January 20th, 2010



infidels_news posted an article about an encounter this believer had with Christopher Hitchens, during which he tried to persuade Hitch that liberal believers weren't so bad after all, and that liberal religion was really a good thing. Non-believers will find the result predictable, and the author draws from this encounter an equally predictable if no less bizarre conclusion. The author concludes that because he wasn't able to persude an anti-theist like Hitchens to change his mind that, therefore, Hitchens must be as devoted a "believer" in atheism as the theist is in his own religion.

The mind spins at the absurdity.

If a man/woman can't convince their spouse/partner to change their minds, does that mean that the spouse/partner is an irrational believer in an ideology of never walking the dog (for instance)? What "religion" of atheism are we talking about?

I acknowledge that sometimes I find Hitchens' arguments flip, but it's also true that when one concedes points to a certain audience, and when the other side won't, you score no points for the concession.

It does not in any way diminish the mistakenness nor the arrogance of the article. The difference is that believers acknowledge that they believe things for which they have no evidence. Atheists at least try, perhaps imperfectly, to find evidence for their beliefs and to seek out challenges to them. Atheists tend to approach these encounters with believers, more often, as the ones inviting evidence that challenges their conclusions (wouldn't it be really interesting to have someone propose something really novel?!), but believers approach these dialogues in a one-way fashion. They seek only to persuade others, but never to be persuaded themselves. That is part of the reason why atheist-theist dialogues ultimately fail. Not because atheists can't be persuaded, but because they are the only side listening.