Category: atheism

By:   J. Warner Wallace

About the Author:   J. Warner Wallace; a cold-case homicide detective, a Christian case maker and an author. Jim was a conscientious and vocal atheist through his undergraduate and graduate work in Design and Architecture (CSULB and UCLA); he always considered himself to be an “evidentialist”.

As an atheist, I used to challenge my Christian friends with a common objection heard across the Internet today. Although my formulation of the objection differed from time to time, it was a lot like the popular statement attributed to Stephen F. Roberts:

“I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

My point was simple: All of us are atheists to some degree if you really think about it; we just disagree about which gods we reject. Christians are atheistic in their attitude toward, Zeus, Poseidon, Lakshmi, Vishnu, Cheonjiwang, Na Tuk Kong, Achamán, Huixtocihuatl and thousands of other historic gods. When asked, Christians typically offer the same reasons for rejecting these other “deities” that I would have offered for rejecting the God of Christianity. So (as I often claimed), if my believing friends simply approached Yahweh in the same way they approached other mythologies, they would inevitably take the final step toward rationality and reject all false gods.

This objection is still popular. I hear it (or read it) frequently in my efforts to make the case for Christianity now that I’m a believer. While there are certainly several valid responses, I’d like to offer one from my experience as a detective and case maker. I think it provides a brief, but rhetorically powerful rejoinder to this misguided, iconic objection.

In every criminal trial, a jury is asked to evaluate the actions of one defendant related to a particular crime. While there are millions of other people in the world who could have committed the crime under consideration (and indeed, millions of these people were actually available to commit the crime), only one has been charged. If the jury becomes convinced this defendant is the perpetrator, they will convict him based on their beliefs. They will convict the accused even though they havent examined the actions (or nature) of millions of other potential suspects. They’ll render a verdict based on the evidence related to this defendant, in spite of the fact they may be ignorant of the history or actions of several million alternatives. If the evidence is persuasive, the jurors will become true believers in the guilt of this man or woman, even as they reject millions of other options.

As Christians, we are just like the jurors on that trial. We make a decision about Jesus on the basis of the evidence related to Jesus, not the fact there may be many alternative candidates offered by others. If the evidence is persuasive, we can reach our decision in good conscience, even if we are completely unfamiliar with other possibilities. Christianity makes claims of exclusivity; if Christianity is true, all other claims about God are false. If the evidence supporting Christianity is convincing to us as the jury, we need look no further. In the end, our decision will be based on the strength (or weakness) of the case for Christianity, just like the decisions made by jurors related to a particular defendant must be based on the strength (or weakness) of the evidence. At the end of a trail, juries are “unbelievers” when it comes to every other potential suspect, because the evidence confirming the guilt of their particular defendant was sufficient. In a similar way, we can be confident “unbelievers” when it comes to every other potential god because the evidence for Christianity is more than sufficient.

Archaeology is a scientific discipline requiring dozens of specializations. Despite its complexity, it has the unenviable distinction of being a field in which anyone with sufficient interest and a modicum of experience can claim to be a specialist. Popular examples include self-proclaimed experts who claim to have found chariot wheels at the bottom of the Red Sea, the real location of Mt. Sinai, and the long-lost treasures of Solomon in a hidden cave beneath the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. These claims are difficult, if not impossible, to verify, and are often accompanied by dubious proof and doctored evidence. Archaeology is a field subject to severe abuse by those with too little training and too much imagination.

The mistreatment of archaeological evidence is not the sole property of poorly trained apologists. It is also found in the writings of the new atheists. “New atheism” is much like atheism in general, except that it is exceptionally militant and intolerant of everything remotely religious in nature. The term appears to have been coined by Gary Wolf in a November 2006 article in Wired Magazine titled, “The Church of the New Believer.” In the article, Wolf says that the new atheist will “not let us [unbelievers] off the hook simply because we are not doctrinaire believers. They condemn not just belief in God but respect for belief in God” (2006). The new atheist is not merely an unbeliever, but one who promotes disbelief and has no tolerance for anyone who respects religion, whether theist, agnostic, or atheist. For new atheists, it is all or nothing. Incidentally, Wolf—though an atheist himself—ultimately disagrees with the severity of the new atheists’ approach.

The most noticeable of the current leaders in this new and virulent strain of militant atheism include Englishmen Richard Dawkins (biologist) and Christopher Hitchens (polemicist and political journalist), and American Sam Harris (neuroscientist). Their diatribes against religion are both malicious and well publicized. Virtually anything they write is going to secure a place near the top of the New York Times bestseller list. This is not surprising, since their devotees are anxious for any new criticism of Christianity, and believers want to read them to understand the new arguments facing the faithful.

The new atheists frequently appeal to subject areas outside their specialties for proof to support their claims. Such might not otherwise discredit their views, but their level of proficiency in these areas is decidedly inferior, as borne out by the numerous mistakes, misunderstandings, and logical errors that pepper their works. One of the blatant areas of abuse concerns their appeals to archaeology.

While Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris are gifted with formidable intellects and considerable literary prowess, archaeology lies outside their realm of competency. They would do well to remember that expertise in one area does not immediately transfer into any other area of one’s choosing. Dawkins may be a highly respected biologist among evolutionists, but he is a rather poor student of the religion he so fiercely opposes. In some cases it appears almost as if he reaches for any argument, no matter how poor, to justify his extreme dislike for Christianity. Hitchens is an insightful journalist, but his impeccable prose inadequately conceals a lamentable ignorance of Christianity and the wealth of evidence supporting its claims. Harris is an up-and-coming scientist, but his skills in logic and argumentation are virtually nonexistent and have drawn heavy criticism from nearly all quarters. All three men may be gifted in their areas of specialization, but outside those areas they are like fish out of water. They seem to have gained only enough familiarity with Christianity to generate criticism that will tickle the ears of their adherents. Their attacks on the Christian faith are little more than public proofs of their inadequacy as critics.

The Responsible Use of Archaeology

Archaeology is an exciting field that brings a great deal of information to bear on the study of the Bible. At the same time, archaeologists must exercise caution in evaluating ancient evidence for several reasons. First, the ancient evidence is usually very fragmentary. Not all the evidence from antiquity made it into the ground in the first place, and if it did, the march of time frequently takes its toll on ancient artifacts. This is not surprising since artifacts deteriorate even in climate-controlled environments in state-of-the-art museums. Second, with every season new discoveries are brought to light, adding to the body of information we possess about the ancient world. The next year could well produce evidence that contradicts this year’s conclusions. Finally, the surviving evidence is piecemeal in nature, requiring archaeologists to fill in the gaps with educated guesswork where conclusiveness may be lacking.  This is not to say that archaeology cannot reach definite conclusions, but only to say that those conclusions may frequently be tentative in nature. Unlike responsible scholars, the Bible’s critics frequently make grandiose appeals to evidence without the caution employed by those who understand how to evaluate the evidence.

Archaeology has been misused by those wishing to foster a skeptical attitude toward the factual reliability of the Bible. A prime example is an article published in Harper’s Magazine titled, “False Testament: Archaeology Refutes the Bible’s Claim to History.” Author Daniel Lazare writes,

Not long ago, archaeologists could agree that the Old Testament, for all its embellishments and contradictions, contained a kernel of truth…. That is no longer the case. In the last quarter century or so, archaeologists have seen one settled assumption after another concerning who the ancient Israelites were and where they came from proved false (2002, p. 39).

Lazare, a journalist with no archaeological credentials, does little more than survey the extreme left concerning the intersection of archaeology and the Bible. Yigal Levin, professor in the department of philosophy and religion at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, wrote a stinging response to the article in Harper’s. He states: “From his essay, I learned only that Lazare is capable of summarizing The Bible Unearthed, written by my former teacher Israel Finkelstein and his colleague Neil Asher Silverman. Like their book, Lazare’s essay is one-sided and overly dramatic” (Levin, 2002, p. 4).

The book to which Levin refers in his article is The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts (Finkelstein and Silberman, 2001). Finkelstein’s work has drawn substantial criticism from other scholars—even those who doubt the Bible’s veracity. Virtually no archaeologists have adopted his somewhat radical conclusions, which generally deny a great deal of historicity to the Old Testament narratives. It should be noted that Finkelstein, who once held a relatively positive position on the relationship between the Bible and ancient history, now holds a minority view that finds little acceptance among even mainstream archaeologists. His work has been heavily and publicly criticized by American archaeologist William Dever, who called the book “an archaeological manifesto, not judicious and well-balanced scholarship,” adding, “it will do little to educate the public” (2001, 322:74). It is significant that Dever, one of the most widely respected archaeologists in America, states explicitly that he is “not a theist” (2005, p. xi).

A Classic Double Standard Used Against the Bible

The double standard employed against the Bible is both obvious and pervasive. One such example concerns the conquest of Canaan, which is frequently filed under the categories of fiction and myth. Joshua’s campaign is usually assumed to be fictitious, but there is a parallel example from Egypt that mirrors Joshua’s account. In 1275 B.C., the forces of Egypt under Ramesses the Great, and the Hittite Empire under general Muwatallis II, met at the Battle of Kadesh. Egyptian forces were separated into three units as they traveled northward through Canaan. Two divisions traveled farther inland, while a third made its route close to the Mediterranean coastline. The Hittites, lying in wait near the city of Kadesh, ambushed the Egyptian troops. The Hittite forces overran the first division and shattered it. The quick-thinking Ramesses hastily organized his troops and was able to fend off the Hittite offensive long enough for the third division to arrive. The reinforced troops eventually pushed back their Hittite opponents. In the end, Ramesses won a military victory, but suffered a political defeat since the Hittite Empire either retained or reclaimed lost territory in the area.

In typical Near Eastern fashion, Ramesses returned to Egypt and proclaimed a great victory. Indeed, the famous colossi at Abu Simbel were part of a monument erected near the border of Ethiopia to convince Egypt’s neighbors that Ramesses had won a decisive victory—just in case they heard otherwise. A relief depicting the battle shows Ramesses gunning down fleeing Hittite soldiers with his bow and rolling over others like speed bumps in his oversized chariot. In the written account of the battle, he credits both divine intervention and his own leadership as the main causes for the Egyptian triumph over his enemies (Kitchen, 2000, 2:37). According to the poetic version of the account, Ramesses leaps into battle while the uraeus, the serpent-shaped symbol of protection worn on the forehead of the king, blasts fire at his enemies and consumes the Hittite forces like an ancient flame-thrower.

In inscription we see several parallels between the Battle of Kadesh and the military operations carried out under Joshua as recorded in the Old Testament: (1) both leaders are dynamic military figures, (2) each is said to rely upon divine aid to defeat his foes, and (3) each credits his deity with the victory. While no scholar denies the Battle of Kadesh took place, a majority dismisses the conquest of Canaan out of hand. For Ramesses, scholars simply excise any references to the divine and accept the rest as reliable narrative. For Joshua’s account, the references to Yahweh immediately place the story in the realm of myth. No details are accepted as genuine. While there are other factors at work in this particular case (such as the debate over the available information that bears on the conquest of Canaan), it should be noted that for many people, including scholars, Scripture is virtually the only ancient literature where any mention of the supernatural immediately disqualifies any claim to historical reliability. Other ancient works are filled with magic and divine intervention, yet this fact does not stop scholars from searching them for a core historical truth. Quite the opposite is true in the case of the Bible.

Pseudo-Scholarship in the Popular Press

The popular press has been very active in its attempt to diminish the intellectual respectability of biblical faith, and the new atheists are one of the best examples. Their academic arrogance is nothing short of astounding, and only further highlighted by their lack of understanding of biblical studies. One of the most egregious examples of religious ignorance is found in David Mills’ book Atheist Universe:

It’s fairly easy to demonstrably prove that the Genesis accounts of Adam and Eve, and Noah’s worldwide deluge, are fables. It’s easier to prove these stories false because, unlike the notion of God, the Creation account and Noah’s flood are scientifically testable. Science may explore human origins and the geologic history of Earth. In this regard, science has incontrovertibly proven that the Book of Genesis is utter mythology (2006, p. 28).

Mills provides a priceless example of just how badly militant atheists misunderstand ancient literature. Within a mere paragraph, Mills uses the terms “fable,” “mythology,” and (false) “story” interchangeably. None of these terms are synonyms. A fable is a whimsical tale, usually containing a moral or teaching point, in which talking animals frequently play primary roles. Aesop’s Fables immediately comes to mind. This is quite different from the term “mythology,” which centers on stories of the gods and often has a religious or cultic function. These stories also have varying degrees of contradiction with other myths within the same corpus in which the deities are represented. Incidentally, this is also different from a “legend,” which is an embellished story about a human figure containing at least a kernel of historical truth.

Unlike myths, fables, and fictive stories, the Old and New Testaments are concerned with reporting factual details. The historical books frequently reference other sources such as the Book of Jashar (Joshua 10:13; 2 Samuel 1:18), the Book of the Wars of the Lord (Numbers 21:14), and the Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah (2 Chronicles 27:7). It appears that the divinely-guided Hebrew writers worked with sources in similar fashion to modern historians. The writers often used source material and on occasion point the reader to those sources where additional information could be found at the original time of writing (e.g., 1 Kings 14:19). Luke makes it clear that he conducted an extensive investigation of the sources in the composition of his gospel account (Luke 1:1-4). His attention to geographical detail, long recognized by scholars for its accuracy and thoroughness, is quite out of keeping with ancient myths, which had no concern for this type of information.  Finally, Paul (1 Corinthians 15:5-8), Peter (2 Peter 1:16), and John (1 John 1:1-2) all offer eyewitnesses testimonials, presupposing their readers had the ability to verify their claims.

It is important to note that the ancients rarely believed their myths actually happened in real time and space. Actual history is of very little concern in mythology, which may come as a surprise to many moderns. It seems to be just as surprising to the critics of the Bible, who invariably equate myth with fiction. The new atheists assume that Jesus is a mythological creation of the early church, missing the point that the early Christians actually believed that He walked the Earth, performed miracles, and rose from the dead. Unlike the pagan populace of Greece and Rome, early Christians were willing to die for their convictions. This attitude made them a target for the Greek satirist Lucian of Samosata, who mocked their belief in eternal life. He wrote in “The Death of Peregrine”:

The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day—the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account…. You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them… (n.d., 4:82-83).

Since martyrdom was virtually unknown in the Greco-Roman world, why did it become so common in the Christian community? Simply put, no one else believed in the exclusivity of religion. The ancients were polytheistic and inclusive. Not only were other gods recognized, but initiation in one of the mystery religions did not exclude membership in other cults. As long as one had enough money for the expensive initiation rites, he or she could be a member of any number of the secretive mystery cults in the Greek world.

In his book, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, Christopher Hitchens spends a few pages alluding to Jesus as merely one of many virgin-born, crucified messiahs (2007, pp. 22-23). Many critics have argued Jesus is nothing more than a plagiarized myth from other world religions, adapted for use by the earliest Christians. Allegedly, the virgin birth is found in Mithras worship, and other gods such as Attis and Osiris were crucified and resurrected. Critics do not appear to realize that in the mystery cult of Mithras, the god was born from a rock, and that the earliest stories come from over a century after the time of Christ (cf. Butt and Lyons, 2006). Further, Attis and Osiris were never crucified. Attis killed himself and Seth drowned his brother Osiris in the Nile River. Further, the two never truly resurrected. Attis remained in a comatose state where his hair still grew and his little finger twitched. Osiris is said to have been brought back to life but did not rejoin the land of the living. He instead remained in the underworld as the lord of the dead (the story also explains mummification, which is decidedly different from the Christian view of resurrection). One would be hard-pressed to find a true resurrection outside the Bible. All of this information is readily available in popular translations of the ancient myths that seem to have escaped the attention of Christianity’s most popular critics. In their haste to relegate the Bible to the realm of myth, the new atheists have failed to realize that the Bible records actual persons, places, and events that can be located in the archaeological record.

Embarrassment in the New Atheism

The new atheists are quite skilled at parroting critical scholars in the popular media, but give little evidence of having done any real research into the archaeological concerns surrounding the Bible. Their mistakes are so elementary that, if one did not know that they were ranked among the world’s intellectual elite, one would simply consider them part of the lunatic fringe. The dogmatic conclusions reached by Dawkins and company are unjustified for several reasons. First, none are well-acquainted with the material they cite. Their specialties lie in unrelated fields, and their conclusions are frequently unsupported or even contradicted by the archaeological artifacts. Second, none possesses a basic, reasonable knowledge of Christianity. They often make basic mistakes that could have been easily prevented by spending time doing minimal research into basic biblical teachings. Finally, they make very few attempts at formulating arguments, and those they make are peppered with logical errors and fallacious reasoning.

Apologists for disbelief have noted the criticism of their leading spokesmen and have rushed to their defense. In a blog called the “Black Sun Journal,” editor Sean Prophet writes:

The flimsiest of all the rhetorical devices used by religious writers is the accusation that atheists lack scholarship on religion. That they supposedly “don’t even understand what they have rejected.” This dismissive attitude is repeated ad nauseam in the popular media. While it’s true that few atheists have doctor-of-divinity degrees, it’s completely false that they therefore can’t understand theology (Prophet, 2008, italics in orig.).

Prophet argues that it is false that atheists cannot understand theology. Yet, he misses the fact that critics such as Dawkins and P.Z. Meyers defend their refusal to engage Christian thought, sometimes crudely, as in the case of a Meyers’s piece titled, “The Courtier’s Reply” (2006). Georgetown professor John Haught critiques them, saying, “Given all their bluster about the evils of theology, why do they wade only ankle deep in the shallows of religious illiteracy? A well-thought-out military strategy sooner or later has to confront the enemy at its strongest point, but [Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens have—DB] avoided any such confrontation. Unlike the great leaders in war, these generals have decided to aim their assaults exclusively at the softest points in the wide world of faith” (2008, p. 63, bracketed item added). While he criticizes the supposed myth of ignorance surrounding the militant, atheist movement, Prophet appears to have as little understanding of religion as those whom he defends. Indeed, his assertion that “[r]ank-and-file atheists are far more facile with scripture than rank-and-file Christians” is so laughable and outrageous as to be absurd. A cursory survey of militant, atheist literature from those who are considered its greatest scholars quickly reveals a host of misunderstandings readily apparent to any unbiased observer.

One example of Dawkins’ many academic sins concerns the Gnostic gospels. In The God Delusion, he argues that Thomas Jefferson advised his young nephew to read the other accounts of Jesus’ life, which Dawkins claims are the Gnostic writings such as the “Gospels of Thomas, Peter, Nicodemus, Philip, Bartholomew, and Mary Magdalen” (2006, p. 95). It would be quite impossible for Jefferson to have recommended the Gnostic gospels to his nephew since they were unknown in his day. So it is with the apocryphal gospels. Those of Thomas and Philip were among the cache of documents discovered in 1945 in Nag Hammadi, Egypt. The gospels of Peter and Mary were both found in the late 1800’s. The gospel of Bartholomew has yet to be positively identified. In every case, these non-canonical writings date much later than the time of Christ and provide no evidence of offering genuine accounts of Christ’s life.

Christopher Hitchens follows in Dawkins footsteps when he misunderstands the nature of the Gnostic writings. He says that the gospels “were of the same period and provenance as many of the subsequently canonical and ‘authorized’ Gospels” (2007, p. 112). Yet, Gnostic beliefs arose shortly after Christianity, and the documents produced by Gnostics date from the second century to the fifth century and later. As a marriage between Christianity and Neo-Platonic philosophy, Gnosticism reached its height in the second and third centuries, but its incipient form is implicitly condemned in several New Testament passages (Colossians 2:9; 1 John 1:1; cf. 1 Peter 2:24).

Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris appear to draw their notions about the supposed legendary nature of the gospel accounts from Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. All three heartily recommend Ehrman’s book and give him high praise for his journey into unbelief, which he never seems to tire of describing (2005, pp. 1-15; 2008, pp. 1-19; 2009, pp. ix-xii). The new atheists are apparently unaware that Ehrman’s work has drawn heavy criticism because of its tendency to sensationalize, overplay the evidence, and present ideas that few of his academic peers affirm, regardless of their religious orientation or lack thereof. That the trio—as non-specialists who know relatively little about Christianity—would lean so heavily on a scholar like Ehrman is, perhaps, understandable, but remains inexcusable.

Hitchens claims that the existence of Jesus is “highly questionable” and there is a “huge amount of fabrication” in the details presented in the gospel records (2007, p. 114). The only genre into which the gospel accounts could possibly be forced would be legend, but even then, there was insufficient time for Jesus to reach legendary status. As the acclaimed classical scholar A.N. Sherwin-White pointed out, it takes time for legends to accumulate about a historical person (1963, pp. 188-191). The gospel records are clearly non-mythological and give no evidence of being legendary.

The biblical ignorance of the new atheists is on full display when David Mills begs for Christians to defend why they believe in mythical creatures such as unicorns (Job 39:9-10; Psalm 22:21), cockatrices (Isaiah 11:8), and satyrs (Isaiah 13:21). He embarrasses himself when he writes:

I also find it revealing that, in the newer, modern-language translations of the Bible, these ridiculous passages of Scripture have been dishonestly excised, rewritten or edited beyond their original translation in the King James. So not only are the Great Pretenders forsaking long-honored and long-held Christian beliefs, but the Bible itself, under their supervision, appears to be experiencing a quiet, behind-the-scenes, Hollywood makeover as well (2006, p. 150).

The words rendered “unicorn” (re’em, “ox”), “cockatrice” (tsepha`, a type of serpent), and “satyr” (sa`ir, “goat”) have nothing to do with mythological creatures. In fact, these creatures did not even exist in ancient Near Eastern mythology. The last 400 years has seen an explosion in the knowledge of the biblical languages. Scholars now have the benefit of the numerous manuscripts and inscription discoveries that have greatly expanded our knowledge of the languages. The work at the ancient city of Ugarit alone has provided a wealth of information on the Hebrew language through the study of the closely related language of Ugaritic. Mills’ objection evaporates when we understand that the change in English translation is not due to a dishonest makeover, but to a better and truer understanding of how the original text should be translated. To his discredit, he mistakes dishonesty for  intellectual progress, which only further underscores his unfamiliarity with the Bible and its ancient context—and his extreme prejudice.

Christopher Hitchens says the material from the Exodus to the Conquest of Canaan “was all, quite simply and very ineptly, made up at a much later date…. Much of the evidence is the other way” (2007, p. 102). Elsewhere, he says the Pentateuch is an “ill-carpentered fiction, bolted into place well after the nonevents that it fails to describe convincingly or even plausibly” (p. 104). Here Hitchens alludes to the Documentary Hypothesis which claims the books of Moses were compiled from different sources much later than the time of the Exodus. Again, Hitchens does not seem to know that recent discoveries have presented the Documentary Hypothesis with significant challenges that have yet to find plausible answers (cf. Garrett, 2000; Kaiser, 2001). While much of modern scholarship believes in the hypothesis, it must be noted that professors essentially pass on the theory to their students as a body of dogmatic teaching and rarely require them to actually question the theory (cf. evolution). Moreover, archaeology has consistently produced evidence that implies the writing of the Pentateuch is genuinely ancient.

Just when things could not get any worse, Hitchens further destroys his own credibility by claiming urban myth as fact. He states: “the Pentateuch contains two discrepant accounts of the Creation, two different genealogies of the seed of Adam, and two narratives of the Flood” (2007, p. 106). The two creation accounts are intentionally written for two different purposes and are complimentary, not contradictory. This is similar to the way in which a person might take a photograph of an object from two different angles in order more fully to explore the subject in view. Critics seem fixated on digging this old chestnut out of the wastebasket where it rightly belongs (cf. Jackson, 1991). Also, genealogies in the Bible are selective by nature, so differences in genealogical lists are inconsequential (cf. Miller, 2003). The alleged two narratives of the Flood in Genesis 6-9 refers to the artificial separation of the story into two constituent parts, which falls under the purview of the Documentary Hypothesis. This allegation, too, has been shown to be fraught with problems.

The Plausibility of the Biblical Record

Archaeology demonstrates solid connections between the biblical record and ancient history, in contrast to Christopher Hitchens’ assertion that it is an implausible record. Consider the following:

The Patriarchs

Critics often malign the patriarchs without just cause. They insist that camels were not domesticated during the patriarchal age, thus constituting an anachronism in the biblical text. Yet evidence of camel domestication appears as early as 2000 B.C. in several places in Mesopotamia, concurrent with Abraham—if not slightly preceding him (Kitchen, 2003, p. 339). Another point of confidence is the names of the patriarchs. While God selected Jacob’s name, they all highlight the Mesopotamian roots of Abraham since the names of Isaac, Jacob, Ishmael, and Joseph are all of Amorite origin (pp. 341-342). These names were at the height of their popularity when the patriarchs lived in the early second millennium and quickly fell into disuse in subsequent centuries.

A vital piece of evidence is the structure of covenants in the Bible. Covenants made in antiquity evolved over time, and each period has a distinct structure for the covenants made at various times and particular locations. Kenneth Kitchen has surveyed a wide range of covenants used from the third millennium through the first millennium B.C. (Kitchen, 2003, pp. 283-289). He found the Abrahamic covenant made in Genesis 15-17 fits securely in the early second millennium, while the covenants in Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Joshua 24 fit only in a late second millennium context.

The Life of Joseph

In the very section of the Bible that Hitchens questions is found some of the most compelling evidence for the historicity of Scripture. As Egyptologist James K. Hoffmeier demonstrates, the story for Joseph rings true with numerous details (Hoffmeier, 1996, pp. 77-98). The 20-shekel price paid for Joseph (Genesis 37:28) is consistent with the price of a slave c. 1700 B.C. Egyptian mummification took about 70 days once the period for mourning was included, which matches the time given for the mummification of Jacob (Genesis 50:3). Examples of non-Egyptians becoming viziers is known from Egyptian sources. Further, it appears that the story of Joseph was put down in writing during the 18th-19th Dynasties in Egypt, the very period during which Moses lived. This idea is borne out by the fact that the Pentateuch uses the name “Pharaoh” (Hebrew phar’oh, Egyptian per-`3) when referring to the king of Egypt. During this time, the term was a generic one referring to the king, similar to referring to the U.S. President as “the White House,” or to the British monarch as “the Crown.” Prior to this time, the name of the king was used, and afterward sources mention the monarch as “Pharaoh X” or “X, king of Egypt”—as in the case of pharaohs Shishak (1 Kings 11:40; 2 Chronicles 12:2) and Neco (2 Kings 23:29).

The United Monarchy

David’s existence has been questioned frequently. Examples of petty monarchs ruling miniscule kingdoms in the Near East find rare mention in ancient sources, yet generally their historicity is taken at face value with minimal skepticism. Even Gilgamesh, the hero of the Epic of Gilgamesh, is thought to have been a historical figure ruling in Mesopotamia between 2600-2700 B.C. based on a reference in the famous Sumerian king list. Yet, David’s historicity is viewed with extreme suspicion, even though there are references to David found in the Tel Dan Inscription and the Moabite Stone, as well as numerous references in the Hebrew Bible. Indeed, Gilgamesh is thought to have been a real person despite being the semi-divine hero in a mythical composition, which also includes such fantastic details as a beast-man named Enkidu, a divinely sent creature of destruction called the Bull of Heaven, and a plant that can grant the person who eats it eternal life. David is frequently labeled a myth despite the solid evidence in favor of his existence.

The Divided Monarchy

Archaeology has vindicated the Bible’s mention of several figures that were once thought to have been fictional. The existence of Sargon (Isaiah 20:1) was questioned until a relief bearing his image was found in the throne room of his capital city of Dur-Sharrukin (“Fort Sargon”). Belshazzar (Daniel 5:1) was likewise questioned because Babylonian documents listed Nabonidus as the last king of the Babylonian empire. Scholars uncovered ancient evidence showing that Belshazzar co-ruled with his father Nabonidus, ruling from the city while Nabonidus sat for 10 years in self-imposed exile. Balaam (Numbers 22-24) has been located in an extrabiblical source called the Deir ‘Alla Inscription written during this period (Mazar, 1990, p. 330).

The Life of Christ

Archaeology does not always mention any one individual, and in the case of Christ, more substantial evidence comes from history rather than archaeology. One significant find is the 1990 discovery of the ossuary (bone box) of Joseph Caiaphas, high priest at the time of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion (John 11:49-53). Jesus is mentioned by the Roman writers Suetonius and Tacitus, the Roman governor Pliny the Younger, and is indirectly referenced by the Greek satirist Lucian of Samosata. He is also noted in a Jewish composition from the fifth century called the Toledoth Jesu, which gives an alternate explanation for the empty tomb from a hostile source. Jesus is far from the “myth” critics claim Him to be.

The Early Church

Inscriptions have revealed the names of numerous individuals mentioned in the New Testament. Gallio, proconsul of Achaia (Acts 18:12-17), is mentioned in an inscription found at the city of Delphi. Paul’s friend Erastus (Acts 19:22) is likely mentioned in an inscription found at Corinth. Sergius Paulus, mentioned as the first convert on the island of Cyprus, was proconsul (a Roman governor) when the apostle Paul visited the island (Acts 13:7). He is mentioned in an inscription found near Paphos (Reed, 2007, p. 13).

After the evidence is surveyed, it is apparent that much of the criticism of the Bible arises—not from intense scrutiny of the evidence—but from ignorance of it. The overwhelming weight of the archaeological and historical evidence firmly places the Bible in the sphere of reality rather than myth.

Knowing Should Lead to Knowing How Much One Does Not Know

Part of the problem with secular science is that it focuses on empirical data, but has little to no interest in epistemology: the study of how human beings know what we know. This great divorce has become clearer over the past couple of centuries, and is on full display in books like The God Delusion, where Richard Dawkins commits dozens of logical errors. Many of his arguments fail because he is not conversant with religion. They also suffer from his lack of understanding how evidence outside his specialty is to be interpreted and applied.

Journalist David Klinghoffer points out: “A favorite strategy of such groups has long been to attack cartoon versions of older rival religions” (2007). He cites as evidence Dawkins’ now-infamous phrase about the God of the Hebrew Bible being “arguably the most unpleasant character in fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully” (Dawkins, 2006, p. 31). No believer in the Judeo-Christian tradition would ever agree to this assessment, nor would anyone familiar with the Bible defend it. While Prophet argues that contrarians like Dawkins should not be labeled as ignorant of religion (2008), the evidence argues powerfully against him.

The unmitigated vitriol that pervades the works of Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris is a clear indicator that their intolerance of Christianity is not motivated by objective reason. These men give every appearance of being desperate to artificially maintain a hatred of God. They fail to demonstrate sufficient familiarity with the Bible and fail in understanding the ancient evidence supporting it.

Christians everywhere should be reminded that grandiose assertions, unsupported by adequate evidence, can be dismissed safely. This is the case with much of the material produced by the new militant breed of atheism—which makes many bold claims and offers remarkably little proof. Such is certainly the case with the facts concerning the reliability and historicity of Scripture. Boisterous claims do nothing to bolster their case when Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris find themselves contradicted by the evidence. If these three are the best that militant atheism has to offer, Christians have nothing to fear.


Butt, Kyle and Eric Lyons (2006), Behold! The Lamb of God (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).

Dawkins, Richard (2006), The God Delusion (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin).

Dever, William (2001), “Excavating the Hebrew Bible or Burying It Again?” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, 322: 67-77, May.

Dever, William (2005), Did God Have a Wife? (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

Ehrman, Bart (2005), Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (New York: HarperSanFrancisco).

Ehrman, Bart (2008), God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question—Why We Suffer (New York: HarperOne).

Ehrman, Bart (2009), Jesus Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don’t Know About Them) (New York: HarperOne).

Finkelstein, Israel and Neil Asher Silberman (2001), The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts (New York: Free Press).

Garrett, Duane (2000), Rethinking Genesis: The Sources and Authorship of the First Book of the Pentateuch (Geanies House, Fern: Christian Focus Publications).

Haught, John F. (2008), God and the New Atheism: A Critical Response to Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox).

Hitchens, Christopher (2007), God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything(New York: Hachette).

Hoffmeier, James K. (1996), Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Jackson, Wayne (1991), “Are There Two Creation Accounts in Genesis?

Kaiser, Walt C. Jr. (2001), The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable and Relevant? (Downers Grove, IL: IVP).

Kitchen, Kenneth A., trans. (2000) “The Battle of Kadesh—The Poem, or Literary Record,” The Context of Scripture, Volume Two: Monumental Inscriptions Form the Biblical World (Leiden: Brill).

Kitchen, Kenneth A. (2003), On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans).

Klinghoffer, David (2007), “Prophets of the New Atheism,”

Lazare, Daniel (2002), “False Testament: Archaeology Refutes the Bible’s Claim to History,” Harper’s Magazine, 304/1822:39-47, March.

Levin, Yigal (2002), “Let There Be Light,” Harper’s Magazine, 304[1825]:4, June.

Lucian of Samosata (no date), “The Death of Peregrine,” in H.W. Fowler and F.G. Fowler (1905), The Works of Lucian of Samosata (Oxford: Clarendon Press).

Mazar, Amihai (1990), Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, 10,000-586 B.C.E.(New York: Doubleday).

Meyers, P.Z. (2006), “The Courtier’s Reply,”

Miller, Dave (2003), “The Genealogies of Matthew and Luke,”

Mills, David (2006), Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (Berkley, CA: Ulysses Press).

Prophet, Sean (2008), “Pastor Acknowledges Arguments of New Atheism,”

Reed, Jonathan (2007), The HarperCollins Visual Guide to the New Testament: What Archaeology Reveals about the First Christians (New York: HarperOne).

Sherwin-White, Adrian Nicholas (1963), Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament(Oxford: Clarendon).

Wolf, Gary (2006), “Church of the Non-Believers,”

Christopher Hitchens 1949 – 2011: “atheist – a man of hate and fraud” A short video

In 2005, in protest of the Kansas State Board of Education’s decision to require the teaching of Intelligent Design in addition to Darwinian evolution, Bobby Henderson professed belief in a Flying Spaghetti Monster as the universe’s supernatural creator. Henderson then mockingly demanded that his belief that the Flying Spaghetti Monster (also known as the Spaghedeity) created the universe with a touch from his “noodly appendage.” With the motive of mocking the Intelligent Design Theory, Henderson wrote, “I think we can all look forward to the time when these three theories are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country, and eventually the world—one-third time for Intelligent Design, one-third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and one-third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence.”

From this beginning, Flying Spaghetti Monsterism has gained a “cult” following, with its advocates calling themselves “Pastafarians.” None of the advocates of Pastafarianism genuinely believes in the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Rather, this mock religion’s only intent is to argue against Intelligent Design being taught in schools as an alternative theory to Darwinian evolution. Pastafarians claim that if Intelligent Design is taught in schools, then every conceivable theory of origins must be taught as well. This would obviously result in confusion and chaos.

So, do Pastafarians have a point? Does the idea of a Flying Spaghetti Monster illustrate how foolish it is to try to bring religion into the classroom? The answer is a resounding no. The entire concept of Flying Spaghetti Monsterism / Pastafarianism is built on a faulty premise—that the Intelligent Design Theory is the same thing as literal biblical creationism. Anyone who has truly examined the writings of Intelligent Design advocates realizes this fact. Granted, there are some who are using the Intelligent Design Theory to attempt to force literal biblical creationism into science classrooms, but that is not what the Intelligent Design theory is at its core.

The Intelligent Design Theory—that the vast majority of its advocates are trying to get into the science classrooms—is the idea that biological life exhibits such extraordinary complexity that it could not have come to be entirely in a naturalistic vacuum. The more that science advances, the more obvious it becomes that the universe and the life that is within it could not be the result of completely random, unguided, and non-designed chance. This understanding of the Intelligent Design Theory is clearly not the same as literal biblical creationism. In fact, Intelligent Design is no more an argument for biblical creationism than it is an argument for theistic evolution.

While the advocates of Flying Spaghetti Monsterism are entertaining, creative, and excellent at satire, the system fails in that it is an argument against only an extreme minority within the Intelligent Design movement. Pastafarianism does not apply, or in any way refute, the core arguments of the Intelligent Design Theory. The question of which implication of the Intelligent Design Theory is correct is a subject far better suited to philosophy / theology classrooms than science classrooms. The Intelligent Design Theory itself, however, is a valid issue to be raised within the science classroom, due to naturalistic science’s failure to demonstrate how the universe, and life within the universe, came into existence without the intervention of an Intelligent Designer.

Flying Spaghetti Monsterism (also known as Pastafarianism) is a “religion” created by a man named Bobby Henderson. Mr. Henderson created this satire in protest of the Kansas State Board of Education’s decision to teach intelligent design as an alternative to the theory of evolution. In essence, he was asking, “If foolish religious ideas like that of Intelligent Design have to be given equal time in high school biology classes, then why can’t other foolish religious ideas be taught alongside with it?” So, in protest, he made up a silly set of religious beliefs and demanded that they be given equal time in biology classes alongside the theories of evolution and Intelligent Design. His point seems to be that to teach Intelligent Design in schools is as absurd as teaching that the Flying Spaghetti Monster made the world and deceived scientists into believing evolution. (Note: Flying Spaghetti Monsterism is simply a new, and more entertaining, variation of Russell’s teapot and the Invisible Pink Unicorn.)

The line of reasoning for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism seems to be that
1. There is no evidence for the existence of the Judeo-Christian God.
2. There is no evidence for the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
3. Therefore, belief in the Judeo-Christian God and belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster are on equal epistemic grounds.

There are more problems with this thinking than can be covered in this article. However, some responses should given.

Premise 1 is false. It is not the case that “there is no evidence for the existence of the Judeo-Christian God.” Mr. Henderson may not accept the evidence for the existence of the Judeo-Christian God, but he does not offer much by way of demonstrating that the classical and contemporary arguments for God’s existence are false. Even if he adequately refuted several arguments given by theists for the belief in God, he would still not be justified in saying that “there is NO evidence for the existence of God.” In fact, this comment smacks of an a priori rejection (a rejection of the evidence before the evidence is even given) of the notion that evidence may be given for the existence of God.

Many arguments have been given for the existence of God. For example, there are cosmological arguments (arguments for a first cause), teleological arguments (arguments for a Grand Designer), moral arguments (arguments for a Moral Lawgiver), and others. Anyone who is serious about the question of God must deal with these arguments charitably and thoroughly before dogmatically rejecting belief in God. To ignorantly reject the existence of God “because I can’t think of any good reasons to believe in God” is not in keeping with the most influential thinkers in Western civilization. Almost all major philosophers and thinkers have dealt with the existence of God, and most of them accepted some form of belief in a God. A large number of philosophers have argued for their belief in the existence of God. It is a small minority of thinkers who have denied the existence of God.

NOTE: This is not advocating the “appeal to the people” fallacy (argumentum ad populum). The argument is not that belief in God is true BECAUSE so many people believe that God exists. Rather, it is simply an irrefutable fact that many brilliant minds have pondered the God question and come to the conclusion that He does, in fact, exist. This fact, while it doesn’t prove that God exists, should prompt us to deal with the question of God’s existence with seriousness and intellectual honesty.

In contrast with the serious issue of God’s existence, Flying Spaghetti Monsterism is known to be made up. Several contrasts between belief in God and belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster are listed below:

Belief in God

(1) Prevalent among all peoples of all times. Atheism is very rare; even atheists admit this.
(2) There are many sophisticated philosophical arguments for God’s existence.
(3) The Christian God is a coherent explanation of why something exists rather than nothing, why logic is prescriptive and universal, why morality is objective, and why religion is ubiquitous.
(4) Belief in God is rationally satisfying.

Belief in Flying Spaghetti Monsterism

(1) Believed by no one. Even the so-called advocates of the FSM do not really believe that it exists.

(2) There are no technical philosophical arguments for the FSM. Actually, there are no technical arguments of any kind for the FSM.

(3) Even those who sarcastically espouse that the FSM exists don’t really believe that the FSM exists, nor do they think that the FSM is a coherent explanation for finite contingent being, logic, morality, beauty, etc.

(4) No one really believes in the FSM, but even if they did, it would not be rationally satisfying.

While there are some atheists who take theistic arguments seriously, many atheists do not take the time to seriously consider these arguments. This fact may be clearly seen in popular atheist texts (e.g., The Atheist Debater’s Handbook and The God Delusion). These texts refute weak and incomplete arguments for theism and suppose that they have refuted the actual, fully reasoned arguments that Christian philosophers and theologians give. This is an intellectually dishonest practice.

In short, the difference between belief in God and belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster is this:

Belief in God is rational and supported by good reasons, and belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster is irrational and not supported by any good reasons. Bobby Henderson simply begs the question (commits a logical fallacy) when he says that there are no good reasons for belief in God. Despite his claim to the contrary, Christianity is a rationally defensible religion. There are difficult questions that we must ask ourselves as Christians, but the fact that there are difficult questions is not grounds for dismissing Christianity. As believers, our pursuit of answers to our own deep-seated spiritual questions draws us further into the intellectual richness of the Christian faith.

The early 21st century has seen secularism and atheism promoted throughout the Western world with an ever-increasing vigor and militancy. This has led to the emergence of the “new atheists,” notable members of which include best-selling authors such as Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens.

The contention of the new atheists is, obviously, that there is no God. Adherents to the philosophy of new atheism believe that blind, natural forces are responsible for all of reality which we perceive. The new atheists do not restrict themselves to a passive disbelief. Rather, they are actively engaged in admonishing others to follow suit, to declare their non-belief in God, and to take the necessary steps to rid the world of religious belief and practice. As outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins puts it in The God Delusion, “I do everything in my power to warn people against faith itself.”

An ironic feature of the new atheism is its strong faith in the inferiority of having faith. The new atheists erroneously redefine “faith” as an “irrational belief in the absence of evidence.” This misrepresentation of the nature of faith is absurd, for faith is not essentially a strong belief in something, but rather the ground of Christian faith is believing in someone—God. A.W. Tozer said, “Faith rests upon the character of God, not upon the demonstration of laboratory or logic.” When one has faith in the character of a person, e.g. a mother or an aircraft pilot, one no longer needs to be skeptical or require strong evidence in respect to any service that he or she renders.

When it comes to things, Christians correctly approach the subject looking for strong evidence, while accepting that some matters may be beyond our current understanding. Indeed, many faith-filled scientists have been at the cutting edge of the scientific enterprise and test the evidence using thorough methods and techniques. The new atheists believe that empirical science is the only path to understanding reality. However, this is erroneous, since the very concept of “scientism” (the view that science is the only way to gain knowledge) is not itself subject to any scientific experiment and ultimately distills to a faith. Faith, far from being an “irrational belief in the absence of evidence,” is a decision to reckon as true something that is not visible. Scientism is a metaphysical concept. Thus, the new atheists require faith of some description, even if not in God. Scientism is self-refuting, and thus should not be believed. Scientism could be summed up as the belief that “empirical science is the only way to be sure about anything.” Of course, we might well then ask, “What was the scientific experiment that established that empirical science is the only way to be sure about anything?”

In contrast, theism is aligned with the reality of a transcendent God. Biblical theism is based around a set of sensible concepts, one of which is that there is no such thing as an atheist. Clearly the atheists have faith of a sort, if only in their power to influence others to join their atheistic pursuits. But one wonders why, if they truly believe God does not exist, they spend their lives trying to disprove His existence. Does a man spend a lifetime trying to disprove the existence of unicorns or elves? Of course not, because he knows they don’t exist and wouldn’t bother. Even if he knows others believe in unicorns and elves, he doesn’t dedicate his life to trying to debate them out of that belief. Romans 1:19-20 declares plainly that all men do know God exists because God has clearly revealed that knowledge to them through the evidence of creation. Those that deny God are doing so out of the rebellion of a darkened heart (Romans 1:21). Rather than the intellectual the self-described atheist imagines himself to be, God has pronounced, “The fool says in his heart ‘there is no god’” (Psalm 14:1, 53:1).

By Robin Schumacher
Behind my desk is a huge binder containing essays and meaty book excerpts of atheist literature. The likes of Russell, Hume, Nietzsche, Sartre, and many more scientists and philosophers make up this hefty collection of anti-Christian thought.
Part of my Master’s requirement was that I read the binder in its entirety and write summaries of every argument so that each was thoroughly impressed upon me. Needless to say, that took some time, but it was time well spent.
Through that exercise, I learned that atheism, just like every other body of thought (including Christianity), has both good and bad arguments. Those arguments rightfully deserve to be heard in the world’s marketplace of ideas and respectfully scrutinized in the same way as every other worldview’s positions and claims.
In my last article, I examined why the “born this way” argument used by secularists to justify various sexual practices fails on a number of levels. I thought it would be good to follow that up with two more arguments, used by atheists to counter Christianity, that show themselves to be faulty when closely examined.

“Everyone is an Atheist; We Just Deny One More God Than You”

This argument is heard quite a bit these days and takes several forms, with one of the most common being: “I contend we are both atheist… When you understand why you dismiss all other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”[1] The foundational charge is that there seems to be an infinite number of gods that people believe in, and Christians reject them all except for the God described in the Bible. Therefore, isn’t the Christian really just a tad disingenuous where atheist reasoning is concerned?
No, not at all.
First, not to be pedantic, but Christians are not atheists. The strict definition of atheism is “a disbelief in the existence of deity”; “the doctrine that there is no deity”, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. [2]
This is not just a semantics game, but instead a misrepresentation on the part of the atheist argument to redefine the term, much like atheist-physicist Lawrence Krauss did in his latest book [3] when he redefined “nothing” to be either empty space or the quantum vacuum so he could describe how our universe came from “nothing”.
I am not an atheist where Islam is concerned, but instead a rival theist believer, so let’s at least understand that much. But moving on: the primary thrust of the argument is that the Christian really does not aim the criteria they use to dismiss other faith claims at their own belief system. If they did, then they’d end up an atheist.
This contention implies that no good reasons exist to be a Christian vs. other faiths, which is certainly not the case. Like many other people, I have examined the claims and evidence of rival faiths and used the law of non-contradiction to rule out, for example, Islam in favor of Christianity. Internet hatetheists (not atheists; there is a difference!) can use the cut-and-paste function of their computer all they like to constantly say, “there is no evidence for Christianity,” but such assertions are nothing more than examples of either intellectual dishonesty or willing refusals to truly examine the claims of something that threatens their worldview.
Lastly, the argument subtly (or perhaps not so subtly) charges that the many faces of religion demonstrate that there is a potentially infinite number of answers to the God/deity question. The Christian blindly clings to one answer, while the atheist wisely rejects them all.
But this line of reasoning fails to understand that there are also a seemingly infinite number of possible answers to the problem of 1 + 1. When I answer “2” to this simple math problem, by default, I exclude the myriad of other possibilities. In the same way that “2” is the correct answer to the math problem, one answer affirming the existence of a supernatural deity via the use of a systematic theological and philosophical methodology could also be correct.
The fact is you can sit 100 math students down, give them a complex problem to solve, and if only one student arrives at the right answer, their solution remains the correct one despite the fact that the majority missed the mark. But the atheist argument says we should reject all answers, which is just not rational. A truth, by nature, excludes all its opposites and does not depend on how many wrong answers stack up against its position. It still remains a truth.

“Science Flies You to the Moon; Religion Flies You into Buildings”

Attributed to the atheist Victor Stenger, this sound bite argument packs a lot into just a few words. The idea here is that science delivers ever-increasing knowledge that is useful, but religion peddles suspect philosophies that are counterproductive; science causes life to excel, but religion brings terror and death; science moves us forward with breathtaking achievements, while religion moves us backward with supposed chaos and conflict.
It’s tough to know where to even begin with such a deliberately crafted misrepresentation.
Let’s start by noting that science didn’t fly anyone to the moon. Quite a few God-believing scientists, engineers, and astronauts participated with others in bringing about that event.
Next, it is clearly evident that science has delivered tremendous benefits to humankind. I have several close loved ones who I would not be able to kiss goodnight this evening without the scientific breakthroughs that have been made in the past several decades.
However, let us not forget that science has also delivered nuclear weapons, napalm, and chemical abortions to humanity. In addition, it has produced scientists such as Eric Pianka who, at a 2006 lecture at the Texas Academy of Science at Lamar University, recommended wiping out 90% of the earth’s population with the Ebola virus to overcome what he believes to a serious problem with the earth’s supposed overpopulation. [4]
While it is tempting to say that such were the thoughts of one rogue scientist, it is important to understand the he received a standing ovation from the few hundred other scientists in attendance that day. (Perhaps they believed they would be among the 10% of humanity that Pianka would spare?) Forrest Mims, a scientist present at the lecture, wrote, “I still can’t get out of my mind the pleasant spring day in Texas when a few hundred scientists of the Texas Academy of Science gave a standing ovation for a speaker who they heard advocate the slow and torturous death of over five billion human beings.”[5]
Science can be misused by human beings to cause great suffering and harm in the same way that evil people can either erroneously or deliberately distort a religion to get whatever end result they are after.
Did the crusades, the inquisitions, and 9/11 take place because people motivated by religion? Absolutely. But we must understand: (1) the events involving Christianity were carried out by people who acted in direct opposition to the teachings of Christ; (2) while hatetheists continually peddle the mistaken notion that religion has caused the vast majority of wars and conflicts in human history, the truth is that non-religious and secular campaigns have been responsible for 93% of all wars that humankind has experienced. [6]
Further, Richard Dawkins may naively write that he does “not believe there is an atheist in the world who would bulldoze Mecca—or Chartres, York Minster or Notre Dame, the Shwe Dagon, the temples of Kyoto or, of course, the Buddhas of Bamiyan” [7], but he shows himself to be a poor student of history. From 1917 to 1969, the atheist Soviet Union destroyed 41,000 churches. In Communist China Tibet, secular humanists tore down 7,000 monasteries. In North Korea, all but 60 Buddhist temples have been demolished. [8] So let us not pretend atheism has always been friendly to religion.
Moving on, please note that this argument also intentionally omits all the good that religion has brought to the world, while suppressing the evil delivered by secular movements. One only needs to read the excellent work of Alvin Schmidt’s How Christianity Changed the World to quickly understand the benefits provided to humanity in the areas of charity, hospitals and health care, education, labor and economics, human government—including the spheres of slavery, women’s freedom/dignity, and science—to see how flawed the atheist argument in this area really is.
Lastly, the argument fuses all religions together to produce a singular supposed enemy of humankind, whereas nothing could be further from the truth. Some atheists have publicly recognized this notion to be false; however, others continue to proceed with the idea that somehow the goals, methods, and teachings of all faiths are the same.
If anyone reading this thinks that still to be the case, I ask that they simply examine the differences between the last words of those who founded the two largest two faiths on the planet. The final words of Muhammad were: “O Lord, perish the Jews and Christians. They made churches of the graves of their prophets. There shall be no two faiths in Arabia” (Hadith Malik 511:1588).
And the last words of Jesus where His enemies were concerned?
“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).


One of my seminary professors used to read atheist literature during his devotion times, and when asked why he did that, he said, “They keep us honest.” Indeed, sometimes they do, and for that, we should thank them.
When I finished reading that massive binder of atheist literature, I felt a sense of accomplishment, but more importantly, I experienced a very real lift in my Christian faith. I had read the best-of-the-best; thinkers that make some of the crass new atheists today (e.g. Dawkins) look pale in comparison. In the end, it was an exercise in what philosophy calls “drowning the fish”. You can pile all the ocean’s waters on the animal (in this case, God) in an attempt to drown it, but in the end, the fish is still there affirming its existence and presence.
Some atheist arguments are good and deserve attention, while others—like the two we’ve examined in this article—just aren’t. But in general, I would encourage everyone to give the various arguments posed by atheists a hearing, but make sure you also seek out the solid answers given by Christian thinkers in reply.
In the end, I believe you’ll understand why, after 2,000+ years, Christianity’s fish is still swimming strongly and happily in today’s ocean of worldviews.

Atheism is the view that God does not exist. Atheism is not a new development. Psalm 14:1, written by David around 1000 B.C., mentions atheism: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” Recent statistics show an increasing number of people claiming to be atheists, up to 10 percent of people worldwide. So why are more and more people becoming atheists? Is atheism truly the logical position atheists claim it to be?

Why does atheism even exist? Why doesn’t God simply reveal Himself to people, proving that He exists? Surely if God would just appear, the thinking goes, everyone would believe in Him! The problem here is that it is not God’s desire to just convince people that He exists. It is God’s desire for people to believe in Him by faith (2 Peter 3:9) and accept by faith His gift of salvation (John 3:16). God clearly demonstrated His existence many times in the Old Testament (Genesis 6-9; Exodus 14:21-22; 1 Kings 18:19-31). Did the people believe that God exists? Yes. Did they turn from their evil ways and obey God? No. If a person is not willing to accept God’s existence by faith, then he/she is definitely not ready to accept Jesus Christ  as Savior by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). God’s desire is for people to become Christians, not just theists(those who believe God exists).

The Bible tells us that God’s existence must be accepted by faith. Hebrews 11:6 declares, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those  who earnestly seek Him.” The Bible reminds us that we are blessed when we believe and trust in God by faith: “Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’” (John  20:29).

The existence of God must be accepted by faith, but this does not mean belief in God is illogical. There are many good arguments for the existence of God. The Bible teaches that God’s existence is clearly seen in the universe (Psalm  19:1-4), in nature (Romans 1:18-22), and in our own hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). With all that said, the existence of God cannot be proven; it must be accepted by faith.

At the same time, it  takes just as much faith to believe in atheism. To make the absolute statement “God does not exist” is to make a claim of knowing absolutely everything there  is to know about everything and of having been everywhere in the universe and having witnessed everything there is to be seen. Of course, no atheist would  make these claims. However, that is essentially what they are claiming when they  state that God absolutely does not exist. Atheists cannot prove that God does not, for example, live in the center of the sun, or beneath the clouds of Jupiter, or in some distant nebula. Since those places are beyond our capacity to observe, it cannot be proven that God does not exist. It takes just as much faith to be an atheist as it does to be a theist.

Atheism cannot be proven, and God’s existence must be accepted by faith. Obviously, Christians believe strongly that God exists, and admit that God’s existence is a matter of faith. At the same time, we reject the idea that belief in God is illogical. We  believe that God’s existence can be clearly seen, keenly sensed, and proven to be philosophically and scientifically necessary. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world” (Psalm 19:1-4).

As Christians who know the love of God and have the assurance of  eternity in heaven, it’s hard to understand why anyone would want to be an  atheist. But when we realize the sin nature and its strong influence on the mind  and the heart, we begin to understand where the atheist is coming from.  Biblically speaking, there is no such thing as an atheist. Psalm 19:1-2 tells us that  the heavens declare the glory of God. We see His creative power in all that He  has made. Romans  1:19-20 follows up on this idea, telling us that what may be known about God  has been made plain to us through the creation, and anyone who denies this is  “suppressing the truth in unrighteousness” (v. 18). Psalm 14:1 and 53:1 declare  that those who deny the existence of God are fools. So the atheist is either  lying or he is a fool or both. So, what is it that causes someone to deny  God?

The main goal of those under the influence of the sin nature is to  make himself a god, to have complete control over his life, or so he thinks.  Then religion comes along with obligations, judgments, and restrictions, while  atheists presume to define their own meaning and morality. They do not want to  submit to God because their hearts are at “enmity against God,” and they have no  desire to be subject to His Law. In fact they are incapable of doing so because  their sin has blinded them to truth (Romans  8:6-7). This is why atheists spend most of their time complaining and  arguing not about the scriptural proof texts, but about the “dos and don’ts.”  Their natural rebelliousness detests the commandments of God. They simply hate  the idea that anything—or any One—should have control over them. What they do  not realize is that Satan himself is controlling them, blinding them, and  preparing their souls for hell.

In terms of evangelizing atheists, we  should not hold back the gospel from someone just because he or she claims to be  an atheist. Do not forget that an atheist is just as lost as a Muslim, Hindu, or  Buddhist. God certainly wants us to spread the gospel (Matthew 28:19) and to  defend the truths of His word (Romans  1:16). On the other hand, we are not obligated to waste our time trying to  convince the unwilling. In fact, we are warned not to expend excessive effort on  those who are clearly disinterested in any honest discussions (Matthew 7:6). Jesus told the apostles to go and preach  the Word, but He did not expect them to stay anywhere until every last person  had been converted (Matthew  10:14).

Perhaps the best tactic is to give each person the benefit of the doubt, at least at first. Every question, honestly and truthfully  answered, gives that person a chance to hear the gospel. But if that person is  just arguing, being hostile, or otherwise not listening, it’s probably time to  go somewhere else. Some people are totally and absolutely hardened to the gospel  (Proverbs  29:1). They may be rational or irrational, but there are scriptural reasons  to believe that some people are willingly immune to the influence of the Holy  Spirit (Genesis  6:3). When we have made a good-faith effort to talk to someone, and he or  she is unreachable, then we are commanded to “shake the dust off” of our shoes  (Luke 9:5) and spend our time  talking to those who are more spiritually open. As in all things, the wisdom of  God is crucial. God has promised that wisdom to us if we ask (James 1:5), and we should pray for it and trust God’s  prompting to know how and when to end the dialog with a hostile atheist.