Reason Rally 2012 Washington DC: Show me the Evidence!
by Chris Van Allsburg
Daniel is a home-schooled high school senior who attends Ratio Christi meetings from time to time and came with us to the Reason Rally in order to engage in rational dialogue with the many atheists present on the mall between the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument. The mist and rain bathed us intermittently beneath the canopy of a gray, solemn sky that hung overhead like a lid on a jar.
No real hope of the sun breaking through today to warm our weary bones from an all-night bus trip from Greensboro to Washington.
With a bold flavor, this young man clad in braces and Carolina Tar Heel blue walks up to a number of pin-wearing, sing bearing atheists and begins a conversation. The men he is speaking with are middle to retirement age: they’ve heard all the arguments and have come ready for the battle of the mind. In terms of age and experience, this is a real David and Goliath moment!
I’m the chapter director of Ratio Christi at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, North Carolina, and a few of us joined a host of students and leaders of UNC Greensboro’s Ratio Christi group. I watched Daniel engage these men out of the corner of my eye, allowing him the freedom to interact on his own for a while. Most of the conversation surrounded the idea of evidence. "Show us the evidence for God!" they repeat. Through his apologetic training, Daniel knew to ask these men what their definition of evidence was and why evidence was so important for forming belief-structures.
After a while, I quietly stepped into the foray, listening as the men told Daniel that empiricism (knowledge obtained by means of the 5 senses) is the only acceptable means by which someone should appropriate belief in God. Jeff was one of them, holding his fingers and thumb aft and discussing, with each appendage, the five senses in question: seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling. With long, straggly hair, Jeff is adamant in his demands for empirical data. I asked him questions about the nature of empiricism.
What I got from Jeff was that we should engage in empirical inquiry is because it works. We know things from scientific inquiry because scientific inquiry gets results. That’s true–it does. But such a justification for empiricism is merely pragmatic: could I give the same reason for my belief in Jesus Christ as the Messiah?
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