A Different Approach to the Skeptic
Shane Hayes - Writer - Speaker

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A Different Approach to the Skeptic

[Note: Yes, amazingly, Hemant Mehta, one of America's most prominent atheists, posted Chapter 1 of my just-published book The End of Unbelief on his popular blog The Friendly Atheist, knowing his aggressively atheist readers would attack it -- and me -- mercilessly.  They did not disappoint.  Over 500 comments made me feel their passionate contempt for my views.  Then Hemant was kind enough to let me write a response to those comments.  The response was in five parts (which drew over 1,000 more comments). Here is the third part.]
Part 3
How Is My Approach Different and More Effective?
One of the most balanced and incisive comments was made by Overlapping Magisteria, who said:

Seems that his argument is this:

1. We cannot know one way or another whether or not God exists.
2. Believing that God does exist is more comforting and beneficial than believing that God does not exist.
3. Since we cannot know one way or another, it makes sense to choose to believe that which is more comforting and beneficial.
4. Therefore, it makes sense to believe that God exists.

The biggest thing to note is that this isn't an argument for the existence if God, but only an argument that one should believe in God, regardless of whether or not he exists.

And of course, as others have noted, premise 2 is very debatable and subject to personal experience.
Cormacolinde [adds]:
A slight correction:

4. Therefore it makes sense to believe in the *Christian* god. 
There's always that huge, unprovable and meaningless jump every time an apologist uses the good 'ole wager argument.  [Not so, as you'll see below.]
Madcaphal [adds]:
"is atheism where you want to go?" and "Atheists choose not to believe".

Nope, nothing new here. Tired old arguments for believing something that isn't true.
It surprised me that the overwhelming tenor of the comments was that "this is the same old stuff, rehashed; nothing new here at all."  No one thought it noteworthy or interesting that here is a Christian author who not only doesn't try to prove God's existence or quote scripture at us, he proclaims himself an agnostic.  The title of the chapter Hemant posted -- Chapter 1 -- was An Agnostic Argues for Faith.  A few modern Christian authors admit, quietly, deep into the text of their books, that they don't think God's existence can be proven.  But they don't follow that concession to its rigorous logical conclusion -- that we can't then know whether there is a God or not. 
I, on the other hand, use agnosticism (my own) to make an argument for faith.  In the posted excerpt I say:
I believe. Atheists choose not to believe. I can’t tell them they’re wrong, and they can’t tell me I’m wrong. We all grope in existential darkness.  I use religious faith as a compass.  They think it’s worthless.  I don’t say everyone should believe as I do. I’m a pragmatist, not an evangelist. I know how different people are. My solution may not be yours.
Hemant included only Chapter 1 of the book in the posted excerpt.  In Chapter 2, Believing Without Proof, I say:
Skeptics, Come as You Are
I proclaim this good news to atheists and uncommitted agnostics: You don’t have to renounce a spirit of skepticism to believe in God.  Agnostic philosophy lets you retain all your reasons for denying his existence. You needn’t repudiate any of them. As long as you can discern this truth: even the strongest anti-God arguments are not conclusive, and the undisproven God may in fact be real; so, you can hang on to agnosticism with one hand and grasp faith with the other. I’ve done it and it works.
That may strike you as contradictory, illogical, or self-delusive.  It is none of those.  But do me this justice.  Concede that subtle, sometimes complicated, philosophical arguments may have to be expanded on in a book-length work.  It's easy to shoot down out-of-context passages, or even a full chapter, which might be cogent and persuasive in the context of the whole book.  I need space to explain why, in my dialectic, "agnostic" does not mean "unbeliever"; and the crucial difference between one's philosophical position and one's personal belief. 

1 Comment to A Different Approach to the Skeptic:

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sohbet on Thursday, February 26, 2015 7:19 AM
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