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A Skeptical View of Christianity
A number of my professors seem to be saying the same thing. That faith isn't intellectually honest. That the only stance worthy of an intelligent person is skepticism.
Are you busy?
Yes, about Christianity. You're the only Christian professor I know.
I've been wondering if I'm stupid or something.
That was different. I'm wondering if I'm stupid to have faith.
No. My problem isn't with faith in this or that — it's with faith in general. I feel like I'm being bombarded.
The other day my journalism professor quoted something that said Christians are "uneducated and easily led." This morning my physics T.A. said he's an atheist because science demands proof and there's no proof of God. My R.A. said the difference between philosophy and religion is that religion depends on faith but philosophy depends on reasoning. All these people seem to be saying the same thing.
That faith isn't intellectually honest. That the only stance worthy of an intelligent person is skepticism.
It would make you cautious. You'd reason instead of accepting things blindly. You wouldn't be taken in by falsehoods.
Hmm. Yeah, I guess you would.
I suppose that's true too. But doubting everything would keep you from being taken in by falsehoods, wouldn't it?
I see. If I doubt everything, I can't even know that two and two are four.
So in order to know anything, eventually I have to stop doubting.
Then is doubt bad?
To shut it again on something solid.
You open it first.
I think so. Doubt might push me to find a truth, but once I find it I should believe it.
Okay, I see that. Maybe skepticism is just demanding that things be put to the test.
So then faith is out. If the choice is between testing things and taking them on faith, I think I should test them.
But that's not Christian.
Now you're making it sound as though Christians are skeptics!
Then I'm confused.
You compare it with another mineral whose hardness you already know.
You have him questioned by people whose expertise you trust.
You see whether the evidence supports it.
You check it against rules of good reasoning, like "Don't contradict yourself."
And you say Christians have testing standards too?
I didn't know that.
Okay, suppose I'm testing a mineral or an expert or something. How do I know whether I can trust my standard?
Test the standard?
But then where does faith come in?
Sure. The chain has to end somewhere. There has to be a Highest Standard.
Something you trust not for the sake of some still higher standard, but for itself.
So demanding that things be tested doesn't rule out faith after all!
I sure didn't expect that.
But faith in what?
What deserves trust absolutely?
But secular people don't believe in God.
So does that mean they can't test things?
But for them, there's nothing at the end of their chain. They don't have a Highest Standard.
What do you mean?
Could you give an example?
He'd reject them.
He'd say they violate the laws of nature.
The laws of nature.
I don't think he does test it. He said once in class that "nature is all there is." When I asked him how he knew, he said, "It just is."
I think he'd be surprised to hear himself described as a man of faith.
But don't Christians believe in the laws of nature too?
This conversation has helped me a lot. But I'm still not sure how to deal with the bombardment.
My journalism professor quoted something that said Christians are "uneducated and easy to command."
Isn't that just being humorous?
Then my physics T.A. said he's an atheist because science demands proof, and there's no proof of God.
Doesn't that reduce everything to the level of "I say, you say"?
What about what my resident assistant said?
That the difference between philosophy and religion is that religion depends on faith but philosophy depends on reasoning.
How could that be?
So reasoning can't justify reasoning!
You've given me a lot to ponder. Would you mind if I asked you some more questions next week?
J. Budziszewski "A Skeptical View of Christianity." Boundless.
Reprinted with permission of J. Budziszewski. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
J. Budziszewski (Boojee-shefski) earned his doctorate from Yale University in 1981. He teaches at the University of Texas in Austin, in the Departments of Government and Philosophy where he specializes in the relations among ethical theory, political theory, and Christian theology. The focus of his current research is natural law and moral self deception. J. Budziszewski is a former atheist, former political radical, former shipyard welder, and former lots of other things, including former young and former thin. He's been married for more than thirty years to his high school sweetheart, Sandra, and has two daughters. He loves teaching. He says he also loves contemporary music, but it turns out that he means "the contemporaries of Johann Sebastian Bach." He deserted his faith during college but returned to Christ a dozen years later and entered the Catholic Church at Easter 2004. Among a number of other books, he is the author of How to Stay Christian in College, What We Can't Not Know: A Guide, The Revenge of Conscience: Politics and the Fall of Man, and Written on the Heart: The Case for Natural Law. J. Budziszewski is on the advisory board of the Catholic Educator's Resource Center.
Copyright © 2003 J. Budziszewski