Jenny sent me Letters from a Skeptic by Dr. Gregory A. Boyd and his father, Edward K Boyd.
The book is a collection of correspondence between father and son, with the son being a Christian apologist and the father a skeptical unbeliever.
My first thought was to consider the book as just the material between the covers – find out what the relationship was – because, by the end of the correspondence, the father becomes a Christian.
The book was published as a guide to teaching Christians to communicate with the unbelievers within their circle of family, friends, maybe coworkers – people that you physically know.
Within that limited context, I did not expect the father to be an actual non-believer and skeptic, because most believers of these sorts, do not encounter actual skeptics. They encounter people who’ve been exposed to the religion as a given in childhood, but who have, over time, become disenchanted, disengaged and distant.
Which is a very different thing than a person who arrives as a realization that the premises upon which religion is founded, are baseless, unproven and no different than Santa Claus or Scientology.
I refer to Scientology in the sense that it’s origins are well documented – it was invented by L Ron Hubbard to make money and provide a universe for his science fiction writings to exist with.
In many ways, Xena the Warrior Princess can show us how religion works.
If you removed the gods and goddess characters from the Xena and Hercules shows – most of the episodes would remain unchanged – both Xena and Hercules lived their lives and carried out tasks based in the needs of the people in front of them.
They helped villages from being destroyed by warlords, retrieved stolen property and generally went around protecting people from harm.
If those programs only showed these episodes, they would still have been fun adventure stories – Xena and Hercules lived their lives based in the realities of their world and environment – despite the very real evidence that they had that the gods existed – Hercules being a half-god and both being able to talk to and interact with, the various gods.
But what if us as the audience didn’t get to see the gods or goddesses – we only saw what was evident in the world – characters who are then carrying out anything as being the will of gods or goddess then have some explaining to do about why they are sacrificing children or virgins….
And this is where the rubber meets the road with anyone who lives, not as if their religion is one possible one of many explanations, but rather as if their religion is the only possible explanation.
Which is why believers rely on Pascal’s Wager and binary restrict the options as either they are right or they are wrong – and they won’t accept they are wrong.
By getting dragged into the discussion on their terms, we have already lost.
Which is why the discussion has to change to being their terms.
So, the conversation can’t be religion vs science – but rather – religion vs naturalism.
Naturalism being the reality that the rest of us live in, science which is the study of nature, philosophy which is the study of the nature of existence, arts which is the study of humanity and how we interact with the components of our society and history.
We need to engage the religious and bring them into the natural reality in a way that allows them to keep their religious reality bubble inside them, but nested within an awareness of the natural world – being socially capable of functioning in a complex society with diversity and range of behaviours within a modern secular society.
Anyway, that’s the context that I am reading the book in.
I will go over the letters and discussion in future posts.