Questions for Atheists, Agnostics and Non-Christians

Here are some great questions to ask atheists, agnostics, and those of other religions. They’re from Dr. Norman Geisler’s new book, Conversational Evangelism. If you’re into evangelism (and every Christian should be!) then you need to get this book.

Questions for Atheists

1. Are you absolutely sure there is no God? If not, then is it not possible that there is a God? And if it is possible that God exists, then can you think of any reason that would keep you from wanting to look at the evidence?

2. Would you agree that intelligently designed things call for an intelligent designer of them? If so, then would you agree that evidence for intelligent design in the universe would be evidence for a designer of the universe?

3. Would you agree that nothing cannot produce something? If so, then if the universe did not exist but then came to exist, wouldn’t this be evidence of a cause beyond the universe?

4. Would you agree with me that just because we cannot see something with our eyes—such as our mind, gravity, magnetism, the wind—that does not mean it doesn’t exist?

5. Would you also agree that just because we cannot see God with our eyes does not necessarily mean He doesn’t exist?

6. In the light of the big bang evidence for the origin of the universe, is it more reasonable to believe that no one created something out of nothing or someone created something out of nothing?

7. Would you agree that something presently exists? If something presently exists, and something cannot come from nothing, then would you also agree that something must have always existed?

8. If it takes an intelligent being to produce an encyclopedia, then would it not also take an intelligent being to produce the equivalent of 1000 sets of an encyclopedia full of information in the first one-celled animal? (Even atheists such as Richard Dawkins acknowledges that “amoebas have as much information in their DNA as 1000 Encyclopaedia Britannicas.” Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker (New York: WW. Norton and Co., 1996), 116.)

9. If an effect cannot be greater than its cause (since you can’t give what you do not have to give), then does it not make more sense that mind produced matter than that matter produced mind, as atheists say?

10. Is there anything wrong anywhere? If so, how can we know unless there is a moral law?

11. If every law needs a lawgiver, does it not make sense to say a moral law needs a Moral Lawgiver?

12. Would you agree that if it took intelligence to make a model universe in a science lab, then it took super-intelligence to make the real universe?

13. Would you agree that it takes a cause to make a small glass ball found in the woods? And would you agree that making the ball larger does not eliminate the need for a cause? If so, then doesn’t the biggest ball of all (the whole universe) need a cause?

14. If there is a cause beyond the whole finite (limited) universe, would not this cause have to be beyond the finite, namely, non-finite or infinite?

15. In the light of the anthropic principle (that the universe was fine-tuned for the emergence of life from its very inception), wouldn’t it make sense to say there was an intelligent being who preplanned human life?

Questions for Agnostics

1. Of the two possible kinds of agnostic, which kind are you: 1) Strong agnostic who says we can’t know anything for sure? or 2) Weak agnostic who says we don’t know anything for sure (but we could if we had enough evidence)?

2. If you are the strong kind, then how do you know for sure that you can’t know anything for sure?

3. If you are the weak kind of agnostic, then is it not possible that we could know for sure that God exists (if we had enough evidence)?

4. Do you agree that an open-minded person should be willing to look at all the evidence? If so, then are you willing to look at the evidence for God’s existence?

Questions for Muslims

1. Do you pray five times a day? If you have not done the minimum requirement for a Muslim, how can you be sure you are going to get to heaven?

2. How can Jesus be considered a great prophet when the Gospels say many times that Jesus accepted worship as God (Matthew 8:2; 14:33; 28:9; Luke 24:52; John 9:38; 20:28-29)?

3. If our Bible today is corrupted, then how do we know what parts are corrupted?

4. How can the Bible be corrupted when Muhammad told people to read it (Sura 5:68; 10:94) and we have manuscripts showing that the Bible of Muhammad’s day was substantially the same as the one we have today?

5. How can you believe the Qur’an when it states that “none can change His word” (Sura 6:115; see also 6:34; 10:64), yet it also says that the Bible is God s previous revelation (Sura 2:136; 4:163)? Yet you believe that Jesus never claimed to be God but merely claimed to be a prophet, and somehow the Bible got corrupted because it teaches that Jesus claimed to be God.

6. If killing is wrong for religious reasons, then why does the Quran prescribe the killing of unbelievers (Sura 9:5,29; 47:4)?

7. How can heaven be described as a place full of wine and women when this is the kind of life Allah forbids here (Sura 78:32)?

8. Why do Muslims believe Muhammad is superior to Jesus when even the Quran affirms that Jesus was sinless (Sura 3:45-46; 19:19-21), born of a virgin (Sura 3:47), called the Messiah (Sura 3:45), performed miracles such as raising the dead (Sara 5:110), and bodily ascended into heaven (Sara 4:158), and Muhammad did none of these things?

9. If many Muslims believe that the Qur’an is the eternal Word of God and yet different from God, then why can’t Jesus be the eternal Son of God and yet different from God?

10. If Allah can do whatever He pleases, then why could He not allow His prophet Jesus to die on the cross and raise Him to life again?

Questions for Hindus

1. Can you explain why some Hindus believe there is one reality beyond good and evil, and yet they live as though they believe evil is real?

2. If reincarnation is a result of deeds in a previous life, then how did the first reincarnation begin?

3. If those suffering in this life are being punished for deeds in a previous life, then why show any compassion to help the downtrodden and needy? Are we not just tinkering with their karma and delaying their punishment to a further life?

4. If evil is not real, then how did the illusion begin? Why is it so universal? And why does it seem so real?

5. If we must undergo a changing process of enlightenment to discover we are one with the Absolute, then how can we be the Absolute since it is unchanging and never underwent such a process?

Questions for Buddhists

It is important in speaking with a Buddhist that you ask questions instead of assuming you know what they believe. Beliefs of individual Buddhists often differ from Buddhas teachings. Furthermore, there are many folk beliefs, such as praying to Buddha for help in the struggles of daily life, that contain a mixture of different beliefs. Below are some clarifying questions, existential questions, and follow-up questions you should consider asking:

Clarifying Questions to Ask Buddhists:

1. Why have you personally adopted Buddhistic beliefs?

2. What does Buddhism teach about who we are?

3. What do you believe happens to us after we die?

4. What hope does Buddhism offer you personally?

Existential Questions for Buddhists:

1. What does Buddhist teaching do for you personally?

2. What problems does this teaching solve?

3. What hope does Buddhism offer you personally?

Follow-up Questions for Buddhists:

1. Is there any way to know whether we should choose one religion over another?

2. How can you determine if Buddhism is true?

3. If Buddhism teaches that desire is wrong, how does your practice of Buddhism fit with your desire to win the lottery?

4. Doesn’t the law of karma only postpone the solution to the problem of evil and suffering, but never really solves the problem?

5. If the death of Christ satisfied the punitive demands of the righteous laws of God, then what need would there be for more payment (see Romans 3:25-26; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:17-18)?

6. If there is no continuity with yourself after death, then how can it be the same person who is being rewarded in the next life?

7. If it is not the same person who is reborn into another body, then why should someone pay for the karmic debt left by someone else?

8. Is it not true that if there is an ultimate moral law, then there is an ultimate Moral Lawgiver?

9. And if there is no ultimate moral law, then why should we follow the Buddhist 10 Precepts and the Eight-fold “Right” paths and reincarnation based on actions?

10. Is it true that Buddhism teaches that we are in reality an aspect of God and in some respects less than real as an individual? If so, how did this metaphysical amnesia arise and come to pervade and dominate our whole experience?

11. How can we know that the world of our senses is an illusion (not real) unless we know a backdrop of reality against which we can make this judgment?

12. Does not the goal to eliminate all desire involve the desire to eliminate all desire?

13. If we should eliminate all desire, how about the desire to have children, help others, enjoy life, and experience nirvana?

14. Would it not be better to redirect desire to God who alone can fulfill than to eliminate all desire (Matthew 4:4; 5:6; 6:33)?

Questions for Those in Taoist/Buddhist Folk Religions

1. Who sets the standard for goodness? Would it ever be possible for you to reach that standard?

2. What will you be in the next life? Arc you confident that you will make it there?

3. Who can assure you of that final destination and destiny?

4. Do you think there is a way to be certain what the heavens want so that we can please them?

5. Do you think offering food to your dead ancestors once a year will be enough?

6. Do you know how long you will have to do this until your ancestor is reborn?

7. When will you know when you can stop offering the paper money?

8. Should there not be a way to keep one’s descendants, who are still on earth, informed so as not to waste their time and money? Otherwise, the paper money will be pocketed by someone not related to you, and you will not even know about it.

9. Would you like to hear about the One and Only God, Shang Ti, whom even the great Chinese emperors worshipped?

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Author: Shawn Nelson

I got saved back in 1991 when I was 19. I felt called right away to go into ministry and enrolled at Christian Heritage College to become a pastor. However, after graduation I ended up getting a job in a new software startup. Since then I've worked bivocationally as a church planter and pastor. I'm currently enrolled at Veritas Evangelical Seminary pursing an M.Div. in Apologetics and am happy to share what I'm learning with you.

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4 Comments

  1. I suppose I should answers these questions in the fashion that you phrased them, so let’s get on with it.

    QUESTIONS FOR ATHEISTS
    1. Are you absolutely sure there is no God? If not, then is it not possible that there is a God? And if it is possible that God exists, then can you think of any reason that would keep you from wanting to look at the evidence?

    No, but all evidence points to the fact that there is either no god NOW, or the theistic view of a “god” is incorrect. It is possible that there were a god(s), but again, evidence shows that human’s attributed unexplained phenomena to a “god,” and likely projected their own bias towards what such an entity would be.

    2. Would you agree that intelligently designed things call for an intelligent designer of them? If so, then would you agree that evidence for intelligent design in the universe would be evidence for a designer of the universe?

    No, the human brain is hard-wired to see patterns in abstract data, even if there is not an actual intention beyond random coalescence. If an infinite number of universes existed, it would be highly UNLIKELY that some did not form in much the same manner as ours. An infinite number of them does not predicate a god, or even an intelligent design–simply probability. The secondary issue with an “intelligent designer” is that you can then apply this very argument to said entity, and fashioned in the same manner. This causes an infinite regression of unanswerable questions, and thus disproves, or rather proves the unlikelihood of a “god.”

    3. Would you agree that nothing cannot produce something? If so, then if the universe did not exist but then came to exist, wouldn’t this be evidence of a cause beyond the universe?

    No, there are a number of quantum particles that seem to pop in and out of existence at any given moment in time. Time itself is fluid, and its effects change based upon how fast one is traveling. There may very well be a cause beyond the universe or the big bang, but again, probability states it would also have fallen within the bounds and laws of said universe. To grasp at a concept such as an omnipotent being ignores the fact that such a power would fly in the face of everything our universe is built upon.

    4. Would you agree with me that just because we cannot see something with our eyes—such as our mind, gravity, magnetism, the wind—that does not mean it doesn’t exist?
    5. Would you also agree that just because we cannot see God with our eyes does not necessarily mean He doesn’t exist?

    I would agree, yes. However, I can undertake very simple tests to examine the influence of said forces within MY WORLD. I cannot, however, do this with a theistic “god.”

    6. In the light of the big bang evidence for the origin of the universe, is it more reasonable to believe that no one created something out of nothing or someone created something out of nothing?

    Just because we don’t know what came before the big bang does not infer that there was nothingness before. It could have just as easily been a multi-galaxy black hole that collapsed and produced a cataclysm capable of wiping away all evidence of the previous section of our universe. It then again becomes an infinite regression of who created what, in which we currently do not have evidence to substantiate any such claims. The evidence in M-theory points in an entirely different direction than such a “god-of-the-gaps” though.

    7. Would you agree that something presently exists? If something presently exists, and something cannot come from nothing, then would you also agree that something must have always existed?

    See previous answer…

    8. If it takes an intelligent being to produce an encyclopedia, then would it not also take an intelligent being to produce the equivalent of 1000 sets of an encyclopedia full of information in the first one-celled animal? (Even atheists such as Richard Dawkins acknowledges that “amoebas have as much information in their DNA as 1000 Encyclopaedia Britannicas.” Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker (New York: WW. Norton and Co., 1996), 116.)

    Just because YOU can’t comprehend abiogenesis through evolution doesn’t mean it can’t happen, or that an omnipotent being played a part in it. Doesn’t the bible indicate that humans simply arose with the wave of “God’s” hand? Are you inferring this isn’t true, but “god” instead created the first single-celled organisms which would further evolve to us? Viruses are essentially living organisms, yet they sometimes only contain very simplistic RNA strands. “Life” comes in many flavours, the point being that your assumptions of “Because it’s complex– GOD” is naive at best.

    9. If an effect cannot be greater than its cause (since you can’t give what you do not have to give), then does it not make more sense that mind produced matter than that matter produced mind, as atheists say?

    The effect of matter/anti-matter pairing produces a complete annihilation many times greater than anything their compounds could produce on their own. Your argument is flawed.

    10. Is there anything wrong anywhere? If so, how can we know unless there is a moral law?

    Moral law could easily be boiled down to the notion that humans, as a social species, developed such actions as a means to live with “the group” as harmoniously as possible. This does not, however, indicate that what the group has decided is the best path, only that it is a path they belief to work. History has showed us time and again that the “group” is not always moral or right. What is “wrong” then, is what causes the most “ripples” to said group. It’s not that difficult to fathom…monkeys display many of these same actions within their groups. Did “god” give monkey’s morality as well? Or was it simple the best course of action as a whole to keep the group healthy and propagating?

    11. If every law needs a lawgiver, does it not make sense to say a moral law needs a Moral Lawgiver?

    No, see above answer. More assumptions based on the notion that “law” can’t be something that is obviously known to any intelligent species with empathy and emotion.

    12. Would you agree that if it took intelligence to make a model universe in a science lab, then it took super-intelligence to make the real universe?

    No, as answered by others, it took intelligence to SIMULATE model universes in a lab; a simulation created in order to perceive the process of creation. However, most of the variables used are random.

    13. Would you agree that it takes a cause to make a small glass ball found in the woods? And would you agree that making the ball larger does not eliminate the need for a cause? If so, then doesn’t the biggest ball of all (the whole universe) need a cause?

    For one, it’s unlikely our universe is a ball or sphere. Gravity wells necessitate that’s its most likely an amorphous blob. Nonetheless, when lightning strikes sand it can make ridiculously beautiful glass creations. It doesn’t mean that a “god” did it, simply that the chaos of our world can sometimes produce an item we PERCEIVE as attractive, complex, or guided.

    14. If there is a cause beyond the whole finite (limited) universe, would not this cause have to be beyond the finite, namely, non-finite or infinite?

    See infinite regression of creation. You claim our universe is limited but we aren’t even entirely sure of that. Again, though, to grasp at the notion of an omnipotent being is naive.

    15. In the light of the anthropic principle (that the universe was fine-tuned for the emergence of life from its very inception), wouldn’t it make sense to say there was an intelligent being who preplanned human life?

    No because then it would also make sense that an intelligent being preplanned THAT intelligent being, and another before it, and yet another before that one. It adds an infinitely complex number of assumptions that isn’t relative to the perception at hand.

    QUESTIONS FOR AGNOSTICS
    1. Of the two possible kinds of agnostic, which kind are you: 1) Strong agnostic who says we can’t know anything for sure? or 2) Weak agnostic who says we don’t know anything for sure (but we could if we had enough evidence)?

    Who says there are only two kinds of agnostics?

    2. If you are the strong kind, then how do you know for sure that you can’t know anything for sure?
    3. If you are the weak kind of agnostic, then is it not possible that we could know for sure that God exists (if we had enough evidence)?

    Semantics. How can we know for sure that “god” DOES exist. Can you give me proof? How can I be certain that proof is actual proof of god, and not proof of something realistic that I’ve yet to comprehend? How can YOU be certain it’s proof of god? How can GOD be certain it’s proof of “god?” See, I can play that game too. Oh, and the answer, “You sometimes just have to have faith” will not suffice.

    4. Do you agree that an open-minded person should be willing to look at all the evidence? If so, then are you willing to look at the evidence for God’s existence?

    I have looked at all the evidence that I CAN FIND. No is able to see ALL the evidence, as we don’t know what IS and what ISN’T evidence when it comes to “god.” When you make a claim that something is evidence of a being that is unknowable, and unable to be proven, your evidence becomes irrefutable. This causes an inherent distrust of what you CLAIM to be evidence. However, I’ll humor you…show me evidence of “god.” I’ve been searching most of my life for such evidence, and if given to me today I would nary hesitate to prostrate before him and dedicate my life to His cause…that is, IF you can give me evidence.

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Cory, thanks for responding to the challenge. I am Don Deal, the Director of Worldview Evangelism and Apologetics for David Geisler’s Meekness and Truth Ministry. There are too many issues for me to respond to them all at once, so I will start with your answer to question #3. We can discuss the other issues if you like later.

      1) No, there are a number of quantum particles that seem to pop in and out of existence at any given moment in time.

      A) Virtual particle production is a natural outcome of the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics. This principle states, in part, that quantum fluctuations in the universe’s space-time fabric will generate particles, provided those particles revert to quantum space-time fluctuations before any human observer can detect their appearance. Typically, the particles so produced must disappear in less than a quintillionth of a second. Since these particles cannot be detected directly, physicists refer to them as virtual particles. No one has ever, or can ever observe them!

      As Astronomer Hugh Ross has calculated, “for a system as massive as the observable universe, the time for it to arise from nothingness (the space-time fabric) and revert back to nothingness (the space-time fabric) must be less than 10-102 seconds (101 zeroes between the decimal point and 1). This episode is a bit briefer than the 14-billion-year age of the universe.” A single virtual particle has an existence that is massively too short to observe, and an effect as large as the universe would disappear correspondingly more quickly. That is why practically no physicist supports Lawrence Krauss in his assertions in his book “A Universe From Nothing.”

      Another problem is that quantum particles appear within the quantum foam of our space-time universe. In order for the universe to appear from quantum foam, there would have to be a region of space-time full of energy fields (such as the Higgs field) that would produce a virtual universe. This is manifestly not “nothing.” The “nothing” of the question would have zero dimensions, and zero energy. It doesn’t mean “no particles of mass.”

      2) Time itself is fluid, and its effects change based upon how fast one is traveling.
      A) This is true, but irrelevant. Special Relativity applies within our universe and has nothing to say about a cause outside of the universe. By definition we cannot see beyond the beginning of the universe.

      3) There may very well be a cause beyond the universe or the big bang, but again, probability states it would also have fallen within the bounds and laws of said universe.
      A) I am completely confused by how one would determine the “probability” of the cause falling within the bounds and laws of the “said universe.” What does probability mean here? How would you calculate the odds? This is simply a restatement of the secular assumptions that go into much thinking today, but is completely unsupported by argument or evidence. It is circular reasoning to say “all there is is the universe, therefore any cause of the universe must lie within the universe.” First you must give a reason or argument for how a person limited by the space-time continuum can know the limitations of a being not limited by the confines of the laws of physics. This statement was just confused.

      4) To grasp at a concept such as an omnipotent being ignores the fact that such a power would fly in the face of everything our universe is built upon.

      A) Once again, I am at a loss to know what this statement means, outside of the verbal equivalent of strenuous hand wringing. I understand this statement as a form or emotional discharge, but as a logical statement it doesn’t make sense. What does “everything our universe is built on” mean?

      Finally, the 2003 Borde-Vilenkin-Guth Theorem (the BVG Theorem) demonstrated that (based on general relativity considerations) time must be finite in this and all universes for which “physically reasonable” laws obtain, so that indicates a beginning to any universe or multiverse in which General Relativity obtains.
      Alexander Vilenkin, in his 2006 book “Many Worlds in One” wrote “it is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning (pg. 176).

      There was a beginning, and the time constraint on the physical universe (or multiverse) is finite. There is no other scientific choice. The real question is “How did the universe begin from nothing?” The cause cannot have been a part of the universe (else it would have had to exist before it existed), could not have been physical (the physical universe began at creation), must have been powerful (this is self evident) and must have been personal (an impersonal cause would have had to operated in a law-like manner, either on or off. Only a personal cause can choose to create.). What, or Who does this sound like?
      Thanks,
      Don

      Post a Reply
  2. There is a difference between saying I know enough about life to know that I don’t know everything (Jesus’s favorite color and etc.) and saying I know enough about life to know I can’t know anything about ultimate reality! This whole idea that we can’t know anything about God came as a result of the philosophical conclusions of Immanuel Kant…that we can only know appearances but not reality in and of its self. But the statement we cannot know anything about God is either a statement that corresponds to reality or does not.

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  3. This is a very helpful article!

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