This objection comes in several different forms. Christians complain that skeptics demand that God should make his existence obvious to us with undeniable proof before we will believe, or that God should make all religious diversity disappear, or that we wouldn’t believe no matter what miracle God did before our eyes. Some atheists have even said as much, including PZ Myers, who recently said he would seriously consider that he had gone mad rather than believe a miracle had happened before his eyes.
The Bible says that no one is able to become a Christian unless the Father brings us to Jesus! I agree that many Christians phrase the objections in the ways that Loftus articulated them. However, I would not phrase it this way. Based on what the Bible says, no one is able to believe on his/her own. This is why people won't believe no matter what miracles they see. This is also why there is all kinds of Religious diversity. God does not give us the evidence that we think we need to believe. God gives us the evidence that He wants to give us so that we will believe and respond. Many times the thought behind this discussion is that given the right evidence anyone can become a Christian. This isn't true. When atheists like John Loftus say that they are unable to believe they are telling the truth. But it's not because there isn't enough evidence or too much critical thinking. It's because there is no regeneration. The other thing is that believers don't believe because there is something better or different in us. NO ONE comes to God on his/her own. None of us came into the world looking for God. The difference is that God drew us to Christ and we responded. I don't have the space here to get into if God draws everyone and anyone by the same degree or if its by free will we respond. I'll save that for another time.
The Christian then shoots his double barrel shotgun at us: 1) If we wouldn’t believe should God’s existence be obvious, then why would God bother providing more evidence in the first place? We simply have hardened hearts, and no evidence will convince us since no amount of evidence will convince us at all. 2) If God’s existence was made to be obvious then it would eliminate the possibility of real choice, for it would equally be obvious what we ought to do. And if we would know what God requires of us and that we’d be punished if we disobey then “who but a complete fool would not do what is right?” Let me respond once and for all.
That's the thing about that shotgun. It's pointing back at us too. No one would believe without God's intervention - changing our hearts to that we can see. Lot's of Christians have said exactly what Loftus said when he wrote: "And if we would know what God requires of us and that we’d be punished if we disobey then 'who but a complete fool would not do what is right?" That is exactly the point: We are all incapable of doing what is right - pleasing God - without God himself intervening for us. That's not saying that non-Christians are unable to do "good" things that are consistent with the some of the standards in the Bible. They do. What it is saying is that whenever anyone of us - believer or non-believer - does something "good" it's because of God's unmerited Grace and favor. There is no reason at all to think that God is obligated to give it or how much he should give us.
I have previously written a post on what would convince me to believe right here. Read that post for the details of what I’ll summarize briefly below.
This ought to be good.
Concerning God revealing himself in the Bible:
1) There would have to be nothing morally repugnant to God’s revelation. Hey, there is no way as a democracy loving peaceful person that I could ever believe God commanded genocide, child sacrifice, the subjugation of women, capital punishment for religious disagreements, witch killing, gay killing, and the ill treatment of animals.
This objection always deserves a facepalm. There are no commandments to do genocide, child sacrifice, subjugate women, or mistreating animals. Let's not stop there. Capital punishment is about punishing offenses against the community. Just because we don't look at religious disagreements, witch craft, and homosexuality as offenses against society deserving death does not mean that these offenses are not really just that bad. So why isn't religious disagreements, witchcraft, and homosexuality deserving of death today? Who says they aren't? ALL sins are deserving of death. The different today is that we no longer live in a theocratic society. This doesn't mean that those things are now okay, it means that punishment and consequences are not delivered as fast, or by people in society, as it was in Ancient Israel. God is going to handle that.
2) God's revelation would have to be independently corroborated through empirical data coming from such things as archaeological support for the story of the Exodus, and scientific studies on prayer. But the empirical sciences continually disconfirm such things.
That depends on who you talk to doesn't it? Not all archaeologists would agree that there is zero support for the Exodus. Also there have been scientific studies on prayer that confirm that prayer works. Empirical science does not disconfirm the Bible in anyway. Science either confirms the Bible or has nothing to say.
3) God's revelation would not be indistinguishable from what ancient superstitious agency-detectors could have written in their times. But there is nothing in the canonical Bible that shows any signs of divine inspiration.
Indistinguishable? Cyrus the great ending the Babylonian Exile, the rising and falling of the the Babylon, Persian, Greek, and Roman empires were all foretold before they came to be. Not to mention Sidon and Tyre. Everything the Hebrew Prophets said that God told them to say has either come true or has yet to be fulfilled. I can't think of a single ancient book of scripture that has such a track record for fulfilled prophecy - 100%. If that is not enough of a sign of divine inspiration, then very little else makes sense or would qualify. In addition the very fact there is even such a people as Jews that can trace themselves so far back - given the number of civilizations and peoples who have had similar events happen to them is testimony that there is someone keeping a promise to watch over them.
Concerning God’s supposed revelation in nature:
4) There would not be so much massive suffering in the natural world if a good omnipotent God existed. The probability that such a God exists is reduced in direct proportion by the amount of suffering there is in the world, and there is way too much of it to suppose he does.
The problem of evil? I was expecting better than that. What Loftus really means to say: There would not be so much massive suffering in the natural world if a good [as I think of good] omnipotent God existed. I think that this is a fallacy that most people who reject God on the basis of the thought that God could not exist because evil exists. It's a fallacious thought because if God got rid of evil in a sovereign omnipotent way, he would have to wipe out all of humanity, starting with us. His grace and mercy is the only reason we still exist. Also I wonder if you don't think there is anything such as objective moral value, how does one point his finger at God and demand that God enforces what he thinks if good. I would argue that there is objective moral value relative to and superior to us that comes from God Himself. Therefore it is meaningless to argue that God does not exist because evil exists. God and His purposes and decisions are not subject to us. We are subject to God. It is a good thing that He loves us.
5) There would not be so much religious diversity around the globe if there is a God who wants us to believe in him. The probability that the Christian God exists is reduced in direct proportion by the amount of religious diversity that exists, and there is way too much of it to suppose that he does.
Given that we are fallen and wouldn't know God is he walked right up to us and hugged us without His revelation of Himself, religious diversity is exactly what I would expect. We go through this life instinctively knowing we are broken and grope around looking for how to fill those holes. Without God, we make up stuff.
6) Modern science would not be able to offer much in the way of alternatives to the “God did it” explanation. The probability that the Christian God exists is reduced in direct proportion by the amount of reasonable alternative scientific explanations there are for religious claims, and there are way too many of them to suppose that he does.
I'm not sure why John Lofus thinks that Christians who understand science thinks that "God did it" is a viable explanation. It isn't. I wouldn't say that is where you go and stop. Science is about discovering how God did it. The more we explain the more questions are raised. Anyone who understands anything about science recognizes that we understand far less that we know. What we have learned is the very tip of a very large proverbial iceberg. Not recognizing this is an example of dangerous hubris rooted in abject ignorance - and that is being optimistic.
Okay? The reason why skeptics like PZ Myers say they will not believe is because God has not previously provided items 1-6 for us. So until God does something different then when something stupendous happens directly in front of us we can’t believe at that late stage in the game! It's already too late, you see. We already know it’s not probable for such a God to exist.
No, far from okay. Just because there isn't the kind of evidence that you think you would accept does not mean that there is no evidence. I would never say that believing something despite evidence is a virtue - that's stupidity. No where in the Bible are we asked to have completely "blind faith". Grant it, churches and well-meaning who either don't or can't provide cognitive reasons for their faith might argue in favor of blind faith, but the Bible does not. That's not saying that even as Christians we get the evidence we want or all the answers we want but to say that we have nothing concrete or objective on which to stand is a lie. I have not seen a single proof explaining why it's not probable for God to exist but I don't just think God probably exists. I know because He has condescended to reveal himself. He can do the same for anyone.
One last thing. None of this matters. For God knows what to do in order to convince us that he exists even if we skeptics can’t say what it would take, or even if we deny that we would believe if God did it. He could even snap his fingers and take away our critical thinking capabilities so that we would believe despite the fact that there isn’t enough evidence to believe. Q.E.D.
Our critical thinking capabilities are a gift from God. No where are we told to turn them off. At the same time they are not enough to reason our way to God.
17Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
18Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
19If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: (Isaiah 1:17-19, King James Version)
It's depended on Him, yet we are responsible because He said we are responsible. Fair? Nope. Do you want fairness or do you want mercy? I vote for mercy. Look at what is being said. We are invited to examine what we think and what God says - to put them alongside each other and rationally see which is better. We are also told God is not going to change. We must. In honesty we will see what our sins truly are and how he can change us so that we are clean and live in peace - not just in some nebulous after life but in the here and now also.
What About Free Choice?
God supposedly made Moses, Gideon, and Paul the apostle believe without abrogating their free will. If he can do that with them, then he should be able to do that with everyone. Q.E.D.
How did God convince Moses, Gideon, and Paul? He used evidence and means that was consistent with who they were. He did the same thing for me. It wasn't a burning bush or a blinding light or an Angel speaking to me but what it was what I needed. By definition changing me from an enemy of God into His servant was an abrogation of my free will. No one gets saved through their own will but despite it.
6For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
7Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
8So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
9But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. (Romans 8:6-9, King James Version)
Everyone experiences this differently. I've spoken to people and heard from people that they were cognizant of the fact that God was changing what they thought and felt. For others, like me, the change was so gradual so smooth I didn't even know what happened. I thought I heard the Gospel and believed it because I knew it was a good idea and made sense to me. I didn't realize all the things behind the scenes God did for me so I could believe. Why doesn't God just do it for everyone - given that if He doesn't do it for you you are going to hell? I don't know. He has a purpose. It's not blind faith that makes me trust Him in that, although I don't know all that He is doing. What it is trust based on the fact the God has made promises and through out a life He has always kept them.
Nonetheless, this second Christian complaint depends on the truth of the Christianity faith, which is something I find so delusional I don’t have the space here. Let me ask just a few rhetorical questions: 1) Why does God care whether or not we believe? 2) Are we truly responsible for what we believe when we cannot believe differently than what we do? 3) Does God really expect belief and obedience from a kid raised in a Detroit high rise bullet ridden apartment complex by a single mom who is a drug addict prostitute who never darkens the doors of a church? 4) Can God really expect us to love and obey him when he withholds his love from us, even if we agree he should withhold his omnipotent power from us—-do men expect that prospective lovers will respond with a half-hearted effort to win their love? 5) If God wants our true heart-felt obedience at all why does he threaten us with eternal punishment if we disobey—-is this any reasonable way to gain such a thing?
1. If you don't believe you don't love God. God doesn't need our love of belief.
2. As I stated earlier, God will handle that if you draw as near to him as you can.
3. Yes. There are such people who do get saved.
4. God does not withhold his love. He sent us Jesus. Further the reason one even exists and can ask such a question is because God loves him/her.
5. It's not about if you don't obey you are going to be punished. Hell is the default destination. If Jesus had not come and died and rose again - every human being would be going to hell! Instead the truth is God is not threatening us with eternal punishment. God is offering us salvation and redemption. There is a big difference. If that is what John Loftus thinks that the gospel is no wonder he is an apostate. If that is what you think Christianity is about then you are doing it all wrong.
That’s enough for now. This is after all, just one post. But I think it’s sufficient to dispel these twin Christian complaints once and for all in a short space.
Loftus is going to need a lot more space than that. Even the strawman he tries to knock down are still standing.
Debunking Christianity: Answering Once and For All The Christian Complaint that Skeptics Would Refuse to Believe No Matter What God Did