You Don't Need a PhD to Criticize Religion

Hemant Mehta nails this subject. It goes right along with what I'm writing in my book Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End. The full text of his talk can be found below.

I've often heard Christians complain when an atheist talks about theology even though they're not theologians.

Or atheists will slam the Bible and the response is, "You don't really understand it. You're not a pastor. You didn't go to seminary." So your criticism doesn't matter.

The idea here is that you need to be an expert in a particular religion in order to criticize religious beliefs.

That's an absurd idea.

We're not talking about virgins writing sex advice columns even though they have no idea what they're talking about.

We're just calling out bullshit where we see it. You don't always need a specialized degree for that.

You don't need a Ph.D. in order to say the emperor's not wearing any clothes. Or that it doesn't make sense for a woman to give birth without having sex. Or that snakes don't talk.

Or that God didn't cause whatever natural disaster just happened because there are, you know, natural reasons for it.

It's a funny argument, too. Because speaking on subjects without authority is something religious people do all the time.

Evangelical pastors will talk about how evolution is a secular conspiracy. And man's effect on climate change is negligible. And being gay is a choice.

They're not scientists or climatologists. And I promise you they don't even have gay friends no matter what they tell you.

You don't need to be an expert to state the obvious. The burden of proof is on religious people to justify their wacky beliefs. We're not the bad guys for saying, "That wasn't really a miracle."

Look: if you want to criticize, say, the history of how the Bible was written because you think our understanding of it is wrong, then sure, you should know what you're talking about.

But saying reincarnation makes no sense, or a consecrated communion wafer isn't really the body of Christ, or Adam and Eve weren't the first humans ever?

You don't need a college education for that. You just need to, like, reach the age of 6.

By the way, we do it all the time for religions we all think are silly. We'll laugh at Scientology and Xenu and no one ever says, "You didn't read Dianetics. Go study it for several years and then your laughter will have merit."

I'll tell you what: If you think i need a sophisticated understanding of theology to debunk bad religious ideas, then you better criticize everyone who believes that nonsense without an expert-level understanding of it.

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