"It is probably true that almost all atheists stand for the values of reason and freethought."

- Richard C. Carrier

WHY THIS CHAPTER?

Christians sometimes live down to the negative stereotype that they judge others' opinions before understanding their point of view.

This can and must be corrected if they are to dialogue with others in the manner of the apostle Paul (1 Cor. 9:22).

"This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil... But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.

- John 3:19, 21

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What's most important to nonbelievers?


"The deepest sin against the human mind is to believe things without evidence. Science is simply common sense at its best -- that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic."

- Thomas Huxley


Most everyone today does or should place high importance on logic and reasoning. What sets apart the particular reasoning of most unbelievers is: 1) the particular foundation or premise behind their thoughts, and 2) what they consider to constitute acceptable proof of any kind of spiritual or spiritual-related reality.

First, the particular foundation that unbelievers begin with is the premise that God does not exist. God is assumed not to exist unless or until it can be proven otherwise. This is a reasonable starting point. Theists as often begin with this premise, as with the premise that he does exist.

Second, and where unbelievers diverge most from believers, is what constitutes positive proof for God, Jesus, or the Bible. Proof of any reality claim is almost exclusively limited to empirical observation; that is - physical, testable evidence. History or historical testimony is often regarded by unbelievers as second rate to the physical sciences. Their reasoning for this is basically as follows:

1) If an eternal God exists, historical testimony is unnecessary because God exists right now.

2) If God exists right now, there should be unquestionable physical evidence of him right now.

3) If there is little or no unquestionable physical evidence for God right now, God cannot be said to exist.

And third, like believers, most unbelievers probably fall into the middle ground of all the extremes. Only a minority of agnostics believe the pure agnostic position that everything is to be doubted, and only a minority of atheists believe the pure atheistic position that there positively is no God (also called strong atheism).

Therefore, let us assume the sincerity of the average professing unbeliever and accept that they are open to discussion and debate about the existence of God and the nature of the Bible. Their openness should always be treated with the honor it deserves; and honor means answering their questions with honesty, humility, and respect.

Advice to believers: Be cognizant of the importance of good reasoning and sound logic. If you're not prepared to discuss Jesus and the Bible on these terms to these people, then let someone else. Otherwise you risk failing to follow the commands of Scripture to treat unbelievers with gentleness and respect (1 Pet. 3:15) and to reason with them from their own point of view (1 Cor. 9:22).

If you come from that "God said it, I believe it, that settles it" crowd, keep that to yourself. Your declaration is a poor foundation for belief as it assumes a great deal, exalts yourself, is needlessly disrespectful of its hearers, and probably doesn't settle it for anyone but you.

 

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See also:

Is there a God?

Why consider the Bible?

How much evidence is enough?