I came across a rather fascinating post this morning, in which various questions are posed to atheists. I have a problem with how more than a few of them are worded, but there’s one in particular that I wanted to address. Go and have a look at the others, though, as they’re well worth reading. One of them is from Gregory Koukl, who I’ve complained about here before, and there’s also a hypothetical question from Alvin Plantinga. I’ve read a few of his papers, so it would have been great to see an actual question from him.
Historian Mike Licona: “Irrespective of one’s worldview, many experience periods of doubt. Do you ever doubt your atheism and, if so, what is it about theism or Christianity that is most troubling to your atheism?”
Firstly, I’d object to the word ‘troubling’. It’s a near-universal practice to assume that any ‘challenge’ to one’s worldview should be considered a source of intellectual anguish, which seems like a rather weird way of looking at things. Whenever I come across something that makes me doubt my atheism, I pursue it as far as I can out of interest and the possibility that it may change my mind, but I can’t say I’m ever troubled by it.
Probably the most potent theistic argument I know if the ‘fine-tuning’ one, for the simple reason that no easy rebuttal to it exists. Many atheist would claim otherwise, but a full explanation for the apparent ‘fine-tuning’ of the universe would require scientific knowledge far beyond what we currently know – indeed, it may require scientific knowledge beyond what we can ever know.
That is not to say that I find the fine-tuning argument convincing, obviously. It makes too many unwarranted assumptions itself, and rather swiftly runs up against certain aspects of the universe which would seem to contradict the idea of a divine creator – or at least one which cares about our well-being. I also dislike the jump from ‘God is an explanation for the apparent fine-tuning of the universe for life’ to ‘God is the explanation for the apparent fine-tuning of the universe for life’; I’m certainly willing to grant that God is a possible explanation, and perhaps even a fairly decent one, but that’s not enough for me to make the jump to theism. (In case that doesn’t make it obvious enough, I see the issue of theism as probabilistic rather than going for all-or-nothing certainty, which I don’t believe anyone can honestly lay claim to when it comes to the question of God’s existence.)
In case you’re wondering, I don’t think most of the anti-theistic arguments are particularly strong either. Some formulations of the evidential problem of evil seem to be lacking strong theistic responses, and one of them in particular is, I feel, a very strong argument for atheism, but they mostly seem to make the same mistakes as their theistic counterparts.