Christian Responses to “Militant” Atheists

Hey all, Mike Clawson, the (woefully delinquent) Christian contributor here. (But I have a good excuse, honest. My doctoral program is seriously kicking my ass. :) )

Anyhow, I stumbled upon this satirical blog post by Kim Fabricius over at the Faith and Theology blog, entitled “Twelve point guide for ripostes to militant atheists,” and thought that some of you might find it humorous (or at least provocative) as well. Obviously his purpose is not to raise serious conversation on any of these points, but simply to light-heartedly point out that many Christians (though sadly not all, or even most) are just as aware of the problems with their faith as atheists are (and also that not all Christians agree with the worst versions of their faith). That, to me, even as a Christian myself, is a hopeful thing, inasmuch as I would like all people to be as honest with themselves about both the strengths and weaknesses of their own belief systems.

Anyhow, here is his list. Enjoy! (Though feel free to rip it to shreds if you prefer that approach.)

—Your faith is unreasonable.
—Your reason is unreasonable – and you have such faith in your scepticism.

—So, you’ve had a religious experience?
—What’s that? And what’s it got to do with God?

—The Gospels contain inconsistencies A, B, and C.
—You forgot X, Y, and Z.

—Darwin made the argument from design completely untenable.
—Er, Hume beat him to it.

—Creationists are morons.
—That smart?

—Theodicies are invariably unconvincing.
—Worse than that, they are inherently evil.

—Prayer plainly doesn’t work.
—Thank God!

—Religion is the opium of the people; it’s a crutch.
—Yeah, but science and technology are the crack cocaine; and you don’t limp?

—Who can believe in a God who sends his Son to die to appease his anger?
—Only the seriously disturbed.

—Religion is inherently violent.
—You mean violence is inherently religious.

—Give me one good reason to believe in the existence of God.
—The existence of atheists: the protest kind because they take God seriously, the petulant kind because God doesn’t take them seriously at all. Oh, and more conclusively: cats and baseball.

—You’re a fucking fool!
—Alas, you’re half right.


  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Thanks Mike. There is some wisdom there.

    Good luck with your doctoral program.
    To bad prayer doesn’t work! ;)

  • http://Thenaturalbuddhist.blogspot.com JohnFrost

    That’s…interesting. I have to admit, they’re quite funny, but I don’t really get it coming from a christian’s POV. Why would they say some of those things, even jokingly? “Only the seriously disturbed”? Ok, well, as long as you said it, not me!

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    John – the answer to you question is that not all Christians believe the same things or in the same way. As I’ve discovered having spent the past few years in more liberal, mainline Christian circles (as opposed to the conservative evangelical circles I grew up in and that many of you here are probably more familiar with), there are plenty of Christians who don’t identify themselves with those more “disturbed” versions of their religion at all, and who hold their beliefs much more “flexibly”.

  • JulietEcho

    @JohnFrost – as much as the conservative Christians out there don’t think they really “count,” there are lots of liberal Christians who don’t buy all the doctrine but still find something worthwhile about Christianity.

    @Mike – the list has some good ones, but the first one commits a fallacy that many non-joking, conservative Christians make about atheists (atheism is somehow a religion, *not* believing takes “faith,” etc.) which turns it into a Poe, at best, by my reading.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    I agree Juliet. I would not have personally included that first response. But I didn’t write the list.

    On the other hand. If one were to approach that first response philosophically and not just as a “riposte” to an atheist argument (i.e. without any implied insult or consequent sense of defensiveness on either side, but just as a fascinating question), I think one could have an interesting conversation as to whether “reason” itself is “reasonable.” Can one have rational foundations for reason itself? Wouldn’t any such arguments be inherently circular? Perhaps some things have to simply be assumed? Just thinking out loud…

  • Revyloution

    My favorite was this one:

    —Religion is the opium of the people; it’s a crutch.
    —Yeah, but science and technology are the crack cocaine; and you don’t limp?

    I know, im addicted. I wait with baited breath for the next NOVA program, and I spend way to many hours reading obscure science journals.

    The first one just bugs me. Not for it’s content, but the spelling of ‘skepticism’ with a ‘C’. I know it’s an accepted alternative, but dammit, it just looks wrong!

    On a more serious note to Mike: Ive noticed that most people who leave Christianity all together tend to be people who were raised by moderate or liberal Christian parents. Do you feel this trend has anything to do with not taking the Bible, word for word, literally? For some reason, deep fundamentalism has a better retention rate through generations, when compared to liberal versions of the same religion.

  • cat

    The false equivocating of rationality and faith, science and organized religion, and taking arguments about facts of the universe seriously with taking some imaginary pixie seriously are all little more than tired stereotypes at best and more often massive failures at basic logic.

    “Give me one good reason to believe in the existence of God.” Still somehow can’t address this one? If you admit how much brutal horrible damage your religion has and continues to do, you admit that invocation of a deity is unecessary in universal/animal existence, and you admit that a book you claim is a good source of truth and morality is full of contradictions and brutality,so, remind me again why you participate in this?

    The ‘bible as methaphor’ line pisses me off more than ‘bible as completely true’ line. First, what is it a metaphor of? And those parts about stoning non-virgins to death, what do those represent? Secondly, if it is a mere metaphorical text, there is zero reason to give it any more status than any other book (actually, given the fucked up shit in it, you’d be better off using Harry Potter as your holy book). The bible is a terrible ethical guide, hence all of the slavery, sexism, homophobia, and genocide to which it has led. Thirdly, if you don’t think these stories are true, why haven’t you pitched them already?

  • http://st-eutychus.com Nathan

    Hey Mike,

    Kim is a man.

    You may want to edit the post.

  • Anonymous

    Once, a man asked me to give my best argument for why there is no god. I responded, “Fred Rogers is dead and there are thirteen Land Before Time movies.” As that sunk in, you could see the faith drain out of him. Then I had a moment of mourning for the world, because Fred Rogers is dead, and the world a poorer place without him.

  • http://st-eutychus.com Nathan

    Here’s his profile

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    On a more serious note to Mike: Ive noticed that most people who leave Christianity all together tend to be people who were raised by moderate or liberal Christian parents. Do you feel this trend has anything to do with not taking the Bible, word for word, literally? For some reason, deep fundamentalism has a better retention rate through generations, when compared to liberal versions of the same religion.

    Revyloution – a lot has been written about that very question over the past 40 years or so, ever since sociologists started noticing that conservative churches were growing while the liberal mainline denominations were steadily shrinking. While some theorists agree with your suggestion that it has to do with the conservative nature of the beliefs themselves (biblical literalism for example), in her book “The Practicing Congregation”, I think Diana Butler Bass makes a good case (based on solid qualitative research data) that whether churches grow or shrink (and likewise, whether or not they retain their young people into adulthood) has less to do with the relative conservative or liberal nature of the theology, and more to do with the degree to which a church preaches a faith that is “demanding”, i.e. whether it is something that is integrated into one’s whole lifestyle and actually requires something of people. Churches that demand more of their congregants are generally more successful at attracting new members and retaining existing members than churches for whom faith is seen as just a small, and relatively marginal part of one’s life – e.g. just for Sunday mornings.

    What Butler Bass’s research shows is that liberal congregations that nonetheless emphasize a more wholistic life-integration for their faith often grow just as much as conservative churches that have similar high demands. I think the bottom line is that a lot of folks prefer a faith that actually makes a significant difference in their lives. If a church doesn’t do that, then it’s a lot easier for people to walk away eventually for whatever reasons.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    Hey Mike,

    Kim is a man.

    You may want to edit the post.

    So he is. Thanks for the heads up. I’ve gone back and changed the pronouns. :)

  • http://theobligatescientist.blogspot.com/ ObSciGuy (Paul)

    While there may be no true Scotsman, there should be some basic definition of “Christian.”

    I’ve met plenty of folks who could use this one:

    —You’re Christian, so you believe in Christian dogma – right?
    —Not really. My made-up versions of God and Jesus are way better than the Bible’s versions. I just call myself Christian for social and emotional reasons.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com miller

    Oh my God, I didn’t think of cats and baseballs!

  • Jamssx

    To slightly misquote Douglas Adams, knowing anything about any god is like a tea leaf knowing the history of the East India Company. The real crux of the situation is that no one can by the definitions imposed by any religion know anything about the god or gods that religion claims to be about. This in turn means that anyone claiming anything else is full of it. Even atheist religions like Buddhism claim to know things about the universe it simply is not within the capabilities of man currently to know. Once you accept this then it becomes obvious that any religion is about the secular power and control of individuals and not spiritual at all. Now you have reached that point these verses and responses are pretty much irrelevant. (I suggest Small Gods by Terry Pratchett as a comical look at this.)

  • L. Foster

    The first one is a poor “riposte” at best because it doesn’t actually mean anything at all. It leads to the head-scratching “WTF did he just say?” reaction that the speaker would mistake for having won the discussion. There’s no such thing as “faith in s[c/k]epticism”. Skepticism means not knowing whether or not something is true without evidence. Faith means believing something is true in the absence of evidence. You can’t believe without evidence in the state of not believing in something without evidence. It’s not a riposte, it’s a mental moebius strip.

  • http://Religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    @ObSciGuy,

    Yeah, If there can be “cultural Jews”, I guess there can also be “cultural Christians”.

  • phhht

    I’m one of those nerdy geeky bald long-white-bearded militantly dickish proselytizing atheists, and I heard a pretty good joke from a creationist correspondent (IBelieveInGod, at the Panda’s Thumb bathroom wall). Here’s my version:

    man sez: I can now make life from a handful of soil!
    god sez: Show me!
    man reaches down for a handful of soil
    god sez: Hey! Get your own soil!

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    Oh my God, I didn’t think of cats and baseballs!

    Yeah, we’ve been saving that one ;)

  • http://www.DangerousTalk.net DangerousTalk

    Okay, I had to respond to this crap:
    1. You spelled skepticism wrong and the whole “Presupposition” argument is extremely poor.
    2. Oh, the whole “Christianity isn’t a religion” gag again. Please!
    3. Good point, the list of inconsistencies in the Bible is pretty long for a book metaphysically inspired by the all-knowing creator of the universe.
    4. Yeah, but Darwin proved it! I know Christians aren’t big on the whole evidence thing, but it is kind’a important.
    5. Come on, you know Creationism is off the deep end too.
    6. The “free will” argument doesn’t really solve this problem.
    7. Okay, prayers to God do work, but so do prayers to milk jugs… and sometimes I get thirsty.
    8. Really? If you think science is crack cocaine, then STOP USING SCIENCE! Get off your fucking computer!
    9. Exactly!
    10. No, I mean indoctrinating people to value faith over reason is inherently violent!
    11. Umm, I apparently said, “reasons to believe in the existence of God” not a rattle off a bunch of other stuff which exists and actually has evidence.
    12. Godless chicks do it better and no one is made to feel guilty about it either.
    -Staks

  • phhht

    Atheists do it without magic, and nobody feels guilty who doesn’t like that.

  • phhht

    Urm. Let me try again.

    Atheists do it without magic. Nobody’s guilty but the willing.

  • Revyloution

    DangerousTalk, I agree that the spelling just looks wrong.

    Unfortunately, a small minority of English speakers that live on an inconsequential island by the name of England, or Great Brittan, or UK or something, they keep changing it… Anyways, these backward heathens actually spell the word with a ‘C’. Odd, I know. They also publish this book called the “Oxford Dictionary” which claims to be the preeminent lexicon on the English language. Arrogant, eh? They aren’t even located in ‘Merika. Anyways, scepticism and skepticism are both accepted spellings of that beautiful word.

    But if you think thats bad, you should see how they spell check and color.

  • http://www.DangerousTalk.net DangerousTalk

    Thanks Revyloution, Those “bloody” English! I sure am glad we revolted against them. Most people don’t know that the real cause of the Revolutionary War was their poor spelling, lol.
    -Staks

  • Baktru

    Cats are clearly the manifestation of the divine in the physical world. That of course also means the ancient Egyptians were a lot closer to getting it right than current day religions do.

  • Ben

    Cats are clearly the manifestation of the divine in the physical world.

    Except if they’re black, then they’re evil.

  • Rabid

    Careful now! As one of those “bloody Englishmen” I’d have to say bringing up Anglo/American spelling differences is pretty dangerous talk, har de har har.

    (It’s from the latin, you philistine! *Shakes fist*)

  • http://diglot.wordpress.com/ diglot

    —Creationists are morons.
    —That smart?

    Haha, awesome.

  • Razzle

    More crap from someone who thinks there’s an invisible man in the sky who occasionally grants him wishes.

    It’s that simple and it’s that stupid.

  • Razzle

    Oh, strengths and weaknesses:

    Strength – Big promises
    Weakness – No reason to think it works

  • Laura

    The very liberal christians who don’t take the Bible literally and don’t believe in miracles, etc. seem like closet atheists. They don’t really have supernatural beliefs. But they’ve grown up believing it’s an awful thing to be an atheist. God will reject you for it, people you know will too. And that conditioning is still with them.

  • Nakor

    Hey now, we Canucks might have to send you a strongly yet politely worded letter if you keep mocking the language we keep around up here.

    (Personally, I always thought the word skeptic looked weirder with the k. It seems jarring, like I guess the c is to you.)

  • Rieux

    —Darwin made the argument from design completely untenable.
    —Er, Hume beat him to it.

    That’s absolutely correct, and it deserves more attention. (Even Dawkins noted that issue in The Blind Watchmaker, though he clearly doesn’t find Hume very “fulfill[ing].” Bollocks!)

  • http://nssphoenix.wordpress.com drdave

    Mike:

    I think one could have an interesting conversation as to whether “reason” itself is “reasonable.” Can one have rational foundations for reason itself? Wouldn’t any such arguments be inherently circular? Perhaps some things have to simply be assumed? Just thinking out loud…

    Except that science works. Show me a faith system that can build a bridge that won’t collapse (ok, lucky guess). That’s the reason that reason is reasonable. It works. If it doesn’t work, its not reasonable.

  • http://www.DangerousTalk.net DangerousTalk

    Dr. Dave said it well. This presupposition crap really needs to be called out. Faith is not on the same level as reason no matter how much Christians like to pretend that it is.

  • Korinthian

    It’s clear that atheists are the funnier breed if this list is anything to go by.

    Weaksauce Christians seem dishonest to me, so that might color my view on this, though.

  • Revyloution

    Nakor, I’m married to a Canadian. We have delightful fights over how words are spelled and pronounced. Of course, it’s the kissing and making up that makes the fights worth while.

    I think the best argument so far was over the word ‘mauve’.

    Here in the Pacific Northwest, we pronounce it M-oa-ve, where she says M-awe-ve

  • Sean

    “You mean violence is inherently religious.”

    This confused me. I’ve never heard anyone assert this, nor can I think of a plausible way to argue for it. So, is it just a straw man of a misunderstood argument, or what?

    The other thing I’d say is that a lot of the atheist arguments are driven by Christian arguments. I don’t know any atheists who would bring up the “religious experience” thing unless the Christian did first.

    This is why I like the phrase Matt Dillahunty uses: “Tell me what you believe and why.” Hearing that someone is “a Christian” tells you almost nothing about their beliefs. Being told “I’m spiritual” is even worse. It’s better to hear what someone actually thinks before arguing against it. Unfortunately, that’s not possible when writing books or essays or releasing podcasts; atheists always have to pick a certain set of beliefs to talk about, or try to guess what the majority of Christians are likely to believe. But there will always be believers who read the argument and think, “That’s not what I believe at all!”

    As for why liberal Christians are more likely to deconvert, I think it’s quite simple. Irreligion is becoming more acceptable, and it takes a much more drastic change in worldview for a fundamentalist to convert than a liberal believer (the latter gets to keep a lot more of their ethics, history, and friends). There’s a higher exit cost for people raised in a very conservative culture. Of course, quite a few conservative Christians do leave their faith of origin (often very vehemently), but the conservative churches seem to partially make up for it through evangelism, social pressure, and picking on underconfident and “apatheist” individuals to gain converts. I think this is part of why, even though the “irreligious” category is rapidly growing, it’s doing so despite losing a fair number of people who are raised outside of religion and then convert; people who simply haven’t thought much about religion are comparatively easy to rope in.

  • Claudia

    OK, I can’t resist. I tried, I swear.

    —Creationists are morons.
    —That smart?

    Heh, very nice.

    —Religion is the opium of the people; it’s a crutch.
    —Yeah, but science and technology are the crack cocaine; and you don’t limp?

    True, to a point. Much more accurate is to say that science and technology are like bread and water…essential elements of modern society. Science is not creating a need for itself that wasn’t there and causing the self-destruction of individuals and societies. Well, I’ll give you twitter, but otherwise…

    —Religion is inherently violent.
    —You mean violence is inherently religious.

    Absolutely not! Violence is inherently human, a very unfortunate part of our nature, but I would never say violence is always tied up with religion, which would be inaccurate and prejudiced. I will say that the most destructive ideologies that have led to the greatest amount of violence are religious or have the worst element of religion; the taking of things on faith and the discouragement of critical analysis. Fascism, Stalinism, and the very specialized form of hell they have in North Korea all show that it is in fact possible to impose totalitarian personality-worship pseudo-religions in the absence of (or, in the case of Fascism, parallel to) supernatural beliefs.

  • Guy G

    The first one just bugs me. Not for it’s content, but the spelling of ‘skepticism’ with a ‘C’. I know it’s an accepted alternative, but dammit, it just looks wrong!

    I feel the opposite. Every time I see it written as “skeptic”, I cringe. It reminds me of when kids used to write “skool”. Again, I know that it’s an alternative spelling (i.e. US spelling), but to me it just looks like a child’s spelling mistake. Same with “dammit”, actually (damnit being the ‘correct’ one)

  • gribblethemunchkin

    I’m a Brit and member of the Greater Manchester Skeptics (with a K). Not sure why this is so (the spelling, not my membership).

    That said, its Colour, Armour, Cheque and its pronounced Alu-MIN-ium. Not ALOO-min-um.

    Our language, our rules, bitches!

  • Valhar2000

    I think one could have an interesting conversation as to whether “reason” itself is “reasonable.”

    Well, when I jerk off I prefer watching porn instead, but to each his own, I suppose.

  • Guy G

    That said, its Colour, Armour, Cheque and its pronounced Alu-MIN-ium. Not ALOO-min-um.

    Our language, our rules, bitches!

    Yes, yes, yes, and no. The man (British) who discovered Aluminium named it Aluminum. The Yanks then adopted this, while we Brits decided that “Aluminium” fitted much better with things like sodium, potassium, etc (but not things like platinum…).

    This seems to be the way with a number of other words – the Americans kept the standard words when they buggered off across the pond, and we then bastardised our own language (or “evolved” if you want a positive spin on it). “Pants” springs to mind as the most obvious.

  • Aj

    Is this about showing that Chistians are aware of the problems in their faith? Seems like another “Christian” who doesn’t believe the traditionally held doctrines of Christianity, but still thinks it’s relevant to take up the arguments against a faith they don’t have. There are “Christians” that are de facto atheists, yet they seem to want to take issue with what we say against Christianity. Don’t worry, your religion is just as delusional, your faith is just as irrational, if you ever become relevant in society you’ll get to argue.

    —Your reason is unreasonable – and you have such faith in your scepticism.

    Incoherent oxymoron.

    —Darwin made the argument from design completely untenable.

    Do atheists make this argument? Darwin made the conclusion of design false, we gained knowledge of the non-designed origins of species, the argument from design has always been untenable, as it is illogical. It still took Darwin for many leading intellectual Christians to drop the argument from design.

  • Guy G

    Is this about showing that Chistians are aware of the problems in their faith? Seems like another “Christian” who doesn’t believe the traditionally held doctrines of Christianity, but still thinks it’s relevant to take up the arguments against a faith they don’t have.

    Ooh, a reverse “No True Scotsman” argument. How weird.

  • Greg

    It’s scepticism. With a ‘c’.

    :)

    Mike said:

    On the other hand. If one were to approach that first response philosophically and not just as a “riposte” to an atheist argument (i.e. without any implied insult or consequent sense of defensiveness on either side, but just as a fascinating question), I think one could have an interesting conversation as to whether “reason” itself is “reasonable.” Can one have rational foundations for reason itself? Wouldn’t any such arguments be inherently circular? Perhaps some things have to simply be assumed? Just thinking out loud…

    The thing is, allowing that reason has to be assumed – we also have a very powerful pragmatic ‘reason’ for accepting it.

    Simply being: it works. Without reason, we could have no such thing as language, maths, or logic; and without these we couldn’t communicate, do science, or philosophise. That would mean we could not have diplomacy in any form – we couldn’t even have this conversation – whether it be between nations or just two people, we wouldn’t have computers and aeroplanes, or understand how life evolved or how gravity works, we wouldn’t even be able to have religion (since that requires language and philosophy – albeit a poorly applied form of the latter imho! ;)).

    We have the results that show that reason works. Even if we are* unable to prove conclusively through reason alone without it being circular, we still have good reasons to use it. This just isn’t the same with a belief in a god or gods.

    *Which I don’t necessarily accept – the words ‘reason’ and ‘reasonable’ may have to be strictly defined first.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    “Your reason is unreasonable”

    It is true that in any formalism, there are certain axioms that are “just accepted” and then more propositions are built applying rules of logic (and reason) based on those unproven axioms. Of course, the best formal systems have the least possible number of initial unproven axioms.

    When applied to religion, one could grant a “creator” axiom and then develop a formalism from there… but you won’t get to any of the specific details of any of the world’s religions. For example, you can’t get to Christianity from Deism. That’s why I laugh when Christians bring up the Deist axiom. So what? It doesn’t have anything at all to say about Christianity. The only way to “get to” Christianity is to accept all the Christian propositions as axioms. I challenge any two Christians to write down and agree what those Christian axioms should be. If it were to happen and be adopted by “the state”, then the Baptists would probably once again be the champions of the separation of church and state so they can add in their own extra cherished Christian axioms about certain people being abominations and who gets to go to heaven.

  • http://www.noforbiddenquestions.com NFQ

    I’m so confused. What is the point of this list? Is “Jesus died for your sins” really supposed to be a very unusual belief that only a few fringe Christians hold? Am I supposed to understand that there are many Christians out there who know that their beliefs make no sense, have no evidence behind them, and sound like lunacy, but believe them anyway?

    My biggest response to this list is: Okay, well, what do you believe and why do you believe it?

  • ThatOtherGuy

    Yeah, is it just me or is the first one basically just “NO YOU!” ?

  • Nele

    (It’s from the latin, you philistine! *Shakes fist*)

    Nope, it’s Greek, dammit! :)

    Sigma, kappa, psi, iota, sigma.

    It was not used in classical Latin, they’d probably used dubitare,but it was included in the Neolatin of later centuries, when the skeptic was called a scepticus.

  • http://thesnideatheist.blogspot.com the snide atheist

    What’s really funny, is being able to humorously highlight many problems with your beliefs, yet still hold them. Now that’s comedy.

  • http://www.meaningwithoutgodproject.blogspot.com Jeffrey A. Myers

    That was fairly humorous.

    I would just like to point out the obvious that apparently an express divine command to go and make believers and 2000 years worth of constant proselytization efforts punctuated by periodic wars to spread the Faith is NOT militant, but a few non-believers writing books and talking about why they don’t believe IS militant seems a tad… skewed.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    What’s really funny, is being able to humorously highlight many problems with your beliefs, yet still hold them. Now that’s comedy.

    I think that’s part of the point, snide. I don’t think Fabricius does hold to beliefs like Creationism, or penal substitutionary atonement, or various theodicies, or an argument from design, or a magical view of prayer, etc. Not all Christians do. And I would venture to guess that Fabricius probably doesn’t think that such beliefs are in fact essential to his Christian identity. Of course, there are others who would say that they are, but why privilege their opinion over others?

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    apparently an express divine command to go and make believers and 2000 years worth of constant proselytization efforts punctuated by periodic wars to spread the Faith is NOT militant

    Did someone, somewhere make that claim? Apparently I missed it.

    but a few non-believers writing books and talking about why they don’t believe IS militant

    From the OED:

    militant, adj.

    3. a. Combative; aggressively persistent; strongly espousing a cause; entrenched, adamant.

    This usage dates back about 400 years, according to the OED. I have a feeling this was the sense in which Fabricius and others are using the term.

    Though I agree with you. The figurative militancy of certain contemporary atheists is nothing compared to the frequently literal militancy of Christians throughout the centuries.

  • http://www.DangerousTalk.net DangerousTalk

    There are still a few issues here that I want to make perfectly crystal clear.
    1. Reason need not be assumed! I discussed this much more in an article I wrote on Presupposition Theology. But I really want to make this point absolutely clear here. Reason is not the same as faith. One must take faith on faith, but reason does not work that way. One does not need to have faith in reason.
    2. Sure there are Christians who don’t believe in God. I’ve met them. That doesn’t mean that is what most Christians believe. The fact is that the massive majority of Christians have certain beliefs in common and so when we talk about Christianity we are generally talking about those people and not the extremely small number of Christians who have basically watered the term down to the point of meaninglessness.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    Sure there are Christians who don’t believe in God.

    Did Fabricius say that he doesn’t believe in God? I must have missed that part as well.

  • http://www.DangerousTalk.net DangerousTalk

    Did Fabricius say that he doesn’t believe in God?

    I don’t know if that particular Christian believes in God or not. What I said was that I have met Christians who don’t. So by your reasoning, we can’t really say that Christians believe in a god because there are some that don’t. I am calling that out as ridiculous.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    So by your reasoning, we can’t really say that Christians believe in a god because there are some that don’t.

    No, by my reasoning we can’t say that ALL people who call themselves Christians believe in a god. Most do. Some don’t. Big deal.

    That is only “ridiculous” if you think there is, or ought to be, only one correct definition of what a “Christian” is, by which you can then judge who is and is not using the term correctly. For my money, however, I think Wittgenstein does a good job of showing that language doesn’t really work that way in the first place. (His notion of “family resemblances” is especially helpful in relation to the current topic at hand.)

    But even if one does prefer to claim that there is only one correct definition of “Christian,” who gets to decide what that is?

    Regardless, the issue at hand with Fabricius’ post is not really whether you can be a Christian and not believe in God, but whether you can be a Christian and yet not believe in the handful of doctrines (e.g. Creationism, penal substitutionary atonement) and philosophical arguments (e.g. theodicy, argument from design) that he mentions. If those are part of your standards for what makes a “true” Christian, then your definition must be pretty narrow indeed.

  • http://secularshawshank.wordpress.com Andy

    —Religion is the opium of the people; it’s a crutch.
    —Yeah, but science and technology are the crack cocaine; and you don’t limp?

    A couple of things wrong with this one.

    #1) The semicolon actually conflates two totally different critiques of religion. Marx’s “opium” critique was not exactly the same as saying religion “is a crutch.”

    Here’s the whole passage. The last four sentences is where Marx drives the point home. The gist: Asking someone to give up the opium pipe is asking someone to give up their condition that requires an opium pipe.

    So, for Marx, opium (i.e. religion) is not “a crutch”—which suggests that it’s monocausal, and a kind of necessary remedy—rather, it’s an expression of a more complex problem, the “sigh of the oppressed creature.” A good crutch won’t hurt you; Marx doesn’t think religion is a crutch at all, rather, he thinks it’s extremely hazardous because it provides false consolation and false explanations for the plight of oppressed and injured peoples. (I both agree and disagree, but that’s another matter.)

    And #2) Science and technology are crack cocaine? I’m sorry, that’s just stupid. Stupid stupid stupid. Are you typing your blog post on a computer? How’s the temperature in your office?—nice, air conditioned? Are you vaccinated? Did you ever require an MRI? You can thank religion for NONE of those things. It’s ALL science and technology, buddy boy. That’s A LOT of positive consequences for a crack addiction, isn’t it?! (And the fact that some of the scientists may have been religious, is totally moot. The question is, what did they use to make their discoveries and innovations? Answer: SCIENCE and the scientific method.)

  • Nele

    Mike, your remark about the definition of “Christian” is nicely put. After all, Christians have a century-old, notorious history of quite literally bashing each others’ heads in over the question who is a Christian and who is not…

  • Laura

    So Mike Clawson,
    What supernatural beliefs DO you have?
    To be a christian, so far as I’m concerned, someone would have to at least believe that
    1) Jesus became alive again after he was dead
    2) He’s still alive and he (or the Father) can grant people a happy existence after death.
    Do you believe those things?
    I ask because liberal christians chronically equivocate over what they believe. They keep it private so it won’t be challenged.

  • http://www.DangerousTalk.net DangerousTalk

    Mike, I am not talking about defining Christianity. I am talking about when people refer to Christianity in general, they are referring to a set of beliefs that the super vast majority of Christians believe. Sure there are a handful of people who don’t believe that set of beliefs and still call themselves Christian, but that is not what people are referring to when they talk about Christians or Christianity in general. Now of course it is different if someone were to say ALL Christians, but even this is almost passable if the percentage of Christians who don’t fit that category are ridiculously small. The reason for that is because it is very probable that the extremely small group who are using a different definition are really just confused or are playing some sort of shell game with definitions.

    Wittgenstein also said that we define words by their use. So when we talk about Christianity in general, we are talking about a certain set of beliefs that the vast majority of people who call themselves Christians believe and how they define themselves. You are using the term differently than almost everyone else. So it would make sense you use a different term because you are just getting in the way of the valid criticisms of a ridiculously bad idea (Christianity in the way 99.98% of people use the term).

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    So Mike Clawson,
    What supernatural beliefs DO you have?
    To be a christian, so far as I’m concerned, someone would have to at least believe that
    1) Jesus became alive again after he was dead
    2) He’s still alive and he (or the Father) can grant people a happy existence after death.
    Do you believe those things?
    I ask because liberal christians chronically equivocate over what they believe. They keep it private so it won’t be challenged.

    Well, unfortunately I’m going to have to decline to answer your questions here because 1) this thread isn’t about me or my beliefs; and 2) I have a lot of papers to write and honestly don’t have time to get into a protracted discussion here about what I believe. My apologies.

    However, I’m not trying to be evasive. I am more than willing to put my views out there, and have on multiple occasions. If you’re interested, feel free to go back and read the “Ask a Christian Pastor” posts I did for this blog several years ago. (You can find the last of them, and links to all the other ones here.) If you have time to read through them (and the hundreds of comments on each one of them) you’ll find that I answer your questions (and many others) in great detail.

  • http://www.DangerousTalk.net DangerousTalk

    Laura is asking two yes or no questions. That shouldn’t be too hard to answer Mike. If you have a more nuanced answer, you could at least just say “maybe.”

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    You are using the term differently than almost everyone else.

    Am I? I don’t recall where in this thread I’ve made any statement about how I personally use the term, except to defend the rather obvious fact that lots of people define it differently, and that I’m not quite sure who gets to decide which definition is the right one.

    Anyhow, it’s not really about me or my opinions. If you want to talk about Fabricius and his use of the term, fine. I personally didn’t find his use of it to be all that “different”. I know plenty of Christians who would fit within his usage. The liberal mainline denominations actually include millions of Christians worldwide after all, and many of them would likely have no problem with most of what Fabricius said. At the very least, I’m pretty sure that most of the Christians at the Presbyterian seminary I attended wouldn’t have a problem with it, nor would most of the Christians at the Episcopal Seminary my wife is currently attending. For that matter, I don’t think most of the people in my Religion department at Baylor (a much more conservative school than those other two) would find much to quibble with either. Creationism, penal substitution, magical views of prayer, etc. are not quite as all-pervasive among Christians as one might be led to believe.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    Laura is asking two yes or no questions. That shouldn’t be too hard to answer Mike. If you have a more nuanced answer, you could at least just say “maybe.”

    The short answer then is “yes” to both (though I wouldn’t quite state the second of her propositions that way personally). Beyond that, I’m not interested in elaborating right now. I’ve already done that here, and y’all can go back and read those threads if you’re so inclined. I don’t have time for yet another 400+ comment interrogation of my entire worldview. Again, my apologies. :)

  • Laura

    Mike,
    I read the link you gave.
    When you say that to be atheist you would have to give up some kinds of experiencing, that isn’t true.
    I had a sense of the presence of God for a long time, and still do sometimes, without attributing any supernatural powers to it, or expecting that it would do something for me, or thinking it had made the world. I just had the perception, and didn’t come to metaphysical conclusions from it.
    A great many people have such perceptions. What conclusions they come to, from them, are largely from the background they came from and how they think. I was brought up totally non-religiously and unwilling to jump to conclusions. I mean, I know that the world is a very complicated place, as are people, and those perceptions have NO necessary connection with how the universe actually is. Somebody who was brought up religiously or in a christian culture, would link this perception to the interpretation (Jesus, God) they’ve been taught.
    The people who actually go around identifying themselves as atheists tend to be people who constitutionally don’t have a perception of God or experiences they consider spiritual. But it would be wrong to conclude from that, that being atheist means not having an experience of God, or not having spiritual experiences.
    I think if you come as a christian around a bunch of atheists, your beliefs ARE on the table and up for questioning. And trying to define the discussion away from that, saying “this is not about my beliefs”, seems to me to be a way of defending beliefs that look silly in the light of day.
    Certainly the claim that there’s evidence of design in the universe, and that that implies some being, a kind of person, designing it, is a claim about physics or biology – depending on whether you’re talking about design in natural laws or of living beings. It’s a claim that can be examined rationally. There’s no reason at all to believe the claim that living beings were designed, as you apparently agree. As for physical laws, inferring some person-like entity designing them is plausible. Perhaps the physical constants were chosen by superintelligent alien beings, who are now observing our movements with interest, like a paperweight with snow falling inside. But you see that now a “religious belief” has been turned into a scientific claim. When you make it definite, take the vagueness away, it starts to look like a scientific hypothesis.
    Similarly Jesus rising from the dead. This is a biology claim, is it not? If what actually is meant by this, is that his body was dead, starting to decay as bodies do, cell walls bursting or whatever happens after death … and then his body became alive again – like he had this utterly extraordinary immune system that was able to drive out all those bacteria that had started to invade, etc. etc. – this is a biological hypothesis. And a very bizarre one.
    That seems to be the nature of religious belief, that it has to incorporate mystification. If you bring the beliefs out into the light, they look like really bizarre claims about how the world works, that are supported by – nothing.
    It’s a confusion between inside and outside realities, between “what I would like or imagine” and what is. This confusion isn’t necessary for spirituality. It’s a confusion we’ve inherited.
    There are some people who call themselves christians who don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead. Crossan, who wrote about the historical Jesus and apparently calls himself Catholic, thinks Jesus’ body was eaten by animals. Because that’s what usually happened to people who were crucified. People like that, who believe in christianity only in a very “metaphorical” way – yet denigrate atheism – seem analogous to the closeted homophobic gay person.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    Laura – thank you for sharing your reactions. I very much appreciate your perspective. I wish I had the time to fully engage with you in conversation about this, but as I said before, I’m just not able to get into an in depth discussion on these issues again at this time. Please accept my apologies.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    I had a sense of the presence of God for a long time, and still do sometimes, without attributing any supernatural powers to it, or expecting that it would do something for me, or thinking it had made the world. I just had the perception, and didn’t come to metaphysical conclusions from it.

    Interesting. I went to hear a book talk by Dan Barker a few years ago, and he talked about this exact thing. In particular, he said that he thought some people were just naturally inclined towards “spiritual/mystical” experiences, but their interpretations of those experiences can vary.

    Even though he’s been an atheist for over 25 years, he can still consciously flip himself into the altered state he used to get into when he was a religious person, and he can still cause himself to feel all the same old feelings. It’s just that now he interprets those feelings in a completely different way.

  • edwords

    Carl Sagan wrote in (“Demon-Haunted World”?)

    that he was often accused of being “obsessed

    with reality”.

    He responded that all Americans should be so
    obsessed!

  • brent

    :-)

    Gold! I love it!

    Nice list.

  • http://www.DangerousTalk.net DangerousTalk

    Mike, when you re-posted Kim’s 12 ramblings, you seem to be in agreement with them. My point here is that I am tired of the old “good cop/bad cop” game. Some atheists like myself are going to criticize the ridiculous ideas and beliefs of the Christians we encounter. They may be anywhere on the sliding scale from West Borough Baptist (although I can think of a more extreme Christianity) to those who don’t even believe in a god at all. I will criticize those who cling to ridiculous ideas. You are saying, “hey look, there are Christians who don’t have ridiculous ideas, so stop criticizing Christianity.” It seems to me that even your ideas are ridiculous, just not as ridiculous as other Christians. I’ll grant you that you may be more rational than other Christians, but if you still believe:

    1) Jesus became alive again after he was dead
    2) He’s still alive and he (or the Father) can grant people a happy existence after death.

    Then you still have ridiculous beliefs. Let me try to show it too you. Replace Jesus with Elvis and tell me if you think that is ridiculous.

    1) Elvis became alive again after he was dead
    2) He’s still alive and he can grant people a happy existence after death.

    If someone told you that, you would not honestly take them seriously. Admit that please.
    -Staks

  • Sean

    “I had a sense of the presence of God for a long time, and still do sometimes, without attributing any supernatural powers to it, or expecting that it would do something for me, or thinking it had made the world. I just had the perception, and didn’t come to metaphysical conclusions from it.”

    Me too! Well, to be clear, I called it God having been raised Christian, but eventually I realized that what I was experiencing was probably not an intelligent personal being. So then I flirted with the Tao and Deist ideas before eventually deciding “Well, I have this feeling, and it’s generally related to awe at the existence of all this, but I don’t think it’s about an actually present ‘thing’ at all.”

    In the end, I am prone to magical thinking, but it turns out that you don’t have to let your beliefs be dictated by those quirks of neurology. Nor, of course, do you have to feel so bad about losing those beliefs. You’re not really “losing” anything except a frame that needlessly constrained what you thought the world could be like.

  • AxeGrrl

    Revyloution wrote:

    I think the best argument so far was over the word ‘mauve’.

    Here in the Pacific Northwest, we pronounce it M-oa-ve, where she says M-awe-ve

    I’m Canadian and the only way I’ve ever heard that word pronounced is: M-oh-ve (like the word ‘mow’)

    I’ve NEVER heard anyone pronounce it ‘m-awe-ve’! Well, I did hear an American (from New Mexico) say it on a podcast once and I thought they were joking :)

  • AxeGrrl

    Laura wrote:

    I had a sense of the presence of God for a long time, and still do sometimes, without attributing any supernatural powers to it, or expecting that it would do something for me, or thinking it had made the world. I just had the perception, and didn’t come to metaphysical conclusions from it.

    That reminds me of something that Matt Dillahunty (from ‘The Atheist Experience’) said about his experience of music before and after he was a Christian ~ when he was a Christian, he would have a very emotional reaction to Christian music and attributed it to ‘God’ or the feeling of communing with God (or words to that effect), but after he lost his faith, he was surprised that he experienced almost ALL of the same feelings when he listened to music that had nothing to do with religion!

    This is something that many Christians don’t really acknowledge/accept…..which is that being incredibly moved by such things has absolutely nothing to do religious belief ~ it’s simply common to being human.

    I have to admit, I do kind of bristle when some religious people point to their overwhelming emotional response to certain things as being ‘proof’ of ‘God’…..or their attempts to dismiss similar secular experiences.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    Mike, when you re-posted Kim’s 12 ramblings, you seem to be in agreement with them.

    Most of them (though, as I’ve already said, I wouldn’t personally have used that first one).

    Though “agreement” seems like a weird term to use for a list that was intended mainly to be snarky and humorous. I don’t think his purpose was to raise serious conversation on any of these points.

    You are saying, “hey look, there are Christians who don’t have ridiculous ideas, so stop criticizing Christianity.”

    Did I say that? I’m pretty sure I didn’t. What I did say in that original post was:

    “Many Christians (though sadly not all, or even most) are just as aware of the problems with their faith as atheists are (and also that not all Christians agree with the worst versions of their faith). That, to me, even as a Christian myself, is a hopeful thing, inasmuch as I would like all people to be as honest with themselves about both the strengths and weaknesses of their own belief systems.”

    If I had a point, that was it (definitely NOT “stop criticizing us”). But mainly I posted them because I found them amusing and thought I’d share. My apologies if they annoyed/offended you instead.

    Then you still have ridiculous beliefs… Admit that please.

    Gladly. I’ll freely admit that I hold many beliefs that seem patently absurd. (Though you forgot to include the Virgin Birth. That’s some even crazier shit right there! :) )

  • http://www.DangerousTalk.net DangerousTalk

    If you admit that your beliefs are ridiculous, why would you still hold them? *face palm*

  • Mike Wolfe

    I don’t get it. If Christians as written are aware of the problems of their faith that atheists are aware of, then why are they still believers? It’s fallacy left, right, and centre and if you can concede that, then isn’t it intellectual honesty to admit you have no reason to believe [it's true] and stop believing?

    It’s generally a reality that I think most christians are all to familiar with, in my experience, so they’ll go to great lengths to not concede a word of it. I mean you’re talking about a transcendent being who can’t even inspire a book with correct history or espouse a faith not dependant on irrational thinking.

    Personally I think the reason liberal christianity is shrinking while both atheism and fundamentalism is growing is because the middleground is untenable. Either there is a christian personal god out there who’s all good and incapable of err or it’s a waist of time, especially since moderate christian beliefs are a mess of ambiguity, drivel and nonsensical compromise.

    Christianity to a liberal, peace loving, pot smoking, scientifically literate, humanist is just so superfluous.

    What’s more annoying is that these are the people who’ll, in one breath, accuse us atheists of militarism, and in the next not give a toss about the stupidity and evil of fundamental right wing christianity.

  • Mike Wolfe

    waste*


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