I’ve tried to demonstrate on these pages that Christianity is a rationally compelling viewpoint. I believe there are many good arguments for Christianity and theism in general. However, not all arguments proposed by Christians are solid.
Some arguments were once compelling but further studies have undermined them. Some arguments were never really very good, but have nevertheless been advanced by Christians who were ignorant of their flaws. In any case, I think it is very important that poor arguments are discarded, for three reasons.
Firstly, the use of poor arguments makes Christianity look indefensible. Many non-Christians assume that the use of poor arguments is indicative of an unsupportable viewpoint. Therefore, many individuals get a bad impression of Christianity.
Secondly, some Christians may believe poor arguments and use them to support their belief. When pointed out the obviously false nature of the arguments that propped up their faith, apostasy could occur. Once they become non-Christians, it will be much harder for good arguments to convince them that Christianity is actually true.
Finally, the use of poor arguments is simply unnecessary. There are many good arguments that could be used instead. For these reasons, I think it is important that Christians identify and discard poor arguments.
The following are some arguments that I find to be faulty for some reason or another. This is by no means a complete list. I consider this piece to be a work in progress. It may also turn out that I am wrong about the insufficiencies of some arguments that I perceive to be flawed. If this is the case, I invite anyone to try to defend them. However, as far as I can tell the following arguments are all severely flawed and thus potentially dangerous to Christianity.
Many Christians use a version of Pascal’s Wager when conversing with nonbelievers. In so doing, they claim that one should be a Christian because of the threat of Hell. If Christianity is true, the believer is set. If Christianity is not true, then the believer still does not suffer any horrible consequences. However, the nonbeliever has everything to lose if Christianity is true and little or nothing to gain if it is indeed false.
I do not believe this argument is necessarily solid (unless conjoined with other propositions, such as that Christianity and atheism are the only competitors). In addition, I feel that the Wager should not be used very often even if it is a sound argument. This is because many people are offended at the concept of being threatened to compel belief. Using Pascal’s Wager is akin to holding a gun to someone’s head and telling them to believe. But even if you can get them to say they do, in actuality they probably won’t. It is almost impossible to compel belief by means of violence and threats. (I do think that Pascal’s Wager can at least be construed in a much more positive way. Yet, it is almost inevitable that nonbelievers will interpret the argument in the way I have described.)
However, Pascal’s Wager is useful in another regard. I think it can be used to argue that one should investigate Christianity (and other religions) seriously, because it would be foolish to ignore Christianity despite the possibility that it is true. See HERE for more on Pascal’s Wager.
Hitler/Stalin was an Atheist
Sometimes Christians try to smear atheism by pointing out that very evil men have been atheists. This isn’t really an argument per say, rather it is merely an emotional objection. As such, it should definitely be avoided.
First of all, there is some debate as to whether or not Hitler was an atheist anyway. Much more important, however, is that atheism should not be downgraded because of the evil deeds of men. Their wrongdoings have nothing to do with the truth or falsity of atheism. This is very similar in the case of Christianity. The fact that certain Christians in the past have done evil things does not disprove Christianity in the slightest. (see HERE ) Nonbelievers often advance these types of arguments. If Christians use notorious atheists to smear the name of atheism in general, then we open ourselves to counterattack on similar charges.
Everyone Believes that God Exists
Sometimes Christians claim that, since almost everyone believes that God exists, it is arrogant to claim that He does not. There are several things wrong with this claim.
First of all, it is untrue that almost everyone believes in God. A significant chunk of the population is atheistic. In addition, Buddhists don’t believe in God. So it is entirely untrue that “almost everyone believes in God”.
Second of all, this is a blatant argumentum ad populum. You should never believe something merely because everyone else does. If they all believe for inadequate reasons, the belief should be rejected regardless of popularity.
I must note one important thing here- there is an argument similar to this one that some Christians use which may be useful. This is the argument that the universality of belief is due to an innate sense or feeling within the human mind that compels belief in God. It is then argued that the most sensible explanation for this innate desire for the divine is that it was implanted within us by a higher power. I feel this argument may potentially have force, but it must be emphasized that this second argument is not an argumentum ad populum. Rather, it is the argument that God exists because there is evidence that He has made belief in Him a part of our nature. It could be formulated like so:
1. Humans have a tendency to believe in God/gods.
2. This tendency is either explained by the mind or by God’s providence.
3. It is unlikely that the tendency to believe in God/gods is explained by the mind.
4. Therefore, the tendency is likely explained by God’s providence.
5. Therefore, God probably exists.
In my view this argument supports the theistic viewpoint, albeit weakly. This argument is particularly weak because nonbelievers will likely be able to reject premise 3 and counter that the innate tendency for belief is the result of evolutionary development or some innate desire for immortality, etc. In order to support this argument, the Christian must be prepared to offer good reasons why the mind cannot plausibly explain the tendency for belief.
You Can’t Know that God Doesn’t Exist Unless You’re Omniscient
A common argument advanced by theists is that it is impossible to know that God doesn’t exist unless you’re omniscient. To confidently claim that God does not exist requires an innate assumption that you know everything about the universe. Atheism is therefore self-refuting, or at least very presumptous.
This argument is flawed because atheists do not usually claim: “It is impossible for God to exist”. Rather, their claim is that “There is no evidence for God’s existence” or “There is decisive evidence that God does not exist”. An atheist is not required to prove that God does not exist, just like it is not the theist’s responsibility to prove that He does. Rather, evidence can be compiled and can lead to a general conclusion.
If we adopt the thinking that you should not believe something unless you know for certain it’s true, then we will be forced to retreat into a position in which we know almost nothing. All of history would be futile, and we could not even know whether or not the world we live in is real (we could be in a Matrix or we could be the dream of another being). That is why humans believe things without 100% proof. In a similar vein, atheism could theoretically be more probably true than theism. If that was the case, then atheism would be justified.
You Just Have to Have Faith
Very often Christians claim that you must simply have faith to believe in God. However, this claim is based on a faulty definition of faith. In any case, there is absolutely no way a statement like this is ever going to change the mind of a nonbeliever (nor should it).
To say that one should take a “blind leap of faith” is to say that one should believe something for completely arbitrary reasons. But just about any belief can be arbitrarily believed. Without the use of reason, blind faith is like taking a shot without looking at the target. The odds that you’re going to end up with a true belief are very minimal.
Christians will sometimes respond that everyone believes things on faith. The person who starts their car believes on faith that the car will start, for example. However, such is not blind faith. Rather, the belief that the car will start is based on knowledge of motor vehicles and personal experience. It is true that there is a bit of faith (as in trust) involved in such a scenario. But the trust, the belief that the car will start, is justified. In a similar manner, Christianity is supported by both knowledge and personal experience, and that is why it should be believed. This is a better definition of faith- trust in God based on knowledge and personal experience.
Atheists Have no Morals
It is often claimed that atheists have no morals, and thus atheism should be rejected. However, it is untrue that atheists have no morals. Some atheists lead relatively, if not exemplary, moral lifestyles. Beyond that, however, it is really of no consequence to the truth or falsity of atheism whether or not atheists lead moral lives. If there really is no God, it doesn’t matter whether or not we happen to like the people who believe that truth.
Now, I believe it is true that atheists have no foundation for morality, as I have argued elsewhere. Based on the seeming inherent truth that there exists objective morality, I feel a successful argument for God’s existence can be formulated. However, the supposed “immorality” of atheism is in itself not a good argument. It is both incorrect and invalid.
Turn or BURN!
This is not so much an argument as it is a generalized approach. Many Christians spout off threats of Hellfire at their ideological opponents. This method must be heavily discouraged. It is unlikely to bring anybody to Christ, and it is quite offensive.
This is not to say that mentioning the fact of Hell’s existence is wrong. Jesus often mentioned the existence of Hell. It would actually be morally repugnant (or, at least, morally questionable) to omit mention of Hell if it does indeed exist. After all, we would expect a friend to warn us of oncoming traffic, even though we obviously don’t like the fact that we are about to get hit. Nevertheless, the existence of Hell should not be the foundation of an apologetic, and it was never meant to be.
(INSERT FAMOUS PERSON) Believed in God
Occasionally it is argued that this or that famous/intelligent person believed/believes that Christianity is true. Obviously, this is a bad approach to the issue. It is of no significance whether or not some person believes Christianity is true. The only thing that matters is whether or not Christianity is supported by the evidence. Thankfully, it is, which is why such useless arguments are not needed.
This is not a comprehensive list of arguments that I feel are of little or no use to the apologist. But I think it is very important that Christians as a whole use reliable arguments to offer others as the reason for the hope that is within them. The Christian has a hefty supply of such arguments at their disposal, and it is these arguments that must be learned and spread to those who feel that Christianity is an intellectually lightweight worldview.