Here’s a provocative email I got this morning. Judging by its tone, I’m pretty sure it’s from a believer. These people never apologize for taking up your time, but rather demand an answer.
This person, named “Johnny Boy”, was commenting on a 2014 article I wrote in The New Republic called “The ‘Best Arguments’ for God’s existence’ are actually terrible.” If I do say so myself, it’s not a bad piece, and in particular goes after that slippery theologian David Bentley Hart.
Note as well that there’s no salutation: no “hello”, or “Dear Dr. Coyne” or the like. He’s “just asking questions”, known as “JAQ-ing off” in the trade. The email (indented):
You make some interesting points. Just wanted to ask you a few questions about your article:
1.) You quoted “what can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”. Do you think that any existence of God SHOULD be dismissed since there is no evidence? If so, do you believe that any claim that is without evidence should be dismissed?
2.) Couldn’t someone just claim that no God exists, and since there’s no evidence of that, this should now be dismissed? But that would mean that at least 1 God does exist…
3.) If you believe science and God are not compatible, why? At what point does science disprove a God’s existence?
4.) Were you born into any kind of religion?
5.) What would convince you that God DOES exist?
Sorry if this isn’t the best way to reach you… I just saw who wrote the article, looked you up, and found an email.
Well, at least there’s an a sort-of apology. But this is definitely from a believer, and I’m going to crowdsource the answer rather than answer Johnny Boy (these are almost invariably males). You don’t have to answer #4, and if you want to answer the first part of #3 as “Read Coyne’s Faith Versus Fact” (he clearly hasn’t), by all means do so. But it does seem that this person doesn’t grasp the idea of accruing more and more confidence in a proposition when there’s more and more evidence for it (or, in this case, against it).
The only answer that I wanted to give was to #2, which was “Do you think that leprechauns exist because somebody says that there’s no evidence for leprechauns?” Oy gewalt! We have a new argument for God, which I’ll dub “The Argument for God from Denial.”
Have at it, and then I’ll tell “Johnny Boy” to read the thread. Right now I have to head to Trader Joe’s for “senior shopping hour”—the only advantage of being old(er).