Three Reasons Why Belief in Atheism Is Not Justified

Paul looks at three reasons why there is no such thing as justified belief in atheism.

Text Publication: April 27, 2020

Text Changes/Revisions:

Author(s): Paul Larson

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Among scientists and a wide swath of philosophers in the academy, it is axiomatic that atheism is the intellectual high road. Those who believe in God want a crutch to make the harshness of life easier, or are simply too afraid to depart from the comfortable confines of their religious upbringing and to bear the condemnations for leaving the faith from those in their preferred social group. In contrast to this, those who call themselves atheists portray themselves as the noble-minded enquirers after truth, those willing to follow lady reason whither she will go.

One who described himself as an atheist indicated to me that he believed that naturalism/atheism was a better worldview because it gives a more accurate understanding of reality than theism. He went further than this in saying that he believed there was no more reason or evidence to believe in a God than any other mythical creature, and that a God who created this world would be a moral monster.

I heartily commend the idea of believing a worldview that gives a more accurate understanding of reality than an alternative worldview, but there is a problem when this idea is applied to atheism. If atheism is in fact true, there would be no basis to say that we should believe that atheism. That is, if atheism were true, we would not be justified in believing that atheism is true. And of course, if atheism were false, we would not be justified in believing it to be true. Thus, there are no circumstances in which we would be justified in believing that atheism is true.

What is sure to spark an objection here is the claim that we would not be justified in believing that atheism is true if in fact atheism were true. If something is true, how can we not be justified in believing that it is true? That sounds wrong, does it not? Well, for many beliefs, I would agree that, if the belief were true, then there would be situations in which we would be justified in having that belief. But belief in atheism is different from these other beliefs. Here are three reasons why there is no such thing as justified belief in atheism, even if atheism were true.

1. Belief in atheism is not justified because in atheism, there is no subject of believing, no "I" or "you", that can have beliefs that are justified or unjustified.

2. Belief in atheism is not justified because there would be no objective moral values to dictate that one should believe what is true, and no objective values at all to make true beliefs more valuable than false beliefs. Since the very idea of justification is dependent on the ethical notion that we ought to believe what is true, or on some objective value about believing what is true to be better than believing what is false, the non-existence of objective values (moral and otherwise) would mean that there is no justification of any beliefs, including the belief that atheism is true.

3. Belief in atheism is not justified because in atheism, our cognitive faculties would not be sufficiently reliable, and so there would not be adequate justification to trust the beliefs produced by those faculties, including the belief that atheism is true.

With that overview in hand, let's consider each one of these reasons in turn. The first reason why there is no such thing as justified belief in atheism even if atheism were true is that there is no subject of believing, no "I" or "you", to know or believe anything. In order for someone to be justified in having a belief, there must be a someone to have that belief. But in atheism, there is no someone to have a belief.

Why do I make that claim? Suppose you go to the beach and there you find a huge pile of rocks. You then take those rocks and arrange them to spell out the sentence "The earth revolves around the sun". That's a true statement, but can it be truly said that any of the individual rocks has the belief that "the earth revolves around the sun"? Of course the rocks do not believe such a statement. No individual rock has such a belief, and putting the rocks together does not somehow make it such that any of them believes anything. Rocks don't have beliefs.

I use the example of rocks here given that it is so visual, but the same point can be made with elementary particles of nature. An elementary particle (assuming such particles exist) is a particle that is not composed of other particles; it has no substructure. In the standard model of elementary particles, the elementary particles are fundamental fermions (which consist of leptons and quarks, and if, there is anti-matter, also anti-leptons and anti-quarks) and also fundamental bosons (which would include gauge bosons and scalar bosons). Now it does not matter whether these elementary particles are determined in how they interact and move, or undetermined and thus maybe operate in a stochastic or probabalistic manner. What matters is that these particles are exactly like our rocks on the beach. They don't think about anything. They don't think at all. They don't believe anything or know anything. They are just there.

In atheism, everything in all of reality is ultimately reducible to a finite number of these elementary particles that can not think or believe or know. Just as no amount of rocks arranged on the beach makes it such that any of the rocks believe anything, no amount of mindless elementary particles put together in any configuration will ever make it the case that any of these elementary particles ever come to believe anything or have any knowledge. The idea that something has knowledge or believes something is simply an illusion. There is no knowledge, since there is nothing that can have knowledge. There is no justified belief, nor any beliefs at all, since there is nothing that can have beliefs. Thus, no beliefs can be justified at all, including a belief in atheism. In order for belief in atheism to be justified, there must be something that can have a belief, but if atheism is true, there is nothing that can even have beliefs. Thus, if atheism is true, belief in atheism is not justified. And of course if atheism is false, then belief in atheism is also not justified. Either way, belief in atheism is not justified.

One possible response to this argument is to claim that even if nothing exists that can have beliefs, it might still be true that completely material beings have knowledge, and that knowledge might be justified. Why might someone think that? Let's go back to the example of the rocks on the beach that were arranged to form the sentence, 'The earth revolves around the sun'. Can it be said that these rocks have knowledge, namely, the knowledge that the earth revolves around the sun? I think that they do not, but before joining me in that conclusion, think of a similar situation. What about books in a library? Do they have knowledge? Of course, it is common for people to speak of libraries as treasure troves of knowledge. They speak of the knowledge contained in this book or that book. But do books really have knowledge?

What books have, and what the rocks in the sand have, is an arrangement of their parts in such a way that they encode information according to an independent symbol convention. That is, the rules of English grammar, spelling, syntax, and meaning make it such that certain arrangements of English letters encode certain non-trivial, complex specified information (that is, information that goes beyond just Shannon information), and other arrangements of English letters do not. The rocks on the beach and the letters on the page are arranged such that they do encode this information. The situation is similar with information on hard drives and even DNA. They have large amounts of non-trivial, complex specified information coded into them.

But the question is, do they have knowledge? Well, if you were to change the question and ask if they know anything or believing anything, of course computer hard drives, books in a library, and rocks on a beach do not know or believe anything. That answers our question. if something can not know anything, then it can not have knowledge. If something can not believe anything, then it can not have beliefs. A book does not know anything. It does not believe. It is just lifeless ink and paper and other materials. The same is true of the hard drive and rocks on the beach.

If you hesitate to agree with me on this, I would grant that a book does contain information and that this information is identical in its content to the knowledge that the book's author had according to the rules of the independent symbol convention that is the English language. That symbol convention, the English language, allows the contents of an author's knowledge to be inscribed into a physical medium, whether that be the paper of a book, or rocks on a beach, or the disks of a hard drive.

But neither the paper nor the rocks nor the hard drive believes anything or knows anything. Thus, since it can't know or believe anything, it can't have any beliefs that are justified or unjustified. In atheism, all of reality just is reducible to those rocks, that paper, and the hard drive, so to speak, reducible to the elementary particles of matter. And none of those things can have beliefs or know anything. Thus, to claim that one believes that atheism is true or that one knows it is true is to implicitly deny that atheism is true. Such a claim involves a logical contradiction. If atheism is true, one can't be justified in believing that atheism is true, because there is no subject of believing, no "you" or "I", that can know or believe anything. And if there is no "you" or "I" that can believe or know anything, it is of course true that there can not be justified belief that atheism is true or that anything else is true.

This conclusion is not changed if you shift the physical medium in which the information is inscribed from rocks, paper, and a hard drive, to neurons and brain cells. No cell in the brain, nor any of its fantastically designed molecular components can have beliefs or know anything. Those parts and the outer cell wall are no different than rocks, hard drives, paper, and elementary particles. None of them think or believe or know anything. Thus, if atheism is true, there is no "I" or "you" to believe anything, and so there is no belief in atheism that can be justified.

The second reason that there is no such thing as justified belief in atheism is that the very concept of epistemic justification depends on a value judgment about it being right to believe what is true. Since there are no objective moral values (or objectivre values of any kind) if God does not exist and if all that exists is physical matter, there can be no epistemic justification. And if there is no epistemic justification, then belief in atheism can not be justified either.

Two points are crucial in this observation. The first is that there are no objective moral values (or objective values of any kind) if God does not exist, a point which will be addressed later on. The second point is that the very concept of epistemic justification is rooted in a judgment about belief in what is true being objectively valuable and good. The internet encyclopedia of philosophy defines epistemic justification as "an evaluative concept about the conditions for right or fitting belief." The words "right" and "fitting" are both concepts of objective value. Thus, the removal of that objective value would also remove the very possibility of epistemic justification. In order for any belief at all, including the belief that atheism is true, to be epistemically justified, there must be objective value. But the absence of such value if atheism is true means that one can not be justified in believing that atheism is true if atheism is indeed true. Thus, if atheism is true, we can not be justified in believing it. And if it is false, then we are also not justified in believing it.

I cite the internet encyclopedia of philosophy as an example. Let us not treat it as if it were an authoritative source and gospel truth. If we move beyond that example, though, the problem that we would encounter is that there really is no good way to define epistemic justification in a way that does not implicitly or explicitly invoke objective value. Let us go back to the message from the man who described himself as an atheist. He claimed that he believed that naturalism/atheism was a better worldview because it gives a more accurate understanding of reality than theism. Notice that he says that some worldview was better. This is a statement of objective value. It was not a statement of the sort that I like this ice cream better than that ice cream. It was not a statement of preferences. It was given as a statement of fact.

But why was this worldview given the honor of being more objectively valuable than some other worldview? Because it was closer to the truth. To use his words, because it gave a more accurate understanding of reality. Of course, if we do have power to choose our beliefs (a point about which I am uncertain), then I would heartily recommend adopting a worldview that gives a more accurate understanding of reality. But even this self-proclaimed atheist invokes an objective moral value to justify a worldview in which there are no objective values. It is a logical contradiction. If atheism is indeed true, then there does not exist the objective value that belief in a more accurate understanding of reality is better. Without that objective value, the concept of epistemic justification disappears. It loses its essential feature. And if there is no epistemic justification, then there is also no justified belief in anything. Accordingly, the belief that atheism is true can not be epistemically justified.

One possible objection to what I have said here is that objective values do not depend on God's existence any more than mathematical truths depend on his existence. Many philosophers consider mathetmical truths such as "2+2=4" to be what are called abstract objects. Abstract objects would be described as non-physical entities that exist but have no causal powers. The philosopher Gideon Rosen defines an object as abstract "if and only if it is both non-physical and non-mental". So the proposition "2+2=4" would be an abstract object. To the question "What is an abstract object?", the philosopher Gonzalo Rodriguez-Pereyra says that "There is no standard definition of the phrase. Perhaps the most common conception of abstract objects is that of non-spatiotemporal and causally inert objects." In light of these comments, for the present purposes I will treat an abstract object as one that is a non-physical entity that has no causal powers.

Now, I favor the view that there is a non-physical entity, an abstract object, that just is the proposition "2+2=4". Given that "2+2=4" is necessarily true, I would favor the view that this abstract object would exist whether or not God existed. I think the same would be true of moral truths. So, I think that the moral truth, "torturing babies for fun is morally wrong" is necessarily true and would be true whether or not God existed. That is not to say that babies themselves would exist if God did not exist, but the abstract object that says that torturing babies for fun is wrong would be true whether or not God existed. If God did not exist, there just would not be any babies in existence to which that would moral truth would apply.

Someone might say that the existence of these abstract objects would prove that there are objective values if God does not exist. Well, in one sense this is true, but in a different more important sense, it is not true. If God does not exist, then for all creatures and animals, every one of which consists only of physical matter, it would make no difference if those objective moral and other values existed or not. That is so because those animals and creatures would have no way to know that such truths exist, and if the organisms knew that the abstract objects existed, they would have no way to know what the truths were. They would have no way to tell that mathematical truths existed and no way to know if "2+2=4" were a real abstract object that was true and "2+2=5" did not exist as an abstract object (or if it did exist, was an abstract object that was necessarily false).

Remember, these abstract objects are non-physical and the creature or being that supposedly has a justified belief in atheism is entirely physical. There is no reason at all to think that a creature that is ultimately reducible to mindless elementary particles of physical matter would have any access to a non-physical entity. Gonzalo Rodriguez-Pereyra remarks that

"one of the main problems with mathematical objects — a subclass of abstract objects — from a nominalist point of view is that it is not easy to see how we can come to have knowledge or form reliable beliefs about them and refer to them, since there are no causal relations between them and us."

In regard to the view that God does not exist, I agree with Rodriguez-Pereyra. The physical creature would not even know that such abstract objects exist, and it would not know what the abstracts objects were if it somehow knew that such objects did exist. Thus, if atheism were true, then as far as the physical creature is concerned it is just as if those abstracts objects did not exist. It would make no difference to the creature if the abstract objects existed or not. Relative to the limits of that physical creature's awareness and knowledge, it would be true that objective values do not exist.

The situation is different in the case of theism. From the perspective of the three Abrahamic monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), God is an immaterial being who created the entire physical world and created other immaterial beings who have the power to impact the physical world. Some of these immaterial beings (angels and demons) have no physical body but can still impact the physical world. Other immaterial (human beings) are immaterial souls who have been given causal access to a tiny part of the physical world (namely, some parts of their own bodies). On such a view, there is no problem in asserting that this immaterial God gives these immaterial souls epistemological access to immaterial abstracts objects such that these immaterial souls know, for example, that "2+2=4" and "torturing babies for fun is always wrong".

If we turn to the question of logical fallacies, what generally determines whether something is a logical fallacy is the criterion of whether or not it protects against error or fails to ensure truth. But here again, there is the objective value that conforming to the truth is a good thing. But such an objective value does not exist if God does not exist, and so it would be impossible for there to be such a thing as justified belief in atheism.

A third reason that there is no such thing as justified belief in atheism has to do with the question of whether a creature's cognitive faculties are sufficiently reliable if they are the product of an unguided evolutionary process. I made the point earlier that, if atheism is true, there is no subject of believing, no "I" or "you", that can believe or know anything. For the moment, let us suppose that it possible for a creature in atheism to have beliefs. We then come to a third reason why there can be no justified belief in atheism.

The philosopher Alvin Plantinga is known for advancing what is called the evolutionary argument against naturalism. He believes that if naturalism were true, then the only viable explanation for the origin of human life is evolution. Plantinga then argues that the probability that the beliefs of an evolved organism are true is very low or inscrutable, and that the cognitive faculties of such an organism can not rationally be trusted to produce true beliefs. Thus, for any belief produced by those cognitive faculties, there is "a reason to be doubtful of that belief, a reason to withhold it." He continues by saying that

"For any such belief will be produced by cognitive faculties that I cannot rationally believe to be reliable. Clearly the same will be true for any belief they produce: if I can't rationally believe that the faculties that produced that belief are reliable, I have a reason for rejecting the belief. So the devotee of N&E [naturalism and evolution] has a defeater for just any belief he holds - a defeater, as I put it, that is ultimately undefeated. This means, then, that he has an ultimately undefeated defeater for N&E [naturalism and evolution] itself. And that means that the conjunction of naturalism with evolution is self-defeating, such that one can't rationally accept it. I went on to add that anyone who accept naturalism ought also to accept evolution; evolution is the only game in town, for the naturalist, with respect to the question of how all this variety of flora and fauna has arisen. If that is so, finally, then naturalism simpliciter is self-defeating and cannot rationally be accepted - at any rate by someone who is apprised of this argument and sees the connections between N&E [naturalism and evolution] and R." ["where 'R' is the proposition that our cognitive faculties are reliable"]

One question here is why Plantinga thinks that one's cognitive faculties can not be deemed reliable if evolution and naturalism is true. Plantinga makes this contention in light of his own survey of the ways in which a belief may affect or may not affect the behavior of a hypothetical organism that contributes to whether that organism survives and passes on its own genes more than others of its own species. Plantinga considers four possible possibilities that we will look at below.

Two of the four possibilities are called epiphenomenalism and semantic epiphenomenalism. In both of these options, the content of what an organism believes makes no difference at all to the organism's behavior and plays no causal role in the events that happen in the organism's body or in the world. In both of these views, beliefs are like the sound that a car's engine makes in regard to whether the car moves. It is the motor of the car that makes the car move; the sound that the engine makes has no effect on whether the car goes forward or stays still. So even though there is always the sound of the car's engine when the car moves, the sound of the engine really has nothing to do with causing the car to move. In both epiphenomenalism and semantic epiphenomenalism, the content of what one believes is produced by the chemical interactions of the body, but that content does not cause anything. It is like the sound of a car's engine.

Plantinga's comment about the first option, epiphenomenalism, equally applies to semantic epiphenomenalism when he says that

"If this way of thinking is right with respect to our hypothetical creatures, their beliefs would be invisible to evolution; and then the fact that their belief-forming mechanisms arose during their evolutionary history would confer little or no probability on the idea that their beliefs are mostly true, or mostly nearly true. Indeed, the probability of those belief's being for the most part true would have to be rated fairly low (or inscrutable). On N&E [naturalism and evolution] and this first possibility, therefore, the probability of R [R being the propsoition that are cognitive faculties are reliable] will be rather low."

In semantic epiphenomalism, a belief is broken down into its physical nature or its syntax (which is a physical description of what a belief is in the body) and the content of what one believes, or what the specific beliefs are (such as "Sally went to the store" or "Soccer is a game normally played by twenty-two players on a field"). Plantinga remarks of semantic epiphenomenalism that

"On this view, as on the last, P(R/N&E) [the probability that our cognitive faculties are reliable given naturalism and evolution] (specified to those creatures) will be low. The reason is that truth or falsehood are, of course, among the semantic properties of a belief, not its syntactic properties. But if the former aren't involved in the causal chain leading to behavior, then once again beliefs - or rather, their semantic properties, including truth and falsehood, - will be invisible to evolution[Footnote17] But then it will be unlikely that their beliefs are mostly true, and hence unlikely that their cognitive faculties are reliable. The probability of R [the proposition that our cognitive faculties are reliable] on N&E [naturalism and evolution] together with this possibilitiy (as with the last), therefore, will be relatively low."

Now, let us stop here and take in what was just said. There are only two possible options to the question of whether the content of what an evolved creature believes has any effect on the organism's behavior and thus on whether that organism is more or less likely to survive and pass on its genes. The content of that creature's beliefs either will or will not affect its behavior. These first two options are options in which the content of what a creature believes do not have any causal effect on the organism and thus have no effect on its evolution. As Plantinga says,

"Note further that epiphenomenalism simpliciter and semantic epiphenomenalism unite in declaring or implying that the content of belief lacks causal efficacy with respect to behavior; the content of belief does not get involved in the causal chain leading to behavior. So we can reduce these two possibilities to one: the possibility that the content of belief has no causal efficacy."

Plantinga's final two options would be ones in which the content of what a creature believes does affect its behavior. That is, what it believes can have an effect on the physical matter in the organism and thus on what it does and whether it is more likely to survive and pass on its genes. In one of these options, the organism's beliefs do affect its behavior, but those beliefs are maladaptive. That is, they make the organism less likely to survive and/or less likely to pass on its genes. Over time, that type of organism would be more likely to die out or be crowded out by other, more fit members of its species. Contemporary humans would accordingly not be the descendents of this group of organism. So we can largely ignore this option.

The final option would be one in which the organism's beliefs do affect its behavior, and they are adaptive. They would contribute to its survival. But here, Plantinga argues that behavior is often determined by more than just whether the organism believes something to be true. It is also affected by its desires, and he thinks that the situation of desire-belief combinations are such that one does not have good reason to put much trust in the organism's cognitive faculties even if its beliefs would benefit the organism's survival. Plantinga says that

"there are many belief-desire combinations that will lead to the adaptive action; in many of these combinations, the beliefs are false. Without further knowledge of these creatures, therefore, we could hardly estimate the probability of R [the proposition that our cognitive faculties are reliable] on N&E [naturalism and evolution] and this final possibility as high."

Plantinga contends that even in this final case, the probability that the creature's belief forming mechanisms would be reliable would likely not be high or would be inscrutable. He thus thinks that a rational assessment of these different possibilties would lead one to withhold from believing that the evolved organism's beliefs are true. That includes the belief in evolution and naturalism. Thus, Plantinga would contend that it would not be rational or justified to believe in naturalism and evolution. In short, there is no scenario in which there is such a thing as justified belief in atheism.

I am not going to talk much more here about Plantinga's final two options, but I do want us to consider one issue. If atheism is true, what is more likely? That the content of what a creature believes has no impact on what it does (epiphenomenalism and semantic epiphenomenalism) or that its beliefs do have an impact on what it does? The correct answer is that its beliefs would have no impact at all on what the creature does.

If atheism is true and if all that exists is just physical stuff, then the beliefs of a creature just are reducible to a bunch of brain and/or nerve cells in certain state or states. But the behavior of those brain cells and nerve cells are ultimately determined by mindless pre-determined chemical reactions on a micro-cellular level, and those mindless pre-determined chemical reactions are determined by still smaller mindless, pre-determined reactions and movement on the atomic level. If atheism is true, it does not matter whether the brain cells and nerve cells are arranged in one way to form one belief or a different way to form a different belief. Those larger arrangements will still always be determined by what happens on the sub-cellular level and still further by what happens on the atomic level and sub-atomic level.

Accordingly, if atheism is true, some version of epiphenomenalism must be true. That means that the content of what a creature believes never makes a difference to anything that happens in the body of the creature nor to what the creature does. There is accordingly nothing to eliminate false beliefs, nothing to ensure that right beliefs would be selected over wrong beliefs. But if that is true, then whatever it is that produces our beliefs if we evolved in a world of atheism, we should not trust those beliefs, including the belief in naturalism and evolution if we believe those things.

I have given three arguments why there is no such thing as justified belief in atheism. First, if atheism is true, then there is no subject of believing, no "I" or "you", that can believe or know anything. Second, if atheism is true, then there are no objective moral or other values. The absence of such values removes the very possibility for a belief to be justified. And third, if atheism is true, then the cognitive, belief-forming faculties of evolved creatures are not sufficiently reliable, and the beliefs produced by those faculties, including the belief that atheism is true, can not be rational or justified.

At the beginning, I touched on the fact that it is common for scientists and those in the academic community to affirm that atheism is true. Of course I do not think that those who espouse atheism actually believe what they say, and the points I have argued here are just a sample of the considerations in favor of theism that reinforce my disbelief of those who claim that they believe that God does not exist. One need not read some religious text to be aware of these reasons. They are reasons available to those who would ponder them.

And yet we live in an age in which belief in the God of the Bible is ridiculed. If you want your peers in the academy or the popular culture to think well of you, then you might not want to become a Christian. If you become a Christian, it will cost you. You will be scorned. You will be ridiculed. Your career might be injured. Do you know what the apostle Paul would say to someone in your shoes? Well, to the Corinthians, he said,

"Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; 20 and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile." (1 Cor. 3:18-20 An NIV Version)

What I have explained here combined with the many other considerations favor the view that God exists and make it plain that espousing atheism is indeed foolishness. The apostle would recommend that you become a "fool" in the sight of your peers so that you might really stop being a fool in the eyes of God and of reason.

That is not an easy thing to do. In fact, it is something that you will never do absent a miracle happening in your own heart. Even in the time of Jesus, the Gospel of John says that many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise from men more than praise from God." (Jn. 12:42-43). Here are religious Jews who believed in God, and they did not have the power to break free from loving the praise of men.

There is only one way that the human heart can break free from loving what others think, such that it would be willing to be put of the synagogue or to be called fools by those in the academy or culture. It must find something that is so valuable, so precious, so beautiful, and so attractive that it would gladly give up all other things just to have that one thing. I have found that one thing. It is Jesus Christ.

Of course if you are an unbeliever you do not consider Jesus to be your greatest treasure, your greatest delight, your greatest love, the most precious thing in the world, such that you would give up anything and everything just to have him. I understand. I would not expect you to do so. The apostle Paul said that "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God" (2 Cor. 4:4).

That may sound rather pompous. Here the apostle Paul would say that he has seen how great and beautiful and glorious Jesus Christ is, and you are blind to that fact. Further, what I am saying here, and what the apostle Paul was saying, might sound rather similar to someone who claims that he sees pink unicorns and that the whole lot of unbelievers are so blind that they do not see them. But, are unbelievers really all so blind that they can't see the pink unicorns, or are Paul and I simply seeing what is not there?

In response, I would first point to something we know about in our own physical world as an analogy for what the apostle Paul says. There are some people in the world who have what is called total color blindness. These persons are unable to distinguish any color. They just see things in grayscale. There are a relatively small number of people in the world with this limitation, and then there are most of us who can see in full color. But suppose that the numbers were changed. Suppose that we still live in the same physical world we do now, but everyone in the entire world now has total color blindness except for you. You see in full color. You might tell people all you want that there are these amazing things called colors, and the world is so richly and beautifully colored. But they would not believe you. What a fool this guy is, claiming that there are colors. Who has ever heard of colors? What is this guy going to do next, tell us that there are white unicorns? That situation is just like the situation of someone who has known Jesus Christ as his savior and greatest treasure. The world did not change, but the person changed, and suddenly he was able to the colors and the beauty that were always there.

Now to the question whether unbelievers can't see the pink unicorn or whether the apostle Paul and I are seeing what does not exist. What is to be noted here is that God does let the unbeliever catch a glimpse of the figurative pink unicorn. Christianity does indeed give the unbeliever a way to peek out from a world of shades of grey to a world full of vibrant colors. Jesus said that no man has greater love than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. Even if you have never read one page of the Bible, you can easily see the beauty of someone who gives up his life to save his friends. Jesus went one step beyond that. He died for his enemies. Paul says in the letter to the Romans, "God demonstrated his own love for us in this, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Jesus himself said that he came to give his life as a ransom for many (Mt. 20:28; Mk. 10:45). Later on, he said that his blood would be shed for the forgiveness of sins (Mt. 26:28). Think of that. From before the creation of the world, Jesus looked forward to your life, saw all the sins that you would commit in your life, and resolved that he was going to enter this world and die such that he could be just in forgiving your sins if you believe in him. Even someone who only knows the black, white, and gray of unbelief can see the colorful brilliance of that type of love. You don't have to merely take my word for it that the pink unicorn exists.

Yes, you might say, but that is just a story. None of it is true. Is that so? Well, what I have said here has already looked at a different subject, and there simply is not time now to explore this objection in detail. But I would tell you this. Go and read the gospels. Read both those who argue for the historicity of Christianity and those who argue against it. I approached material in the Bible from the standpoint of a historian, and I found Christianity to be true. Read and study the New Testament and the Bible for yourself. Don't just trust the word of others who tell you that the Bible is a marked by myth and historical error. After all, many of those who would tell you that Christianity is not true are those who would say that they are justified in believing in atheism. But as I have shown here, there is indeed no such thing as justified belief in atheism. If the so-called atheists were wrong about that, maybe they were wrong about Christianity too. Maybe there is a world beyond black and white, a world of living color that you would never leave even if everyone else told you that you were a fool.

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