"Apologetics is a Blatant Form of Dishonesty"

Russ makes a pretty hard hitting point here when he wrote:

I have two brothers each of whom has a PhD in Philosophy of Religion (went pretty far down that road myself a long while back) and each also has a particular love of Christian apologetics. They see it as puzzles, riddles and conundrums; I see it a philosophical farce. Neither of them believes a word of it, because just like many swear off sausages once they've seen them made, they have seen apologetics in action and both know Christian apologetics to be a blatant form of dishonesty. It's not an honest attempt to discover truth or anything else; it's simply a "do whatever it takes to avoid having anyone know the truth" approach to persuasion. Apologetics is about defending the faith at all costs. In apologetics, truth is almost always the first casualty.

21 comments:

zilch said...

Agreed, John, and kudos to Russ for a great comment.

I'm not surprised that uncurious Creationists can maintain their faith by the simple expedient of sticking their fingers in their ears and yelling "Nyah nyah, I can't hear you", but I'm repeatedly amazed at how intelligent apologetics can weave the most magnificent tapestries to connect Scripture with the real world, and not get tangled in all the knots.

On the other hand, I shouldn't perhaps be surprised. Apologetics are, after all, just doing the same thing that Ptolemy did. He "knew" that the Earth was in the center of the Universe, and was forced to construct an elaborate system of epicycles, circles within circles, to account for the observed path of the planets across the sky.

Imagine how many circles we'd need today to account for the perturbations of Saturn's orbit caused by Jupiter, for instance! Good thing we chucked geocentrism. But Christians have not chucked the Bible, and the more they know about the world, the more they are in the position of modern geocentrists, if they insist on inerrancy, at least.

And if the Bible is not inerrant, how do we know what parts are true? Until such time as God tells me to believe in the Bible, or the Koran or whatever, I remain a happy atheist.

Darren said...
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Darren said...
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Andrew said...

Looks like just one massive generalized ad hominem against apologists.

Shygetz said...

Not an ad hominem at all. He speaks of his two brothers who are educated in the topic, asserts that, through their expertise, he has learned that the mechanism behind apologetics is not the search for truth but rather the defense of a position at all costs. I didn't see a single irrelevant personal attack in the whole comment.

Do you deny that the VAST majority of apologists put the cart before the rhetorical horse...that is, that they first define their desired conclusion (Jesus is Lord, etc.) then figure out the rhetorical gymnastics that best appear to reach that conclusion?

Darren, on the other hand, gave an excellent example of ad hominem.

GordonBlood said...

I will be the first person to admit that many Christian apologists are not terribly interested in truth as such. However to then make the absolutely polemical statement that all of Christian apologetics is devoid of a search for truth is rediculous. The truth is that all world-views, by the nature of them, have an awful lot of acrobatics involved. That is simply the position mankind is in. The question is what core reasons are behind ones committment to have to swallow some off the harder to concieve things.

thompjs said...

Why is it called Apologetics?

Sounds like "I'm apologizing for believing in something"

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Nice site, thanks for hosting it.

K. Szklenski said...

In re: thompjs:

Back when I used to go into various chatrooms and talk about atheism, I had a good line relating to why it's called apologetics. I should point out that I was just joking, but that I can't find anything more appropriate. It went a little something like this.

An apologist is one who says, "Sorry, but it's the best excuse I got. Is it wrong? Who cares! At least I sound right."

Steven Carr said...

Mark McFall gives a Christian view of apologetics

John W. Loftus said...

Darren, please observe our comment policy. This is not like the low life forum you're used to commenting on.

emodude1971 said...

GordonBlood said: The truth is that all world-views, by the nature of them, have an awful lot of acrobatics involved

Mine doesn't. What science is able to explain regarding creation of the universe, our world and ourselves is pretty amazing, and more than sufficient for me. Those things that cannot be explained, I have no issue with the answer of 'I don't know', and instead of being terrified by that answer as some people choose to be, I find it to be fascinating! I wish more people were able to handle taking a viewpoint in which they their lives do not possess importance at a galactic level.

Shygetz said...

The truth is that all world-views, by the nature of them, have an awful lot of acrobatics involved. That is simply the position mankind is in. The question is what core reasons are behind ones committment to have to swallow some off the harder to concieve things.

I disagree with your characterization that all worldviews have an awful lot of acrobatics behind them, but we can set that aside for now. Russ' point was that the core reason behind apologetics was NOT a search for truth, but rather PR for Jesus. Given that you agree with that, don't you see the whole field of apologetics as worthless as an intellectual enterprise, given that it is not concerned with truth but rather with bolstering the faith through rhetoric? I can see it being interesting from the standpoint of sharpening rhetoric (what better practice than defending an indefensible position?), but is it of any value in the search for truth?

Russ said...

Darren,
Thank you for your well-reasoned and thoughtful reply.

You remarked,

"I'm sorry that his brothers are two-faced phonies who feel they have to lie to defend whatever religion they happen to subscribe to, but it seems they would be in good company with "Doubting" John Loftus and his gang of idiots!"

In all honesty, neither of my brothers is a two-faced phony. Further, since neither subscribes to any religion - both rejected Christianity and theism of any sort after having deeply studied it for many years - they do not lie to defend it. If you knew them at all, you would enjoy their company.

Mr. Loftus may be doubting as you say, but from his background and his current writings, he appears to have arrived at his doubt honestly through rigorous intellectual striving. From my point of view he should be commended. The man was heavily invested in the trappings of Christian thought and he was able to see beyond it to a clearer view of the world, and, then - and, this is the really hard and most commendable part - he accepted what the evidence told him and updated his model of the world.



GordonBlood,
You commented,

"However to then make the absolutely polemical statement that all of Christian apologetics is devoid of a search for truth is rediculous. The truth is that all world-views, by the nature of them, have an awful lot of acrobatics involved. That is simply the position mankind is in."

If you give my statement some serious consideration, I think you'll find that it is not so ridiculous after all. Why? Christians are convinced that they have "truth," so any further searching for it is unnecessary. But, what is necessary is to shield it from attack. In order to maximize the number of people who think of Christianity as "truth," it is required that the apologist forces all seekers to see the world through the narrow field of vision allowed the Christian. It's the whole "I am the way, the truth and the light" thing going on.

Let's face it: there is no way in Hell the Bible was created by an omniscient, omnibenevolent, and omnipotent being. It was instead authored by ignorant, superstitious, and fearful people who embraced violence, vengeance, domination, and conquest as high virtues. Omniscient covers a whole lot of bases, all of them, in fact, so the credited author of the Bible could have given us some useful stuff which while not supernatural or mysterious could have at least staved off much human tragedy. Ol' Mr. Omniscient could have given us helpful hints like wash your hands before eating; pork is good tasting and good for you if you cook it well; do not make a slave of anyone; there are no demons or witches; and, don't ever do violence and then blame it on me. These would have benefitted man immensely, but what is Mr. Know-It-All credited with putting down in writing?

Punish someone for the claimed misdeeds of another, as in original sin? Kill all mankind, but eight, out of pure rage (you can bet the Sunday school lesson never includes how the loving father killed every single child on the planet while sparing crickets, rattlesnakes and naked mole rats). Punish one's own child with eternal torment for the crime of finding his own spiritual pathway. Dictate truly inhuman punishments like stoning to death and cutting off limbs for crimes that put the perpetrator on the fast track to hell anyway. Filch but a crust of bread to provide for a child, and the hand gets chopped off, and, then, for further effect, after you die, you are roasted alive forever. Consider it moral, even virtuous, to hear a voice in your head telling you to kill your own child and then actually be willing to carry it out. Worship a thing that considers righteous a man who at one point wants to turn his daughter over to a mob as a sexual plaything and who later commits incest with her. I'm fully justified in being morally outraged by the Bible. Why? We as a society know better now and we act accordingly. We have actually enacted statutes outlawing many of the punishments laid out in that book, so abhorrent for the moral corruption it has imposed on men. From our societal perspective, we reject the Bible as any kind of moral guide.

But, the apologist is not free to assess those writings from the standpoint of their relationship to the world they inhabit now or the world in which they were created. They say the Bible is truth because it says so. So the apologist is prohibited from seeking a better approximation of truth by both the lack of understanding of the world possessed by the Bible's authors as well as the apologist's own commitment to the emotional gratification gained by defending the faith beyond reason. They simply are not equipped to seek after truth.

To seek a thing is to acknowledge that one is not currently in possession of said thing. The Christian apologist's perspective being that they already possess truth, they can make no such acknowledgement.

If the apologist tries to claim for the sake of appearances that they are not in posession of the truth, they are then conceding the position held by the non-believer that the Bible was not written by an omini-anything, so belief in Christianity is ipso facto unwarranted.

If belief in Christianity is unwarranted, and I'm convinced it surely is, then Christians could divert the 100 billion dollars or so they pump into church operations each year into schools, parks, playgrounds, their own retirement accounts or a nest egg for the grandkids.

exapologist said...

Having gone down exactly the same road as Russ's brothers, I'd like to add that my conclusions mirror theirs. The "intermediate" and "advanced" level apologetics books look impressive only up until about your second year in a graduate program in Philosophy. After that, you realize that you've been had.

akakiwibear said...

It seems to me that there is always likely to be some validity in a broad general criticism of any group of people.

I don't doubt that there may be Christian apologetics that seem to have the cart before the horse.
I am all in favour of carts and horses in the correct sequence, the view helps keep things in perspective for the driver.


Equally however, this site is testimony to the same problem among some atheists - we just don't call them "atheist apologetics". Yet there is no doubt that much atheist rhetoric is simply in defence of a position once taken ... and why not?

Realistically, there are people seeking an answer, as I am - and I thank DC for helping me to the solid theist position I am developing. But equally there are some who feel they have one ... once you feel you have the answer (atheist or theist) is not all argument in its defence?

To criticise someone who is honestly defending a position they believe to be true for not being a seeker of the truth is a bit unfair - John, would your book qualify?

To criticise someone for defending a position they do not believe in - if that helps others in their quest of the "answer" ... is it a bad thing? A lack of belief in a position being defended is often evident in the quality of the defence.

Are we all to be called hypocrites for arguing both sides - or at least the other side?

One of the things that attracts me to this site is that there is often interesting and spirited argument mounted by atheists who can't possibly be stupid enough to actually believe what they say.

Sala kahle - peace

Chris said...

To All,

So when you were Christian Apologists, were you being blatantly dishonest?

If you say no, then you would conclude that your were tragically deceived, right?

If so deceived, then how can we know that you are not now tragically deceived, given your propensity to be deceived?

Just wondering.

exapologist said...

Hello Chris,

I can't speak for others, but no, I wasn't intentionally deceiving others; I sincerely believed that the arguments I was offering were good ones. But it turns out that the discipline of philosophy trains you well in constructing and evaluating evidence. And once I received such training, I was able to see that the arguments weren't very good.

GordonBlood said...

Well Russ certainly if Christianity were based on biblical inerrancy then you would be correct in dropping Christianity. First of all the flood didnt happen and most scholars who are Christian admit that flat out so I dont know what your point is there. Its equally admitted by most Christians with a decent background knowledge of their religion that the laws in the bible were not all from God (Jesus himself says as much). The Old Testament was editted by and for the people of Israel as a book of laws and recommendations for that time period. So really almost everything you have said presupposes that the bible has to be inerrant... the more I visit this blog the more I realize how obviously common inerrancy is in the US but where I live in Canada ive met very few Christians indeed who follow that doctrine. I myself certainly dont think one should just believe the bible because its in the bible, so mis-characterize all you want, it gets you nowhere. Perhaps more interesting is the fact that many people who attend secular universities and take philosophy of religion become or remain Christians. I suppose we are just suppose to assume you and your brothers are most certainly correct while everyone else is wrong.

PS- Original Sin was never believed by either Jews or early Christians, so on that point you are just wrong.

Russ said...

GordonBlood,

I'm glad Mr. Loftus shared the quote taken from another blog, but full context, of course, did not carry over. I only mentioned my brothers to emphasize why I had interest in apologetics. I did not try to use them to make it appear that anyone was wrong at all. For me it is simply interesting that the three of us have arrived at similar understandings of apologetics, though our paths to it have been quite distinct.

Concerning my errors regarding original sin, I will simply defer to your expertise and accept what you say. Perhaps others here will have more to offer in the matter.

GordonBlood, you said,
"Well Russ certainly if Christianity were based on biblical inerrancy then you would be correct in dropping Christianity."

Let me clearly state my position, and my position only, I'm not attempting to shape your mindset at all: for me, I am absolutely correct in dropping Christianity. I see no truth in Christianity outside its overlap with all of humanity. I see no reason at all to believe that the Bible has much value beyond that of historical fiction and a rich source of literary metaphor. Despite all of its Jesus-ness, the US has the highest murder rate in the developed world, the highest divorce rate, the highest rate of domestic violence and loads of other indicators of dismal societal well-being. We're all juiced up for Jesus and God, but Jesus and God are no shows. I've never seen any evidence that prayer works beyond coincidences construed as answers from on high. No hint of design in nature, intelligent, supernatural or otherwise. These are but a few of MY reasons for rejecting Christianity and embracing a complete materialist worldview.

I see - again my thoughts about me only - no hope that anything supernatural like a god will ever solve any problem for anyone. I know absolutely, barring some cosmic cataclysm leading to human extinction, that science will solve many problems facing mankind. Science even informs our morality in many ways. I see no sign that morality has any involvement with anything but us, mankind, nothing supernatural. Science will not always be used for good purposes, but as a human community we must determine how best to make it work for us. With every human praying to the same god 24/7 for some amputee to regrow a limb, we know it will never happen - ever. But, right now, science can restore a limited amount of the limb's function with a suitable prosthesis requiring only 100 percent supernatural-free human ingenuity. As I see it, much good is produced by human reason while nothing at all is or ever has been produced by gods.

Darren said...
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Wilbro said...

tjompjs,

The term "apologetics" comes from the Greek word apologia, (απολογία), which means "to speak in defense".

wilbro