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Peter Boghossian: Dismissed From the ‘Adult Table’

I have to agree with Taylor Carr’s assessment of Peter Boghossian and his often simpleminded and childish jabs at religion. I think he’s an example of exactly what we don’t need in atheism, someone who is content with making the lowest common denominator insult rather than the thoughtful criticism. A perfect example is this recent Tweet:

Being published in the philosophy of religion should disqualify one from sitting at the adult table.

Uh, no. Making a stupid statement like that disqualifies one from sitting at the adult table. As Carr points out:

Many of the most devastating critiques of religion have come from philosophers of religion. The field may have a majority of religious believers in it, but there have been quite a few notable atheists published in philosophy of religion journals, too, such as J.L. Mackie, Paul Draper, Ted Drange, Graham Oppy, Erik Wielenberg, Stephen Maitzen, and William Rowe. Theistic philosophers have also done their share of worthwhile criticism of theistic arguments, among which would be Tim and Lydia McGrew for their attack on fine-tuning, as well as Wes Morriston for his work against the cosmological argument.

These philosophers who Boghossian would exclude from “the adult table” are far more deserving of those seats than Peter and his New Atheist buds. I say this not just because of Boghossian’s childish behavior, but also because each of them writes on an academic level that just is miles above the others. Many of the arguments against god proliferated in atheist circles today are owed to these philosophers of religion. Dr. Boghossian frankly doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and his principal objection seems to stem solely from the fact that “religion” is part of the philosophy of religion name.

I’ve seen a few comments on Facebook calling Boghossian “our version” of young earth creationists, saying that he almost seems like a viral marketing gimmick for the God’s Not Dead film. To this I’ll add that he’s like the Deepak Chopra of atheism. Chopra is a new age ‘guru’ who spouts wisdom that’s eaten up by his followers, yet is less wisdom than it is gibberish. In similar fashion, Boghossian plays to an audience that he knows, one that disdains anything and everything remotely connected to religion. These “cultured despisers” of religion, as Schleiermacher once called them, are quite happy to agree with whatever fits the us vs. them narrative they’ve constructed, along with its clear emphasis on the inherent and unavoidable evils of religion, while little things like arguments, facts, and honest dialogue take a backseat.

Yep, pretty much exactly that.

Comments

  1. bmiller says

    The quoted attack is terrible. It seems like quite a silly series of statements in itself..

    I don’t even know the writings of the person being critiqued, but to make comparisons to Deepak Chopra seems the very definition of ad hominem attacks and false analogies. Does Mr. B rely on pseudo-science and superstition in his arguments? No? Then why Deepak Chopra?

  2. says

    I listened to a debate that Boghossian engaged in on the (great) podcast “Unbelievable?” a while back and thought he came across as abrasive. What made matters worse is that his fellow debater, Tim McGrew—not exactly the most brilliant philosopher out there—wiped the floor with Boghossian on the latter’s misuse of the term “faith” alone.

    I’m a philosopher myself, and I also find it ironic that Boghossian himself engages in philosophy of religion.

  3. laurentweppe says

    Still, Carr does not push his reasoning to its logical conclusion:

    These “cultured despisers” of religion, as Schleiermacher once called them, are quite happy to agree with whatever fits the us vs. them narrative they’ve constructed, along with its clear emphasis on the inherent and unavoidable evils of religion.

    The “inherent and unavoidable evils of religion” are essential to proclaim the “inherent and unavoidable superiority of atheists“: like all the other brands of sectarian supremacism, the most “radicals” among gnus want first and foremost to proclaim themselves as ontologically superior over their own miscreants.

  4. baraelsblade says

    @4 Wow, that’s a whole lot of white people. Kudos for including a fair amount of women on that panel but couldn’t they have found someone not lily white?

  5. says

    @4 Wow, that’s a whole lot of white people.

    Indeed. We’ve been discussing the nonglobality (and other sadly hilarious features) of the Global Secular Council for the past several weeks at Butterflies and Wheels.

    Kudos for including a fair amount of women on that panel

    If a “fair amount” is 5 of 25 “Experts” and 0 of 9 “Communicators,” that is.

  6. gingerbaker says

    You know what should keep you out of the adult table?

    Replying to a 16-word Tweet with an essay and then claiming intellectual victory.

    But you know what is even worse?

    Spending sixty seconds on a post about it, which indicts the author of the Tweet for not making thoughtful criticism.

  7. grumpyoldfart says

    Yeah, leave them at the adult table where people are always keen to take part in serious discussions about devils and angels and the fires of hell.

  8. Sastra says

    I’ve heard Boghossian speak and have read a few things he’s written. My basic impression was positive. But yes, that IS a stupid tweet. I mean, come on. He teaches philosophy and should surely know that at the very least meaning something different than what you actually say is a big no-no.

    At the adult table, you will all please put your cell phones and tablets away, thank you very much. Peter … and you too, Richard.

  9. says

    You know what should keep you out of the adult table?

    Replying to a 16-word Tweet with an essay and then claiming intellectual victory.

    But you know what is even worse?

    Spending sixty seconds on a post about it, which indicts the author of the Tweet for not making thoughtful criticism.

    Because…..why?

    Wordiness and time spent, positive or negative, are indicators of…..what, exactly?

    Tweets come in brilliant and idiotic, and everything in between. So do essays. And blog posts.

    So whatever point you think you’re making here sounds like a load of bollocks to me.

  10. says

    These philosophers who Boghossian would exclude from “the adult table” are far more deserving of those seats than Peter and his New Atheist buds. I say this not just because of Boghossian’s childish behavior, but also because each of them writes on an academic level that just is miles above the others. Many of the arguments against god proliferated in atheist circles today are owed to these philosophers of religion. Dr. Boghossian frankly doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and his principal objection seems to stem solely from the fact that “religion” is part of the philosophy of religion name.

    Probably, on that last point. However,

    1. Presumably the “atheist circles today” includes “Peter and his New Atheist buds.” The God Delusion, for example, is a work of philosophy of religion, among other things. Maybe not a great one, and maybe that’s precisely because when it engages in philosophical argument, it merely rehashes the same arguments that atheist phillosophers of religion, and for that matter atheists on internet chat rooms and bulletin boards for as long as such things have existed, have made. But it seems to me that distinguishing between philosophers of religion and “New Atheists” in the first place is rather problematic for this reason.

    2. I don’t know what on earth “writing on an academic level” has to do with “sitting at the adults table.” Is Carr aware of precisely how much utter nonsense has been written on an academic level?

    3. I do, grudgingly, think that Boghossian has a tiny bit of a point regarding philosophy of religion. A point which ironically works against him if he is in fact on the side of the New Atheists: philosophy of religion is largely, at this point, a waste of time. For theists and atheists. The arguments for the existence and nature of God couldn’t be older and more tired, but then as a corollary, the exact same is true of their refutations. And I say this after reading a crapload of philosophy of religion. My former PhD supervisor was a philosopher of religion. You can bet she wrote on an academic level. Did she write much of continuing relevance? Ehhhh…….I’m sorry, I can’t really say that she did.

    Does Boghossian write anything of continuing relevance? I honestly don’t know. Not at all familiar with the guy. But what I’ve seen here doesn’t exaclty suggest that further interest is warranted.

  11. gingerbaker says

    “So whatever point you think you’re making here sounds like a load of bollocks to me.”

    tl;dr

  12. says

    These “cultured despisers” of religion, as Schleiermacher once called them, are quite happy to agree with whatever fits the us vs. them narrative they’ve constructed, along with its clear emphasis on the inherent and unavoidable evils of religion, while little things like arguments, facts, and honest dialogue take a backseat.

    Can we add Bill Maher to that list too? He’s always rubbed me the wrong way when he starts talking about religion. He doesn’t use intelligent arguments. His only weapons are insults and ridicule. Those aren’t always bad things but it causes him to make some dumb mistakes due to his lack of nuance.

  13. al jones says

    @Ouabache “Bill Maher to that list too? He’s always rubbed me the wrong way when he starts talking about religion. He doesn’t use intelligent arguments. His only weapons are insults and ridicule.”. He’s a comedian and there is an awful lot to insult and ridicule.

  14. OpenMindedNotCredulous says

    Gretchen said:

    Does Boghossian write anything of continuing relevance?

    He’s currently notable in the atheist community for his book “A Manual for Creating Atheists”. A book I have almost completed reading. He also recently spoke at the San Jose Atheist Community (which I’m a member of). It has a lot of good advice. But I do wish more of the footnoted material had been in-lined.

    Having said that I wholeheartedly agree with your three points.

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