John, "You Need to Deal With the Heavy Weights"

Here's an email I received and my response:
Dr. Loftus, Thanks for your honesty in becoming an atheist. However, I notice that your blog has nothing to say on the works of John Milbank:The Monstrosity of Christ (MIT Press), Theology and Social Theory (Blackwell Press)…; David Bentley Hart: Atheist Delusions (Yale Univ. Press), The Beauty of the Infinite; William Desmond: God and the Between; plus any work by Jean Luc Marion, Jean Louis Chretien or even major atheists such as Slavoj Zizek and Alain Badiou. You need to deal with the heavy weights and try to get debates with them. Please say goodbye to attacking fundamentalism—it only encourages them. The more you do so the more it becomes apparent that you may not have the training—or even the aptitude—to hang with some of the world’s most learned men. Christians need better atheists, so please work on trying to penetrate serious thinkers. Try, for instance, to get a debate with John Milbank, like Slavoj Zizek did—or, maybe even David Bentley Hart who has been waiting some time for a substantial atheist to come along. Thank you for your time and consideration. -Trevor
Hi, thanks for your note.

In my opinion there are no heavy weights for Christianity just as there are no heavy weights for Scientology or Islam or Orthodox Judaism or Hinduism. It's all improbable to the core and I see no reason why one religious myth's scholar is any better than another.

I did deal with John F. Haught at one time, and he responded to me here.

And I wrote a few brief posts about Liberal Theology right here.

My specific target audience is conservative "Bible believing" fundamentalist evangelicals. In order to do an effective job of debunking religion one must specialize, you see. So I do. Since I know the most about Christianity I focus on that. And even that's not specialized enough. The Christian religion is too large to take aim at because no matter what I write there will always be Catholics, Protestants, Evangelicals, or liberals who will come along and claim I'm not saying anything against REAL or TRUE Christianity--their version of it.

My goal is a negative one. I aim to push evangelicals off dead center so they will have to start thinking for themselves rather than proof-texting from an ancient canonized set of barbaric and superstitious writings. While I do point Christians in the direction of atheism I leave it to others to take up where I left off. Keep in mind that I'm not ignorant about liberal versions of Christianity. I was once a liberal myself after leaving evangelicalism then drifted toward agnosticism and ended up being an atheist.

Cheers,
John W. Loftus

91 comments:

Steven Carr said...

Can anybody read David Bentley-Hart's work and make any sense of it?

Papalinton said...

I've been undertaking some serious discussion on one of David Hart's articles over at First Things for the last couple months. It's still on the go over there, running to some hundreds of pages of comments.
The address is below:

http://www.firstthings.com/article/2010/04/believe-it-or-not

Cheers

Wes Widner said...

"In my opinion there are no heavy weights for Christianity just as there are no heavy weights for Scientology or Islam or Orthodox Judaism or Hinduism."

That is a highly arrogant statement. Actually, it makes me think the writer's comments are valid and carry weight since you are apparently taking the Dawkinesque stance of only dealing with experts as a way to dodge Dr William Lane Craig except that you take it a step further and claim there are no experts at all. Incredible!

John W. Loftus said...

Wes, care to tell me who isn't an expert? I deal with Ph.D's all of the time. How am I to judge between them?

And when have I dodged Dr. Craig? Hell, I want to debate him, and I may edit a book dealing with his apologetics in the future.

Tyro said...

The same old retort that gets brought up all the time, for all outspoken atheists. If John deals with liberal puffery then he'll be rightly accused of being ivory tower and irrelevant; if he deals with religion as it's actually practised and believed then he's accused of attacking lightweights. There are hundreds of Christianities and everyone is sure that their version is the "right" one, apparently even atheist critics think they know which Christianity is right!

I'm no where near as well read as John but I've read some of the vocal theistic defenders like Karen Armstrong who is always going on about "sophisticated" theology. It's vacuous twaddle, all smoke and misdirection when it comes to saying what she actually believes except when she attacks secular critics when she becomes very clear that they are very wrong.

Much more interesting & productive to talk to real people and deal with their beliefs rather than these professional obscurantists.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Well said John.

Wes it is incumbant on those claiming a basis of knowledge in revealed truth to demonstrate its probable reliability. You can't just devise more technical arguments based on the same superstition and claim its basis is real. If Christianity didn't appeal to epistemic dominance and demand total agreement as truth then I think the prometers might have more weight. Until it is imbued with that humility it will lack intellectual substance and simply be a set of superstitious assertions.

mindyourmind said...

We must also bear in mind that the "virus" is in the evangelical variety. Once that goes the liberal puffery (I like that) will die all by itself from lack of forward motion.

Strategically there is NO advantage to get into any significant debate with those fringe elements, other than some misdirected and completely useless intellectual interest.

All these "heavyweights" bring are books that waffle on about some whispy god and end in quotes from the Buddha (I'm looking at you, Karen).

Larian LeQuella said...

I would say that the only reason those blowhards are "heavy weights" is that they have a larger supply of BS to sling...

And Wes, exactly what is arrogant about saying it's ALL BS? I find YOUR comment the more arrogant by projecting/asserting your motivations to the author.

Lvka said...

So you're basically running a family-business here... just you and yours. No non-Evangelical outsiders... every joke is an inside joke... solely meant for the elect and select few to taste and understand...

GearHedEd said...

Lvka,

sounds like you're describing Christianity...

mindyourmind said...

"So you're basically running a family-business here... just you and yours. No non-Evangelical outsiders... every joke is an inside joke... solely meant for the elect and select few to taste and understand..."

We are clearly talking about the site's primary focus here, not exclusive, cast-in-stone rules. That is best left for the theistic mindset.

But you know that, dontcha?

Hendy said...

@Lvka:

Several of your posts involve inviting others to come down to Jerusalem and witness the descent of the holy light or the Jordan reversing flow.

Without reading a wikipedia article about these phenomena I would never have had a clue what you were talking about. Does your Christian variety have it's own little set of inside 'jokes' that others aren't privy to?

I don't see an issue with tackling one major variant of commonly practiced Christianity. Should kids learn every way to write every letter of the printed and cursive alphabets as they grow? Like a 'regular' 7 and the one with the line through it, the 4 that's open at the top and the one with a triangle? The different letter a's?

Perhaps, though I think they just teach one major form, perhaps reference some others, and move on. Later in life when you're reading your first book or see your first 1 or 7 written by a German, you go, 'Huh. Didn't know people wrote them like that.' Then you adopt it or move on with the old way.

Anyway, perhaps you disagree with this analogy but I think to apply this line of thinking (pry out all the fringe possibilities of every subject area from under the woodwork for analysis) is not used in every day life and therefore shouldn't be a source of hounding John for ignoring some kind of universal rule.

Now, if these gentlemen are simply worthy scholars and present some good arguments... that's another issue. I think that's what Trevor at least got at and I can respect that suggestion. Why take on silly issues and weak arguments if there are 'big dogs' out there to wrestle with? Agreed.

But don't piggy back a reasonable request with some type of inside-joke-emotional-blackmail technique.

Hendy said...

P.S. I'm not saying that John has taken on weak arguments and ignored 'big dogs', I'm just saying that the suggestion to do so is reasonable.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Hendy,

I'm shocked. All 4's should be closed (see my typed 4 above) and any 7 with a line through it is simply un-American and wrong.

I really believe sex with animals would be the natural consequence of such numerical liberality.

Hendy said...

Hmmm. Just googled Milbank to see what came up. Found a Christian's analysis of one of the works of this 'Theological Heavy Weight' (LINK).

It's quite interesting that he points out that after 433 pages, Milbank has said nothing much about god at all... only discussed what a wonderful world a 'Christian' society or would make. Note that the blogger doesn't think Milbank even defines Christianity or 'the Church' which he so often references in the book...

No, I have not read the book and don't want to judge it based on one blog about it. It is interesting to read this guy's thoughts after reading the book, however.

Lastly, the book perhaps doesn't have much of apologetic aim anyway (based on reading the Amazon summary)? Maybe it's just trying to show that religious community could benefit the world in practice? Not sure. If that's the major aim, though, why put John up to 'dealing' with this work of Milbank?

Showing that society could function better if it were one big Christian family would do nothing to prove it's truth to me. This is one reason why I think a good portion of Hitchens v. D'Souza debates are absolutely pointless. How many more times do we need to really try and figure out if Stalin or Mao were killing in the name of communism or atheism? Who cares?!? Humans do good and some do horrible things.

What they do says nothing of the truth of their beliefs. I could kill anyone who disagreed with the Pythagorean theorem, but it wouldn't make it wrong.

Tyro said...

As Denning pointed out, it seems that many Christians appear to not believe in God at all but merely believe that it is good to believe in God. "Belief in belief" he called it and the more sophisticated the believer, the more likely you are to find this woolly-headed approach. Maybe it seems less plebian to some but to me saying more about less is not a mark of sophistication.

Tyro said...

Duh, that should be Dennett not Denning!

Chuck O'Connor said...

I'd kill someone if they put a line through my 7.

Joe Staub said...

"My goal is a negative one..."

How sad. And, you do come across as an angry man, so this is not only your vision, but your fruit. Like attracts like. You'll get what you give, John.

Hendy said...

@Joe:

You quote mine and disregard the entire point of the rest of the paragraph. How sad.

Essentially John is evangelizing for atheism. Negative in this case simply means challenging positive beliefs (ones putting forth propositions). He says nothing of 'negative' being equivalent to 'angry' in this post. What you get from other posts is up to you.

Rewrite his paragraph with the goal of 'pushing atheists off their center of gravity to consider the origins of consciousness, how something can come from nothing, and the origins/basis for morality (among others)' and you have a Christian evangelism summary.

I'm in the midst of a faith-questioning and resolved when I started to evangelize for which ever resolve I came to. How could I not? How could anyone, convinced of truth, not want to convince others of this same truth?

I've been attracted to this site and am not angry. I may be a little isolated and frustrated, but the majority of my life is packed with laughter... mostly because of the jokes I make and the laughter I bring to it. I mean that. It's the believers around me who are so sad (and even angry) about my pursuit of truth.

Papalinton said...

@ Hendy
I feel rather sad for the faitheists. It must be difficult defending a worldview that is indefensible and built on a paucity of substantiated evidence. Really, when you look at the overall picture of human research activity, theism is largely peripheral; it has no standing in science, it has no role to play in technology, it has nothing of substance to offer in advances in the medical sciences, its role in anthropology is only as an interesting feature of behaviour [one of so many] as a zoologist would observe behaviour in a zoo, it offers nothing to the study of economics except they are able to utilise its framework to take money from the gullible in the [false] hope of securing a ticket straight to the pearly gates.

Each time a new book on theism comes out it is ostensibly based on a a retake of an old book in theology, which in turn is a take on a previous old book on theology, in an infinite regress. How many times can an old story be told and retold and retold? It seems there are no lessons to be learned from the mistakes of the past as a consequence of theology.

Cheers

cdawgpreacher said...

If there is no God: When a Christian dies he turns into dirt after living a wonderful life with purpose. When an athiest dies he turns into dirt after living a life that had no purpose.
If there is a God: When a Christian dies he spends eternity in Heaven. When an athiest dies he spends eternity in Hell. Why put your soul in danger when you do not have to? God desires all to come to Him (Matthew 11:28-30; 1 Timothy 2:4)He has prepared a place for the faithful, you can be prepared for that place (John 14:1-6).

Papalinton said...

cdawgpreacher
Hi
I recall Horus and Osiris from Egyptian theism saying almost the exact same thing. Amazing! It seems news travelled faster than we imagine between Egypt and Palestine in ancient times, so Matthew, Timothy and John must have been in the loop.

I'm wondering, cdawg, whether you've heard of Pascal's Wager?

Cdawg, I was asleep for an eternity before I was born, and after a beautiful life full of wonder and joy [and grandkids], I will resume my peaceful sleep for eternity. Pretty comforting, isn't it?

Cheers

Hendy said...

@cdawgprecher:

I've never understood why believers seem to think that atheists live for no purpose. Can you expound on this a little more?

God or no god, I have one life to live. It's the one I wake up to everyday. It's my 'purpose' to seek self-improvement, care for my wife and daughter, earn my 8 hours of pay (often with 9 hours of work), be honest, etc.

I could go on, but you get the point. You would probably state that your 'purpose' is to get to heaven and bring as many souls as possible. Yet what does this look like in the flesh? What tangible items will you show god at the end of your days? I imagine it will look identical to my list. Feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, rescue the oppressed, etc. Right?

Regardless of whether evolved altruism or heaven lies behind our lists, they will be identical except for belief in this being.

When I began to doubt my faith and decided to research it I believed two things whole heartedly:

1) God would not be mad at me for seeking the truth

2) If god is the author of all truth, I would have no choice but to return to him

Now that I'm 6 months into this endeavor and finding no reason to believe... a third truth has emerged that I truly believe:

3) If there is a loving god, he will judge me by my actions and not my beliefs.

Faith without works is dead. If I'm caring for the 'least of his' I'm supposedly caring for him. How can you prophesy hell for me?

P.S. You reformulate Pascal's wager and in doing so I'd like to remind you that for it to be effective you must first establish the veracity of your particular god over all the others, for in religious forums across the world, believers in other traditions are blogging you into a cell in hell as well.

Joe Staub said...

Christianity is a positive message. It's all about making life better by emphasizing salvation from condemnation of sin as well as salvation from the effects of sin. It's all about healing, bettering and increasing life. Sincere Christians are intentional about helping people overcome the effects of a harsh world. The message is not about condemnation, but salvation. If God wanted to condemn us then why not just do it and forget the forgiveness thing. While human beings all behave badly, the results generally speak for themselves. Some time read James Kennedy's, "If Christ Had Not Been Born", in consideration of the positive effects of Christianity. Look, I have plenty to be angry about, as a Christian and former minister was has seen it all. I have been mad as hell at Christians and the church in general. But, the truth is, a lot of the crap that got dealt to me was the result of my own making and the rest I have to chalk up to human nature. I know lot's of good atheists and John is a good guy, as far as I can tell, but probably pretty hurt and pissed off like a lot of us Christians. He's real disappointed in the church, as am I am. But, Christianity is where it's at if you want to promote great values, help people, and find forgiveness, which we need, whether you admit it or not. Furthermore, the message is truly unique in its promotion of grace and forgiveness. You won't find it in any other world religion. You can fight this thing all you want, but 2000 years of progress says you won't win. The message is too powerful. The atheist message is not new and you have nothing positive to offer, as far as I can tell. As far as I can see, it's a message of death and humans are looking for life. Personally, I don't think science and reason essentially destroy Christianity, but neither do I think it can lead one to faith. The message speaks to the better angels of our nature and we want that, in spite of the way we muck it up.

Gandolf said...

Hendy said..."@cdawgprecher:

I've never understood why believers seem to think that atheists live for no purpose. Can you expound on this a little more?"

------------------------------

Hendy i dont see you getting through to cdawgprecher, his thoughts seem sealed in blind faith.A cursed type cancer.

In cdawgprecher`s mind those folks who died in the Jim Jones cult ..Had no wonder or purpose in this life,that their families still love and now still dearly miss them ...Means little to cdawgprecher

Neither does children still being killed in Africa accused as witches today.Their life on this earth,supposedly had no wonder or purpose to it.

cdawgprecher simply stomps! and spits!, pisses! and shits!, on the bloodshed and graves! of so very many ,who all suffered and had their earthly lives wasted ...Due to faith cancer.

Because he wishes to "gamble" with earthly lives, and use Pascal wager in hope of securing his eternal salvation.

Hendy gamblers dont often care anything much about those who they make suffer for their bad habits.They are most usually selfish types.

Most often it goes in one ear,and straight out the otherside.

Gandolf said...

Papalinton said...
I've been undertaking some serious discussion on one of David Hart's articles over at First Things for the last couple months. It's still on the go over there, running to some hundreds of pages of comments.
The address is below:

http://www.firstthings.com/article/2010/04/believe-it-or-not

Cheers

-----------------------------

Howdy Papalinton.

It seemed to me like the person writing that blog must think that worldwide most people are highly educated folks ,who need mega scholarly books and whatnot to "confuse" them into either belief or disbelief.

Who does he think the majority target folk should be ,only the highly educated folk ...Does he really think if a book aint looking scholarly to his standard ,then it simply aint good for anyone?.

Man im sure folks could write car repair manuals for the real scholarly too ,but how the hell does that help your average Joe Blogs repair his car ?.

Scholars can write stuff that might make almost anything seem possible.

Crikey .. if a scholars also a great book writer, he might even manage to write a good enough book, that might actually manage to convince a number of folks that just maybe the Trekka was actually the best truck that was ever built http://www.trekka.co.nz/

But personally i would still see it as being much more about,use of superior indoctrination methods.

Robert the Skeptic said...

@cdawgpreacher

When you obtain your authority by quoting the "Bible", you might as well be quoting from "Harry Potter" or any of millions of other fictional works written by MAN!

Before you get too excited about going heaven, better check out this article: Heaven: A fool's paradise

mindyourmind said...

Next in our series of fun posts - "Heavyweights, you need to deal with John Loftus!!"

John W. Loftus said...

I've been busy lately but mindyourmind, that gave me a smile this morning. Thanks!

Morrison said...

Here is the underlying flaw in atheism:

It is not falsifiable.

You say, of course it is. Just show god exists.

But thats the flaw: given your Presupposition that all existence, life, and mind itself is ultimately based in chance (which can not be demonstrated but which you claim in your book) then there is NO PROOF, even in principle, that you would accept.

Whatever happens, you can say chance is responsible, aliens did it, its a conspiracy, a forgery, whatever.

Repeat, there is NO PROOF, even a resurrection, that you would accept because of your undemonstrable presuppositions.

That is going to be the new challenge atheists will have to face.

Papalinton said...

Hi Gandolf

You say, ..."Scholars can write stuff that might make almost anything seem possible."

Papalinton
You are right on the money. And they try this sophisticated writing all the time to pretend they are doing something truly scholastic. But the bottom line is, it doesn't matter how they try to dress it up, it is still about an appeal to the same
old mythical, supernatural [which really means 'unnatural'] being; mutton dressed as lamb.

You also say,
..."But personally i would still see it as being much more about, use of superior indoctrination methods."

Papalinton
And I couldn't agree with you more. There were any number of commenters over there that pretty much said what you say, that David Hart used such flowery language to mask the same 'ole' story that theists have been trotting out for centuries. You can only flog a dead horse for so long before someone actually begins to challenge your view. And that's what atheists, agnostics and humanists are now doing right across the web, challenging the religious minded to 'put up or ____ __'.

Cheers

Papalinton said...

Morrison
Hi

One does not have to prove a negative.
One should ASSUME a negative.

Equally, an atheist is not a person who knows too little about religion. An atheist is a person who knows too much about religion. Just ask John? Ask Dan Barker. Ask Bart Erhman.
I think you get my meaning.

Cheers

Chuck O'Connor said...

Morrison,

Falsifiability is a determinant to the probable truth of positive claims not the negative response to such claims.

You prove yourself to be ignorant of the term and then your presumption that all atheists are methodological naturalists is a strawman so you are both ignorant and illogical.

You don't know what atheism is of the theory of falsification and by your description of evolution you also don't know what biology is and does.

I don't think your type of thick-skulled cognitively biased view of things will really be a challenge to any thinking grown ups at all.

Hendy said...

@Joe:

Thanks for the response. I would agree with you that Christians can be wonderful people. I believe that you would be making quite the mistake, however, to state that atheism offers no positive message. The message of being able to stand on solid facts of existence rather than probabilities of a very possibly non-existent being was positive enough to have me engrossed in a pursuit of knowledge for the last six months.

Why don't you define 'positive' for us and I'll let you know if I think atheism can offer it. Like I wrote to cdawgpreacher, I think the tangible lists of 'the good' that each camp would make would be strikingly similar.

Take away intangibles like grace and salvation and you have altruism, plain and simple.

The effect that the phenomenon of Christianity has had on the world does nothing to help it's truth claims.

Oh, and why did god not condemn us and just forget the whole forgiveness thing? Two answers:

1) Perhaps it's because he does not exist and therefore has no wrath to dish out to us who have simply not been convinced by Christianity

2) Actually, it seems that Jesus thought he would have made some final judgments by now 'while some there listening to him were still alive.' What happened to that?

Hendy said...

@Morrison:

In some ways I would agree, but also side with Papalinton in that that whole issue is going to be decided based on what the de facto stance should be. Belief or disbelief?

Typically this is where 'the burden of proof' being assigned to those making positive truth claims comes in. It is generally agreed that those trying to prove something need to bring forth evidence to cause me to believe in it.

Also, those in the negative (disbelieving) camp have plenty of questions they can ask about what a world would look like were there an all powerful, all knowing, all loving god in existence.

For me, I have found no satisfying answers to:
- why belief is so geographical when god is not limited geographically
- why the haves and have nots are divided geographically. Bart Ehrman points out that to say grace and attribute all that we have to god essentially incriminates him for his neglect of most of the rest of the world.
- how 'the fall' or anything like it happened given that we evolved
- why their is evil in this world?
- why god promised to give us what we ask for and even if those are good things asked for unselfishly there are still a myriad of theological ponderings as to why he doesn't come through
- on, and on, and on

With respect to what is 'convincing', I think we all have our thresholds of belief. You state this fact as if it's the atheists flaw because we are not convinced of your beliefs.

Why am I left not believing? You talk at us as though it's pure choice. How do you figure? My ability to believe in Christianity is the same as your ability to on-the-spot convert to Islam right now. Is it possible? Surely you would agree that it could happen, right? Yet imagine yourself doing it right this instant. Can you even fathom being convinced of Islam's truth right now? If you 'chose' to believe right now, would you even really define it as 'belief'?

And so it is with me. I could possibly 'choose' to be a Christian right now... but it wouldn't mean anything at all, just as it wouldn't mean anything for you to declare yourself a Muslim today. You wouldn't believe in a shiny Koran in the sky and Mohammad flying on a donkey to Jerusalem and back... just as I don't believe in the truth of the fall and that Jesus rose from the dead.

Lastly, you should take this question up with god. I have. I really have. I've asked why I'm left not believing when all my close friends just do. Why did I start asking all of these questions? Moreso, if he's god, why is he letting me flounder around with this huge question about him with a non-obvious answer and not helping? I've prayed many, many nights, 'Jesus, how can I know you?', 'Jesus, where are you?', 'Jesus, if you exist I want to believe in you.' I've let a friend wash my feet and pray over me with his wife while they sang praise and worship music. Do you think that was easy for me? It was extremely uncomfortable, but I let it happen in the spirit of 'being open.' So far, nada.

A good post on this is HERE

Lastly, I'd like to point out that your response to an atheists evidence for god's non-likely-existence would be dismissed by you as well. We might posit 'chance', as you suggest. You would posit divine hiddenness, morally sufficient reasons (though unknown), or eyewitness testimony typically differing in minor details, etc.

Russ said...

Joe Staub,
You said,

Christianity is a positive message.

Joe, isn't it the case that everyone embedded in an ideology takes its tenets to be positive in nature. Political conservatives and liberals each fancy their thoughts to be inherently positive. In the same way, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Christians, Jains, Buddhists, and Confucianists find their traditions, rituals and practices of their ideologies to be of a postive nature.

Still over half of all Christians, in the ghastly shape of Roman Catholicism, support the priestly defilement of children. Words to the contrary by the faithful are meaningless since they continue to pour financial support into the maw of the wholly morally corrupt Roman Catholic Church. Money from the faithful keeps the Pope and all other clergy comfortable. It pays for relocating pedophile priests. Quite literally, it pays henchmen to attack victimized children and their families. Sadly, most of the parents of raped children are so morally impaired by the Roman Catholic Church they can no longer protect their children and others by withdrawing financial support and walking away.

Words count for nothing when children everywhere are intentionally put in harm's way by psychologically maimed parents and the vast body of Roman Catholicism which continually seeks to provide more rape victims for their clergy. Words denoting a positive message are empty, stupid and inane when the implicit message born out in their de facto Rape Theology contradicts them. The behavioral message of Roman Catholic Christianity comes through loud and clear.

When one's thoughts are overloaded by the "positive message" of the Roman Catholic Christian rape and gangrape of children; when the institutionally sanctioned rape of children fatigues; then, one can turn to the Roman Catholic Christian complicity in the deaths of millions of African people and the associated destruction of their communities and homelands. Is this, too, part of that "positive message" of Christianity? Again, the behavioral message of Roman Catholic Christianity comes through loud and clear.

When Roman Catholic Christianity has overtaxed our tolerance, we could turn to dozens of other similarly disgusting varieties of Christianity. Christian Scientists allow hundreds of their adherents to die every year from easily treated afflictions. This version of Christianity also differentially adverserly affects Christianity's traditional easy prey, the children. Can you imagine what it's like to die from an ear infection? Or a urinary tract infection? Or septicemia from a kitten's scratch? An eight year old girl recently died from a vaginal yeast infection left untreated. Positive message?

Then you could go back to Africa where COGIC and other Pentecostalists are murdering and maiming children, their own and other's, as they attempt to follow the Bible's eternal death sentence on witches. Is a postive Christian message communicated by driving a railroad spike into your child's head or staking them to the ground and driving your vehicle over them?

At what point can we stop pretending that there is a positive message inherent in any of the Christianities? In safe secure communities and societies where secular controls keep Christianity in check, we can imagine whatever we please about anything. We can say, for instance, "Christianity is a positive message," but the behaviors of Christians show words to be of no use in determining just how grisly Christianities will become when they go feral.

Russ said...

Joe Staub,

It's all about making life better by emphasizing salvation from condemnation of sin as well as salvation from the effects of sin. It's all about healing, bettering and increasing life. Sincere Christians are intentional about helping people overcome the effects of a harsh world. The message is not about condemnation, but salvation. If God wanted to condemn us then why not just do it and forget the forgiveness thing.

Observably, this is not true.

You said,

While human beings all behave badly, the results generally speak for themselves. Some time read James Kennedy's, "If Christ Had Not Been Born", in consideration of the positive effects of Christianity.

What Christianity concludes are it's own positive effects are also observed as postive affects in a great many other social groups. Christians have nothing special and show no differentially better life outcomes than non-Christians.


Look, I have plenty to be angry about, as a Christian and former minister was has seen it all. I have been mad as hell at Christians and the church in general. But, the truth is, a lot of the crap that got dealt to me was the result of my own making and the rest I have to chalk up to human nature.

Human nature and natural processes in general. Observably, gods do not solve problems.

Joe, if you lack the expertise to alter a framing plan, gods are not going to help. You can attribute solutions to gods all you like, but in the absence of discipline-specific knowledge, you have no answer. Gods are doing nothing for you or any other Christian or non.



I know lot's of good atheists and John is a good guy, as far as I can tell, but probably pretty hurt and pissed off like a lot of us Christians. He's real disappointed in the church, as am I am. But, Christianity is where it's at if you want to promote great values, help people, and find forgiveness, which we need, whether you admit it or not.

Look around the world, Joe. See that people everywhere have great values. Most people the world over are naturally kind, generous, caring, loving and thoughtful. Christianity observably disrupts our natural tendencies to virtue. Christianity is not needed for any virtue to brightly shine, except, of course, one's that are specific to the Christianities. The most generous people on the planet, individually and as societies, are the majority atheist countries of Scandanavia. Their goodness highlights the uselessness of the idea that gods are somehow needed for people to be good.



Furthermore, the message is truly unique in its promotion of grace and forgiveness. You won't find it in any other world religion. You can fight this thing all you want, but 2000 years of progress says you won't win.

Christianity has never made any progress, ever.


The message is too powerful. The atheist message is not new and you have nothing positive to offer, as far as I can tell. As far as I can see, it's a message of death and humans are looking for life.

Tell that to the millions who die every year due to the negligence committed by Christian "aid" workers.

Russ said...


Personally, I don't think science and reason essentially destroy Christianity, but neither do I think it can lead one to faith. The message speaks to the better angels of our nature and we want that, in spite of the way we muck it up.

Like a good religionist you blame yourself, and that is sad indeed. We're humans evolved to deal with the physical and social environments we inhabit.

For many of us -- millions -- science does destroy Christianity simply because Christianity assessed with the better tools of science and reason is shown to be flat-out wrong if the Bible is the point of literal reference, and, also flat-out wrong when Christian claims of answered prayers, miracles, and other wishful thinking about benefits Christians receive that others do not are compared against the real world and the rest of humanity which lives there.

Joe, if Christianity worked, we would see it.

Nathan said...

Hendy said:

I'm in the midst of a faith-questioning and resolved when I started to evangelize for which ever resolve I came to. How could I not? How could anyone, convinced of truth, not want to convince others of this same truth?


Because it's a thankless and mostly hopeless task. Most theists are happy in their delusions. Even if your arguments are convincing to them, theists will return to the 'self-authenticating testimony of the Holy Bullshit'. Or, they will immediately move the discussion to epistomology (who are 'we' to 'know' something). Or they will invoke an 'Enemy' to explain the gaps. Or ... or ... or ... or ... or just about anything other than address the core issue and confront the weaknesses of theism.

Hopeless, thankless, endless drudgery. And you want to take that on? You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din, and please don't let me discourage you.

Hendy said...

@Nathan:

Thanks for the post! Ha! Though perhaps let me clarify... I'm not talking street evangelization here. I more just wanted to be as sure as I possibly could about the supernatural nature of the world. I was no longer satisfied believing something that made me embarrassed to bring up, especially since bringing it up to convince was what I was supposed to do. I loved it for myself but never had positive evidence to convince others and so I just stayed in my 'in group' and 'evangelized' those who were already Christians, for at that point all you need to do is promote 'living the life of Christ to the fullest' or something like that rather than intellectually convincing them.

One is far easier than the other and I have a feeling this is what embodies a great majority of 'evangelization' today: find marginal Christians or tribal peoples and get them in your church with emotionally captivating methods.


@Russ:

One interesting note since you mentioned Africa... I have a friend who's wife is a nurse and worked in Tanzania for about 6mos. My wife and I had dinner with them for the first time after her return and she told us many stories:
- men constantly commanded her to come into the bushes and have sex with them
- females were circumcised immediately after the first child birth and accepted this practice because it is the custom
- it is thought to be the goal to keep every woman constantly pregnant
- orgies occur at funerals because of an obsession with the cycles of life and death and a somewhat 'mystical' understanding of them

In shock of all of this I asked what religion they were. She responded: mostly Catholic and Muslim. I couldn't believe it. I asked how they did such things being Christians and she said that for them, they profess Christianity but culture has priority. It doesn't resonate that Christianity trumps anything having to do with their cultural history and practices.

Quite interesting and I just thought I'd add that with respect to Christianity's positive influence. Perhaps it's more a function of society and the religious beliefs are incidental? Probably not that simple, but I don't think there's a direct correlation between societal flourishing and belief, either.

See THIS STUDY for one confirmation of this.

Quote: "In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion in the prosperous democracies (Figures 1-9). The most theistic prosperous democracy, the U.S., is exceptional, but not in the manner Franklin predicted. The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developed democracies, sometimes spectacularly so, and almost always scores poorly. The view of the U.S. as a “shining city on the hill” to the rest of the world is falsified when it comes to basic measures of societal health."

Chuck O'Connor said...

John,

If you do start dealing with the heavyweights then I'd suggest starting with John Hagee because he is a fat ass.

Wesley said...

Joe said "I don't think science and reason . . . can lead one to faith". Spot on Joe, science and reason leads one in the opposite direction of faith . . .

GearHedEd said...

Joe Staub said,

"...Sincere Christians are intentional about helping people overcome the effects of a harsh world."

"L'enfer est plein de bonnes volontés et désirs"

Nathan said...

Morrison was kind enough to say:
Here is the underlying flaw in atheism:

It is not falsifiable.


Really? I would suggest you look here, at Ebonmuse's Guide to Converting Atheists.
http://www.ebonmusings.org/atheism/theistguide.html
I would find most of the items on his list convincing as well (I'm still pondering the one about the aliens ... it would make one wonder, I do admit).

I hope you find that as interesting as I did!

Russ said...

What in the hell does it mean for someone to be a heavyweight in theology where bouts are decided by opinion, which is the only deciding blow? Theology is a pathetic human endeavor detached from anything holding them to account. Theology is make up city. Dream it and it's yours. Theology is totally in a realm by itself and completely unrelated to the world as we know it. It is an imaginarium. A place, totally a product of the creativity, where reality recedes into the background, into the shadows lurking behind the background. In theology wishes occupy the fore and unjustifiably become the reality one wants to live out.

This might be fine in solo. But, we all inhabit a world shared by others who must be taken into account when completing the calculus. Whoever we are, most of those who are not us, do not see the world as we do. But, still, we are required to accommodate their views. However much we would choose to do so, we cannot go it alone. Others help us to round out a clearer vision of reality. Science shows us that our own views are tainted with bias, thus, while we insist that what we know be the correct way, the true way to see the world, we know that we do not see truth.

Through religious perspectives on the world -- observably -- we fail to find a correct perspective. Everyone's perspective on religion is correct; it's personal. There are no mistakes, at least by their understanding, but, then, there is nothing correct either. Truth has an obligation to be in concert with reality. Religion is obliged in no similar fashion.

If the heavyweights were leaning to truth, we would be able to envision their point of convergence. No such point exists. The heavyweights head off along their own distinct vectors while their followers, unaware of the existence of others contrary, prance along behind, mouthing words having semantics foreign to them. They don't know what they're talking about.

Ryan Anderson said...

Russ said "What in the hell does it mean for someone to be a heavyweight in theology where bouts are decided by opinion, which is the only deciding blow?"

Same as being an heavyweight in Star Trek Trivia.

Lvka said...

The only problem with John's kind of approach is that non-Fundamentalism does not equal atheism. (Pretty much for the same reason that like non-helicopters don't equal whales).

Lvka said...

Several of your posts involve inviting others to come down to Jerusalem


John's recent abuse of the "see-no-miracles,-hear-no-miracles" mantra was slowly getting on my nerves, and my patience is not unlimited.

Eric said...

Russ on theology:

"Theology is a pathetic human endeavor detached from anything holding them to account. Theology is make up city. Dream it and it's yours."

David Bentley Hart on theology:

"Now, as it happens, theology is actually a pitilessly demanding discipline concerning an immense, profoundly sophisticated legacy of hermeneutics, dialectics, and logic; it deals in minute detail with a vast variety of concrete historical data; over the centuries, it has incubated speculative systems of extraordinary rigor and intricacy, many of whose questions and methods continue to inform contemporary philosophy; and it does, when all is said and done, constitute the single intellectual, moral, spiritual, and cultural tradition uniting the classical, medieval, and early modern worlds. Even if one entirely avoids considering what metaphysical content one should attach to the word “God,” one can still plausibly argue that theology is no more lacking in a substantial field of inquiry than are history, philosophy, the study of literature, or any of the other genuinely respectable university disciplines.

"Moreover, theology requires far greater scholarly range. The properly trained Christian theologian should be a proficient linguist, with a mastery of several ancient and modern tongues, should have formation in the subtleties of the whole Christian dogmatic tradition, should possess a considerable knowledge of the liturgies, texts, and arguments produced in every period of the Church, should be a good historian, should have a thorough philosophical training, should possess considerable knowledge of the fine arts, should have an intelligent interest in such areas as law or economics, and so on. This is not to say that one cannot practice theology without all these attainments, but such an education remains the scholarly ideal of the guild."

Papalinton said...

@ Eric

You quote: "Moreover, theology requires far greater scholarly range. The properly trained Christian theologian should be a proficient linguist, with a mastery of several ancient and modern tongues, should have formation in the subtleties of the whole Christian dogmatic tradition, should possess a considerable knowledge of the liturgies, texts, and arguments produced in every period of the Church, should be a good historian, should have a thorough philosophical training, should possess considerable knowledge of the fine arts, should have an intelligent interest in such areas as law or economics, and so on. This is not to say that one cannot practice theology without all these attainments, but such an education remains the scholarly ideal of the guild."


Papalinton:
Augustine of Hippo defined the Latin equivalent, theologia, as "reasoning or discussion concerning the Deity".

Richard Hooker defined "theology" in English as "the science of things divine".

Once you invoke 'deities, 'things divine', theology becomes as Russ rightly declares: " It is an imaginarium."

Incidentally, Dr Bart Erhman has all these qualifications. I would say he is a pretty competent theological scholar.

Cheers

Eric said...

"Once you invoke 'deities, 'things divine', theology becomes as Russ rightly declares: " It is an imaginarium."

Papalinton, define "imaginarium," and explain to me clearly what you take the implications of defining theology in this way are.

It seems to me as if the purpose of this vague neologism is to preempt serious discussion about the nature of theology as a discipline.

For example, does it mean that anything goes when reasoning about God because God doesn't exist? This clearly doesn't follow: Shakespeare's Hamlet is a fictional character, yet a ton of very serious scholarship has been written about him in which it's patently not the case that anything goes, since literary, historical, anthropological, philosophical, psychological and linguistic norms constrain our "imaginations."

Or take mathematics: if you're a nominalist (and in my experience many, if not most, atheists are nominalists), then mathematical objects don't exist, yet we reason very rigorously about them.

N.B. All I'm saying is that even if it's true that God doesn't exist -- that is, even if I grant your premise -- your conclusion about the nature of theology (it's an 'imaginarium' in which anything goes) doesn't follow.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Hamlet can be played bound by Shakespeare's Five acts. It is not detrmined by culture or politics. It is what it is. Mathmatics is bound by proofs. God is whatever wishful thinkers within a given culture would like him, her, it to be. Once again Eric you behave like a teenaged boy looking to earn his Daddy's respect. Reminds me of another imaginary character, Happy Loman.

Eric said...

"Hamlet can be played bound by Shakespeare's Five acts. It is not detrmined by culture or politics. It is what it is."

Chuck, you haven't read a word of the scholarship on Hamlet, have you? Compare Johnson's analysis of the play with Freudian or Structuralist or Feminist or Marxian or Deconstructive analyses of it, and then tell me that "it is what it is."

"Once again Eric you behave like a teenaged boy looking to earn his Daddy's respect."

No, Chuck, once again you've spoken confidently about a subject you obviously know nothing about.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Oh and Eric chooses to proof-text a man whose philosophy is shaped by the early church fathers to argue for theology. That to me seems to be the intellectual equivalent of quoting a spiritualist defending the veracity of Tarot.

It is an empty argument that indicates Eric's ability to hero worship those that agree with him so he might feel like he is right and act as if he is the smartest kid in school.

Graduate Eric before you comment on a blog interested in real world concerns.

Hendy said...

@Lvka:

I've already responded in depth to your invitation to Jerusalem for the descent of the holy light and the reversal of the river... though I can't find the post to link to it.

My response:

- The descent of the holy light involves patting down a priest (to prove he doesn't have matches), having him enter a room completely by himself and emerging with a lit candle. How in the world is that considered a miracle? If you don't think someone could get a strike anywhere match or lighter (or much more) in somewhere by carrying it in between their butt cheeks (or elsewhere) you don't understand the principle of pre-prison intake strip searching.
--- Proof request: let me enter the room with the priest, supply my own candles, and video tape the entire event.

- Jordan reversing flow.
--- Proof request: let me do the dead man float in the river every every day one week before Jan 19th, on Jan 19th, and after Jan 19th. Better yet, just let me plop a bouy in the water with a flow sensor to track the current for an entire year.

- For either of these: please fill out the application for the James Randi Education Foundation's $1,000,000 challenge and let them devise their own methods of verifying these claims. If they are indeed miracles, you will have made whatever church in Jerusalem responsible for channeling divine power to candles and a river $1MM richer to do god's work. Even more so, they will be absolutely famous as no one has ever succeeded in winning a JREF award. This goes back to when it was like $10,000 and that was a ton of money so essentially a long time.

Repost back when any of the above is allowed and I'll be on my way to Jerusalem.

As far as I'm concerned, you have 1) a magic trick that's not even good since the audience isn't allowed to watch and 2) a misunderstood natural phenomenon or optical illusion... or a group-think succumbing like the 'dancing of the sun' at Medjugorje or Fatima where a solar filtered camera was in place to verify that nothing was, in fact, happening with the sun.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric

I hold a Bachelor's degree in comparative literature where I earned a scholarly commendation in Shakespearean studies from Regent's College London England. I also hold a BA in theatre, am a former member of Actor's Equity Association, The Screen Actor's Guild, and the American Fereation of Television and Radio Actors. I have had 3 plays produced by professional theatre companies and have won regional and national writing awards. I currently study at Chicago Dramatists Theatre where the first act of my new play was selected to be showcased in May and I also had a full length singled out for official selection by Performance Network Theatre in Ann Arbor. I also know that Hamlet has five OBSERVABLE and set acts which allow for multiple interpretation. God is neither observable or set and in my professional theatre estimation does not resemble Hamlet at all.

Chuck O'Connor said...
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Chuck O'Connor said...
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Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric I will agree with you on one thing however, religion and the bible are aspects of the human psychology to invent ritualized fictions to feel connected and safe (much like the dramatic arts). The difference however is that a well-made play makes no pretensions through sophistry to assert ultimate moral knowledge like your "holy, catholic, and apostolic" superstition.

Eric said...

"I hold a Bachelor's degree in comparative literature where I earned a scholarly commendation in Shakespearean studies from Regent's College London England."

Then how could you have written something as demonstrably ignorant of literary criticism as the following: "Hamlet can be played bound by Shakespeare's Five acts. It is not detrmined by culture or politics. It is what it is."

Had you never heard of Srtucturalism, or Poststructuralism? About Marxian and Freudian interpretations of texts? About Queer and Feminist readings? About Deconstruction and Postcolonialism? About classic critiques (such as that of Johnson)? "Culture and politics" are at the heart of some of these theoretical approaches to texts, and are implied by others. As for the obvious implications of your remarks vis-a-vis your purported background, I'll let others draw them out as they will.

Tyro said...

God does resemble Shakespeare's Hamlet in some respects - you can get advanced degrees in studying the text, the characters and the beliefs people have about the characters but if you talk about the reality underlying the text, you will be talking out your ass.

Even (or especially) the fathiests and liberal theologians do this - talk about "God" when they really mean "beliefs about God". Every one of Karen Armstrong's books and Wright's blancmange "The Evolution of God" are prominent examples but this happens a lot. I've no idea if these people are genuinely confused about the difference or if they have such a strong belief in belief that this is all that matters to them. And unfortunately many Universities have been suckered into this same failing, bestowing degrees in theology to people when the whole subject is a sham. At best they're scholars in ancient literature, at worst they're professional navel gazers.

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Eric said...

Chuck, I don't think I need to say anything further on this subject; your comments speak for themselves. I am surprised they made it through comment moderation, though, given the generally high standards of this blog.

Papalinton said...

Hi Eric
Imaginarium? I invoke it as pure persiflage, Eric, and of the light-hearted variety. In respect of the contemporary study of theology as a discipline it is presently racked with internal inconsistency and confusion within academia. Much of the current debate in universities and institutes of higher learning is whether theology requires a pre-commitment of faith by its practitioners, and whether such a commitment conflicts with academic freedom.

So the question must be whether such an area of study can stand on its own robust foundation of veridical knowledge and as a discipline, be able to meet head-on, genuine and challenging critique, or whether the mythical, supernatural nature of theology precludes it as a veritable discipline. Perhaps it ought to be subsumed within the general ambit of history, as an historical overview of the range of human expression promulgating varying perspectives of worldviews matching contemporaneous society and their changes over time.

You say, ...”[f]or example, does it mean that anything goes when reasoning about God because God doesn't exist? This clearly doesn't follow: Shakespeare's Hamlet is a fictional character, yet a ton of very serious scholarship has been written about him in which it's patently not the case that anything goes, since literary, historical, anthropological, philosophical, psychological and linguistic norms constrain our "imaginations."

I say: Perhaps theology ought be a category of literature within which the bible, as a great and inspiring work of our forebears on the travails and wonderment of the human condition, would be properly suited. Under scrutiny of biblical scholars in recent times and of those not of the faith, the bible stories have shown to be a litany of errors, mistakes, misinterpretations, pseudepigrapha, and interpolations; and as such reflects the changing nature of the social, political and personal demands of the writers during their time.

Some of the extensive and more insightful exposés, particularly of the new testament, have been the works of Dr Bart Erhman over the past twenty years. And as I understand it, he is an agnostic. Indeed, there are many non-believing biblical scholars, Dr Bob Price, Dr Hector Avalos, to name a very few, who would be precluded from the discipline of theology, should a pre-commintment of faith become an exclusionary criterion [that is, for none other than a ‘belief in a belief’ reason] for the study and/or practice of theology.
This would be an unwelcome and retrograde step, unbecoming of a genuine field of study.

Cheers

Papalinton said...
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Russ said...

Ryan I really like your parallelling of theology heavyweights with Star Trek Trivia heavyweights. Albeit no metaphor should be overextended, what you said deserves a bit more explicit extrapolation. Your simple statement

Same as being an heavyweight in Star Trek Trivia

distills the pure concentrate of their common character: they are both trivia. Trivia in the exact sense of the merriam-webster definition -- unimportant matters: trivial facts or details; a quizzing game involving obscure facts[http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/trivia].

The facts of one Christianity or any other religion are mere trivia to those outside it. This warrants some fleshing out, but I'm on the run right now.

Chuck,
Trivia would be a great medium to underscore how every religion laughs at the meaningless jabbering on of others. Trivia could be your Pygmalion or Death of a Salesman or The Crucible.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric my use of the language I chose exactly conforms to the character you present.

But as a blog administrator I will delete the posts where I drop the F bomb.

Not only do you proof-text your way into seeming smart but when faced with an argument that renders your pretensions inert you cry mommy.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Now an answer to you Eric without profanity but hopefully it will help you step outside of your pretension and admit your ignorance on at least one subject.

You said while quoting me, "Then how could you have written something as demonstrably ignorant of literary criticism as the following: "Hamlet can be played bound by Shakespeare's Five acts. It is not detrmined by culture or politics. It is what it is."

I am not ignorant of literary criticism nor of the tortured attempts of multiple ideologues to imprint their narcissistic ideas on the good Bard's text but I said "played" not "interpreted".

Show my how any of those literary criticisms impact the playing of Hamlet. If a theatre artist where to follow your lead Eric they would deny Hamlet's advice to the players.

Hamlet is a FIve Act Tragedy written in Elizabethan Blank Verse using various metrical prosody where the hero dies because of his hubris.

A marxist or a feminist or any other ideologue must start with that brute and observable fact.

Hamlet is the same past, present, and future. There is no "open-Hamletism" nor evolving philosophical defenses that change the wrought nature of the text.

Is their a Roman Catholic folio somewhere that offers a more insightful presentation?

Your analogy stinks again. Theology may be analogous to literary criticism - especially post-modern criticism where an author's intent is subsumed to the critics (or theologian's) ego but the pondering of god in theology as real because the pondering of Hamlet in literary criticism makes the latter real is an ignorant argument.

We can observe Hamlet in a fixed and objective form as his author intended. God is made up by those pondering his ineffability and is never objectively observed.

My point stands Hamlet is Hamlet is Hamlet with one caveat, regardless of literary criticism the story stays the same.

Not so with theology.

It is institutionalized ad hoc fallacy acting as if it pursues honest scholarship, never acknowledging its conclusion is resolved before its scholarship is practiced.

Go see a play Eric. I doubt any of the craftspeople involved will insist you say it is the greatest play you have ever seen and points to the ultimate truth of the universe. Your theology demands we surrender to both assertions.

Chuck O'Connor said...
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Chuck O'Connor said...

Russ

I was poring through some old writing the other day and came across a one act play entitled "Trivia". It is a good device to demonstrate human arrogance.

How can I get your email? I will send you the full-length that received official selection in the Performance Network's New Plays festival. It deals with the pretension of religion and failed theodicy.

Let me know how I might get it to you. Your intelligence would make it better.

Eric said...

"I am not ignorant of literary criticism nor of the tortured attempts of multiple ideologues to imprint their narcissistic ideas on the good Bard's text but I said "played" not "interpreted"."

Chuck, this is really, really, *really* simple: I referred *explicitly* to the *scholarship* that has been written about the fictional character Hamlet ("Shakespeare's Hamlet is a fictional character, yet a ton of very serious scholarship has been written about him in which it's patently not the case that anything goes, since literary, historical, anthropological, philosophical, psychological and linguistic norms constrain our "imaginations") while *you* responded by referring, irrelevantly, to the staging of the play in five acts. When I came back and stuck to the topic I initially raised -- interpretations of the fictional character Hamlet -- *you* accused *me* of changing the subject from the staging of the play to interpretations of the play! Come on, man, pay attention; can't I at least expect that much from you?

Chuck O'Connor said...

You still don't get it Eric.

Any interpretation of Hamlet starts with the fixed dramaturgy of the a five act Elizabethan tragedy and does not allow literary critics to write the play they desire.

What dramaturgical constraints correspond to theology?

Hamlet is Hamlet is Hamlet because any critic must respect "the play's the thing" if they wish to comment but theologians invent imagined meanings built upon succeeding magical premises.

Where is the evidential touchstone all might examine in theology equivalent to Shakespeare's folio of Hamlet?

Your analogy is weak if you wish to prove theology is more than imaginarium because literary criticism can assess the observe and fixed character known as Hamlet.

Eric said...

"You still don't get it Eric.
Any interpretation of Hamlet starts with the fixed dramaturgy of the a five act Elizabethan tragedy and does not allow literary critics to write the play they desire."

No, as usual, YOU don't get it.

What was my point? I was responding to those who say *because* God doesn't exist, any reasoning about him is "make up city." The form of this implication would be, "If S doesn't exist, then nothing limits our reasoning about S." I showed that this implication is *false*, and provided a counterexample: *Shakespeare's* Hamlet is a fictional character, yet our reasoning about him is not reduced to "make up city." You see, Chuck, *my point **is** that we can't make anything up as we reason bout Hamlet, even though he never existed*.

Do you get it now?

"Where is the evidential touchstone all might examine in theology equivalent to Shakespeare's folio of Hamlet?"

See my David Bentley Hart quote: the "touchstone" is composed of multifarious elements: history, linguistics, logic, philosophy, ancient languages, etc.

"Hamlet is Hamlet is Hamlet because any critic must respect "the play's the thing" if they wish to comment but theologians invent imagined meanings built upon succeeding magical premises."

You claim to know what theologians do. What theologians have you read, and what works?

Chuck O'Connor said...

Hamlet does exist Eric.

That is my point.

He is a fixed character that can be independently observed and known.

Again what independent fixed character can be equally approximated in theology?

Hamlet is real embodied by dramaturgical consistencies but theology builds on special pleading after special pleading with no corresponding fixed strictures like dramatic action or metrical prosody.

Have you ever read Hamlet or seen a production?

Chuck O'Connor said...

Hamlet does exist Eric.

That is my point.

He is a fixed character that can be independently observed and known.

Again what independent fixed character can be equally approximated in theology?

Hamlet is real embodied by dramaturgical consistencies but theology builds on special pleading after special pleading with no corresponding fixed strictures like dramatic action or metrical prosody.

Have you ever read Hamlet or seen a production?

Chuck O'Connor said...

Oh and if you want a defense of theology that is convincing to a skeptic don't pick a philosopher whose basis of scholarship is rooted in 2nd Century theology. As I said, your defense of theology amounts to a spiritualist defending Tarot.

Eric said...

"Have you ever read Hamlet or seen a production?"

I've read Hamlet well over a dozen times, I've seen it performed, and I've watched a number of movie versions. I'm very familiar with the play. And I'm also familiar with some of the scholarship on the play. In addition, I know that each actor's 'Hamlet' is quite different: to stick to movie versions we're all familiar with, compare Branagh's Hamlet with Gibson's: they say (essentially) the same words in (essentially) the same contexts, but they're so different they could almost be described as two distinct Hamlets, not one and the same Hamlet.

I'm studying philosophy, but I love Shakespeare, and I try to devote some time to reading him each day. I've memorized a number of his sonnets, and I intend to commit all 154 to memory. I'm no expert here, though: just an amateur in the true sense of the term ("lover of").

Now answer my question: What theologians have you read, and what works? After all, you've now made a second claim about theology:

"...theology builds on special pleading after special pleading with no corresponding fixed strictures like dramatic action or metrical prosody." (Your first claim was, "theologians invent imagined meanings built upon succeeding magical premises.")

So what theologians, and what works, have informed your firm conclusions about theology?

Lvka said...

-- matchsticks and lighters are fairly recent modern inventions, and the miracle of the Holy Light has been documented for the first time in the fourth century. It has been continuously attested for about the last one thousand years.

-- you can't enter the Altar.

-- the dome covering the Altar has been destroyed in one of the two world wars, and has never been re-build since.

-- by all means, come with your own candles.

-- many pious pilgrims baptize themselves in the Jordan during the ceremony, so you'll have no problem there either.

Hendy said...

@Lvka:

So can I perch on top of the altar and watch through the broken dome?

Do you intend to submit a challenge to the Randi Foundation I linked to above?

Russ said...

Chuck,
You've already written Trivia? What an interesting coincidence! Should we take it as a sign from Thor or Vishnu or the name preferred by Christians? Should we sacrifice a goat?

I would love the opportunity to read it and give you my gut feeling. I'll hit your blog profile and get you my e-mail address. Thank you.

Russ said...

Chuck,
e-mail Trivia to me at completematerialist@yahoo.com

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric,

Alvin Plantinga, William Lane Craig, Thomas Aquinas, Rheinhold Niehbuhr (although I like and appreciate Moral Man, Immoral Society), Frances Shaeffer, Rob Bell, Greg Boyd, Bart Ehrman, Stephen Maitzen, Thomas Merton, Chuck Swindoll, NT Wright, CS Lewis and the greatest theologian of all time, Bob Dylan. I know that some of these are strict "theologians" some are philosophers and some apologists but all communicate theology and all invent it from their unique imagined longings of the ineffable. Try playing Hamlet sometime and see if you can do whatever you want to the text based on undergoing emotion. You can't. If Gibson's Hamlet became a musical comedy then you would have the same variability each of these learned men would have about God.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Eric,

I've also been given William Alston's "Perceiving God" which I will start after I'm done with the novel I'm reading and I want to check out J.J. Altzizer's Chrsitian Atheism theology.

Do you want to recommend a theologian you are convinced that will make me believe in the reality of your preposterous god?

Chuck O'Connor said...

Russ,

I sent you the script. It is not "Trivia" but a play that won selection in a recent new plays festival entitled "Date of Admission".

Good to have your email. I could use your intellect on future endeavors.

Chuck O'Connor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Russ said...

Eric,

Forgive me if I give too little respect and offer too little deference to David Bentley Hart's characterization and justification for theology. Wouldn't most people like to pen our own reviews and draw up job descriptions that make what we do seem of the utmost importance? And wouldn't most people like to find work in an area where content accountability is null. I'm sure Hart is held to the same body of bureaucratic expectations that any university professor might incur, but he has maximum latitude when it comes to apologizing for Christianity. He is free to concoct any scheme at all in the defense of Christianity since there exists no metric for discerning correctness in the Christianities.

You hold up Hart's opinion about theology, but any casual eye should be able to see that his words are in fact not a defense of theology, since he is an atheist regarding all but one god, his own personal mental image of what a Christian god is supposed to be. Indeed, Eric, if we could somehow tease out the semantics of what you and Hart call your versions of Christian gods, we would find that your gods are the same in name only.

This work has been done in individual Roman Catholic congregations and among a few hundred worshippers, there are skant few commonalities in their characterizations of their gods. All the dutiful parishioners can eruct up catechism versions of Roman Catholic Christian gods, but when they are pressed on the semantics the theologically significant differences incarnate dozens of Christian gods among a few hundreds people.

Laugh it off as the "personal nature" of Christian gods or some such falderal, but it's clear that theology is so unclear, so ill-defined that persons with decades of exposure to the same teaching and mindless regurgitation of liturgy, have no understanding of what their own theology is supposed to be, and the understanding they do have makes them theologically distinct from their fellow parishioners. Theology counts for nothing.

That theology counts for nothing and is mostly ignored is born out by empirical results. In Roman Catholic theology the god referred to is claimed to hate contraception. So? Roman Catholics use contraception as much as anyone else. Yes, Roman Catholics can sustain the AIDS pandemic in Africa due to the enforced destruction of donated condoms, but those same aid workers will use contraception when they go back home.

Look at birth rates, family sizes and majority Roman Catholic countries like Italy where population is declining. Believers don't believe what church leaders or theologians say, and theology is as much bullshit to them as it is to me.

Russ said...

Eric,
In Roman Catholic theology the god referred to is claimed to hate abortion. So? Roman Catholics have the highest abortion rate among Christian sects. The numbers don't lie, Eric.

Theology is a waste of time for those who study it, since no one can be said to "understand" it, including theologians. Theology is a waste of time since no one gives a shit about it, even those stuck in social clubs called churches where they are forced to pretend it's important while they ignore it.

Looking at your Hart quote there is too much stupid to comment on adequately.

Hart:theology is actually a pitilessly demanding discipline.

When there exists no way to tell if you are correct, and when there are so many others having very different opinions about the same material, and when the semantics are so loose that you can't tell if you're actually discussing the same concept, it should be expected that it would demanding. While theo-logy is the study of theo -- again most theologists stick to studying only their favorite god, not gods in general -- theologists cannot make even one statement about any god which can be said to be true in any useful sense of the word true. It is in fact the case that theologists do not study gods in any real sense. All theologists study is, in Hart's hyperbolic words, "immense, profoundly sophisticated legacy of hermeneutics, dialectics, and logic." No one studies gods. They study legacies of purported scholarship. No one has ever demonstrated that any god has existed, so no one knows anything about a god, Christian or other.

Eric, if you beat your head against the wall of theology for your entire life, you will have no better understanding of it or some imagined god than you do right now. What's more, you will have no better understanding of theology or of gods than I do. You might wind up having a better understanding of some sect-specific legacy, but that is not an understanding of a god. Who wrote what when and how they reasoned about things best described as imaginary is not an understanding of a god.

Hart says of theology, "it deals in minute detail with a vast variety of concrete historical data." Historical data tells us irrefutably that the claims made by the church have never measured up to the standard of reality. There exists no reason to think that any of the thousand or so gods actively worshiped today is real, so there exists no reason to accept that theology has any merit whatsoever.

If your god was real, Eric, we'd see it. Theology is bullshit for bullshit's sake.