The social structures around religious myths and rituals 
  3. The role of conscience in our consciousness and the demands it paces on us
Each of these 3 things have caused many people to conclude that God is real. These arguments are similar but not the same. When taken together they do gain strength because they reinforce each other. 

Again we have the modern culture looking at the same data and arriving at the exact opposite conclusion. They see religion in many cultures and throughout history but they focus on the differences and not the similarities. Sure there are some differences. Yet you have to ask what would you expect the data to look like if atheism were true and what you would expect the data to look like if theism were true. 

I think there is the assumption that if theism were true everyone would agree on the myths and rituals. Yet why should that be the case. If God is happy to let man approach Him in an imperfect way then that is what we would expect. Different people come up with different ideas. If God does not correct these ideas quickly and efficiently then they are going to hang around for many generations. Yet that is hardly a logical impossibility. Christianity, for one, accepts that God often works with people who believe bad theology. So God's failure to make the true religion obvious and undeniable is hardly evidence He does not exist.

The reality is God has done quite a bit to make the true religion obvious. We are just very thick. I know I was. Yet when I saw the truth of Catholicism I could not help but be overwhelmed by how strong the evidence really is. It really is the city built on a hill and still we somehow miss it. So God does a lot to point us in the right direction but he does not do enough for some. Giving us Jesus. Giving us the church. Giving His presence in our hearts and minds. If you look at the totality of what God offers us it is amazing. Yet it is not enough for us until one day we decide that it is. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


I wonder about blogging. I have been doing it a while and I like writing down my thoughts. I am just not sure what kinds of thoughts make the most sense. I have been blogging a lot of scriptural reflections lately. I like to contemplate scripture. Yet very few people read it. What is more, I am more sure people should read it. If folks want to read scriptural reflections I am thinking that mine are not the best use of their time. There are some very good biblical writers out there and my $0.02 is not worth much when the demand is pretty low.

Besides, people who are drawn by biblical reflections are typically already Christian. So you are not really encountering the culture or going our into the peripheries as Pope Francis likes to say. It is basically an inward focused activity.

You can get more readership by connecting with the pop culture. You can reflect on the latest news stories and movies and scandals and whatnot. The trouble is that takes a lot of effort. You need to be right up to date and on top of everything. I just don't have time to stay right on top of cultural happenings. I do like to reflect on movies and TV but I often don't see them until the public interest has cooled off a lot. I like it that way. It means I can pick and choose. It just means nobody is going to care much what I write about it after.

Then there are the arguments. I have argued with protestants quite a bit. I find it is hard to find any protestants who are at all interested in interacting with Catholic arguments. Many will argue with atheism because they know why they reject atheism and can express it in a compelling way. Most protestants don't understand why they are not Catholic. Why that is such a closed question in their minds. Engaging Catholic arguments just makes them uncomfortable. It does not lead to a productive conversation.

I do argue with atheists quite a bit. I don't do it here. It is quite hard to find places where charitable conversations with atheists happen. I know of a couple and I go there a lot. I like to show how Catholicism can stand up to the scrutiny of very smart atheist opponents. Of course, said opponents eventually loose patience. Catholicism is hard to argue with. It is relentlessly logical. If you don't want to become Catholic it can become quite frustrating. I thought so when I was a protestant. 

The other think I have done with some success is respond to other people's articles. Maybe I need to do that more. Find some things to respond to. I do think I need to be more positive. We will see.