VicqRuiz was replying to one portion of my paper, Unanswered Questions for a Former Catholic Atheist, in the combox underneath it. His words will be in blue.
[me] 5. Could you have passed a quiz on the basic doctrines of Christianity(say, those agreed-upon by virtually all Christians: Nicene Creed-type beliefs): let alone the more specifically, distinctively Catholic doctrines?
(Apologies if I’ve posted the comment below on your site before, I have raised this question several times on several different blogs)
I spent the first sixteen years of my life as one of the few Scandahoovian, unbelieving kids in a very Eastern European (mostly Polish and Czech), very cradle Catholic, neighborhood of Chicago.
And to the best of my recollection, most of the neighborhood kids and their parents were not particularly learned in theology. Their Catholicism seemed very much centered upon custom and ritual, rather than examination of the doctrines of the faith. In other words, they “just believed”.
That’s perfectly fine by me. I have no desire whatever to weaken the faith of those who “just believe”, and would never press the works of skeptical philosophers upon then with the insistence that unless they can read and disprove them, their faith is unsubstantiated.
I don’t think it works both ways.
It seems to me that Christian apologists, and in particular Catholics, are unwilling to accept the idea that unbelievers, whether of the cradle sort or whether “deconverted”, are entitled to “just not believe”. There is an insistence that unless the unbeliever can in detail dispense with the specific creeds and dogmas of Christianity, that his unbelief is not to be fully respected.
Again, as I have already alluded to, it’s two different things. The average Catholic or Protestant or Orthodox has a lousy, usually nonexistent knowledge of apologetics. I totally agree there. But they are not making the claim, “I believe in x because of a, b, c, . . . ”
The deconvert, on the other hand, who takes the trouble to publicly write about their reasons for leaving Christianity, is making the claim, “Christianity [and the Bible] are false because of d, e, f , . . .”
In other words, if they want to “just not believe” and go about their business and not pester Christians for their beliefs, or in effect, “preach atheism” then the question to be asked is, “why are they making this a public issue and making claims that can now be examined in the public arena of ideas and inquiry?” If they aren’t willing to engage on that stage, then why did they write their story? Just for the atheist choir?
If they write about it in public, then they are in effect implying that they are willing to engage one who disagrees. Yet when I come around and disagree, it’s 90% rank hostility for even daring to think of doing such an outrageous thing (with some of the more well-known atheists, like John Loftus, getting the most angry and out-of-control offended). It makes no sense.
If you want to be a blissfully happy atheist who can’t defend why you are one (just like most Christians can’t defend their beliefs, either: which is why I do what I do), then go do it and be silent. But if you “come out and fight,” don’t urinate your pants and moan if an apologist like me attempts to be a gadfly and puncture this bubble of reality that you have constructed.
All I’m doing as an apologist is taking a critical look at d, e, f, and any other reasons given, to see if they can stand up to scrutiny. So far, in my opinion, with over 25 or so such analyses done, I’ve yet to find a former Christian whose reasons d-f, etc. could stand up to and withstand critique. That is my experience. I can’t change it. I don’t claim that it’s universal. But it is a striking unanimity of theological ignorance and straw men.
Therefore, I conclude that the given rational reasons in these particular cases, for rejecting Christianity, fail.
In order to overcome those arguments of mine, the atheist or agnostic has to show how my counter-reasoning goes astray. So far, few if any want to do that. They go right to meta-analysis: much like you have done here. That’s fine, but it’s fundamentally different from my endeavor.
Lastly, my #5 that you cite, and my #4, dealt with catechesis (what we believe), not apologetics (why we believe what we believe). Thus, I was simply looking to see if this person could identify basic Christian beliefs in, say, a multiple-choice test.