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 IAmAnAtheist » Best Argument First

Best Argument First

The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.

A theist and an atheist in an airport waiting for a plane.

Alex: Excuse me — what are you reading there?

Ben: The God Delusion.

Alex: Oh. You don’t believe in God?

Ben: I’m not religious.

Alex: Really. Did you know that there’s a lot of evidence that God exists? For example —

Ben: Just a second. Do you really have an argument that proves God exists?

Alex: Yes.

Ben: Okay. Before you even tell me what it is, tell me this: is it the argument that convinced you that God exists?

Alex: No. I don’t need an argument.

Ben: Then why would you try to convince me with an argument if you don’t feel like one is necessary in the first place?

Alex: I mean that I don’t need one because to me the evidence is so clear. I already believe in God.

Ben: What evidence?

Alex: What do you mean?

Ben: I mean, what evidence is so clear that it makes you believe in God? Why give me some argument if there’s compelling evidence? Why not just give me the evidence?

Alex: The evidence is in my heart. I believe in God because I can feel Him working in me and through me, but I doubt you’d just take my word for it, so I have to show you that it’s only reasonable to believe in God for other reasons.

Ben: That’s fine, but let me ask you a question first: do you believe that your argument absolutely, positively proves that God exists?

Alex: Yes.

Ben: Okay, then if you tell me your argument and I can refute it, would you agree that would be evidence that God does not exist?

Alex: No, of course not. God exists.

Ben: Then let’s go the other way — if I can offer you an argument that proves God doesn’t exist and you can’t refute it, would you agree that God doesn’t exist?

Alex: No. Not that it matters because there is no such argument.

Ben: Then you wouldn’t change your mind if your argument was wrong, and you wouldn’t change your mind if my argument was right. What makes you think I’ll change my mind after hearing your argument?

Alex: If you don’t want to hear what I have to say you can just say so. There’s no reason to get so defensive. It looks to me like you’re afraid to hear evidence that your atheism is wrong.

Ben: I’m not afraid at all. I’m just not seeing why you would want to use an argument that you personally have no need for and that wouldn’t give you any doubts about your own beliefs if it was wrong. I also think its kind of unfair that you are asking me to put my worldview on the line here but are unwilling to do the same with your own worldview.

Alex: There’s no reason for me to question my beliefs. You need to question yours because your eternal soul is on the line.

Ben: Neither of us is without risk in a conversation like this. Both your and my intellectual integrity is on the line. But fine — I’ll listen to your argument if you’ll promise that it’s the best, most compelling argument you have and you don’t have a better one waiting in reserve.

Alex: You’re still being very defensive, which makes me think you don’t really want to hear it. I’ll agree that it’s the best argument if that will get you to listen to me.

Ben: Okay then, let’s hear it.

Alex: Well then, have you ever considered that Jesus Christ was either a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord?

Ben: Yes, I’ve read C. S. Lewis. His argument fails because it’s a false dilemma. Did you want to go into that in detail?

Alex: No, but that doesn’t matter. Think of it this way, anything that comes into being has to have a cause, right?

Ben: That sounds like the cosmological argument. I thought you wanted to talk about Lewis?

Alex: Just hear me out. Nothing comes from nothing, right?

Ben: Why are you changing the subject? If Lewis’ argument is the best argument for the existence of God, then why are you going on about the origin of the universe? Are you agreeing that Lewis was wrong?

Alex: No.

Ben: Then let’s finish that conversation. Don’t you want to hear my explanation of why your argument is wrong?

Alex: I don’t see the point. You’re obviously not going to listen.

Ben: But I am listening. If you want to go through Lewis’ argument I’ll wait while you do it, but I’ve read it myself and I’m familiar with it. I’m also familiar with at least two refutations of it. My knowing that the argument is wrong doesn’t mean I’m not listening, it just means I think you’re wrong. You’re the one who sounds like he won’t listen, because you changed the subject as soon as it was clear I wasn’t going to be wowed by your argument.

Alex: If you think Lewis was wrong, then why not listen to what I’m trying to say about the universe?

Ben: Because you agreed that you were going to give me your best argument first, and now that I know what you consider the best argument, I don’t feel a need to sit here while you fish through your lesser arguments for one I haven’t heard before. If you want to, though, we can talk about why the cosmological argument is just as wrong as the Lewis argument.

Alex: If you’re not interested in talking, I don’t see the point. Thank you for your time.


If you have a conversation that you’d like me to consider publishing on this blog or in an upcoming book, please see the conversation guidelines.

Posted on June 4, 2013 at 8:31 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: Conversations

2 Responses

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  1. Written by ff42
    on June 5, 2013 at 5:50 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Excellent. I enjoy short, easy to read (and therefore easy to remember) posts like this. Thanks for sharing. I’ll try to create one from Mormonism (my ex-belief system).

    • Written by ideclare
      on June 5, 2013 at 8:19 pm
      Reply · Permalink

      I’d definitely appreciate some involving Mormonism! I’ve got about 300 of these outlined, but only one or two relate to LDS.

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