The truth is elusive
John Owen, Evenings with the Skeptics: Free Discussion on Free thinkers, Vol. II: Christian Skepticism (Longmans, Green & Co: 1881), pp.3-52.
This is a long but exceptionally eloquent and learned dialogue between a group of thoughtful friends in the late 19th century. Dr. Trevor poses the question "whether what is demonstrably true in one subject or from one point of view can be false in another or from a different standpoint?" Their dialogue bookends Trevor's formal paper, where he argues that whatever may be the case in reality, at least within our own deliberations, "we cannot without the most gratuitous mental suicide allow the subjective co-existence of antagonistic convictions both claiming to be true at the same time". Trevor begins by noting the severe limits of our knowledge. "The thinker rightly regards himself and his knowledge as a small islet in the immeasurable ocean of the unknown." He unsparingly traces a history of the ecclesiastic autocracy of theological dogma until reason got its foot in the door and began an insurrection, asserting itself against the "Roman" church as the singular arbiter of truth. Nonetheless, he argues, the phenomenon of competing considerations is not just a byproduct of religious authority, but rather an inescapable aspect of being human, coming at us from many angles: "the Known and the Unknown, individual man and collective humanity, Intellect and Emotion". Trevor therefore commends the thinker who has "double vision", the ability to see and integrate various sources of evidence, who is always reticent and reflective, even in conviction. Though it requires treading through some rather dense prose, the discussion of these "Christian skeptics" is a feast of language and thought. At times it captures the spirit of Afterall.net better than I ever could have in my own words. ~ Afterall
Ralph McInerny, Truth Journal Vol. 1 (1985)
In this paper, I ponder two questions: (1) Why can't the religious believer simply put the burden on the skeptic, and ask him to justify his unbelief, with the underlying assumption that as between theism and atheism, it is the former that is obviously true and the latter that is obviously false? (2) This not being possible in any way that is of immediate interest to religious belief, how does the believer regard his inability to prove the truth of faith in the manner the skeptic demands?
Paul C. Vitz, from an address to New York University's Department of Psychology (1985).
Paul Vitz, a professor of psychology at NYU, proposes a provocative thesis: atheistic inclinations or commitments are often rooted in the so-called "freudian psyche", that subconscious sum of our memories, fears, impressions, and deep seated dispositions formed early in our lives, particularly in relation to our fathers. While psychological grounds for belief are usually used to undercut the rationality of theism, here Vitz runs the argument the other way in a fascinating summary of psychological factors tied to atheistic belief. And by way of example, he considers the possible psychological motivations of the father of psychoanalysis, Freud himself. Turns out atheists have daddy issues as well. Vitz's argument here was a prelude to his later work, Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism.