I come up in an interesting review of Bill Maher’s sometimes fascinating, sometimes unfair movie Religulous.
It’s unfortunate that Maher steers clear of more thoughtful religious people, because there is here an opportunity for common cause. In a recent interview with atheist philosopher Bradley Monton, Casey Luskin confesses that in many ways he feels more kinship with an atheist like Monton who inquires deeply into the big questions than he does with his Christian brethren who do not.
Secular and religious thinkers all can commend together intellectual humility, reason, open-mindedness, and dialogue in the interest of the truth; that is, we can find common cause if it is a quest, if naturalism is not the foregone conclusion to which we must all submit at the start.
And this is the problem. Maher’s supposed doubt does not go both ways. While Monton acknowledges that though he is an atheist, he is not certain about his atheism, Maher is all too certain that the totems of twenty-first century scientific materialism are beyond question. Essentially, Maher is commending doubt, disbelief actually, to religious people, and for the most part, giving a pass to himself and his fellow “rationalists”. Luskin asks Monton: “What do you think happens when a person tries to pretend that there is no reason or room for any doubt or self-introspection in their worldview?” Monton replies:
“I think that leads to dogmatism, in part, and this sort of emotional reaction to the people who are on the other side. Because, if you think that the other side has nothing going for it, you’re going to dismiss them and react badly to them… Unfortunately what I’ve been encountering lately are more atheists who seem to be completely, incredibly dogmatic about their view, and then, at least in my personal experience, I’m encountering Christians who are more sympathetic.”
Maher, regrettably, resembles Monton’s observation. The difference between Maher and Monton, I suspect, is that Monton is regularly brushing shoulders with Christian philosophers of the highest intellectual caliber, philosophers who do in fact acknowledge uncertainty and doubt about their own worldviews. For example, he cites William Lane Craig, a leading Christian apologist, who nonetheless acknowledges that “atheism is not an implausible worldview”. Let us hope that it is the likes of Monton and Craig, who do exemplify mutual respect and intellectual humility, that show us the way forward.