What is a scholar?

And another thing.

What is it with using the honorific “scholar” for people who parse the fine points of a religion? How is that scholarship? As in the Independent article for instance:

Some scholars point out that it is against the teachings of Islam to force anyone to stay within the faith. “The position of many a scholar I have discussed the issue with is if people want to leave, they can leave,” said Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, the assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain.

Does thorough knowledge of dogma really qualify as scholarship?

I don’t think newspapers and other media tend to refer to astrologers as scholars, however vast their knowledge of astrology is. They refer to them as astrologers, which has a different connotation – a less respectable one.

I suspect a public relations move here.


  1. stevebowen says

    Well for some reason theology appears to be a respectable academic subject. But I am with RD on this one.

    “What has ‘theology’ ever said that is of the smallest use to anybody? When has ‘theology’ ever said anything that is demonstrably true and is not obvious? What makes you think that ‘theology’ is a subject at all?”

    or as my ex- wife used to say about her career in marketing it’s 90% bullshit and 10% making it up as you go along.

  2. says

    Steve yes but it’s not even clear that they mean “theologians” here, in fact it seems more likely that they don’t. “Scholars” in Islam and I think also Judaism can mean just “experts in the holy book[s]” and nothing else. That’s not theology, and I’m not convinced it’s scholarship either.

  3. Katherine Woo says

    Lol. I love how these “scholars” show up in religions after secular society works out that such and such is really quite awful.

    Slavery, LGBT tolerance, not killing people for leaving a belief system…theologians ride the coattails/skirts of real moral thinkers.

    And what amazes me most is their frequent hostility to fellow non-believers (because most of them are hard atheists after all). I read Jerry Coyne and love his “Sophisticated Theology™” mockery. It is just so ludicrous. I think they know how vapid what they do is.

  4. kevinalexander says

    I saw something about a fine fellow in a long black coat with a long black beard and a fur cheese box on his head. If he was the only one then a psychiatrist could probably diagnose his brain dysfunction.
    But, no, he’s a scholar and there are thousands just like him. He doesn’t do any work, his wife does that. She comes home from work, sitting at the back of the bus as she must because some other scholar has decreed it and then cooks and cleans and raises their ten kids. No wonder the scholar prays every day ‘Thank you G*D you didn’t make me a woman’
    There are two things that amaze me about this situation. One is the narcissism of the man. He somehow thinks that after thousands of scholars have been studying the Torah for three thousand years he’s going to be the one to figure it out.
    The other is his wife. She’s even more brain damaged than he is.

  5. says

    The religious use “scholar” to describe themselves the same way creationists use “science” for their nonsense and teabaggers use “intellectual” to describe someone like John Bolton.

    It’s an attempt either/both to lend themselves credibility, to confuse the public, and/or to devalue the meaning of the words. They can’t convince the enlightened with argument and evidence, so they’re trying to convince the less educated that they have an argument and evidence, neither of which is true.

  6. Omar Puhleez says

    “Does thorough knowledge of dogma really qualify as scholarship?”

    Yes it does.

    :Scholarship’ as derived from ‘school’; ‘school’ as pertaining to fish.

    The fish in the school being identical, like the sardines in a tin,.

    These scholars are from a school of totally identical ‘thought’. Except it is not thought. Not in any sense of originality.

  7. sacharissa says

    Dawkins is wonderfully scathing on theology. Having studied a bit of it in A-level Religious Studies I agree wholeheartedly. Theologians use reasoning that you would be marked down for at any level of high school. Huge leaps of, inevitably, faith appear in their argument.

    I took it partly because I was filled with doubts. I could see that many intelligent people believed so reasoned that perhaps I was missing something. In the end I had to admit that those clever people were self-deluding.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *