Conversations: Other Faiths


Helena
It is interesting to observe that every devout Muslim has the same reasons for being a Muslim as Christians have for being Christian. And yet neither Muslims nor Christians find the other’s reasons compelling.

Sappho
So why do Christians not lose any sleep over whether or not to convert to Islam?

Helena
I think Christians feel they do not need to disprove the foundation of Islam in order to reject the beliefs of Muslims. They feel the burden is upon Muslims to prove that their beliefs about God and Muhammad are valid.

Sappho
Well, it is indeed clear to anyone who is not anaesthetized by the dogma is Islam that Muslims are simply not making claims about reality that can be corroborated. And ironically, Christians agree with us about this, “Isn’t it obvious that Muslims are fooling themselves?” you can hear them say.

Helena
That is an interesting point is it not, Christians know exactly what it is like to be an atheist with respect to the beliefs of Muslims.

Sappho
Indeed. I believe it was Richard Dawkins who said “We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.”

Helena
Quite so, and more importantly, I feel Christians should understand that the way they view Islam is precisely the way devout Muslims view Christianity. And it is the way we view all religions.

(Based on: Harris. S. 2006. Letter To A Christian Nation p. 4-5)

See other: Philosophical Conversations

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14 thoughts on “Conversations: Other Faiths

  1. “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”
    — Steven H. Roberts–

  2. isn’t it nice to see actual conversations leading to honest conclusions rather than vitriol and hate filled aggression aimed at those who don’t share one’s views? how refreshing. -KIA

  3. They feel the burden is upon Muslims to prove that their beliefs about God and
    Muhammad are valid.

    The burden of proof principle is controversial. It is appropriate in context of science or court of law, but is not applicable in some other contexts. E.g. a bomb threat is deemed true unless proven otherwise for security reasons.

    In this example, I don’t think religious fundamentalists are even interested to hear any proofs from adherents of other religions – they are so convinced in their own religion that they don’t even admit a possibility that something else even can be true.

    In this sense, there are more similarities between New Atheists and religious fundamentalists than just “we are both atheists”.

  4. “The burden of proof principle is controversial. It is appropriate in context of science or court of law, but is not applicable in some other contexts. […] [Religious fundamentalists] are so convinced in their own religion that they don’t even admit a possibility that something else even can be true.” – So too is the council for the prosecution, but I do not see how the principle should apply to such an individual and not to another individual who is also making claims about the world we live in.

    I do not see how the burden of proof principle could be so nonuniversal. For that reason I completely miss the relevance of the comment “In this sense, there are more similarities between New Atheists and religious fundamentalists than just “we are both atheists”.” (Do not get me wrong, I see how you get there. But for reasons stated above, I fail to agree.)

  5. The burden of proof only exists when one side wants to convince the other side. Evangelical Christians try to convert others aggressively. I suppose, in this case, they have to do the “convincing” (hence burden of proof). However, with New Atheists, it’s often them who are making aggressive claims becoming somewhat like their counterparts in this respect. I can believe whatever I like, and it’s my private business – I don’t have to prove anything to anyone unless I want to convince someone else in my beliefs. It’s silly to come to someone and say “what you believe is nonsense and you have to prove to me that it is not so.” This is how New Atheists often use their “burden of proof” requirement.

  6. “It’s silly to come to someone and say “what you believe is nonsense and you have to prove to me that it is not so.” This is how New Atheists often use their “burden of proof” requirement.”

    There are libraries filled with publications on palaeontology, archaeology, geology, history, philology, biology, physics, chemistry, ethics, et cetera, that – at the very least – seem to undermine most fundamentalist religious convictions. The far majority of these works were not published to seek out and destroy, that is to say, to try to disprove religious dogma – this just came up with the rations, so to speak.

    Now, consider people who claim the Earth does not revolve around the Sun; they are free to argue such a position, but it is only fair that, considering the body of work that (quite apparently) undermines their belief, they should be able to present some argument (or preferably some proof) when questioned by an inquisitive civilised neighbour.

    Furthermore, the phrase “what you believe is nonsense and you have to prove to me that it is not so” is a bit of a lampoon I suspect, but accurate in some sense, I grant you. “Comedy is just a funny way of being serious.” as Peter Ustinov said. Having said that, this passive indignation of the NA that you describe seems unrealistic to me.
    Speaking for myself, I cannot imagine a situation in which I would be offended if someone said to me “it seems to me that what you think is true about such and such is nonsense,” I read this as a challenge to which any civilised person who has clear thoughts and convictions can rise, not as an inappropriate remark, threat or arrogant mind game.

    Let us further consider the person who feels threatened when their thoughts and convictions are challenged by a mere question. –

  7. Comedy is just a funny way of being serious.

    Someone also echoed those sentiments when they said, “More true things are said in jest.” I often use humor in order to defuse a situation and still get my point across.

    I’ve known Agrudzinsky since Think Atheist, and have commented on his blog a few times. I find him a good man with an inherent willingness to argue with a fence post.

  8. “Argue with a fence post” is a vernacular I was not familiar with I’m afraid. I looked it up and – well, butter my biscuit – found it is a Southern saying.

  9. Yes, Ma’am, it sho’ ’nuff is. I wore that label from childhood, my mother gave it to me early on.
    (I’ve mellowed a bit since then.)

  10. Regarding the Earth and the Sun. What revolves around what, what moves, and what stands still is just a matter of how we choose the system of reference. In a geocentric system, the universe – the Sun, the Moon, the planets, and the stars rotate around the Earth. That, by the way, how it seems if you observe the sky directly. It is incorrect to say that “the Sun revolves around the Earth” is a false statement. Heliocentric and geocentric frames of reference are both valid. It’s just much easier to explain the movements of the planets in the sky as we observe them if we use a heliocentric system. I wouldn’t require anyone to prove that the Sun rotates around the Earth or vice versa. There are often arguments without understanding the subject.

    By the way, a conversation does not have to be an argument. I certainly don’t view our conversation here as an argument because I agree with many points that you make here.

  11. Let me reply with a question: what are your thoughts on the Protagoran idea “Man is the measure of all things”?

  12. It is incorrect to say that ‘the Sun revolves around the Earth’ is a false statement.

    No, it isn’t, Agrudzinsky, you’re confusing apparent relativity with actual relativity. From a viewpoint in space, it is obvious to any observer that the sun does not revolve around the earth. Ancient Greek astronomer Aristarchus of Samos made that discovery in the third century BCE, without the aid of telescopes, satellites, GPS tracking, or leaving the planet’s surface.

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