It does make me wonder about the relationship between argument and religion. I have talked about the mutual admiration society where people just reinforce each other other and make each other more and more certain they are right and everyone else is just a bit off. There is a bunch of that happening. But then there is the argument between two people of opposing views. What is the point there? I am wondering if the goal should be to convince and win converts. There are some people who are argued into religion or argued out of it but that is rare. I am not sure that is a good thing when it does happen. I don't think God intended anyone to be coerced into Christianity. He didn't give us the evidence to be able to do it in general. We can if have a weak opponent but should we?
It became clear to me when I tried arguing from history or from sociology that evidence can quite easily be viewed multiple ways. I can look and see the hand of God plain as day. An atheist can look and see nothing remarkable. It ends up being a choice. That is how God wants it. He wants us to freely choose for Him or against Him. He does not want to force Himself on anyone.
So what is the role of argument? Argument, if it is done right, won't really produce converts by the force of logic. What it will do is clarify things. It will clear away all the grand claims and dig down to the most basic assumptions. What is the foundation of the Catholic world and life view and what is the foundation of the atheist world and life view? At that point we won't be able to say one is logical and one is illogical. They will both be valid choices. In the final analysis it won't be logic but beauty that makes Catholicism more attractive.
In the end the materialist world is possible but it is something the human heart will have trouble embracing. A world where love is mere brain chemistry. A world where nobility and greatness are illusions that gave us survival advantages at some point in our development. A world where Hitler can't be considered better or worse than Gandhi in any absolute sense. They just are. If you can strip away everything from atheism that has no foundation within the atheist worldview and make clear exactly what is being proposed then you can expose it's ugliness. You won't be able to disprove it. Some will still hold fast to it based on that alone.
Conversely the Catholic world view is not provable. Not in the absolute sense that someone who denies it will feel they are being irrational. But you can clarify it. You can clear away a lot of the mud that is thrown at it. You can correct the distortions. You can explain the alleged problems. If you do it right you will expose the true faith. People will be able to see the real beauty of the church if they are willing to look. For many, one good look and they are hooked. But that is precisely why many won't look. They feel themselves being sucked in. It is always a choice.
So what changes when you are arguing with a protestant rather than an atheist? Not much. The ugly bits of protestantism are different then the ugly bits of atheism. But they hide the ugliness in similar ways. They both borrow from Catholicism without admitting they are doing it. Atheist love to bring in morals and meaning. Protestants love to bring in the bible and Christian tradition. Things that seem obvious but they can't get them from their own belief system. They need to import them. Once you strip away the imports and you deal with naked atheism or naked protestantism then you have done all you can with logic. Then it is a matter of the Holy Spirit leading their heart to choose beauty.
There were moments like that with CD Host. Where after a few questions he was saying some things that were downright scary. An example:
in real life goods compete with one another and wrongs compete with one another. We often have to do wrongs to avoid greater wrongs. Even if I were convinced the fetus were human and the mother wanted to have the child you could still potentially justify abortion based on the energy argument. If a society needed to use infanticide to avoid massive famine and plague they would be doing the right thing, even though I have no problem considering infanticide a wrong.Could this be right? Logically there is nothing impossible about it. But it means absolutely everything and anything is justifiable in pursuit of the "greatest good." How is that defined? It really isn't. The closest I got was:
This is why frankly I find Christian morality not "too hard" as you keep accusing me of but quite often destructive and evil. It starts with the assumption that moral goods are coordinated rather than understanding that in real situations moral goods are often in conflict and the moral thing to do is weigh between them and decide what is the best outcome. Achieving the greatest good for the greatest number often means doing a thing that in isolation would be wrong.
Stevenson , "Emotive Meaning of Ethical Terms" is a classic philosophical book that defines morality as purely a class of emotional reactions.So you have emotions (or something similar to them) being used to define the greater good. Then the greater good is used to justify anything that would in isolation be wrong. Anything ... to anyone ... on any scale ... without limit. At some point a person might see that this if this is the real world it is a pretty ugly. It is a choice.