Historical Arguments for God
I read this article by Peter Kreeft with eight historical arguments for God, in the hopes that it would be based on evidence, and not just another piece of simple-minded apologetic clap-trap. I should have known better.
First: Meaning and purpose. "If atheism is true, there are no adventures, nothing has intrinsic significance ..." As with the teleological argument, the a priori assumption is made that there is no purpose or meaning without God. This is pure horse-pucky. Of course, there is meaning and purpose. We all agree about that. We disagree about where it comes from. We humans assign meaning to things. We have purpose insofar as we have our own goals and desires. This is simply human nature, and God plays no role in any of it.
Second: Moral design. "Whenever God's laws are followed, the people prosper. When they are violated, the people perish." Really? This is nothing but wishful thinking. History (and indeed, the bible itself) is replete with tales of innocents who suffered and died, and of wicked people who never felt the consequences of their actions. The bible ponders why people suffer, and it is not always because of their own sins. (See Bart Ehrman: God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question--Why We Suffer). This is arguably the single biggest reason that thinking people turn away from theism. There is no moral design revealed in history or the bible.
Third: Providential coincidences. "Insightful and unprejudiced examination of these "coincidences" will bring us at least to the suspicion, if not to the conviction, that an unseen divine hand is at work here." On the contrary, insightful and unprejudiced examination of evidence is what we call science. And it certainly does not lead to the conviction that God is in any way involved with the unfolding of events. For every outcome that appears providential, there are perhaps many more other outcomes that don't appear so providential. It is only the predisposition of theists that leads them to conclude the existence of God, when the evidence is flimsy at best.
Fourth: Miracles. "The evidence is there for those who have eyes to see or, rather, the will to look." This statement reveals the truth about evidence of miracles. You have to have "eyes to see". That is, you have to be predisposed to interpret what you see as miraculous. The bible does not contain one single eye-witness account of Jesus' resurrection, nor does it contain one single story written by someone who actually knew Jesus during his lifetime. Yet Christians are convinced that it is rock-solid evidence. A substance with the properties of the blood of St. Januarius can be re-created with materials and techniques available to Medieval artisans. And what about all the contradictory accounts of what was witnessed at Fatima? Skeptical scientists who examined the Shroud of Turin have in fact concluded that it is Medieval in origin, that the negative impressions can be reproduced using a simple technique similar to stone rubbing, that the blood stains are actually red ocher, and that geometry of the impressions doesn't fit a normal human body in 3D. Christians love to claim that they are looking at the evidence objectively, but they accept extremely sketchy evidence as being convincing, while dismissing any evidence to the contrary as being unconvincing. They have it exactly backwards. It's not evidence that leads then to a conclusion. It's their a priori belief that gives them eyes to see which bits of evidence they will accept and which bits they will dismiss.
Fifth: The person of Jesus. "Which is he—Lord, lunatic, or liar?" I always find it striking that Christians so easily dismiss a fourth, and far more likely possibility: that that stories about Jesus are, at least in part, fabricated. The earliest writings in the NT (from Paul) don't ascribe to Jesus any kind of divine status during his lifetime. The oldest of the gospels indicates that Jesus was a normal human, adopted by God as his son at the time of his baptism, and the later gospels push that divinity back to an earlier timeframe. If you take an honest, objective look at the NT (including the oldest available manuscripts), you see clear evidence of a story that developed over time - one that started out with Jesus being an ordinary human and making no claims of divinity, and that evolved into a story of an eternal divine being who does miracles and rises from the dead.
Sixth: The saints. "If there is no God, how can life's most fundamental illusion cause life's greatest joy?" I've never known a saint, so it's hard for me to say whether the actual life of a saint (as opposed to the stories) is evidence for or against Christianity and God. And I think most Christians should feel the same about it, unless they are predisposed to believe whatever stories reinforce what they want to believe.
Seventh: Conversion. "Christ won the hearts of men by the miracle of "amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me."" It's called delusion. People are deluded about all kinds of things, but no delusion is more common among mankind than religious belief. It's not mysterious. People are comforted by the delusion that they will live forever. It distracts them from the often painful realities of life and the certainty of death. This is not unique to Christianity. Religious delusions have always comforted mankind. Jesus is a relative latecomer to the party. But the message of Christianity is basically the same: toe the line and bear the burdens of this earthly life, and you'll get your reward, once you're dead.
Eighth: Life's experiences. "all the agnostic has to do is to seek, sincerely, honestly, and with an open mind, and he will find, in God's way and in God's time." The assumption here is that this hasn't been tried already. We unbelievers are supposed to be hard-hearted, and unwilling to seek religious belief. But we come from the same society and the same backgrounds as believers. Many of us were avid believers until the evidence convinced us otherwise. Many of us left the fold after years of desperately trying to hold on to our beliefs in the face of doubts. They did seek, and they eventually found a different truth.