After pondering this subject for a bit, my conclusion is that I just don't think it's true. By that I mean, if a person automatically and presuppositionally excludes a whole class of evidence, they're not really being honest about 'being open to the evidence'. So, I've tried to put myself in the position of an atheist, and asked myself the question, 'What would I have to see in the way of evidence in order to have no choice but to believe that God exists?' The only thing I could come up with is some sort of very, very unusual – one could call it supernatural – event. For instance, the aforementioned “God coming down from the sky and showing himself to me” example is something I think would qualify.
Now, as I was thinking of all this, one of the arguments Christian apologists use to defend the faith kept popping into my head, the Moral Argument. I'm guessing this argument kept popping into my head because it is one of the more convincing ones for me personally. Don't get me wrong, I think the other more technical arguments such as the Cosmological, Anthropic Principle, ID, etc. have legs... but in all honesty, when the subject matter becomes that technically weighty, I soon reach a point where I begin to realize how much of an expert I am not in those areas. The Moral Argument, on the other hand, is one that is particularly appealing to me I think because it's one that I feel that I (along with every other human being) can be an 'expert' of sorts in. The reason I say this is because all human beings have a conscience, and all reasonable human beings recognize that there are absolute moral truths.
I won't take the time to exhaustively lay out every detail of this argument, as my intent is not to make it, or argue against its counter-arguments (such as that the whole thing is simply a byproduct of our species' evolution – herd instinct vs. self preservation, etc.). If you're interested in exploring the argument in more depth, feel free to examine some of the resources I'll mention.
Simply said though, it goes like this: If we can accurately identify just one moral absolute (eg... rape is wrong, it is wrong to murder babies) then we can safely say that there are absolute moral truths.
A few resources I've had my nose in lately that I think do a good job of laying it out in their own different ways are C.S. Lewis' “Mere Christianity” (specifically Book 1: RIGHT AND WRONG AS A CLUE TO THE MEANING OF THE UNIVERSE) and Chapter 7: Mother Teresa vs. Hitler of “I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist” by Geisler and Turek.
To quickly summarize Lewis' thoughts, allow me to quote from the last paragraph of the first chapter of Book 1.
“These, then, are the two points I wanted to make. First, that human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it. Secondly, that they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it. These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in.”
So now, let me make the connection between my thoughts about the Moral Argument (as it is particularly compelling evidence to me) and my belief that atheists aren't really open to evidence. The connection happened for me when I was reading an article on the web, Morality as a Clue to God. I'll quote the author in order to show you the point he made that established the connection for me.
“If relativism is not tenable, then some form of absolutism is true. If absolute rules exist, this argues powerfully for the existence of an absolute Creator Who made those rules which apply to us and to Whom we are accountable. It's that simple.
It would be no clearer if God Himself appeared in front of you right now and tapped you on the shoulder. Because if that did happen you'd still have to ask yourself some questions. Is this really God? Am I hallucinating? Is it something I ate?"
So, this helped me answer the question I asked myself when I attempted to put myself in the atheists shoes. The question again... 'What would I have to see in the way of evidence in order to have no choice but to believe that God exists?' The only answer I could come up with was 'Nothing'. Here's why I say 'Nothing' is my answer to that question. Because of the nature of God (or as the atheist would have to say, the nature of what the Christian God claims to be), the only kind of evidence compelling enough to justify the existence of such a grandiose and infinite being would be evidence that is supernatural. If the evidence wasn't supernatural, it doesn't seem to me that it would be compelling enough to justify the existence of God.
But here's the problem. If the evidence is supernatural (God coming down from the sky and showing himself to you), then I'm pretty sure that if I was an atheist, and I was emotionally and intellectually invested in my position, I'd probably just come up with some excuse not to believe it... something akin to the 'hallucination' mentioned above.
The other thing to note in this arena is that this exact type of evidence, the supernatural kind, existed in abundance when Christ lived here on earth as a man. Resurrection from the dead, turning water into wine, healing a man who had been blind for life, etc are all examples of it. The interesting thing though is that none of this class of evidence, the supernatural kind, the only kind that is really capable of 'proving' God's existence (when I'm attempting to wear the atheist hat that is) was enough to convince all those who personally encountered Christ of much. Here I'm thinking of those who rejected him, such as the Pharisees and Sadducees.
This all of course is based on my assumption that when I'm trying to wear the atheist hat I have to reject supernatural evidence presuppositionally, because I don't believe in it. Which, the more I think about it, seems to be an untenable position. Untenable because, as an atheist, I think I'd have to say something like the following to make my case for why I have to reject supernatural evidence presuppositionally.
- The only absolute truths are those that are demonstrable in the following ways:
- Naturally observable
- Mathematically provable
- Provable by the laws of basic logic
The problem with the previous statement is that it makes an absolute truth claim, but it is not provable as true with any of the ways it prescribes as requirements, so it's self defeating. (I realize I'm setting up a straw man here, but I invite any errors I'm making with it to be pointed out.) Since the claim is self defeating, I'm not really sure what to do as a self respecting atheist at this point.
I grant that being open to the existence of an infinite, all-powerful God is far from embracing the Christian God and receiving salvation... but no one could do the latter without doing the former first.