Commenter Cat Lover responds to my post about anti-atheism by saying I must take theology seriously to have a non-shrill discussion about religion. Now’s as good an opportunity as any to distinguish two different meanings of “to take seriously”: there are things I take seriously because I want to, and things I take seriously because I have to.
Many ideas I disagree with but find interesting or important or intriguing enough in their own right to pursue. This is true mostly when it comes to relatively muddy issues, like the degree to which evolution is gene-centric, or the ability of countries to develop by attracting foreign capital, or the causes of rape, or the best solution to the I/P conflict. In that sense, I don’t think it’s reasonable to take theology seriously.
At the same time, there are many more ideas I pay attention to not because I want to but because I have to. I don’t know if that should be counted as “taking seriously.” On the one hand, I’m openly contemptuous of anti-choicers. On the other, I devote a fair proportion of my blogging to debunking their arguments, simply because they’re part of mainstream political discourse. The same applies to conservative accusations of media bias, or anti-immigration.
I haven’t had any discussion with a pro-theology person; in that sense, I don’t take theology seriously, nor should I. That has nothing to do with how many people believe it and everything to do with whether it’s intellectually serious. In terms of making sense and according with real world facts, there’s no difference between Christian theology and deep ecology.
None of that has any bearing on whether the above ideas should be referenced. Anti-religious writers may not think theology is intellectually serious, but they nonetheless recognize its influence on the world and therefore strive to refute its main contentions. In the sense to which the mainstream status of theology is relevant, they take it completely seriously.
As somewhat of a digression, different people need to take different things seriously. People who are involved in movement politics need to take seriously what’s considered acceptable within the movement and not just what’s considered acceptable in mainstream politics. Belledame is far more involved in movement feminism than I am; therefore, she finds herself having to refute radical feminist excesses frequently, while I can ignore them because radical feminism doesn’t threaten me.
In contrast, Christian fundamentalism, buttressed by theologians who apologize for it, does threaten me. When a large contingent of people are willing and able to a) establish a theocracy and b) embark on a foreign policy that seems designed to maximize the level of terrorism in the world, it’s important enough that I can’t just ignore it the way I do other radicalisms.