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A Follow-Up To “Letter To An Atheist”

September 19, 2012

Someone responded to the “Letter To An Atheist” post on the Christian Apologetics Alliance website (apologeticalliance.com) and I started to reply. What happened was that my reply became over 600 words, so I decided to just make that reply a new post, a follow-up to “Letter To An Atheist” that adresses the issue of intellectual integrity. Here it is:

It’s intellectually easy to continue to question that which we already dispute. I think we find an intellectual “comfort zone” in doing that. The problem is it makes us intellectually lazy, and an unfortunate byproduct of that is we become intellectually dishonest with ourselves. We begin to ignore and set aside the authentic journey of discovery.

I think it’s intellectually vital that Christians, and especially those who would categorize themselves as Christian apologists, become familiar with the works of Hitchens, Dawkins, Ehrman, etc, and not ignore any point or statement they make. To look into what they say with the intellectual integrity of not summarily and arbitrarily dismissing what they say, but to take a good hard look at their statements and consider all the possibilities from a rational, reasonable, and fully educated point of view.

Many are of the mindset, whether they admit it or not, that being “fully educated” on a matter is to know and hold to all the arguments that agree with that they already hold to be true. This is the very definition of bias.

I talked about bias in the “Letter To An Atheist”. An example of this that immediately comes to mind is this: I’ve come across countless atheists who deny that Jesus of Nazareth existed; That he was a real, actual flesh and blood human being that walked the earth 2000 years ago. To myself, and any educated person, whether atheist or Christian, this is a preposterous claim.

For example, historian Bart Ehrman, an agnostic leaning towards atheism appeared on “The Infidel Guy” web broadcast for an interview. The host relayed a question from his chat room that asked “do you believe in the historical Jesus” and followed with “that’s a good question”. Ehrman, after commenting that people often misquote him as saying he doesn’t believe in the existence of Jesus said “I don’t think there’s any serious historian who doubts the existence of Jesus”. The host seemed to become increasingly bothered by Ehrmans answer, and brought up several common (and again, uneducated) objections such as “the multiple Jesus hypothesis”. Ehrman refuted every objection and later clarified his comment about “serious historians” by saying “I know thousands of scholars of the ancient world”.

So the (seemingly) obvious question is this: Given that there’s an abundance of readily available and reliable information that confirms the existence of Jesus, why would anyone deny His existence?

Because, as I mentioned in the “Letter To An Atheist”, bias leads people to stop searching when they’ve found something that agrees with their bias. Evidence and facts to the contrary are summarily and arbitrarily ignored. Truth is cast aside in favor of personal bias.

So, quite obviously, the intellectual integrity of not arbitrarily dismissing information and evidence is something that is not only intellectually necessary for Christians, these things hold true for atheists as well. I think it’s intellectually vital that atheists, as I end “Letter To An Atheist” with, doubt that which they think is undoubtable, and question that which they hold to be unquestionable. And that, above all, would be the belief that there is no possibility of the existence of God. To get out of that intellectual “comfort zone” of continuing to question that which they already dispute, and take an authentic intellectual journey of discovery.

As a side-note, next month I start a series for the CAA that looks at statements from the late Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and other prominent atheists, and use critical thinking to determine the accuracy of those statements. I seem to have given away quite a bit of the first article, which looks at Hitchens statement in his book “God Is Not Great” that the existence of Jesus is “highly questionable”. Don’t miss it, though, because there’s much more to it.

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