So our review of The Christian Delusion continues in fits and starts (though mostly in fits).
This time I set out to review John Loftus’s essay “What We’ve Got Here is a Failure to Communicate” (a phrase I first encountered not in “Cool Hand Luke” but in Guns ‘n’ Roses’ “Civil War”) but I only got as far as the second sentence.
Like most of the contributors to The Christian Delusion John sets out fists a flyin’ with a cold slap from Isaac Asimov who barks out:
“Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.” (181)
It is right there that I got held up. Let’s call this sentence the “Village Atheist Challenge”. In order to analyze it, allow me to present a parallel. I call it the “Tree Hugger Challenge”:
“Properly driven, the Ford GT is the most potent force for horseback riding ever conceived.”
(As you all have probably inferred, the car pictured here is the GT, not to be confused with the equally beautiful, and much more historically significant, GT 40 of the late 60s.)
Now I find the Tree Hugger Challenge to be an astounding claim. Are they nuts? How do they defend this claim? So I ask the tree hugger to ‘splain himself. And this is what he comes up with:
“The proper way to drive the Ford GT is on a narrow, rugged dirt path. But it is horribly inept at doing this. Horses, by contrast, are very adept at doing this. So we ought to be riding horseback instead of driving GTs.”
I dare say, with a rationale like that our tree hugger doesn’t know if he is afoot or horseback. How would you respond to this reasoning? Would you fall off your chair? Hurl a quart of Penzoil at the tree hugger in disgust? Pull out all your bling that sports the Blue Oval and provocatively jangle it in his dreadlock-framed face? Whatever you might do, you certainly would not be satisfied with his explanation.
Here’s the obvious problem: his rationale is silly and question-begging. On my view, the GT was meant to be driven on the Nürburgring or Route 66, not on a rutted horse path. And so long as I find it so enormously capable of driving in those conditions I shall continue to do so.
Now back to the Village Atheist Challenge. What, according to Isaac Asimov, is the proper way to read the Bible? One that assumes it commends immoral behaviors and actions which are inconsistent with the authorship of a divine being. (You see, Asimov is an atheist to begin with so of course this is how he reads the Bible.)
But that just begs the question. Why should anybody else think this is the proper way to read the Bible? What if people offer another hermeneutic of the passages in question according to which the inconsistency between text and divine author disappears? What if they have a hermeneutic of those passages that trouble Asimov which allow the Bible to take off like the GT roaring down the interstate? Why should they listen to this clown riding along on horseback beside the highway, demanding that they pull the car off the tarmac and onto a rugged, pitted landscape?
Asimov (and Loftus) wants us to read the Bible their way so that it supports their atheism. Most distressingly, reading it another way doesn't support their atheism. And pulling sub-8 minute laps in the GT on the Nürburgring doesn’t support the environment. Ergo, if you are going to drive the GT it should be on a horse path. And when you start spinning your tires John Loftus has a wonderful mare just waiting for you.