Showing posts with label Ending Philosophy of Religion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ending Philosophy of Religion. Show all posts

Calls For Ending the Philosophy of Religion Are Doing Nothing More Than Advocating For the Secularization Of Our Secular Universities

Recently Jerry Coyne wrote about the Philosophy of Religion:
Insofar as "theology" includes courses that presuppose the existence of the divine, take seriously the existence of God or Jesus, or prepare people for the ministry or to promulgate religious beliefs, then those courses not only have no place in a University, but are exercises in delusion. Now I think the higher-class divinity schools, like Chicago's and Harvard's, have very few of those courses, but there are some. They should not be part of a secular university. Maybe I'm missing something here, but it seems to me that Hitchens's razor is correct: "What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence." That applies to any form of theology that takes gods or superstitions as real. Universities should not be in the business of taking seriously those myths that have no evidence behind them. They can, of course, teach myths, but at no point should they imply that there is evidence for their truth. LINK
I've written on this topic several times before, collected here. But I don't think I've articulated my viewpoint in any single post better than I do in this one. I'm not surprised there is still a lot of misunderstanding about what I'm talking about. So here's another attempt--a book may need to be written on it.

My position seems to be the same as Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay when it comes to ending the Philosophy of Religion (PoR) discipline in the secular universities. The classes covered could be taught under the umbrella of the Philosophy discipline itself (with no need for a subdivision of PoR) or in the Comparative Religion departments, and especially science classes. Just think of it this way. We don't have PoR classes on Zoroastrianism, Gnosticism, Mithraism, Norse theology, Haitian Voodoo, Paganism etc., in any secular university that I know about. We don't see this for good reasons. Now think real hard about why, okay? The main purpose of the PoR discipline is to examine the evidence and the arguments for religion. Evidence. Arguments. Its main purpose is not merely to get students to understand religion. Rather, it seeks to assess the claims of religion by looking at the evidence (if there is any) and the arguments (if there are any good ones based on the evidence). By contrast, the main purpose of classes in Comparative Religions departments is to understand religion.

Quote of the Day On the Philosophy of Religion, By David Madison

Click here for more quotes from Loftus
Recently on Twitter Dr. David Madison said, "Everybody insists their own god exists and argues accordingly. Theism deserves the same respect as astrology, alchemy, and belief in a flat earth." Then he linked to my book Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End. What's significant about this is that he's a biblical scholar, having earned his PhD in Biblical Studies from Boston University School of Theology. He kindly blogs here at DC and is the author of Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief: A Minister-Turned Atheist Shows Why You Should Ditch the Faith, of which I was honored to write a Forward to it.

I've said repeatedly that I might be wrong, but no one can say I'm ignorant. After all, I have nearly the equivalent educational background of Dr. Paul Copan, the former President of the Evangelical Society. David Madison can say the same thing by the tenfold, especially seen in his fantastic book, online writings, podcasts and exhaustive reading list of atheist books in The Cure-For-Christianity Library. In his esteemed judgment, after years of studying it out, the evidence conclusively shows the Bible and any religion or theology or philosophy based on it, "deserves the same respect as astrology, alchemy, and belief in a flat earth." His most succinct case is made in a chapter for my recent anthology, The Case against Miracles.

The Pure Sophistry and Obfuscationism of Philosophy of Religion and Why the Evidential Requirement Changes Everything

Earlier I had posted this link. I then reminded believers that had they been born differently due to the lottery of birth they would be raised to believe differently. Their religious rituals would be different too! On Facebook it was called the genetic fallacy. Nope. Look at what happens when the sophistry of philosophy of religion is used to obfuscate the impact of the lottery of birth, and why the requirement for evidence changes everything:

Julian Baggini Concerning Philosophy of Religion "What the Hell Are You Doing?"

Julian Baggini's 2005 review of Michael Martin's anthology, The Impossibility of God, was needed and brilliant! It should be required reading for discussion by everyone interested in philosophy of religion. LINK. It might be subtitled, "What the hell are you doing?"

Baggini, as an atheist philosopher, starts off saying he "found the book faintly dispiriting, futile even. Rather than finding myself standing on the metaphorical touchline cheering my team as it chalked up point after point, it seemed to me that everyone on the pitch was engaged in a useless game that no-one was ever going to win. This was a bravura performance, but who was it for?" His main point is: "I just don't believe that detailed and sophisticated arguments make any significant difference to the beliefs of the religious or atheists."

The book is useless for the unintellectual, he says, who won't read it much less understand it. "The fight against unthinking religion must be fought in terms unthinking believers can relate to. Discovering Angelina Jolie is an atheist is much more likely to make the unintellectual doubt their belief than the arguments of Patrick Grim" (an author in the book). A current example is The Big Bang Theory sit-com. It's doing a fantastic job of influencing the young away from faith via example and ridicule. As many of us have argued, ridicule does indeed have an impact upon the masses. Baggini surprisingly also says Martin's book is useless for the intellectual, both the believer and the atheist, for "when we get to this level of detail and sophistication, the war has become phoney. Converts are won at the more general level." [My emphasis].

You Don't Need a PhD to Criticize Religion

Hemant Mehta nails this subject. It goes right along with what I'm writing in my book Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End. The full text of his talk can be found below.

The Philosophical Elitism of Keith Parsons

I'm going to try showing Keith Parsons that he stands a lot to gain by listening to me, that I know what I'm talking about, and that he's wrong about the New Atheism. While I probably won't convince him, keep in mind that an argument doesn't need to be convincing for it to be a good one. I'm going to argue his problem is philosophical elitism. I will do so respectably, although it's that same attitude that may keep him from responding. First, here's a quote from Eric MacDonald endorsing Parsons:
The problem is precisely that the New Atheists think it appropriate to dismiss theology and philosophy of religion without understanding the first thing about it. Some New Atheists say, "I know enough about it. I was brought up as a Catholic or an Anglican or ...." But that's not qualification enough. Arguing from this point of view, where you really do not know what your opponent is arguing, because you have made no attempt to find out, is a simple informal fallacy known as special pleading. And the New Atheism is full of it. That's where Keith Parsons is way ahead of the New Atheists. Be an unbeliever by all means. But don't say that you know that there is no God or that theology is all make believe until you have really tried to understand what theologians are saying. And when you have done so, you will, I think, qualify your dismissal. --Eric MacDonald
I think this criticism of the New Atheism fails to understand the very phenomena being criticized. Let's just re-purpose MacDonald's quote: "The problem is precisely that the New Atheists think it appropriate to dismiss Scientology, or Mormonism, or militant Islam, or Hindu theology, or Haitian Catholic voodoo without understanding the first thing about it..." Need I go on? If anyone is special pleading it is MacDonald, for it didn't enter his mind to consider the many other religious faiths out there he easily dismisses without knowing that much about them. So I think reasonable people don't have to know a lot about religious faiths to reject them. We can dismiss these and other faiths precisely because they are faiths. The evidence is not there and even runs contrary to them. The moralities of these faiths also count against them. Do we need to know something about them to dismiss them? Sure, we should know something about them. In fact, to reject one of them we should at least hear about it. But even a rudimentary level of knowledge is enough for that, since faith is the problem. As outsiders we don't need to look into the many varieties of faith to know the results of faith are not likely to be true. We can do this simply by generalizing from the many mutually inconsistent false faiths to the probability that any given particular faith is false, even before getting an in-depth knowledge about it.

My specialties are theology, philosophical theology and especially apologetics. I am an expert on these subjects even though it's very hard to have a good grasp of them all. Now it's one thing for theologically unsophisticated intellectuals like Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens and Stenger to argue against religion. It's quite another thing for a theologically sophisticated intellectual like myself to say the "New Atheists" were within their epistemic rights to denounce religion from their perspectives. And I do. I can admit they lack the sophistication to understand and respond point for point to sophisticated theology. But it doesn't matter. The reason is because all sophisticated theology is based in faith: faith in the Bible (or Koran) as the word of God, and/or faith in the Nicene creed (or other creeds), and/or faith in a church, synagogue or temple. No amount of sophistication changes this. Even an informed ten year old can come to the correct conclusions about faith without any sophistication at all.

Let's take a serious look at what Parsons said:
Do you need a Ph.D. in philosophy to be a legitimate and respectable participant in the theism/atheism debate or the science/religion debate? Of course not. But you do need to know what you are talking about. Those, however accomplished in other fields, who leap into the debate philosophically uninformed inevitably commit freshman mistakes that expose them to the scorn of sophisticated opponents. LINK.

The Philosophy of Religion Must End Because Faith-Based Reasoning Must End

Philosophy of religion must end. If the philosophy of religion is using reason to examine the the claims of religion, and if religion is based on faith, then philosophy of religion must end. For faith has no justification nor merit. A reasonable faith does not exist, nor can faith be a guide for reasoning to any objective conclusion.

Religion is indeed based on faith in supernatural forces and/or entities. Faith is indeed an unreliable way to gain objective knowledge about the world. And faith-based reasoning cannot justify any claim concerning matters of fact like the nature of nature and its workings. So philosophy of religion is reasoning about that which is unreasonable. It takes the utterly unwarranted conclusions of faith seriously. To reason about religion requires granting more than a philosopher worthy of the name should do, since the very first principle of religion is faith. There are some things philosophers should not take seriously and still remain as intellectuals. A faith-based claim is one of them. There are other ways to deal with those types of claims. The proper discipline to determine if a claim is faith-based or not is to be found in the sciences.

The Philosophy of Religion Must End Because Religions Self-Destruct

There isn't a tenet of any religion that isn't opposed with cogent arguments by adherents of different religions. Even within any given religion there are sects that oppose some important tenets of their mother religion. See here, and here for examples.

The Philosophy of Religion Must End Because Jesus Studies Have Ended Jesus

I've been told some people aren't taking me seriously. My bet is that they will when I'm done.

The philosophy of religion must end because Jesus Studies have ended Jesus. That's not the only reason but it's a good one nonetheless. Robert Conner:
Jesuitical (ˌjeZHo͞oˈitikəl) adjective, (1) of or concerning the Jesuits (2) dissembling or equivocating, in the manner associated with Jesuits.

Ancient immanentist philosophies such as panpsychism that might have sacralized the world and its life were largely extinguished by the advent of Christianity. A partial corrective is Hector Avalos' The End of Biblical Studies. Like professor Avalos, I have long advocated that we stop taking "Jesus Studies" nonsense seriously:
That Jesus Studies is rife with flawed scholarship, special pleading, fideism, rank speculation, manufactured relevance, careerism, homophobia and the misogyny that homophobia implies, sectarian allegiances, personal agendas, fraud and simple incompetence should come as no surprise to anyone conversant with the field. Indeed, whether Jesus Studies is even an academic discipline as usually understood is debatable, and that Jesus Studies has precious little to do with history is certain. [From Conner's essay Faking Jesus].

On Ending the Philosophy of Religion *Again* and *Again*

Let's do it this way. Consider the following five science related books (I could multiply them if needed). Now grant that what we find in them presents the required objective evidence to say religious faith is false and/or foolish. Okay? Grant it. Say it: "Religious faith is false and/or foolish." Good. Then there would be no reason for teaching philosophy of religion classes. None. Doing so would be unnecessary since science has already shown philosophical arguments for religious faiths to be false and/or foolish. Rather than teaching philosophy of religion classes, we should instead teach science related classes. For someone who says we cannot do science without also doing philosophy of some kind, that's not necessarily true.

My name is John W. Loftus. Thank you, thank you very much! ;-)

On Lowder's Stupid Atheist Meme #4: “Let’s Put an End to the Philosophy of Religion!”

Jeff Lowder again, with another so-called "Stupid Atheist Meme." One of the reasons I have publicly exposed Jeff Lowder's dishonesty and hypocrisy is because he has successfully convinced people into thinking he's a philosopher when he is not, which I consider his biggest con. He has a college degree in computer science and is well-read in the area of philosophy of religion, okay. But I have found him to be ignorant many times. His biggest ignorances have to do with taking positions against those I have taken, so it does matter that people see who he really is. For if he's considered a full credentialed philosopher with a Ph.D., then what he says is taken more seriously than what I say. His all white male philosophy student cheerleaders defend him because he has successfully conned them. They say there have been many philosophers in the past who didn't have Ph.D.'s, like Socrates, Aristotle, Descartes and Aquinas, which I know all too well. That is irrelevant. I'm arguing Lowder lacks the depth and breadth necessary to have earned a Ph.D. in philosophy.

What I'm writing is helpful. One person wrote:
I have been using the Internet Infidels for about 15 years now. The essays therein has helped me in my philosophical path from "angry antitheism" to a more moderate nontheism. And in all those time I have thought JJ Lowder is a philosopher. I don't know why I had that impression, but I did. Maybe subtle hints in his online writings made me believe that he is one. If you had not exposed his actual academic background, I would still think he is a PhD-toting analytic philosopher. LINK.

Another Example of Jeff Lowder's College Level Approach to the Philosophy of Religion

Jeff Lowder smuggled his way into being known and respected as a philosopher without any relevant credentials. I aim to "out" him about this. Don't shoot me I'm just the messenger. If you're looking for a more accurate analysis of philosophical arguments then I bid you turn elsewhere. I am banned from commenting at the Secular Outpost because I have publicly exposed Jeff Lowder's dishonesty and hypocrisy, so in order to comment on a post of his I must do so here. Okay.

I first want readers to notice how he dishonestly presents the impression that he is a philosopher. In a recent post on morality he writes as follows:
The concept of “objective morality” is notorious for its ambiguity. You might even say that people–or, at least, philosophers–have a moral obligation not to use that expression unless and until they first give a very nuanced definition of what it means! Because the concept is often misunderstood, I’m going to try to offer a “layman’s guide to moral objectivity” in this post.

Let’s start with “morality.” The average person who is not a philosopher probably thinks there is just the one ‘thing,’ morality, and that’s the end of it. In fact, the topic is a little bit more complicated than that. Non-philosophers might be surprised to learn that philosophers make a distinction between the good (values) and the right (duties). LINK.
If you don't see this for what it is, or object to his use of language then you should. In a post sometime back, Lowder talked about having written "a paper", which real philosophers know is a technical term for something one reads at a philosophical conference (just think of a "call for papers"), or it refers to something that will be published in a peer reviewed journal. What he wrote was neither of these things, just the dishonest use of language.

Keith Parsons On The Amalekites and Options for Apologists

Even though I have master's degrees in the Philosophy of Religion (PoR), I have argued this discipline doesn't deserve a place in secular universities. I've said why in that link (in reverse chronological order). Let me stress a major criticism of the discipline. It usually doesn't deal in concrete biblical examples, and when it does, it takes for granted what no reasonable person should. I prefer to deal in terms of concrete biblical examples by far, so I cannot grant for the sake of argument most of the things philosophers of religion do. PoR departments are dominated by Christians in America, and most of them are evangelical leaning professors. Most of the published work in this discipline is likewise written by Christians. It's the last bastion for evangelicals who cannot defend what they believe because of the evidence coming from evolution, neurology, archaeology, comparative religion analysis, and biblical criticism. Being a philosopher of religion specializing in the analysis of ancient religions and a biblical scholar to boot, Dr. Jaco Gericke has said, "The trouble with William Lane Craig and and Alvin Plantinga is that their philosophy of religion conveniently ignores the problems posed for their views by the history of Israelite religion. They might as well try to prove Zeus exists. People sometimes forget 'God' used to be Yahweh and it is possible to prove from textual evidence that 'there ain't no such animal.'" Evangelical PoR is simply a Fundamentalism on Stilts. In fact, all Christian PoR is special pleading by degrees. It is pseudo-philosophy just as much as creationism is pseudo-science.

On Ending the Philosophy of Religion; That's What I'm Talking About!

Johnnie Terry of Sierra College, CA, tells me he's using Jerry Coyne's book, Why Evolution Is Truefor his critical thinking classes this semester! He says:
As the Philosophy 4: Critical Thinking class satisfies the college level reading requirement, I'm having the students read both "Why Evolution is True" and "Monkey Girl." Coyne's book provides excellent support for scientific reasoning, verificationism and falsificationism.
That's what I'm talking about when it comes to ending the philosophy of religion subdiscipline in secular universities!

Dr. Hector Avalos Calls For Ending Religionist Philosophy of Religion

I've been wondering what Hector thinks of my call for ending the Philosophy of Religion, since I'm basing it on his call to end biblical studies. So I asked him. He has not followed the discussion that much but enough to say this (per email):
My proposal is "to end biblical studies as we know it" (The End of Biblical Studies, p. 15),which means in its current religionist and apologetic orientation. So I am for ending the philosophy of religion if its only mission is to defend religion and theism. So, akin to my vision of the end of biblical studies, I would say that the only mission of the philosophy of religion is to end the philosophy of religion as we know it.
He also provided a progress report so far on his call to end biblical studies:

Jerry Coyne: Let’s stop teaching philosophy of religion in secular colleges

I'm pleased he links to me. He's now expanded the debate by going after Divinity Schools in secular universities, which I also applaud. Let's have done with them too.
What we don’t need are entire Divinity Schools or Schools of Theology in secular universities. This privileges an entire discipline based on a human endeavor that itself rests on dubious and unsubstantiated claims. Further, they concentrate largely (but not exclusively) on active Abrahamic religions. There are few, if any, courses on atheism in divinity schools, but they should be at least as prominent as courses in religious apologetics. That is distasteful in a country that officially favors no religion in particular. If we are to have such schools, let us then have Ethical Schools, or Schools of Moral Thinking, or The School of Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy. But all of these can simply be subsumed in departments of philosophy or history. LINK.