Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Secular Right and Knowledge

I've always been perplexed by the ignorance otherwise intelligent atheists show with respect to Christianity, given the time they spend bashing it. Here is the latest post by Heather MacDonald, a writer I don't miss at National Review or City Journal. In those contexts, she displays an obvious intelligence, attention to detail, and dedication to getting her facts straight. You get a different MacDonald on the Secular Right, however; here she seems intent on hitting Christianity with any stick she can find, and doesn't let history or elementary logic get in the way. Spot the black hole in this passage:

That the Catholic hierarchy could be embarrassed by relic veneration, when nearly every Catholic Church in Europe proudly displays its lavish, silver and gold jewel-encrusted reliquaries allegedly housing this bit of Jesus’ femur or that bit of a saint’s bladder, shows how the religious practices that once filled out a world still untamed and unexplained by science grow ineluctably more remote.

As Mark in Spokane gently points out in the comments, it doesn't make much sense for an orthodox Christian to venerate a relic of Jesus' femur, given that the central event of Christianity is the Resurrection of Christ from the dead. In fact, Christianity is to that extent empirically falsifiable: The discovery of Jesus's bones would decisively refute orthodox Christianity and put the Catholic Church out of business for good. This was understood even at the time of the Crucifixion (Matthew 27:64).

The perplexing part of this is that conservatives generally understand that it is necessary to understand one's enemy to defeat him. This is why conservatives often understand Marxism and socialism better than many socialists do. Yet when it comes to religion, the Secular Right seems to hold on to religious ignorance almost as a badge of honor. I wonder who should be more embarrassed: The third world peasant with a second grade education who venerates the relics of a saint (but who understands the meaning of the Resurrection), or the North American, college-educated, cosmopolitan atheist who, despite decades of higher education, hasn't yet gained an elementary understanding of the religion she bashes?

1 comment:

Josh said...

The Socratic method surely has been shot to hell in modern times. From Hawking's "philosophy is dead" silliness, to B. Russell's "Who caused God?" misunderstanding, it boggles the mind how someone so eminently intelligent in other areas can seem so willfully ignorant in others...