Sunday, November 06, 2011

In defense of the Courtier’s Reply

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The naked emperor in ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’
Say what you want – that emperor’s butt-naked
[full size (458×600)]

Skimming our old friend Vox Day’s blog (as I am masochistically wont to do), I came across this little tidbit of interest in an otherwise typical anti-atheist tirade:

The Courtier's Reply of PZ Myers - which, to be fair, other New Atheists besides Richard Dawkins cannot be assumed to endorse - outright attempts to justify atheists knowing nothing about what they are so ineptly criticizing.

While this is broadly pertinent to Myth A16 (“Atheists are just ignorant about religion”), I wanted to address the specific claim, made so often by Christianists like Vox and other assorted anti-atheists, that the Courtier’s Reply is essentially an appeal to ignorance allowing clueless atheists do dismiss and attack religion without knowing anything about it.

Complete nonsense.

Of course, Vox is playing exactly into PZ’s hands in bolstering the same fallacious notion that the Courtier’s Reply decimates in the first place. The whole idea is to cut through all the baloney, the fluff, the 18 miles of theological bullshit and get right at the very heart of any religious debate: Does God exist?

It really is that simple. No matter how deeply you delve into the study of faith and the writings of religious scholars and philosophers both ancient (Thomas Aquinas) and modern (William Lane Craig), every single thought, claim and detail can always, inevitably be filtered down to one single and singular issue, the foundation of all organized religion, the central pillar upon which the entirety of Abrahamic theology is erected: the existence, or lack thereof, of the One True GodTM. Every single thought that’s ever been conceived, spoken or written down concerning the nature and study of theistic religion is supported only by the (supposedly self-evident) basis that Yahweh is real.

This is all evident to the point where it scarcely needs further explaining. What is the point to virtually any religious writings in the last two thousand years if it turns out that God is actually a fantasy? What happens to all that “sophisticated theology” if it’s revealed to be stipulation and postulation about the desires, demands and nature of something that’s never even existed to begin with? Isn’t it rather tantamount to chasing a gust of wind, to laboring under any plain ol’ delusion?

That is what the Courtier’s Reply, and other arguments like it, is all about. It is not an attempt, as claimed so often and erroneously by religious apologists, for critics to excuse talking smack about religion despite not being intimately familiar with all the detailed studies that have been made of it. It’s quite simpler and more obvious than that: It is a simple and convenient tack for countering all such claims of ignorance and lack of credentials and whatnot, and exposing the heart of the matter for what it really is: Is the whole foundation of modern organized faith even there at all?

One doesn’t need to be an expert to discuss such matters. The only credentials needed is the ability to understand basic concepts and analyze them critically and logically. Anyone who possesses such a sound and rational mind is thereby inherently qualified to discuss the (non)existence of God. No amount of bluster from apologists and assorted cranks can change this obvious fact.

So, basically, contrary to what Defenders of the FaithTM like Vox Day, William Lane Craig and others like to pretend, the onus is not on the critic to prove that God doesn’t exist. Atheists aren’t the ones making grandiose claims about the nature of existence based on pure abstraction and dogma and that must be accepted blindly – on faith. After all, the default is always zero, neutral. It is up to religionists to prove that there is a supernatural being that magicked the natural universe into existence and that has some sort of plan for us all and whatnot. And I daresay that the last few thousand years of pontification on the subject have brought us little compelling evidence for their position to be taken seriously.

You want people to believe something? You prove it exists beyond any reasonable doubt. Religionists have had centuries upon centuries to come up with some solid, incontrovertible evidence in support of their belief. Given the current tally of nothing but ancient fables and unfounded claims in their favor and every last shred of reality weighing against them, it’s all too clear that they have failed. And until someone comes up with some ironclad rationale for believing in a metaphysical entity that has no tangible bearing on the natural world, all the rest of us can do is point and laugh, no expertise required.

As the popular saying goes: Put up or shut up.