Why do Conservative Christian Apologists rely so heavily on Philosophy to Defend their Beliefs?

It always drives me nuts when I debate a conservative Christian about the supernatural claims of the Bible and he or she immediately wants to steer the discussion into a philosophical mindfield, attempting to trip me up with such irritating and preposterous statements such as, “How do you know, Gary, that you even exist?  How do you know that you are not just a figment in someone else’s imagination.”

Good grief.  What nonsense.

I’m a science man.  Philosophy to me is the wishy-washy past time of eighteenth and nineteenth century spoiled, upper class, aristocratic, daddy’s-boys; guys who never had to do an honest day’s work in their entire lives;  living on a chateau in southern France; mooching off of daddy’s bank account.

Get a real job, for Pete’s sake!

So why do conservative Christian apologists rely so heavily on philosophy to defend their beliefs, and at the same time, usually prefer to shun, or belittle, the hard sciences?  Is it just coincidence?  Actually, no.  At least that is what one philosopher has to say regarding the relationship between philosophy and religion.  Here are some excerpts from his intriguing article:

Does Philosophy have a Future?
by Mark English

…The general belief within philosophy is that the process of collegial debate, discussion and review leads to a refinement or clarification of views and so to a progress of sorts. Refinement, yes. Clarification, I’m not so sure.

Often this process can all too plausibly be interpreted in one of two ways (or both — the ideas are not mutually exclusive): it can be seen as a cover for what is essentially an ideological battle; or merely as a competitive game, self-perpetuating and futile.

With respect to the former point, it is at one level extremely difficult to demonstrate that a particular philosopher’s arguments are influenced by his or her ideological or religious convictions; but on another level it is blindingly obvious that, say, Christians or hardline physicalists are motivated to find and defend arguments which accord with their beliefs. Likewise with social and political beliefs. But playing the philosophical game involves ignoring these issues (and so potential sources of bias) and any mention of them is considered irrelevant — just not philosophy. Such an approach reflects, I think, an outdated view of cognition and one that puts far too much faith in discursive reason.

The view that much philosophy is self-perpetuating and futile, a game of sorts which ends not when some kind of “truth” or resolution is finally arrived at but when people just get tired of that particular game and move on to another, has often been more or less acknowledged by philosophers.

…One other area of concern relates to the complex relationship which continues to exist between religion and philosophy.

Many of philosophy’s iconic figures were religious. Plato was heavily influenced by the Pythagoreans; Plato’s Socrates, still a model for many philosophers, not only believed that concepts have some kind of essential meaning, but also clearly had supernatural beliefs. (He was guided by his daimon, for example.) Even Aristotle’s thought is strongly influenced by what are generally (and I think rightly) seen as completely discredited teleological and other metaphysical notions. Descartes was a believing Catholic. Spinoza was a mystical thinker. Leibniz was religious. Kant’s writings are deeply marked by his Pietism. Hegel was a Christian. Wittgenstein was a Christian and a supernaturalist in the manner of Pascal or Dostoevsky.

The philosophical canon includes of course many skeptical as well as religious or Platonistic thinkers. But often they were only writing to counter essentially religious doctrines

…Philosophy can be seen not only to have arisen from religion in a historical sense but also to be — as a modern, independent discipline — still strangely dependent on it. There are funding issues involved here and little doubt that academic philosophy is cleverly exploited by churches (and other ideological groupings for that matter) [4], but perhaps even more important than this is the extent to which the agenda of philosophy has been determined, directly or indirectly, by religious ideas.

Sure, sections of the philosophical community seek to undermine religious belief, but often the topics discussed (in popular forums and undergraduate contexts especially) relate in some way to religious ideas. Examples that come immediately to mind include Euthyphro-type arguments against a divine command view of ethics, classical arguments for the existence of God, and free will (the very term is taken from Western theology via the Late Latin liberum arbitrium). More sophisticated thinking in philosophy, of course, engages with science and advanced logic and mostly leaves the theological trappings behind, but the origins of many of the key problems still lie, I would suggest, in religious modes of thought.
I am definitely not claiming that philosophy is necessarily religiously oriented, only that it thrives in a broader environment that is. Why this may be I cannot say, but I am increasingly inclined to the view that the presence in a society of a critical mass of people who are committed to religious or mystical ideas tends to create a space for non-scientific but rationally-informed discourse about “the nature of things.”
…But though the idea that philosophy may be, as it were, parasitic upon religion challenges what has become the standard view of philosophy as a discrete, self-contained and entirely secular discipline, it does not entail a belief that the discipline is doomed. If it is indeed doomed, it is doomed for other reasons, because religion is certainly not going to disappear any time soon.
About the author:  Mark English holds a PhD in philosophy from Monash University, and blogs at Language, Life and Logic.





15 thoughts on “Why do Conservative Christian Apologists rely so heavily on Philosophy to Defend their Beliefs?

  1. All of this is a waste on valuable internet space. It basically comes down to “if you want to believe” there is enough evidence TO believe. As well as “if you do not want to believe” there are enough reasons for one not to believe. It comes down to faith, you either have it or you do not. You obviously do not and that's wonderful, fine, groovy and fantastic.

    The thing which is funny though is that you are still a devoutly religious fundamentalist who is proselytizing and trying to convert others to your gospel. So in the end, you are not a bit different than the fundamentalist Christians you despise so much other than they do theirs for their God and you do yours for your god.

    The end-all-be-all final statement on it is “If you want to believe there is good evidence to believe, if you do not want to believe there is good reason not to”. The bible itself makes this clear by saying faith seems foolish to some and how it is easier for those who have witnessed to believe than it is for those of us who have not. The bible calls it “faith” for a reason Gary, somehow all of this has been glossed over by that ultra-keen super-science mind of yours.

    You're wasting your time, your life and your powerful cranium superpower on a subject you think to be totally ridiculous and idiotic. How is that reasonable or logical?


  2. You mean If you and your religious fundamentalist death cult sect of science at any cost allow them to be born in the first place. Right now your denomination is far too busy butchering them and parting them out in hopes of obtaining a Lamborghini.


  3. Dear Frank/Freddie:

    Sometimes I find you entertaining, but not lately. You said somewhere above that if I ever asked you to stop posting, you would. So how about we take a break from one another for a while, maybe a few months?

    I'm sure you have better things to do than read my “boring copy-and-paste” posts.



  4. I certainly understand, sometimes the truth is painful. That's someone else who calls your posts “copy and paste” Abby? I'm the one who calls them silly. K, bu bye now, ttfn, gotta go!, c-ya, arubber duckie, barn voyage, take care, toodles, and just like the faith of Gary after reading Barf Errorsman I am outta here, POOF! 10-3


  5. I am the one who calls your posts 'copy and paste' because that is what they are. You don't seem to be able to think for yourself Gary. If a Christian would 'copy and paste' you wouldn't want to read it but would want them to write their own reasoning or thoughts on why/what they believe. You have written before that you don't want to read a Christian book or article but the posters own thoughts. Once again Fundamentalist Gary, you have double standards.

    PS: As Frank/Fred says your posts are silly too.


  6. Yes, I do post many copied articles. I am unapologetic about that. I post my own articles or I copy and paste the articles of others for these reasons: 1.) They assist me in deprogramming from my former cult. 2.) I believe it to be valuable information which may help others, struggling with doubts about their religious beliefs, find answers.

    I am not trying to win a Pulitzer…my only goal is to share what I believe to be the truth.


  7. As an addendum: I am not trying to be snide, but i think we have the same conclusion regarding evidences. So the real question I see is this – why is it ok to use faith and paper the cracks, or in some instances leaps of logic that totally doesn't make sense. And why is faith being lauded as a virtue? Under what other context beside religion would you say faith is good?


  8. And yet another further point (because I'm disorganized just like that)

    How would you reach this faith in the first place? I had a discussion with this guy for a few nights (literally came to my house and stayed until twilight) having him trying to convince me that God is real after I told him I'm starting to have doubt about Christianity. We talked maths, absolute truth, theoretical physics etc, and obviously he failed to convince me.

    Then he finally said this, “well, Christianity is unique, you have to believe first then you will see”. Does this sound like “Faith” to you?


  9. Deprogramming? You mean trying to talk yourself out of your former belief. I mentioned before in some of my comments to you that I have had enough proof in my life to know God is real and alive. I will not argue with you about it but coming from my side I know. And I know why you need to deprogram yourself, having read some of your posts from when you were a believer (yes, I have been around on your blog that long).You were a Christian but now it doesn't seem to make sense to you. But we don't and cant understand everything. You are trying so hard to understand everything according to your own reasoning power. There is more out there than you can figure out Gary.



  10. Ask ANYONE who has been in a cult. You don't just walk away and its over. It takes YEARS to deprogram. It takes YEARS to rid yourself of the fear of the threats your cult used to try and keep you in the cult. And some ex-cult members NEVER get over that fear.

    If I were talking about an ex-fundamentalist Mormon, you would agree that he or she was in a cult and you would be understanding of their need to deprogram, even if it took years to do so. You are not understanding of my need to deprogram because YOU are my cult.


  11. In my mid 20's I was in a cult for a little over 5 years. The thing about this cult was it was a change in a particular LCMS church which I was raised in and sincerely believed. Our pastor was led astray and many followed. Because I believed what was taught by my pastor I was one who followed. I know what a cult is and it is not what you keep referring to.


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