Would evidence for God mean the end of atheism and Christianity? Yes, says Matt J. Rossano, a professor and department head of psychology at Southeastern Louisiana University. In a peculiar article at The Huffington Post, Rossano argues that scientific evidence for the existence of God is fatal to both the faith of the atheist and the believer:
. . . however one envisions convincing scientific evidence of God, let’s suppose we’ve got it. Let’s further suppose that this god is pretty much the god we all expected to find — not Aristotle’s reclusive thought-contemplating-itself god or Plato’s disappointingly limited Demiurge, but the “golden rule,” Ten Commandments kind of god with whom we are all pretty familiar. This God is now on the same footing as gravity, evolution, and the germ theory of disease. He is an accepted scientific fact. Now what?
Well nothing major — only the end of both atheism and Christianity. If scientific atheists are true to their convictions, then it seems that they have no choice but to become theists. Their worldview is based on evidence and the evidence says there’s a god.
From a Christian perspective, this is entirely wrong. As I’ve argued before, atheists do have sufficient scientific evidence for the existence of God. They just choose to ignore it because of moral or intellectual intransigence. If they can ignore sufficient evidence now, why would they not be able to continue doing so even if more evidence was presented?
But it is the claim that scientific evidence for God would mean the end of Christianity that is the truly strange claim:
A fundamental tenet of Christianity is free will. It is no stretch to say that Christianity without free will is simply not Christianity anymore. The Christian God grants humans free will and will not interfere with its exercise. Humans are free to believe or not believe, free to follow God’s laws or free to sin and separate themselves from God. God condemns no one. People condemn themselves. This is all standard, mainline Christian theology and it all gets utterly demolished by convincing scientific evidence of God.
While it would be unfair to say this is wholly and completely wrong, it is sufficiently confused that is totally misleading. While all Christians believe in some form of “free will,” Rossano seems to be saying that we all believe in absolute or libertarian free will—the idea that man’s choices are his alone, and not ultimately controlled or determined by God. Many Christians, including Calvinists like me, do not believe in that form of free will.
We really aren’t free to believe or not believe in germs, gravity, evolution or other firmly established scientific facts. We can foolishly try to deny them, but their effects are with us and their laws hold regardless of our attitude. If I jump off a cliff, it matters not a whit whether I believe in gravity; I’m gonna fall. The laws of physics, Mendelian genetics, viral contagion, etc. — my beliefs about these things are irrelevant. I follow their dictates. I suffer or enjoy their consequences.
The Christian God is not supposed to be like that (at least not in this life). His laws are not the laws of physics. One believes in him and follows his laws out of love and gratitude, not because of being compelled by necessity. It’s my choice if I want to hate my neighbor. If I see a greater immediate gain from not doing unto others, then I should be able to do that and God can’t get in my way. But if God is like gravity, then I will suffer the consequences of breaking his laws just as surely as I’ll break my neck if I step off a cliff. Love of God is as meaningless as love of the inverse square law.
In facts, the laws of physics are God’s laws. Natural laws are as much an expression of God’s will as are his moral laws. The moral law is indeed different in some respects, though not as significantly as Rossano seems to think. For instance, I can “break the law of gravity” by creating a zero gravity environment. Gravity may be hard to escape but it is not absolute, nor are the consequences for breaking its “law” inviolable. In contrast, moral laws are often relatively easy to break and their consequences can, for at least a time, be avoided.
Nevertheless, this is much different that saying, as Rossano does, that “God can’t get in my way” to prevent me from violating the moral law. No Christian that has ever read the Bible can doubt that God can prevent someone from acting in a way that is contrary to his revealed will.
Luckily for everyone, scientific attempts to prove or disprove God are all doomed to failure. We live in exactly the world the thoughtful Christian would expect to find. For those who believe, hints of God are everywhere. But none are convincing. Faith remains a requirement and atheism remains an option. A God who values free will would set it up just that way.
The idea that “hints for God are everywhere” but “none are convincing” is pure nonsense. Admittedly, many Christians do hold a fideistic faith in God. But this is weak and childish faith, not the faith of mature Christian. While I’m far from being a mature Christian myself, my faith is definitely based on evidence—both natural and supernatural.
The Bible is clear that everyone has been presented with so much natural evidence for God’s existence that they have no excuse for not believing in his existence. The Christian’s faith is much more than that: a faith in what God has done and will do in the future.
If a person believes that they have no evidence for God, they should not call themselves a Christian. Indeed, why would they even want too? Who would want to align themselves with a religion that requires committing intellectual suicide?
If I were convinced there was no evidence for God I would certainly not pretend to believe in him because I hold some fidestic intuition that I have labeled “faith.” That is certainly not a respectable faith, much less the faith of a Christian. To be a Christian is to be in possession of both evidence for the existence of God and an experiential relationship with him. For me to doubt the existence of God would be as absurd as doubting the existence of my wife.
I’m not sure what religion Rossano is talking about but it certainly doesn’t resemble Christianity.