Saturday, June 21, 2008

Screwy Theist Tricks

For those of my readers who have ever had the patience to slog through C.S. Lewis's smarmy and tedious attempt to smear the non-believer, The Screwtape Letters, I offer you a glimpse at a paler and far more nauseatingly smarmy imitation, "The Loser Letters", now running at the National Review Online. Mary Eberstadt, the author, apparently thinks atheists are all young males experimenting with disbelief as a way to pick up girls or to fit in with the cool crowd. The letters are written from the point of view of a stereotypical "bright" bemoaning the lack of success in spreading the atheist gospel. This one excruciating example should be convincing enough to save you the ordeal of reading the whole thing:
Dear Major Atheist Author BFFs,

I just LOVE calling You that! Is it okay with You if I do? The Director said it was fine with him, because he knows that the “B” means “Best” and the “F’s” mean “Friends Forever” (and not the You-know-what word, which as You know is verboten in here!). So before going into one more Letter that I hope will help this new atheism of ours get off the ground, let this convert to godlessness tell You just how much You’re all my BFFs, and why it’s so important that You are.

One, I hope Everybody gets that just because I use “BFF” in the plural doesn’t mean I’m taking any one of you for my BFF in particular. This is important! I don’t want, say, Mr. Christopher Hitchens to feel excluded because He thinks I’m talking about, say, Mr. Daniel Dennett as my particular BFF.

If you were able to read that passage without regurgitating your breakfast, then you may be able to handle the whole article. There are others in the series located on the NRO site somewhere. This letter bemoans the damage that is being done to the atheist cause by all the high profile defections to the other side, notably in recent years by the renowned scientist and infamous former atheist Anthony Flew.

Flew's "conversion" is a much overrated victory for the theist side. In this interview with Gary Habermas he explicitly states that he is more akin to a Deist, and that he has not accepted special revelation or any of the tenets of Judaism or Christianity, including the idea of an afterlife:
HABERMAS: Given your theism, what about mind-body issues?

FLEW: I think those who want to speak about an afterlife have got to meet the difficulty of formulating a concept of an incorporeal person. Here I have again to refer back to my year as a graduate student supervised by Gilbert Ryle, in the year in which he published The Concept of Mind.

At that time there was considerable comment, usually hostile, in the serious British press, on what was called “Oxford Linguistic Philosophy.” The objection was usually that this involved a trivialization of a very profound and important discipline.

I was by this moved to give a talk to the Philosophy Postgraduates Club under the title “Matter which Matters.” In it I argued that, so far from ignoring what Immanuel Kant described as the three great problems of philosophers—God, Freedom and Immortality—the linguistic approach promised substantial progress towards their solution.

I myself always intended to make contributions in all those three areas. Indeed my first philosophical publication was relevant to the third. (18) Indeed it was not very long after I got my first job as a professional philosopher that I confessed to Ryle that if ever I was asked to deliver the Gifford Lectures I would give them under the title The Logic of Mortality. (19) They were an extensive argument to the conclusion that it is simply impossible to create a concept of an incorporeal spirit.

But these are the kinds of small victories that Christianity has to be satisfied with nowadays, it seems.


Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Over at Volokh, we're being treated to an extended series of posts -- with hundreds of comments -- about the poor scorned evangelicals.

I don't have much good to say about Catholicism, but at least it encourages examination of conscience.

Self-righteousness combined with superstition makes for a particularly rancid combination.

June 21, 2008 11:17 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

I think it particularly rich that evangelicals, so good at scorn themselves, complain when they are on the receiving end.

June 21, 2008 1:14 PM  

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