Theistic and Atheistic Conversation Killers

Both theists and atheists can make statements which are “conversation killers.” Here are two recent examples from the Blogosphere.

On the atheistic side, James Lindsay recently wrote this.

On that basis, and others like it, it is very difficult to see the matter of theism as something to treat seriously as a philosophical object. We shouldn’t. It is a theological object, and theology is only “pseudo-philosophical,” as Carrier puts it, and pseudo-academic, as I outlined above. No one is required to take such a thing seriously or engage its “best” arguments, as if it has any, as if the real contenders haven’t already been dealt with thoroughly and repeatedly, and as if any argument stands up to the simple and straightforward question that’s been waiting for them all along: “Where’s the evidence?”

But because the idea that we should engage any position’s best case is generally true in philosophy proper, and all academic debate, it is an easy value to turn into a false virtue. The principle simply doesn’t apply here because theology is pseudo-academic, though. Misapplying it as a false virtue, a moral value defining a particular kind of thinker, I think, is exactly what apologists for the philosophy of religion are doing, and I think it constitutes a confusing and unproductive avenue in the conversation that should not continue.

Victor Reppert characterizes Lindsay’s position as, “I’m right; you’re an idiot; so let’s shut the discussion down” (see here). Elsewhere, Reppert asks, “What can you say to someone who wants to shut discussion down?” In response, Lindsay clarifies that this is a close but not perfectly summary of his position:

You are very nearly correct, Victor. It’s not, though, that I want to shut this discussion down (how Orwellian). I just want it to draw to its natural conclusion, if a decade (or century) or more late in getting there.

So Lindsay’s position might be better summarized as: “Theism is obviously stupid (false), so let’s stop having serious conversations about it.”

On the other side of philosophical “aisle,” a reader of Victor Reppert’s blog named Ilion wrote something very similar from the theistic side.

“What fellowship has darkness with light?”

*All* God-deniers are intellectually dishonest with respect to their God-denial. Thus, it is as logically impossible to have a “dialogue” with atheists about God, or “religion”, as it is to have one with you over any of the things you choose to be intellectually dishonest about, such as socialized medicine … for you *will not* acknowledge any of the unwlecome (to statists/leftists such as yourself) truths about it.

I have no idea why Ilion brings up socialized medicine in reference to me (or why he calls me a “statist” or “leftist”), since I’ve never written publicly about any of those things. In any case, the conversation killer is obvious. All atheists are “intellectually dishonest” with respect to their God-denial.

In case there was any doubt about whether Ilion intended to make such a sweeping generalization, he removed that doubt in a follow-up reply.

JJL: “So if Linday’s position can be summarized as “I’m right, you’re an idiot,” yours would be, “I’m right, you’re a liar.” Correct?

It has nothing to do with me, nor with whether I am right. It has to do with the fact that you (plural, collective, inclusive) are intellectually dishonest, which is worse than mere lying.

My position is: “You’re intellectually dishonest. Correct that, and then we’ll see whether you have anything worthwhile to say.”

JJL: “If that is truly your position, then I can’t think of why any atheist would want to dialogue with you.

I’m crushed: people who are worse than liars may not want to “dialogue” with me … because I insist upon dropping the intellectual dishonesty first.

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