Book Review: Answering Atheism

I read this book with a Christian friend, and I have a hope that Trent Horn himself will be coming on the podcast in the near future to possibly touch on a few of these topics. Hopefully, before this goes live, so if he has done by then, here is a link to the show.

That show (it was audio-only back then):

Trent has also come onto the show for a live stream debate with Ben Watkins:

Back to the book – I really enjoyed it, and I did find it challenging. Trent has a worldview that is rooted in the fundamental reality of God, the Judeo-Christian God, and that everything works forwards from this place.

He tackles a lot of questions that are commonly asked by someone of an agnostic or atheistic position and explains why he believes the Christian worldview makes the most sense of what we experience and how our philosophical perspectives come together.

I have a lot of time for Mr Horn and would agree that people should engage with this to better understand why atheism doesn’t make sense to those who hold to God. I often feel like Atheism and Christianity are viewed as polar opposites, but I really don’t think this is true.

Christianity claims that there is a God, and Christians worship this God. Atheism claims that it isn’t convinced there is a God that we can know, it doesn’t claim to have proved God does not exist. This is the slip up I witness most often from the Christian side, and it’s important to stress.

All quotes & diagrams from Horn, Trent. Answering Atheism – How to Make the Case for God with Logic and Charity. Catholic Answers Press.

Because agnosticism seems more open-minded than atheism, many atheists are more apt to describe themselves like agnostics even though they call themselves “atheist.” They say that an atheist is a person who lacks a belief in God but is open to being proven wrong. But saying you lack a belief in God no more answers the question, “Does God exist?” than saying you lack a belief in aliens answers the question, “Do aliens exist?” This is just agnosticism under a different name. For example, can we say agnosticism is true? We can’t, because agnostics don’t make claims about the world; they just describe how they feel about a fact in the world (the existence of God). Likewise, if atheists want us to believe that atheism is true, then they must make a claim about the world and show that what they lack a belief in—God—does not exist.

The following flowchart should help you sort out what the different terms so far mean:

I’ve put these both together as I think this is a VERY interesting point. I describe myself as an agnostic atheist, I break it down to ‘agnostic’ because I don’t know, and ‘atheist’ because I don’t believe in God. Now what I find really interesting is my atheism is weak atheism, I don’t have any proofs that God doesn’t exist like many atheist philosophers would (like Graham Oppy for example). So although I don’t believe in God, I am now starting to question whether the term ‘agnostic atheist’ really is right, and if ‘searching agnostic’ would be a better description. You might have heard me in Oct 2020 on the podcast drop the term atheist from my title, well, this is why.

In this case, absence of evidence is evidence of absence because if Santa did exist, then we would reasonably expect to see certain evidence of his existence. When we look for Santa Claus in places where we expect to find him, he is not there. Therefore, we can say he doesn’t exist.

I wonder, would this include looking for God in places we would expect to find him, local communities of believers etc? If we don’t find him, is that because we are looking for the wrong thing? If this is the case, could the same be said of Santa? We are looking for the wrong signs that Santa exists in the places we believe Santa to be? It’s a dumb example, but I wonder, when we turn it back to God, what is it we (and here I look inwards to I) really expect to see and find if God exists, where should these things be present, and what do I see instead?

The reality is that God could have made it so that everyone with any form of cancer was instantly healed if a professing Christian laid their hand on them and prayed for healing. I am fairly sure that the world wouldn’t be able to deny that God was working through them. Now, this is just my thoughts on what would make me sit up, but it is also easily wiped away, as Mr Horn alludes to, by people saying that science will explain this eventually and prove that God isn’t involved. I guess I can just see a range of possible situations that would enable people to look for and find God because their expectations and God’s delivery were aligned. But even within the NT Jesus wasn’t the messiah that the Jewish people were expecting, we see that though the NT as people try to grapple with what this Jewish peasant who was killed and rose again means for the world. Interesting.

Morality describes how things should be, or how we are meant to treat one another. But all of that presupposes we were designed with a purpose—that the whole universe has a purpose. That’s why I think God makes sense.

Purpose, without objective meaning, is just a fabrication or mantel that we claim for our lives, but in the end, it is meaningless. Does my desire to want purpose and meaning to be objective cause me to naturally want this to be true? Or is it a signpost within my head and heart that I seem unable to not believe them to be objective, even if my head claims one thing, my words, actions, deed and judgements claim something else?

This is a massive question, and one people don’t easily manage to work through without getting turned around in circles. I think morality exists, but I don’t think that it is objective, because for it to be objective it would require an objective anchor. I don’t think there is an objective anchor for two reasons; 1) a variety of people hold a variety of moral truths, this seems very subjective. 2) objective morality seems to be impossible within naturalism or materialism, and surely that means they are false as we can’t prove the supernatural exists?


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