Skeptical? Honestly?

Crushed by the evidence

“Evidence. I want evidence that there’s a God.”

“In what form?”

“I don’t know. But I’m not going to put parameters around it.” 

Confession: I am skeptical about skeptics. I seriously doubt the doubters. I don’t believe the unbelievers. Not enough evidence for God, you say? Perhaps what you meant to say was, I refuse to even consider the evidence because then I might have to change my cherished, chosen lifestyle.

That’s pretty much my attitude whenever I hear or read a skeptic or atheist claim a lack of evidence. But note that it’s a confession, so I recognize it’s a little unfair. Certainly often enough accurate, but not always. Mea culpa.

But it was again my response when I heard the above exchange on Hinge, “a podcast about doubt, identity, and the search for the real Jesus.” The co-hosts are on opposite sides of the Jesus question…one a Christian pastor, the other a former Christian turned atheist…but they’re also friends. The congeniality of their discussion is very attractive, even though I know if I was hosting you’d likely hear something like, “Seriously? What are you, blind?” I know myself too well.

But I also know that if I as an apologist am going to be about persuasion over contention, a proper attitude and approach is key. Instead of a thunderous hailstorm of assertions that push your opponent into a protective posture, the warm, ocean breezes of congeniality and the fireside glow of mutual respect are much more likely to soften him up for the kill foster a mature and considerate conversational context where each can be heard.

I have issues
So I do recognize that refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of a doubter’s doubts is counterproductive to persuading him to abandon them. Still, the claim that there is no evidence for God seems plainly illegitimate, and so gives rise to my doubts about such a claimant’s doubt. I can respect a skeptic who says they’re not convinced by it, but if they refuse to even engage with the multiple arguments for God’s existence then clearly their skepticism is merely a ruse. And I think I am justified in questioning their integrity.

I also have trust issues with skeptics who can’t or won’t say what evidence would convince them, as in the above exchange. If the evidence that has convinced me doesn’t meet their qualifications, then it seems to me they must have at least an idea of what would. I suspect that most who do have an idea don’t admit it for fear that it will be seen as unreasonable or that it will be shown to be, in essence, no more evidential than what they reject. Or because, if they are honest enough to admit it like the atheist co-host of Hinge did, they know they would likely be skeptical of any imagined evidence. [I will be addressing the less humble admission of a popular internet atheist in my next post.]

We all have filters
What I have come to realize is that what we acknowledge as true when looking outside ourselves is shaped to a large extent by what we acknowledge is true when we look inside ourselves. And this goes for both believers and nonbelievers. A little introspection can save us from misinterpreting what our “outrospection” detects, because all that we perceive is seen through multiple emotional, relational, and presuppositional filters.

And we have to be willing to be honest with ourselves if we want to be seen by others as honest. So the maxim is true in religious and existential considerations as well as in everyday life: Honesty is the best policy.