Victor Reppert has lashed out against the 'gnus' with his emotional response(*) to an article by James Lindsay that advocates eliminating theistic philosophy as a serious academic pursuit. In the process, he has revealed himself as an anti-intellectual.
This is based on his claim that 'gnus' are certain in their beliefs (the word cocksure has been used by theists in his blog), unlike Christians, who are "living with doubts and uncertainties". Really, Victor? Let's take a look at these claims.
First, what does it mean to have religious faith? I examined this question in an earlier post. One thing to note is that religious faith demands adherence to belief above any evidence or reason, as is explicitly stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Doubt is not allowed. I'm not making this up. Read the Catechism. Now you might say, "but I'm not a Catholic." The nature of religious faith is fairly consistent across all religions. The first requirement is that you have to believe. No ifs, ands or buts. Faith always comes before evidence and reason.
Victor says Christians do have doubts, and I certainly believe that they (at least some of them) do, at times. But I also know that having doubts is against their religion, and they are encouraged to push those doubts aside. The fact remains that a faithful Christian is about as certain as a human can be about his god and his religion. He will not be convinced by any evidence or reason unless and until he loses his faith.
I have asked Christians what evidence would convince them that their religion is not true. This is the question they love to pose to atheists, and no matter what the atheist's reply is, their response is always something like, "no, that wouldn't convince you." Yet the Christian never has an answer for this question. That is exactly what we would expect if faith comes before evidence and reason. And this is exactly what we see.
On the other hand, we can examine what it means to be scientifically-minded. It means that everything is open to challenge, everything is subject to falsification. Evidence(**) is given a higher place than faith. Are there atheists who are pretty sure about they believe? Yes, absolutely. Their level of certainty comes from an abundance of evidence, not from some imagined faith in scientism that theists often claim. Some scientists have said that they can't think of any evidence that would convince them that there is a god. This is because they already have all the evidence that nature has to offer with our current capabilities to observe it. They have seen again and again that a naturalistic explanation works better than any supernatural explanation. It's not as if they reject the evidence like theists do. It's precisely because they do see the evidence that exists, and they don't reject it. If the evidence told a different story, science demands that we must come to a different conclusion. The problem for theists is that it doesn't. If theists want to pretend that science is just as much a 'faith' as religion (or as in Victor's case, more so), let them present solid evidence, not just toss around their arrogant claims.
That's the difference between religious faith and science. One demands belief, the other demands evidence. If believing what is justified by evidence and reason is anti-intellectual, then Victor is quite correct. He says, "Gnus can't imagine in their wildest dreams that they're anti-intellectual. But that is exactly what they are." This is just projection. In my experience, faithful theists can't imagine what it means to set aside faith, and let their intellect be guided by real evidence and honest reason.
(*) Victor's response didn't even address the topic of Lindsay's article. Instead, he accuses Lindsay of trying to "shut down the discussion" and of being "anti-intellectual".
(**) In this context, I am referring to empirical evidence.