In response to my article “The Humanist Chaplain,” Adam Hazzard wrote the following comment:
“If we live in a cosmos in which, as asserted in some varieties of Christian doctrine, an omnipotent creator sorts out surviving human soul-stuff and metes out punishment or reward according to whatever ontological or metaphysical beliefs the subject found most compelling in life . . . well, in that case, I can only hope the putative Divine Being considers a principled atheism reward-worthy. But this third option seems to me not just unlikely but logically incoherent and frankly silly.” (source)
My focus here is on Adam’s final sentence, namely that this picture is “logically incoherent and frankly silly”.
First, a quick word on alleged logical incoherence. There is nothing logically incoherent with holding people culpable for holding particular beliefs (or failing to hold other beliefs). Indeed, we do it all the time. I would assume it too obvious to bother proffering examples, but if I must, here goes: many people who hold misogynistic, racist, or xenophobic beliefs are properly censured for holding those beliefs, not least because these beliefs are held to be immoral. In other cases, we censure people for holding beliefs that are deemed flatly irrational, as in the man who claims the 1969 lunar landing was a conspiracy or the woman who claims the boyfriend she’s never met who emptied her bank account and lives in Nigeria is a dashing British secret agent who loves her very much.
What about the second charge that such beliefs are “frankly silly”? This is not a minor point. In my experience many of the deepest and most dismissive objections are based on the fact that a particular truth claim is simply outside of one’s plausibility structure. But as compelling as such considerations may be to many people, from a rational perspective this is about as compelling as rejecting a foreigner’s cuisine by calling it “gross”.