Friday, May 18, 2012

Don't Play Their Game

A reader whose handle is Anri inspired this post. Commenting on this blog post by Deacon Duncan at Free Thought Blogs, Anri described the typical response of a Christian apologist who'd been driven into a logical corner thusly:

“You atheists are just being Rude! And Nasty! And Militant! And you’re going to hell and I’ll pray for you and god loves you and shut up, that’s why!”

Very nicely done, Anri! But the thing is, apart from the tone, from the point of view of content, that pretty well sums up all Christian theology. The blustering directness comes when Christian theologians feel their arguments being threatened, but that is the whole substance of their arguments. Or should I say the whole lack of substance. Except for that produced during those long periods when atheism was so effectively suppressed that the theologians could act as if it didn't exist. Then the theology was either simpler still, or, as the case might be, depending on geography, some other term for the Other was substituted for "atheists," such as "Saracens" or "natives."

Of course, no one is better at making verbal stone soup than a theologian, whose job it is to take nonsense and dress it up, and since they've been doing it for thousands of years it should come as no surprise that they've gotten pretty good at it, and every year Christian theologians get millions of words out of “You [...] are just being rude! And nasty! And militant! And you’re going to Hell and I’ll pray for you and God loves you and shut up, that’s why!” That doesn't mean that we have to follow them into every absurd corner of their work in order to refute them. Indeed, if we do follow them around every turn of their labyrinths, I fear we may actually be aiding them in their work, which is taking a worldview which is simple, simplistic, primitive and crude as can be, and dressing it up and convincing people that it is complex and deep and subtle. Answering their detailed absurdities in detail may be showing too much courtesy to them and not enough respect to ourselves and to anyone else possessed of common sense.

Mark Twain said, "Faith is believing what you know ain't so." Or rather, he put those words into the mouth of a schoolboy, underscoring the point that this matter is simple. There are legitimate academic disciplines which are truly complex and difficult, such as physics and biology and history. And then, paralleling and aping the actual disciplines, is the pseudo-discipline of theology, the study of That Which is Not, where the practitioners not only can make things up as they go, they must. Where logic and consequence are not just expendable, they must be constantly fought. For over a thousand years in the West this pseudo-discipline, this anti-discipline was able to force all others to acknowledge it as the supreme discipline. Still today it is able to pose as a discipline.

But we don't have to co-operate. We don't have to pretend anymore that theology is a real academic discipline, as substantial as physics, let alone more substantial. It's never been more substantial than "Shut up, that's why!" and "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!" and we don't have to pretend any more that it's ever been any deeper than that.

PS, January 21, 2013: Whose game is this, really?

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