TAWDE: The Santa Delusion (Ch 4)

Hi @Interested_In_Book_Studies!

This week’s chapter was a shorter and quicker read, so likewise, I’ll be brief too. The claim addressed in chapter 4 is that ‘belief in God is like believing in other mythical creatures.’ However, as Andy rightly points out, there are no books written against the belief in Santa Claus or exposing the non-existence of the Tooth Fairy; to make this comparison is to wildly misunderstand each belief. From here the book exposes the two implicit logical fallacies within the rhetoric: ad hominem attacks and the genetic fallacy. Ad hominem attacks are assaults on an individual’s character rather than dealing with the argument at hand (Only children and stupid people believe in God). While ad hominem makes for great Twitter comments, it provides no value in reasoning for or against a proposition. The genetic fallacy says the way a person came to hold a belief is what makes the belief invalid (You only believe in God because you were raised that way). The issue here is that the sword swings both ways because someone who is an atheist may only disbelieve in God because he or she was raised in a secular home, which would invalidate the belief as true.

So, questions for reflection and discussion:

  1. You’ve likely come across this sort of claim (only stupid people believe in God) before, or you’ve at least seen in on the internet. How did you interact with it and what do you wish you would have known before engaging with it?

  2. What are your reasons for believing in the existence of God and (hopefully) in Jesus?

  3. How do you plan on using this chapter in the coming days and weeks?

And, a final personal question for you all, what in the world is a Jammie Dodger? Perhaps I’m just an uncultured American but I’ve never come across these things. Are they delicious or over-hyped?

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Side note I’m really interested and excited to hear everybody’s answer to question number 2! There are so many legitimate and engaging answers to this question, from logical syllogisms (kalam/moral argument/etc) to personal experiences (thanks reformed epistemologists!) and every thing in between!

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Hello. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, a Jammie Dodger is a biscuit (cookie in the States), made of two halves filled with a chewy jam and a fairly solid custard/vanilla flavoured cream (a bit like Oreos). They are…pleasant.

I think the last argument in the chapter, namely that many adults accept God, having never believed in Him as a child, is a very strong rebuttal of the ‘believing in God is like believing in Santa’ statement. These adults have either had a personal encounter with God or examined the evidence and followed where it leads. I have never met an adult who believes in Santa Claus and only came to believe in early adulthood! This shows something is going on here!

When people I am talking to tell me that only deluded or stupid people believe in God, I ask them directly if they think I am stupid (often these are people I know) and suddenly it is a bit embarrassing for them to say yes, because obviously I am not stupid. They often reply something like, ‘No, you’re not stupid…just misguided.’
I then like to name drop - listing scientists old and new, philosophers, authors etc, who all believed and then ask, ‘And were these people stupid as well?’
The reason for doing this is because often the people I am talking to have latched on to sound bites about people of faith being superstitious, backward, and illogical. When they hear some of these names they are surprised to learn that many people considered intellectual giants are/were actually Christians.

The genetic fallecy is interesting. I was raised by atheist parents but sent to Sunday school to please my grandparents who were ministers in the Methodist church. I grew up believing in God even though my parents didn’t and I really really disliked Sunday School and church. So, I’m not sure why I believed - it just made sense.
When I was older I did an Alpha Course (I hope everyone knows what that is). I was surprised to learn that God is interested in our lives not just our final destination. I asked God a question and got an answer back - not audibly, but mentally, yet I knew the answer was so unlike anything I would have imagined or expected that I knew God was real. That experience changed everything and the whole trajectory of my life.
In the last 10 years I’ve also been amazed at the evidence for God; historical, kalam, fine-tuning, moral etc.
I don’t know how I will use this chapter in coming weeks, but I am always wary of ad hominem arguments and of making them myself!

@boabbott, what would be your answer to questions 2 & 3. Would be really interested to know.

Blessings.

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Ah! Well if I make it across the pond I will certainly find and enjoy some Jammie Dodgers!

@Keith_Moore, I’m glad you asked me directly. I was wanting to share but needed to wait until someone posted so it wasn’t just me talking to myself because that’s never good. To answer #2 well I need to share a bit of my background.

I grew up in church and by growing up in the church, I mean every time the doors were open, we were there. I know a lot of people with this same upbringing and many walk away from the church when they are of age, but my story is the opposite. I knew, somewhere deep within me, that this was real, true, and somehow alive. But, if you asked me to prove it or to somehow show it, I could not have done so. It’s at this point that I used to be really embarrassed about my story because academics and intellect have always been very important to me, but here I had nothing – just something within me saying, “This is true. I know it’s true, but… how do I know it’s true?” I don’t know if you’ve had that experience but it’s quite frustrating. Luckily, I came across Alvin Plantinga’s Reformed Epistemology, but more on that in a minute.

Fast-forward to my final semester in graduate school and I stumbled upon William Lane Craig. The church I was attending hosted the “On Guard” Conference and I found myself drinking out of a firehose. I’d never encountered Christianity presented so sound and logical, and again something deep within me was stirred. I began to read everything I could get my hands on around this subject and then I found dozens and dozens of YouTube videos of lectures and debates and Q&A sessions and the like. I simply couldn’t get enough philosophy, theology, and apologetics.

I now had reason to support my belief, but that gave rise to another issue. It made me an evidentialist and I didn’t want to be one. The reason being is that most Christians in history, until the rise of textual criticism and modern cosmology, didn’t have any sort of evidence to hang their hats on and most Christians in hostile and remote parts of the world today don’t have access the evidence either. I certainly didn’t want to say Christians throughout the ages were irrational in their belief. There had to be a way to rationally know that Christianity was true apart from arguments and evidence. This is were Reformed Epistemology came in. RE says, if I can succinctly summarize it without butchering it (tall task), we are rationally justified in believing our experiences as true and accurate until we are presented a defeater argument that overpowers our experience. This meant that the experiences that told me Christianity was true were completely rational to believe and hold. This was so freeing!

With all that background laid out, here’s how I answer question 2: I believe in the existence of God and in Jesus because I have personally and powerfully experienced his presence. And, I can show that the evidence scattered throughout the universe points us to Him.

Question 3 is a little difficult for me to answer because I’ve read this book multiple times, but I can share how I did use it the first time I read it. I read this chapter for the first time about 4 years ago and it inspired me to learn more thoroughly basic logic, and more specifically logical fallacies. In conversations, I would catch the bad reasoning and try to point it out. Sometimes I would say, “That’s the (blank) fallacy, so I don’t think what you’re saying is right.” That had about a 50/50 winsome rate.

Over time I began not calling out the fallacies but would just think “That’s not a valid argument. How do I respond to make them realize it on their own and point them to Jesus?” That was really hard at the beginning, but the more I studied HOW the RZIM speakers engaged with questioners the better I became. In fact, @Andy_Bannister was probably the most influential to my development in this area. There’s one video that stands above and beyond from a lecture he gave that you can see HERE. The answer is within the first 5-6 mins, and if you have time, I’d recommend watching the whole thing.

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Thank you both @boabbott and @Keith_Moore for your posts.

We’ve just finished our carols in the park event yesterday; so that gives me a chance to catchup with reading now. We had lots of visitors like we were praying for so we hope that the Gospel message shared will cause someone new to really consider Who Christ is this Christmas.

I’ll try and read and post about this chapter…

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