Attack or Defend Religion

Non-Theists can have very different opinions about theism. I just read the Terry Eagleton’s Guardian review of Alain De Button’s book: Religion for Atheists (which I have not read).  Eagleton’s review is well-written, insightful and interesting.  Yet sometimes I feel that Atheists like Eagleton attack theism and envision themselves accomplishing much more than they actually have accomplished.   I just criticized Theists for doing the same in my post: “Arguing for a Tiny God“.  Below is a diagram to capture my feeling on this issue showing how some Atheists do the same thing.  They argue against the “big” (quality-inflated) gods and feel these criticism hold for much more basic things which don’t resemble the inflated gods at all.  I will have to study a bit more to give a better analysis, but for now what do you think of this model?

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13 Comments

Filed under Philosophy & Religion

13 responses to “Attack or Defend Religion

  1. Pseudonym

    I’m not so sure that this is true for most defenders.
    One generally wishes to defend oneself and people who are sufficiently similar. I would think that a defence of a certain size of god would only be intended to apply to the size of deity of the defender, plus or minus a little bit. Few ultra-liberal deist types would defend “fundamentalist apocalyptic judge”-type deities, and few fundamentalist apocalyptic types would defend “god as a philosophical abstraction”.
    Of course, you may attack some notion of a deity while simultaneously defending belief in that notion is not inherently harmful, but that’s another topic.

  2. @ Pseudonym
    I don’t know if you got a chance to read the post that explains the “Defend” issue. Please read this: “Arguing for a Tiny God. That may clarify the diagram.

  3. Using Christian lingo for convenience here, but possibly applicable to a greater target…

    I think the trap Christians fall into is that when they do battle with atheists, they try to get down to the level of proving that there is a god first, but they often make no possible distinction between a god and the God of the Bible. The majority of them have no concept of god being anything other than God, capitol G. I think that is the error which is well represented by your diagram.

  4. I’m wondering, why do either? I have two sons (well, more than two) who read the Bible with enthusiasm. The youngest one to bolster and defend his faith, and the oldest one to find all the flaws and contradictions. You can imagine the discussions that arise on the rare occasions they are together at my home.

    The more I think about the “God thing” the more I realize how pointless it is. Just talking about God only validates an existence, whether you believe or not. If we grew up in a culture where any notion of God was unknown, we couldn’t talk about it at all. But we’re immersed in a God culture, surrounded by it like a fish in the ocean. It’s a poor metaphor because it’s impossible to argue that the ocean doesn’t exist—even when we know there is a clear, blue sky and a vast universe beyond.

    So for me, God is irrelevant to my day-to-day existence. I find no consolation in theism, and likewise I find no consolation in disputing it.

  5. @ Luke: Thanks

    @ The Wise Fool
    Thank you — you certainly understand what I meant by the Left side of the chart concerning Atheist defenders. But I wrote about that in my post called “Defending a Tiny God”.

    This post is really trying to point to the same fault in some Atheists abeit in a different direction. What do you think about that point?

    PS – really growing to love your blog. Fantastic education!

  6. @ Paul
    I rarely dispute it unless someone’s theism hits me face on:
    – their kids tell my kids they are going to hell
    – they use it when they argue politics
    – they try to tell us what we can and can’t do
    – they try to imply that we are repugnant because we don’t go to church or the like

    And that happens not infrequently — I live in a town with a seminary.

    But on the internet it is another thing.
    But I do debate Atheists too — that is what this post is doing. I debate them when they try to claim more than they should and especially when they do it claiming to be righteously more rational. Ohhh, that gets me upset.

  7. @Sabio
    I am so sorry! I know, I know, I had read the tiny God post before. And I had read the text for this one too. What can I say? I got distracted by your pretty picture! :-) It was new, and didn’t get included on the tiny God post.

    I guess that’s the risk you run when you make good graphics like that!

    Anyway, on the other side of the diagram, and in respect to Eagleton and others, I think you are right there too, as I have certainly seen some arrogant atheists, and even a share of more mild ones, appear to have this exact foible.

    On the other hand, I would hate to be too hasty in my judgement, and would have to consider each person on an individual basis, because it could be a matter of convenient semantics.

    For example, I say that I am atheist, but really I am agnostic because I can’t prove or disprove a “small” god. I favor atheist as a label because it clearly defines a lack of belief in any established religion, whereas agnostic is, it seems, reinterpreted in some religious minds into something more than it should be. In that same sense, I wonder if those atheists who attack The Judge to disprove a god of all sizes do so simply as a convenient way of saying “I don’t believe in any kind of concept in what a person of faith would consider to be God.” Who knows? (I hope that was clear, because I know it’s kind of a nuanced argument.)

    Glad you are enjoying my blog, and I must say that I am quite enjoying yours too!

  8. @ The Wise Fool
    NP. I read sloppily sometimes too. But I decided to touch up the chart to make its points more salient. I hope you like the new version.

    I agree with using the word Atheist. There is such a huge bias in this fricken country against it, I use it to help fight the image. But I pay a price for doing that. So if I want to escape that, I will tell folks I am Buddhist — which for some weird reason is better than an Atheist. Buddhists are suppose to be moral, at least, even if still hell-bound.

    I prefer “atheist” to say I really don’t believe in an intervening, miraculous, tribal-salvation god. I don’t believe in other types either — well, most of me doesn’t! (see my posts on “Many Selves”).

  9. I do like the new version. I think it is more accurate for sure.

    You know, the thought of how you have it arranged now somewhat popped into my head automatically earlier. Kind of like when you read a misspelled word, your mind will sometimes auto-correct it. I saw the arrows going to and from “The Judge” and thought, well, he actually means several of those upper levels. At the time, I didn’t consider the lower smaller levels, but I think that you have grouped them well!

  10. Great, glad our intuitions magically aligned. ;-)

  11. Pseudonym

    @Sabio, I did read that, but I was making a related point. There really are, to pick one place on the spectrum, mystics who honestly believe in the mystic-sized deity and would never defend the fundamentalist apocalyptic judge-sized deity or the deist philosophical abstraction.

  12. @ Pseudonym
    Yes, I agree totally. Many mystic theists keep their god very simple and don’t support the puffed-up gods in their traditions.
    But that is not what my diagram is about.
    The first post shows how some Theists use the cosmological and ontological argument to try and prove god without realizing that it only aims at proving a small god, not the one the think they are defending.
    Likewise Atheist attack puffed-up gods and may think their attacks work on mystics but they don’t.
    I hope that makes it a little more clear.

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