Friday, April 13, 2012

Religious apologetics: a little like Star Trek fan debates?

My regular ABC column is up today, 'Believers share their dubious apologetics with Trekkers'.

Having watched the faithful defend their religions - against atheists and other faiths - I'm struck by the resemblance to Star Trek fan debates. What, I ask, is the difference?  A sample:
For me, there is no obvious behavioural difference between arguments about Star Trek and those about the scriptures of mainstream religion – except perhaps that the former franchise has better character development, a more egalitarian ethos, and more up-to-date philosophical conundrums. 
Both franchises use stories to explore morality, politics, ontology; both combine make-believe with the desires and anxieties of real life; both are money-making enterprises which have at times compromised intelligent writing for marketability. (I say this as a Star Trek fan.) And most importantly, both franchises see many of their devotees defending dubious narratives, by refusing to step outside the fictional universe, and give worldly explanations for literary contradictions or inconsistencies. 
The point is not that religion is therefore a fiction; that this comparison constitutes definitive proof against the Christian bible, Muslim Koran or Jewish Tanakh. The point is one of rational questioning, and the doubt this promotes. (Or ought to.) 
Can the faithful give good reasons why their apologetics are any different to those of Trekkers?
(Photo: DeziDesire)


Bear said...

To answer the question - yes, the faithful can give good reasons why their apologetics are very different to those of Trekkers.

Firstly there are the claims that are made - sane Trekkers do not claim that what they act out is real, whereas the faithful do claim what they believe is real.

Secondly, the underlying rationality of the claims of believers. Yes, there are many irrational believers, making all sorts of absurd claims: however, there are also rational religions (not Rationalist, like Deism or the like). To dismiss these claims on the basis that an unrelated set of claims is absurd is a mistake.

Many years back, I think in the 1950s, the BBC hosted faith/reason debates between Lord Russell and Fredrick Copplestone. Ça va sans dire, neither really moved the other very much. There was an acknowledgement that Thomas Aquinas was a good Philosopher and very rational.

I would also disagree with you about the literary merits of the Star Trek franchise. What little I have come across has been poorly written and best compared with the raft of state sponsored literature under Mao or Stalin.

As a final note, since most Trekkers are atheists, should we also dismiss the claims of atheists/agnostics/Rationalist because of this group.

Damon Young said...

Thanks, Bear.

1. Agreed.

2. I'm not sure which rationalist religions you're talking about. But remember: I'm discussing apologetics in particular, not religions in general. (Although I do, of course, discuss religions in my column.)

3. One of the premises of my column was that Trek is often poorly written. Hence the need to defence plot holes, inconsistent characters, implausible events.

4. I don't understand your last point. First, because I've seen no evidence that most Trekkers are atheists. Second, because even if they are mostly atheists, I am not talking about all Trekkers, but a small sample of fans who undertake these apologetics. Third, because this small sample have more in common with believers than they do with most atheists. Which is why I wrote the column...