A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. (Proverbs 18.2)
Here are some notes from a brief conversation with a professing atheist. I hope the notes will provide some guidance for where to take a conversation of this nature. This conversation is, I think, a decent example of the kind of conversations our readers may have not only on the Internet, but in person if one is actually interested in conversing with unbelievers.
DM: I think indoctrinating children on a controversial matter like religion, in a biased way favoring one religion over others, AS IF the issue has been settled obejectively, is just plain stupid, and nothing but telling a lie.. it is brainwashing
DM: my parents are muslims, I live in turkey
Chris: Is it stupid or is it evil?
Chris: Or both?
DM: Chris, one of the other
Note: If it is stupid, he needs to explain why. This will most likely result in a moral claim. Things are usually called “stupid” because they represent some moral failing. If it is immoral or evil, then he needs to explain why. This cannot be done within the context of a non-Christian worldview, because there is no objective basis for right and wrong in that worldview.
DM: well teach kids whats been settled, and if you are teaching them about controversial matters, tell them about the controversy in an unbiased way, not your subjective opinion
Chris: Are you going to teach your children to teach their children like that?
DM: I am not having children
Chris: Good answer.
Note: The problem here is that people would not be able to teach their children how to teach their children, since it would presumably be a subjective and controversial matter. When people start pushing subjectivism and skepticism every breath they take, push them on it. They are usually making plenty of assertions along with their alleged “skepticism”.
DM: but remember that parents in middle east and india also think the way you do
DM: it may be a parents right to teach his children lies, but the issue here is they are teaching lies and not the truth.. if you are aiming at teaching the truth then you can reduce risks by not favoring a biased opinion on controversial unsettled issues like religion
Chris: What makes you so sure it is unsettled?
Chris: Dawkins certainly does not approach it that way.
DM: Chris, if it was settled then there wouldnt be a hundred different religions plus atheists and agnostics and deists, and no concensus
Chris: Dawkins disagrees.
Note: The reference to Dawkins is due to his earlier praise of the man. If someone thinks that Dawkins does not view religion as a settled matter, then one has not understood Dawkins. The man constantly tells us that he has no use for religion. What I do not say here is that whether or not an issue is “settled” depends very little upon whether or not there is still disagreement about that subject. Disagreement does not justify skepticism or relativism, etc.
Chris: So I am still interested – is it immoral to indoctrinate one’s children in matters of religion?
DM: Chris, I dont know about immoral, it is just not telling children what is true, and it is the reason arabs are muslims, indians are hindus and westerns are christians, since the birth of those religions
DM: generations pass, but religion stays the same in the same region.. why?
Chris: Sure. It is probably one of the reasons.
Chris: I don’t disagree.
DM: Chris, do you think it is right?
Chris: But why does that matter?
Chris: Sure, I think it is right to indoctrinate with Christian Scripture.
Chris: “train up a child in the way he should go”
Chris: I know you do not accept that.
Note: For some reason a popular argument against Christianity is to state the obvious fact that society has a great deal to do with the religion a person is brought up in. To be fair, there are more complex versions of a similar argument, but I have not seen any of them used yet by a person I have come into contact with. The really odd thing here is that this fellow says he is an atheist from Turkey who has Muslim parents, which is counterevidence for his claim. Parents teaching their children religious beliefs, particular regions being associated with particular religions, and children often growing up to become like their parents in terms of beliefs are totally irrelevant to whether or not Christianity is true.
DM: Chris, the point her eis that there is no proof that the christian religion is true.. it could well be a lie.. so you are brainwashing your child on a lie, in a way he may never recover and get out
Chris: Can you prove to me that Christianity cannot be proven?
Note: When someone makes a claim, it is up to that individual to support that claim when called upon to do so. This is called the “burden of proof”. This individual makes the claim that there is no proof that Christianity is true, and I ask him to prove this claim to me. If he can not prove it, then it is nothing more than an empty claim. In fact, if he can not prove it to me, then it “could well be a lie”, according to his own reasoning. In other words according to him, if Christianity cannot be proven true then it could very well be a lie. He states that Christianity cannot be proven true. Therefore, it could very well be a lie. I simply take this and turn it around on him. I ask him to prove to me that Christianity cannot be proven true, since, after all, he makes that claim! If he cannot do this, then I should suspect that his statement is nothing more than a lie (which, of course, it is). What he goes on to do is to try and shift the burden of proof onto me. Instead of providing me proof of his claim, he tries to get me to show him proof for Christianity, which I need not do at this point.
DM: Chris, how are you supposed to “prove” it? it is just a cult of judaism.. one of many messiah cults, the only one that survived, and with the force of the roman empire imposed on all of europe.. you are a christian because there is a long line of parental indoctrination throughout generations
Chris: Can you prove to me that Christianity cannot be proven?
DM: what can you offer? the stories in the bible? the gospels seem written decades after the alleged christ lived, they seem to incorporate myths circulating around, even myths not jewish in origin, such as myths about mithras and horus
DM: Chris, your question doesnt make sense, you are asking it wrong
Chris: No I’m not.
Chris: You said that Christianity cannot be proven.
Chris: Can you prove that?
Chris: That statement itself?
Chris: “Chris, the point her eis that there is no proof that the christian religion is true..”
Chris: Can you prove that?
DM: Chris, what are you asking of me?
Chris: “Chris, the point her eis that there is no proof that the christian religion is true..” Chris: I would like to see your proof for this statement.
Chris: So that I can know it is true.
DM: Chris, well what proof do you have other than gospel stories? they seem fiction themselves
DM: Chris, secular bible scholars dispute even the existence of a historical Jesus
Chris: that’s not answering the question.
DM: Chris, secular bible historians dont even consider the historical existence of Abraham, Noah or Adam
Chris: Have you seen every alleged proof for Christianity?
DM: Chris, the bible has a 6000 year old earth, and that is discredited in the face of modern geology and earth sciences and astronomy, and biology
Chris: That is all irrelevant to my question.
Chris: You stated that there is no proof of Christianity.
Chris: My question is a yes or no question.
Chris: Can you prove that there is no proof for Christianity?
DM: Chris, I have been answering you.. are you not
Chris: It is a yes or no quesion.
Chris: You have answered with neither.
DM: Chris, if there is proof of christianity where is it? show me
Chris: No, you are shifting the burden of proof.
Chris: that is an amateur mistake
Chris: It is your claim, hence, you must back it up, not me!
Chris: So, your proof for your statement is that you have not seen such a proof yet?
DM: Chris, cut to the cahse and show me the alleged proof… you can refute me in a second by simply showing the proof
Chris: You stated that there is no proof of Christianity, I asked if you can prove this, you have not answered yes or no.
Chris: Only that you have not seen such a proof.
Chris: Okay, when you make a claim, the burden of proof for that claim belongs to you. I asked if you are able to supply that burden of proof. To cut to the chase, you are saying you have never seen a proof for it.
DM: Chris, I know types like you.. you read a bit about logic and then you become a “master logician”… you think you have something on me with insisting on that same question and rejecting my answers… well just show me where that alleged proof is? what is the proof?
Chris: And that in itself you take to be reason to believe that there is no proof of Christianity?
Chris: That’s ad hom.
DM: Chris, right… of course you read about informal logical fallacies.. how convenient
Chris: Have you ever taken logic?
DM: Chris, just show me the proof, I have no time for stupid word games, and fake “intellectual” poses
DM: Chris, show me your proof or I am leaving
Note: Notice that I do not let him pull me off subject now. At this point he has still not answered the questions I ask of him. He cannot justify this claim either. To try and prove that there is no proof of Christianity is to try and prove a universal negative, something he is not willing to do. He has to dodge my question and try to get me to move on to provide him with “proofs” so as to get the focus off of the fact that he cannot back up one of the very first assertions he makes. Pesky Christians, always demanding that we follow the rules of thought!
For some reason, I am expected to provide proof for something while he can make whatever assertions he wants to without backing them up. You will find this happening frequently in conversations with non-Christians who supposedly wish to engage you in debate. An abundance of unjustified assertions is too obvious a flaw of the so-called “New Atheism” and will eventually lead to its end. Do not get distracted by someone making assertions. Point out the assertions. Pick and assertion you want to probe. Ask for an assertion to be backed up. Do not let go until it becomes clear that the person cannot answer you. You can back your side up, the non-Christian cannot.
While this person continuously ignores my question and demands proof, he will not tell me what he considers proof. Notice that this makes it impossible for me to provide him with any proof. An elderly man can demand that a child provide him with H2O, but if the child does not know what H2O is, then the child is unable to grant the man’s wish. Before discussing proofs, we must define what we mean by “proof”. This person is unwilling to do so, and hence ends the conversation by leaving.
Chris: Okay, you did not answer my question, but we will move on.
Chris: What would you define as sufficient proof?
DM: Chris, just show me your d*** proof plz
Chris: What would it take for you to know that Christianity is true?
DM: do you have ONE?
DM: do you have ONE?
DM: DO YOU HAVE A PROOF?
DM: cut to the cahse
DM: show me the proof
DM: stupid word games
DM: giveme your arguments
DM: empty tomb?
DM: just give me your stupid arguments
Chris: I need for you to define for me what you mean by “proof”, or I cannot supply you with one.
DM: you dont have any argument, you just want to prove christianity true without ever having to argue FOR IT
DM: I know your games
DM: so called presupositionalist
DM: I have no time for it
I would encourage the reader (especially the discouraged or confused reader) to go back through the conversation and watch again, very closely, for what happens. Assertions and assumptions are made, and when I address them and press DM on why he either asserts or assumes them, he wants to move on. The Bible teaches that the unbeliever has no defense, which is sufficient for me to believe that this is the case. However, I have found this lack of a defense on the part of unbelievers confirmed over and over again in my experience as well. The conversation posted here is no exception. Simply asserting that Christianity cannot be proven true while demanding “proof” (without ever explaining what that means) is hardly showing that unbelieving thought is able to stand up to the demands that Scripture necessarily places upon it.