Ideological Turing Test ..

So, over at Unequally Yoked, they’re running an ideological Turing Test to see if atheists can pretend to be Christians and vice versa to see how well the two groups understand each other.  I unfortunately was too late to get into the first round, but the questions are up and I’m going to answer them anyway:

It’s also nice to not be in because it means that I can comment exactly how I want and not have to worry about, say, being too flippant.   Like the first question for Christians:

“What’s your best reason for being a Christian? ”

As one editor at Marvel always used to reply (to any question about favourites) “Can anyone ever really have a best reason for being a Christian?” [grin]

This is a tough one.  Probably the best supporting reason is unfortunately a variation on an argument ad populum:  it’s been a long-held societal belief that at least has not [edit] contradicted the world enough to be dismissed as false.  Which looks a lot like “A lot of people believe it”.  But for beliefs, I’m not sure if there can be a better reason, other than “It works for me”.  It’s not enough for knowledge, but I don’t claim that and so this really does seem to count.

(I’d have left that last sentence off if I had been actually replying to the test).

“What evidence or experience (if any) would cause you to stop believing in God? ”

This is a very, very big question.  Obviously, if I died and met someone else — or no one at all — then I’d clearly stop believing in God.  Maybe if the universe was proven to not have been created and not be intelligent itself that would do it also.  Settling morality and then proving that God acted immorally would at least get me to drop the traditional Christian God.  But that’s about it.

(I think this question is too big for this sort of test, personally).

“Why do you believe Christianity has a stronger claim to truth than other religions/On what basis do you reject the truth claims of other traditions and denominations but accept your own?”

For the first question, I don’t.  For the second question, it’s mostly based on my having my own belief already, and so other beliefs do get disadvantaged because of that.

(Better question, but a worse one for me [girn]).

“How do you read the Bible? Do you study the history of its translations?  How do you decide which translations/versions/books are the true Bible?  How does it guide you if you have a moral or theological dilemma? ”

I treat the Bible like a historical/philosophical text.  I therefore study the history of its translations when it is relevant, but for most purposes it isn’t (I’ve never needed, for example, to worry about translations of Kant and the Stoics to talk about what they said, generally).  I consider all translations and versions to aim at the truth, and will compare to get clarity on issues when required.  As for books, for religious purposes I accept the stipulated books of the relevant religion, which is usually mind.  I tend to follow philosophy more than theology for morality, and for theology the source texts and making them consistent is crucial to determining theological commitments; it is indeed the primary source in most theological cases.

And now for the atheist questions, which I’ll answer as if I was an atheist:

“What’s your best reason for being an atheist?”

Probably that I don’t see any reason to be a theist and that theism seems to contradict science in a number of ways.

“What evidence or experience (if any) would cause you to believe in God? If you believed in some kind of god, what kind of evidence would be necessary to convince you to join a particular religion?”

This is a very, very big question.  Generally, it would have to have specific testable and repeatable empirically verifiable consequences.  Any religion that could do that would be the one that I’d accept.

“When you have ethical and moral disputes with other people, what do you appeal to? What metric do you use to examine your moral intuitions/cultural sensibilities/etc?”

Generally, empathy and secular humanistic principles.

“Why is religion so persistent? We have had political revolutions, artistic revolutions, an industrial revolution, and also religious reformations of several kinds, but religion endures. Does this not suggest its basic truth?”

That a belief is long-held and popular doesn’t make it true.  Even having evolutionary benefit doesn’t make it true or still useful.  Religion is tied tightly into the social fabric of most societies and reinforces itself by teaching it to the children of believers.  It also seems to fulfill a psychological need in people.  But we can fulfill those needs with beliefs that are at least more rational than religion, even if it will take a long time for that to take full effect.

And that’s it.  My atheist answers were shorter because my theistic beliefs are more complicated than most people’s beliefs PERIOD (not just atheists).


2 Responses to “Ideological Turing Test ..”

  1. Turing Test Teaser | Unequally Yoked Says:

    […] of responses.  I may repeat the experiment in the future, but, for now, Verbose Stoic has decided to play along on his own blog.  So, if you can’t wait for Monday, head over to his blog and read […]

  2. Leah Libresco Converts to Catholicism … « The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] Libresco, who did the Ideological Turing Test that I replied to, has converted to Catholicism. Based on her concerns, I might have encouraged her to seek out […]

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