Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Theologs Are Now "Making Arguments"

Is it just me? Suddenly I seem to see lots of articles where the religious are attacking atheists for having a primitive understanding of religion, or for being anti-intellectual, or (get ready) for making flawed arguments.

Never mind that you never hear what the actual flaws are. The take-home is that suddenly, from religious apologists, we're hearing terms appropriate to rational discourse. Are we seeing a concerted campaign to try to win back us apostates by framing assertions in language that's familiar to us? Possibly - at least in part. (And by the way, you should do this when talking to them).

But I think more than that, it's because the debate has continued moving into the mainstream - through bus ads and public figures and newspaper articles and geographic areas where you couldn't previously have had such discussions in the open. Now that the tricks are recognized (for example, saying you're offended when your faith is questioned) religions are increasingly having to play fair to stay in the discussion. Did medieval priests invite Galileo to debates? No, they didn't have to; they were already in charge. Does bin Laden try to debate Christopher Hitchens at universities? Of course not. So tell me what's more likely: that religious figures are suddenly interested in the intellectual life, or that they're increasingly finding themselves in a dusty back alley of the marketplace of ideas, and they're reluctantly trying to compete on a level playing field? Or in bin Laden's case, trying to rob the market instead of negotiate there.

While I continue to exhort everyone to get involved, and volunteer your time and/or donate money to a cause, we're right to stay in the discussion, whenever and wherever it comes up. After all, there's nothing like open discussion to damage arguments from authority, and this change in tone is a good sign that things are going our way.

1 comment:

Dan said...

"I'm not a dentist, but I play one on TV."

They're not after you and your atheist soul, Mike. You're not worth the effort. It's a ploy to pick lower hanging fruit. They're after the people on the fence. They're after the people who have started to devert but don't have much momentum yet. They're after kids who are just beginning to think critically.

The important thing that we can do as critical thinkers is to watch their words for logical fallacies, fake evidence, and unfounded theories, and point them out.