Riker's Mailbox

Thursday, August 21, 2008


For the last couple weeks, I've been concurrently writing a loose collection of thoughts and reading through the series of threads and comments on Stephen Law's blog involving the notorious Sye Tenb of Sinner Ministries' "Proof of the existence of God" website. The latter, by the way, is a tedious yet fascinating deconstruction of the presuppositionalist mind. If you have an interest in learning the basic language and processes of philosophy and have a few hours to kill,* I can't recommend strongly enough that you go over and read it yourself. After you read my entire archive of brilliance, of course**.

Anyway, I wanted to make mention of the Stephen Law bit before I tried to assemble the aforementioned thoughts of mine into a more coherent piece of Vicious Atheist Propaganda***. I'll probably be back to talk about Sye after I'm done trudging through the last couple entries. Which might still take a couple days.

Regardless, here's the latest outpouring. It takes the form of a letter to a believer. The filter is off; if I can't find a good place to insert a tidbit, I'll just stick it at the end on its own. I don't want to mold this one too much:

The Latest Outpouring

I say "According to what I've studied, and based upon the information available to me, the world works in such a way that indicates there is no god, instead of a god or gods," to which you may say, "Well, explain it to me, then." And alas, I basically can't.

I can't explain it to you for the same reason a high school student can't ask his teacher to explain how her education enabled her to get a job teaching, and then turn around and get hired himself... I cannot do your learning for you; if we could, basic education would not take as long as it does.

The best I can do is show you the high standard (and rigor) against which my beliefs are tested, and tell you that the information that convinced me is indeed available to you. In essence, and not without irony, I want you to take it on faith. Not my conclusion, mind you... just the fact that the information that formed my conclusion is there. If you truly want to put your beliefs to the test, even in an effort to strengthen your own conclusions, I'll show you how, and I'll go a step further and point out a few places to start you along your search.

But if you actively refuse the information, you must know that you are denying yourself, and are therefore lying to yourself for the comfort of maintaining a framework that goes unchallenged, which is not a victory in any context. It is a forfeit. And if you do make the effort, you may still conclude that you were not wrong. Furthermore, you will have that much more confidence in your own position... which I can respect even if I believe you should've been convinced otherwise.

I know that for many, it is painful and difficult to be informed that they're wrong, especially regarding their highest beliefs, and even moreso the longer those beliefs have been held. My own first and greatest challenge along this learning path, and now one of my greatest strengths, was divorcing myself from that reactionary tendency. That I can not only accept, but indeed look forward to, being proven wrong only sharpens my own ability to reflect upon and challenge and refine the conclusions I do maintain, such that the opportunity for others to prove me wrong is diminished; for I have done much of their work myself.

And yet I surprisingly find that those who cannot bear to have their beliefs challenged are so often the same who adopt new beliefs so easily, without hesitation or scrutiny of any kind. Why would people give themselves so eagerly to beliefs that would utterly crush them to discover were wrong? Do people know themselves that poorly? The asymmetry of their overcredulous nature is fascinating, but is also disheartening.

The magnitude of their credulity is matched only by their incredulity toward arguments made against their positions once they adopt them. Where was that spirit of disbelief in the first place? It seems to me that their willingness to believe scales rather directly with their emotional investment into those ideas. They walk in easily with no attachments, then attach themselves firecely. When refuting evidence comes into the picture, the quality of that evidence is secondary to their own lack of attachment to that evidence, and thus it doesn't sway them.

So maybe the issue is that they throw themselves to passionately and fully into an idea once they believe it. We skeptics will not hesitate to throw an idea to the curb once a better one comes along.

A believer's beliefs are a marriage, 'till death do they part. A skeptic's are a one-night-stand. No wonder we're having more fun.

* - and you're a glutton for punishment
** - Made you look!
*** - Do I feel another acronym coming on? Oh yeah, baby.