On Caring about Whether Other People Become Naturalists

Relatively speaking, I don’t care much if someone becomes a naturalist. I care more about refuting an anti-atheist stereotype, intentionally or unintentionally reinforced by Craig and his ilk, which Randal Rauser calls the Rebellion Thesis. I’ve encountered far too many Christians who think atheists are stupid (when it comes to evaluating the evidence about God) and immoral.

Going beyond religion, I guess I also care more broadly about critical thinking skills and the fact that so many people don’t have evidence-based beliefs for things for which evidence is clearly relevant, things which often have a public policy impact.

I think things would be much better if theists were Swinburnian theists and atheists were Draperian atheists, but that’s obviously never going to happen.

Allow me to explain. Following Ralph Keeney in his 1992 book Value-Based Decision Making, I distinguish between fundamental and means objectives. The objective “Convince more people to become naturalists” is not one of my fundamental objectives, whereas “Convincing more people to share beliefs which I think are true” is one of my fundamental objectives. “Convincing more people to hold evidence-based beliefs about things for which evidence is clearly relevant,” is a child fundamental objective of that. And “Convincing more people to become naturalists” is a means objective in support of that child fundamental objective.

I should mention that the objectives hierarchy I just described is tentative. While I have spent a lot of time studying, thinking about, and even working professionally in decision theory, I have actually never spent much time structuring an objectives hierarchy relating to the philosophy of religion and counter-apologetics. In other words, I’m open to revising this hierarchy in light of any feedback.

For a concise overview of Keeney’s excellent approach to decision-making, I highly recommend this article.