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“An Examination of Supernaturalism”

“When we coolly examine the opinions of men, we are surprised to find that even in those opinions which they regard as the most essential, nothing is more uncommon than common sense; or, in other words, nothing is more uncommon, than a degree of judgment sufficient to discover the most simple truths, or reject the most striking absurdities, and to be shocked with palpable contradictions. We have an example of it in Theology, a science revered in all times and countries, by the greatest number of men; an object regarded by them the most important, the most useful, and the most indispensable to the happiness of society. An examination, however slight, of the principles upon which this pretended science is founded, forces us to acknowledge that these principles, formerly judged incontestable, are only hazardous suppositions, imagined by ignorance, propagated by enthusiasm or knavery, adopted by timid credulity, preserved by custom which never reasons, and revered solely because not understood. ‘Some,’ says Montaigne, ‘make the world think that they believe what they do not; others, in greater number, make themselves think that they believe what they do not, not knowing what belief is…’”

Baron D’Holbach
Common Sense, 1772.

  1. June 13, 2011 at 11:32 AM

    Thanks for sharing. I wonder if you have heard of “analytic theology”, which is much less ridden with “striking absurdities” and “palpable contradictions” than it’s traditional counterpart. The University of Notre Dame has their own programdedicated to it. All this to say that while the majority of what has been called “theology” throughout the ages is credulous and unphilosophical, there exists a community of theologians who wish to do theology in a way that most philosophers can respect.

    • June 23, 2011 at 2:58 AM


      Baron D’Holbach is one of my favorite authors for a number of reasons – his striking honesty chief among them! I am familiar with many forms of theology, and though I have never heard of analytic theology, my experience with the theologies which do not fall under D’Holbach’s critique has been that they amount to little more than philosophical proofs of God. Suffice to say, I am skeptical of many of these approaches for varying reasons (from Anselm to Aquinas). Nevertheless, I am thankful for your insight and I will do a little reading up on analytic theology. I visited the Notre Dame site but it only had information on the program. Would you happen to have one or two author’s names or sites where I could begin my investigation?

      Also, I am currently working on a new post regarding Apologetics. I believe this first one will cover Presuppositional Apologetics. I am unsure of your personal religious standing, but I hope to get your feedback on that piece as well! As always, your insights are much appreciated!

  2. Aaron
    June 23, 2011 at 9:24 PM


    I await your post on Presuppositional Apologetics, which, from what I am aware, is really base fideism.

  3. June 26, 2011 at 2:01 PM


    A new anthology of essays that would qualify as analytic theology (sometimes called philosophy of theology) can be found here (admittedly pricey at $90).

    Authors worth looking into might be as follows:

    Nicholas Wolterstorff (professed Christian)
    Oliver Crisp

    I should admit that I am mostly disillusioned by theology since its conversation begins in a realm where numerous unwarranted assumptions keep things from falling apart–thus the need for presuppositional apologetics. Even presuppositional apologetics (while more honest and transparent) feels like it is less important than philosophy which is based more on empirical data or real-world examples. If philosophers exist in ivory towers, then theologians are on the roof of that tower…if not higher.

    Peace. I very much look forward to your piece on presuppositional apologetics (even though I find apologetics to be mostly an in-group practice for existing believers than an out-group thing for non-believers).

  4. June 26, 2011 at 5:55 PM

    RE: Aaron and Nick on my forthcoming post on Presuppositional Apologetics

    The post, while treating the argument itself and the obvious philosophical problems (which are acknowledged by some who affirm that position), primarily concerns why ignoring the obvious issues makes it all the more damaging of a theology. That is to say, it isn’t damaging as an attack on secular thought or atheism/agnosticism, but rather it is damaging to society and to those individuals who adhere to it. When the post goes up, I hope you each enjoy it, and I welcome your comments and critiques – I am glad you both are eager to read it!

    Aaron: you are correct that it is, at heart, fideism. This, as I am sure you agree, factors prominently into the nature of the philosophical issues surrounding Presuppositionalism.

    Nick: The problem with theology operating as a closed-door session, as it were, is that all manner of theories and apologetics are developed that often run contrary to (what ought to be) common sense – thus my quoting of D’Holbach! Theology must be brought out into the light and shown for what it truly is. If a certain theology can withstand the same rigors and criticisms as any other theory or claim, then why not discuss it openly, believer or nonbeliever?

    I have been quite busy lately, but I promise to have the post up soon! I have another in the wings regarding conflicting notions of Sin in Augustine’s “CIty of God.”

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