Aaaaand…. we’re back with round four of our interview with Dr. Steven Davis, former theology and apologetics professor, current skeptical atheist. Davis’ journey out of the Christian faith is a fascinating one, peppered along the way with a number of critical thinking-points that any conscientious thinker should take time to ponder. Be sure to check out parts one, two, and three of this series to learn more about his de-conversion.
I am particularly excited about today’s installment in our series, and I am hopeful for some meaningful conversation from you, the readers. Please try to keep you comments respectful and on-point, and consult the disagreement pyramid if you need help with this.
If you would like to be able to dialogue with Davis directly, I highly recommend that you contact him via Facebook or Twitter. You can also email me with any questions or comments that you might have.
Happy thinking, friends!
Let’s get into the nitty-gritty. I know that this decision has been the result of considering a huge amalgamation of things, both for and against the Christian faith. But I (and my readers) would love to hear some specifics. What are two or three arguments or evidences that have been pivotal in moving you away from Christianity and toward atheism?
Interesting question, but it’s the lack of evidence for a god or gods that led me to the baseline position I now hold. As I stated in part one of this blog interview: “I prefer to call myself a Rational-Empiricist. Rational-Empiricism is the epistemological position and methodological approach of modern science. Rational-Empiricists hold that the best way humanity has for discovering, understanding, and anticipating facts about our world is when reason and experience (empirical data) work together.” In part three of this blog interview I clearly demonstrated that a rational-empiricist approach to acquiring knowledge about the world is vastly superior (although not perfect) to any other epistemological methodology. In fact, the majority of people agree with this until they’re required to apply it to their religious beliefs.
After many years of intensive study concerning the relevant issues, I came to the conclusion that there’s not enough evidence to believe in any god or gods. That’s it! I also do not think that there’s enough evidence to believe that unicorns or leprechauns exist. I’m under no obligation to explain why I don’t think that unicorns or leprechauns exist. In the same way, I’m under no obligation to explain why I don’t think that a god or gods exist.1 If someone makes the extraordinary claim that unicorns exist, then they are obligated to provide proper evidence that supports belief in unicorns. If someone makes the astonishing claim that leprechauns exist, then they are obligated to provide proper evidence that supports belief in leprechauns. If someone makes the monumental claim that a god or gods exist then they must provide appropriate evidence to demonstrate that a god or gods exist.
Let’s do get into the nitty gritty! Show me the evidence.2 I’m a nonresistant nonbeliever.3 I would have no problem changing my mind about the existence of a god or gods if someone could provide me with the proper kind of evidence that supports the case.4 So, I’m challenging your readers to provide the proper kinds of qualitative and quantitative evidence that supports belief in their god or gods. They’ve had their opportunity to criticize, chastise, mock, and damn me. No doubt some of your readers are upset with me, but that doesn’t make their case. I’m pretty sure that some of your readers think that I’m arrogant, uninformed, mean, and/or insane.5 Well, guess what? Even if true, that doesn’t make their case either. Nothing they can say about me and the starting point6 of my position makes the case for a god or gods.7 Now it’s their turn. It should be easy to do, since the existence of a god or gods is so clear and your commenters are so astute. I’m calling them out! Put up, or shut up!
But, guess what? I don’t think they can do it. They’ll probably come up with all sorts of rationalizations for why they can’t or why they won’t. Or, they’ll go back to criticizing me. Whoops, still haven’t made your case. Make a substantive case or quit pretending that you have one!
At this point, I’m speaking specifically to those who claim to be Christians. Nothing that I say should dissuade you from providing evidence for your claim. Why? Because it has nothing to do with me (see footnote 4), but it has everything to do with you obeying the teaching of the book you refer to as “God’s Word.” In fact, you should be ready, willing, and able to do so!
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” – 1 Peter 3:15 8
“Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.” – Jude 3
“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” – Colossians 4:5-6
“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” – 2 Timothy 2:24-26
God Desires All to Be Saved:
“[God] wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” – 1 Timothy 2:4
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” – 2 Peter 3:9
God Makes His Case Through You:
“[God] has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” – 2 Corinthians 5:19b-20a
No Need to Fear:
“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God.” – Philippians 1:27-28
God Lives In You:
“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” – 1 John 4:4
Unambiguous Case Guaranteed:
“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5
I’m looking forward to the responses.
1: I certainly could, but explaining it in this format is a waste of my time (Matthew 7:6 also comes to mind). I thought about briefly mentioning the negative evidence here, but I knew that someone might be unduly focused on it rather than state their positive case. This part of my blog interview was several thousand words long before I decided to take the approach above. It wasn’t all for naught, since it helped me clarify some things I hope to cover in an upcoming book. But, frankly, I’m tired of trying to explain things to people that aren’t listening in the first place. If you want to have an honest dialogue with me, I’m easy to reach at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2: No doubt someone will argue that I have the burden of proof. Well, if you claim that, you’re wrong. I’m tired of responding to people that don’t know what they’re talking about. Look it up.
3: Look it up. If you do not agree that there are nonresistant nonbelievers it does not make your case for god.
4: I can already imagine someone thinking, “He’s not really going to listen, so I’m not going to do it.” I will listen to real evidence. But, even if I didn’t, you’re obligated to state your case. Your god may use your defense of him/her/it/them to reach someone other than me.
5: As I was typing this post, I received an email informing me that I was both arrogant and an idiot. That may be true, but it still doesn’t make the case for god.
7: Even if you don’t agree with my starting point, that doesn’t make your case for god.
8: All passages are from the New International Version (NIV).