What would it take for you to believe?

Would this be sufficient...?

What would it take for you to believe? It’s an interesting question to put to any atheist, and often the answer can come as quite a surprise…to them. Given that you are aware of the arguments for God’s existence and find them to be un-compelling, which of any of the standard religious experiences would manage to make a believer out of you? A voice from the heavens? “I would probably dismiss that as some sort of audible illusion. Probably thunder, or an airplane, that I’m mishearing and falsely interpreting as a voice.” A direct appearance, before your very eyes, of an angel, or even of God Himself? “Likewise, I’d think I was hallucinating. I’d probably ask myself what I’d eaten that day! Or who had spiked my drink!” What if the apparition came back day after day, and you knew there was no extraneous cause? “Then I’d think that I had gone mad.” Really, the answer is that for many atheists there is simply nothing that they could experience that could convert them from their position. And then they are surprised when they meet the exact same attitude in their theistic opponents!

So, considering this, a sentence caught my eye recently in the abstract for an article on ‘Militant Modern Atheism’ that I happened to stumble across; in talking about the contemporary debate between theists and atheists, “The challenge [for the militant modern atheist] is to develop a well-articulated and convincing version of secular humanism.” This is followed by, “Meeting that challenge is, I claim, one of the central problems of philosophy today.” The author is sensibly responding to the deficiencies of the particular variety of ‘militant modern atheism’, and is pointing out that they need to offer a little more, by way of an incentive to the believer that they wish to persuade to their position, than merely Continue reading “What would it take for you to believe?”

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Atheist Delusions

Atheist DelusionHart, David Bentley, Atheist Delusions, Yale University Press, London / New Haven, CT £19.99 Hardback: ISBN 978-0-300-11190-3

Review by Matthew Feldman, University of Northampton

The battle has finally been joined. For Atheist Delusions is the frontal counter-attack that intelligent persons of faith have been long awaiting. Poor arguments against belief are simply swatted away (e.g. “the truth is that religion and irreligion are cultural variables, but killing is a human constant”, 13). But the main target of attack is the “New Atheism”, particularly those ‘devoutly undevout’ academics evangelizing what David Bentley Hart calls ‘the Gospel of unbelief’. Hart is certainly not alone in his criticism – even if he goes further than most, to the extent that his hyperventilating apologia for Christian humanism might leave more mild-mannered readers somewhat uncomfortable. A taste of his assault on a group he dubs ‘manifestly moral idiots’ is enough to make one blanch; extending to the ‘extravagantly callow’ Sam Harris (The End of Faith) and the ‘borderline illiterate’ Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code); to the ‘intellectual caricature[s]’ and failure of ‘consecutive logic’ by Christopher Hitchens (God is not Great); let alone Hart’s disdain for the High Priest of Atheism, Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), that ‘tireless tractarian’ with ‘an incapacity for philosophical reasoning’ (236, 3-4). Continue reading “Atheist Delusions”