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Conversing with Skeptics

You may have run into this yourself. If not, it’s at least good to be aware of it. When conversing with atheists and skeptics over the years, I’ve learned to be careful with three terms:

1) God:

The word “God” can be an overgeneralization; it means too many different things to too many different people. One may be thinking of a fairy in the sky or flying spaghetti monster (one thing among many). Another thinks of the ground of all being or being itself, or the one “unconditioned reality”, or perhaps…“Father”. I have been told that is inconsequential in discussing God’s existence, and I always object because thinking matters. What we think relates to what we believe and ultimately what we do. Two people may use the term “fetus”. One is thinking of a person in the earliest stage of life just as valid as any other stage (a person exists). Another is thinking of a non-person with no right to be alive (a person does not exist). The difference is life and death.

Another allegory I use is about two small fish in a vast ocean debating the existence of water. If one fish thinks of water as just another thing in the ocean (one thing among many), then the search for water would be basically the same as the search for a rock, a sunken ship or a swimming seaweed monster. The search strategy would be completely different if the thinking was different. In general we do not think about water being in the ocean. We are more apt to say the ocean is water.

2) Atheism:

Just as there are different kinds of “believers” there are different kinds of atheists. I’ve heard the term “weak atheist”, which to me is basically the same as a lazy agnostic. When pressed with some deliberate questioning, a lot of answers from the weak atheist are “don’t know/don’t care” or “no way to know.” A strong atheist is more “evangelical” and eager to prove their point. In general, if you push with some hard questions about The Good, The Beautiful and The True, you’ll quickly find out if you are dealing with a strong or weak atheist. Lately however, I prefer the term “skeptic” to cover all levels of atheism.

Beware that general topics about The Good, the Beautiful and The True can trigger many tangents about specific Church teachings, Church history, Church scandals and things in the Bible that are positioned as not so good or beautiful or true. Jumping into these topics right away with a skeptic is like debating the interior design of a house before the basic structure of the building is thoroughly considered. All of it is important, but the foundation comes first.

3) Evidence:

Some come off as self-proclaimed authorities on evidence. Only sensory/empirical/scientific data is valid evidence. Data from metaphysics, philosophy, witness testimony, inferences and other modes of reasoning are generally dismissed. This is contradictory because saying empirical data is the only valid way to prove something is a philosophical statement that cannot be proven empirically.

Besides the inherent contradiction, please note that everyone believes things they can’t prove…at least not empirically or via a scientific method. Every skeptic I’ve ever dialogued with was both pro-choice and pro-gay to some extent…if the topics ever happened to come up. Can you name the scientist that proved human life does not begin at conception, or the science that confirmed an unborn baby is actually a non-person? You can’t because there is no such scientist and there is no such science. There is no proof, yet people accept these things as dogma. Is homosexual behavior normal? What do we learn from biology and the design of certain body parts? What kind of behavior is ordered to the design and what kind of behavior is disordered to the design? What does the evidence tell us? I’m often reminded that homosexual behavior is observed in some animals, so this proves it is natural and therefore normal. I often need to remind others that some animals will also eat their young. When we look to animal behavior as a guide for human behavior the effect of original sin that dims the intellect is easy to see.

Conversing with skeptics can be very interesting if it’s done civilly, but it is regrettable how many scholars need to spend a lot of time showing how God exists rather than taking that time to help discern God’s revelation in the modern world. It’d be like continuously debating your own existence as opposed to discerning the best way to live. Years ago I too was a skeptic, but I made a decision to enter the faith experiment in the laboratory of my life. If I had not made that decision, I may have been permanently paralyzed by wrapping my own head around a metaphysical axle, as I see many others doing today. No wonder the end of the Bible seems to push us for a decision…

“I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Rev 3:15-16)

Interesting Aside:

This article from the New York Post describes yesterday’s Texas shooter as a militant atheist. Not to pick on atheists, but if the shooter were militantly religious, I’d bet we’d all know about it quickly. If he were militantly Christian, we’d never hear the end of it.

 

 

Top photo by Deutsche Fotothek‎, CC BY-SA 3.0 de

https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7937579

 

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Ben Butera

Ben Butera is a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology and currently a Solutions Development Manager for a global 500 company. In 2010 he was certified as an instructor and Program Leader for his company’s initiative in analytical problem solving and decision making. In 2016 his first book was published entitled "Faith with Good Reason: Finding Truth Through an Analytical Lens". Ben is also co-author of “Two Catholic Men and a Blog”; a blog about Catholic faith and reason. He is a religious education catechist, a husband, a father and lives with his loving wife and three children in the northwest suburbs of Chicago.

13 Comments

  1. The atheist is the proof of God . You exist. God exists. God is existence and God exists.
    Where did evolution get the material, the matter to evolve?
    Calling God names is the atheist beating one over the head with the other person’s religious beliefs. The flying spaghetti monster is a personal attack and ridicule of another person’s religious beliefs. Where does the atheist’s vacuous black worm hole get them? Why do atheists have a need to suck the lifeblood out of believers, except that they are jealous? Why would God fearing people elect Godless officials to govern our God-given unalienable human rights? I want to know.

  2. @ Mary De Voe,
    Do human rights exist or are they a delusion? Skeptics are generally uncomfortable with that question from my experience…as they should be.

  3. Innate human rights are endowed by “thier Creator” at the procreation of the human being, body and soul. Innate human rights are the image and likeness of God in our humanity. Satan hated God and man and lied to Adam and Eve by telling our first parents that they would be like God, when Adam and Eve were created like God. Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, asked God to send him to hell because he said that he admired Satan for having established a realm all his own. Alisnky failed to determine that Satan is subject to every man’s “Be gone Satan” and every prayer of exorcism and the Blessed Virgin Mary’s eternal YES to almighty God. Satan has his “no” and he must adhere to his “no”, no matter what. Otherwise, Satan will be annihilated. Satan is not about to give up his “no”.

  4. @Ben Butera:
    Another perspective of human rights as reality and humanity or delusion is that our Founding Principles upon which America is instituted have been ratified by every state. If delusion, our innate human rights are still the foundation upon which The United States of America is instituted. The atheist must now turn to our Founding Principles to repudiate our Founding Principles. The atheist is free to leave. The atheist is free to get three fourths of the states to ratify any changes to our Founding Principles: THE UNANIMOUS DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE and OUR CONSTITUTION.
    “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor..”from The Declaration. Divine Providence is the Holy Spirit of God. The atheist now has two choices. 1) belief in God and country 2) Submit to the rule of law laid down in the Law of the Land, our Constitution with our belief in Divine Providence.
    So far, I have been told that The Preamble, the written purpose of our Constitution, is not part of the Constitution.
    The atheist is free to go to hell if he so chooses. The atheist is not free to take us or any one of our Constitutional Posterity with him. The citizens’ legacy to our Constitutional Posterity will never be atheism, nor the abortion of our Constitutional Posterity, all future generations, nor the addiction to sodomy. These are violations of our “delusional” human rights and man’s free will.

  5. !. God, 2. No God, 3. Evidence?
    There must be a mind, a receiver of evidence which is
    a. revealed? – implies transcendent God or
    b. human construct? implication of human authority over “reality”- illlusory? or absolute?
    so I would put the 3rd or 4th plank of your “words to to be careful of: “Man”
    Psalm 8 verse 4: “what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals* that you care for them?

  6. Human “rights” are not in the Scriptures. The concept is a scam developed by Enlightenment atheists, and unsurprisingly it continues to serve atheist and Satanic purposes. When a Satanist like Soros or Bader-Ginsburg wants to force a new level of tyranny, the tyranny is always cast as a “right”, and Christians meekly obey because they’re convinced that “rights” are “from God”. In fact “rights” are from Robespierre.
    You’ve been tricked into following Satan, and you’ve never figured out the racket.

  7. Polistra,
    God gave us a will and an intellect so we can choose the Good and be free to worship God. We need freedom to do this. This is the rational basis for inalienable human rights. Of course, we also need to know what is Good and what is not.

  8. With respect to what Polistra wrote, there are three inalienable rights:

    The right to life
    The right to liberty
    The right to justly acquired property (the fruit of our labor – the product of our life and liberty)

    We exist in time: past, present and future.

    Our life is our future.
    Our liberty is our present.
    Our justly acquired property is what remains of our past – that which was produced by our liberty and our lives.

    To lose one’s life is to lose one’s future.
    To lose one’s liberty is to lose one’s present.
    To lose one’s justly acquired property is to lose one’s past.

    No one has any authority – other than God – to remove or negate any one of those three things.

    God gave us the right to live and only He may countermand that.
    God gave us free will – our liberty – to decide what we do or don’t do, and only He may thwart our liberty.
    God gives us property for He commanded Adam that by the sweat of his brow he would till the ground for his food – his justly acquired property – and only God may remove that property.

    When one man or a group of men unjustly take a life (I am not speaking of the right of self-defense or defense of family or nation against aggression), then that man or group of men try to take God’s place.

    When one man or a group of men unjustly remove a person’s liberty (I am not speaking of imprisonment as punishment for crime), then that man or group of men try to take God’s place.

    When one man or a group of men unjustly seize a person’s property (I am not speaking of lawful taxation to support the common defense and public health & safety), then that man or group of men try to take God’s place.

    No one has any authority to take your life (i.e., your future), your liberty (i.e., your present), or your justly acquired property (i.e., your past). God grants these to you as your rights which only He may supersede or take away.

    There are NO other inalienable rights than these. No civil rights. No racial rights. No trans-gender rights. No women rights. No gay rights. No right to health care. No right to work. None of those things. Rather, these three things (life, liberty, property) are the only things God grants you as rights – your future (your life), your present (your liberty) and your past (your justly acquired property – the product of your life and your liberty). Even Salvation is NOT a right – it’s a free gift as St. Paul explains – a free gift which your right to liberty entitles you to refuse or accept.

  9. “Conversing with skeptics can be very interesting if it’s done civilly, but it is regrettable how many scholars need to spend a lot of time showing how God exists rather than taking that time to help discern God’s revelation in the modern world…”
    This made me think of Wittgenstein: “Children do not learn that books exist, that armchairs exist, etc.,etc. – they learn to fetch books, sit in armchairs, etc.,etc.

    Later, questions about the existence of things do of course arise, “Is there such a thing as a unicorn?” and so on. But such a question is possible only because as a rule no corresponding question presents itself. For how does one know how to set about satisfying oneself of the existence of unicorns? How did one learn the method for determining whether something exists or not?
    So one must know that the objects whose names one teaches a child by an ostensive definition exist.” – Why must one know they do? Isn’t it enough that experience doesn’t later show the opposite?”

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