Friday, 9 October 2009

5 Terrible Arguments For Christianity

AtheistWhen discussing the merits of the Christian religion with Christians, the same arguments tend to come up again and again.

I’ve gathered here a few choice selections. Please feel free to offer any others you may think of in the comments.

1. Pascal's Wager

Indicative quote: “If a Christian is wrong about atheism they lose nothing, but if an atheist is wrong about Christianity they lose everything!”

Quite apart from its vaguely threatening tone, this is just a mess of logical fallacies. First, it’s a blatant appeal to consequences.

Second, it’s a false dichotomy. The wager implies that Christianity and Atheism are the only two possible choices. What about all those other thousands of religions?

If this argument were to be applied consistently then the “best” religion, and the one we should all follow, would be the religion that offers the best reward.

On that basis, I reckon Islam's 72 virgins would give Christianity's puritanical “heaven” a run for its money.

2. Playing the Numbers

Indicative quote: “So many people believe it! It must be true!”

This one is obviously trivial but I thought it was worth a mention, mainly because it’s particularly amusing when offered in support of Christianity.

While Christianity just scrapes in front of Islam as the religion with the most adherents, you have to combine everything from Greek Orthodoxy to Mormonism under the one banner to do it.

The appropriate response to this argument is therefore: “so many people believe ... what exactly?”.

3. Anything from the bible

Indicative quote: Anything from the bible.

Here’s the thing. No-one, except someone who already believes in the bible, accepts it as any kind of authority. So using the bible to justify the bible is the worst kind of circular reasoning.

It’s like using the Star Wars movies to justify the existence of Darth Vader. Or Hayden Christensen’s acting ability.

4. The Incoherence of Atheism

Indicative quote: “Atheism is incoherent / illogical / silly / inconsistent.”

This one is my favourite. It’s a lovely attempt to simply cut atheism off at the knees and give the arguer a pass to ignore anything an atheist says.

It’s a little subtle, but the basic argument goes like this:

Atheists believe in purely material things, but logic itself is immaterial. Logic exists therefore atheism is wrong and Jesus really was born to a virgin and came back from the dead and will be returning to the earth soon.

Sorry, which was the incoherent argument again?

5. “Evidence”

Indicative quote: “It's a miracle! It must have been God that healed me / produced this bacterial flagellum / put the image of Mary in this cream bun.”

This is the big one, and it covers a multitude of sins.

Back in the day we had medieval pieces of the “true cross” and the Shroud of Turin to gull the peasants. Now we're a bit more sophisticated with claims of the healing power of prayer and intelligent design.

It’s all the same, though. It’s still just cobbled-together chicanery and sleight-of-hand, none of which has ever stood up to serious investigation.

An interesting subset of “evidence” is the eyewitness account, which is a very important part of Christian lore.

Two of my favourites are this nasty little urban legend (which I once heard preached from the pulpit as if it were a true inspiring story) and the assertion that hundreds of people saw Christ after his resurrection, so it must be true.

This latter argument just shows an inability to tell the difference between characters in a story and real people, but when you get right down to it, isn't that the very essence of Christianity?


Green-Eyed Momster said...

Great post!

It just amazes me that people buy that stuff. The meanest person I ever met was a Christian. I just quit working for her so I hope she's not still praying for me. She's probably praying for an employee as awesome as I was......

Dave ~ said...

Top post Matt.

Yes, I've heard quite a few of these. In fact, the second last one was thrown at me last week. After I argued against it, I threw over one of my own - 'nobody has ever strapped a bomb to themselves in the name of science have they?' They didn't really have an answer for that one...

Quick Joe Smith said...

And even if they did (or cite Stalin or Pol Pot) just reply with this never-fail line:

"Yes, but they weren't True Atheists."