At least, that’s the conclusion one has to draw from the latest ploy used by a certain contingent (cabal!) of theists to argue against atheism.
More properly, they’re arguing against public expression by the most visible atheists – e.g., Dawkins – rather than against atheism itself. But of course their real purpose is to keep those visible atheists from making atheism respectable and appealing.
So they’re now grumbling that Dawkins and his like must not publish books attacking religion unless they can show that they’ve studied the literature of theism in depth. Unable to defend their wacky fundamental belief – the existence of invisible Sky Daddy – these theists are trying to divert the debate into an argument about irrelevant details. If you can’t demonstrate an intimate knowledge of all the convoluted arguments about just how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, then you’re not allowed to ask for proof that angels exist.
So let’s engage in a thought experiment.
Suppose that long ago, a hunting party of American Indians in western Colorado, while sitting around the campfire in the evening, had a religious experience, a series of visions, orgasmic and transporting. They imagined that somewhere nearby was an immense but invisible and undetectable rock, and that the rock was speaking to them. They dreamed that the rock told them it had created the world, including them. So they worshiped the invisible rock and sacrificed animals and passing Spaniards to it.
Once Anglos began pouring into the area, large numbers of the white settlers converted to what they called Rockism. From the city that grew up around the imagined site of the invisible rock, thousands, then millions, of pages of detailed theology flowed out around the world. Hundreds of millions of people converted to Rockism.
Rockist theologians, including some of the most brilliant minds on earth, spent their lives arguing with each other about the exact order in which the rock created the various parts of the world, and whether it created the rest of the universe first, or later, or simultaneously. Should they use the newest technology to try to actually detect the rock and determine its nature, or would that be blasphemy? Did the rock extend down to the center of the earth? Up as far as the orbit of the moon? And so on and on and on.
Any sensible person would say, “Prove to me that this rock exists.” Who in his right mind would think it necessary to read all of the Rockist theological drivel before declaring the whole religion to be utter nonsense?