Ten quick responses to atheist claims

You don't have to read hundreds of books before you can discuss your faith with an atheist. Sometimes claims and questions that are just short soundbites can be answered just as quickly. At the London Evangelists' Conference yesterday, Professor John Lennox offered some quick responses to some common claims from atheists.

1) You don't believe in Zeus, Thor and all the other gods. I just go one god more than you, and reject the Christian God.

The problem with this idea is that 'gods' such as Zeus and Thor are not comparable with the biblical understanding of God.

"There is a vast distinction between all of the Ancient near eastern gods and the God of the Bible," said Prof Lennox. "They are products of the primeval mass and energy of the universe. The God of the Bible created the heavens and the earth".

2) Science has explained everything, and it doesn't include God.

Science cannot answer certain kinds of questions, such as 'what is ethical?' and 'what is beautiful?' Even when it comes to questions about the natural world, which science does explore and can sometimes answer, there are different types of explanations for different things.

"God no more competes with science as an explanation of the universe than Henry Ford competes with the law of internal combustion as an explanation of the motor car," says Prof Lennox.

3) Science is opposed to God.

There are certain conceptions of a 'god' that might be opposed to science, but not the Christian God. There might be certain kinds of 'gods' that are invented to explain things we don't understand, but they're not Christian.

"If we're being offered a choice between science and god... it is not a biblical concept of god," said Prof Lennox. "The biblical God is not a god of the gaps, but a God of the whole show. The bits we do understand [through science] and the bits we don't.

"Among many leading thinkers, their idea of god is thoroughly pagan. If you define god to be a god of the gaps, then you have got to offer a choice between science and god."

4) You can't prove that there is a God.

This kind of statement ignores that there are different kinds of 'proof'.

"Can you prove that there is a God?" asked Prof Lennox. "In the mathematical sense no, but proving anything is very difficult. The word proof has two meanings. There's the rigorous meaning in maths that is very difficult to do and rare. But then there's the other meaning – beyond reasonable doubt".

That's the kind of 'proof' we can present: arguments to bring someone beyond reasonable doubt. For example, rational arguments such as those from philosophers Alvin Plantinga and William Lane Craig, the personal experience of Christians, and the witness of the gospel accounts in the Bible.

5) Faith is believing without any evidence.

Christian belief has never been about having no evidence: the gospels were written to provide evidence, as the beginning of Luke's attests. The end of John's gospel says, "These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name."

But believing without evidence is a common notion of 'faith' at present. "This definition is in the dictionary and believed by many," said Prof Lennox. "So, when we talk about faith in Christ, they think that's because there's no evidence. [John's gospel shows that] Christianity is an evidence-based faith."

6) Faith is a delusion. I'd no more believe in God than I would in the Easter Bunny, Father Christmas or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

These ideas have been made famous by people such as Prof Richard Dawkins. The only thing they are good for is mockery.

"Statements by scientists are not always statements of science," said Prof Lennox. "Stephen Hawking said, "religion is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark". I said, "atheism is a fairy story for people afraid of the light".

"Neither of those statements proves anything at all. They're all reversible. What lies behind all these delusion claims is the Freudian idea of wish fulfilment [that we believe what we hope to be true.] This works brilliantly providing there is no god. But if there is a god, then atheism is wish fulfilment."

7) Christianity claims to be true, but there loads of denominations and they all disagree with each other, so it must be false.

Why does the existence of denominations imply Christianity is false? It might imply that Christians have very different personalities and cultures – or even that Christians aren't good at getting on with each other – but not that Christianity isn't true.

"There are all kinds of different kinds of teams in football, but they all play football," said Prof Lennox.

8) The Bible is immoral.

If you want to question the morality of the Bible, what basis does that morality have? There can be a serious contradiction within atheist criticisms. Dawkins wrote: "In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference."

If this is true, then why does he question the morality of anything? "Dawkins says faith is evil," said Prof Lennox. "But at the same time he abolishes the categories of good and evil. That doesn't make sense."

9) Surely you don't take the Bible literally?

Some atheists (and a few Christians) have a very black and white idea of how to interpret the Bible. You either have to take it 'literally' or chuck it away, they think. That ignores the reality of language and how it reflects truth.

"Jesus said 'I'm the door'," said Prof Lennox. "Is Jesus a door like a door over there? No. He is not a literal door, but he is a real door into a real experience of God. Metaphor stands for reality. The word 'literal' is useless."

10) What is the evidence for God?

You can debate the existence of God until the cows come home. It can be very interesting, especially when you go into the detail and explore the subject in depth. But for an atheist, they might be missing the point or avoiding the real issue. Prof Lennox advises to ask them the most important question:

"Suppose I could give [evidence for God], would you be prepared right now, to repent and trust Christ?"

Of course there are more in-depth answers to all of these claims – try out videos of debates between Prof Lennox and Prof Dawkins like this one:


Lennox says that Zeus and Thor are not to be equated with the being who made all things and who didn't use anything to do it with.  He says if they existed God would be their maker.  But he presumes God is to be worshipped.  What if God made Zeus and Thor to look after us?  And who says Zeus is not the maker of all from nothing?  Who says Zeus and Thor are not persons in the Godhead like you have the Father and Son and Holy Spirit?  And underneath it all he is saying, "Something coming from nothing might be called magic.  Some say that the universe just appeared but that is the absurdity of the magic without the magician.  Magic and magician go together."   Who says then that electric is absurd unless there is an electrician?  Lennox is actually crazier than those who regard Zeus and Thor as real beings.

The sane thing about pagans is that they did not think that Zeus and Thor were entitled to be offered their entire lives and to be loved with all their heart and soul and minds.  The gods were there to be real friends and were expected to take criticism and not be allowed to try and rule anybody.

If a man rose from the dead to say that Zeus was God the Father and this man was more convincing than Jesus would Lennox give him credence?

When people like Lennox are told Jesus rose from the dead they make a picture of it. They imagine his corpse turning into a glorious eternal supernatural man who is no longer able to suffer or die and passing out through the tomb ceiling. So the tomb then was only opened to show it was empty! Even the New Testament does not way why it was open. Cynics would say it was because Jesus had no way out maybe? But the faith picture is deceiving because nobody can make the true picture. If he rose, then we do not know how Jesus rose from the dead. Did somebody break in and give him a magic potion? Was some kind of necromancy involved? Who knows?

What nobody talks about is that nobody was praying about Jesus or at the spot when he supposedly rose. Loads of prayers accompany seance trickery and God does nothing to protect the victims from themselves or the fake mediums. If Jesus' truly rose by the power of God where are the protections afforded by prayer? Where are the people praying at the cross even when he died? For a miracle and for prayer being THE absolute core of Christian religion or Jewish practice it is curiously absent. Catholic doctrine dismisses even impressive visions from "Heaven" if they do not invite a context of prayer. Jesus never once led worship after he supposedly rose.

Lennox says science is not against God.  Let us change that to saying science is against a God who is active in the world with miracles.  If science could show that the person who reports a miracle is suffering a trick of the brain then science and that kind of God would be incompatible.  And science in fact does identify how the mind fools you.  You feel like you are living inside your scull for example. The complaint then that religious faith does not truly care for evidence is thus validated. Any evidence offered is really hearsay not evidence.  We need science not faith to fix our biases and the tricks that the mind plays.  We need to trust science not ourselves to get the truth.

Jesus warned that in the end times before his second coming,  that signs and wonders would be performed by false Messiahs and prophets that could fool even the elect.  Most thought that would only be a few years away and he said he would not comment on how soon it was going to be.  So he was saying somebody could do miracles like him and still be a fake.  Maybe it was already happening.  Messiahs of the time had to say something like that to poach followers from rivals.  For the likes of Lennox, Jesus knows the future.  If so, Jesus knew that science would be very advanced when that time would come and so the exposure of trickery would be a lot easier. We see then that if fakes can pass the test today we have no reason to trust Jesus.  Jesus avoided being subjected to any professional investigation.  Today, people run after miracles because of how they make them feel not because they really care much for them being real or not.  But when you look at the logic behind true and false miracles you see that everybody in the Church is doing the same thing.  Talk of evidence is only window dressing.  A piece of evidence means as much to them as a fandangle. 

Lennox might not regard the sun miracle of Fatima as real.  70,000 people seen strange things like the sun spinning in the sky we are told.  Many reported that they seen nothing, there are few firsthand reports of the event, no genuine photographs and nobody saw exactly the same thing.  Plus the number was exaggerated.  Nothing was done to distinguish between those who looked up at the sky when prompted and who were carried away by suggestion and those who really might have seen something.

Lennox would not regard the miracle of Jesus' blood on the Turin Shroud as genuine.  If the blood were real then why didn't it wash out better when the Church tested the cloth by washing it?  Why didn’t it soak into the cloth and why doesn’t it show the traces of maggots which appear fast in that part of the world with the heat? If the blood is real it was planted on.  The image is not as realistic as many would have you believe.  The fingers are stretched beyond belief to cover the privates and the hair hangs down as if the man were standing up and he is taller at the back than the front!  If the image is a miracle, if the blood is a miracle, if the fingers stretching is a miracle, and on and on and on, then there is a lot of miracle working going on.  If it is comprised of miracles then it is proof that miracles are just miracles and we shouldn’t read into them that they are signs or anything and to say God made the cloth is to insult him. It is not Jesus for Jesus was small for Mary could carry him.  Jesus was ugly.  Everybody said Jesus was a glutton meaning he looked fat.  Jesus had some physical disability for he commented on people saying why this healer did not heal himself.

Science cannot prove that there is some being in a dimension of space and time alongside us who we cannot detect that we can call Zeus or Thor.  No matter how big or small a god you believe in is that is the bottom line, you are talking about something you know nothing about and something you know nothing about testing or finding.  The role of the God be it creator or all or just a weaver of thunder is irrelevant.

To dismiss the claim that the Bible teaching is immoral on the basis that Darwinism cannot even encourage us to help others never mind command it is itself immoral.  Why can't we say that the Bible itself is a sign of amoral, not immoral, Darwinism?

The claim that Christianity has too many divisions therefore it is false is dismissed by Lennox.  He says it only shows that Christians struggle with getting along not that Christianity is false.  He might be right.  But he might be wrong.  A "Don't Know" here would be more honest.  And as Jesus said his true followers would love each other and amaze the world with their love even that shows Jesus was overreaching.  If there is nothing special about Christianity then it is simply not what it claims to be.

He says that science cannot tell you what it ethical.  Now the fact remains that you still cannot have ethics without science even if ethics is not part of science.  If you come up with an ethic that doing needless harm is bad you may use science to show you what an increase of harm that is avoidable is.  Ethics does not blame you for what you cannot avoid.  If all you can do is measure the least damage with science and decree that the least damage must be chosen that is you being ethical.  It is that simple despite religious lies and gaslighting.



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