Sun 24 Aug 2008
Bertrand Russell was reportedly once asked what he would say to God if he were to find himself confronted by the Almighty about why he had not believed in God’s existence. He said that he would tell God “Not enough evidence, God, not enough evidence!” [Source: Victor Reppert, “Hume on Miracles, Frequencies, and Prior Probabilities“]
Recently in an online discussion regarding the reliability of the New Testament, I asked a person engaged in the discussion the following question: “Let’s say, after a few more months on this forum, that your questions regarding the Christian faith and God were answered beyond a reasonable doubt. Not utterly completely proven 100%, but at least plausibly answered. Would you then put your faith and trust in God?”
His reply surprised me: “No, probably not.” He went on to list some of his objections (and straw-man characterizations of Christian beliefs) before concluding that “even if you did manage all that and managed to drive me insane enough to believe in an invisible man in the sky, my common sense would just tell me that that is impossible.” [Thread on SCAE]
I thought back to Russell’s response quoted above. Ignoring for a moment the question of “How much evidence is needed?” that is discussed at length in the linked article, I have to wonder about the honesty of Russell’s response. Let’s paint the scenario: Russell has spent his life arguing that God does not exist, and especially not the Christian God. Now he stands before this God and has been proven utterly and totally wrong. This just, holy, righteous, omnipotent, omniscient, and awe-inspiring God stands before Russell and asks him the question. Instead of being humbled, Hume says he’d flippantly respond by saying “Not enough evidence, God, not enough evidence!”
Given that (in the scenario) God is omniscient, it seems silly to assert that God hadn’t provided enough evidence. Wouldn’t God know better than Russell how much evidence was needed? Wouldn’t it be slightly insane to tell the almighty God of the universe to His face that you know better than Him?
Christians are often branded as being “closedminded” (sometimes for good reason) but often atheists or members of other non-Christian faiths are just as closedminded.
As the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. During my conversation with an Internet friend mentioned above, I decided to break off the conversation at that point. When a person states that they will continue to refuse to believe something even if they become convinced that it is true (!) there’s not much point in talking anymore.
Of course, to be fair, this situtation somewhat paraellels my own story, when I first became convinced that Christianity was true, but still wasn’t quite able to take that final step of faith (trust) right away. This is why I think that often issues of faith are, primarily, heart issues rather than head issues; intellectual objections are often legitimate and worthy of discussion, but in reality those sorts of questions merely scratch the surface while a person’s actual underlying concerns go much deeper.