How to Convert an Atheist
Before moving forward with Case for a Creator, I want to address a question that I have a feeling will come up. In fact it already sort of has. I don’t know (despite having read two chapters of the book) what evidence Strobel intends to give, so now is the time to establish what kind of evidence I would be willing to accept for the existence of a deity, and more specifically a particular deity as espoused by a particular religion.
Ebon Musings has two great articles that I read through on this subject that I think are just about perfect. Since I got on Strobel’s case about not properly citing sources, I’ll link you directly to the source so you can read it at your leisure.
The first is, How to Convert an Atheist. The article proposes a list of evidence that would convince him that a given religion was true. I’ll summarize the bullet points here, but head over to the page for a full explication of each one.
I agree absolutely with the list, which is why I am duplicating it here.
First, things that would convince the author (and me) immediately of a given religion’s truth:
– Verified, specific prophecies that couldn’t have been contrived.
– Scientific knowledge, in holy books, that wasn’t available at the time [of their writing].
– Miraculous occurrences, especially if brought about through prayer.
– Any direct manifestation of the divine.
– Aliens who believed in the exact same religion.
Next, a list of anecdotal evidence that, while not eligible for insta-conversion, would get the author (and me) to think there might just be something to a particular religion:
– A genuinely flawless and consistent holy book.
– A religion without internal disputes or factions.
– A religion whose followers have never committed or taken part in atrocities.
– A religion that had a consistent record of winning its jihads and holy wars.
And third, the list of items that will not be seen as convincing, by the author or myself:
– Speaking in tongues or other pseudo-miracles.
– People’s conversion stories.
– Any subjective experience.
– The Bible Code or similar numerological feats.
He also lists “Creationism of any sort,” but I’ll take that one off the table. Strobel gets his shot at convincing me, as long as his evidence is solid. Worth noting, though, that disproving evolution does not inherently prove creationism or intelligent design.
I would add to that list that I do not find arguments from personal incredulity to be compelling. If you say to me “I can’t see how [blank] could be true without God,” my answer is “Do some research.” Nor do I find the argument from beauty to be compelling. A gorgeous sunset, the intricacy of a snowflake, or other astounding elements of natural beauty are not valid evidence of God.
As I said, there is a second article about how NOT to convert an atheist. This one interests me because, looking through, this is like a checklist of exactly the tactics Strobel seems to be employing:
– Don’t tell atheists what they think; let them tell you what they think.
– Don’t assume that atheists aren’t familiar with the beliefs of your religion.
– Don’t make assertions you’re not prepared or willing to defend.
– Don’t ignore sincere questions.
– Don’t use threats, personal insults, or ad hominem attacks.
– Don’t try to be an armchair psychologist.
– Don’t ask atheists to do something for you if you’re not prepared to offer the same courtesy in return.1
– Don’t refuse to acknowledge your mistakes.
– Don’t assume that any one atheist speaks for all atheists.
– Don’t refuse to consider the atheist viewpoint honestly and seriously.
So, let’s see how Strobel approaches this.
- Drew may well find a gift of an alternative viewpoint in his mailbox after I’ve finished Case for a Creator, unless of course Strobel manages to convince me. The God Delusion is, after all, in paperback now.↩