John: I have never denied that upbringing has any influence. I suppose my upbringing might have provided a set of initial priors. But when I consider the question of the Resurrection of Christ today, I have to consider all the waterboarding, as Bob would say, all the critical reflection that has taken place since that time. I became a philosophy major because if there were reasons to reject Christianity, I wanted to hear them sooner rather than later. During my time as a philosophy major, where I encountered Hume's essay on miracles for the first time, and wrote two papers on it. During my time in seminary, I not only encounter more skepticism about the Bible than I had ever encountered before, but also got to know Keith Parsons when we lived in the same house. My career graduate student was in highly secularized philosophy departments, where I was part of a Christian minority. There was one known believer in the 18-man University of Illinois philosophy faculty. I spent did my dissertation work under a teacher who grilled my arguments incessantly, and while he didn't officially state his own views on religion, certain did not come across as a believer.
Add to that the style of questioning that I consistently engaged in. Coming from the logic-dominated world of chess I was highly resistant to any appeal to blind faith. I've always had trouble with doctrines like biblical inerrancy and papal infallibility.
So I've got a lot feeding into my priors besides my upbringing. Do you deny that?
So, by the time I get to 2010, and I start reflecting on the question of the Resurrection, there is a lot of learning and questioning that has gone on since my upbringing occurred, so if someone says "Well, your priors just come from your upbringing," what that seems to me to be doing is to just ignore or denigrate all the questioning and learning I might have done since. When you imply that none of the thinking and learning I did over a 39-year period has anything to do with why I believe what I believe, that's what makes me irate. If that isn't what you're saying, then you need to be clearer.
Many people come to beliefs which differ sharply from the way they were raised. Bob Prokop and I had a friend, Joe Sheffer, who had no religious upbringing, converted to Protestant Christianity in college, and later joined the Catholic Church. So much for the overwhelming power of upbringing. If upbringing is so powerful, what happened to you?
It would be easy to pick on non-rational factors from your personal story and explain your nonbelief in terms of those things. Your Christian opponents have done it many times. And you don't like it, since it ignores your actual arguments.
There are many reasons that I could give for why I have priors that leave me open to the possibility of a miraculous explanation for the founding of Christianity. One that I have devoted considerable energy to is Lewis's argument from reason. If the physical is causally closed, then of course there can't be any miracles, but I maintain the if the physical is causally closed, then no scientist, mathematician, or philosopher has ever performed a rational inference. I have never seen you deal with that argument in any serious way, but it is very relevant. To give a full account of why I believe what I do would take at least a whole new book, and maybe I will write it.
If we critically reflect on our beliefs, if we consider the views of our opponents, if we take the raft of beliefs that we started with and add planks that are shown to be needed by the evidence and discard those that are shown to be faulty by the evidence, we have done all we can do to discover the truth. I'm not a Cartesian foundationalist. That doesn't mean that bias can't hide from us. Just saying "follow science" doesn't help us much. These questions are not purely scientific questions, nor can they be. Sure, science gives us information that is relevant to these matters, and that has to be considered. But does science really help to answer the question as to whether or not the universe exists contingently, and therefore must depend on something else for its existence? Well may be it does--it seems to be telling us these days that the universe began to exist. But I'm afraid metaphysics, and metaphysical questions (questions that go beyond physics) will be with us always.