It always amazes me that atheists are the ‘only ones’ who don’t have a bias when it comes to the existence of God. The persistent cries that ‘theists have presuppositions that skew their perspectives’ on the issue are a little less than annoying. But of course the immediate corresponding but not as equivalent claims that atheists begin with a supposed ‘clean slate’, are more aggravating.
Such is the case in the article by the Southern Skeptic titled Why Do Christians See “Evidence” Everywhere?
In this article, the author attempts to deal with the apparent dilemma that Christians see evidence for God everywhere, while atheists do not. His theory is that since almost no Christians come to theism through the evidence, and that Christians see evidence and atheists do not, then there must be no real evidence for theism. Can I place that in a syllogism so we can see it more clearly?
Premise 1: Christians do not conclude theism by evidence
Premise 2: Christians conclude evidence for theism
Conclusion: Christians are bias toward theism
Now I may be wrong, but the bias in this syllogism doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the evidence itself. That’s because bias has nothing to do with whether evidence is valid. The evidence should be dealt with on its own merit, not disregarded because of its source. One thing we should not assume is that evidence is either valid or invalid. The one thing we should assume is that we all have bias.
To be fair, that’s not exactly what this writer is saying, though. He is attempting to explain why Christians perceive certain facts as evidence for God’s existence, and atheists do not. His theory once again, is that Christians begin with a bias.
As far as the evidence goes, he gives three options when dealing with evidence.
- You can start with the assumption that god exists.
- You can start with the assumption that god doesn’t exist.
- You can start with no assumptions and see where the evidence leads you.
He accuses all Christians of beginning with number one. We all start with the assumption that God exists, the Bible is true, we know what brought the universe into existence, what happens in the afterlife, etc.
That’s a bunch of assuming!
On a certain level, he may be correct. Many people do begin with the assumption that God exists. (In fact, I believe that all people begin that way. Romans 1 explains my presup) Once again though, the bias people may or may not begin with has no bearing on whether the evidence is true. Evidence can be challenged on its own merit. Maybe a more pertinent question would be, why go to such lengths to disregard it? Why take such a dogmatic stance with such subjective proof of why Christians believe that certain facts are in fact, evidence for God? Maybe we can learn why.
The next claim by the writer is the most specious. As for the presuppositions about God held by atheists, the writer says…
“This simply isn’t true. While I’m sure there are atheists out there who do start with these assumptions, I’m convinced the vast majority of us are just trying to discover the truth, whatever that may be. Back when I was a Christian, I set aside my biases and examined theism and atheism as objectively as possible; that’s why I became an atheist
The point is, we choose option 3: to not assuming anything and just see where the evidence leads. Most theists don’t believe us, and unfortunately it’s just our word against theirs. But notice how we gladly admit that we are skeptics first and atheists second. Our lack of belief in god is not a dogma. We are willing to change our minds, but we need evidence better than, “The universe just looks designed.” Christians, on the other hand, are proud to admit that nothing will ever change their minds. And they have the nerve to call us biased.”
Well, here’s one Christian that he can chalk up as not ready to admit he has no bias. I have a bias. But I also insist that he does too. There is no way he was able to clean his slate of all of the experiences, desires, emotions, need for autonomy, and presuppositions that he previously held. To make the claim that he is unbiased is dishonest with the reader and himself.
I may have respected this article a great deal if he hadn’t made that claim.
I would like you to notice the evidence the writer gives against the evidence for theism.
Christians are biased toward it.
Atheists are not biased against it.
Christians presuppose the events of the Bible.
Atheists do not presuppose the events of the Bible.
Christians believe humans were created 6000 yrs ago.
Atheists do not assume that humans were created 6000 yrs ago.
If his argument is that Christians are biased, he has offered no real evidence. Although I would agree with his conclusion, I am not convinced by his argument.
If his argument is that atheists have no bias against God’s existence, then once again, he has offered no real evidence for that. I remain unconvinced.
Simply by saying that Christians are biased and atheists are not, according to his past experience, is insufficient at best. Just because he feels like he has wiped his slate clean at one time means little more than it would if a Christian made the same claim. In fact, the very claim that Christians are biased coupled with his denial of any of his own bias, all based upon his own experience, is really just a self-admission of his undiscovered bias. He may actually believe that he is totally unbiased. I think he really does. The problem is that a blindness to the fact that each person carries the baggage of their past experience is much more dangerous than a person who is self-aware enough to understand his presuppositional weakness. You see it is the person who sees everyone else’s bias but is virtually unaware of their own that stakes their flag on the top of Mount Arrogance. “I am the only one who understands.” “All others are intellectual weaklings.” “I, alone can be fair.” All of these are phrases Christians are accused of by people who actually believe that they have no bias.
None of this is as important though, as the fact that all of this is a ploy to minimize the appeal of what Christians call evidence. The writer of Southern Skeptic misrepresents Christians and atheists. He uses straw men instead of real Christian arguments; such as claiming Christians say, “the universe just looks designed”. He even equivocates arguments to evidence for arguments. Why? I believe it is to run away from the overwhelming evidence that the universe had a beginning; there are 122 anthropic constants in the universe without which we could not exist; the existence of transcendent morality that is obvious to each of us; the existence of a conscious pointing to a soul; the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth; and the list goes on. These evidences are not proof. They are evidence though, evidence that this guy would rather exclude the facts á priori rather than deal with them intellectually. It’s too easy to exclude these things out of hand. Otherwise, he would have to develop and defend alternate explanations of these evidences. That would be difficult. It would also take an open-minded approach. That may ironically be something of which the writer in question is incapable.
The fact is, that the one who is accusing all of us Christians of bias has already made up his mind that each of these evidences are not evidence at all. Without dealing with them, he has disregarded them. Without addressing them, he has dismissed them. By purposefully misrepresenting them, he is willfully ignoring them.
I would like to ask, who is bias?