I’ve seen a couple of Christian blogs that have linked to this post by Ricky Gervais, most recently by Carlos Whittaker on Ragamuffin Soul. Says Gervais…
Why donâ€™t you believe in God? I get that question all the time. I always try to give a sensitive, reasoned answer. This is usually awkward, time consuming and pointless.
What seems to catch everyone’s attention is both Gervais’s popularity and his ingratiating approach to embracing atheism.
I used to believe in God. The Christian one that is.
I like the tone he uses. I like that there is an appeal to reason and – though there are a couple of things he says that might be considered mocking or condescending – Gervais stays away from the nastiness usually exhibited in this kind of atheism/Christian discussion. Like many atheists, Gervais is bright, articulate, and funny.
Like every atheist, he is also wrong in his conclusion.
None of that is what provokes me to this post. The real question is…what would I say to him? What could I say to others who read his post and agree? There’s this challenge from Gervais…
Why donâ€™t I believe in God? No, no no, why do YOU believe in God?
What can I say to that?
My reply would be this:
I don’t think you want my answer.
For one thing, you don’t know me. You know people like me, Christians who love God and try to love people and don’t do either one perfectly. You know me as part of the larger group of “People Who Say They Are Christians and Don’t Get Nasty With People Who Disagree.” On the other hand, if you knew me personally, you sound like someone who would be interested in why I believe in God. But you don’t know me, so it’s unreasonable to think you would care about what someone you don’t know or have never heard of thinks about such an important topic.
Okay, let’s suppose you know me, and you might really be interested in why I believe in God.
In that case, even if I told you, it wouldn’t change what you believe. That’s not meant to be condemning or condescending in any way. I’m not saying you’re closed-minded or stupid or egotistical or that you would object to reason.
But your stated reason for not believing in God – “I donâ€™t believe in God because there is absolutely no scientific evidence for his existence and from what Iâ€™ve heard the very definition is a logical impossibility in this known universe” – tells me you never will.
Yes, there is evidence, evidence I’m sure you’ve examined and found circumstantial at best. Asking for scientific evidence is misleading. I think it would be more accurate to say that you don’t believe in God because you have no proof of his existence. Proof is the issue. Proof is what you won’t find. Proof…well, I’m no philosopher or high-intellectual, so I might have this wrong, but all we can do with anything is give evidence. Evidence is what witnesses produce. There’s plenty of that.
Proof can’t be produced by witnesses. In fact, the only place you will find proof is in the mind of the jury. If the evidence doesn’t convince me, it will never be proof.Â Evidence can always be explained away. It doesn’t matter whether it comes from science, religion or some other sphere of influence. There is no proof until I accept it as such.
Of course, as you so eloquently and accurately put it…
…believing in something doesnâ€™t make it true. Hoping that something is true doesnâ€™t make it true. The existence of God is not subjective. He either exists or he doesnâ€™t. Itâ€™s not a matter of opinion. You can have your own opinions. But you canâ€™t have your own facts.
That is correct. What is equally true is that evidence doesn’t establish the facts. Science doesn’t establish the facts. Both – like religion – can only point to or away from them.
Do I exist? There is much evidence that would point to my existence. Is there any proof? If you don’t accept the evidence, even if I were to show up on your doorstep with documentation, witnesses and a big plate of cookies, it wouldn’t be proof.
The bottom line is this. I believe in God for the same reason you don’t – I’ve examined the evidence and I believe it points in a certain direction.
Yes, that leads me to the conclusion that there is eternal separation and punishment for those that reject God. This is not a happy conclusion for me. I find no pleasure in this fact. I am not shouting for “death to the infidels.” On the contrary, as a reasonable person, I am concerned and distressed at this outcome for people like you. Yes, for you.
I feel sad that this type of concern could come across as mean-spirited or judgmental, but I know that others have used these same arguments in a mean-spirited and judgmental way, so I think I get it.