• Banno
    12k
    There's some dreadful stuff in the philosophy of religion forum.

    I won't cite examples - PM me if you really need them. A quick look will show folk with very queer notions, of late in logic, especially modal logic.

    Natural theology was a very early interest of mine - I recall having arguments with my primary school religious eduction teacher. So it is an ingress into more rigorous thinking.

    The lack of quality in the philosophy of religion forum might be tolerated if it led to growth in the quality of posts from individual members. There's some evidence of that.

    I'm just puzzling over the place of this little corner of the community. Part of me would be rid of it, merging the conversations into metaphysics and ethics - but that would detract from both those fora.

    SO maybe a place for bad theology is not such a bad thing?
  • Pantagruel
    1.6k
    Devil's advocate, maybe it's not as important whether there are bad posts as whether there are any good ones? Digital real estate is cheap, and it provides a place for people to work things out. I never stick my face in there, but I'm someone who firmly believes that religion has historically played an important socio-cultural role in collective normative validation and legitimation. And that its complete expulsion from modern life is more of a harm than a good. If it is making some people happy why take it away?
  • jamalrob
    2.9k
    I'm someone who firmly believes that religion has historically played an important socio-cultural role in collective normative validation and legitimation. And that its complete expulsion from modern life is more of a harm than a good.Pantagruel

    One can agree with all this, as I do, and yet find the majority of these discussions about God's existence and omnipotence bloody awful.
  • jamalrob
    2.9k
    I'm just puzzling over the place of this little corner of the community. Part of me would be rid of it, merging the conversations into metaphysics and ethics - but that would detract from both thoseBanno

    If this were my personal fiefdom I'd remove the philosophy of religion category and I'd probably delete most of the philosophy of religion that turned up in other categories. But it's not, so the most I want to do is crack down on it. I confess I want do this more to religion than, say, solipsism, which is another subject that generates bad discussions. I'm not sure if this is unfair.
  • Jack Cummins
    2.3k

    I think that one underlying question is whether the need for religion can ever be overcome?Many of the ancient philosophers interweaved religious and philosophical speculations.

    Personally, my own interest in philosophy grew in the context of issues raised in religious upbringing. I have stepped outside of the Catholic tradition in which I was raised. However, I am sure that in some ways the whole way I think borrows from religious seeking. Perhaps the people who were not brought up with religion think differently. Certainly, I can remember the point in childhood when I found out about the theory of evolution and it was around the same time that I discovered about sex, so it was like stepping into a new world.

    But the point I would make is that religious thinking can be deconstructed, but it does not alter the way in which the questions of religion come from the same starting place. So, perhaps the most important thing is to be able to draw out the central questions of philosophy within religious beliefs. Obviously, every person answers these differently, but obviously that involves freedom of choice and thought.
  • DoppyTheElv
    127

    But it seems like all of you here then think most if not all of phil of religion is terrible. Not only the bad examples here but in the field as a whole. I dont know if that is fair. Or am i making an unjust assumption?

    bad theologyBanno
    What is good theology? I believe that some posters here have a good grasp on natural theology but they dont make posts about it.

    I guess I just want to defend the field of phil of religion as a whole because the vibe I get from this forum is: phil of religion, theism, ... is all pretty terrible and not worth anyones time. This feels wrong.

    edit: This has me rereading my PoR discussion from half a year ago, so forgive me if I forgot anything. -- Apart from my natural inclination to defend PoR as a discipline I would like to say that I sometimes am afraid to post anything because I think people will deem my post terrible and not worthwhile. So while I can understand you guys getting sick of the same old stuff getting posted about by noobs like me, the backlash given can really scare a person away from wanting to engage in the forum. Or that might just be me.

    I know that lots of you guys already have made up your mind on a lot of things. And people like me who aren't sure at all about major positions like materialism or what theory of mind they find plausible but aren't able to figure it out because you guys will deem some positions literally not worth spending any time on. It just seems so fruitless to engage because everyone already has their mind made up. At least that's what I've been feeling reading the forum recently. But it doesn't help that I'm hopelessly terrible at putting thoughts into words..
  • emancipate
    275
    Consider how worse it would be without that section. At least that section serves the purpose of containing the religious garbage in one place.
  • Pantagruel
    1.6k
    Ironically, the chapter I read this morning, immediately after posting here, was called "Ultimate Religious Ideas" in Spencer's book First Principles.... :lol:
  • baker
    1.3k

    Your title says
    "Bad theology as an introduction to philosophical thinking".

    From what I've seen, for not just a few people, religious apologetics, specifically, monotheistic apologetics is the first and last encounter with some kind of philosophical thinking.

    It was the first such encounter for me.
  • baker
    1.3k
    Consider how worse it would be without that section. At least that section serves the purpose of containing the religious garbage in one place.emancipate
    So what is your suggestion: Where should people go and what should they do in order to learn and practice criticial thinking?
    (Other than college courses and similar.)

    It seems to me that for most people, criticial thinking (as is understood in secular academia) is an impenetrably foreign thing.
  • Banno
    12k
    Candour appreciated. I suppose it is an evil up with which we must put.
  • Banno
    12k
    Ah, another lost catholic soul. There are more than a few of us around here.

    What is good theology?DoppyTheElv

    Spinoza. Anthony Kenny. But it's not that I am in disagreement with theists that is the issue; it's that he arguments, form both theists and atheist alike, are terrible. Too many of the participants do not have a grasp of the basics of logic and metaphysics, and further are incapable of recognising their incompetence.

    Yours was a good thread. Philosophy of religion can be done well. It just isn't.
  • Wayfarer
    12.1k
    I guess I just want to defend the field of phil of religion as a whole because the vibe I get from this forum is: phil of religion, theism, ... is all pretty terrible and not worth anyones time. This feels wrong.DoppyTheElv

    Agree. My major interest is philosophy of religion, I majored in comparative religion and did an MA in Buddhist Studies. I also see myself as part of the Kantian tradition, which has its spiritual aspects.

    On the one hand, I agree that there's a lot of bad stuff written about it, and that there are some obnoxious protagonists. On the other hand, the reason this topic is perennial, is because, contrary to the wish of atheists, religious ideas refuse to die. It's natural for human beings to ask such questions, because they can, and because the possibility of a life beyond is forever tantalising. Kant saw this also.

    The arguments, form both theists and atheist alike, are terrible.Banno

    I think the major problem is spiritual illiteracy. For instance, when you're trying to give a class on 'basic use of computers' you expect the students to know what a mouse is, what 'click' means, what 'save' means, what 'a file' is, and so on. Otherwise you can't even start the class. Spiritual literacy is somewhat similar, comprising basic understanding of some key ideas, of 'how things work' in one or another of the living spiritual traditions. In a secular culture, a lot of that has died off, which is obvious from the kinds of arguments and statements that are made about it. I can generally spot the spiritually illiterate (who are numerous) from a sentence or two.

    But on the other hand, philosophy forums (fora?) are where people with such questions are often going to gravitate, so you can't close it down. I think @jamalrobs and the other mod's efforts at housekeeping by consolidating threads and tossing the most egregious examples are all that can be done. As long as philosophy exists, theology (and theosophy, small-t) are always going to be one face of it.

    Oh, and I should add, one of the only ways to humanely keep a lid on these types of arguments is by not responding. Sometimes that's really hard, especially if you're being flamed, but you gotta know when to fold 'em.
  • Banno
    12k
    only ways to humanely keep a lid on these types of arguments is by not responding.Wayfarer

    I keep finding myself back there. Like a broken tooth, I can't stop poking it. I suppose I must admit an interest in the topic; one that is frustrated by the nonsense found on the forum.

    I might keep an eye out for an article to use as a thread-starter in that forum, just to see if it is possibly to do something a bit more serious than bag out neophytes.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    8.6k
    For instance, when you're trying to give a class on 'basic use of computers' you expect the students to know what a mouse is, what 'click' means, what 'save' means, what 'a file' is, and so on. Otherwise you can't even start the class. Spiritual literacy is somewhat similar, comprising basic understanding of some key ideas, of 'how things work' in one or another of the living spiritual traditions. In a secular culture, a lot of that has died off, which is obvious from the kinds of arguments and statements that are made about it. I can generally spot the spiritually illiterate (who are numerous) from a sentence or two.Wayfarer

    I strongly disagree with this. If you're giving a "basic" course, you need to start from the very bottom, teach the most fundamental principles. It is a serious mistake to assume that the student already understands the fundamentals. This is especially important in philosophy, because these fundamental principles form the premises upon which the rest of the conceptual structure is build. And, the beliefs which come to us naturally concerning these things vary widely from person to person, as the participation in this forum shows. So if the professor of "basic" philosophy does not teach the fundamental principles, but instead takes it for granted that the student already understands these, when it is evident that the understanding which different people have varies widely, there will be significant consequences of misunderstanding, and rejection of the taught material which proves to be inconsistent with the preconceptions of the student.

    So for example, as I described in the other thread, the atheist will approach philosophy of religion with the preconceived notion that gods are imaginary beings, and the theist will approach the same field with the preconception that God is a real existing being. You can see that these two distinct types of preconceptions would result in a significant difference to how one "understands" the material. So the proper approach for the professor can only be to remove all such biases and start from scratch.

    There is a common understanding of what it requires to learn a technique, a trade, which is applicable as a simile. The self-taught individual will always develop some bad habits. So when a person has the desire to proceed into a trade, a vocation, as a career occupation, it is necessary for that person to release all previously acquired habits, and learn the profession from the very beginning, the very basics, from the professionals. This is necessary in order that no bad habits be allowed. In some occupations bad habits amount to inefficiencies, or deficiencies in the goods produced, in some cases they are extremely dangerous. .
  • baker
    1.3k
    I can generally spot the spiritually illiterate (who are numerous) from a sentence or two.
    — Wayfarer
    /.../
    I strongly disagree with this.
    Metaphysician Undercover
    On the other hand, spirituality/religion is not a charity organization. The religious/spiritual are not here to help people; they're just "doing their thing". The religious/spiritual are not going to teach anyone the "basics of spirituality". Apparently, one has to learn this somehow on one's own, there's no school for it.
    The religious/spiritual don't stoop to the level of newbies and the otherwise "spiritually illiterate".



    -- I agree with you. I used to think the way you describe above, and in my more optimistic hours, I still think this way. But I learned the hard way that spirituality/religion, is, essentially, a kind of snobism, and that if one isn't able to be that kind of snob, one will never make spiritual/religious progress.
  • frank
    6.9k

    Would you say that Christianity is fundamentally Platonic?
  • Wayfarer
    12.1k
    I strongly disagree with this.Metaphysician Undercover

    Meaning, you don't agree that there is something called 'spiritual literacy'?
  • DoppyTheElv
    127

    Im going to need a while to understand all of that stuff! :sweat:
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    8.6k
    Meaning, you don't agree that there is something called 'spiritual literacy'?Wayfarer

    No, I thought I was clear in the post. I don't agree that when teaching a course on the "basics" in some field, you should expect the students to already have some understanding of the basics.

    The religious/spiritual are not going to teach anyone the "basics of spirituality". Apparently, one has to learn this somehow on one's own, there's no school for it.
    The religious/spiritual don't stoop to the level of newbies and the otherwise "spiritually illiterate".
    baker

    What kind of school is that, if they're not going to teach you the basics? When I took basic philosophy in university my professor did not expect anyone to already have any understanding of the basics. It seems very odd to have a course professing to teach the basics, but the professor expects the students to already have an understanding of the basics.

    Would you say that Christianity is fundamentally Platonic?frank

    I would say that there is a lot of influence from Neo-Platonism in Christianity, but this needs to be differentiated from Platonism.
  • Wayfarer
    12.1k
    This is especially important in philosophy, because these fundamental principles form the premises upon which the rest of the conceptual structure is build. And, the beliefs which come to us naturally concerning these things vary widely from person to person, as the participation in this forum shows. So if the professor of "basic" philosophy does not teach the fundamental principles, but instead takes it for granted that the student already understands these, when it is evident that the understanding which different people have varies widely, there will be significant consequences of misunderstanding, and rejection of the taught material which proves to be inconsistent with the preconceptions of the student.Metaphysician Undercover

    Remember, the thread is about 'bad theology'. And theology presents a specific problem, which is that atheism often doesn't think that there could be anything about it that's worth understanding. In other words, to even consider the subject of theology on its own terms, requires some degree of willingness to consider that it contains a valid subject matter. Atheism will often refuse to acknowledge even that. At which point there is no common ground, and also no understanding - which characterises a lot of the 'bad theology' on internet fora.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    8.6k

    The point of my post was to explain the need to go into such philosophical endeavours without any preconceived notions, without any assumed understanding of the basics, because these preconceived basic principles constitute prejudice.

    In my analogy of learning a trade, we are instructed to forget any understanding which we might already assume to have concerning that trade, and learn the proper procedures, starting from scratch. This is to ensure that we do not bring any bad habits with us into the vocation.

    So it is as you say, if the atheist (or the theist for that matter) refuses to drop their fundamental prejudice, before embarking on a philosophy of religion discussion, we cannot even get to the point of agreeing on the subject matter.

    Since religion seems to be an emotional subject, it appears like most people cannot drop these prejudices, so philosophy of religion discussions, amongst the undisciplined, tend to be very bad.
  • baker
    1.3k
    Remember, the thread is about 'bad theology'. And theology presents a specific problem, which is that atheism often doesn't think that there could be anything about it that's worth understanding.Wayfarer
    Given the way that theists tend to treat others, this is no surprise.

    In other words, to even consider the subject of theology on its own terms, requires some degree of willingness to consider that it contains a valid subject matter.
    This is simply shifting the responsibility onto the atheists.

    It's the theists, or more generally, the religious/spiritual, who expect that everyone else will play by their rules and take for granted that they have something of value to offer.
  • baker
    1.3k
    Since religion seems to be an emotional subject, it appears like most people cannot drop these prejudices, so philosophy of religion discussions, amongst the undisciplined, tend to be very bad.Metaphysician Undercover
    It's not just about prejudice:
    It's that the religious/spiritual resent to ever live up to what they preach. They resent to be called on to fulfil their promises. They want to be respected, they want to be trusted, they want to be submitted to. And they want to get money. But they don't want to do any of that for others. They expect that the others, the non-religious and the non-spiritual must take the first step, be the first ones to show compassion, generosity, charity. Because the religious/spiritual sure as hell aren't going to. The religious/spiritual demand to be acknowledged, but they don't want to acknowledge others. They have a "You owe us" attitude.

    This reflects in the way that communications on the topic of religion/spirituality usually take place. Of course it's frustrating to try to have a two-way conversation with someone who believes he's your boss and that you owe him.
  • TheMadFool
    9.4k
    bad theologyBanno

    Bad theology? Are you sure you're not conflating bad arguments with theology unless of course theology is the very embodiment of irrationality? What about Anselm's ontological proof?
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