The ‘no evidence for God‘ claim is an interesting one. It often works to frame the discussion in such a way that only creationists have a burden of proof. It allows the unbeliever the comfortable position of the skeptic: they get to poke holes in our case without ever having to make a case for anything themselves. Plus, skeptics regularly demand airtight arguments practically anyone would have to accept before they would believe in God (Agnosticism). As such, we almost certainly won’t convince them. But then that supposedly means that our faith in God isn’t reasonable. The game is rigged from the start. Heads, the skeptic wins; tails, we lose.
How should we respond?
CMI suggests you flip the script. Instead of you presenting a case for God, make them present what they think a case for God should look like. The simplest way to do this is to ask them: ‘What sort of evidence would you expect God to give?’
Many skeptics will say things like, ‘Well, none of the arguments I’ve seen convince me.’ Or they may just continue to demand that you convince them. Don’t let them off the hook. Hold their feet to the fire. Say something like: ‘Well, if I don’t know what would convince you, why should I bother trying? How do I know that anything I might say wouldn’t just fall on deaf ears?’
You want them to give you something concrete. But, failing that, your goal is to make them feel the irresponsible dogmatism of their skepticism. If skeptics hate anything, it’s looking like a gullible dogmatist. If they continue to avoid the question then walk away. The Holy Spirit may prompt you to pray for them but otherwise do not waste more time.
But if they do give you something concrete, then play the skeptic. What you want to do is to show them that even the case they expect would convince them has the same sort of holes they think exist in the case we make for God exists.
Many skeptics will say things like: ‘Well! if I saw an amputee healed in response to prayer, that would convince me.’ Response: ‘Really? How do you know God would’ve done it?’ ‘The prayer’, they’ll respond. Your response: ‘That could just be a coincidence. Besides, it’s just a one-off event. What if it never gets repeated? That doesn’t sound scientific. Plus, how do you know something other than God didn’t step in to heal the amputee? Maybe aliens did it! At least we know aliens can exist, since we exist. But God? You’re just linking events that have no demonstrable link and labelling it with ‘God did it’ to cover for your lack of a scientific explanation.’ This sort of response is a real stinger because it’s exactly how most skeptics respond to cosmological and design arguments for God.
Some of them might say, ‘Well, if God appeared to me right here and said, “Here I am, believe in me!” then I would.’ Response: ‘So, you’d bow the knee at a vision that may very well just be a dream? How would you know for sure you didn’t hallucinate?’
Some might say, ‘If the stars read “God exists. Worship him”, I would believe.’ Response: ‘That would only be useful to people who knew the language the message was written in. Nevertheless, how do you know the stars don’t say that in a language you’ve never encountered? At any rate, why not other beings that want to deceive us? It’s not something we could say that only God could do, so why should we trust a message in the sky with practically no context? Besides, why should you expect God to arrange the stars just to sate your curiosity about his existence? Is that really reasonable to expect of God? Are we the centre of his universe?’
With such responses, you’re not trying to show that God doesn’t exist. Rather, you’re trying to show that we can always come up with reasons to doubt that will sound plausible to someone, no matter what evidence is put forward. And if they say, ‘Well, that’s what would convince me.’ Respond with: ‘So what? You can’t guarantee that it would convince every rational person. You didn’t say, “There’s no evidence for God that convinces me”; you said, “There’s no evidence for God”, period. If all you’re aiming to do is convince yourself, how can anyone else be sure that you’re really looking for the truth? And this isn’t just about trusting you. This is also about whether you’re even competent to look for the truth about God.’
At this point, they might start saying things like, ‘Well, all I can do is look at the evidence and do my best to figure out the truth. You have to do that for yourself, too.’ At which point you can respond with: ‘Exactly! That’s all I’m trying to do, too. But I genuinely think that things like the following are best explained by the existence of God (click on the links for a detailed explanation of each).
- The universe had a beginning.
- The universe exists rather than nothing at all.
- The universe is fine-tuned for life.
- Morals are real.
- Living things exhibit ingenious design.
- Humans are capable of reason.
‘I see those things and more as evidence for God. I’m not saying that other explanations can’t be offered, or even that smart and sane people can’t disagree with me. Maybe you don’t find these to be conclusive proofs, but it’s a gross overstatement to say that they don’t qualify as evidence. Furthermore, when I look at them as honestly and critically as I can, I still think God is the best explanation for them. But when you say, ‘there’s no evidence for God’, you seem to imply I’m less than rational and/or honest when I say that. Is that fair?’
After all, that’s the real effect of this ‘no evidence for God’ claim. If they hold it consistently, they have to admit that you’re essentially irrational just for being a theist. But hopefully, by this point, they feel the unjustified dogmatism of their view, and walked it back a bit to admit that theists aren’t necessarily failing to reason properly when they believe in God. If you manage to do that, then you’ve won a huge victory. And that might be a good place to end the discussion for the time being. People often need time to process these sorts of things, so bombarding them with everything in our arsenal all at once is just unhelpful. For a start, they are probably not ready to hear most of it with an open mind. Rather, we try to deal with the person where they are at and try to nudge them a little bit in the right direction.
This information was assembled by Shaun Doyle of Creation Ministries International (CMI) in answer to the many queries CMI receives on how to answer skeptics’ arguments. http://www.creation.com