A few months ago Phil reviewed the new book “A Manuel for Creating Atheists” by Dr. Peter Boghossian, and took issue with Bogghossian’s definition of “faith.” Numerous supporters of the book engaged the issue, and a lively debate continued online for more than a month. Several defenders challenged Phil to have the author on the podcast to explain his position, so this week Phil is joined by Dr. Peter Bogghossian himself for a lengthy but fascinating conversation about faith, knowledge, and the “reasonableness” (or lack thereof) of Christian belief. Can a creator of Christian vegetables and an atheist evangelist get along for an entire hour?? Tune in to find out!
Listen to the episode | Download this episode | Find this episode on iTunes
Good conversation. Basically, the entire thing hinged on the fact that Peter does not feel there is an evidence upon which to base a trust in any kind of supernatural claim. You both agreed that when you best friend would pull you up from the cliff, it was all based on a relationship and character and evidence of that character, and that’s exactly what Christians ought to believe about God. But Peter didn’t buy that line of thinking because of the supernatural aspect. So, that’s where the conversation stood. But it was a very interesting dialog. I do think it’s silly that the main point of the dialog was that we need to be more civil and all that, which to me seems just … whatever, a given. I’d prefer the take-out of the dialog would be don’t reason unlogically, and logical reasoning is based on a set of premises and sometimes people will never agree about the premises and we still need to love each other. I guess that’s the same point as the be civil just more wordy. Oh well.
This is one of the best conversations between two dissenting viewpoints that I have ever heard. What struck me the most if how you each listened to one another. If only more of this kind of thing was happening out there…..
Rather enjoyable listening, pleasingly non adversarial…
(http://floatingpointconsiderations.blogspot.co.uk/ my few irrelevant irritations for anyone really bored and wanting to waste five minutes)
Phil, when you think of who that legal scholar in the 1830s was, would you mind putting it out there? I like to see people reading old works of apologetics. Thanks.
gutenberg.orggutenberg.orggutenberg.orgEsther, for balance, you ought to read Jean Meslier’s “Superstition In All Ages” (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/17607/17607-h/17607-h.htm#link2H_4_0220) from the 1700s, especially the sections “Of the Falsity of the Christian Religion” (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/17607/17607-h/17607-h.htm#link2H_4_0217) and “The New Testament” (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/17607/17607-h/17607-h.htm#link2H_4_0220).
Simon Greenleaf! He wrote A Treatise on the Law of Evidence, a long-time standard textbook for American jurisprudence, and Testimony of the Evangelists, an apologetic for the evidential support for the resurrection.
Accepting the gospels as evidence of the resurrection would be like accepting that Bob was abducted by aliens in 1980 based _not_ on his own testimony (as if most people would even buy that) but on a story written decades later by X, who refuses to identify himself, cannot be cross-examined, does not even claim to have any personal connection with Bob, and could have simply invented the whole story anyway. There is simply no way a U.S. court would allow X’s story as proof of the abduction. And sure, we have 4 gospels, but the fact that 3 of them got the story from one of the others (and this is well-accepted by New Testament scholars these days) and revamped it doesn’t make it any more credible. Just imagine if the same thing happened to the Book of Mormon or the Qu’ran–would you find it any more believable?
Owen, you must know how re-hashed your arguments are, but humor me for a minute and tell me how you’d like to explain away… oh, say, the gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts?
The fact that my arguments have been used before doesn’t make them wrong. Show me how they’re wrong.
Thank you! You know, I’ve got a boatload more where that came from. Shoot me an e-mail some time if you’re interested in more oldies but goodies. Another that immediately comes to mind is Edmund Bennett’s _Four Gospels From a Lawyer’s Standpoint_. Thomas Sherlock’s _Trial of the Witnesses_ is also tremendous fun. By the way, not only is Peter’s Salem witch trials line very cliched, but there’s a great little resource to point him to that takes care of the evidential question very neatly, written by a rationalist named John Fiske. It’s called _Witchcraft in Salem Village_, pub. date 1904.
Esther, what sane physicist would say, “I have discovered a new particle that is incorporeal, has no first cause, and exists outside of time and space”? Would anyone believe this claim without evidence that would be clear and convincing to all physicists? If not, why should anyone believe the claims of apologists for Buddhism, Judaism, Scientology, Islam, Hinduism, Shintoism, or any form of Christianity?
thank you for providing such an eloquent and beautiful example of engaging with those who see the world differently than we do! Perhaps if more Christ followers followed this example there would be more Christ followers
I loved this, Phil. I absolutely loved this. This is what most Christians don’t know about Christianity. You can’t do it by yourself. Wow. It’s so true. I’m loving your podcasts. Good, thoughtful stuff.
Kudos to both Peter & Phil for a very nice conversation
Are you that rather self-important Yale professor who wrote a post saying you personally didn’t think there were any successful evidential/philosophical arguments for the existence of God, without actually engaging with any of the arguments? If not, I apologize—wouldn’t want to accuse anyone unjustly.
Esther, what would you say is the #1 piece of evidence that _your_ particular god exists? And what would change your mind?
Wish Phil would have answered why he believes in Jesus at the start but launched into the definition of ‘faith’ for about a half hour. He got around to the historical evidence of those with Jesus- which I hope Peter looks into more. Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God-without and within. Blessed are those who believe yet don’t see. Peter is looking for love from above and I hope Phil gets to have lunch with him and share more with him. If he is seeking sincerely-he will find truth. Peter is at least open to consider other ‘faiths’ now on his quest. Peter kept saying it is irrational to believe. True, no one seeks God, the Father must draw him. Grace and mercy from God is irrational. His ways are not our ways. Only by the Spirit doing his work will Peter come to a point where he must accept or trample the blood of Christ Jesus. May he one day have a healthy ‘disbelief’ in the miracle saving power of Jesus for a sinner.
Thanks for this excellent dialogue. I’m wondering if we could further consider the hard line that seemed to be drawn between belief and unbelief. For example, when Dr. Boghossian asks Phil to assign a confidence percentage for his belief/faith, the assumption is that whatever percentage is remaining is unbelief/lack of faith. I don’t believe that things are that simple. Philosophers may disagree, but I would suggest a middle space that might be called doubt. So levels of conviction are felt on a belief-doubt-unbelief spectrum. Belief and unbelief are convictions. Doubt is in between and may tip the scales in one direction or the other based on how much conviction we have either way.
For example . . . if my belief (certainty of conviction) could be measured at 45% and my unbelief (certainty of the opposite conviction) could be measured at 5%, that leaves 50% uncertainty or doubt. But my 45% will cause my doubts to lean towards them, far outweighing the unbelief. Dr. Boghossian seams to leave no room for this category. His implication is that anything that isn’t 100% certain must be deemed 100% non-trustworthy. This is not how life works or how conviction works.
To borrow Phil’s three legged stool analogy . . . if my confidence in one leg of the proverbial stool dips from 55% to 45%, most likely that 10% shift went to doubt, not immediately to unbelief. But my continuing 45% belief and my strong confidence in the other legs of the stool allows that leg to continue to stand despite the doubt. It might get softer, but it still stands and supports until such a time as that doubt might move fully to unbelief.
This may be where Phil and Dr. Boghossian disagree the most. Phil is comfortable with uncertainty in a way that doesn’t undermine his belief. Dr. Boghossian wants every bit of uncertainty to move us into the category of unbelief. All that is happening is that each person is allowing uncertainty to continue to weigh in the direction of their certainty. I think it would be helpful for us to acknowledge this tendency that we all have (and must have to hold any conviction at all!) and allow for this third space in the spectrum of belief.
So in relation to this podcast “Episode 97: Peter Boghossian and the Reasonableness of “Faith”” – I found it fascinating and I am soooo glad that it was Phil have this conversation. I have to say by the end of it I got lost and felt a little confused!!! That might have something to say about my ability to be able to engage with someone like Peter. Not sure I could have done any justice and I must say I don’t get in to these types of conversations for lack of knowledge about some of the topics discussed. I DO know what I know about having a relationship with Jesus but to articulate it like this, well…….. The other thing that did strike me however I found some of the points Peter posed did not sound logical, rational or reasonable to my way of thinking or understanding (hence getting lost I think). Oh well, more power to you Phil for having this conversation and for sharing it with us. Please keep it up and hopefully I’ll be exposed to enough that if one day someone want to engage me in this conversation, I’ll be able to do it and you and Jesus justice!!!!