Why I Became an Atheist 03 – Bad reasons for disbelief

This post is part of a series

Today, I continue blogging through John Loftus’ Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity.

John quotes Christian intellectual Os Guinness listing a plethora of bad reasons for unbelief (p. 36) – we can have doubt from:

  1. a faulty view of God
  2. weak intellectual foundations
  3. a lack of commitment
  4. lack of growth
  5. unruly emotions
  6. fearing to believe
  7. insistent inquisitiveness
  8. impatience or giving up
  9. a lack of adequate reasons

Now, John added that last reason, since Os Guinness left it off. And it is a VALID one if true. As we will discuss, there are valid logical reasons to disbelieve as well as believe.

But here’s MY (better) list of bad reasons to disbelieve:

  1. a bad experience with abusive or hypocritical religionists
  2. anti-intellectualism in some parts of Christendom or other religions
  3. believing in the largely mythical conflict between faith and science without more than hearsay evidence
  4. a distrust of intuitions, emotions, and desires, often from past disasters following such subjective guidance, leaving one to only trust in logic, reason, and empiricism
  5. personal moral failure met with an unyielding view of God, or unkind religious people after such a failure
  6. a desire to be autonomous and under no one’s authority
  7. a belief in Biblical inerrancy

I mention this last one because I have come to the decision that plenary inspiration is impossible since we have translations, and saying that the original autographs were inerrant doesn’t solve the problem. And while some who have left the faith from an inerrancy position see this as a slippery slope towards thinking of the Bible as just another book, I do not.

I don’t intend to go into the various definitions of other important words like inspiration, infallibility, and illumination, but suffice it to say, I think one can hold scripture in high esteem without being an inerrantist, which I think has led a lot of thinking people to throw out faith with the bathwater. For a few interesting articles in inerrancy, including some non-orthodox views, see these (the first is my favorite):

What can we say about disbelief for wrong reasons?

First, in our next post, we’ll talk about wrong reasons for BELIEF. But to finish discussing these, here are my observations.

  1. We all make knee-jerk decisions when hurt or manipulated. We can plunge into unbelief when hurt or disillusioned. Such emotional reactions are no real reflection on the truth of the claims we turn to believe or disbelieve.
  2. There are good reasons, logical reasons for both belief and disbelief. Contrary to the angry climate and rhetoric of our day, mature people on both sides of faith and unbelief acknowledge that there are some good logical reasons on both sides.

As John himself admits in his book

Of course, the illusion runs both ways, Sennett claims. There is no rational superiority for unbelief, either. Atheist Thomas Nagel is quoted as saying he was made uneasy “by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers.” (p. 36)

Others, like noted scholar and atheist Graham Oppy have said the same (see Graham Oppy’s Arguing About Gods or his interview at Common Sense Atheism).

But to conclude, I just want to say that, even if we are leaving faith, we should attempt to be objective about our feelings and how they influence our logic and reason – we aren’t uninfluenced by such things in our decision making in either direction.

Tomorrow we will talk about bad reasons for belief.

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