My Opening Statement With Dinesh D'Souza

My 15 minute opening statement: "Does the Christian God Exist?"

I’m going to offer several arguments based on facts we should all agree on that show the Christian God does not exist. My claim is that these facts will force Dinesh into arguing over and over for what I’ll call the Dumb and Dumber Defense, based on the movie with that title starring Jim Carrey. In every single case Dinesh’s response will be pretty much the same. Rather than admit his faith is improbable, he will be forced to claim that what he’s defending is still possible despite these facts. But remember, it’s possible that Jim Carrey could’ve gotten the girl of his dreams in the movie too. The girl said he had a “one in a million” chance at doing so.

Isn’t it obvious that had Dinesh been born of Muslim rather than Christian parents he would be defending Allah tonight with the same passion? I wasn’t born skeptical. None of us were. We were all raised as believers. We initially believed whatever our parents told us. If they said there is a Santa Claus, then he existed until they said otherwise. If we were told there was a god named Zeus we would’ve believed it. The problem is that our parents never told us the Christian God didn’t exist because their parents never told them.

So given the proliferation of so many other religions and sects around the world we must learn to be critical of what we were raised to believe in our Christian culture. After all, brainwashed people do not know that they are brainwashed. To do this we must apply the same level of skepticism to our own inherited religion as we do to the religions of others. When Christians understand why they dismiss all other religions, they will understand why I dismiss theirs.

I think there is enough evidence to settle these religious disputes though, but only if people demand hard evidence for what they believe, like I do. Christians likewise demand hard evidence when they argue against other religions by claiming they lack it. When it comes to Christianity I agree with the Protestant criticisms of Catholicism as well as Catholic criticisms of Protestants. And I agree with the fundamentalist criticisms of liberals as well as liberal criticisms of fundamentalists. I agree with Muslim and Jewish criticisms of Christianity, as well as Christian criticisms of other world religions. When they criticize each other I think they’re all right! What’s left is the demise of Christianity and religion as a whole.

The sad fact is that believers do not dispassionately evaluate the evidence for their culturally inherited religious faith. It’s crystal clear from a number of psychological studies that people are heavily influenced by non-rational factors and woefully inadequate at evidential reasoning skills; all of us, about most everything. All of us believe what we prefer to be true and we defend that which brings us Power, Money and/or Sex, what the three masters of suspicion, Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud argued. Since we can so easily be led to believe and defend what we want to be true, we must insist on having hard evidence for what we’ll accept. We should demand this of the Christian God just as surely as Christians demand it of the other gods they reject. It’s that simple. If God supposedly created us with minds that require evidence before we accept something, then it stands to reason he wouldn’t create us this way and not also provide us what we need to believe.

In Dinesh’s book, What’s So Great About Christianity, he presents very little positive evidence for the Christian God that excludes alternative conclusions. I’m very surprised he doesn’t even realize this. He argues that most people in our western culture believe, that Christianity is growing in the world, and that Christianity is unique. Of course, these claims are all at true. Tell us something we don’t know next time, okay? He also claims it’s beneficial to believe, although in the process Dinesh paints an unbalanced and sometimes ignorant rosy picture of Christianity, especially when it comes to the basis for morality, the origins of democracy and science. It is not true Christianity can take credit for all that’s good in our society. And it is not true Christianity caused no serious harms either. Human morality and politics are human inventions which have evolved over time, just as our scientific understandings of the world. It’s that simple. But this is pretty much all you’ll find in his book.

Religions are human inventions too. And they too evolve. They are inextricably linked with their given cultures. So it stands to reason that any given religion is beneficial to its particular culture because as a human invention it helped to make that culture in the first place, even if they could all be greatly improved with a healthy dose of skepticism. Just ask an Amish person if his religion has social benefits, or a Buddhist in Thailand, or a Shintoist in Japan, and they will all say it does, and that their culture is better than ours, and that this shows their religion is true. And it’s patently obvious that non-Christian cultures, most notably ancient Greece and Rome, have done just fine without any Christian influence at all.

So there just isn’t anything in Dinesh’s book that shows his particular evolving branch of Christianity is true or any of its many other different culturally produced sects. All we find in it are things that, even if shown to be true, are consistent with his faith. But just showing that something is consistent with his faith does not show his faith is probable. That’s a huge non-sequitur. For instance, even if Dinesh can successfully argue that our universe began to exist and that this is consistent with his belief that there is a creator, so what? Such a belief is shared by other monotheistic religions and/or deism. Such a belief is consistent with a god who created this world as nothing more than a scientific experiment who thinks of us as rats in a maze, wondering what we will conclude about it all and how we will live our lives. Such a belief is consistent with a creator god who guides the universe ultimately toward an evil purpose, but has chosen to maliciously present himself as benevolent to play a trick on us. Such a belief is consistent with a divine tinkerer who is learning as he goes. Such a belief is also consistent with a god who created the quantum wave fluctuation that produced this universe as his last act before committing suicide. For once we allow supernatural explanations into our equations then any god will do. And this is why scientists cannot punt to theistic explanations like this.

But in fact cosmologists today agree that quantum mechanics prevented there ever being a cosmic singularity. The universe was never an infinitesimal point in space-time, and so there is no basis to assume that time began with the big bang. Cosmologists have published several plausible scenarios by which our universe appeared by quantum tunneling from a pre-existing universe and that time, had no beginning.

In his book Dinesh offers nothing by way of a response to these other scenarios and he seems unaware of the work of cosmologists for the last 20 years. It’s as if he is oblivious to these things, because his faith has a brainwashing and blinding effect. And while he does argue miracles are possible he offers very little to support the reliability of the Bible or evidence to show that a miracle actually occurred in the ancient biblical world.

But when it comes to the Bible isn’t it obvious that it was written from the perspective of a barbaric, superstitious and pre-scientific people? Who else would believe that god-like beings could co-habit with the daughters of men, or that Jacob could increase his flock of sheep using mandrakes, or that the magicians in Moses’ day could turn their staffs into snakes, or that people actually responded to a challenge to call down fire from the sky, or cast lots in a boat during a storm to see which god sent it? Can you imagine any judge today deciding a case by casting lots? And if Balaam walked into a bar and said his ass talked Dinesh would not believe it until Balaam made his ass talk. And neither would you. We also find genocide and child sacrifice commanded by the tribal god in the Bible, and the warning that an eternal punishment in hell awaits those who don’t believe. There are a lot of reasons not to believe the Bible: It’s inconsistent with itself, not supported by archaeology, contains fairy tales, failed prophecies, and many forgeries.

Isn’t it clear that evidence from the historical past is inadequate for believing in specific doctrines that cannot be rationally explained? Historical evidence is considered so poor as evidence that all philosophers of history agree there is no such thing as objective historical writing. History is all in the mind, a few have said. At the very least it seems that almost anything can be rationally denied in the past even if it happened. And this applies even more forcefully to extraordinary claims of miracles in the past. Historians must write history from their perspective. They cannot do otherwise. They must judge the past by the standards of today, and by today’s standards miracles do not happen. After all, a report of a miracle is not the same thing as experiencing one. Even if miracles have taken place we have no reason to believe they have. Dinesh must meet an almost impossible double burden of proof here. For in order to argue an event is miraculous he must first show the event is extremely improbable given natural laws. But then he must turn right around and claim that this same extremely improbable event took place anyway.

On top of this there is the dubious nature of the doctrines derived from these miraculous claims. They cannot be rationally explained, like the relationship of the three persons in the trinity, the logical coherence of the incarnation of a person who is 100% God and 100% man, how the death of Jesus can possibly atone for sins, and how there can be a resurrected body. So if given the choice between believing in the poor evidence of history, or in following the sheer logical improbability with regard to these doctrines, I must go with reason every single time.

And isn’t it a no-brainer that if God exists he has not communicated his perfect will to the Church down through the centuries? A good foreknowing God could easily have communicated better, such that there would be no Inquisition, witch hunts, heresy trials, female subjugation, Crusades, or institutional slavery. All he had to do is replace the tenth commandment, which is a thought crime about coveting, with something like this: “Thou shalt not kill people with different beliefs, treat women as inferior, steal land in my name, or own slaves.” And he could have communicated doctrine better too. During the eight French wars of Religion and the Thirty Years War eight million Christians killed each other, in large part over doctrine! It was a Christian bloodbath that decimated Germany. Catholics killed Protestants, Protestants killed Catholics, and Protestants killed each other with a religious fever that would make Hitler jealous. If they had modern weapons of war we can only imagine what would’ve happened to Europe as a whole. All Jesus had to do was clearly say he was establishing a church and who was to run it. All Jesus had to clearly say was whether or not the Eucharist was literally his flesh and blood. It’s that simple. Out of this conflict religious tolerance was born and with it the basis for modern democracy, something we find precursors of in ancient Greece.

If God is perfectly good, all knowing, and all powerful, then the amount of massive suffering in this world is as close to an empirical refutation of the Christian concept of God as is possible. If God exists then like a good parent he would not allow us to abuse the freedom he gave us. The giver of a gift is blameworthy if he gives gifts to those whom he knows will terribly abuse those gifts. Any mother who gives a razor blade to a two-year-old is culpable if that child hurts himself or others with it. Good mothers only give their children more and more freedom to do what they want so long as they are responsible with their freedom. It’s that simple.

If God exists then the 2004 Indonesian tsunami that killed a quarter of a million people should never have occurred. If God had prevented it, none of us would even know he kept it from happening, precisely because it didn’t happen. This goes for the disaster in Haiti too.

Furthermore, the amount of animal suffering is atrocious as they prey on one another to feed themselves when a good God could’ve created us all as vegetarians in the first place. God could’ve created all human beings with one color of skin too. Then there would be no racism or race based slavery. God could’ve created us with much stronger immune systems such that there would be no pandemics which have decimated whole populations of people.

The major Christian objection is that if God had created the universe differently it would upset the present ecosystem and/or go against the laws of nature. But as David Hume said, it seems patently obvious that the operation of the world by natural laws “seems nowise necessary for God.” An omnipotent God could do perpetual miracles, and if not, why not? Only if Christians expect very little from an omnipotent God can they defend his ways.

There are other things I could argue, but I’ll stop here. Dinesh knows my answers to nearly all of his objections. I suspect he will offer his objections anyway, in hopes few people here have read my book.