Sort of a hypothesis
I used to have a colleague I shall call Robin. He is a bright guy and a good scientist, and I think highly of him. He is also a member of a small Baptist sect and a Biblical literalist. Once, Robin owed me a favor, so I said, in essence, "Sit down. I would like to know why you hold your religious belief without evidence or, if you have evidence, what that evidence is."
We talked for the better part of an hour. Robin told anecdotes, talked about reports of "miracles" from all over the world, and spoke of his inner conviction, his inner feelings. I asked why he thought the religion of his parents was right and all others were (therefore) wrong. I asked if he would be a Koranic literalist if he had been born in Islamabad instead of Cleveland. He calls this my "accident of birth" argument, but he has no real answer to it.
Early on, I asked whether his belief was allegorical, that is, an approximation to the truth, or simply his way of getting at God and no better or worse than someone else's. Was his belief a hypothesis that he would employ as long as it worked, or was it absolutely true?
No, he answered, it is absolutely true.
At the end of the hour, he said, as best I can recall, "Look, what you said earlier, about being a hypothesis. [Pause.] I guess it is sort of a hypothesis." Saying so made him feel threatened. You could see it in his body language, hear it in his voice, see it in his eyes. So I quickly stopped the conversation.
1. Sort of a hypothesis
2. Science, evidence, and nonsense: Why science has a greater claim to objectivity
3. Signs, wonders, and anecdotes: How people use evidence selectively
4. Questioning authority: Why the Bible cannot be literally true
5. The evil that men do: How what we call evil is the result of our biological nature
6. Aquinas's error: Why the philosophical arguments fail to establish the existence of a purposeful creator
7. Experimentalist's universe: Why we are biological systems governed by the laws of the universe
8. The magnificent structure of nature: Why the universe is more compelling than any mythology
9. Questions theists ask.