I am like Nietzsche’s camel. While I am many miles away from morally perfect, I have been a generally conscientious person since I was a child and was devoutly, zealously, evangelically, self-sacrificially, and mildly puritanically religious until I was 21. And I am open to certain interpretations of my personality that see it as still fundamentally religious—as long as they do not confuse that for faith-based thinking or other forms of closed-mindedness, authoritarianism, or deference to unwarranted authorities of thought or practice. I think a fair accounting would acquit me of such charges, whatever the other inadequacies of my intellect and character.
What I am stressing here is something that both the faithful and the always-secular rarely seem to understand about at least some of us apostates. For some of us, our rejection of our faith is not merely the abandonment of our religious values but, at the same time, very much our fulfillment of them. It was Christianity that led me to reject Christianity.
I quite like Finke. When people were laying into me after the conversion announcement, Finke wrote a post titled “How Foolish Atheists Convinced The Atheist Blogger Leah Libresco That Catholic Philosophy Was Rationally Superior To Atheism” where he took casual atheists to task for only engaging with the dumbest parts of religion and being glib about their own moral philosophy. And then he laid into me.
And then I went to summer camp and got a bit distracted.
So, just as I did when JT Eberhard came to town, I’m using Finke’s move as a kick in the pants to write a reply to his post. Call it a blogwarming gift (or a scramble to make sure it’s not awkward at the digital water cooler). I’ll have at least one post up for him this weekend.(Oh, and I solemnly swear Patheos isn’t recruiting atheists with the promise that I’ll finally slot their critiques ahead of “Let’s discuss moral philosophy through the lens of theatre” posts. Though I do have some thoughts on the Cumberbatch Frankenstein that will hopefully run next week).
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Meanwhile Patheos’s second-to-newest atheist blogger Chris Hallquist has posted a quick response to my welcome post.
This is really cool, but I want to comment on the issue of my book dealing with evangelicals vs. other Christians, particularly Catholics.
I guess I probably give that impression in part because of accidents of recent intellectual history. Catholic philosophers have had relatively little impact on philosophy of religion in the past half-century. In the United States, the revival of philosophy of religion was led by Alvin Plantinga, an Evangelical, and has been so dominated by protestants, to the point that even Notre Dame’s philosophy department was dominated by Protestants when I was there.
And the fact that I have an entire chapter devoted to William Lane Craig is just due to the fact is that he beats out the vast majority of other apologists in terms of mass appeal, especially among people who actually know something about science and Biblical scholarship. I don’t know of any Catholic apologists I can say that about.
Not to say that all the noteworthy philosophers of religion are Protestant. The most influential philosopher of religion in Britain for several decades now has been Richard Swinburne, who’s Eastern Orthodox. And Eleonore Stump is Catholic. But in spite of the recognition they’ve gotten, not many people go around talking about how one of them has supposedly solved the problem of evil, or “wins all their debates.”
I think my quickie answer to this is that Sarah Palin or Mitt Romney can end up the public face of conservatism, but when I want to find the strongest arguments on the other side, I skip them and read Nisbet or Chesterton or Burke or Wolfe. It’s necessary that someone debunk the popular apologists for a religion or an ideology, but that’s not really the same thing as tackling the meaty bits of the ideas.
Luckily, Hallquist says he’s planning to tackle Augustine and Aquinas at some point in the book, and I’ll be watching the feeds to jump in.