Atheists and theists often discuss the existence of God. Unfortunately, these discussions often degenerate into classic Christian apologetics where the main goal of the theist is to rationalize why his or her god doesn't conflict with rationality.
Before long they are rambling on about how to resolve the problem of evil or why god doesn't reveal herself. These problems only exist once you've accepted the premise that there is a god/spirit. This sort of apologetics has nothing to do with the fundamental question of whether god exists in the first place.
PZ Myers invented the parable of The Courtier's Reply to describe this situation.1 Rather than address the burning question—is the Emperor wearing any clothes?—the believers will complain that you don't understand the latest fashion.
They say you can't have a serious discussion about the existence of god because you aren't versed in the sophisticated arguments of Christian apologetics. In other words, you have to be intimately familiar with all the ways of rationalizing superstitious belief in god before challenging the very existence of god.2
It's amazing how few theists get the point. The latest person to demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of simple logic is Joe Hinman at Atheistwatch. Hinman has a Master's degree in Theology and he is currently studying for a Ph.D. in the history if ideas. He exposes himself by complaining about Anti-Intellectual Tendencies in Atheism.
So What this courtier's reply is saying is that if the skeptic says stupid things about theology and demonstrates that he knows nothing about it and the theist says "O your criticism is invalid because you don't understand what you are criticizing" then all the atheist has to do is say "that's the courtiers reply" and the theist is supposed to go "O my God, I've violated a law of logic!" and give up and stop believing in God. But in realty it's into a log of logic, I never heard it in a logic class.It's not in a logic text book, and the meaning of it is silly. I'ts just saying 'You can't point out my ignorance of theology because I will not allow theology to have any kind of validity or importance and religious people may not not any sort of human dignity." That's all it's saying. It's nothing more than anti-intellectual stupidity.Bingo! Christian apologetics was developed by people who believe in god. They needed to explain why their beliefs seem inconsistent with the real world. Many of these rationalizations are extremely "sophisticated" as you might expect since the problem is difficult.
This anti-intellectual tendency is not confined to this one tactic. The new tactick, which I have noticed for a few years now, is to deny any sort of discipline of scholarship that has developed within the theological community. So any self defense that a believer could make is automatically suspect and wrong merely becasue it is theological. But then one wonders how the skeptics knowledge that theology is all bull shit could ever have developed in the first place? When we consider the history of Biblical scholarship it becomes clear that the atheists are merely arguing in a circle.
The history of scholarship shows us that it was not invented in answer to pressing atheist attacks on the bible.
I don't give a damn about those rationalizations no matter how many books have been written. Atheists don't have a problem with evil or sin or life after death or the resurrection. It's only theists who have a problem.
If Joe Hinman wants to explain why he is a theist then I'd be happy to discuss that topic. What's his best evidence for the existence of a spiritual world?
1. Also see The Emperor's New Clothes and the Courtier's Reply.
2. It's like saying that you have to learn how to cast a horoscope before you can question astrology.