Sometimes I stumble across blogs for one reason or another and read them cursorily, perhaps assuming that they are more progressive than they turn out to be. One blog that I discovered to be quite a bit more orthodox than I initially realized has cited a quote from Richard Rorty, a non-believer, as ammunition against religious liberalism. I think the use of this quote by an atheist against liberalism illustrates once again the sort of curious alliance of convenience that sometimes exists between religious orthodoxy and atheists, both of whom often share certain assumptions about what makes a faith "legitimate". Here is what Rorty said:
I'm delighted that liberal theologians do their best to do what Pio Nono said shouldn't be done -- try to accommodate Christianity to modern science, modern culture, and democratic society. If I were a fundamentalist Christian, I'd be appalled by the wishy-washiness of their version of the Christian faith. But since I am a non-believer who is frightened of the barbarity of many fundamentalist Christians (e.g., their homophobia), I welcome theological liberalism. Maybe liberal theologians will eventually produce a version of Christianity so wishy-washy that nobody will be interested in being a Christian any more. If so, something will have been lost, but probably more will have been gained.Here Rorty shares the assumption that many orthodox Christians also share about what constitutes legitimate faith. Many atheists just seem to defer to the orthodoxy (or, worse still, fundamentalists) when it comes to defining what "real" faith is, and anything that deviates from that is illegitimate and probably just one short step from atheism. As Rorty puts it, such faith is merely "wishy-washy". Of course, orthodoxy by its very nature likes to claim for itself the sole right to determine what form of faith is legitimate. But it is unfortunate that so many non-believers will readily defer to the orthodoxy and implicitly accept its own claims for itself as the sole arbiter of theological legitimacy.
Curiously, John Shelby Spong was then offered up as an example of this sort of "wishy-washy" faith. The idea that Spong, who is one of the more dogmatic proponents of his own brand of progressive Christianity, is "wishy-washy" seems rather curious. One thing he is not is "wishy-washy".
Another curious thing is that, in the comments to that posting, it was put forth that when religious progressives find certain theologies objectionable, they are wrong to oppose them nonetheless, because the very fact that a theology is objectionable is itself an argument for its legitimacy(!) This same argument popped up again in a later posting in the same blog.
God forbid that we have a theology that makes sense to us!