I was browsing the racks in Barnes & Noble for a book I might give to my daughter Eden. I thought there might be a thoughtful and interesting book in the philosophy section. I was right. I got a book called The Hobbit and Philosophy. There are lots of interesting article titles there. But I noticed a disturbing trend, and I don’t know whether this is just the local store (my suspicion), or some edict from corporate headquarters.
I am not one to worry about what people think or express, as long as the tone is even and well crafted. And I am willing to listen to rants when it comes to the abuse of someone’s rights or a breach of morality. But I noticed that many of the books whose covers were facing the audience were of the new atheist persuasion. Don’t get me wrong, I like reading their rants and buy their books just to argue with them. I am a theist, and their thin dismissals of my experience and education (as prodigious as some of theirs) mark a failure of both their imagination and understanding. But from the display, it seems there is a clear intention to promote these works as central to philosophy.
Again, don’t get me wrong, the standard works of Aristotle, Plato, Kant, Nietzsche, and Hegel are there alongside some of the newer lights like Zizek, I’m just grumbling about the promotion of peripheral works as if they were central to philosophy. Maybe this is a passing fancy of a particularly angry store manager, a momentary promotion, and if so, I should just chill. Over the ages, who will ever know.
I understand the need to scream at stupidity. This rant may be an example of that. And the new atheists (NA) often are screaming at the stupidity of lots of incoherent theism. Americans seem pretty dull-witted when it comes to changing their minds, and many branches of Christianity seem dedicated to shooting themselves in the feet, giving the NA plenty of ammunition. It’s laughable, really. But then, I weep, because it really tells how the mighty Christian culture has fallen from its previous dominance. With the curious mix of rationales in the NA rhetoric of bad behavior by Christians, overconfidence, and incomplete science and statistics, they nonetheless have a point. That doesn’t mean that they have achieved the truth, only that as long as the Christian church chooses to live and argue on the old terms, it will leave room for criticism.
Part of that criticism arises just because responsible people in the church are just not interested in carrying on the conversation with those who oppose Christianity. I understand that. The outcome, however, is that the church carries on as if the opponents don’t exist. That is a bad thing. But with the absolute impossibility of keeping up in this era, we often must be content to keep aware. I don’t think this blog is much more than that.