Terry Eagleton, author of Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate, claims it’s a meaningless question. He goes so far as to claim that no respectable theologian he knows would answer yes to that question!! Strange! I thought that’s what theologians spent their time doing – trying to justify the answer yes!
I recently listened to a CBC, Canada, interview of Eagleton. Partly on the recommendation of PZ Myers at Pharyngula (see No, not Eagleton again!). Also because Eagleton authored a famous review of Richard Dawkins The God Delusion soon after it was first published. In my own extended family some members based their judgement of Dawkins’ book purely on this highly recommended (and highly negative) review (see Putting Dawkins in his place).
Strange how many people judge a book by the opinion of of a selected reviewer rather than reading it themselves.
Dawkins no theologian
The main message in this review was that Dawkins was ignorant, he was criticising a version of religion that didn’t exist, and that while he was qualified to speak about biology he was not qualified to discuss the existence, or otherwise, of a god because he was not a theologian!
I suspect there could be a few theologians now, after the CBC interview, who would like to point out that Eagleton is not a theologian either and he is not qualified to speak on what theologians believe or do in their day jobs.
Of course, Eagleton was speaking rubbish in his interview (and I suspect he was in his book, which I have yet to read). However, I found his approach interesting because I keep coming across similar obfuscations and bafflegab from others who argue for I’m not sure what, but certainly argue against those who don’t believe in a god.
Eagleton is very clear about his attitude towards the “new atheists” – he hates them! In the interviews he raves on about the childishness, etc., etc., of Richard Dawkins and Christoper Hitchens. In his book he even invents a new personality, Ditchkens, to mercilessly attack. But ask him about his own beliefs, and he rambles on about the question being meaningless. The interviewer asked Eagleton if he prayed and just got a long diatribe of bafflegab and avoidance. No answer at all.
Have a listen to the interview (mp3 here) and see if you can make any sense of it.
But, my bitch is not just with Eagleton – it’s with the obfuscation and bafflegab that many religious apologists indulge in. It appears to be second nature to many theists and I wonder if its part of the training that such people get in their theology courses. You know, debating and arguing skills, pedantic logic, winning arguments, etc. The approach where the technique becomes everything and that any argument can be, and should be, used to defend a pre-conceived theist position. Where clear positions are avoided at all costs, the meanings of words are played with, opponents arguments are distorted, strawmannery and quote-mining is common.
Where you just end up with vague (although sometimes “clever”) and circular arguments amounting to nothing more that bafflegab. You end up feeling that you are fighting with jelly.
Sometimes I yearn for the simple, dogmatic, Christian fundamentalist who will state clearly where she stands. Although I guess she is more dangerous.