Randal Rauser: Conversation With My Inner Atheist

20 Questions With a Believer, Authors, Critique of Apologetics, Naturalism, Podcast
Randal Rauser
Listen on Apple Podcasts

My guest this week is Randal Rauser. Randal is, in his own words, “a systematic and analytic theologian of evangelical persuasion.” He is a professor of systematic theology, aplogetics, and worldview at Taylor Seminary.

Randal has written a number of books on apologetics and atheism. I first became aware of Randal’s work around 2017 when I read “Is The Atheist My Neighbor.” At least in the circles I am a a part of, Randal is considered to be a fair and honest apologist and is widely regarded for “steel-manning” atheist arguments before giving his arguments against them.

My own shifting relationship with certainty and doubt, confidence and questioning, is reflected in my history with apologetics.

This week we discuss his new book, “Conversations With My Inner Atheist.” In this book, Randal personifies his doubts as an interlocutor named Mia, My Inner Atheist, who presents the atheist, humanist and naturalistic arguments against his faith. Randal shows real vulnerability in several of these dialogues and often leaves the matter without a satisfactory conclusion by either party (believing Randal or non-believing, Mia).

Instead, I believe that certainty can journey along with doubt, confidence can welcome questioning, and together they can work to create a healthy and balanced Christian community.

As you might imagine, I have some thoughts on these matters most of which I express in the Final Thoughts section of the podcast. We also discuss a recent back and forth between Randal and Ian Mills of the New Testament Review Podcast fame on the topic of methodological naturalism.

The truth is, I’d rather accept that there are some questions I may never answer rather than return to the simple days where I thought my answers were beyond question.

Links

Blog
https://randalrauser.com/

Twitter
https://twitter.com/RandalRauser

YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/user/RDRauser

Books

Discussions on Methodological Naturalism

Randal’s a Miracle isn’t a violation of the laws of nature

Ian Mills (a believer) defending methodological naturalism

Randal’s Respones to Ian
https://randalrauser.com/2020/09/methodological-naturalism-as-a-wet-firecracker-a-response-to-ian-n-mills/

Interact

My Critique of Apologetics
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/critique-of-apologetics/

Send in a voice message

Support the podcast
Via Anchor.fm and Stripe
Via Paypal: paypal.me/gracefulatheist

Attribution

“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

John Marriott: A Recipe For Disaster

20 Questions With a Believer, Atheism, Authors, Critique of Apologetics, Deconversion, Podcast
Click to play on anchor.fm

My guest this week is John Marriott. We are talking about deconversion from the Christian perspective. John is the Director of Global Learning and teaches in the department of Philosophy of Religion and Ethics at Biola University. John did his PhD dissertation focused on deconversion from Christianity to atheism. He has written a book on deconversion called “A Recipe For Disaster,” which is directed to the Church on the ways they are setting up believers to lose their faith.

I define [faith] as having enough reasons for a hope worth acting on.
I think there enough reasons for me to act on this [faith].

I first came across John’s work in an interview he did with Randal Rauser. I was struck by the honesty and clarity that he had in describing deconversion. In particular this quote:

Something similar underwrites a significant percentage of deconversions. The biblical narrative that once easily fit within their childlike understanding of reality began to get squeezed out as they matured in their understanding of reality. The stories in the Bible about miracles, witches, giants, demons, etc. began to feel as out of place as Santa. To resolve the problems they may seek answers that will allow them to continue to believe in such things as adults in the 21st century. This is the experience not just of those who deconvert but all educated, reflective Christians today. I suspect that even for those that do remain Christians, the cognitive dissonance never completely goes away, it just has been reduced to a level that allows them to continue to believe. For deconverts however, the cognitive dissonance is not sufficiently assuaged by apologetics. It grows despite their efforts and reaches a tipping point. As in the case with Santa, the only way to resolve the tension is to admit what they know is true. God does not exist.

John proved to be as honest in person as he is in his writing. He met me in an honesty contest and we found points of agreement on what it is like to deconvert. Even though we disagree on the conclusions we were able to have a vital conversation.

The reason why I believe it is there is enough evidence for me that I find it persuasive. I don’t find the counter-arguments conclusive so there is sufficient and adequate reason for me.
But why do I find it sufficient and adequate? That is the real question.
And to answer that question it is so complicated:
there are personal reasons
there are sociological reasons
there are emotional reasons
of course there are some rational reasons
but at the end of the day we’re are so much more than mere Cartesian thinking machines.
To be able to say well “I am a Christian because its the truth and it is true because the evidence points in that direction so clearly and I have reasoned it out this way.” Is I think naive in how we actually go about forming our beliefs.

This is a 20 Questions with a Believer episode. John and I take turns asking each other questions and then crucially allowing the other person to answer.

Links

Website
https://www.johnmarriott.org/

Randal Rauser interview
https://www.christianpost.com/voice/the-problem-of-christians-becoming-atheists.html

Books

Interact

Deconversion and How to Deconvert
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/deconversion/
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/2017/12/03/deconversion-how-to/

Send in a voice message

Support the podcast
Via Anchor.fm and Stripe
Via Paypal: paypal.me/gracefulatheist

Attribution

“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

David Johnson: Skeptics and Seekers

Atheism, Bloggers, Critique of Apologetics, Deconversion, Philosophy, Podcast, Podcasters
David Johnson
Click to play episode on anchor.fm

My guest this week is David Johnson, the co-host and creator of the Skeptics and Seekers podcast and blog. David is a former Church of Christ member and a pastor’s kid. He was baptized at 7, leading the church in song at 7, preaching at 12, the youth leader at 15 and assistant minister at 21.

Was I the real thing? Pathologically so.

His deconversion process began as he examined the Church of Christ’s doctrine against musical accompaniment in worship. He says “the little things, were the big things.” And if the little things were wrong, what else might be wrong?

You know, I think we might be wrong about that [instrumental accompaniment].
And that was hard for me.
It was hard in a way that I am not going to be able to express.
For me, if we were wrong about musical instruments, we were wrong about everything.

Deconversion was “like death” for David.

It was so hard for me to say,
not out loud mind you,
“I don’t believe there is a god.”
And then to say it out loud … alone in the woods where no one can hear.

Today David uses an unabashed polemic approach to counter-apologetics to reveal the problems with Christianity and faith in general. You can find him on his Skeptics and Seekers podcast and on his appearances on Justin Brierley’s Unbelievable? podcast. You can read the book he co-authored in response to Justin Brierley: Still Unbelievable!

The damage I did on the other side [as a believer] keeps me up at night.

Links

Skeptics and Seekers blog
https://skepticsandseekers.squarespace.com/

Skeptics and Seekers podcast
https://anchor.fm/skeptics-and-seekers

Still Unbelievable! book
https://reasonpress.net/SU1E

David Johnson’s appearances on Justin Brierley’s Unbelievable? podcast
https://www.premierchristianradio.com/Shows/Saturday/Unbelievable/Episodes/Unbelievable-Is-the-resurrection-unbelievable-Jonathan-McLatchie-vs-David-Johnson
https://www.premierchristianradio.com/Shows/Saturday/Unbelievable/Episodes/Unbelievable-Can-Justin-defend-his-own-book-feat.-David-Johnson-Andrew-Knight-Randal-Rauser

My recent appearance on Skeptics and Seekers
https://skepticsandseekers.squarespace.com/blog/x-tians-part-one-what-christians-who-stay-need-to-know-about-the-christians-who-dont

Interact

Deconversion
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/2017/12/03/deconversion-how-to/

Send in a voice message

Support the podcast
Via Anchor.fm and Stripe
Via Paypal: paypal.me/gracefulatheist

Attribution

“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

Captain Cassidy: Roll To Disbelieve

Atheism, Bloggers, Communities of Unbelief, Critique of Apologetics, Deconversion, Humanism, Podcast, Secular Grace
Click to play episode on anchor.fm

My guest today is Captain Cassidy. Cassidy blogs at Roll To Disbelieve on patheos.com. Her focus is on deconversion, counter-apologetics and generally describing the mind-warping nature of religion. Cassidy has an array of metaphors and analogies in her writing that make a vivid picture of what it is like to believe and then not to.

Cassidy’s “Extimony”: She is a former Catholic, was briefly a baptist and then stayed a Pentecostal for a time. Until she realized the context of her faith mattered. While at a prayer group set in a normal university room “out of the context” of a church she realized it was all an act.

And as I look back at my past, I can see all these times when I [rolled to disbelieve] … I didn’t make the roll, I continued to believe.

She now describes herself as “a humanist, a skeptic, a freethinker and a passionate student of science, mythology and history.”

I am becoming more and more convinced that the only way for someone to remain, Christian, is to avoid caring what reality has to say about it.

Join her “Commentariat,” a thriving community of commentators on her blog at https://www.patheos.com/blogs/rolltodisbelieve/.

Links

Blog:
https://www.patheos.com/blogs/rolltodisbelieve/

The Handbook for the Recently Deconverted
https://www.patheos.com/blogs/rolltodisbelieve/the-handbook/

The Unequally Yoked Club
https://www.patheos.com/blogs/rolltodisbelieve/the-uyc/

Newbie Guide
https://www.patheos.com/blogs/rolltodisbelieve/series-list-and-newbie-guide/

Pool of Faith
https://www.patheos.com/blogs/rolltodisbelieve/2018/02/18/why-i-rejected-christianity-then-and-now/

Conservation of worship
https://www.patheos.com/blogs/rolltodisbelieve/2016/06/03/christians-and-the-law-of-conservation-of-worship/

Doctrinal Yardstick
https://www.patheos.com/blogs/rolltodisbelieve/2019/03/04/the-doctrinal-yardstick-illustrates-a-serious-problem-with-christianity-lsp-81/

Atrocity Apologetics
https://www.patheos.com/blogs/rolltodisbelieve/2013/12/09/the-christians-guide-to-ex-christians-atrocity-apologetics/

Twitter:
https://twitter.com/casmadeherroll

Cat Photos!
https://www.instagram.com/rolltodisbelieve/

Interact

Send in a voice message

Support the podcast
Via Anchor.fm and Stripe
Via Paypal: paypal.me/gracefulatheist

Attribution

“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

John Lopilato: Counter Apologist

Atheism, Critique of Apologetics, Humanism, Podcast, Podcasters, YouTubers
Counter Apologist
Click to play episode on anchor.fm

My guest today is the Counter Apologist AKA John Lopilato. John is active on Twitter as @CounterApologis. He has a YouTube channel called Counter Apologist. He is also one of the new co-hosts of the RealAtheology podcast.

John has taught himself philosophy, apologetics and counter apologetics. In fact, he learned apologetics in a desperate attempt to keep his faith. Ultimately, he found apologetics wanting. He became the Counter Apologist because he wanted there to be sophisticated answers to apologetic arguments that could not be easily dismissed. John can be found online interacting with apologists and discussing the relative merits and flaws of apologetic arguments.

I appreciate John’s approach. He is often more than fair to his interlocutors. In my conversation with him, he is very kind to my naive questioning. We discuss a wide range of topics including: debate culture, the burden of proof, lacktheism, Kalam Cosmological Argument, the rationality of faith, values vs facts and how difficult it is to make a compelling argument when the two sides may have differing values and presuppositions.

I threw myself into apologetics to try and salvage my faith.

Counter Apologist

Links

John’s Blog:
http://counterapologist.blogspot.com/

John on Twitter:
https://twitter.com/CounterApologis

John on YouTube:
https://www.youtube.com/user/CounterApologist

RealAtheology Podcast
https://twitter.com/RealAtheology/
https://www.facebook.com/RealAtheology/

For further study

Kalam Cosmological Argument:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalam_cosmological_argument

Falsifiability:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falsifiability

A and B Theory of Time:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_series_and_B_series

Interact

Send in a voice message to the podcast:
https://anchor.fm/gracefulatheist/message

Attribution

“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats
http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Makaih_Beats

Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/us/

Andrew Knight: Still Unbelievable

Atheism, Critique of Apologetics, Deconversion, Humanism, Naturalism, Philosophy, Podcast, Podcasters
Still Unbelievable
Click to play episode on anchor.fm

My guest today is Andrew Knight. Andrew is the host of the Still Unbelievable podcast and co-host of the Ask an Atheist Anything podcast. He is a contributing author to the book Still Unbelievable. Andrew has been a Recovering From Religion peer support agent helping others through their questioning. He promotes the message:

Let’s talk about human problems from a human perspective. Human problems have human solutions.

Andrew states flatly the faith tradition he was raised in, Church of Christ, is a cult. After attending bible college and working for an apologetics publishing company he began to be disillusioned with apologetics. He came to recognize the foundational claims of Christianity were not true. Andrew takes it a step further, even if the miracles of the bible were true this would not be proof of the core claims of Christianity: an infinite, all knowing, all powerful god.

My conversation with Andrew is wide ranging as we cover his deconversion story and the work he now does. He talks about his disfellowship from the Church of Christ. He describes the difficulty in telling a friend who turned out to be going through the same deconversion process. We talk about deconverts being the most dangerous counter-apologetic of all.

Truth is a process of successive approximations

Andrew’s friend Sean

Changing the notion of truth to something that can be investigated and that we can get better at.

Note: Both the Still Unbelievable book and podcast are responses to Justin Brierley’s Unbelievable podcast and book. Justin’s podcast brings atheists and theists together for debate. Justin is considered an honest moderator. His book’s subtitle is Why After Ten Years of Talking with Atheists, I’m Still a Christian. Matthew’s and his colleagues’ responses take aim at those reasons.

Links

Reason Press:
https://reasonpress.net/

“Still Unbelievalbe” the book:
https://reasonpress.net/SU1E

Recovering From Religion
https://www.recoveringfromreligion.org/

Podcasts

Still Unbelievable
https://anchor.fm/still-unbelievable

Ask An Atheist Anything
https://anchor.fm/reasonpress

Interact

Send in a voice message

Attribution

“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

Support

Support the podcast
Via Anchor.fm and Stripe
Via Paypal: paypal.me/gracefulatheist

Matthew Taylor: Confessions of a Young Earth Creationist

Atheism, Critique of Apologetics, Deconversion, Humanism, Philosophy, Podcast, Podcasters
Matthew Taylor
Click to play episode on anchor.fm

My guest today is Matthew Taylor. Matthew is the host of the Ask an Atheist Anything podcast and the co-host of the Still Unbelievable podcast. He is the primary editor and contributing author of the book Still Unbelievable. His blog is entitled Confessions of a Young Earth Creationist.

Matthew’s deconversion story includes growing up in the mission fields in Zambia, a young Earth creationist education, the divorce of his parents and dramatic spiritual experiences. Friends began to challenge his rejection of evolution and podcasts began
to give him natural explanations for his spiritual experiences. He began to be disappointed in the apologetic arguments as compared to scientific explanations.

Deconversion was challenging and Matthew took a long time to tell his wife of his loss of faith. Matthew wants to help others through the deconversion process. He recognizes that it is a lonely process and that what we need most is another human being who has been through it too.

“Suddenly I realized I could no longer be a Christian. The suddenly doesn’t describe my journey, the suddenly describes my awareness.”

“This [deconversion] process hurts”

“If I am there when you deconvert, my response is not ‘hallelujah,’ my response is ‘How are you? Do you need a hug? Do you need a friend?'”

“I want to stand up to inaccuracy, against things that are untrue”

Note: Both the Still Unbelievable book and podcast are responses to Justin Brierley’s Unbelievable podcast and book. Justin’s podcast brings atheists and theists together for debate. Justin is considered an honest moderator. His book’s subtitle is Why After Ten Years of Talking with Atheists, I’m Still a Christian. Matthew’s and his colleagues’ responses take aim at those reasons.

Links:

Matthew on Twitter:
https://twitter.com/vteclimey

Confessions of a YEC blog:
https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/

“God takes the good people early” post:
https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/god-takes-the-good-people-early/

Reason Press:
https://reasonpress.net/

“Still Unbelievable” the book:
https://reasonpress.net/SU1E

Podcasts:

Still Unbelievable
https://anchor.fm/still-unbelievable

Ask An Atheist Anything
https://anchor.fm/reasonpress

Interact:

Send in a voice message to the podcast:
https://anchor.fm/gracefulatheist/message

Attribution:

“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

Support the podcast
Via Anchor.fm and Stripe
Via Paypal: paypal.me/gracefulatheist

Alice and Bob Make a Wager

Critique of Apologetics, Thought Experiments

Thought Experiment

Setup

Alice and Bob believe in contradictory theistic gods, Theo and Uja respectively. Both faiths require belief in their mutually exclusive gods or dire consequences are at stake.

Carol does not believe in a god, but she is an open and honest seeker of truth. Carol has separate conversations with both Alice and Bob in which the believers try to convince the non-believer why she should believe.

Independently, Alice and Bob both use variations on Pascal’s Wager to try and convince Carol to believe. However, Alice wants Carol to believe in Theo but Bob wants Carol to believe in Uja.

Alice and Bob’s argument goes something like this:

If you are right about the nonexistence of God and I am wrong,

I lose nothing.

If I am right about the existence of God and you are wrong,

you lose everything.

Questions

  • Why might Carol not be convinced by either?
  • What happens when Alice and Bob talk to each other?

This post is in the series Thought Experiments for Believers.

Shazam Cosmological Argument

Critique of Apologetics, Philosophy, Thought Experiments

Thought Experiment

Setup

Alice and Bob believe the universe was created by the Great-Universe-Creating-Thingy (GUCT). According to Alice and Bob’s faith GUCT is ineffable and cannot be described nor understood. The GUCT is eternal and beyond time and space. It is powerful and wicked smart. Also the Great-Universe-Creating-Thingy is blue.

Alice and Bob use the famous, unassailable and air tight Shazam Cosmological Argument to prove the Great-Universe-Creating-Thingy created the universe.

1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause;
2) The universe appears to have begun to exist;

Therefore:

3) The universe has a cause.

1) The universe has a cause;
2) If the universe has a cause, then an uncaused, ineffable Creator … um Thingy of the universe exists that sans the universe is outside of time and space, powerful and wicked smart. It would also help if it were blue;

Shazam!

3) An uncaused, ineffable Great-Universe-Creating-Thingy exists, that sans the universe is outside of time and space, powerful and wicked smart. Also clearly blue in color.

Questions

  • Are you convinced by this argument that the Great-Universe-Creating-Thingy created the universe?
  • What flaws do you see in this argument?
  • Does the blueness of the Great-Universe-Creating-Thingy seem arbitrary?
  • How is the Great-Universe-Creating-Thingy different than your tradition’s explanation for the beginning of the universe?

This post is in the series Thought Experiments for Believers.

Alice and Bob’s Historical Evidence

Critique of Apologetics, Thought Experiments

Thought Experiment

Setup

Alice and Bob worship Theo, a theistic god. Their revered book, “The Revelation of Theo,” was written and compiled 1919 years ago by Theo’s early followers and has many amazing accounts of the miracles performed in Theo’s name. This includes the wonderful story of Theo’s representative on Earth, Jose, who swam up what is now called Victoria Falls, in order to demonstrate the great power of Theo to release the people from the net of transgressions that bind them.

Alice and Bob are well aware that there are many religious writings from other faiths with equally amazing accounts. These writings come before, during and after the time of the writing of “The Revelation of Theo.” They are also aware that other believers point to their respective writings as evidence for their own faiths. However, these writings are in direct opposition to their own sacred book, “The Revelation of Theo,” and cannot be harmonized.

Alice and Bob are smart and well educated in history, ancient writings and languages. They want to apply an accurate and principled historical standard to review the sacred writings of others and crucially, to use the same standard on their sacred book to show that Theo is the one true God.

Questions

  • What would the historical standard look like?
  • What standard do you use when evaluating religious claims?
  • Does the standard rule out the miracle stories of other faiths?
  • Do you apply the standard equally to your own sacred writings?
  • How would you use this standard to disprove the miracle of Jose swimming up Victoria Falls, while simultaneously proving the miracles from your preferred ancient text?

Use the following statements to complete the question:

Would you be more or less inclined to believe in Theo … 

  • If the story of Jose included 707 eye witnesses testimonies?
  • If the story of Jose indicated there was no water at Victoria Falls before this miracle and now there demonstratively is?
  • If the early followers of Theo were persecuted even to death by their neighbors and yet kept the faith?
  • If we currently had tens of thousands of partial pieces of copies of “The Revelation of Theo” from two to three hundred years after its initial writing?
  • If the first independent historical reference to Jose was written 103 years later?
  • If there were 3.1 billion followers of Theo today?

Final Question

  • Is it wise, even in principle, to use ancient texts as evidence for supernatural miracles?

This post is in the series Thought Experiments for Believers.