Part #1. Refuting Atheist John Loftus – Atheism.

Loftus.jpg

See part 2 – Loftus & Atheism.

Over the next few days I will be forwarding refutations to the atheist John Loftus’ arguments. You can view his arguments at his Debunking Christianity blog.

1. Loftus: If there is no God then life has no meaning. Wrong. No one should ever reject the evidence for a conclusion simply because they dislike the conclusion. If there is no God then we are our own meaning makers. Period. Only after you realize God doesn’t exist will you see this.

No, it is correct. I feel Loftus contradicts himself here for if life really had objective meaning then why would we have to create meaning if meaning already existed? Before I became a Christian at age 20 I knew this little truth even though I ignored it for over 10 years. It is really simple for if God does not exist then we are nothing but accidental by products of physical forces of nature, as the atheist Will Provine explains:

“Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear … There are no gods, no purposes, no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end for me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning to life, and no free will for humans, either” (1).

Or as the fundamentalist New Atheist Dawkins articulates: “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference” (2).

Now, I certainly don’t agree with Provine, or with other Christians, that evolutionary theory disproves God, or is a substitute for God, or is a substitute for the meaning for life that God has created. There are many good Christians, scientists & beyond, out there who see evolution as evidence for God, and/or planned by God, or involves God in some way. Either way, that is beside the point for now. The point is that on atheism no objective meaning exists and this inevitably requires one, like Loftus himself admits, to create their own meaning. Therefore, the atheist has to live out his life as perpetual delusion.

2. Loftus: If there is no God then everything is permitted. Wrong again. The ones doing the permitting are people in their respective societies. Even if Thomas Hobbes is correct that we are at war with everyone else, we must still adopt some kind of reasonable social contract whereby we join together for the common good. If not, a society will collapse into chaos. Since no one desires chaos there are reasonable limits to what any society will permit. By contrast, if God exists there are no limits to what can be permitted when people believe something to be divinely authorized.

Again, I must disagree with Loftus for if God does not exist it thus implies that a transcendent standard of good & evil, or morality, does not exist. Things like morality merely becomes relative and the laws are made by the dominant forces in a society. If so then indeed things become permissible, and the atheist mass murderers Stalin, Pol Pot & Mao proved this point sufficiently. That is not to say that those proclaiming the helm of Christianity have not done their fair share of violence, but hardly on the epic proportions of atheist despots. According to the atheist John  Steinrucken the secular attempts for utopia “when actually put to the test, have not merely come to naught. Attempts during those two centuries to put into practice utopian visions have caused huge sufferings” (15)

However, that does not mean that atheists are immoral people (after all, I know moral people who are atheists). However, since they are made, like Christians, in the image of a transcendent God (Gen. 1:27) they can know right from wrong (Romans 2:15). Rather, although the atheist can know right from wrong, since he is made in the image of God, his issue arises when he cannot ground that morality or explain why he is compelled to do good and avoid evil. If atheism is true then morality is relative, as Ravi Zacharias articulates:

“How in the name of reason can we possibly justify differentiating between good and bad on the basis of feeling? Whose feeling? Hitler’s or Mother Teresa’s? In other words, there must be a moral law, a standard by which to determine good and bad” (3).

Finally, the former atheist Philip Vander Elst explains: “But if this is the case, what explains the existence within us of this inner moral code or compass? According to atheism, human beings and all their thinking processes are simply the accidental by-products of the mindless movement of atoms within an undesigned, random, and purposeless universe. How then can we attach any ultimate meaning or truth to our thoughts and feelings, including our sense of justice? They have, on this view, no more validity or significance than the sound of the wind in the trees” (4).

3. Loftus: Science is no substitute for religion. Bogus. If there is one mark of the deluded mind (defined as “believing against the overwhelming evidence”) it’s that somewhere along the line he or she must be ignorant of, or denigrate, or deny science. Religion has given us nothing in comparison to science. Faith-based reasoning processes are notoriously unreliable. They do not help us get at the truth. What do they offer as a substitute for evidence based reasoning processes?

Forgive me if I sound harsh by telling Loftus that this statement is simply nonsensical and devoid of reality. The fact is that it was the very Christian religion that played such a significant and influential role in the rise of science! The evidence suggests the exact opposite of what Loftus is claiming here.

The truth is, as philosopher of science John Lennox quotes C.S. Lewis, that “Men became scientific because they expected law in nature, and they expected law in nature because they believed in a lawgiver” (5). It is no accident that Galileo, Kepler, Newton and Clerk-Maxwell were believers in God. Commentator Efron writes that:

“To be fair, the claim that Christianity led to modern science captures something true and important. Generations of historians and sociologists have discovered many ways in which Christians, Christian beliefs, and Christian institutions played crucial roles in fashioning the tenets, methods and institutions of what in time became modern science…today almost all historians agree that Christianity (Catholicism as well as Protestantism) moved early-modern intellectuals to study nature systematically” (6).

In fact, it was within the Middle Ages, where Christianity was dominant, that “recent research has shown that the Middle Ages was a period of enormous advances in science, technology and culture” with the majority of those scientists being Christians (7). It was also, according to the atheist historian O’Neill, an outpouring of the Christian worldview that “universities were starting to appear across Christendom” (8). Further, O’Neill goes on to list names of Christian scientists from the Middle Ages “like Albertus Magnus, Robert Grosseteste, Roger Bacon, John Peckham, Duns Scotus, Thomas Bradwardine, Walter Burley, William Heytesbury, Richard Swineshead, John Dumbleton, Richard of Wallingford, Nicholas Oresme, Jean Buridan and Nicholas of Cusa – and ask why these men were happily pursuing science in the Middle Ages without molestation from the Church” (9).

I could go on about how Christianity gave human rights and freedom to slaves, how it liberated women from the patriarchy of 1st century Judaism (see Sue Bohlins’s article: footnote 10), how it gave equal rights to all human beings, how it has given us hospitals, orphanages, universities, schools and shelters for the homeless. I can go on, as well as touching on how science has strengthened the faith of many scientists, or how science itself has actually, for many, given evidence for the existence of God via deductive arguments. Or how religion has given us culture, meaning in life, and value. This list could go on. Atheism is nothing comparable to this.

Furthermore, the claim that religion has “given us nothing in comparison to science” I find hugely problematic. Firstly, this naïve, and inarticulate, argument that religion, or rather Christianity (I won’t speak for other religions here), has given the world nothing is simply devoid of evidence and is detached from reality. My second issue with this statement is that it is pitting religion against science. Again, Loftus just doesn’t define what he means by religion, or which religion he is referring to, rather he has just nonsensically seems to put all religion into one basket. Rather, science has, as I mentioned, given rational reasons as to believe in God, and in fact, science has knocked atheism. For instance, the Big Bang has really been a thorn in the flesh for my atheist friends, according to Schumacher:

“To the atheist, that ultimate reality is an eternal universe where only physical matter exists. Atheism’s struggle is to explain how the universe is eternal when all scientific discovery shows it had a beginning, and how–since an effect always resembles its cause in essence—an impersonal, non-conscious, meaningless, purposeless, and amoral universe accidentally created personal, conscious, moral beings who are obsessed with meaning and purpose” (11).

How does atheism even begin to explain that everything in the physical universe literally came from nothing, or how biological life came about from inorganic matter? How does atheism explain the fine-tuning of the universe? In order to escape the problem of the Big Bang many atheists actually believe in an eternal universe which is confronted by philosophical arguments as well as scientific evidence (12).

My third issue with this statement is that Loftus is putting science on a pedestal when, in fact, just like all other academic disciplines it has its limitations and is prone to be abused by finite humans, as any good philosopher of science will tell you. Science, everyone knows, is a magnificently useful tool for studying the universe but it is powerless to answer questions beyond the natural realm. This leads me to suspect that Loftus is verging on scientism (I provide a refutation here) which is basically religion for atheists, especially when atheists idolize and deify it. However, quite contrary to Loftus’, or other atheists, claims science is neutral on the subject of God, or the supernatural, even though Loftus will pretend that it is not.

Fourthly, Loftus makes another spurious statement: “Faith-based reasoning processes are notoriously unreliable. They do not help us get at the truth. What do they offer as a substitute for evidence based reasoning processes?”

In other words, Loftus is defining faith as a belief devoid of evidence. Now, I know that many Christians have faith devoid of evidence but it is, again, detached from reality to claim that all Christians are like this. Loftus knows this, I know this, and any reasonable person knows this. I could easily just play the same card as Loftus does. For instance, atheist George Klein says that “I am an atheist. My attitude is not based on science, but rather on faith…. The absence of a Creator, the non-existence of God is my childhood faith, my adult belief, unshakable and holy” (13).

Now, like Loftus I can be nonsensical and apply this to all atheists out there, but I am not that ignorant for I know this is not a true representation of atheists. Likewise Loftus should note that this applies to other worldviews as well. Loftus also does not seem to be aware of faith that is evidence based. When I jump on to an aeroplane I have faith in the pilot and in the durability and capability of the plane itself to get me to my destination safely. This faith I have is based on my knowledge that there is a minuscule chance that a plane with me inside will plummet to Earth. In other words, I have evidence based faith that the plane I am in will get me to my destination. I would appear that Loftus does not know of this definition, or that many Christians, like myself, believe that our faith is built upon solid evidence.

Finally, atheism itself is a faith based system just like every other worldview. Former atheist turned Christian biophysicist Alister McGrath notes that “The simple fact of the matter is that atheism is a faith, which draws conclusions that go beyond the available evidence” (14). The atheist must presuppose that his cognitive faculties are reliable for gathering information about the external world. He must have faith that science itself is a reliable tool for studying the external world. The atheist must also go beyond scientific data to make philosophical arguments, ones based on faith, that God does not exist or probably does not exist. This list can go on.

The bottom line is that I, as a Christian, have faith, Loftus, as an atheist, has faith, the Hindu next door has faith, and the Buddhist down the street has faith. That is inescapable no matter how much atheists like to throw their toys out of the cot.

5. Loftus: If there is no God then we don’t know anything. False. If so, chimps don’t know anything either. They don’t know how to get food, or mate or even where to live. Without knowing anything they should’ve died off a long time ago. And yet here they are. They don’t need a god to know these things. Why do we need a god for knowledge? We learn through a process of trial and error. Since we’ve survived as a human species, we have acquired reliable knowledge about our world. Period.

In all truth I don’t know what Loftus is going on about here. However, I suspect that he might be on about the reliability of our cognitive faculties if atheism is true. Well, this is another huge issue for atheism. Why?

Because on atheism all we are is matter, and our thinking is nothing but the misfiring of electrochemical processes in our brains. On top of this the atheist has to hold dogmatically that evolution supports his naturalism. Not only would this be unprovable but it can’t be used to dismiss God’s activity in the world, for God could have guided, overseen or initiated the process. However, if naturalistic atheistic evolution is true then we have no reason to trust our cognitive faculties, especially when determining what is true, as our thoughts are merely aimed at survival, and fitness. So, if the atheist thinks that his atheistic worldview is true he is therefore being deceived, yet he still thinks that he is right. In other words he perpetually lives inconsistently with his worldview as he believes certain things to be true, and other things to be false when such does not even factor into the evolutionary equation that his worldview demands.

In other words, if atheism is true then atheism is false. Or, we could not even know that it is true.

6. Love exists only if God exists. Erroneous. This is an empty rhetorical claim devoid of any content at all. Believers have always said this even during the Inquisition and witch-hunts. Randal should look at the evidence of the history of the church. He should consider the other primates who exhibit characteristics of love. He should also take seriously the evidence in the Bible that God is not love either, for he will squash you like a bug if you don’t obey him, which isn’t descriptive of love, much less parental love, or perfect love at all. It’s descriptive of a despotic king, of which Yahweh was modeled after.

Loftus’ claim that “in the Bible that God is not love either” probably refers to his violence in the Old Testament. For now I won’t go much further than to say that Loftus is wrong in his claim, in fact, the Bible is full of God’s love for humanity and his creation, yet I won’t deny that challenging and eye-opening acts of God are found within it. In fact, the biblical narrative is one of love, mercy and justice that culminates on the historical event of Jesus’ resurrection. To ignore this is unfounded, and thus constructs a strawman God as well as a strawman Christianity. Further, God’s judgment, which Loftus and any atheist takes for God’s horrible violence, is not mutually incompatible with his loving and good nature. In fact, a loving nature requires God to be a judger of sin.

However, what I can tell you is that love certainly does not exist on an atheistic worldview. All love is on such a worldview is the electrochemical misfiring of atoms in one’s brain, and nothing more.  Such a reality we would not really call love, in fact, it sounds depressing. Rather, this would just be an illusion of love. Again, to love someone as an atheist illustrates one’s inability to live consistently.

To be continued…

References:

1. Provine, W. 1994. Origins Research. p.9.

2. Dawkins, R. 1995. River out of Eden. p 131-32.

3. Zacharias, R. 2002. Cries of the Heart. p. 67.

4. Vander Elst, P. From Atheism to Christianity: a Personal Journey.

5. C.S. Lewis quoted by John Lennox in Gunning for God (2011). p. 28.

6. Efron, N. 2010. Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths About Science and Religion. p. 80.

7. Hannam, J. 2009. God’s Philosophers. p. 5.

8. O’Neill, T. The Dark Age Myth: An Atheist Reviews “God’s Philosophers. Available.

9. O’Neill, T. Ibid.

10. Bohlin, S. 2010. Christianity: The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Women. Available.

11. Schumacher, R. ‘An Examination of Atheism’s Truth Claims. Available.

12. According to the Secular Humanist Manifesto: “Religious humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created.”

13. Klein, G. 1992. The Atheist and the Holy City: Encounters and Reflections. 203.

14. McGrath, A. 2002. Glimpsing the Face of God: The Search for Meaning in the Universe. p. 22.

15. Steinrucken, J. 2010. Secularism’s Ongoing Debt to Christianity. Available.

16 responses to “Part #1. Refuting Atheist John Loftus – Atheism.

  1. Pingback: Part #2. Refuting Atheist John Loftus – Atheism. | Historical Jesus studies.·

  2. You are equating atheism with materialism in most of these responses. Especially when considering morality and meaning.

  3. “I feel Loftus contradicts himself here for if life really had objective meaning then why would we have to create meaning if meaning already existed?”

    I think you misunderstand Loftus’ position here. I think Loftus is saying that life has subjective meaning for us (the meaning we create for ourselves), not that life has objective meaning.

    “It is really simple for if God does not exist then we are nothing but accidental by products of physical forces of nature…”

    Yes.

    “The point is that on atheism no objective meaning exists and this inevitably requires one, like Loftus himself admits, to create their own meaning.”

    Precisely.

    “Therefore, the atheist has to live out his life as perpetual delusion.”

    I don’t see how this follows, and it is every bit as insulting as when certain atheists (who I disagree with) claim that religious beliefs are delusions.

    “…if God does not exist it thus implies that a transcendent standard of good & evil, or morality, does not exist. Things like morality merely becomes relative and the laws are made by the dominant forces in a society.”

    Sure. But that relative morality is based on things like empathy and other innate human psychological traits. I think these traits are probably a result of evolutionary processes. I don’t think God is the only feasible explanation for humans having a moral compass, a tendency to think of certain things as good (e.g. helping one another), and certain things as bad (e.g. stealing and murdering).

    “Rather, science has, as I mentioned, given rational reasons as to believe in God, and in fact, science has knocked atheism.”

    By all means, please, point me to scientific evidence for God. I have never seen any, but if I am mistaken, I would very much like to know that.

    “How does atheism even begin to explain that everything in the physical universe literally came from nothing, or how biological life came about from inorganic matter?”

    It doesn’t. We don’t have all the answers. It is, in fact, okay to say “I don’t know”, when we do, in fact, not know the answer. Also, there may not yet be a scientific explanation for the genesis of life, but there have been experiments showing that it is possible to produce organic molecules without biological processes in simulations of possible conditions on early Earth.

    “However, quite contrary to Loftus’, or other atheists, claims science is neutral on the subject of God, or the supernatural…”

    Earlier, you claimed that “…science itself has actually, for many, given evidence for the existence of God…” You can’t have it both ways. Either science is neutral on the subject of God, or it is not.

    “Loftus also does not seem to be aware of faith that is evidence based.”

    I am likewise unaware. I would need to see the evidence to be aware of that.

    “Further, God’s judgment, which Loftus and any atheist takes for God’s horrible violence, is not mutually incompatible with his loving and good nature.”

    How is it loving and good to order one’s followers to slaughter all inhabitants of a city, including the children?

    “All love is on such a worldview is the electrochemical misfiring of atoms in one’s brain, and nothing more.”

    …So? The biochemical origins of my feelings of love for my friends and family does in no way diminish those feelings or make them less real.

    • //I think Loftus is saying that life has subjective meaning for us (the meaning we create for ourselves), not that life has objective meaning.//
      -That’s consistent with my point. He has to create meaning where none exists. Life has no objective meaning. If real objective meaning existed you wouldn’t have to create it.

      //I don’t see how this follows, and it is every bit as insulting as when certain atheists (who I disagree with) claim that religious beliefs are delusions.//

      Forgive me i don’t intend to be insulting. By this I mean that the atheist lives out his life as if meaning really existed when its nothing more than subjective opinion and the misfiring of atoms in the brain.

      //But that relative morality is based on other things// illustrates that morality is no more than herd mentality, thus it is not objective which is what human experience affirms for us. Also, it would commit the genetic fallacy if we rule out the objectivity of morality based off of evolutionary processes since evolutionary theory does not exclude outside involvement, or guidance by God.

      //By all means, please, point me to scientific evidence for God. I have never seen any, but if I am mistaken, I would very much like to know that.//
      -There are arguments from Big Bang cosmology, teleology, the fine tuning of the universe that count as scientific evidence.

      //but there have been experiments showing that it is possible to produce organic molecules without biological processes in simulations of possible conditions on early Earth.//

      -By who, and when? Do you mean the Milley-Urey experiment?

      //It doesn’t. We don’t have all the answers. It is, in fact, okay to say “I don’t know”..

      -That’s the usual answer atheists give. Not surprising though.

      //You can’t have it both ways. Either science is neutral on the subject of God, or it is not//
      -Science can be used by atheists and Christians to make deductive arguments. Science itself is neutral.

      //I am likewise unaware. I would need to see the evidence to be aware of that.//
      -Have a reread of the aeroplane analogy.

      //How is it loving and good to order one’s followers to slaughter all inhabitants of a city, including the children?//
      -Its because of the nature of those people who were ripe for judgement and got what they deserved. Sometimes to save the body you have to cut off the arm.

      //…So? The biochemical origins of my feelings of love for my friends and family does in no way diminish those feelings or make them less real.//
      -Feelings can be deceiving. You may feel that your love is real but it really isn’t anything other than the atoms in your brain..

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