Christians: Why You Need an Atheist Speaker at Your Next Conference

I read or listen to lots of Christian apologists. Frank Turek. Norm Geisler. Dinesh D’Souza. William Lane Craig. Gary Habermas. Mike Licona. Jim Wallace. Greg Koukl. Peter Kreeft.

I went to John Warrick Montgomery’s two-week Apologetics Academy in Strasbourg, France in 2011. I want to hear the best that Christian apologetics has to offer.

The reverse is rarely true.

Christian conferences

I see the ads for Christian apologetics conferences that promise to equip dedicated Christians to win souls for Christ. Sometimes they cover arguments for a historical Jesus. Or review scientific arguments that can be used to argue for a deity behind nature. Or even role play interaction with mock atheists.

It’s not enough. They need to hear from an actual atheist. A faux atheist is no foe.

To me, their refusal to invite one means that conference organizers don’t trust their material to carry the day. They’re afraid that they’ll get embarrassed or upstaged or that the attendees would get freaked out or overwhelmed with material that’s just too real.

But then how well do they prepare attendees? If the conference must tiptoe through the material to avoid the difficult topics, how will newly minted apologists do when they get out and talk to real, live atheists? If you hope that God will give you the right words as he did with Moses, you are setting yourself up for embarrassment.

If someone wants apologetics lite, they can read a book, but a conference should ramp it up. Attendees shouldn’t be spoon-fed straw man arguments but given the real thing.

In this blog, I’ve responded to many Christian arguments—from books, interviews, articles, blog posts, podcasts, lectures, and debates. It’s one of my favorite kinds of posts because they pretty much write themselves. Christians’ arguments are easy to refute. I’ve seen enough to know that the good stuff isn’t kept secret, like magic tricks, and whispered to worthy initiates. If you’re counting on an apologetics conference to show you the landscape, you will be disappointed. I’ve heard the good stuff, and it’s not very good.

My proposal

The next time you see a notice for an apologetics conference, tell the organizing team to invite me to speak, either in a debate or with a lecture.

I can educate the audience about atheism. (Yes, atheists have purpose and morality. No, atheists don’t see their worldview as empty or hopeless.) I can argue for same-sex marriage and abortion rights. I can attack intellectual arguments for Christianity, and I can provide positive arguments for atheism. And then you get the last word.

The Christian arguments will be tested in the field. Shouldn’t they be tested in the conference?

My fee: $0

Give me an audience of 50 or more, and I’ll do it for free. Just cover my expenses. I’m meeting you more than halfway—you donate expenses, and I’ll donate a day or a weekend of my time plus preparation.

Read my books and blog to see how I think. I’ll even provide my books to attendees at cost. If you want someone with a higher profile, that’s great. I’ll be happy to make suggestions.

You think that after an atheist presents the best that that worldview has to offer, you can give your audience an adequate response? Great—then an atheist would be an asset to the conference.

You know how to reach me.

“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the LORD
— Isaiah 1:18

About Bob Seidensticker
  • RichardSRussell

    I predict that the religiots are about as likely to invite you as their pastors are to invite questions from the congregation.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      :-)

    • wtfwjtd

      I think you hit it pretty good Richard. Back in my days as a defender of the faith, any disagreement or even questions about dogma was usually met with red-faced anger, not rational discussion. And this was from the inside; of course, any differing views from the outside were seen as illegitimate as a given.
      As a general rule, it’s part of the religious mindset that certain things aren’t open for discussion. Once upon a time, the proper Christian strategy was to talk louder than those who asked questions. These days though, it’s getting harder and harder for the shout-down strategy to work, as people get smarter and have better access to good information.
      Good luck Bob! I hope you have some takers, but somehow I’m not real optimistic.

  • wlad

    Dawkins is civil, and rarely belittles his adversaries.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      OK. Is this advice that I do the same? That’s good advice.

      • Castilliano

        I think she’s been hurt. :(

  • smrnda

    I did this thing when I attended a church for a few months and I decided to go ahead and do their apologetics course, which was held out as something advanced beyond the normal material. I really don’t think apologetics exists to win converts; it exists to keep those who already believe inside the fold, and it *works* by the doubtful hearing that Christian X read a good argument about Issue Y from a particular apologist, so the doubter then feels like their faith is on a firmer foundation. The problem is for any tough questions, there are no good answers.

    The problem with contact with real atheists is that a lot of Christian faith is based on the idea that everybody outside of their particular denomination of Christianity is living a hollow and empty life – inviting contact from potentially happy and content atheists, or people from other faiths, is going to attack the emotional reasons some people believe which, in the end, are probably just as if not more important than the rational reasons. This goes for atheists, people from other faiths, or even other types of Christians.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Good points. I don’t know if I’ll get any interest, but I thought it was worth a try. Or at least raise the point that you do, that conference organizers are afraid to introduce reality to their flock.

  • Trent H

    Do you think that atheist conferences should do the same?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Excellent question.

      My take is that Christian conferences fairly often talk about apologetics and err because they (1) field softball questions (rather than the ones that an experienced atheist would give them) and (2) start the conversation with the assumption that they’ve got it figured out and give the information as a recipe (“When they say X, you reply with Y”).

      The atheist conferences never seem to discuss apologetics at all–which is annoying, because that’s my favorite topic.

      There’s often history or psychology or sociology, which is ammunition against Christian claims, though not apologetics per se (anyone else have a different take?).

      To answer your question: yes, I think they should. Not every time, perhaps, but sometimes.

      • Trent H

        “The atheist conferences never seem to discuss apologetics at all–which is annoying, because that’s my favorite topic.

        There’s often history or psychology or sociology, which is ammunition against Christian claims, though not apologetics per se (anyone else have a different take?).”

        Actually I would say that Christian conferences are mostly like that too, but with more praise and worship and practical life tips/motivational speakers. Yes Christian “Apologetics” Conferences specialize in defending the faith, but they are a slim minority compared to most mainstream conferences.

        • Castilliano

          We had an apologetics conference hereabouts just last year with Lee Strobel headlining. I scouted it out and was disappointed. Their list of seminars was lopsided toward shoring up belief in an adversarial world, staying true to conservative Christian values.
          No philosophy or reasoning that I recall, though many did cover controversial topics. Some were even scientific (okay, maybe not). Seminars were brief, and Q&A was minimal.
          I don’t think any seminars actually tackled presenting the Christian case to nonbelievers so much as fending off secular beliefs. And I don’t recall any workshops for attendees.
          Essentially it was a bunch of reassuring sermons sprinkled with bad science presentations.

          So, no, I don’t think you’ll be invited because, at least for that conference, your presence would go directly against their purpose.

          Essentially, as someone else mentioned, apologetics is more for the believer. It gives believers an out when presented with conflicting views. Being as “appealing to authority” and “confirmation bias” play strongly in Christian circles, apologists don’t need to do much.
          So, yeah, their strongest arguments are faulty, but not if your audience wants to believe in them, not if they’ll never go looking for faults.

          Cheers.

      • angharad

        Wouldn’t atheists would need to have apologists for every religion?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Some responses are common to all supernatural beliefs. But Christianity is the 8 bazillion-pound gorilla in US society, so that’s the one to focus on, IMO.

  • Rick

    Sounds like you are turning over a new leaf. Good for you. In the past I have encouraged you to call in to the call-in shows and you have largely rejected that saying writing is more your strength. Why not call in to Koukl and others more often to see if you can try out your best stuff on them? As I said previously, wasting your time with the few Christians like me who occasionally participate here is clearly too easy for your advanced abilities.

  • JohnH2

    I would certainly find it highly amusing to have you speak at such a conference in regards to my faith. That would require me to be aware of the existence of such a conference and have any say in who got to present, but were I aware of such a conference and if I had any say in the matter I’d totally suggest inviting you.

    Amusement is probably not what you are going for though.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Sorry–I’m not following. Are you saying that my arguments are so paper-thin that seeing them presented as serious competition to Mormonism would be amusing?

      • JohnH2

        I am quite sure that you see it the other way around, which is a large reason why it would be amusing. Nothing I have seen has indicated that you are familiar enough with Mormonism or take what is in it remotely seriously enough to actually address anything about it. Trying the line ‘there is no evidence’ is blatantly false when dealing with Mormonism, first would be needed to establish ‘the evidence is false’ and to actually attempt to get to that point requires some effort as anyone that is a Mormon has dealt with a wide variety of attacks to the faith.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          The most I’ve done with respect to LDS on this blog is to bolster it by showing how it stands up much better than straight Christianity (you’re welcome!).

          Nevertheless, every argument that bolstered atheism, rejected Christianity, or rejected deism would be a blow to Mormonism.

          Why do I need to understand the details of Mormonism? No, I wouldn’t need to argue that the evidence in favor of Mormonism is false.

        • JohnH2

          Nevertheless, every argument that bolstered atheism, rejected Christianity, or rejected deism would be a blow to Mormonism.

          See this is precisely the type of amusement that I expect from you, and you aren’t even aware enough to know why it is amusing.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Do you want to share the joke?

        • JohnH2

          The Mormon metaphysics is such that many arguments that bolster atheism contra traditional Christianity also bolster the position of Mormonism. Mormonism pretty explicitly rejects most of the arguments for God (like the Cosmological Argument for instance).

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          So which of the deist arguments (Transcendental, Design, Fine Tuning, Ontological, and so on) support the Mormon position?

        • JohnH2

          Some forms of the Transcendental and Design arguments can work. Fine Tuning fails, Change utterly fails, causality and contingency fail, perfection fails, Kalam fails, Consciousness fails, truth fails, Origin of the idea of God tangentially works, Ontological fails, Morality can be made to work sort of, Desire fails, Religious experience works, Common consent fails though, Pascal Wager clearly fails utterly,

          On the other side of things; inconsistent revelation is dealt with in the Book of Mormon, the problem of evil is easier dealt with, the destiny of the unevangelized is not problematic, who created God falls apart (infinite regress), nonbelief is dealt with in the Book of Mormon, Russell’s Teapot doesn’t work as well (that kind of belief isn’t what is asked for), the variations to omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresent really defeat those arguments for the non-existence of God (due largely to not meeting the normal standards of those qualities), anthropic argument falls apart, free will fails (as the possibility exists that God could cease to be God).

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          So what I hear you recommending:

          1. attack TAG and the Design argument (I have posts on each of these). Watch out for other deist arguments.

          2. Arguments against the historicity of the New Testament, the existence of the Christian/Jewish god, and any other element of Christianity on which Mormonism rests are good.

          3. Arguments in favor of atheism are good.

          Is this right? if so, I’m missing what was so hilarious. Your advice (which was good) was: be careful about deist arguments because not all that are effective against Christianity will work with Mormonism. With that small but important tweak, looks like I’m set for your next conference.

        • JohnH2

          Remember that the Mormon view of God isn’t very close to the normal views of the Christian/Jewish God so you need to be careful with that.

          TAG and Design aren’t the reasons why people believe though and they need modifications to actually work.

          The historicity of the New Testament is usually pretty good but there is an out in that Mormonism explicitly says that the Bible that we have isn’t completely accurate nor does it contain everything that it could/should contain. Arguing against a real Jesus per the New Testament actually fails, Jesus and God appeared to Joesph Smith (and Jesus to others as well during that time) and Jesus visited the Nephites, you would have to establish to the audience that Joseph Smith was in fact a fraud prior to attempting to establish that Jesus Christ didn’t exist.

          I don’t know of any such conference, I assume there is some such community that holds conferences in Utah but I am not aware of it. You might be able to give a presentation to an Institute class, there is probably one of those near whatever university is closest to you.

        • MNb

          Psssst, John, you missed the memo that said that neither BobS (as far as I know) nor me deny the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth. You just don’t have evidence – in the scientific meaning of the word, no matter what you say – about the ridiculous claims you make regarding JoN. For one thing you don’t have independent witnesses – all witnesses you bring up are linked to fraud Joseph Smith and have an interest. As the scientific principle goes: one witness = zero witnesses. In Latin it is Testis Unus Testis Nullus.
          I tell you what. If those Golden Plates – should be an easy job for your Mormon god – are refound in say Siberia, can’t be traced back to any Mormon (alive or dead) and have exactly the same content as the modern interpretation of your Holy Book, then we will pay attention.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          That didn’t work out so good with the Book of Abraham, still doctrine in the LDS church. Once it was found and translated by actual scholars, it didn’t match up to what Smith claimed.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’m sure I won’t be invited to any LDS conferences.

          I’m still missing what apparently was your original point, which is that I have no arguments against Mormonism.

        • MNb

          “Trying the line ‘there is no evidence’ is blatantly false when dealing with Mormonism”
          Says the guy who argues that his god and his son are material but can’t be subject to the scientific method. To you “evidence” means “whatever makes me feel good”.
          Or are you going to tell us what the size and mass of your god is (spin, charge and mass/energy will also do) after all?

        • JohnH2

          If you can get God or His Son to agree to scientific study then you could determine those things.

          I am trying to say that there are many witnesses to the existence of the plates which Joseph Smith had, and the testimony of some of them are in each copy of the Book of Mormon, among other things. Evidence that one arguing against Mormonism has to argue is fraudulent.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          If you can get God or His Son to agree to scientific study then you could determine those things.

          No one needs to get the Trinity’s input. Christians make claims that are, in principle, scientifically testable. If God/Jesus act in this world, that’s a testable claim.

          I am trying to say that there are many witnesses to the existence of the plates which Joseph Smith had, and the testimony of some of them are in each copy of the Book of Mormon, among other things.

          As I’ve said myself in several posts.

          As you’ve noted, I don’t know enough about Mormonism to argue against the claims much. Your church is getting hammered plenty already in that department from those within (or previously within) the church. But I don’t need to.

        • MNb

          Trust me, that link to Chris Hallquist’s chapter is more than sufficient. For what we need to know more our very own John is available.

        • MNb

          You are the one who says they are material, so you are the one who should try to drag them to a lab. I invite you, but won’t hold my breath.

          “there are many witnesses to the existence of the plates which Joseph Smith had”
          Anyone who has read – and I have – Chris Hallquist’s second book will ROFL.

          https://docs.google.com/document/d/1f4Kd5WeF7gpW3KXX0uE3D9iBOdQbWaWEu45WzLSqqDU/edit

          Your precious Joseph Smith is a fraud.
          Your another bottomless source of my entertainment, dear John. So especially for you:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-zIM7ofJSw

          Enjoy.

        • JohnH2

          MNb,

          Again you prove my point, Chris never actually addresses the evidence just dismisses it because the claim is clearly ridiculous, regardless of the evidence. He assumes the conclusion: the claim is ridiculous therefore the evidence is too. That fallacy might work great for those that likewise think the claim is ridiculous and therefore don’t want to deal with the evidence either, but in discussing the subject with Mormons you need to actually deal with the evidence instead of just claiming the claim is clearly ridiculous.

        • MNb

          Don’t worry, John, I don’t expect anyone who has his eyes as firmly closed as you to be capable of comprehensively reading what CH wrote – not what you claim he wrote. He did quite some more than “just claiming the claim is clearly ridiculous”. The link is just above. Everyone can judge for him/herself.
          I don’t want you to deconvert. In the first place you’re so biased it’s impossible and in the second place you’re way too much fun the way you are. I want to provoke you to make silly statements, so that I can mock you. I have succeeded before and I will try again.
          But you want me to be convinced of the validity of your silly belief system. CH pretty well summarized why you will never succeed.
          But by all means keep on trying. I had a lot of fun when you tried to defend the updating of Mormonism (regarding polygamy and racism) with your silly explanations on that board of twelve, without realizing yourself how totally unconvincing you are. I have also a lot of fun with your material Father, Son and immaterial Holy Spirit.
          What we atheists mean with evidence is not what you mean with evidence. But I doubt if you will ever get that – you are way too eager to show that your silly belief system is rational, reasonable and compatible with science.
          It’s an unfair fight, I know. But you are the one who wants it.

        • JohnH2

          To quote the linked text:

          Maybe Smith coerced those men into lying, maybe it was something else, who knows?”

          This is an argument that everyone who is not a Mormon can tell is completely ridiculous.

          This is the point in the story of Joseph Smith where every non-Mormon who hears the story thinks “What the hell?

          This isn’t an argument that will convince non-Mormons

          Meaning, he isn’t dealing with the evidence just dismissing it. (The entire point he is making depends on the ridiculousness, not on actually addressing the evidence)

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          This is an argument that everyone who is not a Mormon can tell is completely ridiculous.

          I’m not a Mormon, and I can’t tell that it’s ridiculous. Perhaps I’m stupid–you forgot to add that qualifier.

          We understand coercion and lying. Happens all the time. Sounds like a plausible explanation–far better than the alternative, which is that the supernatural actually exists.

        • JohnH2

          Changed to blockquote to be clear that I am pulling quotes from the text to show that Chris is just dismissing the claim as being ridiculous, not actually dealing with the evidence, just as you likewise a priori dismiss the evidence without actually considering the plausibility of that explanation given the context due to the fact that the alternative is considered impossible.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Elaborate on this. What evidence do I dismiss? I don’t think that I rule out any possibility, including that the gospels are true or that Yahweh exists.

        • JohnH2

          You are willing to dismiss people that testified that they saw the plates as being a priori false without even considering the evidence. You call them liars because you reject their claim, not because you have any evidence that they were. You are no different than those that think that all atheists are hedonistic monsters because they don’t believe in Jesus,

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Nope. That there is lying along the path somewhere is quite plausible and explains the facts nicely, and it’s far more plausible than the supernatural explanation.

          The supernatural explanation might be correct, but that’s not where the evidence points.

          I have zero evidence that they were liars. I don’t need any.

        • JohnH2

          I have zero evidence that they were liars. I don’t need any

          …….

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I need a more substantial reply than that. Unless that row of dots means, “You got me! I’m throwing in the towel on this one.”

        • JohnH2

          No, It means I don’t know how you can say something so idiotic.

          You said “Nope” and then went on to say exactly what I meant, you don’t care about whether or not they actually saw the plates or how likely it is that they are or are not lying given the context, just that it is ridiculous.

          Seriously, you talk so grandly about evidence but than say you don’t need it and that you don’t have any. The world to you is flat regardless of what the evidence actually says, simply because a round world is ridiculous.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You said: “You are willing to dismiss people that testified that they saw the plates as being a priori false without even considering the evidence.”

          Wrong. I’m happy to consider the evidence. But it’d better be an enormous Everest of evidence given how plausible the natural explanation is.

          you don’t care about whether or not they actually saw the plates or how likely it is that they are or are not lying given the context, just that it is ridiculous.

          Of course it’s ridiculous. What else could be the null hypothesis?

          Now that we have that established, I’m happy to consider the evidence. Did you want to get into that, or would you prefer to whine about how I approach the evidence?

          To repeat myself, I don’t need any specific evidence of lying in this case to know that lying happens all the time, which makes it a very viable candidate explanation since the alternative explanation (a tale about Jews crossing the ocean and getting visited by a teleported, resurrected Jesus) is very implausible.

        • JohnH2

          We are already discussing a particular piece of evidence, if you want to actually dismiss it then it is up to you to show that they were lying, not just to assume a priori that they were.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Remind me: what is the specific claim? Are we referring to the witnesses claiming to have seen the plates?

          I have zero specific evidence that they were lying in this case, and I may never have any. Why? Do you think I need such evidence to say that lying is a plausible explanation?

        • JohnH2

          Yes, specifically the testimony of the various witnesses to the plates.

          Other than the claim being ridiculous what makes you think lying is plausible?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          The supernatural claim is ridiculous, but of course that’s orthogonal to the plausibility of this alternative (lying).

          That’s not to say that there aren’t other possibilities. For example, this could be a legend that was corrupted over time. That is, a false story without any deliberate attempt to deceive. Again, this is a natural, unsurprising thing.

          And perhaps there are other natural explanations.

          Lying strikes me as the more plausible option.

          A tangent: you touched on an apologetic that I find hilarious, the idea that the believer has evidence (let’s not quibble about the quality–it’s something), so therefore the skeptic must have evidence as well. If I don’t have any such specific evidence on my side (likely), I’m delighted to proudly proclaim that. But so what? I don’t need positive evidence to conclude that George Washington didn’t have a jet pack that he flew around Mount Vernon.

        • JohnH2

          Bob,

          If there were a sworn testimony describing George Washington flying around Mt Vernon that was from the time of George Washington then you had better have evidence that George Washington didn’t do so, regardless of how implausible it seems that he did.

          Your alternative is legend that was corrupted over time? Do you have any idea what evidence we are even discussing?

          What makes it plausible that they are lying besides your assessment of the ridiculousness of the claim?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          If there were a sworn testimony describing George Washington flying around Mt Vernon that was from the time of George Washington then you had better have evidence that George Washington didn’t do so, regardless of how implausible it seems that he did.

          Let’s expand the example. Suppose you have a 1799 newspaper account of a man—a sober and upstanding man in his community with a positive reputation—who swears that, as a farm hand at Mount Vernon, he saw on three occasions Washington fly around using some sort of device on his back. Of course, he wouldn’t use the term “jet pack,” but that’s the term that we moderns would apply to what Washington is claimed to have used. The newspaper is authenticated as being from that date.

          That’s not even supernatural, but it is quite implausible. In response, I have zero evidence that the man was a liar or that Washington did no such thing. I appeal instead to common knowledge that such technology was first developed in the 1950s and that time travel or aliens visitation (two possible ways Washington could’ve gotten technology far too advanced for his day) are unlikely. This is the Principle of Analogy.

          You’re the judge. Who wins—me or the newspaper account?

          Your alternative is legend that was corrupted over time?

          Lying is likelier than legend.

          Do you have any idea what evidence we are even discussing?

          Perhaps I’m confused. Remind me.

          What makes it plausible that they are lying

          Principle of Analogy.

        • JohnH2

          Assuming that the newspaper had a few witnesses that say the same thing and those witnesses never retracted the claim nor went insane and given that the newspaper was authenticated then that is enough evidence to provisionally accept the claim. It would require more investigation to determine how such an event occurred and why it wasn’t repeated afterwords which could turn up evidence contradicting the claim.

          Legend is impossible in the case in question, being the testimony of the three and eight witnesses.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Assuming that the newspaper had a few witnesses that say the same thing

          You mean, the account has a few witnesses, not just one?

          that is enough evidence to provisionally accept the claim

          So you’re imagining the same story except that there’s a single newspaper story with three people referenced and a thorough search has turned up no contrary evidence about Washington and no recanting or insanity of the three people.

          Given this, you’d say that it was likelier true than false that Washington flew with a jet pack, though you would be interested in seeing more research done on the subject. Is that right?

          And I assume that the story is just a placeholder? You’d put any tale in that slot—a fire-breathing dragon, magical leprechauns, a supernatural experience—and it would also be believable?

          Legend is impossible in the case in question, being the testimony of the three and eight witnesses.

          Lying is the likelier tale. But tell me why legend is impossible.

        • JohnH2

          “though you would be interested in seeing more research done on the subject. Is that right

          Yes, the assumptions that the people reporting the event may be faulty but barring further evidence showing they were lying it should be assumed that something real that matches the description given by the people reporting it actually does exist.

          ” legend is impossible.”

          Because the testimony is given by the people that the event occurred to, not via other parties.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          (1) There might not be “something real” behind the account (prank, lie, joke, insanity, etc.)

          (2) If there were something behind the account, it could be a bazillion things, but it sure ain’t likely to be Washington with a jet pack.

          I disagree with you completely. If all available evidence points in a certain way, but that way is completely nuts and other options are more likely (based on our experience with such things), then we must reject the claim.

          Because the testimony is given by the people that the event occurred to, not via other parties.

          First off, let me make clear that I’ve studied this particular claim (8 + 3 eyewitnesses to the golden plates) very little. But if we take a general claim of this sort (not the particular Mormonism story), note that we do not have testimony by anyone. We have a claim or story that certain people saw this or that. That claim/story could be false.

        • JohnH2

          A prank or joke is something real; meaning someone figures out a way to make crop circles causing others to report the existence of aliens. The people reporting the crop circles are reporting something real, but the assumptions they have made are faulty.

          Like I said, you don’t care about the evidence just that the claim is ridiculous. Man hasn’t landed on the moon because that is ridiculous and if he had then we would have gone back, it must be a prank filmed in a Hollywood back-lot, a much more plausible explanation despite all available evidence pointing to man actually having landed on the moon.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          A prank or joke is something real

          “I saw President Washington flying around his estate” is the claim. They could honestly believe it—they did see something, but they could’ve been deceived—or they don’t, and there was nothing there. This latter category is the prank/joke category.

          The people reporting the crop circles are reporting something real, but the assumptions they have made are faulty.

          Yes, my distinction exactly. The witnesses actually saw something.

          Like I said, you don’t care able the evidence just that the claim is ridiculous.

          Of course the claim is ridiculous. Who wouldn’t agree? You can’t be saying otherwise. But that doesn’t mean that the claim is false—maybe it actually happened.

          Man hasn’t landed on the moon because that is ridiculous and if he had then we would have gone back, it must be a prank filmed in a Hollywood back-lot, a much more plausible explanation despite all available evidence pointing to man actually having landed on the moon.

          How does a man landing on the moon fit in? I’m not seeing the connection. A bold claim, yes, but there was a mountain of evidence as well as the Soviets who had the equipment to monitor the launch and would’ve delighted in blowing the cover of a hoax.

          You’re still holding to your claim that the testimony of 3 sober men in one 1799 newspaper article means that we must tentatively hold the claim that Washington actually flew around with a jet pack?

        • JohnH2

          I was thinking of them reporting because a joke had been played on them.

          Ridiculous under what prior beliefs? And how were those prior beliefs determined?

          Moon landing fits in as something that many did (and some do) believe to be ridiculous and which just like what you are doing they reject the evidence, in favor of something they view as more plausible due to the ridiculousness of the claim.

          Yes, we must (under this hypothetical) hold that something happened in 1799 that gave the appearance of Washington flying around on a jetpack.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Ridiculous under what prior beliefs?

          Perhaps I don’t understand the question, because it seems obvious. “Ridiculous” under the beliefs of any well-educated, open-minded, thoughtful person. You, for example, if this describes you.

          And how were those prior beliefs determined?

          The usual experience of living to a well-informed adulthood.

          Moon landing fits in as something that many did (and some do) believe to be ridiculous and which just like what you are doing they reject the evidence, in favor of something they view as more plausible due to the ridiculousness of the claim.

          Now we can get back to your LDS claim. We have two claims that, in the absence of overwhelming evidence, are ridiculous.

          I’ve written a post about the burden of proof, including the moon claim, here. In it, I respond to Greg Koukl’s complaint that the burden of proof to support the story of Jesus was, in effect, a burden. I respond to his complaint about “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Read the whole thing, if you’re motivated, but here’s a relevant fragment:

          [Koukl] proposes instead, “Extraordinary claims require adequate evidence.” As an example, he cites the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. “A man has walked on the moon” is an extraordinary claim (or certainly was in the 1960s), but he notes that we were satisfied with the evidence of “a simple newsreel” (by which I presume he means the live video feed from the moon).

          That video alone, as powerful as it was, might not have been enough to support the enormous claim of the moon landing, but of course we had far more than just that. We had public statements from NASA, the press, and the president; we had public launches of ever more enormous rockets from Cape Kennedy through the 1960s; we had thousands of workers within the aerospace industry who were in a position to blow the whistle on a hoax; we had satellites visible from the back yard of the ordinary citizens; and we even had the validation from the USSR—if we hadn’t landed on the moon, they would have delighted to point out the lie.

          And now, back to your comments:

          Yes, we must hold that something happened in 1799 that gave the appearance of Washington flying around on a jetpack.

          Because if you didn’t, then you’d be inconsistent in your religious claims, right?

          Tell me: do you think this view of evidence would be considered reasonable by most people?

        • JohnH2

          “Because if you didn’t, then you’d be inconsistent in your religious claims, right?”

          No, because if we didn’t then our knowledge of the past would shrink to nearly nothing.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Wow–we have very different ideas about how evidence, history, and people work.

          Someone determined to support his religious presuppositions at all costs might respond as you do. No one else would.

          News flash: this isn’t how history works. That’s why the historical consensus universally rejects supernatural claims.

          Your point is that evidence for an extraordinary claim (Cassandra’s gift of prophecy, the spirit that urged Julius Caesar to cross the Rubicon, the Roman senator who swore that Caesar Augustus rose to heaven on his death) is something, particularly when there is no directly contradicting evidence (say, another senator who said that the first was a habitual drunkard or liar, for example). Yes, I agree.

          What you dismiss (and it’s hard for me to see how you get through the day safely, given this childish attitude) is our common sense. Some things make sense. Others are so incredible that that knowledge alone is enough to trump the evidence.

        • JohnH2

          “. Others are so incredible that that knowledge alone is enough to trump the evidence.”

          Which is why you still believe that the sun circles the earth. I get it Bob, you are so committed to dismissing the evidence that you don’t care what the evidence is, just the claim.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Sounds like someone is feeling pushed into a corner.

          You can’t be so stupid to imagine that that is an accurate summary of my position. You’ve ignored my points that hit too close to home.

          I take it that you don’t want to discuss this subject anymore.

        • JohnH2

          What points hit too close to home? you have spend the last few days making the same point over and over again, which is that you reject the evidence because you find the claim ridiculous.

          What makes something A priori ridiculous? For a very long time it was ridiculous to consider that the earth circled the sun among a vast number of other claims. You haven’t at all explained how this is different from any of the other examples I have given, just called me stupid and claimed I am backed into a corner.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          What points hit too close to home?

          You tell me. My guess: all the ones to which you’ve not responded. If you have nothing to say, that’s fine, but there’s a lot of content in my last several comments that you’ve just let stand.

          you have spend the last few days making the same point over and over again, which is that you reject the evidence because you find the claim ridiculous.

          Just a broken record, am I? Rereading my last few comments, I’m not seeing it.

          The claim that George Washington flew with a jet pack is a ridiculous claim. Document it with a single authentic contemporary newspaper article, and it’s still a ridiculous claim. To think it’s a reasonable claim, as you do, is (1) to put far too much weight on far too little evidence (look to historians to see how it should be done) and (2) to forbid common sense from weighing in on the matter (which you’d happily do in other situations that didn’t step on your theological toes).

          For a very long time it was ridiculous to consider that the earth circled the sun among a vast number of other claims.

          OK. And now we have compelling evidence. That’s why we say that the earth revolves around the sun and that men landed on the moon. We can call these “ridiculous claims with compelling evidence” or “claims that are no longer ridiculous.” Either one works for me.

          just called me stupid and claimed I am backed into a corner.

          (1) I didn’t call you stupid but was instead desperately searching for an explanation for why you would say something stupid when you aren’t.

          (2) You normally are happy to engage the points I make. Now you don’t. One explanation: these points hit too close to home. But you know me—I’m willing to consider other explanations.

        • JohnH2

          I have questioned why living as an adult makes something ridiculous a priori; you have now accepted, it seems, that is not sufficient and that evidence is necessary but that if the claim is “ridiculous” than it is not necessary to investigate the claim or the evidence for the claim as the claim is “ridiculous” unless the claim is already accepted and the evidence already investigated, which is quite circular and catch-22 like. .

          In the hypothetical there is authenticated evidence for the claim and the very nature of the claim sort of makes it more likely and not less as to be able describe something that we recognize as a jet pack would have been difficult for them to do without having seen a jet pack; and if the point is ‘Washington flew around’ then they wouldn’t have described in such a way to make us think of a jet pack.

          I don’t see what I haven’t responded to?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I have questioned why living as an adult makes something ridiculous a priori

          Like I said before: experienced adults in the West almost universally would reject the idea of a jet pack Washington. Simply being an adult isn’t the point.

          if the claim is “ridiculous” than it is not necessary to investigate the claim or the evidence for the claim as the claim is “ridiculous” unless the claim is already accepted and the evidence already investigated, which is quite circular and catch-22 like.

          Bizarre. Sure doesn’t sound like my thought process.

          It’s like I’m talking with an alien. We’ve got to go back to the basics to make sure we’re on the same page, I guess?

          I’ve accepted, over and over and over and over, that I’m happy to evaluate the evidence of any claim, plausible or ridiculous.

          I don’t see what I haven’t responded to?

          You couldn’t do a quick scan of the last few comments?

          You brought up the man on the moon thing. I spent a fair amount of time discussing that because, curiously, I’ve already thought about that very issue. You ignored my response, which I assume to mean that you accept my point now. If that’s wrong, you need to come back with a response. I’ve also explained how historians do their work (the examples of Cassandra and 2 Caesars) and how your approach to history isn’t that. You’ve made clear that you’d be obliged to tentatively accept as history the newspaper article about a flying Washington, without any contradicting information, but haven’t responded to my question about whether you think this view would be considered reasonable by most people. Also, I tried to bring this back to LDS claims: man on the moon vs. an angel showed Smith a document and gave him the superhuman ability to translate it. For one we have enormous evidence; for the other, paltry.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Our knowledge of the past very rarely has nutty, incredible things. Where it does, there’s vast evidence.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          (Part 2)

          I’m not sure I wrapped up the moon landing vs. LDS thought that I had in mind.

          “Man has landed on the moon” and “An angel showed Joseph Smith an ancient document and gave him the superhuman power to translate it” are both remarkable claims. The evidence for the first one is enormous. For the LDS one, piddling. The best you can say is that it could’ve happened that way. I agree. But that’s not much on which to build a life.

        • MNb

          “the appearance of Washington flying around on a jetpack”
          I have nothing against “the appearance of Smith holding some plates in his hands showing them to three friends of his.” Stress the word appearance.

        • JohnH2

          I will give you Harris as not being a reliable witness, as well as being the most heavily invested, The other two are more reliable and didn’t continue to be associated with Smith but did continue to stand by their assertion. They believed in their report even when it would have been advantageous to have denied it had it not been real,

          Based strictly on the testimonies, we have that Joseph Smith had something that appeared to be plates which had a golden color and the testimony of two that they heard a voice that they took to be the voice of God and saw someone descend from out of their view above them (in the woods given the context) with the plates to show them (note: Harris wasn’t even with them but was separate afterwards).

          Lying doesn’t seem to be the most plausible explanation, even with rejecting the ‘supernatural’ explanation. (Like Harris and Smith could have rigged something to convince the other two of the supernatural details, perhaps with mirrors and ropes or something, with Harris being crazy enough to believe even with helping rig things for the other two).

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          The other two are more reliable and didn’t continue to be associated with Smith but did continue to stand by their assertion. They believed in their report even when it would have been advantageous to have denied it had it not been real,

          How do you know what their motivations were for not recanting? How certain can you be?

          For ordinary history, I wouldn’t care, but you are stacking enormous supernatural claims on top of this foundation, so each stone you put in place must be beyond any possible question.

          This is the problem skeptics see over and over with apologists: they use ordinary, historical evidence (“Hey, if you reject my ideas, you must reject all of History!!!”) to build a foundation on which to support not some mundane claim (person X was king in place Y and time Z) but the most remarkable supernatural claims imaginable.

        • JohnH2

          I am highly certain that they believed what they reported, given the history.

          Already covered one way that one could accept that without jumping straight to accepting the supernatural explanation.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          And if you were to lay out the (presumably long) explanation for all that is known about this testimony and the men involved, plus a thorough analysis of all possible alternative explanations, would the average Christian or Muslim accept the claim? Or does it help to be a Mormon?

        • JohnH2

          I believe that anyone that looked at it would accept that the witnesses believed their claim. They would probably not accept the claim themselves due to their prior probability of the claim being true but it would/should positively impact their assessment of probability of Mormonism being true.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Why would the prior probability assumed by a Mormon and a non-Mormon be different? Is this simply a bias towards conclusions one has already made? Sounds like the Mormon evaluations aren’t completely based on evidence or intellectual arguments.

          Or perhaps I’m misunderstanding your point.

        • JohnH2

          I was focusing on just the testimony of the various witnesses and related context.

          Obviously the priors are going to be different. A Mormon will have had their own experiences which would have an effect on the prior and the experiences of others will have had an effect on their priors. I would have thought this was obvious?

          The point I see of evidence would be to lead someone to investigate the matter with God, to test the central claim.

        • MNb

          “I would have thought this was obvious? ”
          To me it’s obvious. My point is that it effectively undermines your claim of evidence. That’s what skepticism is about.
          I don’t see any more reason to accept mormonism than to accept pastafarianism.

        • JohnH2

          Experience is evidence.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I was focusing on just the testimony of the various witnesses and related context.

          And I was focusing on how we moderns (Mormon and non-Mormon) evaluate the evidence.

          I would have thought this was obvious?

          Good point—it is. I was simply wondering if you’d make some sort of argument that, no, the Mormons were actually making an evidence-based evaluation (basically the same evaluation an outsider would make).

        • MNb

          “They believed in their report even when it would have been advantageous to have denied it had it not been real,”
          I have read their biographies on Wikipedia and highly doubt if such a denial had been advantageous to them.

          “the testimony of two that they heard a voice”
          Psychopathic killers hear voices too. Heck, even I hear voices, though very rarely. It’s rather common:

          http://metro.co.uk/2013/11/12/hearing-voices-in-our-heads-is-more-common-and-less-crazy-than-we-think-4182375/

          “Lying doesn’t seem to be the most plausible explanation”
          I agree with this. We should never underestimate human capability of self-delusion.

        • MNb

          “you don’t care about the evidence just that the claim is ridiculous.”
          No. When it comes to your belief system the meaning you give to “evidence” is just an ad hoc argument.

        • MNb

          People who depended on Smith and had an interest in his plates being historical.

        • smrnda

          This is kind of my problem with theism in general. Everybody will say ‘but… you don’t know enough about my specific religion to argue against it!’ I get this most from Catholics, who probably *themselves* haven’t read more than (guessing) 1% of the total writing that’s considered valid by their church, so in those cases, the believer is really not in much of a better position than the unbeliever when it comes to who knows enough.

          On Mormons, I find Mormons tend to grant subjective evidence a degree of legitimacy that other Christian denominations and other religions don’t, which kind of makes for a mismatch in terms of ‘evidence.’

        • JohnH2

          I was more imagining Bob getting on stage and arguing against creationism and the various deist and Christian arguments for God and superficial attacks such as make appearance in South Park, Simpsons, or Broadway. It is very well known that Mormonism isn’t that similar to the rest of Christianity to the point that most Christians don’t believe Mormons are Christian.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          And what about the Mormons? Do they see themselves as Christian? If so, then the attacks against Christianity could have weight within Mormonism.

  • Mystica

    Ah, so you think it’s a good idea to bring in an atheist to challenge theist apologetics at a conference, rather than allow the apologists-in-training to think of and raise those objections themselves? If you’ve really been around theist apologists when they are amongst each other, you would know very well that theists (even and especially amateur apologists) will bring forward not just the atheist objections they’ve heard from other atheists, but their own objections they’re struggling with as well. You seem to assume that theists don’t have a brain.
    Your idea to wedge yourself in the in-group process is basically that they should have an antagonist face like yours, an object, to represent objectors. The devil instead of the devil’s advocates. Your idea changes the whole dynamic from an in-group conference about apologetics, into something like a real-time live debate with the antagonist.

    And what’s with your equating atheism with being pro-gay marriage and pro-abortion/choice? Neither position follows from atheism. An atheist can be perfectly consistent being anti-gay and anti-choice. And some atheists do see their worldview as necessarily hopeless and empty. So what are you on about? Sounds to me like you might get creamed by those theists if your assertions in this article are any indication of your intellectual prowess.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Ah, so you think it’s a good idea to bring in an atheist to challenge theist apologetics at a conference, rather than allow the apologists-in-training to think of and raise those objections themselves?

      I’m saying that neither the Christians in the audience nor the teachers on the stage will come up with a good representation of the arguments that the Christian will find when debating a well-informed atheist.

      theists (even and especially amateur apologists) will bring forward not just the atheist objections they’ve heard from other atheists, but their own objections they’re struggling with as well.

      Maybe we travel in different circles. The “tough challenges” that I hear over and over in podcasts, blogs, and even debates are weak.

      You seem to assume that theists don’t have a brain.

      I assume that theists aren’t clairvoyant and that they don’t do a perfect job of understanding what’s in someone else’s head.

      Still feeling insulted?

      Your idea to wedge yourself in the in-group process is basically that they should have an antagonist face like yours, an object, to represent objectors.

      Huh? I’m saying that they need to hear the real arguments. They will once they get out on the street, after all.

      Your idea changes the whole dynamic from an in-group conference about apologetics, into something like a real-time live debate with the antagonist.

      I’m suggesting an hour hearing from an atheist and then a weekend to process that information. Yeah, I guess that might change the whole dynamic if the atheist arguments are hard-hitting rather than neutered, but wouldn’t that be a good thing?

      And what’s with your equating atheism with being pro-gay marriage and pro-abortion/choice? Neither position follows from atheism.

      Yeah, I know.

      And some atheists do see their worldview as necessarily hopeless and empty.

      As do some Christians. Neither is in the majority in each group.

      Sounds to me like you might get creamed by those theists if your assertions in this article are any indication of your intellectual prowess.

      Bring it on.

      • Rosemary58

        You might attend a Christian conference incognito. Who would know?
        Re some Christians’ worldview: Not putting their hope IN the world is different from having a hopeless worldview. Christians don’t see the world as empty unless they are losing their faith.
        I agree with you about the group-think mentality among Christians but that could be true for any group. Nevertheless, it is healthy for people to be challenged, no matter what the subject. I don’t see atheists as threatening to Christians.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’ve attended many Christian and Creationist conferences, and I’ve never felt the need to hide my identity. I try to not be obnoxious (my “Religion: together we can find a cure” t-shirt would probably be over the top). I’ve never been hassled or asked to leave. I think that’s a combination of Christians truly not minding my being there (or figuring they could do nothing about it) and my being civil.

          Christians don’t see the world as empty unless they are losing their faith.

          Christianity is a big tent. I see lots of Christians with a dysfunctional, unhappy worldview due to their religion.

          I don’t see atheists as threatening to Christians.

          That just means there’s work yet to be done. Onward, atheists!

        • Rosemary58

          There certainly are aberrations within Christianity. If a person adheres to a dismal worldview, they might want to find out why there are other Christians who don’t have that view. We’re here!

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          But are they aberrations? They wouldn’t say so. And they might well know about happy Christians like you and not care. They’d say that you’re deluding yourself, and their view is the correct one.

        • Rosemary58

          No doubt.

    • Castilliano

      Feel free to bring up any arguments that you think might cream Bob.
      We’ll be waiting.

      • Castilliano

        Still waiting…

        • Castilliano

          Yeah…thought so…

  • Nemo

    If there truly is a Holy Spirit indwelling all Real True Christians, then surely apologetics is unnecessary. Why pay money to travel to some conference, when your close, personal buddy can simply show you exactly the most powerful argument to be used on any given person?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      God gave Moses the words he needed when debating Pharaoh. Why not a good-hearted Christian debating an atheist?

      • http://www.revelation4radicals.com/ radicalrevelation

        The problem is how do you demonstrate, in a debate, a life of charitable works? Or humility, peace, temperance, goodness or simple joy? These are some of the fruits of the spirit, and none involve a talent with words.

        A great failure in modern, mostly American, Christianity is to strongly identify God with what goes on in our heads, and neglect what is in our hearts.

        I hope someone takes you up on your offer, Bob.

        • MNb

          “neglect what is in our hearts.”
          Outdated and meaningless metaphor, based on refuted biology of Antiquity. The only thing a heart does is pumping blood. Everything regarding any god happens in human heads.

        • http://www.revelation4radicals.com/ radicalrevelation

          MNb – allow me to have a higher opinion of you than you seem to have of yourself. I know you’ll try to talk me out of it, but in this case, I promise to be stubborn.

        • MNb

          OK, last try. Thanks for giving me a good laugh. I’m not mocking.

        • Nemo

          Seeing as how followers of other faiths can do the same, and the Bible itself declares good works to be worthless before Yahweh, it doesn’t matter. If the debate is over whether a deity exists, logic does matter more than how nice said deity’s followers were.

        • Rosemary58

          Even the works of Jesus Christ were worthless?

        • Nemo

          According to the Bible, doing even one tiny thing bad, even having the capability to do something bad (original sin) is all the excuse Yahweh needs to cast you into the torture chamber. Good works? That’s just the stuff you were supposed to do anyway. No bonus points for you.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Agreed. But just to shake things up a bit, in the parable of the sheep and goats (Matt. 25), Jesus makes clear that good works alone decide where you’re going after you die.

        • http://www.revelation4radicals.com/ radicalrevelation

          Our works (what we do) provide a better reflection of what we really believe than what we say.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Yes, perhaps so, but my point was that Jesus said that works get you into heaven, not faith.

        • Rosemary58

          True, but the goods works are not “worthless”.

      • http://thephyseter.wordpress.com The_Physeter

        God gave Moses the words he needed when debating Pharaoh.

        Words? Words?????? God gave Moses the ability to turn his stick into a live snake, and turn his own hand leprous and back to normal, when debating the Pharaoh. When those didn’t work, he had Moses change the water to blood, call down unnatural darkness on the land, etc.
        Has a Christian ever done any of those things in a debate? I’ve never seen it on youtube.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Those are pretty cool tricks. But then the pharaoh’s wizards could do many of the same tricks. (They probably went to the same magic shop as Mo.)

        • Rosemary58

          Perhaps, but the last “trick” the wizards could not do.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Right you are. Both sides had magic, but the magic of Moses’ god was stronger.

        • Rosemary58

          Yes, you got it.

    • http://thephyseter.wordpress.com The_Physeter

      Better yet, when Paul got into a debate with a non-Christian in Acts, he struck his opponent with blindness. If an atheist went to a conference and was struck blind by the power of the Holy Spirit, that would make a pretty big impression, woudln’t it?

      • Nemo

        I honestly didn’t know that. It seems that since deconverting, I’ve learned a lot about the Bible, more than I thought I knew. Naturally, it has mostly been the unpleasant bits that you don’t hear about in Sunday School.

    • http://www.revelation4radicals.com/ radicalrevelation

      I don’t know about anyone else, but sometimes when I talk about God, I get in my own way, and trip over my own tongue. It’s hard to listen to the ‘still small voice’ with all that going on.

      Haven’t been to a conference, yet, but I would sure try to go if Bob was on the ticket.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        :-)

  • Y. A. Warren

    people pay to go to conferences that strengthen their communal beliefs. Why would lambs invite wolves into their convention spaces?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      If your comment is rhetorical, I agree with the sentiment.

      Still, many Christian conferences do claim to evaluate Christianity’s claims of historicity and slap down those of atheism. (I image that these are very much in the minority. On this point, we probably agree.)

      • Y. A. Warren

        I simply think you’d do better hosting an atheist conference and inviting a mixed bag of theists to attend.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          With all those theists, sounds like a Christian conference. I already attend those.

        • Y. A. Warren

          Good for you! I am surprised that the “Christians” entertain heretics.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’m usually treated well by Christian groups that know that I’m an atheist. I have my complaints, but being personally ill-treated is usually not one of them.

        • Y. A. Warren

          This is one of my biggest beefs about “Christians.” They don’t have balls enough to “throw the money changers out of the temples.” They are so arrogant that they believe they can pray them into their own beliefs. They are so “sweet” that they give my “spirit” diabetes.

        • http://www.revelation4radicals.com/ radicalrevelation

          It sounds like you are describing runaway ‘ecumenism,’ and I heartily agree. Christians should not overlook serious faults, such as hypocrisy, to pursue fellowship.

        • smrnda

          I think the issue is once of balance (at least at present.) It’s likely that atheists have more contact with Christians (or just theists) than the other way around, simply because of the percentages. Of course, I’d have no problem with an atheist conference that had a panel like ‘ask the theist’ though I worry that it wouldn’t get many takers. Many apologists won’t *do a show* so to speak unless they get a high degree of control. However, I’d imagine you could get someone.

          But the other problem is that I’d comment a theist who did that, but they might get backlash from their religious authorities depending on how it went. I don’t want to commend someone for doing what seems good (making a case for their beliefs in front of atheists, or just answering questions) and then watching them get shit-canned over it because they didn’t convert the whole place.

        • http://www.revelation4radicals.com/ radicalrevelation

          Not to stir up trouble, but if you invited the right ‘mix’ of Christians, they may have about as much in common with each other as they do with you. Just a thought.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Yes, I agree. That’s why I’m often amused at an outraged Christian commenter who says about a post, “Well, that doesn’t describe my beliefs!”

          But of course, in so doing, he’s making the same error he’s accusing me of–assuming that his view of Christianity applies universally.

    • Sophia Sadek

      Better yet, why would wolves invite in a good shepherd?

      • Y. A. Warren

        Good point…and very funny! Maybe to eat the shepherd, too.

  • Fallulah

    You do equip theists to converse with Atheists, by saying, “God works in mysterious ways” and ending with, “I’ll pray for you.”

    • Sophia Sadek

      Another one is, “You are sooo lost!”

  • Shaun G. Lynch

    Speaking as an active Roman Catholic (I head the lay pastoral team in my parish), I think it would be valuable to have you present at an apologetics conference (or any other type of Christian conference for that matter). But the value wouldn’t consist, as you suggest, in giving participants the opportunity to encounter first-hand atheist objections to religious belief. The bottom line is that you’ll never convince them, and they have no hope of convincing you, so that whole exercise is futile.

    But here’s the thing: the apologists-in-training need to learn to deal with that futility with empathy and without arrogance. Christians are called upon to be meek and HUMBLE, and that humility is frequently entirely absent when atheists and believers confront one another.

    Active Christians, and active atheists too, need to learn that another individual can disagree with them but still be a fundamentally good and valuable person. You won’t be able to convert most people, but you still have to share the earth with them, so you’d better learn to get along with them.

    To be honest, I don’t think much of Catholic apologetics; I tend to find atheist “apologetics” far more intellectually compelling, which has had an interesting impact on my own religious practice. But having said that, I might consider attending a conference that featured a presentation from an atheist along the lines of what I’ve just described.

    • pennyroyal

      Thanks for your post. I particularly appreciate your 3rd paragraph. That is a good starting point, one that’s rare, in my experience. Atheists are pushed away and maligned and psychologically, I think that’s due to insecurity on the part of many Christians. So seeing the human goodness and good intentions in the other person, is an excellent starting point.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      The bottom line is that you’ll never convince them, and they have no hope of convincing you, so that whole exercise is futile.

      Do these Catholics care about converting their fellow citizens? If so then conversion isn’t the point; it’s educating them about what they’re up against.

      I certainly agree with you that conversion isn’t an easy matter. People do occasionally switch sides, however.

      Active Christians, and active atheists too, need to learn that another individual can disagree with them but still be a fundamentally good and valuable person.

      Yes, that’s a good attitude

      To be honest, I don’t think much of Catholic apologetics; I tend to find atheist “apologetics” far more intellectually compelling, which has had an interesting impact on my own religious practice.

      That is interesting. So you believe for non-intellectual reasons? Share a few with us. Personal experience, perhaps? Raised that way? Love the community and lifestyle?

      • Shaun G. Lynch

        Explaining my approach to faith and religion would take more time than I have to commit at the moment. In a nutshell, I’ve come to realize that something doesn’t need to be “real” for it to be “true.” The challenge for the rational modern Christian is to find the truth that underlies the myth (and I’m using the word “myth” here in its primary sense: a story designed to communicate a deeper concept or principle).

        This is the problem I have with much of what I’ve encountered in apologetics. The apologetic approach is, all too often, intended to reinforce a literal textual reading rather than illuminating a deeper truth. The emphasis on belief eventually starts to eat away at faith, and moves the church away from its core mission of comforting the afflicted.

        As for your kind philanthropic offer to help Christian zealots become more effective at “converting” atheists… be honest, you’re not making the offer in order to help the missionaries. Unless you’re some kind of masochist, I assume that your objective is to demonstrate the overwhelming superiority of your reasoning, and to pull some of the listeners to your “side.” And, as you note, people DO occasionally switch “sides.”

        But what if, instead, we could move towards getting rid of the “sides” and just learn to live with our differences? I have no interest in “converting” anyone. The vast majority of North Americans who self-identify as Roman Catholic maintain no formal ties with the Church. I don’t need to convert them; they’re already on my “side.” My task is to offer them the opportunity to become part of an active, caring community.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          something doesn’t need to be “real” for it to be “true.”

          I’m afraid that thinking doesn’t do much for me. That’s what you’d say if you didn’t have evidence. That’s how you’d rationalize your (indefensible) beliefs to yourself.

          The challenge for the rational modern Christian is to find the truth that underlies the myth

          That was where C.S. Lewis was coming from, wasn’t it?

          So what about the truth that underlies Scientology or Islam? Do you dig into that as well?

          Just to be clear, I can appreciate that even an atheist can get insights or wisdom from reading the Bible, but that’s all grounded in the here and now. Nothing supernatural.

          moves the church away from its core mission of comforting the afflicted.

          Some would say that the church’s mission is to teach people about how to get right with God. By comparison to the hereafter, afflictions here on earth are trivial.

          I assume that your objective is to demonstrate the overwhelming superiority of your reasoning, and to pull some of the listeners to your “side.”

          My goal is to smooth off the hard, arrogant edges. If someone wants to spread the Word, go for it, but be honest with yourself about how effective your message is. Christianity as a lifestyle is one thing; Christianity imposed on the rest of the world is another.

          But what if, instead, we could move towards getting rid of the “sides” and just learn to live with our differences?

          What motivates me is Christian belligerence—Creationism in schools, prayer before city council meetings, and so on. Get rid of that, and I’d find a different hobby.

        • Shaun G. Lynch

          – Your claim that I’m rationalizing my “indefensible” beliefs is pretty obnoxious and arrogant, when you don’t even know what those beliefs are! You appear to be attacking positions I haven’t actually stated, based on your presuppositions of what those positions might be. You’re clearly too wrapped up in defending your own ideology to engage in a reasoned, respectful discussion.

          (I will concede, however, that reasoned respectful discussion is not a hallmark of most interactions between Christians and atheists.)

          – Your reference to Islam and Scientology makes absolutely no sense to me. They have no relevance whatsoever to what we’re discussing.

          – I don’t make a distinction between “getting right with God” (I’m not even sure what that means) and comforting the afflicted. One way or another, whatever one’s religious (or non-religious) tradition, what matters, in my opinion, is how we treat one another here and now. The notion of being “good” in this realm in order to please a bearded old guy in the clouds in order to gain entry to a physical afterlife is what I call “kindergarten Christianity.”

          – If you hope to smooth off Christianity’s “hard, arrogant edges,” you might want to start by modelling that behaviour yourself.

          – At least we appear to be on the same page as regards Creationism and prayer in city council meetings :-)

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Your claim that I’m rationalizing my “indefensible” beliefs is pretty obnoxious and arrogant

          Can you find a more charitable interpretation of what I said? ‘Cause that’s not what I meant.

          when you don’t even know what those beliefs are!

          Do you believe that “something doesn’t need to be ‘real’ for it to be ‘true’”? That’s what I was responding to.

          You’re clearly too wrapped up in defending your own ideology to engage in a reasoned, respectful discussion.

          If you say so.

          Your reference to Islam and Scientology makes absolutely no sense to me. They have no relevance whatsoever to what we’re discussing.

          Then I must have no idea what we’re discussing.

          You said that the rational modern Christian (you, I presume) must find the truth under the myth. My reaction—and this seems quite reasonable to me, at least—is to wonder if this attitude applies to Christianity only, or if you’re an equal-opportunity truth seeker. Do you investigate Islam to find the “truth that underlies the myth” in that religion, or do you not have much interest in that? If not, why not?

          But if it made absolutely no sense the first time, I doubt it’ll make much more the second time.

          I don’t make a distinction between “getting right with God” (I’m not even sure what that means) and comforting the afflicted.

          To the extent that I understand your position, that sounds reasonable. Other flavors of Christianity would never say “comforting the afflicted” was the purpose of Christianity.

          whatever one’s religious (or non-religious) tradition, what matters, in my opinion, is how we treat one another here and now.

          Sounds good to me.

          If you hope to smooth off Christianity’s “hard, arrogant edges,” you might want to start by modelling that behaviour yourself.

          Fair enough. I do think, however, that some of your charges of arrogance here were off the mark.

        • Shaun G. Lynch

          “Obnoxious” and “arrogant” may sound severe to you, but so does “indefensible” to me. In any event, I don’t see my faith as something to “defend,” but simply as something to live. If anyone wants to join me, they are welcome to do so. If they don’t, that’s fine too.

          With regard to the truth vs. reality discussion, let me clarify. There are universal “truths” to be found from many sources (including Islam, though I’m not so sure about Scientology). Star Trek isn’t “real,” but it does manage to communicate truths about human nature, human interaction, and even science. Heck, there are universal truths to be found in an analytical viewing of Gilligan’s Island, where there was no clergyman and no evidence of religion, but there WAS a scientist/engineer who couldn’t fix a hole in a boat… and yet they all survived and got along).

          But we weren’t talking about sources of truth other than Christianity, so your comment about Islam and Scientology struck me as a non sequitur.

          Anyway, my larger point was that I view your offer to speak at a conference on apologetics as self-serving on your part, not a philanthropic gesture to help the missionaries. But I DO think there would be value for both believers and atheists to come together in a spirit of openness, not to attempt to convert one another, but to engage with one another as fellow human beings. That kind of encounter might, for instance, help certain Christians I’ve encountered get beyond the patently idiotic notion that moral behaviour cannot occur in the absence of religious beliefs.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Obnoxious” and “arrogant” may sound severe to you, but so does “indefensible” to me.

          I doubt that you’re really so thin-skinned that we need to keep haggling over who offended whom. If you’re offended, terrific. I ask only that you read what I actually wrote and respond to that. I said that if you didn’t have evidence (I don’t know if you do or not; we haven’t gotten that far) then those beliefs would be indefensible.

          I don’t see my faith as something to “defend,” but simply as something to live.

          Fair enough. Some Christians like to evangelize their beliefs and encourage others to accept them. Sounds like that’s not how you roll.

          There are universal “truths” to be found from many sources (including Islam, though I’m not so sure about Scientology).

          I tend to agree, both in the idea that religion can contain wisdom for any of us and in your low opinion of Scientology.

          I view your offer to speak at a conference on apologetics as self-serving on your part, not a philanthropic gesture to help the missionaries.

          Given that we both understand the likelihood of my deconverting anyone to be fantastically unlikely, I’m not sure I understand your complaint. Sure, I’m doing this for my own reasons, if that’s what you mean. I see it as a wager. The conference bets that my giving an excellent defense of atheism (which I think I can do a much better job than pretty much anything I’ve heard from the Christian side—though my sample is limited, of course) will educate their audience. I think that the benefit of Christian minds open to new ideas will outweigh their stronger apologetics.

          Further, when conferences reject me (which I expect they will do), that helps me make another point: that they doubt that their arguments are strong enough to withstand attack and won’t let me present because I’ll embarrass them.

          help certain Christians I’ve encountered get beyond the patently idiotic notion that moral behaviour cannot occur in the absence of religious beliefs.

          Yes, having any of us hang out with people in other groups (atheists meeting Christians and vice versa, to take just one pairing) is certainly valuable.

        • http://www.revelation4radicals.com/ radicalrevelation

          There is another opportunity, and that is readying young Christians to encounter a non-theist worldview in college.

          I’ve seen studies that put the number of students who stop attending church while in college at around 40%.

        • MNb

          “You appear to be attacking positions I haven’t actually stated,”
          Yet another christian who whines about prejudiced atheists but doesn’t care to make clear what his views actually are then. Just assume we are stupid atheists and explain clearly what those views are. Or not.

          “I will concede, however ….”
          Not me. I live in a very religious country, Suriname, and in a village (Moengo) where I possibly am the only atheist. Sometimes I discuss belief with my friends and colleagues. Never ever has such a discussion become disrespectful. One reason is that they are willing to correct me (“no, this is not what I believe, I believe …..”).

          “They have no relevance whatsoever to what we’re discussing.”
          Of course they have. Why investigate christian myth and their deeper meanings while neglecting those of islam and scientology?

          “what matters is how we treat one another here and now”
          That matters to me as well. I just don’t need a belief system for it.

        • Shaun G. Lynch

          A “reasoned respectful discussion” does not begin with the words “Yet another christian who whines about prejudiced atheists…”

          All the more so when a) I wasn’t whining and b) I never accused atheists of being prejudiced.

        • MNb

          “….. does not begin …..”
          That’s correct. Point is I was not beginning – I was reacting on your start. The difference is significant.
          You still don’t care to explain what your views are. I’m not surprised. That’s what my religious acquantances in Moengo, Suriname do, invariably resulting in a “reasoned respectful discussion.” Last year I had three with local Jehovah Witnesses; very friendly, very nice.
          But they were willing to answer questions like

          “Why investigate christian myth and their deeper meanings while neglecting those of islam and scientology?”
          Unlike you.

        • Shaun G. Lynch

          I’m not dodging the question, I’m simply saying that the answer is too complex to get into in a forum such as this, and it isn’t germane to the current discussion anyway. Bob asked the question in passing at the end of a response to a comment on another subject. YOU’RE the one who suddenly jumped in and accused me of whining!

          And, in any event, why am I under any obligation to discuss my personal beliefs in any detail with complete strangers? What makes you think you’re entitled to jump in out of nowhere and demand that I satisfy your curiosity?

          As to your question, why SHOULD I be searching for deeper meanings in Islam or Scientology? And why not Buddhism, or Taoism, or Judaism, or Rastafarianism, or Jainism? Why are you limiting your insistence that I search elsewhere to just Islam and Scientology?

          For the record, I have, in fact, read quite extensively in non-Christian theology and philosophy, and that has coloured my personal creed to a significant extent. One of the results is that I identify much more closely with atheists than I do with fundamentalist Christians.

          But if I choose, in spite of my misgivings, to remain an active, practicing Catholic, that’s my business, not yours. I’m under no obligation whatsoever to explain that choice or what motivates it to you or anyone else. To suggest that I do have such an obligation is simply inappropriate and rude.

        • MNb

          “why am I under any obligation ”
          You aren’t. But if you don’t tell us about your views and restrict yourself to criticizing others – like atheists – I have the full right to write what I think about that attitude.
          Now you know. I think you’re a whiner. I’m ready to change this opinion though as soon as you bring up something substantial. As I have experience with believers like you I don’t hold my breath.

          “What makes you think you’re entitled to jump in ”
          BobS’ permission. It’s his blog, you know.

          “Why are you limiting your insistence that I search elsewhere to just Islam and Scientology?”
          How pathetic. Of course you may expand the list as much as you want.

          “that has coloured my personal creed to a significant extent.”
          Great. Please tell us about it. I’m serious here.

          “if I choose, in spite of my misgivings, to remain an active, practicing Catholic, that’s my business, not yours.”
          Did I write the opposite somewhere? I don’t think so. You’re whining again. My female counterpart is a muslima. If I don’t have any problem with she going to her mosque, do you think I have a problem with you practicing catholicism? My advise: shake off your feeling of selfimportance. You’re a total stranger to me, like I’m to you.

          “To suggest that I do have such an obligation”
          Once again: you don’t. You’re not even obliged to show up here. But if you do BobS has given me the right to write what I think about it.

    • Sophia Sadek

      Catholics have much more for which to apologize. I do not recall any atheists burning people at the stake over minor differences of doctrine.

      • Shaun G. Lynch

        Apologetics has nothing to do with apologizing. As defined by Wikipedia, “Apologetics (from Greek apologia , ‘speaking in defense’) is the discipline of defending a position (often religious) through the systematic use of information.”

        I can assure you that I have not personally burned anyone, nor have I personally encountered any Roman Catholic who executed anyone for heresy.

        On the other hand, Stalin and Mao are excellent recent examples of atheists who between them had millions of people executed for “minor differences of doctrine.”

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Nope. Millions died because of communist policies, but not a single one was killed in the name of atheism. There is no Bible of atheism, nor a Malleus Maleficarum.

          Stalin and Mao got rid of the church because it was a competing power structure.

        • Shaun G. Lynch

          Seriously?! Come on, Bob, there’s no element of dogma to be opposed here. It’s an absolute, incontrovertible historical fact that the communist regimes under Stalin and Mao systematically persecuted Christians. Your argument that is was because the church was a “competing power structure” is specious.

          OF COURSE it was because Christianity represented a competing power structure! That’s the whole point! The militant atheism that was a core component of the Soviet and Maoist worldviews required that such competing philosophies be suppressed.

          In the famous words of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “You’re entitled to your own opinions. You’re not entitled to your own facts.”

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          It’s an absolute, incontrovertible historical fact that the communist regimes under Stalin and Mao systematically persecuted Christians.

          For the benefit of the dictatorship, sure.

          OF COURSE it was because Christianity represented a competing power structure!

          You have an odd way of saying, “That’s a good point,” but OK. It’s good to see that we agree.

          The militant atheism that was a core component of the Soviet and Maoist worldviews required that such competing philosophies be suppressed.

          Get your cause and effect straight. The dictatorship came first. The dictatorship needed competition out of the way, so “Christianity is bad” became an official policy.

          Or are you saying that the atheism came first? That Stalin had some sort of dogmatic attachment to atheism, so he wanted to create an environment so that atheism could flourish, and communism was just the means to that end? If so, I’ll need to see more evidence.

        • Sophia Sadek

          Thank you for correcting my tongue-in-cheek use of apology. I know plenty of Roman Catholics who seek to deny rights to women and same-sex partners, although burning them at the stake is not their preferred modus operandi. As for Stalin and Mao, I would not consider them to be strict atheists. After all, they worshipped Marx, Lenin and Engels as much as Catholics worship Jesus, Joseph and Mary.

        • Kodie

          Apologetics (from Greek apologia , ‘speaking in defense’) is the
          discipline of defending a position (often religious) through the
          systematic use of informationgeneration of fiction.”

          Fixed that for you.

  • pennyroyal

    as an atheist, I wouldn’t want to attend a Christian conference as ‘exhibit A’ of a group’s supposed tolerance or openness; or as a sample Atheist (we are diverse, after all); or even just to educate Christians that atheists and humanists are good ethical people. That’s the job of good Christians: to open their hearts and help them deconstruct their own assumption of superiority or confront the arrogance of some. I’m not here to help you feel good about yourselves or educate you.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      You make it sounds like an animal in an exhibit. My personal goal would be to have them thinking that atheists may be a little better people than they had thought initially.

      Keeping the high ground in discussions is a bit of a trick for me. I think I find a good balance, but I can get snarky.

      • pennyroyal

        in the anti-racism work I’ve done, the premise is that Whites have to educate themselves and not expect Black people to educate us. (I’m white). We have to be proactive. If a specific group of Christians is secure in their faith, then they could read about atheism and books by atheists. Then they can invite atheists in for discussions.
        I can be snarky, too, though I’m not that way by nature. Just older and have no time for BS anymore. Will not suffer fools gladly anymore.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Problem is, they won’t be proactive. They’re fat ‘n sassy with the status quo–getting patted on the head every Sunday by the pastor and told what good Christians they are. I think they need to be pushed off balance.

          To them, I say: get out of your white (that is, Christian) enclave and understand the minorities (that is, atheists) who are your fellow citizens.

        • purr

          They’re fat ‘n sassy with the status quo

          I used to tell my 15lb kitty that she was ‘fat n sassy’

          😛

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Sounds like an apt description.

        • James

          But aren’t pejorative descriptions like that part of the problem? I’m sure you have something positive to offer, but summarising a belief-group with those sorts of gloss terms is unlikely to build your credibility with them – just as indeed that manner of speaking has been used by some Christians to the great enmity of other faith/non-faith groups.

          If I were organising a conference on any subject – let alone something so explosive as a topic of religion/non-religion – seeing this in a speaker would raise a significant red flag.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          But aren’t pejorative descriptions like that part of the problem?

          Pejorative terms are a problem, but “fat ‘n sassy” isn’t pejorative—at least not where I come from. But perhaps you were referring to something else.

        • pennyroyal

          totally agree and would add complacency and self-satisfied. Don’t question; always accept what you are told; don’t think for yourself; go along to get along; submit to authority.

          ” ‘Authoritarians’–a subset of conservatives,” (religious and/or political–PR), “are particularly loyal to their tribe–are allergic to uncertainty and fiercely refuse to modify their beliefs in response to new evidence.”
          “Dissecting the GOP Brain” by Theo Anderson “In These Times” June 2012.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          That categorization does sound like it applies to lots of people. The challenge is that these people are told that they need to get out and evangelize, and that’s where their beliefs clash with reality.

        • http://www.revelation4radicals.com/ radicalrevelation

          Bob – “getting patted on the head every Sunday by the pastor and told what good Christians they are…”

          You need to visit some churches. I think sometimes the only message is, “You’re not doing enough – you could be better people – straighten up!”

          From my observations, an admittedly personal one, that is the predominate message I have heard.

    • Brandon Roberts

      i’m not arrogant i think anyone who believes there a god is arrogant no offense but i have no problem with nice atheists i wish you luck in any future endeavors

  • MNb

    I just checked those three guys. None of them is independent; all three shared an interest with Smith. Harris was even a superstitious nut. Tell me, why should I believe Smith and his witnesses and not say James Strang? His account is equally (un)reliable.

  • Sophia Sadek

    This is an excellent proposal. I hope you get many invitations.

    A Christian approached me on the street in an effort to tempt me into ignorance. He asked me if I knew anything about being born again. I told him that there is no physical life without physical birth. He nodded in agreement. I then said that there is no physical birth without a physical mother. He nodded some more. When I said there is no spiritual life without spiritual birth, he added a smile to his nod. When I said that there is no spiritual birth without a spiritual mother and asked him if he had encountered the spiritual mother of Jesus, he frowned and walked away. It was a Kodak moment.

    • Brandon Roberts

      ok i would probaly just smile and say thanks for sharing your opinion i don’t agree but your entitled to your opinion have a good life bye. and walked away kindly

  • Brandon Roberts

    good and i have no problem but i have 4 tips for you 1. don’t call god or any christian belief a dumb fairy tale for morons who are weak and need a crutch. 2. don’t assume we’re scientifically illiterate. 3. don’t use abraham lincoln’ albert einstein’ issac newton to back up your claims since none of them were atheists lincoln:christian newton:believed in the christian god einstein:believed in god not the chistian god but a god none the less. and 4. be kind and explain your points. so any atheists offended by this i’m simply trying to help your freindly patheos theist

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      1,2: Agreed.

      3: Newton was obviously a Christian. Lincoln: not really. Einstein: no, he didn’t believe in a god. But this is irrelevant. I never use any famous person’s religious beliefs to make a point.

      4: I’ll try.

      Thanks.

      • Brandon Roberts

        your welcome but lincoln was a christian it does not matter and i’m sorry if i’m being rude but lets agree too disagree and thank you for understanding the point and your welcome wish you a happy day

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Is this the same Abraham Lincoln who said, “When
          I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion.”?

          Whatever bin you want to put him in, that’s a sentiment that I can get behind.

        • Brandon Roberts

          look i’m not going to argue with you let’s just agree he was a good man who helped people and i think there are some chritian qoutes out there from him and i’m not trying too cause a fight and i probaly should do more research thank you for informing me

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          No, I’m not interested in arguing about this, either. It’s a small point and, as I said, isn’t relevant to any argument that I would make.

          If you come across Christian apologetics conferences, consider pointing them back to this post. It might give them some food for thought.

          Best regards.

        • Brandon Roberts

          best regards to you too and your right it is a small point that does not matter have a happy life bye

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You’re welcome to poke around other posts and comment on them. Or sign up for email notifications. Or tell your Christian friends who might like an intellectual challenge.

        • Brandon Roberts

          ok i will

    • Sophia Sadek

      And how many faithful people were condemned by the Church to be burned at the stake for heresy? One of my favorite slogans is that Christ is an eternal form. He kept returning again and again and the Church kept burning him at the stake.

      • Brandon Roberts

        ok seriously i know a lot but that has nothing to do with this these are tips to help atheists talk to theists and yes there were evil christians there were also evil atheists but i wish you a happy day

        • Sophia Sadek

          I cannot agree that people are evil. People do vicious and brutal things out of ignorance and out of ambition, but that does not make them evil.

          I made the observation about Church treatment of the faithful to challenge your claim to feeling persecuted by atheist ridicule. The persecution of heretics by the Church demonstrates what true persecution is all about. Anyone who kowtows to the official deity deserves all the ridicule they can stand. The Trinity was crafted in the image of Caesar by a corrupt gaggle of servile bishops. There is nothing more laughable.

        • Brandon Roberts

          o.k agreed on the evil thing also i disagree on the trinity thing and one more thing this is not the way to talk to a christian mainly because it comes across as insulting. and makes me less likely to listen to your veiwpoint. and yes the heretic thing is real persecution. just remember the 4 tips these are to help. just cause i think adults should be able to converse without name calling or other childish things. and i’m not going to make an evoloution crack. because that will start a fight. good day and bye

        • Sophia Sadek

          I would not expect someone who has been indoctrinated into the dogma of the Trinity to consider it objectively. That would be like asking someone who “knows” the absolute truth about the static nature of the Earth to rethink their position and consider a rotating Earth.

        • Brandon Roberts

          wow are not you a charming person and btw i know it sounds weird and there are similar things in other religons. that does not mean it’s made up. and the only reason i’m getting so nasty now is because of how disrespectful you are. so i honestly wish you a happy life all your dreams coming true. but with all due respect please leave me the hell alone. an i’m sorry if that was not friendly

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Dial it back, dude. I can’t see anything obnoxious in what Sophia said. I think you’re being thin skinned.

        • Brandon Roberts

          look i was just sickened cause she (i think it’s a she at least) implied i was brainwashed cult member and seemed very rude too me and go back but imagine it’s about atheists and she’s a christian than see what you think

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I see your point. Imagine if she’d said: “You atheists burned thousands at the stake for atheist heresy! How can you live with yourself?!” (I’m amping it way up–her statement was comparatively bland.)

          Problem is, atheists didn’t do that, so the charge is simply ridiculous. Christians, on the other hand …

        • bonko

          glad you admit they werent christians but cointel pro.
          like Orwell said or rather wrote in 1984, that they take Everything about a ideology(in this case it was socialism) and destroy it in the name of it.
          this does explain why lazar kaganovich who carried out Holodomor, which killed more christians,mainly in ukraine in the 1930s, 10-50 were killed, the majority christians. we atheist has killed more christians then any major christian Campaign thats PROMOTED by the highest authority.
          lazar kaganovich was the right hand of stalin, giving out orders to steal weat in holodomor and just sold it off, starving them to Death.
          or perhaps the slavery against us White people by muslims by african and arab pirates around 1530 to 1780 which was far WORSE then any slavery Whites did(even including combined White countries) as evidence by political correctness and establishment censorship, not only in america but here in europé aswell.

        • 90Lew90

          Uh-oh…

        • Sophia Sadek

          Spoken like a neo-Nazi.

        • bonko

          Spoken like a black anti-White communist bolshevik who did said genocide and ethnic cleansing and Child murder. who did far worse then any neo nazi. including the old ones, which were just nazis. or is it the jewish bankers who financed them like the Warburgs thus responsible for 80 + million dead in ww 2? take your pick.
          so im glad you admit your for killing White Children, the revolution in ukraine, which is the Place it happend is revolting against them. White people are revolting against their opressors in europé.
          we are the 99%, you are the 1%, White people are Rising up against the minorities who opress them since only 1% is needed to rule in government and through lobbying/bribing. through racial discrimination laws that discriminates against Whites in terms of jobs even if they are higher qualified, and universities as an example. not even hatecrime laws against them. thats why pro-White parties been rising up and defeating said anti-White bigoted hatecriminal system.
          instead, we people here can choose Us or Them. pro-White or anti-White. its an easy choice.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          Huh? What kind of racist crap is this and how is this relevant?

          Stay on the subject or get banned, bonko/beaverism.

        • Sophia Sadek

          I truly feel sorry for you. It is like seeing someone trapped in a cage.

        • Corey Summers

          I can only imagine how much he spends on tin foil every month for all the hats he must make.

  • Guest

    If they need comedy relief there are better candidates than you…
    Carrot-Top, maybe.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

      Good call. Comedy isn’t my strength. I do a pretty good job of presenting the atheist position, however.

      • Guest

        If you say so.

  • learningall

    good infor


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