Well-known radio personality, political commentator, debater and philosophical lecturer Eusebius McKaiser published an article through The Star this morning entitled: “No need to treat God with kid gloves“. It’s the perfect example of apologetics gone wrong – atheist or Christian.
(In the article McKaiser advertises his upcoming debate with well-known Christian apologist John Lennox, which will be taking place this Thursday, 7pm, at WITS University JHB’s Great Hall. I’ll live-tweet the debate and blog about it on Friday. My Twitter handle is @RyanPeterWrites.)
McKaiser basically takes religious people apart in his article for being sensitive when their personal beliefs are questioned, especially publically. He is right that “too many religious believers think that debating their beliefs is intrinsically offensive” and that questions about our beliefs should turn us on. He is wrong about how this should be done – or at least he hasn’t explained his position too well.
On one hand, McKaiser states that he “doesn’t mean being offensive is acceptable” but on the other hand he says, “Why do many people who believe in some sort of higher power think that religious convictions are beyond lampooning, ridiculing, criticism or close intellectual scrutiny?”
Unfortunately, ‘close intellectual scrutiny’ and ‘lampooning’ and ‘ridiculing’ don’t really belong in the same sentence. McKaiser says that ideas should be engaged with a ‘mix of reason and ridicule’ but I fail to see how the latter has ever helped the former to take place. He uses Richard Dawkins as a prime example, but it runs against his point – Dawkins has, in recent years, decided that ridicule works better than reason, but all we’re seeing is a quick degrade into irrelevance and silliness.
Much like the comments section at McKaiser’s article. (Don’t read the comments – you’ll waste precious hours of your life.)
If he is talking about comedy, that’s fair and well, but he isn’t. Substitute all that he says about how ridicule and lampooning is perfectly acceptable with homosexuality or race and it all falls flat. In fact, all he would look like then is that wonderful debate-stirring word used for anything these days, ‘bigot’. Why should religious people have to grow thick skin but everyone else is the victim of some vicious hate speech crime if you disagree with their views?
McKaiser’s article represents all that can go wrong with apologetics because it encourages the wrong things. Respect should be encouraged. And so should love.
Respect doesn’t mean that everything is relative and there is no truth and facts fly out the window. Respect simply means that, regardless of your views, I still see you as a person of intrinsic value and treat you as such. Ridicule, however, never does that as it’s about attacking the person.
Unfortunately, anything McKaiser wants to say about morality (that’s what his debate with Lennox will be about on Thursday) is weakened when he says ridicule is a valid form of debate. Does McKaiser have any reason outside of his own relative and changing morality to respect or love someone despite their beliefs? Is that kind of morality something we can build our lives on?
This is the kind of question the debate on Thursday will probably cover. Should be a good one!