Sunday, April 12, 2009

Debunking Atheism

I was reading an article this morning by a guy who lays out the argument for the superiority of Christianity over atheism better than I can. Here it is:

by Rolaant L. McKenzie

Why do I believe that God exists and Christianity to be the only true religion? Why do I not accept the popular idea that one religion or philosophical worldview is just as good as another? These are important questions that deserve rational answers. The following is my attempt to provide them.
I will begin with atheism. There are a number of reasons why I believe that atheism is inadequate as a rational worldview. Atheism is inadequate as a rational worldview because it cannot adequately explain the existence of the universe. The majesty and order of the universe, and the wonder and complexities of life on earth, cries out for an explanation. The atheist, however, is unable to provide a consistent one. If he argues that matter is eternal, he is going against modern science which states that the universe had a beginning and is gradually running down. If the atheist affirms that the universe had a beginning, then he must account for what caused it. Either way, the atheist cannot adequately explain the universe and this world so full of complex forms of life.
The atheistic worldview is irrational and cannot provide an adequate basis for intelligible experience. An atheistic world is ultimately random, disorderly, transitory, and volatile. It is therefore incapable of providing the necessary preconditions to account for the laws of science and the universal laws of logic. In short, it cannot account for the meaningful realities people encounter in life.
Atheism as a worldview can furnish no rational basis for determining good and evil, or the human need for absolute moral standards. If there is no God who is by nature absolutely good, then there is no absolute standard for judging something to be good or evil. The atheist objects to the existence of God due to the presence of evil in the world, but can give no rationale on how he knows the difference between good and evil, much less provide a solution to the problem apart from God.
The law of non-contradiction is the foundation for all logical thinking. It is known by a couple different names: the law of contradiction, and the law of non-contradiction. No matter what you call it, this law is absolutely inviolable. The law may be defined as follows: a statement cannot be true and not true at the same time and in the same respect. For example: It cannot be both raining and not raining at the same time and in the same respect. It could have been raining yesterday, but not today. Or, it could be raining where I live but not where you live. But it cannot be both raining and not raining at the same time and in the same place.
The law of non-contradiction is a very useful tool in helping to arrive at the truth regarding which worldview has more validity. For those familiar with the conflicting doctrines of the major world religions, it is rather apparent that they cannot all be true. Some are pantheistic, some are polytheistic, and still others are monotheistic.
Some teach a personal God, while others teach an impersonal one. Now it follows that if there is only one God -- if monotheism is true -- then all religions that teach polytheism and pantheism must then of necessity be false. And if it is true that God is a personal God, then all religions that teach an impersonal God must be false.
Christianity teaches that when a person dies, that person will go to heaven or to hell. Eastern religions say those who die will be reincarnated. Now a person could go to heaven or hell, or be reincarnated, but he cannot go to heaven or hell and be reincarnated at the same time. Both views cannot be right. One must be wrong. We could say the same about each of the doctrines of the various religions.
So it follows that either A) all of the major world religions are false, or B) only one religion is true. Now I will show you why I believe B), and why I believe that Christianity is that one true religion.
For Hindus, the highest of all truths is believed to be the truth of all religions. It has been already demonstrated above, in the paragraphs about the law of non-contradiction, this teaching cannot possibly be true. This is why I reject Hinduism. Also, Hinduism teaches that our individual identities are part of a large, divine illusion called Maya. In other words, we do not really exist as individuals. The irrationality of this can be seen by considering this question. How could anyone know if they were part of a dream? It is like two characters in your dream asking the question, "Do I exist?" How would they test such a thing?
Everything that they would measure to find out if they were real is not real itself either, only part of the dream. How could they have true knowledge of this? To put it most simply, does Charlie Brown know he is a cartoon character? Of course not. It is a ludicrous, incoherent concept. That is why in my view Hinduism is disqualified on its face. It is obviously false that individual people can have true knowledge that they do not really exist and are just an illusion. This is a contradiction and therefore Hinduism must be false.
What about Islam? Let's compare Jesus and His teachings to that of Muhammad. Jesus birth's was foretold in hundreds of prophecies. Muhammad has no prophecies foretelling his birth or mission. Jesus was miraculously born of a virgin. Muhammad, however, was born of the natural union of a human father and mother. Jesus lived a sinless life (2 Corinthians 5:21) and is considered sinless by the Quran (called an all-Righteous one). Muhammad, however was someone who needed forgiveness for his faults (sura 40:55, 41:19). Jesus performed many miracles to substantiate His claims (Luke 7:22), but nowhere in the Quran does it state that Muhammad performed any miracles. None of Jesus enemies could find any fault with Him, but even the Quran states that Muhammad took his son Zaid's wife from him (sura 33:36-38). Finally, Muhammad is dead today. His grave is in Medina. Jesus is alive forever. He rose from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father.
Buddha also fulfilled no prophecies, was born of the natural union of a human father and mother, lived a less than perfectly moral life, and is dead today. Buddhism teaches that the question of God's existence is meaningless. Buddha believed in reincarnation. He taught that every evil thing we do ties us more tightly to the cycle of rebirth. Buddha taught that a person can escape the cycle of reincarnation and enter nirvana only by following the "Noble Eight-fold Path", a strict ethical system. Buddhist teachings include dedication to meditation. To the classical Buddhist, to attain nirvana is simply to be out of existence. Buddhism offers no personal salvation. It stands against sin and immorality, but it ignores the issue of God's existence and our need for redemption. At its root, Buddhism is a form of agnosticism or at least practical atheism. It provides no answers about the ultimate meaning of existence. Although its answers may be better than no answers at all, by denying the ultimate meaningfulness of life Buddhism provides its followers with little motivation to conquer evil or to work for justice. Jesus Christ, in contrast, confronts us with the need to become right with God and to introduce a new order into the world, an order He called "the kingdom of God."
Probably the oldest religious tradition is that of Animism, found mostly among the so-called "primitive" peoples of the world such as the Native American cultures. Animism teaches that the world is populated by a myriad of spirit beings that can be appeased and manipulated through ritual and magic. Animism is a large part of the Wiccan belief system and occurs commonly in occult and spiritism circles. It is also a large factor in the belief in "luck." The major weakness of animistic religion is that it is basically non-ethical.
The goal in this religion is primarily to procure the best advantage in the power struggle of the spirit world. There are no ultimate absolutes other than what the spirits of a clan prefer. These are the mores of the tribe. The spirits are finite and experience the same failures as humans. Animism also is ultimately subjective and irrational. Animists are not generally open to a rational examination of their beliefs. It is the experience that counts. Authority comes from tradition. "My ancestors did this for hundreds of years!" Animism leads to fatalism and despair because it provides no answers to the questions of life's meaning and significance, or purpose in history. There is no basis for human dignity in animism. Humans are on the same level as all other forms of life. It is essentially a religion of demons (idolatry). Missionaries who work on reservations in the American west often speak of the oppressive atmosphere as a result of spirit bondage. It is a religion of fear. Alcoholism and suicide are major problems in most animistic cultures.
Regarding Wicca, witches follow a principle of ethics known as the Wiccan Rede: "That ye harm none, do what ye will." Whether witches realize it or not, their views raise some very problematic issues even over and above those raised by animism above: (1) Where does the Wiccan Rede derive from? (2) If there is "no one right religion, way, or truth for all," then why is this rule (the Wiccan Rede) universal? How do we know that witches are not just trying to impose their rule on us to "shackle our minds and actions," as they put it? (3) How do witches account for the origin and existence of evil and suffering?
Since I believe that Jesus is indeed the promised Messiah of the Old Testament, as I will show below, then automatically I must reject Rabbinic/traditional Judaism since they reject Jesus as the Messiah.
The only other great religious traditions that I know about are those of Taoism in China and Shintoism in Japan. These religions are pantheistic like Hinduism, but also have a number of animistic characteristics. Those teachings have been adequately covered above.
Regarding Jesus Christ, the tenants of Christianity are not based on some kind of blind faith -- as some people have claimed. In fact, Christianity depends very much on the testimony of eyewitnesses. A large portion of the Bible is just that: the eyewitness accounts of people who were actually there. Christians do not depend on a single individual's revelation of the truth (as, for example, in Islam and Buddhism). In fact, Jesus Christ, the object of the Christian's devotion and the focal point of all Scripture, did not write a single word of the Bible!
Some say that Jesus was a myth, that He was not a historical figure. These people maintain that no credible evidence exists that would substantiate His historicity. But nothing can be further from the truth. There is actually better historical evidence for the existence of Jesus and what Christians believe about Him than for just about any ancient historical figure. For example, the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, who was not a Christian, wrote in 93-94 A.D.:
"At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. And his conduct was good, and [he] was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive; accordingly, he was perhaps the messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders." Antiquities of the Jews, XVIII.iii.3
A Roman historian by the name of Cornelius Tacitus wrote in 112 A.D.:
"Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also." Annals, XV.44
While there are other references outside the Bible that demonstrate Jesus was an actual historical person, for the sake of brevity these two examples should suffice.
The teachings of Jesus Christ and the claims He made for Himself are well documented in the first four books of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) in the Bible. But those claims would be nothing if He failed to rise from the dead after He was crucified, as He predicted He would. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is considered to be the cornerstone of the Christian faith. Without it, Jesus is a fraud and Christianity a false religion. So the question before us is this: "Did Jesus rise from the dead?"
The Christian Church is worldwide in scope. Its history can be traced back to Palestine around 32 AD. Did it just happen or was there a cause for it? These people who were first called Christians at Antioch turned the world of their time upside down. They constantly referred to the resurrection as the basis for their teaching, preaching, living, and -- significantly -- dying. The Apostle Paul summed up very well what the gospel is in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11. There he defined it as Jesus dying for the sins of humanity and rising from the dead, according to the Scriptures. Paul also said, "And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain". He said, "And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins". And furthermore, he said, "Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished if Christ has not been raised from the dead." (1 Corinthians 15:12-20) The apostles preached this message because the resurrection of Jesus Christ proved that He was who He said He was -- the Son of God. It demonstrated that the blood Jesus shed on the cross had the power to save sinners, and that in the end, all will raised from the dead.
The testimony of the New Testament contains six independent testimonies to the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Three of them by eyewitnesses: John, Peter, and Matthew. Paul, writing to the churches at an early date, referred to the resurrection in such a way that it is obvious that to him and his readers the event was well known and accepted without question. Are these men, who helped transform the moral structure of society, consummate liars or deluded madmen? These alternatives are harder to believe than the fact of the resurrection, and there is no evidence to support them.
Of course, there have been those who sought to cast doubt on the veracity of the resurrection. They have advanced various explanations to account for the open and empty tomb. But there is only one valid explanation for the empty tomb, and that is the one the Bible presents -- that Jesus on the third day rose from the dead and appeared to His disciples (also some 500 others) for a period of forty days.
The apostles of Christ were eyewitnesses to His resurrection. These men had been with Him before His death; a number of them had been with Him for about three and a half years. They had seen Him during the trial; some of them had seen Him die on the cross. After His resurrection, these men associated with Him for about forty days. They talked with Him; they handled Him; they saw Him. They had every reason for believing that the Christ whom they saw was the one who had been crucified.
In fact, at first, some of them, notably Thomas, doubted. He said, "Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe." Later, when Jesus appeared and told him examine His wounds to see that He really rose from the dead, Thomas said, "My Lord and my God." (John 20:24-28)
Now if Jesus was not really raised from the dead these apostles, were either deceivers or they were deceived. Is it likely that these men would be deceived, men who had known Jesus so well before His death and had been associated with Him after His resurrection? Would these men have had any reason to be deliberate deceivers? What was there to gain from preaching that Christ was risen from the dead if He really had not risen from the dead?
There was no financial gain; there was no social prestige; there was no political power to come as a result of their preaching the resurrection. The only prospect that they had insofar as human rewards were concerned was the prospect of peril and persecution, of imprisonment and death. Yet all these apostles went out and preached that Christ had been raised from the dead. And they all, save one, paid for this testimony with their lives. No one suffers peril, persecution, and a cruel death for what he knows to be a lie.
If the apostles of Christ were deliberate deceivers, why is it that not one of them under the most trying circumstances (e.g. imprisonment, stoning, and death) ever recanted his testimony? Men do not manifest this kind of steadfastness and loyalty to a known falsehood. They all asserted right up to the end that they saw Jesus after He was raised from the dead.
By their lives and deaths these men demonstrated that what they were teaching was the truth. When they preached the resurrection, they did not begin in Galilee; they began in Jerusalem where Christ had been crucified. When they began preaching the resurrection, it was not to men who knew nothing about the death of Christ; it was to men who had been guilty of crucifying the Lord (Acts 2:22-23). These men deported themselves as men who knew what they were talking about. They deported themselves as men who were under tremendous conviction. No one can account for the changed attitude of these men, for their restored hope, for their renewed courage, for their long lives of toil and sacrifice and suffering apart from the fact that they were prompted by the undying conviction that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. It is more difficult to believe that these men acted a lie, suffered for it, and died for it, than it is to believe in the resurrection of Christ from the dead.
It was because of their powerful testimony that faith in Jesus grew in spite of detractors, competing religions and philosophies, and severe state persecution. This could not take place if the resurrection was a lie perpetrated by Jesus Himself or His apostles.
The Bible consists of 66 books written by some 40 different men spanning a period of over 4,000 years. It contains three distinct languages (Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic). The writers were from a wide variety of nationalities; and their professions ranged from kings to fishermen to tentmakers.
I believe that the Biblical text in the original languages, as it was given, contains no errors. There are ample reasons for this, but let me summarize a few points:
The Bible is true historically. In spite of comments to the contrary, archeology continually has verified the validity of Bible.
The Bible is true scientifically. Nothing in Scripture has been invalidated by science. In fact, many scientific principles are found in the Bible. A sampling of these would include the roundness of the earth (Isaiah 40:22), the almost infinite extent of the sidereal universe (Isaiah 55:9), the law of conservation of mass and energy (I1 Peter 3:7), the hydrologic cycle (Ecclesiastes 1:7), the vast number of stars (Jeremiah 33:22), the equivalence of matter and energy (Hebrews 1:3), the law of increasing entropy (Psalm 102:25-27), the paramount importance of blood in life processes (Leviticus 17:11), the atmospheric circulation (Ecclesiastes 1:6), the gravitational field (Job 26:7), and many others. These are not stated in the technical jargon of modern science, of course, but in terms of the basic world of man's everyday experience; nevertheless, they are completely in accord with the most modern scientific facts.
The Bible is true prophetically. Click here to read the article, "The Bible: Proof of Its Supernatural Origin." For a detailed discussion of this area, also see the book, "Evidence that Demands a Verdict," by Josh McDowell. Jesus was the precise fulfillment of virtually hundreds of Messianic prophecies! A few examples are Messiah's humanity (Genesis 3:15); Messiah's Jewishness (Genesis 12:1-3; 28:10-15); Messiah's tribe (Genesis 49:10); Messiah's family (2 Samuel 7:16; Jeremiah 23:5-6); Messiah's birthplace (Micah 5:2); Messiah's life, reception, suffering, work at the cross, death, and resurrection (Isaiah 52:13; 53); and the details of Messiah's crucifixion (Psalm 22).
To illustrate this point further, below is a list of Old Testament prophecies and their New Testament fulfillment by Jesus Christ:

(you have to go to his webpage to see the chart, I could'nt get it here formatted correctly)

The following probabilities are taken from Peter Stoner in Science Speaks (Moody Press, 1963) to show that coincidence is ruled out by the science of probability. Stoner says that by using the modern science of probability in reference to eight prophecies, we find that the chance that any man might have lived down to the present time and fulfilled all eight prophecies is 1 in ten to the 17th power." That would be 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000. In order to help us comprehend this staggering probability, Stoner illustrates it by supposing that "we take ten to the seventeenth power silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas. They will cover all of the state two feet deep. Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly, all over the state. Blindfold a man and tell him that he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up one silver dollar and say that this is the right one. What chance would he have of getting the right one? Just the same chance that the prophets would have had of writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man."
Stoner considers 48 prophecies and says, "we find the chance that any one man fulfilled all 48 prophecies to be 1 in ten to the 157th power, or 1 in
1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000."
The estimated number of electrons in the universe is around ten to the seventy-ninth power. It should be quite evident that Jesus did not fulfill the prophecies by accident. He was who He said He was: the only way (John 14:6).
It is due to the evidence presented here that I believe God exists and Christianity to be the only true religion, and why I cannot accept as rational the idea that one religion is just as good as another. Jesus is who He claimed to be, and He proved this by fulfilling prophecy and rising from the dead.