Last year, the British comedian and writer Ricky Gervais said that deep down, we’re all really agnostics. He says it’s impossible to know for absolute certainty that God exists, and we have no evidence to believe that He does.[i] Although I think that Gervais is brilliantly funny, talented, and my personal favorite host of the Golden Globes (I freely admit that my sense of humor is, by far, the darkest of any of my fellow writers on this site), his assessment is a gross misrepresentation of the discussion concerning faith and the existence of God. Nevertheless, I think it could be easy for people to fall into this way of thinking, and it certainly warrants discussion.
A statement like his implies that we must have demonstrable and irrefutable evidence of something before we can believe it is true.
But do we need total assurance when forming our beliefs? There is no way to completely rule out every single possibility. If you take into account every little thing that is even remotely possible, then literally anything is possible. For example, it’s possible that our reality is just a computer simulation like that in The Matrix, but no serious person would propose such a claim.
I am reminded of the silly thought that I had as a child that everything I see is just a figment of my imagination, and that I’m the only real person that exists. Whether this was the result of my being overly-skeptic or the early sings of my egotism is yet to be known, but it serves as an example that just because something is technically possible, it doesn’t mean we have reason to believe it.
We should form our beliefs around that which we have good reason to think true. We shouldn’t believe in something just because it’s technically, remotely possible. And a common theme among the popular atheist thinkers like Dawkins and Krauss is that religious belief is ridiculous. They think that we have no good reason to believe that Christianity is true, or that there is even such a possibility of a supernatural world.
But I would argue that there are several good reasons to believe in the existence of God, and I am using this article as an introduction to a short series I will be starting to discuss some of the arguments that I find most convincing.
I’ll share some reasons that not only explain why I think that theism, particularly Christianity, is the best possible option among worldviews, but also arguments explaining why I think atheism is an incoherent worldview.
For example, going back to Gervais’ comment, I wonder if he would apply the same kind of scrutiny that he used against Christianity to his atheism? If he did, he would certainly see a number of problems with his own worldview that would demand explanation.
A quick example that I find most interesting: the philosopher Alvin Plantinga noted that if atheism is true, then our brains have evolved for the purpose of survival, not for recognizing truth.[ii] Therefore, if atheism is true, we have no way to know that it’s true. Humans have no more ability to recognize truth than does a kitchen knife or a couch cushion. Why then, does Gervais not consider this when making the truth claim that there’s no way to know if God exists? According to his own worldview, there’s no way to know if anything is true, including his own atheism. It becomes a viciously self-defeating circle in which any belief he has must immediately be doubted.
It is here that the atheist may plea that recognizing truth is, in fact, an evolutionary advantage. He may argue that humans excel at survival precisely because we can recognize what is true. The problem is that he uses his own faulty human brain to come to this conclusion. We cannot be sure of anything. The whole foundation of science seems to crumble once we realize that if the human brain is just the product of random mutation, we cannot know its ability, its purpose, or if the world that it recognizes even exists.
Now I certainly don’t think that this makes atheists, agnostics, secularists, and all the other non-theist “ists” somehow less intelligent. There are credible objections they can raise that are cause for reflection, and Christians have a responsibility to answer such concerns. But I think that if we take the time to honestly examine the evidence and reasons that we have, then theism will come across as the more reasonable option, or at the very worst, just as reasonable as any other worldview.
[ii] Alvin Plantinga, Warrant and Proper Function, 1993.