Apparently some people dont’ understand how reality and arguments work when it comes to debating religion, so I’ve decided to try and explain. An argument about religion has to follow the same rules that any argument has to follow. Some people blatantly try to ignore this, and it only hurts their claim.
Firstly, when you make a statement, you are making a claim. “I ate cereal for breakfast, I have $20 in my pocket, I have a diamond the size of a car in my backyard, there is a god.” Those are all claims. When you make a claim, no matter how big it is, you have the burden of proof. That means that it is reasonable for someone not to believe your claim until you prove it. We have this same idea in our legal system: Innocent until proven guilty. When someone makes the claim that you committed a crime, you are innocent (meaning the state doesn’t believe the claim) until they prove your guilt.
This applies to every claim that someone makes. Religion does NOT have special exception status!
To “prove” a claim, you need evidence. Evidence is support that backs up your claim. The more evidence the better. Again, this is valid everywhere in day to day life, and religion is not immune.
However! There are many types of evidence. There are 8 criteria to decide how good a piece of evidence is. They are:
Reliability, Expertise of the source, Bias, Consistency, Recency, Relevance, Completeness, and Accuracy.
The more of these tests a piece of evidence fulfills, the stronger it is, and thus the more weight it carries in an argument.
Reliability: How many times has this been proven correct in the past?
Expertise: Is the source competent on the subject that it addresses?
Bias: Does the source have a stake in the claim?
Consistency: Is the evidence consistent with other data from the same source? (Internal consistency) And is it consistent with data from other sources? (External consistency)
Recency: How recent is the information? The more up-to-date the better.
Relevance: Is the evidence related to the claim? Does the data support the claim?
Completeness: Does the source provide enough information for a critical thinker to accept?
Accuracy: Are the citations complete? Are the sources of evidence fully identified?
Now remember! These tests apply to EVERYTHING we do in our day to day lives. A critical thinker is someone who uses these tests to access the validity of any and all claims. If the evidence supporting a claim is numerous and pasts these tests, the claim is most likely true. Again, we know this is true from day to day living. Religion DOES NOT get a free pass. It has to pass these tests just like everything else. Making a special exception to reason that can’t be applied to all arguments is invalid and logically dubious.
So lets apply this shall we? Christians often bring up the bible as evidence to support at a claim. How does the bible hold up as evidence when put to the 8 tests?
Reliability? There are numerous times the bible has said things that were incorrect. List of scientifically unsound claims
Expertise of the source? The people who wrote the bible lived between 400 BCE and 600 CE. They had no knowledge of germs, evolution, chemistry, biology, physics, etc…so no, they’re not competent about the things they make claims about (namely existence)
Bias? Yes, the people who wrote the bible had a personal stake in it. They were writing a book that would become their religion. They wanted to put themselves in the most favorable light. Hence why god is so similar to an angry, jealous, misogynistic desert dweller.
Consistency? World renowned biblical scholar Dr. Bart Ehram points out that there are more inconsistencies in the manuscripts making up the new testament than there are words in the new testament. For a small list of 408 of them, go here.
Recency? Again, the bible was written between 400 BCE and 600 CE, it’s not recent at all, and the scientific and moral contradictions reflect that.
Relevance? Depends on how the bible is being applied to an argument
Completeness? So far it has failed all the tests up to this point. There is almost no evidence around today to support the biblical claims.
Accuracy? While we might know some of the authors of the bible, we don’t know the countless number or scribes that hand copied their words and changed things. Again, you must see “Misquoting Jesus”
After applying these critical thinking tests to the bible, it shows itself to be weak evidence, yet christians keep holding it up as proof. It is important to remember that these are the rules we use everyday to evaluate all types of claims, be they advertising claims, your spouse’s claims, or a minister’s claims about god. Religion is not exempt from the tests of logic.