Excerpt from How to Argue with an Atheist: How to Win the Argument without Losing the Person (Brink): I affirm that people are values-centered.
I affirm that people are values-centered.STUDENT: Dr. Brink? Do you remember me? I came by last week and we talked about religion.
BRINK: Of course, but as I said last time, to give you the entire answer as to why I am religious, or why you should be religious, is not something that we should attempt all at once. We need to approach this topic advancing slowly but surely, one step at a time. STUDENT: So, where do we start?
BRINK: My first point is that humans are values-oriented beings. They seek values, uphold values, and when they are not oriented by values, they fall into alienation.
STUDENT: That sounds like Chapter 13 on social psychology.
BRINK: My, you have read ahead in your psychology textbook.
STUDENT: So, what’s the next point?
BRINK: Don’t be so quick to agree with me. If we have not fully established step #1, then we do not have a good footing for the next step. We need to break down step #1 into several sub-steps. In order for you to agree with the statement that humans are values-oriented beings you would have to agree to the following:
- that you exist
- that other people exist
- that you are oriented to values
- that other people are oriented to values
STUDENT: I think so.
BRINK: Not so fast. Think them through. Wrestle with them. You have to convince yourself to move beyond those doubts before we can tackle the greater questions about God.
STUDENT: OK, I know that I exist, because, how did Descartes put it: if I doubt that I exist, that must prove that I, the doubter, must exist in order for there to be somebody who is around to do the doubting.
BRINK: Good tie in to philosophy. That is all that the great theologians have done, take some of the points of philosophy and tie them into an ongoing understanding of God: Aquinas in medieval Catholicism, Maimonides in Judaism, Averroes in Islam, all turned to Aristotle’s philosophy in order to better understand God.
STUDENT: They must have been very well educated about Aristotle.
BRINK: They were. You see, not all religious people are ignorant.
STUDENT: Yeh…so much for what I said last time.
BRINK: Now, back to our point: you now have no doubts about your own existence?
STUDENT: No doubts, I can move on.
BRINK: You know that you exist and you can go on with your life, making daily decisions on the basis of your existence?
STUDENT: Right, I’ll never hesitate over that question. I exist. I am alive, and so I will make daily decisions in order to keep me alive, and make my life better.
BRINK: But how could you prove that you exist to someone outside of you?
STUDENT: Well, I don’t know how I would prove that I do exist to someone external, but it just makes more sense to me to act as if I do exist, and that I do have a future, at least until I die.
BRINK: The bottom line, therefore, is that you accept your own existence as a basic foundation for your life, even though some critics might question your standard of proof.
BRINK: Perhaps some day you will have the same grounding of knowledge, the same profound certainty about the existence of God. Then you will no longer hesitate over that question, and you will be able to make daily decisions in order to make your spiritual life better. STUDENT: Wow, I never thought of it that way. You mean some people don’t ever doubt the existence of God, but just accept Him and go on living their lives?
BRINK: Like we said last time: doubt is not that bad, but it is something that most people grow out of as they become responsible adults and have to get on with their lives. In other words, when you have a son and you (and your spouse) have to decide whether to baptize (or circumcise) him, it is a yes or a no (and you cannot just stay in the middle with doubt). Doing is moving beyond mere doubting.
STUDENT: I have to think about that.
BRINK: Y es, take some time to think about it and really get established on this step before we jump to another.
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Read more posts by and about TL Brink HERE.