A recent experience with a Julian Baggini audiobook about the virtues of atheism made me wonder: What does the narrator think of all this?
This particular title is not read by the author, but by someone who I suppose may be a professional voice artist of some kind. At any rate, she’s not necessarily in the business of publicly denouncing religion. I have no idea what her beliefs are. She may be a devout Christian. She’s just making a living by reading someone else’s words aloud.
So what’s going through her mind, while she reads aloud someone else’s words, if they happen to conflict sharply with her established beliefs?
The case Baggini’s making for atheism, after all, is pretty strong, and many of the most obvious religious objections and complaints are rebutted effectively. To be clear, I have no reason to assume anything about what this particular narrator believes, but if someone in her position were devout, and held a prejudice against atheists born of ignorance, and was encountering this defence for the first time, and she suddenly can’t avoid taking it all on board because it’s her job to read it and speak it out loud, in its entirely, clearly and articulately…
…would she learn something from it?
I’m obviously not suggesting that simply encountering an atheistic line of reasoning is enough to guarantee immediate conversion, but it seems like there’d be a good chance that some of it would have to stick. Given how often fundamentalists seem determined to repeat the same tired old nonsense which has been debunked long, long ago, it seems like many of the objections to atheism and evolution and basic science could be overcome if only people would pay attention.
Clearly, someone working as a professional voice artist has little choice but to pay attention. Could an experience like that make her rethink her philosophy?
Maybe there’s an interesting project to be attempted here. Atheists and believers could each put together a brief tract that argues one particular point of contention as thoroughly as possible – then, someone (or a number of people) from the other camp produces a decent-quality audio version of their arguments, adding sincerity and appropriate inflection as much as possible, so that the strongest knock-down arguments of their adversaries are absolutely unavoidable in their own minds. The recordings could be shared, and maybe the readers could discuss whether they felt they learned anything from it, whether any new perspective was added by having to play devil’s advocate, so to speak.
Is Chesterton in the public domain yet? I’ve been meaning to read some of his non-fiction. Maybe I could do something for Librivox.