After Christian Loses to Atheist in a Debate, the Church That Sponsored the Event Won’t Release the Video

This is a guest post by Richard Wilson. Rich is a human being who tries and feels he mostly succeeds in living a moral life without help from any gods.

Last Saturday, October 12, I attended “The Great Debate,” an event hosted by Adventure Christian Church (a mega-church in Roseville, California) and sponsored by William Jessup University. The question at hand was: “What provides a better foundation for civil society: Christianity or Secular Humanism?”

Arguing for Christianity was Dr. David Marshall, founder of the Kuai Mu Institute for Christianity and World Cultures. Arguing for Secular Humanism was Dr. Phil Zuckerman, Professor of Sociology at Pitzer College and author of numerous books on secularism.

Since the debate was being professionally recorded, I assumed it would be made available online (or at least for purchase), and I intended to simply add a few comments of my own if Hemant blogged about it. So I kept watching the church’s Vimeo site for the upload… and it never went up. Instead, threerebuttalvideos were posted, responding to arguments made during the course of the debate, but the full debate is still nowhere to be found. Furthermore, those three videos featured pastors from the church, not even Marshall himself.

Zuckerman himself commented on all three videos, asking when the entire debate would be posted… only to see the comments turned off and his questions deleted from the individual videos. (Though the church’s Vimeo page still shows the comments under “Recent Activity“)

I asked Zuckerman about it in an email and he told me that although the Church had promised him, both in person and via email, that the debate would be put online, the church apparently refuses to honor that promise. Their explanation is just incredible, as Zuckerman wrote in a Huffington Post piece:

When I called pastor Bryan [Hardwick], and asked him why they are refusing to post the video — even after repeated promises of doing so — he replied, “It just didn’t go the way we wanted it to go. We were not represented well.”

I’ll say! And refusing to post the debate, while hiding behind some rebuttals that don’t even address Zuckerman’s main points, doesn’t help.

But since the debate isn’t going to be online, let me refer back to my notes and tell you as best I can what happened. (All quotations below are to the best of my memory. I would love to verify them… but, as mentioned above, I can’t right now.)

In short, Zuckerman won. Handily.

I hesitated to say that since I know people will called me biased, but the truth is it was pretty one-sided. At the end of the debate, I even heard other members of the overwhelmingly Christian audience say, “That secularist was actually a better speaker, more interesting.”

To expand a bit, the theme of the night was: “Take the high road.” Marshall mostly steered clear of “Stalinist Russia” and Zuckerman mostly steered clear of the horrors of the Old Testament. Since I say “mostly,” I should cover the exceptions. Zuckerman made a point of saying, “I prefer to point out the best in my opponent, and say why my way is better.”

Marshall stated in his opening remarks that he believed in the empirical approach, looking at all the data and coming to the best possible conclusion. He said the Gospel had changed the world for the better and would continue to do so in the future, adding that Secular Humanism had no “clear record” and showed “trouble signs.” He mentioned that Communism “may be seen as” a form of Secular Humanism, but he didn’t press the point.

Then, he listed seven “gifts” of the Gospel:

  • Charity
  • Feminism (Jesus was the first feminist)
  • Human rights
  • Science
  • Education
  • Healer (Jesus was the first healer and the Red Cross symbol is a cross)
  • Freedom

He finished his opening remarks by saying that “God makes sense of reality” and that the teaching of Jesus are the foundations of society. The Gospel has done it before and can do it again.

Zuckerman began his opening statement with, “I agree.” At that point, I must admit I was worried that this was going to turn into a painful evening of accommodationism. He pointed out three things he believes Christianity represents: Love, Peace, and Forgiveness. He also stated that Christians give more to charity than Secular Humanists, but added that it didn’t have to be one or the other: “Why not the best of each?”

Zuckerman then used both the lack of religious reference in the Constitution and the Treaty of Tripoli to argue that the United States was a secular nation, not a Christian one, no matter what our heritage may have been. He argued in favor of democracy, something that wasn’t taught in scripture.

The Church asked people to tweet questions using the hashtag #TheGreatDebate and they eventually addressed some of those questions. I’m only going to cover the highlights, but a general theme was that Marshall, several times, presented anecdotes of Christianity as a force for good, which didn’t seem very empirical to me. And if there was any concern over my bias in leaving some of the questions out, it’s only because I had trouble taking notes because Marshall wasn’t very clear or organized in his responses.

There was one question worth mentioning: “Do we need a common moral code, or can we have a plurality?” In other words, were there morals we all had to live by or could people define “moral” in different ways? Marshall answered first with “Yes” (a confusing answer given the question, but clearly referring to a plurality), but warned against Sharia or Communism, saying that Zuckerman’s remarks reminded him of “Communist Slogans.” He did say, though, that they agreed on Democracy and a plurality of moral views being acceptable.

Zuckerman responded by saying that while Marshall believed we could have a plurality of views, Christianity would have to be the basis, and “What does that say to non-Christians? Some people can’t sit at the table?” He then suggested that a good common moral code would be the Bill of Rights.

Zuckerman then made what I thought was one of the best points of the night:

The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 4. states:

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

While Colossians 3:22 states:

Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything

And he asked, “Which is more likely to be corrupted?” He did note that there are apologetics for slavery in the Bible — and that his point wasn’t the meaning behind the biblical text, only that we should ask which passage, the secular one or the biblical one, was less ambiguous.

Several times, Marshall tried to separate government from society, agreeing with Zuckerman that government should be neutral, but suggesting that society should be Christian.

Another question, “What is bad about your opponent’s position?” led to, I think, each side’s major point.

Zuckerman’s position was that many Christian societies, whether American states or other nations, are not doing well. And many of the most secular nations in the world are doing very well. He acknowledged that many secular nations owe a lot of their heritage to Christianity, but the question is “what is best for today?”

Marshall’s position, reiterated several times in the debate, was that Humanism was a “squishy” word (which I took to mean can be good or bad, but he didn’t clarify). He also said that “Leaving God, it can take a while for a weakening in the foundation of society, for example, not having many kids.”

Asked “If you admit Christianity has done the most good, why change?” Zuckerman said that Christianity divides the world. Secular Humanism allows for no such division. Also, although Christians are more charitable than Secular Humanists, Muslims and Mormons are the most charitable of all. “Hobby Lobby doesn’t want to sell Menorahs. Says something.”

I started off the night worrying about Zuckerman, but he picked up energy every minute and ended with what I’d have to call a caffeine-powered Gish Gallop. He rattled off a long list of positions where Christianity and Secular Humanism differed, from the death penalty to LGBT rights to everything in between. I suspect the Conservative audience may have been less impressed with some of the items than I was, but it was a tour de force.

Marshall ended with one last anecdote, that of Ruby Bridges going to William Frantz Elementary school in 1960. And how, as she entered school, she turned to pray for the white men yelling abuse at her, “Because they need it.” Marshall reminded us that it was the Gospel behind Ruby’s strength and forgiveness, though I couldn’t help but wonder if the white men yelling at her were Secular Humanists or Christians.

Since the Church’s “rebuttals” are online, I’m not going to dissect them in detail. I wonder, however, how they can refer to the Treaty of Tripoli as “a footnote in history” but say that “In the Year of our Lord” is proof that the Founding Fathers intended this to be a Christian Nation. It also occurred to me that Adventure Christian doesn’t seem to share Marshall’s view that society, but not government, should be Christian in nature.

Does “We were not represented well” also mean “We don’t even agree with the position represented”?

You could argue that I’m wrong. Marshall delivered a guest sermon for the church last weekend and spoke on the topic “Be Courageous & Defend the Bible,” so surely the church agrees with his positions, right? At least that video was posted on Vimeo:

Now, however, it appears the church has taken that down, too:

***Update (10/22/13)***: The video has now been posted online.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Sideshow Billybob

    You were expecting them to behave in a Christian manner if things didn’t go their way? Oh wait, I guess they did.

    • GeniusPhx

      you conveniently forget the times when xns dont behave in a christian way, check this out (and yes they were christians):

      • Artor

        I think you missed the snark. Billybob was pointing out that this, and the treatment of Jessica Ahlquist are pretty standard for Xian behavior, their own whitewashed characterizations notwithstanding.

      • Rafael

        A Christian who does not act in a Christian way(Matthew 7:12, Treat others the same way you would want them to treat you), is Technically.. not a Christian.

        What does that make them?… Secular.

        • GeniusPhx

          judgmental in the typical xn was. the requirements to be xn was set in stone at the nicene creed in 325. whether they act in a xn way is up to other xns to keep them in check (that;s what the salem witch trials were for). It isnt up to you to make that call.

          fyi on pbs wednesday night documentaries about the bible.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      Pity you couldn’t even find anything to whine about without making up things to attribute to other commenters and sounding off on your own irrelevant prejudices and personal obsessions.

      So, thanks for demonstrating his point, really.

      • King Dave

        You forgot to tell me how reasonable and tolerant you are.
        Progressives like you are merely conformist and their grievances are political not religious. Otherwise you wouldn’t be upset.

        • 3lemenope

          Ooh, ooh! Do me next!

          • Ben Kuyt

            THe fact that Barack Obama is a nobel peace prize recipient while he continuously destroyed homes in the Middle East makes no sense. Ted Cruz quoted “Green Eggs and Ham” when saying that Universal Healthcare is bad. Just like in Green Eggs and Ham, he’s a stubborn prick who doesn’t like something because it makes him feel icky, for some reason.

          • The More You Know

            Obama is likely actually not Christian, or at the very least one of the least-Christian Christians in American political history.

          • smrnda

            I for one am deeply disappointed in Obama, but for reasons which are far more important than whatever sky god he happens to worship, mostly since it doesn’t appear his actions are drive by his religious beliefs.

            Unlike Cruz, Obama is at least committed to pluralism.

          • Autodidact

            Nobel Peace Prize doesn’t mean very much. You know who else won it? Hitler. You know who else? Stalin.

            EDIT: also, who would have expected a Christian to be president in a country predominantly Christian? I don’t even like Obama, not because he is Christian (which he even said he doesn’t necessarily believe in heaven/angels/clouds) but because of his policies such as the wars in the Middle East and his policies involving the NSA spying.

          • Autodidact

            Can’t find my previous post… I meant Hitler and Stalin were *nominated* for Nobel Peace Prizes, they didn’t actually win.

          • Karie White

            Ignorant Fool. What’s your I.Q.? 62?

            • C.L. Honeycutt

              Oh dear God why

        • Carmelita Spats

          These heathens won’t listen to you so you might as well go crawl up a hog’s ass and make yourself a ham sandwich…Who you callin’ progressive, son? Shoot, I ain’t no “progressive”. I’s a RE-gressive..I am a TRUE Christian and I don’t care much for how the church is modernicating. Modern Christianity has fallen victim to the global sissification of the Gospel. They now let women of long hair and short ideas pose as men of God with them preachin’ from the pulpit. They think we are old-fashioned, and that we make up stories about Hell to scare people. As you must know, it is very upsetting to have someone laugh in your face when you are trying to explain that if they don’t return Christ’s love and accept Him as their personal savior that they are going to be tortured and have all of the flesh burnt off their body every day for all of eternity in a literal lake of fire. I was witnessing to an unsaved, progressive, Lutheran the other day and I responded to his laughter by saying, “I can’t wait to see you burn in Hell!” He was shocked! He was taken aback! I used this opportunity to witness even more. I hollered, “You won’t be laughing when you see demons using your testicles as ping-pong balls.” Us regressives need to keep witnessing. Glory!

          • Isaac42


          • Chris Edwards

            tl;dr you’re a moron

          • Justin Kinser

            It’s sad you think you’re actually accomplishing anything. You aren’t bringing people to Christ, you’re just driving them further away with your vitriol.
            You’re not doing God’s work, you’re doing the Devil’s work.

            • 3lemenope

              See above, re: Poe’d.

              • Justin Kinser

                Lol, nice.

            • Cyrus Palmer

              I don’t know what’s worse, the fact you thought she was serious or the fact that you think she’s doing ‘the devils work’.

              • Justin Kinser

                I made a simple mistake by not catching the sarcasm, but you don’t seem to have caught the sarcasm in my comment, AND you’re trying to make me feel dumb… On the internet.
                That’s pathetic.

                • Darrell Ross

                  “…you’re trying to make me feel dumb… On the internet.
                  That’s pathetic. ”

                  For attempting to call someone out for calling you dumb, I give you one point.

                  For calling them names just after, you lose 2 points.

                • Justin Kinser

                  Except, I didn’t call them names. I called their actions pathetic, not them… Silly man.

          • Mack Stevens

            “you can’t wait to see him burn in hell.” You’ve just lost your humanity, bitch.

            • 3lemenope

              You guys got Poe’d.

          • ShoeUnited

            My sides started rolling at “modernicating”. Well done!

          • moneen

            you have all been trolled. nice work carmelita.

          • C.L. Honeycutt

            Wait… people thought that was serious?

          • KC

            Way to ignorantly stereotype an entire group of people. You should be very proud.

        • C.L. Honeycutt

          Secularist =/= Progressive. Why are your ilk always terrible at knowing English words?

          “Progressives” can’t be upset about religious topics? Again with your not speaking English, though this one is arguably indicative of a deeper faultine*.

          Thanks for admitting that you’re aware you were making things up by trying to change the subject, though honestly, I’m a little surprised that you’re aware of… well, things.

          *Fancy English words meaning, “you ain’t begots teh logic cells rubbin’ t’get’r rite.” Try up and down. Those are relative values of height in this context. I’m sure you appreciate the help with working that out, because, well, that English thing…

    • DavidMHart

      The fact that Christians are mistaken about the truth or untruth of a particular set of supernatural claims does not make everything that a particular Christian person does automatically delusional. To use a well-known example, Isaac Newton famously believed in alchemy (and Christianity) but that did not prevent him from developing an astonishingly accurate set of approximations for calculating how solid objects interact, in a framework that required you to presuppose neither the truth of alchemy nor the existence of any gods.

      And Barack Obama was one of only two options in the Presidential race, the other one of whom was also a Christian (albeit a rather non-mainstream type of Christian). People can celebrate the good work done by Obama, and excoriate the bad, without endorsing his religious beliefs – and if an election comes round where one of the candidates is an atheist, then, if there is nothing otherwise to distinguish them, you can expect that candidate to get a lot of atheists’ votes. Until then, when forced to choose between two delusional-in-one-area candidates, progressives can still pick the one who is less delusional in all other areas – or more generally, the one that looks less likely to put forward policies that would do serious harm to people.

      • Baby_Raptor

        3 letter words are hard to spell!

        Go jack off elsewhere. You’re not wanted here, and nobody is going to buy your crap.

      • Isaac42

        Whether or not Mormons can be considered Christian is a subject which can be, and has been, debated.

        • DavidMHart

          True, but until all the Mormons and all the non-Mormon Christians can settle that question between themselves, I really don’t have any skin in that game, and the Mormons call themselves Christians, so to deny them that would be something of a no-true-scotsman.

          Of course, I would not lump them in with Protestants, Catholics and Eastern Orthodox as mainstream Christians:-)

        • UWIR

          Well, they clearly can be considered Christian. Words are just social conventions, and if there were a consensus that Mormons were Christians, then they would be considered Christian. It would be much clearer if people would just say “Mormons aren’t Nicene Christians” and not get mired in the debate as to just what “Christian” means.

          • Isaac42

            I disagree. I think that there really ought to be an agreed-upon definition of what “Christian” means. As it stands, Christians play fast and loose, claiming universal agreement among Christians, then playing the “not a real Christian” card.

            • Azix

              There is no such card being played. Mormons do not have a root as a branch of Christianity. Iirc even their scripture bashes Christians. It would be like Muslims taking up the Christian name to be better accepted by society.

              • Isaac42

                Nevertheless, Mormons *do* claim to be Christians.

      • Azix

        Mormons are not Christians. Not even “a rather non mainstream type”.

        • DavidMHart

          Mormons are not Christians. Not even “a rather non mainstream type”.

          Says you. A million-odd Mormons disagree. I personally don’t have any skin in this game, but until all the Mormons and all of the (other) Christians can get together and figure out a way of reaching an agreement over whether the Mormons count as Christians or not, why should I take your word over theirs? They belive in Jesus Christ, they include the Bible among their holy books, what more do you want?

          I am perfectly happy to agree that the Mormons are a slightly more-than-averagely-wacky type of Christians, or that they are so different as to not count, as long as we have a definition of ‘Christian’ that all Mormons and all (non-Mormon) Christians can agree on. Until then, you don’t get to declare that your definition wins by fiat.

          • Azix

            It doesn’t matter what a million-odd of whoever says or believes. It’s PR. ANy random person can claim to be christian if mormons can. An atheist can call their friend Bob “christ” and Bob’s father god, then proceed to call himself a christian because he believes in those two, if that’s all it takes. No way to stop someone doing that I guess.



            • DavidMHart

              Neither of those blogposts contain anything that demonstrates being a Mormon to be incompatible with being a follower of Christ (which is all the word ‘Christian’ literally means). All that they do is demonstrate that being a Mormon is incompatible with some of the specific doctrines of (other) branches of Christianity.

              I will grant that if you pool, say, Mormonism, Protestantism, Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox…ism* and take a weighted average of what the core beliefs of each of those variously diverse groups actually are, and also a weighted average of all four groups combined, that the weighted average for Mormonism would be the most different from the global weighted average. But that still doesn’t demonstrate that Mormonism is a fundamentally different kind of thing, just that it’s far from the mainstream. You still haven’t even given us your definition of Christianity, let alone demonstrated that your definition (that excludes the Mormons) is correct and the definition that the Mormons use, that includes them, is false.

              *Actually calling it ‘Orthodoxy’ doesn’t sound right to me, as it feels like saying that what they believe is actually correct.

              • Azix

                There is no winning this. Apples are tomatoes because they are both fruits. Pointless. Assuming you are an atheist this is even more pointless.

                • DavidMHart

                  It’s not entirely pointless. It highlights the absurdity of both Mormonism and non-Mormon Christianity if neither side is willing to even try to come up with a coherent, reliable test for figuring out whether someone is or isn’t a Christian. I note that you still haven’t.

                  Here are the possibilities. Either we say that everyone who identifies as a Christian is a Christian, or we come up with some set of criteria that excludes some people who think they are Christians from actually being Christians. I will grant you that the first position leads to some real fuzziness (for instance, do the adherents of Chrislam count as Christians? Do they count as Muslims? Both? Neither? I honestly don’t know)

                  But the second is only justifiable if you come up good reasons for the exclusions you apply. Myriad different Christian groups apply different criteria – I’ve come across Protestants saying that Catholics don’t count as true Christians, and vice versa, and of course some of the Mormons themselves hold that theirs is the only true branch of Christianity. Since you have not even stated exactly which exclusionary criteria you are using, let alone come up with demonstrably true justifications for choosing them, my only reasonable conclusion is that your criteria for deciding who is and isn’t a Christian is just as arbitrary and made up as anyone else’s.

                • Azix

                  How does not wanting to come up with a “coherent reliable test for figuring out whether someone is or isn’t a Christian” make either absurd? That does not logically follow. It’s not like there aren’t core christian beliefs. “Mormons aren’t Nicene Christians” mentioned before helps somewhat but mormonism is like a plant uprooted from elsewhere and planted on a tree to look like a branch.

                  There are reasons expressed in both links I provided on why mormons are not christians. You simply have your own ideas on what can qualify as christianity. Where in christianity is God a man on some planet called kolob who had a son through sex with a human woman? There is a lot that is simply inconsistent with what is in the bible. Simply name-dropping “christ” doesn’t make all that go away.

                  Mormonism isnt even monotheism. Like I said, it is pointless. The line of reasoning can be applied to the classification of animals, vehicles, educational subjects. You can choose to ignore all the glaring differences and say they are the same simply because someone chooses to put them in the same category.

                • DavidMHart

                  How does not wanting to come up with a “coherent reliable test for
                  figuring out whether someone is or isn’t a Christian” make either

                  Because if either Mormons or non-Mormon Christians were demonstrably providing an accurate description of reality, they would be able to show that their claims actually corresponded to reality. And if they were being intellectually honest, they would notice that at least one of them must be wrong, and sitting down together to work out a way of figuring out which one is wrong. Just like people do in any proper demain of human discovery. The fact that they are not collaborating with each other in trying to reach a means of determining who, if anyone, is correct, show that they care more about continuing to believe what they believe, than they do about having beliefs that are demonstrably true. That seems an absurd set of priorities to me.

                  There are reasons expressed in both links I provided on why mormons are not christians.

                  Okay, so you’re putting those forward as equivalent to your own position. Well, I can just refer you to my earlier comment – both of those blogposts show why Mormonism is more divergent than other branches of Christianty, but they don’t prove that it isn’t. If you think that to be a Christian it is not enough to believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ and that he is of some relevance to salvation, but must also believe a bunch of other stuff, you must explain why that other stuff is also necessary to be a Christian at all, and not merely necessary to be a member of a particular non-Mormon denomination.

                  There is a lot that is simply inconsistent with what is in the bible.

                  There’s a lot *in the Bible* that’s inconsistent with other stuff in the Bible. Please don’t pretend that Christian theology is settled – if the Bible were entirely clear and uncontradictory, there wouldn’t be the myriad denominations of Christianity that there are.

                  You can choose to ignore all the glaring differences and say they are
                  the same simply because someone chooses to put them in the same

                  Yes you can. But you can also look at all the glaring similarities – they all believe that this world was created deliberately by a sentient being, that it is a worthwhile project for us to pray to and otherwise worship this sentient being, that this sentient being had a son called Jesus who came to Earth at a particular time in history, and that this Jesus fellow, by dying-while-being-the-son-of-God, somehow makes it easier, or indeed possible at all, for us ordinary humans to live forever in a parallel dimension of unimaginable bliss. Given the sheer howling implausibility of these claims, the yawning gulf between the strength with which they’re held and the evidence in support of them, I don’t think it’s at all unreasonable to see the dissimilarities as a mere gloss on the basic hypothesis – an instance of the narcissism of small differences.

                • Azix

                  Being true would be an external concern to differentiating between christianity and mormonism. Not investing in clearly delineating the two doesn’t in itself make them absurd. Having confusion in categories is something that is a part of your “proper domain of human discovery. ” It would be similar to deciding whether a scientific theory or philosophical theory falls under the umbrella of another. Whether or not they end up being true, the differences would still be.

                  you saying “divergent” is exactly my point. Regardless of what is set out as why mormonism is not christianity, you can always say “oh, its just far from the norm”. In the end you are asking for things you don’t care about.

                  I need to explain why christianity is not polytheism?

                  denominations are based on interpretations and prefered style of worship. Denominations of christianity do not exist that believe humans can become gods and that god has a body and lives on a planet named kolob. Those are cults. Your fabled contradictions have little significance in this.

                  Yes you can. But you can also look at all the glaring similarities – they all believe that this world was created deliberately by a sentient being, that it is a worthwhile project for us to pray to and otherwise worship this sentient being, that this sentient being had a son called Jesus who came to Earth at a particular time in history, and that this Jesus fellow, by dying-while-being-the-son-of-God, somehow makes it easier, or indeed possible at all, for us ordinary humans to live forever in a parallel dimension of unimaginable bliss. Given the sheer howling implausibility of these claims, the yawning gulf between the strength with which they’re held and the evidence in support of them, I don’t think it’s at all unreasonable to see the dissimilarities as a mere gloss on the basic hypothesis – an instance of the narcissism of small differences.

                  Everything after bliss is an inconsequential opinion. Where you choose to see implausibility and lack of evidence, others see plausibility and undeniable evidence. I do not care to argue on the foolishness of atheism.

                  There are differences between christians and mormons on every similarity you mentioned. From creation (not creatio ex nihilo in mormonism) to who/what Jesus is, who/what God is to what salvation is. I don’t even think mormons believe in a “parallel universe” (not saying christians do). AFAIK their god is an alien who became a god. Straight polytheism. Oh, but it’s all just different from the norm..

                • DavidMHart

                  In the end you are asking for things you don’t care about.

                  I don’t care very much about the specifics of Mormonism and non-Mormon Christianity per se; but I do care about Christians who try to pull the ‘no true Christian’ card – my point here is not that Mormonism unequivocally is a branch of Christianity, my point is that no one denomination of Christianity is entitled to state that any others aren’t Christians. The bit about things being demonstrably real is important because in the absense of any one denomination being able to demonstrate the truth of its specific claims, the only reasonable conclusion is that they are all just making stuff up, and there is no rational basis for any one person who identifies as a Christian to say that any other person who identifies as a Christian isn’t the real deal.

                  Denominations of christianity do not exist that believe humans can
                  become gods and that god has a body and lives on a planet named kolob.

                  The Mormons I’m sure would disagree with you. I know that you very strongly believe that Mormonism has too many differences from more mainstream Christianity to count, but all you have done is repeatedly assert that; you haven’t given any good reason why those specific differences are the crucial deciding factor. Why can’t a denomination of Christianity believe that God lives on Kolob? There’s no more good evidence against it than against the idea that God lives in Heaven, after all.

                  Straight polytheism.

                  Well, the Trinitarian position is that God is somehow simultaneously three persons and one person, which means that it must be simultaneously monotheism and polytheism. And the Catholics, even though they don’t call the Virgin Mary and their myriad saints by the words ‘god’ and ‘goddesses’, still behave as if they were analogous to the lesser of gods of unequivocally polytheistic religions. To the extent that Catholics pray to saints rather than directly to God, they are de facto polytheists. And yet you presumably wouldn’t call them not Christians.

                  Oh, but it’s all just different from the norm..

                  I sense you are being sarcastic here, but yes, it is all just different from the norm. If you take a weighted average of all the stuff that everyone who identifies as a Christian believes, you will find only a tiny tiny fraction of them whose beliefs exactly map onto that point. Pretty much everyone is different from the norm. The Mormons simply are more different than most. You have still done nothing to demonstrate why those particular differences put them outside the boundary – that is, you have provided no rational basis for accepting that every should draw the line between ‘real Christian’ and ‘not real Christian’ at the same place you draw the line.

                  I am happy to see there being a continuum among self-identified Christians, from those who fall right in the centre of the bullseye, having all the beliefs of our weighted average, all the way out to those who identify as Christians on a cultural basis only but don’t have any supernatural beliefs at all, and calling people in the centre more Christian than those nearer to the edges, accepting that there are degrees of Christian-ness. It’s your basis for drawing a hard and fast line at some particular point on that continuum that you still haven’t established.

                • Azix

                  my point is that no one denomination of Christianity is entitled to state that any others aren’t Christians.

                  Mormonism isn’t a denomination of Christianity.

                  they aren’t polytheists simply because of some interpretation of the trinity. Their god had a god before he became god.

                  I don’t call catholics christian for the very things you stated. This goes back to being pointless because even when the comparisons you try to make and call key beliefs end up being different you still want to claim they might as well be christians. All it takes for you is claiming christianity.

                  A person like you has no business even engaging in this kind of debate because of the position you already hold on both. It’s an impossible debate because you cannot comprehend the significance of even there being a difference between the two on WHO/WHAT God is even categorically. One would think that pretty much does it, but nope.

                  Why can’t a denomination of Christianity believe that God lives on Kolob? There’s no more good evidence against it than against the idea that God lives in Heaven, after all.

                  it is fundamentally different. If you do not see the difference between claiming things similar to the greek and roman gods versus the monotheistic God proclaimed and successfully defended by Christians, then why even bother?

                • FTP_LTR

                  Mormons aren’t Christian.
                  Catholics aren’t Christian. (What’s your position here? Did they used to be Christian, but drifted and became something else?)

                  Who else falls under the false-christian banner?

                • Azix

                  I said I don’t call them christians. I don’t particularly argue about whether they are or not.

                • Rich Wilson

                  This particular conversation always makes me want to get popcorn.

                • FTP_LTR

                  It’d be better if we had RonMar and Paul Cardin available to join in with their particular Christian and Catholic perspectives.

                • Rich Wilson

                  And Joseph Polanco for the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

                • FTP_LTR

                  I misunderstood your point then. I hadn’t realised this was all just personal opinion and gut feel.

                • Azix

                  When they start believing god is a Klingon Saiyan halfbreed who has ascended to godhood, I promise I will start making it an issue.

                • FTP_LTR

                  Are we still talking about Catholics?

                • Rich Wilson

                  I think ascending to godhood is Mormon. Unless the Scientologists can make a profit in it. Then it’ll be Scientology.

                • Feminerd

                  Really? My ex-Catholic husband gets extremely angry when people say Catholics aren’t Christians. Since they’re the first organized Christian church, if anyone isn’t Christian it’s the Protestants since they broke off later, wouldn’t you say?

                  If you believe Jesus was your savior and died and was resurrected for your sins, you’re a Christian. That’s like the only nonnegotiable tenet Christianity has. Mormons, Catholics, Protestants of all stripes, and even Messianic Jews are all Christians.

                • FTP_LTR

                  Don’t blame me – I was quoting Azix. I was just trying to pin down the boundaries on the True Christian category.

                  The dilemma of reconciling “Catholics aren’t Christians” with that portion of history for which Catholics and Christians were pretty much synonymous was what I was heading towards. Unfortunately it appears to be just based on Azix’s personal opinion, not any real evidence.

                  (Where have we seen that before?… :))

                • Feminerd

                  Sorry, I missed some of the nuance of the thread. I skimmed it, and clearly I should have actually read it.

    • Glasofruix

      Don’t you have anything new to say?

      • King Dave

        Yeah, it must be boring, all this conformity.
        So here.

        An atheist was taking a walk through the woods, admiring all that evolution had created.

        “What majestic trees! What powerful rivers! What beautiful animals!”, he said to himself. As he was walking along the river, he heard a rustling in the bushes behind him. When he turned to see what the cause was, he saw a 7-foot grizzly charging right towards him. He ran as fast as he could. He looked over his shoulder and saw that the bear was closing, He ran even faster, crying in fear. He looked over his shoulder again, and the bear was even closer. His heart was pounding and he tried to run even faster. He tripped and fell on the ground. He rolled over to pick himself up, but saw the bear right on top of him, reaching for him with his left paw and raising his right paw to strike him.

        At that moment, the Atheist cried out “Oh my God!….” Time stopped. The bear froze. The forest was silent. Even the river stopped moving.

        As a bright light shone upon the man, a voice came out of the sky, “You deny my existence for all of these years; teach others I don””t exist; and even credit creation to a cosmic accident. Do you expect me to help you out of this predicament? Am I to count you as a believer?”

        The atheist looked directly into the light “It would be hypocritical of me to suddenly ask You to treat me as Christian now, but perhaps could you make the bear a Christian?” “Very well,” said the voice.

        The light went out. The river ran again. And the sounds of the forest resumed.

        And then the bear dropped his right paw ….. brought both paws together…bowed his head and spoke: “Lord, for this food which I am about to receive, I am truly thankful.”

        • Glasofruix

          Are you off your meds or something?

          • Miss_Beara


            U LIBTARDZ luv u sum MUSLIMs bcuz ALLs ya evah DO is perseckut us CHRISHUNS in this CHRISHUN CONTRY. putt GAWD bak in or SKOOLS!

            • Viktor L. Takács
            • Karie White

              WTF did you just say??

              • islandbrewer

                Karie, I see you just have a few comments up, so you’re new around here. Blog comment culture is such that, if you’re not used to it, some people (occasionally of a certain age) don’t read into the sarcasm of certain over-the-top posts.

                Are you familiar with Poe’s law?


                I regret to inform you that you appear to be a victim. Miss Beara, Rob McCune, and I are not the caricatures that you seem to infer.

          • smrnda

            Singapore will do so as well, and last I checked they were pretty secular.

          • KeithCollyer

            wtf are you on? how did islam get into this discussion?
            must. stop. feeding. troll.

          • C.L. Honeycutt

            I still can’t understand these translations. Are you using enough exclamation marks?

            • islandbrewer


              Oh, King Dave, you left us so early and quickly.

              • C.L. Honeycutt

                I’m confused. Some of his comments are still up, or were at midnight. I didn’t see the content of the deleted ones. Is he being selectively excised for wackery, or is he trying to cover his tracks?

                • islandbrewer

                  His name appears gray to me, indicating that he’s not actually logged in, I think, so one has to manually search for his comments and delete them one by one?

                  Just a hypothesis.

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  Oh dur, he can’t delete his own comments, and if he could, they’d still show up as “guest” comments. I really need to stop posting while under the influence of sinus meds.

          • Karie White

            Death Panels…really? That was debunked (that means it was proven to be a myth) in 2009, back when loser Sarah Palin, ( you know, the one who couldn’t even finish being the governor, much less a V.P.) started that hideous lie. Go listen to some more Faus Spew, dummie. (I.Q still dropping.)

            • 3lemenope

              Protip: Recalibrate your Sarcasm Detector.

              It seems to have gone a bit fritzy.

        • TCC

          It’s difficult to know what this little parable is trying to assert. Are you saying that being a Christian doesn’t make a person a more moral person? I can agree with that.

          • TCC

            So do you routinely interrupt other people’s conversation to talk about what you want to talk about, or is this a habit that you limit to the Internet?

          • Obazervazi

            No True Atheist? Now I’ve seen everything.

        • EdmondWherever

          If he had said “Holy Cow!” would Shiva have come along?

        • smrnda

          This little anecdote makes zero sense and has no point. It’s one of those idiotic little jokes that pastors make about those pointy-headed intellectuals that just don’t buy into Jesus like real Americans.

        • Sweetredtele

          Weird. I woulda shot that bear. ‘Cause I’m a gun-totin Atheist.

          • Karie White

            That’s a triple play heeheehee!

        • Funk Derp


        • 3lemenope

          Wow. Way to ruin a perfectly good joke, you insensitive clod!

        • Oranje

          Wow. That’s lame even for a Chick Tract.

        • ShoeUnited

          Bears don’t pray.

          • Karie White

            Did your Mom drop you on your head, or were you born this way? Gee, I really though bears prayed! I’m traumatized!

          • islandbrewer

            They’re not praydators? Have they lost their praydatory instincts?

        • Karie White

          That’s the funniest damn story I’ve heard this week! Cheers!!

        • Greg G.

          That’s a good one. Didja hear about the 42 kids who called the prophet Elijah bald? He called two bears out of the forest and they mauled the children. 2 Kings 2:23-25.

    • Goliath

      What does Obama have to do with anything?

      • Baby_Raptor

        You’re the one who brought Obama up.

      • Viktor L. Takács

        Gooby, plz :D

      • Karie White

        Oh, wait, I think your I.Q. just fell to 50, and you sure as shit can’t spell, ya ‘publican!

      • islandbrewer

        “Your” is spelled “UR.” And moar exklamashun points!!!!!!!!!

    • ragarth

      I thought the current talking point was that President Obama was a muslim atheist gay communist socialist with ties to the black power movement and attempting to purge the US armed forces of white christians?

      Or is that totally last week’s conspiracy theory and now he’s a christian muslim atheist communist socialist with ties to the black power movement and attempting to purge the US armed forces of white christans. Only that *other* type of christian, not the real christians (protestants, baptists, or catholics depending on who is asked).

      • ragarth

        I’d think the answer is obvious! Being a cheese-hater is a natural product of being a muslim atheist gay communist socialist with ties to the black power
        movement, and I can’t stand cheese haters.

        Vive le cheddar!

        • Karie White

          double heehee

      • Karie White


    • The More You Know

      A lot of us have reason to believe Obama could be agnostic or atheist. Source: everything he has ever said to a known non-believer.

      • Carmelita Spats

        Quit bein’ a shit salesman with a mouthful of samples. If you are the WRONG kind of Christian, you’ll burn in Hell just like the Mooslem. This means that E-pisky-palians, Cathy-licks, Jee-hovy Witnesses, Utah-bound Morons, Scientologists, and all them non-BIBLE-believin’ FAKE Christians will end up with Mr. Obama…in Hell.
        Son, are you rapture ready? Did you know that TRUE Christians will get MANSIONS in heaven while Mooslems and atheists and FAKE Christians will be shoved into an outhouse? If I was you, I’d check to make sure I believed in a Trinitarian-incarnational-atoning-resurrecting-ascending-soon-to-be-returning-God who sacrificed Himself to Himself. Otherwise, this is where your sorry ass might end up…See the last picture…I can’t wait to see the look on your face when Jesus Christ drop kicks you from the cliffs of Glory into the Lake of Fire…

        • ragarth

          There are two kinds of Christians in this world. The type that’s going to hell, and the type that people say are going to hell. The two are not necessarily exclusive.

          • Karie White

            I’m sorry to jump in with a non-sequitur, but did anyone here know that actual statistics show that Atheists have generally higher I.Q.;s than religious persons? (I know, again with the I.Q. shit) Look it up! Just not on Fox; a CREDIBLE source, please.

            • C.L. Honeycutt

              For reasons I won’t go into again, I consider I.Q. tests to be not far removed from useless. But higher levels of certain defined types of intelligence definitely appear more frequently among the non-religious.

            • ragarth

              While I have no doubt that might be true, I can also plainly see where such a thing would have *nothing* to do with being a theist or atheist. Rather, it probably has everything to do with the fact that being atheist is a class privilege, and most IQ tests score middle class and upper class better for reasons that have nothing to do with intelligence. By perpetuating false causal relationships, or insinuating that atheism is the ‘smart’ choice, you are, in essence, saying something bigoted.

              • Karie White

                It happens to be a fact…look it up.

                • ragarth

                  Ooooor, you could provide a link to a research article, a name or a journal article, or the name of the researcher in question instead of asking us to do the footwork of proving you right for you.

                  Regardless, doubling down with ‘its a fact’ does not answer anything in my criticism. “it’s a fact” does nothing to answer my criticism of “it’s not causal, but likely due to a conflating variable” except make you sound a bit petulant.

                  Think of it like this: The criticism I gave you is the same fallacy you probably criticize the regnerus study for.

                • Rich Wilson

                  You can also look up the ‘fact’ that a lot of very poor nations have very low IQ

                  So do you think Africans are dumber than Europeans?

    • mobathome

      Don’t feed the troll.

    • WallofSleep

      How the fuck does “atheist” equal “progressive”? Ya know what, never mind. It’s always the same bullshit.

      • DavidMHart

        To be fair, it will tend to correlate.
        An atheist is more likely to look at the world and think: “Can we improve this? I don’t know, but it’s worth a shot”
        whereas a religious person, or at least a sufficiently devout religious person is more likely to think: “Can we improve this? Better not; I wouldn’t want to mess with God’s natural order”.

        • Rich Wilson

          I think that’s kind of like another difference Phil pointed at. A Secular Humanist looks at a baby and sees potential. A Christian looks at a baby and sees something needing Salvation.

          (That’s my paraphrasing- not a direct quote)

    • KeithCollyer

      almost clever, it looks like you are going for the syllogism “All X are Y, Z is X, therefore Z is Y”, which is, in itself, true. But what you miss is that in the statement “Christians are delusional” the clear meaning is that they are delusional about their faith, but in the conclusion that you imply, but don’t state “Obama is delusional”, there is no such implication.
      And you complain about double standards. Pot, kettle

  • observer

    “‘…We were not represented well.’”

    And they think being sore losers and keeping the tape out of public eyes is going to make things better?

    • WallofSleep

      My guess is it has more to do with keeping the rest of the congregation who were not in attendance that night from seeing it than any thing else.

  • WallofSleep

    Well, that’s what you get for trusting a bunch of pastors to be true to their word. Next time, bring your own cameras.

    All kidding aside, this isn’t exactly shocking behavior on the part of the church. This is the kind of behavior we’ve come to expect from that lot.

  • 3lemenope

    He then suggested that a good common moral code would be the Bill of Rights.

    At best the BoR describes civil rights and prudential limits to political structures, and beyond carving out modest but important spheres in which the US nat’l government is declared incompetent to operate, they really don’t do anything else (and I’d be kinda worried if they did).

    What moral code could be extracted from the Bill of Rights?

    • WallofSleep

      “What moral code could be extracted from the Bill of Rights?”

      If you can twist your brain into a pretzel shape*, you might be able to extract “Omerta” from the Fifth.

      *or, I could say “If you can think like a fundie…”

    • Stev84

      If it’s about civil rights, there are far better constitutions out there. The Canadian Charter of Human Rights or the South African constitution for example.

      The American Bill of Rights is pretty vague and most rights people take for granted were given to them by the courts long after it was written and after the same rights were repeatedly denied by previous courts.

      • Castilliano

        It’s a debate, in a conservative Christian audience.
        Like much of the debate, Zuckerman found a concept the audience could agree with then spun the Christianity out of it.
        I’m sure Zuckerman has lots of issues with Christian ‘success’, but for argument’s sake, it was better to roll with it, then do it one better.

  • SeekerLancer

    I think it’s more damaging to their position to not put the video up. It’s basically admitting that even they recognized their position did not stand up to scrutiny.

    • WallofSleep

      I think that only works for rational outsiders. The rest of their flock will probably eat up any excuse the church leaders spoon feed them about not releasing the vid.

      • islandbrewer

        The video had Satan in it. They’re not posting it for your own good.

        • Karie White

          Satan had nothing better to do but to “appear” in the video? And this is for our own good? Who are you, one of the fallen angels?? SMH…..

  • sam

    While we can thank people like Dr. Zuckerman for engaging in debates, isn’t it incredibly prudent in this age of the interwebs for all speakers to insist on being permitted to independently film the exchange? If the host church refuses permission, simply decline the invitation. This has happened more than once. Aren’t we all familiar enough with fundamentalists’ record of honesty?

  • Kimpatsu

    “Jesus was the first healer and the Red Cross symbol is a cross”
    Bullshit right there. The reason for the Red Cross is because it was founded in neutral Switzerland, whose flag is a white cross on a red background This was inverted to create a politically and religiously neutral organization. It has nothing to do with Xianity. The speaker is probably confusing the fact that in Islamic countries, the Red Cross is called the Red Crescent… but that is because of antipathy from similarly ignorant Muslims. IOW, it’s a world view based on ignorance from beginning to end.

    • GubbaBumpkin


    • Greg G.

      Do you happen to know why Switzerland put a cross on their flag? It’s a symmetrical cross which appears different than the crosses that represent a crucifix.

      • WallofSleep

        An accident of the original flag maker. It was meant to look more like an “X”, like one you might find on a pirate’s treasure map. “X marks the spot”, but in this case it’s Nazi gold instead of pirate treasure.

        • 3lemenope

          “Three!” [Points at III]
          “Seven!” [Points at VII]
          “And Ten!”…”Ten. There’s gotta be a ten around here somewhere. Spread out, look for the ten!”


          “Huh. Ten. ‘X’ marks the spot.”

      • 3lemenope

        It’s one of those maddening-but-cool multiple choice history sort of deals.

    • Artor

      I did not know that. I had always assumed it was in reference to the Knights Hospitaller, who wore the red cross on their white surcoats during the Crusades.

    • ShoeUnited

      Nevermind that the red cross is cross shaped while the christian cross is crucifix shaped. 2:3 ratio between horizontal and vertical lines.

  • duke_of_omnium

    You mean that Christians are being moral cowards and intellectual bankrupts? No! I can’t believe it! This simply could never happen!

    • Karie White

      I know, I know….shocking isn’t it?

  • Rick

    I live about 20 minutes from the mega church in question here. This does not surprise me in the least. I’m bummed that I missed it (was out of town for my anniversary), but it was great to see some of the “high”lights here. This apparent movement of these large, modern (pertaining to churches with Starbucks, better theaters than most concert venues and their own advertising departments) churches having these debates and touring apologist speakers is curious to me. What are they afraid of? (Asked with tongue firmly in cheek)

  • islandbrewer

    “Adventure Christian Church”

    Do they have zip lines and roller coasters?

    • WallofSleep

      No, but when they go camping, they hold regular Snipe hunts, and they find actual, real live Snipes. They even have evidence of said Snipes too, but for some reason won’t release the video. The Discovery Institute vouches for them, though, so that should count for something.

      • islandbrewer

        I went on snipe hunts in the boy scouts, but being raised by birders, I was always a little irritated, and always brought my Audubon guide and say, “You mean these? We’re looking in the wrong place.”

        Edit: Peterson Guide! Gah! We were a Peterson Guide household. It’s like a religious denomination within birding. I’m a recent Audubon convert. Go ahead and call me a heretic.

        • WallofSleep

          Well I’ll be fucked, they were telling the truth. Snipes are real!!!

          Man, fuck this atheism shit, I’m going back to church!

          • WallofSleep

            On a side note, even at a young age I found it perplexing how family or church elders thought absolutely nothing of teaching their youth about deception at an early age (Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, wild goose chases like “snipe hunts” on camping trips), yet later in life get flustered or indignant when same youth start asking serious questions about other superstitious crap that was being flung at them by same elders.

        • Karie White

          But now, you can’t even BE in the boy scout for fear that boys may be “doing sex with each other”. I beleive that’s how your esteemed colleague, Pat Robertson put it. Then, there’s those pesky rings that all the gay men wear. Jeez, will it never end?

          • islandbrewer

            Karie, are you just skimming these comments with your irony and sarcasm meters off? My colleague Pat Robertson?

    • DavidMHart

      Nope. God loves to smite zip-lines with lightning, so they try to avoid giving him any chances :-)

  • The Captain

    So much fail in this… First, actual Marxist here. I find myself disappointed how Zuckerman let Marshal get away with his straw-man approach to “communism” and then used that to paint “secular humanism” in that light. “communism” is specifically an economic arrangement, what Marshall seems to be talking about is “stalinism” which would be like Zuckerman arguing arguing against Christianity by only talking about Westborrow baptist church and using that as an example of the only form christianity can come in. For instance democracy is NOT mutually exclusive to communism, no more than “capitalism” is synonymous with democracy. There is a whole school of thought called “Democratic Communism” and and many, many (oh so many) free market libertarians do not believe in democracy!

    But this happens all the time (and somewhat of a hobby of mine to think about, but I am waaay to hung over to really get into today). U.S. christian fascination with “communism” has lead to a merger of capitalism and religion. Which is strange since they are trying to argue that christianity is the only way to be moral to others, yet they have merged it with an economic theory that’s very foundation is “rational SELF INTEREST”. This is why you can find U.S. christians who think the only way to have a “moral”, “just” or “compassionate” society is to somehow base the very root structure of that society on an economic arrangement that specifically removes morality from economic transactions. It leads to that fascinating strange phenomenon of U.S. christians who claim society can only be “moral” or “caring” for others under them, but then support ideas such as people being denied health care because they are not profitable enough for example.

    Edit: Side note for Marshell, Central and South America are full of Christians who are “communist”.

    • 3lemenope

      …”communism” is specifically an economic arrangement…

      This statement is a bit problematic on two levels. The first, more obvious one, is that Marx conceived of the historical dialectic as a material dialectic upon which all other social matters are either superstructural or outright epiphenomena. It’s a bit like a physicist saying “that teacup is specifically an arrangement of matter”; ‘specifically’ does literally no work in the sentence because from the given perspective, it couldn’t possibly have been anything else. If you think everything significant about human affairs can be explained by the engine of history working economically to solve the problem of scarcity and then redistribute that abundance to meet the broadest possible human need, then communism is “specifically” an economic arrangement the exact same way that church, or baseball, or your choice of friends is; it’s something the bourgeois have added to the structure either to extract rents from or to foster false consciousness in their dupes workers. It’s all economic arrangement.

      This is also why communism being compatible with different political arrangements simultaneously claims too much and too little. It’s true so far as it goes, but the important unspoken piece is that the economic goals of a worker’s soviet struggling towards that sweet pure communism are going to place similar pressures on outcomes and expectations regardless of the political system in place, and so produce predictably similar outcomes.

      The second problem is that it’s kinda sorta tap-dancing around the concept and execution of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, which Marx was pretty sure would be necessary, messy, brutal, violent, and transformative. Somehow actual attempts have historically–and without exception at the level of nation-states–been permanently stranded at this stage of the material dialectic, and managed to be all of those five things above except, of course, transformative. The states that have tried either linger in that really uncomfortable meant-to-be-transitional-seriously-we-promise phase, or backslide directly into some form of capitalism. Pinning that all on Stalin and/or Stalinism is kinda naughty.

      I know, communism, socialism, et al. are seriously abused terms in the discourse. Nothing drives me battier than seeing folks reduce useful descriptive terms and full-fledged political and economic theories to punchlines and casual epithets. But because they are real, discrete things we can track real discrete consequences. The American “fascination”, as you put it, with communism might have a little to do with a self described collection of Worker’s Soviets presenting a constant threat of annihilation in nuclear fire, and our ideological reaction thereto colored just a smidge by that experience.

      This is why you can find U.S. christians who think the only way to have a “moral”, “just” or “compassionate” society is to somehow base the very root structure of that society on an economic arrangement that specifically removes morality from economic transactions.

      Yep. I think, in addition, that one of the big stumbling blocks Americans tend to have is a failure to understand the basic concept of marginal value. Intuitive concepts of fairness incline us to split “the pie” evenly in absolute terms; a buck is a buck is a buck, and so forth. The idea that $10 matters much more to a minimum wage earner or a pensioner than to Bill Gates, that while they have the same absolute value they have wildly different marginal value, seems a bridge too far.

      EDIT: Whoops. Well, that ended up being more of a rant than intended.

      • The Captain

        I was going to try to address all your points but you missed the most important thing I wrote “I am waaay to hung over to really get into this (sic) today”!

        So yea, I used the word “specifically” to try to illustrate that communism can come with many different political structures and is not the antithesis of democracy as Marshall was using it (and contrary to how you are defining politics). But thanks for spending a whole paragraph pointing out a misuse of one word as seen from one analytical point of view.

        • 3lemenope

          I was going to try to address all your points but you missed the most important thing I wrote “I am waaay to hung over to really get into this (sic) today”!

          Yeah, my post sort of metastatized from what it was originally intended to be. I realized afterword that in the best of circumstances it was a bit ranty, and downright cruel when aimed at someone nursing a hangover. So, sorry about that.

          If you happen to have a jar of dill pickles in the house, a shot of dill brine can do wonders for hangovers.

          • The Captain

            Yea thanks, I’m out of pickles (I eat them as snack food) so instead I went the steak and cheese omelet and vitamin drink route. It seems to be working but I’m not doing much to test it other than yelling at the football game.

  • GeniusPhx

    this might have been a christian nation, but the founders looked around at the different sects of christians in the colonies killing each other over differences, colonies establishing different forms of christianity, forcing ppl to pay taxes to support the church, and taking away rights of ppl for not believing what they did. not being able to own property, not being able to vote, to marry, were all common to early settlers who didn’t agree w their form of xny.

    the founders weren’t haven any of that. the constitution was finally copied by a professional scribe who alway put “the year of our lord” in the date. it had no meaning as it was on every document of note at the time.

    the 1st amendment kept the federal govt from establishing a belief, but it was the 14th amendment that applied it to the state/local govt much later. In our legal system all religions are equal, as well as non belief.

  • Greg G.

    When they calculate charity for Christians vs others, do they differentiate how much of the giving goes to helping the needy? Christians would tend to tithe to a church with high overhead with just a smidgeon actually helping while atheists tend to give to charities with low overhead.

    Some of the days of the week are named for Norse gods. Some of the months are named for ancient Roman gods. If the “year of our Lord” language supports that our society is Christian, then it is also based on Norse and Roman mythology. A stronger conclusion could be made that our calendar references are based on myth.

    • Iothisk

      Dan Pallotta has an interesting talk on why we shouldn’t demonize overhead, I think you should give it a listen. (20 min, but worth it) I don’t side with church charities, because more often than not they classify proselytizing as charity, (covers buying bibles and such) which I do not agree with, but just because the overhead is high doesn’t mean that their overhead is not part of the charity.

    • primenumbers

      Most of Christian “charity” goes to fund proselytization or niceties for church leaders. That’s hardly charity!

      • JohnnieCanuck

        I am always surprised by how much of a donation is spent in follow-up mailings trying to solicit more donations. Sometimes, if you do give in to a later mailing, you then get two sets of all their stuff.

        I get to see this first hand, because my wife has a kind heart.

        • primenumbers

          For good charities I’m sad when they are so in-efficient with their money. With other charities (often medical ones) I’m happy they’re in-efficient as they often do harm rather than good and the less efficient they are the less harm they do….

          • JohnnieCanuck

            And then there’s the Scientologists. They increased their own efficiency numbers by using the resources of other charities that would otherwise have gone to the disaster victims.

            The only deliverable they had for the victims was their sales pitch; no food, no medical supplies.

    • David Marshall

      Greg: The main source I cited on this, Arthur Brooks, does indeed take that into account — which is why I said in every measurable SECULAR way, the pious tend to be more generous. See his book, “Who Really Cares.”

  • Loren Petrich

    Let’s see about David Marshall’s claims.

    * Charity — I will half-concede that, though the ancient Roman authorities had a sort of welfare system.

    * Feminism (Jesus was the first feminist) — calling him a feminist is an absolute laugh. Where were his female disciples? Pagans did better than that. Plato proposed that women could be as good as men as leaders of his Republic.

    * Human rights — I don’t know what DM has in mind, but Roman citizens in the Roman Republic and Empire had various recognized legal rights.

    * Science — Pagan Greeks and Romans did it MUCH MUCH better than Christians for the next thousand years. It took rediscovering the works of those pagan proto-scientists to get them going again, and even then, it was a rocky road.

    For instance, Aristotle once wrote a treatise on fallacies, “Sophistical Refutations”, but Jesus Christ never discussed fallacies in what’s recorded of him.

    * Education — Scribal schools go back to ancient Sumer, almost 5000 years ago and nearly 2000 years before the first mention of Jesus Christ’s ethnicity. Greek philosophers often founded schools, and the names of Plato’s Academy and Aristotle’s Lyceum are still often used for educational institutions.

    * Healer (Jesus was the first healer and the Red Cross symbol is a cross) — what a stupid thing to claim. Crude forms of medicine are likely as old as humanity, if not older. There is evidence of various other species self-medicating. As to hospitals, temples of deities of medicine likely served as those. Temples of Asclepius had numerous cure testimonials written on them, hard evidence that Jesus Christ cannot compete with. Our modern style of medicine was first advocated by Hippocrates, as far as I know. He supposedly claimed that epilepsy was attributed to the gods because nobody really knows what causes it.

    * Freedom — in ancient Rome, slaveowners often freed some of their slaves.

    So he loses miserably.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      Charity and houses of healing came from India before Christianity, IIRC. I don’t know if they predated the Greeks. Could be a fusion, since so much of the Abrahamic religions are a blend of ideas from their neighbors to either side.

    • Michael

      “Where were his female disciples?”

      Mary Magdalene only stopped counting as a disciple around 200 years later when the first major rewrite of Christianity took place. Same time that someone made up the claim that she was a whore.

      Jesus may have been a good bloke, history has forgotten.

      • Loren Petrich

        What gives you the idea that she had been counted as a disciple?

        • Greg G.

          In the Gospel of Thomas Saying 21, someone named Mary asks Jesus, “Whom are your disciples like?” In Saying 114, Simon Peter said to Jesus, “Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of Life.”

          The Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Mary agree that Jesus loved Mary Magdalene more than the other disciples and suggest she was set above them.

          “And the companion of the Lord was Mary Magdalene. He loved her more than all the disciples, and used to kiss her on her mouth more often than the rest of the disciples. They said to him “Why do you love her more than all of us?” The Saviour answered and said to them ,”Why do I not love you like her? When a blind man and one who sees are both together in darkness, they are no different from one another. When the light comes, then he who sees will see the light, and he who is blind will remain in darkness.”
          The Gospel of

          Peter said to Mary, “Sister, we know that the Savior loved you more than all other women. Tell us the words of the Savior that you remember, the things which you know that we don’t because we haven’t heard them.”
          The Gospel of Mary 5:5-6

          • chicago dyke, TOWAN

            wonky silliness. 10:501stphllus. blahgooonahana. 55.55.bp

            really? just give me a break. here, maybe you can unnerstaan this one:

            internet comment: 11:50pm 6/2/33

            they all have equal value as “proof” of history.

            • 3lemenope

              I could be wrong, but I don’t think the question was meant as an historical inquiry. Whether M.M. is legitimately considered, under the rubric of Christianity, a disciple of Jesus, is a theological question that doesn’t even really depend on whether Jesus or M.M. actually existed.

            • Greg G.

              Hi CD,

              I’m not sure what you mean, but I think I disagree with the equal value of “proof” of history. I think they have value to answer the question I responded to which was whether Mary Magdalene was ever counted as a disciple. The Philip and Mary Gospels show that 2nd century (or so) believers counted her as a disciple. The Gospel of Thomas may have some latter first century indications of MM being counted among the disciples.

              These writings do not offer proof that there actually were disciples in the early first century.* They only show that later generations believed it. So there is unequal value as “proof”, depending what you are trying to prove.

              *The earliest Christian writings, the Epistles, never use the word “disciple”. 1 Corinthians 15:5 mentions the Twelve but doesn’t identify them as disciples.

    • David Marshall

      You simply misunderstand my arguments, Loren. I’ve been writing about the contributions of various non-Christian religions for decades, now — in print since at least 1996, and at length, and enthusiastically. It is in no way my claim that these things are utterly unique to Christianity. But go back and read the transcript of what I say about ancient science, citing your guy, Richard Carrier.

  • David

    Not to generalize, but this is what I love about atheists. When Hitchens was destroyed by WLC in their debate, he didn’t go around saying that he had won or complaining that Craig is a pseudo-scientist. And the reason is probably because even though he had lost the debate, he still knew his position was right. This is very much different than the article above or WLC bragging on his website after every debate he’s ever been in.

    • Artor

      “When Hitchens was destroyed by WLC in their debate,” [citation needed]

      Would that be the debate where WLC insisted that genocide is moral, because Gawd said so?

      • Rich Wilson

        I’m not sure if Hitchens and WLC debated one-on-one more than once, but the one I’m thinking of, I think from a debate POV, Hitchens lost. Which give me some confidence in my ability to impartially judge the debate separately from my opinion on the question.

        I wish the video was up, so people wouldn’t have to take my word for it.

        • Keane
          • Rich Wilson

            Thanks, I meant the Zuckerman/Marshall video :-)

            • Keane

              Ah, that would have been more clear to me if I had bothered to read your name on the comment. I would have made the connection then.

        • islandbrewer

          That’s one of the reasons I’ve never placed a lot of stock in the outcome of debates. The “winner” is often the more articulate and persuasive or prepared, not necessarily the one who was “right.” That’s why science doesn’t proceed through “debates.”

          And WLC is a total master debater.

          Edit: To appreciate my juvenile humor, say “masterdebater” 5 times fast.

          • Stev84

            If by that you mean “master of the Gish gallop”, then yes.

            • islandbrewer

              It’s a totally juvenile joke, “masterdebater.” Try saying it fast. Yes, I have a 12 year old sense of humor.

      • Keane

        I went back and watched that debate, and in simple terms of “debate”, Hitchens lost pretty badly.

        • ichthyic

          this is why a debate is not where we as a society decide on the correctness of any specific issue, or make final decisions on directions to go.

          debate is little more than entertainment.

          treat it as such.

    • smrnda

      WLC doesn’t win debates. He works a crowd of like-minded people and does anything in his power to avoid addressing anything not covered by his standard talking points.

  • Richard Wade

    Excellent article, Rich. Thank you.

    “It just didn’t go the way we wanted it to go. We were not represented well.”

    Aaaand somehow adding lying, breaking promises, and cowardice to the incident will represent yourselves better? Well, it certainly represents you more accurately.

    Never do anything like this unless you get a legally binding contract.
    And bring in your own video crew just as a backup.
    And have someone secretly audio recording it as a backup to that.
    And several friends in the audience secretly taking notes as a backup to that.
    And bring your own drinking water.
    And have a driver waiting with a fast car just outside the back door.
    With washable seat covers and disinfectant wipes in the car.
    And wear a Kevlar vest.
    And a cup.

    • WallofSleep

      You forgot to mention the unholy water. I think Evian comes ready, right out of the bottle, which makes it pretty handy in a pinch. Or were you including that under “drinking water”, considering our innate immunity?

    • GeraardSpergen

      Spoken like someone who’s been BURNED!

      Once burned, twice cautious… a parable NOT in the bible.

      • chicago dyke, TOWAN
      • islandbrewer

        Like they say, “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice … I … uh … we won’t be fooled again.”

        • Karie White


  • ufo42

    Just part of the longstanding tradition amongst theocratic charlatans of lying for Jesus. Just as with the Islamists, everything is justified if you’re doing it to promote your vicious death-cult’s dogma.

  • ufo42

    Ever since violence became an unacceptable option for christian nut-jobs, they’ve been losing the argument. Because there is no rational case for belief in any of the Abrahamic religions’ dogmas. There are dozens maybe hundreds of ways to prove logically that the God of Abraham is bad, inconsistent fiction.

    • chicago dyke, TOWAN

      i don’t know if you’ve read a lot about western europe in the 1300 and 1400s (“AD”). i have. i love being alive right now; there are many similarities between our times.

      modern atheists are like the early scientists and painters rediscovering and creating an age of thought, over the stupidity of religion.

      we are a tiny minority, right now. but we have some amazing weapons and we’re winning, battle after battle. it’s exciting. they have all the money, all the power, all the media control… and yet we’re winning. just like the early scientists who said, “no, actually the earth is round. deal.”

  • ufo42

    What the actions of this church clearly show is that they now realize that their ideas cannot stand up to honest examination, so they are hunkering down in their church basement and hoping against hope that they are going to be able to persuade their sheeple to ignore the internet.

  • John Barleycorn

    The solution seems simple: Sue them. If they promised, in writing, to post the video online, they can be made to do so through legal means. Just ask Kim Basinger.

  • Richard Wade

    Has Dr. Marshall made any public statement about Pastor Hardwick’s squelching of the debate video? If Dr. Marshall has any integrity, he should be insisting that the video be published, complete and uncut.

    • Artor

      I won’t hold my breath waiting for that.

      • David Marshall

        I have. See my last two posts at I am presently also composing an e-mail to the relevant pastors.

        • Artor

          Good to hear. Thanks for supporting honesty & integrity.

          Scratch that. I followed your link and I don’t see any calls for the video to be released there. All I see is you attempting to re-debate Zuckerman without him there to shoot you down again. What a nice example of honesty & integrity. Not.

          • someoneinpassing

            @Artor – actually, about 1/3 of the way down on that blog, there is this: “The church has not released the tape, either because they think I lost, or because they don’t agree with the ersatz position I took on church and state … Push me, and I’ll admit I think I won the debate handily, on points … I’ll be requesting that Adventure release the tape so that I can transcribe what we actually said, and readers can judge for themselves.”

  • Abdiel

    I must say that this has been a reoccurring trend with theists. I’m a bit ashamed that fellow atheist wouldn’t have hired their own crew or video recorded themselves. Hopefully next time my fellow atheists will make sure to secure a video of all future debates.

  • fifthdentist

    The “In the year of our lord” is an easy one to dismiss. If that phrase makes the Constitution a holy document, then all the bills of sales for slaves dated in the same manner (they’re available for viewing online) must mean that slavery was a holy institution endorsed by their god-thing.

    • Artor

      No need to use that for proof, just look in their Big Book, where it outlines the appropriate practices for slavery and delineates who you can press into hereditary servitude.

  • Matt Gray

    Well…it is their video. It’s their right to do what they want with it so you can hardly complain. Knowing the church was filming the event and that they didn’t represent your views you should have had someone filming for your own video usage. Lesson learned right?

    • Keane

      You CAN complain if they tell you, in writing, that they’ll post the whole thing and then refuse to do so.

      • 3lemenope

        Yep. One thing that would certainly help that along would be if Zuckerman could publish a copy of the e-mail where the church made the promises in writing. The smoking gun, so to speak.

    • The Captain

      Ugh… this brand of stupidity.

      No one has said they have no “right” to do what they want with the video, and yes, people CAN complain (that is their “right” after all, or did people somehow loose the freedom of speech). Just because someone has the “right” to do something does not exempt them from criticism!

      • Matt Gray

        The only stupidity I see are the fools that cannot let other people have an opinion. You and Rob down there. That is a brand stupidity the internet does not need. So, before you seek to insult others on stupidity, make sure to hide your own brand of stupidity so that you will not look like a hypocrite. Have a wonderful day.

        • islandbrewer

          How are they “not let[ing you] have an opinion”?

        • The Captain

          Hey, you’re the one who started this all off by stating that others shouldn’t express their opinion and backed it up with awful logic.

          And thanks, but my day was just O.k. Good day to you sir!

      • Matt Gray

        It takes a moron to know a moron…so with that said nothing more needs to be said.

        • islandbrewer

          That made me want to ask, “How do you keep the cats from pooping in your sacrosanct rights?” and “What kind of ‘water’ is making that island in there?”

  • Castilliano

    Having attended the debate I can vouch for the one-sided nature.
    The quotes are the best I could do.

    The gist of Zuckerman’s argument was twofold:
    1. Secular Humanists agree with many Christian values, with a side emphasis on Democracy being valued by both. Nonreligious (post-Christian) democratic populations show the most success at displaying Christian values. (Launched by his Treaty of Tripoli arc establishing the U.S. as not Christian, and followed by much evidence from polls re: U.S. subgroups and internationally.)
    2. Secular Humanism can draw upon the best the world, which also shares these (predating Christianity) “Christian” values, and SH allows all to come to the table with their beliefs. On the other hand, Christianity is non-inclusive, especially if privileged. Followed by subtle implications of the Bible, and strong evidence of evangelicals, falling short of “Christian Values”.
    Marshall never countered these.

    Marshall came prepared with a pro-Christian, anti-Atheist sermon full of anecdotes (both personal & historical) and quotes. Most of my notes for him are along the lines “More quotes, more anecdotes”.
    No actual evidence. No firm rebuttals.
    Zuckerman defanged him by agreeing Christianity has had successes, but then showing the greater success of post-Christian democracies (and peoples).

    Marshall kept trying to get back on the ‘communist’ arc and the ‘atheists have no values’ arc, but since Zuckerman had already filled those gaps by embracing democracy and “Christian” (but shared universally) values, Marshall found no footing.
    Essentially, Zuckerman didn’t counter him (except to correct errors or obfuscations) so much as top him.

    Marshall’s attempts to extricate ‘basis of civil society’ away from ‘democratic government’ was sloppy, as he had no replacement ‘basis’. (Zuckerman had already conceded that a society of one religion, any religion, would be ‘civil’, but in our pluralistic world, that wasn’t an option. (Also alluded to Sharia Law.))
    Marshall didn’t seem to understand Secular Humanism is not atheism, nor anti-Christian, or that is does have a set of values.

    And Marshall’s ending with the story of the girl had zero to do with building a society. It was a shameless Jesus testimony aimed at his audience.
    He had practically conceded to Zuckerman when he acknowledged the power of Zuckerman’s concluding statements, and his inability to address it all (or any of it, as it turned out).

    It’s really a loss not to have this out there. Zuckerman wove in a lot of poignant asides. Perhaps Zuckerman would share those and his factoids. They were meaty and plentiful.
    Here are some Zuckerman highlights:
    -”Who would be better and creating a longstanding society? Somebody who believed reality is all we have or somebody who thinks this is a blip before an eternity?”
    -Establishing that in no way could the founders have been following the Bible when revolting, (i.e. Romans 13).
    -Mini-slaps: Every time Marshall tried to dredge up dirt, Zuckerman had a counter, and then would reset the debate on a positive note. One example Marshall used was of a horrific tribe (without Jesus) and Zuckerman beautifully called him out on his negative focus, brought up the Australian natives and their very moral culture (without Jesus), and then realigned the debate on comparing the best to the best.

    One of them made a quick comment about them both being Democrats.
    Not sure how that flew.

    Lastly, sort of a succinct summation of it all, a question from the audience:
    “If you agree so much with Christianity, why not Christianity?”
    “Because we’re not all Christians.”

    Oh, and I talked with Bryan, the pastor who coordinated this, after the debate. He’d seemed pleased and was even testing the waters at Adventure for establishing a Christian/atheist monthly meeting. We’ll see.

    As much as people are demonizing the Christians on this thread, they were quite welcoming. (I had an atheist shirt on.) While the clapping was unbalanced, they did acknowledge Zuckerman’s successes with applause, much more applause than I’d expected.
    Surprised by the pull of the video, especially of the sermon too. I wonder if Marshall doesn’t really align with them?
    Shameful, really.

    Cheers, JMK

    • freespeechfan

      Thank you so much for the details. I missed the debate, so am happy to get some of it vicariously.

    • David Marshall

      JMK: At least you’re not just guessing at my arguments, like some above. But you’re wrong on almost everything. I gave a number of empirical arguments for my case, backed them up by citing leading historians, and Zuckerman did nothing to overthrow those arguments. Were you asleep during my opening statement?

      As for your rebuttal, consider the following:

      (1) There were no “secular humanists” in the Continental Congress. That is anachronistic. But every single man there grew up in a culture deeply influenced by Christianity. And while some figures who influenced the outcome might have been closer to deism than Christianity (Hume, Jefferson), others were serious believers (Locke, Witherspoon).

      (2) Government, in my view, should be neutral between religions, and between religious and non-religious organizations, in general. That is not at all the same as saying either that the values that made America were not largely and deeply Christian, including government itself — read the Tierney book I cited.

      (3) Christianity has, in fact, “drawn upon the world,” and in a deeper sense than Secular Humanism can. Humanists of the Kurtz-Zuckerman variety are atheists. That isolates them from many true insights in world civilizations, such as those I described the next morning at Adventure. Early Christians recognized this from the beginning, as Paul Tillich, for instance, points out.

      (4) No evidence? Baloney. I gave copious evidence. And Zuckerman conceded a great deal of it. Your bias is showing like pink underwear through thin white cotton, on that bit of nonsense.

      (5) I never, ever said “atheists have no values.” Nor have I ever, once, written such a thing. Though I wonder if you may be lacking in them in misrepresenting me like that.

      (6) Secular Humanism is a “religion” in the sense I use the word — I cited Peter Berger on the two different kinds of definition for “religion.” Have you read Berger? I suspect Phil has, which is why he did not challenge me on the point.

      (7) Nor (again you are misrepresenting the facts) did I “concede the power” of Zuckerman’s Gish Gallop at the end. I conceded that I could not possibly answer all those points in five minutes, said I’d answer them elsewhere (on my blog, when the transcript is available — but I’ve already answered his strongest point there) and also conclude my own argument.

      (8) The concluding story was real evidence, which Zuckerman’s main argument was not. He concedes himself that “correlation does not prove causation.” Ruby Bridges’ story (multiplied many thousands of times over) shows causation, not just correlation. Zuckerman is looking at society from a satellite, but real human impact occurs at the ground level. And I’d given plenty of general evidence to demonstrate that causation already.

      (9) I did not “dredge up dirt.” Not once was I uncivil or did I offer irrelevant arguments. I like Phil, never impugned his motives, and was courteous throughout. I don’t fault Zuckerman for bringing up the 100 Years War: he has no reason to fault me for bringing up the mass horrors of 20th Century Marxism-Leninism. This is a serious discussion.

      (10) The tribe I mentioned was the Yanomami. Zuckerman was wrong: they are not exceptions, as even Margaret Mead concedes, but much more the rule. See War Before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage. (I have lived among other tribes with such backgrounds, both in North America and Asia.) Phil was also wrong to suppose that means I don’t appreciate the good in such tribes — a subject I have often stressed, and I followed immediately by pointing out the oppressive character of many early civilizations.

      (11) You’re also wrong in assuming that I’m a Democrat. I simply refused to discuss politics, as Phil seemed to want to do — not that there was time for that, anyway.

      I will post this, and subsequent corrections, on my blog, along with detailed empirical refutations of those important points that I didn’t get to in our short debate, and Phil got wrong.

      • Caralee

        Mr. Marshall, how do you feel about Adventure Christian Church’s decision to not post the debate? Also, did they give you an explanation as to why they pulled your sermon from their site?

        • David Marshall

          I’m not happy about it. I’m working on my e-mail now.

          In answer to Shoe United, if I write out a transcription, of course I’ll send Phil a copy before posting, to give him the chance to make any corrections. At no stage in this process has any ill will or disrespect arisen between us, and I don’t expect it to.

      • ichthyic

        “I will post this, and subsequent corrections, on my blog, along with
        detailed empirical refutations of those important points that I didn’t
        get to in our short debate, and Phil got wrong.”

        Sorry, but since you obviously vehemently disagree with other eyewitness representations of the event, there is ONLY one way that your “corrections” would even be worth reading, let alone responding to.

        Surely you understand that unless you can force the church host to release the full and unedited video of the debate, you have nothing but hearsay to support your position?

        so… why aren’t you demanding they release the video?

        because, if you don’t, what you say is of no more value than what anyone else says about it.

        get that?

        • Caralee

          Marshall says on his blog, “I’ll
          be requesting that Adventure release the tape so that I can transcribe
          what we actually said, and readers can judge for themselves.”

          • ShoeUnited

            Why transcribe them when they could just be put on vimeo, youtube, or

            If he’s going to transcribe them, I hope he does the gentlemanly thing and forward the video to his opponent.

        • David Marshall

          That is an irrational way of thinking. I am an historian and a writer, and made numerous claims about the impact of the Gospel, which Dr. Zuckerman mostly did not even contradict, let alone rebut. From the fact that some people think I failed to fully answer all of Zuckerman’s arguments in our few minutes on stage (anymore than he did mine), it hardly follows that my considered written refutation of those points could not carry any weight. (In fact, I had already rebutted Zuckerman’s chief point in detail years before — see my recent post “Does Faith in God Up the Murder Rate?”)

          There is some evidence that Adventure simply did not agree with some of my positions.

          But the important issue is not “Who won the debate,” it is “Who is right? Is Christianity a better foundation for Civil Society, or is Secular Humanism?”

          It is in my power to post my initial argument, which was written down, and which Dr. Zuckerman mostly just ignored. I don’t think any honest person can say with those points left unrebutted, the opposing side should go around claiming victory.

          • baal

            ” I don’t think any honest person can say with those points left
            unrebutted, the opposing side should go around claiming victory.”

            There is formal debate (Oregon style and all that) and then there is informal debate. The later is decided by general impressions as much as anything else. The IQ debate series uses polling of the audience to determine ‘winners’ (who changed minds).

            Typically atheists are at a disadvantage in 1:1 debates due to the differential burden to rebut bad science as used by theists as well as theistic Gish Gallops which are not generally unrebuttable in a human’s life time.

            I agree you need a basis to claim a win but point for point rebuttals is only one factor among many that go into that overall decision.

            • David Marshall

              Baal: That’s fine. Only Phil has now admitted my point.

              Strangely enough, between the two of us, I don’t think it’s all just about ego — I believe we both care passionately about the truth.

              • baal

                He admitted that he didn’t address everything you said? I don’t think he needs to.

      • Pofarmer

        To your point 1, and then I must go, but you are correct, that the Founders had all grown up in a deeply Christian society, but, many of them were rejecting it. They were rejecting the control over society by the Church, and were espousing humanist values and came up with a largely humanist document. Keep in mind, all this was going on 50 years or more before “Origin of Species” was released. There was no other “basis” at that time to go on, other than Deism. But, that aside, the founders were RADICALS in their day.

        • Loren Petrich

          Even worse, the colonies were divided into different Christian sects, and they weren’t all bosom buddies. Many of the Colonies did not allow Catholics to vote and/or hold public office. The Puritans of Massachusetts frowned on celebrating Christmas because it was “Papist” and idolatrous. Given that attitude, one cannot imagine that they would have had much love for the Catholic Church.

          As to Xianity and democracy, tell that to believers in the Divine Right of Kings. Sir Robert Filmer thought that the desire for liberty was Adam’s great sin, that kings get their authority from being descended from Adam, the first king, and that the rest of us are junior members of kings’ families.

          As to the Bible, the only forms of government that it endorses are absolute monarchy and theocracy. Moses and Peter were theocrats. Several of the writers of the Bible had denounced bad kings, but their ideal was to have a good king, not anything that we’d nowadays call democracy. There are no elections in the Bible, as far as I’m aware. Did anyone ever vote on anything in the Bible?

          • Pofarmer

            The sailors did draw lots to see who got tossed on the Jonah myth

        • Loren Petrich

          There’s also remarkably little religion in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Federalist Papers. John Adams even wrote a book, “Defence of the Constitutions” in 1787, defending secular government, though noting a widespread belief that leaders are gods or descendants of gods or provincial governors of gods.

      • Castilliano

        Hello, Mr. Marshall, thank you for visiting us here. :)
        Note though, that when discussing developing a civil society, it’d be best not to lace your responses with insults.
        You’ve invested much more into the debate, and perhaps were trying to be funny, but…just sayin’
        (Note: I have your original reply on my e-mail, sent to me by Disqus…)


        1. Nobody made this argument. The fact they were mostly Christians who developed a non-Christian system strengthened the appeal of Zuckerman’s non-Christian system to his Christian audience. (Success is arguable.)
        The fact most of the 10 commandments would be illegal to enforce under the government created shows its disjunction from Judeo-Christian roots. (Yes, murder, theft, etc, are punishable, but that’s universal among civil societies.)

        2. Yes, they were Christians, but their values were universal. You failed to prove their Christianity was more than coincidence. (i.e. a quote from a founder showing Christianity causing them (or a writer) to frame the Constitution as they did to offset the Treaty of Tripoli showing the exact opposite.)

        3. *citation needed*
        You really believe that Christianity’s body of beliefs has interwoven non-Christian beliefs and values into itself, to strengthen itself? (philosophically, not numerically/financially)
        I mean, there’s “Pagan Christianity?” by Viola & Barna showing lots of said influences, but they’re arguing against such corruption.
        4. Apologies, but there’s a mismatch here.
        Your evidence was historical re: Christian success. And I noted how Zuckerman conceded you that, BTW.
        I meant evidence Christianity was better than Secular Humanism, the main question of the debate. Or even evidence Christianity has a high % of success. (This ‘proven track record’ you wanted to establish.)

        Pointing out the many successes (and ignoring the many failures) seems insincere at best. Yes, an argument, but not evidence. Most every social system has had successes, and could use the exact same tactic with exactly as little meaning.

        You’d have to quantify the success to failure ratio across the board, perhaps even comparing it to other systems’ successes. Of course, the many correlations among systems would make that arduous…
        5. Yes, “Squishy” was the word, so apologies, but correct me if that’s not trying to undermine Secular Humanist values.
        Nice ‘civility’ tagged on the end there. And you seemed so nice…

        6. Did anybody argue this? Arguing this definition wouldn’t advance the debate, it’d stall it. Point being?
        7. Fair enough, but it came across weak.

        8. We disagree. To me, the story showed the power of a concept to help a little girl adjust to a severe situation. All major religions offer that! It’s not evidence how Christianity can help make a more civil society than Secular Humanism.

        Ask yourself, how much was the Christianity of the protestors helping? Would it even be possible for a Secular Humanist to be such a protestor?

        Yes, this could spin off into ‘No True Scotsman’ territory, but when Christianity, as applied in real life, is a trait in the villains’ lives as well as the heroes’, then that is not evidence either way. (i.e. Wilberforce vs. slave-owning Christians)
        Which is to say, I do not agree that your many other anecdotes showed causation. Correlation at best.
        Multiplying doesn’t show causation. No matter how many people have seen aliens (tens of thousands at this point) doesn’t, in fact, prove aliens exist. Especially when, as noted above, other religions have those same ‘feel good’ stories, and tons of ‘feel bad’ stories too while we’re at it.

        9. I would call it dredging up dirt. Yes, Zuckerman did it too. Both of you were very civil to one another, a point I made to Bryan afterward, and appreciated.
        While not irrelevant, I did not think it advanced your causes, especially since Communism is not a form of Secular Humanism.

        10. You should have stressed that that was the norm, not just one example. Even then, the presence of civil societies that have minimal or zero Christian influence (not just contact) shows Christianity unnecessary re: the debate.

        11. I thought one of you two said that and I phrased it so.
        It wasn’t an assumption.

        Anyway, thank you again for visiting here, and hopefully this will all lead somewhere. :)
        Cheers, JMK

  • cephus

    Frustrating, but not at all surprising.

  • Matt Bowyer

    Christians don’t like being shown up.

    • 3lemenope

      I don’t know many people, of any sort, who do.

      • Artor

        But honest people admit it when it happens.

  • Gunner Miller

    They have a “We win…we win! We lose…we still win!” view of debating.

  • closetatheist

    I’m not trained in debate, but even I feel like I could have torn him a new asshole after he listed those 7 ridiculous “gifts of the gospel.” Feminism? Human rights? First healer? the red cross being Christian? The Christian capacity for bullshit is the only thing in this universe that seems to be infinite.

  • jdm8

    You mention written assurances, did you post copies of them yet?

  • Matt Gonzales

    This should stand as an example to learn from. In the future, even (especially) if the event is sponsored by a theist group or organization, there should be TWO recordings of the debate and it should be agreed upon beforehand. One should be whomever the church/group/organization chooses, and the other should be a non-partisan secular recorder for the purposes of a fair circumstance after which both parties can post the video on their respective websites.

  • islandbrewer

    he replied, “It just didn’t go the way we wanted it to go. We were not represented well.”

    And not putting up the video, turning off comments, and removing replies “represents” them sooooo much better.

  • Rain

    Oh that stupid “Treaty of Tripoli”. Everyone knows it’s politics and diplomacy. It isn’t convincing to either secularists or theocrats! Why be so desperate to bring that dumb thing up all the time. “Nya naya nya I can bring up the Treaty of Tripoli, *sticks tongue out*”. Gimme a break.

  • smrnda

    I disagree that Christians are ‘more charitable.’ I, for one, think a welfare state is a better way to meet people’s needs than charity, so to me, the willingness to let charity solve problems is a negative aspect of religion.

  • David Marshall

    Rich: Interesting account of our debate. Considering your bias, I think it was fairly objective, though of course pointalistic and scattered, set of notes. And needless to say, I dispute your claim that Phil “won,” especially keeping the actual subject of the debate in mind. I’ll try to convince Adventure to allow me to at least post a transcript of the debate at in the coming week.

    The topic of the debate was “Does Christianity or Secular Humanism provide a better foundation for Civil Society?” It was not, “Was John Adams in favor of making the American government neutral towards various religions?” The latter is a complex question, but it was not the question at issue, and it may indeed be that Adventure disagrees with me somewhat on that, in my opinion, irrelevant question.

    Phil did not, in fact, much dispute my main lines of evidence, which I think remain unassailed.

    Phil’s own approach was sociological, as might be expected, but kind of a “sky view” rather than “ground level” argument, which I don’t think is very strong — for reasons I have given before, and will post post haste on my web site.

    • Chris

      Why isn’t the church posting the video, do you have more insight as to why they are refusing to post it?

    • Rich Wilson

      Thanks David, I honestly tried my best, and a biased person’s notes and week old memory are no substitute for a recording. As I said, I held onto this for this long expecting the video would be up. I also should have made the caveat that any quotations are subject to my note taking and memory, and I accept full responsibility for any errors.

      I fully agree that Tripoli, and any of the founding fathers, were off topic. I think you would have best served your side by pointing that out. With Tripoli in particular, you addressed it, but not really, leaving at least me with the impression that he had scored a point. It was kind of a “swing and a miss” for you when it could have been a duck on your part, leaving Phil with the “miss”.

      I hesitate to speculate, but I kind of think that if we put you, Phil, and pastor Rick on a scale, you would be a lot closer to Phil than to Rick on most real-world policy issues. Just my impression, for what it’s worth.

      • ichthyic

        Rich, there is no point in debating the accuracy of your memory with that of Marshall’s.

        there is only one way any of this becomes anything more than just biased recollections, and that is if the entire video, unedited, is released.

        no, David will not be getting transcripts of it, that much I can reasonably guarantee.

        if they won’t release the vid, they won’t bother making transcripts of it either.

        of course, David seems to think a debate resolves issues of truth, when he should know better anyway.

        makes me think he wouldn’t hold up under scrutiny no matter what.

      • David Marshall

        Sure, I missed several good shots — and probably will, next time, too. It would be a boring game if only one side scored points, and I wouldn’t have invited Phil to debate me, if I thought he was stupid or incompetent. I invited him, most of all, because the issues are important.

  • RLBaty

    This reminds me of the debate Foy E. Wallace had with Frank Norris in Texas many years ago; long before all the technology we see today.

    Wallace trounced Norris who was a really big name amongst Baptists and gets some credit for having started “Southern Fundamentalism”.

    There was some kind of agreement to have the debate published by Norris, but Norris, as I recall, never let it happen. You may even find it difficult to find biographies of Norris from his side that even mention the debate with Wallace.

    There has been much written about all of that, and such are pretty good case studies that go to warning such as might engage in such important public spectacles to work to insure the protection and preservation of their interests in such matters.

  • Clinton

    It’s easy to claim victory when a video isn’t going live. Two things I would pont out: calling Zuckerman a better speaker doesn’t mean the Christians were conceding that he won the debate, since the arguments are what matters. Zuckerman may have been a better speaker, but if is arguments were inferior then he didn’t win the debate.
    Also, it would have been nice if the pastor of the church had gone into more detail, but “we weren’t represented well” could mean any number of things. Maybe they wern’t satisfied with the way Marshall responded to things (I don’t know, because I wasn’t there), but that doesn’t mean that Marshall’s arguments were bad. Maybe we should petition the church to release that video so we can see how the night actually went.

    • KeithCollyer

      to your first sentence: it is easy for either side to claim victory if the video isn’t going live, but only one side has the power to keep it hidden. So you must ask, if they won, why are they doing that?

      • Clinton

        The one keeping it hidden is not the other debater, though. I’m not claiming either side won, I’m just saying that this strikes me more as complaining because the video wasn’t posted rather than an objective observation of events. I know that Marshall is trying to get the video posted, too. The one who is not complying is the church at which this event was held.

        • KeithCollyer

          Fair point.

    • Rich Wilson

      Also, it would have been nice if the pastor of the church had gone into more detail, but “we weren’t represented well” could mean any number of things. Maybe they wern’t satisfied with the way Marshall responded to things (I don’t know, because I wasn’t there), but that doesn’t mean that Marshall’s arguments were bad.

      I tend to agree. I don’t think the Church felt they lost so much as that David Marshall didn’t represent their position. Literally, “we weren’t represented well”. I say that because removed his other video, and the way they went after points that he mostly didn’t (about the role of religion in US government).

      • ichthyic

        Did they pay Marshall to represent them?

        if not….

        get what you pay for.

  • Kingasaurus

    I’m wondering if this situation is similar to when Robert Price debated James White a while back.

    James White’s debates seem to be all over YouTube and he’s hardly shy about making himself heard. But this one you apparently can’t get without paying for it. The consensus of those in attendance thought it was a huge win in Price’s favor (for whatever reason), and I think White admitted he had an off night. Those with a skeptical bent have questioned that if White had performed better, this debate would be publicly available.

    I’m not an expert on the details of that one, but it sounds – like this one – a bit fishy.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Wow, the new troll is an idiot. Can’t manage words most of us learned in kindergarten, can’t stay steady with his own derailing points, can’t figure out what he believes…Damn.

  • kylevb

    I’ve started a petition to ask them to post the video. I’ll keep improving the text and adding links, but please consider signing and sharing.

  • Ed Glenn

    I live one block away from this monsterous church, how did I not hear of this debate???? Is there any audio recorded from anyone in the audience? DAMN, DAMN, DAMN, I would have gone!!!! ARGGGGGHHHH!

  • Michael Jamaleddine

    I just find it funny that many religions say that the Devil is going to punish us for not believing/following God and His orders. That’s like the Grinch punishing someone for not Believing in Christmas.

  • Neil Mclachlan

    I am still amazed every time the religious discover to their apparent surprise that their beliefs don’t hold up under any kind of logical scrutiny. Has *any* christian/secular debate resulted in a clear win for Christianity?

    Yet there they were, the morning after the debate, reviewing the footage and looking at each other blankly. The decision to bury the video was unanimous without a word being spoken.

  • David Marshall

    Sunday’s normally my day off. I’ve done my best to correct some of the errors and misrepresentations tonight (see above, and on my blog; but I won’t bother with common snark); the rest will have to wait for the morning. Here’s my response to one set of misrepresentations:

    Again, for the record, I hope Adventure will release the tape. Ideally, I am hoping to write out a transcript of most of the debate — and then especially sort out the fact from (copious) fiction in Phil’s concluding “Gish Gallop on steroids,” as I think someone put it.

    This is a vitally important issue. I welcome impassioned debate on it, but I think the most fruitful kind of debate will be that which focuses on the facts, and looks seriously and critically at the evidence Phil and I offered for our respective views. Casual flippancy may entertain those who engage in it, but I’ll concentrate on sincere and serious arguments, when I get back to it.

    • ichthyic

      “Sunday’s normally my day off. I’ve done my best to correct some of the errors and misrepresentations tonight”

      don’t bother. your own bias cannot be discounted. your “corrections” are worthless without independent corroboration from the original, unedited, debate.

      all you should bother saying is that you will try to encourage the church to release the video, and run along.

      You’re wasting your time with anything else.

      • David Marshall

        I’d certainly be wasting my time reading anything else you write, as your snarky, nasty, and irrational comments above demonstrate. I’ll stick with the adults here.

        • Fred

          Nice way to dodge the question of how will you be helping the church to release the video?

          Still waiting.

        • baal

          “I’ll stick with the adults here.”
          Your first sentence was a-ok and stated a position. The second one, however, calls into question your own maturity. You don’t get to call folks children if you’re also a child. And don’t you find yourself questioning my maturity as well for having brought it up?

  • Susan_G1

    David, If I remember my Bible correctly, there isn’t a shortage of healings in the OT; in Genesis, Abraham prayed for Abimelech’s wives to be fertile; Moses and the flaming serpent healed any who looked upon it; Elijah raises the widow’s son from the dead; Elisha later raised another boy from the dead; King Namaan was cured of leprosy; even Elisha’s bones brought a dead man back to life. Why would you say Jesus was the first healer? I’m not even sure extra-biblical sources don’t record healers.

    I hope this video does come to be released.

    • Loren Petrich

      There’s an abundance of documentation of medical practice in Egypt and Mesopotamia centuries before Jesus Christ existed. As I mentioned earlier, many societies have had various forms of traditional medicine, and some medical practices may be as old as our species. Or even older — there’s evidence of nonhuman species medicating themselves: zoopharmacognosy.

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        It’s important to note the difference between giving medical treatment and giving full medical care. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I understand that places for the sick and injured to rest under supervision came along much later. That’s something that Christians talking up their religion may try to claim, but it came from India, to my knowledge.

  • L

    I’m sure if the atheist lost the debate and we told them it didn’t go the way we wanted to and we weren’t represented well, they would surely agree and not post the video on their page or even bother with further rebuttals… HAH.

  • Podd Socks

    Did anyone record it with an iphone at least?

  • Charles Raymond Miller

    Dr. Marshall is a nice man, a sincere man. I was able to speak with him before and after a debate he had with Richard Carrier at UA – Huntsville. He was gracious and kind, even in defeat But he cannot make a case for his faith, Perhaps he is handicapped by being a nice sincere person,

    • Jaymus

      If my biggest problem with a religion or any practicing person of that faith was that they are too gracious and kind, I’d be completely indifferent to the whole thing.

    • Artor

      Yeah, not so much. Marshall is present in this comment thread, demonstrating just how nice & sincere he is.

    • David Marshall

      Charles: It was good to meet you in Alabama, thanks for introducing yourself. I also appreciated your helping put that on. I enjoyed it, and I hope you did, too.

      I have respect, in different ways, for both Phil and Richard. That was my first public debate (aside from radio or the Internet), and I admit I had (and no doubt have) some learning to do. But I do not feel that Richard engaged my arguments in a serious way. He was glib, he dismissed even those arguments which I cited him having implicitly made in the past. And he made numerous reckless historical claims, that might have sounded good to people who hadn’t read the sources (such as Apollonius of Tyana and the Golden Ass), but that fall apart with a brief glance at those sources.

      And I also failed to answer his best argument effectively, no doubt about that.

      For Richard, it was a good performance, but not (on the rebuttal side) a strong argument. I admit I have a bit to learn about performance for these kinds of gigs. But my facts are facts, and I believe they will stand up to fair scrutiny. That, to me, is most important.

      Phil is much more willing to admit the validity of contrary arguments, and much less reckless in his own claims. But to a lesser extent, I think the same general pattern held in Sacramento.

  • jucifer

    You guys need need need to remember, the guys on the opposing team are duplicitous and often times shady. Bring you OWN recording devices, audio or video, DO NOT rely on these religious types to honor anything they say. When things don’t “go their way” they will renege on everything. Lesson learned, you’ll know next time, bring your team so that when they get creamed it will be out there, no one is reading anything. People want video, you guys are too nice, these guys play dirty and they’ve been playing dirty for a long long long time.

  • Pofarmer

    The seven “gifts” aren’t even true.

  • Melissa S. Griggs

    Typical church response. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence they just insist that dusty old book is the ONLY way. Christianity is similar to mass hysteria. If I told you my friend Bob rose from the dead, healed the sick, fed the masses and threw the moneylenders out of his house. You’d say i was insane. How do millions of Christians just blindly buy that story? Your rational mind should tell you it’s a fantasy story.

    • 3lemenope

      To be honest, I’d be most incredulous about the moneylenders. Who has an infestation of loan sharks in their house? These aren’t termites we’re talking, here.

  • tom savage

    honesty from a church? you’re expecting too much.

  • Valerie Tarico

    The same thing happened to Michael Garrett Amini when he was leading the Secular Student Union at the University of Washington. In fact, when I read the title I thought someone had resurrected his old experience. He was having videotaped conversations with someone from Mars Hill, a Seattle megachurch. The church released the videos as long as they thought they were in control of the narrative. As soon as their arguments fared badly, they refused to release the video.

  • ackthbbft

    And this is why you should bring your own cameraman, and/or include that a copy of the recordings to be provided immediately upon the end of the event as a condition of participation.

  • Calladus

    Our atheist organization was involved in helping out a local church set up a debate between Dinesh D’Souza and Michael Shermer back in April 2008. The day after their debate, members of our group had a “round table discussion” with members of the church.

    The church, New Covenant, has excellent audio visual equipment, including recording equipment. They assured us that we would get copies of our round table discussion, and of the debate.

    That didn’t happen.

    After the event, we were not able to get copies of either, and they were not made available to the general public.

    After this point, I purchased a Zoom H4 audio recorder and vowed to make our own (audio) recordings of any event we participated in.

    If your group is in ANY sort of debate with religious people, do not depend on them to record it, or offer the recording to you afterward. I’ve noticed from other atheist groups that in some few cases recorded audio or video has been edited, but more likely it won’t exist at all.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      With the benefit of hindsight, the fact that the church considered Dinesh D’Souza worth their time at all was probably a bad sign…

      I used to debate about his columns back on…, I think, around 2009. The man’s a prevaricating racist, though that probably wasn’t so obvious before he got rich writing projected fantasies about Obama.

    • Mario Strada

      I would say, not only record the event yourself (A couple of GoPro would do just fine) but also, sign a contract beforehand, while the church people are still confident they’ll win that they will share unedited audio visual.
      Sue for damages if they don’t.

  • Alexian

    Yep. Let’s all walk the moral high road that Atheists can’t walk, and have a debate about why Christians are more moral that Atheists, and when it goes well, we’ll air it on the Internet to make fools of Atheists… but when it doesn’t go well, we’ll just stick our heads in the sand, and not do the MORALLY RIGHT thing and release the video, even though things didn’t go our way.
    How classy.

  • Rich Wilson


  • Rich Wilson
    • Rich Wilson

      Right off the bat I see I misquoted Dr. Marshall on Jesus being the first healer. David only says he was a healer. I’m sure we’ll run into more errors on my part!

  • Johan Mynhardt

    The video was updated with the full debate:

  • Devils advocate

    search youtube, video available.

  • Azix

    A debate like this is rather minor. The issue of which worldview is more likely true needs to be addressed first. Who won means nothing. a debate like this I can imagine an atheist “winning”.

  • KC

    In their defense, if they did release the video the atheist community would just use it to fuel more hate. I don’t go to church often, but I am a Christian, and I have a relationship with God. I also believe in science, civil rights equality, and that everyone should have the right to believe what they want to believe.

    Yet every atheist I have ever had the misfortune of speaking with has condemned my beliefs, called my religion stupid, assumed certain things about me that were not true, and treated me differently because I believe different things than I do. Despite the fact that I usually DON’T want to talk about it or debate anything- they relentlessly try to force their opinions down my throat and explain all the reasons why they are so much smarter than me. There are shockingly few exceptions, and they treat all Christians this way.

    Personally, I’m tired of the atheist-Christian war. Leave us alone. And most of us will leave you alone. Can we not just get along and be free to believe what we want?

    • KC

      Believe in different things than THEY do.* Typo.

  • Rafael

    Some debaters lose due to lack of knowledge and aren’t prepared, let someone like Dr. Craig debate this atheist and he’ll lose.

    One instance of a Christian not well verse doesn’t prove atheism true,

    Whereas for for example William Lane Craig defeated Krauss both Well prepared, there’s no excuse, atheism lost fair and square to science,

    Krauss even had to lie, and he was caught red handed,