Tuesday, August 31, 2010

L 4.3

Michael Shermer is quoted on p. 70 saying “smart people...are able to give intellectual reasons justifying their beliefs that they arrived at for non-intelligent reasons.” Further, “there are several social reasons for leaving the faith that a person was born into.” (p.72)

First, Loftus should be careful citing this quote because it could be used against atheism. Many people believe that former Christians are merely mad at God for some selfish reason. They didn’t get their burning bush audience with God or they think that being a Christian makes them maintain a lifestyle that prevents certain indulgences or they think God unfairly took someone/something from them. In fact, the journal-like first chapter of Loftus’ book suggests that he might fit neatly into those categories.

Second, who gets to decide which reasons justifying a belief are intelligent and which ones aren’t? Making the claim that certain reasons are non-intelligent requires smuggled-in authority. The person making the claim should validate their authority in order to substantiate their position.

Third, “non-intelligent reasons” is really code for “non-scientific reasons”. Science isn’t really the question in this matter. The belief should be judged on rationality, especially of the metaphysical, philosophical variety. Christian beliefs have been shown to be rational for centuries. A good article on the topic is Alvin Plantinga’s “Should Methodological Naturalism Constrain Science”.

The second statement implies that moving from one faith to another only happens as a result of social pressures, not rationality. While this might be true of Loftus himself, several notable atheists who are now Christian claim that they followed the evidence in investigating Christian beliefs and they became followers of Christ. They give no indication that their conversion was due to social or cultural factors.

No comments: