I watched and enjoyed the recent exchange between Matt Dillahunty of Atheist Experience, Non Prophets and Unholy Trinity Tour fame, and Christian apologist Matt Slick on the Bible Thumping Wing Nut Show. The discussion, which can be viewed here, is the second of two between Dillahunty and Slick (the first can be found here) and both are worth watching. To make a long story short I found this to be an engaging discussion, though I did find Matt Slick’s general smugness to be quite tiring. Dillahunty did an excellent job explaining why he objected to each of Slicks arguments (which tended to be rehashes of his often used Transcendental Argument for God) and the general tone for the most part appropriate.
As the discussion progressed, Dillahunty continuously made his reasons for rejecting Slick,s arguments clear and Slick found himself accusing Dillahunty of being unreasonable, and unwilling to accept any evidence for the existence of his god. Dillahunty acknowledge he did not know what it would take to convince him that a God exists, but made clear that this is not his problem since the burden of proof is on those making such a claim in the first place, and he acknowledged that if there is a god like the one Slick was arguing for, it should be able to make its existence known to anyone it chooses.
This parallels a number of conversation I have had with various believers. The theist presents his or her best arguments and I give specific reasons why I reject them, and allow my reasoning to be challenged, we then go to his or her second and third best arguments and so on. For each I give clear and concise and specific reasons for rejecting the argument. Ultimately I am told I just have to have faith or I get accused of being unwilling to accept any argument.
I do not think this accusation is being made dishonestly and I see why the people making it believe it to be true. After seeing someone reject what appears to them to be a series of very compelling arguments, it is understandably tempting to say, “you’re just being unreasonable… nothing will convince you”. Of course the problem here is the underlying implication that we should just accept what are clearly weak arguments with little to know scrutiny.
The use of this frustrated tactic comes to its worst when it enters insult mode. We are likely to be accused of being blinded by Satan, or being so dedicated to our sinful life style that we cannot see a clearly obvious truth or of being biased, dishonest or of having some sort of hidden agenda. Ultimately, these accusations make the person using them sound unreasonable.
Unfortunately it may be easier to conclude other people are closed-minded than it is to accept the short comings in one’s own arguments when they are pointed out to you. I see this tactic commonly in contexts like the ones described above, but this is not to say I do not hear it elsewhere too. There may be times when I was guilty of making such accusations and it certainly is not something atheists never do. I also acknowledge that sometimes people genuinely are being unreasonable and that sometimes it can be constructive to point this out. The problem comes when doing so is used as a way to dismiss reasonable rejections to one’s own claims.