As is his customary procedure, Hays seeks to turn the tables on those dastardly atheists he has in mind by pointing to a series of would-be foils which, on a good day with ample hallucinogens, might suggest that the atheist’s “mocking” is out of line. On a more sober reading, however, Hays’ whole post comes across as a rather juvenile “I’ll show you!” outburst which quickly collapses under its own weight. It’s nothing epic, unless of course we consider the fail factor.
Before going any further (full disclosure alert), I’ll point out for readers that this is not the first time the notion of imaginary friends has come up on Incinerating Presuppositionalism. Back in the summer of 2006, I posted an entry titled Christianity: The Imaginary Friend’s Network, which readers are invited to read at their leisure.
i) Jesus is visible, not invisible. God Incarnate is visible. He was seen (heard, and touched) by thousands of observers in 1C Palestine.
ii) And that's not just a thing of the past. Consider many reported Christophanies in modern times: https://epistleofdude.wordpress.com/2017/11/07/visions-of-jesus/
Hays’ third objection is about as kooky:
iii) But suppose Jesus is invisible. Charlemagne is invisible. I never saw him. Never met him. There are no photographs of Charlemagne. Does that mean Charlemagne is a figment of the imagination?
Consider it from another standpoint: Does Hays run around saying that Emperor Charlemagne is right beside him, rooting for him on the sidelines, clearing a safe path through the evil world and protecting him from devious spirits which too are invisible? If so, I’d say he was imagining. See how it goes? If I have to imagine it, how can what I imagine be anything other than imaginary?
Believers can be expected to justify their scorn for non-believers because they teach that the believer’s non-belief is a personal affront to their god. What often escapes thinkers on both sides of the conflict is the fact that the offended feelings on the part of believers only underscores that the god they worship is ultimately psychological, in fact a figment of their imagination. Given that they emotionally invest themselves in something that they construct and glorify in their imagination, they naturally recoil emotionally to anything that is perceived to threaten it. Hurt feelings do not indicate a mature orientation to the matter in question. Suppose someone comes along and tells you that the Pacific Ocean is not the largest ocean on the earth. Would the rational response to this open denial of something that is indisputably true occasion offended feelings and bitter retaliation? But if a person has emotionally staked his entire being on an imaginary friend, personal offense at the mere suggestion that what he believes in may very well be a tell-tale sign that his leg has been pulled and that he doesn’t want to admit it.
In his fourth and final objection, Hays reaches headlong for a wild gasp:
iv) Consider an anonymous benefactor. Take someone who endows a college scholarship. Although that's an invisible friend, it's not an imaginary friend.
Hays’ analogy has even deeper weaknesses. After all, the benefactor we’re supposed to imagine (!) here is supposed to be a contemporary of ours, not someone who lived two thousand years ago, right? Nor is the mysterious benefactor said to be invisible because he is a supernatural spirit. He’s just unknown to the beneficiary, but otherwise a biological organism just like everyone else. And if sufficient research were conducted to discover the identity of said benefactor, presumably if we went to search this individual out, we would not find that he’s invisible when we finally catch up with him and engage him in conversation to thank him for his endowment, right?
But notice something else that is possible with an imaginary friend that is not possible with an anonymous benefactor: the imaginer can actually describe his imaginary friend and even carry on a conversation (albeit one-sided, like prayer) with his imaginary friend. The imaginer can even tell us what he imagines his imaginary friend says in response to his observations and questions. Notice how believers do this on behalf of the god they imagine: they tell us that their god wants them to pursue a certain career, fast more, witness to a specific stranger, read a particular passage in the bible, declare war on some nation, etc. Even Steve Hays cannot do this on behalf of an anonymous benefactor, but he can on behalf of Jesus!
by Dawson Bethrick