Dissecting Popular Anti-Faith Arguments in Defense of Truth
Identifying weak arguments is one of the most important skills you learn as a trial lawyer. There are a large number of positions you can advocate for before a jury and it can seem like you have to cover every single one. It can feel like the side with the higher number of contentions wins and you don’t want to take a chance and miss one. Yet, in litigation, you learn quickly that there is often a danger lurking in the weaker claims. The obviously flawed, faulty, and unsupported claims you throw out, just in case, most often benefit the other side of the case. They provide free gaps for opposing counsel to charge through to get around your defenses and destroy your claims. There is nothing worse than sitting helplessly as your bad assertions are exposed and dismissed one by one to the jury and your whole case lost.
A bad arguments made by one side, therefore, is often the other’s best chance to make their case.
This courtroom concept is just as true when the question to be decided is of eternal importance. There a number of often repeated but deeply flawed contentions of those who argue against God that can be your best opening to reach the heart of a person. You may be tempted to try to avoid engaging with people who argue against God or feel ill equipped to do so. Yet, if you seek to live out the Great Commission, particularly if you do so among the younger generations, there are a number of common arguments that are unavoidable…and that is not a bad thing.
These contentions and the cultural movement behind them are nothing new and should not disturb your faith. In fact, they represent great opportunities for you to clear some of the obstacles out of the path to God for a lost person.
I want to pause here and emphasize that I do not intend to demean or insult those who struggle with faith, agnostics, atheists, or those who believe differently than I do. I don’t intend to dismiss the pain of those who deconstruct their faith or question anyone’s intelligence and experience. I have heard the stories of many people in each of these groups and often understand where those who hurt the most are coming from, having walked a similar path in many ways. I also freely admit that I lived a good part of my life as a non-believer and argued many of the positions listed during that time. My goal is simply to lay out the problems with these claims, based on the clear facts, with the hope that they no longer get in the way of the deeper and more important parts of these conversations.
With this in mind, here my list of 5 Bad Atheist Arguments against God.
Please note that the discussion of these arguments can be quiet extensive. Therefore, I present a short version of the reasons for rejecting these claim in this post. You can also click the link below each summary to read a post setting them out in greater detail. (coming shortly).
1 – Jesus is Made Up, There is No Evidence for Jesus
I vividly recall the moment a charismatic professor first exposed me to this claim in college.
“There is not a single bit of evidence that Jesus ever existed“, he declared authoritatively and disdainfully, “Jesus is a myth no different than all the others.”
(The meme version >>>>>>>)
His contention was not an opinion or open to debate according to him, it was an inarguable fact that he deemed it so definitively established that only the foolish and unsophisticated would disagree. Judging by the many conversations with non-believers I have had since that time, I am not the only one who has run into this claim. It is, in my experience , one of the most common objections to questions about faith I hear when talking with non-believers. They sincerely allege with absolute certainty that there is definitely no evidence – none, not even a tiny fraction of proof – supporting Jesus’ being a real historical person. Sadly, many effectively bet their eternity on this belief.
What is the problem with this claim?
It is not true by any reasonable standard.
In fact, it is not only false, but it is clearly, undeniably so. The evidence is so clear and plentiful that the vast majority of historians agree Jesus’ existence is a settled issue. The truth is if you honestly examine the historical record, Jesus is one of the most definitively established individuals of the ancient world. This may seem like an unlikely claim given the dramatic presentation of the room being totally empty in the atheist meme. Yet, the proof is so overwhelming that you can come to no other conclusion, unless you really choose to do so.
The list of sources of evidence for Jesus is huge. The Bible alone would refute the claim, but there is much more. There are the letters of the early church, the writings of ancient historians, the personal correspondence of ancient Romans, architecture, and many archeological finds are just a start of what you would need to try fit into a room to try to gather all of the evidence of Jesus. These many volumes would include preserved writings from people who followed Jesus and knew His apostles personally and from other men who despised Christians and tortured and killed them. They were discovered all over the ancient Roman world and all show that Jesus was not only a real person, but one who lived at the time stated by the Bible in the place established in the Gospels.
This amount of documentation of an individual who lived 2,000 years ago in a small, out of the way country and held no important positions is astounding. The fact that it not only establishes his existence, but corroborates the Biblical narrative is even more impressive. This large amount of support is the reason that even the secular historians agree on the answer to the question:
Yes, Jesus clearly existed.
It does not definitively prove every last doctrine of the Christian faith, of course. It does show that the claims that Jesus never existed cannot be supported in good faith. It is bad argument.
Check back for the longer discussion of this point.
2 – You Can’t Believe the Bible, it has been Altered, Changed, or Co-opted
I was having a conversation with a very nice gentlemen who happened to be non-Christian, recently. We were respectfully discussing God and the Bible, and he stated that he believed in God but did not trust the Bible. Given the historical facts involved (stated above), I asked him why he felt comfortable doing so. His response:
“You cannot trust the Bible, it has been altered too many times. Constantine, in particular, at the Council of Nicea changed everything. How can you know what is true?”
This is another very common argument against Christianity you will encounter, the details of which will vary depending that person viewpoint. Some blame Constantine, the Catholic Church or Martin Luther, while others the Illuminati or the like, but regardless of the particulars the underlying argument is consistent. They argue you cannot possibly know what Jesus said or did 2,000 years ago. The Bible is the folk lore of sheep herders and it has been changed extensively over the years. Guys like Bart Ehrman have made whole careers from this sort of claim.
What is the problem with this argument?
Again, the evidence does not support this claim. There are mountains of proof of the authenticity and reliability of the Bible that scholars, secular and Christian, have compiled through the centuries that overwhelmingly shows a consistent Scripture. The evidence sets out that the Bible you have today is the same one read from the time of the early church until today. Though men certainly have tried to use the Bible for their own benefit throughout history, the record shows that it was not changed or lost. That is another bad argument against Jesus.
Manuscripts of the Bible have been discovered that go back almost to the very beginning. The New Testament versions date from the 2nd Century on and contain either part or the whole New Testament. They have been found all across the ancient world in many different languages. There are about 6,000 Greek manuscripts, 10,000 in Latin, and 9500 in various languages like Syriac that have been discovered over the years. More are being literally unearthed every day – like those located buried in ancient garbage dumps or under ultraviolet examination after they were written over. Given the wide dissemination of these manuscripts, the variety of languages, and the many different people who would have had them in their possession and under their control, if the theories about man changing the Bible were true, you would expect it to show up in these many manuscripts. If Constantine or the Roman Catholic Church who are the most frequently alleged Bible changers, for example, never had a manuscript from the ancient Ethiopian church in its possession and therefore did not have the opportunity to change that manuscript, when it was found it would reveal their later alterations. Yet, ancient copies of the Bible found in locations all over the world and those restored from trashed copies do not show signs of these sorts of changes. Critics can argue that there are mysterious and badly defined “missing” copies of the “real” Bible that could have said something different but they disappeared, but that is merely unsupported speculation. It may sell books, but it is the equivalent of blaming unicorns for the existence of rainbows since there is no proof that they are not the cause.
There is no evidence of alteration or manipulation of the contents of the Bible taking place across the thousands of copies discovered from the relevant time periods. There is also no evidence that the Bible changed from the time it was written. There is no doubt that the Bible of today is the one written by its original authors. The contrary claim is a bad argument, as a result.
3 – If God Made Man, then Who Made God?
The next contention may come at you as a sort of “gotcha” argument. These are the short often repeated arguments that you run into on a regular basis when discussing God and faith. They often employ one liners and quips offered with the intent to quickly shut down the conversation, shut you up, and swiftly overturn your position. This particular claim is one within this category that seeks to create the appearance of a logical paradox with God, creation, Jesus, or similar topics to attempt to prove that your beliefs are inherently illogical. The premise is that God cannot exist because your belief in Him does not make sense.
This contention usually goes something like this:
If the earth and everything on it as created and everything that is created has to have a Creator, God, then God would have to have a creator. So who created God?
(another version is to the right here>>>>>>)
What is the problem with this argument?
This argument is inherently illogical. In an attempt to make a point about God, it loses track of the theological issues involved and the definition of God Himself.
While God may be difficult for man to understand in many ways, the answer to the question of His creation is not one of them – at least theologically. It is not challenging to discover that Christians believe God is eternal by nature. This means He has always existed and always will exist. He has no beginning and no end, says the Bible. Before the earth was made or universe was formed, Jesus declared He was already there and present. He is the uncreated God. This logically can mean nothing else but the simple answer is no one created God. There was no need,
God always was who He is.
This bit of basic theology Christians have preached for thousands of years may not satisfy the non-believer’s questioning. Frankly, it is hard for anyone to wrap their heads around the idea of what it means that God is eternal. Yet, being able to understand all that it means is very different than just clearly rejecting the claimed paradox: God has no creator and needs no creator, He is the Creator.
Please note that the meme also misuses the term atheist – meaning without God. God cannot deny the existence of God, so He cannot ever be an atheist.
4 – Christianity is just a Copy of Older Religions.
It is easy to dismiss the claims of Christ if you think that He was nothing but a myth
The argument that Jesus is just a myth ripped off from the other religions of the world is one that is particularly popular on social media and in the virtual space in general. It relies on a number of often repeated examples of faiths and deities early Christians allegedly copied to make up Jesus and create their faith. Its proponents will trot out the supposedly older religions of Mithraism, Zoroastrianism, and the ancient Egypt and claim to show how Jesus can not be real. He is just another version of a common myth of ignorant people. Yet, even a cursory fact checking of foundations of this argument reveals it to be obviously false. These faiths share little to nothing in common with Jesus and His church.
What is the problem with this claim? It is clearly false. There nothing copied about Jesus.
Mithras tends to be the figure from ancient mythology most often commonly cited to try to undermine Jesus. It makes sense that you probably have never even heard of the worship of this Roman god since it is long dead and was certainly a fringe belief even in its time. The claims about Mithras and Jesus, in fact, attempt to take advantage of the obscurity of this ancient religion popular among the Roman Legions. They argue, among other things that the worship of Mithras is older than Christianity, that Mithras was the son of God born on December 25th, that Mithras had 12 disciples, and he was executed, and resurrected. The meme to the right is a good example of the argument >>>>>>.
What is the problem with this claim?
The entire argument is based on fraud. Not only is Jesus not a copy of Mithras, but the claims about Mithraism are clearly false. They appear to be fabricated facts about an obscure historical myth made up for the purpose of this argument. It is completely baseless.
Since the worship of Mithras was a secret, we don’t know everything about it. What we do know sets out a faith that looks nothing like the memes claim. The most popular depictions of Mithras are him being born from a rock, slaughtering a sacred bull along with others, and sharing a banquet with another pagan God. In all of the the bull killing scenes, there are other animals depicted, like a snake curling upward toward the bull, a raven flying over, and a scorpion that is attached to the bull’s genitals. These animals may be associated with astrology. The adherents of Mithras would gather in underground structures, usually with the bull killing scene painted or frescoed on the walls, during the summer time for great drunken feasts celebrating Mithras, possibly covering themselves in the blood of a bull while getting drunk. Does that description seem anything like Jesus and the Church?
What is not present in any discoveries about Mithras?
There is no evidence of any claim that Mithras was born on December 25 of a virgin.
There is no evidence of a star similar to the Star of Bethlehem. (or any star).
There is nothing about Mithras being executed, resurrected, having 12 disciples, or being the Son of God.
There is nothing in Mithraism that would indicate it was the source of Jesus or Christianity. In fact, the best evidence indicates that Mithraism developed after Christianity, showing up in the late 1st Century. The whole argument is based on lies.
While this is just one of the many comparisons people attempt to rely on, they all similarly fall apart like wet tissue paper when help up to examination. Once you get past the misstated or manipulated facts, the fabrications, and the conclusory allegations, it is clear that there is only one Jesus and nothing copied about Him.
5 – A Smart Person Cannot Believer
This is popular argument may never be directly verbalized to you. You may never be told directly that you only believe because you are simple or dull of intellect, but it is this contention that serves as the foundation for the rejection of faith by many. They firmly believe that faith in God and intelligence, sophistication, and wisdom always stand in opposition to one another. You have to somehow be limited in your intellect, scientific knowledge, sophistication, or schooling in order to believe that there is a God who not only created the world and everything in it, but also cares about you. Belief in a “sky daddy” is for those who still trust in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. The smart people just know better than to be suckered by religion.
The meme version of this argument is plentiful since, as stated, it represents one of the foundational assumptions of many in the non-believing community. Here is an example>>>>:
Notice how believers are equated with people who cannot read and small children?
What is the problem with this claim?
It is easily disproven and based on an inflated view oneself
This is not intended to insult anyone or to be a contest to see who is smarter – atheists or theists. Rather, in order to judge the strength of this cultural bias, you must get to the heart of the claim. The premise a person relies on when making it is:
Only the ignorant, dull, backwards, and unsophisticated believe in God.
I am too smart to believe in God.
This is only one way these statements make sense is if the person making them is smarter than every person who believes in God. If there are Christians who are not only smarter than the person making the claim, but leaps and bounds more intelligent then it is illogical. It means that intelligence or lack thereof has nothing to do with answering the big questions of faith. So what is does the evidence show?
There are now and have been many individuals in the past who are significantly smarter, more well read, and scientifically minded than the average atheist, agnostic, or skeptic alive today. Many of the most intelligent and innovative people in history believed in God. Isaac Newton invented many of the fields of study that are pursued in academia today while holding a faith in God. His intelligence does not make him right on the issue of God, just as my lack of understanding of calculus would not bear on the question of God’s existence. Great scientists, teachers, and leaders have been committed Christians, like George Washington, Blaise Pascal, and George Washington Carver. The leading figures in atheism today pale in comparison.
There are also many average, run of the mill Christians today who are smarter, more highly educated, and cultured than many atheists. Again, this is not a contest and it doesn’t make the Christian better in any way or the truth about God any more or less true. It does expose the flaw in this unkind bias.
Love Your Neighbor as Yourself
But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.
In case my heart is not clear in discussions, my opinion about the these claims made by non-theists does not reflect my view of them as individuals. The fact that I think the arguments are bad does not mean I don’t care for them, respect them as people, or think they are bad, unintelligent, or in way inferior to me. I am the first to admit that I believed just about everyone of these common arguments in the past and understand how you get in that position. Rather, I truly love and appreciate people from all different sorts of backgrounds and enjoy talking about the big things in life with them with the hope that they get to know Jesus like I have. Jesus wants everyone to be saved. My hope is in demonstrating the weaknesses of these bad assertions, more Christians can help others get to the real issues that are holding them back from God.