"Pertness and ignorance may ask a question in three lines, which it will cost learning and ingenuity thirty pages to answer. When this is done, the same question shall be triumphantly asked again the next year, as if nothing had ever been written upon the subject. "
R. E. Pucket was a faithful Christian for much of his life. However, as he began to expand his reading and investigate arguments against faith, he became convinced that faith was irrational. This impression was strengthened by the fact that Christians with which he interacted largely told him that he should believe for belief's sake, and that faith trumped rationality.
Pucket now spends a significant amount of time interacting with born again Christians who he feels are trying to convert him and win his soul. He rebuffs these attempts by presenting arguments that seem to stymie these Christians who in turn make vague appeals to "God's Plan" and blind faith.
In his article, "Top 50 Questions Christians Can't Answer" on Yahoo voices, Pucket lists out some of the arguments he has found that Christians seem to have no rational, logical answers for, and invites the readers to inspect their faith in light of these questions. Says Pucket:
"Don't get me wrong, they will have an answer for them. You will find, however, that their answers have no basis in verifiable fact or evidence whatsoever, and will be largely based in their blind faith forsaking all reason."
This series of articles will examine all fifty of Pucket's questions, five per article, and offer responses to these questions.
One of the important things that the Pucket list teaches is the danger of dogmatism. If a system of belief stands or falls on every minute doctrine or teaching within the system, then disarming one of these causes the whole thing to fall.Christianity has undergone inspection by hosts of intelligent and thoughtful people over its 2000-year history. Some, like Pucket, have come to the conclusion that it was untenable. Many more have explored different ways of thinking about and applying Christian ideas that do not involve abandoning the system. The very fact that Christianity is a system of thought that allows individual thinkers to explore it, rather than to blindly embrace it, at least suggests that it is not a system of intellectual tyranny.
This author suggests that many of things about Christians popularly believe may be found faulty without the entire system being destroyed. For Christianity to be untrue, it would have to be shown beyond a reasonable doubt that either humans do not require some sort of salvation from evil and suffering, or that no such salvation has been provided.
The answers provided to the questions in this series may not always be punchy rejoinders, magic bullets, or truth bombs. They may be far from convincing to a skeptic; however they do show that Christianity is at the very least internally consistent and existentially plausible.
A variety of the Christian views that Pucket attacks in these questions are held by a very specific sect of Christian believers, and by no means characterize the whole of Christian views. The questions also occasionally make broad statements which either mischaracterize Biblical teachings, or are backed up with no supporting evidence. Where these mistakes are made, the responses are largely aimed at correcting these mischaracterizations. This is not to say that the attack has no merit, but the attack would need to be re-worked to fit a proper representation of that belief.
Finally, it is worth noting that the questions are sometimes phrased in highly emotive or sarcastic forms. These articles will attempt to respond to the fundamental objection being raised, rather than the tone in which they are presented, however the questions themselves will be presented in their original form.
21 - A disciple of Christ, Thomas, was a skeptic. He walked with Jesus during his time on earth and physically witnessed with his own eyes certain miracles performed by him such as raising Lazarus from the dead and so forth.
(continued) However, after the crucifixion, Jesus supposedly rose three days later and Thomas did not believe it was truly him despite being told, prior to the incident by Jesus, that he would rise again in three days. Thomas required physical proof. Jesus allowed him to touch him and feel the wounds in his body to offer that proof to Thomas. Why doesn't god extend the same proof to humans alive today? Those that doubt his existence are no different than Thomas, requiring physical proof and he was a disciple of Jesus himself. If Thomas had been born one generation later, or even living today, he would have burned in hell for all eternity because he would not believe for the lack of physical proof. Paul was born after the death and ascension of Christ. Throughout his life, he did not believe that Jesus was the son of God and even went out of his way to persecute and murder Christians thinking that their religion was a dangerous belief system to practice. Lo and behold a flash of light came out of the sky and Jesus Christ himself appeared to Paul explaining to him that he is actually the one true god. Jesus told him that he was persecuting the followers of the only true faith. From that point on, Paul was a converted Christian. Again, if God was willing to go out of his way to physically prove to Paul that he actually exists, why is this not done today? Why isn't God willing to show those that doubt today the same degree of physical proof? Why should we be any different than Thomas and Paul?
This appears to be a variation on question 18. In order to raise this question, one must assume these accounts were actually true. If true, then the accounts themselves are proof of God’s existence. If false, there is no reason to question them, since they do not accurately represent the way in which God acts.
Of course, if these accounts are true, then one must also assume that Judas, who ate at Jesus side, saw his miracles, and so forth didn’t believe or didn’t care that Jesus was Messiah. Jesus himself said to the people of Israel, “…if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.” (Matthew 11:21b). Clearly there are certain people for whom no amount of evidence will ever be sufficient.
To say that God does not reveal his presence to people in the modern day in deeply convicting and personal ways is to ignore a staggering number of testimonies throughout history.
Former atheist Francis Collins describes his conversion experience this way:
“I was hiking in the Cascade Mountains on a beautiful fall afternoon. I turned the corner and saw in front of me this frozen waterfall, a couple of hundred feet high. Actually, a waterfall that had three parts to it — also the symbolic three in one. At that moment, I felt my resistance leave me. And it was a great sense of relief. The next morning, in the dewy grass in the shadow of the Cascades, I fell on my knees and accepted this truth — that God is God, that Christ is his son and that I am giving my life to that belief.”
Former atheist Paul Jones was convicted of God’s existence (and goodness) through the beauty of art he says:
"I began to see in some of the pictures spiritual qualities that were more than just good art. God is amazing - he deals with you where you are. He met me at my level. I started talking to myself about spiritual things."
Of course, personal experiences which convict of Jesus’ reality are convincing only to the person who experiences them. Another person may read that Thomas felt the wounds of a resurrected Jesus, and may not be convinced. The larger body of evidence as summarized in the answer to question 18 still remains for all to examine and accept or reject as they choose.
22 - Christians argue evolution by asking why there aren't any half-ape/half-men walking around today, right? Why don't we see giants, fiery talking serpents, talking donkeys and many other mythical creatures that are described in the Bible?
Firstly, it is important to note that the argument this question attributes “Christians,” is by no means representative of an argument that all Christians everywhere would make. In fact, Christians vary widely in their views on evolution, from Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis who adopts a literal six-day, fully formed creation model, to Francis Collins of BioLogos who believes that God used the process of evolution over millions of years in order to create.
Dr. William Lane Craig of Stand to Reason notes that there is significant genetic evidence for common ancestry in biological organisms, but a curious lack of evidence in the fossil record for “transitional forms” otherwise known as “missing links.” Consequently, the evidence for evolution in the sense of one species of organism turning into another species is somewhat inconclusive.
Secondly, there are no “mythological” creatures in the Bible.
The Bible makes it fairly evident that the “talking snake” of Genesis is an incarnation of Satan (2 Corinthians 11:3; Revelation 12:9; 20:2), not a species of animal. Similarly, the book of Numbers says that “the LORD opened the mouth of [Balaam’s] donkey.” Since this was a one-time miraculous act credited to God, it’s unreasonable to expect the ability to speak to be passed along genetically to future donkeys. It’s also something that God could presumably do at any time to any animal.
The “giants” mentioned in the book of Genesis (the Hebrew here has also been translated "mighty men" instead of giants) are not really described in terms of size. If they are anything like the description of Goliath in the book of 1 Samuel, they were large men, about seven or eight foot in size. Men of this size are rare, but not entirely fictional, and this does not make them mythological creatures
The book of Job describes two different animals of unknown taxonomy: “behemoth” which it describes thusly:
which I made as I made you;
he eats grass like an ox.
16 Behold, his strength in his loins,
and his power in the muscles of his belly.
17 He makes his tail stiff like a cedar;
the sinews of his thighs are knit together.
18 His bones are tubes of bronze,
his limbs like bars of iron.
19 “He is the first of the works of God;
let him who made him bring near his sword!
20 For the mountains yield food for him
where all the wild beasts play.
21 Under the lotus plants he lies,
in the shelter of the reeds and in the marsh.
22 For his shade the lotus trees cover him;
the willows of the brook surround him.
23 Behold, if the river is turbulent he is not frightened;
he is confident though Jordan rushes against his mouth.
24 Can one take him by his eyes,
or pierce his nose with a snare?”
…And “Leviathan” which is described this way:
“Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook
or press down his tongue with a cord?
2 Can you put a rope in his nose
or pierce his jaw with a hook?
3 Will he make many pleas to you?
Will he speak to you soft words?
4 Will he make a covenant with you
to take him for your servant forever?
5 Will you play with him as with a bird,
or will you put him on a leash for your girls?
6 Will traders bargain over him?
Will they divide him up among the merchants?
7 Can you fill his skin with harpoons
or his head with fishing spears?
8 Lay your hands on him;
remember the battle—you will not do it again!”
Since the book of Job is an extremely ancient text written in a dialect of Aramaic that is not used in any other ancient text still available (and is somewhat difficult to translate) the names “Behemoth” and “Leviathan” do not necessarily refer to mythological beasts, but may be ancient words for known species such as elephants, hippopotamuses, or crocodiles. It is difficult from these references to make a strong case that these are mythological creatures, especially since these are the only references to these animals in ancient texts, and the descriptions are general enough to fit a number of known animal species.
Any other mythological creatures mentioned in scripture are part of apocalyptic visions and are used by the writer as symbolism, not as descriptions of what they thought were real animals.
23 - If we are to only have sex for the purpose of pro-creation, and to do so outside of the scope of pro-creation is sinful, then why would God create us with an over abundance of nerve endings in our reproductive organs making sex extremely pleasurable?
This claim is made nowhere in scripture. In fact, the “Song of Songs” also known as the “Song of Solomon” is a book of the Bible which praises sex as a physical expression of romantic love.
24 - Why do Christians share the same statistical rate of divorce as everyone else? "What God hath made, let no man put asunder." How could Christian marriages fail if they are sanctified by God? Hmmmm.... interesting.
This is by no means an agreed-upon claim. Dr. Bradford Wilcox, Director of the National Marriage Project, says:
“…conservative Protestants, and counties with higher shares of conservative Protestants, are indeed more likely to divorce—compared to Americans in other mainstream traditions, from mainline Protestantism to Mormonism to Catholicism.
“…This study also finds that religiously unaffiliated Americans, and counties with higher shares of unaffiliated Americans, are the most likely to divorce. So, religion per se is not the problem and, indeed, secularism seems to be more conducive towards divorce than conservative Protestantism.”
Professor Bradley Wright, a sociologist at the University of Connecticut, explains from his analysis of people who identify as Christians but rarely attend church, that 60 percent of these have been divorced. Of those who attend church regularly, 38 percent have been divorced.
[Bradley R.E. Wright, Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites … and Other Lies You’ve Been Told, (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2010), p. 133.]
W. Bradford Wilcox, a leading sociologist at the University of Virginia and director of the National Marriage Project, finds from his own analysis that "active conservative Protestants" who regularly attend church have are 35 percent less likely to divorce compared to those who have no affiliation. Nominally attending conservative Protestants are 20 percent more likely to divorce, compared to secular Americans.
[W. Bradford Wilcox and Elizabeth Williamson, "The Cultural Contradictions of Mainline Family Ideology and Practice," in American Religions and the Family, edited by Don S. Browning and David A. Clairmont (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007) p. 50.]
These statistics regardless, the only difference between Christians and non-Christians is that Christians have realized that they are corrupt human beings, and have repented of their corruption to God. This doesn’t make them perfect. If they were perfect, they would have no need of God nor his forgiveness.
25 - In the book of Luke chapter 19 verse 27, Jesus says, "But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me." This seems pretty clear that Jesus would have Christians kill all non-believers.
The cited passage is part of a parable – a metaphoric tale intended to convey some moral or spiritual lesson. In the context of this parable, it is talking about a final judgment of the world when Christ returns at the end of time. A parable is not to be taken literally. Here are few biblical accounts which are not parablistic in nature and were actually meant to be taken literally:
“And [Jesus] sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them.” (Luke 9:52-55)
“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:8-9)
““But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” (Luke 6:27-28)
“ But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:35-36)