• The ‘Why I am a Christian’ series – Randal Rauser

    As mentioned in my last post, I was graciously asked by Randal Rauser on his blog recently to provide a synopsis of a few paragraphs to run in his series “Why I am an atheist” (or not a Christian. The series has been interesting and has elicited testimonies from Justin Schieber, Counter Apologist, Jeff Lowder, Ed Babinski and others. I have since asked Randal to return the favour and he has gladly accepted, furnishing me with a much more lengthy expression of the reasons for his Christian belief. For those who don’t know, we had a debate on Reasonable Doubts about the historicity of the Nativity accounts.

    Randal’s account follows:

    I am an unapologetic world-realist (and the chances are that you are too). This means that I eschew the idealist’s claim that the only things that exist are minds and their conscious states. Mind you, I cannot demonstrate that the idealist is incorrect. And I don’t dispute the fact that the idealist may be rational to retain belief in idealism. But don’t expect me to follow him. For me, belief in an external world that corresponds to my sense perceptual experience is an ineluctable conclusion. Mind you, world-realism isn’t a belief based on evidence since, as the idealist loves to point out, the evidence of conscious experience confirms idealism no less than realism. (In other words, the evidence underdetermines the matter.) Instead, philosophers recognize this belief in the external world as a properly basic belief. This means that absent defeaters (that is, concrete reasons or evidence) to think realism is false, I am (and you are) perfectly justified in thinking it true. Moreover, if realism is true, then I (and you) can know it.

    But enough about the external world. Let’s now shift our attention to that realm which lies beyond the world of sense experience which philosophers refer to as metaphysics. Metaphysics refers to the ultimate constituents of reality, the most basic building blocks, the fundamental furniture, the so-called primary colors, the point at which you can go no further in your analysis of what is. At the heart of every account of metaphysics is what philosopher Roy Clouser calls “the divine”. Mind you, by “the divine” he simply means that which is understood to be unconditionally, non-dependently real. It is important to understand that by this definition, every metaphysical system has a stopping point of explanation which functions as “the divine” in that system. For example, when Bertrand Russell quipped that “The universe is just there, and that’s all”, he identified the universe as the stopping point of explanation, and thus for Russell the universe is the divine. (If you remain loathe to speak of atheists confessing belief in the divine, you are welcome to substitute another term like “the really real”.)

    At this point I can now bring together this observation about sense perception and properly basic belief with my own beliefs about the divine. All my life the belief that the divine is an agent has been a natural, basic belief. Perhaps it is not as immediate and undeniable as belief in the external world. Certainly other rational individuals insist that for them the divine has never been an agent. But for most of my life, from the time snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef to witnessing the birth of my child to standing in Sagrada Familia to the experience of goodness and mercy in others to the inescapability of teleology – from eyes that are for seeing to lives that are for helping others – I find time and again I am drawn with an undeniable immediacy to the belief that the divine is an agent. And thus, we are, most emphatically, not alone.

    But what should I think about the nature of this agent? Has it (or he or she?) spoken? Does it (or he or she?) expect anything of me? If so, what is it?

    I was born into a Christian home. This provides my starting point for thinking about the divine. Some folks who are born into a Christian home find that experience has driven them away from the Christian description of the divine.  To take an extreme example, two weeks ago I met Nate Phelps, the gregarious and friendly son of the “God hates fags” Pastor Fred Phelps. Today Nate is an atheist, and one can’t help but think that his nasty father had no small role in Nate’s journey to atheism.

     But in my case my experience being reared in a Christian home has provided good reasons to continue to understand the divine in accord with Christian truth-descriptions. Consequently, I retain the belief with which I was raised that Christianity provides the most accurate set of beliefs and practices for understanding and relating to the divine, culminating in the claim that the divine was and is revealed in the person of Jesus Christ.

    This account will be very unsatisfactory to some who have persuaded themselves that our most basic metaphysical commitments must always be conclusions from the weight of evidence and argument.  “You’ve locked yourself up in your Christian beliefs!” they retort. “Set aside all your beliefs and follow the evidence where it leads!”

    Those kinds of protests remind me of a key moment in Bill Clinton’s masterful speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention when he observed,

    “One of the greatest chairmen the Democratic Party ever had, Bob Strauss, used to say that every politician wants every voter to believe he was born in a log cabin he built himself. But, as Strauss then admitted, it ain’t so.”

    Clinton’s right, of course. It ain’t so. And any politician who fancies himself born into the cabin he himself built is merely deluding himself with a naïve narrative of rugged Enlightenment individualism.

    Alas, the protestations of my interlocutor strike a similar chord. I’m not “locked” in my Christian, theistic beliefs any more than the committed atheistic naturalist is “locked” in his. Each of us needs a place to stand as we consider how the world seems to us. To be sure, we all need to aspire to be rational and open-minded, but none of us can really step out of our particular place to adopt a view from nowhere from which we can build the cabin into which we shall be intellectually born.

    But doesn’t this make things even worse? Doesn’t it mean we’re all ultimately locked away in our self-justifying towers of personal perspective? No, the worry is unfounded. As I noted above with regard to world-realism, this belief is rational, justified and (if true) may constitute knowledge, so long as there are no serious defeaters to it. (Much more would need to be said regarding the nature of defeaters and the rationality of individuals and doxastic communities, but that is a conversation for another day.) The same is true for each of our metaphysical starting points, whether we call ourselves theistic Christians or atheistic naturalists or anything else. And this leaves each of us not locked in a self-justifying tower, but rather with an open invitation to a round table of discussion above which is written, “Come, let us reason together”.

     

    For more on my intellectual biography see my essay “The Prayer that Prayed Me,” in David Marshall, ed. Faith Seeking Understanding; Essays in Memory of Paul Brand and Ralph Winter, (William Carey Library, 2012).

    For more on my apologetic reasoning see my book The Swedish Atheist, the Scuba Diver, and Other Apologetic Rabbit Trails (InterVarsity, 2012). 

    In analysing this piece, I must remind myself and the readers that Randal has put his faith down here to be analysed, but I hope that I can be respectful of his offer to do so, and ask that readers and commenters are likewise respectful of Randal and his testimony. By all means let’s be critical, but not to the point of rudeness or lack of civility.

    So Randal has produced a large enough piece here but without, with all due respect, an awful lot of substance, philosophically speaking. By this I mean that he has kept his argument count to a minimum. He starts by claiming a properly basic belief in the correspondence theory of truth, or at least that there is something out there, and thus I assume he is saying that we can in some way access it (more, perhaps, than Kant in his denial that we can know the thing-in-itself). Most of the meat, though, is contained in this paragraph:

    At this point I can now bring together this observation about sense perception and properly basic belief with my own beliefs about the divine. All my life the belief that the divine is an agent has been a natural, basic belief. Perhaps it is not as immediate and undeniable as belief in the external world. Certainly other rational individuals insist that for them the divine has never been an agent. But for most of my life, from the time snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef to witnessing the birth of my child to standing in Sagrada Familia to the experience of goodness and mercy in others to the inescapability of teleology – from eyes that are for seeing to lives that are for helping others – I find time and again I am drawn with an undeniable immediacy to the belief that the divine is an agent. And thus, we are, most emphatically, not alone.

    So he has a properly basic belief that the world is ‘divine’, imbued with agency. His conclusion, which is pretty big, is reached by appeals to several things:

    1. the beauty of the world
    2. goodness and mercy in others, such as people helping others
    3. teleology, such as the eye that sees

    And that really is it. The problem for Randal is that, even given the brevity of such a task, this is simply not enough to derive a belief in God, for me at any rate. The beauty of the world can be explained in many ways (as I explained here), and many would conclude a subjective understanding of such beauty. I am not sure positing God to undergird it has any value. It also doesn’t very well explain all of the ugliness of the world: shit stained toilets in a slum; favelas where rape takes place next to burning litter; wolves tearing a caribou to death; a meteorite wiping out billions of organisms in a horrific explosion.  Hardly beautiful.

    And the same can be said for 2). Yes, it’s easy to posit God as underwriting goodness and mercy, but whenever we see evil, suffering (rape, torture, carnivorousness etc) it is suddenly humanity’s fault in some way. Goodness and mercy = God. The antitheses = something else to blame and explain it away.

    Now some of you might not like this (h/t Honest_John_Law). It is truly disgusting. But utterly natural.

    Now can you sit there and watch that all, quite unaffected, and say, “God designed that. God is all-loving, and that really is the best he could possibly do. I love God.”

    Watch it. Watch it again. Watch it as the buffalo is having its hind ripped out alive as safari-going onlookers laugh about prolapsed anuses. Is that the goodness and mercy Randal is talking about? Is that the teleology which is so evident? Those eyes to better see the prey, catch it and eat it alive with those well-designed teeth? Or is that the arms race of evolution which predicts such eventualities. Nature is red in tooth and claw, and we may intuitively be repulsed by it, but shit happens. Nature is red in tooth and claw. Either God designed it that way or that is how life competes for resources. You choose.

    I know which is more plausible. The best designed in conception, bar none, nothing, no entity, nada. Perfection designs that brutality? You can’t blame me, I didn’t design that. And it happened before ‘The Fall’. No, God has a lot to answer for.

    Oh, and we pretty much know how the eye evolved.

    As for the rest of Randal’s piece, I think it can be best summed up by deferring to John Loftus’ Outsider Test for Faith. His book on the topic, by the way, is superb. I have been really pleasantly surprised by how much I am getting from it. And the case is so very strong. On what basis does Randal’s faith survive that critical analysis whilst all the other faiths do not? And is it not rather suspect that he has the same belief as his parents – is their familial and intellectual / cultural baggage?

    Category: ApologeticsProblem of Evil

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    Article by: Jonathan MS Pearce

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    • Honest_John_Law

      Jonathan,

      Thank you for posting this. I read Dr. Rauser’s testimony. Despite his using such polished diction and communicating at such a high level, I didn’t find much substance. I wonder if his view of the world and the cosmos is skewed at all (i.e. rose-coloured glasses) by working and living in what sounds like a relatively safe, sterile environment. I wonder how his worldview might be altered if, for example, he grew up and lived on the mean streets of inner-city Chicago or Detroit or L.A. etc. and had to literally fight to survive. I imagine the world might look much different to an observer (as an FYI, I lived in Detroit for a number of years, and it certainly isn’t all sunshine and daffodils).

      BTW, I attached another link to the video you referenced in your article – in case your guests want to click directly onto it rather than copying and pasting:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8pUohDkRFY

      • Damn! I have formatted it properly now.

        Cheers!

        • Honest_John_Law

          Jonathan, I read the rebuttal post that Dr. Rauser made today in response to your article. I noticed that the following paragraph is about all he seems to have to say re. “carnivorousness” and the video link you provided:

          “At the same time I do recognize that the subsequent examples Jonathan provides are more troubling. But it is interesting to note that Jonathan
          doesn’t provide any formal argument here that evil ought to serve as a
          defeater for God’s existence. Instead, he enumerates some instances of
          evil and then states his own personal incredulity that God should allow
          such things. Now that’s what I call lacking philosophical substance. – Dr. Rauser

          What kind of a response is that? Is that supposed to be a meaningful address re. the issue of how every single species of life on Earth does compete to survive (sometimes through brute force upon other species) and has been trying to do so long before mankind arrived, whilst according to paleontologists, most documented species have FAILED in their attempt to survive since live existed? I hope he will take more time to address the issue more fully.

    • I think it is helpful to present the problem of evil as an opportunity for spiritual growth. Understanding the tremendous power that the argument has requires the ability to empathize and have compassion for all of those that suffer. I live a privileged life and my own suffering has been relatively limited, though still significant. But I know that there are people who have suffered things that I don’t think that I could recover from. To understand the force of the problem of evil, I am morally obligated to put myself in the shoes of all of those who have suffered. I don’t see how I can maintain belief in God and reap whatever psychological and spiritual rewards that I might think that this belief affords me without considering the magnitude of evil in the world. If my belief in God is not to be based on a self-serving belief (or hope) that the problem of evil can be overcome, I have to consider the full range of evils that this universe offers. And when I think about that, I don’t see how faith in an agent as the ultimate reality can survive such a consideration.

      So, appreciating the problem of evil requires us to abandon our narrow self-centered perspective, which is exactly what many religious traditions identity as spiritual progress.

      • pboyfloyd

        Sure, if you insist that the problem of evil is an annoying difficulty which can be overcome by ‘helpfully’ thinking of it as an opportunity for spiritual growth, I suppose Christians can just go ahead and do that.
        But has a bit of fancy footwork really disposed of the problem of evil.
        You seem to be implying that evil perpetrated on others, perhaps innocent others, might well be there, simply to gauge your reaction and to ‘grow your spirit’, whatever that might mean.
        You seem to be completely missing what the problem part of the problem of evil, is.

        “Oh, those poor fuckers, what pain and anguish I felt for them, such pointless horror! But wait, I felt bad for them, so, maybe that’s the point of their pain!”
        Problem solved?
        What are you, a solipsist?
        Nice rhetoric though, if I had been looking for an ‘out’, I’d have found it in there.

        • I believe you may have missed the point. The way you progress spiritually by studying the problem of evil is to give up belief in God. To do otherwise is to give in to self-centered hope. I am saying that the most honest and selfless reaction is to realize that the pain and evil in this world is for nought and thus there can be no God.

          When I contemplate the reality of the magnitude of suffering in this world, “I don’t see how faith in an agent as the ultimate reality [i.e., belief in God] can survive.”

          • pboyfloyd

            If that’s what you meant, then, “I think it is helpful to present the problem of evil as an opportunity for spiritual growth.”, is very badly worded.

            And this, “So, appreciating the problem of evil requires us to abandon our narrow self-centered perspective, which is exactly what many religious traditions identity as spiritual progress.”. Apparently you’re not saying what I’m reading.

            • Why is it poorly worded? It means what it says. Realizing that attachment to God is self-centered is, arguably, spiritual progress. I don’t find that particularly problematic. Is the problem that you think that any talk of spirituality is necessarily talk of God?

            • I developed this more clearly in a blog post a while ago. Here is the link if you are interested:

              http://notnotaphilosopher.wordpress.com/2010/03/03/the-problem-of-evil-as-an-opportunity-for-spiritual-growth/

            • pboyfloyd

              ” Is the problem that you think that any talk of spirituality is necessarily talk of God?”
              What is spirituality?
              I am interested, if your link doesn’t take it for granted that there is such a thing. If it’s some feeling you get when you look to the west, then I’m puzzled at the notion that you would seem to be imagining words as art while I imagine words as something we use to convey some kind of meaning to each other.
              Words have to mean ‘something’, right?

            • What is spirituality? Excellent question. And I did not define it in that post because, two years ago (or whenever it was), I didn’t have a decent definition. But here is my current definition:

              Spirituality has two aspects: (1) An appreciation that the universe is a mystery that entails that a curious person will be filled with wonder when contemplating it; that the world is awe inspiring. And not just the universe at large, but many of its parts (including, importantly, human beings, human reason, myself, etc.). (2) A belief that the experience of awe entails certain obligations for me; that is, this kind of awe is not simply passive, but, having experienced awe, it naturally transforms into reverence and a feeling that I am responsible. I should not just sit back and enjoy, but I should actively engage. First and foremost, I have an obligation not to cause undue harm to other persons. I also have an obligation to learn more, to bring my thinking in line with what is true.

              So, spiritual progress involves cultivating this kind of awe or wonder (as Socrates say, philosophy begins in wonder. I think that means we should cultivate awe-inspiring and sublime experiences. I certainly value them and think that they are objective valuable). And it involves moral progress; moving toward a more considered understanding of one’s obligations.

              So, that’s it. Not the best definition. But it is a start

            • pboyfloyd

              A dawn, or a sunset viewed across a plain or from a beach is truly awesome, but hardly objective since dawns and sunsets are in the process of happening all the time(if you’re not too far North or South), right?
              They’re just not happening all the time where you’re at. How subjective can you get?

              Aren’t pseudo-scientific claims of telekinesis, telepathy, homeopathy and so on, aren’t they truly awesome ideas?

              Hey, I can make a coin disappear right before your eyes!
              I understand that you’re likely excluding such chicanery but it is the awesomeness that holds power over people, no?
              So what is the difference between awesome natural phenomena and the awesome idea that you might control the weather through the power of prayer?

            • So, if I say that awesome natural phenomena are real, why is that not satisfactory?

              The fact that a sunset depends on the point of view of the observer does not diminish its awesomeness. The human subject, by the way, is also awe-inspiring. As are many other things.

            • pboyfloyd

              No, you’re right that the fact that a sunset depends on the point of view of the observer doesn’t diminish its awesomeness, but it does diminish it’s objectivity!
              These things, such as dawns and sunsets can be awesome or not depending on, for instance, if you’re on a tuna boat and you’re busy damning the Sun for not going down on another boring day and you can’t even watch it ‘cos those albacore bite right at sunset and you’re busy taking lives. Sad but true.
              But these things are intersubjective, not objective, surely, since, if I hadn’t been busy snuffing out the lives of my fellow living beings I surely would have been awed by that sunset, right?
              IOW, sunset to you means an objective ‘awesome’, sunset to me, while tuna fishing meant avarice, my greed for ‘gold’.

            • That’s interesting. But, for me, the fact that my psychology in part determines the beauty of the sunset (or lack thereof) is fascinating. The human (or personal) contribution to the world and its properties can and has inspired awe and wonder. Kant would be a good example of this. He didn’t think that the universe was any less awe inspiring because space and time are a contribution of the human sensory apparatus (or, more accurately, of sensation, full stop). Now, you probably don’t agree with Kant’s metaphysics, but the point stands, I think. That something is subjective is not necessarily reason to dismiss it or to not be filled with wonder by it.

            • pboyfloyd

              But now you seem to be changing perspective. Is something akin to objective simply because it is, “..not necessarily reason to dismiss it or to not be filled with wonder by it.”, as you say?

              I believe I went out of my way to explain that I do agree that there are indeed awesome sights which we can all admit to being awed by, but this is more easily explained by intersubjectivity than objectivity, surely?

              I notice you completely avoided the pseudo-phenomena which some people find just as awesome as the real natural phenomena that you attribute ‘spirituality’ to. Funny how they attribute their ‘spirituality’ to those bogus phenomena, no?

            • I don’t know what I am supposed to have avoided. I asked what was wrong with saying that awesome phenomena are real?

              This would imply that the fact that I think that it is real does not mean that it is awesome, but again, I am just asking why this would not be satisfactory. Just a question.

            • pboyfloyd

              Nono, it’s not that there are real phenomena that are awesome that is the problem, it’s that there are supposed phenomena which are not real, yet which are believed by many to be real and which seem to invoke the same sense of spirituality.

              For example, ” An appreciation that the universe is a mystery that entails that a curious person will be filled with wonder when contemplating it..”

              If I enjoy séances, magicians and so on, imagining that the performer can read minds, teleport objects, talk to the deceased, cut an assistance in half and repair her, is my sense of spirituality which I gain from the apparent awesomeness of these feats, any different than yours?

            • Guest

              I am unimpressed, to say the least, upon reading the title of the post you linked to. Talk about face-palm! If you tell me three times it is true?

    • David Marshall

      Jonathan: I am writing a full-length argument from the OTF to the truth of Christianity. A shorter version can be found in the present edition of Touchstone Magazine, also as a chapter in True Reason. (Now available as an e-book, but an updated version is due to be published in print early next year by Kregel.) You are also welcome to rebut my more concise analysis of the OTF given as a review on Amazon, since no one else has seriously attempted to do so, yet. (Despite many comments.)

      In short, until someone shows otherwise, the state of that argument lies heavily in favor of the Christian Gospel.

      I like what Randal says, above (including, of course, his reference to our Faith Seeking Understanding, a book you might enjoy). I would tend to throw out reams of positive argumentation for the truth of Christianity, myself, but I do suspect that is often merely the language by which God communicates Himself to us, as much as “reasons to believe,” and other language is also appropriate and useful. As a hiker, who spends as much time in the mountains as possible, and observes wildlife, I do tend to think the Argument From Evil is a bit overwrought at times — though see quantum physicist Don Page’s flamboyantly tough-minded theodicy in the same book. One can only judge a story to be sad when one has reached the end of it.

      • Andy_Schueler

        In short, until someone shows otherwise, the state of that argument lies heavily in favor of the Christian Gospel.

        I haven´t read John´s book about the OTF but from his blogposts, it always seemed to me as if the OTF was a method, not an argument. Has John changed the definition of the OTF or what exactly do you mean here?

        • David Marshall

          It’s an argument, too. He makes it pretty clear in many posts, even clearer in the book.

          • Andy_Schueler

            I´ve seen him use arguments to justify the validity of the OTF as a method, but I can´t remember seeing him using the OTF itself as an argument – it´s possible that he did (link would be appreciated), but the very idea seems to be quite weird to me.

            • I? have so far read 80 pages and I think it is a great book.

            • David Marshall

              He tangles them closely together; maybe you’re disentangling them in your mind as you go.

              “As a nonbeliever, I use the outsider test, in the third stage, to argue against religion in general and Christianity in particular . . . I argue that by its very nature faith cannot pass the OTF . . . ” (OTF, 19)

              He begins drawing these conclusions as part of his definition of the OTF, already, on pages 15-17. This is clear as a bell.

            • Andy_Schueler

              He tangles them closely together; maybe you’re disentangling them in your mind as you go.

              Yup. My impression of the OTF was, that it essentially boils down to trying to recognize cultural biases and avoiding double standards – but since those standards are different for different people, it seems weird to me to translate the OTF into an argument about which faiths “pass” the test and which do not. Unless this also contains additional arguments about which standards we should adopt, something that passes the test based on the standards of evidence that person A requires doesn´t have to pass the test for person B who might require different standards of evidence.

      • Thanks David. Will look at your amazon review.

      • Honest_John_Law

        “One can only judge a story to be sad when one has reached the end of it,
        especially when it contains so much that is beautiful and joyous…” – David Marshall

        That is an interesting perspective. Then again, if you were a citizen in Europe during the Black Death in the mid-14th century, you might have a very different perspective. As a matter of fact, history tells us the Black Death led many survivors to become alienated from the Church.

        • moreover, it is problematic from a moral perspective: it means humans are being used as a means to an end. defying Kantian style deontology. Ie God is a consequentialist and he is not necessary for morality.

          • David Marshall

            I don’t see your point.

        • David Marshall

          Actually, atheism seems to be far rarer in Africa, where life is often short and painful, than in Scandinavia, where everyone has a state-paid lovely Bond girl dropping grapes in their mouths by pool-side as they lounge their lives away.

          • Honest_John_Law

            I do believe Islam is the predominant religion (nearly 50%) in Africa. If I am not mistaken, you take that to be a false religion.

            • David Marshall

              Actually, there are more at least nominal Christians, now. But Muslims are not wrong about the existence of God.

            • Honest_John_Law

              “Actually, there are more at least nominal Christians, now” – David Marshall

              That’s interesting. Do you suppose the colonization of large swaths of Africa by Europeans had something to do with that?

              “But Muslims are not wrong about the existence of God.” – David Marshall

              They do not worship a Triune God, so I imagine you think they have that wrong.

            • David Marshall

              “Do you suppose the colonization of large swaths of Africa by Europeans had something to do with that?”

              Not as much as you probably suppose. Read Yale historian Lamin Sanneh, Translating the Message.

              “They do not worship a Triune God, so I imagine you think they have that wrong.”

              Sure. But the point is, a hard life does not automatically translate into atheism — a soft life seems more liable to bring that about.

      • pboyfloyd

        Midrashic symbolism cannot be ‘shown to be’ not actual, factual accounts? Pfft! You’re simply defending the cost of your education at this point.

    • Pingback: Like two ships passing in the night … Jonathan Pearce’s abortive rebuttal()

    • Jonathan, your “critique” entails a colossal misreading of my statement. I offer a response here:

      http://randalrauser.com/2013/06/like-two-ships-passing-in-the-night-jonathan-pearces-abortive-rebuttal/

      • And I have responded. I think you have misread my misreading! I also think you have been a little disingenuous!

    • AdamHazzard

      Looking at Dr. Rauser’s response, I’m reminded how tiresome the “properly basic belief” argument has become. At some point, “properly basic” begins to operate like a get-out-of-jail-free card in Monopoly: if you can call some belief “basic” then you can hold it without justification — unless, of course, some “defeater” to the belief emerges or is discovered.

      But if the belief in a complex unevidenced abstraction like a creator god can be “basic,” so can virtually any other unevidenced belief. (Though surely, if it is true that such beliefs can be overturned by “defeaters,” the simple knowledge that a “defeater” might at any time emerge ought to mean that the belief can only be held provisionally.)

      All the argument amounts to, in the end, is: I’m entitled to hold (and to proclaim as true) any belief that can’t be conclusively disproved.

      • The idea is that such a belief can be valid without needing evidence, but then Randal produced evidence which supposedly leads him to the belief and then called me out on critiquing that evidence! ?

    • TristanVick

      I agree, the piece is well written but lacks any real substance.

      I was waiting for an argument, a demonstration, something. But all I got was yet another profession of faith.

      As for Randal’s three main motivators for why he believes, these can be explained away in terms of psychological biases and the way the brain works. I often think if philosophers had a better undetstanding of basic psychology they could better avoid making hasty rationalisations that take their own psychology for granted.

    • Daydreamer1

      This baffles me. Isn’t this just saying ‘we’ve all got to believe in something and lets face it every belief has a few holes. I was raised Christian so I’m Christian’.?

      Randal puts so much effort in, I was expecting some real meat here.

    • Hi Randal, Ironically you wrote in your essay that, “Nate Phelp’s nasty father had no small role in Nate’s journey to atheism.”

      http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2013/06/20/the-why-i-am-a-christian-series-randal-rauser/#sthash.nbRisVlP.dpuf

      I say ironically because I suspect that the nastiness of the Bible’s “Father” and “His commands,” probably played a role in making Nate’s father “nasty” in the first place, including biblical commands to discipline one’s children via “the rod,” even bruising their bodies, and not ceasing to strike them no matter how loudly they cried. And the penalty for cursing one’s parents or striking them back in return was death.

      And you yourself noted in some posts that even Jesus cited the death penalty for striking parents or cursing them. In fact Jesus cited it as being an example of the right of honor that belongs to parents. Here’s how Jesus was depicted speaking per the Gospel of Mark:

      Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used (i.e., money or other things) to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God and given to the Temple priests instead of giving it to one’s parents who need it)—then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down.” Mark 7

      So, Jesus spoke not a word against “the tradition handed down” that capital punishment was a valid penalty for children who disobeyed their parents. (Calvin certainly took note, and when he had the chance, he advocated that disobedient children in Geneva ought to be put to death. One child in their teens was, while other children in Geneva were hung by their armpits from gallows to demonstrate that they deserved the death penalty for their disobedience. And a few Reformed Calvinists today also advocate that disobedient kids in their teens be put to death.)

      SUFFER THE CHILDREN TO COME UNTO ME
      The phrase, “Suffer the children to come unto me [=Jesus]” is from the King James Bible which was written in Elizabethan English. At that time the word “suffer” meant “allow.” Just “allow” children to “come to Jesus?” Seems a little tame compared with statements in the Hebrew Bible that taught parents to beat their children into submission, and stone disobedient ones, including anyone of any age who tempted others to follow “other gods.”After Christianity arose, further “allowances” were instituted such as dedicating one’s child to the parent’s religion at birth, i.e., the Hebrews practiced circumcision, but the early Christian church soon chose infant baptism as an alternative. The child was thus “allowed” to come to Jesus. But what choice did it have?
      ____________________________

      KIDS, YOU CAN’T BEAT ‘EM, UNLESS YOU’RE A FIRM BELIEVER IN THE BIBLE, THEN IT’S AN OBLIGATION

      Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.
      – Proverbs 19:18 (The Hebrew word for “chasten” means literally “chasten with blows.”)

      The blueness of a wound cleanses away evil: so do stripes the inward parts of the belly.
      – Proverbs 20:30 (The Hebrew word translated “stripes” means “beating.”)

      A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool’s back.
      – Proverbs 26:3

      Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beats him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shall deliver his soul from Sheol.
      – Proverbs 23:13-14

      As a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee (with blows).
      – Deuteronomy 8:5

      For whom the Lord loves he chasteneth, and scourges every son whom he receives.
      – Hebrews 12:6 (The Greek word translated “chasteneth,” also means “beating.”)

      ____________________________

      AND IF BEATIN’ ‘EM DON’T WORK…
      Rev. William Einwechter, vice-moderator of the Association of Free Reformed Churches, is convinced that we as a nation are in danger of suffering the penalty of God’s wrath unless we begin stoning to death “disobedient children” who are in their “middle teens or older.” The reverend cited Deuteronomy 21:18-21 as his keystone verse:

      “If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.”

      He and his fellow Free Reformed Christians should not be chided for focusing on “disobedient children,” because they believe that blasphemers, witches, adulterers, and those who seek to convert people to religions other than Free Reformed Christianity, are all candidates for a good stoning.

      E.T.B. (citing Rev. William Einwechter, “Stoning Disobedient Children,” Chalcedon Report, Jan. 1998)

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    • “I have never met a liberal who believed in a conservative God or a conservative who believed in a liberal one.” -Andrew Copson