I always find this funny, that theists, in a debate, will do almost anything to make their beliefs seem reasonable. These theists will go to almost any length to suggest that either their beliefs are worthwhile or that everyone else operates on as much faith as they do. Now usually, these people will get to a point where they just stop caring or stop responding, but occasionally you get those who just don’t know where to stop and just make their entire audience facepalm at their stupidity. I’m sort of debating one of those right now. I say “sort of” because I’m firmly in that facepalming mode right now, I have no idea where to go next and everyone else playing along is in the same position.
So we start talking about blind faith and how believing in something for which you can provide no objective evidence is foolish. There had been a previous assertion that God was the only logical option for the beginning of the universe and I had pointed out that God wasn’t even an option because nobody had shown that God was actually real in the first place. How can something that people just made up out of whole cloth be an option at all, much less the only logical option to explain an event?
So he comes back and says everyone lives by blind faith. I asked for an example and he said that if someone in a crowded theater shouted FIRE!, you’d get up and leave the theater, whether you actually saw a fire or not. You had faith, blind faith at that, that there actually was a fire, thus everyone lives by blind faith. Well, no. That’s not the way it works. See, we all know that fire is real, we have personal experience with fire and the damage it can do. We know that buildings, even theaters, can and do catch on fire and the most rational option, given even the possibility of a building you’re in being on fire, is to vacate the premises. If the same guy stood up in the middle of the crowded theater and shouted TYRANNOSAURUS!, you wouldn’t move. The possibility of a tryannosaurus rampaging through the theater is virtually nil (unless someone has developed time travel and we didn’t know it). There’s no reason to run away, there simply isn’t an identifiable danger.
Then he tries to say that if you were walking in the woods and you came face-to-face with Bigfoot, you would have no evidence that you had seen it, you couldn’t convince anyone else that it was actually real, but you would have plenty of evidence that would cause you to believe it happened. That failed too. If you actually had a direct, physical encounter in the woods with Bigfoot, you could see it. You could hear it. You could smell it. You could potentially touch it. If you tasted it, keep that to yourself. You actually do have a way of subjectively measuring the experience. Granted, there are lots of reasons why it may or may not be an encounter with an actual Bigfoot, but we’ll set those aside for the moment. So let’s compare that experience to claimed theist experiences with a god. First off, and I have debated literally thousands of theists over the years who have claimed to have had experiences with God, most of them actually haven’t. They have had experiences and have attributed those experiences, without evidence, to something they label God. There just is no direct causal link between any gods and the experience that they had. At least with Bigfoot, even though you may not be able to tell the difference between what has been described as Bigfoot and a horribly mutated bear, at least it matches a specific description and you can attach a specific label to it, even if that label is found to be ultimately wrong in further examination.
But these God experiences, you can’t even point to a commonly held definition of what God is. Different people have different ideas, different cultures believe in different gods and since you can’t even point to any absolute characteristics of God in these “experiences”, it’s just an assertion, nothing remotely like what we see in the Bigfoot example. This can be clearly seen in the classical example, someone gets into a traffic accident and survives and claims that God saved them. They completely ignore the actions of the ambulance drivers, the doctors, the nurses and the wealth of modern medical technology, they just assert that “God did it!” They’ve just woven God into their explanation because it’s the answer that appeals to them emotionally the most. If asked why it wasn’t Allah or Krishna or Santa Claus or a unicorn that saved them, they have no credible answers. They don’t like those explanations so they reject them. To this theist, just because these people think they had encounters with God means that they actually did have encounters with God.
Unfortunately for him, that’s too easy to take apart. Drunks see the stereotypical pink elephants. Just because they think they see these things, does that mean these things are actually real? Of course not. We know that excessive alcohol in the system can have detrimental effects on the brain and cause hallucinations and other similar experiences. We also know that excessive emotions can cause a shift in brain chemistry and have similar effects. These kind of religious hallucination are proven, without a doubt, to happen among the grossly faithful. There are no supernatural explanations necessary. So if a drunk can see a pink elephant that isn’t really there, why can’t a theist see a god that isn’t really there?
And that’s when he dove into the realm of the bat-shit insane. He claimed that since we can’t prove that reality is, in fact, real, that everyone’s experiences are solely in their heads and therefore, everyone’s reality, no matter how different, are all real for them. Of course, that really just shoots them in the head, it means that there’s no point in proselyting to anyone because while in your “reality” there might be a god, in my “reality” there might not be. For Muslims, Allah is “real”. For Hindus, Krishna is “real”. For atheists, none of them are “real”. What’s the point in trying to tell someone whose “reality” dictates that Zeus is the only god that actually, the Christian God is real? It’s just not true! This guy doesn’t care. He’s whacked out of his skull and everyone on the place is pointing and laughing. Of course this never dissuades the religious lunatics, it’s just one more reason why we, as rational people, should never take them seriously.
It’s amazing how far these people will go to protect their precious faith.