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Why Christian Apologists Fail.
The term, "Apologist," has no etymological relation to the colloquial use of the word apologize. Apologia is derived from late Latin meaning to defend one's actions, thought, or opinions. This is an important point to make before we begin. Universities all over the Western World offer advanced graduate degrees in this en-devour which can be rightly described as defense of the Abrahamic faiths. Some of the best known of these are William Lane Craig, William Dembski, Jim Dennison, and Alister McGraff, and David Wolpe. The Youtube debates with these theologians and many others against, Dawkins, Dennet, Harris, Hitchens, and Krauss are the guilty pleasure of those interested in the Philosophy of Religion.
And yet these Theists always fail to make a case in defense of their particular Theism and this is not simply a matter of opinion, as you will see, if we look at these debates and the tactics of the Apologists rationally. For in truth what else do we have but rationality as an impetus in the slow crawl of man out of superstition and into modernity.
Deism Versus Theism
Before proceeding it becomes incumbent upon us to separate Deism from Theism. Deism is the belief in a, "prime-mover," an uncaused cause that set the Universe into motion; it takes many forms. From a vague sense of Universal connection, to a Pantheistic god represented apurely scienticif, to a conscious entity that simply does not much care for nor mettle in human affairs.
Theism is by more exact definition an organized hierarchical power structure based upon revealed truth usually in the form of a holy book or etched tablets that a personal, intervening god has bestowed upon a prophet to disseminate amongst man. He typically demands submission, supplication, and the obedience of certain probitions and adherence to specfic prescriptions in life in exchange for a favored position in the after life. The classical Athenian gods of Mount Olympus, Hinduism, and various gods of Ancient Egypt would fall into the category of Polytheism. While the Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have a shared tradition and are at present the world's dominant Theisms.
This distinctions is important as we will see.
Slight of Hand
Where Apologists, for any faith, consistently misstep is in their tendency to argue for nothing more than a vague Deism. Falling back on the Ontological Argument, The Cosmological Argument, The Teleological Argument, and the newly brand, "fine-tuning argument." (For a full discussion of these argument and their flaws see my individual hubs on each). Unfortunately for the theism which they are defending this is about as far as they are able to lucidly bring us Epistemically. The problem here is that these arguments even when given untoward license do nothing to bolster the particular revelation which they are defending.
Even if their Opponents grant that the Universe is finely designed for life, which it is not, or that something can only come from something else, a point Quantum mechanics is coming closer and closer to invalidating, and is only a supposition by itself or that species themselves are particularly designed, a claim Darwin began to neatly dispose of (much to his own chagrin), they are left entirely without a case for the extraordinary claims made by their specific theisms.
Detailed issues such as the name of god, the arrangement of the entrance to heaven, the conditions of purgatory and hell, what actions are expected of the pious and what actions are forbidden to the wicked are merely extrapolations of the supposedly sacred texts. We know after centuries of biblical scholarships that these books were oral traditions, often miss-translations of copies of hearsay that were edited and doctored at numerous political treaties.
And so while you might hear an Apologists claim to believe in his holy book and even posit evidence that it is in some way special in it's linguistic aesthetics, or it's uncanny ability to address the most prescient of human concerns, you will never hear them put forth any evidence to support these claims. Because none exists, belief in these revelations is quite simply a matter of faith.
As Christopher Hitchens pointed out time and again, "This leaves you with all your work still ahead of you."
Poll; Religion and Politics
Will an openly Athesitic president be elected in our lifetime?
Last Ditch Efforts
When faced with an acutely thoughtful secular skeptic who debunks the Deistic arguments handily, the death throes of a dying Apologist argument usually takes one of three forms; The Moral Argument, The systematic slaughters of the 20th century Argument, or The assertion that atheism is simply a religion of it's one (complete with it's own high priests) Argument. I'll take these in order:
The Moral argument is a general claim that we would not know right from wrong without divine mandate. It's a flawed argument on many levels. First it assumes that whatever god reveals is necessarily moral by the theory of divine mandate. This is nothing more than a celestial form of moral relativism which proclaims that whatsoever $6 god has dictated must be morally sound. Considering that the Pentitude is full of divinely warranted genocide, rape, abhorrent death by stoning for minor picadillos, and slavery this assertion falls flat. On another level none of these books go beyond the most basic moral proscriptions found in every society dug up by anthropologists, namely, do not steal, do not kill, and do not bear false witness. Our morality clearly comes from within genetically and is hijacked by religion. And lastly the moral compass proposed by the bible clashes so fiercely with modernity and secular morality that even the most ardent literalist cannot endorse the vast majority of god's enjoindments
Next, the citing of the many Fascistic, Communistic, and Totalitarian societies that have fallen into starvation, mass murder, and unendurable oppression and somehow as a direct cause of atheism is specious. While many of these regimes were Atheisitic in a traditional sense they thrived on credulity that often raise there sociopathic leaders into unquestionable divines in their own right. This can hardly be called Atheism or be considered the result of Atheism or Secularism. They may have existed side by side in a number of cases with Atheism, but Atheism did not predicate the behavior nor could it because;
(and this leads me into my third point) Atheism is not a religion, nor is Materialism, or Scientism. An Atheist is simply someone who has read the holy books and found them wanting in aesthetics, truth claims, plausibility, and morality. It, of itself, has no content from which to launch campaigns of hatred, intolerance, or immorality. The biggest difference between materialist or scientific thought is that the former deals in certainties and the latter in ever changing, more clearly focused probabilities. Science will never claim a last and final word concerning the nature of reality but merely a deduction from specific empirical findings. These are always subject to remediation by the continual progression of better science and increased technological acumen. Religions on the other hand claimed divine knowledge of an infinite truths at a time when know one knew anything and has had to undergo embarrassing refutation at insulting capitulation.
The Death of Inquiry
I realized that I've sidled slightly adrift from the original thesis of this Hub but I think it bears repeating that the answer to the many awe-inspiring questions we find within the macroscopic and the microscopic scales that encapsulate us cannot be, "god did it." Such an answer is the death of ingenuity and curiosity; traits we hold in greater abundance than any other species yet known. The intellectual torpidity of such an answer leaves us in the clutches of those who would claim to know things that they cannot know and extinguishes the intellectual spark of those who would tread gingerly yet determinedly into the darkness found at the outer, ever increasing edges of what we do know. The history of the enlightenment is the proper relegation of theism to mythology thus allowing these intrepid scientific explorers to pursue the possibilities of what we may come to know...if we only allow it.