On June 10th, pop-apologist Josh McDowell wrote an article for The Christian Post entitled “Yes, Atheists Have Faith. But Do They Have Evidence?” The piece is short and, like most of what he writes, underwhelming. For example, he writes,
To help us verify if Jesus is truly sent from God, we have prophetic evidence. The Old Testament has many different prophecies which predict the coming Messiah, including his family line, the nature of his ministry, his betrayal and death, and we even learn that the Messiah will come before the destruction of the Jewish temple in 70 A.D. The likelihood of this happening by chance is essentially zero. But Jesus fulfilled every prophecy about himself.
This is almost entirely hogwash and McDowell offers no exegetical support for his conclusion. I guess you’ll have to buy his book. But McDowell also goes on to make other absurd statements.
Christians have faith which is backed by evidence. Atheists also have faith, even if they claim that their beliefs are based on reason alone. Atheists have faith that the universe can come from nothing. Atheists have faith that life can come from non-life. Atheists have faith that consciousness emerged from matter. Atheists have faith for all sorts of claims for which, ironically, there is no evidence.
The question is not if you have faith. Everyone does. The question is if your faith is supported by the evidence. I am a Christian because I think that’s where the evidence points. If there were good evidence for atheism, then I would become an atheist. But I just can’t shake the evidence.
Let’s state the obvious: atheism doesn’t entail naturalism. Atheism is the antithesis of theism and theism is the belief that God exists. Atheism denies the legitimacy of holding to that belief. Is consciousness an emergent property? Maybe. Maybe not. Did life come from non-life? Maybe. Maybe not. Did the universe come from nothing? Maybe. Maybe not. All that atheism commits one to is the denial of theism.
McDowell is right that everyone has faith but what he is doing is equivocating. For example, when I sit in my chair I do so with the belief that I won’t fall right through it. This belief stems from my experience with chairs generally and this one I’m sitting in particularly. In this way, my faith in the chair is evidential. But this does not seem like the kind of faith one has that God exists. I can demonstrate the chair’s existence; I cannot do so with God’s. To believe in God requires us to understand faith in a different way.
As usual, McDowell gets atheism wrong. What else is new?
Featured image: By ESO/L. Calçada – ESO, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17472043