I just finished a 4 part series telling my story. In the final post, I originally had an excessively long P.S. that was, strictly speaking, completely unrelated. So, rather than have a super long set of asides, I set aside my asides for another day. Today, my friends, is that day.
In part 4, I had a mini rant against certain youtube videos by Christians. These videos are very unsophisticated, short, and usually end up being either an emotional appeal or are simply saying that atheists don’t know that God doesn’t exist. These videos give theism a bad name.
What my P.S. was commenting on was that saying “you don’t know” isn’t that bad when someone claiming God doesn’t exists doesn’t offer an argument for that. Believing God doesn’t exist is a step away from the neutral “I don’t know”, so they need a justification. Even if no good argument can be given for believing there is an even number of stars, it does not follow you are justified in believing there are an odd number of stars. So I can offer the makers of these videos a little grace. But claiming “you don’t know God doesn’t exist” is absolutely horrendous for saying He does actually exist.
That was the first part of the P.S. The second part was responding to the imaginary critics in my head. I ended my article by saying that I’m a Christian because Christianity is true.
But, isn’t it just super arrogant to claim to know truth? I’ve heard it said, “Believe those who are seeking the truth; doubt those who find it.” Well, first, if it were arrogant it wouldn’t matter. That would be an ad hominem: dismissing a claim based on the character, motive, or some other perceived flaw of the one holding it. It’s an informal logical fallacy. It doesn’t matter how crappy a person I may be. That’s irrelevant to whether something is actually true or not. Arguments (in which I am fully aware I gave none, that wasn’t the point of those posts) stand on their own. If Hitler made an argument about the spherical nature of the earth I can’t say he’s wrong just because he’s, well, Hitler. (And, you know, we should doubt him here because he claimed to find truth!)
It also depends on what is meant by words like “know” and “proven.” I will explore this in future posts, but basically we don’t need infallibility or omniscience to claim to know. If we do, how do we know that? That statement seems much less warranted than many things I believe. So it seems the requirement is self defeating. We are just inferring to the best explanation. We all work within probabilities.
Of course, all knowledge is provisional on possible future evidence. Notice, though, that future evidence can go either way. Future evidence may further support a position or refute it. Plus, if the future possibility of a position being refuted is reason to not claim to know something to be true, we can’t know anything! It’s at least possible that some of the things we claim to know with high degrees of confidence are false. So we are left with what we have.
I wanted to give this aside so that people don’t a priori dismiss God because of some perceived character flaw of mine. You need to weigh the evidence, not judge me. Of course we should have intellectual humility. Of course we should be willing to change our minds. Of course we should be willing to be challenged. Of course we should research what opposing arguments are saying. Of course we shouldn’t silence those who disagree with us (all those things cut both ways). But that doesn’t mean we can’t say that something is the best explanation of certain phenomena. That doesn’t mean we can’t say someone is wrong, thereby claiming that what they’re saying is not true (which requires at least an idea of what is true).
I’d also ask if we think that it’s true that we should doubt those who find it…