I’m going to respond here to Justin Schieber’s guest post which I invited him to write in response to comments I made to his statement on why he is not a Christian which I also invited him to write. Got that? Good.
“Randal begins his criticism with his signature parable artistry, by telling a story of two parents who take their children to separate swimming areas.”
That’s a bit misleading. In fact, it was a parable I wrote at another time which simply came to mind as I read Justin’s account. So I said, “Hey, why don’t I quote myself?” And that’s just what I did. In other words, this (and the rest of my response) was intended as a set of quick impressions and reflections prompted by Justin’s comments. Alas, some folk seem to have taken it as a carefully wrought critique, which it was not.
Carefully wrought it may not have been, but it was indeed intended as a critique. On this count Justin thinks it was a bit unfair:
“My initial post was, as requested, reasons I find Christianity implausible and was not meant to be, in any way, a defense of metaphysical naturalism.”
Fair enough. However, Justin goes very much on the offensive against both Christianity and theism simpliciter as when he writes:
“I think a rational person should look at the entire history of life on this planet and think, probably, there is at least one instance of suffering that wasn’t logically necessary and so conclude that, all else being equal, probably, God does not exist.”
Translation (as I understand Justin): any theist who assents to meticulous providence is irrational. Not just wrong but positively irrational. Them’s fightin’ words.
So while Justin protests that he didn’t set out to defend metaphysical naturalism (i.e. a developed atheistic worldview), the point is that he is critiquing the implausibility of Christianity and theism from somewhere. And since Justin is a thoughtful and intelligent individual, I assume that somewhere was a developed atheistic worldview. Consequently, to ask whether Justin has considered the probability of the full set of claims he accepts in his developed atheistic worldview seems to me to be a perfectly legitimate, reasonable question.
Consider another illustration to complement the swimming hole. Imagine that Justin owns a Yugo and is an active member of the local chapter of the Yugo club. Then one day he abruptly resigns his membership. The president of the club immediately calls Justin up on the phone to find out why he resigned. (You see, the president rightly worries that he cannot maintain a club with only one member.) Justin tells the president: “I resigned because I came to my senses and got rid of my Yugo since it’s a complete piece of junk.”
The president then asks, “What are you driving now Justin?” Justin replies: “A Trabant!” (If you don’t know what a Trabant or Yugo is, suffice it to say they were both terrible cars built in communist Eastern Europe, but only the Yugo was imported, albeit briefly, to North America. The Trabant was so bad that it had a dipstick to check the gas level!)
Is the president’s question a relevant one? Of course. Since the justification for dropping the Yugo was “It’s a complete piece of junk” it makes little sense that Justin acquired a Trabant which is also by all accounts a complete piece of junk. If you’re going to get rid of the Yugo because it is a piece of junk, you better be sure you can defend your newly acquired Trabant to the president of the Yugo club.
By the same token, if you’re going to say you reject Christianity based on all the perceived improbabilities, fair enough. Just be prepared to explain to the Christian who asks why your current worldview is that much more probably true.