googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: A Friendly Atheist Has 78 Questions for Christians: Introduction

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A Friendly Atheist Has 78 Questions for Christians: Introduction

There's a YouTube channel called, The Atheist Voice, hosted by a guy named, Hemant Mehta. He calls himself, “The Friendly Atheist” and he really is kind of friendly. I say, “kind of” because he still uses a lot of the same, frustrating arguments that other atheists use – like creationists don't believe evolution because they don't understand it – but he's much less snarky and condescending than the truly obnoxious atheists like Dawkins and Nye.

I knew that friendly atheists exist because a frequent visitor to my blog, Steven J, is one. Even so, they're sometimes hard to find. According to a recent Gallup poll, only 10% of Americans don't believe in God. Many of them are just your average Joe who may be a neighbor or coworker but they aren't militant about their atheism. It's only those atheists who are very vocal about it, like starting a blog or having a YouTube channel discussing atheism, who are confrontational so these are the ones that seem to represent the group.

I like to watch videos made by atheists. Well, maybe I don't actually like to but you could say it's part of the job. If I want to change the mind of an atheist or evolutionist, I have to really understand what he's thinking. The problem is that too many atheists' videos are posted by the militant, smarmy kind of atheist and their condescending tone, incessant insults, and frequent use of profanity make the videos uninteresting and difficult to sit through. Mehta, however, besides being friendly, is also articulate and sums up typical atheists' arguments fairly well. Most of his arguments aren't original (which is fine) but he presents them concisely and it's much easier to listen to him than many of his partners in crime.

Anyway, Mehta has one video titled, 78 Questions for Christians. Kudos to him for not calling it, “78 Questions Christians can't answer” or something like that. I've always been annoyed by titles like that – not just because they're incredibly presumptuous but I have yet to see such an article that lives up to its title. Of course, even though Mehta didn't say these questions have no answers, he clearly seems to think they are difficult to answer. His motive appears to be to make Christians uncomfortable which might lead them to question their beliefs. It's a common tactic.

Since I'm all about defending the faith, my first thought was to do a series answering all 78 questions. Then reality smacked me on the forehead. There's no way I'm going to write a 78-posts-long series. Still, he does have some interesting points I'd like to discuss. Instead of a point by point reply, I'm going to address his questions in general. Several of the questions he asks make duplicate points anyway so I can answer many of the duplicates with a single post. I can probably get cover the video pretty well in about 6 posts. We'll see.

Answering the questions will begin in my next post but here is some food for thought about the series: First, it's not unusual for someone, especially a lay person, to not understand everything about a subject. If someone isn't able to calculate the acceleration rate of a falling object, for example, that's not evidence against gravity! Likewise, if a Christian isn't sure how to answer some critic, it's not evidence against Christianity.

Next, some of Mehta's questions are pointless or are poorly premised. Think about the old, gag question, “Have you stopped beating your wife?” To say either yes or no condemns the person who answers. The correct response is point out that the premise of the question is flawed: “Your question assumes that I used to beat my wife.” When engaging with a critic, don't get trapped by their logical fallacies.

Finally, I want to be clear that the point of me doing this is as much about equipping saints as it is about answering critics. We are commanded to study (2 Tim 2:15) and to be ready to give an answer (1 Pet 3:15). The questions Mehta asks are the same questions atheists ask all the time. Mehta is trying to provoke us to doubt but some unbelievers ask these questions in earnest. They want to know, for example, if God would send “good” people to hell. If you can give well thought out answers to their questions, they may be more open to accepting Christ.

Keep checking back for part 1!!


Steven J. said...

If someone isn't able to calculate the acceleration rate of a falling object, for example, that's not evidence against gravity! Likewise, if a Christian isn't sure how to answer some a critic's, it's not evidence against Christianity.

A valid point, although very few scientists think that the universe cares whether we understand it, whereas the Holy Spirit is supposed to dwell in Christians and guide them, so it should not be so easy for a Christian to be ignorant of important aspects of Christianity as it is for a scientist to be ignorant of important aspects of science.

Next, some of Mehta's questions are pointless or are poorly premised.
The question that seemed obviously mis-premised to me was (more or less) "how do you feel about God raping the virgin Mary?" Variants of this question are common, but of course Mary would be expecting to become pregnant soon anyway (being betrothed in a culture without contraceptives), so God was imposing nothing on her that she was not expecting (well, except for the not having intercourse part). A more general point, more rarely made, is the whole "giving in marriage" thing: fathers decided whom their daughters would marry; daughters might get a say but did not have veto power over paternal decisions -- and the whole Mosaic law seems to take this for granted.

Note that "why does God hate Africans?" does not mean that Mehta thinks that God really hates Africans, or attributes such a belief to you; it's directly related to questions like "if you both pray and resort to medicine, which do you think helps more?" The question really means "if God is no respecter of persons, why do African Christians suffer more and worse disasters than, say, American Christians -- why do material circumstances seem to affect their lives more than faith?" Perhaps you see this as still based on a false assumption, but it's important to note what that assumption is.

Kudos to him for not calling it, “78 Questions Christians can't answer”.

Note that part of Mehta's point (at least, this seems obvious to me) is to provoke you to ask how much you really believe the various credal propositions you assent to. It's not so much, can you answer the questions, as do the answers feel reasonable and good and just.

RKBentley said...

Steven J,

Many of the points you've brought up will be addressed in my series so I'll wait and deal with them there. I will address one point here.

I suppose the Holy Spirit who dwells in all Christians could imbue us with perfect knowledge but it seems that is not God's will. As I said in my post, we are commanded to study. 2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” If unpack what this verse is saying, we could assume that when a Christian doesn't study...

God does not approve
He should be ashamed
He is not able to rightly divide the word of truth

Proverbs 9:10 tells us that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. In other words, until a person becomes a Christian, he's not even able to understand anything.

Thanks for your comments. God bless!!