Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Defeasibility Test

Ultimately in the back and forth of discussions about the existence of God, religion and the like, there is an important question that must be dealt with.  For the believer, that question is, what is the relationship, as you see it, between reasoning about God and your belief in God?  That is, is your belief in God more fundamental than your commitment to believe what reason and evidence indicates, or are you prepared, if the evidence demands it, to abandon your view of God as irrational?  The question is of obvious importance because disagreement about God’s existence that is pursued in the form of a dialogue about reasons, justifications, and the evidence is actually done in bad faith if ultimately the believer doesn’t really care what the evidence is.  If the believer places a higher premium on believing than anything else, including being reasonable about counter evidence, then he’s just engaging in sophistry when he engages in dialogue. 

Here are some examples of famous theological writers who have ordered their priorities so that believing comes first and any other information, ideas, or evidence must conform to that belief or simply be rejected:

Nicholas Wolterstorff says,
“The religious beliefs of the Christian scholar ought to function as control beliefs within his devising and weighing of theories.  . . . Since his fundamental commitment to following Christ ought to be decisively ultimate in his life, the rest of his life ought to be brought into harmony with it.  As control, the belief-content of his authentic commitment ought to function both negatively and positively.  Negatively, the Christian scholar ought to reject certain theories on the ground that they conflict or do not comport well with the belief-content of his authentic commitment.”  (72  Reason Within the Bounds of Religion.)

Why is it that one must first run an evidential test on Scripture before one is justified in accepting it? Does this not fundamentally subordinate revelation to reason?  What then is left of the authority of Scripture? 

William Lane Craig insists that nothing could possibly counter indicate the truth of the Gospels because of a self-authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit in his heart than gives him knowledge independent of all questions of evidence. 

Believing is somehow “self-authenticating” for them.  It “carries its own evidence.”  As they see it, it is a mistake to think that believing itself must be held to standards of evidence or rationality.  Rather, our standards of evidence and rationality must answer to our belief in God. 

On a similar note, we find this doctrinal statement at The Talbot School of Theology:

"The Bible, consisting of all the books of the Old and New Testaments, is the Word of God, a supernaturally given revelation from God Himself, concerning Himself, His being, nature, character, will and purposes; and concerning man, his nature, need and duty and destiny. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are without error or misstatement in their moral and spiritual teaching and record of historical facts. They are without error or defect of any kind." http://www.talbot.edu/about/biblical-inerrancy/

The infallibility of the Bible is their starting point.  As an “educational” institution, this statement is a promise—whatever other ideas you may encounter, no matter what objections arise, and no matter what the evidence is, it must all conform to our picture of Biblical truth, or it will be flatly rejected.  Bible first, reasoning and evidence second.  We can contrast this approach with the fundamental principle of a liberal arts university where the free exchange of ideas, whatever they may be, is allowed and encouraged in order to achieve intellectual liberation from dogma.  At an institute like Talbot, the goal is to propagate a preordained dogma despite the facts.  At a real university, the purpose is to instill the critical reasoning skills and a methodology for rooting out error so that the seductive trap of dogmatism can be avoided. 

There are many more believers who won’t be as forthright about their bottom line as Craig, Wolterstorff, and the Talbot School.  But in practice, they are more deeply resolved to continue believing than they are to any principles of reasoning that might lead them to reconsider their theism.  The epistemological term “defeater” has drifter over to these discussions through people like Plantinga, and believers will now sometimes say, even after hearing stark, and powerful objections to their positions that they have yet to hear anything that amounts to a defeater of the belief they started with.  This sometimes amounts to code for, “I don’t value being intellectually responsible about the powerful argument you are making more than I value my continued believing in God, so I will continue believing as I started, unaffected.”  At this point, of course, there’s really nothing left to be said.  If someone is resolved to believe at all costs, then nothing else that any skeptic could say, no matter how thoughtful or persuasive can undermine that stubbornness.  At this point, we should be prepared to conclude that someone has simply left the rational thought game and must be considered a lost cause. 

Of course, as the dedicated Christian sees it, this kind of complete devotion to believing in God is an admirable thing.  It shows that he is utterly committed and that he has subjugated every facet of his life.  And our culture is full of references and allusions that seem to encourage this bizarrely backward belief structure.  In our literature, movies, and stories, when someone stands by their principles and believes, no matter what, he’s a hero.  But being skeptical or being prepared to change your mind when the evidence calls for it treated as failures of character, moral defects, and personal failures of courage and strength of will.  I’ve long suspected that we elevate these behaviors in our books and movies as part of a nervous effort to fortify our own shrinking resolve to believe religious and superstitious silliness.  If Bruce Willis retains his faith in humanity, or God, or whatever, then it soothes my quavering feelings about them in me.  But I’m at a total loss to see how dedication or belief for its own sake is an admirable thing, particularly when the devotion is to something so patently misguided as vindictive, truculent, and capricious Iron Age creator deity.  If believing it doesn’t make sense in the first place, then continuing to believe it no matter what the challenge is even worse.  As they say, if it’s not worth doing, then it’s not worth doing well.  

What the inversion of belief and reason really amounts to is a slavish devotion that runs so deep it robs a person of their autonomy, their self, and the only tool they have for discovering the truth: their reason.  This is someone who values believing more than they value believing that which is supported by the evidence or reasons.  What’s always baffling about this kind of believer is the question of how one could ever legitimately move into such a position.  If you don’t already believe, then what possible means of access can there be?   Aside from a psychotic break that just results in one’s believing, what could possibly lead a thoughtful, responsible adult from not believing that Jesus is the Lord to then believing that he is and then to the policy that the belief must be elevated in importance above everything else, including any of the appeals to reason or evidence that might have got you there. 

Wolterstorff also says, “For he like everyone else ought to seek consistency, wholeness, and integrity in the body of his beliefs and commitments,” as long as all of those beliefs are brought into conformity with following Christ. 

But one wonders why there is any concern about internal consistency and integrity once reason and responsiveness to evidence have been rejected in this manner.  If the conspiracy theorist, who has rejected the most plausible interpretations of the evidence in favor of some far flung delusion, labors long and hard to get his fundamentally misguided picture of the world to be internally consistent, what possible difference does it make?  Internal consistency is a game worth playing only if we are serious about getting our model of the world to anchor to reality.  Consistency isn’t valuable for its own sake, it is only useful insofar as we are confident that the world itself is consistent, so our model of it must mirror that feature.  But that’s just the start.  If the model isn’t responsive to the constant input of new information, it’s worthless.  But once we’ve enslaved ourselves to some obstinacy like those above, why should one care about consistency?  Without the basic concern of making our belief structure about gods conform to reality and the evidence, there’s no motivation to pretend or pursue any such rules.  It’s as if Wolterstorff is insisting that it’s only acceptable to cheat on one line of your taxes, but for the rest of the project one must be internally scrupulous with the bogus numbers that result. 

What’s deeply disturbing about these admissions, besides their candor (Did he actually say that he’s only going to accept those accounts of history that conform to his preconceived religious commitments?), is their complete abandonment of the very rules that would render any of their  beliefs justified.  Once we elevate a religious belief to this status and declare that all other things we think or belief must conform to it, we’ve left the realm of sanity.  The doctrine is believing you in this case, not the other way around. 

Even from the inside of this strange position, this problem must be troubling.  The most ardent believer of Wolterstorff’s type must acknowledge that there are many other people in the world who have drawn a similar line in the sand about their favored religious claims.  That is, the Christian here will readily concur that were a Muslim or a fundamentalist Jew, or a Zoroastrian, or some other non-Christian to make a similar declaration, they would be mistaken.  Others who claim a similar primacy for their religious views, where that view is incommensurate with the Christian one, must be mistaken because there is only one true Christian God and Jesus is his only son.  So we must all acknowledge the possibility of error in this type of defense (if we can call it that) of a theistic belief.  If it is possible to be mistaken then, what is the method whereby we can hope to separate the proposals that are misguided from the ones that are authentic?  When you have the impulse to say, “All other beliefs, standards of evidence, and even reasoning itself must conform to my belief in God,” how do you know you’ve stumbled upon the right one, particularly when you know there are so many people around who have gotten it wrong by this route?   What independent route to the belief in God do you have left available to you? 

We might have said, “Well, I can know that my God is the one, authentic God because all of the evidence and a powerful set of carefully reasoned arguments shows it.”  But of course, that defense isn’t available to people like Wolterstorff--they have denied that there is any need to defend their belief this way.  The folks at Talbot can’t say on the one hand that the Bible is incorrigible, and when pressed for why, respond by insisting that the Bible says it is.  So the problem is that once you abandon the one set of methods we have for error correction, you’re set adrift.  What can be your criteria for preferring one religious scheme over another?  More importantly, what’s to separate the view you prefer (unjustifiably) from delusions or insanity?

Consider the paradox this believer is now in.  They assert:  “Many people who subjugate their lives and their faculties of reasoning to their religious beliefs are misguided and wrong.”  “Nevertheless, my reasoning must be subordinated to my Jesus ideology.” 

Or, “I am unwilling to consider any reasoning that might challenge my Christian convictions.  Other people who fail to do likewise are mistaken.  But without any reasoning at my disposal, I am unable to explain or defend why they are mistaken.” 

To their credit, these authors have put their cards on the table.  They have been up front with their resolve to simply believe no matter what other considerations they encounter.  But these admissions also make it clear that any rational discussion of justifications for their beliefs are pointless.  Reasons do not matter to this sort of believer.  Without any justification for their beliefs or their slavish dedication to them, and with their dogmatic refusal to reason about them, there’s no difference between what they are doing and getting swallowed up by a cult.  They have left the rationality playing field.  There’s no human mind left there, just dogma.

Unfortunately, the unsuspecting skeptic has often wandered into this trap in good faith, as it were, thinking that the point of having a discussion about God or Jesus or whatever was to figure out the truth, analyze reasons, possibly answer unanswered questions. But once we dig deeper, we see that this sort of believer does not have a similar view of things.  There can only be their Biblical truth.  So there’s nothing, even in principle that might dissuade him or lead him to change his mind.  That is, there’s really no point for the skeptic to offer contrary ideas, criticisms, objections, or counter arguments.  Unless those arguments conform to the believer’s prior convictions, they will be rejected no matter how great their merit.  (There’s something nihilistic and cynical about this approach, particularly if the believer is not forthcoming about his bottom line.) 

So in the spirit of John Loftus’ Outside Test for Faith, I propose a test.  Before I or any other doubter, atheist, skeptic, or non-believer engages in a discussion about the reasons for and against God, the believer must look deep into his heart and mind and ask this question:  Are there any considerations, arguments, evidence, or reasons, even hypothetically that could possibly lead me to change my mind about God?  Is it even a remotely possible outcome that in carefully and thoughtfully reflecting on the broadest and most even body of evidence that I can grasp, that I would come to think that my current view about God is mistaken?  That is to say, is my belief defeasible? 

If the answer is no, then we’re done.  There is nothing informative, constructive, or interesting to be found in your contribution to dialogue.  Anything you have to say amounts to sophistry.  We can’t take your input any more seriously than the lawyer who is a master of casuistry and who can provide rhetorically masterful defenses of every side of an issue.  She’s not interested in the truth, only is scoring debate points or the construction of elaborate rhetorical castles (that float on air). 

In all fairness, we must demand the same from skeptics, doubters, and atheists.  They are just as guilty of conflict if they rail against religious beliefs for lacking rational justification, but in turn there are no possible considerations that could ever lead them to relinquish their doubts. 

So before we can get down to the real issues, is your view defeasible?  

22 comments:

Caleb O said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
G*3 said...

I think you may be making a mistake in assuming that a rationalist epistemology is at the base of such arguments. That is, you argue that a believer who asserts that his faith trumps all MUST be troubled by others of different faiths who make the same claim.

In my experience, this thought never crosses most believers’ minds. They truly believe that their particular faith is self-evident. Many fundamentalist communities are insular, and members may have limited contact with those of other faiths. They can therefore dismiss other’s faith-based beliefs by assuming that others’ faith isn’t really like that of the members of their own community, or by claiming that their religion really is self-evident, and those who sincerely believe in other religions are being misled by evil forces. Orthodox Judaism attributes outsider’s religious experiences either to a sliver of a relationship to God, or, more often, to the Satan trying to misleed us or to the ruach hatumah (which awkwardly translates as “impure force”) in the world. I imagine Christians would make the same attribution to the Devil.

You’re right though that arguments made by such a believer amounts to sophistry.

Matt McCormick said...

Thanks G*3. I don't think that all believers of this type will be troubled by the paradox. But I am arguing that they should be. Will some people be dismissive? Sure. I frequently get critics on here who seem to think that if there remain people out there who stubbornly refuse all counter arguments, then somehow that illustrates a problem with my positions. At some point, however, we must be prepared to put the burden of rationality and sense where it belongs, on the individual who gives these outlandish gyrations in defense of their dogmatism.

Rocky S. Stone said...

While I certainly agree, I see two advantages for beginning or continuing a debate with one who's incontrovertible. First, there may certainly be lookers-on who could be swayed by your reasonable arguments. And second, even if the debate is a private one, it may serve to hone your arguments and responses. I've found both to be of value.

Matt McCormick said...

Fair enough, Rocky. But I think it's really important that this misconception be exposed. One person is discussing the topic in order to determine what's justified and reasonable, while the other person has no intention of listening to any reasoning or evidence, no matter how compelling. The latter is typically engaging in the dialogue under a false pretense. And the problem is that so many believers slip back and forth between the two positions, conflating them, and articulating an incoherent view. When it suits them, or when they think they've got rhetorically effective points, they put on the pretense of actually have an earnest inquiry, but in fact they never had any intention of seriously considering any grounds that might have led them to change their minds. And often, when they are pushed back, they retreat to this admission--I take God/Jesus as a given, a basic belief, one that I value more than any reasons you might raise. That's intellectual dishonesty.

MM

Eric said...

"In all fairness, we must demand the same from skeptics, doubters, and atheists. They are just as guilty of conflict if they rail against religious beliefs for lacking rational justification, but in turn there are no possible considerations that could ever lead them to relinquish their doubts.
"So before we can get down to the real issues, is your view defeasible?"

Hi Matt

I think the 'no possible considerations' criterion has to be narrowed a bit, or perhaps simply clarified, given the context. For example, since you're talking about the preconditions of fruitful, rational discussion between skeptics and theists, it doesn't seem to me that the skeptic can blithely say, "Sure my position is defeasible: All god has to do is reveal himself right now to me personally, or enable you to perform a miracle we can run repeated tests on; or, absent anything like that, all you have to do is provide [add evidential qualifiers that are inconsistent with the predominant conception of god, such as 'physical and testable'] evidence for your god." Do you think such a skeptic really holds a position that's defeasible *in the context* of a rational discussion?

RosemaryLW said...

I don't think the situation is quite as clear as you describe it.

Thinking back to my religious days, I would probably have said that I could not conceive of anything that would make me decide that my experience of god was not real or that one did not exist. I was convinced that everyone else was ignorant, indoctrinated or mistaken, except me and my significant religious others.

OTOH, I was extremely reluctant to read or listen to material that could challenge my familiar belief in a version of the Christian god. Eventually I forced myself to read such material in the interests of intellectual fairness and integrity. This was not typical of my peers.

The majority of people who are provided with evidence which upsets an emotionally held viewpoint have cognitive defenses that distort the content or fail to store it accurately, or at all, in long term memory.

The extent to which someone can deal honestly with challenge of this type is strongly dependent on the innate personality of the individual and on their perceived threat level. You can't manipulate the personality aspects but you _can_ manipulate their threat level.

In other words, you may not get an accurate answer to your "test", if you simply listen to what someone verbally responds to your questions. You may sift out the person who is amenable to logical analysis but so afraid of the challenge that they will avoid it, filter it, repress it, distort it or fail to recall it, along with the person who is helplessly emotionally attached to their delusional system. The defences of the Insecure Believer are rarely complete. If you engage them in rational exploration at least some part of the argument will eventually get through to them - maybe some months down the track when they have forgotten it was you who made the uncomfortable point. Whether they repress this or follow it through will depend, in part, on how comfortable they feel about the consequences vis a vis how important it is to their self-esteem to believe themselves to be ruthlessly intellectually honest. You can manipulate that aspect as well.

How successful you are in the long term (and you may not be the one who gets to learn about it) with people who say that nothing will ever persuade them that their god does not exist, depends on your ability to make them feel relatively comfortable about challenging cherished beliefs and relatively morally superior about following the challenge through no matter how uncomfortable the conclusion may be.

These important psychological aspects of teaching are generally overlooked by the average person seeking to have a meaningful debate with someone over an ideology or belief system that is emotionally or dogmatically based.

Caleb O said...

I meant to say something along the lines of: although this test is not quite original, it is quite novel in it's application. And it has a fancy name.

Saint Brian the Godless said...

In all fairness, we must demand the same from skeptics, doubters, and atheists. They are just as guilty of conflict if they rail against religious beliefs for lacking rational justification, but in turn there are no possible considerations that could ever lead them to relinquish their doubts.
----------------------
In all fairness I can't see why I have to, as an atheist, admit that the fact that I can't prove that god doesn't exist, bother me any. I happen to have these two things called 'eyes' and I know it's not fashionable but when I use them to look at the world around me and nature and science and everything all at once in a holistic manner if you will, there are zillions of indications that there is no need for any god, so why believe in one? I'm not the type that needs one. I'm cool with reality without one. And if there is one, IF there is, then one thing is clear: Said deity is nothing whatsoever like *anything* any religion has ever thought about a deity.

We just don't know yet, but all evidence points to zero deities, or at the minimum, a very detached one that is as unconcerned with us as we are of anerobic bacteria clustered around deep ocean vents.

And be careful of eric; he's a twisty one of them thar apologist thingies for sure.......

Matt McCormick said...

Thanks Eric. The problem you describe hadn't even occurred to me. You're right. There should be a difference between reasonable and unreasonable requirements for disproof. Insisting that God jump through hoops to satisfy the doubter surely isn't fair. But if the non-believer insists that rejecting God is reasonable given the state of the evidence, then it is incumbent on her to describe what would change that, within reason.

Matt McCormick said...

Thanks Rosemary. Thoughtful contribution.

Patrick said...

Alright, I wrote a response on Loftus' blog where he quoted you, but I'm a moron and I wrote it poorly. Let me try to do a short form here without screwing up.

There are two different ways defeasibility could be explained. And there are different reasons to care about it.

Defeasibility 1: There exists some argument or piece of possible evidence about which I am presently agnostic, but which, if resolved, might lead me to theism.

Defeasibility 2: There exists some argument or piece of possible evidence which is now resolved and leads me to atheism, but which, had it been resolved differently, would have led me to theism.

To give an example that doesn't relate to religion: vaccines and autism. As it stands, I can think of no argument or evidence about which I am presently agnostic that would lead me to conclude that vaccines cause autism. But I can think of evidence that, had it come out differently, would have led me to believe vaccines cause autism.

Right now, I am indefeasible on this point (under definition 1) because I am aware of far too much evidence for me to imagine any plausible scenario that would overthrow it. But I am defeasible (under definition 2) because, had those studies never been done or had those studies returned the opposite results, I would be quite easily convinced to hold a different position than I presently hold.

As for whether its worth having conversations with people who are indefeasible under either definition... that's really dependent on why you're having the conversation. I can imagine having a productive conversation with someone like Kent Hovind, if by productive I mean "likely to be of use to third party viewers of the conversation."

Harvey said...

In addition to the well thought out issues in Matt's original post and the several additions made others, it seems to me that a major obstruction to Christian acceptance of rational arguments amounts to the difference in purpose between atheist and "believer" dialogues. Whereas the skeptic may be engaaging in such discussions out of true intellectual curiosity or an endeavor to better understand the believer's point of view, the religionist is largely seeking the only affirmation possible, at least in this life, that his beliefs are correct. Sometimes this takes the form of proselytizing, but clearly, if one can get another to not only agree with your religious construct, but even join you in your beliefs, what better affirmation could one hope for? I think that most Christians who carry on such efforts are among those who know they will reject any reasonable arguments not in concert with their chosen dogma, but continue to "debate" with the ultimate hope of converting the unbeliever.

Chris said...

A very good question, in my opinion, and for the most part well put for both sides of this discussion.

Perhaps, my only issue is regarding with the use of the word "reasonable."

In my experience (and in this only) atheists tend to lay claim to being "reasonable" and "rational" as if no such thing exists for the believer. In other words, the believer is just brainwashed and swallows the pill without question.

For some? Maybe. For most? I doubt it.

(Of course, the same argument could be made for atheists...)

that would also mean, there was such a thing as "rational." Beyond a "majority" - we've all seen how well that goes sometimes...

Would there? Could there be "something" that would disprove God for me?

I would have to say yes, if only because I don't know everything...

Have I looked?

of course! I look into evolution, quantum physics, and even moral "arguments" against my beliefs - which is a reason I visit blogs such as this.

I find, the more I dig into science, the more I find "evidence" of - at the very least, a creator, if not a god.

I listen to differing thoughts as much as I can - as long as they are civil.

The issue of faith and atheism though, is not one that can simply be compared evenly...both have nuances that, in a way, are esoteric to the believer/nonbeliever.

Does my faith TRUMP "reason" and "logic" and "evidence?"
No.

But for some reason the atheists I have encountered seem to think that "reasonable" thought and "logic" and "evidence" are contrary to faith, nor can share the same space between the ears.

this of course is not so, as for me, they all strengthen my faith.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Interesting post. Thank you for sharing. My question to you is this - if asking a god to jump through hoops is not reasonable (as a means to get one to change their minds about gods), then what is a reasonable test in your opinion. It can be argued, that science pretty much insists on reasoned arguments going through just such a trial by fire before they become accepted. Scientific theories can be displaced by simple facts that can't be accounted for by the theory. So what is a reasonable test of a universe creating god?

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Interesting post. Thank you for sharing. My question to you is this - if asking a god to jump through hoops is not reasonable (as a means to get one to change their minds about gods), then what is a reasonable test in your opinion. It can be argued, that science pretty much insists on reasoned arguments going through just such a trial by fire before they become accepted. Scientific theories can be displaced by simple facts that can't be accounted for by the theory. So what is a reasonable test of a universe creating god?

Chris said...

That is a very good question!

Some would say evidence is all around us. It depends on a matter of one's perspective.

If one thing the Bible shows us (regardless if you believe in it or not, this still holds true) is that God works with people in their own way.

God worked with Abraham different than he worked with David, and on and on.

Some people "discover" God through science. Some through creative expression. Others through philosophical discussions. And still others through experience.

I would argue the ASKING of God to prove himself is not an issue - God would welcome it.

It is more the HOW.

While we may think we know how we would accept evidence of a God - God would, and does, know best.

There are few, if any Christians, that I have talked to that can't tell me AT LEAST one instance where God revealed himself to them.

Call it coincidence? Maybe, but if it happens enough times what is it then?

The Secret? LOL

I'm speaking here of more than just answered prayer, or a warm fuzzy feeling one gets at church.

These situations though, are personal, and may or may not resonate with you.

But, it really comes down to the person.

Chances are I'll never find anything...if I'm not looking for it.

Matt McCormick said...

Thanks Chris, and all. If everything is proof for God, or if the evidence is all around us and it just depends on your perspective, then what that really means is that there is no evidence for it all. That "evidence," as you call it would work equally well to prove invisible elves, Allah, Gefjun, and Paluga. "The evidence for _______ is all around us, you just have to see it from the right perspective." Insert silly view here.

Chris said...

True enough!

But that doesn't mean God doesn't exist. Even the Bible allows for other gods, but none are THE God.

Again, if you don't bother to look - you won't find.

To go deeper, however, becomes a theological debate - which I don't think is your intention.

Cornell Anthony said...

Are you seriously using John Loftus to make a point in your argument?

I could actually start off ANY argument by asking for your justification on why you think other minds exist, the past is reliable, your sense perception is reliable, or why you think the external world is real, or lastly why should I assume YOU EXIST.

That's is where the discussion all begins, that is the TRUE default position, therefore it doesn't matter whether or not one is an atheist or a Theist, BOTH have to give reasons for their views on the nature of reality.

Cornell Anthony said...

Matt says "At some point, however, we must be prepared to put the burden of rationality and sense where it belongs, on the individual who gives these outlandish gyrations in defense of their dogmatism."

As long as you realize that burden of proof isn’t a principle of logic. It’s a pragmatic principle of debate, then we are on the same page regarding this issue.

ty

planks length said...

As to any believer being required to worry about there being other faiths than his own, I do not see why that has to be a problem. After all, atheists cheerfully assert (in fact, they insist) that they themselves follow no dogma, have no official spokespersons, and are quite varied in their own beliefs. There are Ayn Randian Objectivist atheists and Marxist Communist atheists, yet both are atheists. If an atheist is untroubled by there being other forms of atheism, why on Earth should a Catholic (for instance) be intellectually troubled by the existence of, say, Hinduism? After all, what's sauce for the goose...

As for the Defeasibility Test (spoiler alert: I am a believing Catholic), I'll drop my faith like a hot potato once someone proves to me that Christ did not rise from the dead. No allegorical or "spiritual" interpretations for this Christian - it's literal Resurrection, or nothing.

And yes, I've examined carefully (and I think objectively) every argument I've been presented with against the historical reality of the Resurrection, and have yet to come across one that holds up to scrutiny. Most of them are predicated by a going-in assumption (either spoken or unspoken) that the event is impossible. Sorry, but that is classic question begging. The issue at stake here is not could it have happened, but did it.