Dialog With An Atheist
I suppose I was aimlessly looking at sites I have bookmarked when I visited dangerous idea and read Putting words into a person's mouth. The first comment was by John Loftus, who I had come across over at Vox Popoli, although I don't remember which particular articles. As his comment was spectacularly wrong, I decided to rebut. As always, verbal blows were traded, with neither side giving an inch. The final response to Loftus is after the fold. I've made minor changes to improve links and to fix a couple of typos.
John Loftus wrote:
wrf3, I've been reading your comments with some interest. You represent the kind of person who intrigues me.
Since I never know what spark can be ignited that will eventually start a fire of knowledge and understanding free of brainwashing, here goes.
I just love it how you automatically poison the well by using emotive terms like "brainwashing." We poor dumb biased Christians have been brainwashed, while you objective rational clear-thinking atheists have broken free. Just pathetic.
Does is bother you that you come across as having the whole truth and nothing but the truth--that you have all the answers? It should.
It doesn't, for the simple reason that "how I come across" is based more on your incomplete perception of me, rather than how I actually am. We all know that, in these politically correct times, offense can be taken where none was either intended, or given. In the same way, I suspect you're reading more into my responses than what I've actually written.
For the more a person knows the less s/he claims to know. Tell us what you don't know pertaining to religious truth, if you want to prove me wrong.
That would fill a book. Shall I write another book about what I don't know about mathematics, even though I have a degree in math? How about a book about what I don't know about science, even though my math degree is from an engineering school, so I've had to take physics, chemistry, biology, thermodynamics, circuits and devices, astronomy, materials science, …?
I'll be curious to learn if you admit ignorance about several important basic details of your particular religious worldview, while at the same time claiming certainty about the whole worldview itself. That would be odd wouldn't you think, if you admit ignorant of the foundational details but certain of the whole?
First, you tell me what the "foundational details" you think I'm ignorant of. Because we may disagree on what is foundational and what is derived.Lubos Motl posts about idiot scientists who say idiotic things about science. This one is a recent one about a paper published in Nature. And this one about proponents of the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics…
Second, by your criteria, I should throw out the American Constitution and Quantum Mechanics. I should throw out the American Constitution because there is no universal agreement on what the 2nd amendment means. Even the Supreme Court was divided, 5-4, on whether or not the 2nd Amendment guarantees the right of individuals to own firearms.
And we should throw out Quantum Mechanics, because while most everyone agrees on Schrödinger's equation, there is widespread disagreement on how to interpret it. Copenhagen, Many-worlds, De Broglie-Bohm, ... You might enjoy the articles
Let melink to a few items for your reflection on this question. ... Christians debate many doctrinal and foundational specifics, as seen in these books. Are you claiming to know the answers for every issue?
Of course not. Ask me which eschatological view I hold. On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays I prefer amillennialism. On Thursdays I like postmillennialism. On Fridays I reflect on partial preterism. On Saturdays, I consider historic dispensationalism.
So there are ambiguities. So what? That's true of anything, whether it is interpretation of Christian doctrine, interpretation of the American Constitution, or interpretation of nature.
It's how our neural nets work.
Shall we declare science wrong because scientists can't agree on how to interpret nature via quantum mechanics?
In one of these above books, on apologetics, several authors argue against presuppositionalism. I suppose you are certain they are wrong too, correct?
If by "presuppositionalism" you mean "Christian presuppositionalism" then, yes, they are wrong.
Go back and re-read what I wrote. As a mathematician, I will say that we cannot escape our axioms. What we believe controls how we evaluate evidence. Then I said that I think that atheism is a consistent, complete worldview. I also said that Christianity is a consistent, complete worldview.
That doesn't mean that there aren't inconsistent Christians, or inconsistent Atheists. im-skeptical is an inconsistent atheist. He could be a consistent atheist, but whether or not he has that eureka moment only time will tell.
See a trend here? You are correct. Every other Christian is wrong. Seriously?
Only in your imagination.
The historical trend is also telling, ...
Are you saying that truth is determined by numbers? Really? And 100, or 200, or 1,000 years from now, when the trend has changed, will your great-great-great grandchildren try to use the same argument?
There are several former believers who no longer believe. ... Have you read these works?
Some of them. On the other hand, there are former atheists who now believe. Me, for one. C. S. Lewis, for another.
So what? If I have to weigh intellect against intellect, I'd certainly put C. S. Lewis ahead of John Loftus, or Bart Ehrman.
But what you don't understand is that I'm not playing that game. Atheism vs. Christianity isn't about evidence. It never has been. It's about how brains process evidence.
Let's say that it's possible you are wrong.
I'm a software engineer. I'm also married. I'm wrong a thousand times a day.
Wouldn't you want to know? No, seriously, wouldn't you want to know, yes or no?
Of course I would.
How about you?
You have Christians debunking themselves, where the trend is from conservatism to atheism, with several former intellectual believers several rejecting your faith and writing about it.
Truth has never, ever been about numbers. That you even try this argument means that you don't know how epistemology works. You're exhibiting the "r" side of r/K selection traits (i.e. where group consensus is more important than anything else).
And that you commit the fallacy of "selective citing" only shows how bankrupt your argument is. Note that this doesn't prove that Christianity is right and atheism is wrong. It just proves that you are an ignorant atheist, as opposed to an intelligent atheist.
Wouldn't you want to know why this is the case? Satan is too easily an answer. You would not accept that as an answer if someone said YOUR theology was of Satan, would you?
Why don't you let me provide my own answers? Otherwise, you can just have a conversation with yourself and whatever straw-men you want to talk to.
My claim is that doubt should be the position of everyone until such time as the evidence shows otherwise.
A self-defeating philosophy if ever there was one because, if you really believed it, you would doubt it and enter into a vicious circle.
And, for the last time, you're trying to argue evidence with someone who says that it isn't about the evidence. After all, if both Christianity and atheism are complete consistent systems, there isn't any evidence that can possibly exist to settle the argument one way or another.