26 July 2010

Truth-Seeker Challenge

What began as a decision to attempt Luke Muehlhauser's Ultimate Truth Seeker Challenge (Easy Version) has turned into more of a simple reading list. I was originally determined to attempt to read each of his suggested eight books (four apologetic and four skeptical) in an attempt to be more objective in my search. The longer I persisted in both paper and online settings, the more and more familiar I grew with the world of apologetics. I hope those who have also delved into this arena will relate when I say that I rarely saw anything new -- from myself or others. You begin to know the arguments and angles: cosomological, fine-tuning, morality, evil, deductive, historical, scriptural, and so on. You know how they have been advanced, and by whom, and what rebuttals exist.

I grew weary of my quest. I have come to see my non-belief as simply where the current lay of the land has led me. I find it as perplexing as any that two individuals can look at the same data (arguments, evidence, ideas, scientific findings) and come to such radically different conclusions. I really have no explanation except that belief is far more of a complicated phenomenon than many wish it to be. My current stance is that "belief" is simply a name for the resultant output of genetics, background knowledge/experience, observed data, mental processing, biases, and more. It is a state and not a choice.

It is unclear what would change my mind moving forward. Since I have so many questions and objections, and since they all have to be wrong if Christian theism is true, I see little hope in ever finding Christianity believable. As this is the case after spending a massive amount of time and energy on this subject since December 2009, I have been leaning more and more toward just getting on with my life and more interesting things: physics, probability theory, human irrationality and what to do about it, and personal improvement. If god exists, he knows what my threshold is for belief and can provide that information or experience.

I was able to meet up with Luke Muehlhauser of CommonSenseAtheism, the author of the Truth-Seeker Challenge, and shared my thoughts on shifting my attention to more fruitful things and he even discouraged me from tackling this any longer! I've still found it hard to just walk away, so don't be surprised if I end up poking around theology land anyway...

Current List/Progress:
- God Delusion | Richard Dawkins (Skeptical)
--- Finished Feb 2010 | Comments >>

- Why I Became an Atheist | John Loftus (Skeptical)
--- Finished Mar 2010 | Comments >>

- What's So Great About Christianity | Dinesh D'Souza (Apologetic)
--- Finished Jun 2010 | Comments >>

- Faith and Certitude | Thomas Dubay (Apologetic)
--- Finished Jul 2010 | Comments >>

- The Agnostic Inquirer | Menssen & Sullivan (Apologetic)
--- Finished Sep 2011 | Comments >>

- Letters to a Doubting Thomas | C. Stephen Layman (Apologetic)
--- Finished Oct 2011 | Comments >>

- The Christian Delusion | John W. Loftus et al. (Skeptical)
--- In progress

Books on my leisurely agenda

- Sense and Goodness Without God | Richard Carrier (Skeptical)

- Not the Impossible Faith | Richard Carrier (Skeptical)

- 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God | Guy P. Harrison (Skeptical)

- Atheism Advanced | David Eller (Skeptical)

- Jesus, Interrupted | Bart Ehrman (Skeptical)

- Epistemology | Richard Feldman (Apologetic/Neutral?)

- The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave | ed. Robert M. Price & Jeffrey Jay Lowder (Skeptical)

- Value and Virtue in a Godless Universe | Erik Wielenberg (Skeptical)

- Natural Atheism | David Eller (Skeptical)

- A History of God | Karen Armstrong (Skeptical)

- UFOs, Ghosts, and a Rising God | Chris Hallquist (Skeptical)

- Epistemology and the Psychology of Human Judgment | Bishop & Trout (Skeptical/Neutral?)

- Good and Real | Gary Drescher (Skeptical)

- Contending with Christianity's Critics | Paul Copan et al. (Apologetic)

- Handbook of Christian Apologetics | Peter Kreeft & Ronald Tacelli (Apologetic)

- Is there a God? | Richard Swinburne (Apologetic)

- Why Religion is Natural and Science is Not | Robert McCauley (Neutral?)

- Doubting Jesus' Resurrection | Kris Komarnitsky (Skeptical)

- The Righteous Mind | Jonathan Haidt (Neutral)

- The New Revelations: A Conversation with God | Neale Donald Walsch

- Full Catastrophe Living | John Kabat-Zinn


Auntiegrav said...

Wow. What a waste of time that would be. I hope you are reading those books because you like to read them, not because you are trying to find The Answer to anything. They don't have any answers, you know. Just more questions and examples of why they reached THEIR decisions (if they have, which it looks like many haven't).
For you to "seek and ye shall find", you need to understand how you have built your model universe in your head, what constitutes a 'real' action/event in your world, how that fits the natural world, and finally, how simply you can make this process so that you will understand and remember it the next time someone wants to know what you "believe". Your model of the universe is all that really matters to what you will choose to Do-Be-Do-Be-Do. We are not only what we 'eat', we are what we eat, think, do, and desire...but mostly we are what we do. To believe otherwise is to spend life making excuses for why we 'aren't': why we aren't rich, why we aren't involved in church, why we aren't beautiful, why we don't care about other people's problems most of the time, etc etc. To be what we actually are is to simply live according to what we know to be right for us as individuals, family members, community members, and human beings. Whether we believe this will lead to some magical eternal life or damnation doesn't really matter, does it? Unless one believes that God spends His time reading our minds, in which case why would we have to pray? There I go using logic again....

Hendy said...

@Auntigrav: thanks for the comments. Originally, yes, I hoped to find many answers in these books. That and having read them would at least eliminate any polemics related to me not having done my due diligence. Since then (as you can see by the latest posts related to any of these books)... I haven't really read anything more. I had "Jesus Interrupted" sitting on my nightstand for probably 6mos, having renewed or re-borrowed it from the Library 15 times or something. This last time, I just dropped it off and didn't renew. I was fooling myself :)

For now, it's been more enjoyable to make cribbage boards for friends than try to solve this puzzle!

Unknown said...

I'm going to doubly recommend doubting jesus ressurection. Its short and gives a good example of a theory for the rise of christian beliefs using the "minimal facts" that apologists like wlc like to use to prove the resurrectuon.

Hendy said...

@Unknown: I received a recommendation from another blogger who thought quite highly of it. He said that I could actually exchange out DJR for Hallquist's UFOs, Ghosts, and a Rising God and Price's The Empty Tomb. Thanks for the comment.

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