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November 21, 2012



We refuse to believe the truth because we have created a false sense of the real.

I think I basically agree with this sentiment, though I might rephrase it as "We refuse to believe the obvious because we are trying to sustain a false sense of the real," and of course my understanding of what is real differs from Young's.

My experience was similar to yours. I wanted and needed God to be real, tried for years to find him, staked my sanity on his presence, had a mental breakdown when I found nothing, and spent the next decade rebuilding. Theists worship the god who abandoned me when I had nothing else. I don't carry a grudge, since I'm confident there's no such entity, but that disconnect in expectations is pretty wide. You can only sustain "My god will help you if you ask" by not encountering people for whom that is false, which might help explain some of evangelicalism's insularity.

Here are some heuristics I use to decide whether talking to someone about faith is a waste of time. If they decide without careful reflection what really happened in someone else's major transitional experience, I'm done, especially if the claimant has never talked to that person. If they use nearly unique definitions of words in ways that would confuse most native English speakers, I'm done. If they're making promises on behalf of God, they've dispensed with any pretense of inquiry, and I'm really done.

Really, what bothers me most is either the lack of awareness, or the deliberate masking, of what this kind of apologetics entails. Business development people negotiating a contract are very open about the fact that they intend to screw over the other party as much as possible within the constraints of the law and keeping the other party at the table. (So if one side has a weak negotiator, they're usually hosed.) No hard feelings, that's just the lay of the land. But even though defenses of faith tend to pretend the bottom line is finding out what is true regardless of what we might want or need, the reality is that you're going to wind up with a way to believe what you already believe, or at least want to believe. (How many existing believers have substantially changed their behavior as a result of reading apologetics?) I'm going to make a leap and say that if an activity requires you to be less honest than corporate negotiators, more than a fair number of whom are clinical sociopaths and psychopaths, it's probably not a good idea for you to engage in that activity.

This rant is general and should not necessarily be applied to Young's work, which I haven't read and most likely won't.

Matt Mikalatos


I haven't listened to your interview with Paul yet (there is a tab on my browser open until do). I'm guessing that I'm missing something you're saying here as a result. The way I read your post "deconstructing the grammar of faith" is equivalent to "deconstructing faith itself." In other words, you want Young to come to a place of finding Christianity false. Am I reading that right? In which case... you knew you were going to be disappointed before you started the book, right? I'm unclear why you would ask him to deconstruct something he still believes in. I don't pick up "God Is Not Great" in the hopes of reading a deconstruction of atheism.

Anyway, I'm certain I'm missing a nuance of your meaning here. Fill me in if you don't mind!

Greg Horton

Matt, good clarifying question. No, he doesn't have to deconstruct the faith itself, but he started to deconstruct the grammar when he has god show up as a woman in The Shack. If the grammar of faith is the way it's worked out in the world, it's possible to go after cardinal doctrines without tearing the whole thing down. Take for example substitutionary atonement. We could do away with that doctrinal assumption and leave intact "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself." It's simple a matter of going after the grammar as opposed to the proposition. I guess it's the difference between attacking what is meant as opposed to what is said. I think there is plenty of room for both--clearly, as I'm not a Christian--but if Young wants to offer some new insight, he has to at least do the former.

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