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Daniel Batt
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Oh, I have only read two of your articles addressed to "modern" and "progressive" believers. I love your blog and have only begun to read other pieces, so please expect me to be more informed of what you actually believe in future posts.
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Hi Greta Now, I guess these comments must be moderated, because I can't see what I posted. Sorry, everyone, if this is a double post. Now, no one (who is a progressive) expects you to have read the best Christian theology and philosophy to have rejected Christianity. (Hell, even if Islam were true, I would rather be in hell than worship a misogynist god like that.) But if you claim to have refuted it, well, yes, it is best to have dealt with the better arguments and forms of the faith, otherwise your motivations in picking on the American fundamentalist brigade (Lee Strobel is no theologian and the works you site are uniformly of the very conservative American variety, and not the least close to what anyone would call modern or progressive theology) to tear down may be impugned, and of course, I imagine you would be the first person to decry Christians doing this same thing about atheists, wouldn’t you? After all, there are many book on the new atheists by theologians that actually do bother to read the primary works, follow the footnotes and study the area generally as scholars (Alister McGrath, David Bentley Hart, Charles Taylor and so on). So, what’s sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander, eh? And by arguments, I do not mean the traditional 'proofs', which everyone learns in her first philosophy of religion class at university. A proof, after all, would imply that becoming a Christian were some mere deductive process, which is not the way 99.9% of people become Christians, theists or religious in any way. In fact, that famous skeptic, debunker and mathematician Martin Gardener has a very interesting chapter, “Why I am not an Atheist”, in The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener, and he does only mentions the Bible to scorn its brutality. I mean, if you were going to diss the theistic evolution people, you might better have referenced Richard Dawkins' colleague Simon Conway Morris (Professor of Evolutionary Paleobiology in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge. . . elected a Fellow of the Royal Society aged 39, and was awarded the Walcot Medal of the National Academy of Sciences in 1987, and the Lyell Medal of the Geological Society of London in 1998). Think of how many digs you could have made about someone like this working alongside Dawkins? The least it would have shown is you have done your homework. And you might even have picked up some insight into evolution in the process, since you don’t win a Walcot Medal without advancing the field of Precambrian and Cambrian biology in some way. And if you really think you have the physics cracked, why don't you engage the work of John Polkinghorne, who formerly held the same position as Stephen Hawking, in mathematical physics at Cambridge University? His analogy with the quantum vacuum might have at least been worth a joke about vacuums and God. Also, not all God-of-the-gaps arguments are actually arguing for a God-of-the-gaps. Sometimes they might be pointing to how much advanced apes will ever be able to grasp of the nature of reality. Sometimes they might be pointing to the intrinsic restrictions the scientific method may have. You really would have to have a limited grasp of modern theology to think anyone important in theology would be seen dead arguing a God-of-the-gaps. And just because you state it doesn’t make it true. I have read dozens of reviews of Hitchens and Dawkins works by atheist philosophers and thinkers, who uniformly cringe at the faulty logic, caricature and avoidance of the arguments in their best form. But they are still atheists, and all they are asking of their fellow atheists is a little historical awareness that atheism has a hard won pedigree that can be done a great disservice by the modern day pamphleteers (your heroes, no doubt). Now, as for your dismissive reference elsewhere to “theism is just as much a matter of faith as religion. And atheists who think atheism is better supported by evidence are just as dogmatic and close-minded as religious believers.” Well, a lot of your fellow travellers have spoken at many an atheist conference to decry the ‘religious’ tendency of many modern atheists. Dan Barker has done it many times, and usually gets a few boo’s. While the religious often inhabit an insufferable plane of moral superiority, some of you guys and gals often seem to inhabit a very similar plane of intellectual superiority. Lastly, I don't know if it was this post that you thought progressive Christians were obsessively fawning at atheists to gain their approval, but while this may be so in some cases, it seems a perfectly natural thing for people to do: share their concerns, examine their differences, ask each other how much we really do have in common and how much we don't. Obviously, the best human motives can all be grist for the mill of your blog, but I would err on the side of common humanity than grasp for another reason to pat yourself and atheists on the back again. After all, one of the silliest tropes of current atheism is equating God (however we might describe her) as being ontologically as stupid as the tooth fairy. This, naturally, brings about the natural response to people who make such daft claims to seek out a little clarification over such bizarre statements to see whether they really have any ability to sort out the possible, but perhaps unlikely, from what is bat-shit crazy. Obviously, Aristotle, Tom Paine, Antony Flew, Martin Luther King Jnr, Charles Hartshorne, Martin Gardener and countless other theists would disagree.
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Oct 13, 2011