Double Standards and Expertise

Like a lot of other atheists I have been questioned on my knowledge of various religious faiths. I am happy to admit my knowledge of every religion beside Christianity is rather scant. My knowledge of Christianity is somewhat better having been raised a Christian then getting fairly heavily involved in the faith.

Also like many other atheists, particularly the more outspoken and well known ones (Richard Dawkins, P.Z. Myers, Daniel Dennet, Sam Harris et al), the religious often criticise them for not really understanding their religion. I have always thought this a bad argument, partly the “True Christian” argument (what is a true Christian and who decides you are one?) and partly the “you haven’t read the whole Bible” argument (who has, certainly not many Christians that I know of). Then there is the “you haven’t read X’s theological dissertation” argument, so who but a few dedicated theologians has, and why should it matter?.

Religious apologetics think these excuses are legitimate excuses for accusing atheists of not knowing what they are talking about.  The problem I see with this (as many others do) is that these arguments are not used against the religious themselves. Most religious people write off all other religions as false, but on what basis? Have they studied the Quran, have they studied ancient Greek texts to dismiss all the Greek Gods. I highly doubt many have.

Most religious people, Christians in particular, haven’t even read the whole of their religious book (the Bible). But the double standard is there that seems to allow people, who are somewhat ignorant of their own faith, criticise  what some atheists have written just because they didn’t cover every aspect of their particular version of religion or theological idea. As Greta Christina says:

When I write about X, it’s pointed out that I didn’t write about Y; when I write about Y, I’m scolded for not writing about Z. (Or about X, for that matter.)

The bottom line is that atheists don’t need to know every detail about every religion to be able to critique and reject it and to realise that god(s) are unnecessary, unproven and unbelievable. You don’t need to know everything about a particular religion to be able to see it’s (often negative) impact on society in general. Just like religious people don’t need to know every word (and most don’t) in their religious texts to believe in their particular god(s).

So if I have got something wrong in one of my posts, then feel free to clarify the matter. But don’t tell me I can’t say what I’ve said just because I haven’t read every piece of theological literature. Have you read every piece of atheist literature?

I may not have explained this particularly well, so to gain a better understanding of what I’m trying to say please read Daylight Atheism’s On Expertise, and Greta Christina’s In Defense of Atheist Blogging. They both explain very well these problems and what religious people should understand and consider before opening their mouths to criticise atheists for what they have written.

Additionally the comments on Daylight Atheism’s Invincible Evidence post point out the double standard and the “True Christian” problem, when a John comments and is roundly shown the many errors in his comments.

This page is closed to comments, I just wanted to have a permanent link to DA’s and Greta’s post so I can find them easily again and point religious apologetics to them.

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