Monday, November 12, 2007

Bad Religion Meets Dorky Professor

Finished a book that was a quick interesting read - The poorly titeld "Is Belief In God Good, Bad, or Irrelevant?: A Professor and a Punk Rocker Discuss Science, Religion, Naturalism, and Christianity" by Preston Jones & Greg Gaffin.

Gaffin is the lead singer of Bad Religion, and a fairly recent PHD in zoology with a dissertation on naturalism, atheism, and evolution (he defines himself as a "naturalist", but not the no-clothes wearing kind). Jones is a professor at John Brown University (a Christian College). As a fan of Bad Religion, Jones just on a whim e-mailed Gaffin and got a response, and what ensued was a friendly discussion of Christianity and Naturalism. The short book is a reprinting of the e-mails that went back and forth between them over the span of a few years.

The book is published by Intervarsity Press and is unique for Christian literature in that there is no resolution. Gaffin doesn't become a believer. Jones doesn't successfully back him into any theological corners. If anyone looks like a winner here, it's Gaffin. Gaffin is gracious throughout the discussions, but clearly not in the least bit moved by any of Jones' arguments. (As a naturalist, Gaffin is a staunch atheist). To his credit, Jones doesn't seem to particularly be out to evangelize Gaffin, and often comes off as a dorky old fan who's just thrilled to be having any conversation with a celebrity.

There is nothing methodical or thorough about either participant's presentations here, but it does serve as a good introduction to naturalism and many of its arguments against religion. Many other books are referenced, and I hope to check some of them out (including Gaffin's dissertatino). On the Christian side of things, while I wouldn't exactly want Jones to head up my debate team, it does serve as a refreshing example of 1) A Christian with good taste in secular punk music (he even uses it in his classes) and 2) an intelligent Christian with the ability to have a reasonable discussion with someone he disagrees with, while actually thoughfully considering the other persons' opinions and in general not looking like a complete idiot. Jones kind of strikes me as what my dad might be like if he was into punk music, but kudos to him for putting this book out there without having won the argument.