A Neologism for Atheists: Religioflage

religioflage (ri-LI-juh-flahzh) noun 

an object or objects used to disguise the purchase of a book on theology or religious belief.

There was a time when purchasing books on religious belief and Christian theology was quite an ordinary thing. A Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in religion tends to do that to a person. But recently I experienced a great sense of embarrassment at purchasing a book on the philosophy of religion and felt compelled to purchase something else to place on top of it to (half-)disguise my purchase. Lacking a word to describe this pointed to a lexical gap.

It began with a blog post by Keith Parsons, a professor of philosophy. In two sentences, he expressed a devastating critique of a book he once used when he taught courses in the philosophy of religion. He described C. Stephen Layman’s Letters to a Doubting Thomas: A Case for the Existence of God as follows:

I found the arguments so execrably awful and pointless that they bored and disgusted me (Layman is not a kook or an ignoramus; he is the author of a very useful logic textbook). I have to confess that I now regard “the case for theism” as a fraud and I can no longer take it seriously enough to present it to a class as a respectable philosophical position—no more than I could present intelligent design as a legitimate biological theory.


Others have said of this book that “[It] is the best book of its kind…”

Could Layman’s arguments be that bad? If Parsons assessment is to be believed, then the best book regarding “the case for theism” is “execrably awful and pointless.”

Double ouch!

Curious as to the substance of Layman’s arguments, I decided to see for myself. However, on the walk to the checkout, I found myself embarrassed. “The cashier will think I’m religious,” I thought to myself. This thought was deeply disconcerting. I could feel the warmth of my cheeks reddening, followed by the flush of my entire face. And, thus, I needed a disguise.

In an effort to give the appearance that I was merely reading two sides to an argument (but really the cashier probably neither noticed nor cared), I chose Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great.

Sure, I already had a copy…but not in hardback.

Copyright © 2012 JP Laughlin


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About JP Laughlin

Originally intent on Christian ministry, I attended the College of Charleston where I earned a BA in Religious Studies (and where I also nearly completed a BA in Biology) and where I met my wife in our New Testament class. I attended graduate school at the University of Washington and earned a MA in International Studies – Comparative Religion. My areas of focus were Religion-and-Culture and American Religion. Somewhere along the way, I escaped from the prison of religious belief and found a new joy in living.

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