A few years ago I responded to a few videos from atheist activist Hemant Mehta (which you can find here, here, and here) and I thought I’d settle back into the flow of things with a fun response to one of his new videos.
The church has propagated so much unhealthy thought over the years that knowledge of the very real historicity of the faith has been shadowed in favour of easy, spiritual soundbites. But do videos like these help? As always, Mehta presents the reason in bold and my response to his argument will be below. I will also note any reason that isn’t personally relevant to me, in order to make lighter work of this rather lengthy video.
1. The God Of The Gaps
The irony on this one is not lost on me. Mehta spends the first half of the reason explaining why this well-used fallacy is a bad one to base faith on. I would wholeheartedly agree. It shows one doesn’t really care about knowing God or how His creation works. However, Mehta immediately switches gears and affirms it as a solid basis for non-belief, which is a blunder he has fallen into many times in the past. He states that if he finds a natural and scientific explanation of phenomena, then God is not needed, which is an astronomic leap that does not logically follow.
What does follow from this line of thinking is that if Mehta finds phenomena he cannot explain scientifically, he would probably then find God to be a plausible hypothesis. In other words, he doesn’t believe in God because he hasn’t found a gap, validating the god of the gaps fallacy. If he does not find God to be a plausible hypothesis then we’d be entering the realm of philosophy, which becomes more difficult to argue. Mehta would have to explain his stance that the idea of God could not be logically true and somehow violates the law of non-contradiction. There is a good reason most vocal atheists define atheism as a lack of belief rather than a positive worldview, where certain burdens apply.
The simple way to solve Mehta’s conundrum is to do away with the concepts of natural and supernatural, just as the ancients and authors of the Bible did. Natural processes are guided and sustained by the hand of God.
And all things are of God (2 Corinthians 5:15)
And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:17 ESV)
The more we know about the universe and how it works the clearer picture we have of the way God sustains things and not as a way for God to become smaller and smaller. Mehta’s anachronistic philosophy cannot allow for this possibility, so critics treat God and science as mutually exclusive options for no apparent reason than the illusion of superiority. Why they must be mutually exclusive is a proposition Mehta has failed to support or justify, either Biblically or logically. And Mehta is certainly not alone in his unfounded assumptions.
2. A Leap Of Faith
Remember how I said the church has propagated a lot of unhealthy thoughts regarding faith? This reason is a prime example. Mehta, impersonating a Christian, states, “If you just believe, God will prove Himself to you.”
However, Paul states the opposite,
But therefore was I shown mercy, that in me, the foremost, Jesus Christ should be displaying all His patience, for a pattern of those who are about to be believing on Him for life eonian. (1 Timothy 1:16 – The Concordant New Testament, bold mine)
Paul did not come to Christ by any act of the will, nor through his belief. On the way to Damascus road, he was struck by grace against his will, and he states he will be a pattern for all who will come to believe. God chooses whom he gives faith and grace to, each in their own time and order (1 Corinthians 15:23), so it is not a matter of being saved because one believes, it’s believing because one has been saved already. And here’s a radical thought. If you do not believe in God right now, or even ever in this life, you are perfectly within the parameters of God’s sovereign arrangement (Romans 11:32). Because you are not your own saviour it is not you who takes the leap of faith for eonian life (that being life during the eras before universal reconciliation). The rest of what Mehta argues here is therefore irrelevant.
3. A Coin Flip
Indeed, I would not encourage this reason. Neither do I believe that it is a 50/50 chance that God is either real or He isn’t. Both sides present arguments that are reasonable and weighty and so it is not a case of being able to know nothing about our universe and leaving things to the chance of a coin toss.
4. God Is Undetectable
The argument apparently goes as thus: “God is undetectable, so don’t bother looking for Him and just believe.” Once again, the god of the gaps fallacy is at work in both this reasoning and Mehta’s response. If we can see a natural cause for something, it is not a work of God. Since I do not believe this, this reason becomes irrelevant to us (see here for more). I also recommend Edward Feser’s Five Proofs Of The Existence Of God to see why such a statement is not true.
5. God Is Intangible
This reason states that since one believes in the existence of love one can also believe in the existence of God since both are intangible. Mehta debunks this by pointing to chemical differences in the brain whenever one is in love, separating secondary causes from the first cause (i.e. God). Since this pattern is so prevalent in Mehta’s arguments this is the last time I’ll make note of it. As for the reason itself, it’s simply another way of saying “just have faith” because the Christian has gone along with Mehta’s reasoning.
6. There’s Something Rather Than Nothing
Mehta utilizes the argument “If God made the world, who made God?” but since it is removed from our definition of God as a self-sustained, eternal being that did not begin to exist, there is little substance here to respond to.
7. The First Cause (The Kalam Cosmological Argument)
Mehta affirms the big bang, the beginning of the universe, and that something had to have caused it. I am sure the science is more nuanced and complex than that, but we’ll go along with Mehta’s presentation. The Kalam is a simple argument that states that everything that begins to exist has a cause, the universe began to exist, and therefore it too had a cause. Mehta argues that fitting God into that gap does not help, but in this case, we aren’t looking at a gap. Theologians put God there, not for a lack of any scientific or natural explanation, but because it is reasonable to conclude that if everything in the universe began to exist, the cause must have been something eternal and apart from it. It isn’t a god of the gaps if it is a logical conclusion based on the premises.
This is why Mehta will always continue to say “I don’t know” in response to the question. He doesn’t know what caused it precisely because everything he can think of in the universe at one point began to exist at the big bang.
8. The Fine-Tuning Argument
I strive to be honest in all of my intellectual endeavours and I refuse to present this traditional argument as something I can feasibly grasp. It’s all way over my head outside of its most simplistic presentations. The universe is amazing and scary and immense and indeed, if even one thing were to be changed we might not be here. However, Mehta points out that it is also dangerous. Earth is both perfectly suited to life and capable of wiping it out with a flood, a hurricane, or an earthquake. What begs the question then is whether or not these acts of chaos are also precisely how they should be (Isaiah 45:7).
9. Beauty Exists
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What I don’t quite understand is whether Mehta is denouncing the existence of beauty or emphasizing it. If he is attempting to treat it like something that doesn’t carry any meaning….why? That surely does not fit into our experience of reality. Our diverse tastes and experiences are a striking testimony to the existence of beauty and the character of God because beauty isn’t merely a thing but rather an experience innate in our nature.
10. My Holy Book Said So
Mehta’s biggest issue as a commentator, at least in these kinds of videos, is that he tends to say nothing or add nothing to a discussion. He notes that the Bible says God exists, but then states there are many different versions of the Bible that say differently. Does he not know why we have different kinds of translations or what each one achieves? Has he ever attempted to find out why?
He also states that the Quran and the book of Mormon exist and leaves it at that without engaging any of the arguments for the Bible’s historical reliability and why those two fail. Mehta’s logic here is that the existence of an opposing claim automatically cancels out the truth of the first. If we apply this logic elsewhere then we cannot say the earth is round because people also believe it is flat. Since we have two opposing views either cannot be true. It therefore must be square.
To be fair, it is not clear whether or not Mehta actually thinks this way. It appears he is merely impersonating the Christian who assumes the Bible is reliable without question and is simply getting his audience to ponder the other books. If the Christian has done so, does this cease to be a bad reason for believing?
11. My Holy Book Is Historical
Mehta grossly underestimates why this is a good reason. His only example is that it mentions real places, but no one believes in the Bible merely because it mentions a real place. It’s reliable because it sets itself in the middle of controversial events and significant people in history.
Allow me to frame it with an example. Let’s say the Gospel of Matthew, as a biography, was set in New York. We don’t believe it because it’s set in New York, we believe it because it claims that there was a person who lived there who overthrew the government, created a large movement opposed to it in the streets and was eventually killed by the order of the president. And all this was affirmed by the authorities, shown on the news, and eventually written about in said biography. Mehta’s trivial response is a shameful strawman of the real picture (see more on this here).
12. God Spoke To Me
The reason this is a bad argument on its own is that it doesn’t convince anyone outside of the individual’s mind. And those outside the individual’s mind will claim it to be a hallucination or perhaps even a symptom of schizophrenia. I wrote on this before here, and since the following reason covers the same ground we will bypass it.
14-15. On Miracles
Once again these two reasons are closely related so we’ll address them both here. Mehta wonders why miracles seemed so prevalent in ancient times while there seem to be none today.
Let’s assume that large-scale miracles that function as signs and wonders for the unbelieving are possible today. A misconception about ancient miracles, especially those of the Old Testament, is that they happen in quick succession. Such miracles could often be hundreds of years apart. Everyday life back then wouldn’t be much different to ours (speaking only in terms of miracles). But there’s another reason large-scale miracles, purposed as a sign, don’t happen today: It isn’t the time.
During the era of Acts, miracles were so prevalent that even Peter’s shadow could heal the sick (Acts 5:15). However, shortly after Pentecost, the miracles stopped. What happened? Why did Paul, who could once heal the sick with a mere handkerchief (Acts 19:12), leave his friend Miletus sick in Trophimus (2 Timothy 4:20)? And yet somehow Paul’s ministry went from “glory to glory.” The answer is that they were no longer required for Paul’s ministry. Israel had had her sign but God was doing even greater things in the nations. God was pouring out faith, grace, and spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3). Such things provide patience and joy, even in light of suffering (Colossians 1:9-12). This makes us stronger, more compassionate, more fearless, and more able to emphasize with one another. While miracles indeed happen today (one does not need to utilize the god of the gaps to define them. You can have a natural explanation and still be able to define it as a miracle Biblically speaking), they are personal and purposed for edification and faith.
This goes for cameras and filming such things, I suspect that God does not appreciate being the act of a circus sideshow just so man can believe when it is convenient for him. An overwhelming outpouring of His grace and faith on the most underserved and corrupted people is the display of power people need. Miracles can and have come with that, but He does so according to His time, wisdom, and purpose for each person.
16. Near-death Experiences
Similar to reason 12 this is another poor foundation on which to base belief. I have no problems with Mehta’s reasoning here.
17. God Is Popular
Indeed, doing something or believing in something because it is popular does not lead to critical or discernable thinking. It treats worldviews more like a fad than an honest position.
18. People Wouldn’t Die For A Lie
I assume that what he is alluding to is the fact that the disciples were martyred for their claim and apologists argue that they wouldn’t have done so if it were a lie. The argument is not that they knew it was a lie yet still died for it. The argument is that they wholeheartedly believed it, whether it was true or not. If the disciples had lied they wouldn’t have taken it to their deaths. The comparisons between the disciples and Islamic extremists and cults are apples and oranges. One can read more here.
19. The Bible Has Embarrassing Parts
The criterion of embarrassment is an unfortunate name in this situation because it makes light of what actually happened. He compares the Bible’s “embarrassing parts” to a stand-up comedian who tells self-deprecating jokes in order to appear more endearing to his audience. This vastly understates the case and only works in our laid-back, secular environment where such things are socially acceptable (and even now one has to be careful to avoid being too offensive). The ancient world held onto an honour and shame rubric and so these admittances would not be taken lightly. We shall direct readers to the series on The Impossible Faith.
20. Jesus Was Mad, Bad, Or God
Mehta does not provide any argument against the trilemma nor make any significant note on it. He instead calls it bad logic and adds other options that apparently no one has thought of. Are the divine claims products of legend or embellishment? This is hardly a new option in the conversation of the divine claims of Jesus and remains unsupported in the face of history. He also posits the possibility that Jesus was mistaken, which I have also addressed. I’ll direct readers to my series on divine claims here.
21. We’re Better Off Believing (Pascal’s Wager)
Mehta treats Pascal’s Wager like the 50/50 argument in reason 3 but this is not how the wager is supposed to work. Pascal’s Wager is making the wisest choice between two possibilities and it only comes into play when one has reached the limits of his/her knowledge. In other words, when one has intellectually/morally examined each side, the final decision must be based on the wisest of the two or on a cost/benefit result, simply because human knowledge has its limits.
Following this, Mehta paints a hypothetical scenario wherein he is wrong and God judges him for it, despite having honestly and openly searched for God. He asks how a loving God could punish him for this. I have asked the same thing and I’ve found that Paul makes the truth abundantly clear. The J.B. Philips paraphrase speaks of one of the most beautiful truths man has ever known,
For God had allowed us to know the secret of his plan, and it is this: he purposes in his sovereign will that all human history shall be consummated in Christ, that everything that exists in Heaven or earth shall find its perfection and fulfilment in him. (Ephesians 1:9-10)
Along with this, refer once again to my answer under argument 2 and my post here.
22. Morality Requires God
When I addressed Mehta’s videos a few years back I bypassed his argument regarding morality because it missed what the argument was saying. Unfortunately, he does the same thing here, arguing that religion or believing in God is where morality comes from and if you do not believe in God you cannot be a good person. No one is arguing this.
The argument from morality is that without the existence of God (not belief in God) objective good and evil cannot exist. Mehta argues with a frown that Christians choose ethics like everyone else, but instead of being neutral (as that would logically follow) he implies that it is objectively wrong to hurt innocent people. Why is it wrong? Mehta doesn’t give us an answer and merely states that it is common sense. If we were to press him he may argue that it is based on the well-being of society, but this can change at the flip of a coin depending on a legislative body and not an objective principle.
My answer to the question is that it takes away from or defiles the essence of being. Being, in and of itself, is purely good. Goodness, in and of itself, is not being. Goodness is a logical description of being. In the same way, green is not grass, but grass is green. Evil, otherwise known as actions that are inhumane, takes away from that. The essence of being exists because God, I AM, exists and we are therefore beings of value.
For in him we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17:28)
Are we placing an arbitrary definition on being? No, because if being was not good, it could then not be called being. If a circle was not round, but rectangular, it could then not be called a circle, but a rectangle. The lack of good is evil and evil is inherently destructive. If destruction was what everyone reached for, or if perfection were annihilation, the actualization of that is not being at all, but death. It would be seen as a better thing to die in the womb than to live for a second, for death would be the ultimate accomplishment and fulfilment.
23. Having A Purpose Requires God
Speaking of being, the concept can work as a response to this reason too. Allow me to quote from one of my earlier articles,
“God isn’t a set of instructions, He is the essence of life, and without Him, there would be no life to speak of. “
The reason Mehta can boast of such noble and good purposes is that he is a being that aims toward the perfection of all things. He aims to be and God, being I AM, is that which all things aim for. Mehta is following the exact course God has laid out for him.
24. God Gives Us Access To The Afterlife
I once had a skeptic ask me why God would create a terrible world with so much evil. I find it rather intriguing then that Mehta is having a blast here, feeling incredibly lucky that he is alive and able to enjoy the wonders of our sweet planet. I’m happy for him. I always remind myself that I only have one life and I want to live it well.
But there are many who don’t love this world. Hundreds of suicides happen around the world every year. I can love those who hurt, carry them, and do my best to make them believe life is worth living, but I find no greater joy than in telling them that the cross will defeat death for them once and for all, regardless of their circumstances or their actions. Jesus Christ came to save sinners and He has done just that (1 Timothy 1:15). There is a day coming where all who have been broken, rejected, and bound will be conciliated with God in eternal joy and glory.
25. God Makes Me Happy
Finally, Mehta argues that just because something makes one happy that does not make it right. People who take drugs will tell you it makes them happy, but that is in no way an endorsement of drugs. Same with religion. Just because it makes someone happy that does not make it right. I guess this returns to the problem of morality, so am I safe to assume that happiness is not where Mehta grounds his ethics? Or does he believe that anyone can do or believe in anything as long as it makes them happy? He might personally disapprove, but he has no objective moral ground to fault them? I’m not sure. As a commentator he leaves things vague and ends up not saying anything we can latch onto.
I would like to say I’m shocked that Hemant Mehta is continuing to rely on the same clichés and soundbites that he was three-four years ago but this is simply par for the course when it comes to social activists. Many of these are bad reasons simply because he has portrayed them as such or has greatly skewed the picture. In other words, new channel, same tactics.