Sir_Russ Takes Down Sophisticated Atheologian Keith Parsons

An atheologian is a non-theologian, an atheist opposed to theology. That's a good description of Parsons on his good days. A hypocrite might be better one, according to sir_russ in his letter to him below. Over at the Secular Outpost I'm being judged by my commenters, and also by who I have banned. As an example of one of my commenters let me introduce you to sir_russ, someone I personally know. As to my banning people, every online blog writer devoted to topics like atheism or theism bans people. I guarantee you I have never banned anyone merely because they disagreed with me, ever. In a few rare cases over the past decade I've banned a disagreeable person when the ignorance was just too great to tolerate and when that person would not give it a rest. After banning people they never say they were banned for good reasons, either. So that just about covers everything except the substance of our recent disagreement. Here's sir_russ:

Yes, Keith, so wonderfully diverse are things which go by the name theology that even you, a professional philosopher, can say, "that's not my theology," or "that's not the theology I wanted you to learn," or "you learned the wrong theology," or "that theology looks too much like what the Bible says to be good theology," or "I expect you to conduct yourself in a way that will make a professional philosopher arguing for the existence of a god look good on the dais," or "philosophy so inherently deserves respect that it is you, Mr. Non-Philosopher, who must adjust to the academic credentials or your interlocutor."

I agree fully with the professional philosopher who 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.
- Keith Parsons, professional philosopher
You are that same Keith Parsons, are you not?

Is it your esteemed contention that one must make great preparation for debates concerning propositions about things which you yourself agree do not exist? If gods do not exist, I think it reflects badly on you that you would expect anyone to play the silly game of treating the topic with respect. Wasn't it you who only a short time ago said, for it not being a respectable philosophical position, you would no longer be teaching philosophy of religion?

I've watched one of your debates with Craig on youtube(really enjoyed your performance, too) and none of the content exchanged between you needed any philosophical training at all. Did you need to up your philosophy game to earn the right to call the Bible "a ridiculous old book"? You cited, quoted, and name-dropped the sources you happened to choose and Craig did the same. There was nothing there that could not have been delivered by Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, or any other non-formally-trained person willing to step up to the lectern. You were more like a rhetorical Christopher Hitchens than you were a working-hard-to-appear-philosophical William Lane Craig. In this very post you said, "There will be no rational discourse, and only a shouting match," yet while you debated Craig, you did a lot of shouting. I think that at one point you even apologized for it.

In your debate with Craig why did you not bring out the big guns of profound philosophical nuance? Let me guess: you tailored your remarks to your audience. And, let me take another guess: the work of professional philosophers and theologians is really only accessible to other professional philosophers and theologians, that's why their only professional audience is one another. That's why almost nothing written by the pro philosophers and pro theologians is read by, or has any affect on, anyone outside academia. Even believers don't read philosophy of religion and theology. Yes, of course you should fit the content to your audience, but if you claim the right to tailor your content and language to those you think are listening, don't the likes of Hitchens, Dawkins and Harris have same right? What would give you the right to mold your words to those paying attention, while denying that same right to Dawkins in The God Delusion or Hitchens in god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything? Can you cite for me a time when Dawkins debated a professional philosopher with a target audience of other professional philosophers?

I think you owe a great debt of gratitude to the likes of Dawkins, Loftus, and Hitchens. In a matter of just a few writings, these people have done something that the abstruse, and obtuse writings of walled-off ivory tower philosophers would refuse to do: demonstrate publicly just how bizarre(one might say how disrespectable is their philosophical position) theology and POR really are. The culture of professional academic philosophy demands respect for Sokal's "Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity," in the professional philosophy journal Social Text, but when Loftus, Dawkins, Harris, or Hitchens(I'm pretty sure you'll give Dennett a professional philosopher's pass, although he says the same things) are ordered to get a credential upgrade. Really? Religions are causing a lot of harm, and, while atheist professional philosophers qua philosophers impotently write deepities for other professional philosophers, watching the carnage from the safety of well-paid tenured positions in academia, some public intellectuals are raising the general public's awareness of the ongoing wrongdoings and inhumanities of religion. The human side of you should appreciate that Loftus, for instance, is doing the tough work that you can't or simply won't.

I think it's also important to ask why you might imagine that the scientist or journalist being prepared for philosophy is so very important, while the philosopher is exempted from the expectation to know the empirical data relevant to their public commentary? Moreover, the philosopher is never expected to take the intellectually honest step of following the evidence. That is, philosophy itelf has no tradition of allowing some sweet arguments to be undone by hard evidence produced by anyone. For example, the claim that prayers get answered is an empirical one. Though we must be able to see it if the millions of claims of answered prayers are true, can we actually see it? No. How do philosophers respond to that fact? Ignore it completely or explain it away as some flaw in the believer(or retribution for something President Obama did). No requirement to be honest, just keep pumping out more philosophy words.

William Lane Craig serves as a great example of this. He's even said there is no evidence that will change his positions, and, I'm sure Craig would remain unmoved by anyone's philosophy, as well. That's not honorable or honest or deserving of respect. Should anyone elevate their game to clash with such an intellectual fossil? No. Craig continues to spew erroneous physics despite being corrected by Victor Stenger, Lawrence Krauss, and Steven Weinberg. Craig's response to this upbraiding: ignore it completely or build an argument from authority based on quote-mining someone with credentials. Should we actually think of philosophy being generally deserving of respect when its upper echelons are peopled by the likes of William Lane Craig who has no respect for truth and does not value evidence? He's at the top, his mind is in lock down, he influences lots of others. Science tells him plain that he's wrong, but he has safe haven in the academic discipline of philosophy where no one can be held accountable. Philosophy does not ask that you be correct. Philosophy does not ask that you be honorable. But, philosophy demands respect.

You said,
Unless one can learn every nuance of every theology of every religion, then it is "disingenuous" to suggest, as I do, that one enter debate from a
position of knowledge rather than ignorance. Seriously, is this what you are saying? Set me right if I have misconstrued you.
There are many ways to prepare for a debate, and be prepared for a debate, that differ from whatever you are idealizing. I thought Harris did good work his Craig debate because he mostly ignored Craig. Knowledge? Ignorance? Harris repeatedly cited empirical data which Craig, respected by professional philosophers everywhere, simply blew off, or, just did that which is apparently honorable among philosophers by concocting on the fly some twisted ad hoc diversionary syllogism to worm out of the real world corner. No self-respecting professional philosopher ever lets himself get constrained by reality, does he?

You ended by saying,
But when some atheist, even one with impeccable scientific credentials, enters the debate in an apparent state of dire ignorance of the history or the standards of philosophical debate, then theists will pounce and atheists should be embarrassed.
Are we to assume that you constitute the standard for what is knowledge and debate preparedness given that Craig, for one, takes what he knows to be lies into his debates with every intention of repeating them as truth? Craig knowingly perpetuates ignorance. Do you demand correctness of Craig, or just philosophical showmanship? That you have no means whatsoever for getting the best of the best of you professional philosophers to tell the truth about what is the accepted science, disqualifies you from setting the standards for what one must "know" to be prepared for a debate. That from professional philosophers, not all that different from you, Keith Parsons, we get intelligent design, right along with creationism, Mormonism, post-modern hooey, and an endless stream of trashcan-destined PhD theses on this-ism or that-ism means you have no claim whatsoever, aside from the same personal opinion that everyone has, informed or not, for telling someone what they need to "know" before they debate or write a book or post a video. Until you can demonstrate that philosophy has an observable laudable standard to which it holds itself, you should refrain from counseling others to follow your lead. Given the observable lack of worthy standards held by you professional philosophers, we atheists have nothing at all to be embarrassed about. In fact, it's better that we not lower ourselves to the level of venerating liars and frauds for their having cloaked themselves in "the history or the standards of philosophical debate."