Sam’s vanishing solution to the problem of evil
A final thought on the often made suggestion that atheist critics of religion, such as myself, don’t understand what we are criticizing. (I am thinking of Alisdair McGrath’s “I don’t believe in that God either” riposte to Dawkins, and the Rev Sam’s suggestion, following Hart [“It would have at least been courteous, one would think, if he had made more than a perfunctory effort to ascertain what religious persons actually do believe before presuming to instruct them on what they cannot believe.”], that we critics don’t fully comprehend what Christians understand by “God” and, if we did, we would see the problem of evil is not such a problem after all).
As a matter of fact I was raised in a religious household, and my father trained to be a minister, though never took it up. I also attended a church school. So as a teenager I read lots of e.g. C.S. Lewis, Tillich, etc. And since then I have read a ton of philosophy of religion, including D.Z. Phillips, etc. I have swum in the “sea of faith”. So it’s irritating, and really rather unjustified, to have my criticisms of religious belief swept aside on the assumption that I can’t really understand what the religious mean when they talk about God.
In any case, the onus is really on Sam to explain why, given how he, at least, uses “God”, the problem of evil ain’t really so much of a problem.
Having spent ages trying to figure out what Sam does mean, and ploughing through his allusions to Wittgenstein and “forms of life”, we finally discover he never actually had any such explanation.
It’s all been smoke and mirrors.
Of course, I don’t think Sam’s a terrible person, and I don’t think he is intending deliberately to dupe us. I suspect this sort of strategy – of obfuscation and smokescreen delivered with an air of intellectual and spiritual superiority – is just a habit of thought he has rather uncritically adopted having spent too much time hanging out with a certain sort of intellectually pretentious theist.
Patronizing of me to say so, I know. But it’s what I think…