In his book that teaches atheists how to proselytize for atheism, activist Peter Boghossian writes:
Once they’ve given their response [to the question, what would it take for them to disbelieve?], I thank them. If they’ve asked me what it would take for me to believe, I’ll use a variation of American physicist Lawrence Krauss’s example in his debate with William Lane Craig: if I walked outside at night and all of the stars were organized to read, “I am God communicating with you, believe in me!” and every human being worldwide witnessed this in their native language, this would be suggestive (but far from conclusive as it’s a perception and could be a delusion).
Very good. So let’s explore Boghossian’s answer.
1. Boghossian’s answer is actually incomplete, as he would need to answer one simple question that clearly follows – WHY is such a star pattern suggestive evidence for God? It would seem there is only one possible answer – the star pattern could not be explained by the laws of nature. For if scientists could explain it by the laws of nature, would Boghossion still view it as evidence for God? In other words, Boghossian would interpret the star pattern as evidence for God only because he would consider it a Gap. It turns out, then, that Boghossian has embraced the logic of the God-of-the-Gaps argument. He is a God-of-the-Gaps atheist.
2. Notice, however, that he never answers his own question. He was asked what it would take for him “to believe.” But it turns out the spectacular display in the sky, that could not possibly be explained by the laws of nature, would merely be….”suggestive.” Since Boghossian could reasonably admit that the Gap was merely suggestive while remaining a non-believer, he has not answered the question. When it comes to telling us what it would take for him to believe, we still have no answer.
3. Since a star pattern that spells out “I am God communicating with you, believe in me!” and can be seen every human being worldwide witnessed in their native language is merely suggestive, it doesn’t look like Boghossian can ever move beyond the “it’s suggestive” state. He is stuck there. Permanently. In other words, that he requires such a sensational, earth-shattering, universal experience just to entertain the mere suggestion that God might possibly exist tells us he comes to the table with a mind firmly closed. He needs something intellectually and experientially explosive just to pry the door to his mind open a few millimeters. And then it can open no further.
4. The problem gets even worse for Boghossian. He tells us that if he experienced such a miraculous display of God’s power he would consider it suggestive evidence. He says he would. But is there ANY evidence Boghossian would do as I says he would? Nope. No evidence. Zero Zilch. Nada. He is expecting us to accept his answer about what he would do in a hypothetical future on faith. Yet this is the man who tells us that faith is bad, spread by “faith viruses.” The philosopher has painted himself into quite a corner that represents a delicious moment of irony – in order for us to accept the notion that there is any hint of doxastic opennesss to his approach, we must allow ourselves to become infected with his faith virus. The only thing that can rescue Boghossian, and the perception his is closed-minded, are the faith viruses that he decries.
5. Given that Boghossian’s whole response here is so pathetically weak and confused, one has to wonder if it is even sincere. Does he use a variation of American physicist Lawrence Krauss’s example because he means it? Or is it just a debate tactic used to score a point during his “interventions”? I can’t say for sure, but recall that in his interview with Dawkins, Dawkins made it clear that he no longer thinks any data could ever count as evidence for God. Dawkins has completely transformed his atheism into closed-minded dogma. Boghossian, for his part, uttered not one word of disagreement and clearly comes across as someone who agreed with Dawkins.
So in summary, he begins with classic God-of-the-Gaps atheism and, upon further inspection, it looks more like Closed-Minded Atheism. Nevertheless, which ever version of atheism Boghossian is selling, one thing is clear. If we grant his prohibition against faith, for the sake of argument, there is no evidence he could ever change his mind. And there is plenty of evidence that he proselytizes from a position of doxastic closure.
One final thing. Unlike Boghossian and his followers, I try to approach these topics in a fair- and open-minded manner. So I should reciprocate and answer the question about what it would take for me to disbelieve. But, in this case, I will make my reciprocation proportional to Boghossian’s reply. Fair is fair. If Christians are supposed to be satisfied with his answer, then atheists would have to be satisfied with my answer.
So here it goes. In the spirit of Boghossian’s reply, I can tell you what would make me disbelieve. If I walked outside at night and there was a giant spaceship in the sky, and there were giant spaceships over every major city on the planet, and the aliens in these spaceships began the process of exterminating the human race, this would be suggestive (but far from conclusive as it could be a divine test of our faith). Like I said, proportional.