Monday, April 04, 2011

Burgess-Jackson on explaining religion away

For every scurrilous explanation of theistic belief, there is a scurrilous explanation of atheistic belief. If theism is suspect because of its origins, then atheism is suspect because of its origins. Why don't we cease playing this stupid explanatory game and get on with the real game, which involves justifying one's beliefs?

HT: Steve Hays


Blue Devil Knight said...

Religion is a phenomenon that needs explanation, even for the naturalist. It doesn't follow (at least not immediately) that if religious belief/practice is explained naturalistically that the supernatural elements of the belief are false. But it also would not be irrelevant to many of the religious beliefs, some of which hold that the origins of the beliefs themselves are not to be found in natural mechanisms.

After all, the genetic fallacy isn't a fallacy if the discussion is about the origins of something.

David B Marshall said...

That's a bit circular. The genetic fallacy ALWAYS makes the discussion about origins of something, yet it remains (at times) a fallacy.

But I see your point. If religion can entirely be explained naturally, as Dennett seeks to do, then it does seem more likely that it is entirely natural. What the New Atheists forget to do, having made the argument, is to check the facts. This is part of my response in The Truth Behind the New Atheism: the New Atheists get their facts wrong. There is an evidently transcendent element in religions around the world, that refutes their argument. That is an awareness of God as Christians understand Him.

I've made the argument in print a few times, and also touch on it in a blog I posted last night, responding to standard, "We just disbelieve in one more God" line by Non Stamp Collector and Lawrence Krauss, in his debate with William Craig.

I agree that the origin of theism and atheism, like the origin of the universe and of life, is interesting and relevant. Indeed, St. Paul himself talks about how people "suppress the truth in unrighteousness," so one can't entirely avoid the question of motivation. Hay's comment is too simple, I think.

Hiero5ant said...

I wonder what the supernaturalist's theory of the specific pattern of religious evolution is. Who, what, where, when, why and how?

Who (God, Satan, demons, human frauds, human lunatics, simply mistaken humans)

inspired what (a vague noncognitive "yearning"? a base set of generically deistic beliefs? a specific sectarian dogma sufficient for salvation?)

where (in just the founders? in everyone? in just Mediterraneans?)

when (each individual at birth, at each single branching point between e.g. Canaanites and Hebrews, Catholics and Protestants, Baptists and Methodists, Christians and Mormons)

why (why not just zap the one true religion in its entirety?)

and how (a puff of smoke? seriously, how?)

Is there even a single aspect of the specific pattern of religious development that you would accept a naturalistic account for? (note the one-to-one correspondence with evolution-deniers here.)

For example, is the hypothesis that the political and economic interests of Henry VIII had something to do with Anglican doctrines of divorce and papal authority something ruled out as a priori absurd? Does our evolved tendency to over-attribute phenomena to intelligent agency tell us nothing about anyone's belief in spirits ever? Do the hypotheses that David Koresh was a deranged madman, and L Ron Hubbard a fraud who obviously invented ST from the whole cloth have any plausibility, or are these just more examples of supernatural intrusion? In which case, who what when where why and how?

Crude said...

But it also would not be irrelevant to many of the religious beliefs, some of which hold that the origins of the beliefs themselves are not to be found in natural mechanisms.

What does it mean for "the origins of the beliefs themselves" to "not to be found in natural mechanisms"?