I’ve spent much of the last several years reading theology of all stripes, from the most fundamentalist version (e.g. Ken Ham), to versions slightly more sophisticated, like William Lane Craig, to the most rarefied and “sophisticated” versions, like those of Karen Armstrong, Alvin Plantinga, and Søren Kierkegaard. Now I admit I’m an atheist and have read these people’s work extremely critically, but it’s no different from the way I read scientific books and papers. And what I’ve found has been appalling. “Sophisticated” theology is not sophisticated, but a misuse of intelligence and eloquence to make really bad arguments. These range from Karen Armstrong’s argument that God is a symbol for the ineffable, but yet He really exists, and is good (how the hell can she be apophatic and yet know something about God?), to Alvin Plantinga’s laughable claim that we’re endowed with a sensus divinitatis that is all that allows us humans to perceive truth—not just the “truth” of the Christian God, but scientific truths as well. (The sensus divinitatis is apparently broken in non-Christians and atheists, and God forgot to install it in anyone living more than two thousand years ago.) You don’t learn anything from this stuff, except about the endless ability of our big brains to rationalize the most appalling kind of nonsense. It’s a mug’s game: a bunch of smart people discoursing endlessly about things they can’t possibly know about. It is a group of scholars making stuff up. And its a waste of time, and money—the money of those people who pay theologians or buy their books.
Jerry A. Coyne