(Photo: The Christian Post/Stoyan Zaimov)
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina - A Christian apologist presented 10 reasons for the fall of atheism during the Southern Evangelical Seminary's 20th annual Christian Apologetics conference on Saturday, an argument which he is also set to deliver before the Swedish parliament, one of the most atheistic societies in the world.
Gary Habermas, who is the distinguished research professor and chair of the Department of Philosophy and Theology at Liberty University, divided his 10 reasons into two groups: those which argue for theology in general as opposed to naturalism, and those which support specifically a Christian worldview.
"Both categories are important. God exists, naturalists are wrong, there is some kind of theism or deism, something to do with God, and then there are things saying Christianity is true," the apologist explains.
"Virtually no religion, and no philosophy, tells you why their beliefs are true," he added of belief systems outside of the Christian faith. "Christianity has something that no other religion has."
A number of recent surveys have suggested that the number of non-believers in America is on the rise. According to a 2012 poll by Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion and Public Life in conjunction with PBS' Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, one-fifth of Americans said that they are religiously unaffiliated. That number rises to 32 percent when dealing specifically with young adults between 18-29 years of age.
Similarly, an extensive General Social Survey report from earlier this year also found that the number of people who do not identify with religion is on the rise, and has jumped to new levels in recent years.
"This was not happening really for decades, until around 1990 when it started to take off," Claude Fischer, one of the researchers with UC Berkeley, shared with The Huffington Post. "One thing striking is the trend in terms of renouncing religious affiliation you might say continues to move up at a regular pace, while there is hardly any perceptible trend in the percentage of people who express atheist or agnostic beliefs."
The decline in religious views has also been felt throughout Europe, and especially in Sweden, where Habermas will be presenting before the parliament this month.
According to a 2010 Eurobarometer Poll, only 18 percent of Swedish residents believe that there is a God, 45 percent believe that there is some sort of spirit or life force, while 34 percent do not believe in any kind of God or spirit.
Habermas argued, however, that despite cultural trends, belief in naturalism, which states that the world operates without any kind of divine or supernatural influence, is losing ground in academic circles.
"The naturalistic argument is starting to break," the research professor said, bringing up a number of examples of atheists who have turned to theism, or non-believers who have admitted that naturalism doesn't hold as much weight as previously thought.
The four theistic arguments that Habermas listed against atheism were as follows: Cosmology, Intelligent Design, Fine Tuning, and Near-Death Experiences.
For cosmology, which explores questions about the Big Bang, the beginning and eternal nature of the universe, he brought up a quote from C.S. Lewis, where the famous Christian author said: "If there ever was a time that nothing existed, then nothing would exist now."
While Habermas only mentioned by name the two other reasons, he noted that next to the resurrection, he has done more work on near-death experiences than on any other topic.
"I have been working on this topic for 40 years, and I am a reviewer for a secular peer-reviewed journal on the subject," he revealed, adding that near-death experiences have been written up in almost 20 different medical journals.
The apologist explained that this reason falls in the general theistic field, because it deals specifiaclly with people who had lost heart and brain function for a while, and been able to see or understand things through their experience that they could not have come to otherwise.
"But these are non-worldview specifics, meaning that it is religious data in general and that any religion can be right," he noted.
Next, he presented six reasons that people can use for believing specifically in the Christian faith, listing them as follows:
- Recent documentations of miracle claims: referring to thousands of cases around the world of documented miracles, including those where medical doctors witness prayer healing people with severe physical disabilities.
- Double-blind prayer experiments: where people pray for others with terminal illness. Habermas admitted that most such experiments have not worked, but the three that he knows of that have indeed worked were cases of orthodox-Christians praying for the sick.
- Jesus as a miracle healer: the research professor noted that when he went to graduate school, most people did not believe that Jesus was a miracle healer, but that has changed and many scholars now believe in the real miracles presented in the Bible.
- Jesus proclaimed the resurrection beforehand: meaning that Jesus did not simply rise from the dead, but revealed beforehand that he would be resurrected. "It's one thing to rise from the dead, but you claim double the significance of it if you told everybody what was going to happen ahead of time, which shows that you're in control and know what's going on," the apologist argued.
- Resurrection of Jesus Christ: Habermas said that "we are on the strongest grounds up here on the resurrection argument. Today, there are more scholars who believe that something happened to Jesus than there are those who believe that nothing happened to Jesus."
- Shroud of Turin: the apologist referred to an hour-long session he led on Friday about recent discoveries surrounding the Shroud, but admitted, "It deserves to be put on the board, at least now. It could be proven wrong tomorrow."
Habermas concluded: "We have got to get the world out there, because the challenge is there, naturalism is losing, and we need to see Christianity ascend, because we have the data."