Well, there’s one thing that both atheists and the devout agree on: Karen Armstrong’s God-is-but-a-transcendence-beyond-a-symbol theology is not only unrepresentative of religion in general, but hard to distinguish from atheism. Case in point: Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has a post at Crosswalk analyzing the recent dustup between Armstrong and Richard Dawkins. He flat-out rejects Armstrong’s apophatic nonsense:
Along the way, Armstrong offers a superficial and theologically reckless argument that comes down to this: Until the modern age, believers in God were not really believers in a God who was believed to exist. Then along came Sir Issac Newton and the “modern” belief that God must exist in order to be God. When Darwin came along to show “that there could be no proof for God’s existence,” he was doing God a favor — allowing his survival as a mere symbol.
She makes statements that amount to elegant nonsense. Consider this: “In the ancient world, a cosmology was not regarded as factual but was primarily therapeutic; it was recited when people needed an infusion of that mysterious power that had — somehow — brought something out of primal nothingness: at a sickbed, a coronation or during a political crisis.” So she would have us to believe that, in centuries past, cosmology was merely therapy. She simply makes the assertion and moves on. Will anyone believe this nonsense?
Well, a lot of intelligent and sophisticated theologians do! Mohler continues:
Interestingly, it is Dawkins, presented as the unbeliever in this exchange, who understands God better than Armstrong. In fact, Richard Dawkins the atheist rightly insists that Karen Armstrong is actually an atheist as well. “God’s Rotweiller” sees through Armstrong’s embrace of a “God beyond God.”. . .
. . We should at least give Dawkins credit here for knowing what he rejects. Here we meet an atheist who understands the difference between belief and unbelief. As for those, like Armstrong, who try to tell believers that it does not matter if God exists — Dawkins informs them that believers in God will brand them as atheists. “They’ll be right,” Dawkins concludes.
So the exchange in The Wall Street Journal turns out to be a meeting of two atheist minds. The difference, of course, is that one knows he is an atheist when the other presumably claims she is not. Dawkins knows a fellow atheist when he sees one. Careful readers of The Wall Street Journal will come to the same conclusion.
Somehow I don’t think that Armstrong’s sweaty lucubrations are going to convince the religious masses that “existence” isn’t something they need in their deity. Southern Baptists and their comrades-in-faith may be wrong about the existence of God, but they aren’t fools when it comes to theology. They know that when the Rapture comes, both Dawkins and Armstrong will be left sitting on Earth with their thumbs up their butts.