Mischaracterizing Atheists

How do you completely butcher an article about atheists?

If you’re Chuck Colson, just say we don’t exist and insult us.

It wins us over every time…:

On a cross-country flight some years ago, we hit severe turbulence. The gentleman in the seat next to me who had been insisting vehemently that he was an atheist shouted out loud, “God help us.”

Yes, even atheists pray because the image of God is implanted in us. Independent studies have showed that we yearn to know God. It’s the way we’re wired. So to be an atheist takes a stubborn refusal to acknowledge that which deep down we all know to be true.

I have, in fact, never met an atheist. When a person professes to be one, I ask him to offer me the proof that God does not exist. I’ve never had anyone successfully respond to that question. Most retreat and say they’re really agnostics. I then ask them if they have examined every religion exhaustively. Their answer is usually no. I explain they cannot be agnostics unless they are sure that God can’t be known.

There are no atheists. There are simply people whose pride overwhelms their innate knowledge.

That’s it. That’s all he has to say on the matter. It’s amazing how he packs that much $#!% into a few paragaphs…

Let’s get this straight. Agnostics can’t exist unless they’ve “examined every religion exhaustively.” Yet, Colson will quickly claim no atheists exist… I doubt he’s met every self-proclaimed atheist in the world to convince them otherwise with his impeccable logic.

And if the atheist on the plane said nothing, I doubt Colson would have changed his mind. By his logic, any atheist saying “bless you” when someone sneezes means they actually believe in God.

Of course, atheists are not refusing to acknowledge God. We deny the whole God story in the first place.

While we’re at it, as soon as Colson disproves the Flying Spaghetti Monster, I’ll disprove his God.

You want to have some real fun? Read the comments on his posting.


[tags]atheism, fundamentalist[/tags]

  • mikespeir

    When a person professes to be one, I ask him to offer me the proof that God does not exist. I’ve never had anyone successfully respond to that question.

    That alone is enough to tell me Colson has never had a serious talk with an atheist.

  • BZ

    Yeah, this guy is an idiot. So what?

  • Richard Wade

    Independent studies have showed that we yearn to know God.

    My bullshit alarm always goes off whenever I hear the phrase “studies show.” “Independent studies.” Independent of what? Credibility? Accountability? Authorship? Reality? Sources, please.

    I have, in fact, never met an atheist. When a person professes to be one, I ask him to offer me the proof that God does not exist. I’ve never had anyone successfully respond to that question.

    That’s because this liar has never actually had the conversations with atheists he claims to have had. If he had had any other than in his own imagination, he would have received Lesson Number One in atheism, that most atheists don’t say they believe God does not exist, they say they don’t believe God exists. For some cement-brained theists like him, this difference takes about two hours of very patient explaining to understand. He’s too busy being self righteous to spend that kind of time with someone he’d rather dismiss out of hand.

    Since Colson thinks he can know others’ thoughts and feelings so well without even asking them, he should open up a psychic business. “Master Colson sees all and knows all.”

  • philosophia

    Gosh. All these people keep telling me I don’t exist. I think I’m going to develop self-esteem issues if this keeps up!

  • llewelly

    By Colson’s logic, a person who exclaims ‘Heavens to Betsy’ when upset, clearly believes Betsy created the universe, is all-powerful, etc, etc. Likewise, the Mormons who are so fond of saying ‘fetch’ in place of ordinary expletives must believe God is all about retrieving thrown sticks. Truly, Colson is a genius.

  • http://www.littlewoodenman.com Matthew

    I find this kind of stuff pretty offensive — not because he claims I “don’t exist,” but rather because his train of thought is so far off the rails I feel a little embarrassed to call myself a human being.

    I already ranted about this on my own blog. Like I said…

    Applying his same smoke-from-the-ears logic I can also conclude that I’ve never met a Christian, a Muslim, or any believer of any stripe, because (1) they can’t offer me any conclusive proof in the existence of a god; and (2) nobody has exhaustively studied every religion.

  • http://thehappyhuman.wordpress.com jtradke

    Well, following his logic, how can he claim to be a Christian if he hasn’t exhaustively studied every religion out there? He can’t possibly be certain that his belief’s the best one unless he’s surveyed all the rest.

  • EKM

    Check out the Wikipedia article on the “God Gene”. It pokes a few holes in the “God wants us to know him” argument. Muslims could also use the “God wants us to know him” argument too, couldn’t they?

    Plus if the Mighty Mister Colson challenged me on the existence of God, I would remind him that nobody has really convinced me.

  • http://atheistblogger.com Adrian Hayter

    He put this argument in his latest book and I marked the page to question him about it. Speaking of which, he probably wants me to finish it since he wanted me to ask him questions but his people haven’t been in contact for ages.

  • Wes

    Seeing as he was one of Nixon’s cohorts, it’s no wonder he feels perfectly comfortable telling bald-faced lies:

    Charles Colson
    Reborn and Rehabilitated: The spectacular Christian rehabilitation of Charles Colson—the man who once advised Richard Nixon to firebomb the Brookings Institution, a liberal think tank—began after Colson’s Watergate prison term, with his best-selling conversion narrative, Born Again. His resurgence accelerated as he founded Prison Fellowship Ministries and built it into a $50 million organization that operates in all 50 states and 110 countries. His ministry’s success (a University of Pennsylvania study found that graduates of the prison program were 60% less likely to be reincarcerated than was the average con) and his campaign for humane prison conditions helped define compassionate conservatism and served as a model for the faith-based initiatives that Bush favors.

    Colson, 73, is now regarded as one of evangelicalism’s more thoughtful public voices. And, says Ted Olsen, online managing editor of Christianity Today: “If he gets on a bandwagon, it’s likely to move.” After decades of relative abstention, Colson is back in power politics. He helped cobble together an alliance of Evangelicals and Catholic conservatives, advised Karl Rove on Sudan policy and put his prestige behind an anti-gay-marriage lobbying body, the Arlington Group. And he has recouped one more lever of power: in 2000 Florida Governor Jeb Bush reinstated the rights taken away by Colson’s felony conviction—including the right to vote.

    http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101050207/photoessay/5.html

    “Rehabilitated” indeed…

  • Darryl

    Yep, major liar and dirt bag.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    Well, following his logic, how can he claim to be a Christian if he hasn’t exhaustively studied every religion out there? He can’t possibly be certain that his belief’s the best one unless he’s surveyed all the rest.

    Damn you, jtradke! You beat me to it! :-)

    That was exactly what leaped out at me. It’s kind of astonishing the degree to which folks like this can’t see their own hypocrisy and inconsistency, even when it’s pouring out of their own mouth.

    And I am so tired of the “atheism means being 100% convinced that God doesn’t exist” trope I could yak. If there were just one myth about atheists that I’d like to undo, it would be that one.

  • bernarda

    The only prayer I have ever know an atheist to make is during sex: “Oh god, don’t stop now!”

    Maybe Colson can explain why god killed 29 evangelists in a tragic bus accident in El Salvador.

    “Rescue crews recovered 29 bodies Friday from a raging, rain-fed river that swept a bus carrying members of an evangelical church off a bridge in El Salvador’s capital.”

    http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/americas/07/04/salvador.bus.crash.ap/index.html

    Presumably, this group was a very prayerful group and undoubtedly surviving family members are still praying. Was god on vacation or something?

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com/ NYCatheist

    Dear God, as a fellow atheist I beg you, please save me from your followers!

  • Ron in Houston

    Why are we giving the words of a convicted felon who used religion to regain power and influence any consideration?

  • Cafeeine
    When a person professes to be one, I ask him to offer me the proof that God does not exist. I’ve never had anyone successfully respond to that question.

    That alone is enough to tell me Colson has never had a serious talk with an atheist.

    Actually that may not be true. It serves people like Colson best to not acknowledge that such a thing as an agnostic weak atheist exists. It raises the one issue that they do not want to think about, that the god issue is so lacking in evidence it is inconsequential to our lives. We do not need to have God proven out of existence, just as we don’t need to prove gremlins out of existence. It is not as important to us, it doesn’t fill a void because there is no void for a god to fill. Lack of evidence is enough.

    So whenever he gets this type of answer, he brushes it off as denial and deems it a non-satisfactory answer. What he is looking for is someone who will offer him religious conviction in the non-existence of god.

  • http://merkdorp.blogspot.com J. J. Ramsey

    Richard Wade:

    If he had had any other than in his own imagination, he would have received Lesson Number One in atheism, that most atheists don’t say they believe God does not exist, they say they don’t believe God exists

    I don’t know if that’s really Lesson Number One. It’s a distinction that is made when atheists are arguing on forums, but in practice, it is often treated as a distinction without a practical difference. (See Dan Barker saying outright that God does not exist.)

    mikespeir:

    That alone is enough to tell me Colson has never had a serious talk with an atheist.

    Depends what you mean by serious talk. My guess is that when Colson tries the “prove there is no God” gambit, he gets a response that is either along the lines of pushing the burden of proof back onto him or making a probabilistic argument as to why it is unlikely that God exists, and then Colson treats such a response as an evasion.

  • Jodie

    After surviving a fatal (for others) bus wreck phrases like “ohgodohgodohgod” and “Eh Allah” have escaped my lips in other buses as seemed appropriate. Why did these phrases burst forth from my throat? Complete, irrational panic. I certainly hope the religious of the world do not count this as a point in their column. It’s not the god gene. It’s the back of my brain grasping at straws.

  • cipher

    Colson is an addict who has traded an addiction to one authority figure – Nixon – for an addiction to an even greater authority figure.

    He’s a colossal tool and I can’t stomach him. That said, he and his coworkers have been in the trenches for decades, doing prison outreach on a large scale. And, if belief in God helps prisoners to be less violent and to deal with the horrendous conditions of their incarceration, who am I to demand that it be taken from them?

    On the other hand, I fear that, because of Colson and those like him, the prisons may be becoming like the military – evangelicals-only clubs – and that there are repercussions for those who would prefer not to join.

  • Siamang

    And, if belief in God helps prisoners to be less violent and to deal with the horrendous conditions of their incarceration, who am I to demand that it be taken from them?

    Specifically this organization was found to be unconstitutional. Here’s from Americans United, who won the case:

    The lawsuits also note that inmates in the InnerChange program receive much better treatment than inmates in the general population. InnerChange participants, for example, have keys to their cells and have access to private bathrooms. They are allowed to make free telephone calls to family members and are given access to big-screen televisions, computers and art supplies. These benefits are not extended to general-population inmates.

    Newton officials fund InnerChange in part by charging general-population inmates and their family members exorbitant rates for telephone calls. The profits are then used to pay for 40 to 50 percent of InnerChange’s costs. Housing for the program is also completely subsidized with public funds.

    This unusual funding mechanism means that all inmates and their family members and friends who wish to communicate by telephone are forced to support InnerChange.

    What he was basically doing was creating a country-club within the prisons, supported by the taxpayers, whose requirement for membership was to speak shibboleth.

    Colson’s claims of efficacy have also been challenged.

    But when you look carefully at the Penn study, it’s clear that the program didn’t work. The InnerChange participants did somewhat worse than the controls: They were slightly more likely to be rearrested and noticeably more likely (24 percent versus 20 percent) to be reimprisoned. If faith is, as Paul told the Hebrews, the evidence of things not seen, then InnerChange is an opportunity to cultivate faith; we certainly haven’t seen any results.

    So, how did the Penn study get perverted into evidence that InnerChange worked? Through one of the oldest tricks in the book, one almost guaranteed to make a success of any program: counting the winners and ignoring the losers. The technical term for this in statistics is “selection bias”; program managers know it as “creaming.” Harvard public policy professor Anne Piehl, who reviewed the study before it was published, calls this instance of it “cooking the books.”

    http://slate.msn.com/id/2086617/

  • mikespeir

    Depends what you mean by serious talk. My guess is that when Colson tries the “prove there is no God” gambit, he gets a response that is either along the lines of pushing the burden of proof back onto him or making a probabilistic argument as to why it is unlikely that God exists, and then Colson treats such a response as an evasion.

    But then, J.J. Ramsey, that’s just what was going through my head when I wrote what I did. I absolutely agree with your and Cafeeine’s comments.

  • Richard Wade

    Ron in Houston,

    Why are we giving the words of a convicted felon who used religion to regain power and influence any consideration?

    Because he has that power and influence. When he turns his bilious hate mongering toward atheists, he’s no longer just a phony and a windbag who scams prison systems, he’s a menace to us.

  • Richard Wade

    J. J. Ramsey,

    I don’t know if that’s really Lesson Number One. It’s a distinction that is made when atheists are arguing on forums, but in practice, it is often treated as a distinction without a practical difference. (See Dan Barker saying outright that God does not exist.)

    I don’t speak for Barker and he doesn’t speak for me. His remarks are eloquent and powerful but his initial statement is a tactical blunder by which he sets himself up for the burden of proof. Always make your opponent work harder than you. The rest of his talk would have been just as effective without asserting his belief in the non existence of God.

    I am a skeptic first, and my atheism comes secondarily out of that. I abstain from belief without evidence. If I say “I believe there are no gods” then I am contradicting my skeptical principle by believing something without evidence.

    I call the distinction I described “Lesson Number One” in atheism because in the many, many conversations I have had with theists, this is by far their most common, right up front misconception that blocks any further understanding between us. Whether it takes place in a formal debate or a chat on a park bench, every other detail of our discussion will be confused unless this important fundamental stance of skeptical abstention from belief without evidence is clearly grasped first.

    To all theists who assert their belief in the existence of gods, I say “Please show me your evidence.” To all atheists who assert their belief in the nonexistence of gods, I also say “Please show me your evidence.”

  • http://merkdorp.blogspot.com J. J. Ramsey

    Jodie:

    After surviving a fatal (for others) bus wreck phrases like “ohgodohgodohgod” and “Eh Allah” have escaped my lips in other buses as seemed appropriate…. It’s not the god gene. It’s the back of my brain grasping at straws.

    It’s not even that. “Oh my God” is an idiom used as an exclamation of distress. Saying that “Oh my God” is a prayer is like saying that “caught my eye” refers to ocular trauma.

    Also, suppose we did have an intuitive sense that there is a God, as Colson asserts. Why should that feeling, in the absence of good evidence to support it, mean that there really is one?

  • Siamang

    I have an intuitive sense that Mickey Mouse is a nice guy, and Wall-E is a lonely little robot who just needs some love and companionship.

    Doesn’t mean that they exist.

  • Darryl

    I have an intuitive sense that Mickey Mouse is a nice guy, and Wall-E is a lonely little robot who just needs some love and companionship. Doesn’t mean that they exist.

    Yea huh, if you believe they do. We need more belief-things. They make belief in a particular God just another one. Drives Christians mad (my secret plan). Rather than denying all gods, maybe we should believe all of them, and by so doing trivialize them all. You must admit, some of those gods and make-believe things are pretty cool. Since there’s just as much evidence for them as for any popular God, and some of them are way nicer, why not? Wonder what the neighbors would think if they saw you out back of your place building an alter to Dionysis or something?

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  • lynn

    “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” — Stephen Roberts

    I love using the phrase “God only knows.” Put it together with my atheism and you get “nobody knows,” which is exactly what I intend to express.

  • cipher

    Siamang,

    Fascinating. And it’s as I feared. They’re able to do this now, in closed systems such as prisons and the military. They’ll be attempting it in the public sector soon enough.


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