“Too Stupid? Try Religion” — Skeptics Dehumanizing Christians

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This month at BreakPoint I write about skeptics dehumanizing Christians. Too stupid to understand science try religion fl

Are you a Christian? Then there’s something dreadfully wrong with you. You’re unthinking; you’re unscientific; you can’t see how badly Christianity botches morality. You represent a deeply defective culture that’s been getting all the most important things wrong for a hundred generations.

Did you know that?

Read more at BreakPoint online.

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124 Responses to “ “Too Stupid? Try Religion” — Skeptics Dehumanizing Christians ”

  1. “Christians are stupid” is one of those indefensible, conversation-ending pronouncements we hear all too often — like “Atheism is a sin,” or “Atheists hate God.”

  2. But atheism is a sin (or a manifestation of sin). That’s inherent in the definitions of “atheism” and “sin.” It’s no more pejorative than, “Atheists deny the reality of God”—recognizing of course that in view of the reality of God, and his goodness, love, mercy, and justice, that’s actually plenty seriously wrong.

  3. But my atheism is not a sin, Tom. My atheism is the best and most honest conclusion I can currently reach about the nature of the universe and my own state of knowledge within it. Of course my reasoning may be flawed or incomplete, but I can hardly renounce it in favor of something that seems to me less reasonable. And if you consider my adherence to my own best reasoning, or my honesty about my beliefs, to be a sin, then I have to reject your concept of sin as incoherent and in fact merely pejorative.

    Nor do I have to look very hard to find prominent Christian apologists willing to associate atheism and atheists with malevolent spiritual entities or even with Satan — demonizing atheism, not merely in the figurative sense, but quite literally! You yourself have been known to characterize atheism as “evil.”

    You’re quite right, of course, that we ought not to dehumanize those with whom we differ. I agree. And more than that: we need to consider the log in our own eye as we examine others for specks.

  4. “Atheists hate God.”

    And, of course, this is true as well. After all, it’s the very definition of atheism to deny the existence of God. What could be a more pejorative view of God, or anyone else, as the denial of their existence.

  5. And I always wonder why atheists care whether their beliefs are a sin when they don’t believe in sin or why they care if it means they hate a God who they don’t believe exists. Like so many of the obvious manifestations of their beliefs they seem so intent in denying.

  6. BillT, if you want to characterize my beliefs as mistaken, or even grievously mistaken, that’s fine. That’s how arguments work.

    But to characterize merely holding the beliefs I hold and my honest expression of them as “sin” brings to the disagreement an offensive moral opprobrium quite distinct from the question of whether I’ve drawn the wrong conclusion from the facts at hand. (There are many doctrinal and vernacular definitions of “sin,” and I would strongly suggest that any such definition that includes atheism or heresy is merely stigmatizing dissent.) Similarly, the claim that I am an atheist because I “hate God” is not merely untrue, it dismisses me as emotionally driven and unable to reason clearly — the same characterization Tom objects to when skeptics apply it to Christians.

    Of course arguments do get emotional, and we all may find ourselves tempted to belittle or dehumanize those with whom we disagree. Tom is quite right to call attention to that.

    Hope this answers your question!

  7. AdamHazzard,

    Your objections to having your beliefs characterized as sin still begs the question of why you care about the “moral opprobrium” or the “many doctrinal and vernacular definitions of “sin,”. What? You don’t believe in God but you do believe in the moral opprobrium and doctrinal definitions that belief in God engenders? Further, I didn’t say you were an atheist because you hate God. I said that the obvious manifestation of your atheism is that you hate God.

  8. Further, I didn’t say you were an atheist because you hate God. I said that the obvious manifestation of your atheism is that you hate God.

    I can say this with perfect authority, given that you’re talking about me and my beliefs and feelings: You simply don’t know what you’re talking about.

  9. As AdamHazzard notes, there are both doctrinal and vernacular definitions of sin. Call my atheism a sin according to your doctrine, and it has no affect on me. But call my atheism a sin according to the vernacular definition, which implies a more general immorality, and I have to object.

    Perhaps atheism will become like homosexuality: a sin according to the most conservative Christians, not at all a sin in the vernacular.

  10. Having just read Terry Eagleton’s “Reason, Faith and Revolution”, I offer this as an accurate description:

    An atheist who has more than a primitive (one might say Satanic) understanding of theology is as rare as an American who has not been abducted by aliens.

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha.

    Sorry, couldn’t help bursting out in laughter. Just thought it highly appropriate, given the current and past threads.

  11. I can say this with perfect authority, given that you’re talking about me and my beliefs and feelings: You simply don’t know what you’re talking about.

    And I can say, with perfect authority given that you’re talking about what I wrote, that you are continuing to avoid dealing directly with that as well as mischaracterizing my statements.

  12. But call my atheism a sin according to the vernacular definition, which implies a more general immorality, and I have to object.

    So being called sinful by us under our definitions “…has no affect on me.” But you do object to being called sinful under “your” definition which is, of course, your definition not ours but that’s a problem because… Ok, I’m officially confused.

  13. BillT: Not sure what point it is you think I’m dodging. I’ll take one more stab at it. Here’s the portion of your comment I didn’t directly reference:

    Your objections to having your beliefs characterized as sin still begs the question of why you care about the “moral opprobrium” or the “many doctrinal and vernacular definitions of “sin,”. What? You don’t believe in God but you do believe in the moral opprobrium and doctrinal definitions that belief in God engenders?

    Why do I care if my beliefs are called immoral (or demonic!) by a Christian? Because it’s unpleasant and it’s not true and it misleads people. Why does Tom care if skeptics call Christians stupid? Presumably, because it’s unpleasant and it’s not true and it misleads people.

    You don’t believe in God but you do believe in the moral opprobrium and doctrinal definitions that belief in God engenders?

    I don’t believe in God, but I find the argument over the existence of God interesting and engaging — and potentially important, since it bears indirectly on important questions of public policy, such as secular government, marriage equality, contraception rights, etc. Debate tactics that dehumanize one side or the other tend to corrupt the conversation and obscure the real issues (though, sadly, they’re probably unavoidable in practice).

  14. There are some pretty fine points of definition and some heavily emotionally-loaded language in play here, both at the same time. That’s a very volatile combination. This is the kind of discussion that may be impossible to carry out on a blog.

    For example: “Why do I care if my beliefs are called immoral by a Christian? Because it’s unpleasant and it’s not true and it misleads people.”

    AdamHazzard’s beliefs are sinful and immoral under certain definitions of sin and morality. They are not sinful and they are not immoral under other definitions.

    Even though I’ve just done it, I don’t think now it’s helpful to use those emotionally loaded terms in this context. I regret that mistake. It’s too easy for people to think I meant something other than what I meant to say.

    This is a great forum for discussing the meaning of terms like sin and its generally associated (im)morality, for clarifying, delimiting, and otherwise refining our understanding of their meanings. It’s not a great forum for throwing those terms at people without carefully assuring that clarity is there.

  15. Adam, the fact that one might hold a certain belief and honestly express it says absolutely nothing about the moral correctness of such a belief. An obvious example would involve invoking Godwin’s Law and then mentioning unrepentant Nazis in the dock at Nuremberg – which I just did.

    Similarly within the context of Christianity eschatology (or Christianity in general) it makes no difference as to why one holds to atheism or if one chooses to express this belief honestly or not. Rebellion against God, of which I hold atheism to be an example of such, is the oldest and most pernicious of sins in the (good) book.* It’s how the story begins for us.

    Fundamental to Christianity (and I’d argue Judaism as well) is the idea that God has made himself known. One doesn’t merely lack belief in God. One actively denies his existence.

    It doesn’t matter that you reject these claims as falsehoods. What matters is that we are talking about what Christianity has defined as sin. When you redefine its meaning and proceed to put the word in “scare quotes” it strongly suggests that you aren’t paying attention to what we are saying.

    (*And please don’t presume that I’m therefore calling all atheists the most heinous of sinners or stating that being a Christian makes one a pure as the driven snow. I’m not. )

  16. That’s a fair point Tom and I apologize to you Adam (I hope that’s not being too familiar) if you took my comments as a personal affront.

    If you go back to my #5 you will see that the idea that atheists “hate” God is a function of their denial of his existence. You cannot deny someone’s existence and at the same time deny that is not a pejorative perspective. Now, given that you don’t believe in God it’s understandable you don’t see the affront. I was just trying to explain that point of view.

    As far as sin that’s another fine point. I understand sin as a rejection of God’s will. I also understand myself to be as sinful as anyone and I say that without qualification. Thus, saying your rejection of God is sinful simply identifies a specific sinful behavior and does not to call you any more sinful than anyone else, especially me. I hope that gets us back to a better conversation.

  17. within the context of Christianity […] it makes no difference as to why one holds to atheism

    Just to add to my own words. While I think that the above statement holds true, I can also sympathise with some of the reasons why some might thank that atheism is true.

  18. I don’t like these insults directed at Christians. However, those Christians who dish insults out look foolish complaining about insults directed at them.

    “I am saved; you are not” is about as strong an insult as I can imagine. If you believe that, go ahead and say it, but don’t pretend that you are engaging in a polite conversation.

  19. “Stupid” is not a term of moral inferiority, but is clearly an insult. “Damned,” the implied opposite of “saved,” is an insult as well. It is the ultimate statement of exclusion, with a terrible threat rolled in, and with the blame for this exclusion placed solely on the target.

  20. Gavin,

    I guess on one hand it’s fair what you say. Anything can be said in a way that sounds insulting. On the other hand, you don’t believe in being damned or saved so just how are you really being insulted by someone claiming something about you that you don’t believe is real.

    And what is the alternative. We understand that your eternal soul is in danger. Would it be better we said nothing. Is that what you would do if a friend or family member was doing something you thought was dangerous. Is this an issue of style or substance for you. Is there any right way for us to express our opinion?

  21. Gavin @25, what you’re telling me is that we haven’t explained the Gospel clearly enough.

    Your description of damnation is accurate enough, but your understanding of the rescue God makes to release us from it seems to be foggy. We’re all equally loved, and all equally unworthy of God’s grace. No personal merit contributes to our being rescued from hell. No personal superiority is involved. It’s only about saying yes to a gift given to us freely by God.

    The difference between one group and another is not a difference of better or worse persons, it’s a difference between persons who have said yes or no to God’s gift.

    And while it’s impossible for me to know your actual condition in terms of that gift, so I cannot just say, “you are among the not-yet-rescued,” what we’re talking about is an objectively describable condition. Insult or not, warning or not, caution or not, the person who has not accepted God’s gift is in danger of hell. Not “damned,” but in danger of being damned.

    If you have not accepted God’s rescue in Christ, then you are among the not-yet-rescued. That’s every bit as objective as saying, if the country on your passport is Canada, then you are a Canadian.

    Finally, I urge you to consider the real insult.

  22. BillT,

    …you don’t believe in being damned or saved so just how are you really being insulted by someone claiming something about you that you don’t believe is real.

    For one thing, you are driving a wedge between me and my Christian friends, relatives, coworkers and students.

    Would it be better we said nothing[?]

    Certainly it would be polite. If you are concerned about someone’s weight, there isn’t really a polite way to let them know. You can decide that being honest is more important that being polite. If they tell you to bug off, don’t go complain about their rudeness.

    Evangelizing Christians are like the well intentioned people who share helpful ideas about better eating and exercise with every overweight person they meet. We know what you think, we disagree, and your bringing it up is rude. I’m not telling you to stop, I just want you to know that you are taking the conversation over the line from polite to insulting, so don’t pretend that everything was nice until some atheist suggested that Christians are stupid. (Again, I don’t think Christians are stupid.)

  23. BillT –

    You cannot deny someone’s existence and at the same time deny that is not a pejorative perspective.

    Superheroes.

    I don’t believe that Superman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, Captain America, etc. actually exist. But that doesn’t mean I hate those characters or am glad they don’t exist.

    Another, more pointed counterexample – an infertile couple and their wished-for child. If they are sane, they believe that the child that they want doesn’t exist, and may never exist. However, no one would claim that by that fact that they hate that child, or the idea of that child, or indeed anything about that child.

    Coming to a negative conclusion about the existence of an entity says nothing about someone’s attitude toward that entity.

  24. Gavin,

    I’m not exactly sure how your reply addressed my questions. You are here on a Christian blog where discussions of “sin and salvation” are de rigueur. You are here voluntarily to participate in those discussions. How exactly does anything we say here constitute “driving a wedge between me and my Christian friends, relatives, coworkers and students.” Are they here as well?

    I don’t know what you interactions with Christians are like in your day to day life. I know personally I’ve never spoken to anyone about my faith or theirs without an open invitation to do so. Are you regularly lectured about your beliefs or something? If so, it isn’t by me or Tom.

    And just to give your reply the broadest possible interpretation you seem to be saying that no matter what, it’s better to be polite than engage someone on any level or in any way about the considerable danger we see for them. Is that what you would do for your Christian friends, relatives, coworkers and students if they were in danger?

  25. BillT,

    I said,

    …you are driving a wedge between me and my Christian friends, relatives, coworkers and students.

    I should not have used “you” to mean BillT. I should have directed this comment at Christians who make very public comments about other people’s salvation. There is no shortage of them. Sorry about directing that at you.

    I don’t know why you think I am saying it is better to be polite. It would be silly for you to avoid topics like sin and salvation on this blog simply to be polite. People come here to discuss these things. I wouldn’t walk into a meeting of Weight Watchers and then complain that they are insulting me by suggesting that I watch my weight. I have no complaint about how these topics are addressed here.

    I am also not saying that these topics should be avoided in the public sphere. We live in an open society. Getting insulted from time to time is a small price to pay for free speech. As an advocate for science, I probably insult people all the time.

    All I’m suggesting is some self-awareness. Evangelical Christians who publish books like “True Reason: Confronting the Irrationality of the New Atheism” have entered a public debate where open exchange of ideas has priority over sensitivity to people’s feelings. That is great! It is just funny to see those people turn around and talk about how terribly insulted they are by other peoples’ frank and open views.

  26. Tom,

    This is an interesting and important discussion. In the hope of contributing to the discussion, here is my “take” on why atheism is a sin (keeping in mind that we should love the sinner but hate the sin.) Atheism is a form of idolatry. The atheist rejects the god of his/her imagining (their idol), which is a concoction of ideas and beliefs ABOUT God that prevents the atheist from believing IN God. Most atheists I have interacted with are capable of describing for me the god they don’t believe in, such as their creature, the Monster God of the Old Testament, a la Richard Dawkins. This god is not the God of monotheism, the God of love, mercy, justice, and salvation. They then make atheism, their rejection of God, their idol. To use a common phrase, they “throw the baby out with the bathwater” in their attempts to distance themselves as much as possible from people of faith, or at least, what they believe that people of faith believe. I often say to atheists, in all sincerity, that if I believed about God what they believe about God, I wouldn’t believe in God either.

    I refer often to the allegory of the Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve’s story and my interpretation of what it tells us about sin. In the GOE, everything that the humans needed was provided. They felt no suffering or pain or need because their relationship with God was one of complete dependence and complete obedience. But they were given one prohibition: not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. The reason for this one rule (law) is that once a human has knowledge of the difference between good and evil, we must be accountable for our choices between the two, righteousness or evil, obedience of God or disobedience, since we know the difference. Suffering came into the world when Adam and Eve ate from the Tree and acquired knowledge of good and evil because without our suffering, we cannot has empathy for the suffering of others and the suffering we cause others.

    So what about atheism and sin? God’s command is to love Him. Atheism prevents a person from loving God. The atheism stands as an idol between the person and God since atheism is not a real or true understanding of God’s nature, God’s character and above all, God’s love for humankind and for each of us individually and personally.

    I hope some of these ideas are helpful in the conversation. JB

  27. I have a number of issues with your comments Jenna
    JB says: Atheism is a form of idolatry.
    Actually it is the absence of idolatry. I presume you have heard the recent adage that atheism is a belief system like not engaging in stamp collection is a hobby. Further, you added
    JB: The atheist rejects the god of his/her imagining (their idol), which is a concoction of ideas and beliefs ABOUT god that prevents the atheist from believing IN god.
    Actually, the atheist rejects the god of YOUR imagining (your idol) which is a concoction of ideas that you and 2 billion others have been indoctrinated into believing exists.
    I find it amusing that you twice now choose to spin this around away from you and those of your ilk.
    JB: Most atheists I have interacted with are capable of describing for me the god they don’t believe in, such as their creature, the Monster god of the Old Testament, a la Richard Dawkins. This god is not the god of monotheism, the god of love, mercy, justice, and salvation.
    How can it be that this god of the old testament is not the god of the Abrahamic monotheism flavor of the moment (including of course, Judaism and Islam)?
    JB: They then make atheism, their rejection of god, their idol. To use a common phrase, they “throw the baby out with the bathwater” in their attempts to distance themselves as much as possible from people of faith, or at least, what they believe that people of faith believe.
    This is your third attempt in making a similar claim. The problem is that there is no baby, or bathwater for that matter, and we observe with interest as you sing lullabies to an empty bathtub. It is a clever attempt, but nothing more beyond that.

    JB: They felt no suffering or pain or need because their relationship with god was one of complete dependence and complete obedience. But they were given one prohibition: not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. The reason for this one rule (law) is that once a human has knowledge of the difference between good and evil, we must be accountable for our choices between the two, righteousness or evil, obedience of god or disobedience, since we know the difference.
    This is of course your interpretation of this, especially the part about complete obedience, which is unreported. This story is among the first of the major flaws with this entire book. Obedience is not something one can know without knowing that there are differences between good and evil, let alone that these qualities even exist. Disobedience is not part of their knowledge.
    It was only (in this deceitful tale) AFTER these humans, the Adam, acquired this knowledge (based on eating a fruit) could they be aware that they had somehow transgressed or disobeyed.
    Remember? You said:
    JB: we must be accountable for our choices between the two, righteousness or evil, obedience of god or disobedience, since we know the difference.
    The added notion that there were some 2,200 of these Adam, means that all the Eve’s of the Adam ate of this fruit, which is highly unlikely. If they were innocent, including innocent of the difference between the two, it is also likely that they were innocently inquisitive.
    It is also most humorous that according to this tale, the first thing they became aware of was not that they had disobeyed anyone, above all to this purported creator, but that they were ashamed that they were naked, not that they had awakened to right from wrong and that they had disobeyed anyone. Just that they were naked, and that this awareness was somehow shameful.
    If one is created in the perfect image and likeness of one’s god, as is claimed prior to this in one of the two conflicting creation stories, does this mean that god is clothed? Does it mean that god is also ashamed when god is naked? Why does being naked, if one is a perfect image of their many creators (our image and likeness which also makes one wonder how many god’s there were at the time), become something to be ashamed of?
    Secondly, god knows what is going to happen in advance. If god created these people knowing they wouldn’t know what true pure obedience could be, and that they (she, if you buy this fairy tale) were going to eat these fruits why were they created in a way that would allow them to fail something they couldn’t be expected to comprehend, and were known to fail in advance? In essence, these people were doomed to make that choice because they were set up to fail a test they couldn’t even recognize as a test. This is hilarious.

    It is frankly, theater of the absurd.

    Then you claim:
    JB: Suffering came into the world when Adam and Eve ate from the Tree and acquired knowledge of good and evil because without our suffering, we cannot has empathy for the suffering of others and the suffering we cause others.

    Ah, yes, one needs to leap from one conclusion to the next to create a patchwork framework that somehow appears to holds together, but on critical examination doesn’t. Thankfully, these arguments aren’t part of the wings of an airplane because an airplane whose wings are fashioned out of these parts with these rivets isn’t going to be able to fly. And if it was known in advance that this would be the outcome, why bother in the first place?
    JB: So what about atheism and sin? god’s command is to love him. Atheism prevents a person from loving God.
    Atheism allows a person to step away from joining in with others, in worshiping and loving something that doesn’t exist. At least the one’s made up by the imaginations of the people who crafted the Abrahamic traditions somewhere back in the Bronze/Iron Age. All of you, who claim to be christians are atheists as well, as regards all other gods including the god’s of the other two Abrahamic traditions.

    JB: The atheism stands as an idol between the person and god since atheism is not a real or true understanding of god’s nature, God’s character and above all, god’s love for humankind and for each of us individually and personally.

    Except that, since your god doesn’t exist there is no baby, and no bathwater.

  28. Ray,

    I don’t believe that Superman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, Captain America, etc. actually exist. But that doesn’t mean I hate those characters or am glad they don’t exist.

    To deny God is different. Superheroes are not the fundamental reality of all that is. They do not define the good or the worthy. They are not your creators. They don’t love you personally enough to die for you.

    The analogy fails, and I think you ought to really re-think what it means to hate the goodness at the basis of all reality.

  29. Tom
    First of all I have no intention of paying homage to an idol by capitalizing its first letter. If that means that I am unwelcome here, then so be it, I shall unsubscribe from your list as soon as I have posted this comment.

    Secondly, my “off the cuff” responses, in the event you hadn’t noticed, were to the “off the cuff” comments attempting to present a rationale for this belief that sin exists based on a book that supports worship of an idol, and in response to further attempts to portray, or should I say “spin” atheists as idol worshipers, when idol worship is patently absent, and, which I might add, was therefore also largely off topic.

    To make people recognize your deity by capitalizing it’s first letter is a way of forcing people who don’t believe to give special authority to something they don’t give special authority to.

    None of the atheist sites I have visited require that participants spell the word without a capital letter.

  30. Tom, Billy and Jenna,

    Could you help me reconcile this comment by Tom,

    No personal superiority is involved. It’s only about saying yes to a gift given to us freely by God.

    with these statements by Billy and Jenna?

    Rebellion against God, of which I hold atheism to be an example of such, is the oldest and most pernicious of sins in the (good) book.

    Atheism is a form of idolatry.

    Those last two are coming across as pretty insulting. Again, I’m not arguing that you shouldn’t insult me here on a Christian blog or out in the public sphere. I can take it. Nor am I arguing about the truth of those statements. I’m just trying to understand how you think that they are actually not insulting.

  31. Gavin, RE: #39

    First of all, please note the difference between statements about “atheism” versus personal attacks against atheists. This is the very distinction at issue in this discussion: attacks on Christians vs. analysis of Christianity. An -ism is an ideology, a belief. Most atheists who I’ve interacted with accept the definition of atheism as simply “a lack of belief in God.” I attempt in my post to analyze the reasons for this lack of belief in God, which IMO, stems from a misunderstanding of God. That’s why I mention Richard Dawkins’ Monster God of the OT, which I doubt that anyone believes in, let alone Dawkins himself.

    Certainly you are familiar with the concept of the straw man in argumentation. My sense of things is that many atheists become so wedded to the straw man God that they create for argumentative purposes that this becomes their God. This is an idol, not the reality of God. Idolatry in some form or another is a common sin and it is sin because the idol stands between us and our true and proper understanding and worship of God. We shouldn’t feel personally insulted when we reflect on the nature of sin since the purpose is for healing and understanding, not to demean or punish.

  32. PangurBanTheCat,

    With rare exceptions, the atheists’ websites I visit have no rules and no monitoring and are very nasty, with lots of profanity and personal insults that are not only allowed, but seem to be encouraged. This to me is a sign that the purpose of these sites is for atheists to openly express anger and contempt for believers, not for learning or reasoning together. I am very grateful to Tom Gilson for providing a site where respectful and reasoned dialogue can take place.

  33. PangurBantheCat:

    To make people recognize your deity by capitalizing it’s first letter is a way of forcing people who don’t believe to give special authority to something they don’t give special authority to.

    I capitalize Allah, Buddha, Krishna, Zeus, and Thor. Why? Because they’re proper nouns.

    Why would a person pick out one or two proper nouns, which are universally capitalized in proper English, and intentionally place them in lower case? To diminish and to demean them.

    You have said as much here.

    You may, as you said, feel free to disinvite yourself from this blog. I will be glad to do the necessary behind-the-scenes paperwork.

  34. Jenna,

    If someone said that your beliefs were a form of idolatry, would you find that insulting? If they said that you only held your beliefs because of a profound misunderstanding, would that be insulting?

  35. Gavin, RE: #43

    Honestly, if someone gives me his/her opinion about my beliefs when we are engaged in a respectful and mutual discussion of our beliefs, I would not feel insulted. I am perfectly capable of distinguishing between personal attacks and constructive dialogue. I ask why they hold their stated opinion and seek to clarify their reasons for holding that opinion. I know that these conversations can be difficult because the topic is fraught with connotations of moral and ethical judgments, but increased empathy and mutual understanding are possible.

  36. Tom,

    I think that it is also important to point out that “God” written with a capital G usually signals that the speaker means the God of monotheism rather than the use of “god” with a lower case g refers to a god of any ancient or polytheistic religion. I personally find atheists’ refusal to observe the conventions of English spelling, which are designed to signal meaning, in order to “make a statement” of disrespect for religion to be an irritating affectation.

  37. @Gavin:

    If someone said that your beliefs were a form of idolatry, would you find that insulting?

    One of the standard accusations against Catholics (this is just an example; read no more into it) is that they *do* engage in idolatry.

    If they said that you only held your beliefs because of a profound misunderstanding, would that be insulting?

    But they do say that; not explicitly, in so many words, probably out of scruples, but that is what an atheist is saying.

    It is really puzzling this supercilious insistence on being offended.

  38. Thank you Jenna and G., I agree.

    It is really puzzling this supercilious insistence on being offended.

    That is what I found puzzling about Tom’s Breakpoint article too. Although he wasn’t merely offended, he said it was dehumanizing. He’s being a bit melodramatic, in my opinion.

  39. Gavin,

    I believe there is a significant difference between the complaints of atheists here having their beliefs, for instance, considered sinful and the treatment of Christians in the public sphere and by the current crop of atheist spokesmen.

    Having ones atheistic beliefs understood as sinful is a Christian understanding of a theological orientation about unbelief. It can be and was (above) explained in reasonable and internally consistent terms. It was not meant to be personally insulting and we were quick to acknowledge and apologize for how loaded the term can be.

    Contrast this with what we have seen over the past 50 years from the media/Hollywood. There has been a constant drumbeat of ridicule and insults, most of it based on inaccurate and unfair representations of religious people and religious thought. Then we have the current crop of atheist spokesmen whose stated objective is not to engage believers in thoughtful dialogue, or really dialogue of any kind, but just the opposite. Their stated goal is to ridicule and insult Christian thought and Christians personally.

    If you think this overstated show me where you see the kind of insulting attack Tom reproduced in the OP coming from the Christian side. The above is not surprising at all coming from atheists and just another of a long string of such attacks on Christians and Christian thought. Can you provide a history similar statements from Christian spokesman?

  40. “the fool says in his heart ‘there is no God'”-Psalm 14:1

    As Christians we needn’t be too concerned or insulted that a “fool” thinks we are stupid. Only that the person making the comment is in danger on being eternally separated from God

  41. Gavin, RE: #47

    At the risk of appearing to you to be “melodramatic,” please allow me to explain why I don’t believe that Tom Gilson exaggerates by calling atheists’ campaigns such as Peter Boghossian’s (PB) against people of faith, predominantly Christians, “dehumanizing.” IMO, we must be talk about the ethical and moral dimensions of Boghossian’s attempts to turn the concept of religious faith into a pathology. Lifting language directly from the pages of PB’s book”A manual for creating atheists” we get his picture of persons of faith. He uses “disease” language to describe believers in God as “infected” with “the faith virus” and “contagious” where persons of faith are in need of “treatment” (like drug addicts) and “intervention” using “clinical tools” with brains that are “neurologically damaged” because they suffer from a “cognitive malady” and “severe doxastic pathologies” which is causing a “public health crisis” that will “cripple” the alleged victims of this “psychiatric disorder.”

    How can anyone of good conscience not find this language and imagery offensive and alarming? Is this effort to create negative stereotypes of other people based simply on their belief in God and identification with a community of faith moral or ethical? What if Jews as people of faith were the target of this propaganda, as they have been historically? Would we tolerate this? Then why is it okay for Boghossian to denigrate and dehumanize Jews, Christians, Muslims, and all followers of a religion? Because we are the majority in society?

    The only mention PB makes regarding the ethics of his “Street Epistemology” as a form of “dialectical treatment” to eradicate the “faith virus” is on p. 131, where he laments that it is probably not possible to research the effectiveness of his “intervention” because of “the ethics (IRB) of conducting studies with the explicit aim of helping people abandon their faith.”

    I am glad to see Tom Gilson and other Christians speaking out against this dehumanization propaganda and holding the self-appointed leaders of the New Atheists Movement to account.

  42. Gavin, how would you define “dehumanizing”? Please distinguish it from “saying negative things,” unless you believe there is no distinction to be made there. Thank you.

  43. Jenna, RE: #50

    I find Boghossian’s tactics unfair and unnecessary–better philosophers have argued for atheism without redefining words or labeling people who disagree with them as delusional. That said, Christians are indeed the majority and atheists (at least in the US) have been shown in survey after survey* to be the most mistrusted minority, so I can’t say I feel overly sympathetic for the Christians who are having unkind things written about them. I’d sooner save my sympathy for the Christians who are being imprisoned or worse in places like Iran and North Korea.

    Instead, allow me to welcome you, dear Christians, to the Misunderstood and Misrepresented Club. We’ve got punch and pie.

    Maybe now that both sides know what it’s like to be crapped on we can move on from the rhetoric and figure out a better way to talk, debate, co-exist, etc.

    (*) Here’s a recent one: http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/lifestyle/57967592-80/atheist-atheists-percent-pew.html.csp

  44. Kyle,

    Are you familiar with any of the research that studies the reasons for negative stereotyping of atheists. I recommend this study from the University of British Columbia by Gervais et al. which is actually a compilation of six studies by these researchers.

    Gervais, W. M., Shariff, A. F., & Norenzayan, A. (2011, November 7). Do You Believe in Atheists? Distrust Is Central to Anti-Atheist Prejudice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0025882

    http://www.publicaffairs.ubc.ca/2011/11/30/ubc-study-explores-distrust-of-atheists-by-believers/

    This is my “take” on this research, which attributes distrust of atheists to the atheist’s lack of a “fear of supernatural punishment” for moral turpitude based on theories of the relationship between religion and “prosocial behaviors.”

    I think that distrust of atheists stems in part from an inability of believers to understand how they conduct their moral reasoning and ethical decision-making without reference to the moral principles that stem from a belief in God, not just the lack of a fear of punishment from God. For example, some atheists deny the concept and existence of “sin” based on their non-belief in God and their definition of the term “sin” to be a transgression against God (God’s laws). Some even declare themselves to be “free of sin” or “free from sin” based on their non-belief in God. This is both puzzling and distressing to believers because we don’t know any atheists who we would consider free of sin, regardless of their lack of belief in God. This raises the question: On what set of moral principles, truths, concepts, constructs do atheists base their moral reasoning or determination of right vs. wrong, justice vs. injustice, etc. if not on a belief in some moral absolutes or moral principles such as those we believers derive from the moral/ethical teachings of our religion? This question applies regardless of how we as believers think God rewards or punishes our actions, recognizing that the good boy/bad boy paradigm of moral reasoning is at the lower levels in the stages of moral development.

  45. Thanks for the take, Jenna. Seems reasonable enough to me. I don’t know any atheists who would say they’re free from sin (the definition of which I take from Tim Keller: making good things into ultimate things). I know I wouldn’t say it.

    One question, though: if Christians believe that God gifts all people–regardless of their beliefs–a sense of morality, why distrust atheists more than their fellow believers?

  46. Jenna,

    I’m not going to defend Boghossian’s tactics. I just don’t see his tactics as more offensive than the things Christians commonly say about atheists.

    I appreciate your comments on why Christians are less trusting of atheists. In connection with the current discussion, have you observed prominent Christian voices emphasizing the view that atheists have no foundation for their morality, fueling this mistrust, or have you more often seen prominent Christians trying to build bridges by recognizing non-theist theories of morality and by emphasizing the presence of a moral sense in all people independent of what they believe.

    I ask because it seems to me that this mistrust is result of an active campaign to paint atheists as morally suspect, and often suggesting that the reason we are atheist is because we wish to be free of morality.

  47. So Gavin. Pointing out that atheists have no foundation on which to base their (Capital “M”) Morality is unfair even if it’s true? (Which BTW is different from saying atheists are bad people or immoral people or live bad lives or any of the other things atheists try and spin the above into.)

  48. Gavin,

    Most of the atheists that I dialogue with insist that the correct definition of atheism is “a lack of belief in God.” Clearly, no morality or paradigm for moral reasoning flows naturally from a lack of belief in God. This is what puzzles and concerns Christians.

    IMO, relations between atheists and Christians are approaching a low point. I think that there are several reasons for this. The leaders and ostensible spokesmen for the New Atheists Movement advocate for a very strident and aggressive anti-theism and anti-religion ideology, much more than simply a philosophical or ideological “lack of belief in God.” Quite naturally and predictably, Christians react to this. Hundreds of blogs have been established on the internet, where atheists “vent” their hostility toward Christians and make arguments against theology and religion in society. You might want to read the analysis of this phenomenon by Alister McGrath in these two books:

    Alister McGrath & Joanna Collicutt McGrath (2007). The Dawkins delusion? Atheist fundamentalism and the denial of the Divine.

    Alister McGrath (2010). Why God won’t go away.

    Certainly you will agree that bridge-building requires mutual respect and cooperation, which cannot take place in the context of inflammatory rhetoric. That’s what I see Tom Gilson attempting to do with this monitored website where respectful dialogue is expected, required and enforced. Thanks for your participation.

  49. BillT,

    I wrote a reply to 48 which hasn’t come through. Perhaps it had too many links. I will try again in a while.

    Which BTW is different from saying atheists are bad people or immoral people or live bad lives or any of the other things atheists try and spin the above into.

    If I understand correctly, Jenna thinks this is why many Christians distrust atheists.

  50. BillT,

    Can you provide a history similar statements from Christian spokesman?

    Yes.

    First up in the list of dehumanizing examples, Tom has a very insulting message on a whisky flask at Cafepress.com. The illustration consists of the offensive message put onto a picture of the flask. I don’t now if an actual flask has ever existed, but they will make one for you if you order it. I found a comparable insulting bumper sticker that says, “April 1st is Atheist Day,” with a supporting bible verse.

    http://www.zazzle.com/april_1st_is_atheist_day_bumper_sticker-128866381078358572

    Next up Tom cites a Bible quoting billboard, put up by an atheist group. On the Christian side we have an offensive billboard with a boy pointing a revolver at the reader, with the words “If God doesn’t matter to him, do you?”

    http://www.uncouth.net/2009/06/01/if-god-doesnt-matter-to-him-do-you/

    Tom references an insulting blog comment. Thanks to Nigel Owen for helpfully providing the Christian example above.

    To match Tom’s anti-school prayer example, here is a school prayer related bumper sticker that says, “when there was prayer is schools there wasn’t shooting in schools.”

    http://www.cafepress.com/mf/22579029/school-prayer-no-shootings-_bumper-sticker?productId=301011494

    Finally, an insulting poster from a parody site:

    Atheism – the belief that there was nothing and nothing happened to nothing and then nothing magically exploded for no reason, creating everything and then a bunch of everything magically rearranged itself for no reason what so ever into self-replicating bits which then turned into dinosaurs. Makes perfect sense.

    http://morethansayings.blogspot.com/2012/02/atheism-belief-that-there-was-nothing.html

    I hope that is helpful

  51. Gavin, #58

    Yes, you do appear to have misunderstood me. I reviewed the research study from the UBC to show that the researchers found “distrust” to be the primary factor in negative perceptions of atheists among people of faith AND atheists alike. I speculate that this is because atheism neither articulates nor proposes any paradigm of moral reasoning, unlike Christianity that teaches that moral reasoning is based on belief in God, a God of love, justice, mercy and salvation. I do not imply by this that atheists are immoral because they are atheists, either collectively or individually. Yes, some make the argument that atheism stems from a desire for moral autonomy (Alister McGrath is one). This type of analysis is an attempt to understand “where atheists are coming from” morally rather than making judgments about atheists’ moral behavior.

    I hope this clarifies the meaning that I wish to convey through my comments.

  52. Gavin, RE: #59

    I checked out the links you provided in this message. Three of the four of them are commercial vendors who are selling posters with sayings and slogans. The other one’s sponsorship is unclear so I’m not sure who is promoting this bill board. I respond to your posting of links to these sites because you imply that Christian groups are engaged in an antic-atheist campaign of some sort, which I don’t think can be inferred from these sites. What these signs and slogans say to me is that anti-atheism is commercially viable and has a market. Are you really surprised by this? Do you really think that this sort of popular sloganeering is driven by Christian organizations and churches?

    Please, let’s be clear about who is responsible for what here. No Christian can take on the burden of the sins of our fellow Christians. We have enough of our own to be responsible and accountable for. I for my part have made great efforts to understand atheism, through reading, study and research, and have been a frequent and persistent participant on atheists’ blogs in an attempt to dialogue and inform, despite some very abusive treatment. What do you think needs to be done by both atheists and Christians, to heal the rift between us, if that be our desire?

  53. Jenna,

    Sorry I misunderstood you. I will look at that again.

    Re: 61. I’m not at all surprised by these things. I was just providing them for BillT, since he asked a very specific question. Tom’s examples were also from commercial sites or parody sites, not parts of large campaigns, except for the bill board, which was put up by a small atheist group. The bill board I cited was put up by Answers in Genesis, which seems to have a comparable status.

    I would like to respond to your comment on 57 and your question at the end of 61, but it may be some time since I have a busy evening.

  54. Also, Gavin,

    Have you ever compared the difference between atheists’ and Christians’ websites, in how they treat the other side?

    Would you like me to drum up a couple dozen examples for you? It’s not hard.

  55. In connection with the current discussion, have you observed prominent Christian voices emphasizing the view that atheists have no foundation for their morality

    I’ve not heard any “prominent” Christians say such a thing. Instead, I’ve head Christians like John Lennox claim that the morality that is a product of a purely naturalistic universe is built on the shifting sands of time, the vagaries of chance and circumstance, and the changing appetites of society and of the individual. Moreover, I think people like Lennox would say that we have a common sense of the good precisely because there is a transcendent source of goodness to draw from.

    While atheists can be fantastically caring individuals (often putting Christians to shame) the claim being made by any “prominent Christian” I’ve heard is that without God there is no objective morality. “Dachau is wrong” is not a factual statement. Atheists like Michael Ruse seem to agree with the overall claim. To them morality is a happy trick that evolution has fobbed off on us.

    As for “non-theist theories of morality” you would have to explain what these are. I’m familiar with one of the more recent attempts, The Moral Landscape, by Sam Harris. I’m also familiar with how various Christians actively engaged with his theory (a word that makes it sound grander than it is) by offering some substantive critiques. Why even our own Tom did a 6 part review of his book.

    I do have sympathy with atheists who are stuck behind a silly bumper sticker. Christians can be an insensitive lot at times, myself included. That this type of behaviour might indirectly (or possibly directly) cause trouble for atheists or even encourage hostility is regrettable. If I ever encounter a fellow Christian who says “atheists are immoral” (which is completely different to any comment about the foundations for morality) then I will do my very best to put them straight.

    Finally, that Boghossian actually believes his nonsense about curing the faith mind virus is scary. I do hope atheists out there will make their voices heard and take him to task for his bigotry.

  56. Further: The Reason Rally was not on the fringe of the atheist movement. I was there. I heard Tim Minchin’s song with the 72 instances of the “F” word. I heard Dawkins call for ridicule of beliefs. If you think it was only about beliefs, P.Z. Myers said to a friend and me in direct conversation, “Are they ridiculing you here? They should be.”

    I saw signs like,

    “Fine. I evolved. You didn’t.” (Dehumanizing? Absolutely!)
    “Choose one: Evolution or made-up s***.”
    “Religion: Because thinking is hard.”

    I saw the guy there dressed up like Jesus, riding a dinosaur. And the sign with him that said, “2,000 year old virgin looking for casual sex.”

    That’s not fringe. That was the “largest gathering of the secular movement in world history,” led by David Silverman and Richard Dawkins.

    I’ve seen Religulous, too. Have you? Bill Maher is not fringe.

    I’ve seen Piers Morgan viciously belittling Ryan Anderson for his “bizarre” beliefs. Piers Morgan is not fringe.

    I do not disagree with you that there is some of the same coming from the other direction, but …

    … how often are Christian beliefs held up to public affirmation in popular culture? See http://mediasmarts.ca/diversity-media/religion/media-portrayals-religion-christianity and http://www.openculture.com/2013/06/atheist_ira_glass_believes_christians_get_the_short_end_of_the_media_stick.html

    Do you see where we’re coming from?

    And here’s the thing: the people who are doing this are the ones who are most likely to proclaim their humanism.

  57. I hope that is helpful

    Not really Gavin. Digging up some isolated incidents of anti atheist comments, billboards or bumper stickers is nothing like the non stop barrage of ridicule and insult that has become the raison d’etre of New Atheism. And the decades long assault on Christians and Christianity by Hollywood has exactly zero parallels as it applies to atheism. And I didn’t even mention the generally difficult atmosphere for believers on a very high percentage of college campuses. You need a fresh perspective if you think atheism has faced anything like this in the public square or from Christian spokesmen.

  58. Jenna,

    IMO, relations between atheists and Christians are approaching a low point.

    I appreciate your perspective on this. Mine is somewhat different. I agree with this observation.

    The leaders and ostensible spokesmen for the New Atheists Movement advocate for a very strident and aggressive anti-theism and anti-religion ideology….

    This has really taken off in the last couple of decades. However, the leaders and ostensible spokesmen for Christians in the U.S. have advocated for a very strident anti-atheism ideology for the last couple of centuries. From the atheist perspective relations are not approaching a new low, relations have been very low for a very long time. Atheists haven’t just been subjected to inflammatory rhetoric, it has been actual discrimination. For example, several states prohibit atheists from public office in their constitutions.

    http://americanhumanist.org/HNN/details/2012-05-unelectable-atheists-us-states-that-prohibit-godless

    Those prohibitions are no longer enforceable, but there is no similar history of discrimination against Christians in government in this country.

    A current example which is close to my heart is the Boy Scouts of America’s Declaration of Religious Principle

    The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God. In the first part of the Scout Oath or Promise the member declares, “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law.” The recognition of God as the ruling and leading power in the universe and the grateful acknowledgment of His favors and blessings are necessary to the best type of citizenship and are wholesome precepts in the education of the growing members. No matter what the religious faith of the members may be, this fundamental need of good citizenship should be kept before them. The Boy Scouts of America, therefore, recognizes the religious element in the training of the member, but it is absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward that religious training. Its policy is that the home and the organization or group with which the member is connected shall give definite attention to religious life.

    As an atheist I find this very offensive, but it is more that that to me. I grew up in scouts, from Tiger Cub to Eagle Scout. Some summers I spent more nights in tentsthan I did in my own bed. It shaped who I am. My dad was a leader in scouts, just as his dad had been. I always thought that someday I would be a leader when my son was in scouts. However, by the time my son was old enough to join scouts all the National Council had decided to crack down on atheists. I was excluded because of my atheism, and my son, who hadn’t made up his own mind about God, was not interested in an organization that had such an prejudiced view of his father.

    The Declaration of Religious Principle isn’t just some jerk venting on a blog. It is tied to a policy that had a big impact on my life. I’d have been happy to have anti-atheist graffiti painted on my house every night for eight years if it would have allowed me to do scouting with my son. Now he is 17. We did many great things together, but the scouting experience is lost because of anti-atheist prejudice and discrimination.

    Are you aware of any organizations as unique and inclusive as the Boy Scouts of America which excludes Christians? This is why I don’t have a great deal of sympathy for Christians who are upset about the lack of civility. It isn’t as bad for Christians now as it has been for me already.

    Certainly you will agree that bridge-building requires mutual respect and cooperation, which cannot take place in the context of inflammatory rhetoric.

    Bridge-building is always done in the context of inflammatory rhetoric, because every serious disagreement generates inflammatory rhetoric. The bridges are built by people who ignore the rhetoric and work towards understanding and common cause. Calling for civility is a stalling tactic employed by those satisfied with the status quo.

    The struggle for marriage equality is a great example of building bridges and using rhetoric. By coming out, gays and lesbians built bridges with the people they knew even as inflammatory rhetoric swirled on all sides. The small gay community and many Christian friends and relatives worked together to end serious discrimination. Christians who were not on board got branded as hateful bigots. Now same-sex couples are enjoying the benefits of marriage in many states, and probably will in many more soon.

    Atheists have studied this example. Atheists are coming out and building bridges with our friends and families. When they see how we are affected by anti-atheist prejudice and discrimination, they are outraged. Organizations that discriminate against atheists are being branded as narrow minded, and may find themselves marginalized. I hope that the Boy Scouts of America come to their senses before that happens so I might someday be able to share scouting with a grandson. Atheists would love to build that bridge with the BSA, but experience shows civility alone isn’t going to make that happen. To end discrimination, people have to get mad.

  59. And now that you’ve brought up governmental discrimination, would you please let us know how you think discrimination relates to the topic of the post, dehumanization?

  60. Just to expand my perspective on this: there were plenty of mass murderers in the 20th century, and I mean murderers of millions. Stalin and Mao both killed many more people than Hitler; but when people want an example of evil, Hitler gets mentioned far more than either of them. Why?

    Hitler didn’t just kill. He stripped people of their humanity. He loaded them up in cattle cars, killed them, and used their body parts as raw materials for manufacturing. He (his people) experimented on humans in inhuman ways. He decided whose life was unworthy of living, regardless of their humanness.

    It was his dehumanizing ways that cause us to recoil against him so much more than against more prolific killers.

    To criticize is one thing (that’s the point of my questions in #51 and #63). It’s not often the same as dehumanizing, and it’s not necessarily wrong. In fact, it’s often the very best thing one can do for another, if done well. To say something negative about a person can be descriptively accurate and corrective.

    To discriminate can quite often be to dehumanize: it’s a lot more closely connected; and to discriminate against someone based on irrelevant factors is almost always wrong. (Discrimination for relevant reasons is not wrong: I’m very discriminating about who will do my foot surgery tomorrow.)

    So there are different offenses, some real, some imagined—some truly evil. I’m distinguishing between them in my mind, and my questions to you in #51, #63, and just now in #70 have been for the purpose of introducing those distinctions into the discussion. That needs to be included.

  61. Tom,

    Is there some reason you’ve decided to interact with only one person here?

    In order to give some thought to my responses and to respond in a timely manner I tend to interact with one person at a time. Jenna’s comments have been interesting and clear and her questions thought provoking. When I finish my pleasant discussion with her I may respond to someone else.

    I am reading your comments, so if you would like to share your definition of “dehumanizing,” I might find that useful in my current conversation.

  62. Gavin and Jenna, the reason I’ve been asking Gavin for his definition of “dehumanizing,” and for him to distinguish it from (at first) negative comments in general, and (more recently) discrimination, is because the topic of this post was dehumanization, and I find Gavin not talking about that at all. I think he’s been talking about negative assessments in general, up until his most recent posts, and that he is mistaken in thinking that this is a response to my post.

  63. I’ll be glad to give you my definition of dehumanization, even though I asked you first. It’s any verbal and/or procedural action by which one states or implies that another person is less than fully human, or by which one treats a person as less than fully human.

    To offer a negative assessment may or may not be dehumanizing. “Fine: I’m evolved, you’re not,” carries a hint that the other person is less fully evolved, a hint that would have no sting if it weren’t also accompanied by a clear implication that the other person is stupid.

    As a musician, though, I know also that negative assessments can build a person to be better, stronger, more creative and artistic, and indeed (in a sense) more fully human. They can do that when the person offering the assessment tells the truth in a way that can cause one to see that one is wrong and that one can do better. That’s my quick answer to how negative assessments differ from dehumanization.

    Discrimination is usually dehumanizing when it’s based on irrelevant factors, such as skin color for employment, to take the obvious example. It’s often actually humanizing when it’s based on relevant factors: for me to accept the services of my foot surgeon is to treat him for the person he is. For me to accept, say, my next-door-neighbor’s services for the same thing would not be to treat him for the person he is. Therefore in discriminating against my neighbor in this obvious example, I’m treating him as a human being.

    Meanwhile, for me to accept my neighbor’s services in mowing my lawn while I’m down, or in doing dry cleaning for me (that’s his trade), builds him up, whereas to ask my surgeon to do either of those could in a sense dehumanize him, by treating him as someone other than he is.

    Now, on to the point of all this analysis. This post was about atheists dehumanizing Christians. If you point to Christians actually dehumanizing atheists, that’s relevant. If you point to Christians criticizing atheists in other ways, that’s probably irrelevant, or at least its relevance needs to be thought through. If you say to me or Jenna, “Christians do the same thing you’re complaining about atheists doing,” when you’re talking about something different than I was talking about, then you’re committing a logical fallacy of a false equivalence—which I don’t think you want to do.

  64. Gavin, just a word (a negative assessment, if you will): when your host asks you a repeated question it’s rude to ignore it. If you have some reason not to answer, the polite thing would be at least to acknowledge the question and explain that you’re declining to answer for some reason.

    As I hope you can see from my notes to both you and Jenna here, the question I raised there was relevant to your conversation with her. I hope you’ll address it together now.

  65. Tom @ 37 – The thing is, that wasn’t an analogy.

    No, really! What BillT said – direct quote – was “You cannot deny someone’s existence and at the same time deny that is not a pejorative perspective.” I was pointing out that that principle is false by direct counterexamples, not analogy. A couple more – anyone who needs a defense attorney would love to have Perry Mason on the case. Anyone looking for a private detective would be overjoyed to hire Sherlock Holmes. (Holmes is an interesting case since there are people who actually believe he existed!)

    If BillT had meant that denying God existence specifically was special, he didn’t say that well.

    You – if I understand you correctly, at least – are now claiming that. As I recently pointed out to Melissa on another thread, existence isn’t a property things can have. Saying that something – or even someone – doesn’t exist is not a judgment of properties the way other judgments might be. It simply does not follow that to think someone doesn’t exist is to hate them.

  66. Note also what you said immediately preceding my question to you in #51:

    Thank you Jenna and G., I agree.

    It is really puzzling this supercilious insistence on being offended.

    That is what I found puzzling about Tom’s Breakpoint article too. Although he wasn’t merely offended, he said it was dehumanizing. He’s being a bit melodramatic, in my opinion.

    To ignore my question after that was to talk about me as if I wasn’t here, as if my presence were irrelevant, even while you were criticizing me. That’s actually a minor example of a procedural form of dehumanizing a person.

    Think of the same thing happening at Starbucks: James and George are talking about Bill; George says Bill is “being a bit melodramatic;” Bill interjects a question, and George ignores him and continues his conversation with James; as if Bill were worthy of criticism but not worthy of noticing in the conversation.

    That was your “pleasant discussion” with Jenna.

    Do not regard this as a “supercilious insistence” on being offended. I am not “merely offended,” as you put it; I am also concerned about how you’ve been wandering off into the logical fallacy that I identified for you in bold a bit earlier. And again, to a minor extent, I am being dehumanized by your “pleasant discussion,” which I don’t mind acknowledging feels offensive—because it is.

  67. Tom –

    To offer a negative assessment may or may not be dehumanizing. “Fine: I’m evolved, you’re not,” carries a hint that the other person is less fully evolved, a hint that would have no sting if it weren’t also accompanied by a clear implication that the other person is stupid.

    Is calling someone a ‘fool’ dehumanizing?

  68. Gavin, RE: #68

    I don’t really know the history of laws that prohibit atheists from serving in elected office or at one point in time, on juries, but I believe that these laws had something to do with oath-taking. If an oath of office was required that involved a “so help me God” clause, these laws may have reflected the perceptions of atheists as not able to live up to such an oath, similar to the distrust of atheists that the Gervais et al study from the University of British Columbia found.

    The problem I see in your complaints against government and organizations such as the Boy Scouts (I was a Den Mother) is that atheists themselves reject the God-orientation and religious teachings of the organizations, which they are open about espousing and promoting, and then are angry when they and their rejection of religious beliefs are not accommodated. I wonder if there are Christian churches who are not welcoming to atheists, as long as those atheists are there to “de-convert” their members. I know from personal experience of atheists who are active participants in a community of faith, Jewish and Christian. What is it that atheists expect of/from Christian churches and organizations?

  69. Would you like to keep multiplying these questions, or would you like to get to the point?

    Those two words have specific meanings, and where the meaning applies, they can be accurately and rightly used. As for calling “someone” that, I don’t know: I don’t know “someone.”

  70. Tom – I would say that the number of ways to say someone is a fool, or satanic, or demon-possessed in a caring and humanistic way is even less than the number ways to call someone ‘stupid’ in a caring and humanistic way.

    Then, of course, there’s saying that a certain class of people are sub-human or not fully human or “spiritual zombies”.

    To be specific : I think the frequency of theists – Christians are the ones I’m most familiar with, of course – ‘dehumanizing’ atheists is very much more common than you seem to want to acknowledge here.

  71. Tom,

    I’ll be glad to give you my definition of dehumanization, even though I asked you first. It’s any verbal and/or procedural action by which one states or implies that another person is less than fully human, or by which one treats a person as less than fully human.

    That definition is fine. Thank you for taking care of that.

    If you point to Christians actually dehumanizing atheists, that’s relevant.

    In 51 I gave some examples of Christians doing things that closely resembled the items in the “Dehumanizing Messages” section of your BreakPoint article. Would describe these examples as dehumanizing?

  72. I think you meant #59.

    “April 1st is Atheist Day” — dehumanizing, definitely. I don’t like it.

    “If God doesn’t matter to him, do you?” — rude, inappropriate, and legitimately angering, but not specifically dehumanizing as I understand it. I think it’s actually a good question, but it’s a good question that gets overloaded and lost in the frightening imagery, which makes it a really bad piece of interpersonal communication.

    “when there was prayer in schools there wasn’t shooting in schools.” — A true statement, generally speaking. The implications are not directed at any particular group of people, and I don’t think it’s dehumanizing.

    “Atheism – the belief that there was nothing and nothing happened to nothing and then nothing magically exploded for no reason, creating everything and then a bunch of everything magically rearranged itself for no reason what so ever into self-replicating bits which then turned into dinosaurs. Makes perfect sense.” — I see nothing there that seems the least bit inaccurate, except for the loaded term “magic,” which I’ll admit was gratuitous. It could have been replaced in the first instance with, “by causing itself, which is completely ridiculous.” In the second instance it could have been replaced with, “by an absolutely completely incomprehensible series of strokes of unimaginable luck.” (“Luck” is even Dawkins’s explanation for the origin of the first life.)

  73. Tom,

    I’d like to understand why you put the ““Slaves, obey your masters” bill broad in your dehumanizing section. I think the bill board is also “rude, inappropriate, and legitimately angering,” and it’s message “gets overloaded and lost in the frightening imagery, which makes it a really bad piece of interpersonal communication.” It seems much like “If God doesn’t matter…” example. It may have the added flaw that it is dehumanizing to blacks.

    However, is it dehumanizing to Christians? I would vote no, but I’m interested in your reasoning if you disagree.

  74. Tom,

    The “If God doesn’t matter….” bill broad makes atheists out to be the kinds of monsters who would shoot you. I don’t see the difference.

  75. @Ray

    As I recently pointed out to Melissa on another thread, existence isn’t a property things can have.

    It’s not quite as simple as quoting Kant. There are problems if we assume existence is a property, and there are other problems if we assume existence can’t be a property.

    I think it is wrong to imply that this issue is settled – see here for more details.

  76. Jenna,

    What is it that atheists expect of/from Christian churches and organizations?

    I don’t expect anything from Christian churches and organizations. Youth group was a big part of my Childhood too, but I don’t expect, nor do I have a desire, to go back to the Church for that with my son.

    I would like groups that are inclusive of a wide range of religious views, like BSA, to include atheists in that spectrum. The Girl Scouts did, as have scouting organizations in many other countries.

  77. Ray,

    Thanks for the examples from the Catholic church. It doesn’t get much more dehumanizing than “not fully human.” I had forgotten about those.

  78. @Gavin (and Ray also):

    Thanks for the examples from the Catholic church. It doesn’t get much more dehumanizing than “not fully human.” I had forgotten about those.

    Thanks for these examples. It could not get any more clear just how intellectually dishonest (not to mention obtuse) some atheists will be in their pathetic attempts at feigning outrage for imaginary insults.

  79. G.

    Could you explain why these are imaginary insults? How are these examples less serious than the one’s cited by Tom in the OP?

  80. Simpler G. Rodrigues – ‘You’re wrong, though I won’t explain how! Nyah-nyah!’

    It seems fairly simple. Tom says that the problem with the ‘messages’ is that they “play on the idea that Christianity is immoral, unthinking, wrong.” The thing is, Christians say that atheism is ‘immoral, unthinking, wrong’ too. If the one is dehumanizing, I don’t see how the other could not be.

  81. @Gavin:

    How are these examples less serious than the one’s cited by Tom in the OP?

    All the links Ray presented are nothing but an unmitigated piece of intellectual crap, which make a strawman out of what the Catholic Church defends. There is nothing else to say, period. If you do not know what the Catholic Church defends how about you zip it up and take your claptrap elsewhere?

  82. G.

    The topic of discussion isn’t wether this stuff is crap, the question is wether it is dehumanizing. Tom asked for examples of Christians dehumanizing atheists. Ray delivered.

    Tom,
    Is G. dehumanizing me?

  83. @Gavin:

    The topic of discussion isn’t wether this stuff is crap, the question is wether it is dehumanizing.

    Are you really *this* stupid and obtuse? Or are just feigning one to make a point?

    Yes it is relevant, because since what the Catholic Church is being accused of is a strawman, it makes no sense to say that there is any dehumanizing. What Ray “delivered” is exactly what I called it: an intellectually dishonest piece of crap.

    And I am not dehumanizing you; you on the other hand, are making a damn good job dehumanizing yourself.

  84. G.,

    I would like you to explain how this statement by Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor:

    If they leave out an aspect of what I believe everyone was made for, which is, uh, a search for transcendent meaning, we call it God. Now if you say that has no place, then I feel that it is a diminishment of what it is to be a human, because to be human in the sense I believe humanity is directed because made by God, I think if you leave that out then you are not fully human.

    fails to to meet Tom’s definition of dehumanizing:

    any verbal and/or procedural action by which one states or implies that another person is less than fully human….

    You have my permission to explain it in dehuminizingly simple terms if necessary.

  85. @Gavin:

    You have my permission to explain it in dehuminizingly simple terms if necessary.

    Why don’t you ask Tom? And by this I mean not that Tom is contradicting himself, or even that Cardinal O’Connor and Tom are contradicting each other, but rather that the expression “fully human” is being used in two different, albeit analogous, senses in the two quotes. I am loathe to put words in his mouth, but I would venture that Tom agrees 100% with what Cardinal O’Connor said.

  86. G.,

    I asked you because you made rather strong but unsupported statements about Ray’s examples, and also questioned my intelligence. You can leave it at that if you like.

    Tom,
    Do you want to answer the question I asked of G.?

  87. @Gavin:

    Against my better judgment I will assume that you are not trolling and not “leave it at that”.

    Cardinal O’Connor, when he uses the expression “fully human”, is not using it in the exact same sense Tom is using it, or in the sense Kafka used the word untermensch (subhuman) at the beginning of The Metamorphosis to describe the transformation of Gregor Samsa, or in the sense the Nazis used it, or in the sense the linked in articles are using it — in fact, this is adamantly rejected by Catholic doctrine (1).

    Cardinal O’Connor explains himself quite fully, and it takes a sort of willful blindness to not pick up on what he is saying: he has a specific *conception* of human nature in mind. In such a conception there are perfections the lack of which means that the one lacking is not fully human, because to be fully human just *is* having those perfections, the ends or goals at which our God-made nature is directed to. Now you may claim, like the ignorant sophist scribblers Ray linked to, that this is saying the same thing by other words. But it is not. And the proof that it is not, is that under this conception, absolutely *no one* is, or was (2) fully human. This goes by many names, but one is the Doctrine of Original Sin. Atheists, in virtue of being atheists, have one more imperfection than the rest of the general population — albeit a very grave one.

    Now, if you want to disregard what people actually believe and raise a strawman so that you can have fodder to fuel your tu quoque, I suppose that is your business. Personally, I do not have much patience or tolerance for it, so I will not waste much more time with this. And I find it takes a lot of cheek to complain about Christians dehumanizing, when it is common dogma among atheists that there is no such thing as a human nature. So what if Cardinal O’Connor says that atheists are not fully human? According to many of them — explicitly argued in some cases, entailed by their commitments in others — there is no such thing as being human, objectively and truly, in the first place.

    (1) And I am mentioning Catholic doctrine only because it was the Catholic Church that came under the cheap potshots.

    (2) With one exception (which is not really an exception); two, if you are a Catholic.

  88. Gavin @90, I see your point about “If God doesn’t matter…” For me that was swallowed up by the other things about it that were inappropriate, but it’s there, you’re right.

    Ray:

    It seems fairly simple. Tom says that the problem with the ‘messages’ is that they “play on the idea that Christianity is immoral, unthinking, wrong.” The thing is, Christians say that atheism is ‘immoral, unthinking, wrong’ too. If the one is dehumanizing, I don’t see how the other could not be.

    You misread the whole article. I’m appalled.

    Gavin @103,

    I’d be glad to answer it, but here’s the problem. I’m about 12 hours out of my latest extensive foot surgery, and although I’ve been able to keep up with some of the simpler questions here, this one requires that I read the Cardinal’s statement, which I’m not up to right now.

    As far as I can tell from what G. Rodrigues just wrote, it’s probably a good answer, but I can’t say more than that at this point.

    If I don’t remember it tomorrow, would you remind me?

    Thanks.

  89. I’ve followed the links, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to do this justice. There’s one link where a few sentences were taken out of context, and another where I get a “video does not exist” error. Do you know of a better source for when I go through this for real? Otherwise I couldn’t say much except that I think G. Rodrigues is probably on the right track.

  90. It did, thanks. It’s another week of strict foot elevation, then four more weeks of no weight bearing, and then I hope this time it will heal. This is my third surgery on this foot.

  91. G. Rodrigues –

    Now, if you want to disregard what people actually believe and raise a strawman so that you can have fodder to fuel your tu quoque, I suppose that is your business.

    Huh. Recall that Tom claimed that a sign like “Fine. I evolved. You didn’t.” is dehumanizing – it “carries a hint that the other person is less fully evolved, a hint that would have no sting if it weren’t also accompanied by a clear implication that the other person is stupid.”

    Except that people who accept evolution understand that every species is equally evolved – all species on Earth have been evolving just as long as all the others. The sign is not a claim that any human didn’t evolve, or is ‘less evolved’. It’s making a joke of the claim of some people that they didn’t evolve – a claim, note, that those who accept evolution explicitly say is false.

    If you’re going to carefully parse things out, I reserve the right to do the same.

    entailed by their commitments in others

    I know, I know – it’s bad when atheists try to say what Christians really believe, regardless of whether they claim otherwise. But it’s totally cool when Christians declare what atheists believe, whatever their claims.

  92. Tom Gilson –

    There’s one link where a few sentences were taken out of context, and another where I get a “video does not exist” error.

    I’m afraid the content got yanked when it proved embarrassing.

    Hope your surgery went well. My wife had an outpatient procedure today; I thought of you while I was in the waiting room. (She’s fine.)

  93. Your evidence for why it got yanked?

    Your evidence for who yanked it?

    You do believe in evidence, don’t you?

    (Usually when these things get pulled off YouTube it’s because of a copyright violation.)

  94. @Ray Ingles:

    Huh.

    Huh. I was complaining about the mangling of Catholic doctrine.

    I know, I know – it’s bad when atheists try to say what Christians really believe, regardless of whether they claim otherwise. But it’s totally cool when Christians declare what atheists believe, whatever their claims.

    You do know that there is a difference between claiming “X believes Y” or “X’s commitments entail Y”? The first is a claim about the (explicitly stated) beliefs of X, the second is a claim about a logical relationship between propositions. Since I explicitly separated the two cases, and I even preceded the two cases by “many atheists” not “all atheists” (which I believe is essentially correct, but my counting may be off so feel free to edumacate me) what exactly are you complaining about?

  95. Tom,

    I’m satisfied with G.’s response, so don’t feel you need to go over it again.

    G. makes an important point, which is that having an imperfection, even a grave one, is not the same as being subhuman. I don’t think that more intelligent people are more human than less intelligent people. Being foolish is a flaw, a grave one, but it isn’t subhuman. Being wrong, even ridiculously wrong, is a flaw, but it isn’t subhuman.

    That is why I don’t think your examples show what you claim they show. They are insulting, rude, even ridiculing, but they are not dehumanizing. They are pointing out grave flaws, that is all.

    I also don’t think that they can be easily distinguished from rather common insults directed at atheists by Christians, which is why I gave the examples I did, and why I thought that Ray’s example was helpful.

    Gavin @90, I see your point about “If God doesn’t matter…” …it’s there, you’re right.

    “If God doesn’t matter…” was not a subtle message. It was not “a good question.” It is a rhetorical question, and the implied answer is “no.” Consider the possibility that you are missing other messages that are more coded than the barrel of a gun.

  96. Tom Gilson –

    Your evidence for why it got yanked?

    I think I misunderstood, in that I thought you were referring to all three separate cases I listed but now that I reread I think you were referring to only Cardinal O’Connor’s remarks. Is that correct?

    In that specific case, I don’t know for sure that’s the reason. But, as the third link in #85 shows, it happens, and in my experience when Youtube pulls a video for copyright violations you see a notice to that effect, but not when the user pulls the video. Doesn’t look like BBC Radio 4 has an online version of the interview anymore, at least that I can find.

  97. Note to Oisin:

    You have developed a habit of poking me with contemptuous comments, even though you know that you have been disinvited from the conversation here.

    I know that you disagree with me on many things. Your scorn toward me is duly noted; there’s no need to repeat it, since I have gotten the message already.

    For you to keep reminding me of it as you have been, though, is similar to the guy who keeps tapping someone on the shoulder at a restaurant to tell him what’s wrong with him — and who won’t leave until the restaurant manager drags him away. It’s rude.

    Be advised that there is Internet technology available that’s analogous to the restaurant manager.

  98. No-one else can see my comments, Tom. That means I’m not attempting to embarrass you. I do not think you are a bad person, I do not think you are lesser than I am, but I do think you are wrong about certain facts about reality and have developed complex methods of avoiding confronting and acknowledging the things you are incorrect about.

    Is it scornful of me to notice the things that you do to protect your image? I see them as dishonest, both to yourself and to others.

    Here you threatened to ban me from being able to see the website, but you tried to hide that using the metaphor of a restaurant manager.

    Above, Gavin used his conversation with other Christians to show that your original post was flawed in its premise. You commented following it, indicating you had seen what he said, but you did not reply, you replied to Ray. Here you are even replying to me, a non-actor on your site, instead of commenting to Gavin.

    Arizona Atheist has shown that your chapter in True Reason was completely unreasonable, and then your comment in response flat-out lied about what the chapter said as if he didn’t read it. When he took you to task for contradicting yourself, you declined to reply. He also is showing that your collaborators completely misrepresented atheist authors, on books that you have previously said that you read, which indicates to me that you do not criticize them because of reasons other than logic and verifiability.

    Originally, when I offered an explanation before for how naturalism accounts for reasoning, you banned me because you said I didn’t want to understand your position. Yet here you say:

    I used publicly observable behaviors as the basis for my conclusions… I’d be glad to be shown I am wrong. I’m willing for others to provoke me, too.

    Please do feel free to ban me, it is your right. However, as a courtesy I feel you owe it to me to use publicly observable behaviours to justify taking this action. You have my email, I don’t need public attention, just peace of mind.

    Do not doubt that this current situation weighs on my mind.

  99. Oisin,

    Here is your response.

    I am recovering from foot surgery. There is a lot I’m not getting done this week.

    I have not been back to the Arizona Atheist website, so I didn’t see his or her response to my comment there. I did not “decline to reply.” I’ve been doing other things, and as I said, not getting to everything right away.

    I don’t think the restaurant manager metaphor was that carefully hidden, and I don’t think others would have had any more trouble figuring it out than you did.

    You and I disagree on a lot of things. Let’s just recognize that and move on.

    As the host of this blog, it’s not my responsibility to satisfy every person with the actions I take. If you think it’s unjustified, I’ll have to live with your dissatisfaction.

    I am not taking that action yet, but I am holding it in reserve as a possibility. I’m just asking you to stop poking, because it’s impolite. No matter what you think of me as a person, it’s impolite.

  100. I didn’t say before, but I thought it when I first saw: I really hope that your foot heals up well, and you get some of your old mobility and freedom back. I’ve said some prayers for you (not a lie or a prod).

    I’m just asking you to stop poking, because it’s impolite. No matter what you think of me as a person, it’s impolite.

    I’m really confused about the rules of manners at the moment, I do not understand what i have said that was impolite. The reason I prod is because I think you will ignore me forever, and it worries me that you would cut off contact with a person for disagreeing strongly with you. It also makes me feel devalued, not worthy of interaction (I presume that doesn’t meet the criteria of dehumanizing).

    Here’s Arizona Atheist wondering why you stopped replying: http://www.skepticink.com/azatheist/2014/05/30/true-reason-tom-gilson-replies-my-response/

  101. Thank you for the kind words.

    For the last time, though, Oisin, I am not cutting off contact with you for disagreeing with me. I am choosing not to interact with you for other reasons that I have already expressed, repeatedly, and which you have never taken at face value. Your unwillingness to accept that has been impolite. When the customer at the restaurant asks someone to stop tapping him on the shoulder and telling him he thinks he’s a person of poor judgment or bad character, it doesn’t matter whether the “tapper” is right or wrong, he ought to stop.

    The restaurant manager is metaphorically ready to intervene.

  102. Gavin, I don’t know how likely it is that we’ll come to agreement on the point in this article, since there is room for subjective judgment. It would help, though, if we were at least talking about the same point. You say,

    G. makes an important point, which is that having an imperfection, even a grave one, is not the same as being subhuman.

    G. makes an important point, which is that having an imperfection, even a grave one, is not the same as being subhuman. I don’t think that more intelligent people are more human than less intelligent people. Being foolish is a flaw, a grave one, but it isn’t subhuman. Being wrong, even ridiculously wrong, is a flaw, but it isn’t subhuman.

    That is why I don’t think your examples show what you claim they show. They are insulting, rude, even ridiculing, but they are not dehumanizing. They are pointing out grave flaws, that is all.

    What they are attempting to point it is not mere imperfections, flaws, or foolishness, but (supposedly) errors that are so absurdly obvious that they can be identified with a mere image and a slogan, but which Christians have failed to see in our hundreds of generations of minute study. These supposed errors are so morally reprehensible that only a monster could make them.

    Between what you are speaking of (errors, even ridiculous ones) and what I’ve identified here, there is a difference of degree so extreme that it amounts to a difference in kind. In short, you’re saying that to accuse someone of being X is not accusing them of being inhuman, and I agree. I’m not talking about X, though. I’m talking about something else entirely.

    And maybe in the end I’m wrong. It’s not a black-and-white thing that I feel I have to be right about in everyone’s eyes. I have expressed an opinion that others can disagree with.

  103. Tom,

    I don’t know how likely it is that we’ll come to agreement on the point in this article….

    It is not likely at all, but I want to better understand how Christians perceive the changing landscape and this discussion has been helpful in that regard.

    If you wouldn’t mind I curious about your assessment of two other examples. One is from G. Rodrigues @ 99

    Are you really *this* stupid and obtuse? Or are just feigning one to make a point?

    Is this dehumanizing?

    The second example is the practice of teaching kids to ask, mockingly, “were you there?” when we teach evolution or the big bang. They are teaching children that scientists have made an error so absurdly obvious that it can be identified with a simple question, but which we have failed to see in our generations of minute study. Is this dehumanizing?

  104. Gavin, I’m not sure what the point of your question is.

    Either there is such a thing as dehumanizing interactions or there is not. I think we agree that there is.

    I think we can also agree that there’s some theoretical branching continuum that progresses downward from disrespectful to insulting to dehumanizing.

    I think we can also agree that where one marks off “dehumanizing” from other forms of disrespect/abuse will differ from person to person.

    So let’s not try to demarcate this thing exactly, okay?

    Anyway, your second “were you there” example is a poor analogy. “Generations of minute study” in the case of Christianity means generations of study with all the data readily available. We were (apparently) looking straight at the data and we were too idiotic to see what it said, for thousands of year! Not so for the Big Bang or evolution. We didn’t have WIMP generations ago. We didn’t have genome sequencing generations ago.

    You still haven’t caught on to the basic concept. I’m not saying it’s dehumanizing to suggest someone is wrong. (How often must I repeat that?!) I’m saying it’s dehumanizing (in this case) to say that people have been monstrously wrong on obvious matters concerning which they’ve been gazing at all the relevant data for generations on end. I don’t know why you’d bring me an analogy to some other completely different kind of case, unless it’s just that you’re not getting what I’m saying.

    Still, your example does share something in common with the dehumanizing practices I’ve identified in my article: it’s a really stupid thing to say. It tries to make the other person look uninformed, when in fact it’s uninformed itself.

    As for G. Rodrigues, I’d say his comment was somewhere on that continuum, and that it wasn’t a good thing to say. He posted it while I was under anesthesia, and I haven’t caught up with everything. His opinions are his own, so I hope you’ll direct that same question to him. The manner in which he expresses it on this venue is another thing; I’ll send him a message.

    Back to the point of your question, though: is this all just going to be back-and-forth with tu quotes? But I’m willing to grant this is a problem that goes in both directions, and we’ve already had some conversation about its relative severity in either direction. I don’t care to keep that discussion running; I think we’ve covered it.

    Is it your purpose here to cause me to delineate, demarcate, define, and defend my stance in detail? See #121.

    Or, if your purpose is really to “better understand how Christians perceive the changing landscape,” I suggest that you try not to make your questions look so much like tu quotes, and ask other Christians, too, since I’m not the one representing all Christianity.