In a recent online discussion, I was asked the question “What difference is there between a Christian brain and an atheist brain?“
Some background would probably be in order to fully understand the source of the questions. The claim was made by someone, who has rejected God, that the universe is a vast, cold, sparse place. I pushed back a little with a paraphrase of a quote from Richard Dawkins: if the universe is amoral, purposeless, blind, pitiless and indifferent – what is the source of morality, purpose, sight, pity and love?
The discussion continued to include a quote from CS Lewis which exposed the absurdity of naturalism
Another claim was made that humans are the source of morality, purpose, sight, pity and love. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t get my group of interlocutors to understand that humanity’s ability to discern truth was the focus of Lewis’s quote – IF NATURALISM IS TRUE as all of them were claiming. So, if naturalism were true, and humans were the source, they could not trust their discernment of this knowledge, and they persisted with the conjecture that since there is morality, purpose, sight, pity and love today that nature must have done it (via humans) although no evidence or demonstrations were forthcoming…just wild assertions. Leaving alone the fact that they still just assumed the universe formerly had no morality, purpose, sight, pity and love but with the accidental emergence of humans, suddenly morality, purpose, sight, pity and love unexpectedly sprang into existence.
And then the question from the beginning of the article: “What difference is there between a Christian brain and an atheist brain?”
While incredibly friendly and incredibly tall, the Tall Friendly Atheist Dad does not understand the process of worldview analysis. Eli Ayala from Revealed Apologetics does a great job explaining the process in this debate although Eli’s interlocutor never does get it either. To properly critique another person’s worldview, you must assume their worldview to point out the internal contradictions. In this case there are two internal contradictions for those who reject God:
- The universe is amoral, purposeless, blind, pitiless, & indifferent BUT part of the universe inexplicably exhibits morality, purpose, sight, pity and love
- If the human brain is simply a product of chemical forces acting on accidentally accumulated particles, there’s no reason to trust thoughts, BUT thoughts are trusted
So, when the Tall Friendly Atheist Dad asks his question, we must ask that question from the Christian presupposition to see if there are contradictions, and then we must ask the question from the naturalist presupposition to see if naturalist presuppositions can rationally support the question. The following table is with Christian presuppositions:
|Christian Brain||(Professing) Atheist Brain|
|Knowledge of God is innate (Romans 1). Because God has revealed some of His knowledge, the Christian has a pathway to certainty||Knowledge of God is innate (Romans 1). While the atheist can know things (even though they reject the Source), they cannot justify knowledge|
|Brains created by God for his glory (Gen 1:27, Ps 100:1). Brains would be expected to generally function as intended.||Brains created by God for his glory (Gen 1:27, Ps 100:1). Those who suppress the knowledge of God seek their own glory & are subject to futile thinking|
|Brains, while designed for knowledge of God & discovering the universe, have been affected by the fall & are in a suboptimal state until the restoration (Isa 11)||Brains that suppress God’s truth are subject to futile and darkened thinking. If damaged, one could recognize it as broken since no objective standard exists by which to compare|
|Brains that begin with the fear of the Lord have a foundation for wisdom and knowledge||Brains that reject God have no sufficient justification for knowledge|
You can see from the above table, that there is no internal contradiction for those who presuppose God. Rational thought is viable, and those who reject God will have no pathway to justified true beliefs. The following table takes into account the assumptions of the professing atheist and/or naturalist in attempting to answer the question from above:
|Christian Brain||Naturalist Brain|
|Over time particles coalesced & came alive. As selection pressures increased & complexity of neurons increased, brains formed. Brains developed the ability to reason, love, & comprehend||Over time particles coalesced & came alive. As selection pressures increased & complexity of neurons increased, brains formed. Brains developed the ability to reason, love, & comprehend|
|Chemical reactions in the brain determined the belief that there is a God||Chemical reactions in the brain determined the belief that there is no God|
|At BEST, only provisional knowledge possible since some future discovery could overturn current foundation of knowledge||At BEST, only provisional knowledge possible since some future discovery could overturn current foundation of knowledge|
The argument that Lewis made has been misconstrued as “Atheists can’t do things like know things, drive a car, do math, or love people because they believe their brain is just a collection of particles. But this is ridiculous because we atheists do all of that.” It’s not that Christians are smart and atheists are dumb. Lewis wasn’t saying that.
This is NOT the substance of the argument. The argument rather is that since we can know things, drive cars, do math, and love people – that it is incongruent to believe that minds are just a collection of particles. Rather than questioning their assumptions about the unobserved past or the inability to recreate/observe consciousness emerging from particles, they instead just wildly assert that rationality MUST have simply appeared because we observe rationality today.
The key to remember in these discussions is: which worldview (collection of presuppositions) provides sufficient justification for knowledge, love, information, reasoning…everything? As shown above, the presuppositions that deny God are woefully deficient in justification. The only worldview that can sufficiently (and exclusively) do this is Christianity since the Creator, who knows everything and is eternally faithful, revealed Himself through what He made, through the Bible, and through his incarnation.
Thanks! Very helpful. Love this: “The argument rather is that since we can know things, drive cars, do math, and love people – that it is incongruent to believe brains are just a collection of particles.”
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“If the human brain is simply a product of chemical forces acting on accidentally accumulated particles, there’s no reason to trust thoughts, BUT thoughts are trusted”
thoughts are trusted because we know the difference between a functioning brain and a malfunctioning one. We have the scientific method to correct for bias and malfunctioning brains. No god needed at all.
you cannot show that there is some “soul”. Dualism always fails since its believers cannot explain how this magical thing interacts with our electrochemical biology, or why it fails when brain damage occurs.
Most, if not all, religions make the exact same claim as the bit in Romans 1 where the universe is claimed as evidence for whatever particular version of the Christian god a Christian wants to claim. So, do show how you know that your god is the one.
and nope, no evidence for this at all “Brains created by God for his glory”
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What standard determines a correctly/malfunctioning functioning brain? If your brain were not functioning correctly, how could you know it (since you would need to use your brain to process incoming information)?
What do you count as evidence? History? Documentation? Eye-witness?
and now we have the Christian running to near- solipsism as usual. We know from how we react to reality.
I consider eyewitness, contemporary accounts, correspondence, etc as evidence for historical claims.
The bible is a set of claims, with no evidence to support the essential events it insists happened. There is no evidence of any eyewitness testimony in the bible. There may be claism of it but Christians have the problem with their supposed eyewitnesses contradicting each other and the scenes reported where there is no eyewitness at all to know what happened.
We have plenty of historical evidence Christians have existed. What we don’t have is evidence what they believed in was true. Many Christians want to claim that since historians mentioned Christians then their god has to be real. If that is the case, then every god that ever had a worshipper is as real as your god.
Like your charts
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The only difference between the brain (a physical thing which doesn’t think—a mind is what thinks) of a Christian and the brain of an atheist is that in each are some *representations* which appear in the arrangements of neurons of each person, respectively.
It is important to note that these arrangements of neurons don’t *cause* people to think the way they do (a materialistic tenet) but are mere representations.
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I always love a good C.S. Lewis quote!
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