Tuesday, May 31, 2011

PZ Myers defends the Courtier’s Reply

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The naked Emperor from ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’
Pictured: Common religionist arguments

In which PZ Myers explains that the Courtier’s Reply is not, contrary to common and misguided criticism, an excuse for being ignorant about the depths of various religious subsets:

[Debunking Christianity’s John ]Loftus is making the same misinterpretation I've heard from creationists and theologians: that the Courtier's Reply is a call for ignorance and an excuse for not trying to understand religion. It's not. Rather, it's an amusing way to tell someone that they haven't established their premises (the existence of deities), and that all their phantasmagorical elaborations on their fantasies are irrelevant. Cut to the core issue; if you haven't shown that Jesus even existed, it's silly to be arguing about the color of his socks.


For me, the Courtier's Reply is sufficient because I'm not wedded to any particular doctrine; it's enough for me to see that the core is rotten and hollow. But I entirely agree that for most religious people, the existence of a god isn't even an issue — it's assumed and taken for granted. What most people have locked into their brains is a pattern of ritual and dogma and pseudohistory so intricate that it obscures the central assumption, and to chip through that we need Biblical scholars who grapple with the details.

Exactly right. It seems that religionists who attack the Courtier’s Reply usually do so because they can’t even fathom the idea that non-religious folks don’t actually accept their fundamental assumption of the existence of their central deity. Saying that I dismiss your system of beliefs without even deigning to examine it all is not actually a sign of willful ignorance or an incapacity to debate, any more than it would be if I refused to remark on the elegance and intricacy of the architecture of your beloved palace if it was built on quicksand. In the end, it just doesn’t matter – if the very nature of your argument is flawed to the core, any subsequent extrapolation can only be flawed as well, and therefore deserves naught but derision and dismissal.