After many years out of the "debating" with atheists game I find myself dangerously close to being drawn back in. The good news is I no longer have the desire to try to win anyone over to Christianity. The pressure of having to save people from Hell is gone. And, thank G-d its gone, because I've realized it's an impossible task anyway. The prevailing attitude of of today is expressed well in this image someone posted on Facebook. The default position is "Prove it to me. Pics, or it didn't happen."
When it comes to the Bible, I've found both fundamentalist Atheists (yes, they do exist) and fundamentalist Christians commit the same errors. They both ask me the same questions. They both destroy the Bible with hyper-literalism and irrational demands. The fundamentalist Christian says the Bible must be inerrant, literal and able to interpreted in one way to be of any value. When I tell them the Bible has mistakes, is not (all) meant to be taken literally and contradicts itself, they say that's impossible because it's the Word of God. If it's anything less than 100% complete and perfect, then the entire thing has to be thrown out. The Bible is either perfect or it's worthless. The fundamentalist Atheists says the Bible is of no value because he recognizes it can be interpreted in a multitude of ways, contradicts itself and contains errors. He says "Well, using what you say, the Bible can be interpreted any way anyone wants to interpret it. So, it's of no value." Both destroy the value of the library we call the Bible, one intentionally, the other unintentionally.
When it comes to the prove it to me attitude, my experience is the demand for more and more evidence is an unslakable thirst. Does this mean I believe everything I hear with no evidence at all? Certainly not. Believe it or not I'm pretty skeptical. When someone tells me something I want to know where they heard it. Does it mean that I don't recognize that extraordinary claims (like I saw an alien) are less credible than ordinary claims (I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch). But, what I've found when it comes to certain matters (actually just about all the really big matters) the evidence really doesn't matter all that much to most of us ordinary laypeople, who suddenly turn into pseudo-scientists about certain issue- issues like global warming and whether Jesus rose from the dead or even if Jesus existed. How is global warming related to issues of faith or the historicity of the Bible? Well, I don't know too many people who have changed their minds on either based on the evidence. I've been round and round with people about global warming. The fact is the vast majority of scientists who are credible in the field have said that climate change caused by man's actions is quite possible and is actually beginning to occur. Yet, there are people who scramble to find evidence to the contrary. And, in the courts of their minds they actively seek out evidence to support their position while people who "believe" in climate change do the opposite. The two sides go back and forth without a hope that either will ever change the other's mind as long as there is a shred of evidence to back up their view. When it comes to the historicity of Jesus (let's aside the resurrection for a moment), there are those who now say there is "no" historical evidence that Jesus existed. The vast majority of people who have studied the matter say that Jesus was a real person. The skeptics however dismiss the four gospels. They dismiss Paul's writings. They dismiss the extra-canonical gospels. They dismiss the extra-biblical writings. They're like the "birthers" who continued to clamor for the long form of Obama's birth certificate and even now say it's a fake. If Jesus' birth certificate could be produced, I'm sure they'd find a way to dismiss that.
Evidence, in these cases, is pretty much irrelevant. We use the evidence we like to reinforce the belief we already have. The atheist will not be swayed by mountains and reams of "evidence", most of which he will simply dismiss. The true believer needs no evidence. Oh he (me back the old days) might read some apologetics so he can brush up his debate points. Or, when he has some doubt, he might want to reinforce his beliefs by looking up some data.
I wish I had a nickel for every time I've been told the "burden of proof" is on me because I'm making extraordinary claims. Back in my debating days that was true. I was coming at atheists trying to win them over to my side. What a waste of time! Back when I was trying to win people over with arguments, the burden of proof was on me. Now I have no interest in doing that. The idea of this supposed burden of proof comes from the debating arena and a court of law. I have two issues with that notion when it comes to matters of the Bible and its historicity. The first is that there is no impartial judge or jury to weigh the evidence. How much evidence would it take to sway a person from their default position? When it comes to the birth of Jesus, how much evidence could we possibly hope to have? The man was born 2,000 years ago in Palestine. The second issue I have with the "burden of proof" argument is that it there is an objective reality here and no matter how much we argue about it, that's not going to change. Jesus either was born or He was not. Jesus either rose from the dead or He did not. No lack of evidence will change that. No clever debating tactics will change that. Whether I "win" by providing you with what you deem sufficient evidence, or you win by declaring it wasn't enough, you and I are each going to decide what we choose to believe about it. One of us will be right, the other will be wrong. But, whether either of us is right or wrong won't be because of the evidence. If you say to me "Pics or it didn't happen." I'll say to you "If you want to know the reason for the hope I have, I'm glad to give it to you. But, I'm not at all interested in proving anything to you."