Should Christians help atheists make better arguments for atheism?
Let’s talk about a very practical issue.
Consider two scholars, Chris the Christian philosopher and Alan the atheist philosopher.
Alan writes a new paper in which he argues that God does not exist based on the problem of evil. He sends a draft to his friend Chris and asks Chris for feedback. Chris reads through the paper and identifies a serious problem. Chris writes a critique in which he identifies the problem and identifies a way to make the argument much stronger. As a result Chris has a reasonable ground to believe that many people may read the revised paper and come to the conviction that God doesn’t exist based in part on the alterations suggested by Chris. However, Chris still believes God does exist and that anybody who concludes that God doesn’t exist will have adopted a false belief about a very important issue. And so Chris must accept that based on arguments he has fine-tuned many people will adopt false beliefs about a very important issue. Has Chris done anything wrong by offering that critique to Alan?
Christian academics rarely if ever stop to ask this question. But maybe they should.
Let’s consider another situation. Both Dave and Norman are doctors who want to secure public health. Dave believes an important way to do this is by ensuring that as many people in the population get the latest flu shot as possible. Norman demurs and he writes an op-ed arguing that people ought not get the flu shot. Norman gives Dave a draft of the op-ed and asks for feedback. Dave identifies a key weakness in the argument and he perceives a way to make Norman’s argument much stronger. But if he shares this information he knows that many people will end up deciding not to get the flu shot after reading Norman’s op-ed and this will not serve the public good.
Should Dave offer the suggested revisions to Norman’s op-ed? Or is it a dereliction of his duty as a doctor to do so?
Should Chris have offered the suggested revisions to Alan’s essay? Or was it a dereliction of his duty as a Christian to do so?
(Of course this could be turned around the other way: should Alan have offered parallel suggestions to Chris’ pro-theism essay, or would that be a dereliction of his duty as an atheist?)