What Would You Do?

What Would You Do?Sometime back, on the Finding Truth blog, one of the visitors directed a couple of rather intriguing questions to both believers and non-believers. With this person’s permission, I am publishing the questions here. As a Christian or as an Atheist, how would you answer them?

1. If everyone else you knew turned away and stopped believing what you believed, would you still believe?

2. Furthermore, if some of these same people treated you differently, harshly and excluded you because of your convictions, would you still believe?

I tend to think atheists would be less likely to change their thinking because they have generally done a thorough investigation of Christian claims and feel comfortable in their decision. However, if some irrefutable event occurred that strongly indicated God existed, what then? Would they be able to hold on to their “non-belief?” Especially if other non-believers became convinced of the validity of Christianity?

For Christians, the first question is especially pertinent. How many would be able to hold onto their convictions if everyone else stopped believing? I have a hunch many would say this wouldn’t matter — that they would continue to believe. But let’s be realistic. Facing banishment and ostracization from friends and family is not a walk in the park. And, as in the case of the atheists, if former believers were able to present undeniable evidence that Christianity was false, would this make a difference?

Think about it. What would you do?

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11 thoughts on “What Would You Do?

  1. The key here, is “some irrefutable event” – atheists do not hold their beliefs, or lack of them, based on “faith,” but rather on evidence, currently, there is no irrefutable evidence that a god exists. However, we are also not close-minded when faced with new evidence – if “some irrefutable event” occurred, of course I would change my view, but so far, that hasn’t happened, and until it does, I’ll stick with my current view.

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  2. Russell’s teapot, sometimes called the celestial teapot or cosmic teapot, is an analogy first coined by the philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872–1970) to illustrate that the philosophic burden of proof lies upon a person making scientifically unfalsifiable claims rather than shifting the burden of proof to others, specifically in the case of religion.

    In an article titled “Is There a God?” commissioned, but never published, by Illustrated magazine in 1952, Russell wrote:

    Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a mistake. If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.

    In 1958, Russell elaborated on the analogy as a reason for his own atheism:

    I ought to call myself an agnostic; but, for all practical purposes, I am an atheist. I do not think the existence of the Christian God any more probable than the existence of the Gods of Olympus or Valhalla. To take another illustration: nobody can prove that there is not between the Earth and Mars a china teapot revolving in an elliptical orbit, but nobody thinks this sufficiently likely to be taken into account in practice. I think the Christian God just as unlikely.

    All we’ve ever asked for, is evidence.

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  3. A Jewish atheist hears that the best school in town happens to be Catholic, so he enrolls his son. Things are going well until one day the boy comes home and says, “I just learned all about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” The boy’s father is barely able to control his rage. He grabs his son by the shoulders and says, “Joey, this is very important, so listen carefully. There is only ONE God — and we don’t believe in Him!”

    That’s it, I’m done.

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  4. These are good questions you’re asking (or repeating, as it were). However, regarding this bit:

    I tend to think atheists would be less likely to change their thinking because they have generally done a thorough investigation of Christian claims and feel comfortable in their decision.

    That looks like a broad brush you have there. Can you cite any sources to support your claim.

    I think there are a lot of poorly-researched people on both sides of the fence. I don’t know if there is a difference in the spreads (of well-researched vs. poorly-researched people in their respective camps), but I’d need some proof to think that there is.

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    • I would tend to agree that few people do much research before they make a decision on what they choose to believe (in politics as well as religion).

      However, in my experiences, atheists appear to come to their conclusions about god(s) (or lack thereof) based on research and reason. No, I can’t provide “proof” of this, but when I read comments and postings on various atheist blogs (Finding Truth is an excellent one), nearly every atheist will quote numerous sources that validate her/his point of view. Believers, on the other hand, tend to point to one source only: the Bible. (And generally the scriptures they quote are regurgitated platitudes that have been repeated over and over for hundreds of years.)

      When push comes to shove, none of us know exactly what we would do. But I hoped the questions might give readers pause and cause them to ruminate a bit.

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

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  5. I posted this response to a Christian blogger on John Zande’s blog.

    “That certainly does not seem like a good analogy . A better one would be the “bible” as an airplane which is headed in a death spiral towards earth and there is a parachute named “truth” hanging next to the door, but the indoctrinated religious believer goes down with the airplane (bible) because he decides against saving himself with the parachute (truth).

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    • That’s because he believes that if he goes down with the plane, he’ll be resurrected!

      Gloria Steinem once said, “The truth will set you free, but it pisses you off first.”

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