Monday, April 02, 2012

Dawkins Is Right and Wrong

Atheists (like Dawkins, Dennet, Harris, etc.) and various anti-religious folk often claim things like the following:

(R) Being religious inhibits intellectual development.

The reasoning is that when the answers to all of life's hard questions are just handed to you--either in Book form or by a pastor--you are less likely to develop the ability to think for yourself. The problem with (R) is that it is modally ambiguous. Some atheists mean to say something like

(R*) Necessarily, being religious inhibits intellectual development.

This claim is patently false. All I have to do is point to a counterexample like Thomas Aquinas who was religious as well as a brilliant thinker. But what about a weaker version of the claim?

(R**) Possibly, being religious inhibits intellectual development.

From my experience as a Christian and a philosophy instructor at the university level, I'd have to say that (R**) is tragically true. I've met too many young Christians who, being content to regurgitate Sunday school answers to hard questions, have seldom, if ever, thought critically about their faith or any of life's hard questions. In addition, because they are so fearful of having their beliefs challenged, they are unable to rationally and objectively assess the arguments for or against Christian belief.

In defense of Christians, however, the following claim is also true:

(A) Possibly, being anti-religious inhibits intellectual development.

Atheists can also become intellectually lazy and irresponsible when they fail to take arguments for Christianity seriously. And because they are also (often) fearful of having their beliefs challenged, they can't see the force of arguments against their own position.

Here's the takeaway: if you're a Christian, prove the anti-religious folks wrong. Be a counterexample to (R). Don't be lazy or fearful, because these attitudes are not honoring to God. In fact, they are violations of our King's direct orders. "Fear not!" "Always be prepared!"