The Courtier’s Reply, the Not My Theology Reply, and Straw Men

by Luke Muehlhauser on January 6, 2010 in General Atheism

emperor no clothes

In The God Delusion, Dawkins makes a case against the plausibility of any creator god in general. But most of his critics have responded by saying that Dawkins has not considered the specifics about their own concept of a creator god. Basically, Dawkins pointed out that the emperor has no clothes, and the emperor’s loyal courtiers complain that Dawkins has not considered the latest innovations in imaginary fabrics. This is known as The Courtier’s Reply.

It is epitomized by Terry Eagleton’s review of The God Delusion for the London Review of Books:

Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology…

What, one wonders, are Dawkins’s views on the epistemological differences between Aquinas and Duns Scotus? Has he read Eriugena on subjectivity, Rahner on grace or Moltmann on hope?

Eagleton misses the point. If a creator god doesn’t exist, it doesn’t matter whether the imaginary god’s grace is best described by Rahner or someone else. Besides, the millions of believers to which Dawkins writes have never heard of Rahner, either. Christianity as practiced by billions of people is not the Christianity of the academic theologians.

The Courtier’s Reply complains that the skeptic has not considered all the variations in imaginary fabrics, instead of showing that the emperor’s clothes are not, in fact, imaginary.

“Not my theology”

What I call the “not my theology” reply is similar but distinct. A proper use of the “not my theology” reply says to the skeptic, “Yes, your argument might be successful against the kind of theology you attack, but that is not my theology. My concept of God is immune to your attack.”

The “not my theology” reply can be legitimate. For example, if I present an argument against the existence of a creator god and you say that your theology does not envision God as a creator, then this helps me understand where you are coming from, though my argument may still succeed against those who defend a creator god (that is, my argument would succeed against the vast majority of theists).

Furthermore, the atheist may then reply: “Okay, so you don’t think God created the world? What is your concept of God?” And when the believer has explained his concept of God, the atheist may reply with an argument that is relevant to that concept of God, if he has one.

But most believers aren’t going to say they reject the notion of a creator God. It’s more likely they’ll use the “not my theology” reply to a skeptical argument that attacks some more specific doctrine.

For example, the atheist might give an argument against the idea that an all-good God would command genocide and rape, as recorded in the Bible. A believer could say “not my theology” if she rejects the historical accuracy of those passages.

The atheist could then continue to give his argument, which would still be relevant to all those millions of Christians who do think the Bible is historical through-and-through. The atheist could also, if he wanted, open another conversation with the “not my theology” believer to clarify his theology and see what arguments might be relevant to it.

Straw Men

Many believers will make a “straw man!” complaint when they should be giving a “not my theology” reply. For example, if I argue that an all-good God would not command genocide and rape as recorded in the Bible, believers who reject the historical accuracy of those passage are likely to tell me I’m attacking a “straw man.” But this is no straw man.

Millions and millions of Christians do accept the historical accuracy of those passages, and my argument is aimed at their beliefs. So I would not be attacking a straw man in that case. I would be attacking the real beliefs of millions of Christians.

If some believers reject the historical accuracy of those passages, they are welcome to give the “not my theology” reply. We atheists are quite aware that there are thousands of different Christian theologies and that almost anything we assume about Christian belief is rejected by some Christians, somewhere.

When is a “straw man!” complaint legitimate?

A straw man complaint is legitimate when the atheist attacks a doctrine that few Christians believe as if it is one held by the majority of Christians. For example if I say Christianity is false because we know the earth wasn’t created 6,000 years ago as recorded in the Bible, this could be considered a straw man. Relatively few Christians still believe the earth was created 6,000 years ago. (But I could still argue this way if it was clear I was directing my arguments at those who believe Christianity depends on the literal truth of the Bible, including its claim that the universe is about 6,000 years old.)

A straw man complain is also legitimate when the atheist attacks the theology of a particular believer or group by misrepresenting what they actually believe. For example, I could not rightly attack Peter van Inwagen‘s theology by arguing against the existence of souls. Inwagen doesn’t believe in souls, either. If I’m attacking Inwagen’s belief in souls then I am attacking a straw man because Inwagen doesn’t believe in souls, though he believes in God.

Hopefully this can help clear up our discussions.

The Courtier’s Reply is useless. It ignores the real target of an argument.

The Not My Theology Reply is legitimate, though it may be beyond the scope of the present discussion. If someone’s argument does not apply to your philosophy but it does apply to the philosophy of others, then that argument probably wasn’t intended for you. But you might still want to make the Not My Theology reply just to clear things up for people.

The Straw Man Reply is legitimate only if someone misrepresents the view he intends to attack. Remember that many arguments are not intended to attack every variety of your worldview there is.

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{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Rich January 6, 2010 at 6:49 am

I think you miss the point. The courtier’s reply highlights that as an enterprise theology is a Byzantine, self-referential sophistic endeavor that can’t answer obvious questions simply.

The Emperor has no clothes should be easy to falsify, not the start of obfuscation.

Quite often if you badger long enough or follow points to their final conclusions, we get “through a glass darkly”, “Where you there?” (The Job response), “who are you to tell god how to do things”,”Man cannot know”, etc.

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Rich January 6, 2010 at 7:04 am

Having reread your article I think we perhaps agree. But “The Courtier’s Reply is useless” is ambiguous – It exists both as a poor rebuttal to TEHNC and as a description of Atheists acknowledgement of the lack of real answers.

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Aeiluindae January 6, 2010 at 7:48 am

I recently read Eagleton’s book, Reason, Faith and Revolution, and I think you missed the point of Eagleton’s statement. He criticizes Dawkins because he appears to have no knowledge at all of what he dismisses so colourfully, and he cannot afford to dismiss the theologians on the basis that most people aren’t theologians and so haven’t thought a great deal about their opinions.

You can cook without knowing the chemistry behind it and most people who cook have a false idea about chemistry. That doesn’t make the chemistry irrelevant to the cooking, it just shows that the chemists need to dispel some myths.

A better example: many people believe that free speech is good. Now, people don’t always understand the deeper reasons why it is in fact good, and in fact they often forget that free speech is not always good (yelling fire in a crowded theatre is the typical example). They leave the discussion of the fine points of the value of free speech to the philosophers and the like.
Now say I thought that free speech was bad. I soundly refute the general opinion that free speech is always good by showing a host of situations that the general populace had not necessarily thought of (hate speech, threats, the aforementioned “Fire!”). However, I cannot ignore the philosophers who have a more developed opinion on the subject and have thought about those exact situations, just as Dawkins cannot ignore the theologians who have spent a great deal of time building coherent explanations for the myriad aspects of their religion.

Regardless of the soundness of Dawkins’s argument against gods in general, he still needs to address theology when he says things about a specific religion’s god.

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lukeprog January 6, 2010 at 7:57 am

Aeilunidae,

Here’s another way to think about it:

P = “God exists.”

Theologians always start with “If P then P&Q”

Dawkins asserts that P is false. If so, then no matter what Q is according to each theologian, all instances of P&Q are false. (And there is never an instance when a theologian asserts Q without P, unless we’re talking atheist theologians, whom I don’t think Eagleton would consider theologians.) So if Dawkins is right, it doesn’t matter what theologians say about P&Q, because P&Q is false. So the real question is not what theologians say about Q (about omniscience, about divine morality, about grace, about salvation, etc.), but whether or not Dawkins is right that P is false.

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Briang January 6, 2010 at 8:23 am

Some thoughts on what’s called the courtier’s reply. If a person, such as Dawkins, holds that atheism is the superior position intellectually and he makes it a point to publicly defend such a view, then the responsible thing to do would be to be educated what he’s criticizing. I don’t call this the “courtier’s reply” I call it common sense.

We all know that there are Creationists who do precisely the same thing with the theory of evolution. They know that evolution is so silly that they need not waste valuable time to actually learn about it. Is is a “courtier’s reply” to point out that they are completely ignorant of what they are criticizing? If evolution is already known to break the second law of thermodynamics, why bother studying the latest findings in paleontology or comparative genomics.

Now, I will grant that a person need not become educated in every area of theology to properly criticize Christianity. So the review that criticized Dawkins for not having a working understanding of the doctrine of grace, doesn’t cut it. However, one should have an understanding of the area that one is criticizing. If a person criticizes the doctrine of the Trinity as self contradictory, then one ought to learn what theologians say about the doctrine. If one wants to argue against the existence of God, one ought to be educated in the arguments given for the existence of God.

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lukeprog January 6, 2010 at 8:28 am

Briang,

If we’re talking about criticism of the claim that God exists, then an understanding of higher theology on grace and salvation really don’t matter.

If we’re talking about criticism of the coherency of Christian soteriology, then an understanding of higher theology on salvation is relevant.

But Dawkins has repeatedly stated that he is not talking about theologies that a few scholars and their students defend. He talks only about the existence of God, and the folk theology believed by millions upon millions of people.

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Aeiluindae January 6, 2010 at 8:41 am

You’re very much correct. If God doesn’t exist, then speculating about him is irrelevant. The issue is that Dawkins addresses the P&Q, the things that theologians talk about, and when he does, he seems to know nothing about what theologians actually think about God.

By the way, theologians also talk a great deal about the original proposition, that God exists, and whether there is any rational basis for that claim. Most theologians have found a rational basis. Whether the atheist agrees with the theist’s logic is another matter entirely.

Dawkins bases his argument on the fact that because evolution happened and because physics can explain pretty much everything, God does not exist. I agree that the first two propositions are true, but I don’t think the conclusion he draws necessarily follows from the premise.
I don’t think that science can properly address the idea of God’s existence. If God created the universe (whatever the method), you would not be able to find him inside the universe and this universe is all that science can address. Looking for God with science is in my opinion rather like Hamlet running around Denmark looking for Shakespeare.

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Briang January 6, 2010 at 8:47 am

lukeprog: But Dawkins has repeatedly stated that he is not talking about theologies that a few scholars and their students defend. He talks only about the existence of God, and the folk theology believed by millions upon millions of people.

In which case I’d expect that he should be educated not in soteriology, but in areas of natural theology and philosophy of religion.

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Reginald Selkirk January 6, 2010 at 8:47 am

Briang: We all know that there are Creationists who do precisely the same thing with the theory of evolution…

I don’t think that’s a very good comparison; I think a better one would be astrology.

With the theory of evolution, there are actual repeatable results which are in general agreement in the field, and about which creationists are demonstrably ignorant. I.e. there is demonstrable expertise, and people who demonstrably hold that expertise.

This is not so with astrology. Rather, there are hundreds of different systems of astrology, all in disagreement with each other, none of which make sense on known basic physical principles, and none with experimental backing. And on each of those points, theology is more comparable to astrology than to evolutionary science.

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lukeprog January 6, 2010 at 8:57 am

Aeilunidae,

The Courtier’s Reply, simply by definition, doesn’t involve theologian’s work on the mere existence of God, and that’s not the theological work that, for example, Eagleton wrote about.

As I said, when Dawkins writes about P&Q, he writes about what millions and millions of Christians believe, not a few thousand theologians.

And of course, I don’t think Dawkins’ case against God is all that great. I’ve already written a book chapter debunking it.

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lukeprog January 6, 2010 at 8:57 am

Briang,

Yes, and he’s not, and that’s exactly what I always complain about concerning Dawkins.

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Rich January 6, 2010 at 8:58 am

Briang: Some thoughts on what’s called the courtier’s reply. If a person, such as Dawkins, holds that atheism is the superior position intellectually and he makes it a point to publicly defend such a view, then the responsible thing to do would be to be educated what he’s criticizing. I don’t call this the “courtier’s reply” I call it common sense.We all know that there are Creationists who do precisely the same thing with the theory of evolution. They know that evolution is so silly that they need not waste valuable time to actually learn about it. Is is a “courtier’s reply” to point out that they are completely ignorant of what they are criticizing? If evolution is already known to break the second law of thermodynamics, why bother studying the latest findings in paleontology or comparative genomics.Now, I will grant that a person need not become educated in every area of theology to properly criticize Christianity. So the review that criticized Dawkins for not having a working understanding of the doctrine of grace, doesn’t cut it. However, one should have an understanding of the area that one is criticizing. If a person criticizes the doctrine of the Trinity as self contradictory, then one ought to learn what theologians say about the doctrine. If one wants to argue against the existence of God, one ought to be educated in the arguments given for the existence of God.  (Quote)

The Courtiers Reply, in person!

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Tony Hoffman January 6, 2010 at 9:08 am

I would say that the Courtier’s reply asserts that in order to understand that 2 + 2 = 5 one must employ methods that are necessarily convoluted. In that sense I am in complete agreement.

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Aeiluindae January 6, 2010 at 9:11 am

I think the same thing can apply to atheism, in many respects. There are plenty of people, perhaps a majority, who don’t believe in a god or gods who don’t have particularly reasoned views or hold their views because of arguments that are discredited by atheist philosophers. Should I then only address them when I talk about atheism?

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Tony Hoffman January 6, 2010 at 9:13 am

Aeilunidae: Looking for God with science is in my opinion rather like Hamlet running around Denmark looking for Shakespeare.

That’s a nice piece of writing there. If you came up with that one you should be proud.

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Aeiluindae January 6, 2010 at 9:17 am

I see how Eagleton’s statement can be an example of the Courtier’s reply, but I still think he makes valid points about issues with Dawkins’s philosophy.

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Briang January 6, 2010 at 9:21 am

lukeprog: Briang,Yes, and he’s not, and that’s exactly what I always complain about concerning Dawkins.  

I think we basically agree, it’s just a matter of clarifying what qualifies as a “Courtier’s reply.”

How about the following working definition? The “Courtier’s reply” fallacy is committed if and only if it is objected that a person’s objection to X is not valid because he has insufficient knowledge of Y and while Y is somehow related to X, Y does not entail X and Y does not make X more probable.

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Aeiluindae January 6, 2010 at 9:25 am

Briang:
I think we basically agree, it’s just a matter of clarifying what qualifies as a “Courtier’s reply.”How about the following working definition?The “Courtier’s reply” fallacy is committed if and only if it is objected that a person’s objection to X is not valid because he has insufficient knowledge of Y and while Y is somehow related to X, Y does not entail X and Y does not make X more probable.  

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I can agree on that. We’ll probably disagree as to its application in this situation, though.

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Aeiluindae January 6, 2010 at 9:57 am

Tony Hoffman:
That’s a nice piece of writing there. If you came up with that one you should be proud.  

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Not entirely mine, I’m sorry to say. The basis for the metaphor came out of a book, I forget the author now.

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Torgo January 6, 2010 at 10:58 am

Aeiluindae: “I don’t think that science can properly address the idea of God’s existence. If God created the universe (whatever the method), you would not be able to find him inside the universe and this universe is all that science can address.”

True, we wouldn’t expect to find God himself in the universe, but we would expect to find certain things in the universe, given the god hypothesized by theists. For more on this, see Stenger’s God: the Failed Hypothesis, or Everitt’s Argument from Scale. Both make the case that the kind of universe we find ourselves in is not likely the result of the actions of the theistic God. Thus, we have indirect evidence against the existence of God.

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Josh January 6, 2010 at 11:04 am

Torgo: Aeiluindae: “I don’t think that science can properly address the idea of God’s existence. If God created the universe (whatever the method), you would not be able to find him inside the universe and this universe is all that science can address.”True, we wouldn’t expect to find God himself in the universe, but we would expect to find certain things in the universe, given the god hypothesized by theists.For more on this, see Stenger’s God: the Failed Hypothesis, or Everitt’s Argument from Scale.Both make the case that the kind of universe we find ourselves in is not likely the result of the actions of the theistic God.Thus, we have indirect evidence against the existence of God.  

I have a bit more to add: the biggest problem here is that all you get, assuming that Aeiluindae is correct, is a deist god. And when it comes down to it, in the most charitable case, I’d say that if you are stuck with a deist god, there’s at most a 50% chance of him ACTUALLY existing.

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Aeiluindae January 6, 2010 at 12:33 pm

Torgo: Both make the case that the kind of universe we find ourselves in is not likely the result of the actions of the theistic God.Thus, we have indirect evidence against the existence of God.  

Most theologians would disagree that our universe doesn’t point to a theistic God. Many theologians would also say that the universe’s current state is not the way God originally intended. I unfortunately have not read the books you mentioned, although I am certainly going to attempt to obtain them. Just curious, but what kind of universe do you think would point to a theistic God?

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Tony Hoffman January 6, 2010 at 1:04 pm

Aeiluinade: Just curious, but what kind of universe do you think would point to a theistic God?

This question wasn’t addressed to me but I thought it was interesting so I’ll offer an answer. I’d guess a theistic universe wouldn’t present the problem of evil (unnecessary suffering), would evidence a God who wasn’t disproven by God Hypotheses, that wouldn’t appear to be so poorly designed with forces so inscrutably random, etc. In other words, a universe that could withstand the usual and obvious complaint of atheists and agnostics whom the theistic God is presumed to be so benevolent towards.

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Aeiluindae January 6, 2010 at 1:42 pm

@Tony Hoffman
I’ve actually got some responses to several of those points. They satisfy me, at least. They’d take a fair bit to write out, though and you’ve probably encountered most of them already. By the way, I find that many arguments, both for and against God, are basically word games, and the premises of most arguments are much disputed, as well as whether the conclusion necessarily follows. Things almost always look absurd when you’re standing on your head.

I’ve got an interesting hypothetical response to the problem of natural evil, though. I’m not sure how logically sound it is. I’ll phrase it as a question. What makes pain and suffering inherently evil? Put another way, would the complete absence of any sort of suffering be a good thing? I can think of many instances where pain is quite helpful. I’m interested in both examples and counter-examples. Especially counter-examples.

Stubbing toes is a trivial example. I wear steel-toe boots. I do not get hurt if I stub my toe while wearing them. This is generally quite good, because they also protect my feet from other dangers. The toes, however, are now in terrible shape because I repeatedly hit things with them by accident.

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Jake de Backer January 6, 2010 at 2:45 pm

Aeiluindae,

I’m curious about the origins of your nom de plume, is there a corresponding story with an individual of that name?

I also wanted to commend your quite appealing approach thus far in your post’s and while due to constant traveling I haven’t yet been able to address any of your insightful questions, I do look forward to doing so when I get settled in my next hotel (rather than delineating from my phone). People like you, Ayer and Cartesian (incidentally, where the fuck are you?) make this site infinitely more interesting than it otherwise would be.

J.

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Torgo January 6, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Aeiluindae,

Here’s an example from the Argument from Scale. If the universe were created by a God whose primary, if not sole, purpose in creating was to make human beings and a home for them, then it seems strange that this God took about 13 billion years to bring about any life at all, let alone humans; that the universe is mostly uninhabitable by humans or any other forms of life; and that the universe is so unimaginably huge, containing portions beyond the reach of our instruments and knowledge. And there are other examples. In short, the universe does not appear as though it was made and designed with humans in mind. It looks instead like something that did not have us in mind (so to speak).

This, as Everitt admits, is not as strong an argument as other atheist arguments, but it’s not trivial either. And finding things otherwise than described above would be a universe that more obviously points to a God existing. If more of the universe were habitable, if it were not so old compared to how long humans have existed, and so on, this would align with theism more than atheism.

As for the universe not being as God originally intended, I can guess where you’re going with this, and I don’t buy it. First, an omniscient God knew we would rebel, but created anyway, and thus intended the world as it is, even if he did not desire it. Second, God set the consequences of rebellion, and thus is at least partly responsible for the the way things are. God could, for instance, have left off AIDS or any number of painful diseases that afflict newborns, without going soft on us sinners.

As for your thoughts on natural evil: The charge isn’t just that pain exists, but that gratuitous pain exists. Pain that is excessive or unnecessary should not exist if an omnibenevolent God does. So, even if the atheist grants that some pain is unavoidable, even desirable, there are plenty of examples of pain that seems to serve no purpose at all, or whose purposes could have been achieved with less pain. The afflictions of infants mentioned above is one set of examples.

As for the desirability of a world without pain, isn’t this how Heaven is commonly described? Heaven is a place free from suffering and evil, yet it is desirable, not to mention logically possible according to the theist. Thus, it is fair to ask why God made things the way they are when a better world was possible.

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Aeiluindae January 6, 2010 at 4:01 pm

I’m not entirely sold on the traditional doctrine of heaven. Not sure where I stand on that, actually. Heaven as a world without pain only works in addition to this world, in my view. For eternal bliss to be any good at all, we’d need some standard of comparison (I”m sort of joking, but you get the point). God couldn’t create free will and yet have everybody freely choose correctly. But he can create a world and then take everybody who does the right thing and move them to another world. By the way, I’m not sure that works, but its an idea.

As for stuff like AIDS, cancer, infant dieases, etc., I’d argue that they are the inevitable consequence of evolution. With regard to the designing of the universe for humans, I’m not sure he did it for us, per se, not the way you think. I kind of picture God (not really possible, but is there a better word) creating the universe because it was fun. He thought it would be beautiful, and he created us so we experience it from the inside.

I think its much more interesting and amazing that the universe arrived at intelligent life on its own after getting started. Creating an intelligence is probably rather easy, all things considered. We might even be able to do it. But creating a thing that goes from nothing to something on its own, and creates intelligence, that is truely amazing, in my opinion. And the increased density of matter that would make more of the universe habitable by things like us would probably have made it collapse in on itself long ago.

@Jake de Backer
The name is from an imaginary world of mine. I often use it for thought experiments and I hope to eventually turn some of the stuff in it into novels. Also, thank you for the compliment. I’m just putting in my (hopefully) reasoned two cents.

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Torgo January 6, 2010 at 5:39 pm

Aeiluindae,

Thanks for responding. I’m not sure what stripe of theist you are, but a common position in Christianity is that faith alone, not works, earns a person entrance into Heaven. On this view, doing the right thing is irrelevant to what becomes of you in the afterlife.

God created the universe for fun?! OK, but that’s not a widely accepted, and probably not coherent, notion of God. It sounds like you’ve got some unorthodox ideas about God, so I’m not sure there’s much to debate without knowing all the details of your views.

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Eric January 6, 2010 at 7:09 pm

As Brandon at Siris has nicely demonstrated, the charge “Courtier’s Reply” (CR) can only be made by an atheist or a skeptic to an atheist or a skeptic. In other words, the CR was originally a critique of atheists who critiqued Dawkins et al for not dealing with the niceties of theology, and it works quite well here, *since all parties involved agree with the proposition, “the emperor is naked”*. However, the CR took on a life of its own on the web, and began being illogically used by atheists against *theists* who were less than impressed with the theological understanding evinced by certain atheists. This won’t do, though, since the logic of the CR rests on the agreement of all parties apropos of the emperor’s lack of attire. If a theist doesn’t agree with the atheist that the emperor is naked, he can’t be charged with the CR without the atheist begging the very question at issue between them, viz. is the emperor naked?

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Bebok January 6, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Torgo: a common position in Christianity is that faith alone, not works, earns a person entrance into Heaven.

It’s common position in Protestantism, not Christianity. The majority of Christians are Catholics.

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Torgo January 6, 2010 at 7:30 pm

Right your are, Bebok. Thanks for the correction. I suppose I said that because the most vocal apologists are Protestants–or at least the apologists I’m used to dealing with.

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Rich January 6, 2010 at 7:38 pm

i think the point is folks, it should be very easy to point to the clothes…

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lukeprog January 6, 2010 at 7:42 pm

Eric,

The way that Myers and I use the phrase “Courtier’s Reply” does not require that everyone in the discussion agree that the emperor is naked. By labeling something ‘Courtier’s Reply’ we merely mean to remind theists that if God doesn’t exist, then sophisticated thoughts on grace and salvation don’t matter.

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Bebok January 6, 2010 at 7:43 pm

I live in a pretty Catholic country, but I don’t know too many serious Catholic apologists either.

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Eric January 6, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Hi Luke

I agree that that’s how the CR is often used, and I of course agree with your fundamental point (if god doesn’t exist, then sophisticated theology doesn’t matter). Perhaps I should make a distinction here: It seems to me as if we can distinguish the CR used as an illustration, which seems to me to be the sense in which you’re using it (“we merely mean to remind theists that if God doesn’t exist, then sophisticated thoughts on grace and salvation don’t matter”), and the CR used as a wooly label for what can be described as a weak fallacy (which seems to me to be by far the most common usage; in other words, atheists use it as more often as a charge than as a reminder). I find the former usage unproblematic, though also without much use, while the latter usage fails for the reasons I elucidated in my last post.

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Eric January 6, 2010 at 8:06 pm

BTW, here’s that excellent post about the misuse of the CR.

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lukeprog January 6, 2010 at 8:26 pm

Thanks, Eric.

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Aeiluindae January 6, 2010 at 10:18 pm

Torgo: Aeiluindae,Thanks for responding.I’m not sure what stripe of theist you are, but a common position in Christianity is that faith alone, not works, earns a person entrance into Heaven.On this view, doing the right thing is irrelevant to what becomes of you in the afterlife.God created the universe for fun?!OK, but that’s not a widely accepted, and probably not coherent, notion of God.It sounds like you’ve got some unorthodox ideas about God, so I’m not sure there’s much to debate without knowing all the details of your views.  

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I’m a faith, not works, guy. I was being a bit simplistic and left lots of stuff out. The God making the universe for fun idea is just something to toss around. I’m not precisely orthodox, but I’m honestly not too far out there. I was raised Baptist, my family and I went to a Presbyterian church for 5 years, I was at an old baptist church for the last 4, and I currently attend an Anglican church, but you won’t find my complete theology in the standard playbook of any of them. I frigging hate church denominations. They do nothing of value, as I see it.

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Your dad February 7, 2011 at 10:49 am

The no true scotsman, ad populum, ad hominem, straw man and indeed, reductio ad absurdum fallacies seem to be personal favorites of your own. Fine work! Perhaps not best used under the very headings they are accusing others of.

Via con Dios.

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Luke Muehlhauser February 7, 2011 at 10:54 am

Your dad (who is not my dad),

*sigh*

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