My guest blogger alumnus, Leah of Unequally Yoked, has proposed a very interesting challenge for Christians and atheists alike which she calls the “ideological Turing test“:
One of the greatest gifts of my time at Yale has been living, writing, and arguing in a community of smart people with whom I fiercely disagree… The imitation test has helped me make sure I really understood what I was rejecting and, in the end, embracing.
Unless your enemies are purposefully contrarian… there is something they find uniquely compelling about their ideology. To imitate them, you need to know what that is and understand why it moves people. It doesn’t matter if the benefits of an ideology are outweighed by its drawbacks; unless you can recognize the good as good, no partisan will ever trust your analysis of their creed.
And, unless you’re uncommonly brilliant and perceptive, it will do you a lot of good to confront the merits of the other side.
The basic idea is that both Christians, and atheists posing as Christians, will answer a slate of questions aimed at people professing a Christian viewpoint. Then the atheists, and Christians posing as atheists, will answer a similar slate of questions for people professing an atheist viewpoint. Finally, a panel of judges will read all the answers and see if they can tell the difference between the people who genuinely hold each viewpoint and the ones who are merely trying to imitate it. (See here for more detailed rules.)
The point of this exercise is that, if you can convincingly argue the other side’s position, it’s good evidence that you truly understand it and aren’t merely rejecting it out of ignorance. I think this will be a fun game to play, and the outcome, regardless of what it is, should be interesting fodder for discussion and analysis. My only concern is that this may be a difficult game for the Christians – answering convincingly from the atheist viewpoint might require what they’d consider blasphemy – but if they’re willing to play along, that’s up to them.
If you’d like to help out, either as a participant or as a judge, leave a comment here or or on Leah’s blog, or e-mail me or her (leahDOTlibrescoATgmailDOTcom). Leah tells me we particularly need more questions targeted at the atheist viewpoint, so if you have suggestions for those, please propose them.