Tinder Debate with an Atheist

I had a lot of fun going on casual dates with guys from Tinder last year.  And I made a video reading some of my tinder messages. This was one of the more intellectual conversations, in which I debate an Atheist!  His profile said something about how he doesn’t respect Christians and loves the scientific method, so I thought he’d be a fun person to dialogue with!  Adam is not his actual name.


Lizzie: Hey Adam! Nice to meet you 🙂 I think that life is inherently meaningless but I also believe in God. Thoughts?

Adam: Hey Liz, it’s nice to meet you too. Well my thoughts depend on what sort of God you believe in. Are you religious for instance? Or do you believe God just created humans and hasn’t intervened beyond that?

Lizzie: I’m very much a skeptic about a lot of things, so Descartes-esque. I was the only one in my Epistemology class who couldn’t move beyond that haha I don’t think we can know anything 100% beyond our brain and thoughts. I am a practicing Christian though and I’m very serious about it. But most of my intuitions are deistic and I’ve gone through times of wishing God didn’t exist. So Christianity I’m at 85%. And Deism probably 90%. But I do think everything is meaningless in the sense that Christianity never explains the purpose of God creating the world. And then it is all injustices and pointless evil.

Adam: So I’m not the most well-versed of specific Philosophers, but I believe in the scientific method and of course that does not prove anything 100% but proves things to a certain confidence interval. I practice rational skepticism. Now to me, practicing Christianity means that you’ve decided your life does have some inherent meaning that dictates your daily choices (morality coming from God, as opposed to a human construct like I believe it to be). If you believe we can’t know anything beyond our brain/thoughts, why are you so sure of the existence of God?

Lizzie: I think there is emotional and rational {for my beliefs} so when I was growing up it was more of reading through the Bible and having this emotional resonance with all the different people who wrote parts of it… like this thousands of years interconnected story with all this insane foreshadowing from like 6,000 BCE to when Jesus was on earth and some of the prayers written in 1,000 BCE have this extreme similarity to my life and stuff going on today. It feels real. Reading through all of it makes me feel like it’s alive. And then, I have experienced myself change dramatically: core parts of me that I can trace back to consistent prayers I prayed years ago. I should be a jerk in a lot of situations, really impatient, critical, judgmental, but now I am gentle and good at emotional support and always patient. Of course everyone changes and develops themselves, but for me it seems so extreme. And I think it is because of God.

So that was growing up but once I got to late high school/college I learned all about objective truth and universal morality, which is why I remain a theist. My last year of college I took several classes of historical context of the 1st century, the person of Jesus, copying of scrolls that became the New Testament, etc. and that validates Christianity for me. There is this scholar named N.T. Wright {look him up! He is the #1 religion theologian in the world right now} and he published all this research on the concept of “resurrection” how it was understood by the Greco-Roman world and Jews at the time right before Jesus. Right around the time that the early Christians claimed to have seen Jesus resurrect from the dead, there were these 4 major disjuncts to how everyone understood resurrection. So Jesus was claimed to have come back to life but in a new body that could walk through walls and stuff and this “zombie like” concept of resurrection was brand new. The Greek thought of the day was that the body was bad and you wanted to become fully spirit/immaterial. So Wright says we need a historical explanation for why this small group of uneducated Jews went around telling everyone Jesus resurrected bodily. Where did this ideology come from? And he says the best explanation is that Jesus really did resurrect in bodily form. That’s where they got it from.

There are eyewitnesses who recorded a ton of it down into parts of what became the Bible. And hundreds of other supposed eyewitness who went around teaching that Jesus was resurrected, that He is the Son of God. So many of these people were tortured, killed.. eaten alive in the Colosseum because they refused to deny that Jesus was resurrected from the dead.

Adam: I’m going to tell you succinctly what I think about all of that. There is no scientific evidence that someone can die and be brought back to life several days later. I’m in medical school and it just isn’t realistic whatsoever. Nor is the idea that someone can be born from a virgin. It’s not medically possible for a virgin to be impregnated. The texts of the Bible have been translated countless times which calls into question the accuracy of the stories, and I’m not really all that interested in what social constructs people created 6,000 years ago to explain things we can explain with technology and science.

Lizzie: You’re right. And I think that’s the definition of a miracle. We don’t have any physical evidence like we couldn’t find the grave of where Jesus was buried and dig up his body and disprove it. But modern science was created in the Enlightenment era from Philosophy and so the scientific method is exactly what I’m using with Resurrection historical arguments.

Adam: Hmmm so what do you think is more likely? Maybe he wasn’t buried there at all? Maybe he didn’t exist? Maybe someone stole his body? No, you think it’s more likely someone came back to life from the dead, which you just agreed isn’t medially possible. Trust your instincts instead of making that leap. No, you’re ignoring the scientific method, and choosing to believe in a “miracle.”

Lizzie: I studied Philosophy at my college but also took a ton of Religion classes and there is something called textual criticism where you trace back through all the ancient scrolls, date them, find the location they were found etc. and based upon where the scroll pages, fragments are found you can take the slight differences “copying errors” and figure out what the original wording was.  There are something like 5,000 Greek manuscripts we have that are from the New Testament and all scholars including Atheist religious scholars agree we have a 99.5% accuracy of the original wording of the New Testament, because we have 5,000 scrolls.  But then with Aristotle we have about 50, Homer around 700. So if you want to deny the reliability to the original of the New Testament then you also have to give up any sort of reliability of all the other literature, history from around that time.

Like I said, I wish God didn’t exist sometimes. Because everything seems so meaningless and evil. I feel sometimes chained to being a Christian because of the resurrection historical stuff. Like I emotionally don’t want to have to accept God allowing so much evil, but rationally I have to.  And we actually had a whole class in my Philosophy of Religion class ON miracles! It was fascinating!

Adam: That’s nice, and I’m sure you enjoyed it, but just because you took a class on it doesn’t make miracles exist.

Lizzie:  Of course not! But one thing that I really liked was this article by Peter Van Inwagen {my favorite Philosopher!} ​ on this argument called Russel’s China Teapot. It’s a really funny thought experiment, that this random teapot is out in space just spinning around!! But he makes this point of “initial probability” which is where you’re at.

So we’ll say 0 is the probability right now for Jesus resurrecting and his mom being a virgin. So the argument is this:

  1. The probability of Christianity is 0
  2. There is no reason to accept Christianity
  3. Therefore, we should assign a probability of 0 to Christianity being true

So then for the argument, my intuition is that we’d have to have really REALLY strong evidence to change the prior probability from 0 (i.e. disprove premise 2.)

And here is a medical thing! So you know about a base rate for a disease?

Adam: So the thought experiment is you want me to disprove argument #2?

Lizzie: Yupp

Adam: And I’m not sure what you mean by a base rate for a disease

Lizzie: It is confusing for me too, because I am really bad at statistics. It is something about false negatives and false positives. So you could say that 1 in 500 tests for one disease brings out a false negative. So then if you test positive you might say that it is 1/500 chance that it is actually negative. I am so bad at math! I need you to explain this to me

Adam: I can’t prove a negative thing (i.e. That God does not exist), which I why I’m agnostic (and basically an atheist although it’s really a matter of semantics). I don’t think religion is a necessity in this day and age. How can you pray to a god that oversees thousands of innocent children get killed every day? Or that says gay people can’t get married? Are the people who don’t believe in the Christian god doomed to burn in hell for eternity? Religion is something that was created thousands of years ago because people didn’t have the scientific tools to explain the things they didn’t understand and to give them some comfort about dying. It’s not necessary anymore.

Lizzie: With base rate for the Resurrection, we think it is 0. Because we have never seen a miracle. But if the resurrection WAS a miracle then that would up the base rate to 1. I know it is crazy.

Adam: Yes it is, so I’m not going to believe that. It’s very simple.

Lizzie: *seems* crazy. You sound like my agnostic best friend with all of your problem of evil! Those are all of my intuitions too. I cried so much this summer because of all the violence and isis and shootings.

Adam: Problem of evil?

Lizzie: It is just a label for what you said.

Adam: Oh okay

Lizzie: How there is so much suffering, evil in the world and God is not intervening, yeah! I almost became agnostic this summer because of that. Like I said, I wish God didn’t exist sometimes. Because everything seems so meaningless. But I find a lot of agnostics/atheists who have not at all thought this through, looked into it. Meaning they/you think theists have the burden of proof. Whereas 400 years ago & for the history of the world atheists would’ve had the burden of proof.

Burden of proof is the most important thing, because it is so much easier to refute an argument then to create a valid argument.

When you were speaking of miracles, you were giving me the burden of proof. But then when you brought up all the texts being mistranslated and copying errors, etc. you were giving yourself the burden of proof so it was easy for me to refute it.

Whereas forcing me to have burden of proof for miracles is this HUGE THING and so easy for you tear apart.

Lizzie: Sorryyy my phone died! Thanks so much for this discussion! I LOVE debating theology.

Adam: ​You’re welcome, always fun to have some discourse about something like this. But if you’re going to assert the existence of something (god) the burden is definitely on you.


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