Thursday, January 21, 2016

Who is an apologist?

I often hear the word "apologist" used for defenders of religious belief. But isn't anyone who advocates for a positions with respect to religion and apologist for that position. Why aren't people like Dawkins and Loftus considered apologists, that is, apologists for atheism?

20 comments:

John Mitchell said...

Loftus is just some weird guy with a blog who is basically a child wearing a costume...

He might as well wear a knight's armor or walk around with a lightsaber

If, indeed, he is an apologist for atheism then the thoughtful atheist may think back nostalgically to the days of the inane ramblings of Frank Zindler

John Loftus said...

I think we categorize people depending on their primary motivation or function. That can be hard to do sometimes.

WL Craig is best known as an apologist even though he's also known as a philosopher, and lesser known as a theologian.

I am a counter-apologist, or an a-apologist, since my main motivation or function is to argue against the Christian faith.

Vic, what would you want to be categorized as?

Victor Reppert said...

You are an apologist for atheism. Why can't you admit that?

John Loftus said...

I'll not object if you call me that. I prefer counter-apologist though. You?

Victor Reppert said...

One thing one does as a philosopher is to reflect on what one thinks is true, and why. Another is to advocate for the position one has decided is true. Everyone advocates for what they think is true, so everyone is an apologist for something.

The word "apologist" has, in the minds of some, an odor of special pleading, so it annoys me that the term is used for people on one side and not the other. But properly understood, it's just defending what you believe to be true, and getting others to agree with you as best you can. If you are a counter-apologist, you are also an apologist for the denial of what apologists on the other side are defending.

But I also think coming to the right answer for a bad reason is a bad thing, not a good thing, and eventually it's going to bite you in the butt. Nonbelievers, for example, like to spend a lot of time portraying Christians as sheeple. But I heard a interview of a former atheist who said that after hearing religious believers portrayed as blind followers she was surprised to discover to meet a number of them who were serious critical thinkers, and it led her on the first steps toward doubting her atheism. She eventually became a Catholic.

John Loftus said...

There are skeptics like James Randi and Joe Nickell who debunk paranormal claims. In what sense then are they advocating on behalf of something other than the need for sound reasoning based on sufficient evidence?

Victor Reppert said...

I think there are some things they would like us to believe in place of the paranormal claims. They have explanations for the events in question, which they think are true.

John Loftus said...

As in, nothing happened?

Victor Reppert said...

Well, something did, but not something paranormal.

John Loftus said...

What would you be willing to say is the difference between my claiming a ghost cooked a steak dinner for me and someone who denied my claim? Would you really want to say both are apologists? You know the Greek definition of that word. Under what circumstances would someone be called upon in court to defend such a claim as the skeptic mentioned? Nothing happens all of the time. I could name thousands of things that did not happen as I was typing these words. It would be considered the default, correct? I did not levitate as I wrote this. I did not turn into a pink unicorn. And so on.

Victor Reppert said...

Both are defending a position one way or the other. Both want others to think as they do. Both are apologists.

John Loftus said...

So in your opinion, the only way not to be an apologist is to ignore a claim. I don't argue against the existence of Zeus or Odin, so I'm not an apologist about those claims. However, to produce an argument, even if not well constructed or unsound, is to do the work of an apologist. That would make everyone an apologist about most of the things they say during any given day about a whole range of issues.

Would that stretch the word apologist far beyond the elasticity of language? Shouldn't a word have more specific and definite meaning if it's to communicate? I take it for starters that it's a theological word. I also take it that Christians themselves have adopted it as a function of what they do when defending their faith. There's a whole discipline in some Christian seminaries titled apologetics. Christians can even get a degree in it. But since you say the word apologetics means "defending a position one way or another" and since most classes and disciplines are "defending a position one way or another" then all classes should have the word "apologetics" in the title. The "apologetics of church history" or "the apologetics of church music."

Joe Hinman said...

I am not an apologist but only a poet. But then I'm a Kierkegaard fan. ("I am not a Christian but merely a poet--Postscri9pt)

Joe Hinman said...


January 23, 2016 2:34 AM

Hey John How's it going man. Sorry I missed you over on DC.



Blogger John Loftus said...
"So in your opinion, the only way not to be an apologist is to ignore a claim. I don't argue against the existence of Zeus or Odin, so I'm not an apologist about those claims. However, to produce an argument, even if not well constructed or unsound, is to do the work of an apologist. That would make everyone an apologist about most of the things they say during any given day about a whole range of issues."

--what's the big deal about being an apologist?

Would that stretch the word apologist far beyond the elasticity of language? Shouldn't a word have more specific and definite meaning if it's to communicate? I take it for starters that it's a theological word. I also take it that Christians themselves have adopted it as a function of what they do when defending their faith. There's a whole discipline in some Christian seminaries titled apologetics. Christians can even get a degree in it. But since you say the word apologetics means "defending a position one way or another" and since most classes and disciplines are "defending a position one way or another" then all classes should have the word "apologetics" in the title. The "apologetics of church history" or "the apologetics of church music."

--I agree with you there man.

Joe Hinman said...


"I am a counter-apologist, or an a-apologist, since my main motivation or function is to argue against the Christian faith."

--you are an apologist for buying your book. But I can't criticize since I have my ow2n book

Joe Hinman said...

There are skeptics like James Randi and Joe Nickell who debunk paranormal claims. In what sense then are they advocating on behalf of something other than the need for sound reasoning based on sufficient evidence?

Randi is totally irrational. I asked him if he had research Lourdes he said no.I said he should pay them the money he began cursing at me.

Joe Hinman said...

I agree apologist means more than just arguing for somethi9ng and I don't think Dr R was saying that's it's meaning given the context in which it has come to be used. I agree with Doc that it should be used of people on both sides. But ultimately I don't care. Atheists are going to do their hate thing anyway you call it.

John Loftus said...

Joe, here are my brief comments on everything you said in order:

- Nice to hear from you too Joe!

- Vic brought this up not me not me. ask him why it's important.

- Thanks.

- I recommend lots of books. Why shouldn't I be a promoter of mine? My publishers don't have budgets for doing so. Nonetheless, do you have access to a library? Then you should go there. Check one or more out. Then see for yourself. But the truth is I don't really care if you in particular do.

- Even if Randi did and said those things it doesn't mean he's irrational. He may have been in a bad mood, or bothered by something else. Nonetheless, I wasn't there, and so given that you think he's irrational based on insufficient evidence I have reason to think you're either not telling me the whole story or you're exaggerating things.

- Not exactly sure what you're claiming, but I'll say mere assertions by you are, well, mere assertions. No arguments there. And no, atheists don't hate your god, any more than you hate Allah.

Cheers



Joe Hinman said...

That last bit I am just saying you both make good points but I don't see how matters that much what you call it. I get where Dr R is coming from and we should reclaim the language. that's why I have not given up using the term supernatural even though no one seems to know what it means. Even so, at the end of the day labels are not the main thi8ng.

Victor Reppert said...

What is anti-apologetics? People can often be anti-apologists for certain answers they consider to be wrong. But normally, we don't do anti-apologetics simply to get someone to stop getting a particular wrong answer. Think of a Christian who does Mormon anti-apologetics. They wouldn't say that all they were doing was getting people to stop getting a particular wrong answer (Mormonism), but they don't care at all what answer they accept in its place. They do care, and care very much.

Someone persuaded to stop being a Christian might become a secular humanist, might become an Objectivist, or might become a nihilist or a communist revolutionary. Or they might come to think that if there is no hope beyond this life, there is no reason to continue living this one, and commit suicide. Nothing in the logic of atheism requires any of these responses as opposed to others. But most atheists who do anti-Christian apologetics do care which of those options are embraced. They are not merely anti-apologists. They are apologists.