Thursday, December 13, 2012

Apologists and Mystics.

I tried, and largely failed, in 'Atheist Ireland needs a new name'  post to explain that while religion does not interest me intellectually,  it does however interest me politically.  I posted this comment over at the Barefoot Bum a few months back. It  has minor edits.

Broadly speaking, they are two types of theists : 1) the apologists and 2) the mystics/aesthetics.

Apologists borrow from philosophy in an attempt to demonstrate theism is quite rational and that atheism is irrational and unreasonable. In general the apologists argue for deism, that a God must exist and jump from that conclusion to their specific faith. I am not aware of any specific argument for Christianity other than 'the bible is true'.  Thus different faiths and various new-age groups use the same generic set of arguments and frankly these debates are tedious because the actual arguments are no more sophisticated than the infamous Banana Man video.

Then there are the aesthetics and the mystics. This group enjoys statements like 'god cannot be classified as a member of any set, not even as the set of things which cannot be classified' or 'God is beyond human understanding'.  The aesthetic enjoys pointing out the limitations of science and tossing around statements like 'poetry, art, music, although not strictly rational, are better guides to the human condition than science'.     Another favorite is:  'The attempt to prove the existence of God is a form of atheism which has arisen from the scientific revolution'.

Christianity for aesthetics and mystics is about beauty, wonder, awe, humility, the image of the broken and tortured Christ nailed upon a cross, a profound image representing Gods love for our fallen and sinful species.  Aesthetics claim atheists who do not respect these believes are half-educated and unsophisticated, tackling instead a caricature of religious faith while ignoring the true beauty and the 'deep spirituality' of religion.

Atheists and the aesthetic Christians are usually confused by each other. The aesthetic Christian thinks the atheist is 'aspect blind', that they completely miss the point of Christianity because they are limited and blinded by 19th century rationalism and science. The atheist considers this view point vacuous nonsense and completely irrelevant.

But what atheists do care about is politics. We believe a society built upon religious grounds is intellectually and socially repressive as it privileges a minority of religious clerics who claim to derive their authority from a divine being.  An atheist believes this is unreasonable.  So in order to drag the religious away from their undeserved and lofty position, atheists must grapple the clerics and the apologists and drag them into the mud and dirt away from abstract beauty and wonder and awe but into actual reality where religious political decisions cause misery and suffering.

Sometimes outright contempt and derision is called for and I don't see why religious people should be allowed to set the tone for a debate.  What I find offensive is religious people attempting to regulate my entire existence from when I can have sex to when I am allowed to die. I now enjoy a numerous freedoms that  religious institutions have opposed, not least the freedom criticize them.  So call me vulgar and unsophisticated if it makes you feel better but I don't give a flying toss about beauty or the influence of Christianity on the arts when Christianity will happily oppress me for "the common good".





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