Friday, May 22, 2015

Where's the Evidence?

I wrote about the irrational nature of conversions to Christianity.  So far, nobody has answered my challenge to show me a conversion story that was based more on rational deliberation than emotion.  I remain convinced that genuine rational deliberation can't possibly result in conversion to Christianity.  After all, there's so much about it that doesn't make sense to a rational person.  But that doesn't stop Christians from making claims about the rational nature of their belief.  They say they've examined the evidence.  They say they've weighed all the facts with an objective mind, and therefore, we can be sure that their belief rests on solid intellectual foundations.  But exactly what is this solid evidence they find so convincing?  Here are a few examples.

CS Lewis:
Early in 1926 the hardest boiled of all the atheists I ever knew sat in my room on the other side of the fire and remarked that the evidence for the historicity of the Gospels was really surprisingly good. "Rum thing," he went on. "All that stuff of Frazer's about the Dying God. Rum thing. It almost looks as if it had really happened once."
So that's what is convincing the religious mind?  Some "hard boiled" atheist reportedly says the evidence for the gospel stories is really good.  He didn't say who made this claim.  He didn't say what the evidence was.  He didn't say why it was good.  But to Lewis' uncritical readers, the idea that an atheist could accept it is supposed to be convincing.  Perhaps they should read the bible.  What can we learn about the resurrection?  Does Paul ever say he saw Jesus in the flesh?  No, Paul actually says that Jesus was resurrected "in the spirit".  Does the original version of Mark (before the ending verses were added) ever mention a resurrection?  Don't the other gospels admit that people who supposedly saw the resurrected Jesus (even disciples) weren't sure who they were seeing?  Any skeptical person who reads these accounts ought to be thinking the evidence for the historicity of the gospels is really surprisingly sketchy.  This is not just the unwillingness of an atheist to accept it.  The testimony of the gospels themselves raises these doubts.

Shackleman (commenter at Dangerous Idea):
The following ten YEARS of deep thought, reflection, study, and research culminated eventually in my conversion. But my atheism went down with a substantial fight, and even now, and perhaps for the remainder of my life, the allure of that agnostic upbringing, the evolutionary framework, the Problem of Evil---the still all lurk in the shadows of my mind, and at times pull with a palpable force toward de-conversion.
Well, that sounds really nice, but what did he study and research?  Perhaps he should pass his findings on to the rest of the world so we can benefit from this secret knowledge.  Or maybe he's just blowing smoke to make it sound as if his conversion is rationally based.  Actually, other parts of his story paint a different picture. 
what sent me into a cold-sweat crisis wasn't just the fears that came with truly comprehending my own annihilation at my death---but also it "dawned" on me that if atheism were true, then some form of deterministic materialism was also more than likely true
In other words, contemplating the implications of physical reality turned him into an emotional wreck, and he couldn't handle that.  Any study and research he did after that was nothing more than feeding his confirmation bias.

Sean McDowell:
I started studying, reading books by Christian apologists and skeptics. I read as much of both sides as I could. And after much reflection, I came to the conclusion that my faith was well-grounded. The evidence for Christianity is compelling, but the thing that struck me the most was Jesus of Nazareth. I just couldn’t explain how a man with no political or military power could have such a world-changing impact. And it wasn’t just the historical evidence that shook me — it was also His insight into the human condition. The central problem with the world, according to Jesus, is the wickedness of the human heart. We want to do everything our way. Even though I was a pretty decent kid growing up, I began to clearly recognize my own pride and rebellion against God. I, too, needed a savior.
Once again, no mention of what he read, what evidence he considered, or what kind of deliberations he went through.  After much reflection on the beliefs that had already been thoroughly inculcated into his young mind, he finally decided that he couldn't abandon those beliefs that were so strongly ingrained.  But at least he could try to convince his readers that he had done his homework.  Unfortunately for him, not all of his readers are so uncritical.

Given that the bible itself gives us plenty of reason to take the gospel stories with shaker of salt, why is it that Christians are so thoroughly convinced by it?  It seems we can't really get a straight, honest answer.  But if you listen to their stories carefully, they always reveal other motivations for belief, especially their unwillingness to accept the idea that a time will come when they will be long gone, and their lives will no longer matter.  And those motivations come before their attempts to seek intellectual justification.  This "rational deliberation" cannot be described as objective in any meaningful sense.  It can be described more fairly as a search for reasons to believe.  As long as you don't examine them too carefully.


  1. Skep, You might find it profitable to read this.

    1. You do realize, don't you, that an atheist could say pretty much the same things about arguing with theists?

      In this post, I asked for evidence - not of God's existence, but for something Christians always claim they they are absolutely convinced because the evidence is so solid. What makes you so certain that Jesus rose from the dead, and what makes you so certain that there can be no "natural" explanation for the events described in the bible?

      Your response might be simply the evidence is really good, without explaining what it is that makes you so convinced. Or your response might be you just can't argue with those blind, ignorant atheists, so I won't even try.

      Either way, you are dodging the question. I think I know the real reason you won't answer it.

  2. SRV says: "The evidence and arguments we have are enough to make the "leap of faith". God and human immortality are not 100% proven, but by a preponderance of the evidence, our hope is justified and reasonable."

    I reply: "My point, exactly."