Friday, June 29, 2012

"New Theists"

I appreciate that Michael Dowd has publicly expressed support for science and has set himself up as a sort of evangelical champion of the theory of evolutionary. However, that's no reason to avoid critically reviewing what he says and writes. In a recent HuffPo piece he makes pretty clear a point I have made on more than one occasion: liberal theism is not automatically better than more conservative forms of theism.

In the June 16 piece, "New Theists: Knowers, Not Believers", Dowd seems to alternate between contradictions, fallacies, and absurdities. To start there really isn't anything "new" in it. What he writes about seems to be a rehashing of liberal theism that begins with a string of bullshit.

"A new breed of theist is emerging around the globe. We are religious naturalists: Reality is our God, evidence is our Scripture, integrity is our religion, and contributing toward a healthy future is our mission."

I don't think he fully understands the term "naturalist." Religions are by their nature focused on supernatural rather than natural explanations so the phrasing is contradictory. It is interesting to note that he move from a contradiction to a more redundant choice of wording. For a theist God is real so why state "Reality is our God." It sounds like you are just saying God is our God. If he really means to say that he and others like him worship reality then that is not much better. It's silly. Who worships facts or existence? Why would you? I am happy to emphasize the importance of evidence but comparing it to or equating it with scripture is just plain wrong. Evidence is not sacred. It is not infallible and unchanging and should never go unquestioned. That would defeat the whole purpose of seeking evidence in the first place.

His writing doesn't get much better. Dowd talks about not being believers yet insists on using terminology and concepts that only make sense if you are a believer.

"New Theists are not believers; we're evidentialists. We value scientific, historic and cross-cultural evidence over ancient texts, religious dogma or ecclesiastical authority. We also value how an evidential worldview enriches and deepens our communion with God-Reality-Life-Universe-Mystery-Wholeness."

The use of "theist" and "God" belie the rest of what is being said. And from here it only gets worse. He continues to mangle various terms both religious and secular creating a confusing mish-mash of nonsense. Towards the end he sets out to describe each of the phrases in the first Quotation I excerpted above (reality is our god, evidence is our scripture, integrity is our religion, contributing toward....) but it really is not particularly helpful.

It seems that Dowd wants to be a secular humanist but cannot seem to completely break free of religious doctrines, especially the terminology. I assume he has fallen for some of the same bullshit fallacies that guys like Alan DeBotton keep spouting. Religion has no innate value. There is nothing it can offer that can not be found elsewhere. Even though I do tend to prefer more liberal forms of religion over the more conservative ones, religion as a whole is still worthless crap. Theism is folly.

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