Pastor Jeremy Steele linked to this message on a Google+ atheist group and I thought I’d take a closer look at what Pastor Steele had to say. First off, I want to commend Pastor Steele for wanting to engage with atheists, I certainly agree that Ken Ham (not Haim) got trounced in his debate with Bill Nye because he was content to try to vilify Nye and not actually address anything that he said. It’s nice to know that there are theists out there who understand the failures of their own side and that there are some who want to engage atheists in discussion and debate.
The problem is that I don’t think they have anything with which to engage atheists, especially when it comes to those areas where theology comes into conflict with science. Science can present objective evidence and logical deduction, it can present experimentation and rational examination of the world around us. What can religion offer? Wishful thinking? Emotional desire? Faith? None of that comes close to defeating science and I think that’s really the problem. Theists lack anything in their arsenal that can stand up against the real world.
Sure, theists are really impressed with faith and they’re really impressed with their holy books and they’re really impressed with their emotional attachment to their claims but that’s really not enough to be worth debating against, any more than we ought to be out holding public debates with children who believe in Santa Claus for largely the same reasons. Steele says that the problem is the increasing deafness to criticism and the avoidance of the real debate and I agree, but even he is deaf to the most central issue, that they have no solid, objective evidence to support their beliefs whatsoever. He says he talks to people weekly who have questions about religion and the only answers are faith or silence. Maybe that’s because the only answers available are faith or silence. Ken Ham could only offer those to Bill Nye because he has nothing else. If Ham could have produced scientific evidence for the Biblical Flood, he would have. If he could have shown legitimate discussion in peer-reviewed journals on his religious beliefs, he would have. He simply doesn’t have those things. He only has his faith and silence.
So it seems that Pastor Steele agrees that Christians need to do a much better job engaging with the non-religious, yet I still see no means for doing so. It’s not like they can magically make evidence for the validity of their beliefs appear, any more than they’ve been able to find legitimate geological evidence for the flood or a recent miraculous creation by fiat appear. They are limited by the fact that everything they believe is in their head, not in the real world. Atheists are not going to be impressed by faith, no matter how strong and when he says there needs to be Christians who are not going to shy away from the hard questions, I don’t see that happening. The hardest question for theists to acknowledge is whether or not God is actually real. They’ve got no objective evidence and they’re not willing to question their premise. How is that not shying away? If we throw away blind faith, as we really must, what’s left for the Christian?
I’ve asked time and time again on this blog where I can go to find intelligent, rational theists who actually care if their beliefs are factually true and have failed to find any every time. If I found evidence for God, real, demonstrable, objective evidence, I’d believe in God. Why can I not find theists who are willing, in the complete and total absence of such evidence, to reject belief in God? Why is what’s good for the goose not good for the gander? In light of such inequities, is it really worth engaging theists when they have nothing in their arsenal to fight back with?