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Questions for atheist/Christian Forum

February 24, 2010

From my friend and grammar Nazi Steve Lutz’s blog:

My questions: (I ran this thing like a West Coast Offense, with a few plays scripted in advance)

  • What’s one myth about your position you’d like to debunk? (ie, do you eat babies?)
  • What do you think is the strongest argument for your position? The weakest?
  • The Problem of Evil is a problem for both sides–how do you handle that?
  • What about faith in the public square?
  • What about Christopher Hitchens’ admission at the end of Collision? If there was only one Christian left, would you convert him?

From the floor, that we used:

  • [To Hemant]: How much did your “soul” go for on eBay? (around $500).
  • Is it scary coming to Christian conventions?
  • Is it possible to have a “value-free” or “belief-free” classroom? Aren’t students influenced just as much by what they don’t learn (in this case God or values) in the classroom as they are by what they do learn?
  • With respect to your contention that scientific experimentation does not deal with perception, are you not still trusting in the rational intelligibility of the universe, and if so, on what basis do we place that trust? I believe that is what a Christian means by “perception.”
  • Often a criticism from atheist circles is that religion is poison or bad for people. How would you define religion, and do you think religion is something only certain people have, or do you think it is something everyone experiences to some degree? (ritual, worship, fellowship, etc.)
  • How do you reconcile your Christian faith with the scientific inaccuracies found in Scripture? For example, the ancient notion that heaven is located in the sky and that breath is an animating force?
  • What are some of the positive contributions that you can recognize the “other side” brings to the table? What do you respect about each other?
  • What has meant the most to you about your relationship with one another?
  • Do you find any of the arguments for Christian theism compelling even as an atheist? If so, what?
  • Is there room/possibility for an honest friendship between a Christian and atheist, even when the atheist in the relationship is vehemently anti-theism and anti-fundamental religion?
  • Do you believe in good and evil, and if so, what is your basis for defining it?
  • What is the nature of atheists’ reason for living morally? For instance, Christians –> moral law comes a moral law giver, ie, God.
  • From both perspectives, what is the basis for ethical norms or moral imperatives?
  • Do you believe in an inherent morality? If so, where does this morality come from? Particularly, as natural law is concerned?
  • Can real Christian faith coexist with evolutionary theory? Why or why not? How does the Bible support this?
  • What evidence would prove to you irrevocably that God is real and cares about you? And, what makes you believe that if God exists He would naturally provide that evidence for you?

From the floor, unused:

  • After an accident, a person ends up in a vegetative state and is kept alive only by life support. Should the person be kept alive or pulled off life support?
  • In light of what evidence would you (atheists) change your minds and hearts? What sort of evidence would it take?
  • Is it dangerous for uneducated Christians to engage in debate with atheists?
  • Is debating useful for anything but massaging one’s pride?
  • How should Christians approach atheists and arguments of doubt?
  • Is it ok to say “I don’t know”?
  • Are all atheists damned to Hell? How would you feel if on Judgment Day you found out there was [a] God?
  • From only these forums, how (if at all) has your view/perception of Christians changed?
  • In the past few years how have your conceptions about Christians, or other people of faith, changed?
  • How much literature, research, or experience do you think is necessary for a person to have before they establish their beliefs?
  • What in life do you worship, idolize, and put your faith in?
  • How do you think about death?
  • If you believe in testing or science, and you admit God can neither be proved nor disproved by science, then how (by what method) did you come to believe God doesn’t exist?
  • Would you say that belief in God/Christianity/religion in general is intrinsically bad for the world (ie, John Lennon’s “Imagine”). Why or why not?
  • [To Hemant] You said you have a sense of right and wrong. How can you claim there exist right and wrongs while claiming the absence of absolutes?
  • How do you have faith in faith?
  • Describe a time in your life when you questioned your atheist or Christian convictions. What did you learn from the experience?
  • How can one posit the non-existence of an all-knowing being without [having] a full, omniscient knowledge yourself?
  • Do you believe in accessible, ontological truth?
  • To what extent does our understanding of the formation of the world/universe/inhabitants contribute to the way we are to act or interact within it?
  • Does intellectualism, science, or evolution impact your disbelief in God? If so, why?
  • How do you justify the presence of a conscious [sic], in correlation with the Id, and Superego?
  • It seems like atheists in general at one time believed in God, but then turned away because of some type of hurt, lost a loved one, etc. They are angry at God, it seems. Why are you an atheist?
  • How do you avoid the despair that comes with nihilism, and how do you assert meaning or where does this meaning come from that supports existentialism?
  • Is free will simply a product of how God creates our brains?
  • Why does God create people who are damned to hell from their foundation?
  • What has influenced your beliefs towards the concept of God?
  • What do you believe the role of religion is in society?
  • Why does an atheist get offended when a Christian is humbly offering eternal happiness? Why is that idea unattractive? Since no one knows what happens after death, isn’t believing in God worth the risk? Sincerely, B. Pascal (I added the signature. Just making sure you’re still reading).
  • How do you use science to prove incidents that have happened to you or friends, that a Christian might say was a miracle by God?
  • [To atheists] What is your purpose for living?
  • If you believe that there is/are universal truths (morality), to what extent do you believe people are responsible for teaching, observing, and enforcing them?
  • [To all] Do you personally feel as though there is a meaning or goal for life?
  • For many Christians, a belief in (and personal relationship with) God provides them with a purpose, context, and meaning for their lives. As an atheist, what do you look to for as a reason to get out of bed? Does one look towards philosophy? Does one look towards the teachings of Nietzsche or towards existentialism? Both don’t provide a very optimistic justification for existing or continuing to exist, it would seem. Do you study philosophy?
  • Is it the case that in order to do science/examine evidence one must hold to certain beliefs and assumptions that are not demonstrated scientificaly/empirically? Put another way, is it the case that in order to examine evidence, I must have beliefs formed based on which I draw conclusions about the evidence?
  • Do you believe faith should be based solely on reason?
  • Can you reason your way to Christianity at all, or is it based on 100% faith?
  • [For Ashley and Hemant] Do you ever feel like you’re missing anything in your life? Or maybe that there is something more…even if it’s not God for you?
  • Do you ever long for a relationship with a divine power (God) such as you see with the Christian population? Either for that deeper meaning in life, loneliness, or some other reason?
  • Do you only believe in things that can be tested? If no, do you believe in non-tangible things like love and hope?
  • Can parents and pastors really compete with the amount of influence a secular school system (7-8 hours per day) and a media-saturated culture has upon young minds? Honestly, compared to churches which one has more power to indoctrinate minds, the school system or churches?
  • There is a view in some Christian schools that God is the catalyst behind the Big Bang and that God guided evolution along to the point to the level of complexity of humans. I don’t see how a process of evolution described as random mutations and survival of the fittest could lead to the way we are today without a “guiding hand.”
  • Some scientists claim that they know what data/facts would be necessary to change their views on evolution/creationism, and that no such evidence empirically exists. Do Christians have or should they have a similar mindset in regards to their own views?
  • I’d love to have a dialogue like this on my campus…but I’m afraid it would all go horribly wrong! How do you host a dialogue like this?
  • Doesn’t the claim that God allows too much suffering reflect the questioner’s nature, not God’s nature?
  • Do you believe in objective morality? If yes, where do you think it comes from? If no, why not?
  • Why does morality make sense?
  • [to atheist panelists] If you ever came face-to-face with God, how do you think you would view your life up to that point? In other words, does the existence of God really have any meaning or relevance to how you think people ought to live?
  • Why do atheists talk about God all the time at all? What does it matter to them if they don’t even believe in his existence?
  • How do you find meaning in your life, and where would you say the value of life lies?
  • What would you say is the most polarizing difference between a Christian worldview and an atheist worldview?
  • What is the meaning of life for theists and nontheists?
  • What are the greatest barriers to community between Christians and atheists?
  • What do we do that offends atheists most?
  • How can we as Christians use our faith in a way that enhances or encourages friendship between the Christian and atheist communities?
  • How are atheists different from each other in worldview/in their atheism? (eg, atheists from western vs. eastern cultures).
4 Comments leave one →
  1. Knockgoats permalink
    February 24, 2010 4:47 pm

    In what sense do you think the “problem of evil” is a problem for atheists? I’m assuming you do not simply mean in a practical sense – how to combat evil – but philosophically. As an atheist, I don’t see any such problem.

  2. Johann permalink
    February 24, 2010 4:58 pm

    The first set of questions came from Steve, KG, not from Jon. Check the link at the top. ;)

    He dropped by to comment on another entry, so you might well get an answer here, but I’d try his blog if you want to be sure.

  3. Knockgoats permalink
    February 24, 2010 5:10 pm

    Oh, thanks Johann, and apologies Jon – though it would be interesting to know whether he agrees with Steve, and if so, why.

  4. February 25, 2010 9:41 am

    Just thought you guys would like to know that my atheist friend Rusty (who attended the conference) answered all the questions listed above over at my blog, in the comments.

    http://stevelutz.wordpress.com/2010/02/24/questions-asked-unasked-from-the-atheist-christian-panel-discussion-at-jubilee-10/

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