Monday, October 09, 2017

A Meaningless Question

This really a dumb question--although I suspect its author finds it to be exceedingly clever. After all, this is the same scholar who published A Manual for Creating Atheists which purports to be "the first-ever guide not for talking people into faith--but for talking them out of it." I took the challenge. I read the book. I didn't de-convert. (I wonder if that means I didn't have enough faith that the book could destroy my faith? ) I suspect that if anything is efficacious as an atheist apologetic, then  simply having Bertrand Russell's Why I am not a Christian on your bookshelf would be more dangerous for the believer than actually reading A Manual for Creating Athiests. They don't make intellectual atheists like they used to. This is also the same author who, with a colleague, tried to imitate the  brilliant Sokal hoax  but did it so clumsily that even many who wanted to champion their attempt to mock postmodern gender studies found their effort to be harmful to the cause.

Anyway, to the question at hand. 

No Christian (including Paul, his hyperbole aside) would give up his faith (and hence his salvation) for a hundred, a thousand, or a million other people. While any of us would willingly give his mortal life for any number of people or reasons, giving up one's salvation is a) too much to ask and b) a form of idolatry--for it demonstrates that one has prioritized the target of one's worship, and at the top of the list is not God.

At least at some level--without further elaboration--the question, as it stands,  is nonsensical-- even as a thought experiment. You cannot abandon your faith so that others retain theirs, because the tradeoff necessitates an understanding that faith is real--in which case you can't abandon it. To abandon faith means you come to view it as misplaced or fake, in which case it ceases to have value for your 100 closest friends. If you abandon your faith, the last thing you'd desire is for them to retain theirs.  Why, you'd be (to no avail) sending them copies of A  Manual for Creating Atheists. You could patch this up Rube-Goldberg style, but ultimately it's hopeless.

A more reasonable "gotcha" question (if such questions are ever reasonable) would have been: Would you curse God to insure that a hundred others retain their faith?  The question, as posed, shows little understanding of the meaning of faith.


  1. Good points. The only thing I'd change is to add the word "again" to your last sentence. Since you've read his book you know exactly what I mean!