"Atheists, what evidence would you need to change your mind?" But that's the wrong question. First, we must remove the clues all around us that God doesn't exist.
Christians are sometimes asked what evidence supports their views, and they’re often forced into embarrassing answers. For example, Creationist Ken Ham admitted that his mind was made up on scientific questions, and nothing will change it.
Christian apologist William Lane Craig made the same admission and tipped his hand about the motivation for his work. It’s not been an honest exploration of the evidence but a quest for rationalizations to soothe the fears of the little boy that he was, decades ago, when he first discovered that people die.
What’s good for the goose is good for the gander
Now we turn the question around. Atheists, you demand that the Christians be open minded, but what about you? Are you open minded? What evidence would it take for you to say that God exists?
I want to pursue some new ideas, but first let me summarize the answer I’ve given before.
For me to have a personal epiphany of God’s existence won’t do. There are so many conceivable natural explanations for such an experience—drugs (recreational or medicinal), mental illness, hunger or mental stress, someone playing a trick, and so on—that I couldn’t trust such a thing as genuinely supernatural. The answer is to crowdsource it. That is, it’s not just me evaluating this evidence, it’s everyone. On one day, everyone in the world sees “Yahweh exists” spelled out in stars or pebbles or lines in the sand in a way that they could understand. Or, one night everyone has the same dream in which a god explains his plan. (I’ve explored this idea more here.)
This still falls victim to Arthur C. Clarke’s observation that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Sufficiently advanced aliens could dupe us into imagining the supernatural when we were just seeing technology. Still, this would be convincing evidence that some amazing intelligence is out there, which would be vastly more evidence than we’ve seen to date.
Clues that we don’t live in God World
Since God won’t provide this evidence, we’re on our own, looking for clues for God’s existence. What would we need to see to know that the Christian god exists? Said another way, how would we know that we’re living in God World?
My answer: if we lived in God World, we would expect to not see things that argue that this god does not exist. This is a cumbersome way of putting it, but we need to see it that way. We are swimming in so many clues that we don’t live in God World that my answer is: I might conclude that God exists but only if all these clues didn’t exist. You Christian apologists who care more about our belief in God than he does need to go back in time and erase these deal killers from our reality, because they must be resolved before I can consider your positive arguments for God.
Here’s a way to see it. Imagine a used car salesperson pointing to a “real beauty” on the lot and telling you how fast it can go, noting its gas mileage, praising its roomy back seat, and so on. You walk around the car and notice one tire is flat. And one wheel is missing. And one window is smashed. And on and on. Obviously, these fundamental problems must get fixed before you have any interest in the top speed and gas mileage. Each of these problems is a silver bullet that kills any car sale.
Similarly, these problems with the God hypothesis are each a silver bullet, a deal killer, to belief in God. The difference is that a flat tire can be fixed, while we can’t fix a trait of reality that wouldn’t exist in a world with a god.
The first clue that we live in a godless world:
Christianity had its chance to create a Christian utopia with Europe. Spoiler: it wasn’t so great.
Christianity was in control of Europe for 1500 years. During that time, mystical creatures populated the world, there was little besides superstition to explain the whims of nature, and natural disasters were signs of God’s anger.
Christians might say that Christianity has no goal for humanity to learn about nature. It has no goal to create the internet, GPS, airplanes, or antibiotics. It has no goal to improve life with warm clothes, safe water, or plentiful harvests. It has no goal to eliminate diseases like smallpox, polio, or covid.
And they’re right: Christianity’s goal is instead to convince people to believe in a story that has no evidence.
We find more data on this question of Christianity vs. social health today. U.S. conservatives tell us that loss of Christian belief has caused society to degrade, but is that true? If loss of Christian belief caused society to degrade, we should at least see a correlation between the two. That is, the better the social metrics (homicides, teen pregnancies, income inequality, suicides, and so on) in a society, the higher would be the Christian belief within that society.
In fact, we see the reverse. Social statistics in 17 Western countries show that Christianity is inversely correlated with measures of public health. While we can’t conclude anything about the cause—does higher Christianity lead to worse metrics or does a failing society provide a fertile environment for religion?—it’s obvious from this that more Christianity doesn’t cause a better society.
A 2017 United Nations list of the world’s happiest countries makes the same point. Norway, Denmark, and Iceland are at the top, followed by much of the rest of godless northern Europe. The U.S. is 14th.
To see this from yet another angle, American Christians aren’t a noticeably more noble subset of society.
When Christianity was in charge, Europe received no obvious supernatural benefit. Society progressed in fits and starts just like you’d expect in a godless world.
Muslims unsurprisingly come from Muslim countries, Hindus from Hindu countries, Christians from Christian countries, and so on. There are exceptions, of course, but people predominantly adopt the religion (or lack of religion) of their culture. In the dozen or so countries that are 98 percent Muslim, what are the chances that a baby raised there will become Muslim?
Christian apologists will say that Muslims aren’t Muslim because their religion is correct but simply because they were raised in a Muslim environment, but they need to explain why the same criticism doesn’t apply to their community as well. (More here and here.)
Let’s take a step back to see where this series of articles is taking us. I’ve written many articles (1) arguing against Christian apologetics and (2) arguing for atheism. This series can be thought of as a prequel to the first category, clues all around that tell us we don’t live in a world with a god.
To be continued.
Jesus wants to date you
but doesn’t want to put in any effort.
You should dump him.
— commenter Han Solo