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Quote of the Day: “Sophisticated” Theology

sophisticated theology john loftus

My far-flung family is quite diverse.

John F. Haught is a renowned Catholic theologian who has produced a flood of erudite books.

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He has attempted, for instance, to prove that survival-of-the-fittest evolution presents a “grand drama” orchestrated by God. All the ruthless slaughter of prey by predators, all the mass starvation of desperate victims who lose their food supply, even the extinction of 99 percent of all species that ever lived — are part of “an evolutionary drama that has been aroused, though not coercively driven, by a God of infinite love,” he wrote in the Washington Post. He added: “Darwin’s ragged portrait of life is not so distressing after all. Theologically understood, biological evolution is part of an immense cosmic journey into the incomprehensible mystery of God.”

Got that? God is incomprehensible — yet theology is sure his “infinite love” spawned nature’s slaughterhouse of foxes ripping rabbits apart, sharks gashing seals, pythons suffocating pigs and the rest of the “grand drama of life.”

What evidence supports this peculiar conclusion? None — just trust theology.

That’s why I’ve decided that there is no such thing as sophisticated theology. At bottom, the issue is simple: Either supernatural spirits exist, or they don’t. Either heavens, hells, gods, devils, saviors, miracles and the rest are real, or they’re concoctions of the human imagination.

It boils down to honesty. A truthful person shouldn’t claim to know things he or she doesn’t know. Theologians are in the business of declaring “truths” that nobody possibly can prove. They do so without evidence. In contrast, an honest individual admits: I don’t know.

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Thomas Jefferson refused to let theology be taught at his new University of Virginia. He considered theological assertions to be “unintelligible abstractions . . . absolutely beyond the comprehension of the human mind.” He ridiculed the Trinity concept “that three are one, and one is three; and yet that the one is not three, and the three are not one.”

Ambrose Bierce wrote: “Theology is a thing of unreason altogether, an edifice of assumption and dreams, a superstructure without a substructure.” And legendary newspaperman H.L. Mencken opined: “There is no possibility whatsoever of reconciling science and theology, at least in Christendom. Either Jesus rose from the dead or he didn’t. If he did, then Christianity becomes plausible; if he did not, then it is sheer nonsense.”

Of course, like every human phenomenon, religion should be studied by sociologists and psychologists. But theology itself consists of assertions about spirits. I can’t imagine why universities consider it a worthy field of scholarship.

– James Haught, Freethought Now, There’s little honesty in theology, May 13, 2020

6 Comments

  1. Avatar
    dale m

    Theology is taught at universities because these institutions R partially funded by governments. Need I say more ?

  2. Avatar
    BJW

    My son took science classes at Northwest State. Besides his other issues (autism, ADHD) he had to contend with a teacher who taught creationism…in every class. This is unacceptable.

  3. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    I don’t mind students taking courses about religions in which they learn about what religions are, but classes that treat religious beliefs as truths should remain at religious universities. Universities are supposed to be institutions devoted to using the scientific method, seeking truth, not pondering untenable claims of religions.

  4. Avatar
    sjl1701

    There are those apologists who complain that we non-believers aren’t reading enough theology. The trouble with that is which theology? Catholic, Lutheran, Missouri Synod Lutheran, Amish, Mormon, Mennonite, IFB? They all have their own theologians. It’s a no win senario.

  5. Avatar
    Sarah

    ObstacleChick, I have an UG in Engineering and highly value the scientific method. However not all knowledge can be known empirically. There is also much to be known from the Arts, qualitative research methods, etc. I disagree as I think there is always something to be learned from Theology. Take, for instance, yoga, which in Hinduism is worship of God. Thus yoga, as an outgrowth of Hinduism, has helped many. Zen has similarly been applied as one of the foundations of Dialectical behavior therapy. In the Deep South, where I live, one therapist I know, who is not a Christian, has been known to help Christians with stories from the Bible. Not the rigid fundamentalist use of the Bible discussed here, but more the idea of King David was a man after Gods own heart and he murdered someone. Don’t you think you’re being a bit hard on yourself? I know I could explain that idea better if I was more awake now but hopefully it is clear enough.

    My point is that it is not possible to not study theology at some level and be an educated people. Second, when helping people we have to reach into there belief system to help them. Third, we do have to introduce new ideas to help people. That means right now I’m getting pain relief from Egoscues work, which appears to be based on yoga while I am not Hindu. Fourth, while I learn from Theology, I also enjoy other methods of knowing as an artist. For myself, as a researcher I cannot spend all my time in the scientific black and white world without feeling unbalanced

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