Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Conversations with Angie: More on certainty and reasonableness


With that in mind, I think this next part can easily be cleared up. You said:

>With this in mind, I'm not sure that I understand why you say, "Belief in
>Christianity is reasonable to me in the sense that it's a justified belief that
>falls short of absolute certainty."

By "belief," all I mean is that I think it's true. To believe something means to think it's true. If I believe there's milk in the refrigerator, all that means is that I think it's true that there's milk in the refrigerator.

"Justified," means I have reasons why I think there's milk in the refrigerator. Maybe it's because I remember putting milk in the refrigerator, and I'm the only one who lives here.

To fall short of absolute certainty doesn't mean that I think Christianity is only half way true or something. All it means is that I don't know beyond all doubt that Christianity is true. To have a justified belief just means to hold a belief for good reasons. I have a justified belief that there's milk in the refrigerator because I think it's true, and I have some REASONS to think it's true. But I nevertheless COULD be wrong, so I'm not absolutely certain--that is I don't know it beyond all doubt. Do you see what I mean?

Basically, I don't know beyond all doubt that Christianity is true. However, I do THINK it's true, and the reason I think it's true is because there are what seem to me to be good reasons to think it's true.

Moving on to the second point--about why you demand certainty. From what you said, it sounds like you were neither certain (in the epistemological sense) that Christianity was true, nor that it was false. In fact, you didn't even seem to hold a belief one way or the other. You were 50/50, so you could've gone either way. Eventually, the scales tipped in favor of denying that Christianity is true. But even then, I didn't get the impression that you knew beyond all doubt that Christianity was false. It seems to me, if I'm understanding you right, you still think it's as least possible, be it ever so unlikely, that Christianity MIGHT be true. Is that right?

If so, suppose the scales had tipped in the other direction. Instead of thinking it more likely that Christianity is false, you thought it was more likely that Christianity was true. At this point, you don't know beyond all doubt that Christianity is true, but you THINK it is because it seems more likely than not. What would you have done? Would you have remained a Christian?

And now to the final issue--about being dedicated to non-Christianity as oppossed to Christianity. All I mean by "dedicating your life" to something is simply living consistently with it. I don't mean you shout it from the roof tops or invest all your time promoting the idea. You agreed with me that you either are a Christian or you're not. It's in that sense that you either dedicate yourself to being a Christian or to not being a Christian. You live consistently with one point of view or the other. It sounds to me like you have given up actually being a Christian. I assume you no longer worship God since you don't believe in God. You probably don't pray to God. You don't trust in Jesus for your salvation. You're living your life consistently with the belief that Christianity is not true. In that sense, you've dedicated your life to not being a Christian. That's all I meant. It was probably a bad choice of words on my part. I chose those words because I apparently misunderstood how you were using them in your first email.

And now before going to bed, I think I'll pray that we understand each other so I can go on to the other parts of your email I wanted to talk about. Let me know something. And have yourself a holly jolly Wednesday.


Conversations with Angie: How I deal with problems I can't solve


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