Last week, we talked about the Christians who do their best to avoid their rightful burden of proof. In a way, though, that strategy might be better than the one we’re talking about today. When Christians actually try to pony up support for their claims, we can see just how flimsy their stated foundations of faith really are. And I turned up a bunch of sources that go that route. Today, I’ll be reviewing that so-called evidence.
Then, we’ll explore why they bother with it at all.
(Here’s the 2017 post about apologetics that I mention in the introduction.)
(This post originally went live on Patreon on 11/1/2022. If you’d like early access, please consider becoming a patron — thank you!)
The usual strategy: refusing to provide evidence
Usually, Christians avoid getting into close examinations of evidence for their claims. I love encountering Christians’ response to such requests. As one very Calvinist site notes:
It seems so reasonable. It’s what any sensible person would ask. Where is the evidence? Why should it be so difficult to believe in Christ?
These are perfectly reasonable objections, too. It’s exactly what anybody should ask when encountering a claim, especially one that demands a major shift in one’s belief system.
The rest of that post, however, complains mightily about such “so reasonable” requests—and casts aspersions on those making them. They end up deciding that anybody who wants evidence before believing in a claim is overly prideful, simply biased against Christianity, and “blind” (ooh, such ableism) and thus incapable of “seeing” all the totes-for-realsies evidence that Christians have.
Notably, however, when this Calvinist blogger presents his list of totes-for-realsies faux-evidence, it’s the usual bullshit we have come to expect:
At the end of The Dawkins Letters I presented my 10 different reasons for believing that Christianity is true. The creation, the human mind and spirit, the moral law, beauty, religion, experience, history, the church, the Bible, and Jesus. Why not make your own list?
Indeed, why not?
As one would completely expect of a claim that is absolutely objectively true, other Christians offer completely different lists. Here’s one I’ll quote from Christian Post:
- An innate sense of the existence of God and eternity
- The evidence of design
- All humans already live in the matrix of God
- The testimony of multiple billions of people who encountered Him
- The reality of immaterial logic
- .. and of conscience
- .. and of the spirit realm
- .. also of good and evil
- and the unity and profundity of the Bible (by which he means “the canonical bible” that modern evangelicals use today)
And Got Questions offers an entirely different four-pronged list, which I’ll summarize:
- Human experience
- Apologetics, especially the long-debunked Big Three Arguments: Cosmological, teleological, and moral
- Creationism and pseudoarchaeology
- Feelings of great certainty
Gosh, with all this evidence it’s just unbelievable that only about 1/3 of the planet identifies as some flavor of Christian!
Apologetics as a source of fallacies and faux-evidence
We can knock most of this faux-evidence completely out of the running by pointing out that it’s all based on logical fallacies. Though Christians think that apologetics offers extremely persuasive evidence for Christianity, that’s because they already believe in the claims or underlying claims that it props up so poorly.
At most, really robust apologetics (like some of what I’ve seen out of old-school Catholic scholars) can make the case that belief in some kind of god isn’t absolutely preposterous. But none of it comes even close to being actual, objective support for Christians’ claims. And almost all of it fails to come close even to that weak level, simply because it offers fallacies in lieu of evidence.
Technically, fallacies can be informal or formal. An informal fallacy just fails to be an actual sound argument. Equivocations are a classic example of this breed:
Feathers are light. (“light” as “not heavy”)
What is light cannot be dark. (“light” as “pale in color”)
Therefore, feathers cannot be dark.
Sometimes, Christians fail at this level. When they compare their own religious faith to what they call “faith in science,” that’s an equivocation.
Formal fallacies offer logically-sound arguments, but still fall flat on their faces. We often call these logical fallacies. When we talk about Christians deploying an “argument from X,” we’re referring to the mind-boggling number of formal/logical fallacies they firmly believe substitute for real evidence. One group of atheists, Godless Geeks, has assembled over 600 of them so far. Here’s a long-standing Christian favorite from their list, the Argument from Beauty:
ARGUMENT FROM BEAUTY a.k.a. DESIGN/TELEOLOGICAL ARGUMENT (II)
(1) Isn’t that baby/sunset/flower/tree beautiful?
(2) Only God could have made them so beautiful.
(3) Therefore, God exists.
You might already have noticed that this one showed up on all three of our sources.
Why Christians are very impressed with apologetics
Indeed, almost all apologetics arguments fail simply due to being fallacious.
Christians can’t offer real evidence for their claims. None exists. Apologetics is their workaround for this problem.
Instead of offering real evidence, apologists link something real to their god (in the above case, “beauty”). They claim that the real thing could not exist without their god being real. And then, they desperately hope that listeners will be ignorant enough to accept this line of thinking and not ask them to pony up actual support for their god’s existence—or worse, bring up all the horrific and terrifying things that also exist. (If you’re squeamish, consider those links Stage 5 Risky Clicks.)
Or even worse, someone pointing out that they haven’t even established a unique and compellingly-persuasive link between their god and the real thing. They simply assert that the link exists, then hope that’ll be enough on its own.
Nobody’s allowed to question or criticize bad arguments in their communities—even if anyone wants to (and more to the point, if anyone there has the capability in the first place). In this complete absence of critical pushback, apologists and their followers mistakenly think these arguments are foolproof and slam-dunk support for their claims. Almost none of them even know that debunks exist for their favorite apologetics arguments, much less what those debunks are.
Creationism and pseudoarchaeology as faux-evidence
Next up, we have a mostly-evangelical branch of faux-evidence: Creationism and pseudoarchaeology. For about 70 years, Creationists have been offering these two branches of pseudoscience as support for their claims. Then they get really mad when critics refuse to accept either one as real evidence, griping that those critics are “blind” and can’t “see” the truth when it’s laid at their feet.
The problem these Christians are having is that neither Creationism nor their pseudoarchaeology are valid fields of scientific study. Both are rife with errors of all kinds from top to bottom.
In particular, Creationism fails even to make testable hypotheses or testable predictions of what we should expect to see if their claims were true. That’s fine by them, too, because in the 2005 Dover trial, a Creationist leader, Michael Behe, admitted on the stand that he’d never actually bothered to run any experiments testing his ideas:
Q. Now you have never argued for intelligent design in a peer reviewed scientific journal, correct?
A. No, I argued for it in my book.
Q. Not in a peer reviewed scientific journal?
A. That’s correct.
Q. And, in fact, there are no peer reviewed articles by anyone advocating for intelligent design supported by pertinent experiments or calculations which provide detailed rigorous accounts of how intelligent design of any biological system occurred, is that correct?
A. That is correct, yes.
Q. And it is, in fact, the case that in Darwin’s Black Box, you didn’t report any new data or original research?
A. I did not do so, but I did generate an attempt at an explanation.
Maybe Creationists don’t run any experiments because back when they did, their pet scientists kept finding contradictory counter-evidence to Creationist claims:
The creationist movement also does not like to talk about the scientists who leave after being given the opportunity to do real field research. In 1957, the Geoscience Research Institute was formed in order to search for evidence of Noah’s Flood in the geological record. The project fell apart when both of the creationists involved with the project, P. Edgar Hare and Richard Ritland, completed their field research with the conclusion that fossils were much older than allowed under the creationist assertions, and that no geological or paleontological evidence of any sort could be found to indicate the occurrence of a world-wide flood.
And Creationists don’t care at all about these flaws. Way back in 2002, Scientific American laid out the problems with Creationist arguments. Creationists didn’t care. In 2018, the Jesuit-run America Magazine pointed out much the same problems. And Creationists still didn’t care.
Pseudoarchaeology goes one step further than Creationism. Their leaders actually do go out and completely wreck ancient sites, then misinterpret or knowingly puff up what they find as PROOF YES PROOF that the Bible’s stories really happened. Real archaeologists just drip with hatred for these poseurs.
If someone objects to Creationism and pseudoarchaeology, then well, obviously, Jesus just hasn’t made them “see” their validity yet.
The so-called “reality” of stuff Christians have never bothered to support with real evidence
Now we come to the lines of faux-evidence that Christians provide as facts that don’t even require support.
In the Calvinist site, the writer simply summarizes these as “the church, the Bible, and Jesus.” None of them actually rise to the level of support for Christian claims. At most, they are support for the existence of Christianity itself.
Over at Christian Post, most of their nine points live here: the “innate sense of the existence of God and eternity,” living “in the matrix of God,” “the spirit realm,” and more.
Got Questions plays it a bit more coy, simply offering “human experience” as PROOF YES PROOF that Christian claims are true. They also try to claim “general revelation” as valid evidence, as well as the commonality of belief in an afterlife through much of humans’ recorded history.
(That last one also counts as a logical fallacy called the argument from popularity. Lots of people have believed all kinds of things that weren’t true or good. Popularity doesn’t make something true or good. After all, slavery was once almost universally accepted by people all the way to the Renaissance. And there are thousands of other religions that Christians think are fakes, each with their own fervent believers.)
Not one of these things amounts to real evidence for Christian claims. But Christian leaders indoctrinate their followers with the false belief that if you just pile on enough of these claims and sound extremely certain of them, they magically become evidence.
Elevating feelings to the level of support for one’s claims
All of our sources lean heavily on the idea of personal feelings and experiences as compelling evidence for Christian claims. As Got Questions asserts:
Each of the prior categories is an entire field of [pseudo, navel-gazing] study and the subject of thousands of [very terrible] books. Yet the existence of God is demonstrated most profoundly, for most people, in personal experience. It may be impossible to “prove” to others that you’re happy, for instance, but that doesn’t change the fact that you are. That’s not to say internal perspective outweighs objective truth, but complex truths are often powerfully supported by individual experiences. Changed lives, reformed attitudes, and answers to prayer are all part of our personal perception that God exists.
But really, they are saying that internal perspective outweighs objective truth. This paragraph gaslights readers by saying it’s “not to say” when that’s exactly what they say. They’re saying that all of the faux-evidence thus provided pales in comparison to how Christians claim to feel and what effects they claim Christianity has had on their lives.
I say “claim” there for a reason. We’ve all known miserable Christians whose lives weren’t changed at all by Christianity, only made worse by it. Likewise, we’ve all known Christians who desperately wanted Jesus to change them somehow, like to change their personalities, heal their psychological or physical issues, or even just for belief to do something tangible for them, only to be disappointed. Some of us actually were those Christians, once.
If anyone brings up those failed promises, they can be sure that the tribe will beat them up for wanting Jesus to give them a pony or be their ATM—even though that’s exactly what Christians insist can and does happen all the time.
Nor has anyone ever found real support for Christian claims about “answers to prayer.” Prayer can sometimes help those doing it in the meditation sense, but it’s the perfect illustration of magical thinking otherwise.
The only “complex truth” one can learn from the examples of Christians themselves is that they sure can go to remarkable lengths to maintain their false beliefs.
Brutal emotional manipulation covers the rest of the faux-evidence bases
Whatever is left over once all the other faux-evidence is deployed can be wallpapered over with emotional manipulation. I’ve encountered everything under the sun here, but we can get glimpses of it in all three posts we’re using as sources today.
The Calvinist guy just pushes hard on a form of gullibility that today’s evangelicals have redefined as open-mindedness:
I often tell people that they should use the motto of The X-Files – ‘the truth is out there’. An intelligent agnostic is someone who seeks that truth. . .
Christians who seek to present the good news of Jesus Christ will be prayerful, loving people who are saturated with the word of God and who know how to present it in the context of a culture which is deaf, dumb and blind to that word.
See? You might not believe now, but if you really want the truth about the universe, you won’t stop till you have embraced his flavor of Christianity. If you haven’t embraced it yet, then you either aren’t really seeking the truth, or you haven’t encountered it yet. But if Christians despair at how hard it is to convince skeptics of their claims, don’t worry: he’ll heap some extra contempt on their targets too.
The Christian Post guy offers a number of veiled threats about demon possession, forgiveness of thoughtcrimes, and moral behavior. I especially laughed here:
This transcendent sense of good and evil, a knowledge of right and wrong, points to the creator God who gave moral laws to guide humans in their interpersonal relations.
Talk about something being “more honour’d in the breach than the observance.” If Christians had ever been such powerhouses of honor and morality, such bastions of proper behavior, such towering pinnacles of goodness, there’d never have been a need to pare away their dominance centuries ago. But okay, claim that people only learned how to treat each other with compassion two thousand years ago when an obscure Jewish offshoot sect began.
Got Questions takes a similar route.
The strange new scrupulosity of evangelicals
Once upon a time, it seems like Christians weren’t so fussed about having PROOF YES PROOF of their claims. Everything in their culture already deferred to Christianity. Everyone in their leadership circles professed Christianity.
By the 1990s, though, a strange new scrupulosity finally fully overtook evangelicals. Once the province of only the weirdest fringe fundamentalists (like I was), their new obsession was called literalism and inerrancy. They had to believe two things to fit into evangelicalism now: that every single thing in the Bible literally happened the way it describes, and that the Bible makes no mistakes about anything, nor offers any false information, nor any information that doesn’t apply to the modern age.
This new scrupulosity gave evangelical leaders a tremendous amount of personal power at their followers’ expense. But it also led to some very disquieting questions.
Christians ache for evidence, but must negate every means of obtaining real evidence
A very real god who does very real things (like the vast, epic miracles detailed in both the New and Old Testaments) should be leaving a lot more evidence in his wake than Christians have ever had. Why did Christians have no compelling evidence for their claims?
This is when the fields of pseudoarchaeology, apologetics, and other lines of faux-evidence-chasing really exploded into popularity. Evangelicals ached for real evidence, but the means of getting real evidence (notably the scientific method) failed to provide any.
In response, a new industry rose up to meet the legions of Christians who needed PROOF YES PROOF. Faux-evidence that once made evangelicals cringe on fundamentalists’ behalf now lined their personal library shelves and formed the basis of their attempts at evangelism. At the same time, evangelicals do everything they can to make real means of getting evidence sound unreliable or unfairly biased.
So evangelicals ache for the validity and legitimacy that the scientific method could theoretically give them, but also resent it for steadfastly never yielding that payoff.
That’s where we are today, in this sort of late-stage-capitalism phase of evangelicalism. Opportunists pick at the carcass’ bones. They glean profits through exploiting the insecurities that Christians have been taught to soothe with tribe-approved lies.
None of it works, though, so Christians must keep consuming these products—and vilifying anyone who debunks their faux-evidence.
The faith pool empties in response to learning how to really assess claims
Literally every single piece of evidence that Christians think they have is faux-evidence. And I know it is painful to slowly awaken to that truth. I remember being the fervent li’l Pentecostal with the overflowing faith pool who watched with mounting horror as each tap shut off, one by one by one, until no water at all was flowing in to replace all the water flowing out.
I wasn’t stupid. Rather, I was simply indoctrinated to believe that faux-evidence was the real deal. As I realized the truth of each line of faux-evidence, its associated tap shut off. It all happened very quickly, too, once the process began.
Usually, Christian indoctrination can handle it if one tap shuts off. By now, their religion’s leaders have what must be hundreds of different ways to hand-wave away reality. They’ve got plenty of other taps that they can push open more to compensate for another turning off, and even ways to get a closed tap operating again.
But if a lot of taps shut off all at once, that staggers the compensation system.
The fly in the Vasoline
That’s a big part of how the internet became such a stunning source of information to combat Christian indoctrination.
When all someone needs to do is plug a Christian talking point into a search engine with “debunk” after it, that opens the door to plugging in all of the talking points. Indoctrination purveyors simply can’t compete with how quickly their talking points get defused, nor with the sheer numbers of talking points that can get hit all at once. In a real sense, the internet can be a sort of DDoS attack on indoctrination.
And as each generation becomes more and more internet-savvy, the utter lack of real-world evidence that Christians have, and the piss-poor substitutes they push in lieu of the real thing will only get more and more obvious.
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