Right, so after yesterday I actually took this further on Webster’s blog. And to cut a long story short, I decided to reverse my position, read his book when it comes out, and thoroughly critique it.
I admit my goat was got to start with. Possibly the guy’s superciliousness on the subject of the acceptance of death, a topic dear to my heart, is what did it. And certainly I thought his ‘punch you hard’ rhetoric was offensive and uncalled-for. But you know what? I take back what I said yesterday about him being an unworthy opponent. Even if he was rude, I for once was also — and he didn’t rise to it. On that thread I see signs of something I have literally never experienced on the web before: an atheist who is able to listen and respond.
Some of you know I did my time in the web skeptic-proponent trenches. I came away, with no offence intended, realising that most skeptics are simply cartoons. They have no point to make at all. But this guy is different. Don’t get me wrong — underneath it all is doubtless some degree of cartoon skepticism and an ostrich approach to unwelcome data. I’m expecting that. But the thing is, he didn’t have to approve my comments, and he did. Not only that, he showed suspicious signs of actually reading them carefully, all the way to the end. He also pointed out that Dawkins atheists have been upset with him. These are signs of someone with a position different from the normal one.
Even that post I was commenting on — it’s not the work of a cartoon skeptic merely accusing afterlife believers of not understanding the facts of life. However egregious his attempt to settle NDE arguments by appeal to a single Scientific American article (*sigh*), the point he chose to end on shows that his real tack is about a kitsch refusal to deal with the existential implications of mortality. That is hardly your common skeptic fare.
And finally, once or twice, he made me think, gladly. That is, he actually had a point I cared about that was not a cheap shot. I realise now that was all I ever really wanted from the debates.
So yes, he may be a worthy opponent. That’s why, when his book comes out in a fortnight, I’m going to read it and critique it thoroughly. It won’t take long and I anticipate no necessity for research. But for the first time in a long time, I actually give a damn what an atheist has to say. This is a guy who knows a bit about religion and spirituality, and who knows how to think. He also claims to be trying to make others think and is not wholly unfamiliar with his subject. I want to see if I can make him think. Only a little! I don’t expect miracles.
So book your seats now for the debate of the new millennium ladies and gents! The Porphyry v. Anebo of our time! (Yeah right…) ;)
EDIT: Professor Webster hit “like” for this post less than 5 mins after posting. See? He is classy. ^_^
FURTHER EDIT: Weird — I thought the book wasn’t out yet but today Amazon says it’s available. Still it may be a week or two until I get around to it.