Often in discussions, the strategy of choice isn't to elevate your point, but to bring the other person's point down. For example, in the comment section of this post, Mike D challenges what he alleges is my "classical foundationalism" on the ground that it is itself inadequate. Foundationalism itself, he argues, isn't basic or axiomatic. There's no obvious reason to take a foundationalist approach so it fails its own standards. I can agree with this to a certain extent. I'm not a strict foundationalist, and I've felt a considerable degree of safe harbor in a lot of pragmatist material that Evan has passed on to me. I'm pragmatically an empiricist and a rationalist, so I'll agree to the reservations that Mike D shares. So where does this leave us? Certainly without a proof God! Simply with a disproof of an argument for a lack of proof of God. Which if I've kept this all straight in my head is still a lack of proof of God. My claim was that we have no reason to claim knowledge of any revealed religion. We are not justified by any standard of knowledge to make those sorts of claims. If we eliminate all standards of knowledge that claim of mine still stands, doesn't it? Indeed, it stands even more firmly!
It seems to me this is all very similar to (although not quite the same as) a skeptic's "brain in a vat" argument... or for the kiddies, one might say that we're "plugged into the Matrix". We can't trust our reason and our observation - they could both be fooling us. So where does this leave us? Well, as I said before it still leaves us with no firm knowledge of revealed religion, but I at least have a pretty good basis for knowledge of the Matrix, right (at least a pragmatically viable basis)? If this is all just a dream world at least it is a dream world I can make claims about. Where does it leave a believer? Still without knowledge of revealed religion, still authorizing himself to believe what he believes, but now with an accusation that all I really know is the Matrix... ok, but at least I know something that I work and operate in on a daily basis. The initial question - the question of our knowledge of God - is still exactly where we left it.
I'm a big fan of Christopher Hitchens. Some of the work of his I'm least attracted to, though, is his work on atheism. It's not very sophisticated, it can be unnecessarily aggressive, and it's largely dependent on metaphors and analogies (sometimes I feel like I'm going to puke if I hear him use the phrase "celestial North Korea" again). But there are a few things about his approach to religion that I like, one of which is his persistent refrain that "even if we grant X, then all your work is still ahead of you". He often raises this with things like the cosmological argument that we brought up earlier in the comments. He explains why he thinks it's unconvincing, but then says that even if he were to be convinced "all your work is still ahead of you" in making that knowledge useful from the perspective of revealed religion. Who is this shell of a God you've just demonstrated with this medieval logical display? How can we fill him out? What is his character? Is he even still here or did he pass from reality long ago? What does he think of us? What is his name? Even the answers to these questions (which I have no idea how one might answer) won't get you much farther than a vague Abrahamic tradition, if that. If we allow absolutely everything that Evan, Mike D, and Christopher Lake have insisted on - every sui generis epistemological get out of jail free card - we still get to a modest deism at best. That's not revealed religion! "All your work is still ahead of you," guys! And again - this is my fundamental point. We cannot know revealed religion. We authorize ourselves to believe it. And I can't stress enough that this is not some outrageous statement that I'm making. It's what (in my mind) the best positioned and most firmly founded revealed religion on the menu (Protestantism) claims for itself clearly and emphatically. Sola fide might be epistemologically inadequate, but at least it's honest and consistent.
This speaks to Evan's point too about valid and non-valid religious axioms. Perhaps assuming the authority of the Old and New Testament specifically is a bit of a stretch, he says, but we can axiomatically identify "scripture" as "a text that is spiritually authored and inerrant" (or whatever else you want to attach to the definition). The same can be said of God - perhaps we can't axiomatically claim anything specific about God, but we can definitionally identify God. This is no different from "all bachelor's are unmarried". Every man on Earth could be married and that would still be a valid axiom. So I'm perfectly willing to axiomatically define God and scripture in this way, and accept those axioms. But again, "all your work is still ahead of you". We still don't know if such things exist even though we've defined them. And even if we knew they existed "all your work is still ahead of you" because once again you only have a modest deism. Where is the knowledge of revealed religion? We still don't have it. We're still authorizing ourselves to believe these various and sundry claims that are mixed and matched by various people across the face of the Earth.
I think people are so busy poking holes in what I've said about epistemology (which is completely valid - I'm no philosopher), that they haven't realized that their case is still left unmade. And that was really my point from the beginning - that there is no case to make. The authority for these beliefs comes from one place - from ourselves. Just be honest about it.