In December of 2016, atheist Jeffrey Jay Lowder debated Dr. Frank Turek on the question, "What Better Explains Reality: Naturalism or Theism?"1 During the Q and A period of the debate, two well-meaning Christians asked Lowder a question some like this2 - "If God does not exist, then why bother arguing about him?" To his credit, Lowder admitted the question was a good one and freely confessed that while the naturalist could enjoy temporal purpose during their life here on earth,3 that on his view there is no ultimate purpose in the sense a theist believes. However, I think Lowder's responses to the question ultimately demonstrate that it is isn't all that difficult for the atheist (or naturalist)4 to offer some reasonable replies.5
Lowder's responses were as follows:6
1. "I think the question is interesting intrinsically."
This seems very reasonable. Even as an atheist, you need to fill you days with something. Just because the atheist has no ultimate purpose, it does not follow from this that they cannot live for a temporal one. This can involve interests such as family, friends and philosophy!
2. "It is important. Whether you are a Christian, atheist or naturalist, it is important to know why you believe God does or does not exist."
Here, Lowder demonstrates his reverence for the "big questions" in life. And I could not agree more. The importance of how one answers the question, "Does God Exist?" cannot be understated.
3. "I want to know if what I believe is right or wrong. And if it is wrong, I want to adjust my beliefs accordingly."
To me, this response is the strongest of those offered. The atheist may not believe in God, but there are many who want to make sure their view is correct. Therefore, debating and discussing whether or not God exists is a fruitful venture regardless of what view you hold, assuming your ultimate goal is to adjust your beliefs to that which is true. To his credit, Dr. Turek did agree with Lowder here and even said, "Jeffrey might be opened to changing his mind. He might come to believe God does exist and that there is ultimate purpose."
The Christian should welcome this discussion and applaud atheists like Lowder who are willing to have it.
4. "Respectful and intelligent dialogue between parties who disagree contributes to a healthy society."
Remember that whether you are an atheist or a Christian, we all have to live together. And I see no reason why an atheist would not want to contribute to the health of society, if for no other reason than to preserve their own living conditions and the living conditions of those they love.
I think there are good questions to ask atheists, but I find the oft-repeated question highlighted in this post is just not all that difficult to answer from an atheist perspective.
Courage and Godspeed,
1. You can find the debate (and my review) here.
2. I am paraphrasing the question here for clarity.
3. A notion I hope no Christian would deny.
4. These terms were used somewhat interchangeably during the debate. I realize they are not equivocal.
5. I hope that if a believer does ask a question like the one being highlighted here that it is well-meaning and not an attempt at playing "gotcha."
6. Again, his comments are paraphrased for clarity and I offer some brief commentary of my own.
7. For those who are interested in considering these questions more in-depth, checkout philosopher William Lane Craig's essay "The Absurdity of Life Without God" here.
4 Reasons Why William Lane Craig and Jeffrey Jay Lowder of the Secular Outpost Should Debate the Existence of God
Debate Video: Jeff Lowder vs. Frank Turek- What Better Explains Reality: Naturalism or Theism?
Apologetics315 Podcast: Frank Turek and Hollywood Heroes