A Philosopher of Religion Calls it Quits
Keith Parsons announces that the "case for theism" is a fraud, and sparks a firestorm.
By JULIA GALEF
When philosophy professor Keith Parsons posted an announcement on his blog, The Secular Outpost, explaining why he had decided to abandon philosophy of religion, he expected only his handful of regular readers to take notice. After a decade teaching philosophy of religion at the University of Houston, during which time he founded the philosophy of religion journal Philo and published over twenty books and articles in the field, Parsons hung up his hat on September 1st:
I have to confess that I now regard “the case for theism” as a fraud and I can no longer take it seriously enough to present it to a class as a respectable philosophical position—no more than I could present intelligent design as a legitimate biological theory. BTW, in saying that I now consider the case for theism to be a fraud, I do not mean to charge that the people making that case are frauds who aim to fool us with claims they know to be empty. No, theistic philosophers and apologists are almost painfully earnest and honest... I just cannot take their arguments seriously any more, and if you cannot take something seriously, you should not try to devote serious academic attention to it.
To his surprise, the announcement went viral. Posted and reposted on blogs such as Leiter Reports, The Prosblogion, and Debunking Christianity, it generated hundreds of comments in the subsequent weeks about the status of the field and whether Parsons’ criticisms were warranted. “It’s not that often philosophers renounce fields!” says Brian Leiter, a philosopher at the University of Chicago, at Leiter Reports. Parsons’ incendiary choice of words likely also bore some responsibility for the reaction. “I’m afraid what precipitated the thing going viral is that I said it was a fraud, which I shouldn’t have said, because ‘fraud’ implies an intentional attempt to fool people,” Parsons says.