Quote: Daniel Dennett, Breaking the Spell

Daniel Dennett, at the Second World Conference...

Daniel Dennett, at the Second World Conference on the Future of Science, in Venice, 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is an asymmetry: atheists in general welcome the most intensive and objective examination of their views, practices, and reasons. (In fact, their incessant demand for self-examination can become quite tedious.) The religious, in contrast, often bristle at the impertinence, the lack of respect, the sacrilege, implied by anybody who wants to investigate their views.

~ Dennett, Daniel C. (2006-02-02). Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (pp. 16-17)

In my own limited personal experience, I can attest that this quote resonates with reality. Not everyone bristles, of course, though some do. I think maybe the bristling is saved for outsiders, and I was an insider.

Some of my friends have simply acted uncomfortable. A number have flatly not wanted to hear or know anything about my investigation. Yet several have actually thought even my very attempt at examination was foolhardy… I wish I could count the number of times I’ve been told that the project of investigating the claims of Christianity simply cannot be transacted, that is flatly impossible, and that it lies beyond critical inquiry. There is a pretending that our faith is made of “faith stuff” that never touches earth, a pretending that Christianity does not make claims about history that can be checked.

We Christians claim a trove of knowledge. Human knowledge can be checked, can be examined, and can be disconfirmed. There are no grand exemptions. Just as Christians would say that Islam is objectively wrong, and could provide reasons why this is so, likewise our own views can be examined under the same cold light of inquiry. We have enjoyed our own proclaimed asymmetry far too long. And we are increasingly being called on it.

Dennett argues that we should conduct such inquiry for religion in general, and with vigor. I agree.

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