Being new at being an atheist, I studied and studied every idea I could find on the matter of apologetics and counter apologetics. I feel sufficiently caught up in order to talk to most believers and confront some of the popular sayings and mantras. One thing I was not prepared for was the invincibility of faith. It’s not, of course. After all, there have been many converts, myself included. But faith is a powerful foe.
I’ve been speaking on and off with two friends specifically about God. One of them is a former youth pastor of my wife. I will call him JN for anonymity. He reached out to me in a very pastor-ly way. Very nice, very friendly.
The stated purpose for him reaching out was just to ask some questions and see where my head was at. I’m not sure what the end game actually is, but I figured this would be a good time to show that I was educated on the matters of God and stretch some of my brain muscles. This should also go without saying, but a great bi-product of this type of discussion is that if there is a flaw pointed out in my thinking, I can correct it. It’s a win-win for me.
At this point, this conversation has reached a few crucial nodes of discourse.
-JN thinks that faith in and of itself is beneficial. I’ve pointed out it’s flaws, but the benefits haven’t been stated.
-JN believes that there’s no evidence that he could present to convince me. While I agree with him in this particular moment, the evidence could be discovered one day that would convince me, or any other skeptic.
One important piece of agreement is the ways in which we can answer the argument from nonbelief:
1. God does not exist and believers are mistaken.
2. Nonbelievers aren’t looking for evidence.
3. Nonbelievers haven’t found the evidence for God’s existence, but believers have.
4. God has not revealed himself to nonbelievers.
We can immediately rule out #2. I would say that a lot of nonbelievers are looking for evidence of God, myself included. If a theists questions this, we can merely ask for the evidence, and that should put that theory to rest.
#4 isn’t consistent with most God concepts. Most theists would reject this one, while I am still open to the possibility that this could be the case.
#3 is where JN has landed. Nonbelievers are looking, but looking in the wrong places, or in the wrong ways. In this case, a simple matter of instruction should clear this up. Ask the theists, show me God, or show me how to find the evidence for God. They will say, “just open your heart” or “just believe”, but this isn’t evidence for God’s existence. If it is, then this can be evidence for just about anything you wanted to believe. Unicorns exist. All you have to do to know that is to open your heart and believe that they exist.
I’ll use an analogy that my friend, JN, in this discussion actually gave me. He said atheists are scanning the FM stations for God, and believers have found him on the AM band.
This is a great analogy. Let’s expand. The FM band in this analogy is the natural world, while God resides in the supernatural realm, the AM band. Never mind, for the moment that God apparently manifests himself into the FM band from time to time which would be detectable by those of us scanning it.
So if the theist is claiming to see God on the AM band, wouldn’t the easiest way to reconcile this be for him to show me how to scan the AM frequencies. Show me where the button on my radio is to change bands.
Instead, in this analogy, JN is basically saying “you just have to believe that the AM band is there, I can’t prove it to you. You just have to have faith.” This wouldn’t make sense at all if the AM band actually existed and if the theists actually had access to it. He would just show me. Or demonstrate that he could access it somehow.
In addition, there are millions of other people convincing me of other bands that exist. There are muslims telling me to tune into the CM band. Alien abductees telling me that their aliens speak to them on the ZM band. And none of them can tell me how to tune my radio other than to just “believe”.
How can I reconcile this?
My only course of action is to deny that any of these other bands exist until someone has the ability to demonstrate to me how I can change my bandwidth. Or at the very least that it is obvious that they are listening to another bandwidth.
But none can.
This defeats option #3 from above. I am left with the fact that either #1, God doesn’t exist, or #4, he has not revealed himself. In the case of #4, my life would be exactly the same as if he didn’t exist.