How do you describe your beliefs today?
As a rule, I don’t.
What do you trust that you know with certainty and how do you know it?
I don’t trust I know anything with certainty.
How do you know what should you do?
I try to be kind to people and animals. If one does that consistently, it all works out.
Where do you stand on epistemology and ethics?
Ethics: see previous question. Epistemology: I’m still working that out.
religion has the onus of proof for its claims or do you believe that a person, upon hearing “The bible is true”, has the onus of disproving?
I don’t believe either of those things. I would say that religious believers (any religion, not just Christianity) owe non-believers absolutely nothing — least of all “proof.” In the same way, atheists owe believers nothing. I think on a larger scale, they both owe each other kindness… But beyond that, nada. The two appear, in my observation, to experience reality in wholly different ways. Believers and atheists speak different languages. Which is OK. I don’t understand the aggression with which either side attacks the other, and they both do it. Few atheists are ever going to be convinced by a logical argument that religious claims are true. More believers stop believing because of the logical arguments of atheists (like Professor Johnson, in the lectures this essay is responding to), but not very many, really, in the grand scheme of things. A tiny percentage.
If everyone on both sides were honest, I think we’d see that most atheists who convert to a religion do so because they have experienced something logic can’t explain, but their experience tells them is true. Many believers who convert to atheism do so because, even though they may have invested years of honest effort pursuing personal religious experience, it simply never happened for them. Religion becomes just an intellectual or cultural thing for them because they haven’t personally experienced supernatural reality, and they are easily “picked off” by the logical arguments of atheists.
Experience becomes the key. Pretty much every time believers and atheists clash, it’s an encounter between person A who has experienced something person B has not. They have no way to communicate. Pure logic does not allow personal experience to count as evidence. For the religious experiencer, the experience is the only evidence that matters.
I vote they stop trying to convince each other of anything, and just be kind.
It grates me that in this Great Courses lecture series Prof. Johnson expounds an aggressive logical atheism, but calls the class “The Big Questions of Philosophy.” Atheism is one school of philosophy, just like all of these. Click the link. Atheism is one school of philosophy on a list of 145 such schools. To teach one school of philosophy as if it were the whole of Philosophy, or “the one true philosophy,” is no different than a Christian teaching that Christianity is the “one true religion.” If he had named his course “The Logical Case for Atheism,” I would have no problem with it. I also would not have purchased or listened to it, because that does not interest me. It’s the dishonesty of presenting the atheist worldview as if it defined the whole of philosophy — or worse, the way reality really is — that grieves me. How many quavering believers get “picked off” by this sort of deception?