And what I’ve found has been appalling. “Sophisticated” theology is not sophisticated, but a misuse of intelligence and eloquence to make really bad arguments. These range from Karen Armstrong’s argument that God is a symbol for the ineffable, but yet He really exists, and is good (how the hell can she be apophatic and yet know something about God?), to Alvin Plantinga’s laughable claim that we’re endowed with a sensus divinitatis that is all that allows us humans to perceive truth—not just the “truth” of the Christian God, but scientific truths as well. (The sensus divinitatis is apparently broken in non-Christians and atheists, and God forgot to install it in anyone living more than two thousand years ago.) You don’t learn anything from this stuff, except about the endless ability of our big brains to rationalize the most appalling kind of nonsense. It’s a mug’s game: a bunch of smart people discoursing endlessly about things they can’t possibly know about. It is a group of scholars making stuff up. And its a waste of time, and money—the money of those people who pay theologians or buy their books.
If you’re a scientist, and schooled to doubt—to ask, whether it be scientific claims or other claims, “How do you know that?”—reading theology is an exercise in masochism. There’s nothing to learn about reality, except how smart people pull an intellectual con game, selling their delusions to others. I am a bad person for saying this, but I despise the “sophisticated” theologians like Plantinga more than I do fundamentalists like Ken Ham. For Plantinga is a very smart guy, and yet misuses his intelligence to deceive others and give “sophisticated” Christians justification for their beliefs. In contrast, Ham simple-mindedly advocates what he finds in the Bible; he’s not smart enough to use modal logic and the tools of philosophy to deceive smart Christians.
But enough ranting. I suppose I’ve derived some benefit from my two years of torture, if only that I’ve earned the credibility of having come to grips with “sophisticated” theology and witnessed first hand its absence of clothes. Nobody can accuse me of not having read theology’s “best” arguments. (By “best,” of course, they mean “those arguments couched in the fanciest language and most tortuous logic.” The “best” arguments for the existence of natural evil in a world supposedly run by an omnibenevolent God are no more convincing than the worst arguments.)