How to deal with liberal Christians?

The comments on my posting of draft chapter 9 of the book make me think I need to say more in response to liberal readings of the Bible’s moral teachings. The trouble is, as I briefly mentioned in the draft:

Obviously, there are lots of folks who think that the nice, liberal, peaceful interpretations of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are the true interpretations of those religions. Unfortunately, they tend to just assert this without any argument.

Maybe I need to expand on this. One problem I keep running into is that liberal Christians, like all believers, are firmly convinced that their version of religion is the true one, so for many of them it seems to just obviously follow that that’s what atheists should be critiquing. It’s just obvious to them that their interpretations of the Bible are the right ones, and so anyone who disagrees (whether fundamentalist or irreligious) must just be obviously unsophisticated. They seem to have trouble with the concept that atheists might need some fairly convincing arguments that their interpretation of the Bible is the true one before accepting it as such.

I’ve mentioned Peter van Inwagen as an example of someone who’s at least a moderate and who does have an explanation of how he knows his interpretation of the Bible is the right one, and I was planning on talking about van Inwagen’s views in chapter 9. But his defense of the Bible’s morality is really tied up with his goofy ideas about “The Enlightenment” (scare quotes because he insists on using the word differently than everybody else), which I deal with in chapter 7 of the book and decided I was better off not revisiting.

A replacement van Inwagen–someone who defends liberal interpretations of the Bible at length, but in a different way–might be helpful here, but I don’t know where I’d go for that. Unfortunately, for liberals and conservatives alike, most religious apologetics seems to be written by people who spend all their time talking to people who already agree with them, so they end up with no idea of how their arguments sound to people with different views. That makes finding worthy arguments to rebut hard. It also means that much of the challenge of rebutting religious apologetics is in getting believers to understand how unconvincing their arguments sound to nonbelievers.

Maybe I should talk about my background being raised as a liberal Christian, and how I understand the mindset a bit. I always feel awkward doing that, I guess because a lot of atheists have really dramatic deconversion stories, and I don’t want people to think I’m claiming the same. But maybe I should get over that awkwardness.

I could also incorporate more of the points from my reply to Christians who support gay rights, as well as dealing with the objection that atheists read the Bible like fundamentalists. What do you think?

Update/Clarification: 

(From a comment I posted on James McGrath’s blog.)

By “interpretations of the Bible,” I don’t just mean things like like liberal (relatively liberal? moderate?) evangelicals trying to cling to inerrancy while advocating nicer interpretations of as much of the Bible as possible. I’m also referring, for example, to claims of the form, “yes, parts of the Bible are flawed, but we know which parts really matter and those flawed parts aren’t the parts that really matter.” And the same question arises there as for more conservative positions: how do you know that? Why should non-believers accept your version of your religion as the right one?

(And the example of a more liberal position is just an example, one I seem to encounter a fair amount, but yes there are others out there and the questions remain the same.)

 

  •  

     

    • Rain

      How to deal with liberal Christians? One thing would be to always nail them on their equivocations. For example the sacrifice of going out to restaurants in order to make ends meet is not the same thing as a superstitious scapegoating vicarious sacrifice. They are two completely different things. One is a smart thing and one is a really dumb thing that makes no sense at all. Always be on guard for these types of equivocations, which are plentiful.

    • Yvain

      I worry that these liberal Christians are arguing from a weird direction.

      The way I would expect the argument to go would be, and it sounds like the way you’re arguing it should go, is: “Christianity is true because of [REASON]. Liberal Christianity is the best interpretation of Christianity because of [OTHER_REASON]. Therefore, liberal Christianity is true.”

      I think where they’re coming from is something more like “Christianity is true because of [REASON]. Liberalism is true because of [OTHER_REASON]. Since two true things can’t conflict, liberal Christianity must be the Biblically-correct interpretation of Christianity.”

      If you have as an unquestionable implicit base-level axiom that Christianity is true, then attacking “liberal Christianity is the best form of Christianity” is an attack on liberal values themselves. I think this is why liberal Christians seem so uninterested in defending liberal Christianity. It’s because they think you’re attacking modern liberal society, which from the perspective of most people in our culture is just dumb and doesn’t even require defending.

      • Chris Hallquist

        There may be something to this–though I think it’s more “unquestionable implicit base-level axiom that Christianity is true” and less “Christianity is true because of [REASON].”

    • http://counterapologist.blogspot.com/ Counter Apologist

      I think this is an important topic, I’ve been thinking about it after encountering Randal Rauser’s brand of apologetics on the OT atrocities.

      I’ve dealt with this IRL, when talking to my former pastor who I was/am friends with. The man is actually quite liberal, and doesn’t hold to all of scripture being “historically accurate”.

      The question I think then is “how do you know what is and isn’t true in the Bible?” That track is potentially problematic, since like Rauser, they’ll get into some very odd definition of “truth”, setup nicely so that they can claim the “Bible is True” and do so under the guise of “sophisticated theology”. They’re still wrong, but they’ve dragged you away from arguing against Christianity and into arguing about the definition of truth.

      I’m thinking the best line is asking “how do you know your interpretation is correct?” And “How do you know the parts about Jesus’s resurrection are historically accurate and to be taken literally, but the OT Genocides/Slavery shouldn’t be taken as a commandment of god?”.

      That’s where the real meat is, and that’s where the Liberals engage the fuzzy faith-based-reasoning.

      The debate that’s going on between the Reasonable Doubts crew and Rauser ATM is a good piece of information.

      IMO, the worst part of Rauser’s hermeneutics is that it’s pretty much unfalsifiable. Anything can be read in the way he wants because of what he picks as the “central theme”.

    • SteveInMI

      “Maybe I should talk about my background being raised as a liberal Christian, and how I understand the mindset a bit. I always feel awkward doing that, I guess because a lot of atheists have really dramatic deconversion stories, and I don’t want people to think I’m claiming the same. But maybe I should get over that awkwardness.”

      How about this for a rule of thumb: If it’s real but doesn’t fit the narrative, write about it anyway. Or maybe write about that especially.

    • http://bethclarkson.com BethC

      What is your goal is dealing with liberal Christians? Are you trying to convert them to atheism?

    • Tony D

      I think the postmodern influence is a very important idea to address in this chapter. Postmodernists need to be called out on their flagrant disregard for the meanings of words and context, their pseudo-sophisticated worship of mystery, sentimentality, ambiguity, and their endorsement of Faith as a valid way to *know* anything. Not only is Faith demonstrably NOT a valid way to *know* something is true, but because *anything* can be justified by Faith, their endorsement of it strips them of any validity or relevance they may have had in rejecting and repudiating other people’s Faith-based nonsense and wrongdoing. Liberal Faith-based religionism is a safe haven for wackos and sociopaths. We NEED more people in this world who have the moral relevance to effectively reject and repudiate harmful nonsense for what it is on evidential and reason-based grounds. We need to reject Liberal Faiths for moral reasons.

      Example: If the technicians at a nuclear power plant decided to transition to be more “sophisticated” and postmodern by reinterpreting or equivocating about fission reactions, ‘standard operating procedures’, or radioactive contamination, even Liberal religionists would be worried. Shouldn’t God and the implications of theology and Absolute Truth be regarded FAR more seriously than a mere nuclear reactor?

    • sailor1031

      “It’s just obvious to them that their interpretations of the Bible are the right ones, and so anyone who disagrees (whether fundamentalist or irreligious) must just be obviously unsophisticated.”

      Having been a “liberal catholic” in my youth, despite having been raised as a strict catholic I can tell you that in neither religion was there much if any emphasis on the bible and none whatever on the OT. Any biblical exposure was limited to a priest on sunday morning (yes – I’m that old that I predate saturday mass) reading a short excerpt from (usually) a pauline or pseudo-pauline letter or, less often, from a gospel. This was followed by a 45 – 60 minute rambling exhortation based hardly at all, if at all, on scripture.

      My experience of my large clan of catholics, I am the only atheist, is that they do not read scripture at all, preferring to accept the catholic hearsay presented by priests of a sort of amalgamated NT where all the inconsistencies and contradictions have been ignored. The liberal interpretation of religion doesn’t in my view come at all from scripture but has been cobbled together by liberal theologians in opposition to conservative theologians who also ignore scripture. Neither picture of christianity has to do with the actual Yeshue bar Yussef described in scripture. Christianity is not, in fact, based on the bible.

    • GakuseiDon

      Chris: “It’s just obvious to them [liberal Christians] that their interpretations of the Bible are the right ones”

      I don’t think that could be further from the truth, and seems to smack of the idea that even liberal Christians must hold the Bible to be inerrant, even in some “metaphorical” form. But liberal Christians view the Bible like they do the world: something that hints at God, and something to be studied, but not treated like a God. This is from the Wiki entry on “Liberal Christianity”:
      “Liberal Christianity, broadly speaking, is a method of biblical hermeneutics, an undogmatic method of understanding God through the use of scripture by applying the same modern hermeneutics used to understand any ancient writings…
      The theology of liberal Christianity was prominent in the Biblical criticism of the 19th and 20th centuries. The style of Scriptural hermeneutics (interpretation of the Bible) within liberal theology is often characterized as non-propositional. This means that the Bible is not considered a collection of factual statements, but instead an anthology that documents the human authors’ beliefs and feelings about God at the time of its writing—within a historical or cultural context. Thus, liberal Christian theologians do not claim to discover truth propositions but rather create religious models and concepts that reflect the class, gender, social, and political contexts from which they emerge. Liberal Christianity looks upon the Bible as a collection of narratives that explain, epitomize, or symbolize the essence and significance of Christian understanding.[2] Thus, most liberal Christians do not regard the Bible as inerrant, but believe Scripture to be “inspired” in the same way a poem is said to be “inspired” and passed down by humans.”

      • Pseudonym

        Yes, exactly.

        FWIW, I don’t think that Chris is arguing a straw man here, but I think he does have a very mistaken impression of what constitutes “liberal Christianity”. Most liberal Christians (certainly at the academic level) would consider the phrase “Christianity is true” to be nonsensical.

        • Grass

          That’s really crazy! Let’s say that you’re a Christian who believes that the sentence ‘Christianity is true’ is nonsensical. In that case, I won’t argue with you, as you obviously don’t believe that Christianity is true. And my whole point is that it’s not true. But I would point you out to the nearest evangelical, telling them that you’re a “Christian” who believes the statement “Jesus Christ died on the cross in order to liberate from our sins” is nonsensical. Or perhaps _that_ statement isn’t nonsensical? By the way, do they believe that the statement “God exists” is nonsensical? I’ve heard that many liberal Christians are crazy, but this is far out – like the quotes Reginald had in his post.

          You can’t argue with that sort of deepity-ish bullshit. I think that’s why many atheists attack evangelicals mostly, as they are more down to earth and reasonable, not drowning in postmodernist drool like these guys.

    • Ophis

      Liberals and fundamentalists both generally base their ideas on unfounded dogmas. Liberals might not believe in Biblical inerrancy, but they mostly at least believe in the resurrection of Jesus. In so far as they believe any of Christianity’s factual claims, they have the same problem as fundamentalists: their ideas are based on a falsehood. As for morality, you could ask what good moral principles do they have that are uniquely or originally Christian? What useful moral ideas are they finding that an atheist, unexposed to Christianity, couldn’t find just as easily elsewhere?

      Also, I don’t personally see much benefit in getting too tied up in arguments over which forms of Christianity are more valid and which bits of belief can be discarded. The aim should be to make people realise there’s no good reason to think any of it’s true.

    • Lawrence

      I have two categories of theists/supernaturalists. The benign type are not engaged in personal behavior or political activism that includes or promotes misogyny, homophobia, denial of science, denial of climate change, revisionist history, warmongering, racism, and economic royalism. The malign type are those who do. In America, this usually (nearly always) means Christian fundamentalists, but it can mean Jews or Muslims. I can debate an Episcopalian about the morality of vicarious redemption or the problem of evil and part friends. But I will smile when I read Tony Perkins’ obituary. And until malign theists have been shrunken down in numbers and influence until they are a trivial curiosity, like the Amish, I am more than happy to make common cause with liberal Christians, Jews, Muslims, Wiccans, Pagans, Buddhists, Hindus, or whoever else is willing to pick up a spear and help hold the line.

    • MNb

      You certainly should talk about your past as a liberal christian! I even thought you had been a fundie as well. Heck, my deconvertion story is even less spectacular than yours, because I have never been a believer. I am not even baptized.

      Me being Dutch I obviously can’t mention an American role model for liberal christians. So I googled a bit around and perhaps there is something useful among this:

      http://www.marcusjborg.com
      http://www.johndominiccrossan.com/Biographical%20Summary.htm
      http://johnshelbyspong.com/

      These three are contradicted here (that’s how I found them):
      http://www.ericknelson.net/MG10/MGTHEORY.pdf

      http://vridar.wordpress.com/2011/02/01/how-many-stories-in-the-gospels-are-purely-metaphorical/

      http://progressivechristianity.org/
      http://christianity.about.com/od/faqhelpdesk/a/whyjesushad2die.htm
      http://independentoldcatholicchurch.com/
      http://www.agapeseminary.org/general.html
      http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Christianity/index_old.aspx

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8y2fe2vdXqo

      You should also check Karen Armstrong, who seems to be quite popular. Perhaps she is ideal for you to take on, but it looks like she doesn’t have a website. But perhaps there are a few useful (for your purpose) articles here:

      http://charterforcompassion.org/news-and-events/article/54
      http://charterforcompassion.org/news-and-events/article/80
      http://charterforcompassion.org/news-and-events/article/151
      http://charterforcompassion.org/news-and-events/article/89

      Finally a liberal Flemish catholic:
      http://erikbuys.wordpress.com/category/theology-2/

      So, I’ve done my best.

      • Reverend Robbie

        I saw that MNb put Borg right at the top of the list. I read Borg after my liberal Christian parents suggested it. I couldn’t believe how vacuous his ideas were. I’m revisiting a review I wrote of his book “Reading The Bible Again for The First Time” and here are some of my favorite statements he made in that book:

        1. “Though the movement from precritical naivete into critical thinking is inevitable, there is nothing inevitable about moving into the state of postcritical naivete. One can get stuck in the state of critical thinking all one’s life, as a significant number of people in the modern period do.” God forbid!!!

        2. “Postcritical naivete is the ability to hear the biblical stories once again as true stories, even as one knows that they may not be factually true and their truth does not depend upon their factuality.” Don’t think about this one too hard.

        3. He states that the Bible is, “… compatible not only with the big bang theory but also with whatever theory might (and almost certainly will) replace it.”

        4. Regarding reported visions by the prophets: “I saw them as legitimations of the prophets’ mission and message. I imagined that such stories were necessary as responses to those who challenged their radical criticism…”

        All of it, great material for New Age Christianity. There’s also a good youtube video out there of him explaining how God can be best described as “isness”. That’s not a typo.

    • MNb

      Another one who seems fairly typical to me, though I have never heard of him before:

      http://www.peterballard.org/

      One typical conclusion:
      “There is no Biblical reason for excluding women from any ministry.”

    • augustine

      ” I’m also referring, for example, to claims of the form, “yes, parts of the Bible are flawed, but we know which parts really matter and those flawed parts aren’t the parts that really matter.” And the same question arises there as for more conservative positions: how do you know that? Why should non-believers accept your version of your religion as the right one?”

      This is the same issue with any type of interpretation or hermeneutics; for example, differing interpretations of the U.S. constitution. The only way to determine which interpretation you view as “the right one” is to delve into a massive scholarly literature on the hermeneutics of constitutional law (e.g., “original intent” vs. “original meaning” vs. “the living constitution” vs. the “Marxist” interpretation vs. the “social constructionist” interpretation vs. the “libertarian” interpretation, etc., etc.).

    • ctcss

      @Chris

      “One problem I keep running into is that liberal Christians, like all believers, are firmly convinced that their version of religion is the true one, so for many of them it seems to just obviously follow that that’s what atheists should be critiquing.”

      OK, IMO there seems to be a rather large misunderstanding here. Do people think that their version of religion is the true one? Most likely, yes. (I certainly do.) But guess what? As fallible humans, even if our religion was truly the correct one, as individuals, we may have misunderstood many things about that “truth”. Our understanding is limited and flawed, and just as students who are still having problems learning a very complex subject need to keep applying themselves in order to learn it correctly, religious followers need to do the same. We simply don’t know what we don’t know, and learning it all is going to take as long as it takes. And the fact that it will probably take a lifetime to fully explore one’s religion also explains why we settle on one and don’t keep looking around at other faiths indefinitely. As long as we feel that the religion we have chosen is a likely candidate to explore for its possible “correctness”, it would not be worth it to spend time and effort wandering around looking for another religion (and thus neglecting the needed time and effort to thoroughly work with one’s current religion), any more than one would spend their time looking for another spouse while married to their current spouse. One tries to make a reasonable choice and then does everything to work within it unless something proves that the choice was an unwise one. However, despite not knowing everything there is to know about one’s religion, nor knowing everything there is to know about other religions, the likelihood is that we are at least more familiar with our own beliefs (and the reasons for choosing them) than we are with the whole vast collection of all Christian sects’ beliefs.

      So, rather than non-believers claiming that they can’t possibly figure out which competing version of Christianity is true, here’s a suggestion. Stop focusing on the lack of the ability to identify that “correct” one and simply ask people what it is that they think they do understand or admire about their own religion and then critique that (and only that) rather than simply bringing up any old item of belief held by any sect other than theirs. Asking an A why they are not an X or a U isn’t really helpful IMO. People might have reasons for not choosing something, but generally one makes a choice of a religion or a spouse for positive reasons. So concentrate on those things, not the negatives. Because unless a person truly believes that X, Y, and Z are “evil” faiths, usually the reason for not choosing them is not because they felt those faiths were truly horrible, but rather that their own choice of faith resonated strongly with them (for reasons that they can hopefully explain), and that is the reason why they chose it.

      So if a person says they are a liberal Christian and aren’t into literalism, don’t nag them about literalistic or fundamentalist standpoints. Ask them about what they are into and then simply critique that.

      Does that make sense?

      • hf

        This seems unlikely to reveal our actual disagreements.

      • eric

        So if a person says they are a liberal Christian and aren’t into literalism, don’t nag them about literalistic or fundamentalist standpoints. Ask them about what they are into and then simply critique that.

        Okay, I’ll bite. Are you into the belief that a human living about two thousand years ago actually cast out demons? And put them into pigs? Are you into the belief that this human actually turned water into wine? Walked on water? Died and came back to life three years ago?

        See, there’s this problem with complaining that skeptics are focusing on scientifically ridiculous fundie beliefs instead of addressing mainstream beliefs: many of the mainstream ones are just as scientifically ridiculous.

        • eric

          errr..that should be ‘three days later.’ Not enough caffeine, obviously.

    • MNb

      Probably this is superfluous, as an ex-christian CH should probably be familiar with this stuff. Still I think the two links correctly describe what original sin, crucifixion and resurrection mean for liberal christians. In evolutionary terms they would say something like this. As man developed consciousness he/she discovered that he/she could make a choice, ie had free will. Thus man developed the tendency to do wrong, to inflict harm. Man needs help to stay on the right path and that’s where Jesus and his father come in. When somebody does wrong a fine has to be paid. But in our lives way to often we are not capable of undoing our wrongs, to repair the damage. That’s why Jesus died, but he asks a small price for it: to accept him as our saviour. Then, after we die, we will be liberated from our tendency to choose evil and receive eternal grace and happiness in the afterlife.

      http://edwinleap.com/blog/?p=1628
      http://john.pettigrew.org.uk/blog/entry_159.php

      It still sucks and you won’t think it hard to find out why.
      Note though that no liberal christian will be impressed by Jerry Coyne’s rebuttal that Jesus apparently died for a metaphor. Their point is not that Adam and Eve were the first humans, their point is that Original Sin is inextricably connected with human consciousness.
      One nasty question liberal christians prefer to avoid is what consciousness exactly mean. The observations of Frans de Waal lead us to the conclusion that many primates, apes and monkeys have a form of consciousness and perhaps even crows and ants too (for the latter: not individual, but as a group – see swarm theory).
      This undermines their metaphorical explanation.

      @ctcss: “So if a person says ….. Does that make sense?”
      To me it certainly does; I agree with your criticism of CH’s chapter 9 here. Now I’m not a philosopher and certainly not a theologian, but I’ve done my best to find some typical sources, to give a few examples ánd some criticism of liberal interpretations.

      One final example from Bertrand Russell’s famous essay “Why I’m not a christian”.
      Quote: “There is the instance of the Gadarene swine, where it certainly was not very kind to the pigs to put the devils into them and make them rush down the hill into the sea. You must remember that He was omnipotent, and He could have made the devils simply go away; but He chose to send them into the pigs.”
      The apologetics I have read goes like this. The story is a metaphor for Roman occupation and the promise that Jesus will get rid of it. So the bad treatment of the pigs is not the point. Also remember that pigs back then were considered unclean
      My answer to this: still Jesus had assume that the quite honorable species of pigs are evil creatures or he couldn’t have used them to insult the Romans. He accepts here that pigs are unclean, which still is very unkind to them and tells us he did not think high of animal rights. Today we do, no matter how imperfectly. Imo this implies that man has morally advanced since Jesus.
      Mutatis mutandis the same for quite some other stuff in the Gospels. That’s why I claim that metaphorical interpretations of the Jesus stories still suck.
      Jesus is not the perfect embodiment of agape, period. I agree with Bertrand Russell that Buddha is preferable in this respect. I also would mention Franciscus of Assisi, which I hold in higher regard than his example Jesus. Still FoA was as much a failure as Jesus, given how badly understood and how abused their message of love was.

    • swbarnes2

      “Stop focusing on the lack of the ability to identify that “correct” one”

      Basically, your whole post seems to be a long-winded way of saying that people are talking past each other. Critics ask you to make some kind of factual statement which you believe to be true, and your response is that you don’t care about truth; that you are happy as a clam believing likely false things, as long as they “resonate strongly” with you. Can you really not understand that some people want to believe true things? That some people are eager to stop believing false things? They are asking for your help in distinguishing false things, and you are saying “Stick with beliefs that make you happy; I can’t tell you what’s true, I don’t care to investigate it”. Can you see how to someone who sees intellectual integrity as a moral position, your disregard for it is baffling, to say the least?

      Humans got to the moon because with reality testing, we can examine billions and billions of statements about the physical world, and we have the data to say “That one is accurate, that one is not”. And lots of times, the result that was true was NOT the one that”resonated strongly” with anyone.

      Making truth claims is scary. You run the risk of begin shown wrong. Happy fuzzy feelings can’t be disproven, they just are. But it was the people fearlessly facing their claims, willing to correct their faulty beliefs when the data demanded it, who discovered vaccines. 2000 years of sitting around, making up doctrines based on unevidenced premises, how many disease has that cured?

      • ctcss

        @swbarnes2

        Imagine, if you will, the following scenario. I approach a person whom I consider to be a likely candidate for a spouse and I inform them that, because of the moral imperative that I only engage in marriage with somebody who has proven themselves worthy of being the optimal partner for me, one who will cause the me the least angst and grief (thus avoiding potential mental and physical health care issues for me), and also one who will also be most likely to bring about the greatest joy and satisfaction in my life, I need them to submit to a battery of clinical tests, along with a group of other likely candidates, so that I can proceed safely into marriage with the best possible spousal candidate.

        Their likely response will be (1) Of course I will do so. Thank you for considering me to be a finalist in your search! (2) Thanks, but no thanks. (3) You’re out of your #$&^%@(*& mind! (4) silence (because they left the room before the proposed course of action was even halfway stated.)

        Like it or not, some things in life are not suited to be clinically checked out and completely tested beforehand. The search for truth in some areas is simply going to be a matter of doing the best that we can with what we have, simply because of all of the unknowns that factor into the choice, not the least of which is what we bring to the table on our part! Finding a spouse is not a search to be imperiously embarked upon. Finding a religion is not either. Granted, we will want to have some sort of comfort level with our eventual choice of a spouse or a religion, but any likely lifetime choice engaged in by humans is going to one that is going to simply take whatever it takes. We go in knowing that, and we are OK with that uncertainty.

        Sometimes engaging in the journey, however long it lasts, is the only way to find out certain things in life. (And if embarking on such a journey does not seem appealing to a person, the option to do otherwise is always available.)

        • Ray

          Let’s just put it this way: If the only information I had about my wife was a decades old diary, written by her anonymous “bff”, plus a bunch of people, claiming to be her friends, saying contradictory things about her (and then asking for money), that relationship would not have gotten very far. Indeed the relationship that the religious have with God seems much more like the relationship Te’o had with his “girlfriend” than it seems like my relationship with my wife.

          Thus, your analogy fails, unless you’re willing to consider religion to be not a relationship with God, but rather with his self-appointed representatives. That’s cool and all, but if that’s what you think religion is, I wonder why you use a different term for it than you do for comic book fandom, for example.

    • augustine

      “you are happy as a clam believing likely false things, as long as they “resonate strongly” with you.”

      I would interpret “resonate strongly” in this context to mean that we know God exists and, as Alvin Plantinga says, “the great things of the Gospel” because they are properly basic, i.e., the epistemological warrant comes not from inference and evidence but from the internal witness of the Holy Spirit. So the knowledge is similar to our knowledge that the past is real, that there is an external world (i.e., we are not living in “the matrix”), or the knowledge that I am innocent of a crime even if all the “evidence” points the other way. We are perfectly warranted and justified in such knowledge, even if to “show” a nonbeliever that what we believe is true requires the use of evidence and logical argument (both of which may supply additional sources of warrant in addition to the “properly basic” form).

      • hf

        …Perhaps the blame for this garbage lies not with you but with the logical positivists, and especially the behaviorists. Instead of the Bayesian definition of evidence – ‘more likely to happen if the theory is true’ – the positivists used a narrower ‘scientific’ definition and tried to say that nothing outside it had meaning. Behaviorists further tried to ignore reports of subjective experience, though obviously we can detect both sound and writing.

        But you still have to ask if a feeling is actually more likely to occur when the claim you care about is true. And you may have to do this by looking at other people who report similar feelings. For example, say you want to know if you can ethically accept gifts from Evil Corp. You may feel that small gifts won’t influence your behavior. But studies show that most of the time, this feeling does not correspond with reality. Your certainty can supply, at best, extremely weak evidence.

    • Jim Moore

      Commenting late in the game here. Ended up here via link from Debunking Christianity. You never give a good definition of “liberal Christianity,” not that I blame you. There isn’t such a unified movement or set of beliefs anymore. There may be some classical liberal Christians left but none that I know. Most of what gets labelled as “liberal” Christianity usually refers to specific poltiical or social positions, not theology, and nearly all of that comes from opponents.

      Ask any two people who you would identify as “liberal” for their positions on, say, a list of the traditional doctrines of Christianity, and you’ll get two answers. Depending on their ecclesiastical background and training, the differences may shock you, especially if you include the likes of Van Inwagen in that category. For example, I’ve known a few “liberal” Christians who were atheists yet still insisted on calling themselves Christians. For another, consider someone like James Barr, who insisted on interpreting Hebrew Bible and New Testament texts as the original authors intended, even if their teachings turned out to be false and/or evil, who rejected the idea that either the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, or both together could be construed to teach a coherent set of ideas and who also believed that modern “theologies” should be multiple, even if they conflic and draw from other sources besides the Bible as well as from Biblical texts.

      You should definitely put something about your Christian upbringing into your work, inlcuding what you learned and your current assessments of it relative to other forms of Christianity. Consider it a necessary “full disclosure” statement.

    • Collin237

      There is actually an official guide to which parts of the Bible matter. Any verse you want to check, look it up in the Skeptics’ Annotated Bible. If you don’t find it mentioned, then it matters.

      It may be the greatest irony of the century. After years of insisting it’s impossible to redefine religion, atheists have done just that, and they don’t even realize it!!!


    CLOSE | X

    HIDE | X