Alistair McGrath notes at bethinking.org: [John] Hick appears to labour under the misunderstanding that where Christian frameworks are biased, those of liberalism are neutral and disinterested. as he comments on the popular Blind men around an Elephant story used by many to show how naive religion is. McGrath, and more so, Amy Orr-Ewing (But is it real? p26) expose the arrogance of this perspective.
Blaise Pascal famously wrote (as summarised on Wikipedia):
"...even though the existence of God cannot be determined through reason, a person should "wager" as though God exists, because so living has potentially everything to gain, and certainly nothing to lose."I've heard this used to try and persuade people to believe. I'm just not sure that is the best use of it. What seems more profitable is what it exposes in the person faced with the wager. Pascal indicates that if we start out neutrally then we ought to bet on God. The lack of willingness to take the bet indicates the lack of neutrality in humanity.
Amy Orr-Ewing has a lot to say about this in her new book 'But is it real?'
"...secular worldview... is uncritically accepted as being entirely unbiased and neutral in it's approach." (p24)And then countering the charge that a relationship with God is a crutch she observes:
"...this argument about projection cuts both ways. After all, isn't it equally possible to say that Freud and other atheists deny the existence of God out of a need to escape from a father figure... dismissing God as a psychological projection while claiming neutrality in our own psyche is disingenuous at best" (p45)What counts in a crutch is whether you need it and whether it can support you. Truth and reality count. And to the charge that being a Christian is an accident of geography and birth:
"...notice the arrogance of the assumption: you as a Christian are biased by the circumstanes of your life, but I as a sceptic am completely neutral in my thinking" (p59)To which she follows up by observing that being a British Christian isn't really going to be an accident of geography - it's actually pretty countercultural to be Christian in Britain today, as church attendance exposes.
Everyone comes with bias, the question is whether our biases and assumptions are based on truth and reality, or whether they're not. Given the vast claims that Christianity makes, about the possibility of personally knowing God - and our need for that it's worth investigating, worth considering seriously. Doing that, from the perspective of a Christian, we have everything to gain, and certainly nothing to lose.
Update/Edit in attempt to clarify (which may fail, but I'll try!)
God, if he exists, being a worthwhile bet isn't the reason to believe. If that were the best reason then it'd be a poor reason, not least because it doesn't work. I think what it exposes however is that we're not neutral to God by default. We're not sitting on a fence where it's all utterly 50:50 about whether to go with God or not. We're already against him.
The key persuasion to believe should be the resurrection of Jesus. This is part of why Christians were frustrated with Dawkins because his famous book didn't engage with that at all. His excuse being that Christians assume the possibility of God and revelation from God - just as he conversely assumes those things are impossible. Having assumptions is ok, but it'd be good to admit that we do. Which was the primary aim of the content of this post.
The question really then is, do we have good cause to have those assumptions, are they real and true. And that is the question that Amy Orr-Ewing's book is written to answer. And in a rather round-about my secondary aim was to suggest that you might like to read it!
Big Thread of Comments over at Rob Hulse's blog picking up on this post, go join in!
Amy Orr-Ewing works for The Zacharias Trust, has many articles and audios at bethinking.org and is the author of books including But is it real? and Why Trust the Bible?