31 May 2011

A primer on deconversion and good skepticism

Chris Johnson, of the site I Am an Ex-Mormon, talks about his deconversion. I find this to be a very remarkable and inspiring story that mirrors my own devotion to and deconversion from evangelical Christianity in many ways. After he talks about some of the cognitive dissonance he experienced during his days as a believer, he gives a superb primer on skeptical thinking. I especially love his bit about recognizing our own biases – especially the bias that we all want to be right. He challenges us by saying, "Stop wanting to be right, and start wanting the truth."





p.s. – When he's talking about how to test ideas, and gives the example that if your train of logic can be used to prove other similar ideas (he's talking specifically about the idea that praying and feelings can be used to "prove" oneself correct), I couldn't help but be reminded of an old argument William Lane Craig used about the witness of the holy spirit confirming to him the truth of his brand of Christianity over Mormonism:

My knowledge of Christianity’s truth, while supported by strong arguments, is not ultimately based on those arguments but on the witness of God Himself. If, therefore, I find myself confronted with a well-prepared and articulate Mormon who blows away my arguments and presents a case for Mormonism that I can’t answer, I should not apostatize, since I have the witness of the Holy Spirit to Christianity’s truth and so realize that although I’ve lost the argument, Christianity is nonetheless the truth (and I need to be better prepared next time!)...he [the Mormon] can’t justifiably remain Mormon by appealing to his experience, since he doesn’t really have a genuine witness of the Holy Spirit, but only a counterfeit experience.

How can we test whether this is bad logic? Simply by switching out the words:
My knowledge of Mormonism’s truth, while supported by strong arguments, is not ultimately based on those arguments but on the witness of God Himself. If, therefore, I find myself confronted with a well-prepared and articulate Christian who blows away my arguments and presents a case for Christianity that I can’t answer, I should not apostatize, since I have the witness of God to Mormonism’s truth and so realize that although I’ve lost the argument, Mormonism is nonetheless the truth (and I need to be better prepared next time!)...he [the Christian] can’t justifiably remain Christian by appealing to his experience, since he doesn’t really have a genuine witness of the Spirit, but only a counterfeit experience.

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