Throwing Ideas into the Arena

I’ve been in an extended commenting debate over at Debunking Christianity, after mentioning Loftus in my post yesterday talking about why a diversity of opinions isn’t always a good thing.  I have a weakness for pugilistic rhetoric, which may have muddied my message slightly, so I’m reposting a comment I made there over here.  If you’re interested, click here to read through the thread.

A brief quote from my interlocutor (click above to read the whole thread, so I don’t do him a disservice by cherrypicking:

You said …”I think there are plenty of wrong, damaging ideologies under atheism’s big tent, and not enough focus on trying to root them out”

And you know what its quite possible i fully agree with you . But still who of us ? should be the one given the right to deem what is damaging or not damaging ? … Isnt this the very reason why atleast the “opinions” should always be something thats allowed ? .

Thats always been the problem none of us is God ….Yet faithful humans have tried claiming to be God , by writing what they did in holy books …Banning right of opinion …and making their thoughts , Gods thoughts ….In effect this banned diversity of opinion ..And also banned hope of change

We shouldnt try to think of atheism as some miracle system that can be expected will always have all the “right thoughts” and always get “everything right” and “never make mistakes” .

My comment/clarification:

Gandolf, you keep using the word ‘banned’ which I did not use once in my post because that was not the kind of solution I was advocating. I am NOT talking about using force or the State’s monopoly on force to suppress ideas I disagree with.

Here’s my position:

When we see a wide range of (sometimes contradictory) ideas that are about a high-stakes, big consequences topic like morality and all claim to be derived using a set of common standards (skepticism, empiricism, etc), our reaction should not be “What a healthy diversity of opinions!” but “Uh oh.”

Maybe there’s something wrong with our ability to reason, or maybe someone’s wrong about the facts on the ground, or maybe there isn’t a contradiction, we just set up a false dichotomy with the way we were speaking (my guess on the source of our disagreement). Either way, I want us to see divergent views as part of a process that ends with a new paradigm, or a rejection, or a new synthesis. Just like it works in the scientific community.

To praise the diversity of opinions rather than the whole process and the goal of discerning truth is like praising the hypothesis generating stage of the scientific method. It’s not a good in itself without a crucible for the ideas.

I hope this is a little clearer, but I welcome questions or comments.

No Room for Atheists at the Conservative Inn
What's the Difference between Forgiveness and Self-Deception?
The Uncharity of Ideological Containment
And You Shall Know the Free Thinkers By Their Cussing?
About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011 and lives in Washington DC. She works as a news writer for FiveThirtyEight by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • Julie Robison

    Wow, I really like the last 3 grafs Leah. Well said!

  • http://none Haloguy

    I was not from a Christian home. I met a fella in the U. S. Navy who was one. He took me to a man of about 70 years of age. I listened to his explanations of the Scriptures about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I held no preconceived ideas of faith or the Bible. I was not understanding life and it’s reason for existence. It was a puzzle. I thot if I was just good enough, I’d make it to some place called ‘heaven.’ So, I heard: “Truly, truly, I say to you, that he who hears my word and believes on the One who sent me, has everlasting life, shall not come into judgment, but is passed out of death into everlasting life.” John 5:24. I believed, prayed to receive Christ in my inner person as Lord and Savior. And I was changed, and continued to change. I had planned to be a CPA, but God called me to preach and so for 40 years I’ve done that. So, my simple argument is: “I was there, and I say I am different.” And many people can tell you it is so. If you have not experienced it, of course, then you don’t know anything about it. And of course, there is no argument against it. How can you explain a man like Saul of Tarsus who persecuted the Christians, then was converted, and began preaching Christ as Lord and Savior? “Taste and see”. “Look and live.” Best argument for anything is those who have been through it.