Christianity is Dumb
In this debate, my arguments will be fairly short, since this isn't a very difficult point to argue, but never the less. It's always fun debating Christians........So, best of luck to my opponent.
To restate Pro's opening remarks for clarification:
1. I do not need to prove that Christianity is true, only that it is reasonable.
2. I do not need to prove that all religions are reasonable, only Christianity.
Let the games begin.
I will start by reiterating my stance on Christianity. Here is my thesis:
In short, I stand by the belief that theistic religion is a collection of fairy tales which attempt to explain natural phenomenon. It should be noted that religions came before science, and therefore, before many natural occurrences had rational explanations. In an attempt to explain the weather, for example, people obviously concluded that there must be a weather god, since no other explanation could be found at the time. After generations upon generations were brainwashed into buying into this belief, even when science arose, and presented clear, obvious, factual, and observable explanations for the weather, theists clung desperately to the stories they were taught as 5 year olds. Christians and theists in general, seek truth evidence from claims made in books that lack evidence themselves. Christians place faith where evidence is sparse. Faith, by definition, is required in Christianity, because logic and reason fail. Obviously you have to have “faith” in something when it can’t be known and can’t be seen. So, in this respect, it is foolish to place the foundation of one's lifestyle on a collection of beliefs that lack logical and factual support. I'M NOT SAYING THAT RELIGION IS FALSE (because it can’t be proven or disproven), I AM HOWEVER, SAYING THAT IT IS OFTEN TIMES FOOLISH TO BELIEVE, AS IT HAS A SCARCITY OF EVIDENCE.
******To clarify, this is not a debate concerning the question of whether or not religion is good in our society, but rather, it's about whether or not it is factual. Frankly I do not care what makes people “feel good”, and gives people “hope" I care about whats true.********
When Christians and theists alike hear that I’m an Atheist, they are often quick to provide me with a myriad of inane statements, hoping to overpower me with the same, simple, and baseless claims that I have heard so many times. I will provide a couple of these arguments and refute them one at a time.
ARGUMENT #1. You Can’t Prove that God doesn’t exist.
I can’t prove that the Easter Bunny exists either, but never the less I think it’s a moronic thing to accept as truth. I can’t see it, I can’t hear it, so I don’t believe it exists. Just because a five year old girl may say that she has seen the Easter Bunny jumping around, the claim is not made valid. Bertrand Russell refuted this type of thinking with his famous Celestial Teapot argument. I will paraphrase:
"if I were to propose that there is a small China teapot revolving around the sun, could you disprove me? No. Does that make it a reasonable claim? Not really.”
The burden of proof is not on the Atheist/the non believer. "When you make an extraordinary claim, you need extraordinary evidence." -Carl Sagan. Here are Russel's exact words on the Celestian Teapot argument:
"If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is an intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.”
Argument #2. A painting needs a painter, a building needs a carpenter, a clock needs a clockmaker, and therefore the universe needs a creator.
Upon first glance, It makes a bit of sense I suppose. The only problem is this: Unlike man made creations, natural phenomenon have NATURAL causes, and this can be observed. The waves are created by wind, and the wind is caused by differences in atmpspheric pressure. Mountains are created as a result of plate tectonics, and plate tectonics are cuased by thermal convection in the Earth's mantle.
Well, I am delighted to say that Pro and I agree on a number of things right out of the gate. Namely that saying "you can't prove X doesn't exist" is not a justifiable reason to believe that it does, as per Russell's Teapot, and that "feels" are not admissible as evidence.
However, I see a number of problems with Pro's arguments, so I will first submit my rebuttals:
1. Gods Are Pre-Scientific Explanations of Natural Phenomena
While I have no doubt that this applies to many gods, it does not apply very well to Yahweh/Elohim/Jesus whatever term you'd like to use for the God of Christianity. The God of Christianity is used as a source for specific, isolated, miraculous events, but not everyday ones. God may have caused the flood in Genesis 6, but God does not cause floods in general. God may have caused the drought in 1 Kings, but he does not cause droughts in general, etc. The Hebrews seemed to accept weather as a natural phenomenon just fine.
2. Faith Is Required Because Logic and Reason Fail
Correction: Faith is required when logic and reason can go no further. As far as I'm concerned, anyone who immediately jumps to faith as their first line of defense is not a rational person. "Unicorns exist, you just gotta have faith." I don't think so. However, "we're not sure if King Arthur was real, but we have faith that he was because these sources suggest so"? That's much better. Ultimately, to continue with the example, unless we received further evidence that King Arthur was real/not real, we could not go further with logic or reason to determine the truth. Faith bridges that gap. We do not know, but we have reason to believe, and thus we do. I argue that this is the basis of the Christian faith (although, sadly, I cannot deny the existence of Christians who believe blindly).
3. You Cannot Compare Natural Things To Manmade Things
I agree that one does not have to appeal to a creator to explain waves and mountains. I don't believe I've ever met a Christian or theist who would argue with you on that one. The issue is not that mountains are GOD instead of plate tectonics or that plate tectonics are GOD rather than thermal convection. The issue is that there is a certain point where we can no longer rationally appeal to nature to explain nature. If we have never seen an example in nature of something appearing spontaneously out of nothing, it is irrational to assume that that's what happened for the universe. "Oh well the Big Bang singularity..." came from where? Nature does not allow for something to be its own creator, therefore there must be a creator who is outside of nature. Whether or not that assumption is true, it is most certainly reasonable.
Now, to clarify once more, I am not arguing for the existence of the divine, as that is an entirely different debate. I am arguing only that Christianity is a reasonable belief. Therefore, I am operating under the assumption that my opponent is open to at least the possibility of a god's existence, whether or not they actually believe one to exist.
I have already touched on a few reasons why I believe Christianity to be reasonable in my rebuttals, but here are a couple I haven't yet:
1. The Bible
Pro claims that theistic religion (and therefore Christianity) is a collection of fairy tales. This is an interesting claim, as practically no historian I am aware of, atheistic or otherwise, would dismiss the bible as such. The bible has significant value as a historical document, and has been used not only to help construct a chronology of the Ancient Near East, but also to discover places and peoples that would otherwise have been left to history (for instance, we have the bible to thank for our discovery of the Hittites, as no other document mentioned their existence. Nonetheless, there they were).
Where the bible's reliability wavers in the eyes of skeptics is in the miraculous. And understandably so. After all, isn't it ridiculous to think that some guy's donkey talked? Isn't it insane to believe that people can come back from the dead? Well... only if you're an atheist. Let me elaborate: we all know that it is unreasonable for me to say "God exists because the bible says so, and the bible's true because God says so." This is a textbook example of begging the question. However, saying "the bible describes miracles, and miracles are impossible, therefore the bible isn't true, God isn't real, and that's why miracles are impossible" is also begging the question, albeit in a slightly more complex fashion. If God exists, I cannot think of a single reason why he would be unable to make a donkey talk or raise the dead or perform any other biblical miracle if that's what he willed. Therefore, dismissing the truth of the bible solely on the basis of the miraculous is unreasonable.
2. The Endurance of Christianity
Right off the bat, I want to make it clear that I fully understand that the truth of a belief is not dependent on how many people believe it. But if billions of people believe the same thing, I would certainly argue that it is a reasonable thing to believe in.
Christianity has existed (and persisted) for over two thousand years. It has endured persecution from day one, and continues to suffer it to this day. Science has flourished and become cosmopolitan, and yet there are still Christians. In fact, there are scientists who are Christians. There are philosophers who are Christians. There are historians who are Christians. According to the 2010 Pew Research study, Christians make up nearly a third of earth's total population. Now, I suppose one could conclude that 2.18 billion people are just stupid or brainwashed or incapable of thinking logically. And some of them would have to be. But all? Tremendously unlikely. If Christianity has the gaping, fatal flaws that atheists claim it does, it raises the question of why it continues to endure so strongly, even among reasonable people.
I think that's enough to be getting on with.
While some of the statements that con has put foreward are more or less reasonable, I will state some of the ones that are illogical:
"Where did the singularity come from?" You ask. Well to put it plainly, we just don’t know. Just as you don’t know where your God came from. What makes you so sure that the singularity even came from somewhere at all? This assumption that there must be a clear beginning to something as complex as the universe is fallacious. The claim that there was a beginning to the universe begs the question of what was before the beginning of everything that exists? When you ask “what was before existence?” The clear answer is nothing, and nothing, by definition, can’t exist.
"Nature does not allow for something to be its own creator, therefore there must be a creator who is outside of nature."
"Therefore, I am operating under the assumption that my opponent is open to at least the possibility of a god's existence, whether or not they actually believe one to exist."
Possibility is not a strong enough base for an extraordinary claim. I think that it’s about as “possible” for there to be a god, just as I think it’s Possible that there are aliens hiding under the surface of mars. But while possible, it is very very unlikely. I believe it may have been “possible” that Noah fit every single species of animals onto a wooden ship that he built by hand, but i thinks its about as likely to be true as the existence of invisible unicorns. But I will say this again, Possibility is not a strong enough basis for an extraordinary claim. Almost anything you could imagine happening is “possible” but we can’t confidently call these possibilities realities unless we have evidence for them being so.
Pro claims that theistic religion (and therefore Christianity) is a collection of fairy tales. The bible has significant value as a historical document, and has been used not only to help construct a chronology of the Ancient Near East, but also to discover places and peoples that would otherwise have been left to history (for instance, we have the bible to thank for our discovery of the Hittites, as no other document mentioned their existence.
I stand by my claim, and here’s why. My main argument in this debate, is that the beliefs of Christianity are an unreasonable source of universal truth. The fairy tails come in to play when the people of the time were faced with an unexplainable natural phenomenon. This lead them to create they’re own explanations based on what made sense to them. Remember, that the main goal of the bible was to provide explanations of our reality and our purpose here, and the fact that there is valid history in the Bible, does not in any way validate some the outrageous claims made in the novel. It makes sense that the history is fairly accurate since at the time, the history was observable. Only when Christianity tries to explain the unexplainable does it leave you asking yourself “what were these people smoking?” While the bible may provide historical chronologies, it does not provide universal truths.
Christianity has endured for thousands of years, Making it a reasonable thing to believe. If billions of people believe the same thing, I would certainly argue that it is a reasonable thing to believe in.
I don’t for a minute, think that the number of people believing in something adds to it’s credibility. There were over 90 million Nazi followers not including the Axis, who all believed in the racist principles that Nazism held, do you think Nazism was a reasonable thing to believe in? I realize that the people who held these beliefs were a minority, but in the heart of Germany, the anti-Semitic principles were abundant. Even then, the beliefs are not reasonable. In the 18th and 19th century, when american slavery flourished, the majority of americans supported it. Was slavery a “reasonable” thing to believe in then? I don’t think I really need to say anything else.
Faith is required when logic and reason can go no further. Example: We're not sure if King Arthur was real, but we have faith that he was because these sources suggest so.
You’re right. We're not sure if King Arthur king Arthur existed. This is why so many historians are skeptical. The fact is, folklore is not a reliable source of history, just as the Bible is not a reliable source of truth. Despite what I just said, the existence of King Arthur is still more reasonable than the existence of God. I will explain: Major historical figures, such as King Arthur, are observable, and therefore more credible, while paranormal phenomenon like the existence of god and the resurrection of Jesus simply are not. Second, many books and stories can be found, containing consistent information documenting King Arthur’s reign. When you have multiple documents from all across a country documenting a story, consistent with one another, the puzzle begins to take form. Furthermore, coming to the conclusion that an influential King existed based on countless documents, is far more reasonable than assuming something paranormal exists based on the claims made in a single book.
Contrary to your assertion, Pro, I have questioned my beliefs as staunchly as I question yours. That is why I hold them. If I was afraid that critical examination of my beliefs would cause them to vanish in a puff of logic, I wouldn't have accepted your challenge. My rebuttals are as follows:
Whence Came God?
Pro states: "This assumption that there must be a clear beginning to something as complex as the universe is fallacious." Actually, it's scientific. The Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem states that the universe must have a beginning in the finite past. While it's true that there are additional theories that attempt to do away with a beginning for the universe, they have yet to progress father than hypotheticals. As it stands, the Big Bang is currently the best theory for the origin of the universe, and has been for a while now.
Pro has also stated that what goes for God could just as easily go for the Big Bang singularity, and vice versa. This is a false equivalency. I stated that everything that exists in nature must have an origin, and I have not contradicted myself. What Pro appears to have misunderstood is that God, unlike the Big Bang singularity, is not part of nature. God is, by definition, and according to every religion, supernatural and is therefore not bound by the laws that bind natural things. This is not a game of semantics, either: whatever force causes space, time, and matter to exist, must, by necessity, be outside of space, time, and matter—characteristics attributed to God, and not the singularity, which itself was made of spacetime and matter.
The Assumption That God is Possible
This was a preface, not an argument. I employed this preface in hopes of avoiding a debate in which my opponent uses the nonexistence of God as a premise for their conclusions, therefore allowing them to ignore any evidence I present. However, as I will explain my next rebuttal, it appears I did not avoid this after all.
The Bible Is Still Fairy Tales
First of all, Pro states: "Remember, the main goal of the bible was to provide explanations of our reality and our purpose here." The bible at large does not have a “main goal.” It is a compilation of history, prophecy, law, poetry, and letters composed over the course of 1500 years by over 40 different authors. It contains everything from genealogies to covenant law to vassal treaties. It has common themes, but it does not have a “main goal.”
Secondly, Pro states that “the fact that there is valid history in the Bible, does not in any way validate some the outrageous claims made in the novel.” If parts of the bible's historical accounts have been confirmed to be true and accurate, we must assume that the rest of them are also true and accurate unless our examinations provide evidence to the contrary. Pro seems to believe that we already have evidence to the contrary because it makes “outrageous claims.” As Pro has not provided examples of what they consider to be an outrageous claim, I can only assume they mean the miraculous. I have already addressed this objection in my previous argument, but I will rephrase it in planer terms:
Therefore rejecting the the bible solely because it contains miracles requires the nonexistence of God to be a factor. The nonexistence of God has not been proven or agreed upon in this debate, so Pro's argument is moot. This is the equivalent of someone stating (to continue with the example) that King Arthur was not real, and upon being shown a mention of King Arthur's existence in an otherwise reliable document, declaring that it must be a lie, misunderstanding, or hoax because King Arthur wasn't real. In short, invalidating your opponent's defense by your premises, rather than your conclusions.Miracles = Natural Phenomenon
Pro states: “the fairy [tales] come in to play when the people of the time were faced with an unexplainable natural phenomenon. This lead them to create [their] own explanations based on what made sense to them.” As I explained in my first argument, this does not apply very well to the bible, because the Christian God is not used to explain away everyday natural phenomena the way that other gods are.
If Pro means to say that the specific, isolated events that the bible attributes to God must have just been natural phenomena as well, that is another matter, but it still doesn't hold water. It's one thing to explain an uncommon event like an eclipse by saying "the sun went dark in the daytime, so the sun goddess must be hiding in a cave.” It's something else entirely to posit that when Exodus describes the Red Sea splitting in half and tens of thousands of people walking across to the other side on the dry seabed that it's just “a natural phenomenon” that the pre-scientific Hebrews couldn't explain. This either happened or it didn't. It cannot rationally be dismissed as “a huge misunderstanding that must have a natural cause somewhere” without straying into the territory of special pleading or incredulity. If you cannot give a satisfactory explanation using natural terms, then you are left with two options: either the miraculous claims are false, or they are miracles (see above for my rebuttal of "miracles don't real").
Number of Adherents =/= Credibility
Pro cites Nazi Germany and American slavery as refutation. This is another false equivalency.
It's one thing to believe something is moral. It's something else entirely to believe something is true. The Nazi belief that the Jews deserved to be exterminated is a moral claim, and not a truth claim (as in, its truth or falsehood is irrelevant). The Christian belief that Yahweh exists is a truth claim, and not a moral claim (as in, its morality is irrelevant). Truth claims can be proven or disproven. Moral claims are not that simple. My argument was not that any claim should be considered reasonable if enough people believe it; only claims of truth. I admit I should have been more specific on this point.
I would also point out that when the ideologies of a nascent Christianity faced persecution from the majority, they got progressively stronger until they became the majority, whereas when the ideologies of Nazism and American slavery faced persecution from the majority, they were dismantled and remain so (radical fringe groups notwithstanding).
King Arthur > God
This argument has numerous problems, so I will address them one at a time.
1. "Folklore is not a reliable source of history, just as the Bible is not a reliable source of truth.”
We have already established that the bible contains reliable truth, and as Pro has not presented any other claim against the bible's validity that is not contingent on God's nonexistence, I do not believe that there is sufficient reason to dismiss the bible as unreliable.
2. "Major historical figures, such as King Arthur, are observable, and therefore more credible, while paranormal phenomenon like the existence of god and the resurrection of Jesus simply are not."
King Arthur was exactly as observable to the people of his time as the resurrected Christ, nail wounds and all, was to his—the bible does not imply otherwise (see John 20:24-29). The existence of God in general may not be, but most of the implications of his existence (like the miracles mentioned in the bible), would have been perfectly observable to the people witnessing them. As it stands, all we have as evidence for either case is the word of ancient peoples who wrote down what they experienced, and we need to take that for what it's worth. No more, no less.
3. "many books and stories can be found, containing consistent information documenting King Arthur's reign... coming to the conclusion that an influential King existed based on countless documents, is far more reasonable than assuming something paranormal exists based on the claims made in a single book.”
I completely agree. However, the bible is not a “single book.” As I stated above, it is a compilation of history, prophecy, law, poetry, and letters composed over 1500 years by over 40 different authors. Those 40 authors included kings, servants, farmers, criminals, priests, doctors, and soldiers, and they hailed from three different continents. The New Testament alone has 9 authors who were all writing within 100 years of the events they describe . This isn't even touching on the secular records we have that confirm New Testament events. The fact that it has been conveniently condensed into a single volume and language does not mean the bible is a single source, or that is it somehow less diverse and compelling than comparable documents (for instance, anything we have on Arthur). Pro states "When you have multiple documents from all across a country documenting a story, consistent with one another, the puzzle begins to take form." The New Testament (and the bible as whole, for that matter) is exactly that, if not more so, and yet Pro still rejects it as a standard for truth.
Additionally, if it is unreasonable to believe in the paranormal based on the claims of a single book, what about believing in the paranormal based on the claims of hundreds of books, thousands of documents, and billions of people over the course of human history? Belief in the paranormal is not unique to Christianity, or even to the religious. Disbelief in the paranormal, however, is downright unheard of by comparison.
So I ask this: if there are no obstacles to the possibility of God, and if countless reasonable, intelligent people can be Christians without contradiction, and if there are historically reliable sources affirming its beliefs, how is Christianity an unreasonable thing to believe in?