Saturday, August 5, 2017

'When an atheist says': Response to Christian viral video

Been so much going on recently, and I haven't given an update for so long. Blog and podcast have been silent of late. But I am still here, yes, I promise you'll be hearing more from caribatheist soon.

I am still concerned about the grip that religion has on our society, the widespread negative assumptions that people still make about atheists and just the general lack of critical thinking that abounds.

Maybe, it's my imagination but recently there seems to be an increase in videos circulating from Christian websites through facebook and social media trying to show that the arguments made by atheists are not as rational as we purport them to be. There's the old 'atheist professor' one which has been recycled many times and was the basis for the successful "God's not Dead"  movie,

And then there's this one here, that came my way today. It's been going around with the instruction 'tag an atheist'. So for sure it is expected to make us think about stuff and change our ways. Well, here is my response below. Feel free to share this and to take a leaf out of their book, I ask you to "tag a Christian"

Make sure you watch the video before going through my response. I assess the video through 12 points it brings up. What would your response have been?

1.     Attitude of the atheist- He comes across as rude and arrogant, not even letting the Christian finish his sentences. Rainer and Norbert both pointed this out. I don't know any atheist who would attack someone off the bat for simply reading a bible verse on a smart phone. There could be a lot of good reasons for reading the bible and why not use technology to do it? So, the portrayal here is an atheist caricature. For religious people that have never interacted with atheists, this can make them feel that atheists generally are bullies and unapproachable. Not hard to see that many believers would have a negative view of the atheist character being portrayed here, even though the actual arguments he is presenting are sound. This technique, uses a logical fallacy known as 'poisoning the well'. 

2.     Other religions point to facts too- Many other believers in other religions and unproven phenomena, (including some mentioned in the video) also point to 'facts' as the reason for their belief. Christianity is not different from other belief systems in that respect. 

3.     Scholars that say Jesus existed- Whether this is true or not is irrelevant to the argument on resurrection. It's also an ‘appeal to authority’ fallacy. The actual arguments matter here. The way to approach this is to read what arguments the scholars are making and then examine whether the conclusion they draw is supported by the arguments they have made. 

4.     Disciples were convinced that he rose from the dead- two things are problematic here. Firstly, the Christian here is assuming that the biblical account of the disciples is correct. No evidence has been provided in the video for the reliability of the bible, and many of the claims in the bible are not supported by other contemporaneous writings. Given the extraordinary nature of the claim it is even more important than usual that the source of the writing is trustworthy. That would need to be demonstrated and that is missing from here. Secondly, the 'fact' the disciples were convinced is not strong evidence of the fact that the thing happened. Most of us have been convinced at one time or another that something was true and then found it to be false. It's a part of being human.

5.     Skeptics became Christians- This is a trivial observation. There are many skeptics that have become Christians, but there have been also many Christians that have become skeptics. There have also been many people who converted to other religions from Christianity and from other religions to Christianity for all sorts of reasons. To just take one or two accounts that happen to be recorded in the bible as evidence, and ignore all the other evidence is fallacious. Again, the more important thing here is the reasons for the change rather than simply the fact that someone changed his mind. Many people in history have changed their minds for bad reasons. And I know that sometimes families have some feuds and divides, but it still can’t be seen as remarkable that you were able to convince your brother James. J

6.     The tomb was empty- I have never understood how this counts as evidence. Once again it must be reiterated that this 'fact' is just what is reported in the bible. That notwithstanding, an empty tomb could have occurred for almost an infinite number of reasons. One clear one is that a mistake could have been made by the people in remembering where the tomb was that had Jesus. Someone changed the plan at the last minute and didn't communicate it? It’s not like they would have thought that 2000 years later people would be building a whole religion on this piece of logistics. When physical resurrection of a dead body is the hypothesis under consideration, ANY other explanation that we have experience of in the natural world wins in the plausibility race.

7.     Disciples died for it- This is again not a piece of evidence that can be used to make an argument. It's basically a restatement of the idea that the disciples were convinced. (I discussed this earlier). There are many reasons that people might die for something that isn't true. 9-11 has often been used as an example. If dying for your beliefs is an important factor to be considered, that would point to the truth of Islam in today's world.

8.     500 witnesses saw Jesus resurrected- again that is just what was reported in the gospel text. There are not 500 independent accounts that we can investigate.

9.     ‘Science has proven that miracles don't happen’- this is another straw man. I have never known an atheist to make this argument. The Christian in the video is right, science has never and indeed cannot disprove miracles. But that is irrelevant. Science also cannot disprove all of the other mythological beings presented at the beginning of the video. What we have here is a shifting of the burden of proof, which is another logical fallacy. Just because we can't rule out a miracle doesn't mean we should accept it as a reasonable explanation. We still need reasons to believe. 'You can't prove that it didn't happen' is not a reasonable argument. If something lies outside the boundaries of investigation, then what basis do we have for accepting that it exists or likely exists? 

10.  'Why have I never heard this stuff before?'- Are you kidding me? Lol. If I had $1 for every time someone has presented one of these arguments to me, I'd be a millionaire by now. This explains a lot though. So many Christians still believe that the reason we don't believe is because we haven't sat down and really listened to or considered their arguments. In reality it's the opposite that is true. Many Christians have never bothered to take the time to listen to and analyze what people who disagree with them have to say. Instead they will say that what they believe are 'well established historical facts' But any basic internet search will show you that there are numerous websites and volumes of publications by various scholars ( and not just atheists) out there, contesting the truth of these ‘facts’ with well grounded, rational arguments.

11.  It's scary to believe- This one is also mind boggling. What would be scary about finding out that Jesus rose from the dead 2000 years ago? Indeed, if we were to verify that this event happened that would be a 'game changer' as said in the video. Who wouldn't want to know and understand the details of that resurrection if it were true? I certainly would and so would all the atheists that I know. 

12.  It's a game changer and therefore hard to think of objectively- This is delicious irony. Adding the ‘game changer’ statement is what actually removes the objectivity, and that’s what the Christian is doing here, not the atheist. In considering whether something is true or false, all that matters is the evidence to support it. The implications or consequences if the claim is true are irrelevant. To bring those issues into the argument biases the argument and therefore takes away the objectivity. So, my advice to the Christian here would be to forget about all those things that make the belief desirable and concentrate on the evidence that supports it as truth.  That is of course assuming that finding truth is his overall objective. 



  1. I think it must be a requirement that apologetics material be awful. If a Christian produces a reasonable argument, others in the business wouldn't like the precedent.

  2. Nice Post, Thanks for sharing with us. Such post are really informative about religious things.

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  3. Its good to know there is someone else in Barbados who is interested in getting past old myths. If we just set them aside - will we need new ones?

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  5. Its good to know there is someone else in Barbados who is interested in getting past old myths. If we just set them aside - will we need new ones?

  6. So I was wondering, what are your beliefs about God then? What are the main reasons why you find it so difficult to believe in the God of the Bible and Christianity? What do you believe about Jesus?