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Yes, Atheists Have Faith. But Do They Have Evidence?

I used to think that Christians had two brains—one was lost and the other was out looking for it. For me, the "faith" of Christianity was an arbitrary decision to dogmatically believe in something despite all the evidence to the contrary. I thought faith was blind. So, when a group of Christians challenged me to investigate the evidence for Christianity intellectually, I thought it was a joke. I accepted their challenge, fully intending to destroy Christianity and rub it in their faces.

I spent months traveling around the world investigating the claims of Christ. By the time I finished, I was shocked. Not only was it impossible for me to refute Christianity, I actually became convinced that it was true based on the historical evidence! It turns out that I was severely mistaken about faith. Christian faith is not a commitment to hold onto falsehood despite the contrary evidence. Rather, it is a commitment to hold onto truth in light of the positive evidence.

For instance, to help us determine if the text of the New Testament we have today is the same text that was written down 2,000 years ago, we have manuscript evidence. There are over 5,800 partial or full Greek copies of the New Testament—some as early as the late first century or early second. We can cross-check those copies with one another in order to recreate the original texts with remarkable fidelity. This manuscript evidence for the New Testament is far greater than any other ancient text.

To help us verify if Jesus is truly sent from God, we have prophetic evidence. The Old Testament has many different prophecies which predict the coming Messiah, including his family line, the nature of his ministry, his betrayal and death, and we even learn that the Messiah will come before the destruction of the Jewish temple in 70 A.D. The likelihood of this happening by chance is essentially zero. But Jesus fulfilled every prophecy about himself.

To help us determine if Jesus really rose from the dead, we have forensic evidence. For instance, we can look at the motive of the apostles who proclaimed that they saw Jesus risen from the dead. Why would they invent a story to get themselves persecuted? As the book of Acts tells us, they were threatened, beaten, thrown in prison, and some even killed for the proclamation of their belief that Jesus rose from the dead. By all accounts, they truly believed to have seen, felt, touched and been with the risen Jesus in clear conscience and sound mind.

Christians have faith which is backed by evidence. Atheists also have faith, even if they claim that their beliefs are based on reason alone. Atheists have faith that the universe can come from nothing. Atheists have faith that life can come from non-life. Atheists have faith that consciousness emerged from matter. Atheists have faith for all sorts of claims for which, ironically, there is no evidence.

The question is not if you have faith. Everyone does. The question is if your faith is supported by the evidence. I am a Christian because I think that's where the evidence points. If there were good evidence for atheism, then I would become an atheist. But I just can't shake the evidence.

Working with Campus Crusade for Christ and founding the youth outreach, Josh McDowell Ministry, Josh McDowell has shared the gospel with more than 25 million people in 125 countries. He is the author or co-author of 148 books, including Evidence That Demands a Verdict.

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