One recurring criticism of Dawkins’s The God Delusion (and Hitchens’s God Is Not Great, Victor Stenger’s God: the Failed Hypothesis, and others) is that these authors attack a simplistic conception of God, one that no intelligent, educated person believes in anyway.
Plantinga, for instance, writes:
According to much classical theology (Thomas Aquinas, for example) God is simple, and simple in a very strong sense, so that in him there is no distinction of thing and property, actuality and potentiality, essence and existence, and the like. Some of the discussions of divine simplicity get pretty complicated, not to say arcane.
Let’s set aside for a moment the fact that this is the sort of semantically empty babbling that I’ve complained about before, and take him at his word. Plantinga and Dawkins could agree on a great number of things: God is not a magic bearded man in the sky. God does not whisper to you where you found your car keys. Chemotherapy works better than prayer at curing cancer. Jesus will not descend from the clouds by next Thursday at the latest and whisk all the unbelievers up in a flash of special effects to live forever in happy-cloud-land.
But why is it up to atheists to point this out?
These people do believe in a magic man in the sky who helps them find their car keys, in between smiting cities with hurricanes, Sim-City-like, for not stoning enough homosexuals, and planning his upcoming comeback world tour when his most devoted groupies will get a free rainbow-farting pony if they suck
him off up to him enough.
So why aren’t the intelligent, reflective Christians telling them they’re full of shit? Where is Plantinga’s The Rapture Delusion, or McGrath’s God Is Great, But You Still Have to Pump Your Own Gas?
Propositions like “God had sex with a young woman and got her pregnant with himself” or “The earth is 6000 years old” or “The crator of the universe cares deeply whether you eat bacon” are not matters of taste. They’re matters of fact. They’re either true or not, regardless of what we want. Now, if Christians like Ray Comfort, Kent Hovind, or Ken Ham believe something, but sophisticated Christian theologians know better, shouldn’t they (the theologians, that is) be pointing out the error, if only so the mouth-breathing ignoramuses don’t give Christianity a bad name?
A couple of months ago, when I asked this on Christian Forums, I was pointed at the Jesus Seminar, a group that tries to disentangle legend from fact and figure out who the historical Jesus was.
I searched for “Jesus Seminar” at Amazon.com and used the “Look inside” feature to see what the best-selling books on the subject had to say on this subject. I found that six of the ten best-selling books with that phrase presented a negative image of the Jesus Seminar, and only two presented a positive image. Popular apologist Lee Strobel said that the Jesus Seminar does not represent mainstream scholarship. I realize this isn’t very scientific, but it does seem as though, as far as what Americans are reading, they’re being fed a huge load of what Hitchens, Plantinga, Dawkins, and McGrath would all agree is codswallop.
Of course there will always be disagreements between atheists and theists. But we’re now at a point where a substantial number of religious people hold beliefs that are beyond absurd, and often beyond parody. It’s time for sensible theists to stand up and call bullshit.