Editor’s Note: Even if you didn’t attend any church services recently, it’s hard to avoid getting an earful of inane religious comments during the holiday season. There are simply too many opportunities. Here, Clergy Project member David Madison shares some of the many not-so-smart comments he got on the website he set up that turned out to be click-bait for earnest Christians trying to set him straight. /Linda LaScola
By David Madison
Nobody is exempt from dumb…but why is it a Christian specialty?
“Near the core of religious experience is something remarkably resistant to rational inquiry.” So said Carl Sagan in his 1986 essay, “A Sunday Sermon” (Broca’s Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science).
“Near the core of religious experience is something resistant to rational inquiry”
I guess it just comes naturally to religious folks to dig their heels in when cherished beliefs wilt under rational inquiry. And thousands of apologists, posing as parish pastors and credentialed Bible scholars, have risen to the challenge of coming up with slick excuses to protect the faith—and help the folks in the pews feel better. This combination of intense emotion and intellectual craftiness has combined to create a perfect storm of pervasive dumbness in the Christian ranks.
Now, how do I define “dumb”? It is a blend of ignorance, stupidity, and obtuseness—with a huge helping of oblivious as well. I know the word is overused, but “delusion” is part of the mix too. Individual examples of Christian dumb may include one or more of these ingredients.
In 2012, I launched the Facebook page for my book, four years before it reached publication. Christian trolls have often dropped in to offer their opinions on my project, so I have been in an ideal position to collect examples of Christian dumb.
One of the most common reactions from atheists to my title, Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief has been, “What, only ten?” Because they know. So many atheists used to be Christians…until they saw through the multiple absurdities. But never once did a Christian ask me, “Really, there are problems, what are they?” The lack of curiosity and courage is disheartening.
Now for a few direct quotes—you can decide what the mix is in each one: ignorant, stupid, obtuse, oblivious, delusional.
• Sonny H. “I don’t have any problems with my faith!!”
• Robert B: “Looks like this guy has gone the way of many others. There is money to be made knocking the Bible and Christianity. Nothing new under the sun. In it for the sales. Figures. When do the tough questions show up?? Oh yeah, in the book, right.”
Sorry to break it to you, Sonny and Robert, but smart Christians, who study the faith, and think about it at more than a Sunday School level (and who say the dumb things in sophisticated ways) are well aware of the problems. There has been hand-wringing for centuries about the problems I discuss in the book. And who writes the most about these embarrassments? Apologists have written thousands of works to explain why the Christian faith shouldn’t be indicted for so many contradictions, fallacies, fabrications—and downright evils.
If anyone really thinks that I have invented these problems—or that they appear first in my book—please submit my name to the Pulitzer committee. Maybe there’s a prize for creative fiction.
Actually, some Christians have been curious enough to check out the problems that are the focus of the book.
• Bob M. is confident that they are of no consequence: “I read some of the so-called errors. My granddaughter could have refuted them.” And, foolish me, my years of work in Biblical studies have not advanced my understanding: “The natural man cannot understand the things of God. This guy has never really studied the word of God.”
• Jonathan G. thinks I should move on: “In reading your list of ‘Ten Tough Problems…’ I’m finding that you haven’t asked any new questions that people haven’t answered or refuted already. Perhaps you should try something new.”
Sorry to break it to you, Bob and Jonathan: the Christian establishment has not issued pink slips to the hundreds of apologists charged with thwarting doubt.
Don’t kid yourselves: Every day many Christians are in genuine anguish about the egregious suffering and pain they see around them. They need continual reassurance that their god—who supposedly knows when even a sparrow falls to the ground—isn’t indifferent, careless, negligent. Whenever there’s a catastrophic hurricane, tsunami or horrible mass shooting, they wonder and worry about what God is up to: “It’s all part of God’s plan” wears thin. Some Christians may have mastered the clichéd excuses for God, but many have not. There are clichéd excuses for all of the ten problems.
• Brian T. enjoys unfettered access to The Almighty, and thus offered this verdict: “Junk. God is alive and well. Just talked to Him and got free reign to come down on this bullshit.” A little while later he added a note of Christian charity: “U suck.”
Even Christians would be suspicious about the guy next-door who claims to have chats with God. Moreover, Brian doesn’t seem to be aware that devout Christians have forever disagreed about what they hear from God (by the way, is the “U suck” a direct quote from God?). Theists of other brands (e.g., Jewish, Muslim, Mormon) add to the mix of contradictory messages received via the direct line to the heavenly throne.One of my posts was about one of the greatest mysteries of all: that Christians aren’t repulsed by the grisly human sacrifice as the centerpiece of their faith.
• Brian K. responded: “This was the only sacrifice that rose from the dead.” I pointed out that belief in resurrected sons and daughters of gods long pre-dated Christianity: it’s a borrowed concept. But Brian’s brain was lost in the Christian fog; I quote him exactly: “You miss the point, this one happen.”
• Matt L. gave me a reading assignment: “Read Lee Strobel’s ‘Case for Christ’ before it is too late for you to learn the truth.”
Could he really imagine that I haven’t read it? I rarely respond to these guys, however, in this case I posted the Amazon link to Robert Price’s book, The Case Against the Case for Christ. But Matt had his eye on the bottom line: “Remember Pascal’s Wager, my friend.” Anyone who takes this wager seriously is truly, seriously dumb.
• Julian H. corrected my view that the gospels fail the test of history, especially when Mark and John are compared: “There are no errors, contradictions or fabrication within the Bible. The character of God himself, manifest in Jesus Christ is consistent throughout Mark and John, and indeed throughout the entire Bible.”
• Barry J. was really pissed about the same thing: “Wow, you must be so much smarter than the millions of Christians who regularly read both gospels and don’t find any contradictions!! Can I have your autograph??”
Now what is dumber, Julian and Barry: (1) reading the gospels and not noticing any contradictions—those that have perplexed pious commentators for centuries; or (2) manufacturing tortured excuses after spotting the contradictions?
• Stuart C. cherishes a utilitarian view of God: “So, let’s see what the author does when he needs YHWH’s intervention when he gets an aggressive cancer.”
And so it is that oncologists the world over have noticed that the cancer rate among devout Christians has never inched above zero.
• According to Joyce G., I’m in for a far worse fate than cancer: “My journey is definitely different from yours. I’m on the narrow road to Heaven and you’re on the Wide road to Hell. Sad.”
It is sadder still that this vindictive version of Christian piety can be traced directly to the words of Jesus and the apostle Paul.
• Raelyn S.: “I’m praying for all y’all lost souls.”
Are these folks auditioning for the next Dumb and Dumber sequel?
One of Al Stefanelli best zingers:
“Debating with a creationist is like trying to teach calculus to a toaster.”
We could slip in the word “Christian” instead of “creationist.” Especially since the Enlightenment, serious thinkers have demonstrated the grievous flaws in the Christian faith: theism itself, of course, but also the claptrap that theologians have invented to flesh out their version of theism. But true-believers, stuck at Sunday school literary levels, lap it all up.
Most of the major cults that hold sway over the world (a “world religion” is a cult that grabbed major market share) have their apologists who can prove beyond a shadow of doubt that their religion owns the truth. Of course the Catholic apologists deny that Protestant apologists are on the right track—to say nothing of the Muslim and Mormon apologists. They ALL know they’re right, and that the others are wrong.
John Loftus wrote a piece recently, “When I say believers cannot be reasoned with, this is what I mean!” He helps us understand why the rank and file—whom we’ve just heard from—and erudite apologists say dumb things:
“Christian intellectuals—that is, Christian obfuscationists—do exactly what Orthodox Jewish obfuscationists and Muslim obfuscationists do. They obfuscate to make what they believe more palatable. But deep down, the real reasons they believe can be seen by paying attention to what rank and file believers say, for after all, they were once part of the rank and file, that is, before they learned how to twist logic on behalf of faith.”
**Editor’s Question** Heard anything dumb lately? If so, let us know.
David Madison, a Clergy Project member, was raised in a conservative Christian home in northern Indiana. He served as a pastor in the Methodist church during his work on two graduate degrees in theology. By the time he finished his PhD in Biblical Studies (Boston University) he had become an atheist, a story he shares in the Prologue of his book, published in 2016: 10 Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief: a Minister-Turned-Atheist Shows Why You Should Ditch the Faith. The above post is reprinted with permission from the Debunking Christianity Blog.
>>>>photo credits: by Andrea Reese; By NASA/JPL – Image:Planetary society.jpghttp://technology.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/index.cfm?