Tom Gilson

Unreasoning Internet Atheism

Atheist Internet blogging is famous for episodes like DevientGenie's here and here. Examples could be multiplied endlessly (think Pharyngula, for example). There is no semblance of reasoned discourse, no real engagement with others' ideas, no invitation to real dialogue.

I've edited a book about this—True Reason: Christian Responses to the Atheist Challenge—yet still it amazes me how utterly unreasoning Internet atheism can be. I say “can be;” I do not mean it is always that way. We have some frequent atheist commenters here who do considerably better.

I think this is how someone like DevientGenie might think of it: “Christian theism is so unreasonable, there is no need to use reason in discussing it.” Either that, or, “Reason is defined as rejecting religion. I reject religion, therefore no matter what I say, I'm reasonable.” (See Chapter One of True Reason for more on that theory.)

From my perspective, another interpretation might be that some Internet atheists wouldn't know good reasoning if it bit them in the big toe.

Good reasoning is not defined by the conclusion it begins with, but by its use of logic properly applied to premises and to evidences. It's also not demonstrated by sarcasm, mocking, or name-calling.

One would think that those who claim to be the more reasonable ones would act that way. Some try. Others are hopping around on one foot foolishly, wondering why their toe hurts.

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107 thoughts on “Unreasoning Internet Atheism

  1. I haven’t had time to comment in the last few days, but in the few minutes that I do have, I wanted to leave a thought.

    People can have strong opinions for any number of reasons – some emotional, some intellectual. I think it is a shame that so many people that have emotionally-driven opinions don’t realize it. It’s easy to claim the high road of logic and reason, it’s quite another thing to prove it (I mean that both metaphorically and literally).

    This is on both sides of the fence – there are apologists who are outright blithering idiots who pass themselves off as great intellectual defenders of the faith.

    …and Tom, I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone be sarcastic over the internet.

  2. I wouldn’t say it’s only “internet” atheism. Just look at some of the examples of folk at the Reason Rally (the guy dressed as Jesus riding a dinosaur comes to mind, or the one with a sign equating theism with laziness and ignorance). Though I think both cases share something in common: security, either via anonymity or being surrounded by supporters. These factors tend to bring out the worst in some people, which is why I feel some of the best dialogue is held between two individuals over coffee or beer :). No computer screens, no crowds.

  3. Good reasoning is not defined by the conclusion it begins with, but by its use of logic properly applied to premises and to evidences.

    coming from someone who believes there’s an unembodied, immaterial mind who created the Universe, sent his son to earth to be be crucified in order to save mankind form… himself, performed all sorts of miracles such as turning water into wine, walking on water, etc., would come back to bring life on this planet to an end, and send nonbelievers to Hell for all eternity..[should I go on?], that means nothing.
    what’s more, virtually every person who believes such preposterous nonsense, has came to hold those believes long before s/he looked at any evidence for God’s existence or Jesus’s empty tomb, etc.
    that’s why the work of Christian “scholars” including apologists, NT historians, etc., is for the most part nothing but post-hoc rationalizations for believes which were never adopted on the basis of evidence and reason in the first place. in fact the religious generally admit that- “no one comes to Christ through arguments and evidence”. (is it surprising then that nonbelievers couldn’t care less what such people really have to say?)

    So, please Tom, save us the ‘internet atheists are so unreasonable’ kind of nonsense. If I were you, I’d have bigger worries, like how to convince a rapidly secularizing society that Christian who hold their religion to be not just symbolic or metaphorical and actually believe all this bizarre stuff, are not crazy and should be trusted to hold positions of influence in society (I mean, we don’t trust people who believe Elvis is still alive in this respect, do we?)

  4. @Tom Gilson:

    And if evidence was needed for what you posted, here comes AgeOfReasonXXI to give credence to every single point you make.

  5. SteveK: AOR is Exhibit A.

    LOL! That’s what I was going to say. AOR traffics in cliches, stereotypes, chest-thumping and emotion. I have never seen him come up with an original claim/argument (although I confess I don’t read most of his comments because they are so unoriginal).

  6. The time available to me to be here has been extremely limited as of late, otherwise I might perhaps discuss some of what AoR has said. In lieu of that, I’ll just briefly mention that dismissing the work of scholars and historians, simply because they are Christian, is ignorant.

  7. I’m compelled to cite the same quote as AOR:

    Good reasoning is not defined by the conclusion it begins with, but by its use of logic properly applied to premises and to evidences.

    Atheists who died before computers were invented, and made their arguments sincerely without sarcasm, mocking or name-calling, already made numerous points about how the assertions of Christianity and other religions (a) are based on faulty or groundless premises and (b) have no supporting evidence that is readily confirmable via objective observation. (Look up Bertrand Russell.)

    In response, some apologists have professed that it’s actually the implausibility of the premises and the absence of evidence (i.e. the requirement of faith) that somehow define validity for religious assertions. (Look up C.S. Lewis.)

    And when each of N different apologists use that same “reasoning” to support each of N distinct and mutually exclusive sets of assertions (for any value of N greater than 1), it should be entirely understandable that an atheist would be inclined to express some frustration.

    Meanwhile, other apologists simply repeat the same old premises, present no supporting evidence, misinterpret contrary evidence, misuse the term “objective”, misrepresent material naturalism and empiricism, and pursue propaganda and indoctrination (a.k.a. evangelism) rather than inquiry or honest discussion. (Look up William Lane Craig, Ken Ham, Discovery Institute, etc.)

    When it’s a matter of confronting that last group, there comes a point where rational discussion is simply futile. To the extent that those people cannot be ignored, ridicule seems to be the only sensible alternative.

  8. “Good reasoning is not defined by the conclusion it begins with, but by its use of logic properly applied to premises and to evidences.”

    We see the above quote, the central point of the OP, and then we see the posts by AOR and Otto. They both start with this quote and then fail to do exactly what the quote predicts they will fail to do. As I sometimes post on less erudite sites than this, “Wow, just wow!”

  9. “A truly profound atheist is someone who has taken the trouble to understand, in its most sophisticated forms, the belief he or she rejects, and to understand the consequences of that rejection. Among the New Atheists, there is no one of whom this can be said, and the movement as a whole has yet to produce a single book or essay that is anything more than an insipidly doctrinaire and appallingly ignorant diatribe.”

    –David B. Hart

  10. What I see among the theists in this thread is a consistent knee-jerk reaction of declaring an absence of reason among all modern atheists, without ever giving any direct attention at all to things that any atheist is actually saying, let alone addressing any specific question or issue that has been raised repeatedly by atheists regarding the logical bankruptcy of theism (such as the particular problem intrinsic to C.S. Lewis’s position that I mentioned in my earlier reply).

    Tom Gilson cites a couple of incoherent replies on his forum from someone posting under the name “DevientGenie”, lumps that together with PZ Myers (ignoring the fact that PZ actually presents real supporting evidence when he makes claims), and voila! all modern atheists are morons who never actually use reason in their arguments! Seriously?

    Tom, you’ve managed to create a thread that obviously generates more heat than light, and the problem starts in the original post – it seems to bring out the intolerant side among your supporters. Or maybe it’s just stoking the natural theistic inclination to deny and ignore reality.

    Oops, there I go again, being an atheist who never says anything reasonable… Actually, I was just responding in kind to the theists in this thread (starting with Tom). I’ll stop. Will you?

  11. BillT: Sincere thanks for the link to David B. Harte’s article. Here’s a nice bit from that:

    Skepticism and atheism are, at least in their highest manifestations, noble, precious, and even necessary traditions, and even the most fervent of believers should acknowledge that both are often inspired by a profound moral alarm at evil and suffering, at the corruption of religious institutions, at psychological terrorism, at injustices either prompted or abetted by religious doctrines, at arid dogmatisms and inane fideisms, and at worldly power wielded in the name of otherworldly goods.

    What I find surprising in the rest of the article is Harte’s overall assertion that he is not finding any of this in any of the writings and discussions coming from current atheists. It’s a very peculiar form of blindness and deafness that allows him to make such a sweeping and facile generalization (which is, quite frankly, groundless).

  12. Christians can be skeptical, too. I am. Atheists don’t have a monopoly on skepticism. Hyperskepticism, on the other hand…..

  13. Otto,

    Someday I’m going to have to take the time to blog on Bertrand Russell. His “Why I Am Not a Christian” is really quite convincing: I wouldn’t be a Christian, either, if being a Christian were what he says it is there. But in fact it isn’t, and the essay is actually nothing but a long attack on a straw man.

    In response, some apologists have professed that it’s actually the implausibility of the premises and the absence of evidence (i.e. the requirement of faith) that somehow define validity for religious assertions. (Look up C.S. Lewis.)

    I’ve read just about everything C.S.Lewis has written. In a word, he doesn’t do this. In The Abolition of Man, Miracles, Mere Christianity and multiple shorter works he presents his Christianity as being supported by evidences. He is by no means fideistic. I struggle to think of any other apologist who meets the description you’ve set forth here. You’ve invented a fiction and called it reality. To call that unconvincing is inadequate: it’s foolish and unhealthy.

    To describe other apologists, including WLC, as “presenting no supporting evidence,” is likewise a fiction. Unless, that is, you think that “evidence” is equivalent to “laboratory-repeatable scientifice evidence,” or unless perhaps you think that “evidence” is evidence only if it accords with the premises of naturalism. It’s hardly contestable that WLC (as one example) presents evidences in his literature and debating. To say otherwise is either to mangle the meaning of “evidence” beyond all recognition, or else to re-define reality to suit your preconceptions.

    Our so-called “knee-jerk reaction” is hardly that. Granted, we haven’t given direct thought in this thread to what atheists have said everywhere else. But I did edit an entire book on the subject. Others here, along with myself, have debated atheists on this forum and elsewhere time and time and time again, and have taken those atheists’ views into direct consideration.

    Again, you’re re-writing reality. You’re living in a make-believe world. It’s a very peculiar form of blindness and deafness.

  14. Mike, I think PZ presents supporting evidence in the same world where C.S. Lewis is a fideist and apologists never use evidences. It’s Otto’s world. It will last for Otto until reality comes rushing up to meet him.

  15. Who believes that theists on the internet are generally more reasonable than atheists? I don’t.

    For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?

  16. “What I find surprising in the rest of the article is Harte’s overall assertion that he is not finding any of this in any of the writings and discussions coming from current atheists.”

    You shouldn’t be surprised. It’s true. If you read his book you’d find he supports his allegations quite well. It’s not really necessary though. Even a cursory reading of the laughable nonesense that the dean of the Gnu movement Richard Dawkins writes will confirm his assertions. The lesser lights of the movement are just that.

  17. Regarding Tom’s remark:

    To describe other apologists … as “presenting no supporting evidence,” is likewise a fiction… unless perhaps you think that “evidence” is evidence only if it accords with the premises of naturalism.

    Um, well, YES. I guess that is at the core of the conflict here. You maintain beliefs (virgin birth and resurrection, among other miracles) that directly contradict every available shred of relevant, objective knowledge about reality, you use these beliefs as a foundation for pushing a particular view about how I should live my life (including who should get some of my money), and you say that what I should accept as adequate “evidence” for your beliefs are your personal assertions about your internal mental/emotional state (because this demonstrates the efficacy of the “Holy Spirit”)?

    Sorry, no sale.

  18. “If I were you, I’d have bigger worries, like how to convince a rapidly secularizing society that Christian who hold their religion to be not just symbolic or metaphorical and actually believe all this bizarre stuff, are not crazy and should be trusted to hold positions of influence in society”

    Hm AOR seems to be advocating the removal of Christian believers (and I guess also all other theists including polytheists) from positions of influence. Is this not exactly the kind of discrimination that secular governance is trying to avoid? Those are extremely dangerous sentiments, AgeofReligion, and I hope that if you read this comment you will sit down and rethink that part of your beliefs. The fact that there is anyone in our society who would actually say something like that is really disturbing to me.

    The famous quote from a prisoner of the nazis (paraphrased) – “They came for the homosexuals, and I did nothing, because I was not a homosexual. They came for the Jews, and I did nothing, because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to stand up for me.” – may come true again, if people really embrace this type of thinking. You can’t be against discrimination for yourself, but for discrimination for people you don’t like. Well, I guess you can, but I’m sure that you, AgeofReason, can see why that might be dangerous for all concerned.

  19. Christians believe in a god who was born of a virgin, baptized in a river, was tempted while alone in the desert, healed the sick and the blind, resurrected the dead, had 12 disciples, and was crucified and rose 3 days later. I just described the god Horus from the Book of the Dead, written in 1280 BC. Stolen Religion?

  20. There are two ways of approaching the subject of miracles:

    (1) “It couldn’t happen; therefore it didn’t”
    (2) “On the historical evidence, it might have happened, and therefore we need to decide what to make of it”

    Unfortunately, most people pushing #1 don’t distinguish clearly between “It doesn’t happen” and “It couldn’t happen”. If you a-priori rule out any evidence that would disprove your theory on the basis that your theory says it can’t exist, then you’re begging the question in a rather big way.

  21. Ryan, the short and easy answer to your question is that what you’re referring to here is a fabrication.

    Not only is the paralellism false, it’s also ludicrous to think that any sect borrowing from Egyptian mythology could have germinated and grown in the soil of first century Judaism. The Jews of that day were as insular and monotheistic as any national/regional culture in history, until the rise of Muslim nations. Imagine someone born and raised a Muslim, trying to plant and grow a Horus-religion in Saudi Arabia today, and you get a bit of the picture.

  22. Ah! now we have the gist of what Otto objects to. It’s really not about anything but Otto. Otto doesn’t want anyone or anything telling him what to do. Otto doesn’t want any version of reality other than the one he’s concocted. Otto wants to be his own god, an island unto himself. And Otto, just so you know, we don’t want you to do and believe any of the things you say we do. That’s not what this is about. It’s not about what we want.

  23. Ryan,
    Do you also think the historical story of the Titanic was really the retelling of the story about the Titan, written 14 years prior? I hope not, but if you follow your same line of reasoning then you would have concluded that, which is troubling. You’re being overly simplistic.

  24. Tom Gilson, please do not reference a Christian-biased site as a credible source. The views on that web-site are spun views of scientific record to please a Christian audience. The Bible states our Earth is “thousands” of years old, when Carbon dating proves it to be 4.5 bill years old. Christians claim humans were around during the time of dinosaurs? Meaning mankind would survive a few more mass-extinctions? Think Tom..
    SteveK, The Bible was written 300 years after Jesus had died. Not one person writing the Bible knew Jesus personally or saw any of his miracles with their own eyes.. You know that game Telephone you play in the first grade? One person starts with a story and by the end of the line the original story is barely recognizable. What do you think happened over 300 years? You apparently know my “overly simplistic line of reasoning” by me stating one fact (and apparently I believe everything I know about the Titanic from the movie, that I have never watched). Science is a philosophy of discovery; Religion is a philosophy of ignorance. You are the one being overly simplistic by accepting things from an ancient book which has been proven scientifically impossible time and time again.

  25. Ryan, I am sorry, but you have been duped. Wherever you are getting your information from is misleading you badly.

    None of these things you attribute to the god Horus are rooted in any fact whatsoever. No serious secular scholars will even try that line. You may find a crackpot selling a book that has tried to make that connection, but it’s completely fabricated.

    The Bible was not written 300 years after the death of Jesus. That is when the collection of books we call the New Testament was officially canonized. This is not debatable. It’s is just plain historical fact.

    The Bible does not state that the Earth is thousands of years old. Some people (quite erroneously in my opinion) have tried to use the texts to date the Earth, but that is on them, not the scriptures.

  26. To BillT: Wow, colossal demonstration of completely missing the point:

    … Otto doesn’t want anyone or anything telling him what to do…

    Let’s see if I can rephrase in a way that doesn’t trigger your “all atheists are self-centered and immoral” reflex.

    I’m perfectly content to live cooperatively and obediently in a society that places constraints on my behavior by means of the laws it enforces – and this even extends to laws against things that the Bible is relatively less concerned about, like slavery and child abuse.

    I’m fortunate to be able to live so contentedly because I’m in a nation where the enactment of laws involves a public process that includes consideration of available evidence and protection for individual rights.

    Particular activities are outlawed because of the demonstrable harm that they cause, and the demonstrable benefit that all citizens derive through the eradication of those activities. We do not ban activities because they are, e.g., “an abomination in the eyes of the Lord” – that’s not good enough as a reason.

    Do you get the point now?

  27. Jared C, The truth is we don’t even know who wrote the Bible for a fact. Do you believe in the Old Testament? Would you like to talk about that for a minute?

  28. @Ryan

    …when Carbon dating proves it to be 4.5 bill years old.

    At least try to get the science right.

  29. “Do you get the point now?”

    So I point out your personal inability to deal with the reality of a diety and you respond that you’re a responsible member of the society and presume to lecture me on the law (I’m a lawyer) but I’m the one that doesn’t get it. I know, I know, that’s your story and you’re sticking to it.

  30. Ryan, we have fragments of the NT dating to possibly the first century AD, definitely the second. We have numerous authors in the second century quoting from the NT.

    You object to my referring to a Christian source for my response to you. What kind of sources have you gotten your misinformation from, and why do you consider them trustworthy when they’re so far from fact?

    Your reference to the Telephone game is completely out of touch with the historical facts. The telephone game is designed to produce laughable results. Borrowing from communication theory, there is a very poor signal-to-noise ratio and there is absolutely no error correction. There are often smart-alecks in the chain who try to mix things up. The chain from beginning to end is made as long as possible for each group to maximize accumulated error.

    The NT, in contrast, came out of a culture with an extraordinarily strong practice of accurate verbal transmission. The messages were conveyed publicly where correction could be made. They were committed to paper within a generation of the very public and very memorable events they describe. The people who passed along the information had no incentive to lie or be smart-alecks about it.

    The disanalogy between the Telephone game and the NT is so great that no thinking person would continue offering it.

  31. Ryan
    You can always do your own research about the alleged parallels between Christianity and pagan myths
    Here is a site that is particularly helpful, with links to non-Christian sources (like Encyclopedia Mythica ), so you can check references for yourself.

    This article illustrates how Christian teaching is rooted in the Old Testament (that’s the Jewish Scriptures 🙂 ).

    Also, if you take the time to study real New Testament history, you will see that the first Christians were all 1st century Jews, that the Gospels’ settings and viewpoint are thoroughly rooted in Second Temple Judaism (see articles by N. T. Wright, here, for example).

  32. You want to hear laughable results? Talking snakes, water turned into blood, blood turned into wine, people rising from the dead, the sun standing still, men spreading seas, men taking 3 day rides in the stomach of whales, virgins giving birth, the list goes on and on. I am getting most of my information from Physicists and Biologists like Neil deGrasse Tyson, Richard Dawkins, etc. Is there one solid piece of evidence for Christianity (The Bible and Faith do not count).

  33. Ryan,

    Yes, there are many solid pieces of evidence for Christianity. There is solid evidence for the Bible, and that which has solid evidence supporting it can also become solid evidence for something else that it supports.

    That’s the answer to your question, and I hope you’re as satisfied with it as you were with the asking.

    P.S. Regarding your list of the seeming ridiculous.

  34. @Ryan
    Have you figured out your ignorant blunder regarding getting the science right yet?

  35. I am getting most of my information from Physicists and Biologists like Neil deGrasse Tyson, Richard Dawkins, etc.

    So you choose to live in an echo chamber. And BTW, Dawkins is more of an activist than a biologist.

  36. Victoria, I didn’t waste my time reading that so please, enlighten me.
    Tom Gilson, if you’re a scientist answer me this… Does any of this evidence you speak of hold any merit in the lab? Is it testable? Please let me know how so… And the website you provided before as “proof” was merely a review of a meeting with Professor Krauss’ (Not a fan). It spoke of no proof. Please one shard of evidence…

  37. Ryan: Is there one solid piece of evidence for Christianity (The Bible and Faith do not count).

    Ryan, unless you are open-minded about the truth of Christianity, your request is just trolling. So, do you have any evidence that you are open-minded about this issue? Please one shard of evidence…

  38. Mike Gene, I used to be the only one in my family that attended church service, including my mother and father. I have been baptized, and saved twice; the second time was my choice through contacting my pastor. The second time, I was old enough to actually understand the meaning, to accept Jesus Christ into your heart as your personal savior, to forgive you of all your sins, and gain your place in Heaven. I do understand that religion helps people through tough times, but on the other hand it is one of the top causes of war. I choose to find beauty in the brief moments I have on this Earth, rather than to believe this is the preface to eternal bliss…

  39. Ryan, I am not a physical scientist.

    The evidences for Christianity are not principally of the sort that can be demonstrated in the lab. Very few things are. Look at your own assertions: where do you get your evidence that religion is one of the top causes of war? Where do you get your evidence that Jesus is a copy of the Horus myth? Where do you get your evidence that the Bible was written 300 years after Jesus’ time? Where do you get your evidence that the Bible has been proved scientifically impossible?

    Most importantly, where do you get your evidence that all evidence should be laboratory testable?

    Now, all these assertions of yours are wrong, but they perform a service for you to observe regardless: they show that you yourself do not believe that laboratory evidence is the only kind that matters. You’re making claims (false though they may be) that have nothing to do with laboratory science. Why do you insist that Christianity’s claims be provable in the laboratory??

    Your response to Victoria (“I didn’t waste my time reading that, please enlighten me”) reveals you as a complete troll. Victoria is one of the Ph.D. physical scientists on this thread, by the way, not that it matters, you’re trolling regardless when you act that way.

    And you are also continuing to demonstrate the scientific ignorance she identified earlier, while adding to it mountains of hubris.

  40. @Ryan Mathew:

    I choose to find beauty in the brief moments I have on this Earth, rather than to believe this is the preface to eternal bliss…

    And we choose to be Christians.

    Care to show us all all the scientific evidence that supports your “choice”? The scientific evidence for all this “beauty” you seem to “find” in “brief” moments? What experiment should I run to discover such apparently wonderous and elusive beast?

    Mike gene asked you for *evidence* that you are open-minded. Your response? Bits of personal history and character. Besides answering the question with an implicit no, we can understand that you like to talk about yourself and most probably, all conversation ends, more or less directly, being about what you *want*, what you *need*, about *you*.

    Now I am sure you are a most interesting person, and that, given the ample stores of knowledge you have given us glimpses of, you could even teach us a thing or two, but I, and here I am speaking for myself only (and with anticipated appologies for the personal twist), am more interested in talking about God and some of His creatures, past and present,

  41. Mike gene asked you for *evidence* that you are open-minded. Your response? Bits of personal history and character.

    And I think we’re supposed to accept all that on…..faith.

    Ryan, you have not provided one shard of evidence that you have an open mind on this issue.

  42. Ryan Matthew is not Exhibit C: he has descended to such an anti–yes ANTI-intellectual low–that he has formed his own subset of atheist “I only accept what I propose”. For example:

    Victoria, I didn’t waste my time reading that so please, enlighten me.

    [He’s referring back to @31.]

    Am I the only one to see how ANTI-intellectual this is?

    Wake up to reality, RM: carbon dating to determine the age of the earth? Are you THAT ignorant of basic science… which Victoria is trying to get you to see? Do you even know the half-life of C-14? It’s 5730 +/- 40 years. Do you know how many half-lives of C-14 would have passed since the formation of the earth? Over 785,000. Do you know what 1/2 raised to the power of 785,000 is? Hint: I tried expanding Excel out to capture even the first non-zero figure… and it couldn’t do it. Do you think radiometric analysis is the only means by which we approach the dating of the earth? You, sir, should walk away VERY embarrassed by your ignorance of basic science and faith… and you’re undying arrogance.

    Now, how about this gem @31: The Bible states our Earth is “thousands” of years old. WHERE EXACTLY DOES THE BIBLE “STATE” SUCH NONSENSE? Please quote book, chapter, and verse. Do it NOW. If you can’t, then shut your yapper… and peddle your nonsense elsewhere.

    It makes no impression on you whatsoever that pure Biblical literalism is heretical, does it? St. Augustine makes no impression on you when he asserts in the early 400’s that if our understanding of the Bible clashes with our observation of reality, that the first target should be our interpretation of the Bible. You chowder head: if you want to set up your own literalist straw man reading of the Bible so that you can whip it with the wet noodles of your, ahem, intelligence, then knock yourself out. No need for the rest of critical thinkers (NOT equal to atheists) here to address this or your other trash talk any more. Time to move on.

  43. Half-life isn’t C-14’s only problem. It measures the time passed since the material under study ceased exchanging carbon atoms with the general environment. Or in simpler language, it tells us (within the limits of measurement error) how long it’s been since some organism died.

    Ryan, I don’t think you believe there were carbon-based organisms around 4.5b years ago, right?

    There are many other lines of evidence leading to the 4.5b year age of the earth. The conclusion is as rock-solid as one could ask for. C-14 contributes absolutely nothing to that evidence, however.

    You were convinced you knew your science. Sorry, but you didn’t.

    You are convinced you know something about biblical history. Sorry, but you don’t.

    You are convinced there is no evidence for Christianity. I suggest you take a lesson from these other examples: you don’t know as much as you think you know, and some of what you think you know is quite factually false. I urge you to consider the likelihood that what you believe about evidences for Christianity is just as false. It really is.

  44. Note by the way that I too reject the nonsense Holopupenko already highlighted:

    Now, how about this gem @31: The Bible states our Earth is “thousands” of years old. WHERE EXACTLY DOES THE BIBLE “STATE” SUCH NONSENSE? Please quote book, chapter, and verse. Do it NOW. If you can’t, then shut your yapper… and peddle your nonsense elsewhere.

    It’s another example, Ryan, of things you “know” that just ain’t true.

  45. @Ryan
    Young man, you are missing a great opportunity to learn something valuable here – if you want to learn what real, solid Biblical Christianity is, then you should be going to mature, thoughtful Christians, not to atheists who know next to nothing about it and have axes to grind. Do you want to know how professional scientists / Christians think about science and faith, for example? Go to the ASA web site I referred you to (www.asa3.org) and read through the links under Learn More (bottom left of the home page).

  46. Ryan, unless you are open-minded about the truth of Christianity, your request for evidence is just trolling. So, do you have any evidence that you are open-minded about this issue? Please one shard of evidence…

    So far, Ryan, the evidence indicates you are closed-minded.

  47. Hearing a Christian talk about being “open-minded” is the biggest joke I’ve ever heard..

  48. Ryan… as a fellow atheist, I am telling you that you are getting some of your facts wrong. C-14 has nothing to do with the age of the earth. The belief that the earth is thousands of years old is a conclusion (an interpretation, one might say) made from the events listed in the Bible. Look up the Ussher Chronology, for instance.

    My suggestion is to stop, take a deep breath, and listen. Start by reading some of the material that they’ve linked to. When you’ve read and understood it, then come back and present your criticisms of it…

    …but first be prepared to admit that you might be wrong about a few of the things that you believe you know. If you can’t do that, then you aren’t exactly the harbinger of reason and intellect that you’d like to think you are.

  49. @Ryan Matthew:

    The sheep continue to roam.

    Hearing a Christian talk about being “open-minded” is the biggest joke I’ve ever heard.

    Since in your opinion,

    1. We are sheep.

    2. We are close-minded.

    Since furthermore, your knowledge of the topics under discussion is obviously vast and all-encompassing as proved by your knowledge displayed in your posts, why exactly are you wasting your time with us poor sheep? Since we are close-minded, what do you intend to accomplish? Reasoning with close-minded people is futile, so what?

  50. G. Rodrigues,

    Good question.

    Ryan,

    What is your purpose here?

    Think about your own experiences with other people, in school, at work, or wherever. Think of one person or more you’ve spent time with who knew everything, who had a final opinion on every topic under discussion, and who considered himself superior to everyone else in the conversation. What did you think of such people? What purpose do you think they had for carrying themselves that way? What good do you think they thought they were accomplishing? What real good were they actually accomplishing? Do you think they ever learned anything from anyone? Did they grow through their interactions? Did anyone else?

    Those are not religious questions, mind you. Those are human questions.

  51. Remember the horrific image of demons in Hell in the movie Constantine crawling around with open, empty cranial cavities? Reasoning with those like Ryan is like convincing the color green to be furious…

  52. Oh, I forgot to add, mimicking Ryan’s sandbox-level rapier wit… but directed at those who have succumbed to the mind-destroying meme of atheism: they walk among us.

  53. My purpose here is to get a few people here to come to the side of reason and reality. We look at ancient cultures and almost laugh at the gods in which they believed. I would like to be part of the society that removes the religious “cap” from its advancement, and starts to move forward instead of waiting for the Rapture…
    You guys realize you’re arguing for a book that incorporates talking snakes, water turned into blood, blood turned into wine, people rising from the dead, the sun standing still, men spreading seas, men taking 3 day rides in the stomach of whales, virgins giving birth!?! NONE OF THIS IS POSSIBLE!!!!!
    Who would be so crazy to believe that stuff…. ALL OF YOU.

  54. You missed every important human question, Ryan.

    Please check out the discussion policies linked from above the combox, especially the “Starbucks Standard.”

  55. While you’re thinking about those human questions, remember NONE OF THIS IS POSSIBLE!!!!! if your materialistic atheistic presuppositions are correct. But if you assume that, you’re arguing in a circle and if so, then NONE OF THAT IS VALID LOGIC!!!!!

  56. My purpose here is to get a few people here to come to the side of reason and reality.

    Quite honestly, you aren’t doing a very good job of it. You’ve gotten your facts wrong and you’ve called people sheep, close-minded, and crazy.

    What is reasonable or reality-based about any of this? Why should I listen to you based on how you’re acting and how incorrect your knowledge is?

  57. Tom, answer those questions as common sense permits. Some of my statements might not be 100% accurate. But the fact remains you are arguing for “valid logic”.. What is logical about a talking snake Tom?!

  58. Ryan, you’re a fool.

    I wasn’t asking for you to ask me to answer those questions as common sense permits. I was asking you to answer them. I was hoping you would also see yourself mirrored in them, but you’re blind.

    What is logical about a talking snake? Wrong question. A talking snake is not a matter of logic, as logic is properly understood. If talking snakes exist, they exist, regardless of the rules of logical inference, and if they don’t exist, they don’t exist, again regardless of those rules.

    Begging the question (circular logic), on the other hand, is a matter of logic, and you’re doing that. To be more precise, begging the question is a matter of illogic. It’s a sign that the person employing that circular reasoning lacks skill in the use of logic. It’s an instance of reasoning processes gone awry.

    Logic is not determined by the conclusions one begins with but by the thinking processes one employs in the use of premises, evidences, and reasoning.

    So I ask you, what is logical about arguing in a circle, Ryan?

    And I also re-ask you: would you look at my questions in #66 and ask yourself how they might apply to you?

    And I’m issuing a first notice: you’re not really contributing anything positive to this blog unless you bring something less prejudicial and more reasoning to your comments. I don’t rush to ban commenters for that reason, but I can be persuaded to do so eventually.

    Now, before you squawk (as others have) that I “turned tail and ran” from you, be advised in advance that if I ban you it will have a lot more to do with being bored than with being scared. I invite and welcome genuine debate. I invite you to bring some of it next time. You haven’t shown us any so far.

  59. I think the real question regarding your post #69 Ryan is who are you really questioning with it. It’s certainly not us as with it you have simply repeated the issues and errors raised in the OP. That leaves only one choice. You. So, why don’t you do what you are obviously crying out for and find out the true answers to your questions. That is what you really want, isn’t it?

  60. @77 you really are a fool, Ryan. Really. A fool. Your inability to deal with simple facts, your paltry and otherwise erroneous command of natural scientific knowledge, your ignorance of the Bible, and your antheist-fundamentalist arrogance betray your foolishness loud and clear. And now there’s the inability to distinguish logical from ontological constructs. Sheesh… you did not even try to understand Tom drawing that distinction, and then you lie about seeking to be “enlightened” with the non-starter “question” @77.

    Splash the boring and bombastic bullying bogey, Tom.

  61. Ryan was probably bullied out of his faith by some “genius” making fun of talking snakes and can’t understand why we’re not falling for the routine.

  62. Ryan,
    We listen to objections and we answer a lot of questions around here. We defend the Christian faith at every turn – with sound reasoning, scholarship, philosophy and when applicable, evidence.

    None of your comments are worth considering. Not because the content of your comments cannot be defended, but because you’re being a unreasoning, thoughtless jerk. Why on earth should anyone here give you the time of day?

    My suggestion: Take some advise from one of your fellow atheist skeptics.

    (as an aside, notice all the non-scientific, philosophical, evidence-free “facts” that are peddled in that video I linked to. Ironic, eh?)

  63. @Ryan Matthew;

    Baaaaaaa Baaaaaaaa Baaaaaaaa…

    This Sir, truly was the most intelligent of all your posts.

  64. Well, enough about that… I have a question.

    Why should I accept supernaturalism over naturalism?

  65. For starters, Sault, you should because our common experiences and realities cannot be logically explained using naturalistic terms. I guess you could redefine what it means for something to be natural, but then I think you are deceiving yourself. This step alone will solidify you as a skeptic of naturalism – with good cause.

    There are literally thousands of websites you can go to learn about the arguments themselves. Here is one I found recently.

  66. Thank you for answering a potentially overbroad question. I think that’s what I need more of right now, something to mull over. If you have any other links you want to throw out at me I’m willing to take suggestions.

  67. I’ve edited a book about this—True Reason: Christian Responses to the Atheist Challenge—yet still it amazes me how utterly unreasoning Internet atheism can be.

    LOL, yet you provide not a single solitary link to even one example, let alone enough to illuminate this so called trend of internet atheists.
    Your whole post is based on nothing; it is without the slightest bit of anything but your unsubstantiated and biased opinion.
    See, at Pharyngula, the actual quote from a source is discussed, where it can be used to build any arguments for or against.

  68. For starters, Sault, you should because our common experiences and realities cannot be logically explained using naturalistic terms.

    Yes they can. Give me an example of one.

    The site you linked to about the cosmological argument is not rigorously logical, in fact, there are many fallacies employed in the response to Michael Martin.

    There is no defense of the principle of first cause. Read Bertrand Russel if you want a profound thinker.

    I’ll say it another way: There is ZERO reason to take the Cosmological argument seriously, for it is based on an assumption, and rationalized post hoc, as are almost all theological attempts.

  69. Well, Tom, without a verifiable, peer-reviewed example of such a book (complete with hyperlink for my convenience) could you consider it truly reasonable to make such a bold statement?

  70. First this;

    “Your whole post is based on nothing; it is without the slightest bit of anything but your unsubstantiated and biased opinion.”

    Then this:

    “I’ll say it another way: There is ZERO reason to take the Cosmological argument seriously, for it is based on an assumption, and rationalized post hoc, as are almost all theological attempts.”

    Pretty funny really.
    (And that’s apart from using “Bertrand Russel” and “profound thinker” in the same sentence.)

  71. @BillT:

    And that’s apart from using “Bertrand Russel” and “profound thinker” in the same sentence.

    Bertrand Russell actually was a profound thinker in many areas; alas, philosophy of religion was not one of them (and yes, I have read him). His polemics against religion in general, and Christianity in particular, is little more than worthless.

  72. “…alas, philosophy of religion was not one of them…”

    Exactly, and what mikmik was referring to.

  73. The site you linked to about the cosmological argument is not rigorously logical, in fact, there are many fallacies employed in the response to Michael Martin.

    I’d like to see you point out one of those fallacies. Perhaps you are correct, but I read the article and he agrees with Martin a lot and only corrects him in minor ways. Here’s the link

    There is no defense of the principle of first cause.

    Have read some of them, I conclude that you’re talking out of your ear – or worse.

  74. Yes they can. Give me an example of one.

    I don’t know how this can be done considering that I said our common experiences and realities cannot be logically explained using naturalistic terms. How do I give an example of something that cannot be an example?

  75. mikmik’s ignorance of Russell is amazing: “profound thinker.” Hmmm… let’s see.

    First, if one limits oneself (as most atheists do) to tying one part of their minds behind their backs, even they can see the ignorance and illogical–literally–conclusions Russell prides himself on in the intellectually challenged Why I’m Not A Christian.

    But let’s not quibble over such self-serving trash. Consider the following: Russell asserts at one point, “that if it could be shown that humanity would live happily ever after if the Jews were exterminated, there could be no good reason not to proceed with their extermination.” (Frederic Raphael, Prospect, May 1996 as quoted in Robert Conquest, Reflections of a Ravaged Century, pgs. 6-7.) And, we all know Dawkins copy-cat echoed a similar sentiment later.

    Yeah, mikmik, Russell is certainly a profoundly deadly thinker… the kind of thinking that animates those who justify the murder of children in the womb (I’m guessing you’re among them) by “rationalizing” away their personhood so as to maintain their allegedly “happy” lives from such “inconveniences.”

    Atheism: by its nature deadly.

  76. sault @89 asked:

    Why should I accept supernaturalism over naturalism?

    Because theism (or super-naturalism) is a better explanation of why the world is the way it is and for human existence. If it is true, and I believe the evidence supports that it is, then it means there is an ultimate meaning and purpose to human existence.

    Now let’s bounce the ball back into your court. Why should I believe in naturalism if it’s not the best explanation and it must be accepted by faith?

  77. Now let’s bounce the ball back into your court. Why should I believe in naturalism if it’s not the best explanation and it must be accepted by faith?

    That’s a slightly unfair question in this context.

    Sault could as well answer his own question with “Because naturalism is a better explanation of why the world is as it is. So why do you accept super-naturalism?”. In either case, you’re assuming the interesting question “which is a better explanation”.

    A more appropriate charge would be “without begging the question*, why would you argue that naturalism is a better explanation than super-naturalism?”

    * I’ve not seen Sault do this, but several champions of naturalism seem to rule super-natural considerations out of bounds a-priori. I think the most interesting challenge for naturalists is why they would consider this a reasonable starting point. Yes, some of these question are hard to answer well. But while starting a line of investigation by putting all confounding evidence in the too-hard basket is pragmatic (and thus often a good idea for engineering), it also severely limits the scope of your conclusions.

  78. @ Andrew W

    That’s a slightly unfair question in this context.

    ??? If you read my response @ 102 you’ll see that I argued that I believe that “the evidence supports” Theism as a better explanation. I believe I can defend this position with anyone who is willing to discuss the evidence.

    For anyone who wants to test this out, let me put something on the table. I would argue that theism offers a better explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe than naturalism does.

    If it really does why should I prefer naturalism over theism, or super-naturalism?

  79. @Andrew W:

    That’s a slightly unfair question in this context.

    I am with JAD on this one; I think it is a great question.

    Why? Can you off the top of your head recall any *positive* argument for atheism? The one that comes closest is the Problem of Evil, which tries to draw a contradiction between observed facts of the world and the typical properties attributed to God. Any other? Not really. The typical skeptic’s argumentation is always a negative one, that is, he offers an argument whose purpose is to undermine some particular theist argument or claim. Even the PoE is an argument of this type in that if successful, a theist could just bite the bullet and deny one of the attributes, say omni-benevolence. Even if this strategy were successful, it would only entail that all arguments offered in favor of theism are invalid. It could still be the case that theism is true and we simply have not had the wisdom and the courage to concoct just the right arguments. But this, by itself, does *not* give warrant to accept the negation of theism, a-theism, because otherwise, it would mean you would be accepting a statement P — God does not exist — without literally any shred of evidence to back you up, only on the grounds that all the arguments for ~P are found wanting, which is a very irrational and illogical stance, especially if you are a loudmouth about how you just go where the evidence leads. If the atheist insists otherwise, then we can always follow *his* strategy: since all the arguments for atheism are invalid — in fact, there are none on the table! — then we are equally entitled to accept its negation and have warranted belief that God exists.

    note: make the suitable replacements, e.g. atheism by naturalism, etc.

  80. “But that’s – I’m sorry, but that’s completely ridiculous! How can I possibly prove it doesn’t exist? Do you expect me to get hold of – of all the pebbles in the world and test them? I mean, you could claim that anything’s real if the only basis for believing in it is that nobody’s proved it doesn’t exist!”
    – Hermione, chapter 21, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”, J.K. Rowling

  81. @Sault:

    I’m sorry, but that’s completely ridiculous! How can I possibly prove it doesn’t exist?

    Perfectly possible. Mathematicians (in writing some lecture notes on metric spaces I just wrote a couple of proofs of existential negatives), physicists, historians, philosophers, etc. prove existential negatives all the time, with the methods of proof proper to their respective disciplines. The idea that it is impossible to prove existential negatives is just plain ignorance.

    note: existential negative is a statement with the logical form ~(Ex: P(x)) where E is the existential quantifier and P a (unary) predicate.

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