Sunday, February 01, 2009


I am an unapologetic theist, if a non-traditional one (and I still, on principle, refuse to indoctrinate my kids). That said, I followed with interest a Michael Drake post that gives as good as it gets (in the comments, which I joined) with respect to this age old debate. This comment is, I think, particularly insightful and deserves to be seriously considered…by all sides:
This seems to reduce to an irreconcilable difference between the perspective of a theist and the perspective of an atheist. The atheist characterizes religion in a manner consistent with his notion of it. When he points to CTP, he is not necessarily asking his theistic interlocutor to agree with him that belief in God is as ridiculous as belief in an indetectible piece of china, but that, from the point of view of an Atheist, the idea of God and the idea of the cosmic teapot are equally incredible posits. The theist has two choices at this point. He can accept the Atheist's description as a reliable self-report (without altering his own convictions regarding God), and decide that he has learned something new, not about God, but about how Atheists think about claims regarding God. Or he can choose to be insulted. If the theist chooses to be insulted, he will point to all the smart people who also believe in God, to counter the notion that belief in God is as incredible as belief in the cosmic teapot. This response makes a kind of sense, but is really neither here nor there, since the Atheist is not (at least, should not be) actually trying to dictate how the theist should construct his opinion on the matter. Now, at this point, the Atheist has two choices-he can take the theist's rebuttal as a reliable self-report, acknowledge that there exists between the two positions an irreconcilable difference of opinion. Or the Atheist may take the theist's rebuttal as an argument against his own point of view, and point to historical examples of many ideas held by smart people that are now considered invalid. At this point the whole discussion has gotten out of control. The whole problem with these discussions is that two things are being conflated simultaneously-descriptions of the construction of belief and arguments for or against belief. I think we can agree that neither CTP nor "the epistemic authority of smart theists" really constitute actual arguments about God, since they do not actually touch on the plain factual question (of course, I have no idea what would) of God's existence. They are meta-arguments not about God but about the belief in God, and since the two interlocutors have opposing beliefs, they are not even talking about the same thing.