I’ve been a longtime viewer of the Atheist Experience channel on youtube. It’s a show where Theists call in and try to prove God to Atheists. Theists usually get their asses handed to them. I’ve heard all kinds of apologetics (which is basically defense of the bible) and no matter how sound an argument is, they can always go back ask….”how do you know the bible is true.”
You wouldn’t go into a Chinese court citing the constitution of the United States as a means of trying to win a case. The rules are different. While there may be some commonalities, the framework by which they declare guilt or innocence is different. The laws governing the realm of skepticism and theology share commonality, but there are enough differences that making your case using the ideals of religious belief will cause you to come up short.
Too often, many fledgling apologists fall back into the argument that it’s true because the bible says it’s true. At this point, the atheists get the high ground because they invariably point out that it’s circular reasoning, so therefore a logical fallacy. They then point out that any book can say that it’s true, but just because it says that it is doesn’t make it so. Very reasonable indeed.
I’ve never seen the counter argument that the methodology by which Atheists come to the conclusion that circular reasoning is illogical is also circular reasoning. In other words, the use of logic to explain what’s logical also is circular in nature. Not saying that appealing to logical rules in a logical debate isn’t reasonable, but I’m just saying, if we’re going to start with the premises that circular reasoning is a fallacy, then we must acknowledge that circular reasoning isn’t necessarily something that will always hinder us from getting to the ‘truthiness’ of a proposal.
Now don’t get me wrong, logic is a fine way of understanding the world around us. In fact, when it comes to explaining the physical phenomena around us, it’s probably the best method i can think of. The problem is that at some point, we have to take a leap of faith in assuming that it is the only one. Let alone the best. Because we have no other way to objectively demonstrate the validity of our beliefs, we usually rely on it as a means to convince others of truthiness of what we’re experiencing. (At least those who care to convince others)
I do believe that it is important that we (as humans) have some method to demonstrate the truth of our claims. It serves as a form of checks and balances to ensure that we act in accordance with the laws which seem to govern this reality. That is, assuming the goal is finding out what’s true.
However I do think it’s reasonable to assume that there may be other methods that could point to a higher truth. One reason I believe this is because what my (admittedly limited) understanding of quantum physics. The lack of a unified theory (from my understanding) between how things work from a micro to macro scale seem to fly in the face of using what we already know to explain what we don’t know.
The basics of phenomena like quantum entanglement and particle wave collapse seem to suggest that things aren’t as they appear. Again, I’m not expert at this, but from what I do understand is that it doesn’t make much sense when compared to how the world around us seems to work.
When I think of truth, I don’t know if there is some universal truth out there. There does seem to be some qualia that ‘truth’ possesses. Perhaps that qualia is really just explained by what we’re convinced of. We then fall back to the fact that different people can be convinced of many contradicting things due to our ignorance.
Truth seems to work within a certain context or framework by which we interpret the world. In other words, it seem to subjective to what each individual thinks that they know. For example, we say A, B, C and we believe that we go from A to B to C. But what if we are ignorant of something in between A to B or from B to C. We don’t know what we don’t know so we are reasonable to assume that B directly follows A.
Epistemology is defined as the study of the method by which we come to a justified belief. If the Theist is to use logic as the sole method by which he comes to a justified belief, he steps into an arena filled with landmines and traps. It would be wise to admit upfront that he takes larger leaps of faith to fill in the gaps of his knowledge….and truth be told, many are ok doing this. Unfortunately, it’s as if they forget that they are doing this and end up losing the debate based off the rules of engagement. More specifically, demonstrate the truth of your claim.
The skeptic/atheist is at advantage as they can simply answer with “I don’t know.” The theist is then left to defend the unanswerable with unprovable (though sometimes reasonable) explanations. It doesn’t work out well as skeptics are quick to pull out the leap of faith (God of the Gaps) (again reasonable) trump card if things get too hairy.
Perhaps the best defense a reasonable Christian or any theist for that matter could use is that they believe because they choose to believe. Sure, it defies logic. But reasonable atheists can’t account for the personal revelation/experiences of the individual. They may have reasonable theories, but most will have to admit that the impact of a personal revelation on a person’s life may be enough to convince the person it happened to. Even if that personal revelation doesn’t convince the person they tell.
From there I’d say that (for better or for worse) choosing to say I don’t know why <insert God> chooses to make things appear that way… but I choose to have faith in this matter despite it not standing up to the logical framework which governs most of my other decisions. The theist is forced to concede special pleading, but again, faith doesn’t necessarily have to be logical to be reasonable to the individual.
That said, the skeptic has set up a game that the theist cannot win when trying to convince him to believe in God. He is playing with a stacked deck. He is asking the theist to prove something as true, using his rules, while not actually claiming to be able to disprove it. Therefore he can continue playing the why? how? game infinitely. Eventually, the theist runs out of answers and then boom….God of the Gaps. His proposed solutions and objections aren’t on trial so they can be changed ad hoc and are often used as tools of debate to make points or examples. Or he could reasonably say “I don’t know” if the question is turned back on him.
Belief in God for the logical person must be a choice. It really doesn’t need an explanation. The justification is that it’s something that can’t be disproven. (another thing skeptics hate). By nature, the concept of God is unfalsifiable so it can’t be proven or disproven using logic.
From there, it follows that the belief comes first, the evidence comes next. The evidence is based on interpretation of the facts based on the epistemology of the belief.
Everyone including the skeptic does this. Their first belief is that things must logically make sense in order to be true. Ironically, the believer does this as well. The major difference is that the logical skeptic needs objectively demonstrative evidence while the theists is often fine without it. They both then review the proposal based on the framework of their beliefs.
While both are confident that their way is superior. Without the ability to know everything that we don’t know nor the ability get out of the trap of appearing to be a subjective being in an objective world, we can’t really be sure if either is a sure pathway to ultimate truth….especially when it comes to matters of the unknown.
That said, while theism does use some form of logic once a premise has been established, the atheist isn’t bound by the specific premise. The theist walks into the arena with one arm tied behind his back. The atheist, often armed with more biblical knowledge (in the case of Christianity) that the Christian minus the weight of having to defend his position has a huge advantage.
Personally, I take the position of Agnostic Christian. While I don’t KNOW if the bible is true as far as a matter of historical fact, nor if my interpretation is correct. I choose to believe that it contains wisdom that helps me in life and that it is divinely inspired.