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. 

3 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Wow! This is quite an honor. There were 3 winners selected. One is Joe Heschmeyer of Shameless Popery who is a guy I respect greatly. A lawyer and a seminarian and someone who makes great arguments for the church. To be on the same list as he is just seems strange. Thanks so much. God bless you all.

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