Daniel Dennett discusses closeted atheist preachers

March 20, 2011 | By | Reply More

Philosopher Daniel Dennett discusses closeted atheist preachers in this excellent one-hour video in which he undertakes a “reverse engineering of religion.”

At about the 20-minute mark Dennett focuses on the works of Bart Ehrman and Jack Good (The Dishonest Church). Dennett points out that Good is outraged by the conspiracy by preachers to keep accurate information from the laity, who “can’t handle” the information. Per Dennett, seminarians work hard to devise clever ways to avoid divulging the full truth about the Bible. (minute 24).

How did it come to this? Dennett addresses this at minute 25. Dennett quotes Donald Hebb: “If it’s not worth doing, then it’s not worth doing well.” He focuses the question to this: Who needs theologians? His answer: Those preachers who want to avoid being candid with their parishioners. “Theologians are religions’ spinmeisters.”

At minute 29, Dennett recites the “Canons of Good Spin.” Two examples: “It has to relieve skepticism without arousing curiosity” and “It should seem profound.” These principles can be summed up with Dennett’s neologism “deepities.” (minute 31). These are statements that seem to be true only because they are ill-formed, and they have two readings. One is true but trivial, and the other is false but would be earth-shaking if true. Examples are given up through the remainder of the video, including a Karen Armstrong assertion at minute 43.

Theologians are like magicians, and the concept of “deepities” allows one to see the card up the magician’s sleeve. More on Karen Armstrong’s evasions at minute 45, including attacks on theologians who, cornered, suggest that existence is not an important attribute of “God.” Dennett racks it all up to a belief-in-God-meme. These evasions of theologians are reasons without reasoners. They are the result of unreasoning processes. The “cunning” is in the institutions themselves. These sorts of pseudo-explanations result from “a conspiracy without a mastermind.”

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Category: Psychology Cognition, Religion

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Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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