Friday, September 13, 2013

Just In Case Some Of You Haven't Noticed Yet: Theologians Don't Play Fair

Here are just a few of a countless number of instances:

I think maybe every single one of my comments on Nathan Schneider's non-mind-blowing essay 10 Proofs That Will Change How You Think About God on Huffington Post Religion may have been removed, because of "violations of our guidelines," ie because some holy roller has achieved Community Moderator status. A time-honored Christian approach to inconvenient criticism is to pretend it never existed.

From Aristotle's prime mover to the "endgueltigem Beweis Gottes" Schneider says Hegel was working on at the time of his death -- perhaps it's very good for Hegel's rep that he died when he did -- Schneider's 10-point stroll through thousands of years of Western philosophy resembles a walk through a minefield which the perambulator survives, in that not one of the many bombs of skepticism in Western philosophy was set off by the merest hint of a mention. If one's only source of info about Western philosophy has been Huffington Post Religion -- and I fear that it is some people's only source, and that many have only seen Western philosophy through similarly-filtered lenses -- then one definitely could get the impression that philosophy and theology are synonymous to a great extent.

In any case, the assumption that they are in harmony seems to be very widespread among both theists and atheists. The former love to trot out their favorite quotes from Augustine and Aquinas, they often assume that Spinoza and Einstein were on their side. The atheists generally dispute the subject of Einstein's religious view much too much -- his religious views are unclear, that's about all there is to say about it -- and the case of Spinoza not nearly enough. If they have looked at all at the actual words of Spinoza, they immediately notice all the theological-looking phrases, up to and including the 2nd word in the title of Tractatus Theologico-Politicus,
and often they discard Spinoza long before they have begun to suspect that what looked at first glance like theology could have been camouflage for atheist arguments in the 17th century when plain spoken atheism was not allowed. (The same may also have been true for Descartes, whom Spinoza regarded as the greatest of his immediate predecessors in philosophy, although to assume atheism in Descartes' case is a bit more of a stretch. But even a century after Spinoza, even the plainly-atheist Hume never actually said in so many plain words that he doubted the existence of God.) Just as I myself discarded Spinoza after my first contact with him, and only returned because Nietzsche praises him so often and so highly.

But of course the theists (especially those tedious 21st-century pantheists) cite Spinoza as if he had been perfectly free to say plainly and literally whatever it was that he really thought about the idea of God.

Among other absurdities which theists present with maddening smug stupidity as fact, such as that Biblical literalism was invented in 19th-century America, that fundies have much more in common with atheists than with them, the religious moderates, the truly enlightened, and that the "conflict thesis" has been thoroughly refuted and discredited among historians (How many people who have not read much more theology than is good for anyone have ever even heard of the "conflict thesis"?) is this version of the Western philosophy absent its religious skepticism. Democritus, Lucretius, Seneca (Seneca was an idiot but even a blind pig finds an acorn now and then), Boethius, Machiavelli, Spinoza, Hobbes, Hume, Feuerbach, Marx, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche. Even worse than behaving as if all of these people had never existed, the theists, the theologians often go one disgusting shameless step further and cherry-pick them for quotations to take out of context and make these thinkers seem quite different than the critics of religion (/spirituality, po-TAY-to/po-TAH-to) which they were, just as they cherry-pick Augustine and Aquinas to make them look tolerant and urbane and not like the bloodthirsty Bible-thumpers they were. If you want to learn about the integrity and reliability of a philosopher or theologian, read an entire book by someone they've quoted, and compare the impression you've gotten from that entire book with the impression you got from the citation.


  1. It's just like the George Zimmerman case:

    It's easier to jump to an idea that aligns you with similar minded people, than it is to actually analyze and interpret the facts yourself- even though facts are almost exclusively relative to perspective-which is almost always persuaded by your social alignment.

    This is the inherent issue with religions and any type of perspective altering affiliation which you choose to align yourself with. The cause for perpetuating improper socialization is tied into two main actualities of people:

    1. One of human nature's greatest necessities is to be connected with other people.

    2. Were also inherently very lazy; the path of least resistance is found extensively throughout the world in all forms of science. Making cognitive connections is not omitted from this fundamental principle.

    Both of these qualifiers are met by allowing social groups to dictate your perspective. Not only does it allow you to connect with similar minded people, but the perspective it often affords you, essentially gives you permission to avoid any real investigations into the issues at present, while nurturing your own insecurities on the subject. Whether it be the George Zimmerman case, quoting out of context bible quotes, or even justifying genocides.

    1. An interesting comment, but I have no idea what you're driving at here. Are you agreeing with me and going into more detail about why theologians distort things? Are you on the theologians' side, and accusing me of being guilty of the faults I find in theologians (or worse)? Do you feel yourself to be above my dispute with theology, taking neither its side nor mine? None of the above?