I find the suggestion that I might re-believe (to coin a new word) on the authority of some kind of converted “big atheist,” so to speak, mildly insulting. It is also a window into the mindset of many theists: knowledge comes from authority and consensus. Notice who you appeal to that might cause atheists to believe:
(1)Richard Dawkins – a perceived “authority” among atheists
(2)“A couple of atheists you know and trust” – friendly consensus
The first suggest that atheists might believe if one of their “luminaries” begins to believe. This is a strange suggestion. Dawkins is not the Atheist Pope. He’s an atheist with a public platform from which to express his ideas, nothing more. I enjoy his books and speeches, but if he converted, the reaction among atheists would be more like “Another one bites the dust” and not “Maybe there’s something to this.” He has no authority over our minds.
The second suggests that we can be convinced of something that is not at all self-evident on the testimony of close friends. Somehow this often works to convert theists to other religion, but they already believe in the basic tenet (a god exists) and have laid the metaphysical groundwork themselves. I suspect that any atheist who has thought through his or her stance will meet close-friend converts with the same skepticism as anyone else. Just because we trust them doesn’t mean we think they’re right 100% of the time.
In the end, I would believe only with first-hand evidence, and only with good first-hand evidence. But even then, if I was the only one to see this evidence and nobody else believed me, I would question my own perception and sanity long before I grew a belief in God.
If God is only going around showing himself to individuals, one at a time, what good is he? What good is that to me? How can I differentiate such an experience from a mental disorder? Just because such an experience converted Dawkins or some friends of mine doesn’t mean it would convert me.
If God wants a convert, he should do something amazing and wide-ranging, like he apparently did in the old days, but hasn’t done for a long, long time.
Posted: September 16th 2008
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