It is not uncommon in dialogues with atheists to hear the claim that invoking God as an explanation is something strange and totally foreign to experience. I call this the “foreign to experience objection” or F-TEO for short. The objection is that God is some kind of out of this world explanation (figuratively and literally I suppose) which strains our credulity. The only kinds of things we experience are “natural” so why would we invoke a “supernatural” explanation of anything?
But wait a minute, what is theism? As I pointed out,
Theism is minimally the position that the ultimate cause of everything that contingently exists is an agent cause.
Here’s the important thing to note about this definition. It draws centrally on the idea of agent causation. But there is nothing strange about that. Human beings experience agent causes every day. As I look in my inbox I see several emails. Those emails were sent by agent causes, people who had an intent to communicate with me. Books line the shelves of my office: more agent causes at work. A post-it note is on my door: another agent cause.
But not all causes are agent causes. Others are non-agent (that is, event) causes. To see some of them I need do nothing more than turn to look out the window and see the snow lightly falling: non-agent cause. I see the branches of the trees moving in a gentle rhythm. Non-agent cause. A bead of moisture rolls down the inside of the glass pane. Non-agent cause.
Everyday, every moment we are navigating the world that is a complex interplay of agent causes and non-agent causes. Each is firmly entrenched in our experience. Neither is foreign to our experience. And thus both are familiar as possible types of explanation for everything that contingently exists.