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Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Truth Claims

It’s interesting how relativist arguments get used in apologetics for institutions that claim to have had the absolute truth always and forever.

The moderate defenders of religion are very quick to make relativist and aesthetic arguments, and downplay any claim to the truth. What exactly is being defended.

11 comments:

Thomas said...

If you want to get a good sense of what's being defended, I'd recommend Tim Keller. His Christianity isn't (to my mind) "moderate", and I doubt I could ever believe what he believes (e.g., that homosexuality is wrong), but there's something about his style of argument that resonates with me. He seems to reason like I do and has just arrived at different conclusions. I don't share his belief, but I may share the way he believes. I think his view that "everyone is exclusive" is particularly instructive.

Jonathan said...

I see that guy and I just think he is creepy. He is right that the relativist position is bullshit. Either you're right or you ain't. The problem is that there is no way of knowing that you are.

Thomas said...

Do you think he's creepy in his opinions or his manner? I find him to be the most watchable (uncringeworthy) of evangelical preachers.

I like the combination of believing you're right and treating people who think differently decently.

I have to say I find him less creepy than some atheists.

Jonathan said...

It's a visceral thing with me. How calmly and jokingly he can talk of people going to hell, How he seems not to have the mannerisms of evangelical preachers, but actually believes the same things they do. I distrust people who try to hide an obscene ideology behind a veneer of respect for others. He's like a Nazi who says of course we should love the Jews.

Thomas said...

But isn't that just an "academic" manner? I sometimes wonder how calmly philosophers can discuss the Dasein, i.e., the problem of authentic being, existence itself. Or how calmly you, for example, can discuss the duende, i.e., the problem of the bridge between the senses and the living the flesh. Maybe "hell" is just part of a different vocabulary for the same set of issues, at least to Keller?

Jonathan said...

Yes, I'm sure an academic Nazi would cause the same reaction in me of fear and loathing. He doesn't have a right to assume the academic manner when he is promoting the opposite viewpoint that we expect from someone in that position. He is using his intelligence in a perverted way, to oppose the positions that intellectuals ought to take. You see, I too am exclusive.

I am not saying you are wrong if he doesn't give you the creeps. I'm just explaining my reaction. I felt it before I could even articulate why I felt the way I do.

Thomas said...

That does answer my question, since you're clearly creeped out by his ideology, not his immediate manner. If he held less obscene views, you wouldn't react in the same way. I do feel that tension when I listen to his arguments, but I resolve it in a different way.

Basically, I'm not as sure as you are that his views are abhorrent. One reason for this is a kind of moral pragmatism: there are way too many people who believe what he believes, or something like it within the frame of a different religion (like Judaism or Islam) to let myself be repulsed. The world would simply become too creepy a place.

Instead, I focus on the sort of conversation he seems to be offering for discussing what he calls "human flourishing". I get the sense that a weekly consultation with Keller, while it won't make me believe that Jesus was resurrected even once or is ever coming back, might make me a better person, i.e., help me better fashion my self.

If I'm considering it at all, of course, it's because I happen to have been raised as a Christian. If I had been raised by Muslims or communists, I would need someone else to talk to probably. But that's just because of the need for a shared vocabulary.

Thomas said...

The generational transmission of religion is really important here, I think. When deciding what it is not creepy to believe, we have to think about what our parents and their parents believed (and how creeped out we are by our parents and grandparents).

My grandmother's funeral was yesterday (she was 100). There service was, necessarily, a tribute to her faith in God. I think I'm somewhat Wittgensteinian about that sort of ritual. Even if we're sure that Christianity is false, I don't think we can say that she was simply wrong, nor that I was essentially hypocritical to participate. Rather, we use the language that is available to us to make sense of her passing. And that's all religious language is ever used for. Any given Sunday, if you will.

profacero said...

Condolences, Thomas! I like religion for funerals and some things like that, I have to say. But (a) am against what religious institutions do despite the fact that some of them do some small good as well as the much ill, and (b) am against non organized religion as well, cannot stand the new agers or the people who put up storefront churches and join together some superficial superstitions and adages and call themselves "spiritual." I say that if one is going to do that then one should go all the way, join a religion with some intellectual tradition to it, and so on.

Thomas said...

Thanks, Profacero. She went very peacefully.

It seems to me that if we're going to use religion to mark the passing of loved ones, we have to find a way to practice it also while we're alive. I agree with Jonathan that we shouldn't resort to relativist apologetics. I have not found a workable practice for myself yet; which is also to say that, like you, I often find myself at odds with the available institutions.

profacero said...

I'm an old fashioned animist, Thomas!