Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Two Kinds of Atheism

The atheism of imagination is a much more formidable opponent to theology than positivist skepticism because it takes religion seriously.

- Garrett Green

It's fashionable for belief in God/religion to be the punchline of many a joke these days. The thinking seems to be that if religion can be made fun of then it can't possibly be true or carry any real weight in th elife of a human being. This is why Hitchens is a more successful evangelist and apologist for atheism than Dawkins - he's funnier. He can get more laughs at religion's expense. Positivist skepticism's logical conclusion isn't the construction of a new reality free of the tyranny of religion - its logical conclusion is a never-ending joke, because it can't live without the punchline provided by religion.

But the best jokes are those which take the subject of the joke most seriously. The atheism of imagination wants to show religion to be a powerful but calamitous force in the world; it wants to expose the Future Planning Committee as the War Committee. It can taste the irony, and wants everyone else to have a sample too. Positive skepticism wants to strip religion naked and play willy banjo.

Where Green may be mistaken is in calling the atheism of imagination an opponent of theology. The task of theology can only be enriched by alternative voices who take its subject matter seriously enough to challenge it. Real opposition of theology can only be an inside job, carried out by theologians who know not what they have been given and who know nothing of the gifts that can be received from unexpected places.

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