Frequently Asked Questions by Atheists (FAQA)
I’m frequently asked the same questions on social media, so I decided it would be helpful to have a one-stop FAQA where the most common questions and objections are addressed. (See here for the regular FAQ.)
If you’re an atheist who wants to contact me on social media, please read through this FAQA first. You’ll probably find that your question has already been answered.
If you’re following me on social media because you’re curious about faith and genuinely interested in what I’m saying, I appreciate it and hope you stick around. If you want to ask a sincere question, the best way to get my attention is to respond to a relevant post and ask one question in a direct way without any sarcasm or posturing. However, if you think you have original and devastating objections to God or Christianity, keep the following in mind:
- You don’t.
- Seriously, you don’t.
Go ahead and give it your best shot if you like, but after doing this for many years on many platforms, I doubt very much you have anything I haven’t already seen and dismissed long ago.
I enjoy interacting with people on social media, but I’m not inclined to throw away my time on comments and questions from people who are not truly seeking answers. If you’re one of these people, I’m most likely going to ignore you, block you, or feature you as a “Don’t Be This Guy” to my followers.
Among other things, I’ll know you’re a time-waster if you use phrases like:
- “sky daddy”
- “sky fairy”
- “imaginary friend”
- “invisible friend”
- “your god”
- “there’s no evidence for god”
- “where’s your proof of your god?”
- “the burden of proof is on you”
- anything that smacks of scientism
- any dial-a-fallacy nonsense
or if you engage in sarcasm, mockery, insults, posturing, tone-policing, or trot out any of a multitude of creaky old atheist talking points. If this is how you communicate with Christians, odds are you’re not interested in a sincere exchange of ideas. I simply don’t have the time or patience to engage with people who are not serious.
More Social Media Stuff
I’m committed to posting to Twitter daily, but I take Sundays off. I also take short breaks during holidays and periods of intense work.
I read all of your responses to my tweets.
I have open DMs, because I like hearing from my followers. However, due to the volume of replies and DMs I get, unfortunately it’s just not possible for me to read and respond to all of them. If you’ve written to me and I haven’t responded, sorry; but I do appreciate you taking the time to write.
1. You’re a scientist and you believe in God and Jesus Christ?
Yes. You can read the story of how I converted from atheism to Christianity here.
2. Were you really an atheist?
I’m often told that I wasn’t really an atheist, because I became Christian. This is how people without a solid foundation cope with someone who has rejected similar beliefs. I’m not saying only atheists do this. People of all beliefs, including Christians, do this, because the existence of apostates makes those with tenuous beliefs feel uncomfortable. Nevertheless, the truth is that I rejected atheism after being raised atheist by ex-Catholic socialist atheist parents in a secular country (Canada). Later, when my father embraced libertarian principles, he introduced me and my brother to Objectivism — an explicitly atheist philosophy — which formed the basis of my worldview for many years.
My brother and I both went on to reject atheism and convert to Christianity while getting our science doctorates. My mother, who died several years ago, had gradually drifted back to belief. My father began to shed his atheism with the death of his own father, and after a long, deliberate, and agonizing process, he finally became Christian in 2017. For years before that, he was mystified as to how he managed to produce two Christian children.
3. Are you a young earth creationist?
No. Given the multiple lines of evidence, I believe the universe and the Earth are billions of years old.
4. What is your repeatable, scientific evidence for God?
What is your repeatable, scientific evidence for your objective existence as a human being? Seriously. On what basis do you assert your own existence as a person reading these words as opposed to a brain in a vat hallucinating all of this as “real”? When you figure out why I’m asking this, you’ll know why #4 is not a legitimate question.
5. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
Astronomer Carl Sagan popularized this statement decades ago. Atheists like to repeat it in reference to the supernatural, because it sounds right. However, there are two major problems with it.
1. It’s a statement about believability, not about proof.
You realize this when you see how people try to defend ECREE. I had a fellow explain it to me this way. “Tell me you have a red car,” he said, “and I’ll believe it without question. Tell me you have a flying red car, and I’m going to need to see it.”
People who believe ECREE are really talking about their own personal baseline for believability. It has little to nothing to do with establishing the truth of a claim.
If we need to establish the truth that you have a red car — say, for a court case, where demonstrating that you own a red car may be crucial for determining someone’s guilt or innocence — you’re going to need to produce the same evidence as for the flying red car. You wouldn’t respond to a request for proof from the judge with, “Well, your Honor, the claim that I own a red car is ordinary, so you should just believe it.” You’d produce the document proving it. Probably an official, verified government document stating that you own the car in question. The amusing thing is, if someone produced such a document for the ownership of a flying red car, most of you would probably consider that “extraordinary,” despite the fact that it’s of the exact same nature as the proof of ownership for the ordinary red car. And, the question would be unequivocally settled in either case by simply showing the judge the car.
This is why I like to distinguish between casual belief and actual belief. If someone, whom I have no reason to mistrust, tells me he has a red car, and it doesn’t really matter whether the claim is true or not, I’ll probably casually believe it. If it matters for some reason, then I wouldn’t — I’d need proof before I would actually believe him. I guarantee it’s the same for you.
2. How do you determine what’s ordinary and what’s extraordinary?
Extraordinary means “out of the ordinary.” So, what makes a claim “ordinary”? If we define ordinary as normal, usual, or commonplace, then that’s a problem. Even if we accept the illogic of Sagan’s statement, it works against the atheist saying ECREE. Why? Because the vast majority of people who have ever lived and who are currently living claim the supernatural exists. Therefore, by definition, this is an ordinary claim, and whoever is saying the supernatural doesn’t exist is the one making an extraordinary claim.
6. So, why do you believe in God?
I came to believe in God mostly through my work in science. I was convinced by:
1. The teleological argument. The universe seemed to me far too logical and intelligible to be the product of a random cause. (Twenty demerits to anyone who falsely claims this is an argument from incredulity.)
2. The Kalam Cosmological Argument (KCA) combined with a logical inference that the cause of the universe must be personal led me to belief in the Abrahamic God.
The KCA goes like this:
- That which begins to exist has a cause.
- The universe began to exist.
- Therefore the universe has a cause.
I was also convinced by:
3. Objective morality and justice. God is the most philosophically satisfying basis for morality and justice in the world.
None of this proves God exists, but it is a rational basis for belief in God.
These arguments are why I gave up on atheism and accepted the existence of God. If this evidence doesn’t convince you of God’s existence, that’s okay. If you’d like to talk about the details, that’s fine. But if you think these arguments don’t count as evidence for God, I’m sorry to say that you and I have nothing to discuss. If after reading this you still insist there’s no evidence for God, please just google cat pictures or something, and don’t waste your time or mine by contacting me.
7. There’s no evidence for God.
See #6. There are other compelling evidences for God, including:
- The fine-tuning argument
- Life / consciousness
- Near-death experiences
- The ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ
8. Why the God of the Bible and not some other god?
See #6 and #7. The KCA + personal cause ruled out most everything except for the God of the Abrahamic religions — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. So, I picked up a Bible and started reading. After spending a couple of years investigating the claims of the OT, I continued to the NT and spent another year investigating its claims. I found Lee Strobel’s book, The Case for Christ, helpful in this process. When the NT held up to scrutiny, I realized I had no choice but to accept it as true.
I didn’t realize at the time that the KCA + personal cause also included Zoroastrianism and Sikhism. Zoroastrianism is an ancient and relatively obscure religion of Iran. Sikhism is a young religion (15th century) from the Punjab region of India, and is the ninth largest religion in the world. Both are intriguingly similar to Christianity in some ways, but differ significantly in others. Had I known that these two religions also hold to a transcendent, immaterial, and timeless God, it would have changed nothing in terms of my trajectory towards Christianity. I was persuaded that Christianity is not only supported by evidence and reason, but that it is the best explanation for evil in the world. That has not changed.
9. So, if you believe the universe and Earth are billions of years old, do you think Genesis is figurative?
I hesitate to use the words literal and figurative in this context, because they miss so much. Genesis, for all it simplicity of prose, is actually quite nuanced, layered, and complex. Nevertheless, I think Genesis is ultimately telling us a straightforward narrative about God’s creation and development of the universe, meaning God did these things or caused them to happen, and they were done in the order described by Genesis.
10. How do you square a ‘straightforward’ Genesis with a universe that’s billions of years old?
Read Chapters 3 and 4 of Gerald Schroeder’s The Science of God or go through my slide show here.
11. Do you write scientific papers about God’s involvement in the universe?
No. As far as my scientific work goes, I agree with Laplace, who famously said “I have no need of that hypothesis.” (It doesn’t mean what you think it means.) I don’t need to invoke God to explain why black holes and galaxies behave the way they do. I invoke physical laws to do that. This is not to be confused with the origin of those laws and the universe described by them, which is a different matter.
12. Everyone is born an atheist … babies are atheists until they’re indoctrinated.
I never understood why this is supposed to be a compelling argument, even when I was an atheist. First, we have no idea what babies believe until they can tell us. But we do know they’re illiterate and incontinent little savages until they’re indoctrinated to read, use a toilet, and treat other people with respect. Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s good.
If hard indoctrination was really required to force people out of their natural atheism, most people on earth would be atheist, and atheists in secular countries would never produce religious children. But consider how easy it is for most people to overcome their “innate” atheism. More than 90% of the world’s population believes in the supernatural, even though it supposedly doesn’t exist. The prevalence of religious belief is such a problem for people who use this argument that they’ve had to come up with peculiar evolutionary tics to explain it away. The law of parsimony applies here.
13. Religion is a product of where you were born, your family, etc.
Many, if not most (meaning > 50%) people adopt the dominant belief system of their family, community, university, or society. So what? That number certainly includes all atheists, who adopt atheism because of where they were born, where they went to university, and the communities they live in — it’s why I was an atheist for most of my life.
14. We’re all atheists, I just believe in one less god than you.
The rest of the quote goes, “When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you’ll understand why I dismiss yours.”
The first part is a nonsense statement. It’s like telling a computer programmer that there’s no difference between 1s and 0s, it’s just that 0 is 1 less than 1. As atheists frequently point out, there’s a world of difference between theism and atheism.
The second part of the statement shows a failure to understand the nature of God vs. gods. God is held by those of the Abrahamic religions to be the creator of the universe. He is therefore the creator of all things. If God exists, he must necessarily be outside of his own creation, which means he is outside of space, time, and material existence. God is therefore by definition transcendent, timeless, and immaterial.
To my knowledge, the only religions that believe in a transcendent, timeless, and immaterial God are the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), their offshoots (e.g. the Bahá’í Faith), Zoroastrianism, and Sikhism. All other religions hold to very different deities, none of which are creators. You can read through the various pagan mythologies to see that they invariably skirt the issue of the creation of the universe and deal instead with the establishment of the divinity of earthly rulers or the creation of a new world, land, or empire. Such is the case with the Mesopotamian and Egyptian creation myths that predate the writings of Moses, as well as others like the Greek, Roman, and Viking myths.
For more discussion:
15. Which of the thousands of gods do you believe in and why?
This might surprise you, but the answer is: most of them. I strongly suspect that many of the pagan gods actually exist in some form, as lesser divine beings created by God. See the work of Old Testament scholar, Michael Heiser, to understand why. And see #14 to know why I only worship and obey the God of the Bible.
16. Atheism is just a lack of belief.
There are only two possibilities: God exists; God doesn’t exist. If you reject the former, you implicitly accept the latter.
Some people aren’t sure and lean towards disbelief. They’re more appropriately referred to as agnostics. However, if “atheist” is in your profile bio, if you make it part of your identity, if you lurk on Twitter looking for religious hashtags and categories, it’s not just a lack of belief for you. You’re not fooling anyone by claiming otherwise.
17. Atheism isn’t a positive position. Whoever makes the claim that something exists has the burden of proof.
See #16. If you say “God doesn’t exist,” you’re still making a positive statement.
Don’t confuse positive statements with affirmative statements. “Positive” (philosophy) and “affirmative” (grammar) are not the same thing. “God doesn’t exist” is not an affirmative statement, but it is a positive one. If you make this statement, then the burden of proof is on you.
Or is it?
Have you actually thought about the origin of the claim about who has the BOP? Who or what dictates with whom the BOP lies? See here for a compelling discussion on why, in dialectical matters, the burden of proof lies with no one.
For more discussion: