As a young Christian, when I started encountering the doubts I’ve been describing in my blog so far, I turned to apologetics for answers. Unfortunately, none of them really gave any proof or evidence for the claims in the bible and when I asked my pastor or my parents it always ended up boiling down to something like “we can’t know the mind of God” or “you just have to have faith.”
As to the first excuse, if you can’t know, then you shouldn’t accept it. There are plenty of things I don’t or even can’t know. That doesn’t mean I should blindly accept them anyway. For example, I don’t “know” with absolute certainty that bigfoot doesn’t exist but I wouldn’t accept the claim that he does just because I can’t know for certain. In fact, when a claim is made that seems to contradict our existing understanding of reality, the burden of proof is on the person making the claim. The more extraordinary the claim, the more extraordinary the evidence would need to be to convince someone.
If you tell me that you saw something that you think might have been bigfoot then I’ll accept at face value that you had that experience (although I wouldn’t accept that as evidence that bigfoot actually existed). If, on the other hand, you told me that you had a personal relationship with bigfoot and he communicated with you telepathically that would require some significant evidence before I could accept your more extraordinary claim.
When it comes to “you just have to have faith,” that’s actually a much bigger problem. That sort of faith means “you just have to accept this without a good reason.” If you have a good reason to believe something, you don’t need to “just have faith.” Even if I could just accept it without having any evidence, how could I ever know it was true? If faith is “the evidence of things not seen“, then how do you distinguish between faith in the Christian god, Buddha, Vishnu, Allah, Odin, or bigfoot?
The problem with faith is that it provides no path to determine whether what you accept is true or if it’s just easier to accept it because of the culture/religion into which you were inculcated. If there is any position you could not accept on faith, then there shouldn’t be any position you could accept on faith. Further, if there is not any position you couldn’t accept on faith, then you must accept every religion’s position. I have yet to meet a Christian that accepts the faith claims of every other religion–nor would I think them very rational if they did.
So if “we can’t know” and “you just have to have faith” are both equally unsuccessful as reasons to accept a supernatural claim, and those are the answers we often get in lieu of evidence, where does that leave us?
For me, it left me as an atheist. I cannot accept the assertion that a god exists because I have no sufficient reason to. I am not saying that I know with 100% certainty that god does not exist (see my first post for the clarification about atheism and agnosticism) because that would require me to have perfect knowledge. However, there are innumerable positions that we do not accept about any number of things. Christians and I already have something in common. We don’t accept the claims that other gods exist–I just go one claim further.