Should we address popular versions of theism? Or should we address the best, most defensible versions of theism?
To pursue the question of God’s existence, we must engage with the best forms of theism, not the worst. As Michael Huemer put it, “Who cares if you can refute the craziest version of a view? … The way to learn is to address the most interesting defensible views, not to spend our time discussing trivially false ideas.” Even if those trivially false ideas are widespread, wield lots of influence in the world, and are positively dangerous, they’re still trivially false. At worst, it’s deeply dishonest to refute the worst version of an idea, stop there, and act as if the entire idea has been refuted.
Depending on one’s goals, however, addressing the strongest forms of theism might seem like a waste of time. If you’re primarily concerned with atheist activism, helping others, and reducing the harm brought about by religion, why spend any time on things that have no significant influence in the world? The activists are generally more concerned with attacking the truth of influential beliefs that make the world worse. Philosophers are generally more concerned with addressing the best versions of each side, since that’s the best way of figuring out whether we should be theists, atheists, or agnostics. Though both are valuable and worthwhile projects, the main issue with the activist crowd is that they seem to think they’re the best at both, despite never engaging with the strongest versions of the view they reject.
Music by ichika Nito & Whalers. Used with permission.
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