The Reason Rally’s Brilliant Strategic Maneuver

I’ve got to hand it to those Reason Rally organizers.[1. It has come to my attention that the National Atheist Party, which invited Westboro, may not be one of the “organizers.” That means the leaders of the Rally may have to credit them for this brilliant strategy.] I’m a strategist, but I have never come up with anything quite this excellent. They are setting themselves up for the world’s most brilliant marvelous strategic maneuver ever.

They have a challenge before them, you see. It’s quite an obstacle for them to overcome. It starts with the identity they claim for themselves. They have branded themselves as the defenders of reason. It’s not just in the title, “Reason Rally,” it’s all over the names of their books, the names of the organizations they’ve founded, their websites, and their mottos and slogans. Along with that, virtually synonymous with it in some senses, is their claim to a high commitment to scientific thinking. The Reason Rally’s headline speaker was after all once the Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University.

But they have been under pressure from bloggers and others who have been questioning just how reasonable they are, or how committed they are to science. I’ve had a thing or two to say about that myself. It was perhaps becoming necessary for them to prove once again how reasonable and scientific they actually are. Here’s where their stroke of sheer brilliance comes in. They’ve invited the Westboro Baptist Church to attend the Reason Rally. Everybody knows that this group is on the fringe, that they are unique, sui generis, one-of-a-kind. Everybody also knows how tempting it would be for the atheists running the Reason Rally to point to the Westboro group’s hatred and say, “see what awful things Christianity does!”

But they’re not going to do that. This is where they’re going to prove their commitment to reason and science. They know how wrong, how scientifically irresponsible it would be to draw conclusions from a small, non-representative sample. They know how excellent it is to resist the temptation to report non-representative findings as if they could be generalized to a larger population. They know that everyone would expect them to fall into that temptation with Westboro.

Is the genius of their plan not now falling into place before your eyes?

Here’s why they invited Westboro Church. They’re going to turn expectations upside down. They’re going to stand up on stage and tell the world, “We know Westboro Church is non-representative! We refuse to draw any conclusions about Christianity from them! We stand against anyone who thinks they illustrate anything at all representative of believers in Jesus Christ! Everyone repeat after me: There’s no reason to think Christianity is anything like this!”

And the world will see how magnificently they adhere to science, how reasonably they spurn the temptation to paint Christianity with a Westboro brush.

Is it not brilliant?! I’m holding my breath to see it happen that way.

See also:

Comments

  1. Tom Graffagnino

    Tom,

    They are, I’m sure, way ahead of the curve on this!

    Just for fun, a little poem to commemorate the brilliance:

    “Rally For Reason 2012”

    It’s a rally to believe in….
    Come and join us on the Mall!
    There we’ll ridicule the Bible…
    Moses, Adam and The Fall.

    We’ll demean the Virgin Mary,
    And we’ll mock the Sacred Scrolls…
    We’ll declare them simply “nonsense”,
    Then deny the human Soul.

    Yes, we’ll scoff at all the Prophets,
    The Apostles we’ll disgrace;
    We will prove that we’re the wisest
    In this stupid human race!

    We will honor Master Darwin….
    Yes, we’ll bow to “Guru Chuck”;
    We will sing hymns to his glory
    And his Dogma of Dumb Luck.

    Yes, we’ll testify and witness…
    Reason’s Banner we’ll unfurl!
    We will kiss the Ring of Science
    And The Wisdom of the World!

    We will taunt this one called“Jesus”…
    Yes, we’ll whip that silent “king”
    We would rather have Barabbas
    And to go on Babel-ing.

    We’re not called The Brights for nuthin’!
    We see through the Jesus fraud!
    Only dim-wits would imagine
    This imposter to be “god”!

    So, in D.C. We will meet you!
    Yes, by that reflecting pool.
    There we’ll show the whole world watching,
    Who is wise and who are fools!

    (Psalm 14: 1)

  2. DVD Bach

    “It was necessary for them to prove once again how reasonable and scientific they actually are”

    Why? They don’t owe you anything.

    Further the Westboro Baptist Church does represent Christianity. Like it or not, they worship exactly the same god you do.

  3. Kim Moreland

    I’m wondering about their claim of being the “largest secular event in history” — I’d think that some events headed by people such as Robespierre, Hitler, Mao, etc. would have been bigger.

    I hope they don’t trash the Mall and that no police are hurt during the event.

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  5. jennifer

    Not all atheists are happy about the invitation extended to Westboro. Many of us would be very happy not to have any theists there at all (I count myself among them). There are some who are dealing with it constructively by pledging donations based on the # of theists who try to witness to them at the Rally. Take a look…. http://www.facebook.com/biblesforbucks

  6. Doug

    they worship exactly the same god you do

    Wow. It was just this morning that I encountered an atheist wanting to claim that “my” god wasn’t “someone else’s” god. I’m so glad that atheists are such experts at theotaxonomy — we poor Christians could never keep track otherwise.

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  8. DVD Bach

    @Doug: I never claimed that. I’m just saying that they claim to be Christian. Who am I to argue?

  9. G. Rodrigues

    @DVD Bach:

    Back at you: Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, etc. do represent Atheism. Like it or not, they lacked the same god-belief as you do.

    Now, given a choice between the Westboro Baptist Church and say, Pol Pot and his merry band of the Khmer Rouge, I know whom I would choose for neighbors.

  10. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    Who are you to argue? How about, Who are you to assume you know enough to make pronouncements like you did?

    It’s not a matter of who you are, in other words. It’s a matter of whether you draw reasonable conclusions, whoever you may be–which you didn’t.

  11. SteveK

    We may acknowledge exactly the same God, for there is only one God, but Westboro’s idea of proper worship is not biblical worship. It’s their own self-serving and distorted definition of it.

    Westboro’s deeds do not conform to the biblical definition of worship any more than an atheist’s deeds conform to the biblical definition of goodness. Neither one is performing good works.

    I thought atheists knew the bible backward and forward?

  12. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    I’m not even sure the God they acknowledge is the same God. They acknowledge something other than the real God, in other words.

  13. Sault

    I think it’s brilliant. Have some of the most outspoken, hateful, and irrational elements of the Christian faith present to really highlight the contrast between the two.

    Christians will come out in droves, anyways – the chance to preach to so many of the unconverted is an opportunity impossible to pass up.

  14. Paul Rinzler

    Tom, you are imagining your opponent’s motives for them. How do you know what the Reason Rally’s motives are for inviting the Westboro group? You write as if you know: “Here’s why they invited Westboro Church. . . .”

    Shall I begin to imagine your motives for imagining their motives?

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  16. DVD Bach

    @G.Rodrigues: Yes, I hear that those people represent atheists all the time from Christians. The difference is that I can’t share a non-god with them, while you share a god with Westboro. Just ask SteveK; he conceded that a few posts after yours.

    Tom Gilson: They say they’re Christians; their every belief is based on the Bible. Looks like the same god to me.

  17. Sault

    Tom – could you please delete the last half of my comment, #15? I’ve been informed by a third party that what I said could be interpreted as something other than how I meant it.

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  19. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    DVD Bach:

    1. Their every belief is not biblical. God does not hate people as they claim.
    2. A lot of people who say they are Christians are not.

    Maybe we need to talk about what the word “Christian” means.

  20. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    Holopupenko, it’s one thing to disagree, it’s also one thing to find someone’s beliefs outrageous and outlandish, it’s another thing to bring up 3 1/2 year old comments and snort in laughter over it.

    I’m not even sure what he did there had much to do with moral absolutes this time. He was calling me to consider whether I was being consistent with my own standards, which would be a fair question for a moral relativist to ask a moral realist. Now, I think he was wrong to think I had any consistency problem going on, and I said so. But I think you jumped the gun with him here.

  21. Doug

    On the basis of the Captain Himself, who said, “this is my commandment, that you love one another” and “by their fruits you will know them,” the Westboro group are not Christ-ones.

  22. Holopupenko

    Doug:

    Correct… but does that matter to non-critical thinkers who lust after their own straw men?

  23. Kevin

    It really doesn’t matter if it’s the same God. It is highly unreasonable to hold all of Christianity responsible for Westboro, when the vast majority of Christians are equally appalled, if not more so, by Westboro’s mission and actions.

  24. SteveK

    DVD Bach:

    The difference is that I can’t share a non-god with them while you share a god with Westboro. Just ask SteveK; he conceded that a few posts after yours.

    Satan himself shares the same God as Christian’s do. So do you. There is but one God. Satan’s view of who God is is very different than mine. Your view is very different than mine. Westboro’s view is very different than mine.

    Those differences play out in the real world.

  25. G. Rodrigues

    @DVD Bach:

    Yes, I hear that those people represent atheists all the time from Christians. The difference is that I can’t share a non-god with them, while you share a god with Westboro. Just ask SteveK; he conceded that a few posts after yours.

    So let me get this: whatever one fringe, self-proclaimed Christian group does counts against Christianity — and even though it goes squarely against the *specific* instructions of Christ — but what any self-proclaimed atheist does, does not count against atheism. Right.

    And your statement “The difference is that I can’t share a non-god with them” is a first-rank stupidity. Of course, if you believe that God does not exist, than you do not share what does not exist with any other atheist, but that is *NOT* what is at stake. What is at stake is that you share a belief that the proposition “God does not exist” is true, in much the same way as I share with the Westboro Baptist Church a belief that the proposition “God exists” is true. It is beliefs that are shared, not beings.

  26. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    DVD Bach, the more you say we “share a God” with Westboro, in spite of multiple reasons given why that is not true, not relevant, a category mistake, and on and on, the more you reveal yourself to be stuck in your position more solidly than any fundamentalist. Listen! Read! Think!

    One description of rationality is that a rational person has the ability to change his position, change his mind, when shown reasons to do so.

    Be rational, please.

  27. Tom Graffagnino

    Just imagine! No religion!
    Yes, it’s easy if you try!
    Progress is the goal we’re after…
    And our pledge? ….”Pie in the Sky!”

    We have Faith in Sacred Science,
    And, of course,….. The Human Brain!
    We’re The Brights, because we’re brilliant…
    Christian dim-wits are insane.

  28. Holopupenko

    Tom:

    My criticism is valid and stands: Paul appeals to that which he (per his worldview) decries when he questions your motivations. (Again, leaving aside his slowness in missing the satire.)

    BTW, my pointing out Paul’s hypocrisy (or G. Rodrigues @28 pointing out DVD’s hypocrisy) reflects that with which @29 ends. Among other things, to be rational means not to undercut one’s reasoning by being–at the very least-selectively inattentive.

    Moreover, the date of a typical example of Paul’s nonsense is NOT relevant to your point, but it IS relevant to my point regarding his hypocrisy: he IS a moral and epistemic relativist (based on ALL his earlier machinations here), and yet feels perfectly justified in employing objective notions and absolutes against others.

    Snort, however, withdrawn.

  29. Tom Graffagnino

    Just for fun:

    “The alchemists of Humanism/Scientism will not rest, apparently, until they achieve their proud and pernicious goal,… that is, the discovery of an altogether empty-Minded creation. They’ve been sitting at this particular metaphysical spinning wheel for a long, long time.”

    They declare: “God’s not an option!”…
    They demand: “God! Stay away!”
    They’ll just conjure up what’s needed!
    (Yes, my friend… That’s what they say.!)

    Pride reveals, their Votive Motive
    Dabbling now with sorceries
    Hear their magik incantations…..
    Master Merlin wannabes.

    (continued….http://www.tomgraffagnino.com/thoughtspage/2012/1/28/double-helix-hallelujahs.html

  30. DVD Bach

    @G.Rodrigues: The specific instructions of Christ are to sell everything you own and give the money to the poor. By that standard, none of you are Christians.

  31. Tom Graffagnino

    DVD, you stated…..
    “The specific instructions of Christ are to sell everything you own and give the money to the poor. By that standard, none of you are Christians.”

    No..by that this we are found to be unrighteous sinners in the presence of the perfect Holy, Holy, Holy Standard. And if you’re honest, I ‘d be willing to bet that you don’t measure up either….a perfect candidate for the Grace of God.

  32. Charlie

    Those were Jesus’ specific instructions …. very specific; made to a specific man at a specific time making a specific boast.
    To others He gave other instructions: go and show yourself to the priest; tell no one; cast the first stone; go get your husband; have some breakfast; look at My hands, etc.

  33. Charlie

    I agree with Holopupenko that the vintage of Paul’s claims is irrelevant. If he does not stand by them he can withdraw them and until he does all of his writing should be viewed in light of them.
    Back when he was a regular contributor Paul often changed positions without telling anybody, so that is possible again, but he can clear that up if it is the case.

  34. Sault

    (Thank you, Tom, for the deletion)

    So… question time.

    I’m imagining two groups of people who believe in God.

    Group A believes X, Y, and Z about God.
    Group B believes V, W, and X about God.

    They both believe one similar thing about God but otherwise differ.

    Do they worship the same God?

  35. Doug

    @Sault,
    Christian worship (at least) isn’t just “belief that” or “belief about”. It is “belief in” — that is, it aligns the worshipper to his object of worship. The only “official” test for Christianity is that we “love one another”. So at a minimum, if there are two nominally Christian groups that are at each others’ throats, you can conclusively say that there is something fundamentally unChristian going on.

  36. SteveK

    Sault,

    Do they worship the same God?

    I wouldn’t get too hung up on the status of other people. It’s YOUR status that matters, and you know what that status is.

    To put it simply, those that are followers of Christ seek him and despise the sins of the flesh even though they still sin. They seek him because they are a new creation in Christ. Adopted into the family of God. Joint heirs. Justified but not yet glorified – which is why they still sin.

    Those that are not followers of Christ do not do these things – EVER. Sometimes both groups look the same from all outward appearances, but over the long haul the difference will be clear.

  37. DVD Bach

    “No..by that this we are found to be unrighteous sinners in the presence of the perfect Holy, Holy, Holy Standard. ”

    Huh? Nobody measures up to the standard? Then I was right that there’s no fundamental difference between any of you and Westboro. You’re all sinners, right?

    “Those were Jesus’ specific instructions …. very specific; made to a specific man at a specific time making a specific boast.”

    Then Jesus has established no standard for what makes a person a Christian; everything he said was to a specific person or group. Again, the conclusion is that none of you, not you or Westboro, are true Christians.

  38. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    DVD Bach,

    One of the major points we’re making with the True Reason book is that atheists claim to be the defenders of reason, yet make logical blunders right and left. The non sequitur is a favorite. You’ve provided another illustration here yourself:

    Huh? Nobody measures up to the standard? Then I was right that there’s no fundamental difference between any of you and Westboro. You’re all sinners, right?

    No, actually you’ve provide two illustrations of the same fallacy:

    Then Jesus has established no standard for what makes a person a Christian; everything he said was to a specific person or group. Again, the conclusion is that none of you, not you or Westboro, are true Christians.

    Do you need your fallacious reasoning explained, or is it clear enough to you on a second look?

    Also: I don’t mean to lump you in with other atheists. Do you represent yourself as having greater skill in reasoning than the average theist? If not, then I won’t consider your errors here to be anything but the mistakes that they are. If you do (as so many atheist leaders do), then they are also indicative of your inaccurate self-image.

  39. Tom Graffagnino

    DVD,
    re:
    “Huh? Nobody measures up to the standard? Then I was right that there’s no fundamental difference between any of you and Westboro. You’re all sinners, right?”

    Jesus’s point/message to the rich, young man in Matthew 19:16-26 (as it is to me and to you, and Richard Dawkins and Mr. Fred Phelps, Mother Teresa and to anyone else in the world who will listen) is simply this:

    “OK, Mr./Ms. Smarty Pants, you said that you’re worthy and good enough to make it into heaven (v. 20)…but here’s what I’m telling you….If YOU, want to get there on your own merits and strengths, have at it, buddy: sell EVERYTHING you’ve got, give it to the poor and come follow me.” In other words, Jesus called his bluff. It was impossible for him (and me and you)to make the grade on our own, under our own strength and abilities no matter what “good intentions” we may have. (And the rich young man DID have good intentions, BTW!)
    If you’ll notice, the rich young man after hearing this bombshell from Jesus went away exceedingly sorrowful. The guy was heartbroken. You might even say that he was “poor in spirit”!
    And, if you believe Jesus in Matthew 5:3, is a blessing. Jesus blessed the young man.
    What the young man did next, we are not told. But I would not be surprised at all to see the young man one day in heaven. And if I’m right, it WON’T be because the rich young man sold everything he had and gave it all to the poor. No, it will be because he believed the truth about his own helplessness, his own unholiness, his own unworthiness, his own unrighteousness and then came to his senses and trusted the Truth, who is the Lamb of God.
    “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…” (Matthew 5:3…)

    God bless,
    Tom

  40. The Deuce

    So, are the “reason evolved for winning arguments, not for finding truth” atheists invited to this little shindig too? How about the “quantum mechanics disproves logic” atheists?

    Actually, it occurs to me that not only should they be invited, they should be the star speakers. The whole New Atheist modus operandi consists of redefining “reason” as the braying of irrational jackasses with personality disorders, rather than the logical pursuit of objective truth.

  41. Tom Graffagnino

    DVD,
    re:
    “Huh? Nobody measures up to the standard? Then I was right that there’s no fundamental difference between any of you and Westboro. You’re all sinners, right?”

    Jesus’s point/message to the rich, young man in Matthew 19:16-26 (as it is to me and to you, and Richard Dawkins and Mr. Fred Phelps, Mother Teresa and to anyone else in the world who will listen) is simply this:

    “OK, Mr./Ms. Smarty Pants, you said that you’re worthy and good enough to make it into heaven (v. 20)…but here’s what I’m telling you….If YOU, want to get there on your own merits and strengths, have at it, buddy: sell EVERYTHING you’ve got, give it to the poor and come follow me.” In other words, Jesus called his bluff. It was/is impossible for him (and me and you)to make the grade on our own, under our own strength and abilities no matter what “good intentions” we may have. (And the rich young man DID have good intentions, BTW!)
    If you’ll notice, the rich young man after hearing this bombshell from Jesus went away exceedingly sorrowful. The guy was heartbroken. You might even say that he was “poor in spirit”!
    And, if you believe Jesus in Matthew 5:3, THIS was a blessing. Jesus blessed the young man.
    What the young man did the next day or the next week, we are not told. But I would not be surprised at all to see the young man one day in heaven. And if I’m right, it WON’T be because the rich young man sold everything he had and gave it all to the poor. No, it will be because he believed the truth about his own helplessness, his own unholiness, his own unworthiness, his own unrighteousness and then came to his senses and trusted the Truth, who is the Lamb of God.
    “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…” (Matthew 5:3…)

    God bless,
    Tom

  42. Brandon

    Hi, I am an athiest, and for my part I work very hard every day to express love and kindness to all living things. My love extends to everyone on this forum and to all Christians who I consider to be my human brothers and sisters. One thing that we most certainly can agree on is that we all come from the same source.

    I am, however somewhat upset by the conduct that I have seen creeping into the internet through Christian websites and media outlets. I know that you are not immune to such frustrations from our “side of the fence,” so I do not hold it against you, but I would just like to point out that I think that many sites are missing the point of the Reason Rally.

    Christians websites keep admonishing atheists for the use of “reason.” We have laid no universal claim to reason. We are not calling anyone unreasonable. We make no claim that we understand every aspect of the universe. Richard Dawkins himself has said many times that he does not rule out the possiblity, however remote, of the existence of a divine being. He routinely interviews and debates religious figures in a civil manner. Please, if you are going to criticize the man at least take a look at his website.

    There are two reasons, in my opinion, that “reason,” was chosen as the title for this rally.

    1) Reason in this sense applies to all of the harm that we see religious extremists causing at home and abroad like suicide bombings, discouraging practical solutions to the AIDS epidemic by condemning the use of condoms, religion’s infringement in the scientific community. These things are what we see as unreasonable and I would wager that most Christians would agree. In fact, in a nation that is overwhelmingly Christian attempts to litigate intelligent design into school curriculum have been defeated time and again. We are not opposed to someone’s decision to enrich their lives through faith and worship.

    2) The alliteration between “Reason,” and “Rally.” 😉

    I hope that many Christians do attend the rally whatever your agenda is. You will see a remarkably normal group of people there. Salespeople, doctors, lawyers, scientists, students, stock boys, auto mechanics and all the other normal looking somebodys that you see every day.

    It would be disingenuous of me to offer a blessing so I simply wish all of you well. See you at the rally!

    P.S. I will pick up the book. I am a sucker for a good discussion.

  43. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    Thank you for your very thoughtful comments, Brandon! I appreciate it.

    I wish what you were saying about reason were universally true. Unfortunately Sam Harris makes it clear that atheism is the only reasoning choice, and that believers in God are by definition unreasonable. The same sentiment comes across from many other writers and authors.

  44. Brandon

    Thank you Tom,

    I have not read any of Sam Harris’s work as of yet. I know that there are some very outspoken atheists who can be very stubborn. In a sense they are honestly expressing their view that they do not see any evidence that could confirm the existence of a divine being. Some, like Dawkins, contend that most people of faith practice out of tradition rather than belief. I, personally, think that he has a point here. For instance, how many people do you know that call themselves Christian but never attend church?

    You are correct. The sentiment is not universally true. I think that the internet can make it seem like most atheists think that religious people are dolts. I assure you, we don’t think this way. The old addage “never discuss religion or politics,” exists because people tend to say hurtful things when someone disagrees with their most cherished and fundamental values. I, myself, am guilty of this.

    In a broader sense many atheists feel like we have been marginalized. We have listened for many years to prominent politicians like George H.W. Bush say things like “I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots.” In fact, Barrack Obama is the first president to ever include “nonbelievers,” in his inaugural address.

    I suspect that the more incendiary language that prominent atheists use is partially due to the fear and paranoia that we feel. I, for instance, still have not told many of my friends and co-workers that I have been an atheist for the last 15 years for fear of how they will react. I work for an organization that is run by some very religious people. We hold prayers at company gatherings. People post religious symbols on their cubes. I am afraid that I might lose my job.

    In short, those assertions are a round about way of saying “we’re here, we’re (atheists), get over it!” Lets hope that it is a passing trend. 🙂

  45. Brandon

    2 Points to make in response to comments that others have posted here.

    1) No one is denying that dictators like Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin were atheists. However, it is historically inaccurate to claim that Hitler was an atheist. Hitler invoked God many times in “Mein Kampf.”

    “I believe today that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator.”

    – Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Vol. 1 Chapter 2

    It also bears mentioning that during the Holocaust Germans were not running around burning churches and bibles. Hitler, in fact, had plans to implement a new religion called “Progressive Christianity,” which would conveniently repaint Jesus Christ as a gentile. You can argue that Hitler was lying or that he did not mean “God,” literally, but if you are going to cast Hitler aside then you need to give up Einstein for the same reason. 🙂 The most you can say is that Hitler’s faith was indeterminate.

    Furthermore one might also argue that the atrocities committed “in the name of Atheism,” were in fact due to more mundane human frailties like greed and paranoia. Joseph Stalin for instance did not murder people to forward an Atheistic ideal as much as he did it to preserve his power. The point is that there have been atrocities committed on both sides and neither faith nor “reason,” (so sue me!;)) are the cause of said atrocities.

    2) The WBC is made up of Christians. The argument that are not Christians because they do not adhere to the teachings in Matthew 22 or Luke 6 or any number of verses that preach love and acceptance is to misunderstand their purpose. They believe that they are showing love to their fellow man, albeit tough love. They have said time and again “We do not hate (whoever), God hates (whoever).” They are deranged individuals but they have convinced themselves that they are indeed doing God’s work and are saving people from damnation. It is another example of immorality apart from religion. They are Christians but they just so happen to be Christians who are delusional jerks!

  46. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    Brandon, you are wrong about Hitler. (Pardon my using the Wikipedia shortcut, I’m supposed to be working on another project with a deadline this afternoon.)

    Also, your pronouncement that the WBC is made up of Christians comes out of your biased and idiosyncratic (read: unreasonable) definition of the word “Christian.”

    We were off to a good start. Please examine your biases before you try again.

  47. Brandon

    The link that you provided actually supports this claim since it includes references to Positive Christianity (which I referenced above as “Progressive Christianity”). It actually appears in the text that you linked. There is nothing there that says that Hitler was an atheist, in fact it appears that according to your own source he was, in fact, a very deluded Christian.

    In terms of the Polish priests that were murdered I have done a good bit of research on the Holocaust and I can tell you that these murders were not carried out because of the fact that these priests were Christians but because they were political threats. In fact millions of Poles were murdered by the Nazis in concentration camps for this reason.

    On the WBC I can hardly see how one cannot be a Christian if they.

    a) Profess faith in Christ

    -and-

    b) In the name of that faith work to implement God’s plan as they see it. If they aren’t Christians then who is a Christian? What definable parameters make one a Christian if not the ones above?

    My thesis is that both Hitler and the nut cases from the WBC are Christians just as Mao and Stalin are atheists. The fact that they are all jagoffs is their only unifying thread.

  48. Sault

    Well hey, at least we know that Hitler wasn’t an atheist

    Also, your pronouncement that the WBC is made up of Christians comes out of your biased and idiosyncratic (read: unreasonable) definition of the word “Christian.”

    Interesting comment. We’ve tried on this site, at least one other time, to come to a common definition of what it means to be Christian. So far I haven’t seen a universally accepted one – merely ones advocated by this person or that person.

    So, before you go around calling other peoples’ definitions of Christianity biased and idiosyncratic, perhaps you should offer one… one that all of you can agree on.

    I’ve heard the phrases “God hates sin” and “homosexuality is a sin” before… so if saying that “God hates homosexuals” disqualifies you from being a Christian, I’d like to understand why. I’ve heard some very prominent self-professing Christians say it (not just WBC), so it would be a great help to me to understand where the line is drawn.

  49. Brandon

    I do not ascribe an agenda to any Christians who denounce the WBC. I think that “they aren’t real Christians,” is more of an emotional than a logical statement. The same way someone would say that a woman who abandons her child is “no mother.”

    It is meant to condemn and not to describe.

  50. Doug

    @Brandon,
    Based on your accepted definition of “Christian”, I’m sure that you have no difficulty accepting the fact that the Discovery Institute is full of “scientists”?

  51. Brandon

    Yes Doug they are scientists. They have degrees and they do research. They have just failed to produce verifiable data, which makes them bad scientists.

    I am a salesperson and if I never sold a single thing I would still be a salesperson, I would just be a really bad one 😉

  52. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    It is meant to condemn and not to describe.

    Is it possible, even theoretically, to describe a self-claimed Christian as “not a Christian”? Or would such a reference necessarily in all cases be condemnation rather than description?

  53. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    We’ve tried on this site, at least one other time, to come to a common definition of what it means to be Christian. So far I haven’t seen a universally accepted one – merely ones advocated by this person or that person.

    Well of course. That’s been going on for centuries. Does that mean there is no such thing as a false claim to be a Christian?

  54. Doug

    @Brandon,
    It would seem to me that salesmen are typically not in the best place to determine either who is a “scientist” or who is a “bad scientist”.
    Similarly, it is bizarre that atheists should be consulted on either who is a “Christian” or who is a “bad Christian”.

  55. Doug

    these murders were not carried out because of the fact that these priests were Christians but because they were political threats.

    Yes: that was the official reason for the Gulag, too, wasn’t it?

  56. Brandon

    Good question Tim, allow me to expand on the above.

    “a) Profess faith in Christ

    -and-

    b) In the name of that faith work to implement God’s plan as they see it.”

    I am certainly no expert on what makes one a Christian but in my estimation a Christian has to have at least the above characteristics. Naturally, one who falsely professes to be a Christian is not a Christian. So someone who is caught lying about their faith, for instance, would not be a Christian.

    Second, belief in Christ alone does not make one a Christian you have to, in good faith, execute Christ’s teachings. So an extreme example might be a devout Satan worshiper who knows that Christ exists but is in enmity with him. Obviously not a Christian.

    In practice I think that this question comes down to how other Christians perceive each other. An Evangelical might not consider a Catholic to be a Christian. A Catholic may not consider a mainline protestant to be a Christian. But all of them are undoubtedly trying to be Christians as best they can.

    So no, I do not think it is possible for someone to describe a Christian as “not a Christian,” on a factual basis precisely because there is so little consensus on what a Christian is apart from a belief in Christ. I think calling the nut cases at the WBC “bad Christians,” would be more appropriate.

  57. Sault

    Well of course. That’s been going on for centuries. Does that mean there is no such thing as a false claim to be a Christian?

    It would certainly seem plausible that there would. Well, all I can do is ask questions, then :

    What makes you Christian and the WBC not?

    Does saying that “God Hates F***” make you not a Christian?

    Similarly, it is bizarre that atheists should be consulted on either who is a “Christian” or who is a “bad Christian”.

    The only thing preventing “us” from determining who “you” are is your inability to clearly define who “you” are. (see Tom’s comment about “centuries” above)

    Want to define an atheist? Really easy. One question – “do you believe in God, god, or gods?” If they say “no”, then they’re an atheist. Bam!

    It doesn’t seem to be as easy to officially define who is “Christian” and who isn’t. I’ve tried, but my efforts at establishing a baseline have been rejected because they imply that Mormons are Christians too, and that is apparently quite distasteful to some.

  58. Brandon

    @Doug

    Well screw you then!!!…I kid, I kid 🙂

    Well Doug at the very least I rely on the consensus of the scientific community which, it is common knowledge, have virulently denounced the findings of these bad scientists. I am not a baseball player either but I am pretty sure a first baseman with a 100 batting average is a bad baseball player.

    And I responded to the question about Christians because it was asked…after I asked it in the first place. So I will ask you as a Christian what objective criteria one can use to determine who is and who is not a Christian.

  59. Doug

    @Brandon,
    By your criteria, viz:

    failed to produce verifiable data

    the Nobel-winning research of Watson and Crick was “bad science” (it was only “verified” decades after their work!)
    And concerning “consensus”, I suspect that you have views on climate change as well?
    (hint: if it is “virulent” it isn’t typically scientific)
    Oh: and I believe that I was Sault’s primary interlocutor on the topic of “what constitutes a Christian”. The closest we came to a “consensus” was an affirmation of what is often called “The Apostles’ Creed”. A runner-up was the just-as-difficult-to-define-or-defend criterion given by Jesus on what would make “all men know … [his] disciples”, i.e., “love for one another”.

  60. Brandon

    @ Doug

    I must admit a bit of frustration. I don’t like the tactics that you are employing.

    Watson & Crick are not proponents of intelligent design. If you have a primary source that is contrary to this please post it.

    Thank you for those criteria. I think that the WBC fits the second one.

  61. Doug

    @Brandon,
    The “tactics” I’m employing are an attempt to have us thinking clearly about what “science” is (to then help us think clearly about what “Christian” is) via the Socratic method.
    Incidentally, it isn’t particularly reasonable to conclude from my comments that I imagine that Watson and Crick have ever been proponents of intelligent design…
    And I’m sure that WBC are pleased with your endorsement of their orthodoxy.

  62. Brandon

    Please Doug, you have been condescending since your first comment.

    “And I’m sure that WBC are pleased with your endorsement of their orthodoxy.”

    Disregarding the fact that this is a profoundly sarcastic statement I would say that the WBC will probably never read this and even if they did would probably just yell at me and call me a fag enabler.

    You seem to be implying that just because something is unproven does not mean that it is untrue and you are right but a scientific theory, (as a dumbass like me understands it) is not a verifiable theory until there is evidence that corroborates it. As of yet the ID movement has produced no such evidence. So the jury is out on whether or not they are “bad,” scientists. We’ll see.

    I insist that if you want to continue this discussion you change your “tone.”

  63. Doug

    @Brandon,
    My “first comment” was legitimate. As much as you care about whether ID-proponents are “good” or “bad” scientists, the folks that hang around this blog tend to care whether WBC are “good” or “bad” Christians. It was likely useful for you to feel some of the emotions that you seemed so oblivious to.

    If you would really like to turn this discussion into one concerning ID, I’m willing to do that, too. So tell me: how would you put the human genome into a cell nucleus whose diameter is one million times smaller than the length of that genome… without it getting tangled?
    Are you aware that the reverse engineering of even a small cellular sub-system and its processes involves more “intelligent (re-)design” (measured in researcher years) than the design of an iPad or a fighter jet? Tell me, Brandon, that this is not “evidence” for intelligent design.

  64. Brandon

    Pleasure speaking with you Doug. Have a swell day.

    And, Doug, you will not bait me into further discussion by rewriting your comments well after I have terminated said discussion to make it look like I ran from some factoids that you cut and pasted off of some ID website.

    I say again…Good Day!

  65. Doug

    @Brandon,
    no baiting intended.
    and I only noticed your “termination” after I started that “edit”.
    and Brandon — you won’t find those “factoids” on any ID website (feel free to go look!)

  66. Brandon

    If you can’t be polite then I refuse to discuss anything with you. No matter how good your argument is. Please read the first post that I made here and respond to that.

    The very things you chastised me for were responses to questions that Tom asked me. Tom was very polite, by the way, even in disagreement. I would say that you owe me a sincere apology before I decide to engage in a civil discussion with you.

    I love you Doug, but I don’t like you and at this juncture I would prefer to avoid you until you give me reason to do otherwise.

  67. Doug

    Goodness! I have barely “challenged” you, let alone “chastised” you!

    But why do you want me to respond to your first comment? I had no beef with it at all!

  68. Brandon

    “It would seem to me that salesmen are typically not in the best place to determine either who is a “scientist” or who is a “bad scientist”.”

    condescending

    (hint: if it is “virulent” it isn’t typically scientific)

    also condescending

    “And I’m sure that WBC are pleased with your endorsement of their orthodoxy.”

    sarcastic

    “It was likely useful for you to feel some of the emotions that you seemed so oblivious to.”

    clearly chastising.

    You have to sell me on why I would dedicate my valuable time to a discussion with you.

  69. Doug

    Three out of the four of those were actually in logical progression from the “Brandon cares about what ‘science’ means like folks here care about what ‘Christian’ means” observation.
    And

    (hint: if it is “virulent” it isn’t typically scientific)

    is a point of truth that I’d like far more people to appreciate.
    But hey — I can also appreciate that you have far more important things to do with your time. Have a good one.

  70. Sault

    And I’m sure that WBC are pleased with your endorsement of their orthodoxy.

    Categorizing someone as “Christian” does not imply either an endorsement or a rejection of their theology… merely that they fall within a certain category.

    Let’s see…. I think you just committed what is called a “strawman”.

    Yes Doug they [the Discovery Institute -ed] are scientists. They have degrees and they do research. They have just failed to produce verifiable data, which makes them bad scientists.

    By your criteria, viz: [insert above comment -ed] the Nobel-winning research of Watson and Crick was “bad science” (it was only “verified” decades after their work!)

    Just to make sure that we have the whole context of Brandon’s quote, I inserted it above.

    As far as your assertions about Watson and Crick… I can quote from Wikipedia :

    “In March 1953, Watson and Crick deduced the double helix structure of DNA.”

    “On October 20, 1962 the award of Nobel prizes to John Kendrew and Max Perutz, and to Crick, Watson, […] “

    9 years does not “decades” make.

    On the other hand, while the word “intelligent design” was first used in 1847, one could say that its modern form has existed since approximately 1987.

    In those 25 years, with the one fraudulent exception and one failed attempt, there have been no peer-reviewed publications of “intelligent design”. I read one copy of Gitt’s “In the Beginning Was Information”, for instance, and even though it was written in 1998 he has not introduced any of what he calls “quantitative” standards for the pseudo-mathematical and -scientific “variables” he introduced therein.

    So tell me: how would you put the human genome into a cell nucleus whose diameter is one million times smaller than the length of that genome… without it getting tangled?

    Argument from ignorance, argument from incredulity.

    Are you aware that the reverse engineering of even a small cellular sub-system and its processes involves more “intelligent (re-)design” (measured in researcher years) than the design of an iPad or a fighter jet? Tell me, Brandon, that this is not “evidence” for intelligent design.

    A cell is many magnitudes more complex than a fighter jet or iPad. Indeed, quite possibly more complicated than anything yet achieved by human design.

    That is not “evidence”. Again, argument from ignorance, argument from incredulity.

  71. Doug

    @Sault,
    Dude! Where is the strawman?
    And there is no “argument from whatever” — those were questions. But to say that the cell is not “evidence” is to altogether fly in the face of what we mean by both “design” and “evidence”.
    And here’s some education for you: the structure of DNA was not verified until long after W&C received their Nobel — because the technology to make that verification did not exist in 1962! – yes, there was plenty of evidence for it (by then), but there were competing structures for which the (1962) evidence was just as strong!

  72. Doug

    @Sault,
    Imagine we are in kindergarten, and the following dialog transpires between us:
    Doug: “I will be able to jump as high as the moon when I get big.”
    Sault: “no way!”
    Doug: “argument from ignorance, argument from incredulity.”
    How would you respond?

  73. Mike Gene

    Christians websites keep admonishing atheists for the use of “reason.” We have laid no universal claim to reason.

    I certainly have no problem with anyone using reason. The problem with the Gnus is the way they advocate for “reason” by using propanganda and hateful ridicule. I find it incredibly hypocritical.

    We are not calling anyone unreasonable. We make no claim that we understand every aspect of the universe. Richard Dawkins himself has said many times that he does not rule out the possiblity, however remote, of the existence of a divine being. He routinely interviews and debates religious figures in a civil manner.

    Yet Dawkins refers to Christians as ‘faith-heads,” accuses them of being child abusers if they give their children a religious upbringing, and insists they are infected with a mind virus. So are we to believe that Dawkins thinks it is reasonable to be a child-abusing faith-head infected with a mind virus? In fact, can you find one place where Dawkins publicly acknowledges that Christianity is reasonable?

    Please, if you are going to criticize the man at least take a look at his website.

    Sure. Check this page out: http://richarddawkins.net/letters/ugly

    Notice that Dawkins has the word “Ugly” associated with Ann Coulter. Now, I’m no fan of Coulter and her bomb throwing, but nevertheless, it seems awfully sexist to connect the word “Ugly” to a female. You’ll note Falwell, a man, only gets the “Bad”.

  74. Sault

    @Doug

    My interest is piqued… can you provide a reference to what you’re saying about their discoveries being verified? Because from the information that I’m finding, the empirical evidence was found in ’53….

    “Instead, it was Franklin’s famous “photograph 51″ that finally revealed the helical structure of DNA to Watson and Crick in 1953. This picture of DNA that had been crystallized under moist conditions shows a fuzzy X in the middle of the molecule, a pattern indicating a helical structure.”

    And at least one other experiment confirmed it in ’58 (Meselson-Stahl experiment).

    If you have contrary evidence (competing models from ’62?), please provide it, because according to this, it was less than 9 years after the Crick/Watson paper in ’53. Again, this is hardly “decades”!

    And there is no “argument from whatever” — those were questions.

    Looking at something and saying “gee, how could we ever possibly do this?” implies that we can’t do it, and is thus an argument from incredulity.

    I just saw an article about how we can now generate electricity from snails. That blows my mind. It seems almost impossible. People at one time would have said it couldn’t be done because of how impossible it seems. Yet… we can do it.

    Saying that stuffing DNA into a cell is so much harder than generating electricity from a snail (or building an iPad or a jet fighter) that it would be impossible… that is an argument from incredulity.

    So tell me: how would you put the human genome into a cell nucleus whose diameter is one million times smaller than the length of that genome… without it getting tangled?

    Here’s an idea – coat the DNA (you misuse the term “human genome”) with a slippery bit of something clever (maybe simple surfactants, maybe something more complex). Stuff it in the cell, then inject a solvent or enzyme to dissolve the coating.

    Does tangling the DNA actually impede its ability to reproduce? I wonder. There are these things called DNA Topoisomerases that help DNA untangle itself. So maybe its not even necessary to worry about tangling DNA up too badly…

    Imagine we are in kindergarten, and the following dialog transpires between us:

    *sigh*

    Okay, once again, from Wikipedia’s entry on argument from incredulity


    Arguments from incredulity take the form:

    P is too incredible (or: I cannot imagine how P could possibly be true); therefore P must be false.

    The ID/Creationist assertion – life is too complex to have evolved. Alternatively, the odds of life evolving are so impossibly small that life couldn’t have evolved. That, sir, is called an argument from incredulity.

    In other words, its a fallacy when its used to support your argument – which is what you are in the process of doing.

    There are a number of flaws in this approach, but they include :

    1. Fallacy of false dilemma. Disproving evolution does not prove Intelligent Design.

    2. No competing mechanism as a viable alternative to evolution. There is no “oh, this is how it actually happened”, there is no process, there is nothing actually said about how life might have been designed and assembled – just that it was (or that it must have been). “God did it” tells us absolutely nothing, and doesn’t advance our scientific knowledge one whit.

    and my personal bone of contention,
    3. No scientific unit of measurement.

    In every other field of “hard” science that I can think of, you can express the data in numbers. There are formulas to describe how the variables explain the data. For instance, I’m really into electronics – I have to keep track of volts, ohms, watts, amps, etc. What is the corresponding unit of measure in ID/Creationism?

    In other words,

    What is the unit of measurement for how designed something is?

    How much more complex is life than ice crystals or iPads? At what level of complexity could something not possibly have been caused by a natural process, but must have been designed?

    Can you express any of these things in numbers?

    That, by the way, is actually a question. If ID/Creationism is able to find a way to truly quantify complexity, then it would blow a hole right in the middle of how we perceive reality. The entire scientific community would be rocked to its core.

    But where is the scientific outpouring of knowledge? Darwin published “the Origin of Species” in 1859 (not long after what we now know as DNA was, interestingly enough). The Creationism (and now ID) community has had 153 years since then to propose an alternative explanation, to develop new technologies, to advance new scientific methods… and so far the best they’ve done is “nah, evolution couldn’t have done it” and “God did it”.

    I am sure that many of the employees of the Discovery Institute are well-intentioned, rational, and scientifically-minded. However, until they can show that ID is more than just “omg, too complex!” then it isn’t science.

  75. Doug

    @Sault,
    Too many fallacies, too little time.

    The source of the “not verified” is a Ph.D. Chemist friend whose supervisor reconstructed the W&C results.

    Your imposing any “argument from whatever” on me is entirely a strawman. You saw a trajectory and ran with it, never actually listening to what I might have said about it all. I’m sure you enjoyed letting off all that steam, but I don’t recognize any of your arguments having much at all to do with what I think on the topic.

    Besides which, you were just plain wrong on too many instances to count.

    In every other field of “hard” science that I can think of, you can express the data in numbers.

    why do you set the bar so high for others and so low for yourself? Abiogenesis is supported by what… besides the “argument from willful blindness”?

  76. Sault

    @ Doug

    The source of the “not verified” is a Ph.D. Chemist friend whose supervisor reconstructed the W&C results.

    So every single source that I’ve looked at that said that their results were experimentally verified were lying? And I’m supposed to take this on the word of your “chemist friend”?

    Prove it, or I call shenanigans!

    I don’t recognize any of your arguments having much at all to do with what I think on the topic.

    Well, then, I’m all ears.

    You could start by commenting on my answer to your question about inserting genetic material into a cell…. and although it might be too much to ask for, pointing out any errors that I apparently have made would be greatly appreciated, as long as you provide references that I can read in more detail.

  77. Doug

    @Sault,
    I don’t know if you have any experience with scientific results, but in my own field, every time a result makes it as far as the popular press, the distortion is considerable. The concept of “verification” is sufficiently nuanced that both my brilliant and trustworthy friend and the wikipedia articles you’ve consulted can be correct in their own way.

    Concerning DNA in a nucleus, you answered a question I didn’t ask (while your interpretation of my question was a legitimate one — you just thought it was more fun to write ten pages of rebuttal than to check if that’s what I actually meant).

    But choose your topic: do you prefer to discuss DNA/scientific history or ID/evidence. Or one at a time, if you prefer, but not both at the same time (as either is likely to use too much of the time I don’t have)

  78. Brandon

    @Mike Gene

    Hi Mike. Thank you for your polite and thoughtful response. Naturally I have some strong feelings on the subject, but I will try hard to articulate them in a respectful way.

    “I certainly have no problem with anyone using reason. The problem with the Gnus is the way they advocate for “reason” by using propanganda and hateful ridicule. I find it incredibly hypocritical. ”

    I do not entirely disagree with you here. I am reminded of a debacle that took place earlier this year when an atheist organization tried to sue a group that wanted to include the “911 Cross,” in a museum.

    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-august-4-2011/culture-war-update—the-dividening-of-america—american-atheists-vs–the-ground-zero-cross

    John Stewart, speaking as the atheist activist, had this to say.

    “we have ensured that even those who were indifferent to our cause *&^$# hate us!”

    I agree with him. Forgive me, but I think that the cross is silly. However, I would not have said some of the hurtful things that he said and it does make atheists everywhere look bad.

    Now, you have to agree that I could just as easily find something awful that Jerry Fallwell, Pat Robertson, or Billy Graham has said about atheists. We are angry that we have been kept in the closet for so long by the same ridicule that we are now perpetrating. But, as any good Christian will tell you, two wrongs don’t make a right.

    “Yet Dawkins refers to Christians as ‘faith-heads,” accuses them of being child abusers if they give their children a religious upbringing, and insists they are infected with a mind virus. So are we to believe that Dawkins thinks it is reasonable to be a child-abusing faith-head infected with a mind virus? In fact, can you find one place where Dawkins publicly acknowledges that Christianity is reasonable?”

    Dawkins’ beef is with reactionary fundamentalist Christian groups who try to use their lobbying power to advance an agenda that he sees as dangerous to the scientific community. I agree with him. Creationism should be taught in schools…in humanities. It is NOT science and it is a bold-faced attempt to indoctrinate children and lend credence to a branch of science that has produced no discoveries. If this agenda comes full circle he worries that it will negatively impact the scientific community and impede scientific research.

    I’ll admit that I do not know too much about the specific talking points in this debate so I cannot give a specific example of how injecting God as a solution might impact research, but I am much more well versed in physics, so consider the following example. There are 20 or so constants that have existed in the universe since the big bang that appear to be fine tuned to allow human life to exist. For example, if the strong nuclear force that holds an atom together were a hair off all of the particles in the universe would break apart.

    Theists use this as an opportunity to point out that God MUST have set those forces because if he didn’t how did such a perfect mix occur by chance? The odds would be astronomical! I’ll admit, it is a compelling argument, but it is a philosophical argument not a scientific argument. Theoretical physicists are currently coming up with explanations that they hope to test (some very fascinating stuff) to determine just why this is so. If, say, ever school child were taught that the fundamental forces in the universe were the work of God we would not have some of the exciting research that we are seeing now.

    Dawkins is much less critical of moderate Christians who try to reconcile their religious faith with scientific discovery. He does admit that he thinks they are fooling themselves, but he is just being honest.

    “Notice that Dawkins has the word “Ugly” associated with Ann Coulter. Now, I’m no fan of Coulter and her bomb throwing, but nevertheless, it seems awfully sexist to connect the word “Ugly” to a female. You’ll note Falwell, a man, only gets the “Bad”.”

    Some of the things that people write to him are very “ugly.” In practice I have stopped referring to people that I find unattractive as ugly (I try not to refer to them as unattractive either ;)). “Ugly,” is reserved for speech that is hurtful and sadistic, which some of those letters certainly are.

    Whether or not he chose that specific word to have the maximum amount of impact I can’t say, but I think that it is at least fair to say that he was much kinder to her than she was to him.

    Thank you, and may chance “bless,” you with a pleasant day 🙂

  79. Victoria

    @Brandon

    If, say, ever school child were taught that the fundamental forces in the universe were the work of God we would not have some of the exciting research that we are seeing now.

    How so? Please explain that to 21st century professional physicists (like myself) who are practicing Christians.

    Please explain to us how Christian theism’s concept of God as Creator and Sustainer of everything implies what you are claiming. Please do it in a way that accurately reflects the Christian worldview, as thoughtful, Biblically and scientifically educated Christians would understand it.

  80. Brandon

    @ Victoria

    I think that you might be misunderstanding me Victoria. I did not suggest that someone who is religious cannot still be inquisitive. You, yourself, are evidence that such a person exists and I have known plenty of scientists who were also religious.

    What I am suggesting is that science could be negatively impacted by introducing religious concepts into science classrooms. For instance, as a teacher, I held up as science fact that God “toggled the knobs,” to set the fundamental forces that comprise the universe to their present values then I would not be good teacher or a good scientist and I might discourage my students from pursuing a career in science.

    As I understand science, and correct me if I am wrong, scientists attempt to find definite solutions to explain natural phenomenon and there is no definitive proof that a supreme being did this. There is no evidence to support that claim. At best you can only present the phenomenon and encourage young minds to try and find the answer.

    Is that a clearer response to your question?

  81. Brandon

    @ Victoria’s second paragraph

    I believe that I have given a satisfactory answer, but if you would like me to expand on that I can only say that there is no scientific evidence for the existence of God. That being the case God as an explanation for natural phenomena does not belong in any science textbook.

  82. Victoria

    @Brandon
    You still have not answered my original question, though 🙂

    What if I stripped your assertion down to what it really implies: Belief in God as Creator is incompatible with the practice of empirical science. This is patently false – belief in God is incompatible with Metaphysical Naturalism, to be sure.
    Why would confident faith in God as Creator (Hebrews 11:3 for example) discourage someone from pursuing a vocation that essentially attempts to discover how His general providence actually works? We are not holding this up as a fact of empirical science.

    Perhaps you should visit some Christian scientific web sites, like http://www.asa3.org (The American Scientific Affiliation – a group of professional scientists who are practicing Christians) or BioLogos (www.biologos.org) to find out what professional scientists/Christians actually think and believe, rather than the likes of Dawkins et al?

  83. Victoria

    @Brandon
    Oh, I see where you want to go, and I think I would agree with you – the science class should be used to teach empirical science, not theology or philosophy. Fair enough, but then it should not be a place to indoctrinate students into Metaphysical Naturalism either

  84. Brandon

    @ Victoria

    I feel that you are misrepresenting me. I NEVER said that:

    “What if I stripped your assertion down to what it really implies: Belief in God as Creator is incompatible with the practice of empirical science.”

    I said quite the opposite:

    “I did not suggest that someone who is religious cannot still be inquisitive. You, yourself, are evidence that such a person exists and I have known plenty of scientists who were also religious.”

    Someone can be a scientist and still be religious, obviously. A Catholic priest first proposed the theory that would become the big bang theory. There is still an observatory at the vatican.

    Dawkins said that he cant see how a rational person can reconcile their religious beliefs with scientific discovery, not me so please do not imply that his words are my own.

    What I am saying and what I will say again is that to make God the answer to natural phenomenon like creationists do is silly because there is no scientific evidence that this is the case.

    I would have no problem with a Jesuit priest who holds a degree in physics teaching a science class and even telling his students that he, personally, believes that the universe is a construct of God, but when he holds God up as the answer to natural phenomena then he is not being a scientist.

  85. Brandon

    @Victoria

    Any kind of dogma is inappropriate in a science classroom, Metaphysical Naturalism included.

  86. Victoria

    @Brandon
    But that is what atheists would like to say, even if you don’t.

    Young Earth Creationists may say one thing, but they don’t speak for all Christians, still less all professional scientists who are Christians. Belief in God’s general providence is not an explanation for how it actually works in practice. The fact that I believe God is the ultimate Author behind the story that is Physics (just to name my own speciality) means that I give credit where it is due – I pause for a moment to worship Him for His marvellous works (as in Psalm 19), and then roll up my sleeves, kick off my heels and get busy with working out the details of the physical system I am modelling, or as in my graduate studies days (30 years ago), the experimental system. I can remember the thrill when I first saw the Maxwell-Boltzmann thermal energy distribution function being displayed in real-time from a time-of-flight experimental system.

    Please have a look at the web sites I referenced – I think you will get a picture completely different from what Dawkins would paint.

  87. Brandon

    Thank you. I will check it out. Extremism on both ends is infuriating. For every Richard Dawkins or David Silverman there are 100 respectful culturally sensitive atheists. I am very excited for this rally since I think most people who attend it regardless of their position will see that most atheists don’t want to be rabble rousers just like most Christians don’t want to see ID taught in schools.

    I’ll leave you with a funny story. I actually met a woman on an online dating service last year who was a Methodist minister and we went on a few dates. Even I was surprised by how easily we got along. We talked about everything, including our “faith,” and I found her to be a very agreeable person.

    Unfortunately I had to break it off because she wasn’t putting out…bam!

    (Sorry, I couldn’t resist)
    (That wasn’t the real reason that we broke it off ;))

  88. JAD

    Brandon @ 83 wrote,

    Dawkins is much less critical of moderate Christians who try to reconcile their religious faith with scientific discovery. He does admit that he thinks they are fooling themselves, but he is just being honest.

    Oh? In 2009 Richard Dawkins wrote this (see comment #16) on his website:

    “If they’ve [the creationists] been told that there’s an incompatibility between religion and evolution, well, let’s convince them of evolution, and we’re there! Because after all, we’ve got the evidence. … I suspect that most of our regular readers here would agree that ridicule, of a humorous nature, is likely to be more effective than the sort of snuggling-up and head-patting that Jerry [Coyne] is attacking. I lately started to think that we need to go further: go beyond humorous ridicule, sharpen our barbs to a point where they really hurt. …You might say that two can play at that game. Suppose the religious start treating us with naked contempt, how would we like it? I think the answer is that there is a real asymmetry here. We have so much more to be contemptuous about! And we are so much better at it. We have scathingly witty spokesmen of the calibre of Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris. Who have the faith-heads got, by comparison? Ann Coulter is about as good as it gets. We can’t lose!”
    http://richarddawkins.net/articles/3767#368197

    How many people have ever been ridiculed into their beliefs? Is that really the most reasonable tactic?

    Ironically, there are many atheists who are not really thrilled by Dawkin’s approach. For example, Massimo Pigliucci, Professor of Philosophy at CUNY, writes in Psychology Today:

    look at Dawkins’ prescription here. According to him we should be even more “contemptuous” than the religious fanatics are; we should “really hurt” with our “sharp barbs”; we “can’t lose” because truth is clearly on our side. One almost gets the feeling that if Dawkins had the resources of the Inquisition at his disposal he might just use them in the name of scientific Truth (a philosophical oxymoron, by the way). Thanks for the public relations disaster, Dick!
    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/rationally-speaking/200904/is-richard-dawkins-really-naive

    I wonder if Pigliucci will be attending the “Reason Rally”?

    Now look at Jerry Coyne’s post, “Richard Dawkins is not an accommodationist.”
    http://richarddawkins.net/articles/4413-richard-dawkins-is-not-an-accommodationist

    Note the email response from Dawkins. No moderation there.

  89. Sault

    @ Doug –

    But choose your topic: do you prefer to discuss DNA/scientific history or ID/evidence. Or one at a time, if you prefer, but not both at the same time (as either is likely to use too much of the time I don’t have)

    On the very real possibility that I don’t have the technical acumen to evaluate your friend’s research, let’s try something else.

    In my enthusiasm I’ve fired the proverbial warning shot across your bow. You’re saying that I have made many mistakes in my statements. Would you mind focusing on one or two of them and explaining where I went wrong?

    It sounds like I’m going to have more time this weekend than you will, so don’t feel like you have to type out pages – add references, and I can study them over the weekend.

  90. Brandon

    I think that a lot of people misunderstand Dawkins on this point. When he says:

    “I lately started to think that we need to go further: go beyond humorous ridicule, sharpen our barbs to a point where they really hurt.”

    I take that to mean that he is sick of the insensitive babble that atheists receive from (SOME) believers and he sometimes feels like firing back at them with the same vigor. He was directing it specifically at extremists as if to say, “Lets give them a taste of their own medicine.”

    Yes, he was misquoted in that article and it pissed him off. As I said above he does not believe that it is possible to reconcile religious thought with scientific thought. To say such a thing would make him quite a hypocrite.

    Here is an interview that he conducted with Father George Coyne, the former director of the Vatican observatory. Throughout the interview he is quite polite and even complimentary. I have watched dozens of interviews that Dawkins has conducted with moderate believers and he always treats them respectfully often thanking them and shaking their hands.

    http://richarddawkins.net/rdf_productions/george_coyne

  91. Brandon

    Here’s another pragmatic reason for inviting the Westboro Baptist Church. They have received quite a lot of attention for doing so and that has led to a ton of publicity.

  92. JAD

    @Brandon

    I have watched dozens of interviews that Dawkins has conducted with moderate believers and he always treats them respectfully often thanking them and shaking their hands.

    Okay, Richard Dawkins is not a complete total jerk when he does an interview. What does that prove? Except that he is not a complete total jerk when he does interviews.

    I wonder, how many interviews would he get if he didn’t treat other people respectfully?

    “[O]ften thanking them and shaking their hands”?

    Often, not always? That sounds patronizing to me.

  93. Brandon

    @Jad

    I really don’t know what to say to that. On the one hand Dawkins has made it plain that he thinks religion is a bunch of rubbish and on the other hand when he engages someone in a discussion he is typically polite.

    I get the feeling that you are upset that he disagrees with you in the first place and I guess that’s your prerogative but I don’t think its fair to claim that he has contempt for moderate believers. Would he like to see you renounce your faith? Sure, he has said as much himself. I’ll bet you would probably like to see him embrace a faith.

    I haven’t met him personally but I don’t think he is as mean a guy as people think he is.

    Really, what he says that offends people the most is that he does not like religion and that he thinks it is dangerous. He clearly thinks that moderate believers are fooling themselves. Why is that so offensive?

    I get offended by what Pat Robertson says sometimes but if I had to sit next to him on a plane I wouldn’t be a dick. I would probably talk about the weather, or sports, or how hot the flight attendant is. I’m sure that in person he would be a very nice old man. I’m sure Richard Dawkins is no different.

    I’ll share a bit of wisdom that I have learned in my time as a telemarketer. I have been doing this for five years, calling people at work when they are busy and trying to sell them software consulting services. The vast, vast, vast majority of people are nice people! Even in a situation where someone is interrupting them at work they are usually really polite.

    After making well over 15000 calls I can say that less than 5% of people hang up on me and that usually only happens at the very beginning of the call. Only 2, 2! people have ever been mean to me, one guy called me an asshole once and another guy said “it’s my job to get rid of salespeople.”

    My point is that most people are decent people.

  94. Brandon

    “[O]ften thanking them and shaking their hands”?

    Some interviews aren’t cut to show the end of the interview. So he might always do it. I can’t say.

  95. Mike Gene

    Hi Brandon,

    Thank you for your polite and thoughtful reply. Unfortunately, you side-step the issues of concern. You originally caught my attention by claiming, “We are not calling anyone unreasonable.” Now, while this may be true in your own personal case, it is surely not true concerning most Gnus and their leaders. And you did say “we.”

    You raised Dawkins as an example. So I brought some facts about him to the table:

    Dawkins refers to Christians as ‘faith-heads,” accuses them of being child abusers if they give their children a religious upbringing, and insists they are infected with a mind virus.

    I then asked a simple question which you ignored:

    So are we to believe that Dawkins thinks it is reasonable to be a child-abusing faith-head infected with a mind virus?

    That would be ridiculous. When someone adopts such extreme views that function to dehumanize their opponents, they don’t go on to acknowledge their opponents as being reasonable.

    Early in your reply you lament the atheists who have said some hurtful things. Well, when Dawkins himself refers to Christians as child-abusing faith-heads infected with a mind virus, is this any less “hurtful?”

    Then I asked another question that you ignored:

    In fact, can you find one place where Dawkins publicly acknowledges that Christianity is reasonable?

    Well?

    So yes, it is pretty obvious to me that the Gnu Movement, and its leaders, do NOT think anyone can be both a Christian and reasonable.

    You also claim that “Dawkins is much less critical of moderate Christians who try to reconcile their religious faith with scientific discovery.” No, among the Gnus, atheists who are less critical of moderate Christians who try to reconcile their religious faith with scientific discovery are called accomodationists and faitheists. Dawkins is strongly allied with extremists like Coyne, Myers, and Harris. He has even promoted them whenever he can. And all three of these Gnu leaders do not make that distinction at all. In fact, people like Coyne spend far more time ridiculing and attacking moderate Christians than fundamentalists. They even tried to stop Francis Collins from being appointed head of the NIH.

    The Gnus are as extreme as you can get. We can tell this not only because they attack theistic evolutionists, but they attack agnostics and other atheists for not being anti-religious enough.

    Some of the things that people write to him are very “ugly.”

    I anticipated this response and posted about this last night. Something about all that “ugly” hatemail smells fishy to me:

    http://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2012/03/15/i-need-evidence/

    In practice I have stopped referring to people that I find unattractive as ugly (I try not to refer to them as unattractive either ). “Ugly,” is reserved for speech that is hurtful and sadistic, which some of those letters certainly are.

    You are side-stepping the issue of sexism, as your use of the word “ugly” is not the issue. The fact remains that Dawkins site attaches the word “ugly” to a woman and not a man. Why is that? This is not the first time Dawkins has attacked the physical appearance of a woman.

    You seem like a nice guy Brandon, so let me give you a word of advice. If you insist on associating with the Gnus, your polite and reasonable approach is not going to help shape their image. It doesn’t work that way. On the contrary, the hateful and bigoted approach of the Gnus is going to shape perceptions about you.

  96. Mike Gene

    JAD: Okay, Richard Dawkins is not a complete total jerk when he does an interview. What does that prove? Except that he is not a complete total jerk when he does interviews.

    I would agree. If Dawkins were to refer to a religious leader as a faith-head and accuse him of being infected by some mind virus during a tv interview, Dawkins would only hurt himself and his movement. It just tells us he is a pretty good politician. He uses less visible mechanisms to espouse his bigotry. Reminds me of the way PZ Myers always acts so nice in person, but uses his blog to joke about punching Catholics in the face.

  97. Arthur

    So let me get this straight. A group of people who claim to love “reason” are going to gather together, listen to speakers who already agree with them, and hang out exclusively with more people who already agree with them. Sheesh.

    The message couldn’t be clearer. If you don’t join all these self-proclaimed rationalists, you’re not a Truly Rational Person. If you can’t see what’s wrong with that, you’re not really rational at all.

    I like to think of this in terms of Socratic Knowledge. Socrates didn’t roam around Athens boasting about how “rational”, or “free-thinking”, or “sceptical” he was. He didn’t have to.

  98. JAD

    @Brandon,

    I get the feeling that you are upset that he disagrees with you in the first place and I guess that’s your prerogative.

    I believe a democratic society cannot exist without religious freedom which is more broadly conceived of as freedom of conscience. Apparently Dawkins does not share that belief.

    I respect his right to be an atheist; why can’t he respect my right to be a Christian-theist? Who is he to judge whether or not my religious beliefs are reasonable? Does he know me personally? Has he read and studied all the books I have read? Does he know and understand why I believe the way I do? BTW I do not believe that atheism is unreasonable, I just think Christian theism is a better explanation of why the world is the say it is. In other words, I believe it because it’s a more reasonable position.

    Would he like to see you renounce your faith? Sure, he has said as much himself.

    Again, what business is it of Dawkins what other people think or believe?

    I’ll bet you would probably like to see him embrace a faith.

    Actually I’d be happy if Dawkins would just leave other people alone. Whether he believes it or not, they really are capable of thinking for themselves. Come to think of it that would be a good thing for Dawkins to believe. Religious people really can think for themselves.

    I don’t think its fair to claim that he has contempt for moderate believers

    How about respect? Does he show any religious believer the respect they deserve? Does he even believe that they deserve respect?

  99. Doug

    @Sault,
    “mistakes” include:

    1. That is not “evidence”.

    It certainly is evidence. Of course, it is legitimate to ask what it is evidence for. And of course, that is worthy of a discussion.

    2. Looking at something and saying “gee, how could we ever possibly do this?” implies that we can’t do it

    It implies no such thing. It is meant to invoke wonder and amazement. It is meant to engage our brains.
    3. Your response to the “kindergarten question” was so bizarre, it was like you didn’t read the actual question. Care to answer it now?

    4. which is what you are in the process of doing

    mindreading fail.

    5. so far the best they’ve done

    You’re too busy denigrating “what they’ve done” to notice, so I won’t blame you (much)…
    but since you asked for reading material, Mike Gene’s The Design Matrix is good. As is Meyer’s Signature in the Cell. But I’d be far more interested in discussing the matter with you, Sault, as long as you’d address what I actually say rather than what you’d prefer me to say… deal?

  100. JAD

    Brandon @ #99,

    I’ll share a bit of wisdom that I have learned in my time as a telemarketer. I have been doing this for five years, calling people at work when they are busy and trying to sell them software consulting services. The vast, vast, vast majority of people are nice people! Even in a situation where someone is interrupting them at work they are usually really polite.

    I agree most people have some kind of “redeemable quality.” Hitler, for example, is said to have loved children and dogs… Correction: He loved Aryan children and dogs… Correction: He loved healthy non-handicapped Aryan children and dogs who who were not homosexual… Well, he may have been more tolerant of dogs. Apparently there is no such thing as an Aryan dog, and sexually… Well, they’re dogs.

    My point is not that Dawkins is as evil as Hitler, rather, it’s that you really have to search to find some redeemable quality. Most people are not like that. Again, I wholeheartedly agree with you there. Dawkins is the sad exception to the rule.

  101. Mike Gene

    Hi JAD,

    Here’s a couple more examples of Dawkins behavior:

    -He is a highly strung, frequently petulant man. I’ve seen him storm out of an amiable dinner because he didn’t like the music and I’ve heard of him muttering to his companion, when a lady cleric entered the room, that dog collars are always a sign of low IQ.

    http://www.bryanappleyard.com/richards-dawkins-interview/

    -“I saw a picture of this woman,” says Dawkins. “She had one of the most stupid faces I’ve ever seen. She actually said, ‘Christians should be allowed to work for British Airways’.”
    He continues, face reddening: “Well, of course, Christians are sodding well allowed to work for British Airways. It’s got nothing to do with it. She is clearly too stupid to see the difference between somebody who wears a cross and somebody who is a Christian.”

    http://www.jeremystangroom.com/index.php/2011/02/she-has-a-stupid-face-says-dawkins/

    He really does seem to have an issue with women.

  102. JAD

    Brandon @ #99,

    I don’t think its fair to claim that he has contempt for moderate believers

    In 2007, like he did recently in Oct. 2011, philosopher/ theologian William Lane Craig did a speaking tour of the UK. The organizers at the time, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, wrote a very gracious letter to Richard Dawkins challenging him meet Crain in a debate.

    Craig talks about Dawkins and the 2007 UK tour here:

    http://www.rfmedia.org/RF_audio_video/RF_podcast/The_New_Atheism.mp3

    Now Craig is certainly someone you would have to describe as a moderate. He is NOT a young earth creationist and describes himself as an agnostic about biological evolution, explaining that he is open to idea of “theistic evolution.”

    Note how Dawkins responds to the invitation.

    “I don’t know William Lane Craig… if I were to debate a religious person he would have to be at least a bishop… While a debate with me would look good on Craig’s resume’ it wouldn’t on mine.”

    If not contemptuous Dawkin’s response was certainly condescending. It looks like Dawkins has a problem even being polite to moderate Christians. Is that how reasonable people are supposed to behave?

    IMO along with the references that Mike has provided above, this doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of Dawkin’s intolerance and contempt for people of faith.

  103. Brandon

    @Everyone

    So many things to respond to that I can hardly keep them straight. Here goes.

    1) @ Victoria. I will check that article out. Looks interesting. thanks.

    2) @ Mike Gene 102. Dawkins is a scientist and as a scientist it is his duty to find explanations for why things are the way they are. People get offended by him characterizing religion as a “mind-virus,” and for saying that religion can be a form of “child abuse.” I agree with him on both counts. I will not go into too much depth in the interest of time and space but here goes:

    a. Mind virus: Dawkins likened the transmission of religion to a virus since it is a meme (a word that he coined in “The Selfish Gene,”). Memes are like viruses in the way that they are transmitted and Dawkins considers religion to be very harmful, and I agree with him, to an extent.

    b. Child Abuse: He is very critical of the concept of hell and how some believers will introduce their young children to the concept at a very young and impressionable age. He notes that evolution has conditioned young children to accept anything that authority figures tell them as fact. For instance “Stay away from the river it’s dangerous!” To have the concept of hell hang over a 6-year-old’s head is the kind of child abuse that he is referring to. And I wholeheartedly agree that that is child abuse.

    No, he has never said that Christianity is reasonable. Can you show me any quotes by Pat Robertson where he says atheism is reasonable? Two sides of the same coin. He is not saying that Christians are incapable of reason, just that they are being unreasonable in one specific area, religion.

    I really think that you are reaching on Dawkin’s sexism, quite frankly. As I said before, he may have intended that word to have the maximum impact which is why he chose “ugly,” for a woman but I don’t think that that is indicative of his views towards women as much as it is indicative of how he views that particular woman. He wanted to hurt her feelings after she had been a total bitch.

    I have seen him defend women’s’ rights more than once. For instance, in “The Root of All Evil,” he had a conversation with a Muslim man who said “Just look at how you dress your women in the west.” Dawkins responded, angrily “We don’t ‘dress’ our women! Women dress themselves!”

    @JAD 105

    Dawkins anger was spawned by the ID movement pushing their quasi-science on people. I agree with him, as I have said before. I will continue to reiterate that Dawkins has very little contempt for moderate believers. I have watched hours of footage and seen him debate and interview moderate believers politely. He has written that he thinks that they are fooling themselves. That is about as incendiary as he gets. Unless they try to spew falsehoods about evolution, then he corrects them since he is one of the foremost experts in the world on the subject.

    @Mike Gene 108.

    I skimmed the article and it seemed biased to me. I’ll look at it in detail later.

    @JAD 109.

    I don’t think WLC is a very fair debater in that he always argues in front of a favorable crowd and never argues the affirmative. Dawkins was referring to a specific instance where Craig’s argument was that it was merciful for Christians to execute pagan children since they would go straight to heaven. He took offense to the brutality of that argument. Dawkins is within his rights to refuse to debate this man.

  104. Brandon

    @JAD 109…again.

    I reread Dawkins response to WLC just now. I had forgotten that Dawkins wrote it in response to a slight by Craig where he said that he planned on leaving an empty chair on stage for Dawkins to symbolize his absence. Also, I searched this quote…

    “I don’t know William Lane Craig… if I were to debate a religious person he would have to be at least a bishop… While a debate with me would look good on Craig’s resume’ it wouldn’t on mine.”

    …and I did not find it. I think that you may have been paraphrasing what Dawkins actually said which was:

    “For some years now, Craig has been increasingly importunate in his efforts to cajole, harass or defame me into a debate with him. I have consistently refused, in the spirit, if not the letter, of a famous retort by the then president of the Royal Society: ‘That would look great on your CV, not so good on mine’.”

    -and-

    “I took pleasure in refusing again, which threw him and his followers into a frenzy of blogging, tweeting and YouTubed accusations of cowardice. To this I would only say I that I turn down hundreds of more worthy invitations every year, I have publicly engaged an archbishop of York, two archbishops of Canterbury, many bishops and the chief rabbi, and I’m looking forward to my imminent, doubtless civilised encounter with the present archbishop of Canterbury.”

  105. Doug

    @Brandon,
    Face it: endorsing “mind virus” and “child abuse” is nasty. Irrational and nasty.

  106. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    The source of “at least a bishop” can be traced here. Apparently Dawkins said it in a personal email, not a public message, but when his atheist Oxford colleague Daniel Came attributed that to him he did not dispute or disavow it.

  107. G. Rodrigues

    @Brandon:

    Dawkins is a scientist and as a scientist it is his duty to find explanations for why things are the way they are.

    In what sense is Dawkins a scientist? He has not published much of anything in peer-reviewed journals since his phd work.

    Dawkins likened the transmission of religion to a virus since it is a meme (a word that he coined in “The Selfish Gene,”). Memes are like viruses in the way that they are transmitted and Dawkins considers religion to be very harmful, and I agree with him, to an extent.

    If the memetic theory (which by the way is self-refuting, but not that I expect that you or Dawkins recognize that) is science then I am the Pope.

    He is very critical of the concept of hell and how some believers will introduce their young children to the concept at a very young and impressionable age.

    Right. It is so much better to introduce young children to the idea that they are just a clump of atoms with no ultimate meaning or purpose, who are destined to vanish into the absolute nothing. Much more comforting and not as scary as the idea of Hell (not that Dawkins understand the doctrine of Hell anyway).

    No, he has never said that Christianity is reasonable. Can you show me any quotes by Pat Robertson where he says atheism is reasonable?

    So by your own admission, Dawkins is as reasonable as the most unreasonable of Christians. Now, if I am not mistaken, that is exactly what people have been saying.

    I will continue to reiterate that Dawkins has very little contempt for moderate believers.

    And as pointed out, this is directly contradicted by very explicit statements of his.

    I don’t think WLC is a very fair debater in that he always argues in front of a favorable crowd and never argues the affirmative.

    False on both counts.

    He took offense to the brutality of that argument. Dawkins is within his rights to refuse to debate this man.

    And we are in our rights for calling Dawkin’s bluff when he explicitly endorses the moral abominations of a Peter Singer and similar loonies. And really, what is all this nonsense about being offended by something that supposedly never happened, commanded by a Someone that does not exist? Dawkins is a coward and this excuse is the lamest possible, as he has debated other people that have pretty much the same ideas.

  108. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    These two statements do not belong in the same comment together. They do not even belong in the same mind together.

    Dawkins is a scientist and as a scientist it is his duty to find explanations for why things are the way they are.

    and

    To have the concept of hell hang over a 6-year-old’s head is the kind of child abuse that he is referring to. And I wholeheartedly agree that that is child abuse.

    There is a scientific understanding of child abuse. There are scientific studies correlating various experiences to various outcomes. Scientifically, raising children to believe is not abuse. To claim that it is, is to be as unscientific as any Creationist.

  109. Brandon

    @ Mike Gene 108…again

    I read both articles on my lunch hour. Yes, Dawkins said some mean things, but you are omitting the retraction of the mean things that he said and the nice things said about him.

    “But when relaxed, he is charming, deferring politely to opinions with which he disagrees and displaying a conscientious desire to understand.”

    -and-

    in reference to the British Airways employee:

    “Dawkins once described the British Airways employee dismissed for wearing a gold cross to work as having ‘the stupidest face’. Did he regret saying it? A slightly naughty smile flickers over his face.

    “‘Well … well … yes, I do really. Yes. That was an unguarded moment. Although I think I said stupid-looking. Did you see the photograph of her? I think if you look up the story, and they’ve got the photograph … ‘ He checks himself, and stops. ‘But this is unkind.'”

    Yes, he did say something exceptionally cruel about that woman, but I can’t condemn him in light of his entire body of work. Christian Bale was a jerk to the lighting director on that famous YouTube video as well. But I’m still going to see “The Dark Knight Rises.”

  110. Post
    Author
  111. Brandon

    Look, I think I have made my case. I don’t expect any of you to like Richard Dawkins. That’s a-ok with me. I really don’t have time to answer every single point that people bring up about Dawkins. There is only one of me there are many of you. My point is that Richard Dawkins is not the bogyeman that you make him out to be but if you are set on believing that then there is very little that I can do to may you believe otherwise.

    Most of the people at this rally, including me, don’t care what you believe. What we do care about is how those beliefs affect our schools and our system of government. If I ever have to send my children to a school where they are taught creationism, are forced to pray, are taught that condoms are an ineffective means of preventing pregnancy, or that if they don’t believe in Jesus that they will burn in hell then I am going to move to Canada. I don’t want to move to Canada.

  112. Brandon

    @ Tom

    “Brandon passes his hand over head and makes a ‘wooshing,’ sound.”

  113. Sault

    What we do care about is how those beliefs affect our schools and our system of government.

    +1

    @ Doug

    Imagine we are in kindergarten, and the following dialog transpires between us:
    Doug: “I will be able to jump as high as the moon when I get big.”
    Sault: “no way!”
    Doug: “argument from ignorance, argument from incredulity.”
    How would you respond?

    3. Your response to the “kindergarten question” was so bizarre, it was like you didn’t read the actual question. Care to answer it now?

    Okay, sure, why not. Let’s see… as a kindergartner that would have placed me around 5 or 6, I think. I was really into astronauts and understood that it took a space shuttle to get to the Moon.

    So, I assume that I would reject your claim that you could jump that high because you didn’t have a big rocket, only legs.

    I might ask my parents about it later, though, just to make sure. It’s hard to say, that was an awfully long time ago.

    I’ll just leave it at that, and have you explain how it actually applies to anything that we’ve been talking about.

  114. Brandon

    @ JAD

    Dawkins said as much in the article that I referenced. It is really a moot point. So what if he doesn’t want to debate anyone who is not a bishop?

    Also, please do not preach to me. I assure you there is nothing that you can say that I have not already heard 10,000 times.

  115. G. Rodrigues

    @Brandon (#118):

    Look, I think I have made my case. I don’t expect any of you to like Richard Dawkins. That’s a-ok with me. I really don’t have time to answer every single point that people bring up about Dawkins. There is only one of me there are many of you. My point is that Richard Dawkins is not the bogyeman that you make him out to be but if you are set on believing that then there is very little that I can do to may you believe otherwise.

    1. You doth protest too much, but you have definitely not made your case.

    2. I confess that from what little I heard of the man, he sounds like a fairly obnoxious dimwit. But my opinion of his character is irrelevant and unimportant, even more because I do not know him personally. What is relevant are his abysmal ignorance of theism and Christianity in particular, his fallacious, piss-poor arguments that even a Philosophy 101 sophomore can tear apart, his insulting and vicious snark, etc.

    Most of the people at this rally, including me, don’t care what you believe. What we do care about is how those beliefs affect our schools and our system of government. If I ever have to send my children to a school where they are taught creationism, are forced to pray, are taught that condoms are an ineffective means of preventing pregnancy, or that if they don’t believe in Jesus that they will burn in hell then I am going to move to Canada. I don’t want to move to Canada.

    1. Of course you do not care what we believe. For you to care, you would have to be a rational person open to the evidence of the other side.

    2. You do not have to tell us that the main motivation behind this rally, is not “reason” or the “defense of science” or similar slogans, but a definite political agenda. We already knew that.

    3. Do you even understand (understand, not agree with) the rational, moral case the Catholic Church makes for condemning the use of condoms? But then again, you already said that you are not interested in the opinion of the other side. Plug your ears, repeatedly shout “I cannot hear you, I cannot hear you” and all will be well.

    4. I am not an American, so I do not know if the presumed threat of a theocracy that you so vigorously proclaim has any shred of validity. But should Christians endure a forced secular indoctrination, a sexual “education” that violates their most cherished values, etc.? But you are not interested in their opinion, just in shoving down their throats your political, secular agenda. Tit for tat, methinks you preach the same intolerance as the alleged theocrats you so abhor.

  116. Doug

    @Sault,
    Ok… so… you, as a 5/6-yr-old would be correct that my claim to be able to jump to the moon was false — even before you asked your parents. And you would have been correct to challenge my claim even if you were unaware of what it took to reach the moon. So incredulity per se is not a bad thing! Otherwise directed it is often called skepticism, which is often lauded in some circles. 😉

  117. Brandon

    @GR. I have no desire to discuss anything with anyone who is as condescending and dismissive as you are. Good day.

  118. Doug

    @Brandon,
    For someone who can happily call his interlocutors “child abusers” and “mentally ill” (i.e., infected with a “mind virus”), you have a remarkably thin skin…

  119. Brandon

    @ Doug

    Hardly. I try as hard as I can to be tactful and polite. I don’t have time to discuss anything with anyone who does not put forth the same effort. It is not an emotional response. It is an assessment of what is and what is not a waste of my time.

    Furthermore, if you believe that I have called anyone a child abuser or mentally ill then it is just that, a belief, and not a fact supported by evidence.

  120. Doug

    @Brandon,
    No evidence here. Just a quote of someone saying

    I wholeheartedly agree that that is child abuse.

  121. Brandon

    Well Doug. I actually said that anyone who would introduce their six year old child to hell is engaging in a form of child abuse. I haven’t heard anyone step up and say that they have done this very abhorrent thing. So I have not called anyone here a child abuser have I?

    Furthermore, I recall some very condescending things that you said to me last week. Good day.

  122. Melissa

    Brandon,

    Furthermore, if you believe that I have called anyone a child abuser or mentally ill then it is just that, a belief, and not a fact supported by evidence.

    Really?

  123. Sault

    @ Doug

    So incredulity per se is not a bad thing! Otherwise directed it is often called skepticism, which is often lauded in some circles.

    My immediate reaction to your outrageous claim may be incredulity, which may lead to skepticism, but that is *not* what we are talking about here.

    “Omg, the human cell is sooo much more complex than an iPod, so it couldn’t have evolved!” is an argument from incredulity.

    “Omg, your claim that the cell must have been designed simply because you can’t imagine a way that it could have naturally evolved is leaving me speechless” is an expression of incredulity.

    As I may or may not have said earlier, the metaphor really doesn’t have anything to do with our discussion.

    So far you’ve said that I’ve misread you and not answered a question. Anything else?

    You’ve said that you have thoughts of your own that don’t necessarily touch on anything that I’ve mentioned so far… care to share them?

  124. Brandon

    Does anyone here want to cop to introducing their young child (younger than seven) to the concept of hell? A place where they will experience agonizing pain for all eternity if they dont act in accordance with God’s will.

  125. Sault

    It seems to me that telling a person at any age that they will suffer for eternity if they don’t accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior is a pretty awful thing to do… I know that’s where the scriptural recitations start, and the reasonings why it’s okay begin – that’s apologetics for you – but it certainly seems particularly cruel to do it to a child.

  126. Doug

    Well Brandon, you haven’t given any indication that you consider “introduc[ing one’s] six year old child to hell” to be any different from what (for example) my Mom did.

  127. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    It’s always possible for parents to be stupid, whatever they might believe. It’s also really cruel to tell a child her dead grandfather is gone from all existence and there is no hope to see him again. There are many ways to hurt a child.

    That said, I do not know of any Christian parents or Sunday School programs that encourage adults to frighten children the way you have described.

  128. Doug

    @Sault,
    How many children do you have?
    But seriously: neither one of you have the faintest idea of how my Mom “introduced me to hell”. (hint: it wasn’t remotely like “agonizing pain for all eternity if they don’t act in accordance with God’s will” – and just in case you might care, my Mom has an M.Ed. and each of her five sons have Ph.D.’s in the sciences 😉 )

  129. Doug

    @Sault

    My immediate reaction to your outrageous claim may be incredulity, which may lead to skepticism

    That is precisely what we are talking about here, in spite of your valiant attempts to deflect it elsewhere.

  130. Sault

    That is precisely what we are talking about here, in spite of your valiant attempts to deflect it elsewhere.

    Ummm, okay, I’ll just leave that at that, then.

    Anything else?

  131. Sault

    @ Doug

    I have one daughter.

    @ Tom

    It’s also really cruel to tell a child her dead grandfather is gone from all existence and there is no hope to see him again.

    Which is crueler – “Grandpa’s dead” or “Grandpa’s not actually dead, he’s burning in hell because he wasn’t a Christian”?

    @ Everyone

    Perhaps the question should be –

    When did you learn about hell, and how was it introduced to you?

  132. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Sault, why ask which is crueler? My point was that anyone can be cruel. My point also was that your theoretical parental cruelty is one I have never seen or experienced. You’re making it up.

  133. Doug

    @Sault
    Sure. Here’s one for you — please explain the two following “facts”:

    1. The genetic divergence between human-chimp-common-ancestor and modern humans has been measured to be in the order of 120M base-pairs. Of that, some may be redundant, so let’s conservatively suppose that this divergence represents on the order of 10M beneficial mutations. Recent “best-estimates” have this evolution happening in a small population (around 30k on average) over a period of approximately 5M years. With an average “generation” of 5 years, this means that there were 30G organisms. That makes one beneficial mutation for every 3000 organisms.

    2. In the last 1500 years, there have been roughly 30G modern homo sapiens. How many beneficial mutations have there been during that time? There may be a handful of candidates for that honor, but most are of dubious benefit. But even if we are really generous and say that there have been one hundred such beneficial mutations, this implies one beneficial mutation for every 300M organisms.

    What’s wrong with this picture? How can the mutation rate change by a factor of 100,000? Statisticians would tell you that the probability that the same processes were at work in both populations is “effectively zero”.

  134. Mike Gene

    Brandon,

    Thank you for acknowledging that Dawkins has never said that Christianity is reasonable. Recall that you originally caught my attention by claiming, “We are not calling anyone unreasonable.” Now, while this may be true in your own personal case (although it is becoming more likely it is not), it is surely not true concerning most Gnus and their leaders.

    You say that Dawkins is a scientist and as a scientist it is his duty to find explanations for why things are the way they are. So why does he peddle pseudoscience?

    Conscerning memes, “Memetics has been deemed a pseudoscience on several fronts.[81] Its proponents’ assertions have been labeled “untested, unsupported or incorrect.”[81]”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_topics_characterized_as_pseudoscience

    Science has nothing to do with referring to religion as a virus. It’s simply part of his campaign to malign religion. That is why he has also likened it to smallpox, mental disease, and narcotics. That’s why he calls all religious people “faith-heads” (a play on “towel-head?”). That is why he won’t liken New Atheism to a meme/mind virus.

    As for the child abuse accusations, why is it that this scientist has not raised this charge in the peer-reviewed scientific literature? Why is it that this scientist has not consulted the hundreds of scientific studies about child abuse? Because he is peddling pseudoscience when it comes to this issue. I’ve read his chapter on religion and child abuse in his book. It’s shameful. It’s nothing more than armchair philosophy, emotion-begging anecdotes, and sensational claims. There are no studies, no data, no real science. Why did he abandon science to write that chapter?

    I told you there is a core hypocrisy at the heart of Gnuism and here is yet another dimension to the hypocrisy. I’d be happy to talk about religion and child abuse. But I would insist that our discussion remain at a scientific level and not at Dawkins level of cargo cult science.

    As for sexism, I do not think I am reaching. As I documented above, it is not the first time he attacked the physical appearance of a woman (the woman with the “stupid face” and the female cleric with the “dog collar’). Besides, ever since his sexist stance on the Gnu’s infamous elevator blowup, many feminists have identified him as sexist.

    And no, I don’t think Dawkins is a bogeyman. He’s simply an extremist and I am pointing out his extremism in response to you trying to sell him as this immensely reasonable and fair-minded man.

  135. JAD

    Sault,

    When did you learn about hell, and how was it introduced to you?

    Why does Sault keep talking about hell, if as an atheist he does not believe that it exists? As a Christian I seldom talk about hell because I just don’t think that much about it. Why? I guess it’s because I have never viewed the Christian faith as “fire insurance.”

  136. Melissa

    Brandon,

    Does anyone here want to cop to introducing their young child (younger than seven) to the concept of hell?

    Yes, I have three children, all have been introduced to the concept of hell.

    A place where they will experience agonizing pain for all eternity if they dont act in accordance with God’s will.

    and no. None of us act in accordance with God’s will. There are ways to teach that are appropriate and I have no problem with teaching children that their choices do matter and actions have consequences, it would be negligent not to.

  137. Brandon

    @ Mike

    You can believe what you like. Sure you are offended by Dawkins, but I am glad he is there doing what he is doing even if it does offend you. Apologies. It is about time that someone stand up and speak for non-believers because most of what he says is what we think, even if you disagree. Just think of how I feel when I am in a room full of my colleagues and they ask everyone to bow their heads, or when I tell somenone “Yes, I’m an atheist,” and they respond “But you seem so nice!?”

    No matter what Dawkins has said he is just a private citizen (in a different country for that matter). Our own politicians have shown their disdain for non-believers one going so far as to proclaim that atheists are not citizens or patriots. And that guy eventually became the president and did not retract his statement. Many, I fear, like Rick Santorum have the same agenda.

    So, if you want to get angry at Dawkins or Silverman, or Bill Maher, be my guest. I like them and I think that their rhetoric is far less abrasive than what I hear from the other side. At the very least it is no more abrasive.

    Finally, I am sick and tired of repeating the same points over and over and over. I feel like I am playing a game of Whack-a-Mole. Every time I try to explain something three more people come along and say “but, Brandon…”

    The Dawkins discussion is over. You may all take the last word.

  138. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Brandon, everything you have said here is about feelings. My difficulty with Dawkins has little to do with how he makes me feel, and a lot to do with the fact that he is wrong about virtually everything related to Christianity, and he’s leading many other people to believe falsehoods, which is also wrong.

    I can’t find anything in this thread that indicates we are offended by Dawkins. Mike Gene mentioned his offensive language, yes, but notice that he didn’t say he was offended by it (unless I missed it somewhere). He brought it up as factual evidence in support of his contention that Dawkins is not very reasonable.

    So everything you said in your closing comment here was directed at a straw man. It is, like so much else in atheist writings, logically invalid. It is a further example of how reasoning skills need sharpening among your group; you who generally claim to be superior at reasoning.

  139. Brandon

    @ Tom

    Thanks for the response Tom. Very pleased to hear that Dawkins does not offend anyone here.

  140. G. Rodrigues

    @Brandon:

    Every time I try to explain something three more people come along and say “but, Brandon…”

    And has it ever occurred to you that your explanations are unconvincing and thus invite the “but…” retorts? Anyway, even if we grant your frustration, your post’s first paragraph is:

    You can believe what you like. Sure you are offended by Dawkins, but I am glad he is there doing what he is doing even if it does offend you. Apologies. It is about time that someone stand up and speak for non-believers because most of what he says is what we think, even if you disagree.

    In the first sentence you say “You can believe what you like” but then do not bother to rebut Mike Gene’s arguments. But this is just a different way of saying “I can believe what I like, independently of whatever evidence you put forward”. In other words, you are not really interested in people’s opinions (something you have already stated in a different way in other posts of yours) or arguments. Is this really what you want to say? And if it is, then why are you here in the first place? Even more, the rest of the paragraph *is just* conceding (some of) the points people are making. So why the frustration expressed above? In fact, by your own account, if there is someone that can complain of frustration is Mike Gene, since you have not deigned to respond to his arguments.

  141. Brandon

    Here are a list of statements by two notable Christians that offend me:

    If you’re not a born-again Christian, you’re a failure as a human being.
    — Rev Jerry Falwell

    AIDS is not just God’s punishment for homosexuals; it is God’s punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals.
    — Jerry Falwell

    The idea that religion and politics don’t mix was invented by the Devil to keep Christians from running their own country.
    — Rev Jerry Falwell

    It appears that America’s anti-Biblical feminist movement is at last dying, thank God, and is possibly being replaced by a Christ-centered men’s movement which may become the foundation for a desperately needed national spiritual awakening.
    — Jerry Falwell

    There is no separation of church and state. Modern US Supreme Courts have raped the Constitution and raped the Christian faith and raped the churches by misinterpreting what the Founders had in mind in the First Amendment to the Constitution.
    — Jerry Falwell

    The Jews are returning to their land of unbelief. They are spiritually blind and desperately in need of their Messiah and Savior.
    — Jerry Falwell

    I do not believe the homosexual community deserves minority status. One’s misbehavior does not qualify him or her for minority status. Blacks, Hispanics, women, etc., are God-ordained minorities who do indeed deserve minority status.
    — Rev Jerry Falwell

    There is no such thing as separation of church and state in the Constitution. It is a lie of the Left and we are not going to take it anymore.
    — Pat Robertson

    A Supreme Court ruling is not the Law of the United States. The law of the United Sates is the Constitution, treaties made in accordance with the Constitution, and laws duly enacted by the Congress and signed by the president. And any of those things I would uphold totally with all of my strength, whether I agreed with them or not…. I am bound by the laws of the United States and all 50 states … [but] I am not bound by any case or any court to which I myself am not a party…. I don’t think the Congress of the United States is subservient to the courts…. They can ignore a Supreme Court ruling if they so choose.
    — Pat Robertson

    We have imagined ourselves invulnerable and have been consumed by the pursuit of … health, wealth, material pleasures and sexuality… It [terrorism] is happening because God Almighty is lifting his protection from us.
    — Pat Robertson

    We have a court that has essentially stuck its finger in God’s eye. We have insulted God at the highest levels of our government. Then, we say, “Why does this happen?” It is happening because God Almighty is lifting His protection from us.
    — Pat Robertson

    The Constitution of the United States, for instance, is a marvelous document for self-government by the Christian people. But the minute you turn the document into the hands of non-Christian people and atheistic people they can use it to destroy the very foundation of our society. And that’s what’s been happening.
    — Pat Robertson

    Individual Christians are the only ones really — and Jewish people, those who trust God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — are the only ones that are qualified to have the reign, because hopefully, they will be governed by God and submit to Him.
    — Pat Robertson

    Can any of you defend the logic of these ideas?

  142. G. Rodrigues

    @Brandon:

    From a cursory glance, I would not defend some of those sentences, and others would need some qualification — but as I said, I would have to look closer, in particular, their *context* would have to be provided.

    But this is not the most important. To repeat myself, what you are effectively saying is that Dawkins is as reasonable as the most unreasonable of Christians — yes, everyone here agrees that the set of unreasonable, irrational, etc. Christians is non-empty — so you are in effect agreeing with us that Dawkins is not a reasonable man, but rather a very irrational one with only ignorant, fallacious arguments aimed at straw-men and caricatures.

  143. Brandon

    @ G Rodrigues

    I have failed to convince you that Dawkins is reasonable. At worst you can point to a few statements that are unreasonable. I just vomited forth a plethora of unreasonable theistic statements with little effort. If you are going to associate Dawkins with me then you have to take responsibility for your own leaders and condemn their hate-filled rhetoric.

  144. Doug

    @Brandon,
    I’ve never defended Falwell or Robertson to my Christian friends, so I won’t be doing that here… but I’m curious: can’t you see the difference between the (offensive-to-you-and-many-others) opinions being expressed by these two, and the insults propagated by Dawkins and his ilk (particularly when one side is continually claiming to be rational)? I’m guessing that your comparison of the two is not in support of the proposition that “Dawkins is the intellectual equivalent of Falwell” — however entertaining that might be.

    The Christian position, for what it’s worth, is that “there is no difference” (Romans 3:22, 10:12, 3:28). That is, the Christian interpretation of F&R is that anything negative that they say about anyone at all indicts us all (themselves included – see Romans 2:1, 3:9-18). It is a shame that some church leaders do not make this context sufficiently explicit.

  145. Brandon

    I’ll grant that Dawkins has said some offensive and UNREASONABLE things. One, that Mike brought up he later retracted, though Mike did not include that quote in his response.

    Others like accusing Christians of child abuse are his opinions. I agree with Tom that parents of any faith can find a way to mess up their kids. I still cant fathom how any sensitive person could introduce a child to the concept of hell. Some kid told me about it on the school bus when I was seven and I ran home crying to my mother who assured me that there was no such thing.

    The mind virus accusation is an extrapolation of memetics. You can choose to disagree with that but it is a respected field of study. In fact, I was introduced to the concept at a Catholic University (Duquesne), my Alma mater.

    So, sure for what it’s worth, you win, you have convinced me that Dawkins has said a handful unreasonable things. If you look at his entire body of work, however he is a mostly reasonable man. And he is clearly nowhere near as unreasonable as the people I quoted above. There is unreasonable and then there is completely insane.

    BTW…this woman definitely has a mind virus:

  146. Doug

    it is a respected field of study

    well, you can believe that if you like. but… “it is just that, a belief, and not a fact supported by evidence.”

    If you are going to associate Dawkins with me then you have to take responsibility for your own leaders and condemn their hate-filled rhetoric.

    Actually, it was this guy named Brandon (see comments #83, 89, 96, 99, 110) that associated Dawkins with you. On the other hand, G has never made any sounds in support of either Falwell or Robertson. Please be rational.

  147. G. Rodrigues

    @Brandon:

    I have failed to convince you that Dawkins is reasonable. At worst you can point to a few statements that are unreasonable.

    Actually, no. To quote myself:

    But my opinion of his character is irrelevant and unimportant, even more because I do not know him personally. What is relevant are his abysmal ignorance of theism and Christianity in particular, his fallacious, piss-poor arguments that even a Philosophy 101 sophomore can tear apart, his insulting and vicious snark, etc.

    The only sense of “unreasonable” I am interested in is what I say above and Tom Gilson mentions. To quote him: “My difficulty with Dawkins has little to do with how he makes me feel, and a lot to do with the fact that he is wrong about virtually everything related to Christianity, and he’s leading many other people to believe falsehoods, which is also wrong.”

    I just vomited forth a plethora of unreasonable theistic statements with little effort. If you are going to associate Dawkins with me then you have to take responsibility for your own leaders and condemn their hate-filled rhetoric.

    So, you agree with me that Dawkins is as reasonable as some of the most unreasonable of Christians? Now that we got that settled, note that if you are going too pursue this line of reasoning then you are also to be saddled with the crimes of Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot and a hole host of other nice people.

    If the previous sentence does not show the absurdity of your claim, let me ask you, in what sense did I try to associate you with Dawkins? That you are as unreasonable or irrational as him? I cannot recall doing that, but If I did it, explicitly or implicitly, my apologies. But it was you that *more than once* said that Dawkins was essentially right on a number of points, so by your own admission, you are associated with him, in the sense that you agree with him in *some* points — and those are the points worth discussing, because no one here is tasking you for defending what you do not believe as correct. Now, the same comments apply to me. I certainly agree with the people you quoted on some points and disagree on others. But I am *not* going to defend these people if it happens that I actually disagree with them. Now, methinks this is a very elementary distinction to make. Why did you failed to make it? This is just a rhetorical question, as personally, I simply do not care.

  148. G. Rodrigues

    @Brandon:

    The mind virus accusation is an extrapolation of memetics. You can choose to disagree with that but it is a respected field of study.

    Is it? The theory is self-refuting and as far as I know, there is not a single iota of evidence for it — unless you count a jumble of just-so stories as evidence. But maybe this is just my ignorance talking, so do you have any references to peer-reviewed articles on it?

  149. Brandon

    @ Everyone

    When will you quit? What the f*ck do you want from me?

    I said that there are a few things that Dawkins has said that are unreasonable. I obviously wouldn’t be the person that I am if I thought everything that he said was unreasonable.

  150. Brandon

    @ G. Rodrugues

    Wait…I forgot that I had declined to respond to you as you are condescending and abrasive.

  151. Doug

    @Brandon,
    There seems to be a misunderstanding: we aren’t wanting anything from you at all.

  152. Brandon

    I feel angry and sick. I had come here with the best of intentions and I have come so far from that place. I guess it was a stupid idea to show up at a Christian website.

    I cant wait to attend this rally on Saturday just so I can be in a place where I can be myself and be around people who have the same values as I do. An experience like this reminds me of how rare an experience like that will be.

    The one of me may have failed to effectively argue every point that the seven/eight of you brought up so enjoy your triumph for what it’s worth. Thanks to the handful of people here who were respectful. I will try to continue to believe that we can all get along.

    Goodbye.

  153. G. Rodrigues

    @Brandon:

    I said that there are a few things that Dawkins has said that are unreasonable.

    I know you did, but here I think you are confused about “what we want from you” — at least, as far as I am concerned, I cannot talk for anyone else. Reread posts #161 and #162 if you are interested in knowing.

    Wait…I forgot that I had declined to respond to you as you are condescending and abrasive.

    And why did you forgot it? I would venture that it was because I implicitly acknowledged you were right and made a conscious effort to tone down my abrasiveness. Anyway, it certainly is your prerogative to not respond to me. And a good day to you (you usually say this when you want to signal the end of a discussion, at least you said to Doug several times, but since you forgot it this time I thought it fit to add this parting comment).

  154. Tom Graffagnino

    @ all regarding Brandon’s farewell statement:

    “I cant wait to attend this rally on Saturday just so I can be in a place where I can be myself and be around people who have the same values as I do”

    Presumably. if there are some here on the discussion board who would atend the Rally, Brandon wlll be able to cordially wave “hello” to you as you are being reasonably herded into Mr. Silverman’s “1st amendment pen”.

  155. SteveK

    I cant wait to attend this rally on Saturday just so I can be in a place where I can be myself and be around people who have the same values as I do.

    Yes, we know. Romans 8:5-8

  156. Sault

    @ Doug

    Working on a response. You have a lot of interesting statements, and when I correct you I want to make sure that I have references for you.

    @ JAD

    Why does Sault keep talking about hell, if as an atheist he does not believe that it exists?

    “Morbid” (ha ha) curiosity. It fascinates me that people can believe in the idea of eternal punishment. On one hand, I know why some don’t focus on it – it is easier to make moral decisions when you deal with absolute rewards, e.g. it makes it a little less sticky when you say “Well, if I do this I’ll be eternally happy”… and maybe all you need is the carrot. However, there is always the stick.

    It’s interesting to me that you don’t think about hell. I daresay that to most Christians, hell is just as real as heaven, is it not? Historically-speaking, fear of hell has been a great motivator for many a Christian, and still is for many today… so your lack of interest in hell is just as interesting to me as other Christians’ obsession with it.

  157. Victoria

    @Sault (and others)
    If you are interested….

    http://bible.org/topics/403/Hell

    Ultimately, though, whatever the imagery used to describe it, Hell is the place of eternal, complete separation from God – it is the place where individuals who want nothing to do with God will end up – those who have not come to God on His terms (and why not, since He is the sovereign King and Creator, and has the right to decide the terms, whether we like it or not) for redemption.

  158. G. Rodrigues

    @Victoria:

    And ultimately, God is really just delivering what people want: so you reject God and His ways? Well, then God will humor you and give you just what you want.

  159. Sault

    Can we change over time in the afterlife? Can we grow, learn, mature? If a child goes to heaven (assuming that children go to heaven), must that child always remain a child, or can they grow and mature and in some way eventually become adults?

    If the afterlife allows for change over time, then it is possible that those who are punished could grow to understand their sins (or, for Victoria, their “rebellion”) and wish to truly repent of them.

    However, if hell is solely punitive, then any such chance would be denied them. A hell that in some way was rehabilitative, however, would allow the possibility for those who were cast into hell to repair their relationship with God.

    If the only ones who are destined for hell are those that willingly reject God… are such people destined to reject God regardless of circumstance (regardless of how much evidence they have regarding His existence)? If so, why create beings that are pre-destined for eternal torture (I guess I’m looking over at the Calvinists for this one)? Are others destined to reject God because of their life experiences and lack of positive exposure to Christianity? If so, is it just/reasonable to deny them the chance to learn the whole truth and then make their choice?

    You can only make your decision based on the evidence that you have. Like many, I find the level of evidence for Christianity sorely lacking… but I have a good idea what it would take to raise even some very, very small spark of faith in me. An omniscient God would know this, and an omnipotent God could make this happen. He hasn’t yet, so…

    If I do not have access to reasonable enough evidence to believe, even in the slightest… is it then reasonable to condemn me to eternal damnation if I choose to not believe because of this paucity of evidence?

    How can you possibly make a good decision if you don’t have all the facts and don’t clearly understand the consequences of your decision?

  160. Doug

    I have a good idea what it would take to raise even some very, very small spark of faith in me. An omniscient God would know this, and an omnipotent God could make this happen. He hasn’t yet, so…

    maybe it depends on your attitude… “seek and you will find.”

  161. Doug

    Isn’t that called confirmation bias?

    that also depends on your attitude! 😉 (Confirmation bias isn’t a difficulty exclusive to folks who end up at affirmation)

  162. Victoria

    f I do not have access to reasonable enough evidence to believe, even in the slightest… is it then reasonable to condemn me to eternal damnation if I choose to not believe because of this paucity of evidence?

    You have access to exactly the same information that we who are Christians have had for centuries. It has been sufficient for countless numbers of people to come to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not Christian truth and its foundations that are lacking. Belief, or lack thereof, goes beyond intellectual apprehension of the evidence – it is also a heart attitude and an act of the will, about coming to God on His terms, in humble repentance (which means God is right, I am wrong). If you are really serious and sincere about wanting to be redeemed (although based on your own words in this and other threads – you are an atheist and proud of it), you will respond to God on His terms, rather than the other way around – He has already done all the heavy lifting here.

  163. Victoria

    Paul, in Romans 1:18-3:1 (again) makes it clear enough that how people have responded to God based on the information they have been given is a key factor. God holds people accountable for what they do know already. For those who have never had the opportunity to hear about Jesus, well, I suspect that His grace and mercy are richer than we can imagine. For those who have heard about Jesus (like you, Sault) and have willfully rejected and refused Him, well, you have made your choice, haven’t you?

  164. Victoria

    A good example of how God deals with other nations is found in Jonah (see Jonah 3:1-10 and Jonah 4:1-11 for details).

    In Genesis 15:13-16, when God makes His covenant with Abram, He tells him that not until the 4th generation of his descendants will He give them the land of Canaan, because the sin of the Amorites had not yet reached its limit. We know from both the biblical record and archaeology (Ugaritic texts – Ras Shamra tablets, I believe) what Canaanite society was like – Israel was later severely judged and sent into exile for adopting Canaanite idolatry, both in the pre-monarchy period (Judges) and in the divided kingdom after Solomon (1 & 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, and the prophets!), so we see God’s patience indeed.

    In Genesis 18-19 (the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah) we learn that God would have spared all for the sake of even just 10 people who were righteous in His eyes.

  165. Sault

    @Victoria

    It has been sufficient for countless numbers of people to come to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

    My response would be to recall the account of Thomas Didymus – John 20:23-29 . Jesus blessed him, even though he had a higher standard of belief than the others. Perhaps he was not as blessed… but he was still counted a believer.

    If an Apostle was allowed to doubt, then it’s not unreasonable that I be given that same courtesy.

    Saying that a million people have been satisfied with the evidence given is an ad populam. Yes, even 50 million Elvis fans can be wrong!

    In Genesis 18-19 (the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah) we learn that God would have spared all for the sake of even just 10 people who were righteous in His eyes.

    It’s such an interesting passage for me, because it demonstrates the value of life in that culture.

    In a town with presumably at least several hundred men, the virtue of 10 men is enough to save them… but 9 aren’t. So for the sake of punishing hundreds, it’s okay so sacrifice a few of the virtuous.

    It’s also interesting to me that women and children aren’t mentioned in the least among them. Now, I know that this is in keeping with that culture… but still… any virtue in women, any innocence in children matters nothing – so little that they aren’t even brought up.

    We see that same attitude regarding the slaughter of the Amalekites…. We also see this earlier in the context of the Flood. God was willing to wipe mankind off the face of the earth. However, there had to have been children amongst them…. so instead of using His omnipotence to save their innocent lives, He was willing to kill them, too, for the sake of punishing the larger population.

    It is interesting to me how the mythology is a reflection of the culture’s morality.

    Obviously in the NT we have verses like Matthew 18:6 … is the difference in morality towards children a reflection of the culture, or is the difference the qualifier that these children “believe”?

    To go from that back to the NT and see the sentiment reflected there :

    “Happy is the one who seizes your infants
    and dashes them against the rocks. ”
    — Psalm 137:9

    That chapter is my favorite in the whole Bible… the genuine depth of heartache is very moving to me. To have it end in such a terrible way only deepens the emotional content. It is one thing to focus on the “how can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” and “if I forget thee Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its cunning”… it is another to recall that deep and terrible animosity and the expression of one of the most heinous things that a person can do – kill a child…

    I do not know how to reconcile the belief that “God is Good” with statements like these and the actions depicted above.

  166. Victoria

    @Sault
    Jesus gave Thomas what he asked for, sure, but He also chided him for not believing (a) the testimony of his fellow apostles who had already seen Him earlier, to say nothing of the three years that Thomas had spent with Jesus.

    Jesus was referring to the generations of believers yet to come who would not have the direct evidence that was available to Thomas. All they would have is the indirect testimony of those who had seen the risen Lord, and eventually, like us, only the written accounts.

    Face it, the NT is all the evidence you are going to get. If it is not good enough for you, that is your problem.

  167. Victoria

    @Tom Graffagino
    Good point – but if you read Sault’s posts in here, you will find that he wants his own special class of evidence because he thinks the existing documentation is not good enough.

    If an unbeliever sincerely comes to God in the way that you suggest, then God will answer and open that person’s eyes and heart to the the truth contained in the New Testament documents.

  168. Victoria

    In a town with presumably at least several hundred men, the virtue of 10 men is enough to save them… but 9 aren’t. So for the sake of punishing hundreds, it’s okay so sacrifice a few of the virtuous.

    It’s also interesting to me that women and children aren’t mentioned in the least among them. Now, I know that this is in keeping with that culture… but still… any virtue in women, any innocence in children matters nothing – so little that they aren’t even brought up

    The Hebrew text in Genesis 19 does not specify men, all translations use the word ‘people’ to indicate the inclusive nature of Abraham’s concern

  169. Tom Graffagnino

    @Victoria…Yes, I agree. Just thought I would offer Sault an alternative way to scientifically test the hypothesis that the God of the Bible is actually there, alive and well…

  170. Victoria

    In Psalm 137, the writer is expressing his very human feelings toward the Babylonians for what they did to Israel, and not a general moral principle. God allowed people to do that as they wrote, ya know – the Bible is both divinely inspired and human authored.

    Ultimately, Sault, you have a problem with God being sovereign and the rightful Judge of all the earth – He gets to make those decisions – if you have a problem with that, you can take it up with Him

  171. Victoria

    Also, you interpret everything you read in the context of atheism, rather than Christian Theism. For you, there is no supernatural, no existence beyond the physical, no eternity; human beings are not dead in trespasses and sin, nor are they in rebellion against God’s authority.Of course from this perspective, what is written in the Bible makes no sense.

    Christianity sees things rather differently. We live in a fallen world, a world currently in the middle of a civil war. We are sinful, rebellious creatures, and God will deal with that.
    God sees things from the perspective of eternity, and He resolves all issues in keeping with that perspective; knowing this doesn’t make it any easier or less painful or less horrifying when we see how human depravity can be so bad that God cannot let it go on any longer.
    The question is: do you want to be part of the problem, or part of the solution? For now, God is giving you the opportunity to repent and change sides.

  172. Sault

    @ Victoria

    Jesus gave Thomas what he asked for, sure, but He also chided him for not believing

    A point which I acknowledged, but a point which remains problematic for you – if it was possible for a man to doubt who had spent three years with Jesus, then what does that say for me, who lives millenia afterwards?

    Why, in other words, if Jesus answered Thomas’ questions, would He not answer those of anyone else who has far, far, far less to go on than Thomas? Chide all you wish, but it comes down to whether you’re “in” or “out”… but if it takes a little more to get me “in” at the cost of a bit of virtue (undoubting faith, that is), then I’ll take it.

    The Hebrew text in Genesis 19 does not specify men, all translations use the word ‘people’ to indicate the inclusive nature of Abraham’s concern

    I was going from what I had read on Strong’s Concordance #6662 : “just, lawful, righteous man”, and a few bits of commentary here and there. Perhaps those commentaries were referring to “men” in general? I accept the correction if that is the case.

    However… that still leaves the children…

    Can children be “righteous”? Children are innocent, presumably (do children go to heaven? It’s an interesting question). Surely in a city of at least several hundred there had to have been at least ten young children. At least up until a certain point (the age of accountability, perhaps?) children are (presumably) innocent, but they were destroyed too. So innocence != righteousness.

    So God will destroy the virtuous and the innocent if it means killing enough of the sinners at the same time. We know that the ratio is at least several hundred to one, though, so that’s good.

    In other words, we won’t have to worry about God destroying the world as long as we keep a few percent of our population Christian.

    @ Tom

    @Victoria…Yes, I agree. Just thought I would offer Sault an alternative way to scientifically test the hypothesis that the God of the Bible is actually there, alive and well…

    “an alternative way”… The other being…?

    I wonder what the faithful believers of the other few thousand religions out there would say. Perhaps I should try and “scientifically” pray to each deity, one by one, religion by religion, denomination by denomination, and mark off all of the ones that don’t get a response?

  173. Sault

    @ Victoria –

    Also, you interpret everything you read in the context of atheism, rather than Christian Theism.

    Shouldn’t you be able to read the Bible and learn from it without having to believe that it’s true beforehand? That is, after all, what you’re saying.

    I have read the Bible from both the perspective of a believer and a non-believer. I would have missed some of its nuances if I had only ever read it as a non-believer, but it’s not like I couldn’t have gotten at least the basic idea!

    Of course from this perspective, what is written in the Bible makes no sense.

    Oh no, it makes a lot of sense… once you begin to learn about the historical and social context of the various authors’ contributions. It is relatively straightforward to see why a culture that would even advocate not wearing clothes of mixed threads would readily kill all adults, women, children, infants, and even farm animals of another society – in that world, in that context, in that ideology, it was all or nothing.

    The part that “makes no sense” is when you try to interpret that and reconcile those views with later authors and how they speak from their cultural context. Paul would never, and could never, advocate something like that – he lived in a world populated with slaves, people whose lives depended upon the exact *opposite* cultural viewpoint of those early Semites!

    Victoria, not all people learn how to think about their faith *from the outside*. That’s a big part of what apologetics is all about – seeing your faith from the outside and attempting to make sense of it from that perspective as well. If you choose to hole up inside of it and say “Oh, well, you don’t understand because you don’t believe” you do yourself a great disservice – you have forfeited your chance to become a better thinker, a better believer, to come closer to the truth.

    “Believe, then you’ll understand” is a type of “hard sell” – “buy it, then you’ll know you’ll like it!”. It doesn’t make sense, and it’s very much a turn-off to those who aren’t already psychologically inclined towards whatever product you’re selling.

    In the meantime, I’m going to start by praying to the Flying Spaghetti Monster to see if He exists. I know I should start alphabetically (Ahura Mazda, or perhaps Allah), but I like spaghetti, even if I’m not wild about the heaven with a beer volcano and stripper factory (something about girls with daddy issues bugs me). Thanks for the advice, Tom!

  174. Victoria

    @Sault
    Well, what answer are you expecting, then? What kind of evidence do you want from God, and why do you think He has to answer you on your terms?

    As for the other questions, I’d suggest you start with Paul Copan’s book Is God a Moral Monster?. He’s at least gone through all of the issues rather carefully – you may not like the answers, but there is more material there than we can reasonably go through in a blog, I think – not trying to put you off here, Sault – I’m just deferring to someone who has done the in-depth analysis.

  175. Tom Graffagnino

    @Sault

    “an alternative way”… The other being…? I wonder what the faithful believers of the other few thousand religions out there would say. Perhaps I should try and “scientifically” pray to each deity, one by one, religion by religion, denomination by denomination, and mark off all of the ones that don’t get a response?”

    No need for all that. The other religions don’t promise an answer. Only Jesus does.

  176. Victoria

    @Sault
    I’m not saying that you need to believe that it (the Bible) is true beforehand, just that you should remember it is written in the context of a theistic world-view which is diametrically opposed to your own atheistic one

  177. Sault

    @ Victoria

    Well, what answer are you expecting, then? What kind of evidence do you want from God, and why do you think He has to answer you on your terms?

    If Christianity were literally true, then I would see miracles. I don’t want pointless miracles (I don’t care how much faith you have – why would you need to move a mountain?), but I would hope for healing. I would expect sickness, lameness, resurrection, and yes, regeneration of limbs. These were all recounted in the Bible. Don’t do it for me, though – do it for the person who is sick, who died tragically, who could really use that arm that they lost in Afghanistan!

    If Christianity were true, then I would expect Christians to be transformed, truly transformed. I would expect a higher level of health, of consciousness, of intelligence, morality, ethics, etc. I would expect a nation of believers to be to some degree better than a nation of non-believers. Don’t do it for me – do it for them, because guiding and motivating someone towards a higher morality and a higher state of being benefits not just them, but everyone around them!

    These are a direct reflection of who I am – service is one of my languages of love. If these things are happening, and I willfully ignore them (I could see myself potentially doing so!), then I would be in a state of ignorance and rebellion!

    But why not do it? Doesn’t the person who lost their legs deserve to regain them? Doesn’t the family of a parent who is sent to jail for repeated crimes deserve a parent who has the statistically above-average chance of recognizing the error of their ways?

    If a Christian is no better than a non-Christian, then what’s the point of being Christian? What’s the advantage? Except beyond avoiding their hell, or attaining their heaven? Plenty of other religions have those things, too, so why care?

    I’m just deferring to someone who has done the in-depth analysis.

    One of the things that I like about discussion is that when I research I may (intentionally or not) skip past or fail to understand other people’s points of view. Discussion helps me see from other people’s points of view and helps me inform my own… and if I can’t provide reasoning for my beliefs/positions/arguments, then I have to question their validity.

  178. G. Rodrigues

    @Sault:

    If Christianity were literally true, then I would see miracles.

    Why?

    If Christianity were true, then I would expect Christians to be transformed, truly transformed.

    The world was transformed beyond recognition with the advent of Christianity. To give one example, the moral code you live by is Christian through and through. Christians are transformed. Sometimes in dramatic ways, most of the times in small, barely noticeable ways (but all is foreseen, and free will is given, and the world is judged by goodness). There is a novelist I like very much called Evelyn Waugh. He could be very nasty and rude. Once, Nancy Mitford asked Waugh how he could behave so abominably and yet still consider himself a practicing Catholic. He retorted: “You have no idea how much nastier I would be if I was not a Catholic. Without supernatural aid I would hardly be a human being.”

    I think it was Steven Weinberg that said that “it takes religion to make good people do bad things”, or something to that effect. Of course he got it all wrong; it takes God for *bad* people to do *good* things and, I am sorry to say, we are all bad, each in our own bad way. Now, maybe you would like a Heaven on Earth right here, right now; sorry, but that is not God’s way of setting things right.

    If a Christian is no better than a non-Christian, then what’s the point of being Christian? What’s the advantage? Except beyond avoiding their hell, or attaining their heaven? Plenty of other religions have those things, too, so why care?

    It is not a matter of weighing advantages, or a choice to be decided under the principle of the economical. But rather the fact, the scandalous fact, that Christ is The Way and The Truth. The Truth.

  179. Victoria

    @Sault re#196
    If memory serves, I think you have brought up these issues before on other threads, yes?

    Modern Day Miracles:
    Someone asked a similar question on another thread, and Tom referred to a book published not too long ago where the author has investigated and documented cases from all over the world of incidents and events that appear to qualify. see here http://www.amazon.com/Miracles-Credibility-Testament-Accounts-Volume/dp/0801039525/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1332858063&sr=1-4

    I’ve only just bought the book myself and have barely started it, so I can’t comment yet on what he has to say.

    However, God is not obliged to meet your expectations of what He should be doing or how He has planned to fix our broken world and our broken lives. He is sovereign, we are subjects; you can live life on His terms and be blessed by it, or reject His terms and take the consequences.

    Transformation of individuals:
    (a) The process by which God transforms an individual into the likeness of His Son is just that, a process – it is not instantaneous and will never be complete on this side of eternity. Christians are not perfect or sinless, and we are still constrained by life in a fallen world; I don’t know any perfect Christians, least of all me 🙂 I do know that all Christians would say “I’m not yet the person that God wants me to be, but thank God I’m not the person I used to be”.

    On Paul Copan’s book:
    I’ve read the book, so I know what the analysis is – I have neither the time nor the desire to repeat that here – I’m not obliged to do the heavy lifting for you! If you are interested, you can read it for yourself (in fact there was a long discussion thread on the blog about this very topic).

    I think with that, I will leave this particular thread, as it is a rehash of what has been discussed with you previously, with the same outcome.

  180. Doug

    @Sault,

    If Christianity were true, then I would expect Christians to be transformed, truly transformed. I would expect a higher level of health, of consciousness, of intelligence, morality, ethics, etc. I would expect a nation of believers to be to some degree better than a nation of non-believers.

    Amen!! 😀
    Unfortunately, the difficulty that we face as human beings is that we are (inside as individuals and outside as communities) in deep-rooted opposition to exactly the transformation that you legitimately expect. Part of the problem is that the transformation requires “taking up the cross” (or, as Bonhoeffer put it “we don’t want to die”). However, this tension is deeply embedded in the teaching of the New Testament, and the slow pace of that transformation is predictable on its basis.
    (PS – looking forward to your reply to the evolution question 🙂 )

  181. Tom Graffagnino

    @Sault

    “If a Christian is no better than a non-Christian, then what’s the point of being Christian? What’s the advantage? Except beyond avoiding their hell, or attaining their heaven? Plenty of other religions have those things, too, so why care?”

    Can’t remember who said it but this statement comes to mind (not an exact quote). “Christ didn’t come to make bad people good, but to make dead people live.”

    Also this: “You only appreciate it—goodness–when you see evil, and suddenly goodness is the real mystery. The mystery is not WHY EVIL? The mystery is, why good?” –Os Guiness

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