Friday, 11 April 2008

Theology


Theology. Where do I begin? Why is this even a subject? Almost every religious apologist ever has claimed I do not have the knowledge to dismiss their claims.

Our origins and behaviour should be studied by scientists and philosophers; religion is the alchemy which preceded chemistry, an explanation by the ignorant.


To which information other than a dusty book full of mistakes does any cult have access to?

6 comments:

mrsham said...

Any "cult" (read, religion) has access to the same information as the rest of humanity - science, the arts and philosophy, human relationships, the events of history, personal life experience. Many people believe this can and should inform theology (I am one of them).

Theology is simply the study of who God is. (It is not properly the study of our origins and behaviour) Therefore I put it to you that theology is important to you, if you wish to critique religion, and a belief in God. It is important because at some point you will have to define who or what you think these deluded people believe that God is, in order to critique this idea. In doing so you will in fact be doing theology, if only to try to determine a lack of self-consistency, or reveal error.

If you misunderstand the theological concepts you start to use, or take a particular theology and then assert that Y is what everyone believes who is X (thus misprepresenting the proportion of people who are X but do not believe Y) then why should you expect anyone to find your argument compelling? You will be starting from false premises, and will appear to be tilting at windmills.

Also: if you wish to change someone's opinion it's generally considered important to understand their opinion (know your enemy). If this blog isn't simply a vehicle for you to attempt to score points over the evil faith-heads by any means available, then I think you probably believe this at least.

Steven Bently said...

Hi, Love your blog!

mrsham, you are a sham!

GCT said...

mrsham,
"Theology is simply the study of who God is."

Actually, theology is just the made up name for making stuff up about who someone's imaginary friend is.

"It is important because at some point you will have to define who or what you think these deluded people believe that God is, in order to critique this idea."

Why should I have to define what someone else believes? Isn't that their job? Then, when they define it, I can debunk it (if possible). The problem is that Xians don't ever define their god, so when we take their arguments and look at them logically, they slip out and say, "Oh, that's not my god, I believe in something else," without ever defining that belief.

"If you misunderstand the theological concepts you start to use, or take a particular theology and then assert that Y is what everyone believes who is X (thus misprepresenting the proportion of people who are X but do not believe Y) then why should you expect anyone to find your argument compelling?"

Why should I find the original argument compelling if theists can offer no evidence to back their claims, and leave their god so shrouded in mystery that the concept is unassailable due to the slippery nature of undefined terms?

mrsham said...

WARNING: even more massive post than usual.

"Why should I have to define what someone else believes? Isn't that their job?"

Thankyou - that is precisely my point! What I actually said was "define WHAT YOU THINK these deluded people believe ..."

Christian theology defines what Christians (of various flavours) believe. Therefore, to critique what the various sorts of Christians believe, you need to know theology and demonstrate that you know it. Conversely, if you don't know theology, you don't know what Christians believe. If you have only a sketchy understanding of theology, you have only a sketchy understanding of what Christians believe.

There is no such thing as a single Christian or theistic theology: there are lots of theologies. Therefore, if you've critiqued (say) conservative evangelical theology, someone like me who believes something closer to, say, process theology (wikipedia is your friend), is quite at liberty to say that you have not critiqued their beliefs. This isn't being slippery: it is a statement of fact.

"Why should I find the original argument compelling if theists can offer no evidence to back their claims, and leave their god so shrouded in mystery that the concept is unassailable due to the slippery nature of undefined terms?"

I'm not asking Mr X (or you) to accept any claims. I'm asking him to study theology so that he can critique what is actually there, and what is actually claimed, rather than his own preconceptions. By his own admission, and I think yours (although I am happy to be corrected) he lacks knowledge of theology and has dismissed it before studying it.

There is an important point to what you say. When you talk of definitions of God being "shrouded in mystery" I think you allude to the transcendent -- the idea that we cannot ever fully understand God. This is (it seems to me) the irreconcilable difference between the way I see reality and the way you see it. I believe that human reason *cannot* ever fully comprehend or define reality, because we cannot ever fully perceive it, no matter what instruments or technology we devise. You believe the opposite (if you share a common Humanist belief), even if you believe this is a goal for future generations.

These sorts of assumptions are metaphysical, and therefore cannot make appeal to evidence (there is no evidence you can present to me that will make me believe that humankind will ever be able to perceive reality as it "really is"; similarly there is no evidence I can present to you that will make you believe that there are aspects of reality that we cannot perceive and are totally "Other" and can only refer to by metaphor, art or myth). They are therefore not scientific concerns, but philosophical, and are extremely subjective.

I say I believe in God, not as a statement of certain knowledge, but as a statement of hope: that the universe is not in essence amoral, but is moral; that at the centre of all things, there is love; that humanity has objective dignity and worth that is not self-referential. I have faith in Christ principally because of the suffering I see in the world, and what Christ's suffering says about how God is involved with the problem of human suffering: God is on the side of the suffering victim. The more I attempt to act in accordance with Christ's teaching in the gospels (and generally fail), the more this seems to me to be the case. It may of course be wishful thinking -- I cannot prove otherwise to you. I find these beliefs give me a framework to live and act morally in the world (and I fully accept that Humanism offers another framework to live and act morally that has assumptions I do not share)

I am willing to unpack these ideas more should you wish me to.

GCT said...

mrsham,
"If you have only a sketchy understanding of theology, you have only a sketchy understanding of what Christians believe."

Which Xians? Last I checked, there's quite a few sects that have competing beliefs. Then, to make matters worse, ask an Xian what her conception of god is and you'll get a different answer from any other Xian most likely. Finally, what theologians often describe when they talk about god is not what the rank and file usually think about. It's not about theology, or understanding every singly nuance to every conception of god, it's about finding the high points and debunking those. Most Xians believe in an omni-max deity. Showing that this is logically impossible (which it is) kills many birds with one stone.

"Therefore, if you've critiqued (say) conservative evangelical theology, someone like me who believes something closer to, say, process theology (wikipedia is your friend), is quite at liberty to say that you have not critiqued their beliefs."

Unless I debunk a meta-idea that both groups hold, like the example given above.

"By his own admission, and I think yours (although I am happy to be corrected) he lacks knowledge of theology and has dismissed it before studying it."

I make no claim to Mr. X's level of theological knowledge. I also disagree with you that one must hold a certain level of theological knowledge in order to critique the arguments put forth. Theology is really the study of making stuff up. I don't have to be a theological scholar to point to it and say, "Hey, you just made up that BS."

"I believe that human reason *cannot* ever fully comprehend or define reality, because we cannot ever fully perceive it, no matter what instruments or technology we devise."

We might never, but certain attributes of god can be comprehended in a logical fashion and can be shown to be logically impossible.

"I say I believe in God, not as a statement of certain knowledge, but as a statement of hope: that the universe is not in essence amoral, but is moral; that at the centre of all things, there is love; that humanity has objective dignity and worth that is not self-referential."

You believe in god because you want it to be true, right? I take it you aren't a Xian as well, because the Xian god certainly does not make this a moral universe, is not centered on love, and does not bestow us with dignity and worth.

"I have faith in Christ principally because of the suffering I see in the world, and what Christ's suffering says about how God is involved with the problem of human suffering: God is on the side of the suffering victim."

This makes no sense. You have faith in god because people suffer? And, how could you possibly say that god is on the side of the suffering victim?

"The more I attempt to act in accordance with Christ's teaching in the gospels (and generally fail), the more this seems to me to be the case."

The more you try to live up to impossible standards you mean? And, your failure to meet those impossible standards makes you feel like god is more real and helps the victims? This makes no sense. If god is placing impossible standards upon humans and the judging us on them, then he is unjust.

Steven Bently said...

"I am willing to unpack these ideas more should you wish me to."

I just wonder what you would do and what would your world view and other peoples world view, would be if you had never heard of the Bible and it's contents?


Can you imagine what it was like in America before 1492, before the Christian invaders invaded this land?

You know, the millions of heathen infidel Indians that lived on this soil for over 12,000 years before the white man brought over with him his god of salvation book?

You mean the savage infidel Indians that deserved to be thrown off their land because they would not worship the white mans god?

You mean the infidel Indians that were HUMAN BEINGS just like all human beings?

Christianity does not recognize non-believers as HUMAN BEINGS.