Another rather heavy-breathing piece by Julian in his “Heathen’s Progress” series. Once again he’s saying very much what “new” atheists have been saying all along, so why is it again that he’s so annoyed by “the new atheists”? Loud voices was it? Bad haircuts? Garlic breath?
I’m very much in sympathy with this view*, and this series is largely an attempt to try to find more constructive points of engagement that can only emerge if we ditch lazy and tired preconceptions about those with whom we disagree. At the same time, however, I’m all too aware that “you just don’t understand” is a card that is often played far too swiftly and without justification.
On the one hand, but on the other hand. I agree with the obvious, but at the same time, I also agree with a different obvious. That’s philosophy.
It has become evident to me, however, that many people, especially the religious, suffer from a kind of conceptual claustrophobia. Their beliefs are of their essence somewhat vague and they are terrified of being pinned down. Although critics often leap on this and claim that this betrays woolly thinking, evasion or obscurantism, I think that there are times when such a refusal to commit is justified.
Yes – provided that you don’t then go on to make lots of confident claims, but how often is that condition met?
But embracing this mystery comes at a price. If, like the archbishop of Canterbury, your faith is a kind of “silent waiting on the truth, pure sitting and breathing in the presence of the question mark”, then think very carefully before you open your mouth. Too often I find that faith is mysterious only selectively. Believers constantly attribute all sorts of qualities to their gods and have a list of doctrines as long as your arm. It is only when the questions get tough that, suddenly, their God disappears in a puff of mystery. Ineffability becomes a kind of invisibility cloak, only worn when there is a need to get out of a bit of philosophical bother.
Precisely; my point exactly. I’ve been saying that for years. Julian doesn’t need instruction from me, of course, but nevertheless I don’t quite see why he’s presenting all this as if it’s new and fresh as opposed to just the kind of thing the gnu atheists get so much shit for saying, sometimes from Julian himself.
*that disputants in the religion debate are talking past each other because they do not have a sufficiently rich understanding of the positions they stand against.