Lazy “Atheism”

by Thomas Larsen at tomlarsen.org

Several conversations I’ve had recently have proceeded roughly like this:

Tom: Why are you an atheist, Sue?

Sue: There’s no evidence for God’s existence.

Tom: What books have you read on the subject?

Sue: Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion. And Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great. They’re both really helpful and interesting books; you should check them out.

Tom: Have you read any academic books written by theists (or, more particularly, Christian theists) in support of the existence of God?

Sue: A few years ago I read parts of the Bible, and found them ridiculous. And I read a book about Christianity that a friend gave me—needless to say, I didn’t find it compelling.

Tom: Right. But have you read any academic books in support of the existence of God?

Sue: No. Why would I waste my time doing that? Why do you think it’s so important for me to investigate stories about an invisible sky-daddy who sits on clouds and is supposed to care about us, but let the Holocaust happen? An all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God wouldn’t allow so much suffering. [Tells a story about how she once expected God to do something for her, and he didn’t.] If there’s a God, he’s not worthy of worship.

What frustrates me about this kind of scenario is that the atheist in question hasn’t even bothered to look into the most rigorous academic formulations and defences of theism (or, more particularly, Christian theism). Perhaps she’s come out of a (supposedly) Christian family or church, and thinks she knows all that she needs to know about the issues at hand; perhaps she’s heard something to the effect that there’s a devastating conflict between Christianity and science or Christianity and reason. In any case, she’s simply concluded, without seriously looking into the matter, that there’s no support whatsoever—or, at least, no support worth taking seriously—for the existence of God or other theistic claims.

Here’s the problem with this way of thinking. The question of God’s existence, like many others, is extremely important: it has enormous implications for how human beings should live and where hope, joy, meaning, purpose, and value can be found (if anywhere), among other things. No person can afford to take it lightly.

One Response

  1. “What frustrates me about this kind of scenario is that the atheist in question hasn’t even bothered to look into the most rigorous academic formulations and defences of theism (or, more particularly, Christian theism).”

    The answer to that is…do any of these rigorous academic formulations and defenses involve actual evidence? Because that is what it would take to convince me. Not an argument. Evidence.

    Someone once said (and I’m paraphrasing), one need not be an expert in fashion in order to tell that the Emperor is wearing no clothes. And that’s how a lot of us feel.

    If you have clear and unambiguous evidence, bring it forward. If you have an argument, bring that forward too.

    What convinced YOU that a god exists? Was it these books and arguments? If it was, give me your best shot. If it was something else…why do you think something that didn’t convince you would convince someone else?

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