A couple days ago Counter Apologist published a glowing review of An Atheist and a Christian Walk into a Bar. Counter Apologist writes:
In the last debate book review I did, I asked “So who won?” which is the kind of inevitable question you get with these kinds of books. I’m sure some theists will read it and say Randal clearly came out a head, and atheists would say Justin had the better of the exchange. Biases going into this kind of work are going to be a major part of what makes you think there was a “winner” at the end.
However the idea that there was a winner doesn’t even feel like an appropriate question to ask after reading this book. I feel that this is a testament to both the skill of the authors and to the very nature of the question being debated.
After that I ended up having a Twitter exchange with Counter Apologist in which he opined that even if theism can be rational, belief in a particular religious system cannot be. Counter Apologist then published his argument here. He writes:
Even if someone is a classical theist, I’m not sure that they can rationally make the jump from a mere theism to belief in a specific religion, like say Christianity. This would entail belief in a whole subset of contingent facts about god and how that god reveals themselves to humanity:
- God is a Trinity
- Jesus is the “Son” in that Trinity, being fully man and fully god.
- While in human form, Jesus performed miracles and was resurrected from the dead.
- The Christian Bible’s claims about god’s divine commands to humanity are accurate.
The question I have is “What rational basis does a Christian have for moving from theism to belief in these specific doctrines?”
Typically, the argument to go from theism to belief in a specific religion revolves around an argument to believe in certain historical miracle claims. For Christianity this is the argument for the resurrection of Jesus – the central belief of Christianity.
This description makes it seem as if folks begin with a commitment to classical theism or some other sophisticated philosophical conception of God. And then they marshal evidence for a specific miracle claim and proceed to reason via inference to the best explanation that positing a richer nexus of theological claims best explains the putative miracle event.
Unfortunately, that’s not at all how most folks adopt particular religious beliefs. Rather, they do so through testimonial acquisition and a complex process of reflective equilibrium. Interestingly, I provide a defense of the process of testimony in grounding religious belief (and belief generally) in An Atheist and a Christian Walk into a Bar. See also my discussion of epistemology in The Swedish Atheist, the Scuba Diver, and Other Apologetic Rabbit Trails. And I provide a snapshot of broader reflective equilibrium in God or Godless where I briefly outline several lines of supporting intuitive evidence and experience including the perceived link between God and meaning and the experience of sign miracles in one’s life.
Bottom line, a critique of the rationality of particular subsets of worldviews must begin by examining the way that folks actually form those worldview beliefs, whether that worldview is Christian, Muslim, naturalistic, humanistic, pluralistic, or anything else.
Beyond that I’ll hand the baton to David Marshall who offers an extensive critical engagement with Counter Apologist here.