The secularist killjoy: A reply to Schaefer and Smith

I am grateful to Donovan Schaefer and Caleb Smith for their productive, provocative responses. Both in their different ways have written about debunking and pleasure. Smith, in a description on which I couldn’t improve, says that the book “shows what secularism loves and not just what it hates, what it desires and not just what it wishes to get rid of; Credulity is, among other things, a study of ‘debunking’s pleasures.’” Schaefer, however, is concerned that Credulity may participate in a view of disenchantment as joyless. In Schaefer’s words: “Could we talk about the modern desire for debunking as something other than a dalliance with contempt?” We can, and on my view, Credulity does. Since Smith sees the book as preeminently concerned with secularism’s loves, desires, and pleasures—since, in fact, he lists among my “virtues” the fact that “[I do] not make it [my] business simply to debunk the debunkers”—I trust that my sense of what I’ve written isn’t entirely misplaced. But this book’s account of loves, desires, and pleasures may not be precisely the one that many readers would expect to find. I don’t rescue debunking from the charge of contempt. Instead, I point out that contemptuous debunking is a far more generative activity than we tend to imagine, with products that include pain and pleasure on all sides.