In the comment thread of Stuart’s ‘Liar, Lunatic or Lord’, Simon gave a number of reasons (out of “many others”) for abandoning his belief in Christianity. I find “deconversion” stories to be fascinating for their sameness, and for evidencing no good reasons for the deconversion itself. Simon is no exception. I’d like to address this post to him. Here are the reasons he gives, with my comments inline:
The blatantly false claims of miracles. Anywhere. Anyhow. (And 13 pages of excuses doesn’t impress me or any other sane thinker without compromising presuppositions)
i. Simon, how much research have you actually done into this topic? Plainly, you have no ability to test the miracle claims of the Bible itself, unless you’ve invented a time machine. So presumably you are testing modern miracle claims. In that case, can you direct us to the modern research you have conducted—the eyewitness testimonies you have evaluated; the scientific studies, if any; etc?
ii. Having done so, and persuasively shown that miracles do not occur today, can you then present a compelling reason to believe that the miracles in the Bible are myths? What correlation can you offer between modern miracle-claims being false, and biblical miracle-claims being false—without begging the question?
The realisation that I would have been equally zealous for my birth religion no matter which I was born into.
i. How could you actually know this? Do you have some kind of ability to look into all the possible worlds and recognize which ones would be actual, given some base parameters?
ii. How does this actually constitute a reason to reject any given religion? What if you had been born into an atheist household? Would that have constituted a reason to reject atheism? Or, would a person born into such a household, who then converted to Christianity citing the reason “I would have been equally zealous for my birth religion no matter which I was born into”, be offering some kind of persuasive testimony against atheism or for his chosen faith? In the same vein, what of people like myself who were born into a different religion, then deconverted from it and became atheists—and then later converted to Christianity? It’s hard to see how the “birth religion” argument is anything but a flagrant non-sequitur.
The convenience of anything religious as being ‘beyond’ falsification.
i. What do you mean by “anything religious”? Are you saying that no Christian truth-claims are falsifiable? That seems, itself, to be trivially false. If you don’t think that the authenticity of the gospels is a falsifiable belief, then why did you go to so much trouble trying to falsify it in the comment thread of Stuart’s article?
ii. What does falsifiability have to do with truth? Are you just presupposing that, in order to be justified in believing some proposition p, that p must be falsifiable? What if p is the proposition that “we are only justified in believing falsifiable propositions”? How would you go about trying to falsify p to show that you’re justified in believing it? In fact, isn’t it the case that the most strongly justified beliefs we have are actually unfalsifiable? I believe that I have a slight twinge in my neck right now. Is that belief falsifiable? Or is it in fact true by definition of its referent? Ie, I would not have the belief if its object were not true—so it is impossible for the belief to be false, and it is impossible to falsify it, even in principle? Similarly, what of the belief that “a mind-independent world exists”? How would you propose we falsify that? Should we actually consider our inability to falsify this belief as a reason to regard the belief as untrue? If not, what is your argument against unfalsifiable religious beliefs?
The fact that morality is largely the same no matter the religion (including the fact that the claim that all the ‘wrong’ people live in god’s universe and so exhibit similar morals works in any direction)
i. Again, how is this an argument against Christianity? In what way does it constitute a reason for disbelieving Christian truth-claims? Is it not, in fact, a Christian truth-claim that all people are made in the image of God and that “the law is written on their hearts” (Romans 2:15)? So, isn’t this a reason in support of Christianity? Or do you reject confirmation theory—viz:
IC: If T raises the probability of e, then e is evidence for (raises the probability of) T.
Where we can see that T is a Christian truth-claim like Romans 2:15, and e is the fact that, indeed, all people appear to have the same law written on their hearts.
ii. Since an atheistic worldview cannot even ground morality as a prescriptive phenomenon, what is your alternative to the theistic view? Reduce morality to descriptions of how humans behave? If so, there is plainly an incongruity between your worldview and one of the basic facts of human existence—namely, the prescriptive nature of morality. Does this not serve to falsify your atheism? If not, why not?