Christian Dreams (Part IV): What is Man?
On faith, science, and the humanist's dilemma
I’m throwing this into a very scattered, poorly planned semi-“series” of posts I’ve written on Christianity, atheism, and the tensions between them. There were supposed to be more entries, for paid subscribers only, but life abruptly got very busy, and I left both people hanging who were eagerly expecting a continuation. For any readers new or old who might be slightly interested, you can have a look at Part I, Part II, and Part III.
My long-time friend Justin Brierley has just come out with a new book, The Surprising Rebirth of Belief in God, subtitled “Why New Atheism Grew Old and Secular Thinkers are Reconsidering Christianity Again.” For those unfamiliar with Justin’s work, he was the founder and host of the long-running British radio show Unbelievable?, which has brought many Christians and atheists together in debate and dialogue. Both my parents and I have made multiple appearances taking up the “Christian” side, in conversation with atheist guests like Peter Boghossian, Bart Ehrman, Douglas Murray, and others. (I remember my conversation with Douglas especially fondly, and only regret that at the time I was still writing and speaking under my old pen name of Esther O’Reilly.) Justin’s book touches briefly on a couple of these, among many other moments from the show. He very kindly sent me a review copy, which I’ve simply been too busy to read, but it looks great at a glance, and I’m very much looking forward to reviewing the whole thing here soon. Meanwhile, I and a few other friends have lent our voices to a long-form podcast based on the book, which promises to be really fascinating, and not just because I’m in it!
On his promotional tour, Justin has been making the Christian/atheist podcast rounds, and most recently, he chatted with Alex O’Connor, otherwise known as Cosmic Skeptic. I wrote a bit about Alex here when he went Twitter-viral with a debate clip about why he hasn’t become a Christian, despite doing all the “right” things. I wasn’t impressed with that particular clip, but I do give Alex credit for being a generally clear, good-faith communicator in his interactions with Christians. At times, he’ll even go back and admit when he’s changed his mind on further consideration of an opposing argument.
This particular podcast with Alex and Justin was more conversation than debate, but I thought it covered a lot of interesting ground. Even though I usually disagree with Alex, he has a naturally analytical mind that can get at the root of a disagreement very quickly. He takes me back to the days when my parents opened our home to my dad's young philosophy grad students, sometimes debating and discussing late into the night. At several points, Alex actually puts his finger on places where I think Justin’s approach wants sharpening and reframing. I want to unpack this over a couple of posts. Join me!
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