My “devil’s dictionary”

Ambrose Bierce’s famous “Devil’s Dictionary,” in which he defines words darkly and sarcastically, is online, and is well worth glancing at. He’s merciless with religion, for instance:

SAINT, n. A dead sinner revised and edited.

The Duchess of Orleans relates that the irreverent old calumniator, Marshal Villeroi, who in his youth had known St. Francis de Sales, said, on hearing him called saint: “I am delighted to hear that Monsieur de Sales is a saint. He was fond of saying indelicate things, and used to cheat at cards. In other respects he was a perfect gentleman, though a fool.”

I’m going to start my own Devil’s Dictionary, I think, and my first definition is this one:

SOPHISTICATED THEOLOGIAN™, n. A theologian who uses big words and is better than other theologians at insulating religion from critical examination.

Does that sound good? I’m reading David Bentley Hart’s new book, and, halfway through, realized that people like Hart, who are regarded as the theologians who make the Best Arguments for God—the ones atheists are supposed to take on board—are precisely the ones who propose a kind of God who is so nebulous, so hard to fathom, that that God cannot be examined as a hypothesis. (And make no mistake about it: Hart does propose evidence for God, in the form of a revised Cosmological Argument. But he also argues that he’s not giving evidence for God.) I’m just throwing this out for discussion, for it seems that the theologians who are most highly regarded by intellectuals are the ones who are the most clever at insulating their god and their faith from refutation.  They use not reason, but sophistry, confirmation bias, and obscurantism.

If you have a better definition, please put it in the comments!

184 Comments

  1. gbjames
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    sub

  2. Militant Scientist
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Sophisticated Theologian: Someone who writes a 500 page book to make an argument that George Michael can make in four words.

    • Kevin Alexander
      Posted April 3, 2014 at 10:44 am | Permalink

      Unsophisticated Theologian: Speaks patent nonsense.
      Sophisticated Theologian: Can’t tell what he’s saying, it’s incomprehensible. Speaks in tongues using english words.

      • Ashley Moore
        Posted April 4, 2014 at 4:00 am | Permalink

        Unsophisticated Theologian: Speaks patent nonsense.
        Sophisticated Theologian: Speaks nonsense, patent pending.

    • Posted April 3, 2014 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

      Is “gotta” one?

      /@

  3. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Note 1) I recall years ago glancing through St. Francis De Sales’ “Introduction to the Devout Life” and being bewildered as to why he came down so hard on card-playing as a vice and occasion for sin. Now I know!!

    Note 2) The worst theology for me has always been apologetics-defense of the faith.
    In contrast, the theologians I have enjoyed the most have always been those writing about something else, ethics or politics, from an ostensibly liberal Christian perspective, but they tend to say things one could buy into without buying into their Christian presuppositions!!!
    There was a small group of Harvard faculty that called itself “atheists for [Reinhold] Neibuhr”. They thought his political perspectives quite wise, but thought they should be disentangled from his (liberal) Christian beliefs. This in turn led some conservative Christians to suspect that Niebuhr held views that were essentially humanistic but couched in Christian terminology.

  4. Posted April 3, 2014 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    This seems to be a useful exercise. Helps us to know where things stand.
    FAITHIEST, n. An individual who is very uncomfortable with the idea that they might be right to believe there is no God.

    • Sastra
      Posted April 3, 2014 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      I thought faitheist was defined as an atheist who really, really loves and respects faith. This might mean that they yearn for it themselves — but it also includes those nonbelievers who feel that faith is a beautiful human expression of hope which can still be admired from afar. We all must appreciate how important faith is to the identity of other people so that it’s as off limits to criticism as personal lifestyles … or someone’s belief that their baby is beautiful.

      Faitheists usually have no problem with God not existing. They just have a huge problem with atheists going out of their way to argue with believers.

      • JonLynnHarvey
        Posted April 3, 2014 at 10:38 am | Permalink

        The religion I trust the least is precisely that which decides that the primary and most pivotal virtue is faith in what can’t be verified, and is intensely focused on this.

        • Posted April 3, 2014 at 11:24 am | Permalink

          Which religions aren’t?

          Seems to me they all have to be, despite what they might say. If you’re going to believe in something for which there is no evidence, faith will have to be the de facto “justification” for that belief.

      • Posted April 3, 2014 at 11:25 am | Permalink

        Agree.

        Cf Chris Stedman’s book.

      • Timothy Hughbanks
        Posted April 3, 2014 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

        This is about right. But to be in the Devil’s dictionary, you gotta be sardonic and pithy.

        FAITHIEST, n. An atheist who is sure that the little people can’t handle the truth.

        • Jesper Both Pedersen
          Posted April 3, 2014 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

          The Little People™: A Faitheist’s perception of large volumes of Homo Sapiens Sapiens.

          • Posted April 3, 2014 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

            I thought the Little People™ were the ones who tithed regularly?

            b&

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted April 3, 2014 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

              I thought they were hobbits.

              • Posted April 3, 2014 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

                They have churches in Middle Earth? I didn’t even know there were any churches left standing in the Middle East!

                b&

            • Jesper Both Pedersen
              Posted April 4, 2014 at 1:35 am | Permalink

              I don’t think you have to tithe in order to be considered Little People™ in the eyes of many Faitheists™.

              • Posted April 4, 2014 at 8:54 am | Permalink

                Maybe not…but you certainly can’t be standing between the tithing Little People™ and the money plate.

                b&

    • moarscienceplz
      Posted April 3, 2014 at 10:30 am | Permalink

      ISTM Faitheists are people who know they themselves are intelligent enough and strong-willed enough to not need the crutch of religion, and that most of the rest of humanity has not been fortunate enough to be so well-endowed.

  5. NewEnglandBob
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    I would change “uses big words” to “uses big meaningless weasel words”

  6. Alfonso E. Barnes
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    A plea to all non-believers: There is a multitude of gods out there. Stop using the word God like there is only one such entity. When you need to talk about any of those gods, specify which one you have in mind, i.e., the Christian god, the Muslim god, the Hindu Vishnu, etc. Notice the absence of capital “G”.

    • gbjames
      Posted April 3, 2014 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      Which christian god? The father? The ghost one? Boy-god? How about the devil one, or those various demi-gods called “saints” that exist in some sects?

    • Posted April 3, 2014 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

      It’s a good start, but it doesn’t go far enough. Christians actually have an entire pantheon of gods, with the head of the pantheon having the eponymously confusing proper name of, “God.” In Islam, at least, they have no god by that name, though they do still have their own pantheon, especially including Allah, Iblis, Gabriel, Muhammad, Shaytan, the lesser angels/malaikah and djinni, and more.

      Cheers,

      b&

      • Posted April 4, 2014 at 9:43 am | Permalink

        Except that “Allah” is just Arabic for “God”. Or is that “allah” is Arabic for “god”? ;)

        • Posted April 4, 2014 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

          They’re generally the names of prior tribal gods. That’s even the case with “deity,” a word that traces its roots to deus, and thence to the god whom we, in modern language, call, “Zeus.” “Allah” and “Elohim” trace their roots back to the same source. The Hebrew “Adonai” and the Greek “Adonis” likewise. For that matter, the literal translation of “Jesus” would be, “YHWH’s anointed (as with oil) savior / salvation.”

          Most Christians would probably get a bit upset if you were to tell them that, when they refer to “The Deity,” they’re really talking about Zeus. But, then again, most Christians are under the bizarre impression that they’re monotheists, despite having a pantheon every bit as numerous and diverse as the Pagans — and one that’s almost perfectly modeled after Olympus, even, for that matter.

          Cheers,

          b&

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted April 6, 2014 at 1:14 am | Permalink

            Well Zeus was the king of the gods, so it seems only fair and right that all the little mini one-and-only-supreme-gods should be derived from him, no? ;)

    • Posted April 3, 2014 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      Don’t leave out the reason for this request:

      It discourages weaselly equivocation of the “many paths, one god” sort. There *are* contradictions between religions, like it or not, and those contradictions are good evidence that religion is provincial and man-made.

  7. NAY
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    I am halfway through Dorothy L. Sayers’ (yes, the Lord Peter Wimsey author) “Letters to a Diminished Church” and would propose her as a “True” Sophisticated Theologian; that is, one making real arguments on behalf of her religion even though its basis (existence of god) is still only faith without evidence. At least, she writes well and I’m not rolling my eyes at every paragraph.

  8. eric
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Sophisticated Theologian (n): a person who makes a good theological argument for a God nobody believes in.

    • Sastra
      Posted April 3, 2014 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      Sophisticated Theologian (n): a theologian who argues that no atheist can ever understand the meaning of God well enough to criticize it — and proves it.

      • eric
        Posted April 3, 2014 at 11:11 am | Permalink

        How about this pair:

        Theologian (n): person who accepts and argues for the existence of an interventionist, theistic god seven days a week.

        Sophisticated Theologian (n): person who accepts the existence of an interventionist, theistic god seven days a week, but only argues for it on Sundays.

        • Scote
          Posted April 3, 2014 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

          Well put, and especially on point for Heart, who’s religion requires belief in a personal, interventionist god, but who argues “sophisticatedly” for an entirely different god.

      • Michael Fugate
        Posted April 3, 2014 at 11:54 am | Permalink

        Sophisticated Theologian (n): a theologian who argues that no one can ever understand his or her meaning of God well enough to criticize it; faith and revelation being personal – God means what each individual claims it means. There is no wrong answer to the meaning of God other than God doesn’t exist.

    • JoeyM
      Posted April 3, 2014 at 11:57 am | Permalink

      Eric said, “Sophisticated Theologian (n): a person who makes a good theological argument for a God nobody believes in.”

      Beautiful definition….succinct and accurate

    • Scote
      Posted April 3, 2014 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

      “Sophisticated Theologian (n): a person who makes a good theological argument for a God nobody believes in.”

      I think I’d change it to something that includes a reference to their use of sophistry, perhaps: “Sophisticated Theologian (n): a person who makes meretricious theological arguments for a God nobody believes in.”

      • Mark Joseph
        Posted April 3, 2014 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

        Yes; I was going to say something very much like that, but you beat me to it, and did a better job, too; I’m not sure I would have come up with the word “meretricious” on the spur of the moment.

    • Kevin
      Posted April 3, 2014 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

      Sophisticated Theologian (n): a person who makes a good theological argument for a God nobody can believe in.

      • Marella
        Posted April 4, 2014 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

        And a god that there is no point in believing in, since it has no effect on the universe.

        • Posted April 4, 2014 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

          Yes…except that this god is also the titular head of the Christian pantheon.

          Sophisticated theologians tend to get annoyed when you credit Jesus as Creating Life, the Universe, and Everything — and then they get fucking pissed when you throw John 1:1 back at them in response.

          b&

          • Marella
            Posted April 6, 2014 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

            Sometimes he is and sometimes he isn’t, sometimes any god is good enough, sometimes only Jesus will do. It all depends on the audience. When talking to rationalists it’s all “ground of being”, but when talking to their own it’s “Jesus is my LORD and Saviour”. They are all things to all people. I get the feeling many of them have given up on Jesus though, and just want to keep God, he seems to demand less credulity. Face it, every single one of them believes something different, they agree on almost nothing.

            • Posted April 7, 2014 at 7:07 am | Permalink

              It’s that last line that’s most damning of all. They agree on the names of their gods; they agree that they’re the most important entities in all of existence. Past that? Fugghedaboudid.

              b&

  9. Sastra
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    SOPHISTICATED THEOLOGIAN™, n. A theologian who uses big words and is better than other theologians at insulating religion from critical examination.

    While I agree with the sentiment I have a problem with the way it’s phrased. It’s too easy to attack “a theologian who uses big words’ by comparing a theologian’s “big words” to the “big words” used by scientists or other academic specialists. Complicated terms are required for complicated concepts which can’t be expressed in the simple language which we use day to day.

    In other words, your definitions sounds like it is making an Argument from Ignorance or possibly it’s anti-elitism. “Gosh golly, I don’t understand all them high-falutin’ words ‘cuz they don’t make no sense to an ordinary common sense guy like me. These big words are too HARD for me to figure out.”

    That’s not what you want to imply — or let them pretend you mean. Sophisticated Theologians are not just using big words, they’re using vague, flowery, confusing language which pushes buttons and makes it sound like they’re saying something profound and pleasing. They’re using deepities: words, phrases, or concepts with multiple interpretations which are substituted back and forth, so that the true-but-trivial meaning grants credibility to the extraordinary-but-false. They’re making air waffles.

    So what would I personally replace “big words” with? I’m not sure. Maybe “a theologian who uses…” deepities or sophistry or inflated terms. Or perhaps “a theologian who oozes ornamental language” or “a theologian who weaves ornate verbal tapestries.” Something along those lines.

    But don’t you go on complaining about those big words now, you hear?

    • gbjames
      Posted April 3, 2014 at 9:54 am | Permalink

      “…who uses obscurant language…” would likely work.

    • Jiten
      Posted April 3, 2014 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      Replace “big words” with “recherché words”. :-)

      • gbjames
        Posted April 3, 2014 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

        I think you mean “mots recherché”.

    • Ken Elliott
      Posted April 3, 2014 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

      how about this:

      ” . . . who attempts to magnify and validate the importance of what she/he is espousing by hanging a curtain of seemingly sophisticated terminology that when pulled back reveals the ultimate nothingness of the conjuring as well as the conjurer.

    • DianeAlliLangworthy
      Posted April 3, 2014 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      I like your words; and especially like “oozes” for “uses.”

      “…who oozes vague, flowery, confusing language…”

    • thh1859
      Posted April 4, 2014 at 3:22 am | Permalink

      I think “big words” is perfect – in best pithy Ambrose Bierce style. Shows that sophisticated theologians’ poly-syllabled words are just parrot talk.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted April 4, 2014 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      They’re making air waffles.

      Lovely!

  10. Robert Seidel
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    I suggest leaving “uses big words” completely out – they all do, and “A theologian who is better than other theologians at insulating religion from critical examination.” is snappier. Much of the lovely nastiness of the Devil’s Dictionary stems from it being so terse.

    • Scote
      Posted April 3, 2014 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      I think the “big words” idea is useful. Although “sophisticated” theologians are the ones better at insulating god from critical examination, the mechanism they use is often as simple as just using bigger words to say the same things as regular theologians – the big words notation is, to an extent, a reminder that the “sophistication” is just sophistry, something that isn’t entailed by the “insulation” on its own.

  11. Diana MacPherson
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    I have a few additions:

    SOPHISTICATED THEOLOGIAN™, n. A theologian who uses nebulous words in order to present superficially plausible arguments that when subjected to closer scrutiny only lead to further nebulousness. Because the sophisticated theologian™ uses language in this sophist manner,he/she and is better than other theologians at insulating religion from critical examination.

    • gbjames
      Posted April 3, 2014 at 10:02 am | Permalink

      Suggest: “nebulous language” instead of “nebulous words”. It is more than just a matter of word selection for them.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted April 3, 2014 at 10:37 am | Permalink

        Or I could just cut to the chase and say, Sophisticated Theologian: Sophist. 😈

        • Posted April 4, 2014 at 9:46 am | Permalink

          Which is ironic, since Protagoras might have been an atheist.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted April 4, 2014 at 10:21 am | Permalink

            Actually, Protagoras’s weird “man is the measure of all things” perfectly fits.

    • Sastra
      Posted April 3, 2014 at 10:21 am | Permalink

      Very good — but too good. It’s not catchy.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted April 3, 2014 at 10:38 am | Permalink

        How about, a cool catch phrase? Sophisticated Theologian, putting the sophist in sophisticated. :D

        • Sastra
          Posted April 3, 2014 at 11:06 am | Permalink

          lol :)

        • Scote
          Posted April 3, 2014 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

          I like it. It is catchy and on point.

        • Posted April 3, 2014 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

          ding ding ding

        • DianeAlliLangworthy
          Posted April 3, 2014 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

          Good!

        • HaggisForBrains
          Posted April 4, 2014 at 10:15 am | Permalink

          Excellent, Diana!

  12. Heath
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    SOPHISTICATED THEOLOGIAN™, n. A theologian whose arguments for god are impossible to disprove, by virtue of being impossible to understand.

  13. Posted April 3, 2014 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    THEOLOGIAN: A person who excuses away the lack of any evidence for god.

    SOPHISTICATED THEOLOGIAN: A person who excuses away the lack of any evidence for god by a smokescreen of opaque verbiage.

  14. Sastra
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Some helpful quotes:

    In other matters knowledge passes from a nebulous and indefinite stage to a precise and definite one. In the case of theism it pursues an opposite course. From the very definite god, or gods, of primitive mankind we advance to the vague and indefinite god of the modern theist—a God who, apparently, means nothing and does nothing, and at most stands as a symbol for our irremovable ignorance. (Chapman Cohen)

    It seems to all coverge toward a something-moreism- about finding a way to dismiss straightforward questions about self-evident problems, as either strident, or shallow, or oversimplifying. Whatever can be done to characterize the object of criticism as mushied up with intangibilities that would delay or render improbable a moment of introspection on the part of someone being criticised for their unreflective faith. (Joseph Johan)

    So what’s a religion to do (given our scientific discoveries)? There are two main tactics.
    Plan A: Treat the long, steady retreat into metaphor and mystery as a process of increasing wisdom, and try to educate the congregation to the new sophisticated understandings.
    Plan B: Cloak all the doctrines in a convenient fog and then not just excuse the faithful from trying to penetrate the fog, but celebrate the policy of not looking too closely at anyone’s creed – not even your own. (Daniel Dennet)

    For whereas the ordinary believer has a somewhat misty notion of a father-cum-policeman-cum-Father Christmas-cum-magician personal deity, their theologians deploy such a polysyllabic, labyrinthine, intricate, sophisticated, complexified approach, that some go so far as to claim (as one current celebrity cleric does) that God does not have to exist to be believed in. The standard basis of religious belief – subjective certainty – is hard enough to contest, being non-rational at source, but this is beyond orbit. It is hard to know which are worse: the theologians who are serious about what they say in these respects, or those who know it for a game. (AC Grayling)

    • Posted April 4, 2014 at 6:35 am | Permalink

      The Grayling quote is priceless; could you email me or post the exact source (including page number)?

      Thanks!

      • Sastra
        Posted April 4, 2014 at 10:21 am | Permalink

        Got it! The quote was from Grayling’s article in the Nov 21, 2006 Guardian,”The Milk of Human Kindness” — which is found here.

  15. Michael Fugate
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    I think their arguments (and Hart’s especially) boil down to I am right because I know I am (faith and revelation, damn it!) and everyone else is wrong. They claim their god is not subject to science and Christians even claim it is not subject to logic. Notice how they discuss Jesus as both 100% god and 100% man and then resort to calling this coincidence (which defies science and philosophy) as a “mystery” – like the trinity and transubstantiation. Any connection between a “ground of being” god and Christianity is truly a mystery – it’s like my old calculus teacher’s comment while in the middle of some problem that was going nowhere fast, “when you get up to your ass in alligators, you forget you went in to drain the swamp.” These guys have gone so deep in protecting their god from criticism that they no longer have a god left.

  16. Charles E. Jones
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    I like a definition of theology derived from something Daniel Dennett once said:

    Theology: The art of putting a good spin on religion, of coming up with ways of not coming clean about the whole enterprise.

  17. Barry Lyons
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Love the definition of Sophisticated Theologian! I wouldn’t change a word.

  18. eric
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    SOPHISTICATED THEOLOGIAN, n. One who can explain the otiose not only vacuously, but also inscrutably.

  19. Jesper Both Pedersen
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Sophisticated Theologian™ (n). A theologian re-defining a god of many to a god of none.

    • Sastra
      Posted April 3, 2014 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      I like that.

      Joseph Hoffman called sophisticated theology “methadone for religion addicts.” It doesn’t get you high, but it somehow satisfies the craving in an intellectually excusable way.

      Though it seems to me that Hart is definitely swooning. Perhaps it’s like being in love with love.

      • Jesper Both Pedersen
        Posted April 3, 2014 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

        Thanks, it’s a close cousin of Eric’s comment 8. :-)

        From what I’ve read via Jerry’s posts I’d say Hart’s oxymoronical god falls apart from the get go. It cancels itself out through its own attributes and intellectually I fail to see the attraction.

        I think you’re right, he’s in love with his own feelings of G.O.B. much like some people are in love with their own feelings of love.

        It must be groovy if you can cope with the dissonance.

    • Kevin
      Posted April 3, 2014 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

      The untouchable, unknowing, unseeable, the… ungod.

    • DianeAlliLangworthy
      Posted April 3, 2014 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

      good one

  20. Kelton Barnsley
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    The Devil’s Dictionary has a great entry concerning free will:

    DECIDE: To succumb to one set of preponderances over another.

    In the abridged version, this is accompanied by the following charming poem:

    “A leaf was riven from a tree.
    ‘I mean to fall to earth’ said he.
    The east wind, rising, made him veer,
    ‘Westward’, said he, ‘I now shall steer’
    The west wind rose with greater force
    ‘T’were wise to change my course!’
    With equal power they contend.
    ‘My judgement I suspend!’
    The wind died down; the leaf, elate
    cried: ‘I’ve decided to fall straight!’
    First thoughts are best? That’s not the moral. Just choose your own and we’ll not quarrel. For however your choice may chance to fall, you’ll have no hand in it at all.

    • W.Benson
      Posted April 3, 2014 at 10:58 am | Permalink

      Wonderful!

    • eric
      Posted April 3, 2014 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      Second that wonderful. That could be Jerry’s official poem!

    • W.Benson
      Posted April 3, 2014 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      DELUGE, n. A notable first experiment in baptism which washed away the sins (and sinners) of the world.

    • Filippo
      Posted April 3, 2014 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

      The Path of Least Resistance.

  21. Robert Seidel
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    A couple of m own:

    simplistic, a. Well put (compare “caricature”).

    strident, a. Right, but unpopular (compare “arrogant”).

  22. Posted April 3, 2014 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    god
    noun
    An entity whose existence is proven by belief in its existence. Any valid arguments allegedly against its existence are, by definition, arguments against the existence of something other than the entity in question.

    God
    proper noun
    The eponymously confusing name of most of the most favored gods of Western religions. Despite sharing the same name, no two of the gods named, “God,” are more than roughly similar to each other.

    Cheers,

    b&

    • Posted April 3, 2014 at 10:58 am | Permalink

      God – an imaginary friend who makes demands with menaces

    • eric
      Posted April 3, 2014 at 11:22 am | Permalink

      I looked in the Devil’s dictionary and surprisingly, Bierce has no entry for God, Diety or Theist (nor, ironically enough, Devil or Demon). So yours could contribute. Though I might have gone for something shorter:

      god (n): what you erroneously believe in.
      God (n): what I correctly believe in.

      • Posted April 3, 2014 at 11:45 am | Permalink

        lol

        Bierce himself would approve.

      • Michael Fugate
        Posted April 3, 2014 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

        Eric – so true.

        Hart seems intent on making all gods subservient to the Christian one. I always wonder if the people worshipping gods before the spread of Christianity were already worshipping the Christian god and just didn’t know it. Is that what he is implying?

        • Posted April 3, 2014 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

          My diaphanous christian friend almost puts it in that way – all religions are some universal wisdom not a bearded old man in the sky or what have you, but favours chrstianity due to familial indoctrination

      • Filippo
        Posted April 3, 2014 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

        Truth: what anyone simply and solely SAYS it is.

      • Hempenstein
        Posted April 3, 2014 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

        Check his entry for Piety.

    • DianeAlliLangworthy
      Posted April 3, 2014 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      This and others made me think of a paraphrased line (maybe from Hitchens? can’t remember): God being there looks and sounds and feels exactly the same as god not being there.

  23. Don Quijote
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    Sophisticated Theologian: A liar who decives him/herself before deciving others.

  24. Stephen P
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Sophisticated Theologian: an intelligent person who, concerned by the flaws that he can see in the arguments for God, and alarmed by the possibility that he may have wasted his life worshipping an imaginary being, justifies himself by producing an argument for God so obscure that he can no longer see the flaws in it.

    • Scote
      Posted April 3, 2014 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      I like that one.

      Intelligence and education just makes people’s cognitive dissonance that much wordier.

  25. NewEnglandBob
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    SOPHISTICATED THEOLOGIAN: gibberish specialist. Jabberwockyist.

    • Posted April 3, 2014 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      YOU TAKE THAT BACK! Jabberwocky is a perfectly intelligible — nay, most eloquent — work of poetry. Comparing it with theology — why, I never!

      b&

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted April 3, 2014 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

        A most eloquent work of poetry – yes, intelligible – no. But you’re right – people like Plantinga produce the opposite of poetic. Its just gibberish.

        • Posted April 3, 2014 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

          But it is perfectly intelligible. Here’s an example:

          ‘You seem very clever at explaining words, Sir,’ said Alice. ‘Would you kindly tell me the meaning of the poem called “Jabberwocky”?’ ‘Let’s hear it,’ said Humpty Dumpty. ‘I can explain all the poems that were ever invented—and a good many that haven’t been invented just yet.’ This sounded very hopeful, so Alice repeated the first verse: ‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe; All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe.

          ‘That’s enough to begin with,’ Humpty Dumpty interrupted: ‘there are plenty of hard words there. “BRILLIG” means four o’clock in the afternoon—the time when you begin BROILING things for dinner.’ ‘That’ll do very well,’ said Alice: ‘and “SLITHY”?’ ‘Well, “SLITHY” means “lithe and slimy.” “Lithe” is the same as “active.” You see it’s like a portmanteau—there are two meanings packed up into one word.’ ‘I see it now,’ Alice remarked thoughtfully: ‘and what are “TOVES”?’ ‘Well, “TOVES” are something like badgers—they’re something like lizards—and they’re something like corkscrews.’ ‘They must be very curious looking creatures.’ ‘They are that,’ said Humpty Dumpty: ‘also they make their nests under sun-dials—also they live on cheese.’ ‘And what’s the “GYRE” and to “GIMBLE”?’ ‘To “GYRE” is to go round and round like a gyroscope. To “GIMBLE” is to make holes like a gimlet.’ ‘And “THE WABE” is the grass-plot round a sun-dial, I suppose?’ said Alice, surprised at her own ingenuity. ‘Of course it is. It’s called “WABE,” you know, because it goes a long way before it, and a long way behind it—’ ‘And a long way beyond it on each side,’ Alice added. ‘Exactly so. Well, then, “MIMSY” is “flimsy and miserable” (there’s another portmanteau for you). And a “BOROGOVE” is a thin shabby-looking bird with its feathers sticking out all round—something like a live mop.’ ‘And then “MOME RATHS”?’ said Alice. ‘I’m afraid I’m giving you a great deal of trouble.’ ‘Well, a “RATH” is a sort of green pig: but “MOME” I’m not certain about. I think it’s short for “from home”—meaning that they’d lost their way, you know.’ ‘And what does “OUTGRABE” mean?’ ‘Well, “OUTGRABING” is something between bellowing and whistling, with a kind of sneeze in the middle: however, you’ll hear it done, maybe—down in the wood yonder—and when you’ve once heard it you’ll be QUITE content. Who’s been repeating all that hard stuff to you?’ ‘I read it in a book,’ said Alice. ‘But I had some poetry repeated to me, much easier than that, by—Tweedledee, I think it was.’

          Cheers,

          b&

          • NewEnglandBob
            Posted April 3, 2014 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

            Perfect, just like sophisticated theology; make up your own terms and set their meaning to whatever you desire. God is Love, Islam is the religion of peace, Everything is based on the Ground of Baked Beans. This is all a tooting good time.

            • Posted April 3, 2014 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

              When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.

              b&

              • HaggisForBrains
                Posted April 4, 2014 at 10:27 am | Permalink

                +1

          • Filippo
            Posted April 3, 2014 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

            ” ‘To “GYRE” is to go round and round like a gyroscope. To “GIMBLE” is to make holes like a gimlet.”

            I’m reminded of the Apollo 13 astronauts concerned that their gyroscopes would go into “gimble lock.” (If I correctly recall.)

            • Posted April 3, 2014 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

              gimbal : A device for suspending something, such as a ship’s compass, so that it will remain level when its support is tipped.

              /@

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted April 4, 2014 at 12:27 am | Permalink

        The thing I like about Jabberwocky is, that it’s perfectly grammatical and syntactically correct. Just that the nouns and verbs used are arbitrary. In that respect it’s quite a good analogy to Sophisticated Theology (or Postmodernism come to that).

        • Posted April 4, 2014 at 9:53 am | Permalink

          It is even translatable! (_Godel Escher Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, by D. Hofstadter, reprints a German and a French translation.)

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted April 5, 2014 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

            Yes it is! I tried it in Google Translate and it auto-corrected my mis-spelling of ‘briilig’ and offers translation into Spanish and Arabic.

            twas Brillig y los toves slithy
            hicieron el ciclo y gimble en el corazón del verano
            todos mimsy fueron los borogoves
            y los Raths mome outgrabe

  26. revelator60
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Here’s Bierce’s definition of religion:

    “RELIGION, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.”

    He defines “Christian” as: “One who believes the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor.”

    My all-time favorite Bierce definition is this one:
    “ALONE, adj. In bad company.”

    Bierce was also a fan of Robert G. Ingersoll and defended him from posthumous attacks, writing “If men can be good without religion, and scorning religion, then it is not religion that makes men good; and if religion does not do this it is of no practical value and one may as well be without it as with it.”

    That quote is taken from an excellent article on Bierce and Ingersoll, which can be read here:

    http://donswaim.com/bierce-ingersoll.html

    • Moarscienceplz
      Posted April 3, 2014 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

      And that last quote is precisely why so many believers insist all atheists are angry misanthropes.

      • gbjames
        Posted April 3, 2014 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

        Huh? Because you don’t need religion to be good?

        • NewEnglandBob
          Posted April 3, 2014 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

          “Because you don’t need religion to be good?”

          That sentence is too long. I’ll trim it.

          “Because you don’t need religion.” ;)

          • gbjames
            Posted April 3, 2014 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

            Thanks. I’ll put those back in my word bin and save them for future use.

      • Filippo
        Posted April 3, 2014 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

        Right, but they’ll not own up to the frothing, Bible-thumping, pulpit-pounding, saliva-spewing fundamentalist Philistine misanthrope.

  27. Michael Fugate
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    I get hints of Hume’s is/ought divide, but for the theologian what is tells us we ought to believe in god, except when it doesn’t and then it should be ignored. Hart, for instance, believes the good work of believers tells us god exists, but the evil work of believers tells us nothing about said existence. Evidence is only good evidence if and only if it gives the answer we want.

    • NAY
      Posted April 3, 2014 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

      Thank you, I never thought of it this way – but, of course, I try not to think of it at all.

    • Posted April 3, 2014 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

      Confirmation bias.

      I point out that this is what you’re talking about because it’s interesting that while looking only at well-behaved theists and ignoring badly-behaved theists is confirmation bias, it also isn’t, in the sense that well-behaved theists do not actually confirm the existence of a god.

      Funny situation.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted April 4, 2014 at 12:31 am | Permalink

        Well, it would be confirmation bias that belief makes people do good; but no sort of confirmation that the object of that belief exists.

  28. DrBrydon
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    THEOLOGY, n: The art of making reasonable to man what is unreasonable in the Bible.

    SOPHISTICATED THEOLOGIAN, n: A modern practitioner of theology who operates outside of, and therefore in opposition to, any particular sect or denomination.

  29. Rick McNeil
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Good one!

    I like Bierce’s definition of “pray”:

    Pray, v. To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy.

    I also like the story that goes with Bierce’s definition of “saint”. It reminds me of the first tale in Boccaccio’s Il Decamerone. Here’s a link to an English translation of that first tale (it’s not very long):

    http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Italian_Studies/dweb/texts/DecShowText.php?myID=nov0101&lang=eng

    As well, don’t you need to include a brief, witty story to illustrate your definition?

    • NAY
      Posted April 3, 2014 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

      Quentin Crisp once said he refused to believe in a deity who would stop twirling the universe in order to give him a bicycle.

  30. Posted April 3, 2014 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    I’d have to disagree with your definition, because most sophisticated theology doesn’t actually insulate itself from critical examination, unless you don’t count philosophical argument/examination as critical examination. Plantinga’s attack on naturalism came under furious assault long before Dennett and the New Atheists really went after it and Hart’s view is essentially classical theism which depends mightily on Aristotle which has been debated over for hundreds of years (and, as classical theists like Feser note, Aristotlean metaphysics has been essentially dropped by philosophy, which Feser thinks is a very bad thing).

    Even in terms of it being incomprehensible, I don’t find it any more incomprehensible than most of the science I read, but my background is in both philosophy and science (and I’m a little more educated in philosophy) and so have an easier time of that. It isn’t the simplistic “folk theology”, but in general that’s a good thing, just as “folk physics” isn’t considered the high water mark of physics.

    • Posted April 3, 2014 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

      Science-writing that requires a lot of education in specific fields to appreciate is not the same kind of “incomprehensible” as something that is intentionally obfuscatory.

      • Posted April 4, 2014 at 2:55 am | Permalink

        And my point is that the “sophisticated theology” you’re talking about is, in fact, just like that science-writing in that it isn’t intentionally obfuscatory, but instead relies on knowledge of specific fields. Taking Hart as an example, you need to know something about classical theism and Aristotle to get what the “Ground of All Being” is and what the background arguments for it are. Without that, I would have been lost in Hart. I admit that Hart is a fairly dense writer, assuming that you understand things that you may not and sticking them all together in one shot, but that’s no more intentionally obfuscatory than scientists that toss out technical terms are when talking about evolution.

        • Posted April 4, 2014 at 11:30 am | Permalink

          The point is not simply that ST use big words or refer to quasi-esoteric philosophy.

          Neither is Jerry (nor anyone else) claiming that other thinkers can’t actually criticize the work of ST. Of course such criticism actually takes place. It’s just that the criticism often takes the form of “you haven’t actually said anything” or “you’ve only moved the goal-posts again”. Empty word-play and deflection are the only options open to ST because they are writing about something that does not exist. They do not have recourse to real evidence. This kind of writing is aptly described as an *attempt* to insulate from criticism. This doesn’t mean we can’t criticize it.

          And you can’t be serious that if one were only to study Aristotle more deeply one would then see the legitimacy of the work of ST. You’re familiar with the tale of The Emporer’s New Clothes?

          • Kevin Alexander
            Posted April 4, 2014 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

            Wasn’t it Aristotle who came up with the idea of ‘Natural Law’?
            The Catholics are very keen on this idea. I think of it as intellectual spackle, this gooey substance that you can use to fill the cracks in your reasoning or the holes in your logic. You can even use it to shape entire pieces of evidence to fit your need.
            How do we know that secks for fun is wrong? Natural Law! Women need to be submissive? Natural Law! Priests bugger altar boys? Oh, wait, that may be natural but I think that one’s still illegal.

  31. Posted April 3, 2014 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Reader KCS couldn’t email, but wanted me to add his/her definition:

    SOPHISTICATED THEOLOGIAN , n. A person who is neither sophisticated, nor a theologian, but is self-assured that he is the best of both.

  32. leonkrier
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    As someone who has both an MA in philosophy and a Master of Theology from a Catholic institution, a “sophisticated theology” is someone who has intellectually worked his/her way through the wickets of “metaphysically based religion” and made the transition to “poetic religion.” Religion is poetry in the form of its myths, symbols and rituals. The role of the “sophisticated theologian” should be to evaluate these myths, symbols and rituals for how they help humanity relate to the world as it is, as science presents it to us, and thereby (like all poetry/art) facilitate the process of living an enriched humanity in a material universe. Religion has no data, no facts. Religion has been through an unacknowledged trauma, namely, the “death of metaphysics.” Please see “The Future of Religion,” Richard Rorty, Gianni Vattimo and Santiago Zabala; also “Religion in a Material Universe,” Tony Equale. Thank You.

    • gbjames
      Posted April 3, 2014 at 11:37 am | Permalink

      Ah.. the guy who organizes the poetry appreciation club!

    • Posted April 3, 2014 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      This would work if Hart wasn’t explicitly a metaphysical theologian. He does do poetics at times, but his view is very metaphysical, which might be the biggest weakness in it.

    • Sastra
      Posted April 3, 2014 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

      Oh, but that’s too sophisticated: it’s turned into humanism. It’s reading Richard Dawkins in Karen Armstrong’s voice and nodding approvingly. “Religion is only myth and symbol; this is why I love it so.”

    • Posted April 4, 2014 at 9:56 am | Permalink

      Of course, a lot of us secular thinkers realize that the only thing which has died is *religious based* metaphysics. There’s still a lot of work to be done to clean up the mess from having focused it there for so long.

  33. Posted April 3, 2014 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    The opening of Richard Dawkins’s “Postmodernism Disrobed” seems appropriate:

    “Suppose you are an intellectual impostor with nothing to say, but with strong ambitions to succeed in academic life, collect a coterie of reverent disciples and have students around the world anoint your pages with respectful yellow highlighter. What kind of literary style would you cultivate? Not a lucid one, surely, for clarity would expose your lack of content.”

    Theologians and postmodern philosophers are doing the same thing. Which makes it unsurprising that many progressive theologians embrace postmodern philosophy.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted April 3, 2014 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

      It almost sounds as if he was channeling George Eliot, from her wonderful essay Evangelical Teaching. The passage in the essay I’m thinking of opens the essay:

      “Given, a man with moderate intellect, a moral standard not higher than the average, some rhetorical affluence and a great glibness of speech, what is the career in which, without the aid of birth or money, he may most easily attain power and reputation in English society? Where is that Goshen of mediocrity in which a smattering of science and learning will pass for profound instruction, where platitudes will be accepted as wisdom, bigoted narrowness as holy zeal, unctuous egoism as God-given piety? Let such a man become an evangelical preacher; he will then find it possible to reconcile small ability with great ambition, superficial knowledge with the prestige of erudition, a middling morale with a high reputation for sanctity.”

      • Posted April 3, 2014 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

        Excellent.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted April 4, 2014 at 4:45 am | Permalink

        George Eliot is great. I read Mill on the Floss. If I weren’t forced to read Eliot and Jane Austen, I never would have because normally authors from that time period don’t appeal to me. I’m glad I did read them!

        Dawkins does write very well. I picked up a copy of the Selfish Gene in a bookstore & opened it randomly and his writing was superb, almost lyrical.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted April 4, 2014 at 6:21 am | Permalink

          Ah Diana. This is why I loathe and detest everything about Charles Dickens – because I was forced to read him repeatedly – but I like Thomas Hardy and Conan Doyle – because I wasn’t. Still, nothing in Dickens is remotely as depressing as Graham Greene. ‘The Power and the Glory’ – urrgh.

          But I must admit I do like Shakespeare, though I had to read him, probably because (being stage scripts) his works are concise and laconic and hence a merciful relief from Dickens’ over-egged prose.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted April 4, 2014 at 9:41 am | Permalink

            It’s funny because I was never forced to read Dickens & hate him all on my own.:)

        • Filippo
          Posted April 4, 2014 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

          “If I weren’t forced to read Eliot and Jane Austen . . . .”

          Were you forced to read “Silas Marner” in sophomore English?

          From what I’ve read here of Eliot’s NON-fiction, my appetite is whetted.

          I’d also like to put in a plug here for Helen Keller’s essayeque writings, what little I’ve read of them. Think of what it took for her to be able to do that.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted April 4, 2014 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

            No, I never did read that one. If you want to go insane read Susannah Moodie’s Roughing in in the Bush. After the jokes about the title you will be tortured with a boring account of settling in Canada. Now watch, I will now like it while I hated it earlier.

  34. KP
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    You’re halfway through the book already??

    I wanted to keep up and form my own views of the book before you posted about them, but I knew my hope of keeping up was in vain.

    I am not very far into it — I’m reading a K**dle version so I’m not sure the page numbers match up. Like I said, I just don’t have the patience or attention span (“Hmmm, what should I have for lunch today?” “It’s nice out, maybe I will go running.”) for Sophisticated Theology that you do.

    • KP
      Posted April 3, 2014 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      Oops. Posted about *it*

      • Posted April 3, 2014 at 11:41 am | Permalink

        ESP! Jerry knows your views before you do!

        • KP
          Posted April 3, 2014 at 11:45 am | Permalink

          So much for “Free Will.” ;-)

          • Posted April 3, 2014 at 11:47 am | Permalink

            So that’s why Jerry’s so certain there’s no free will. He’s omniscient!

            • Kevin
              Posted April 3, 2014 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

              Indeed, omniscience would have to be a requirement for there to be absolutely no free will.

              • Posted April 3, 2014 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

                Certainly omniscience and free will are contradictory, but I don’t see why omniscience would be a requirement for the non-existence of free will.

              • Posted April 3, 2014 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

                “Free will” is incoherent, so it doesn’t exist regardless of omniscience.

                For that matter, “omniscience” is equally incoherent.

                But, if there actually did exist some sort of all-knowingness in the same sense that there might exist a married bachelor…then what that would mean is that there’s no such thing as indeterminism. Maybe the super-knower could dance around that by knowing everything about every one of the Many Worlds, but even that seems fraught with its own levels of incoherence.

                Might as well ask a married bachelor to dance with you on the head of a pin and be done with it.

                b&

  35. Scote
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    SOPHISTICATED THEOLOGIAN: someone who makes ordinary, bad arguments for god incomprehensible so they can’t be deconstructed.

    Sophisticated theologians are academic conjurors who deftly hide what they are actually doing with the misdirection of tortuous reasoning, jargon and equivocation, all stated with the bold smile of a performer who is *absolutely not* trying to hornswogle you, because could a bald-faced liar use fancy words and smile at you? Of course not.

    I’m a fan of this quote by Julian Baggini

    “Too often I find that faith is mysterious only selectively. Believers constantly attribute all sorts of qualities to their gods and have a list of doctrines as long as your arm. It is only when the questions get tough that, suddenly, their God disappears in a puff of mystery. Ineffability becomes a kind of invisibility cloak, only worn when there is a need to get out of a bit of philosophical bother.”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2011/nov/07/understand-my-religion-faith

    • John Dentinger
      Posted April 3, 2014 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      Sophisticated Theologian: n. Zen master in obfuscation.

      Acolyte: Master, what sound does God make?
      Master: (strikes acolyte upside the head) This sound.

  36. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    In increasing order of insanity:

    PHILOSOPHER, n. Storyteller by profession.

    THEOLOGIAN, n. Magicking by profession.

    SOPHISTICATED THEOLOGIAN™, n. Apologist by profession.

  37. nilou ataie
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Sophisticated theology: the treachery of hijacking emotions for the advancement of untruths about our origins.

  38. Jiten
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    Sophisticated Theologian: One whose conception of God is not the same as a snake handling preacher’s.

    • Sastra
      Posted April 3, 2014 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

      Or ‘Sophisticated Theologian': One who does not believe that God is an Old Man in the Sky with a Beard.

      Unfortunately, that definition probably includes all the theologians, regardless of whether it does or doesn’t include the theology of the snake-handling preacher (which is arguable; my guess is that the only way to find out would be to ask one and they will probably say ‘No.’)

      The only people who apparently DO believe that God is “an Old Man in the Sky with a Beard” are the straw-man atheists constructed by theologians.

      Just had another thought: is there ANY theologian out there who would say they their understanding of God is unsophisticated?

      I doubt it. You might get a passel of believers who moan on about the ideal “simple faith of a child” but would anyone who took actual courses in “theology” and self-identifies as a “theologian” agree that they’re not sophisticated, their theology is not sophisticated, and their understanding of God is not sophisticated?

      • gbjames
        Posted April 3, 2014 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

        This discussion is still going on? Jeeze! Ever since Time Bandits we’ve known that God was an old man without a beard.

        • Posted April 3, 2014 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

          No, I’m quite sure that God really does have a beard. Or maybe he sometimes shaves and sometimes lets it grow out?

          b&

          • gbjames
            Posted April 3, 2014 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

            “Oh, I do hate appearing that way, it’s an entirely noisy manifestation. Still, rather expected of one, I suppose.”

            – The Supreme Being

            • Posted April 3, 2014 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

              I think it has something to do with Free Will….

              b&

      • Michael Fugate
        Posted April 3, 2014 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

        An old man with a beard is so much more interesting to imagine than a ground of being – it’s like coffee, buy the whole being [sic] and grind as needed – ground (of being) always goes stale faster.

        • Posted April 3, 2014 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

          Can you get decaffeinated ground of being? And, if so, is it worth drinking or does it taste like shit?

          b&

          • Michael Fugate
            Posted April 3, 2014 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

            Isn’t decaffeinated ground of being the deist version?

            • Posted April 3, 2014 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

              So…tastest like shit.

              Ah, well.

              b&

    • Kevin
      Posted April 3, 2014 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

      I think you have hit on something there. Sophisticated Theologicians are almost never found testing their faith on anything. I am not even sure any of them really believe prayer works.

  39. Posted April 3, 2014 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    I want to buy an advanced copy of your dictionary.

    Can I contribute?

    Supernatural: a linguistic invention of the mindless, used by the thoughtless to convince the credulous to accept the ridiculous.
    ~Rev. El Mundo

  40. madscientist
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    I think the only difference between a Sophisticated Theologian and the usual garden variety is the size of the ego. I wouldn’t agree that the Sophisticated Theologian is any better at insulating religion from critical examination.

    Ambrose is a tough one to match. I remember his definition of a die being something like: A cube designed like a lawyer to lie equally on all sides.

  41. Lurker111
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    APOLOGIST — Someone who can win an argument only by redefining the meaning of words.

  42. Jenny Hoffman
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    Theologian explains god to justify man. Sophisticated theologian explains god to justify himself.

    Thanks for reminding me about my Devil’s Dictionary. Time to dust it off!

  43. stevenjohnson
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

    sophisticated theologian: a man who get money for old arguments with new aliases but still nothing to back them; a kind of forger

  44. Posted April 3, 2014 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    ST™: Someone who makes the ineffable *less* effable.

    /@

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted April 4, 2014 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      An effing waste of space.

  45. ChrisN
    Posted April 4, 2014 at 5:11 am | Permalink

    I just looked up “obscurantism” on wikipedia and found this gem, which made me laugh out loud:

    obscure (clouded, vague, abstruse) writing does not necessarily signal that the writer has a poor grasp of the subject, because unintelligible writing sometimes is purposeful and philosophically considered.[13][better source needed]

    !!!

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted April 4, 2014 at 6:41 am | Permalink

      I’ve done just that on rare occasions, once when I wanted to convince a committee to do a U-turn (by consulting a specialist) without making it too painfully obvious that my initial report (written without full knowledge of the circumstances, but which my boss had enthusiastically endorsed) was wrong. I didn’t mind being wrong myself but one does not drop ones boss publicly right in it if one can help. So I wrote a follow-up full of technobabble.

      Anyway, it worked, the specialist was duly engaged and everyone ‘in the know’ heaved a deep sigh of relief.

  46. Posted April 4, 2014 at 6:05 am | Permalink

    PZ Myers defines theology as when

    “smart old white guys sit around in seminaries and invent rationalizations for whatever the hell they want to believe”

    This was on his Pharyngula blog, at

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/07/09/more-sophisticated-theology/

    • Filippo
      Posted April 4, 2014 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      “smart old white guys”

      Surely, there are some smart old non-white guys.

      • Posted April 7, 2014 at 4:54 am | Permalink

        Sure…but I think his point is that theologians are vastly over-represented by white guys.

  47. Vaal
    Posted April 4, 2014 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    As I wade through Hart’s book it feels like watching language become vapor. It’s like words are strung together not for the sense they make, but simply to represent the various attributes Hart’s Christianity wants a God to have, no matter how incoherent.

    I don’t get any sense that Hart is saying something beyond my naive comprehension: I get the feeling Hart doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

    Much of his book is the Sophisticated Theologian’s equivalent of Speaking In Tongues.

    Vaal

  48. KP
    Posted April 4, 2014 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    David Bentley Hart takes paragraphs of smokescreen prose to 1) trot out the old “it takes more faith to be an atheist” canard and 2) say that naturalism limits your world view by not allowing you to make shit up, resulting in a perspective that existence is “meaningless.”

    So my definition of Sophisticated Theologian: One highly skilled at giving the illusion that religion has intellectual value.

  49. Dave
    Posted April 4, 2014 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    SOPHISTICATED THEOLOGIAN™, n. A person who defends their pretending to know things he does not know about god more eloquently than other people defend their pretending to know things they do not know about god.

    (nods to Dr. Boghossian)

    Is SOPHISTICATED THEOLOGIAN™ really trademarked?


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