In my six years of online discussions with conservative Christian apologists since my deconversion, I frequently see them use philosophy as their first line of defense for their supernatural beliefs. They seem to believe that speaking in philosophical terms gives these beliefs greater respectability. But the fact is that without good objective evidence for their supernatural claims (which they do not have), their beliefs are nothing more than superstitions, no more rational than stories of flying witches and leprechauns. I believe that the only way to break through the conservative Christian apologist’s “philosophical defense” is to not play his game. I say, ignore his sophisticated-sounding philosophical diatribes in defense of a generic creator and the necessity of a generic God for the existence of morality, and go for the jugular of his belief system: the ancient tales of the Incarnation and the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
Point out to your Christian interlocutor that human virgins are never impregnated by (holy) ghosts and brain-dead corpses never come back to life. Just because a small group of superstitious, illiterate, first century peasants from the boonies of the ancient Middle East sincerely believed that these events had occurred, is not sufficient evidence for rational, modern, educated people to believe them today. A PhD in philosophy from a prestigious university is not going to change that fact.
Gary: Dr. Randal Rauser, what percentage of your belief in the veracity of Christianity is based on your perception of answered prayer and miracles?
Randal Rauser, PhD, evangelical apologist: It’s a bit off the wall to suggest that one can apportion percentages to the innumerable data points that support one’s fundamental doxastic convictions. You ask, “Is it wise for intelligent, educated, modern people to evaluate universal truth claims based on subjective personal perceptions?”
Define “subjective personal perception”. Because at first blush, the only sensible answer to your question is ‘Yes, of course.’ But perhaps you have your own definition of the term and I don’t want to presume. So go ahead, define it.
—(Gary: Rauser knows full well what I am asking, but he doesn’t want to talk about his subjective personal relationship with a first century peasant, so he pretends not to understand my question.)—
Gary: Is your belief in the historicity of the core claim of Christianity, the bodily resurrection of Jesus in circa 33 CE, primarily based on historical evidence or primarily based upon your personal perceptions that Jesus answers your prayers; intervenes in the natural course of human events to perform miracles for you; and that he “has never left you or forsaken you” (otherwise known as the testimony of the Holy Spirit)? Or would you say that both are equal? Below is the definition of “perception” that I am using. And to be complete, I am using “subjective” in the sense that it is a personal opinion, not a universally agreed upon fact. “Personal” obviously refers to the individual in question.
Perception: Perception refers to the way sensory information is organized, interpreted, and consciously experienced. Perception involves both bottom-up and top-down processing. Bottom-up processing refers to the fact that perceptions are built from sensory input. On the other hand, how we interpret those sensations is influenced by our available knowledge, our experiences, and our thoughts. This is called top-down processing.
Randall Rauser: Still waiting for your definition of “subjective personal perception”.
Gary: Subjective personal perception: If I claim that Vanilla Swiss Almond ice cream is the best ice cream in the world, that is a subjective personal perception not an objective fact. It is a claim, a belief, based on one person’s personal experiences and personal preferences, not on statistical research or objective evidence. It is subjective evidence for “the best ice cream in the world”, not objective evidence. You cannot prove that Jesus has answered your prayers or performed miracles for you any more than I can prove that Vanilla Swiss Almond is the best ice cream. These are subjective perceptions/preferences/experiences. That doesn’t mean that they are false, just that they are subjective.
You know what I mean, Randal. Everyone reading this blog knows what this term means. If the topic of your personal perceptions regarding the resurrected Jesus is too sensitive a subject for you to discuss, please just say so.
Randal Rauser: On your first attempt, you defined “subjective personal perception” as a relative fact, i.e. one in which the truthmaker is constituted by the attitude of a cognitive agent. But then you added that it is a claim which is “based on one’s person’s personal experiences and personal preferences”. The latter is consistent with a relative fact, but the former is true of any belief acquired a posteriori.
Then you added that it is not based on “statistical research or objective evidence.” But my beliefs that there is a world external to the mind, that rape is wrong, and that nothing can be red and blue all over are not based on “statistical research”. Neither are they based on “objective evidence”. Rather, each of these doxastic claims is properly basic. (By the way, statistical research is a form of objective evidence.) So when you say “You know what I mean, Randal,” I have to say, no, I don’t. I think you’re confused and that you have a lot of inconsistent ideas jumbled together and you should invest the time to sort them out so that you are clearer on what you are actually claiming.
(Gary: Rauser does not want to answer my very simple question! He is not going to admit in front of skeptics that he believes that he has a personal relationship with a man who lived and died two thousand years ago.)
End of post.