John Loftus wrote: What would proof look like to an outsider?
I have already said what would convince me Christianity is true.
Now YOU be reasonable. What would proof look like for you to reject your adopted faith due to the accidents of birth? I was reasonable in that link. Be reasonable with us.
I don't think accident of birth carries a whole lot of weight here. I'm a Bayesian subjectivist: we come into our thinking lives with a set of antecedent probabilities, and we adjust them as the evidence allows.
It is an accident of birth that I grew up in a Methodist family, but it is equally an accident of history (unless God was in on it), that I encountered good, strong, defenders of Christianity who took the relation of faith and intellect seriously, who took my questions with the utmost seriousness, and showed a kind of intellectual integrity that I thought was often lacking in the sort of glib unbelief I encountered in the academic community.
If my reading of Bertrand Russell had not convinced me of the value of free thought (though maybe not quite as he defined it), how would my thoughts be different today? If Russell had made more of an effort to understand the Christian beliefs he attacked, how would my beliefs be different today? If Craig Bustrin from my home church in Phoenix had not introduced me to the writings of C. S. Lewis, how would my beliefs be different today? If Bob Prokop (an occasional commentator here) and the late Joe Sheffer had not talked me through my period of disaffection as an undergraduate with Campus-Crusade style literalism while remaining a profoundly orthodox Christian, how would my beliefs be different today? If Keith Parsons had not moved in to the same house with me when I was in seminary and challenged me from a skeptical standpoint, how would by beliefs be different today? I don't know, and neither do you.
Your own experience with Christianity and with Christian thinkers was different from mine, but it is just as laden with historical accident as mine was.
I am trying to counter a simplistic picture in which believers all believe "on faith" (even if they have apologetic pretensions) and unbelievers, quite rationally, are waiting for PROOF which is not forthcoming. I would like to substitute a different picture for this one, one in which we enter with intellectual predispositions which we cannot fully avoid, but which we can and must modify in response to the evidence. It's called critical rationalism, and it is to be contrasted with fideism and strong rationalism.
In the original post I was responding to people who make heavy weather out of the fact that religious believers don't have PROOF for their position, by asking what proof would look like if we had it.
At the same time, changes in belief are cumulative, and big paradigm shifts need big evidential shifts in a various areas of thought. That is just how life is when we think. If you read the life of serious converts and de-converts, you don't find ONE BIG THING that PROVES Christianity, or atheism, or what have you. It's always a lot of things.
But this involved accuracy of the thing makes it very difficult to do what I now have to do, to describe this accumulation of truth. It is very hard for a man to defend anything of which he is entirely convinced. It is comparatively easy when he is only partially convinced. He is partially convinced because he has found this or that proof of the thing, and he can expound it. But a man is not really convinced of a philosophic theory when he finds that something proves it. He is only really convinced when he finds that everything proves it. And the more converging reasons he finds pointing to this conviction, the more bewildered he is if asked suddenly to sum them up. Thus, if one asked an ordinary intelligent man, on the spur of the moment, "Why do you prefer civilization to savagery?" he would look wildly round at object after object, and would only be able to answer vaguely, "Why, there is that bookcase . . . and the coals in the coal-scuttle . . . and pianos . . . and policemen." The whole case for civilization is that the case for it is complex. It has done so many things. But that very multiplicity of proof which ought to make reply overwhelming makes reply impossible.