Best testing a book: Chapter 2: The many gods I don’t believe in (yours included)

I just got done cleaning up my draft of chapter two of the book. It’s called The many gods I don’t believe in (yours included). Summary below the fold:

  • Richard Dawkins’ Big Bad Quote
  • What do ordinary religious believers believe?
  • The theologian who can’t tell you what he believes
  • What is fundamentalism?
  • Who’s really ignorant about theology?


  • Makoto

    Small editing point:
    “my focus will be on believers who use accuse atheists” – use shouldn’t be there? Or a / to split them?

    Paine’s discussion is fun for me. It’s like.. well, anyone could say “sure, I could perform miracles, if I wanted, but I don’t. And any writings that claim I performed miracles are probably lies.. but I could totally do them, really”. Spionza, on the other hand, sounds like an interesting read.. I get the impression I’d come away with the same feeling you did, but it might be a couple of nice afternoon books at some point.

  • Nox

    @The theologian who can’t tell you what he believes

    I still suspect most theologians are actively trying to not write clearly.

    It is usually an attempt to say something compatible with traditional christian belief, while saying something compatible with reason, by not really saying anything.

    In the case of the Haught quote, he is saying belief that the resurrection happened is far too important to worry about petty details like whether it ever actually happened. In other words, whether you believe is more important than whether it is true. Pretty standard christian logic.

    • Randy

      There is a branch of theology like that for sure. It is quite stupid and should not be bothered with. If this book will attack guys like Haught I won’t read it. All the Christian writers I respect attack him too. In my mind you are just picking the easy targets. Try interacting with what Pope Benedict writes. Then you are actually dealing with someone over a billion people take seriously.

      • Nox

        Interact with what Haught says, and christians will complain that you haven’t addressed Benedict.

        Interact with what Benedict says, and christians will complain that you haven’t addressed Aquinas.

        Interact with what Aquinas says, and christians will complain that you haven’t addressed the bible.

        Interact with what the bible says, and christians will complain that you haven’t addressed Haught.

  • Jubal DiGriz

    I love the idea behind this project. I’ll try to keep up with your beta releases and help with input.

    F’r instance: In the section “Unintelligible theology”, there’s an opening for criticism that the reason you don’t understand theological vocabulary is that you have not studied it properly. I reminded of the frequent criticism against creationists that they only have the illusion of understanding evolution because they’ve never properly studied biology and/or have only read popular texts. It distracts from your point in the passage. Perhaps drop, “Then I start skimming to try to find the section where they explain what they mean by their words (sometimes there are legitimate reasons for using words in unusual ways). Then I close the book when I realize no such section exists.” Or else rewrite it in a way that emphasizes that it’s the inherent unintelligibly of the process of theology that creates confusion, not the particular author or vocabulary.

    Really good treatment of the term “fundamentalist”.

    I would like to see some discussion (and this would probably be the chapter to do it) about god belief that isn’t technical or scholarly but it quite common with non-fundamentalists. Going into some detail about why you don’t believe in the god that is defined as “God is love”, or “God is the universe”, or “God is consciousness”. As a guess a large chunk of people who will read this book will have some notion like that.

    As a minor note, footnote [21] could be sourced better.

    Style question: Do you want to spend this much time essentially apologizing for Dawkins? I don’t disagree with the content, and he is the most recognizable brand in atheism today. However this COULD read as a knee-jerk defense of the popular guy. Drawing in others, like Sam Harris or PZ Myers who have also received criticism from apologists could help give the reader the sense that there is a broad trend at work.

  • Ray

    This sentence needs an edit around the word “whose:”
    “One philosopher whose was even less orthodox than Paine is Baruch Spinoza “

  • Delphi Psmith

    Maybe you could enable comments in your document so people could comment right on the draft? That would be easier than having to count paragraphs or copy bits out…

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  • Anonymous

    Minor point:
    ‘I’m at a total loss to understand how Eagleton could claim it’s true “For Judeo-Christianity” that “it would be perfectly coherent for religious types to claim that God does not in fact exist.”’
    Jean-Luc Marion, God without Being? Or the whole tradition of apophatic theology? Or the analogia entis? This seems to points to other lacunae in your arguments, in not properly dealing with broader questions of transcendence and ontology.

  • MNb

    Good job. I had some harsh criticism after reading the first version, but you seem to have addressed it all. The irony is that I now understand better what Haught means than a couple of months ago. It’s till bollocks.

    “That means that we have to over come literalism …… also in the scientific exploration of the universe.”
    No Mr. Haught, the unambiguous meaning of F = m*a allows us to explore that universe in a scientific way. What’s more, this unambiguous approach allows us to understand to a great extent what the authors of the Gospels wanted to tell us. Guess what? Atheists reject that message.

    “This is why talk of “atheist fundamentalism” is ridiculous.”
    Not entirely. I have met some atheists who think the only way to read holy books is the literal way – and subsequently proceed to use all the contradictions to “refunte” them. I can understand why no single believer is impressed by this.
    Exactly that is why I urge you to pay attention to the “Jesus is the perfect embodiment of agape” thing. Sorry if you get tired of me, but it is something atheists tend to neglect, both in Europe and the USA.
    Thát’s why I think believers like McGrath, Eagleton and Armstrong have a point – albeit not quite exactly the one they think they make.

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