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Friday, February 11, 2011

apologetics & paganism

Why is it that so much of christian apologetics is focused on atheism, secularism, naturalism, materialism and so forth. The people on the street don't pay much attention to debates between loudmouthed intellectual superstars, atheist, theist or whatever. Atheism is a rare bird where I live in ecotopia aka the left coast, what I call the end of western civilization. I know exactly two atheists and one I'm not really sure about, I think he may be pantheist. He hates organized religion but that doesn't make one an atheist. The other one is the genuine article, a lesbian public school biology teacher and a confessing, evangelistic atheist. She preaches atheism. On the other hand (neo-)paganism is everywhere. You cannot walk on the streets anywhere in Seattle without a neo-pagan in view. The public library is stuffed wall to wall with neo-pagan literature of all sorts. It is orders upon orders of magnitude more popular than atheist literature. You have to really look to find a novel by a confessing atheist. neo-Pagan novelists fall off the shelf in front of you as you walk down the isles. 

So why do christian apologists spend so much energy on such a small culturally out of touch collection of misfits as the confessing atheists? They really don't matter that much.


Anonymous Mike Gantt said...

How are you defining neo-paganism and can you give 2-3 examples, just so I can fully appreciate your point?

2:10 PM  
Blogger C. Stirling Bartholomew said...

#1 popular: the force is with you

#2 political, ideological activist: for example, the green movement, eco-pantheism

#3 confessing: Wiccan, Druids, and a host of others beyond counting.

3:16 PM  
Blogger C. Stirling Bartholomew said...

I should add that in literature, spiritualism without any particular title is the most common form of paganism. Books on the undead, fantasy novels of all sorts operate within broad spiritualist framework. Anytime you see something supernatural transpiring within the novel's plot there is something going on there which is not-atheist and that which is not-atheist is more than likely some vague form of spiritualism. The shelves of the library are literally stuffed with fantasy novels which fit this description.

3:29 PM  
Anonymous Bobby Grow said...

I live just down the road in Vancouver, WA; and while it's more of a mix here (Lib Con), it's still the Left Coast. I agree with your assessment, Stirling. I think folks just need to read more Barth and Torrance, and put popular apologetics where they belong. Although I will say that knowing some things, like about the history of Christianity and a host of other "come-backs" or Christian defenses (being ready to give an answer).

I agree with your general point, though, Stirling.

3:37 PM  
Anonymous Bobby Grow said...

*I didn't finish my thought. I think knowing some Christian defenses can be a helpful thing.

3:39 PM  
Blogger C. Stirling Bartholomew said...

Mike and Bobby,

I am all in favor of having a clear presentation of your christian worldview presented in a form which is comprehensible for both normal people and intellectuals. I lean toward approaches that interact more deeply with secular culture, C.S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer both took that approach. It wasn't a shouting match. To really appreciate the predicament of "modern man" (old fashioned expression) one needs to have read widely from the serious literary works of the last 120 years or so, and have developed some empathy for the lostness of the lost. There is under all glitter of high tech toys a very devastating emptiness and the apologist should a feeling for that emptiness and address it with concern obvious human concern. All this witty fencing between super-intellects smacks of one-up-man-ship which I find off putting. This is getting too long for a comment.

6:29 PM  
Blogger The Apologetic Front said...

Stirling, if you're coming across a lot of apologists focusing on atheism on the internet, then that's exactly why: atheists are all over the internet. But you're right, the atheists are not roaming the streets and I rarely come across one. However, general unbelief is rampant. And I think many of us would be surprised how the apologetic approach to atheists would be relevant to your rank-and-file unbeliever.

8:33 AM  
Blogger C. Stirling Bartholomew said...

Mike F.
Your said: "general unbelief is rampant" I totally agree. Within the visible church we have more deists and pantheists than we do trinitarian theists.

Your said:"the apologetic approach to atheists would be relevant to your rank-and-file unbeliever" I suspect this is true. Berlinski notes that shallow atheism is a widespread phenomenon. People who have not taken the time to work through the implications. They just despise all things religious. However, I suspect that a lot of these people don't really hold the view that physics can tell us everything there is to know about existence. Anyone who is toying with the paranormal which is quite popular is outside of the realm of physics.

11:04 AM  

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