Matthew, whom we know as a member of the St. Hypotheticus drinking and nerdery club, is talking with a college friend.
Simplicio: So Matt, when are you coming out atheist?
Simplicio: Come on, you don’t really believe in talking snakes.
Matthew: Look, I’m Catholic. Catholics think this a little more complicated than you seem to imagine. If you actually want to debate talking snakes, I think Joe goes to Bill and Ted’s excellent bible shack.
Simplicio: Yeah, whatever, you don’t believe in heaven either.
Matthew: That’s news to me.
Simplicio: You just need to come out to yourself, deep down you know it’s a myth!
Matthew: Excuse me, but I think when it comes to what I know, my introspection carries a tad bit more authority than your wishful thinking.
Simplicio: It’s called belief in belief. You don’t really believe in heaven, just that you do believe in heaven. But you’re mistaken, you don’t actually believe it.
Matthew: And of course if I deny that, you’ll count it as evidence of my belief in belief. Well, I can’t prove I’m not a witch, and I don’t think I should have to.
Simplicio: Ah, but in this case I can prove you’re a witch.
Matthew: Enlighten me o wise one.
Simplicio: You claim to believe people who die free from sin go directly to heaven right?
Simplicio: And you think baptism extinguishes all sins?
Simplicio: So do you support drowning children in the baptismal pool?
Simplicio: See, but if you actually believed it was sending them directly to heaven, why wouldn’t you support it?
Matthew: Yeah, how obvious. You caught me, my faith is a sham.
Simplicio: You’re only getting sarcastic because you can’t answer the question.
Matthew: Oh sorry, I had thought it rhetorical. Well, my answer is, I’m not a consequentialist, so that just doesn’t follow.
Simplicio: Ah, fine, but suppose someone else drowned the kid in the baptismal pool, would you feel happy for that child?
Simplicio: There you have it.
Matthew: So suppose the child was rich. Would you feel happy for the heirs?
Simplicio: Probably not. OK, so let’s take morals out of it completely. The child drowns in the baptismal pool by accident. Will you be happy now?
Matthew: Not really. Heaven is that child’s ultimate purpose, but not his only one. Many of his other purposes got frustrated.
Simplicio: Hey you sexist pig, I never said it’s a boy!
Matthew: Her purposes then. I need to use some pronoun.
Simplicio: You could use gender-neutral pronouns.
Matthew: Yes, if I was trying to signal green-haired socialist genderqueer collective individualism. I could also saw off my hand with a rusty knife.
Simplicio: A fight for another day. Anyway, that frustrated purposes stuff is just meaningless theobabble.
Matthew: I don’t think so. If I remember right, you think life is ultimately for happiness right? So why not drug the water supply? That would make loads of people happy.
Simplicio: They wouldn’t really be happy! It would be an illusion!
Matthew: So it’s a new drug that makes their brain look exactly like a genuinely happy brain.
Simplicio: Well actually it’s not just happiness I value. The way to happiness is important too.
Matthew: Exactly. And it’s not just salvation I value. The way to salvation is important too.
Simplicio: But that’s different!
Simplicio: If the child grows up, xe may turn out evil and go to hell.
Matthew: So will you support drowning her?
Simplicio: No, but I don’t believe in an afterlife, so it’s not my problem.
Matthew: It is. What if she turns out evil and tortures a dozen people to death?
Simplicio: Then it’ll be the torturing that’s bad, not that xe lived.
Matthew: Likewise, it will be the damnation that’s bad, not the life.
[Update: This dialogue got continued a week later]