Should We Engage the Theists?

Jeremy_SteelePastor 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?


7 thoughts on “Should We Engage the Theists?”

    1. They're really not interested in defending their belief, they already know they can't do it so they rely on blind faith and irrational run-around, that's why people like William Lane Craig don't bother with evidence, just with philosophical masturbation. The fact remains, there is no good reason to believe that any gods exist, period. Anyone with half a clue ought to reject such beliefs but they don't. It's not about reality, it's about ego-stroking.

      1. Much of it does seem to be about ego-stroking. Of course, there's also indoctrination, the fear of death, and the fact that many people continue to find comfort in religious belief. I suspect that many religious believers do not care if what they believe is false as long as it allows them to avoid some unpleasant realities.

        My recent post Atheists React to the Death of Fred Phelps

  1. The thing that strikes me most about the evidence question is the dishonesty of theists when they use "evidence". I recently had a theist tell me there was evidence for excess water for the flood and gave a citation. Problem is it was a complete misrepresentation of the science presented, and did not claim what was been claimed by the theist. When I called out on this lie/misrepresentation the debate just died. No more replies except to other people.

    How do they expect to be taken seriously when they openly lie, and then just deny it over and over again.
    My recent post Politcally Incorrect?

    1. Pastor Steele is still trying to "engage" atheists over on Google+, very slowly and very badly, and nobody is taking him seriously because he refuses to acknowledge the problems with his own theology. I suspect what he means is that he wants atheists to embrace his religious views but he hasn't demonstrated that his religious views are valid. I had another similar encounter with a theist today where they insisted that anyone who didn't believe everything they believed must be a liar or dishonest. What's the point?

  2. I don't see where any good comes from either side trying to "recruit" the other. Really – what is there to gain aside from a fleeting sense of self satisfaction? Let it be. Focus on being someone worthy of respect and the opportunities to express your viewpoint to someone who feels otherwise will present themselves. There's far too much anger and disdain from both sides of the faith divide – it accomplishes nothing.

    1. It's not about recruiting, it's about educating. Reality matters, people's beliefs inform their actions and so long as people hold irrational beliefs, they make irrational decisions and that hurts people. Respect doesn't change the world, actually caring about what's factually true does.

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