Sunday, October 23, 2016

Christians in Love

Love to faults is always blind,
Always is to joy inclin’d,
Lawless, wing’d & unconfin’d,
And breaks all chains from every mind.

Deceit to secresy confin’d
Lawful, cautious & refin’d
To every thing but interest blind,
And forges fetters for the mind.

    - William Blake
If you try to tell a man in love that his beloved is not the most beautiful, the most intelligent, the most wonderful thing that has ever graced this planet, you will likely be met with resistance, and you just might get punched in the face.  Love is blind, they say.

He may be an intelligent, logical thinker.  He may be highly educated.  But when it comes to talking about her, you're not likely to hear a rational discussion based on objective facts.  He speaks from the heart, not from the head.  And that's fine.  We all understand what love can do to the thinking process.  This has been established in scientific studies.  Love actually inhibits analytical thinking.
I have often asked myself how can an intelligent person be so blind to the logical inconsistencies of God-belief?  But it was Daniel Dennett who offered the key piece of insight that illuminates the reason behind this seemingly inconsistent state of affairs.  Christians are in love.  They're in love with God.  And trying to tell them anything that would cast doubts upon the object of their love is usually pointless, no matter how logical or factual it is.
Arguing about religious belief with a Christian can be an exercise in frustration.  When it comes to thinking clearly about their reasons for belief, or about the rational basis of materialism, they tend to take an us-against-them stance, circling the wagons in a defensive posture.  Their arguments tend to be based on assumptions that can't be justified.  Instead of providing rationally-based justification, they often band together and declare that their opponents are irrational simply for doubting them.  CS Lewis' argument from reason is a good example of this.  Try to tell Christians that the assumption that rational minds can't arise from natural (or non-rational) causes is unjustified, and their usual response is to declare that this objection is irrational.

One of the best examples of this love-induced blindness to logical reality is Anselm's Ontological Argument.  "We conceive of God as a being than which no greater can be conceived."  When I first read this, I was struck by the starry-eyed nature of the argument.  You could easily substitute "wonderful" or "magnificent" for the word "great" in this argument, and it would be the same.  It is more an expression of love than of logic.

Obviously, Anselm's argument isn't the finest example of Christian logic, but it does illustrate the dynamic at work behind Christians' arguments in general.  Graham Oppy, in Arguing About Gods, has systematically dismantled all classes of theistic arguments.  This wouldn't be possible if those arguments were based on both sound logic and defensible assumptions.  Nevertheless, Christians are undeterred.  WL Craig's answer to Oppy is basically that having justified assumptions is asking too much.  That isn't what it takes to convince a Christian about the truth of theistic arguments.
It is easy to multiply questions and to assume the sceptical stance when the premises of a successful argument must be nothing less than rationally compelling. - Craig 
Well right you are, WL Craig.  Rationally compelling argumentation may seem important to those of us who aren't twitterpated, but it isn't what it takes to convince Christians about the truth of their beliefs.  All you need is love.

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