Last time, I wrote about the arrogance of Christians when it comes to claiming the high ground of morality. This attitude derives from their absolute certainty in the existence of God, without which, their morality would have no grounding whatsoever. But this raises the big issue that is still more fundamental: what makes them so arrogantly cocksure about their God in the first place? Does Steve Harvey have any kind of sound basis for his arrogant dismissal of atheists? Perhaps it's just a blind acceptance of what the bible tells them. Sometimes, religionists seek to justify the certainty of their beliefs with arguments, as we see here, but they never doubt that belief, and would never seriously consider any arguments to the contrary.
Over and over, we hear them drone on about Richard Dawkins and other atheists who rate their own level of certainty in non-belief at something close to the end of the scale (6.9 on a scale of 1 to 7). Take Mikey at Shadow to Light, for example, who says:
Me? I’d give myself a 2.5. I am, after all, more open-minded about these issues than Coyne or Dawkins. - MikeyHe actually pretends that his unyielding belief, impervious to any logic or evidence, is more reasonable than the level of certainty expressed by atheists. Open-minded? That's a flat-out lie. If he wanted to be honest, he might agree that those atheists are are pretty sure about their belief, but leave a little room for evidence that they have never seen, but admit could exist. Mikey, on the other hand, despite saying that he is much more open to evidence, doesn't buy any of it, and never will. That's because his belief is not dependent on empirical evidence at all.
Religious belief is not supported by empirical evidence. Because if you look at the kind of evidence that empiricists consider to be valid, the story is pretty clear. An empiricist couldn't look at the available evidence and still claim to be somewhere in the middle of the scale. Objective empirical evidence is what shapes the belief and the level of certainty for people like Dawkins. And this is precisely what the religionists find to be problematic. "Scientism!" they shout. "Atheists just don't see the whole story. They are blind to the truth. They are idiots".
So what is it that religious believers see that eludes the rest of us? For most Christians, it is simply the fact that belief has been so thoroughly drilled into their heads that it is an essential part of their identity. As Francis Xavier supposedly said, "Give me a child until he is seven, and I will give you the man." This is what makes them impervious to any consideration of alternatives to their belief. Following the evidence doesn't lead to the "correct" answer. Many of them don't care how one might know whether something is true. They just know.
And for the more philosophically-minded among them, they may understand that this life-long indoctrination alone does not provide a rational justification for their belief. So they need something more to give them epistemological cover. Empiricism, which holds that belief is based on the evidence of the senses, doesn't work for them as an epistemology, because it doesn't provide justification for belief in God. So then why not invent their own epistemology that is defined in such a way that their belief is justified? This is exactly what religionists have done. They call it Reformed Epistemology.
And make no mistake about it, this epistemology was invented specifically for the reason of justifying belief in God. Under Reformed Epistemology (or RE, as I will call it), the kind of evidence it takes to justify belief is extended to things wouldn't qualify under a more traditional epistemology. Chief among these is the so-called sensus divinitatis, the inner awareness of God.
As a result of the workings of the sensus divinitatis, belief in God is properly basic and is not inferred from any evidence or argument. - IEPThe claim is that people can sense the presence of God without any inference or argument, in the same way as as an empiricist can sense the presence of a concrete object. In other words, they simply "know" that God is there when they have certain kinds of feelings, such as guilt or awe. And this "knowledge" is justified because RE tells them so. So that settles it.
Never mind the fact that these feelings upon which RE adherents base their belief are ordinary emotions, to which all humans are subject, and they have perfectly natural causes. Never mind the fact that subjective feelings are rejected by empiricists as a valid justification for belief, because they are not a reliable indicator of reality.
Empiricists understand that objectivity is the key to the reliability of knowledge. If the things we sense are corroborated by others, that's a strong indicator that something real is the source of those sensations. If I see a chair in front of me, and others see it too, that's probably because there actually is a chair that we all can see. And we can detect it in many different ways other than sight. Objective knowledge can be verified. But if I think I see something that nobody else can see, it's a fair bet that it isn't really there. To be sure, there's something that causes me to see it, but that cause isn't what it seems to be. As Ebenezer Scrooge said to the ghost, "You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato." If a sensation is subjective, it isn't a reliable source of knowledge.
Nevertheless, religionists must stick to their RE, because that's the best thing they have in the way of justification for what they feel. For them, a subjective feeling is all the excuse they need to claim certain knowledge of God. In a last-ditch effort to give these feelings a semblance of objectivity, some of them claim that what they feel is common to those who have the "eyes to see", but just not visible to skeptics, who lack the sensus divinitatis. As Joe Hinman says,
... you can't possibly know what I mean when I talk about experiencing God's presence. For those of us who have experienced that reality, however, we know it's real. There's no question. - HinmanWhat I do know is that experiences of the type that Hinman sees as the presence of God are not exclusive to religionists. They are more broadly known as peak experiences, and they are entirely subjective in nature. Religionists invariably interpret them as an experience of God, while others don't. Hinman's claim that the rest of us don't have experiences of this kind is patently untrue. What makes them see it as an experience of God is the belief they already have. An atheist who has the same type of experience typically doesn't see it as an experience of God.
Likewise for other kinds of subjective feelings that people sometimes interpret as being caused by God. An atheist understands that feelings of guilt are the result of moral instincts that evolved naturally. It is only religious belief that causes believers to think that these things are the work of God.
And now we see more clearly the essence of RE. It is circular reasoning. Religious believers experience subjective feelings that they interpret as the presence of God only because of their belief in God. Then they use those experiences as justification of their "knowledge" of God. It is amazing that a philosopher like Alvin Plantinga doesn't see this lapse of logic.
So then, being secure in their knowledge of God, religionists suppose they can feel free to castigate atheists for not knowing what seems so obvious to them. But their epistemic justification for this "knowledge" is a sham. It is based on drilled-in beliefs, natural emotional feelings, and circular reasoning. Nothing more.