Agnostic Deism

The Straw Man Attacks On “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism”

Recently I’ve been transcribing audio for a documentary on American gospel-oriented preachers, and listening to the subjects who’ve thus far been interviewed, I’ve noticed a pattern common to their rhetoric.

  • Attack “moralistic preaching” using the straw man argument that someone (never named) somewhere (also never named) is “preaching” that if only we are good, moral people, we don’t need God or Jesus.
  • Take passages from the Christian bible out of context to ascribe meaning to said passages that wasn’t there to begin with.
  • Spout a bunch of words the speakers themselves may not actually understand the meaning of, in order to push a new-age-sounding catchy phrase for corporate-style seminar talks.

According to gospel-oriented preachers such as Bryan Chapell and Julius Kim, based on interviews conducted by Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton with American teenagers, they’ve concluded that there is an organized movement afoot to distance the faithful from Christianity by pushing a form of deism they refer to as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. But the interviews themselves show that the subjects are generally just ignorant of what the Christian bible says, not that they’ve formed a belief system or subsystem centered on the use of reason to observe the natural world around them to reach their belief in a higher power. It’s a false assumption based on reactionary, willful ignorance.

The problem with this, of course, is that it’s dishonest. I have tried to find out exactly who it is who’s supposedly engaging in such preaching only to turn up nothing and no one. That’s the first indication that these so-called preachers are lying. If no one is actually making this argument, then it’s a sign that Chapell, Kim, and others have created a straw man argument, in which they fabricate an argument, and, in this instance, an opponent, in order to knock it down and prove its falsity.

Of course, one problem with using this straw man is that no one is actually claiming that if we just do good works or if we just behave morally we’ll be saved, nor do there appear to be any specific examples of moralistic preaching given by the likes of Chapell and Kim. Even if someone were preaching such a thing, what that has to do with deism is a never adequately explained.

In short, deism is being redefined so that religious charlatans can rally their followers by attacking a made-up bogeyman in the form of what they see as heretical preaching. It’s not only dishonest; it’s insulting.


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