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Posted by on Jul 6, 2013 in Uncategorized Posts | 3 comments

An Open Letter to Chris Hallquist: Stop Embarrassing Atheists Before a Watching Christian Audience

The debate over whether Christian apologists are dishonest has been raised again by Chris Hallquist. Stubbornness is good in some cases but his continued ignorance isn’t. I think I’ll return Hallquist the favor and assert he is dishonest to continue arguing for this, since his case is that bad. (No, for the record I don’t think Hallquist is dishonest either). He and Jeff Lowder have been debating this back and forth for years now. New to the mix is Randal Rauser, a Christian apologist. I side with Lowder and Rauser most emphatically, no if ands or buts about it. However, I don’t think either Lowder or Rauser know how to answer Hallquist. To catch my readers up to speed you can start with Lowder’s summation and argument right here. Look what Lowder is doing. He’s trying to reason with Hallquist as if Hallquist can be reasoned with. He can’t. Hallquist is reasoning exactly like a believer would. He has his mind made up and nothing can change it. Hallquist thinks (rightly) that the case for Christianity is bad, really really bad. But he wrongly concludes that since it’s so bad Christian apologists like Ray Comfort, Josh McDowell and even William Lane Craig are being dishonest in defending it. Pfffft. Become informed Chris. Stop embarrassing atheists before a watching Christian crowd with this argument, even if many uninformed atheists, especially those who were raised as atheists, will applaud you.

For the record I have defended William Lane Craig from Hallquist’s false and slanderous accusation almost two years ago, which can be read here. [It was pieced together from four separate posts which includes the comments). I would say many of the same things regarding Ray Comfort and Josh McDowell, except that I don't know them personally.

If Hallquist can ever be convinced otherwise, then the place to begin is with psychology, especially cognitive dissonance and cognitive dissonance reduction, something Lowder fails to mention and something Rauser won't admit because, after all, he's a Christian apologist. [I cannot actually access Rauser's site so I'm guessing about him. I think I have been banned. Yes, I've done all of the things my readers would suggest to gain access, to a fault].

If all Hallquist implies is that Christian apologists are in self-denial, that is, they are lying to themselves, then we all do it, all of us, almost all of the time about a great number of things. His assertion would be trivially true dependent on what any given person thinks is the truth. Hallquist talks about evidence, but that is a truth question dependent on whether these Christian apologists know about said evidence, and if they know it, whether they agree with it. William Lane Craig, for instance, says he believes because of an inner witness of the Holy Spirit. This is a theological tradition that stretches back at least to John Calvin, but also to Thomas Aquinas and to Augustine (as I remember). I take Craig at his word on this. I most emphatically disagree with him, but if there is such an inner witness then he doesn’t have to have any answers to the objective evidence to the contrary, since he claims that this witness trumps all objective evidence. His so-called inner witness also trumps any argument against his claim that he has an inner witness too, you see.

The only non-trivially true way for these Christian apologists to be dishonest would be for them to recognize that they are being dishonest, and we cannot read their minds. So stop trying to be a mind reader Hallquist. Leave that up to the psychics. Learn instead about cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, and how our minds must reduce the amount of pain for holding two contrary opinions. This is standard stuff in psychology, something a first year student should become introduced to. You simply do not know the mind of the believer. Belief is so powerful over an otherwise intelligent mind that it makes even the best of the best apologists, like Randal Rauser himself, fail to connect the dots. It makes the believer continue to believe in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. That’s why I call it a delusion. It washes the mind clean of doubts in the face of very powerful arguments. It has a brainwashing effect on them.

But dishonesty? Pfffft. Don’t you be dishonest yourself Chris. Oh, but you don’t recognize that you are, do you? ;-)

How can you effectively reach across this great divide of ours Chris, if you don’t first understand the mind of the believer?

  • ImRike

    You know, after reading “God or Godless” I was ready to agree with Hallquist. I just couldn’t see that anybody could honestly say what Rauser did in answer to those topics and not be lying. Some of his “reasoning” was so far-fetched that I had to stop reading and take a break.
    But as usual, with your above post, you’ve convinced me that these Christians are just as honest as any of us.
    Thanks for straightening me out. Hope it’ll work for Chris, too!

  • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

    Thanks ImRike, for me this is pretty obvious.

  • Gilgamesh42

    In general, I think you are correct. But some apologists/creationists/etc. have been caught lying. Here is a recent example: Ray Comfort edits video to make it seem like people would be willing to hill for $10 million, but the original question was about would you be willing to kill someone to help a victimized woman.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GW05npbQHVs

    Again, I think you’re right in general, but we have reason to vigilantly look for dishonest defenses of faith, especially if rational ones have proven to fail.