Dan Fincke, philosopher, atheist, and ex-Christian, writes the website Camels with Hammers for Patheos. A link to his latest post, “Dear fellow atheists, STOP saying Christians believe God is a bearded man in the sky. They don’t,” is an awesome parody of arguments by Sophisticated Theologians™ like David Bentley Hart and Karen Armstrong. In fact, it’s such a good parody that at least one reader was taken in by it, telling me that I’d find a lot to disagree with in Dan’s post.
In fact, it’s a remarkable Poe of the ST™ arguments, showing a.) how easy it is to parody them, and b.) the ease of parody comes from their arguments being so crazy, and so clueless about what people really believe about God. Here’s an excerpt, but go read the whole thing:
And it’s important to note that Christians don’t believe in such silly and absurd things like that God is a man in the sky with a beard. I used to be a devout Christian and I never thought any such silly thing. God is ineffable. God cannot be material. God cannot, as sophisticated theology and philosophy teaches us, be “a” being at all. God is, rather than ineffable ground of all being or Being Itself. God is that from which all other beings derive their essence and that by which they are instantiated in reality. To call Him merely “a” being would be absurd since that would imply He was just one of the beings rather than that inexplicable, self-existence in which, and through which, all those beings have their being.
And Christians are very knowledgable about theology. They understand all this. The average person in the pew would leave Christianity tomorrow if you told him its true meaning was that there was an old man in the sky with a beard who has human emotions and thinks human-like thoughts. He would laugh you right out of his house if you talked about God in such anthropomorphic terms. A sophisticated theologian would fail you for being about 2,000 years behind the curve on human knowledge if you indicated you thought about God as being anthropomorphic like that. God is not a human just because we use human metaphors to describe God any more than I am a rock just because my best friend says to me, “Dan, you are my rock in times of trouble.” And we atheists need to understand that Christians are not ridiculous. They only ever mean to speak metaphorically about God. When Christians refer to God as “father” they don’t mean anything so literal as that God was a man who had sex and conceived them through that. They obviously say God is a father only in order to express in human terms that the “Ground of all Being” is the source of our being. This has been known for centuries of Christian thought.
. . . And they don’t believe in the nonsense about heaven being a bunch of harps and pearly gates and clouds. They fully understand that “heaven” just means being in the presence of the Ground of all Being eternally. Hell is just the absence of God. No red demons with yellow horns and spiky pitchforks there! Refuting silly cartoon ideas about heaven or hell as physical places just shows atheist ignorance.
. . . It’s time to acknowledge Christians only really believe in the ineffable, inconceivable ground of all being, being itself, that never intervenes in history, does not “literally” care about them like a “father” but just is “the source which emanates their being” and never answers their prayers. And when they say they’re “going to heaven” that’s not a place with things and people from their lives and endless joy. That’s “being with the ground of all being”. Whatever that is.
Right, Christians? That’s what you really believe, right?
There’s a lot more, and some funny pictures, too. The thing is that Dan used to be a believer, and knows from the inside that David Bentley Hart’s God resides only in the mind of sophisticated, well-fed academics, not in the hearts of the vast majority of believers. That gives his mockery special credibility.
A good job by Dr. Fincke, and a punch to the solar plexus of apophatism.