Thursday, March 29, 2012

McLaren Follow-Up

Following my previous post documenting the heinous, grievous offense that was visited upon me by Brian McLaren, I was curious to see if any future comments on his page would also be deleted, but I wasn't planning on forcing the issue. If I saw something worth commenting on on McLaren's page I would,  and then wait to see what happened. Just by chance, the very next day he posted a promotional image for his new eBook that evoked a response from me:

Of course, it is true that God is both pro-human and pro-Christian. Although, taken alone, these words on the billboard seem to imply, or at least can give the impression, that God's relationship to humanity at large is exactly the same as His relationship with His Church, which is not true, as even a cursory examination of the New Testament reveals. But that's not really a fair point of contention to bring up in such a context since it's not explicit in the text of the billboard. However, the somewhat bizarre choice of scripture reference, John 3:16, is not one that really makes the point the billboard is making very clearly at all, and in fact mitigates against it in a certain way. So I wanted to make this point, and being aware of the possibility that my comment might disappear, I screen-capped it so that I could remember my exact words, just in case:
 John 3:16 is the best verse the billboard makers could come up with in support of its claim? Really? I mean, if that verse stopped after the "For God so loved the world" clause that would kind of make sense, but when it goes on to have implicit clauses that whoever doesn't believe will 'perish' and will not 'inherit eternal life' then... yeah, there are many other verses that would better illustrate this point.

Again I'm contesting something on his page, something that he and collaborators came up with, but this time in an even milder 'tone' than before. This time the quote remained for a while, and one other commenter echoed my point, at which point McLaren came back and said:
Good point on John 3:16, everyone. We're going to update the image based on your good suggestion.
Quite the change from being scrubbed from the "conversation" to getting him to change his work in response to a comment of mine. Later in the day he posted an updated version of the billboard. Here is the result:

Maybe my more gentle tone made the difference. It's also possible McLaren read my previous post (I tagged him in a tweet with a link to the piece on it). Or he may just have found the previous comments objectionable and not this one. Whatever the case, at least this new tack of his is consistent with his devotion to the god of "conversation".

That's no great consolation in the big picture, however, as it is somewhat disturbing that, when faced with an apparent conflict between the message of his billboard and John 3:16, the immediate response is not to scrap the billboard, but to scrap John 3:16.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Emergent Hypocrisy

 When the hallmark of your public ministry is to advocate for the value of "conversation" and "dialogue", it seems it would behoove you to partake in "conversation", or at least not stomp it out wherever it might crop up.

Brian McLaren, one of the figureheads of the 'emergent' movement and its de facto leader of sorts (although the movement is too nebulous for such a concept to officially apply), loves conversation. "Conversation" is one of his -- and the movement's -- favorite words. In fact, one of the primary titles for the movement is the "Emergent Conversation". He's particularly fond of "starting a conversation" on some topic (preferably a "new" topic). In a way, it is what lies at the very heart of what he and the emergent movement claims to be about.

Isn't it strange, then, that the "dialogue" and "conversation" fetishist McLaren deletes Facebook comments that express any degree of mild dissent with a certain fascistic zeal? If you are all about conversation, if you recognize the value of people from diverse backgrounds exchanging ideas on a wide range of topics, then why stop conversations before they start?

As you're probably wondering what I'm talking about, here's what happened: I follow McLaren on both Facebook and Twitter, where he mostly posts links to his blog. Full disclosure: I'm a conservative Christian and he's a very liberal one. I follow him because I think it's a good thing to be apprised of the full spectrum of ideas out there on various subjects, and he represents a certain vision and perspective that I'm not a fan of, but which I think it is healthy to stay in -- I don't know -- dialogue with. As it turns out, monologue is more like it.

After following him for a while and never really interacting on any of his posts then, 3 or 4 months ago, I did respond to something he posted. It was a quote by Abraham Lincoln, and while I can't remember it or find it on Google, the very rough gist of the quote was that each generation has to summon up the courage and resources to face new problems with new solutions from within themselves, or from within a community, while not relying on tradition or inherited wisdom. Something along those lines. This is a common theme in McLaren's work too, though it seems like a naive superstition to me, but I digress since I don't have the specific quote and that really isn't the point.

I responded to the quote by simply stating "This proves conclusively that even very bright people can sometimes say dumb things." That's all. I disagreed with the quote, and expressed my disagreement in a fairly benign way, I thought, but the comment got deleted while the dozens of banal affirmations -- "right on!", "this is a great quote" etc. -- remained. The lover of conversation seems to only like when the other end of the conversation is saying something he likes and agrees with.

I didn't think much about it at the time and shrugged it off. Then, a few days ago, I happened to respond to something he posted again without even thinking about the earlier episode. This account will have far more detail, since -- though my comment is now lost and will have to be approximated -- the post it was in response to is still near the top of his page. He posted a quote from his new eBook:
"Nostalgia is never a good leadership strategy...Now is the time for Democrats to humble themselves, to be born again not as a party of nostalgic governance, but as a party of visionary leadership." -Ruth Schwartz (from Word of the Lord to Democrats ebook)
As you can see, there's a vague resemblance between this quote and the Abraham Lincoln quote -- abandon the past, claim the present/future -- though I didn't think of that at the time. The way he had advertised this book was as some sort of satirical take on the current political season. It's difficult to see how something so banal and dull could possibly be found in any decent work of satire, much less be worth excerpting as a notable quotable, but that isn't the point I made in comment. I will attempt to reconstruct my comment from memory as closely as possible:
Platitudinous, empty rhetoric that wouldn't be out of place on an Obama '08 campaign sticker. 
The real problem the Democrats have isn't excessive nostalgia, it's a deficit of nostalgia. This was once the party of JFK and now it's a ragtag assemblage of hacks who have abandoned the party's earlier, more noble ideals. Not that everyone can be a JFK, of course, he's just the exemplar of what the party used to stand for, as opposed to what it has accomplished by forging ahead in 'new directions'.
Once again the comment was deleted while all the effusive praise remained unmolested.

This time, at least, I was fairly contentious and was responding to something he had worked on. Nevertheless, as the torch-bearer for "conversation" and "dialogue", this seems well within the bounds of civil discourse so it's hard to see how he might defend deleting the comment.

Now, I want to point out what I hope is obvious: these are very insignificant episodes in and of themselves. After all, I find it quite absurd when people equate someone policing their own Facebook page, according to their own standards, with "censorship", as often happens. This is as preposterous as claiming someone erasing graffiti -- even if it happened to be a lovely mural -- from the wall around their property is an instance of "censorship." No, I have no problem with someone erasing Facebook comments from their page for any reason at all; whether it's to keep vulgarity off your page, or if you want no trace of "negativity" anywhere on your page, or if you capriciously and randomly remove comments, all of that is absolutely fine with me. It's your page, after all.

Obviously the issue here is rank hypocrisy, in deleting comments that express dissent while proclaiming that "conversation" is one of your highest ideals. As Jay-z once said: "We don't believe you, you need more people!"

The reason I find this significant is because of just how pervasive the totalitarian impulse is within liberalism, while ironically, simultaneously existing alongside the exhortation for people be tolerant. It's bigger than Brian McLaren's hypocrisy, it's symptomatic of a very wide swath of liberalism, which professes tolerance, and a love of diversity, and revels in the joy of "conversation", but which simply can't stand the sound of a conservative or traditionalist speaking, and will even silence them if it's within their power to do so.

Friday, March 16, 2012

'The Devil & Pierre Gernet' by David Bentley Hart - Review

I believe C.S. Lewis once defended his turn to fiction by noting that fiction is a much more compelling and subversive means by which to affect and influence an audience's thinking, as opposed to overt theological reflection. David Bentley Hart seems to be taking a similar tack.

As an avid fan of Hart's non-fiction work, I was extremely curious how his foray into fiction would turn out. Based on some of his imaginative and creative essays at First Things, along with the ingenuity as a wordsmith that is on display in his theological writing and other works, I was expecting great things and wasn't disappointed.

The titular novella is the piece in this volume that is the most quintessentially Hartian, I would say. Employing heavy chunks of dialogue -- as he does through much of this collection, but especially here -- Hart cleverly places concepts, intentions and values in the mouth of his devil which he finds to be in some manner distasteful or false, but which can nonetheless be defended eloquently and rationally. Hart's prose is often opulent, but it was particularly florid and decadent in this piece, serving to accentuate the fantastic conceit of having a devil as long-time friend, as well as all the trappings of high culture. Along with Hart's devil, the character of Pierre Gernet is also highly memorable because of the vivid portrayal of his pure soul, his poetry, his tragic end and the supernatural significance of the events surrounding it.

The House of Apollo is another fascinating tale that features Julian the Apostate as a central character. The piece depicts Julian's impotent attempts to restore the pagan gods of antiquity to their former glory, after "the Galileans" and their God had already driven them out and displaced them. True to form, Hart (as a classicist) doesn't go for any derisive, cheap apologetic shots but candidly (and fantastically) portrays a world in which the old gods were in their twilight.

In A Voice from The Emerald World Hart is at his most human and profound, exploring the dynamics of a family coping with grief. The emotional center of the piece is a touching, haunting relationship between a father and his son who has behavioral and social abnormalities. Together they regularly retreat to their fabulous bamboo garden which is their Emerald World. As a father of a child who has behaviors which are on the "autism spectrum", this story resonated in a very intimate way. At first, the occurrence of a seemingly abstract, egg-headed theological argument seems out of place in the narrative (though it's quite entertaining), but by the time the story reaches its conclusion, the theological implications of the earlier argument are decidedly immediate and real and not at all abstract.

Like Inception -- the 2010 film by Christopher Nolan -- the central conceptual conceit of Hart's next story The Ivory Gate (which he wrote in 1985) is a multi-tiered oneiric (one of dozens of words I learned while reading this volume) dreamscape, which the main character describes from memory. Unlike Nolan's film, Hart's conceit isn't primarily employed as an action set piece, but as a multi-layered emotional and experiential world which depicts the way in which our dreams aren't necessarily solely pale reflections of our waking life, but that the influence can run in the other direction as well. The way in which our dreams can coax us out of, or into, new understandings and depths, and the way that, since our reality is fundamentally anthropogenic, dreams are, in a sense, just as 'real' as anything else. None of those observations sound particularly original, at least as rendered by me, but the particulars of the story are what make it enjoyable and intriguing.

Finally, The Other is a short and oblique look at intense longing.

There is always a temptation to seek out some common thread or theme in a short story collection, and Hart reveals in an introductory apologia what it is for us: "I had originally intended to make the subtitle of this volume Elaborately Artificial Stories, since I have chosen five stories which are willfully extravagant in form and content, rather than any of the drier, more 'realistic' stories I have also written." There you have it. Though I would add that one other common thread is, of course, the voice of the author. Sometimes breaking through in quite overt ways, usually from the voice of characters, many ideas and subjects of Hart's other works make appearances. One character proclaims a familiar disdain for (or perhaps pity of) materialists; there is at least one mention of the basilica and its effects, which featured prominently in a recent essay on religion in America by Hart; he has previously written an essay on Julian the Apostate; the denunciation of the pitiless, calloused theology of certain forms of Christianity, which he has renounced elsewhere etc. Within the context of these stories, though, all of his ideas seem fresh and are given a new texture, depth and life, which lends credence to his claim that God is no more likely (and, indeed, perhaps less likely) to be encountered in theology than in poetry and fiction.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Stop Kony. Also Stop Pretending That Your Awareness Matters.

A recent video by the organization Invisible Children that advocates making Joseph Kony -- a notorious criminal and leader of the LRA from Uganda who kidnaps children and converts them into sex slaves and child soldiers, among other heinous crimes -- famous, has gone viral. The point of the video is that if everyone in the world -- or at least everyone with a Facebook -- knows about Kony and his crimes, the people who might be able to help stop him (i.e. the United States military, visa vis the United States government) will be under more pressure to do so because everyone knows about it, cares, and won't relent in supporting his capture. This argument is founded on the very dubious premise that the reason Kony hasn't yet been captured is that there is insufficient motivation or "awareness" in the international community about the problem.

In reality, whether ten thousand or 100 million people are aware of the problem doesn't make it much more or less likely to be solved. The video touts the fact that the United States has sent 100 troops to support the Ugandan military in locating and arresting Kony, and worries that if there isn't enough awareness, the operation might end. The problem with this argument is that, if the operation did end, it would not be because of an insufficient level of caring in the world, but because the facts on the ground are such that the mission doesn't look promising, or that it could come to conflict costing many American and Ugandan lives, or millions of other considerations. The United States wouldn't pull out support if they were hot on the heels of successfully apprehending him.

The point at which the video really came off the rails was with this bold, unfounded assertion: "It's obvious Kony should be stopped, the problem is 99% of the planet doesn't know who he is. [it is?] If they knew, Kony would have been stopped long ago. [he would?]" There's obviously absolutely no reason to believe that either of these claims are true. This argument seems founded on the logic of a bad Christmas film; that if only there were more Christmas cheer in the world, Santa's sleigh would have the fuel it needs to make all of his present deliveries by Christmas morning. And if only everyone on Facebook shares this link, and buys a bracelet, Kony will magically disappear.

Others have raised concerns about Invisible Children and the Kony 2012 movement; where their funding goes to; whether they are sufficiently aware of the pertinent historical and political facts of the region; that the LRA is already gone from Uganda; and, echoing this piece, whether our "awareness" is really the issue at all. Except for the last, the other critiques I didn't find to be too substantive or important. And on the last matter, I think The Atlantic covered the point fairly well, so I won't pile on unnecessarily. However I did have a unique point (as far as I know) to raise. Namely, that of the anti-war activism of the filmmaker that's presented in the film.

It's not a huge element of the film, but at one point he's speaking to an audience and says "People say, 'who am I to stop a war?', I say 'who are you not to?'", and later he and a group of people are chanting an anti-war slogan and holding up a banner against war. Now, even if one is opposed to war, what does that have to do with Joseph Kony? True, he recruits child soldiers into his army, but they mostly engage in guerrilla warfare. Not really 'war' in the more traditional sense. But if we grant that he is waging a 'war', then in supporting a mission to stop him and bring him to justice, you are choosing to engage him in 'war', on the side of the Ugandan military (presumably, the side of righteousness and justice), but you aren't eschewing war or violence. You're almost certainly going to be forced to participate in it, if you're serious about the mission.

Which, if you really are on the side of right (as it appears Invisible Children is) shouldn't cause you to hesitate or waffle one bit. What it should cause you to do is drop your phony, pretentious, irrational anti-war activism when your life's cause is dedicated to supporting international military adventurism to defeat the world's bad guys. If you're willing to stop bad guys on this scale, but then get queasy and balk at making sure Iran doesn't go nuclear by any means (including military acts of war), then you're plainly irrational and inconsistent. Some bad guys, with power on a much greater scale, can do even more damage if not kept in check.

So, please, by all means, make Joseph Kony famous and do whatever is in your power to help stop him. Just don't tell me that raising awareness is going to solve the complex problem because it isn't. And don't pretend you can somehow solve problems of this nature while completely eschewing the use of force or violence, because you can't. And that's OK! Just don't pretend it's something it isn't.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Plantinga on Fundamentalism

I'm reading Warranted Christian Belief by Alvin Plantinga and I just came across this hilarious, wonderful passage that echoes perfectly what I've been saying about the malleability and (usually) the meaninglessness of charges of "fundamentalist!" in supposedly academic discourse. I was delighted to find a corroborating opinion from someone of some credibility and stature. Enjoy.

I fully realize that the dreaded f-word will be trotted out to stigmatize [my model of Christian epistemology]. Before responding, however, we must first look into the use of this term 'fundamentalist'. On the most common contemporary academic use of the term, it is a term of abuse or disapprobation, rather like 'son of a bitch', more exactly 'sonovabitch', or perhaps still more exactly (at least according to those authorities who look to the Old West as normative on matters of pronunciation) 'sumbitch'. When the term is used in this way, no definition of it is ordinarily given. (If you called someone a sumbitch, would you feel obliged first to define the term?) Still, there is a bit more to the meaning of 'fundamentalist' (in this widely current use): it isn't simply a term of abuse. In addition to its emotive force, it does have some cognitive content, and ordinarily denotes relatively conservative theological views. That makes it more like 'stupid sumbitch' (or maybe 'fascist sumbitch'?) than 'sumbitch' simpliciter. It isn't exactly like that term either, however, because its cognitive content can expand and contract on demand; its content seems to depend on who is using it. In the mouths of certain liberal theologians, for example, it tends to denote any who accept traditional Christianity, including Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and Barth; in the mouths of devout secularists like Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett, it tends to denote anyone who believes there is such a person as God. The explanation is that the term has a certain indexical element: its cognitive content is given by the phrase 'considerably to the right, theologically speaking, of me and my enlightened friends.' The full meaning of the term, therefore (in this use), can be given by something like 'stupid sumbitch whose theological opinions are considerably to the right of mine'.

It is therefore hard to take seriously the charge that the views I'm suggesting are fundamentalist; more exactly, it is hard to take it seriously as a charge. The alleged charge means only that these views are rather more conservative than those of the objector, together with the expression of a certain distaste for the views or those who hold them. But how is that an objection to anything, and why should it warrant the contempt and contumely that goes with the term?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Toward an Unapologetic Christian Conservatism

If you remember the "Why I Hate Religion" video, and surrounding controversy, from a few months back, in my critique of it I ignored one line which I found to be dumb, because it was minor compared to the other flaws of the video. Near the beginning of the video there was a cheap shot at Republicans, saying something along the lines of that Christians don't have to also be Republicans. While it's trivially true that Christianity is not synonymous with, or inextricably married to, Republicanism or conservative politics, this line betrays a false equivalency that becomes more and more glaring to me with time, and which I feel the need to rage against now.

Because Jesus' project was -- as He told us time and time again -- about the the Kingdom of God breaking into history, and was not a "worldly" political kingdom of any character, deriving specific political programs from his teaching is treacherous. Surely nothing like that is my aim here. But just as surely as Christ was not a political Messiah primarily (despite the ultimate political consequences his Kingship over Earth entails), political policies can be more or less in line with Jesus' vision for the Kingdom. They can be more or less in line with His injunction regarding the distinctness of the spiritual and political realms (Mark 12:17, Matt. 22:21). They can be more or less in line with his teaching about the just role political authorities have (Romans 13).

For example, a thoroughgoing anarchism would not be compatible with Romans 13. Similarly, but for opposite reasons, a totalitarian worldly authority which forces its subjects to do things that are contrary to God's law would be an illegitimate authority that ought to be opposed, and probably fought and overthrown. These are some of the obvious extremes where our response is clear and determined for us, but within the much more subtle shades of our liberal democracy, being a follower of Christ leaves a considerable degree of freedom for the types of political policies and agendas that are acceptable for us to support. And this is legitimate for Jefferson Bethke to point out.

But freedom doesn't mean that anything is on the table. On certain issues, there are stances that are highly compatible with Christian teaching and stances that -- at best -- strain compatibility wildly. For example, on whether or not to support laws which outlaw abortion, the dictates of Christian premises are difficult to avoid. Even if someone has some doubt about the point at which a fetus should attain the right to have its life protected by the state -- as irrational, and not particularly in line with Christian teaching or doctrines such doubts are -- still, it's difficult to avoid the Bible's relentless affirmation of the inherent worth of human life, and at worst one would have to choose to err on the side of defense of life on the question.

By contrast, when the left attempts to make similar cases that conservative beliefs on the poor or on war are also at odds with plain Christian teaching, the attempts fail rather laughably. Christians on both the left and right believe caring for the poor is of utmost importance for a Christian, they only disagree as to the role the federal government ought to play in that -- a subject on which Christ had nothing to say. As for war, this is closer to being a legitimate "inconsistency", if you will, at least as it relates to extreme hawkishness or imperialism, but not as it relates to support of any war. The Catholic Just War theory can be used to defend some war in a thoroughly consistent and Biblical fashion.

On many other issues such as the proper level of taxation, or the proper judicial philosophy, or the prosecution of the drug war, the dictates of Christian principles are not cut and dry. There is legitimate room for Christians to take a wide range of positions on these, and most, political issues.

But I would contend that the fundamental underlying philosophy of conservatism is much more compatible with Christian principles than is modern liberalism. And this is where simply saying "You can be a Christian and not be a Republican!" too swiftly dispenses with the legitimate question of whether one party, or -- really more centrally -- one side of the political spectrum is more compatible with Christian principles or not. The postmodern Christian assumption would seem to want to affirm a thoroughgoing centrism or moderate position as the best, but this is an illegitimate move. It's the same fallacy that results in people falsely deriving relativism from a postmodern critique of modernity.

Just because there are two sides to an issue or because the answer to the question at hand is not absolutely dictated by revelation, this does not mean that one side can not be much more closely in line with Christian principle, or that one position can not be totally at odds with Christian teaching. We can't let our cultural pluralism blind us to our moral senses, or certainly to our Christian inheritance, which I think is happening en masse. And on this score, I don't let all conservatives off the hook. Certain wings of conservatism, such as the libertarian wing, have elevated the virtue of personal volition so absurdly high, and as so ultimate, that all competing values are rendered subservient and secondary. This is very harmful. Though, with that said, that's just one wing of the right that has something somewhat wrong, whereas I think the left has everything completely wrong, and that most of their fundamental assumptions are at odds with Christian values.

However, if you do happen to be that rare species of Christian Democrat, I'm not going to try to convert you from your left-wing politics. That's surely a quixotic task, at least for a blog post of this length. What I do think should be easy enough for all Christians to acknowledge is that we can't simply rest in the proclamation that "You don't have to be a Republican!" We have to actually do the difficult work of examining our beliefs and actions in the political realm and honestly evaluate whether they are compatible with our Christian beliefs, which obviously are of prior and greater significance. We have to examine the possibility that some cherished political belief is actually sinful and at odds with Christ's teaching, even if that belief enjoys prominence and acceptance in mainstream American culture. We have to be mindful that our cultural prejudices don't dictate our theological inclinations, but that the relationship runs in the other direction.

If you do all that and you still come to the impossible conclusion that being a Christian Democrat is acceptable, well then, God bless you, and I pray earnestly and fervently that you are defeated at the polls regularly and egregiously.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

More on Peter Boghossian and Faith

My previous post on Peter Boghossian's talk titled Jesus, The Easter Bunny and Other Delusions was written on the basis of an interview he did, and on a description of the talk that he gave. His talk has since been made available online, and I've watched the whole thing. After watching it, I think my criticism from the initial post holds up just fine, and represents the most central problem with his thesis. But the details of his presentation brought up a few other issues.

To briefly reiterate my chief problem with the thesis of the talk that "Faith is an unreliable process". The point that I made is that the thesis is irrelevantly true. A person of faith can easily concede the point that "faith" in general, as a process, is not reliable. After all, a Christian does not believe that faith in Buddha, or Allah, or Krishna will do anything for you; indeed a Christian would hold that faith in such things is guaranteed to lead you astray, and so would concede that "faith" in general is not reliable.  People of faith don't have faith-in-faith, they have faith in specific gods. Boghossian's argument proceeds in such a way that assumes if he can demonstrate the unreliability of faith in general, as a process, that this should cause a person of faith to abandon their faith, but this expectation commits the fallacy of division; it can be true that faith in general is an unreliable process and that a faith properly-oriented, faith in the One True God, is entirely reliable. This lone objection is pretty much fatal for Professor Boghossian's entire project.

Boghossian's main examples to demonstrate the unreliability of faith, such as faith healing and transubstantiation, are really extra-biblical tenets that are not -- and never were -- central elements of the Christian faith. And so nothing at all hinges upon their standing or falling, and if and when they do 'fall', that fact mitigates against the reliability of faith in the Christian God not at all.

 Another problem with his thesis is that, in a somewhat subtle manner, it assumes a priori that various faiths are wrong. That is to say, if it were true that there is no supernatural reality, or that faith is unreliable at apprehending supernatural reality, then the conclusion that faith (or specific faiths) are dispensable is obvious enough, but no argument has been made. If, however, some faith is substantially correct in all of its claims about transcendent reality, then not only would that particular faith be reliable, but it would be reliable at determining the most important facts about reality, facts which are much more substantial than the truths that modern science reveals about immanent, empirical reality. The fact that this can't be demonstrated to be the case is, of course, unproblematic for people of faith. That's entailed by the definition of faith and the nature of the things it aims to apprehend.

Speaking of the definition of faith, Boghossian largely defines himself a victory by using this definition of faith: "Belief without evidence". If this is how you're defining the term then, again, it's not difficult to get to a place where faith is unreliable. The problem is that you've produced a tautological argument that doesn't say anything. When faith is defined as unreliable, it is in fact unreliable. Of course, Christian faith (for one example) explicitly invokes evidence in its definition of "faith" (Hebrews 11:1), and would reject this concept of "faith", which is only another reason that speaking about "faith" in general terms produces such vacuous results.

And, even outside of the Christian concept of faith, on secular grounds, faith is most often invoked, not as something that goes contrary to evidence, or completely without reference to it, but in line with it. For example, if you have faith that your brother will make it to an appointment with you on time, you base this faith on the fact that your brother has been consistently reliable in the past. You can't be certain that he will prove reliable again, as that remains to be seen, and so you ground your faith in him in the evidence that is available and pertinent. With this much more sensible, realistic understanding of faith in view -- rather than Boghossian's silly definition -- again, his project crumbles.

Also, pointing out that faith is not well-suited to answering narrow questions about immanent, material reality is of about as much consequence as pointing out that biology is ill-suited to answering questions on astronomy. Using Boghossian's methodology of argument, one could argue quite forcefully that biology fails horribly at answering 9 out of 10 different types of questions, it just happens to excel at answering biological questions. Biology is, therefore, an unreliable process. Q.E.D.

At one point in the presentation Boghossian makes the claim that all conversations on the topic of someone's faith inevitably results in the person moving the goal posts, and shifting their claim from "my faith is true" to "my faith is beneficial". Perhaps he was being hyperbolic but he claims that "This is the inevitable trajectory of every single conversation, period." Every single conversation, period? I've had dozens of such conversations, and I can't recall a single one even drifting slightly in this direction, and I could produce the testimony of my interlocutors to confirm that the conversations never go in this direction. And I doubt that I'm the lone exception to this rule.

In closing, let me draw attention to one piece of the presentation that I found somewhat helpful. At one juncture, professor Boghossian encourages his audience to criticize ideas and not people. As a pragmatic concern, if you're trying to convince people of something, attacking them will never be very fruitful. This struck me as a secular version of "hate the sin, love the sinner", which made me chuckle a bit to realize.