Atheism / religion · May 12, 2007

Dawkins answers critics today

Richard Dawkins’ best selling book, “The God Delusion” is now out in paperback format. This newest printing contains answers to questions and arguments put to Dawkins since the printing of the hard back version.

If you, like me, purchased the hard bound version, you can see (some of?) these questions and answers on the Times Online website. One of those questions asked of Dawkins resonates with me because I’ve been asked about it in my blog, and via email. From the Times website:

You can’t criticise religion without detailed study of learned books on theology.

If, as one self-consciously intellectual critic wished, I had expounded the epistemological differences between Aquinas and Duns Scotus, Eriugena on subjectivity, Rahner on grace or Moltmann on hope (as he vainly hoped I would), my book would have been more than a surprise bestseller, it would have been a miracle. I would happily have forgone bestsellerdom had there been the slightest hope of Duns Scotus illuminating my central question: does God exist? But I need engage only those few theologians who at least acknowledge the question, rather than blithely assuming God as a premise. For the rest, I cannot better the “Courtier’s Reply” on P. Z. Myers’s splendid Pharyngula website, where he takes me to task for outing the Emperor’s nudity while ignoring learned tomes on ruffled pantaloons and silken underwear. Most Christians happily disavow Baal and the Flying Spaghetti Monster without reference to monographs of Baalian exegesis or Pastafarian theology.

The “Courtier’s Reply” can be found here on Pharyngula. In a nutshell, it claims that the average Atheist’s arguments are null and void because we don’t have the theological education to understand what we are talking about.

“How dare you sir?!” cries the Emperor’s Courtier indignantly, “How dare you suggest the Emperor’s clothing doesn’t exist when you know nothing about fine cloth, the mystic arts of a professional tailor, nor nothing about the origin of silken thread?! Begone with you!”

This sort of objection is, of course, fallacious. It is so easily turned around against the person raising the objection. Billions of people believe the Bible is the last word on theology, but then again, the Quran is held in the same high regard by a billion others. (link to # of adherents) And both sides have what they feel to be incontrovertible proof that they are right.

How dare you Christians believe that the Quran is without merit, you who don’t even own a copy, let alone read it or the Hadith. How can you claim that Hinduism is false without reading the Vedas and the Upanishads?

And don’t you dare criticize Scientology… because, uh, because… okay, I can’t say that with a straight face.