A few days ago I emailed John Loftus to invite him up to Edmonton in May for an event to promote the publication of God or Godless, the biggest thing to hit the world of apologetics since More than a Carpenter (actually, make that Summa Contra Gentiles; better yet, Dialogue with Trypho).
But I didn’t just want to do a standard debate. After all, we wrote a book full of ’em. So how about something new and novel, eh?
So I suggested to John that we do this: each of us talk on the top three biggest problems that we face with our worldview. I’d explain the top three conceptual or evidential problems with being a Christian and John would talk about the top three problems with being an atheist.
Incidentally, I’ve mentioned the idea to several people and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
But how did John respond? Alas, I’d call the response somewhat deflationary. He wrote back:
“I would much rather present the three things that most trouble me about Christianity. My criticisms of atheism would be lame ones that wouldn’t undermine atheism in the least. In fact, as I think of this exercise they would most likely be turned into arguments against Christians and/or Christianity (yes, I’m that much of an ideologue).”
I certainly understand John’s reaction. Many of us are wired to defend a certain set of beliefs and attack others. But the fact is that one of the very best things you can do for yourself is consider the ways that you could be wrong. Yesterday I made the point with the shoe shining metaphor.
As I have noted in the past, it is no fun to admit that you’re wrong. And one of the best things you can do to develop critical nuance in your beliefs and charity toward the beliefs of others is to consider the most problematic dimensions of your belief.
After some prodding on my part John finally conceded a couple possible things that bother him. For example, he wrote halfheartedly one thing that bothers him … but then he immediately qualifies it!
“That I might go to hell when I die, but then I’d share how little probability that hypothesis really has.”
Hmmm, sounds like Bertrand Russell’s quip that if he were wrong and theism were true he’d say “Not enough evidence God, not enough evidence!” One suspects however that anybody who finds that through their own actions they ended up in hell will not be concerned with calculating probabilities. On the other hand, maybe they will be. C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce provides a picture of hell that would be consistent with atheological apologists choosing to calculate forever the probabilities demonstrating that they really were justified in their belief because that’s preferable to getting down on one’s knees to shine some shoes.
Since John referred to his own position as an ideological commitment, let me suggest a simple test for ideological commitment. Since everything needs a snappy name I’ll call it the Ideologue Barometer. Ask yourself this: if I were invited to discuss the three things that most bother me about my belief system, how quickly could I come up with a list and how long could I talk about them? The longer it would take you to compile the list and the shorter the ensuing speech, the more ideologically committed you are to your beliefs.