Sunday, November 20, 2011

IDHEF - Foreword and Preface

This is part of my breakdown of the book "I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist." Related posts can be found by clicking here.

This post was originally released on Nov. 19, but was pulled due to missing information.

   It may be a bit pointless to do, but I do actually want to start with the foreword to IDHEF as there are some interesting bits in there that I wish to cover.

   The first head-scratcher is from the second paragraph.
   Proof, of course, is no substitute for faith... (p7)
With typical usage of this phrase, the first item is considered inferior to the second item, because, if one is to make a substitution, they generally want to make the substitution with something of equal or greater quality. So, this is implying that faith is superior to proof. This really seems to be a bizarre thing to say considering the title of the book! My guess is that atheists have the "wrong kind" of faith, at least in the mind of David Limbaugh, the author of the foreword. (On a side note, he's the twin brother of Rush Limbaugh.)

   Later in the foreward, Limbaugh discusses postmodernism. I'm quite sure this is discussed in the first two chapters, though not necessarily by this term (I think he means to say "relativism," though he's probably blaming this solely on postmodernism, which isn't necessarily correct), so I do not think I need to bother going into this here.

   Limbaugh then goes on a rant about "tolerance," but seems to be a bit confused on who and what he is criticizing.
   The tolerance peddlers are further exposed as frauds when you consider that they simply will not practice what they preach--at least toward those annoyingly stubborn Christians. They are absolutely unwilling to "tolerate" the Christian premise that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. (p9)
I really don't know who he thinks he is talking about here; I know of no such "tolerance peddlers." The ones I do know of do not seem to have a problem so much with the premise as they do with Christians who try to force that premise on to everyone else. For example, think homosexuals getting married is a sin? Fine, but you don't get to write laws that prevent them from doing so! Somehow, not allowing Christians to make their religious beliefs part of law equates to not allowing them to believe in Jesus. (And those who do recognize the intolerance is simply on pushing propaganda then try to claim that the gays, too, have an "agenda.") We often see the same thing when it comes to public endorsed prayer. Such prayer is illegal, but a blind eye has been turned to this for years. Now that more people are pointing out the violations, Christians have exaggerated disallowing public endorsed prayer into disallowing prayer, period. We see this same type of exaggeration with Limbaugh and his thoughts on tolerance.

   Limbaugh has some other interesting remarks on tolerance (emphasis mine).
But the Christians' belief that theirs is the one true religion doesn't make them intolerant of others or disrespectful of their right to believe and worship how they choose...Besides, for the record, Christianity isn't the only religion with exclusive truth claims. All major religions have such claims. Many of the central ideas of the major religions cannot be reconciled, which gives the lie to the trendy tenet of pluralism that all religions at their core are the same. (p9)
   On that second part, have you ever seen a child get into trouble and one of their excuses is that another child did the same thing? Ever seen a parent impressed by such an argument? Well, OK, maybe some have, but I think it's safe that most parents don't buy into it. And nor should you buy into Limbaugh's handwaving.

   For the last part, how do irreconcilable ideas - by which I assume he means, at least in part, the exclusive truth claims - prove that all religions, at their core, are not the same? The logic just does not seem to follow.
  1. All major religions have exclusive truth claims.
  2. These truth claims are irreconcilable.
  3. Therefore, religions, at the core, are not the same.
If someone thinks I have the premises wrong, let me know what you think they are. As it is, the second premise is just a reiteration of the first! No where could I find a way to get from the premise either way it is stated to the conclusion.

   As for the first part, Limbaugh goes on in later paragraphs to encourage evangelizing. Apparently, being respectful to peoples' "right to believe and worship how they choose" does not mean leaving them alone. To be fair, I sympathize with Limbaugh in this regard. I see nothing wrong with informing people of what their options are, as long as you are not threatening or badgering or using other unreasonable forms of coercion to encourage people to make a certain choice. Too often, though, Christian evangelism involves coercion through methods such as bribery and trickery. (For example, I have heard some Christian groups that feed the homeless make the homeless sit through a service before feeding them. I imagine many African missions use similar tactics.)

   In the meantime, Limbaugh also mentions that "many of our churches have become corrupted with these misguided notions of tolerance and pluralism" (p10). Well, I certainly agree that there are churches that promote these notions. The question I'd like to see addressed is how did this happen? I have thoughts on this, but, again, I'll wait to address this when I cover the first two chapters.

   Much of the remainder of the foreword discusses how he recommends the book; it's nothing I need to address. On to the preface...

   The preface is short, so not a whole lot here. It's pretty much a "don't dismiss this book just because it was written by Christians" argument. I have no objections. Interestingly enough, they bring up books written about the Holocaust to back their point. I know of an "autobiography" (rather it just covered the author's "childhood") written by someone who claimed to be a Holocaust survivor, but the whole thing was revealed (not by the author) to be a fabrication after having won the National Jewish Book Award in the United States. I plan to use this book as an example to counter arguments made later in this book.

   That is all I have to say on the foreword and preface, so next up will be the introduction. See you then.

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