making the case against weak theism

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Greta Christina's "How Dare You Atheists Make Your Case!" is a great response to this Ode Magazine excerpt from Karen Armstrong's latest book, The Case for God. Christina writes, in her typically great commentary, "I was struck, not just by how bad and tired Armstrong's arguments were, but by the degree to which they were entirely focused on trying to get atheists to shut up:"

I was struck -- as I am often struck lately -- by how much anti-atheist rhetoric has been focusing, not on why the case for atheism is incorrect or inconsistent or unsupported by the evidence, but on why atheists are bad people for making our case at all.

The only quibble I have with Christina's analysis is her comment about modern apologetics. "[R]educing God to a metaphor (or a 'symbol,' as Armstrong puts it)" isn't "reducing religion to a philosophy," it's elevating religion to a philosophy. I don't often quote Ayn Rand, but her assessment of religion as "a primitive form of philosophy" rings true.

In addition to the problem of intent that Christina points out, Armstrong's argument has other faults as well. She writes accusingly that science has been "been ideological and had refused to countenance any other method of arriving at truth." I suppose that is her way of saying that scientists point out the unsupportable nature of religious assertions. There may be "other methods of arriving at truth," but only science has been proven effective.

She rejects the "hard-line form of scientific naturalism" adhered to by those dreadful "new atheists," asserting that "science itself has to rely on an act of faith." Using examples of early and provisional acceptance of evolution and relativity in attempts to bolster her case, Armstrong fails to see that there's a big difference between a). believing in a scientific theory with explanatory value that fits the available evidence on one hand, and b). holding a religious opinion that explains nothing and is supported by nothing.

Later, Armstrong tries to criticize atheists' theological knowledge by lauding "the latest discussions and the new insights of biblical scholarship," and lamenting that such rarified religion "rarely reach[es] the pews." (This is, of course, a variant of the ploy known as The Courtier's Reply. Armstrong should know better; the atheists in her audience certainly do.)

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on September 22, 2009 10:45 PM.

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