Showing posts with label Courtiers Reply. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Courtiers Reply. Show all posts

PZ Myers and the Courtier's Reply Again

PZ Myers, like other scientists, will only accept empirical evidence for a religion. If it's not found, that's the end of it. Recently he recommended a parable about sausages in which a philosopher and a scientist discuss a sausage machine. It starts as it ends, like this:
A philosopher designs a marvellous sausage machine. A scientist comes to marvel at this wonderful creation, and raises an eyebrow. The philosopher says, "Ah, behold the wonderful cogs and sprockets and temperature-controlled mixing chambers in my wonderful machine -
surely you can see how it must produce the most fantastic sausages!" The scientist says "Yes, that is all very interesting. Show me the sausages."
None are ever produced.

Scientists regularly denigrate what philosophers and theologians do. But you know what? Believing philosophers and theologians regularly denigrate what scientists do.

What to do?

There are different types of critiques of Christianity. Each one of them stresses something different coming from different areas of expertise. Some of the major areas of criticism come from 1) The sciences, especially evolution and brain science; 2) Biblical and historical criticism; 3) Philosophy, especially the philosophy of religion; 4) Archaeology; 5) Cultural anthropology; 6) Psychology; and, 7) Social and moral criticism of the Bible and the church. There are others. What atheists think is a more effective criticism is not always the same as what Christians think is more effective.

I suspect we won't all agree. Without the sciences (#1) we probably don't have much of a critique at all, at least no reasonable alternative to a creator God, so that has got to be the highest on the list. But here's the problem. Christians denigrate the sciences in favor of their holy book. In every era Christian believers have repeatedly said that reason must bow down before faith, you see. That's the problem when using the sciences in getting Christian believers to change their minds. We must first help believers see that their holy book has holes in it. To do that we must speak to them in their language by critiquing their beliefs in terms they will understand and appreciate. Otherwise we're preaching to the choir.

While I see the value of ridicule, the most effective critique of the Christian faith will be one that can best be described as a counter-apologetic. An apologetic offers reasons from several different areas of expertise on behalf of the Christian faith. A counter-apologetic does the opposite. A counter-apologetic must take believers where they are and move them (or push them) in the right direction, the direction that the sciences have shown us. But since believers usually denigrate the sciences (# 1) I start with the other areas of criticism (#'s 2-7), especially biblical and historical criticism (# 2), and philosophy, especially the philosophy of religion (# 3).

From having studied these issues as a former Christian insider for a number of years this is what I think. Take it for what it's worth. But I think I know what I'm talking about. Don't get me wrong. Every area of expertise is important if we want to change the mind of the believer. But this is the type of critique of the Christian faith I offer.

I've written about this before.

When the Courtier’s Reply Fails, by Matt DeStefano

Christianity is an overwhelmingly dominant religion in the United States. It informs our laws, our public officials, both foreign and domestic policy, our media, and nearly every other facet of our lives. To write off the task of the atheist movement as simply pointing out the Emperor has no clothes is to understate it dramatically. While it may be easy for those of us who have seen the naked Emperor, many people are, as Loftus has recently posted, blind to this fact.

This blindness isn’t something that can always be ridiculed, scoffed, or trivialized away. Sometimes, no matter how loudly we scream about the Emperor being naked, some people don’t have the capacity to see it. Whether this is due to severe indoctrination, or merely the unwillingness to believe otherwise, these people are best reached through arguments against the internal consistency of the Bible, the inconsistency of God’s qualities, or other such arguments. Only then can the blinders be removed and they will begin to critically examine the virtues of their beliefs. Link

What's Wrong With the Courtier's Reply of PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins

Trust me, I'm very thankful for the brilliance of PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins. There's no doubt about that. In some sense they are my intellectual heroes. But the Courtier's Reply as an answer for theology needs to be discussed critically. First off, I do not expect anyone to understand any particular theology in order to reject it. We all do this easily. I doubt very much anyone understands all of the religions they reject. I don't. No one does. We reject them all for the same reasons, because they have not met their own burden of proof. So I agree very much that neither PZ Myers nor Richard Dawkins needs to fully understand the various forms of Christianity in order to reject them all. They can certainly use the Courtier's Reply, and for them it's legitimate, as it is for me when rejecting Hinduism, which I know little about. Christians do not fully understand the other Christianities they reject, so why should anyone expect this from skeptics?

But here's the problem. PZ Meyers and Richard Dawkins, and others, have the clout to recommend those of us who do understand the various Christianities that exist who know how to debunk them on their own terms. But perhaps, and I'm only suggesting perhaps, they are so committed to the Courtier's Reply when it comes to their own lack of understanding of Christian theology that they don't realize this will not do if they want to change the religious landscape. If they do, then may I humbly suggest they recommend the work of Biblical scholars like Robert Price, Hector Avalos, Bart Ehrman and others like them, as well as philosophers like John Shook, John Beversluis, Richard Carrier, Keith Parsons, Matt McCormick and others like them. But they can't do it, because they are committed to the Courtier's Reply, and that's a shame. I can embrace the Courtier's Reply when it comes to religions I reject. But given the power and influence of Christianity in particular, they need to recommend and embrace those of us who know it and argue against it. The Courtier's Reply may some day be the blanket response to religion. It isn't yet. Until then let them recommend those of us who do understand the dominant religion of our land, both philosophers and biblical scholars. It takes all of us together with all of our talents, all of our knowledge, and all of our abilities.