Rick Hills (PrawfsBlawg) writes:
Just a few days ago, I was discussing a mutual friend with a former colleague. The latter was astonished by our mutual friend's Christianity: "What's up with that?!" he exclaimed, expressing bewilderment and even nervousness at the thought that a well-regarded -- indeed, by academic standards, famous -- professor could believe in the existence and beneficence of an omniscient and omnipotent God. If was as if our Christian friend had declared that the world was flat or was dabbling in alchemy. My former colleague even worried that, if a serious academic could believe in God, he was capable of believing in, or attempting, anything — attempting to walk across the East River unaided by a water taxi, gunning down students in hallways, speaking in tongues at a faculty meeting, you name it.
Hills goes on to label this attitude "theophobia" and explain why he disagrees with it, among other things because "there is no obviously persuasive reason to believe that religious belief as such has any more harmful consequences than lack thereof."
Here's my quick thought on the subject: I tend to agree that fear of religious belief as such (as opposed to of specific religious beliefs) is probably unjustified, for the factual reasons Hills mentions.
But I take it that many irreligious people who are bewildered by others' religious beliefs aren't afraid of the beliefs so much as they find them factually unfounded — much like they would find beliefs in astrology, ghosts, werewolves, or for that matter the Greco-Roman pantheon to be factually unfounded. For that matter, I take it that even many Christian academics would disapprove, on empiricist rather than theological grounds, of those who say they believe in Zeus, Xenu, the Zodiac, or vampires. Why should we be surprised that irreligious academics would take the same view, but as to factual claims of the existence of God as well as to the other factual claims? (Note that there were some very interesting responses to these arguments in the comments to this post of ours from late 2005.)
This is especially so as to beliefs "in the existence and beneficence of an omniscient and omnipotent God." So perhaps what Prof. Hills is seeing is more disapproval of those who are seen as unduly willing to believe in what the disapproving person sees as fairy tales, rather than disapproval of those who are seen as morally or practically threatening.