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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE (2012), HUMANITY ENHANCED (2014), and THE MYSTERY OF MORAL AUTHORITY (2016).

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Steve Zara on Faitheist by Chris Stedman

Steve Zara gives a (surprisingly?) positive review to Chris Stedman's book, Faitheist. I'll be reading this book, and writing about it, myself. At this point, let me just say that I welcome the book, even though I am almost sure to find a great deal to disagree with.

I'm known, I suppose, as one of the more prominent anti-accommodationist thinkers/writers ... but anti-accommodationism in this sense just means that I don't think that religious doctrines can be accommodated straightforwardly within a scientific view of the world (for example, using Stephen Jay Gould's NOMA principle).

I also think that there is a place for stark, dramatic expressions of our problems with religion, as with the title of Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion. I think there is a place for reductio ad absurdum arguments against religious views, showing how bizarre they can seem when their implications are examined, or how ridiculous they can appear in total when you step out of them. And religious views, like everything else, can be fair game for mockery and satire. That especially applies when the adherents of these views seek to wield power or political influence.

I guess this means that I am no "faitheist", which I take to be an atheist who considers religion a good thing, wants to say nothing against it, considers it beyond satire, etc. For a start ...generally speaking, I don't think religion is a good thing.

All that said, there are limits. I don't think that we should go after good, moderate religious people without restraint. I don't think that incivility, dismissiveness, and mere abuse are often appropriate. On the contrary, I think it's worthwhile striking a few blows for thoughtfulness, fairness, kindness, and civility. Satire is often justified, and even outright anger and mockery can be justified in some circumstances, but surely we can be a bit discriminating and careful about when.

If that is part of what Stedman wants to argue, I'm fine with it, and that's the way I'd hope to treat his book.

1 comment:

Steve Zara said...

I do disagree with Stedman in some ways; I didn't mention in my post that I don't go as far as Chris in saying that religion is a good thing. What interested me was that Chris was not the philosophical accommodationist that some of his critics say he must be, and I also find it fascinating that he is bypassing religious stereotypes and managing to engage with mainstream religions while being a gay atheist! I find his approach an interesting and useful contrast to that of say, Harris and Myers. I do want to know more though about how his work proceeds. It may not continue to be the success it seems to be right now.