Ken Ham agrees with Bill Maher

While Ken Ham expressed surprise a while back that he agrees with atheist Bill Maher, it shouldn’t surprise anyone. There are a great many atheists and fundamentalists who are the mirror image of one another. They accept or reject Christianity understood as the same superficial set of implausible claims. There is no awareness of Biblical scholarship or the study of literature that might allow them to appreciate that there is more going on in stories than just either factual historical reporting or gullible reporting of lies.

Reading Ham’s post, I am reminded once again of John Dominic Crossan’s words about two people debating over Aesop’s fables, one taking them as proof that animals could talk in ancient Greece, the other taking them as proof that the ancient Greeks were stupid enough to believe that animals could talk. The possibility is not entertained by either that the fables could belong to a genre of literature that renders their disagreement about them itself silly.

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

    I like the cartoon James but you are unfair: according to Creationists, God magically prevented the dinosaurs from wanting meat during the whole journey :=)

    You are completely right that antitheists and fundamentalists are the mirror of each other. Actually most antitheists were former fundies. After their deconversion, they have kept many aspects of their fundamentalist minds, such as black-and-white thinking, overgeneralization and so on.

    This sad state of affairs is perfectly well illustrated with a discussion I had with a militant atheist (antitheist) on my blog:
    https://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2013/09/25/tribalism-love-and-gods-shameless-ploy-a-response-to-cyngus-and-valdobiade/

    He kept telling me (so to speak):
    “The God of Christianity is a monster because he is described as such in many parts of the Bible.”
    I answered: “So what? Like in books outside the Bible, people got God wrong.”

    He seemed utterly unable to engage with my true positions and kept confusing emotional outbursts with objective reasoning.

    As I pointed out at the end of our exchange, his way of interpreting the Old Testament is very similar to the way Nazi theologians proceeded: failing to consider the cultural and historical background and failing to recognize the presence of positive aspects.

    I think it is wrong for progressive and liberal Christians to think that only conservatives should defend their own faith.
    I see it as my duty to defend progressive Christianity against the attacks of both fundamentalists and belligerent atheists.

    What’s your take on that James?

    • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

      While it’s a convenient sterotype allowing their easy dismissal, evidentiary support may just be an effect of confirmation bias. I’m not aware of any study which gives empirical validation for the claim “most antitheists were former fundies”. There might be some data in Christopher Silver’s in-press research and its convenience sample, but I haven’t been able to get a copy of his full dissertation. The anecdata from my acquaintance suggest the “militant atheist” antitheists are have roughtly the same one-in-four proportion from fundie background as the overall US population.

      Incidentally, I also suspect you may be mistaking low agreeableness for low openness; in which case, research of Hunsberger, Altemeyer and Sidanius seems to imply an alternate explanation for the similarities you notice.

      • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

        We desperately need empirical studies about this.
        I have been on countless Western European antitheist forum and I have noticed that by myself.

        But I am open to the idea I’m wrong.

        2013/10/4 Disqus

    • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

      You describe the very kind of atheists I am talking about. They despise the fact that I am an accommodationist or that I think religion has value. Like the Baptist fundamentalist, it is all or nothing with them.

      On my blog, I deal primarily with Evangelicals and their beliefs. (since that is what I was for most of my life) So, since all Evangelicals believe the Bible is inspired and inerrant, to some degree or the other, I tend to use the arguments that a militant atheist might use. My goal is to get them to see than inspiration and inerrancy are untenable. While I do not find liberal/progressive Christianity intellectually satisfying, I do know the world would be much better off if every Christian was a progressive or a liberal.

      • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

        Thanks Bruce for the compliment to us :=)

        I’ll definitely visit your blog!

        I also use the same type of arguments while arguing with Evangelicals to show them that their belief system is wrong and immoral.

        2013/10/4 Disqus

        • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

          As James and I have talked about before, I often wonder if I would have ended up an atheist IF I had started as a liberal Christian and received my pastoral training in a liberal institution. By the time my theology became more liberal, I was just plain tired of the whole ministry/church scene. I have no doubt this biases my ability to embrace liberal/progressive Christianity.

          On one thing we will all agree; fundamentalism, wherever it may be found, is not healthy, and it often mentally and emotionally harms people, and keeps people from thinking rationally about the world. Many of us Ex-Fundamentalists are in therapy to deal with the long-term damage done to our lives. For me, I was in the Christian church for 50 years, 25 years as a pastor. Lots of stuff to undo. :)

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    There are a great many atheists and fundamentalists who are the mirror image of one another.

    -That’s because the “fundamentalists” (i.e., those who believe Jesus was physically resurrected) number three quarters of the country. Either the Bible is just ancient literature with some good parts or anything more than the tiniest portion of Paul [of Tarsus]‘s advice should be taken.

  • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

    James, yes some atheists are Fundamentalists, but many of us are now atheists AFTER we carefully and comprehensively considered the claims of Christianity. Atheists like Maher, who I watch religiously, Dawkins, and others like them are embarrassing when they talk about Christianity. Their diatribes are often factually incorrect and show a lack of understanding the complexities and nuances of Christianity. I have been attacked by a few atheists for suggesting that people like Maher and Dawkins need a theological education before the critique Christianity. They object when on-science trained religionists critique science, arguing they don’t have sufficient training to do so. IMO, that is a two way street.

    Just like you would be offended if I lumped you in with Tony Perkins, Ken Ham, Mark Driscoll, or Jerry Falwell, so it is for people like me who are lumped in with non-theologically trained people like Maher or Dawkins.

    My rejection of Christianity rests on far more than superficial claims or a simple misunderstanding of the evidence. To quote the Bible, I have weighed Christianity in the balances and found it wanting. I do not disparage people like you for your continued faith. I understand your reasons even if I cannot buy into your intellectual reasons for doing so. ( and I know you are a person of faith for more than intellectual reasons)

    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

      There are no atheist fundamentalists. [citation needed] for Maher and Dawkins lacking nuance. You don’t have to have a Ph.D. to be a pastor.

      • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

        Personal experience with atheists who are every bit as closedminded and ignorant as any fundamentalist Baptist preacher.

        No, you don’t need a PhD to be a pastor but you do need to be theologically and historically educated, be it through formal training or hard work. Atheists embarrass themselves when they refuse to educate themselves about the complexities and nuances of Christianity. As a former pastor, I have a good grasp of Christianity in all its forms and contradictions. I would never think of wading into science discussions since I lack the necessary training to do so. Theology and church history? I have sufficient training to intelligently discuss these things. James and I disagree on many things but I suspect neither of us consider the other ignorant about Christianity.

        A week or so ago, Maher said creationists think the earth is 5,000 years old. He was flat wrong. There are NO creationists that believe this. 6,000 years in the minimum. Maher never would have said this had he bothered to spend 5 minutes studying what creationists believe. His ignorance makes atheists look bad.

        • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

          An open mind is not necessarily a virtue and ignorance is not necessarily a sin. If your mind is too open, it becomes a dumpster for whatever garbage people throw around. Ignorance is merely the natural state of being.

          Maher said creationists think the earth is 5,000 years old.

          -In the correct millennium (for at least a large minority of YECs) and a margin of error far smaller than that of the YECs.

          • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

            I am well aware of the arguments about open mindedness.

            At best, you are saying that Maher is less ignorant than young earth creationists. Woo Hoo! Atheists should be proud their guys is less ignorant. Maher has a habit of making factual errors that any first year Bible college student would not make. His sloppiness reveals his lack of understanding Christianity. In another recent show he couldn’t even get the number of books in the Bible right, something I learned in first grade Sunday School.

            All I am saying is this, public atheists should at least educate themselves about that which they love to critique and condemn.

            • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

              In another recent show he couldn’t even get the number of books in the Bible right

              -And I can’t, either. Why? Because it’s trivia that does not serve any kind of analysis except to impress one’s audience. Also, didn’t I say [citation needed]?

              • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

                It matters because it shows carelessness.It is lazy thinking that is more concerned with making points with the godless faithful than advancing a cogent arguement. If a person can’t be trusted to get basic facts right, why should we listen to them at all? This is a common problem with some atheists who feel it is their calling in life to say the most outlandish things about Christianity. Sure, their ignorant statements pump up the godless faithful, but they hurt the atheist cause by playing to the stereotype many Christians have of atheists.

                Again, as far as fundamentalist atheists go…I have had quite a bit of interaction with them on my blog and via email. As a former fundamentalist, I can spot fundamentalism from a mile away.

                Not sure what more I can say.

  • beau_quilter

    I really find this fundamentalist christian/fundamentalist atheist meme a bit tiresome.

    Fundamentalist christians are actively engaged in:

    Blocking marriage equality
    Pressuring school systems and homeschoolers to accept creationism over evolution
    Pushing failing abstinence programs into schools and pushing out sex education programs and easier access even to the simple disease prevention afforded by condoms
    Attempting to legalize the privileging of Christianity over any other belief system
    Global warming denialism

    and the list goes on.

    Where are the equivalent social ills visited on us by the “fundamentalist atheists”? Equating fundamentalist Christians with “fundamentalist atheists” is a bit like equating cancer with cold sores. Maybe you can find “parallels” but come on! Who is really damaging our nation?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Some Christians, in astonishingly large numbers in the United States to be sure, are doing those things. And for that reason, it is hard for me to fathom why some atheists prefer to lump all Christians together and focus on arguing about whether a particular type of God exists, rather than make common cause against fundamentalism, which we agree is toxic.

      • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

        As the good Jerry Coyne says,
        “Some believers are fundamentalists about everything, but every believer is a fundamentalist about something.”

      • beau_quilter

        You have said before that atheists such as Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins use “either/or rhetoric”, but aren’t you doing the same thing here?

        Dawkins doesn’t have to choose between promoting his opinions of religion and making a common cause against fundamentalism. In the Greatest Show On Earth, he discusses making common cause with the Bishop of Oxford and many other religious luminaries in a letter to the prime minister promoting the teaching of evolution. He has written joint articles with the Bishop on the same topic in the Sunday Times.

        Jerry Coyne criticizes Kenneth Miller’s theistic take on evolution, but he also freely praises Miller’s attacks on Intelligent Design in Finding Darwin’s God and Only a Theory.

        Christopher Hitchens has both debated Frances Collins and praised his work on the Human Genome Project, accepting his friendship and help as they worked together on treatments for his cancer.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          It’s a very good point. I certainly don’t think we have to cease to disagree about other matters in order to make common cause on one. But in my own experience, people who do not refer to one another as idiots can often forge more effective collaborations. And to be clear, the less than helpful rhetoric is to be found on all sides.

          • beau_quilter

            Agreed.

    • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

      The core issue is not their political views, but their tendency to ‘clear out’ the middle of the continuum.

      There are a range of people with a range of credulous beliefs, from those who believe in an anti-scientific, miracle working, immanent personal deity, who heals, raises the dead and will come again soon and rapture the disciples; through to atheists who are entirely and exclusively committed to naturalistic explanations, for whom any kind of belief is a compromise of basic empirical reality; and in the middle are folks who hold some beliefs in God, the supernatural, or spirituality, but are not at either end.

      ‘Fundamentalism’ in this sense, seems to be about the practice of pushing the middle down towards the other end. So Christian fundamentalists push the middle down and think of them as atheists. As many have told him on this blog, James isn’t a *real* Christian, he’s an ‘anti-Christ’ in the words of a recent commenter. Similarly he’s a faith-head a true believer, anti-science, pro-delusion, to ‘fundamentalist’ atheists.

      So there’s no sense, in my opinion, that one side is ‘as bad as the other’ in general terms, or that the metaphor needs to be stretched further than it is intended. The comparison, from what I can tell, is quite specific, and limited to this, and rather apt.

      The tendency of folks at one end of the spectrum to look back along it and see everyone else clustered at the other end, and the consequent inability for folks in the middle to have rational discussions from a position of mutual respect with such folks.

      • beau_quilter

        Interesting thoughts about how fundamentalists may tend to clear out the middle of the continuum. But I don’t see how this analogy can be more of a core issue than their political views.

        As I’ve already commented to James, “new atheists” do make common cause with liberal christians on political issues; and as far as I can tell, this is where the rubber hits the road. One needn’t agree with Dawkins’, Coyne’s, or Hitchens’ assessment of liberal christianity to join them in fighting the political damages of fundamental christianity.

        • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

          It certainly isn’t the ‘core issue’ for me. The political issues are far more important, and I’m happy to join forces with whoever has a moral sense.

          This only really comes up in discussions about faith, as per the Crossan quote. Where some people on both ends can’t conceive of a Christianity independent from inerrancy.

          As a unabashed atheist, I have been swept into the fundamentalist Christian camp by those who see my atheism as not meeting their standards of orthodoxy. It is annoying, but hardly important in the scheme of things, and I suspect is voiced by a tiny loud minority of folks with low levels of smarts.

          Coyne is nearer that end than Hitchens was and Dawkins is quite happy to find common cause with believers. I think none of the ‘four horsemen’ atheists are particularly guilty of this, though because Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris are focussed on fundamentalism, they appear more extreme in some contexts than others. That being said, I’ve not read much ‘new atheism’ since the initial batch of books in the early 2000s, so take that assessment with a big pinch of salt.

  • PNG

    Some might find this interesting. It has been some time since I read it, but I recall that there was some similarity of personality type found between atheists and fundamentalists. Perhaps would only be true for the “militant” variety of each. I would guess that there are plenty in each position who believer what they do, but don’t really want to argue about the subject. http://www.scribd.com/doc/13459606/The-Social-Psychology-of-the-Origins-Debate


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X