My Response to Grayling (Epistemology/Axiology)


Response to ‘Religions don’t deserve special treatment’ by AC Grayling

(A link to his article is provided below)


It is agreed that in our postmodern societies all truth claims are presented as equally valid, including the naturalism that AC Grayling espouses.  I think that, in America at least, it is often humanism that is ‘protected by custom and in some cases law against criticism and ridicule.’


In British academia and American public schooling atheists claim ‘respect, special treatment, and many other kinds of immunity.’  They use a corrupted understanding of the seperation of church and state to their advantage.  I have experienced personal insults and mud-slinging by academics who would not add support to their argument but retreated into snobbish superiority by throwing out comments like, “no-one thinks like you anymore…. That is a great answer for the 14th century …” or my personal favorite, “you moron!”  The last comment was thrown at me in debate at Exeter University by Dr. Elizabeth Stuart.  Retreating behind these personal attacks and having no works by conservative thinkers like William Lane Craig, J.P. Moreland, or R.C. Sproul in the library (as was true of the University College of St. Mark and St. John) gives little credence to naturalist, humanist or liberal claims that they have considered the thought of evangelicals.  Theology, according to Anselm, is ‘faith seeking understanding.’  This shows a balance between faith and reason.  We Christians acknowledge what we believe and seek to examine our beliefs and make sense of them.


The blind Scientism of many is shocking.  They do not see that they too hold beliefs.  If we dig down to the root of those like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris they start with basic presuppositions.  Even Nietzsche acknowledges that we all come from our own perspectives in arguments.  What is particularly offensive about naturalists is that they assume that their unfalsifiable presuppositions of faith are actually scientific in nature.  With these uncritically held assumptions they build bastions of secularization which take the belief of humanism into the world with the religious fervor of any crusade.  Scientific, naturalistic, humanism falls pray to its own critique of “believing something by faith is ignoble, irresponsible, and ignorant and merits the opposite of respect.”  I have so much respect for humanity that I support AC Grayling’s right to write on the web.  Apparently his proselytizing on behalf of humanism is immune from his own critique.  I could ask him to play by his own rules and shut up, but I won’t.


Using the term ‘believers’ to mock those of faith implies that there are people who do not believe anything.  No one really functions that way.


Christians often desire the non-interference of Atheists (many atheists wrote sycophantic accolades at the foot of Grayling’s article) in their neat and tidy world.  I believe that is unrealistic.  However, to banish Christian thinking to the private sphere is to ignore the precedent of the very real lives of Jesus and the Apostle Paul.  Christians can’t withdraw with integrity and submit to that kind of dictate.  We must be in the public marketplace defending the faith.  We must dialogue with Muslims and Atheists to understand the common ground, folly or ignorance of rival truth claims.  If we diminish and disappear it must not be behind closed doors.


Christianity, if it is true, is true for everyone.  Islam, if it is true, is true for everyone.  Secular humanism, if it is true, is true for everyone.   Ironically many relativist post-modernists believe that their views are true for everyone – strange.


I find it interesting that Grayling assumes that human individuals deserve respect.  Why?  If we are not given worth by someone worthy of bestowing it, as Christians believe, what right does one species have over another to attribute to itself some worth?  Why not eat each other?  It seems that the worth of an individual can not come from an objective, scientific perspective.  It seems a statement of unsupported philosophy (and not science) to attribute value to shared humanity.  This value appears in Grayling’s article out of a vacuum.


Historically, I see the virtues that Grayling wants (he lists them in his article) arising out of religious thinking.  Historically, I see that Hitler takes nihilistic atheism to heights not even The Inquisition could hope to rival.  Of course, those who adhere to the writings of their faiths find little support there for unquestioned power structures, but the underlying presuppositions of everyone have an affect on their public lives.  We can not live in a world where presuppositions of any system go unexamined. 


You’d think that the atheists more than anyone would hold their assumptions up to question.  Instead they have taken hold of communities and closed up shop.  In America we see the catch-22 of peer review halting serious consideration of intelligent design.  There is a very public stance of faith in a certain view of history, albeit natural history, which does not allow supernatural explanations for phenomenon or a designer behind the intelligence held in our genes.  I have read Dawkins and seen him invent time for the improbable and start with Darwinist assumptions that read anthropomorphic intentionality into a selfish gene.


I hold the right for atheists to take their faith-stance of atheism into the public sphere and to live a life which is consistent with their beliefs.  If such a thing is possible!  I do not understand why that tone of superiority is allowed to continue among atheists in Britain so that they stand without cogent opposition and pronounce judgment on society as if their philosophical assumptions were science.  Christians should do some more study.


If it is superior to believe in current ideas, why is AC Grayling so five minutes ago?  We have passed modernism and moved into the times of Baudrillard, Derrida, and Lyotard.  His views are still largely in the age of Dawkins, Russell, or even Locke.  If beliefs that we used to hold about humanity, science, virtues and universality can be dusted off by Grayling and held as true, why not go back 2000 years or more?  Why is everything that current thinkers think offered as a progression?  Is it not possible to regress?  Religious pluralism was all the mode, but the incompatibility of competing truths has forced us to question that. 


I predict that we are just about to shift in Hegelian fashion from relativistic, postmodern pluralism to national identities.  We are shifting that way already with the debate about free speech.  We are defending it in Britain, Denmark, Holland and the USA based on nationalistic arguments: “The way of democratic freedom is free speech.”  So we see a belief in democratization that is akin to the ‘leap of faith’ that Kierkegaard is accused of.  Why is democracy right?  How do you know that?  Have you looked at the history of Pakistan?  When has Pakistan been least stable?  How did Rome maintain its strength?  How did it lose it?  Do these lessons teach us anything about our values?  Is history really a series of footnotes to the present?  Plato suggested a Philosopher King and saw democracy as part of a descent into tyranny.  I see a descent in the heart of man that wants to be free of a moral conscience.  It wants a reason to justify hedonism in the privacy of its own home.


In public debate no quarter should be given to Christians, and no quarter should be given by Christians.  Let truth prevail.

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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7 Responses to My Response to Grayling (Epistemology/Axiology)

  1. Ridgeworth says:

    This article revealed to me the dire need for Christians to sharpen their minds and stop playing dumb. Faith does not constitute a free ticket to throw academia out the door. Instead, having access to a broader scope of truth should propel us to work even harder. Reading through all the responses to this article, I could not help but look for one voice of reason to point all the inconsistencies that I found with what AC Grayling was purporting. I am sick of hearing pat little Sunday school answers. Thank you for responding with such articulation. Though I had the same thoughts about the article I have trouble articulating them as masterfully as you do. Thank you again.~Bill

  2. Hi, this is Jesse Curtis from faith and learning. I like your response. My first thought when you read his article in class was that his overall premise was entirely false. It seemed to me that his primary idea was that Christians and other religious adherents believe they ought to be respected simply because they hold to a religion. He argued that the basis for respect ought rather to be in our common humanity. In the first place, I don’t think Christians do think that way. We don’t consider ourselves worthy of respect simply because we are Christians. If someone verbally attacks me, I don’t think, “Hey, I’m a Christian, you have to respect me!” So it seems as if Grayling is “batting the air” as it were. He’s attacking a view that I really don’t see held among religious people. Secondly, his opposing view, that respect should be based on our common humanity, is exactly what we as Christians believe! In fact, I would venture to say it is a fundamentally Christian concept. We are all to be respected because we are all created in the image of God. So Grayling puts himself in an absurd position. He attacks what he thinks is a Christian view of respect, and then in proposing what he thinks respect ought to be based on, he espouses a Christian concept!

  3. totally unrelated to what you just wrote:

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    According to the Bible’s teaching, we don’t have the unalienable right to religious freedom.  If the world hated Jesus, it will hate us.  If the world persecuted Him, it will persecute us.  Never are we told that things should be otherwise.So, is the practice of religious freedom a good thing? (i say practice because liberty of conscience exists everywhere)Is religious freedom worth fighting for?  Is it worth writing into a constitution?

  4. foshage says:

    I like your writing style. Your not afraid to use sarcasm if need be. It is somewhat rediculous though. The guys thoughts contradict what he says! He’s “five minutes ago”… i appreciated that. The fact that I am a Christian doesn’t mean that I demand respect from people. Christian’s were persecuted in the past… what’s different now? I don’t expect people to agree with everything I believe, that would be naive. but for him to believe that we demand respect merely for believing in God, then he’s being naive.Overall, i think this guy pretty much proved only how much he lacks intelectually and how much stupidity overrides his thinking.anyway. i hope to read more of your responses to these things, so put more up. See You in ClassJordan Santos

  5. foshage says:

    quick note… that’s my roomate’s foto. not mine. i don’t know why it did that, but just to clear that up. haha… i’m not “foshage.”Jordan SAntos

  6. rkettering says:

    Heavy!! Is there any way to make your words bigger? I guess I mean enlarge your type. I’m already half blind. You do realize I’m an old man. I had to copy it to my word processor and enlarge it.I agree, Christians need to sharpen their minds, stand up for their faith intelligently, and try not to act like the Flanders (The Simpson’s judgmental neighbors for all you non-TVholics out there) in the process.But I can understand why many outside the faith criticize us. We tend to preach and judge. I was very impressed by how you didn’t do either.I went to the article and read about 50 of the the comments. A couple of things that weren’t in the debate.Religion is not the pointEthics is not the pointNo one seemed to get to the uniqueness about Christ. Christ in us the hope of gloryWho cares where ethics and morals come from. They are imbedded in us, encoded in us, or God forbid, evolved into us. That is a given. If you don’t think so, then I will be over to take whatever you own. See, we don’t care much about justice until injustice is done unto us, and then justice seems to be the only thing we care about. And, by the way, the behavior on the chat line has at times been less than respectful. Why? The question is, “Why can’t we keep the morals and ethics we hold so dearly whether atheist or religionist?” I’m sure Grayling would love for those virtues he so eloquently listed to become a reality (I sincerely believe the religionist would too), but I don’t think free speech and taking protections from religious institutes is going to bring about your utopia. I don’t even think getting rid of all the religious fanatics will solve Grayling’s problems. I mean there has been a lot of free speech going on on this chat line, and I haven’t seen a lot of love, respect and kindness displayed. I’m sure the religionists would like protection, forced respect, no abortion, no gays, no Graylings, no feminists, ad infinitum. I suspect if all those things disappeared today that we would still be at each other’s throats. I recall one very important atheist, can’t remember his name, saying that christians ripped off the evolutionists when it came to the “Golden Rule.” This puzzled me a bit. So if we evolved as a culture so as to incorporate this idea of treating one another as we ourselves would like to be treated into our DNA, possibly to preserve our DNA, then why aren’t we able to carry out this ideal? Why would we evolve into an idea that we can’t live up to? Why would we code into our DNA something like a conscience that can drive us mad, “Tell Tale Heart” or “Crime and Punishment,” kind of mad?Here is another point. Some people think it is a crime to do something good for someone because they will get a reward in heaven. So that makes their good evil. They are simply pragmatists and not truly altruistic. And these same people are out doing good for no reward, and that makes their good “saintly.” They aren’t getting a reward, therefore the true altruistic folk are those who do it just for the sake of doing it. Well whoop-to-do! If the folk who are doing it for a reward in heaven are right, the people who eschew God and His rewards are going to miss the rewards, and the people who are going for the rewards are going to be richly rewarded. But let’s cut the BS. Isn’t this just an argument to yank the religionist’s chain. How many atheists are out there serving in leprosariums? How many are serving the poorest of the poor just for the sake of making humanity a better humanity?Here is another thought. I’ve heard thousands of people who have found religion, and the stories are all very similar. When they find God, their lives are turned around and they want to help others. Wow! How despicable! I’ve never once heard an atheist talk about how his dramatic conversion to non-faith has totally changed his life and motivated her/him to go help AIDS orphans in Africa. I’m sure there are a few, but if we look at the sheer numbers of religious organizations out there helping people and compare it to the number of atheistic organizations out there helping the helpless, well… Those facts are the ones that tend make me look at the heavens and wonder if there isn’t someone out there. Most of the atheists I’ve talked to are very caring people. They are bitter towards religion and God due to some religious person acting like an idiot, or a crisis where they hoped God would intervene, but was silent instead. Frankly, I think they have legitimate beefs! There are a lot of mean spirited Christians out there. A lot of horrible stuff has been done in the name of God. Once again, we know what is wrong, what is unjust, but we all just can’t seem to get along.I think Adam Sandler or whoever came up with the idea for 50 First Dates ought to get the Oscar at the Christian Dove Awards or whatever Christian Award thing they give out equivalent awards for best movies and such. This movie portrays the death, burial and resurrection of Christ a thousand times better than even the Jesus movies or even the Passion. It does this by showing the incredible staying power of God’s love to overcome the greatest obstacle we humans face, our own mortalness (Deep down in the recesses of our being we really, really believe we are immortal gods). Our own arrogance that spits in the face of a very patient, irrationally loving God is exposed. Each and every morning of this poor girl’s life, she has to come face to face with her mortality. She has to die. She wakes up every morning believing all is right with her and her world, and she slams smack into a tree. Why a tree? Simple. Jesus hung on a tree. “Cursed is anyone who hangs on a tree.” She wakes up only to discover she has died. She is crucified. But then a truly extraordinary thing happens to her. An amazing, unstoppable, unturn-awayable love drags her out of her grave, sets her on her feet, lavishes her with extreme makeover love.And then the most incredible thing happens. She comes alive. She awakens from the dream that she dreams every night, but who is this “man of her dreams?” Quite simply, he is her savior. As she opens the window shades the Arctic light crashes in on her and buries her in an avalanche of pure joy and delight. She runs up on deck, and for the very first time, really the thousandth time over, she is shaken to her core with overwhelming gratitude. Her response is utter, inexplicable joyous surprise! Her eyes light up like the child who wakes up on Christmas morn to find not only a puppy, not only a Red Raider 2000 BB gun, but his parents reunited, his long lost sister found and his dead hamster alive and well. It is an Oliver Twist moment! It is a resurrection moment. It is the only kind of moment a christian needs. Who gives a hoot about respect, laws that protect our silly little old wine skin institutions when this kind of otherly love is dying to kiss us awake every morning.It was very late when I wrote this. Now that I have read it over I’m not sure it makes a lot of sense. But for what it’s worth.

  7. I appreciate rkettering’s response to Graylings article.  I will have to see 50 First Dates, it struck me at the time as rather lame, but I think that the marketing might have hidden the profundity.  Transformation is not a concept that I see encouraged in humanism the way that it is in theism, so I agree there.  Of course. evolution itself is change, but it is largely incremental whereas theistic redemption is huge.

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