Talking About Faith
Leah Libresco, a formerly atheist and now Catholic blogger, uses Edward Feser’s The Last Superstition as a launchpad for a discussion on the different vocabularies of atheists, modern Christians, and traditional Christians. She writes:
I’m noodling over the idea that atheism and Modern Christianity are much closer to having a common frame of reference than either is to Catholicism or Orthodoxy…
[T]he Catholics and Orthodox I was talking to [at Yale] used some of the same words as the Modern Christians, but they meant radically different things. It’s basically like having an argument in French, except this dialect of French is composed almost entirely of false cognates, so it’s pretty easy to fail to notice that your opponent is speaking French instead of English.
It is sort of head-exploding to think that atheists and post-Reformation Christians might find it easier to speak to one another than, say, an evangelical and a Catholic. Even if their vocabularies are the same, Libresco seems to be claiming that they mask drastically different conceptual frameworks.
We know many of our readers are interested in religion, discourse, and points of cultural difference, so we found this entry particularly relevant.
I get where she’s coming from, but I couldn’t help but detect an undercurrent of “Modern Christians are just so unconvincing to me”. Like, I appreciate that Leah made a pretty radical change to her worldview by moving from atheism to Catholicism, but I think she’s mistaken in saying “Modern Christians” (whatever that means… anyone?) are singing from the same hymn sheet as atheists. A move from an atheist frame of reference to that of an evangelical (or mainline, or whatever) Christian would be just as radical as a move to Catholicism.
We see all the ways post-Reformation Christianity doesn’t line up with secular thought every day. It affects our politics, our ethics, medical science… is Leah certain she’s on a winner with this one? Now obviously I don’t know her, and I’ve only been reading her blog for about a month, but it sounds like she made the same lexical mistakes as those that occur between ‘Modern Christians’ and Catholics. I think she’s misinterpreted the words ‘Modern Christians’ and atheists share by assuming they mean the same thing. They don’t.