You see it every day in politics. The current Republican primaries are a striking example. Would anyone seriously believe that it is possible to get Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders to change their mind, let alone their adhesion to their party ? Mind you, it is not impossible. I believe Trump was once a Democrat. Ronald Reagan certainly was. In the religious domain, Martin Luther, a Catholic monk and theologian, became a Protestant, Sammy Davis Jr. became a believer in Judaism, and I myself, a Catholic priest, Professor of Theology and Religious Education Director, became a militant atheist, to cite just three famous exceptions to the rule . . . But most people with strong convictions stick with them all their lives. The rare people who switch usually are impregnable to advances to “bring them back” (in this I am a typically lost cause).
Do you think that Richard Dawkins could convert Cardinal Pell to atheism, or vice-versa ?(in previous posts I have spoken of this in the context of their famous Sydney televised debate). Was I wasting my time, earlier in this Blog, arguing with the famous “Jim”, a rock-solid, traditionalist Catholic who believes not only in Miraculous Medals and Bleeding Hosts, but in the power of medieval metaphysics to prove the existence of God ? The answer, you know, is “Yes; a total waste of time.”
Recently, in browsing the Net, I came across a series of videos of Dr Ravi Zacharias. I had no idea who he is or how competent he turns out to be as a Protestant apologist. The man is likeable, of Indian origin but perfectly fluent in excellent, accent-free English, and above all a convincing, knowledgeable speaker who, without notes or theatrics or bible-thumping, defends his Christian convictions in impressive and elegant fashion. He fields questions from unbelievers and members of other religious denominations and responds to them calmly, but with a certain controled emphasis that leaves no doubt that because he claims never himself to have had doubts since his conversion to Christianity, he is highly unlikely to be shaken or to allow even the most pertinent heat-seeking objections to penetrate the brick wall that he is.
Would there be any point in a public debate, or in “Jim-jousting” on this Blog, with such a believer ? If this Blog were intended to convert totally committed non-atheists to atheism, maybe. But I know that such an objective would be as pointless as trying to convert me back to Catholicism. Dr Zacharias and I are both brick walls. He has dedicated his life to trying to win converts to Protestantism. I am dedicated, as I have so often said, to reinforcing the doubts of people I call Believers on the Brink. They have jettisoned much of the nonsense they once believed but hesitate to admit that ALL the doctrines they were taught to believe, ALL the rules they once obeyed and ALL the rituals they once performed are just as silly and equally devoid of credible foundations. If people have not already shown that they are open to doubt and to rational arguments, that they have already rejected some of the more outrageous stuff they were expected to believe and practise, I feel that we would both be wasting our time in a dialogue of the deaf and mutual assaults on fortified brick walls. I see no point in argument for argument’s sake.
In an earlier post, I spoke of NDE, Near-Death Experiences. I have found that people whose belief in God is based on what they claim was a mysterious, light-filled encounter with what they consider a divine presence, end up with a faith that is unshakeable. I can, in some measure, understand their tenacity and the impenetrability of the armour their experience has given them, because my own atheist convictions are just as unshakeable. No point in wasting their time and mine. Better that we choose vulnerable targets rather than waste our time and energy on impossible dreams and brick walls.