A Christian’s Version of an Atheist/Christian Debate

There’s a Christian movie coming out soon based on Don Miller‘s book Blue Like Jazz. The filmmakers want to portray it as “not a Christian movie,” but when you take a look at the clip below, you can tell that they’ve failed.

During a debate between an atheist and a theist, the atheist character is basically a caricature, bringing together all those Christian stereotypes about us — we’re older, white, without any sense of compassion, only able to describe things like beauty and love as mere chemical reactions…

Even if there’s no god-given “meaning” to our lives, no decent atheist debater would ever treat someone’s question about our purpose so dismissively. At least I hope no one’s doing that.

So let me throw this out there: How would you have responded to the theist debater and the audience member asking a question?

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jim-Lindsay/9410062 Jim Lindsay

    I would have answered him this way:
    Meaning springs from our interactions with each other and with ourselves, and this includes our perception of influence on lives to be lived in the future, a generation, two generations, a hundred generations from now. We are free, so far as we can tell, to choose which of those we make central in our lives at any given time. Many of us seek meaning first for ourselves, a level of psychological fulfilment, if you will, and then for our loved ones. Many go on to find meaning in building opportunities for future generations as well: we learn so that we can teach and teach so that people both now and in the future will be better equipped with knowledge to make their lives easier, better, safer, and more enriching. We build and dare and dream and create for the same reasons. We are not limited in our choices for finding meaning in life. We find it in the awesomeness of nature and in the science that helps us describe it. We find it in our interactions and in the literature that captures it for others. We find it anywhere we look if we’re willing to pull our minds to it, and we can do it without creating a metaphor for it that we confusingly and dangerously call God–since so many people out there take that idea to mean so many different and conflicting things. In short, though, our meaning can be found in improving the lot of those we share this world with and those who will share in its fruits when we’re gone.

  • Aimeejoe

    Yeah….well…  Carl Sagan was once asked the same question regarding meaning and his response was that “you create your own meaning”.  That is all I have to say on that.

  • http://tab-astronaut.blogspot.com/ Katie

    It’s funny that you post this today, because I’m currently locked in a similar debate. I have never wanted to keymash with my face so badly before. I’ll send the link to my blog as soon as this debate’s over and I can write about it, since he’s bringing up pretty much every stereotypical point. I mean, he told me my life has as much worth as an ant’s. What IS that?

    • Anonymous

      The biggest irony in that is that Christians think that we are the nihilists, when they are the ones who think they are born sick, worthless and broken, that they can never be good in this life and that their only hope of fulfillment lies in somehow making it to the next one

      • MG

        That is simply beautiful–and I intend to quote you as often as I can.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    Meaning and purposed come with life.  They are in the relationships you build with other people.  They are in the way that your life affects others, and in the way that other people’s lives affect you.  Meaning and purpose are not something given to you, it is something you earn.  They are created when you decide to interact with the world around you.    The more effort you put into it, the richer and deeper the purpose of your life becomes.  

    Pretending to gather meaning or purpose from an ancient dusty book is the easy way out.  It takes no real effort.  It takes no real sacrifice.    All that takes is the ability to follow without question.  

    I can lock myself in a room with the bible, and pray and love God with all my heart.  But have I found meaning? Would my life have purpose?

    You can say that you can find meaning in God, but where does that really get you?  What meaning there is in obeying God?  People say that loving God means that you help others, that you have charity, that you are kind and forgiving.   But the meaning and the purpose is found in helping others, and making the world a better place.  The whole God step is an unnecessary and sometimes counter productive step. 

    Find meaning with friends and empathy, and purpose in community, rather than pretending to find them in myth and scripture.  

    FSM and love

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    I think this movie reinforces the point you made in the last post: we need to enhance our communication skills. Obviously, the atheist in this clip does not at all reflect your average atheist, but this is how the Christians see us. This is how we are heard. Communication is not just about what you say but also how you are heard, and apparently they are not hearing what we are trying to say very clearly.

    The caricatured points that the atheist in the video made all resembled points I HAVE heard real atheists make, though only superficially. Atheists have described emotions as chemical reactions, Dawkins does say that  “what is the purpose of life?” is a meaningless question. Of course, there is much more to it than just that, but these tid-bits are apparently all that the theists remember. The communication is not going through completely.

    • http://www.SketchSepahi.com/ SketchSepahi

       I agree with what you’re saying for the most part. However, I would like to point out that when communication fails, its failure cannot always be remedied by the communicator. I’m inclined to think that, yes, apparently the Christians aren’t hearing us very clearly, but it’s because for some reason they’ve stuffed their ears with cotton. Not because we don’t have a sufficiently loud megaphone.

      • OverlappingMagisteria

         Very true. I did not mean that the theists have no fault in the miscommunication. Their ears are very often stuffed with cotton, metaphorically. We just need to be on the lookout for methods of communication that make their way through the cotton.

        I don’t know what those methods are, but it’s something we should be thinking about.

        • http://www.SketchSepahi.com/ SketchSepahi

          I can’t think of any methods either. I’m worried that there aren’t any. It’s very difficult to get through to a person, who does not want to be gotten to and resists your attempts at any turn. If there is any reliable method, I should think it’s stubborn persistence, and we’re already doing that.

  • http://wordsideasandthings.blogspot.com/ Garren

    I’ve flipped through the book. It’s the same sort of thing as “I’m not religious; I’m Christian!” except it’s “I’m not part of the Christian Religion; I just follow Jesus!”

    Must be some appeal to pretending to be edgy while remaining utterly mainstream.

    • SteveS

       I remember reading the book too. Laughed my ass off when he started crying about how much Jesus loved him…and this was when I used to be Christian! Nothing in the gospels even gave me the warm fuzzies. I think that in the back of my mind, I was processing the fact that Jesus was absurdly two-dimensional and that he wasn’t even really that impressive. Give me Buddha, hell, give me the FSM over some Bronze-age caricature of a backwoods apocalyptic rabbi any damn day.

  • 1000 Needles

    My response would have been something like this:

    I arrived at atheism through a search for truth, not a search for meaning. I admit that I do not have an easy answer to the question of what makes life meaningful. In fact, I am not even sure that this is a sensible question to ask.

    However, I am not willing to sacrifice truth for a reassuring fairytale in order to answer such difficult questions.

    Nor am I willing to reject truth just because that truth might lead to uncomfortable conclusions. That “love” might one day be reduced to a set of equations or chemical reactions does not fill me with despair. Rather, it fills me with a sense of awe about the universe and deep admiration for the scientists that have tirelessly worked to unravel such mysteries.

    • Admin

      You don’t ‘arrive’ at atheism.

  • Pete

    What a caricature the atheist debater is! They should have gotten Hemant to play the role. But then, that would make it unfair, wouldn’t it?   

    Ah, the old “meaning” question! One possible analogy: An artist (a good one, anyway) creates art for it’s own sake. Any meaning ascribed to it comes not from the artist but from the observer. Often art is created with a particular meaning in mind, but then the artist is surprised when other, equally valid interpretations are found. The same can be said of the cosmos. Although not “created” by an “artist” literally, it is in a sense, a work of art. Call it an expression of nature. As such, there is no inherent meaning. We are free to ascribe to it any meaning we choose. 

    • Pseudonym

       

      What a caricature the atheist debater is!

      Before jumping to that conclusion (which is a common theme here; I don’t mean to single you out), I’d be interested in hearing the opinion of someone who’s read the book.

      Blue Like Jazz is a semi-fictional autobiography. For all I know, the portrayal might be an accurate depiction of an actual debate, and the guy was really that bad. Or it might be an accurate depiction of the impression that a real debate made on Miller at that impressionable age, through the lens of an unreliable narrator.

      Nobody is claiming that this movie is a work of journalism.

      • Gus Snarp

        You make a very good point. I’ve seen Dawkins say similar things in debates, but he usually follows up a bit better. Some member of the audience may only remember the part he wants to remember though, and years later may remember it very differently. If we take the film as a journey into one person’s memory, then it may accurately portray their current memory of past events, while having nothing to do with what actually happened. Memory is fallible and constructed, in all of us, and film as an art bears a stunning similarity with its constructed reality.

      • Siamang

        I think that is an excuse for poorly-presented character conflict.    If the spiritual journey he’s on is troubled by a search for meaning beyond chemical endorphine based love, then either the film is shallow, or the central character is shallow and uncompelling.  The journey they take the audience on is made unavoidably trite, when it SHOULD be a compelling one.  Instead of Hamlet wrestling with his soul, have him wrestle over whether he’s going to have chicken or steak for lunch.  

        The character is presented with an easy choice in this scene: a mechanistic, colorless, emotionless life, or a rich, fullfilling, kind, poetic beauty-filled one.   Yawn.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=733388239 Sean Dyess

    Meaning is a subjective interpretation of what we experience.  Look at “Double Rainbow Guy.”  What he saw can easily be explained by understanding that light was being refracted in the water droplets in the sky, causing the light to ‘break apart’ into it’s component colors (I apologize for my less than scientific explanation, but then again I’m not a scientist).  But he was so filled with awe at the beauty of seeing two rainbows at once that it clearly had a deeper meaning to him. 

    …and that is perfectly ok.  Just as no one will ever truly know what it’s like to be you, no one will ever truly know the depth and breadth of meaning certain events have in your life.  Whether you ascribe them to science, happenstance or a deity is entirely up to you, or as the saying goes “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
    It’s when we attempt to impose our ‘meanings’ on others that the problem arises.

    • chicago dyke, venomous lesbian

      double rainbow guy! lol. best internet meme evah.

      i gave up on the quest for ‘meaning’ in life a long time ago. it’s sort of a stupid assumption to make in the first place, imho. does a dandelion’s life have “meaning?” a squid’s? why does existence have to have “meaning,” and to whom, in the first place? it can be a fun philosophical game, but that’s really the best that question will ever be, for me. 

      and Hemant, are you sure the atheist is (all) white? he looks to be about my color and i’m not. 

  • Siamang

    Clearly this it the best the filmmaker can accomplish, because I think he fears a more accurately-voiced defense of atheism would actually threaten the faith of those watching.  

    Look how frail and weak and timid the questioner is, compared to the callous, strong-voiced “hell no!” atheist.  That’s a trope right out of a Jack Chick comic.  All that was missing was the evil intellectual liberal professor wiping sweat off his brow and laughing “HAW HAW HAW!!!”

    Instead of him, I’d put up Feynman on beauty (google it), and see if the theist can better that so easily.And I’d ask, what IS the purpose that religion-followers have?  They say that I don’t have a purpose, but I’d ask what theirs is.  Here’s all I see:

    Serve God by getting more people to join a religion so they can have a purpose to serve God by getting more people to join a religion so they can have a purpose to serve God by getting more people to join a religion so they can have a purpose to serve God by getting more people to join a religion so they can have a purpose to…

  • http://lizheywoodwriter.blogspot.com/ Liz Heywood

    Not only was the “atheist” a caricature, the whole scene was staged & awkward in the way that many films portray young people. There was no sense of it being real, and the cold-blooded skeptic was easy to dislike.

    When I lost faith at 33 in the religion that cost me the use of my leg as a child, it was a brutal crash into reality and truth–but I never feared losing meaning in my life, the love I have for my family and friends. In fact, turning to humans for help had far more meaning than turning to a god ever did. Not to mention humans gave me results.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    I just watched Dawkins and Cardinal Pell last night 
    http://www.abc.net.au/tv/qanda/
    and I’d have to say that on that occasion, Richard came close to that atheist, although not in rudeness or dismissiveness.  What that atheist left out that was that just because we have a naturalistic explanation for why most of us think sunsets are more beautiful than camel dung doesn’t detract from the beauty of sunsets or camel dung.

    In fact, the fact that some people prefer Justin Beiber over Bach lends itself more to natural and supernatural.  If we get our sense of wonder from God, then wouldn’t we all wonder at the same things?

    I know a movie has limited time but what really stuck out for me was how short the answers are.  In general, both sides in these debates tend long winded.  An atheist might point out the chemical explanations for love, but they would never leave it at that.

  • Mrs Schaarschmidt

    I think the worst stereotype of atheists is that without God there is no love.  As a wife, daughter, parent, and friend I love, and am loved.  That is meaningful.  No god is necessary for that.

    • Siamang

      I think it’s worse than that.  It’s an insult.  It’s dehumanizing.  

    • http://profiles.google.com/emasters7 Elizabeth Hiatt

      I truly believe that my atheism gives my life a sense of urgency that makes love more beautiful and more meaningful. Someday, not all that far off in the grand scheme of things I will no longer exist. That is painful, but it also imbues every moment with the need to make it count. I can’t fall back on the idea that someday I will see all of the people that I love in heaven. I have to make sure that I see them now, that I help them if they need it, and that I make sure that they know that I love them. Tomorrow may be too late. 

  • T-Rex

    Until theists can provide one tiny shred of evidence to back atleast one of their fantastic claims  it’s not a debate, it’s a waste of time. There’s paint drying and grass growing that I could be watching instead of debating delusional people.

  • http://twitter.com/DangerousTalk Staks Rosch

    It depends on the meaning of the word meaning (laugh). Seriously though, if you are referring to one singular purpose like that of  writing for a pencil, then I don’t think you will find it. But if you are referring to a purpose greater than yourself, something to strive for, then I see no reason why we should limit our meaning to just one thing or to allow someone else to tell us what the meaning of our own lives should be. This is the great existential question of human existence. It most be answered not by some invisible deity on high, but by us as individuals. We have the freedom to create our own meaning in our lives. For me, one of the meanings in my life is my children. But I also find meaning in learning about the world around me and in advancing human knowledge. Today, I find meaning in refuting ridiculous beliefs which are detrimental to human well being.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tr-Dev/100003542966660 Tr Dev

      Meaning in life, to me, is whatever one chooses to make it.  It’s the mark we leave behind after we’ve died that gives one’s life meaning.  If we focus on an afterlife, we will, inevitably, force ourselves to close our eyes to what’s going on around us in that moment in our lives.  When people focus on a holy text, a god, or the afterlife, they’re focusing on themselves, essentially.  It’s quite selfish, I think, to be so concerned about oneself, and what the afterlife might hold if one follows a myth as fact, that one misses all of the horrendous things that are going on in the world that could actually be made better by taking action in reality.  You can’t truly believe in a myth, follow a doctrine laid down by that myth, and still say that you live in reality.  Your decision-making is skewed, keeping you from coming to logical conclusions, thus keeping you from making logical decisions.

      My personal opinion is that the meaning of life is to do the best we can with what we’ve got to help make the world the best we can for the ultimate ADVANCEMENT of our species, not just its survival.  Even if those things we do to help the world are comparatively small.  (If you use an eyedropper to fill a bucket, your bucket will still become full.)  People can’t possibly make a change in that direction when their main focus is not on actual reality, but rather what they’ve been taught is reality.  By trying to get others to think the way they do – outside of reality – it stops our advancement in its tracks and is an absolute detriment to not only our species, but to life and the world as we know it.  Lots of decisions are made for the whole based on “facts” outside of reality.

      One final thing…  Just because things like love are merely chemical reactions, does not make them any less deeply felt by someone who understands that fact.  Our brains are incredibly complex and, given our capability to imagine, it is only logical that a feeling like love would be a result of looking at something we find to be pleasing, like art.  Emotions are incredible and not very well understood, but there are lots of things that used to be in that category that we’ve managed to understand, sometimes much later down the road.

  • Stan Brooks

    I am pretty sure the right answer is “To crush your enemies; to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.”

    • chicago dyke, venomous lesbian

      /swings shining sword/

      “do you want to live forever?”

      nice ref, thanks for the laugh. that’s a favorite in my family, we joke with it all the time with each other. 

    • Parse

      Either that, or ”Hot water, good dentishtry and shoft lavatory paper.”

  • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    It is hard to objectively talk about “meaning”, because we have no common definition of the word. It is entirely subjective; how do you describe the color red to a person blind from birth? You can’t. As a physicist, I can describe electromagnetic radiation and wavelength. A biochemist can describe how the pigments in the eye respond to that radiation. A neurophysiologist  can describe how that information is encoded in the brain. All that can be taught to, and understood by a blind person. But the subjective experience of “red” cannot. I experience red through my vision; a blind person certainly experiences it in his dreams. Yet we have no way to relate the two experiences.

    I can describe the ways in which I find meaning- as I experience that concept. I find it in beauty (another subjective concept), in the elegance of the Universe, in relationships, in educating others. How would believing in a god change any of this? How does your belief in a god make anything in your life more meaningful to you than it would be without that belief? How does the existence or nonexistence of a god have anything to do with the question of meaning at all?

  • http://www.SketchSepahi.com/ SketchSepahi

    Here’s my answer to the whence meaning question:

    That’s a good question. Unfortunately, I am not sure how to answer it, because I’m not entirely sure which answer would be satisfactory to you. However, I will give it a go, and if you’re not satisfied you’re welcome to ask me follow-up questions or talk to me after the Q&A. First of all, I should like to distinguish between meaning as in purpose and as in value. I’m not sure which one you’re interested in, but I’ll address both. Purpose arises from the existence of goal-driven beings such as ourselves. You might think that if there is no single creator of all existence, then existence has no overall purpose. You might be right but I submit to you, that such an overall purpose might not be desirable. Would you rather be a tool made for a specific goal, not usable for anything else, locked in your role for eternity regardless of what you would rather do with your life? Or would you like freedom to shape your own existence? To find your own purpose in life? To be able to grow and apply yourself to new things, which you were never “designed” to do in the first place?

    To me this applying of the self to a good cause is what brings our existence purpose and value. The purpose of life is to use it for good; to make it better in some way for yourself and for others. To make the world better for having you in it. The value – what makes life worth living – is seeing what needs to be done, what ought to be done, and doing it. To see the fruits of your labour and the positive results of your existence. We humans are (probably) the only beings in the universe with both the capacity to imagine a better would that could be, and the ability and resources to ensure that it will be. These qualities are in no way contingent upon the existence of supernatural beings, and would rather be hampered if we all had a prewritten script, which we all must act out. Meaning arises from being human and being human arises from our continued dream to be more. As famous fantasy-author and atheist Terry Pratchett once remarked: “I’d rather be a rising ape than a fallen angel.”

    Is this answer satisfactory to you?

    • http://www.SketchSepahi.com/ SketchSepahi

       *”to imagine a better world” it should say. Not “a better would,” of course.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-Leithiser/593361421 Chris Leithiser

    The typical theist complaint about having no “meaning” or “purpose” leads me to think of the parable of the two rich men.

    Once there was a rich man, who was rich because his father gave him a vast sum of money. 

    There was another man, an orphan, who started with the education and talents he developed through hard work.  He built a fortune over many years of mistakes and successes which equaled the other man’s net worth in dollar value and enabled him to enjoy the same lifestyle as the heir enjoyed.

    Of course, it was meaningless, because his daddy hadn’t given him the money.

    • http://www.SketchSepahi.com/ SketchSepahi

       Oh, that’s good! I’ll borrow that off you for my debating arsenal.

    • Anonymous-Sam

      And yet there IS disdain between Old Money and New Money families, heh.

  • GregPeterson

    I would argue first that depending on how one defines meaning, the theist has no better access to it than the atheist does.  Giving something (praise, obedience) to a being who cannot possibly BENEFIT in any way from it seems like the most futile behavior I can imagine. Consider also that God would have set up all the boundary conditions and everything that happens, that results from that, is purely deterministic, so the praise is like the money a child is given by the father…to buy a Father’s Day gift.  Except that in this case, the father also instructs the child what to buy, and when, and where, and for how much, and what to do with the change.Also, the idea that meaning MUST come from outside oneself renders God’s own existence (if there were such a being) meaningless.  If meaning can in principle come from inside oneself, be intrinsic, as it presumably would have to be for God, then there is no reason–in principle–that our meaning could not also be intrinsic and come from within.I would point out that it is mistaken to think that activities or states of being that are not eternal or even long-lasting are not innately meaningful by virtue of their evanescence, by pointing to a story about Jesus.  The pharisees came to Jesus and asked him if a man’s wife died and he remarried and then his second wife died and he remarried again, and so forth (assuming, I guess, that women are going to want to keep marrying this extremely unlucky dude), who would he be married to in heaven.  And Jesus said, You don’t understand; people are not married in heaven.  I defy you to find an evangelical who things that marriage is meaningless, yet Jesus seems to have thought that marriage only exists for our short lives on earth.  And in the Hebrew section of the Bible, the Jews didn’t even really HAVE a concept of an afterlife…except as a sort of vague “shade” existence.  Yet one does not sense in reading their holy book that they pined for meaning.I have said that to complain that the universe has no meaning is like complaining that a gym has no exercise.  What it has is all the equipment we could need to create meaning in our lives–way more than we could ever need.  And the best expression I’ve ever seen of that idea is here: http://www.cartoonistgroup.com/store/add.php?iid=14662

  • Neelnavo Kar

    Am I the only one who immediately noticed the fact that the video player tricks you into thinking the clip is shorter than it is by moving the progress bar faster in the beginning of the clip than in the end? I honestly find that a lot more interesting than how some Christian filmmaker portrays me as an atheist (I mean, was I supposed to have expected anything less than an inaccurate caricature?)

  • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    To the theist debater, who challenges a scientific description of nature because it is unable to prove that a sunset is more beautiful than dung, or music more beautiful than noise, I’d respond by asking in what way a theistic worldview can “prove” these things.

    (While the atheist debater’s views were abbreviated and inadequate, presumably by design, at least he had views. The theist debater offered nothing at all.)

    • Gus Snarp

      I’d take it a step further and ask just what it is that makes him think the sunset is more beautiful. Within that dung thrives a colony of gut flora that have made the life of the animal that deposited it possible, it will feed fantastically beautiful, shimmering shelled beetles, roses of gorgeous color and aroma, juicy, delicious, and nourishing tomatoes. The sunset is beautiful in one way, on the surface, to the eye. The dung has a beauty as a part and symbol of the cycle of life, it is only by understanding the important role it plays in life on earth that it’s beauty can be found. Much as finding purpose and meaning through a lifetime of learning can be far more profound than meaning handed down by some authority, beauty found in a deeper understanding can be more profound as well.

      • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

        I had a similar thought as well, with respect to the music/noise comment. The sound of rainfall, or the sound of a babbling stream, are nearly ideal noise sources. I find either far more beautiful than some music!

        You are absolutely right that beauty can exist on many levels, and the theist debater demonstrates a degree of shallowness in focusing only on the outermost and most obvious.

  • RMoore

    When my children were small,  they looked forward to Christmas morning, to see what presents Santa Claus had brought them for their good behavior.   Christmas was a reward for adherence to doctrine.   
    Then, older,  now knowing that Santa Claus is a fiction,  they look forward to Christmas morning as a day in which our closeness as family is celebrated.   Christmas is now its own reward, because they make it so.

    Meaning that is imposed by doctrine can be take away in an instant.  Meaning that you create is yours forever.

    • Pete

      That’s a terrific analogy. 

    • monyNH

       Awesome. Just…awesome.  :)

  • Byron

    We live amongst the meaning, we live on the same planet and we face many of he same struggles as those who give the responsibility to God. We recognize the responsibility to be our own. We do not search for reasons to hate out of unacceptance or difference. We merely search for fulfillment in the here and now, not the after life. Religion is an attempt at perminance in an ever changing world.

  • Anonymous

    Has anyone else noticed that they have used a black guy as the atheist as opposed to Hemant’s comment that the atheist is portrayed as white?

    Hemant wrote:
    “bringing together all those Christian stereotypes about us — we’re older, white,”

    Not that it makes a difference (the film will suck regardless) but just thought I would correct that.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      I think you’re right… I’ll cross that word out. Thanks!

    • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

      That was my first thought on seeing the clip, as well. I wondered what Hemant was talking about with his “white” comment.

      In fact, the actor is Jeffrey Buckner Ford, the son of Tennessee Ernie Ford and Betty Jean Ford, which makes him about as white as you can get (barring a few skeletons in the Ford family closet).

      • Gus Snarp

        Now that’s truly fascinating. I think most Americans looking at Ford see an African American. Yet most Americans looking at his parents would see white people. It shows how race is entirely constructed. It is entirely possible that Tennessee Ernie Ford (or his wife) had some recent African ancestry that they either didn’t know about, or weren’t about to mention as long as they were living as white people in a very racist America.

        Gregory H. Williams, the President of the University of Cincinnati, wrote a book called Life on the Color Line, about his experiences as a child. Williams father was black by the “one drop” standard of the segregated south, but Williams did not live with him and grew up as a white child until he moved to his father’s home town, where everyone knew who he was and suddenly he was subject to all the inequality of the Jim Crow south. In his case almost no one who saw him would see anything but a white man.

        On the one hand, Ford’s ancestry is none of anyone’s business and shouldn’t matter, on the other hand it could make a fascinating story and window into the construction of race in America.

  • Corey

    I sum it up pretty simple when some says Atheists, or non-believers have no morals and no guide to show them the correct way to live: “I do not need any religion to teach me that difference bettween right and wrong”. Of course that is the polite way I say it….where it usually is a little more insulting to them, because I find it very insulting when someone says basically that I am nothing w/o religion. I also like to do the most irritating thing and pass on quotes like the following…(lol)

    “The Judeo-Christian religion is the most bloody religion that ever existed.” [Second US President] John Adams’ treaty with Tripoli specified that the American government “is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.”

    “The Christian god is a three-headed monster, cruel, vengeful and capricious. If one wishes to know more of this raging, three-headed beast-like god, one only needs to look at the caliber of people who say they serve him. They are always of two classes: fools and hypocrites.”  ~ Thomas Jefferson, Third President of the USA and Vice President to Second President John Adams

    “The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.” ~ Thomas Jefferson wrote, in a letter to John Adams (April 11, 1823)

    Thomas Paine, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Most famous for  ‘The Age of Reason’ (1794) and ‘Common Sense’ (1776). He immigrated to the British American colonies in 1774 in time to participate in the American Revolution:

    “Of all the systems of religion that were ever invented, nothing is more … repugnant to reason … than this thing called Christianity.”

    “It is from the bible that man has learned cruelty, rapine, and murder, for the belief in a cruel god makes a cruel man, and the bible is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind”

  • SystemsReady

    Life doesn’t have an inherent meaning. It just is. And that’s ok.

    If you want to, though, you can give your own life a meaning, a purpose. Mine is to make people happy and to experience happiness myself. Preferably both at the same time. I think that’s meaning enough for me.

  • John Metcalf

    Using the movie’s title as a jumping off point,  I am in awe of the creative genius of the human mind in creating great works of music, art and feats of engineering. Just close your eyes and listen to Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” —with such creativity, no god is needed.

    We should all strive to bring such meaning into the world.

  • Gus Snarp

    Yeah, clearly a set up, but I don’t have a problem with a lot of what he says. They take perfectly sensible arguments and make just the slightest tweaks to them to make them sound nasty. From my point of view the Christian debater looks pretty bad too though. If you’re trying to make religion look better than atheism, you would think you could do better than to use the same tired arguments about beauty and love that we’ve heard over and over again, expressed rather poorly but with an accent to make them sound smarter.

    My answer might start like the atheist in the clip, the universe doesn’t owe you meaning, I kind of like that, but I would say, if you’re looking for meaning, I suggest you look inward. Any purpose or meaning you find in life beyond mere survival is what you create for yourself. I find meaning in trying to make a world where my children can have better lives than I have and where people around the world who struggle simply to get adequate calories can have the kind of opportunities we in more privileged positions take for granted every day. If you’re having trouble finding meaning, I suggest that instead of looking to a preacher to hand it to you on a platter, you go out and find something you find meaningful. Volunteer for a homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Take some classes in subjects you find interesting. Travel to other countries, especially less developed ones. If you’re looking for meaning in life, you have to first see some of the variety of life on the planet.

  • Gus Snarp

    I found this tidbit on the author’s blog linked above:

     To fit God inside our logic is to reduce him. And a reduced God is easy to refute.

    This is inherently true, but Miller seems to think it is an argument for God’s existence, when it is clearly an argument against. But it is also the kind of key argument we have to get down to. Anyone who believes this is essentially saying that he cannot win an argument with a skilled debater on logical grounds, it is an impossibility. He can only win if his opponent makes a mistake or by purely appealing to emotion and fallacious reasoning. It is not, and can never be, a fair debate. It is pointless to debate anyone without first getting this out of the way. Once they concede this, it’s over. You’ve won before you started on logical grounds. This is why I will always insist, before any such debate, that we agree on a coherent definition of God. What is God to you, because if you won’t be nailed down on that, then there’s no point in going forward. I’m reminded of an appearance of Ray Comfort on the Atheist Experience, which went on for quite some time, every point Ray tried to make was utterly demolished and he finally conceded that “true” faith is purely based on personal experience and MUST be independent of evidence and reason, it must be a gnostic or experiential faith (my words, not Ray’s). Which meant that while the debate may have been interesting or edifying to the audience, it was in some respect a complete waste of time. Both Miller and Comfort are essentially saying that they don’t care what your evidence or logic say. If evidence and logic disagree with my gut feeling, then they are meaningless. To pretend to be engaged in a debate involving logic for such a person is fundamentally dishonest.

  • http://profiles.google.com/webtvmaster Stephen Buchanan

    Anyone who thinks that only believers produce great works of art, literature and music really need to go to some more art galleries, read some better books and listen to some more music. I would have thought that it would be kind of obvious by now that the Christian worldview is impoverished not only rationally but also morally and creatively.

  • http://www.houseofbetazed.com Mriana

    That was cold and obviously Xian.  I’m late to the party, but I would have said we make our own meaning, adding that some of us find meaning through family and friends, as well as animals and nature, while find meaning by doing some sort of community service or helping others.  I think they also screwed up by portraying Xians as W.A.S.P.s  Not all Xians are W.A.S.P.s, just as not all atheists come from one groups of people either.  Not all atheists are arrogant and not all Xians have corn cobs stuck up their butts.  That clip was pretty bad.

  • http://www.houseofbetazed.com Mriana

    That was cold.  I’m late, as usual, and just saw this.  I would said we make our own meaning.  Some of us find meaning via family and friends, as well as animals and nature, while others find meaning by helping others.  Even so, that clip was pretty bad.  Not all Xians are W.A.S.P.s and not all atheists are from one group of people.  Not all atheists are arrogant and not all Xians have corn cobs stuck up their butts.

  • Schatzib

    Hell is a real place and if you don’t accept Jesus Christ as your savior you will pay the consequences. Please research and don’t be quick to make a conclusion.

  • Mark Lindell

    Hasn’t the real film already been made:
    http://www.collisionmovie.com/ 


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