Christians don’t want us to be rational.
That’s a slightly unfair summary of a lot of the conversation around this experiment. I’ve been told a few times that I should “remain open” to “ways in which my prayer could be answered”, for instance. Is it a rational approach that’s being encouraged here? Nothing sounds unreasonable about keeping “open” to possibilities.
And yet, “open-mindedness” is a virtue often espoused by people who really just want you to accept their claims at face value without “closed-mindedly” asking any critical questions. Sometimes they’re so wrapped up in their own world that any reaction other than immediate acceptance is seen as debate-stifling ideological closed-mindedness; sometimes, they’re just on the defensive somewhat because they’re so used to having their extraordinary claims questioned and picked apart.
QualiaSoup has a great video about the real meaning of open-mindedness. Less helpful is the perspective of someone on the Facebook group earlier today:
It’s not that I’m closed minded to the idea, it’s just that I already know what’s true.
Sigh. It’s this kind of thing that prompts me into championing belief in Thor and leprechauns, so that the people on the other side can see what it’s like.
Any good rationalist should be “open-minded”, in that we should be willing to honestly consider the worth of new ideas when they’re put to us. But you can’t dismiss us as being closed-minded when we’re unimpressed with your anecdote of someone who had cancer and then prayed and then didn’t have cancer any more (yes, these have been put forward as arguments for something-or-other in the group) – especially when we explain why it is that common coincidences are not convincing.
What some people seem to mean when they say “just be open-minded” is something akin to “go anomaly hunting and cherry-pick your evidence to support our conclusions”. If anything good happens to you over the 40-day course of this praying thing, maybe that’s God making himself known in your life!
Sure. Maybe. Maybe every time the cat over-excitedly claws my legs, that’s God punishing me for supporting gay rights and not sacrificing any goats in his honour lately. Maybe.
There’s also a lot of suggestion that something we need to ask God for – rather than simply that he provide any evidence at all that he’s actually there – is some sort of a “change in myself”. What sort of change isn’t very precisely specified, but I’ve never heard any suggested prayers that sound even remotely like “Lord, please help improve my powers of critical thinking, so that I may more rationally analyse the evidence for your glorious existence.”
If their claims about God are true, then a greater capacity to accurately assess truth claims is the only kind of change that makes sense. But I don’t think that’s the idea. I think the implicit message behind this “change in myself” idea is that the change should be “stop resisting and just go along with it already”. God, please make me more gullible so that I might believe in you.
I’m ready to assess any evidence as best I can. But I’m waiting on something pretty special before I start believing in any god. It’s ludicrous to believe something without a reason, so give me a reason.
If you disagree with that claim, you should give me all your money. Why? No reason. Just believe.