Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Geese and ganders

"You're kidding? An N. T. Wright book!"
I try not to agree with John Loftus. But, dang it, every now and again he hits the proverbial nail on the head.
It's claimed that people like Dawkins, or Hitchens, or Harris don't know enough to reject Christianity. How much should a person know about a religion or the various branches of it in order to reject it? Really. I'd like to know. These very Christians do not know much about other branches of their own religion, so how can they reject them? And they do not know much about the various other religions around the world or the branches within them, so how can they reject them? Most Christians do not know enough about their own religion! All a person has to do to reject their own inherited religion is to subject it to the same level of skepticism they use when rejecting all other religions.
That's just so true. The criticisms of the New Atheists apparently aren't to be taken seriously because they haven't paddled in the shallows of Barth's reflecting pool, or engaged with the corpus of John Piper's reactionary work? Dear Lord, who in their right mind would want to? What arrogance! On the principle of "what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander" surely it's only fair to demand that religious folk keep their mouths tightly shut on the subject of life's origin unless they've read the work of leading anthropologists and paleontologists. Is that likely to happen? Yeah, right! It would be amazing if some of these turkeys would just pick up a copy of New Scientist occasionally.

There's a sense in which Dawkins and others are prophets speaking to Christians from outside the walls. Prophets are not comfortable companions, but they have an essential role. We should be grateful they're there to keep us honest. To throw our hands up in holy horror at their unfamiliarity with the so-called Great Theologians is sheer hypocrisy, and fools no one. Christianity traces its origins back to fishermen, carpenters, illiterate peasants, retired shady ladies, subsistence farmers (and one very confused LXX-quoting diaspora Pharisee.) A dose of Bultmann or Tillich might be stimulating for some, but it's hardly essential. A draught of Barth is, of course, to be avoided at all costs by all people at all times, New Atheists and committed Christians alike.

And if the New Atheists were well informed in the fields of theology and biblical studies, would their critique then be taken seriously by their opponents? That's an easy question. Think about the reception given to Bart Ehrman and Robert Price.

So exactly what reading list would the critics like to expose Dawkins to? It'd be a fascinating catalogue. But then we'd have to ask how many of those self-same worthy titles someone like Franklin Graham had cracked the covers of.

Sorry, but sadly Loftus is right.

2 comments:

  1. "So exactly what reading list would the critics like to expose Dawkins to?"

    How about On the Origin of Species? The original, I mean; for all the opposition aimed at Darwin, and all the creationist cattle mooing in unison with the men they give authority, it all seems to get lost in translation that Darwin believed in god. Not THE God, mind, but a proto-God, the Deists' God who is just not quite God enough; but Darwin believed in God nonetheless.

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