Practical Steps to Ending the Philosophy of Religion in Secular Colleges

As announced earlier I intend to do a series of posts on my call to end the philosophy of religion (PoR) discipline in secular universities, by answering the following questions: 1) Why do I propose ending PoR as a subdiscipline of Philosophy proper in the secular universities?; 2) What should we know when it comes to ending the PoR?; 3) What exactly is my proposal?; 4) What are the best ways to examine the claims of religion?; 5) What are some practical steps to help facilitate this proposal?; and 6) Why do secular philosophers of religion object to this proposal? In this post I intend to answer question #5. To read other posts in this series click on the tag below, "Ending Philosophy of Religion."

Unlike Dr. Paul Draper, I think genuine inquiry begins the day students reject faith-based answers, not before. Until they do so they fail to have a reliable method for knowing the truth about existence, the nature of nature, or which religion is true if there is one. This is something Dr. Peter Boghossian is arguing when he says faith is a failed epistemology. To get his point across he says faith is "pretending to know things you don't know." So I agree with Dr. Richard Carrier who defined pseudo-philosophy as:
Philosophy that relies on fallacious arguments to a conclusion, and/or relies on factually false or undemonstrated premises. And isn't corrected when discovered. All supernaturalist religion is pseudo-philosophy. Religious philosophy is to philosophy what "creation science" is to science.
When it comes to the pseudo-philosophy of Christian theism I take it as axiomatic what Dr. Keith Parsons said:
I now regard “the case for theism” as a fraud and I can no longer take it seriously enough to present it to a class as a respectable philosophical position—no more than I could present intelligent design as a legitimate biological theory...I just cannot take their arguments seriously any more, and if you cannot take something seriously, you should not try to devote serious academic attention to it.
In fact, as I have argued, taking any particular pseudo-philosophy seriously is to legitimize that pseudo-philosophy. The only reason to deal with a particular pseudo-philosophy in the college classroom is because it is influential and needs answered. In post #4 I suggested how to best deal with pseudo-philosophy though, and it does not deserve it's own subdiscipline.

There is only one type of philosophy of religion that has any merit, secular philosophy of religion. If done correctly, as Hector Avalos has argued with regard to biblical studies, and as I've argued in post #4, then secular philosophers will end the philosophy of religion just like secular biblical scholars will end biblical studies as we know them. To teach the PoR correctly a professor must argue that faith has no epistemic warrant, and as such, all religionist PoR is pseudo-philosophy. No religionist will teach any PoR class this way so none of them should teach these classes, especially in a secular university where faith is never allowed as a solution to a question in any other intellectual discipline. Religionists in PoR departments should not be invited to teach in the first place and they should not be granted tenure. Existing PoR professors should be drummed out of the secular university since they are teaching theology in a secular university. If a department is dominated by pseudo-philosophers the administrators should be pressured to eliminate that department, just as no creationists should be teaching classes on evolution.

This is not about censorship. It's about the nature of faith-based arguments coming from pseudo-philosophers. Faith has no method and never solved any problem. It's an utterly unreliable guide to get at the truth. In fact, faith hinders the truth by hindering genuine inquiry into the nature of nature. It should no more be allowed in the university classroom than creationism.

Given that faith is intellectually bankrupt there isn't a single PoR class subject that could not be treated better in the many other classes taught in the secular university, especially science classes, or in the Philosophy discipline in general, or Religion or Comparative Religion disciplines. Evolution, for instance, destroys most religions, and you don't even have to pay attention to a particular religion when teaching the fact of evolution to do this. So teach evolution and most religions die. I actually think such a class should be a mandatory requirement in all universities, even if a student is majoring in disciplines like philosophy, business, food management, English, and so forth.

The moral argument to a particular Christian God's existence could be shattered in an Ethics class, or a history of ethics class, or a global and multicultural class on ethics. I'm sure Isis thinks their parochial and barbaric morality is proof that Allah exists too, you see. I don't think we should have a PoR class on arguments for the existence of God, since all of these arguments are nothing but special pleading to a particular God-concept that excludes all others, unless such a class offers a global and multicultural perspective--one that looks at a wide variety of god beliefs and claims of miracles in other religions--or is taught with atheist texts and argued against. For as I've argued, the best way to treat faith-based claims is to treat them all as having equal merit.

Dr. James Lindsay offers the following hardline suggestions (via email):
There should be no explicit philosophers of religion and no respected philosophy of religion academic journals (that are taken seriously by academics--they should be seen as poison to publish in). There should be an identification that identifies PoR explicitly with theology and the work of other quacks. Current philosophers of religion should be encouraged to shift their focus to more worthy philosophical endeavors, and these shouldn't really include the kinds of stupid metaphysical explorations that they're likely to turn to.
But let's say you're teaching a PoR class. Then what? Choose overtly science-based, multicultural and/or atheist texts. If they don't exist then publish them.

When it comes to teaching critical thinking there is no better book to be used in the college classroom than Theodore Schick and Lewis Vaughn's How to Think About Weird Things: Critical Thinking for a New Age.

If you're assigned to teach a class on God then use Victor Stenger's book God and the Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion,or God and the Multiverse: Humanity's Expanding View of the Cosmos, or The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: Why the Universe Is Not Designed for Us.Or use Jerry Coyne's book Why Evolution Is True,together with Robert M. Price and Edwin Suominen's book Evolving out of Eden.You could even use Nicholas Everitt's The Non-Existence of God, if you feel the need.I think Everitt fairly represents both sides. It's just that he argues his case and does so on the level of the college student.

I think my book The Outsider Test for Faith: How to Know Which Religion Is Truewould be something that could be brought into a Philosophy of Religion class, and used very effectively toward this goal.

Now that I've put forth why the PoR should end by showing what this entails, to the point of offering a few practical suggestions, I await any serious criticisms. After receiving them I'll write my final post. If I receive none I'll never write that final post. If someone argues faith has merit, or that genuine inquiry is furthered by entertaining faith-based answers, or that the case against Christian theism is not closed (or any other theism), then we have no common ground. These are not serious criticisms of my proposal. If someone argues that what I'm proposing is partisan to the core, which will create an antagonistic atmosphere in our universities that might backlash as Christians decide to be more aggressive in teaching their brand of pseudo-philosophy, then I actually welcome this. The reason is because if they decide to be more aggressive the students will object, which can actually help end the PoR in secular universities. If someone argues my proposal isn't feasible or practical, then I don't consider that a serious criticism either, since Nietzsche called for and predicted the death of God. If he did nothing wrong then I'm not doing anything wrong when I call for the end of the philosophy of religion. In fact, calling for its end can help speed it up.

There was a time when the PoR was not a subdiscipline of Philosophy in our universities. There should be a time when it won't exist again. I think the time is now. We should not allow pseudo-philosophical theology to be taught in the secular universities, and it certainly does not deserve its own subdiscipline. Period.

Cheers.

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