Answering Questions From the Educated Skeptic
- Thursday, July 05, 2012
Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from Section 2, Chapter 1 ("The Educated Skeptic") of Alex McFarland's book, 10 Answers for Skeptics (Regal Books, 2011).
Truth is tough. It will not break, like a bubble, at a touch;
nay, you may kick it about all day like a football, and it will be
round and full at evening.
OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES, SR.
A little science estranges a man from God;
a lot of science brings him back.
The high-minded man must care more for the truth
than for what people think.
Perhaps you’ve met him already: the guy who is too smart to be a Christian. Oh, sure, Christianity is fine if it gives you comfort, but if you knew better, you’d know that there’s really nothing to it—sort of like there’s nothing to Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. Those are just stories we tell people until they’re old enough and smart enough to know better.
A lot of times, the “educated” skeptic is a college student, home from his first year at college. He’s been exposed to a lot of new ideas and levels of learning he’s never experienced before. A good example of this is Bill Hamby, creator of the Life Without a Net website that caters to skeptics and atheists. Hamby, who says he was raised in an evangelical home, recalls his college days:
“First thing that happened, I took a course in evolutionary biology. I took a course concurrent with geology. I began to see that the world was not 6,000 years old. I had been trusting a very old book [the Bible] when I ought to be trusting some very new science.
Then I took some classes in ethics. I began to see that you can establish a system of ethics without relying on authoritarianism. You don’t need a guy with a stick, holding it over your head. Now I do the right thing because it is the right thing to do.”1
That, in a nutshell, is how a lot of educated people become skeptics.
A Little Learning Is a Dangerous Thing
A wit once complained about an argumentative, know-it-all friend: “I’m not bothered by what he knows. What bothers me is what he knows that ain’t so.” That’s often the case with the educated skeptic. He might be very well educated, with a host of degrees on his wall. But educated in some matters does not mean educated in all matters, and the educated skeptic might be smart in many matters without realizing that he’s not smart in terms of Christianity. It’s not what he knows about biology, geology or any number of other topics. It’s what he “knows” about Christianity that just ain’t so.
He often has a learned bias against Christianity. In other words, he did not become a skeptic by examining the evidence and coming to the conclusion that he’s skeptical of Christianity. No, often he’s been led in that direction by things he’s read, people he’s talked to and things he’s heard. He often takes pride in his level of education and may be totally unaware of his prejudices or the prejudices of those he reads. He doesn’t see the walls he has erected or the gymnastics he employs to reach his conclusion about Christianity.
Getting Past the Education
When dealing with an educated skeptic, it’s probably not wise to try to convince him he’s wrong about things that ultimately have no bearing on the truth of Christianity. He might be very smart when it comes to such matters. Instead, engage him on those things he knows that ain’t so.
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