Trying to get an atheist to validate his atheism.

by Matt Slick

A while back I was on an internet based debate with someone named "the infidelguy."  It wasn't that productive of a debate, but it was interesting.  This person is responding to the debate. Of course, as an atheist, he thinks I lost the debate.  That is to be expected.  Nevertheless, I tried an approach with him where I attempted to get him to substantiate his atheism.  I don't know if my approach was a good one or not, but you don't know until you try.  Read it and see what you think.

Jess: Hey, I heard you on infidelguy.
Matt: That's good.
Jess: I must say, I was not really impressed.
Matt: With whom? Infidel guy?  I could see that.
Jess: You got beaten pretty badly on the Atheism-viable point.
Matt: He didn't debate.  I guess you and they do not listen very well.  Let's run thru it.
Jess: Fine.
Matt: Is it possible that invisible pink unicorns exist?
Jess: Yes.
Matt: Is it possible that there is an ice cream factory on Jupiter?
Jess: Yes.  But fairly unlikely.
Matt: Then that is the same kind of company atheist viability keeps.  Therefore, atheism is also fairly unlikely.  That is the context of its viability.
Jess: Actually, it is belief in god that shares about that level of possible veracity.
Matt: Stick to the issue.  This is what infidelguy could not do . . . btw; it isn't a debate when your wife jumps in or you start taking callers.
Jess: Upon what basis do you make the assertion that atheism is only "merely possible"?  Your point is not made, Matt.
Matt: Atheism is impossible if held positively.  Atheism only exists in a vacuum.  It must disprove theistic proofs.  It cannot prove itself true.  It is a very weak place to be intellectually.
Jess: No honest atheist hold to a positivistic atheist position, Matt.
Matt: That is a blanket statement, and you are incorrect.  Many atheists hold to the positive position that there is no God. It is incumbent upon those who makes claims to provide evidence.
Matt: It is the atheists who claim there is no God who must prove their point.
Jess: Well, they are on fairly good ground from a position of preponderance of evidence, but it is a difficult proposition to prove completely.
Matt: Where is the evidence that God does not exist?
Jess: Why don't we assume that I am an atheist who holds that without positive proof of god, I will choose not to believe. An Occam's razor approach. Where is your evidence?
Matt: Note, I did not say "proof." I asked where your evidence is to support your position.
Jess: Matt, I am not a positive atheist. I don't need to provide evidence.  You do.
Matt: You have a position. Unless it is based completely on blind faith, there must be some reason you hold to it. That would be your evidence. It is your position I am asking you to establish--not mine.  So tell me. What kind of an atheist are you? Strong? Weak?
Jess: No Matt, my position is the default one. I will not believe any proposition until I hear good evidence for it. Where is your evidence?
Matt: Do you know there is no God? or believe there is no God?
Jess: I have no belief in any god or gods until I hear good reason to believe otherwise.
Matt: Atheism is a position that you hold. But, you have no evidence for it, so you are contradicting yourself.
Jess: No, Matt, you are incorrect about the definition of atheism.
Matt: My cat has no belief in a god or gods. Why are you different from him? Is my cat also an atheist?
Jess: Tell me what the word atheism means.  What does theism mean?
Matt: a = negator. Theism comes from the Greek "theos" which means God.  The term was coined by Huxley.
Jess: Show me that I am wrong.
Matt: So, how do you support your position of atheism? On what basis do you do that?  You have a position. Tell me the position.
Jess: Matt, are you a Hindu?
Matt: I am a Christian--Trinitarian.  You have a position called atheism. Please define YOUR position to me.
Jess: So you do not believe in Vishnu, Krishna, any of those?
Matt: What is YOUR definition?  I do not not believe in them. I believe they are not real.  Now, what is your position?
Jess: Then you are an atheist vis a vis Hinduism. You do not share their belief system.
Matt: Matt: Again, I ask you to define your position. Can you please do that for me?
Jess: Yes. I do not believe in any god or gods until I am provided with convincing evidence why I should do so. Now please do not ask me again what my position is, or accuse me of not telling you. I have told you this several times. So, you do not believe in any god or gods . . . Why?  Why do you not believe in them?  You must have a reason for not believing in them. Why is that?  Because you say there isn't sufficient evidence? Is that it? But, if that is the case, then what would qualify as sufficient evidence? Please tell me what would qualify as sufficient evidence for you to believe in a god or gods.  If you cannot, then you have not thought your position through.  If you can, then we can discuss the validity of your evidential requirements.
Jess: Well, there could be several. One would be clear demonstration that some portion of what we know of as the natural universe requires supernatural intervention to function.
Matt: Such as?  Dare I say, a resurrection from the dead? Would that qualify?
Jess: Another would be a convincing settlement of why any one religion provides evident reason to believe that it has the one and only true interpretation of the "mind of god".  Unfortunately, Matt, the only evidence you have of that is four faith documents of questionable validity, and considerable bias.  Each of the gospels was written decades after the events in question.
Matt: The gospels were written by eyewitnesses.  Why would they lie?  Why would they lie about the resurrection and then preach about honesty, truth, etc., and then die for that cause?
Jess: In addition, no contemporary roman historians document any miracles.
Matt: Whether or not contemporary historians did or did not record the events does not validate or invalidate them.
Jess: Matt, you might be able to tell me. What kind of logical fallacy are you appealing to right now?  I don't know the name, but its the one where you say "Take my word for it, these people are of impeccable moral character. Why would they lie" It's circular, and you know it.
Matt: The fact is that contemporary historians DID record it: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John . . . I am certainly able to appeal to the eyewitness' documents.  Furthermore, if you want to require lack of evidence vis a vis historians as some sort of proof for your position, then you must realize that it cuts both ways.
Jess: The gospels were written decades after the events. How do YOU know they were written by eyewitnesses?
Matt: We know they were written by eyewitnesses because they speak in the first person, recounting the events, describing accurately events verified by history related to the time of the gospels, etc.
Jess: I just stated that the gospels were written decades after the events. How do YOU know they were eyewitness accounts?
Matt: You should study this before you erringly make your assertions.
Jess: In what way are they verified by history, Matt?
Matt: And I can tell that you have not seriously looked into the issue.  Herod is real--the two high priests, etc., are verified in history. Now, I have given you evidence consistent with what you required, and yet you reject it.
Jess: So are all books of historical fiction accurate in every regard, Matt?
Matt: So, you assume the Bible is historical fiction and ask a question based on that assertion?  That is begging the question.  Just because your presupposition won't allow you to accept the resurrection does not negate its reality.
Jess: No, I'm asking you if it is possible to write an account, in the first person, using historical events?
Matt: The eyewitnesses wrote about it.
Jess: Has that happened before?  And are all historical events related in such a work always factual?
Matt: But, have you done ANY research into the authorship and contemporary aspect of them related to their times of writings?
Jess: ?
Matt: I am asking you if you have done the homework. Have you? Have you looked at the evidence?  Have you looked into the reasons why they are authentic?  Or are you simply believing, by faith, what others have told you?
Jess: I have read much about the veracity of the gospels. But before I address that, I just wanted to deconstruct your argument. Now answer my question.
Matt: Answer which question?
Jess: And are all historical events related in such a work always factual?
Matt: Of course not.  But that does not invalidate the Gospel accounts.
Jess: Then your argument is refuted.
Matt: Not at all. Possibility does not make probability--as we established earlier regarding atheism's viability. Now, have YOU done the homework?  Have you studied and researched the pros and cons on the issue of the gospel's authenticity?
Jess: You claimed that the reason to trust the gospel accounts of miracles was because they were first person accounts with historical events depicted. But you have now admitted that first person historical fiction can exist without complete accuracy. So you have lost the point.
Matt: How does that mean that the gospel accounts are NOT accurate?  I certainly hope you are not trying to make that leap of faith here.  Again, I ask you. Have you studied and researched the pros and cons on the issue of the gospel's authenticity?
Jess: Well, as you may understand, I do not have to disprove their authenticity, any more than I would need to disprove the inspiredness of any book. You need to provide some better evidence.
Matt: In other words, you haven't done your homework; and you are holding your position by faith.
Jess: No, I am well aware of much of what has been discussed about the gospels, including errors in geography that seem to cast doubts, plus the history of the documents of themselves, and the questionable authorship, plus the numerous other gospels that exist, PLUS the pagan religions that came before, PLUS the writings of Porphyry and Celsus, PLUS the lack of roman validation of the life of Jesus . . .
Matt: You recite nothing more than the standard fair of atheists.  Your presupposition is that there is no God.
Jess: Because we know a great deal, both within the tradition AND outside of it.
Matt: In fact, you are actively defending your position that there is no god.
Jess: Again, that is not my position. Please try to remain honest.
Matt: You say you don't believe but behave like you do believe there is no God. You work hard to deny the evidence.  I am quite honest. But your position is not consistent.  You say you don't believe, but you work hard to show why the evidence for God is not real.  You are acting out your belief . . . that there is no God and . . . you still haven't given me any reason why your position is valid. Like I said earlier, atheism only exists in a vacuum. It has to try to disprove theistic evidences and reasoning.
Jess: Look, if my position is that I require extraordinary evidence to believe an extraordinary claim, then I cannot in good FAITH allow such evidence to pass without careful scrutiny.
Matt: But I asked you if you HAVE carefully scrutinized it.  That is exactly what I DO want you to do.
Jess: Yes, I have.
Matt: What archeological books have you read on the gospels?
Jess: You have provided very little in the way of convincing evidence.
Matt: Excuse me, but this is a chat room, and I don't have everything memorized.  But, I have challenged you to provide reasons for you position. At best you can only denounce theistic evidences to allow you to continue to hold your belief that there is no God.  Therefore, your atheism is held by faith.
Jess: No, Matt, it isn't.
Matt: Yes, it is. If there were a proof of God's non-existence, then atheists would be continually using it. But we don't hear of any such commonly held proof supporting atheism or denying God's existence.
Jess: And if there were proof of his existence, you'd be using it.
Matt: That is another topic for another time.  The atheist position is very difficult, if not impossible, to prove since it is an attempt to prove a negative.  Therefore, since there are no proofs for atheisms' truth and there are no proofs that there is no God, the atheist must hold his position by faith.
Jess: The idea of god is ultimately outside the realm of conventional proof.
Matt: That is an assumption and is not logically necessary. You have only made an assumption.
Jess: No, Matt, you have completely missed everything we've already stated.
Matt: No, I have not.
Jess: Atheism is not attempting to prove a negative.
Matt: Isn't that what you've been trying to do tonight? prove that God doesn't exist by negating the evidences and reasons I've proposed?
Jess: No, it is not.
Matt: Then you don't have a reason for denying God's existence?
Jess: You saying they are doesn't make them so.
Matt: Then why do you deny He exists?  What is your reason for denying God's existence?
Jess: Of course I have a reason. The profound lack of evidence.  Why do you deny the existence of Zeus?
Matt: So, then, you have a position that God does not exist; and you defend that position, right?
Jess: Why do you deny the existence of Odin? And, no, that is NOT my position, Matt.
Matt: Then what you are doing is behaving like a positive atheist who says there is no God.
Jess: Now, answer my questions, please.
Matt: Here we go in circles again.
Jess: No, I did not say that, Matt, you are saying that.
Matt: Saying what?
Jess: I already told you what my position was. Do not try to change what my position is. It's silly. Now, can you tell me why YOU deny the existence of Zeus?  Why do YOU deny the existence of Krishna?
Matt: I deny Zeus' and Krishna's existence because the evidence of the Bible overwhelmingly convinces me that it is true; and since I therefore believe it is true, I believe what it says. Since it says that there is only ONE God (YHWH), by default all others do not exist.
Jess: Well, then, now that you deny their existence, is it up to you to refute every evidence of their existence?
Matt: But, I have. I just told you how; and in so doing, I am consistent with my actions.  You, however, are not.
Jess: How am I not and how am I not consistent?
Matt: You don't have evidence for your position that is that God does not exist. You simply believe He does not. Yet, you behave as though he does not exist by attempting to disprove every theistic reason I can offer. Your actions tell me you believe there is no God.
Jess: In addition, I hope you are not ignorant of Dionysus or Mithras.
Matt: But, you really don't' have a reason for your belief . . . except lack of evidence.  But lack of evidence isn't a good enough argument because the evidence IS there; and you, apparently, haven't done your homework concerning it.
Jess: My position is that your contention is so wildly divergent from conventional, natural reality, that, without more tangible proof, it is no more believable than any other myth.
Matt: I see. That is actually a nice sentence. Too bad it isn't accurate.
Jess: Have you studied Dionysus?
Matt: No.  Mithra, yes.
Jess: And?
Matt: Have you studied historicity?
Jess: Be more specific.
Matt: Look. I am presently debating a Mormon in another chat room while I am talking to you, and my wife is patiently waiting for me to go to the store for her tonight. She isn't feeling well. This is not an excuse. But, it is getting late; and I must get going.  Can we continue this another time?
Jess: Certainly.
Matt: Fine.  But, we need to talk in voice chat. It is much easier.
Jess: True.
Matt: Now, I must get going. Please do not assume I cannot answer you. I can. It is just that we will not finish this here.  Okay?
Jess: Ok.
Matt: My wife is stirring, and I need to get moving.
Jess: Ok. Go.
Matt: Later.


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.