1. What if you are wrong?
Ah, good old Pascal’s Wager. What have I got to lose? If God doesn’t exist and we all die with nothing to look forward to, what does it matter? But, if God does exist and we don’t believe, we go to hell.
If your God is who you say He is, surely he’ll forgive me for using my intellect and reason to doubt His existence? Surely he will say, “well although you didn’t devote your life to me, at least you thought about it” and let me through the pearly gates anyway? That is a merciful God. One who says “because you didn’t commit to an idea without evidence you must submit to an eternal damnation” is not a merciful God. Dan Barker in his fantastic book Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists said:
“Suppose there is a god, but he is only going to reward those people who have enough courage not to believe in him. This god is no less likely than Pascal’s. By believing in a god, Christians are risking eternal torture!”
But we don’t really need to expand on this point when we have this:
2. You should take a “leap of faith”; just believe.
Yes, it sounds weird and seems to go against what you think or reason, but if you just believed you could see the beauty and truth of –insert God/prophet here-
I am very suspicious of someone who tells me to disregard my reason and intellect in order to gain a different kind of truth. I have been relying on my reason throughout my life. I fully accept that many aspects of my reason could be flawed, but how flawed does it have to be for faith to be a more acceptable approach? (I’ve yet to read Reasonable Faith, but I sure hope WLC answers this!)
It has been said to me that faith does not require one to disregard reason, but instead faith can complement it. Well take, for example, the Christian religion. One of the, if not the most important, tenets of the religion is Jesus’ resurrection. As St Paul said, “If Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain” (1 Cor 15:14). I am not saying it didn’t happen, but I am at least going to require some level of evidence to accept that. The miracle of resurrection certainly goes against my reason as it stands.
3. What happened before the Big Bang?
I don’t know, and nor do you.
4. Where do you get your morals from?
From exactly the same place where you get yours; in part through social forces and upbringing, and in part through evolutionary explanations. There may be many more influences, but I doubt that there is an absolute standard of morality.
But let us suppose that there is. How would we find it out? Maybe through scripture. Which scripture should we choose? And then how are we going to read the scripture? It requires interpretation, which is relative. Maybe there is an absolute morality, and it is our job to align ourselves as close to it as possible. But because no-one can know what this standard is, we are all operating with relative moralities. Let us accept this, and work on this, with discussion and debate.
5. Without religion, what is the point of life?
If there is no afterlife, there is surely no hope. Life is ultimately pointless; you have literally nothing to live for.
Maybe there is no absolute point to life; I certainly wouldn’t rule it out. But if one thinks that at death, that is the end, then one has everything to live for. We have one shot at life, so we don’t want to waste it. We don’t do good actions and avoid evil actions because we fear eternal damnation or desire an everlasting paradise. We do such actions because this is all we have. Behave well for the sake of the act, for the sake of yourself and the community; NOT because you want a reward for it. As Christopher Hitchens said:
“No-one has ever beaten these odds… and it is a matter of getting used to that, and growing up and realising that you are expelled from your mother’s uterus as if shot from a cannon towards a barn door studded with old nail files and rusty hooks. It is a matter of how you use up the intervening time in an intelligent and ironic way, and try not to do anything ghastly to your fellow creatures.”