I live in a small village in the British countryside. Not much happens. Anything vaguely interesting would be the talk of the town. So I want to give you an example. Imagine that I’m walking down the street, and one of my local friends comes up to me and says that he saw this horse earlier that day, just a few roads away, running wildly up and down, frightening children and pensioners alike. I become concerned, but hey, I’ve got a life to live. I walk on.
An hour later I decide to end my walk by getting some lunch in the village. I run into another group of friends, (I’m a popular guy in my imagination it seems), who tell me they’ve heard there were two or three horses running around the village earlier, wild and free. I shrug, but keep my ears attentive for the sound of hooves just in case.
I finally get to the sandwich shop towards which I’ve been slowly meandering, and settle down to a tuna panini. The cheese and fish medley melts deliciously into my hungry mouth. I eat contentedly for a while and settle down to reading this popular new book my university lecturer recommended. A couple of hours later, just as I’m leaving, I hear a group to the left of me saying that apparently there was a whole herd of horses surging through the village earlier. My forehead wrinkles. One guy said there was one horse. Then I met a group which said there were a few horses, and now I’m hearing that there was a whole herd of horses?
What should I do with this information? The reports clearly conflict and it’s difficult to tell which one is correct. I could try and investigate further, assuming that there’s some essence of truth, which has maybe become distorted through people mishearing or exaggerating the number of horses as the hours went on.
But after reading that great atheism book at lunch, I decide that there was no horse, everyone in my village is crazy, and that I really need to move out of this town.
Makes sense right?
The present article has been reproduced from the End of Atheism website. End of Atheism is a direct response to the New Atheist movement that began with Sam Harris’ book ‘End of Faith.’ You can find more material here: www.endofatheism.com