As we continue our analysis of George Smith’s book I am reminded of a fundamentally important principle of interaction: Engage the thoughts, not the stereotype. In many ways this critique serves as a fresh reminder that proper analysis must be at its core, proper. Dr. Smith could have taken many routes in his attack against god. One of them could be to tackle all the major religions in the world and consequently their versions of “god.” However, to his credit, he chose the god of Christianity, and thus, facilitating my critique by particularizing my comments.
In his introduction, Smith cites two meanings to the title of his book: The first meaning is that it is a “philosophical case against the concept of god; and secondly, it refers to the psychological case against the belief in a god” (ix-x). He further explodes in frustration at the “credence given to religious claims in the intellectual community” (x). The presuppositions of Dr. Smith are twofold: 1) Christianity cannot offer anything of intellectual substance, and 2) the intellectual community ceases to be intellectual when it accepts religious dogma. These are ingrained assumptions that will become clear throughout these critiques.
A philosophical case against god, as Smith expects to make, will be grounded only in the previous presuppositions made above. Since presuppositions are inescapable both for Christians and non-Christians alike, it is my desire to deal with the atheistic presuppositions. My attempt here is to rehearse these assumptions before we actually interact with the meat of his arguments, so that the reader is aware of what lies behind the atheistic thought.
Smith now moves to the second meaning of his title, which is, a psychological case against god. According to Smith, this teaching of “god” or “religion” has caused “damage that often takes years to counteract” (x). Notice how the philosophical and psychological meanings are interrelated. If a philosophical case against god can be made, then the psychological affect it has made on people throughout the centuries who believes in god must by definition be damaging. Of course, the author does not reverse his logic; for if a case for god can be made, then the psychological affect on those who have not believed in god is not only damaging but also damning. At this point one is reminded of Pascal’s famous wager where he argues that if one tries Christianity and finds it to be in error one will not have lived in vain; however, if one rejects Christianity then he will reap the consequences for all eternity.
Of course, there is a sense in which Smith accurately portrays the abuses of the Christian faith throughout history and at present. Who denies the atrocities of the Crusades by so-called Christians or the legalistic cults of our day that entangle and indoctrinate their followers leading them to insanity? It is true that religion has been abused, especially in the name of Christian religion. Further, abused religion has led to mental and disturbed children who grow up to hate religion and hate anything related to religion. However, at the end of the day we must realize that the abuse of something is not an argument against its proper use. So if any atheist is to attack the foundations of Christianity it must attack its most pristine representation (this excludes any cult or any other structure that is contrary to the Holy Word of God).