Sunday, November 17, 2013

Victor Reppert on Cross-Faith Dialogue

I have been operating on the assumption that good, open dialogue about religiously significant issues amongst people who disagree vigorously with one another is a good thing, and something our society desperately needs.  
The problem with Victor's claim is that it needs to be qualified in a few ways.

There's little value in 'open dialogue about religiously significant issues amongst people who disagree vigorously with one another', in and of itself. Let's face it: im-skeptical is a goddamn idiot when it comes to these topics. We're talking about a person whose reaction to any religious or theologically friendly claim is to hit google and link to the first thing that looks kinda-sorta like a criticism of it, then confidently declare it refuted - which, lately, has resulted in some hilarious misfires. (Linking to Mystery Babylon conspiracy theorist websites, linking to a homeopathy website to illustrate the brilliance of the scientific method, etc.) With Papalinton, we have a demonstrated liar, slanderer and plagiarist who was caught copying and pasting (more than once) blog posts in order to feign knowledge about what he was furiously criticizing.

Is someone really going to tell me input from guys like this is at all valuable? That there's something gained by discourse with idiots who speak with confidence about issues they *know* they are ignorant of, who react to even benign correction with hostility? I mean, they're engaged in open dialogue and they certainly disagree vigorously, so at least you're getting those ingredients in whatever intellectual recipe you're following. But where's the 'good'? Where's the value? All it's really gained is a guarantee that each and every blog topic becomes a derail. At least everyone there is disagreeing openly so I guess that's valuable? I just don't see it.

That doesn't mean there haven't been good commenters in the history of DI who were also atheist/agnostic. Dan Gillson comes to mind. Ingx24. I can think of a few others. But I'd bet you if you went back and looked for the atheists of value who spoke up on the site, you'd notice a pattern - not a one of them were in the Cult of Gnu, and most of them were hostile to it despite their being atheists. The reason for that is pretty simple to understand: the Cult of Gnu is built almost entirely around encouraging its cultists to regard anything that smacks of a religiously or theologically friendly claim with instant hostility. Not 'hostility, after they've understood and found serious flaws in the reasoning', but straightaway, far in advance of actually understanding the claim. In fact, taking the time to understand the claim is explicitly rejected as a prerequisite for dismissing and insulting anyone who regards it as having worth. That would be tantamount to taking religious claims seriously and treating theistically friendly reasoning with respect, which is precisely what is being rejected.

The point is - these people are incapable of 'dialogue' in any meaningful sense of the term. At the absolute best, they can feign it - and the only thing you get with feigned respect is feigned dialogue, some insincere mouthing of nice-sounding language while failing to take anything your opponent says seriously. I think this has been demonstrated to be the case time and again at DI, from Skep and Linton to pretty much every interaction Loftus has ever had there, to otherwise.

So really, all I'd ask Victor is - do you really think the sort of conversation you see between Skep and any theist, or Linton and any theist, or Loftus and any theist, is something society desperately needs? Maybe what society really needs is for the intellectually mature to rise up and tell all three and anyone of their ilk, 'Sit down, shut up, and let the adults talk.' For some people on some topics, talking with them is of no benefit. The only benefit is talking at them, and letting them decide to either listen quietly, or leave.


Cale B.T. said...

Speaking of the Cult of the Gnu, a new edition of Vitz's "Faith of the Fatherless" came out last month. I've never read it, but like you, I've heard it mentioned, and it's only ten bucks on Kindle...

Dan Gillson said...

Thanks for the mention. If I ever get around to doing a blog, yours is the first blog I'll link to.

Crude said...

No problem, Dan. Really, we've disagreed a lot and had some stern arguments, but I think it's demonstrated that it's entirely possible to actually have a real conversation between religious and irreligious - but there's a particular ingredient and attitude is necessary, or all you get is noise.