The establishment and spread of the Christian faith is unique among all religions in that both rest on a historical event (the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ) witnessed firsthand, unwavering belief that what was witnessed actually happened (i.e., what happened was a true state of affairs in reality), and the resolve to share this conviction in the face of adversity up to and including death. So, with these points in focus, would the apostles have been persecuted even unto death for something they knew they did not actually witness or was, in fact, untrue? Before looking at this issue, there are a few objections which need to be cleared up in order to move on.
In wrapping up my refutation of J.T.’s critique of Christianity and arguments for God’s existence, a large amount of material will be covered. Because of this, the installment you’re about to delve into will be the lengthiest of the three. So, although no topic will be completely exhausted, patience and attentiveness will serve you well. Now then, let’s proceed.
Discussing whether or not science is a matter of faith, J.T. talks a bit about the consistency demonstrable in the natural world and uses examples such as stones falling, satellites being launched into orbit with extreme precision, and hot stoves (16:30). J.T., I believe correctly, states that religious people also operate on the assumption that the universe is consistent. For the moment, we won’t cover why this is not problematic on a Christian worldview, so I’ll simply refer you, the reader, to Teleological arguments (also known as Fine-Tuning arguments) for God’s existence. Expounding in the hot stove example, J.T. says, “If you walk by a hot stove one week and burn your hand on it, you’re not going to put your hand on the stove next week because you expect the universe to be consistent” (16:55). He then finishes his thought by saying, “All we’re asking of the religious people in terms of science and in terms of their own beliefs is that they stay consistent” (17:12). As we’ve seen previously (and will discuss further throughout Part Three), J.T. has a hard time remaining consistent himself, so charging others with remaining consistent in their views feels a lot like the pot calling the kettle black. Lost on J.T., however, is that there is nothing inherently inconsistent with a Christian holding the view that the universe operates consistently according to natural laws and that God is capable of supernatural intervention in human history. The only reason this appears inconsistent to J.T. is that he presupposes atheism is true and that the supernatural is impossible. It would be no different if I asserted that J.T.’s position is inconsistent because his worldview does not match mine. This leads directly to a stalemate in the debate and its use within his presentation hardly represents a legitimate critique.
At the end of Part One, found here, J.T. Eberhard tells his audience that the one argument Christians need to address is that there is no evidence for the existence of God (8:00). J.T. then moves into his critique and refutation of the various arguments Christians use when discussing their beliefs. Part Two will examine a few of these critiques and refutations in order to determine if J.T. is actually more rational and consistent in dealing with the issues.
The first warning J.T. gives his audience is to be wary of the red herring fallacy. In short, the red herring fallacy is committed when a person brings forth an irrelevant topic, statement, or position in order to divert attention away from the original argument. The red herring example J.T. gives accuses Christians of saying, “Science can’t explain…what the hell ever…” (8:28). Responding to this red herring, J.T. says, “How do you know science can’t explain something? Science hasn’t explained what the hell ever. And even if we haven’t, that doesn’t mean that you have” (8:38). Following his response, he then accuses Christians of equating their ignorance to God and subsequently worshiping their own ignorance by calling it God. I can’t speak for all Christians, but most of the Christians I know are fully content responding, as J.T. would, by saying “I don’t know.” Not knowing is part of our human limitations of knowledge and understanding. The difference here is that J.T. presupposes atheism is true and precludes supernatural explanations whereas Christians, such as myself, accept supernatural explanations when evidence leads to this conclusion and where natural explanations are less plausible or impossible. It is evident that J.T. exercises the faith of an atheist by assuming natural explanations will eventually account for all of existence and our experiences therein. [Read more…]
Critiques of the Christian worldview are a dime-a-dozen in the vast expanse of the internet. The majority of them are deep on rhetoric, insult, and wow-factor presentation while being incredibly shallow on substance, critical thinking, and sound argumentation. As a lay apologist, I frequently come across various critiques and refutations of Christianity in one form or another scattered across the Blogosphere, Facebook, or YouTube. One such critical assessment of Christianity is the presentation, “Why the arguments for god’s existence suck,” given by J.T. Eberhard at the Freethought Festival in Madison, Wisconsin last April. A video of the presentation was shared on YouTube, here, and has received nearly 15,000 views and over 700 “likes.” Co-founder of Skepticon, a skeptics conference held annually in Missouri, J.T. is also a member of the Secular Student Alliance and speaks at events across the country sharing his atheist worldview.
The main focus of my response to J.T.’s presentation will be to establish whether or not he has offered a sound, valid, and substantiated refutation of the arguments he specifically addresses and the Christian worldview in general. As often as possible I will format my critique in a way that follows the flow of the video allowing you, the reader, to locate the material within his presentation more easily. I will also parenthetically notate the time in the video associated with each quote to provide direct-from-the-source accountability. Now, on to the main event.