This post is now available in Polish translation over at Racjonalista. Thanks again go to Malgorzata.
The Ottawa Citizen has an advice column which puts questions to so-called “religion experts,” who give answers on crucial issues facing individuals and society. There is a big problem with this, because religion experts are, almost by definition, not religion experts at all. What is there to be expert about? They might be experts in their own religion, but there is no such thing as a religion expert who is qualified to give religion’s answer to any question. A recent column in the Citizen’s “Ask the Religion Experts” column, for 31 January 2012 — thanks to Veronica Abbass for the link – asks the two questions: “Is euthanasia right? Would God want us to suffer?” And then the religion experts weigh in on the side of their favourite god. The nonsense that this makes of the questions should be clear right from the outset. We ask the experts their opinion, and all they can do is refer to the “experts” of their religion. According to Z, this is the way it is; according to Y, the truth is such-and-such, and so on. And, around the edges, a little lie or two will take you over the hump when reason fails.
The first one is perhaps the funniest. It’s by a Bahá’í scholar, Jack McLean. Seeing him described as a scholar reminds me of the day I took my M.Div. degree diploma and cut it to shreds. I no longer consider that to be a degree at all. It qualified me as an Anglican priest, but it no longer seems to me that there was anything to know, except, of course, historically, for the church does have a history (or perhaps I should say the churches have a history, for there is no point, during the whole history of Christianity, where there was an unquestioned unity within Christianity), but it is impossible to be a scholar of religion itself, for religion has no subject matter. The “theo” part of theology (the word ‘theology’ meaning, roughly, the logos of theos, or the reason, knowledge of god) is simply UA (on unauthorised absence), having departed his post, or, rather, never having been there in the first place, for all the confident pretence of religious believers, especially its officer class, to which, largely, the Ottawa Citizen has appealed for enlightenment upon a subject which has no object.