Theology – truly a naked emperor
By TERRY SANDERSON - GUARDIAN.CO.UK
Updated: Wed, 26 May 2010 12:03:11 UTC
In the words of Robert A Heinlein, 'Theology ... is searching in a dark cellar at midnight for a black cat that isn't there'
The question: What is theology?
In my work as president of the National Secular Society I sometimes receive manuscripts from people who have come up with what they imagine is the definitive refutation of Christian claims. "Publish this," they say, "and Christianity will end within a year!" (See here for an example.)
I find these turgid tomes no more convincing than the ones that they seek to refute. They are anti-theology, and given that theology is drivel, efforts to unpick it are hopeless.
What is theology? I think one of the best definitions was given by the sci-fi writer Robert A Heinlein when he said: "Theology ... is searching in a dark cellar at midnight for a black cat that isn't there. Theologians can persuade themselves of anything."
And, indeed they can. They can twist the language, invert the meaning of words, tie themselves into logical knots and then get admired for it. We are told theologians are there to make sense of The Big Questions.
But I have a problem with The Big Questions – you know the sort of thing: Why are we here? What comes after death? What, indeed, is the meaning of life? My problem is that these questions don't have an answer – no matter how long you think about them and however much you try to bring God into the equation, you'll get nowhere. Or, as Gertrude Stein so eloquently put it: "The answer is: there is no answer."
Take Rowan Williams, for example, who is lauded far and wide for the vastness of his theological knowledge. He is said to have a brain the size of Jupiter because he can produce convoluted writing that nobody with their feet in reality can comprehend. ...Continue reading
Chris Chambers and Petroc Sumner -... Comments
Science has an uneasy relationship with journalism, so what can be done by both sides to improve coverage
Will Self - BBC News Magazine 100 Comments
We chase "fast culture" at our peril - unusual words and difficult art are good for us, says Will Self.
Annie Murphy Paul - New York Times 26 Comments
New support for the value of fiction is arriving from an unexpected quarter: neuroscience.
Nick Cohen - The Spectator 40 Comments
If you turn on the news tonight and hear of a bomber slaughtering civilians anywhere from Nigeria to the London Underground, I can reassure you of one point: the bombers will not be readers of Richard Dawkins.
Amol Rajan - The Independent 39 Comments
Their assault illustrates the extent to which defenders of religion still dominate our press, the brutal retaliation exacted on clever opponents of faith and the incorrigible stupidity of Sayeeda Warsi's claim about "militant secularism" last week.
Richard Dawkins - RichardDawkins.net 341 Comments
I can’t help wondering at the quality of journalism which sees a scoop in attacking a man for what his five-greats grandfather did.
MORE BY TERRY SANDERSON
Terry Sanderson - secularism.org.uk 70 Comments
We often complain about the increasing amount of religion in schools, but it is not until you look at the job advertisements in papers like the Times Educational Supplement and the Church Times that you come to realise just how determined the churches are to use schools as recruiting grounds.