Tuesday, October 09, 2007

If Only All Theists Were This Modest

I've always been impressed with my colleague David Seljak's honesty and forthrightness. He's a professor at St. Jerome's University, a Catholic "church college" affiliated with the University of Waterloo. He sent me the following comments by e-mail and graciously allowed me to post them here:


"Christians ought to remember that normal, thinking people do not automatically see the sense in their claims. Indeed believers ought to be a minority. Even Paul says in his letter to the Corinthians. "but we preach Christ crucified: ...foolishness to Gentiles". This stuff is supposed to sound crazy to you guys. After all, we Catholics believe that if we eat the flesh and blood of a Jewish zombie who died 2000 years ago, our invisible friend in the sky will save us from death. :) Faith does not come "naturally"; that is why we call it a "gift". We should hardly be surprised when a number of people say, "no thank you, that sounds ridiculous." It seems to me that Christians should be a lot more humble about our truth claims and a whole heckuva lot more charitable to people who don't take them up."


I daresay that if all Christians were this honest and humble, the conflict between theists and atheists would dry up.

12 comments:

mugwump said...

As I was raised Catholic and went to Waterloo and used to frequent the charity casinos at St Jeromes, I have a confession to make here:

I was a very poor student, in both ways. When I was really short on money and couldn't sign up for any more paying psych experiments, I would go the St J's charity casino and watch the "wheel of fortune" staff member for a while.

After a long shift they would use a consistent motion in spinning, meaning I could predict with some reliability what it would land on relative to starting position.

Then I would gamble, and even though I wouldn't win every spin, I could parlay $2 (paper money back then) into a good $20 or more after a half hour or so. Then I'd go buy some soap or baloney or whatever I needed. Or beer at the Bombshelter for a $1.05 for a small glass.

Feels good to get that off my chest. Ok, not really, but it's fun to relive.

Paul said...

This guy's email to you is appalling. He's bragging about his superstitions knowing all along that it is all BS.

This confirms what I believe about most christians. They know it's bunk, and what they're doing is covering Pascal's Wager, just in case. It's not even a matter of delusion, it's deception. Gee, it must be hell living like that.

Anonymous said...

This confirms what I believe about most christians. They know it's bunk, and what they're doing is covering Pascal's Wager, just in case.

But most atheists also live by a form of Pascal's Wager as argued in the comments section here:

http://scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=189

Erdos56 said...

It is honest and kind but doesn't address the most insidious issue: children are indoctrinated before they can be taught to process information in a fair and skeptical manner. That is the reason so many Christians (and Muslims, and others) are unswerving and unhumble. They lack the circuits for sensing cognitive dissonance.

grok said...

"It is honest and kind but doesn't address the most insidious issue: children are indoctrinated before they can be taught to process information in a fair and skeptical manner."

It is inevitable that someone pulls this canard out of his arse whenever this topic arises.

"Fair and skeptical" according to whom, erdos? You have your own "beliefs" and will "indoctrinate" your children accordingly, despite what anyone else thinks. Of course, you will not see it as indoctrination, you will see it as educating them to process information fairly and skeptically, so that they can be swerving and humble in their lives, I'm sure.

bpabbott said...

grok,

I expect erdos' point was that children should be taught to think for themselves, and when prepared, make their own decisions in matters of such a personal nature.

Where you appear to see a sinister attempt of subversion, I see a proper and moral manner of raising children to become responsible adults.

Erdos56 said...

Grok: I don't think you can equate telling children that they should carefully weigh the evidence for and against political, social and scientific before coming to conclusions, nor that they should hold ideas contingently (Bertrand Russell's notion of classical intellectual liberalism), with religious indoctrination.

Where the two do become equivalent, then we need to take a step back and reexamine our reasoning. Now if you think religious education as typically practiced by the folks Seljak is worrying over are fairly and skeptically presenting religion, then I'm not sure from where his concern arises?

grok said...

It is the implication that religion is incompatible with fairness that I find objectionable. Using words like "insidious" and "indoctrinated" reveals your beliefs about both religion and those who practise it.

Do you feel equally concerned about, say, leftist history professors putting their spin on the events of the past and promulgating them to their students?

Tegumai Bopsulai, FCD said...

It is the implication that religion is incompatible with fairness that I find objectionable.

Any version of religion which claims "believe the same things as me, or you will spend an eternity in the toerments of Hell" is fair game for that argument.

Erdos56 said...

grok: Valid point about the language. Less provocative terms would have made for less provocation.

As for the issue of lefty profs, I don't see college students as intellectually victimizable in the same way as young children. Even so, I would prefer the prof introduce the interpretative framework and describe its flaws and strengths on Day 1, and maybe talk some about the alternatives.

Reginal Selkirk said...

FOX NEWS contributor Father Jonathan Morris asks, "Have you ever met a really happy kid who is an atheist? I mean, give me a break."

Colin said...

A late comment here ...


British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has also made a rather similar point. He asks "If God does everything for a reason then why did He make atheists?" and the answer is "To show that faith isn't easy or inevitable". Now obviously as an atheist I think this argument is a complete crock, but it's at least one step up from the familiar "you're not really an atheist" line .