Arguments Christians Should Not Use

9 December 2005

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.

Pascal’s Wager

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.

Conclusion:

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.






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  1. > However, Pascal’s Wager is useful in another regard. I think it can be used to argue that one should ivestigate Christianity (land other religions) seriously,

    You have a couple small typos in that sentence under Pascal’s Wager.


    X    Mar 6, 09:16 AM    #
  2. I have previously brought up Communism’s contributions to the deaths of millions as a counter to attacks on Christianity and the evils it is argued to have committed.

    I agree that it is not an argument for theism per se and I agree that arguing Hitler was an atheist is not helpful.

    But it is notable that the only form of atheistic philosophy that has come to dominate a nation has resulted in so much death and destruction. At the very least, the moral of the story is that any philsosphy that gains totalitarian-like power corrupts humankind.


    Layman    Mar 8, 01:39 PM    #
  3. Looks like you’ve got some comment spam to deal with!

    Love what you’ve done here. I hear these arguments all the time. Any suggestions as to some arguments/evidence that should be used?

    Thanks…


    stephen    Feb 7, 09:37 AM    #
  4. I found lots of intresting things here. It very impressive. I will bookmark!


    jiminoregon    Apr 27, 11:34 AM    #
  5. You need to make this a login or something to stop all the spam…


    — Polymer    Nov 18, 10:32 PM    #
  6. One could add to the innate sense of God arguement that humans naturally looked towards God/s in ages past to describe things in which they didn’t understand. There was no one to tell them that there was this God-type person that they had to believe in, so it may have come from God himself as genes, or as proposed in the Bible, He presenting himself to early man.


    Dakota    Jan 23, 08:45 PM    #
  7. “Now, I believe it is true that atheists have no foundation for morality, as I have argued elsewhere.”

    Interesting you say there is no foundation for morals among atheists, but I think that some would refer to Immanuel Kant’s Metaphysics of Morals, which proposes a way of reasoning for morals. If you have a different understanding of Kant I’d like to hear it. I’d also like to hear your proposed arguments for this topic also.


    Chris    Oct 22, 08:11 PM    #
  8. Another one I would add to the list of “arguments not to use” is quoting scripture to non-believers as a means of demonstrating the Truth of the Bible. I’ve seen all too often a Christian essentially using the argument that the Bible is true because the Bible says so.

    It’s one thing to say, “I like this verse right here because it makes me think about [whatever].” But it is quite another to say to someone, “I understand your doubt in God but consider this verse…” This really does the Christian no good. It probably does worse by making them look somewhat foolish.

    To try and put it succinctly, I think quoting scripture to someone that doesn’t believe in God or Christianity is putting the cart before the horse.


    Andrew S    Nov 27, 09:52 AM    #
  9. Romans 1:19, supports
    “Everyone Believes that God Exists”

    I really like your point of view. If you are refuting an issue than by all means argue until your point is made clear.
    Though in the business of saving souls you will never argue someone into heaven. Its all the Holy Spirit.


    zach    Dec 6, 07:13 PM    #
  10. Just found your site. I was raised Christian (Catholic). I believe in the possibility of god(s), but that religion is entirely a manmade fabrication and that there is no divine intervention other than perhaps the creation of time-space itself, assuming it is a creation rather than something with no beginning or end, as many view God.

    I find your notion of the Skeptical Christian interesting and I appreciate the depth of thought you have put into this site.

    In this section, I really like the effort you put into eliminating unuseful arguments, but would take excpetion to the notion that “it is unlikely that the tendency to believe in God/gods is explained by the mind.”

    Rather, I think it is human logic to believe in cause and effect. The effect in this case being the human condition within time-space(eg the universe, multiverse, etc.) and the cause being unknown. This unknown is often described in the form of an all-powerful deity, but I am not sure that it would necessarily follow that the concept of god is innate.

    I think this “universality of belief” argument would need to be revised though in any case I’m not sure it wouldn’t wind up in this “bad argument” section.


    — Matt    Feb 17, 02:39 PM    #
  11. “Many non-Christians assume that the use of poor arguments is indicative of an unsupportable viewpoint.”
    Maybe you should think a little harder. The impression that the widespread use of bad arguments gives is that A LOT of Christians don’t have good reasons to believe, and the many that use these terrible ones can’t think. This fact shows how Christianity doesn’t demand rigour, a high standard of evidence or any amount of reasoning in it’s followers. I don’t think even you could disagree with this.

    “When pointed out the obviously false nature of the arguments that propped up their faith, apostasy could occur. “
    If it can happen, it should happen. Otherwise Christians are believing for bad reasons.

    “Once they become non-Christians, it will be much harder for good arguments to convince them that Christianity is actually true.”
    No actually. Ex-Christians will wait eagerly for a actual compelling and evident reason to believe in magic again. A lot of ex-xtians still wish it were true. It’s just now they have a higher standard of reason. This can only be a good thing.

    “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.”
    Actually there is a big difference. Atheists don’t claim to be following a god or an inerrant text. A lot of the bad done in Christ’s name has been done not just by believers but because of their belief. Atheism’s veracity is independent on the behaviour of atheists but the same is not true for theists who claim god is on their side. Surely you can see the difference.

    “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.”
    Actually it is the theist’s responsibility: it’s call the burden of proof. Atheism is the null hypothesis.

    “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.”
    I wanna point out with the car analogy that yes we do have faith in our cars, but one thing we know and accept is about cars is that sometimes they don’t start. My faith can be easily misplaced in a car, and if it is, I will find out. If your faith in god is misplaced, you could never know.

    “Based on the seeming inherent truth that there exists objective morality, I feel a successful argument for God’s existence can be formulated.”
    Plato in Euthyphro disagrees. Adding god to the quandary of morality only removes the problem by one stage. God’s morals will be as subjective as our own and therefore “objective” morality is arbitrary, or god is irrelevant in the matter. I feel that if you make a base assumption about morality (ie. that morality is about human wellbeing, the reduction of suffering and the maximization of the quality of life) then most, if not all questions about morality suddenly have objective answers that are entirely logical. It’s like when you do maths, you first assume 1 + 1 = 2. From there all mathematics follows.


    Mike Wolfe    Jul 1, 09:04 AM    #
  12. What would be some arguments TO use to defend my faith- or can you recommend some good books- both historical and modern


    Julie    Jul 24, 05:58 PM    #
  13. “Actually there is a big difference. Atheists don’t claim to be following a god or an inerrant text. A lot of the bad done in Christ’s name has been done not just by believers but because of their belief. Atheism’s veracity is independent on the behaviour of atheists but the same is not true for theists who claim god is on their side. Surely you can see the difference.”

    Excellent double standards, seeing as most Marxist states with institutionalized atheism committed the worst genocides in history, worse than those of any religion put together? And atheism doesn’t have anything to do with it? Right. Double standards, double standards.

    Anyway, there is a difference between someone proclaiming “I do X for God!” and someone actually believing that they have God on their side. One is merely declaratory, the other one is psychological. And the psychological effects of belief and unbelief on people can be influential factors on other sides. But of course, you apply double standards, so it doesn’t matter to you.

    “Actually it is the theist’s responsibility: it’s call the burden of proof. Atheism is the null hypothesis.”

    Atheism is NOT the “null hypothesis” once support and justification has been offered for theism, just like global warming denial, holocaust denial, and evolution denial aren’t “null hypotheses.” Now of course, atheism and agnosticism are not mutually exclusive, but in any case, “agnosticism” or nontheism would be the purely default position, not atheism.

    “Plato in Euthyphro disagrees. Adding god to the quandary of morality only removes the problem by one stage. God’s morals will be as subjective as our own and therefore “objective” morality is arbitrary, or god is irrelevant in the matter.”

    The good ol’ Euthyphro dilemma? Do you seriously believe that hasn’t been debunked, refuted, and utterly ripped apart for the false dilemma it is? Goes to show that you don’t really pay attention to your opponent’s arguments.

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6063

    “I feel that if you make a base assumption about morality (ie. that morality is about human wellbeing, the reduction of suffering and the maximization of the quality of life) then most, if not all questions about morality suddenly have objective answers that are entirely logical. It’s like when you do maths, you first assume 1 + 1 = 2. From there all mathematics follows.”

    Ah, utilitarianism. One would think smart people would have abandoned it by now. So if I were to torture a little child to satisfy a great number of sadists, in such a way that the pleasure and happiness of the sadists would outweigh the pain and suffering of the child, would it be moral to hand the child over to them? In a similar way, if torturing my grandmother to death would relieve 3 billion people from a five-minute toothache, in such a way that the pleasure and happiness of those relieved would exceed the pain and suffering of my grandmother, would it be moral to do so? According to you, it should. After all—people, pain, suffering—it’s all just numbers, isn’t it?


    Carl    Oct 11, 12:15 PM    #
  14. As a non-traditional Christian myself, I find that no one argument will penetrate the mind of most Atheists.
    There is more than enough evidence for the existence of the God of Israel and Christ for anyone who truly wants to find it. Just the history of Israel itself is a long series of miraculous events that continue to this day. The fact that The Jews returned after a lmost two thousand years of being spread all over the planet… and maintained their religion completely intact… and were the target of the most evil event in most all history… and they are still there today and will be tomorrow… and all this prophesied well before hand… I mean come on, who ever heard of a SIX DAY WAR where the entire world and the Israelis themselves expected them to be annihilated, And they may well have been if not for the miraculous mental breakdown of Yitzhak Rabin. http://www.jewishawareness.org/the-six-day-war-recognizing-the-miracle/

    No, it seems for many atheists the God of Israel is a true personal enemy and since Jesus didn’t give some version of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. then He couldn’t worth listening to.
    And that’s about the whole fact of the matter. The evidence is EVERYWHERE, but if someone doesn’t want to see it they won’t. They want to tempt God with proofs and he knows He’s given plenty if the Spirit moves them to find it.


    james willis    Jun 24, 10:32 PM    #
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