50 reasons to believe in God is an email that has recently made the rounds of atheist bloggers.
Response to the text of the message
1. Whilst agreeing that random patterns occur naturally by chance, DNA however, consists of code, which requires a designer.
2. How do you explain the paranormal, such as people witnessing positive or negative sightings, like ghosts or angels? I saw a ghost with a friend of mine - I am not a liar, an attention seeker. Neither was I overtired when this happened.
3. Try praying. What good is it when a mind is set to coincidence & disbelief regarding the positive outcome?
Response: This argument is an attempt to shift the burden of proof. It urges the reader to pray, and anticipates that any results of prayer would be easy to dismiss as chance. In essence this is an admission that the results of prayer may not actually be distinguishable from coincidence and chance.
4. The law of cause & effect - in order to have an effect, there has to be a cause. Everything is caused by something.
Response: This fails to provide proof for a god, as it requires to define god as the "uncaused cause," therefore negating the original premise.
5. Mindless nothing cannot be responsible for complex something.
Response: This is fallacious in its assumption that an atheistic viewpoint requires the world to start from 'nothing'. It also is guilty of special pleading (responsibility is an attribute of intelligence) and also another invocation of the argument from design.
6. Science can only be the detector of certain things. You cannot scientifically detect emotion, memory, thoughts etc., though scientifically we must.. These things which do not consist of matter are beyond the detection of science.
Response: This is a case of possible confusion on the meaning of the terms used, as well as a use of the god of the gaps argument. We can detect emotions through the physical changes to the body, and we can detect brain activity. To say that memory is not detected 'scientifically' is possibly an dualistic argument, but there is no basis in it.
7. Evolution has never been proved, which is why we call it the 'theory of evolution'. It's a fairy tale for grown ups!
8. Atheism is a faith in that which has not been proved. The disbelievers have not witnessed anything to not believe in, whereas the believers believe because they have witnessed. There is no 'good news' to preach in atheism.
9. How much of the atheist's faith relies on anger with God as opposed to genuine disbelief in God?
10. Why do many atheists shake their fists & spend so much time ranting & raving about something they don't believe in? If they are no more than a fizzled out battery at the end of the day, then why don't they spend their lives partying, or getting a hobby?! Why don't they leave this 'God nonsense' alone?
Response: This is a straw man argument. Atheism does not prevent hobbies, partying etc. Furthermore it neglects that while god may not exist, religions do exist, and that the majority of the planet believing in a fantasy is a good reason to be active
11. What created God? What came first, the chicken or the egg? I am not going to deny the existence of the chicken or the egg, merely because I don't understand or know what came first. I don't care - they both exist!
12. Improbability is not the same as impossibility. You only have to look at life itself for that backup of proof.
13. How could the complexity of human life possibly evolve on its own accord out of mindless cells?
Response: Argumentum ad ignorantiam. The complexity of life is very thing for which the theory of evolution is meant to and does explain.
14. How could the complexity of the human mind possibly evolve on its own accord out of mindless cells? Where does our consciousness come from?
15. What/who knew that our hunger & thirst had to be catered for by the food & drink which we're supplied with?
Response: This is an example of the anthropic principle. It commits the formal fallacy of petitio principii, assuming that hospitable features of our universe were built to support life, rather than considering that life was adapted to the undesigned features of the universe through natural selection. Douglas Adams' analogy about a sentient puddle neatly sums up the problem with this argument.
16. Most of us are born with the five senses to detect our surroundings, which we're provided with.
17. What/who knew that had Earth been set nearer to the sun, we would burn up?
18. What/who knew that had Earth been set any further from the sun, we would freeze up?
19. What/who knew that had Earth been built larger or smaller, its atmosphere would be one where it would not be possible for us to breathe?
20. What/who knew that we require the oxygen of plants, just as plants require the carbon dioxide of us?
21. The concept that life came about through sheer chance is as absurd & improbable as a tornado blowing through a junk yard, consequently assembling a Boeing 747!
22. We are willing to believe in physically unseen waves that exist through the air, operating physical forces & appliances to work, yet not supernatural God forces being responsible for the same.
Response: While phenomena like radio waves or infrared light may be "unseen" to the human eye, they are not supernatural. They are well understood and explained by science, and thus are not analogous to any purported supernatural phenomena.
23. Matter cannot organise itself. An uneaten tomato will not progress on its own accord to form a perfect pineapple. It will transform into mould, into disorganisation. The laws of evolution fall flat.
Response: An uneaten tomato does not "transform" into disorganization. It may decompose into simpler organic components by the action of bacteria, fungi or other creatures such as maggots through well-understood biological processes. In fact, these components might then become part of other plants or animals, including a pineapple.
24. Our 'inventor' of evolution, Mr. Charles Darwin had this to say to Lady Hope when he was almost bedridden for 3 months before he died; "I was a young man with unfathomed ideas. I threw out queries, suggestions. wondering all the time over everything, and to my astonishment the ideas took like wildfire - people made a religion of them." Darwin then asked Lady Hope to speak to neighbours the next day. "What shall I speak about?" She asked. He replied; "Christ Jesus and his salvation. Is that not the best theme?"
25. Where do our moral values held within our conscience come from? If the atheist is right, why then would we care about what we did?! If there is no God, then we've no-one to be accountable to.
Response: Evolutionary psychologists have proposed explanations for many "moral values" and behaviors that appear instinctual. Atheists may follow any number of secular ethical codes, holding themselves accountable to values or ideals derived rationally, rather than to a deity. Furthermore, the Euthyphro dilemma turns this argument around on the theist: where do God's moral values come from?
26. If man has evolved from an animal, why doesn't he behave like an animal? Yet man is civilised.
Response: Many human behaviors are similar to those found among animals -- seeking food and shelter, forming social groups to secure these resources, communication with sound and gestures, reproducing and providing for offspring, protecting one's family. Further, given the vast diversity of animals and their behaviors, the question is deceptively imprecise and betrays a lack of understanding of zoology. Aspects of human behavior that differ from animal behavior may be attributable to properties like human bipedalism or advanced cognitive function, particularly the capacity for abstract thought. Evolutionary theory may be able to explain how these characteristics arose.
27. 'Chance' isn't the cause of something. It just describes what we can't find a reason for.
Response: Straw man argument. While evolution contains some apparent "chance" (genetic mutations), the process of natural selection is the guiding force which directs the process of adaptation.
28. Science & logic do not hold all the answers - many people are aware of forces at work which we have no understanding of & no control over.
29. Look at the date/year on our calender - 2000 years ago since what? Our historical records (other than the Bible) record evidence of Jesus' existence.
Response: Many (though not all) atheists concede that a religious teacher named Jesus may have lived in Mesopotamia approximately 2,000 years ago; however, there is no historical evidence of any of his purported miracles or resurrection. Without such evidence, there is no reason to believe Jesus was a deity or supernatural being.
Response: To maintain a consistent dating system, we can choose to start a new calendar at any other arbitrary agreed upon point, or we can accept a reasonably consistent and well-defined system already in place. The original arbitrary zero point of origin is irrelevant.
30. Many people have died for their faith. Would they be prepared to do this for a lie?!
Response: This could only show that purported martyrs believed they were dying for a true faith. It cannot prove that their beliefs are actually true; martyrs may be mistaken. Many people have died in the name of many contradictory faiths. Further, people have given their lives in the name of beliefs such as Nazism; must we assume these are also true?
31. Much of the Bible deals with eyewitness accounts, written only 40 years after Jesus died. When the books in the New Testament were first around, there would have been confusion & anger if the books were not true.
32. From as early as 2000 BC, there is archaological evidence to confirm many details we're provided with in the Bible.
33. Not one single Biblical prediction can be shown as false, and the Bible contains hundreds.
Response: This is an attempt to shift the burden of proof. The Bible does not contain a single fulfilled prediction which is/was verifiable, non trivial, and was not self-fulfilling.
Response: Biblical prophesy was "confirmed" by those who were already aware of such prophesy and with a vested interest in ensuring that such prophecy had the appearance of being fulfilled.
34. The evidence from liturature & historical studies claim that Biblical statements are reliable details of genuine events.
Response: This is plainly false. In addition to the miracles and supernatural events described in the Bible, for which there is no historical evidence, many of the historical claims which could theoretically be substantiated with archaelogical evidence are contradicted by modern historians. For example, historians believe there is no evidence for Hebrew slavery in Egypt or the Exodus as described in the Old Testament.
35. From the birth of science through to today, there is no evidence to claim that Christianity & science are in opposition. Many first scientists were Christians; Francis Bacon, Issaac Newton, Robert Boyle, to name a few, along with the many who stand by their work & faith today.
Response: Many of the arguments in this email appear to promote Christianity by opposing science, but even if we grant that there is no conflict between science and Christianity and that many scientists are Christians, this hardly provides evidence that Christianity is true. See burden of proof.
36. Science can explain 'how' something works, but not 'why' something works.
Response: This argument is essentially meaningless. To science, 'how' and 'why' are the same thing.
37. Science is constantly recorrecting its findings. Past theories contradict certain beliefs which are held today. Our present 'discoveries' may change again in the future to rediscover how we originally came into existence.
Response: A willingness to reconsider theories in the face of new evidence is essential to any process that seeks the truth. Atheists believe science is strong precisely because of this, rather than despite it. In addition, religious groups, even those considered extreme or fundamentalist, often change their teachings in response to social concerns. For example, the Church of Latter-Day Saints abandoned polygamy in order to gain statehood for Utah.
38. Evolution describes the way life possibly started, yet doesn't explain what made life start & why. Scientific questions fail to do that. Even if evolution were proved, it would still not disprove God.
Response: The biological theory of evolution does not attempt to explain the origin of life; it describes how the diversity and complexity of life found today arose from simpler organisms. However, science could explain how life began on Earth if a credible theory of abiogenesis or panspermia emerge in the future. And while this would not disprove the existence of God, the burden of proof is on those who assert the existence of supernatural phenomena.
39. The two people who discovered Jesus' empty tomb were women. Women were so low on the social scale in first century Palestine, so in order to make the story fit, it would have made far more sense to claim that it were male disciples who had entered the tomb. But it wasn't - we're left with the historical & Biblical truth.
Response: While the Gospels describe Jesus' tomb being found empty by women, the Gospels also give accounts of the resurrected Jesus appearing to his male disciples. The Gospels were also written and promulgated by men. The resurrection claim does not rest solely on the word of low-status women. Even if it did, this would hardly be sufficient reason to deem it true; extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
40. Think about Near Death Experiences. It's naive to believe that they all are induced by chemicals or drugs. How do we account for a blind person having this experience, coming back to describe what they had never before seen, a person telling the Doctor that there is a blue paperclip on top of the high cabinet, which they couldn't have otherwise known, an african man being dead in his coffin for 3 days, coming back to life to tell of much the same events which took place as those of many others? We never hear of the witnesses describing "a dream". We're not silly - we know the difference between even the most vivid of dreams to that of reality.
Response: It is not naive to seek physiological or psychological explanations for unusual experiences a person may have while their body is recovering from life-threatening trauma or disease. It is naive to immediately presume something supernatural is occurring. Why are these bizarre claims about paperclips and Africans rising from the dead not substantiated? If credible evidence existed of a man being actually deceased and rising three days later, this would be unprecedented news quickly publicized to every corner of the globe by every kind of formal or informal media. If this actually occurred, present the evidence. Science demands more proof than a mere assurance that one asserting a shocking revelation is "not silly."
41. There are many skeptics who didn't believe in Jesus before his crucifixion, and who were opposed to Christianity, yet turned to the Christian faith after the death of Jesus. Just as the many who continue to do so today.
42. Albert Einstein said; "A legitimate conflict between science & religion cannot exist. Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind".
43. A speaker in Hyde Park who was attacking belief in God, claimed that the world just happened. As he spoke, a soft tomato was thrown at him. "Who threw that?" He said angrily. A cockney from the back of the crowd replied; "No-one threw it - it threw itself!"
Response: This unsubstantiated anecdote about a believer assaulting an atheist with a vegetable is actually a form of the unmoved mover/uncaused cause argument, implying that atheists are foolish not to believe in a higher power that created the universe. This argument does not solve the problem of the first cause; it merely shifts the burden onto an unproven supernatural being. If God is not caused, then it cannot be said that all things must have a cause. Whether it be the universe itself, for atheists, or God himself, for the believer, all must admit the existence of something whose cause is as yet undiscovered. Atheists hope to continue discovering causes through reason; theists merely give up. Theism cannot claim this as an advantage.
44. It is easier to believe that God created something out of nothing than it is to believe that nothing created something out of nothing.
Response: This is another form of uncaused cause argument employing Occam's Razor, but an explanation that requires the existence of an unseen, omnipotent supernatural being can hardly be simpler than one that relies on observable natural principles. This argument also prompts the question, how did God arise out of nothing?
45. Stephen Hawkins has admitted; "Science may solve the problem of how the universe began, but it cannot answer the question: why does the universe bother to exist?"
Response: Spurious. Whatever reason the universe exists, the Bible does nothing to answer this question. All it does is provide a claim of 'what' was created, and 'when', vaguely (and incorrectly) answers the 'how' (magic) but it in no way answer the 'why'. If it even makes sense to speak of the universe as if it chooses to exist, why it does so would not be the subject of science, which deals with what can be naturally observed. This should be considered a problem of philosophy.
46. We cannot confuse God with man. With God in the equation, all things, including miracles are possible. If God is God, he is Creator of all, inclusive of scientific law. He is Creator of matter & spirit.
47. If we are the product of evolution - by sheer accident, chance, then we are still evolving. Does it just so happen that we exist here today with everything so finely tuned for our living. as we now have it?
48. Could it possibly be that the missing link does not exist?!
49. God has proved himself to us in numerous ways, all around us. The atheist needs to put his glasses on. What more can God possibly do if man has shut his eyes to him?
Response: Special pleading, petitio principii. If God is omnipotent, there is no limit to what more he could do. Even if our eyes are "shut to him," an omnipotent being could certainly open them.
50. Jesus Christ is either who he says he is, or he is the biggest con man history has ever known.
Response: Or he was insane, never actually existed, or did not say all of the things attributed to him. See also trilemma.