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Theology; an empty discipline
Posted: 14 January 2007 01:00 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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"If all the achievements of scientists were wiped out tomorrow, there would be no doctors, but witch doctors, no transport faster than horses, no computers, no printed books, no agriculture beyond subsistence peasant farming. If all the achievements of theologians were wiped out tomorrow, would anyone notice the difference? Even bad achievements of scientists, the bombs, and sonar-guided whaling vessels work! The achievements of theologians don't do anything, don't affect anything, don't mean anything. What makes anyone think that "theology" is a subject at all?" [Richard Dawkins, "The Emptiness of Theology", Op-Ed article in Free Inquiry, Spring 1998]

I thought it fitting to start this short thread off with a Dawkins quote. I tend to agree with him. Every other discipline in academia works within the framework of the existent. Even postmodern novels exist and hence can be talked about and analysed but what exactly is theology talking about? I am fairly certain nothing.

Dawkins wrote this in response to Mcgrath's claims of his ignorance on the subject.

"Yes, I have, of course, met this point before. It sounds superficially fair. But it presupposes that there is something in Christian theology to be ignorant about. The entire thrust of my position is that Christian theology is a non-subject. It is empty. Vacuous. Devoid of coherence or content. I imagine that McGrath would join me in expressing disbelief in fairies, astrology and Thor's hammer. How would he respond if a fairyologist, astrologer or Viking accused him of ignorance of their respective subjects?

The only part of theology that could possibly demand my attention is the part that purports to demonstrate that God does exist. This part of theology I have, indeed, studied with considerable attention. And found it utterly wanting.

As for McGrath's book, I read it with genuine curiosity to discover whether he had any argument to offer in favor of his theistic belief. The nearest I could find was his statement that you cannot disprove it. Well, that may be true, but it isn't very impressive, is it?"

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Get with it. Millions of galaxies of hundreds of millions of stars, and a speck on one in a blink. That’s us, lost in space. The cop, you, me… Who notices?
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Posted: 14 January 2007 02:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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stardusk said

The achievements of theologians don’t do anything, don’t affect anything, don’t mean anything.

No, they waste time and breed ignorance and intolerance.

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Posted: 14 January 2007 03:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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[quote author=“stardusk”]
Dawkins wrote this in response to Mcgrath’s claims of his ignorance on the subject.

“Yes, I have, of course, met this point before. It sounds superficially fair. But it presupposes that there is something in Christian theology to be ignorant about. The entire thrust of my position is that Christian theology is a non-subject. It is empty. Vacuous. Devoid of coherence or content.

I am basically in agreement here.  I do wonder, however, about how the world would be without the various study of philosophies, which seem to at times overlap with religious thought. Not being a student of philosophy, I can only guess which ones might be more useful and which less.

Chirstian theology (and any theology) should indeed be, at this point in time, a non-subject.  Harris doesn’t like the word “atheist” because why define yourself with a negative?  However, today theology (and theism in many of its unenlightened forms) absolutely does persist, at least in America, in scary proportions.  Visibility is important, and it seems to me that everybody who does not believe in god ought to use the word “atheist” to be visible It’s like I said somewhere else here - the civil rights movement brought us “black is beautiful” and gay rights brought us “gay pride.” Both concepts were needed (and still are, unfortunately) to even out the playing field. 

This non-subject of theology - vacuous and devoid of content - nonetheless has so much influence that it cannot, like fairyology, be simply laughed off or ignored.  So, in arguing for intellectual honesty and true criticial thinking about religion, I’m labeled “arrogant.”  Isn’t it strange?  This is the word that has rightfully been bestowed upon religion because it dares hold itself immune from the type of criticism with which we scrutinize every other aspect of our lives.  And when its meaninglessness is exposed, all theists can do is throw these labels back at us: “I know you are, but what am I?! :x ”

BTW, just listened to Julia Sweeney’s “Letting Go of God” and it’s wonderful. If you have iTunes, you can download the wholse 2.5 hours for $11.95 on iStore’s audiobooks.  Now there’s a woman who did her homework!  I had no idea how much actual reading she did in so many facets of religion and science.  One thing she said that really sticks with me went something like: “...and I realized, I was never taught how to be a critical thinker!”

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Posted: 14 January 2007 04:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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This thread reminds me of another where I called theology a pseudo-science.  Dawkins puts into words exactly what my thoughts were.  The person I was debating with wanted to compare someone with a doctorate theology to Stephen Hawkings.  No.  Hawkings is a real scientist.  Those with doctorates in divinity are well trained bunko artists (or as we deists like to say, practicioners of priestcraft). 

I also don’t compare theology to philosophy or art.  The latter have value.  Philosophy can be applied to better understand our world.  Theater, music, poetry and painting beautify our world, express our struggles and entertain us. 

Theology does nothing but bamboozle and terrify, amass wealth (often at the expense of the poorest members of society) and foster ignorance and bigotry.  It is worse than useless.  It is a cancer. 

Not only would no one notice if theology went away, the world would be better off for it.

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Posted: 14 January 2007 06:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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milanst, are you suggesting that atheism does not breed intolerance?  Have you read the tone of posts on this website?  Not all are intolerant, but to suggest that none are intolerant is to ignore the obvious.  In this respect, and many others, dogmatic atheism is no different than fundamental theism.

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Posted: 14 January 2007 06:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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The entire thrust of my position is that Christian theology is a non-subject. It is empty. Vacuous. Devoid of coherence or content.  = Logical Positivism

For those unaware, it might do you some good to research Logical Positivism and why it was found to be self-referrentially absurd some 50 years ago.  I’m not sure why Dawkins would regress intellectually into a position which has, from what I can recall, been deductively falsified through modal logic.  Perhaps he is trying to advance some neo-Logical Positivism. 

LOL

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Posted: 14 January 2007 07:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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Have you read the tone of posts on this website? Not all are intolerant, but to suggest that none are intolerant is to ignore the obvious. In this respect, and many others, dogmatic atheism is no different than fundamental theism.

Mr. Grice, I believe you are a man of conscience who might understand skeptic anger a little better if you could see the legitimate grievences we have with the way Christianity is practiced in this country.  You may not agree with everything on this list or may practice yourself a more tolerant form of Christianity but this might help you to understand a bit better that it’s not “intolerance” as much as it is legitimate anger toward injustice:

1.  Christians spend my tax dollars to build monuments to a religion I don’t support and place them on public property which partly belongs to me.  Currently, they’re spending my tax dollars giving them to Christian organizations that promote their religion.  Through tax-breaks, I’m indirectly subsidizing Christian organizations and churches.  Some of these so-called “non-profit charitable organizations” make certain practicioners of priestcraft very wealthy.  It rather gauls me that I’m involuntarily helping to support their lavish lifestyle. 

2.  Christians inhibit or alter the teaching of history and science in public schools and state parks to suit their religious views.  They promote instead pseudo-sciences like Creationism (or ID).  They try to turn public schools into indoctrination centers for children by introducing compulsory prayer.

3.  Christians fight the progress of some sciences, including most recently stem-cell research.  This promising medical research could help millions of suffering and dying people but some Christians feel that mindless microorganisms are more important. 

4.  Christians promote bigotry against certain groups, at one time Jews and women, today atheists and homosexuals. 

5.  Christians try to legislate morality, forcing me to live my life as they wish me to, ranging from the purchase of alchohol on Sunday to being able to marry a man, should that be my choice (I’m bisexual).  Until recently, adults of the same gender could be arrested in Texas for making love in the privacy of their own homes.  Some Christians bemoaned the loss of such “safeguards against sin”. 

6.  Christians try to transform our society to something closer to a theocracy.  Atheists are forced to pledge to “one nation under God”.  Some Christians believe that atheists aren’t true American citizens (Bush Sr.). 

7.  Christianity ruins families.  Children that come out as either gay and/or non-believers sometimes find themselves ostricized or thrown out of the family.  According to Jesus’ teachings, this is the approach parents should take.  Jesus is more important than family. 

Is there anything I’m forgetting?  This list doesn’t include sectarian violence, which is promoted by Islamo-Christian teachings.

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Posted: 14 January 2007 07:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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JGrice02,

Clarification.
Christian Theology is by definition self-referential.

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Posted: 14 January 2007 07:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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NS, without discounting the notion that you do feel that way about Christianity it seems to me that your view of Christianity is largely distorted.  Socially speaking, it seems your worldview might better fit into a Communistic government where religious freedom is no longer tolerated (for whatever reason).

Justifying a dogmatic position, no matter the worldview, is an extremist position that itself can breed hate, resentment, and bigotry that will in turn lead to violence and in the most extreme of cases, to genocide.  IT does not matter if you are atheist, deistic, or theistic, if your positions is so closed that you can no longer acknowledge opposing worldviews as rational or even coherent then some people will not doubt take that notion to an extreme and seek to “eliminate” the problem.  I’m surprised that you even defend the right to be dogmatic given the frustrations you have with dogmatic theists.

Given that the picture of Christianity that you paint is nothing like the one I have experienced, I can only conclude that your dogmatism is sorely misplaced.  I understand the social concerns but that has nothing to do with Christianity.  That has to do with democracy and the religious liberties that it seeks to defend.  It seems to me your social frustrations should be directed toward out government, not Christianity.  And like I said, Communism seems to be one of the better alternatives to democracy if you are looking to extinguish religious liberty.

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Posted: 14 January 2007 08:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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JGrice02,

semantic correction:

Communism doesn’t permit any organized opposition to the state. Religion falls into that catagory.

Theocracy is the system which forbids religious choice.

Religious choice is unneccessary. Religion is an accident of birth. Any religion is as good as any other.

We don’t extend ‘governmental’ freedom. People in Ohio aren’t free to choose a communist government.

Communism eliminates religions. Theocracy eliminates religious liberty.

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Posted: 14 January 2007 08:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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[quote author=“stardusk”]what exactly is theology talking about?

Some of it talks about the concept of God. The concept exists.

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Posted: 14 January 2007 08:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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That word - “worldview” - keeps nagging at me.  What I see with my eyes and take in with my brain - doesn’t that constitute my worldview?  What I do with that information I imagine also constitutes my worldview.  But it seems that as many possibilities as there may be for differing worldviews, to include god would be delusional.  Because nobody has ever seen god with their eyes. And nobody has ever been presented with evidence of god.  All we have are myth books and wide-eyed believers.

I don’t see that any rational “worldview” could by definition include god.  Now, I realize I’m probably taking the word too literally.  But my point is that belief in mythological beings simply does not deserve the respect that belief in, say, republicanism, does.  Even though I’m a democrat, I’ve seen the republican machine in progress (ugly as it is) and it is a real thing, and people see it and say: I like/hate it.  I think/don’t think like a republican.

I can imagine that letting go of god (apologies to Ms. Sweeney) must be very difficult if not impossible to those who simply need the comfort of belief, to think they are not alone when they really are.  It is a bit scary, but it sure gives on reason to connect more with fellow humans.

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Posted: 14 January 2007 08:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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Communism eliminates religions. Theocracy eliminates religious liberty.

To eliminate religions is to emilinate the freedom to choose whether you want to believe or not.  Perhaps Theocracy does a similar thing but we don’t live in a Theocracy.  Thus if one’s goal is to eliminate religion alltogether then Communism seems to be the best option.  As it were, you have every freedom in the world, given that we live in a democracy, to promote whatever form of government you think is best.  I think there is still a Communist party in the US though I’m sure they are quite obscure.  If the goal is to eliminate the freedom to believe anything at all then it seems you should be promoting Communism.

If America does not adopt such a position then it is not outside your freedoms to leave this country and live in a place where religious freedom is not an option.  But like you said, some place in the Middle East would not suffice because while they don’t have religious freedom they do have religion.  So feel free to choose from China, Korea, and Vietnam.  Am I leaving one out?  I’m not all that current on world politics so I apologize if I’m incorrect.

Having said that, like I mentioned on the other thread I need to complete some Greek homework before the season premier of 24.  Appreciated the discussion.  Good day.

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Posted: 14 January 2007 08:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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[quote author=“NobleSavage”]Theology does nothing but bamboozle and terrify, amass wealth (often at the expense of the poorest members of society)

Yeah, all the theologians at my univseristy are absurdly wealthy. They made their fortunes on the backs of the poor, too. Poor Christians will line up for blocks waiting for their turn to buy the latest treatise examining the links between Karl Barth’s later works and Porphyry’s neo-Platonism.

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Posted: 14 January 2007 09:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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Socially speaking, it seems your worldview might better fit into a Communistic government where religious freedom is no longer tolerated (for whatever reason).

An ironic charge, given the reality of my life and worldview.  You’ll have to take my word for it when I tell you that I’m a business owner, capitalist and an economic moderate with conservative leanings (according to one socio-political test I took). 

I believe in freedom of religion and have Christians working for me in the business I own.  The government I would like to see is one that establishes a strict separation of church and state (not just in theory but in reality).  This may be a hard distinction for some Christians to understand but think of it this way: stopping you from oppressing me isn’t oppressing you. 

I’m fine with monuments to the 10 Cs as long as it’s paid for with private money and put on private property.  I’m fine with individual expression of religious convictions as long as it’s not the government expressing them.  I’m fine with prayer in school as long as it’s not coerced by the teachers or organized by the school.  Churches should pay taxes like any other business organization and we should end all government subsidization of religion.

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Posted: 14 January 2007 10:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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NS, I agree with everything you just said except your last sentence.  Not bad if you ask me.  Thanks for the explanation.

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