John Loftus has offered a response of sorts to my series “Why they don’t believe”. He calls it “Randal Rauser Debunks Deconversion Stories.” Debunking? Contrast that word with my own description:
“we’ll begin with an introduction to the atheist and/or skeptic. Next, we’ll consider his reasons for his position in his own words. And finally, I’ll offer some preliminary reflections.”
How does “offer some preliminary reflections” become “debunking”?
John’s description of the series maintains this same highly adversarial tone:
“One thing about Rauser is that he’s willing to take on atheists, and it seems he has no fear. So he’s asking atheists why they don’t believe and then he analyses those reasons. Guess what? He finds them all insufficient.”
I think of the folks I’ve invited to share as friendly acquaintances and there is nothing fear-inducing about having a conversation with a friendly acquaintance. And why wouldn’t they be friendly acquaintances? Because they view the world differently than I do? Does that mean we have to maintain hostilities?
Having read John’s skewed description I responded as follows:
“John, I’m not “debunking” deconversion stories. I’ve invited some people to share their reasons for rejecting Christianity and/or theism. They’ve obliged, and I’ve offered some critical reflections based upon their comments. Life is complicated, and so are the personal stories and philosophical, theological, scientific and practical considerations that have been shared. To speak of “debunking” these complicated narratives in the short compass of a paragraph or two is to trivialize the issues and insult those who have shared them. Instead, I’m after genuine, thoughtful exchanges from all sides and have not been disappointed.”
Why does John construe cordial intellectual engagement as hostile debate? The simple answer is that offered by Abraham Maslow: if you only have a hammer you tend to view every problem as a nail. I can’t help but think that when John left Christianity he took his simplistic fundamentalism with him. If he had to be certain and without doubt as a Christian, he has to be certain and without doubt as an atheist. If he had to view issues as black and white, right and wrong as a Christian, he has to view those same issues as white and black, wrong and right as an atheist. The same simplistic, adversarial dichotomies are maintained, but he just jumped ship from one side to the other.