The argument from personality

26 06 2007

I’ve been involved in a lengthy debate with a Christian at Reed Braden’s blog. Asked why Christianity is to be preferred over other religions, my interlocutor responded thus:

[1]As far as other religions go, the first step I took was evaluating the idea of a personal or impersonal god. [2]Reality and experience has shown that people certainly possess personality and individuality. [3]This being the case, I had to ask myself the question of whether I thought it made sense that personality would flow from an impersonal god. [4]For me it does not, and Schaeffer, C.S. Lewis, and countless others have observed the same thing. [5]It is for this reason that I have chosen to reject so many of the Eastern religions (even though Judaism/Christianity really isn’t Western). [Sentences numbered by yours truly]

I don’t think my interlocutor has offered very good reasons for rejecting other religions, if he must choose religion at all. The weakest arguments he proposes are of course the appeals to authority and popularity in sentence 4, followed closely by the argument from incredulity presented in sentences 3-4 (“x doesn’t make sense to me; ergo, x is wrong”).

But what of his main reason: that given that people possess personality and individuality, an impersonal god doesn’t make sense? Since my friend doesn’t explain why personality and individuality in human beings makes the idea of an impersonal god nonsensical (this is simply asserted), I can only infer that he is assuming the truth of Genesis 1:27–“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him.” (Is God Yoda?)

If this is the case, then my interlocutor is attempting to prove the superiority of Christianity using a Christian axiom (i.e. the aforementioned Bible verse)–an axiom which one would have to be a Christian in the first place in order to accept. Circular reasoning.

(OK: Jews would accept this axiom too, but I don’t see how that helps my interlocutor’s position. In fact, it weakens it.)

Sam Harris on his book The End of Faith.

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