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Does God Believe?
Entry 988, on 2009-04-14 at 20:34:19 (Rating 2, Religion)
My fundy friend today handed me a DVD titled "Does God Believe in Atheists?" which contained a speech by John Blanchard who wrote a book with that same title. The DVD tried to make a case for atheism being invalid and tried to show that belief in a god is the only sensible philosophy.
I admit that if you looked at this DVD in isolation you might be quite persuaded. The problem is that in the right circumstances its possible to make a strong case for anything - and I really do mean anything. I know I could make a good case for a flat Earth if I had the right conditions, for example.
So what are those conditions? Some or all of the following: a skilled presenter or speaker, a receptive uncritical audience, no debate on contentious points, no checking of the validity or truth of any "facts" presented, and carefully selected material being prepared before the event.
So what invalid claims did the presenter make in this case? Well there were so many that its impossible to list them all here, but I'll give a few examples of the different types I saw.
There was the old claim that something had to cause the Universe to appear and that could only be God. If that is the case then what caused God? Surely God had to be even greater and more complex than the Universe so any argument related to the origin of the Universe could be even more relevant to the origin of God. And if God is allowed to be eternal then there's no reason why the Universe or Multiverse couldn't be eternal as well. This is a classic case of invalid logic, specifically special pleading. If anyone had been allowed to question this presentation then the speaker would have been destroyed on this point.
A favourite of creationists is the misleading or partial quote. The presenter quoted a scientist who made a comment which sounded like he supported the existence of God. Maybe he did, because many scientists do believe in God, but almost always as a personal, cultural belief, not a scientific one. Even if the quote was a scientific one would it be valid? I could easily find a quote from a theologian saying the Bible shouldn't be taken literally. Does that prove God doesn't exist? No it doesn't, no more than an isolated quote from a scientist proves the opposite. Again the presenter would be destroyed by any competent debater.
Another common error (from a logical perspective) is the presentation of an opinion as if its a fact. The claim was made that the gospels are reliable in their discussion of the alleged life of Jesus. Many people would disagree with this. There are clear inconsistencies in the stories and no supporting evidence outside the Bible that the events happened at all. No one would say these stories are reliable in any way if there wasn't a strong religious aspect to them. Again it would be easy to make the presenter look very silly.
So I think that if the program had been a debate instead of a prepared speech in a particularly friendly environment (a church in this case) the outcome would have been quite different. At the very least it would be obvious that there are two sides to the story. A really good atheist debater would have been able to destroy the Christian and make him look like he is either a liar or very ignorant of the subject he has written and spoken about.
Certainly the claim he made near the end, that "atheism lies in ruins at the feet of Jesus of Nazareth" is pure and simple nonsense.
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