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HolyGround >> The Violence of the OT


10/31/11 1:50 PM
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Ridgeback
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 This is a link to part of an interview with Oxford philosopher Richard Swinburne and this part deals with how the ancient Christians viewed and interpreted the OT books.  Considering all the strawmen arguments being made by ignorant anti-Christians in our own time, I think this might be helpful.  

I don't see a way to embed the video so you will have to go to the page:

http://vimeo.com/13815923
10/31/11 2:19 PM
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gord96
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thanks for the link. very interesting. i am reading a lot of OT lately.
10/31/11 4:31 PM
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zealot66
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 I've lost all interest in the OT. I have been reading a bit here and there of the Greek NT.
10/31/11 4:47 PM
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prof
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How ironic to see the strawman accusation raised again and again by critics of vocal atheists. Whereas the real strawman is to pretend atheists are unaware of, and do not address, the type of ideas presented in that video.

The history of the bible - that is how it was cobbled together, sections kept and rejected via debates by church members etc - are PART of the critique many atheists (new atheists especially) offer of Christianity. Both Hitchens and Sam Harris, for instance, have many times, in debates and in their writings, brought up how the Biblical cannon
was forged by all too human decisions and debates in early Christian history.


In fact, in my experience vocal atheists tend to be more aware of these historical facts about the bible than the typical Christian (of any sect I've seen).

In that video Swinburne typifies exactly the issues critiqued by atheists. Essentially he says that the early church realised how contradictory the OT God seemed against the Jesus of the NT. So much so it was suggested they might want to toss the OT (or parts of it). What was the solution?
Keep the OT, but "interpret it metaphorically," with a mind to trying to ensure it is interpreted in a way that will not contradict the NT.

EXACTLY the problem atheists point to. It's just obvious myth-buiding by humans. The Church may have chosen this approach, but that doesn't give it any more justification than protestants have for their approach.

Swinburne even brings up the issue of whether the churchly, metaphorical interpretation coincides with what the original authors of the OT meant. "Maybe, maybe not..." he says.

Uh..yeah...kind of important there. If the NT is the central engine of Christianity, once it is decided to keep the OT, as Swinburne says, "the parts were (OT) God seems vindictive have to be understood a different way."

Well, yes, that follows when you have decided you have to square one contradictory text against another text you accept. Swinburne talks of the example of the Psalmist blessing for those who smashed children's head against rocks.
He says the church fathers (having accepted the NT version of God) looked at that and said "We can't possible take this literally because this is not a Christian sentiment." In other words, it CONFLICTS with the picture of God from the NT. So they took pains to "interpret" things metaphorically, in ways that can salvage some wisdom from the OT, keeping it consonant with the God of the NT.

The point atheists make is that Christians don't offer good reasons to engage in this exercise in the first place! The whole criticism is that THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT CHRISTIANS DO!

Instead of a rational, skeptical approach in which you say "Actually, this is contradictory, it makes no sense and indicates the myth-making hands of humans," Christians have constantly taken WHATEVER steps they need to salvage their beliefs.

He goes on to try to offer the excuse that texts take on different contextual meaning through time and context. Well...yes...exactly as one would expect if "God" and Christianity were not true per se, but the product of humans over time.

That you imagine videos like this somehow shines a light on atheist ignorance suggests instead an ignorance on your behalf about atheism (and the new atheists). Far from being ignorant of what Swinburne is talking about, this video is indicative of the type of theological responses that new atheists critique all the time!

Prof.
10/31/11 6:27 PM
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Ridgeback
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 Yes the video shines a light on atheist ignorance like I said.  Regardless of what you claim Prof., all three of the New Atheists have tried to come up with "gotcha" attempts by citing OT scriptures that Christians are supposed to support but this is because they are ignorant of how Christians traditionally viewed and interpreted the OT.
So yes they are making strawmen arguments or arguments based only on what American Fundamentalist Christians think is true.

Sorry this makes you so angry Prof.  It was a good video.
10/31/11 11:13 PM
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Ali
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I don't see a lot of anger in Prof's post, but...

It's a squirrelly, lightweight video that shines no light on anybody's ignorance, unless of course it is just to say: "some Christians have been better at metaphor than others". I think that is a point that needs to be made to those who really don't know. (I don't think "the New Atheists" are in that number, but in any case it's not what they're addressing, or worried about).

He's hanging his hat on Origen? Really? Smart dude but I would think contradicts a lot of what most any Christian today would say. I suppose all he says is that Origen was one of the earliest people to teach metaphorical interpretation of the bible. But that in response to the interviewer speculating what some "like Dawkins" might say, and Swinburne just takes a swipe. It is this cherry-picking and "liberal" interpretation that Harris in particular DOES deal with head on, though. And in his view the free passes given to fundie craziness come, in large part, from such liberal interpretation. The superior "those guys don't know history" line is, as with Gray, just a swipe, a whiff, a blow that doesn't land on its target.

This probably misses "atheist ignorance" as much as the Gray "lecture" did. Let's recognize it's barely more than a sound-bite, so it's not like one can critique it as having super grand ambitions. But it's just stating a position, not really making a case or doing any work at all towards revealing others' positions.
11/1/11 12:35 PM
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prof
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Ridgeback, as Ali notes, that video does not shine a light on atheist ignorance.

Christianity is obviously broken into competing and contradictory versions. So some arguments will have to address the beliefs of one section of Christianity, others will address other forms of Christianity. You are looking at ONE type of argument given by New Atheists and, in ignoring the other ones, you say "See...they view Christianity only in one way...fundy protestantism."

In doing this, you are doing exactly what you accuse (new) atheists of: simply taking one part of the atheist arguments and ignoring the other parts.

Atheism, and for now I'll talk about "New Atheism" has two broad critiques (which of course contain a spectrum of specifically aimed critiques).

1. Look how crazy it is to believe the Bible and look at the consequences (generally directed at the very real set of Christians who take a lot of the Bible literally).

2. Liberal, "sophisticated" versions of Christianity that take much less of the bible literally may believe in fewer crazy propositions overall, but they nonetheless have NO BETTER justification for the supernatural parts they DO believe and NO BETTER justification for taking the bible to be representative of the wisdom of an actual God.

Ultimately Liberal/Catholic/Sophisticated theology allows itself lazy moves to justify supernatural belief and in doing so adds "cover" for the more literal beliefs in the bible.

The second critique is, if anything, the defining feature of New Atheism vs older atheism, where New Atheists say "Look, it's not just the bible thumping fundies who most of us already agree are nuts that are the problem...it's the REST OF YOU who consider the Bible indicative of a God. YOU are part of the problem yourselves."

And if you look at the list of people Hitchens, Dawkins and Harris have publicly debated, it isn't filled with literalist/fundamentalists. It is instead a litany of their "sophisticated" liberal Christian (and even non-Christian) critics. It is a list of the very people calling them out on their purported naivete. They aren't going into fundy churches. As Dawkins himself pointed out recently:

"I have publicly engaged an archbishop of York, two archbishops of Canterbury, many bishops and the chief rabbi, and I’m looking forward to my imminent, doubtless civilised encounter with the present archbishop of Canterbury."

In virtually every debate Hitchens counters this silly claim that he draws only from the margins or protestant fundy version of Christianity for his critique. Hitchens readily quotes Popes and various church fathers and higher ups, both through the ages and contemporary, showing the ridiculous propositions they have asserted.


Swinburne says that the objection to the character of the OT God was well known to Christians even before they took the old testament as a Christian doctrine. He gives the example of Marcion who rejected the old testament. What a revelation! (not). If you think these kind of things are revelations on atheist ignorance, you are yourself ignorant of what is known and argued by atheists.

Hitchens for instance regularly brings up the historical context of how earlier church fathers believed, how the canon was debated, including talking about Marcion. Hitchens has referenced Marcion numerous times as an example for when Christians blew it. He says it's too bad viewpoints like Marcion didn't hold the day because Christians went and decided to saddled themselves with the OT. "I don't know why you did this to yourselves" he likes to say, "but since you decided in the end to adopt the OT as cannon...you stick yourself with many problems."

The idea that Hitchens is simply ignorant of early Christian history and doctrine is laughable.

Further, you can even find other well known public atheists taking on critiques and theology of non-literal sophisticated
critics of New Atheism. Almost weekly you'll see P.Z. Myers doing so. The vocal atheist/biologist Jerry Coyne on his blog even more often. In fact, Coyne just publicly debated Roman Catholic Theologian John Haught, whose area of expertise is Systematic Theology. No fundy bible thumper there. However, apparently Haught was so trumped in this debate, Haught has refused to let the video of the debate go public!

One could go on exposing your repetitive, empty claim of atheist ignorance. But unfortunately the effort will be wasted if you are just going to selectively ignore it, and repeat your claims.

Whereas I don't ignore claims brought up. I address them. I actually took your post seriously enough to watch the video, and I provided some critique of the video, in light of your claims that it high-lights atheist ignorance.

Prof.






11/1/11 3:47 PM
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prof
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I just re-watched that video. Far from "shining a light on atheist ignorance" about those themes, that video is a perfect example of the "sophisticated" religious approach - holding on to an assumption and metaphorically re-interpreting away contradictions - that is regularly criticized by new atheists.

I think Ridgeback really isn't aware of the irony he is producing here.

Prof.
11/1/11 8:35 PM
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Lahi
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I haven't been able to watch the video yet...but I believe that Harris and Hitchens are off on some of their points about the Old Testament. As far as Scripture goes, Hitchens can be very insightful sometimes, other times I think he does show an obvious lack of knowledge in certain areas. (Thinking Jesus prophecied the end times when he was talking about the fall of Jerusalem for example). I don't think he understands how the early Christians viewed the Jewish Scriptures.

What bothers me about Harris' thinking is that he seems to assume that anything besides evangelical fundamentalism is liberal and cherry-picking, when really the evangelicals are much newer than many other Christian groups.

Some of the OT books are my favorites, Ecclesiastes especially.
11/1/11 9:05 PM
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Ali
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Edited: 11/01/11 9:19 PM
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Lahi - I haven't been able to watch the video yet...but I believe that Harris and Hitchens are off on some of their points about the Old Testament. As far as Scripture goes, Hitchens can be very insightful sometimes, other times I think he does show an obvious lack of knowledge in certain areas. (Thinking Jesus prophecied the end times when he was talking about the fall of Jerusalem for example). I don't think he understands how the early Christians viewed the Jewish Scriptures.

What bothers me about Harris' thinking is that he seems to assume that anything besides evangelical fundamentalism is liberal and cherry-picking, when really the evangelicals are much newer than many other Christian groups.

Some of the OT books are my favorites, Ecclesiastes especially.

Lahi -- I don't know if I agree with -- or might be convinced of -- the criticisms you make in thumbnail fashion here. I think you'll find difference among different Christians regarding whether Jesus was talking about the fall of Jerusalem or end-times, e.g. And deciding whether "Jerusalem" is literal or not, even -- when you see the Swinburne video you'll see what I'm talking about. But... that all goes to Prof's point about not being able to answer every differing interpretation held dearly by the assuredly not monolithic (as Ridge is fond of pointing out) "Christians".

The point I really want to make, however, is that your criticisms -- whether ultimately convincing or not -- do a much better job in critiquing New Atheist ignorance than Swinburne does in that video. And better than John Gray did in his 4-part (or four "youtube part") lecture on the New Atheists. Seriously. Props.
11/1/11 9:24 PM
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Ali
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Embedding the video in question...

The violence of the Old Testament from CPX on Vimeo.

11/1/11 9:37 PM
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Ali
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Here's the section supertitled "A skeptical age" -- which might, nominally, be an attempt to tackle the New Atheists more directly, in spite of not naming anyone (even Dawkins -- but last time he came up directly, the interviewer fed the name). Here he begins with: "The sort of arguments we've heard in the last 10 years or so are entirely old arguments.... nothing new...." I take that to mean the so-called New Atheism. If not, I don't know what he's referring to.

And if this is an attempt to respond to them, it's even worse a job than the previous section of this interview.

A sceptical age from CPX on Vimeo.



In fact, he (assuming arguendo that there's nothing new in the arguments) says that people are more open to the arguments, having less religious conviction than in times past; and balancing that out, the defense of religion has gotten more sophisticated. So the dialectic is working for him, clearly, in spite of his dismissiveness of the atheistic arguments.
11/1/11 11:10 PM
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Ridgeback
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Ali - I don't see a lot of anger in Prof's post, but...

It's a squirrelly, lightweight video that shines no light on anybody's ignorance, unless of course it is just to say: "some Christians have been better at metaphor than others". I think that is a point that needs to be made to those who really don't know. (I don't think "the New Atheists" are in that number, but in any case it's not what they're addressing, or worried about).

He's hanging his hat on Origen? Really? Smart dude but I would think contradicts a lot of what most any Christian today would say. I suppose all he says is that Origen was one of the earliest people to teach metaphorical interpretation of the bible. But that in response to the interviewer speculating what some "like Dawkins" might say, and Swinburne just takes a swipe. It is this cherry-picking and "liberal" interpretation that Harris in particular DOES deal with head on, though. And in his view the free passes given to fundie craziness come, in large part, from such liberal interpretation. The superior "those guys don't know history" line is, as with Gray, just a swipe, a whiff, a blow that doesn't land on its target.

This probably misses "atheist ignorance" as much as the Gray "lecture" did. Let's recognize it's barely more than a sound-bite, so it's not like one can critique it as having super grand ambitions. But it's just stating a position, not really making a case or doing any work at all towards revealing others' positions.

Nah, this is simply how we Orthodox have always viewed scripture and yes Origen is heavily quoted in Orthodox theology despite his views on the circular nature of time, which were condemned.  The argument that a Christian must read all of the OT as some kind of monolithic document of direct utterance from God himself is nothing more than a strawman.  

To pretend like Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens haven't tried to make the "the OT God is a tyrant and if you don't take the Bible literally from front to back like Christian fundamentalist do then you are simply cherry picking" argument in their own ways is simply dishonest.  

I am sorry you didn't agree with the Gray lecture.  He was right on.  All three of them show a serious ignorance of the history of thought just like Prof. shows no sign that he has ever read Nietszche or Foucault or Derrida.  I just don't see how you can consider yourself an educated atheist without knowing about these men and their works.  Post-modernism is the answer to the dissolution of Christianity and yet most atheists just keep their Christian assumptions while saying goodbye to God.  This leads to incredible naivete in things like morality, which, if naturalism is a true view of the world, is nothing more than the framework of power relations.  As Gray points out, the end of Christianity doesn't lead to the salvation of man apart from grace.  The end of Christianity means there is nothing to save mankind from.  He is exactly as you would expect him to be if he developed through a blind process that involves preying upon other living things.  And so the preference for one instinctive behavior over another must be nothing more than the reification of that more basic drive.  Hence the will to power.


And to be fair to Swinburne he is answering a question in an interview that was posed to him.  Yes he is speaking in general terms, but how would you catalogue everything all three of the New Atheists have said in all of their books and debates and lectures.  
11/1/11 11:17 PM
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Ridgeback
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prof - 
I just re-watched that video. Far from "shining a light on atheist ignorance" about those themes, that video is a perfect example of the "sophisticated" religious approach - holding on to an assumption and metaphorically re-interpreting away contradictions - that is regularly criticized by new atheists.

I think Ridgeback really isn't aware of the irony he is producing here.

Prof.

 No, he is simply discussing what is well known by any first year theology student.  It wasn't news that the Bible was put together by men and that there were fierce disputes.  It isn't news that the OT was considered for removal from the Christian canon of scripture.  It isn't news that the earliest Christians took a metaphorical approach to scripture and always read the OT through the lens of the life of Jesus.  If you want to say the life and teachings of Jesus are the assumption and everything must fit within that framework then that is no problem since that is what the early Christians did in the Vincentian sense.  

Since Catholicism and Orthodoxy share the same roots, and since Anglicanism also shares the same roots and Anglican theologians know about this approach, that represents a huge historical majority and what was typical for Christianity.  In other words prof, if you are going to complain that you can't deal with every possible incarnation of Christianity then stick with this one.  


11/1/11 11:21 PM
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Ali
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The New Atheists don't disagree that ... "the Bible was put together by men and that there were fierce disputes. It isn't news that the OT was considered for removal from the Christian canon of scripture. It isn't news that the earliest Christians took a metaphorical approach to scripture and always read the OT through the lens of the life of Jesus."

No exposure of ignorance, there. None.
11/1/11 11:45 PM
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Ali
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Ridgeback - 

To pretend like Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens haven't tried to make the "the OT God is a tyrant and if you don't take the Bible literally from front to back like Christian fundamentalist do then you are simply cherry picking" argument in their own ways is simply dishonest.  


Just weird broad brushed assertions. Clearly those guys deal with those who DO take the Bible literally front to back and are concerned with fundamentalists and their political consequences. But as Prof has written, and as those guys have written in different ways with differing emphases, it's not just the literalists/fundamentalists that are at issue. They ARE, of course, but not only. I think you're right that Sam Harris in particular makes the argument about cherry-picking non-fundamentalists vis-a-vis Islam, in particular, though.


Ridgeback -
I am sorry you didn't agree with the Gray lecture.  He was right on.  All three of them show a serious ignorance of the history of thought just like Prof. shows no sign that he has ever read Nietszche or Foucault or Derrida.


It's not that I don't "agree" with the lecture -- which I think was very content-lite, so difficult to find ways to disagree too strongly. He asserts that those guys are ignorant, he asserts that they're "angry" and gets a chuckle, he's dismissive. He doesn't engage with what they say. It's not that he's "wrong" it's that he's got very little content beyond assertions. The lecture doesn't land any critique, it just calls names. Maybe he's right, he just gives no evidence for it. He's certainly no friend to Christianity, either, though. He's pandering.

Ridgeback -
 I just don't see how you can consider yourself an educated atheist without knowing about these men and their works.

Argh... well, that stuff was on my reading list in college, and beyond for a while. Did lots of course work in literary theory (where those guys were being read more than in philosophy departments across America, at least when I was an undergrad). Some in philosophy classes. But this is your curriculum. I think they offer very different things, very different degrees of value. But this is your curriculum. I wouldn't think Quentin Smith or Donald Davidson or Daniel Lewis would agree with your reading list. Not that they're right, but just throwing around your reading list is just declaring the turf without having earned it.

Ridgeback - Post-modernism is the answer to the dissolution of Christianity and yet most atheists just keep their Christian assumptions while saying goodbye to God. [\quote] I confess I have no clue what this means. What's the question to "the dissolution of Christianity"? That post-modernism is the answer to? How are you distinguishing modernism from post-modernism in relevant part? Would you put Lyotard on your reading list for "educated atheists" too, then?
 Ridgeback -
This leads to incredible naivete in things like morality, which, if naturalism is a true view of the world, is nothing more than the framework of power relations.  As Gray points out, the end of Christianity doesn't lead to the salvation of man apart from grace.
 Gray points that out? Specifically "apart from Grace"? Granted he doesn't think there's one thing to save humanity from. That's not his project either, though.
Ridgeback - The end of Christianity means there is nothing to save mankind from.  He is exactly as you would expect him to be if he developed through a blind process that involves preying upon other living things.
So there was no morality prior to Christianity? or there was nothing to "save" man from? Is there some bias in the language here towards a soteriology that is dismissive of, say, Buddhist diagnosis and prescription? (For example?). Seems so to me. There are traditions for wisdom that are apart from Christianity, certainly, whether you can squeeze the language of soteriology into them or not.
Ridgeback -  And so the preference for one instinctive behavior over another must be nothing more than the reification of that more basic drive.  Hence the will to power.
So there's nothing outside of Christianity that would tell you not be a blind predator? Easy to win any argument when you are so sure of the worthlessness of the other position. You're spreading caricature much farther than the "ignorant" atheists you accuse of straw-manning.


Ridgeback - And to be fair to Swinburne he is answering a question in an interview that was posed to him.  Yes he is speaking in general terms, but how would you catalogue everything all three of the New Atheists have said in all of their books and debates and lectures.  
Yes absolutely, Swinburne has much more to say than is sayable in the short-video-interview format. I have no disrespect for Swinburne. It's just ludicrous to say he's "exposing atheist ignorance" because he's not. He's asserting it, briefly, sure. Name-calling. He couldn't do the same with atheists who actually engage him philosophically. He shouldn't do it with anyone.

PS -- I keep trying to edit this so the quotation blocks come out right, and am guilty of massive FAIL. Sorry.
11/1/11 11:48 PM
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Ridgeback
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Ali - The New Atheists don't disagree that ... "the Bible was put together by men and that there were fierce disputes. It isn't news that the OT was considered for removal from the Christian canon of scripture. It isn't news that the earliest Christians took a metaphorical approach to scripture and always read the OT through the lens of the life of Jesus."

No exposure of ignorance, there. None.

 I was responding to prof.   

Dawkins basically claims that the people who read the OT metaphorically are of course preferable, but he assumes they are simply not reading the scriptures correctly.  This is a mild version of Harris's cherry picking argument.  Or, to put it another way, why would Dawkins even bother with the whole "the God of the OT is a homophobe" spiel if he wasn't trying to imply that this is the only way to understand it?  Why even bring up the parts of the OT that are at odds with the life and teachings of Jesus if they concede that Christians never read those things that way in the first place?  

And go to the OG if you don't think there are tons of atheist posts (which is why I posted this video) that quote select parts of the OT and try to play gotcha with the Christians there.  And of course none of them actually read the OT on their own, they just copied and pasted those passages from anti-Christian websites.  


11/1/11 11:57 PM
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Ridgeback
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Argh... well, that stuff was on my reading list in college, and beyond for a while. Did lots of course work in literary theory (where those guys were being read more than in philosophy departments across America, at least when I was an undergrad). Some in philosophy classes. But this is your curriculum. I think they offer very different things, very different degrees of value. But this is your curriculum. I wouldn't think Quentin Smith or Donald Davidson or Daniel Lewis would agree with your reading list. Not that they're right, but just throwing around your reading list is just declaring the turf without having earned it. [\quote]

That really isn't fair and it isn't even my reading list.  You could say I was forced to read them because it is part of theory, but post-modernism is pretty important to the consequences of the "death of God." I never see an atheist on the OG discussing morality in terms of power relations, but they quote Dawkins like he is a god.  The point is that they are reading popular writers to the exclusion of the more serious writers.  If I was an atheist I would be reading the best atheist thinkers, which I think was Gray's essential point.  I think you can agree that the New Atheists are not top tier when it comes to post-Christian thought.  

11/1/11 11:59 PM
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Ali
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Ridgeback - ... Or, to put it another way, why would Dawkins even bother with the whole "the God of the OT is a homophobe" spiel if he wasn't trying to imply that this is the only way to understand it?  Why even bring up the parts of the OT that are at odds with the life and teachings of Jesus if they concede that Christians never read those things that way in the first place?  

You know the answer to that. There ARE people who understand it that way, and people who try to create conditions in which there are negative consequences for those who don't. So Of course he "bothers". If you're not a literalist, then the critique of literalism is not a critique of you. Fair enough. But that doesn't mean it doesn't need to be made. And if you unwittingly support the consequences of literalism, even being non-literal, then this should be pointed out, too. But you're not saying he must only respond to positions that EVERYBODY takes?

And go to the OG if you don't think there are tons of atheist posts (which is why I posted this video) that quote select parts of the OT and try to play gotcha with the Christians there.  And of course none of them actually read the OT on their own, they just copied and pasted those passages from anti-Christian websites.  




Oh, so Swinburne is exposing the ignorance of OG New Atheists, not "The New Atheists". I'll take your word for it before I go reading through the OG, honestly.
11/2/11 12:06 AM
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Ridgeback
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Ali - 
Ridgeback - ... Or, to put it another way, why would Dawkins even bother with the whole "the God of the OT is a homophobe" spiel if he wasn't trying to imply that this is the only way to understand it?  Why even bring up the parts of the OT that are at odds with the life and teachings of Jesus if they concede that Christians never read those things that way in the first place?  

You know the answer to that. There ARE people who understand it that way, and people who try to create conditions in which there are negative consequences for those who don't. So Of course he "bothers". If you're not a literalist, then the critique of literalism is not a critique of you. Fair enough. But that doesn't mean it doesn't need to be made. And if you unwittingly support the consequences of literalism, even being non-literal, then this should be pointed out, too. But you're not saying he must only respond to positions that EVERYBODY takes?

And go to the OG if you don't think there are tons of atheist posts (which is why I posted this video) that quote select parts of the OT and try to play gotcha with the Christians there.  And of course none of them actually read the OT on their own, they just copied and pasted those passages from anti-Christian websites.  




Oh, so Swinburne is exposing the ignorance of OG New Atheists, not "The New Atheists". I'll take your word for it before I go reading through the OG, honestly.

 But this leads to Dawkin's disciples not seeing the difference and so the assumption is that all Christians read the OT literally even though, historically, the people who do this are a small minority.  I see no sign that Dawkins makes a point of making this clear to his fans.  I am not sure I am buying that his rants against the OT God (which demonstrate a highly selective and biased reading on his part) exist purely for the purpose of dealing with American fundamentalists.  

The 8 minutes of video I posted is dealing with a common belief among a large number of anti-Christian atheists who believe that all Christians in history have read the Bible exactly as an Independent Fundamentalist Bible Believing Baptist does.  

Note in my initial post that I directed this video (and I only posted the select portion that was relevant) to the anti-Christians who take this to be the case.  

If you ever get the chance Ali read a book called The Beauty of the Infinite.  You are the one person on this forum whose reponse would be truly interesting to read.


11/2/11 12:14 AM
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Ali
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Ridgeback - 

That really isn't fair and it isn't even my reading list.  You could say I was forced to read them because it is part of theory, but post-modernism is pretty important to the consequences of the "death of God." I never see an atheist on the OG discussing morality in terms of power relations, but they quote Dawkins like he is a god.  The point is that they are reading popular writers to the exclusion of the more serious writers.  If I was an atheist I would be reading the best atheist thinkers, which I think was Gray's essential point.  I think you can agree that the New Atheists are not top tier when it comes to post-Christian thought.  



I mean no offense -- I'm not sure what the "not fair" part is. You're throwing around "can't be an educated atheist" without these three writers. There are LOTS of VERY educated atheists that don't deal with them at all, or even the whole "death of God" tradition -- of which the French readings of Nietzsche are only one part. Plenty of analytical philosophers find that stuff irrelevant. I thought it was "your" list because it is you who said it was required reading for anyone to call themselves an "educated" atheist.

I confess I'm not all on top of continental philosophy, or lit theory, either. I was very deeply involved a long-ish time ago, though (because I'm middle aged, and haven't kept up reading the same things I did when in college. I don't find the same things absorb me). So I'm not going to speak as one who is any way with academic credentials and publications or even a hobbyist who has continued to mine that particular vein. But I'm not "uneducated". And as a former Catholic with a broad liberal education, I'm not "uneducated" in the ways of metaphor in scripture, either. And I think insisting Prof deal with Derrida (for one) is just wrong-headed. Clearly the man is a very educated atheist.

Yeah, I agree that the New Atheists are not "top tier" when it comes to post-Christian thought. Very little is "new". But as Swinburne says, more people are open to the ideas, being less committed to religious thought, so I think their ideas in the public square are salutary. They don't *need* to be top tier, or respond "only to the best" if it's other-than-the-best that's in the public square. And it's not only Christians that they're concerned with. It's "woo" in general.
11/2/11 12:30 AM
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Ali
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No, Dawkins doesn't deal with only American fundamentalists. He has McGrath to deal with, for one. But you know he often deals with them -- they're the ones he's rebutting on youtube at least SOMETIMES. So and other literalists as well. And Deepak Chopra and Neale Donald Walsch. So ... you seem to take him to task for dealing with fundamentalists when he does. I don't think he makes the claim that all believers are biblical literalists. He just deals with them. I don't have to rehearse the list of whom he has debated -- it's in this thread already. To say he's unfamiliar with other strains of Christianity is just not true. His biggest critic in the U.K. is McGrath... author of "The Dawkins Delusion". Not a fundie. Thre is plenty of material with Dawkins addressing him and others who are not fundies or literalists. I'm not sure why you insist that's all he does.

Yet, of course he DOES critique the literalists as well, and vociferously.

You write "Note in my initial post that I directed this video (and I only posted the select portion that was relevant) to the anti-Christians who take this to be the case. "

OK, it wasn't clear to me that you were only dealing with this sub-set. I don't think Dawkins falls into that category, as he is specifically caricatured, or at least metonymized (forgive the neologism), in that interview. And your subsequent mention of The New Atheists and their "strawnmen" lead to the rest of this... logorrhea! (My bad).

I don't know what The Beauty of the Infinite is, but I'll get on Amazon right now and have a look. I still want to read the Bloom you recommended, truth... and always, I have a couch and a bed loaded with books to finish, or take a serious chunk out of... always. So it's tough to take on more, unless it independently grabs my interest or obsession.
11/2/11 12:40 AM
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Ridgeback
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 I have never claimed prof. is not educated.   I think you know the connotation of what I wrote.  It is like saying "no educated Christian can go without reading Augustine."  That doesn't mean a Christian who hasn't read Augustine is necessarily uneducated.  It means that he should be spurred to read Augustine because it is an important part of his education.  The same goes with those three I listed.  This is particularly true because they deal with issues like the nature of human morality and the issues of semiotics and rhetorical structures in language use.  

I see the post-modernists discussed in theology, philosophy, literary theory, rhetoric, psychiatry, etc. etc.  It might be the emphases of my own education, but I still think these are pretty big names to have been at least exposed to.  

I would argue that the New Atheists suceed precisely because their fans start with an anti-Christian bias and a pretty poor education.  Then they take these writers not as popular writers, but as the most "academic" people they have been exposed to.  Even a brief perusal of some of the athiest sites on the internet (including Dawkin's home page) will reveal that this is at least a large element in their popularity.  A person like you can distinguish and appreciate the difference, but I think for people who can't it actually leads people down the wrong path, because it doesn't spur them to read at least higher tier writers.  If Dawkins led to reading John Stuart Mill or Albert Camus I would have more praise for what he is doing.  I will concede that there might be some benefit to having these discussions in the open.  Dawkins does ironically bring God to mind when the truth is religion has generally been considered poor dinner conversation.  

BTW, I find the Catholic church is the biggest atheist factory in the world. At least they provide a quality education in the process.
11/2/11 12:57 AM
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Ali
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Edited: 11/02/11 1:02 AM
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I come out way different from you on The New Atheists, and where they lead people, and what the climate of the debates is, in fact. That's just rehearsing old posts, though. I think Hitchens in particular has read anybody you'd care to say he should have. And in a different field (nobody's mentioned him yet) Dennett (isn't he the "fourth"?) also.

I know you didn't call Prof "uneducated". But you did say he's an "uneducated atheist". (at least, if you say he didn't read the people you say he needs to, and how anyone who hasn't read them can't "call themselves and educated atheist". And I disagree. I don't think Continental philosophy should be particularly exalted as The Way To Sophisticated Atheism either. Lots of philosophers deal with morality without it. Analytic philosophers deal with "rhetorical structures", too; and modal logic is at least as important as "semiotics"... when you're dealing on a philosophical level, there's WAY TOO much to read and work through again and worry... let alone how much to master... and there are lots of names at least as important as Foucault or Derrida to this whole discussion. Lots of whom are very opposed to their projects as included.

BTW,maybe the Catholic Church is the "atheist factory". [It's a funny observation!} But I got over Catholicism a couple decades before I moved away from theism. Spent a fair amount of time among Orthodox (both Russian and Syrian), have a close family member who is a Buddhist of the vajrayana persuasion (and have spent time practicing with and debating with Buddhists as well). And lots lots more among sufis, both in the Mosque or tekke and in the library... Less academic background in the other things, but it's not the academic stuff I was moving away from anyway.
11/2/11 1:10 AM
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Ridgeback
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Ali - I come out way different from you on The New Atheists, and where they lead people, and what the climate of the debates is, in fact. That's just rehearsing old posts, though. I think Hitchens in particular has read anybody you'd care to say he should have. And in a different field (nobody's mentioned him yet) Dennett (isn't he the "fourth"?) also.

I know you didn't call Prof "uneducated". But you did say he's an "uneducated atheist". (at least, if you say he didn't read the people you say he needs to, and how anyone who hasn't read them can't "call themselves and educated atheist". And I disagree. I don't think Continental philosophy should be particularly exalted as The Way To Sophisticated Atheism either. Lots of philosophers deal with morality without it. Analytic philosophers deal with "rhetorical structures", too; and modal logic is at least as important as "semiotics"... when you're dealing on a philosophical level, there's WAY TOO much to read and work through again and worry... let alone how much to master... and there are lots of names at least as important as Foucault or Derrida to this whole discussion. Lots of whom are very opposed to their projects as included.

BTW,maybe the Catholic Church is the "atheist factory". [It's a funny observation!} But I got over Catholicism a couple decades before I moved away from theism. Spent a fair amount of time among Orthodox (both Russian and Syrian), have a close family member who is a Buddhist of the vajrayana persuasion (and have spent time practicing with and debating with Buddhists as well). And lots lots more among sufis, both in the Mosque or tekke and in the library... Less academic background in the other things, but it's not the academic stuff I was moving away from anyway.

 Let me rephrase what I wrote then.  I think an atheist ought to read Foucault, Derrida, and Nietszche if he can because their ideas have been very influential to the history of thought in the West and knowledge of their thought makes a very valuable addition to a well-rounded education.

The Catholic thing was partially tongue in cheek, but only partially.  There are a lot of vehemently anti-Christian people out there who were raised Catholic.  Not that I am including you among them.  I am just amazed at how amplified it appears to be verses former Mormons or Pentecostals.  Maybe it is all the finger rapping and threats of hell.

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