One of the most memorable controversies of the enlightenment period was the Galileo affair. Galileo was accused of heresy because his observations indicated that the sun was the center of the solar system. The key to understanding this controversy is very simple: Thomas Aquinas had married Christian thought with Aristotle during the thirteenth century. When Aristotle’s astronomy was brought into question, Pope Paul V and others within the Western Church chose to ignore the data in favor of Aristotle’s theories.
In the modern days, it is those who claim to favor modern philosophical thinking, however, who operate in terms of Papal decrees. In modern times, atheists will dismiss arguments about the Resurrection, the Flood or anything else involving God’s stepping into history on the grounds of Hume’s argument against miracles: either arguing that because miracles are highly improbable, they cannot happen, or they will argue that the only way a miracle can be accepted is if the evidence is so overwhelming that it would require an infinite amount of evidence to establish, or other rhetorical games.
Throughout history, Christians have recognized numerous failures with the structure of Hume’s argument. The standard answers by believers include the statement that Hume tries to prove “too much”. Pamphlets have been written arguing that, according to David Hume, Alexander the Great could not have conquered the world, or that Napoleon did not exist. Others have noted that Hume’s argument is basically an exercise in begging the question. Hume’s argument is also based on an “overstatement” of the problems with eyewitnesses. Finally, as Hume’s argument has grown, it has mutated into a number of versions, many of which reveal that Hume appears to arise from an artificial dichotomy (belief in miracles is not necessarily contrary to belief in the existence of natural law; since Protestant theologians have long accepted natural law, we only argue that natural law comes from a divine Legislator. All of these approaches are basically correct. Hume’s argument is ultimately incredibly weak and appears to be accepted more for rhetorical reasons than an acceptance based on the facts.
But these approaches fail to address the key similarity I noted above: the practical ramification of the theory is that Hume’s argument against miracles is an argument about ignoring evidence of any specific miracle, on the grounds of a general doctrine (in logical terms, Hume’s argument against miracles in practical terms is an exercise in cherry- picking). In short, to atheists, Hume’s argument is “holy writ.” To avoid the ramifications of a miracle for their system of thought, they will therefore refuse to limit their discussions to the evidence. They invent theories that contradict the data. For example, one atheist has suggested that the tomb had a back door, despite the lack of archeological evidence for tombs with back doors, and despite the fact that the Apostles would not have knowingly endured torture and execution for something they would have known to be a lie. But, those of us who point out the contradictions are labeled as “irrational”.
The more I read of atheists, the more I am convinced: they are the true errors of Pope Paul V.
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