Some philosophers – not necessarily believers but not strictly atheists either – are turning to theology as a source of ideas. Some feel that ‘liberalism’ (however they choose to define that) has run out of ideas. They feel that perhaps our social ills require what are seen as the strengths of religion – community, something to believe in.
An article in The Guardian by Nathan Schneider outlines this ‘Theology for atheists’ trend. Yet the piece fails to address a critical point.
Theology, for all the insights it might provide, for all its moral and philosophical strengths, suffers from a fatal flaw. If you trace its better ideas back to their roots you find that, ultimately, they depend on Argument from Authority expressed through fairy stories. The very core of theology is at best myth and at worse outright lies.
Yes, there are good things we can take from the Bible or the Qur’an (plus a lot that’s deplorable). The Beatitudes, for example, provide a solid and admirable foundation for any moral code and philosophy. (Of course, it’s possible that the basic text for the Sermon on the Mount comes not from the mouth of Jesus but from Hellenistic Cynic philosophy. It was later adapted and included in the Q document used as a source for the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.)
However, let’s also be clear that these are the ideas and thoughts of humans. They can only form part of theology if one accepts the existence of god and his importance as the source and foundation of these ideas and the ultimate authority that determines their worth.
The idea that atheists might adopt a ‘theology’ is a contradiction in terms and an intellectual fudge. It feels like yet another piece of post-modern, multiculturalist piffle. By all means let’s discuss and exchange ideas. But to propose an atheist ‘theology’ is pure nonsense.