Plantinga is Grossly Monumentally Massively Wrong

Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga defends exclusivism by arguing that it “need not involve either epistemic or moral failure, and that furthermore something like it is wholly unavoidable, given our human condition.” He tells us there are three alternatives to religious diversity, (1) to continue believing, (2) to withhold belief, or (3) to deny one’s belief. Against (2) withholding belief, he argues “there is no safe haven here, no way to avoid risk. In particular, you won't reach safe haven by trying to take the same attitude towards all the historically available patterns of belief and withholding: for in so doing you adopt a particular pattern of belief and withholding, one incompatible with some adopted by others. You pays your money and you takes your choice, realizing that you, like anyone else, can be desperately wrong. But what else can you do? You don't really have an alternative.” Against (3) denying one’s belief, he argues this “is not a way out.” For “if I do this I will then be in the very same condition as I am now.” For he will be denying propositions that others believe in and will no more be able to convince them they are wrong than if he didn’t do this. So he opines that the charge of intellectual arrogance “against exclusivism is hoist with his own petard,” for it is “self-referentially inconsistent.”

Given religious diversity the proper attitude, the adult attitude, is doubt. At the minimum it means withholding belief. At most it means denying belief. There is a huge difference between assenting to a belief and doubting it, just as there is between assenting to a belief and denying it. There are just too many ways to be wrong. So there is no epistemic parity between belief and doubt (or rejection) at all. Doubting (or rejecting) a belief is easy. We all do it all of the time. The hard part is to set forth a positive case for one particular belief out of the myriad number of them available. For Plantinga to say doubt (or denial) is “self-referentially inconsistent” is grossly monumentally massively wrongheaded. The person doing the doubting or denying something simply says there isn’t enough evidence to positively assent to that belief. And people all over the world do this with respect to the other faiths they reject. How is that “self-referentially inconsistent”? Is Plantinga’s denial of all other religions also “self-referentially inconsistent”? People cannot have a “self-referentially inconsistent” belief until they believe in something. The way he uses the word “belief” is akin to claiming that a historian who argues we do not know what happened at Custer’s Last Stand has a belief about what happened, i.e., that we do not know what happened at Custer’s Last Stand. Does that make any sense, that a historian who says “I don’t know what happened at Custer’s Last Stand” is saying “I know what happened at Custer’s Last Stand”? If such a conclusion is to be considered a belief then Plantinga is equivocating on the meaning of the word. For then the word “belief” is equivalent to the word “doubt.” Can we say Plantinga doubts Christianity? Can it be said that as a non-believer I believe in Christianity? Does it even make sense to say this about the relationship of Plantinga to Christianity, or me to Christianity? Hardly.