Sarcasm: How to be a Christian Apologist

Disclaimer: the following post is sarcastic. It is not intended to be representative of the tactics used by all or most Christian apologists.

1. Doubt is to be avoided at all costs. There’s a reason for the expression, “devil’s advocate,” you know.

2. Do not mention objections to the faith unless they are so common that you would discredit the faith by failing to answer them.

3. If you must acknowledge an objection, try to portray the objection as weakly as possible. For example, pretend that the problem of evil can be ignored simply by refuting logical arguments from evil. But if an atheist uses the same approach–by arguing that there is no logical contradiction between the nonexistence of God and one of your theistic evidences–then emphasize how your theistic evidence makes God’s existence probable.

4. Try to keep your objectors anonymous if at all possible. For example, although J.L. Schellenberg is widely credited with developing the problem of divine hiddenness, in our reply to Schellenberg we carefully avoid mentioning his name or his book. God forbid that we might help someone read the other side. (See rule #1.)

5. Here’s another strategy for dealing with objections: whenever applicable, don’t hesitate to remind your audience on another issue, the scholarly majority is against you, simply dismiss them as biased. You can have your apologetic cake and eat it too! In fact, even if the consensus is on your side, go ahead and point out the bias of the scholarly minority. No matter what, the other side is always biased, whereas we Christian apologists are the model of objectivity.

6. When debating non-Christians, always insist on speaking first. If the non-Christian debater asks to speak first, then settle the matter by a coin toss. But most non-Christian debaters never think to ask, so that should rarely be necessary.

7. Also when debating non-Christians, try to retain exclusive rights to transcripts and tapes of the debate. And if you do publish a transcript of the debate, feel free to publish a transcript where only your comments are annotated, not those of your opponents. In fact, don’t even invite your opponents to write their own annotations! Also, even if you speak first, insist that your final statement be published last. That will allow the book to end with an unanswered alter call.

8. If all else fails, simply focus on the fact that if Christianity is true, Christians will go to Heaven forever. But don’t actually mention what Christianity teaches about non-Christians.I know this will sound odd, but some people actually object to the idea that a person could burn in Hell forever regardless of how moral they were before they died. Again, we don’t want to do anything that might create doubt in the feeble minds of our audience (see rule #1).

9. In order to increase (or create) the impression of academic respectability, inflate the size of your publishing record by republishing the same material over and over again in different journals. You can do this with books, too, but rather than publishing a second edition of a book, republish 90-95% of the content from a first book in a second book, but give the book a totally different title. Unsuspecting parties will then think you’ve authored more original books than you actually have.

10. Take a crazy argument (like TAG) that has never been defended in a peer-reviewed journal. Defend it only at revival seminars (that charge an admission fee) and on audiocassettes (that can also be sold for a profit). Not only will this help to turn apologetics into a for-profit enterprise, but it has the added bonus that you can avoid critical scrutiny by the secular academy (they’re all biased anyway) while at the same you can complain your critics have “ignored” a major approach to defending Christian theism!

About Jeffery Jay Lowder

Jeffery Jay Lowder is President Emeritus of Internet Infidels, Inc., which he co-founded in 1995. He is also co-editor of the book, The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not sure the disclaimer was necessary – this seems pretty accurate. I love #5. This seems to be the core of most Republican punditry too.

  • Anonymous

    tuqouqe anyone? I see the exact same tactics from just as many atheist “missionaries”! And I can find far more online free published debates from Christian sources(such as William Lane Craig) than I can from atheist sources. And as best as I can tell, William Lane Craig and other Christians continue to wipe up the floor with your “best and brightest” atheist debaters. And I am truly amazed that these atheist derbaters don’t seem to be able to acquire their doctorates or terminal professional degrees? whassup wit dat? Atheists doth protest too much, atheism is a bunch of hot air based on nothing more than philosophical theories and at the end of the day atheism becomes only a “default pushback position” at that! Matter, more matter, first cause, fine tuned earth,abiogenesis,intelligently designed life,Jesus, the resurrection, the true church,the gospels, all of these are facts and possession is nine tenths! We build hospitals,orphanges, feeding centers, and medical clinics too! acta non verba!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04549444906381131734 Martin Wagner

    Matter, more matter, first cause, fine tuned earth,abiogenesis,intelligently designed life,Jesus, the resurrection, the true church,the gospels, all of these are facts and possession is nine tenths!

    LOL! This is a list of arguments that have either been refuted soundly (first cause? really? are you still in junior high school, Todd?), or that aren’t arguments at all. (The “true church”? What has that to do with anything?) Just the usual vacuous religionist blathering.

    It doesn’t look to me like you’ve read anything at all from those atheist “derbaters”, Toddy boy. You’re clearly an amateur at this. But I’ll make it easy for you, so the knowledgable people here don’t beat you up too badly before you’ve had a chance to show us what you’ve got. Please present:

    a) your proof of the existence of God/the “Designer”.
    b) your evidence of who/what designed him.

    No rush. Take your time.

    PS: I’ve refuted William Lane Craig myself without breaking a sweat. He’s not even difficult. And building hospitals, while a nice thing to do, doesn’t prove God exists.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15799168778162687036 Bilbo Bloggins

    Jeff – I’m a big fan of sarcasm myself! Let me take a stab at it…

    How to be an Atheistic Freethinker

    Disclaimer: the following post is sarcastic. It is not intended to be representative of the tactics used by all or most atheistic freethinkers.

    1. Belief in God is to be avoided at all costs, even if we have to believe in an infinity of other entities that there is no evidence for, as long as it’s not God or indicative of God, we’re in the clear.

    2. If you must acknowledge an objection to your atheism, try to portray the objection as weakly as possible. For example, pretend that arguments for dualism can be refuted simply by poking holes in Cartesian forms of dualism. But if a theist argues for some alternative account of the mind-body relationship that avoids your refutation and states that there is no logical contradiction between the existence of God and your arguments for physicalism, then insist that they are just moving the goal posts and your understandings of theism and theology must be adhered to.

    3. Do not refer to or even read modern academic proponents of philosophical arguments for the existence of God. Either tell us that the legacy of Hume, Kant, and Wittgenstein ousted theistic arguments once and for all, or go ahead and give a really sloppy refutation (ala misrepresentation) of old Aquinas yourself. If you *must* refer to modern arguments, by all means snip them from a non-academic apologetics website or blog.

    4. Always speak out of both sides of your mouth. This confuses theists and a confused theist is easier to refute. Here are some places you can start:
    Steal questionable criteria from the philosophy of science like Popperian falsification and claim that theism is inadequate in some sense because it doesn’t measure up to this standard. Then, out of the other side of your mouth, claim that theism is false because of the decisive evidence against it. Claim that if God existed, he would be performing all sorts of miracles in order to bring you to belief. Then, out of the other side of your mouth, claim that no amount of evidence could ever justify belief in a miraculous claim. Finally, make it your goal in life to exalt the cultivation of freethought and rationality as the highest virtues that all good men ought to aspire to, but make sure you’re consistently advocating hard determinism and the utterly illusory nature of the freedom of the will out of the other side of your mouth.

    5. Mock theists and the religious at every opportunity. If you need help here, watch as much standup comedy from George Carlin as you can (it’s also ok to quote Carlin in an academic setting or publication). Post blogs comparing religion to pornography, compare churches to Nuremburg rallies, and try and think of the most ridiculous and unbelievable thing imaginable to compare the theistic God to. Some fine examples are fairies and pixies, little green men, an old man in the sky, and the “Invisible Pink Unicorn”. If you feel like this kind of stuff is getting tired and is losing its effectiveness, don’t give up. You need to think of some new ones. When you’ve got a good one, you can amplify it by making it invisible and pink or making it fly. We’ve been seeing some very solid results with “Flying Spaghetti Monster”. We think this is just hilarious and we just know it intimidates theists! If anyone knows of a freethinker out there who deconverted from theism upon hearing or seeing a picture of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, please let us know; we’d like to post some testimonies on the Secular Web! If you have a blog, be sure to post pictures of the Flying Spaghetti Monster whenever you have the chance. A word of advice – there are quite a few of these pictures circulating. Use the ones that have more of a chaotic feel to them – with octopus-like tentacles of pasta flailing about and meatballs incorporated. I once saw a version of the FSM that used a round blob-like scoop of spaghetti, and it actually looked somewhat like a brain. We do NOT want to give the impression that the theistic God has a brain or is smart!!!

    7. At all costs, portray Einstein as an atheist! We CANNOT lose on Einstein — he’s just too much of an icon. Tell everyone repeatedly that Einstein was *not* a theist, and to establish this claim, simply quote all of the places where he said he did not believe in a “personal” God (NEVER quote Einstein to the effect that he believed in “Spinoza’s God”). We need to get him out of deism entirely, and into pantheism. From there, say that all of his God-talk is just an old way of talking poetically or reverently about the laws of physics themselves like Stephen Hawking does, and that he’s really no different from a modern atheist. Voila!

    8. Portray yourself as a card-carrying member of the professional guild of whatever academic enterprise you want; you’re a Freethinker and that’s your right. You represent smartness and all things academic. Do NOT be afraid to attempt overturn decades of consensus in any particular field in one online essay. Have you read the Bible? You’re a Bible scholar. Immediately proceed to deny that there is any evidence for the existence of Jesus. If you’ve read a book or two on philosophy, go ahead and call yourself a philosopher. Hell…claim to be as great a philosopher as Aristotle – or even greater! After all, he apparently had some notion of a God, and this makes him inferior in and of itself! If you’ve read a few books on cosmology, and you want to single-handedly refute that pesky Big Bang theory, we will post it on Internet Infidels without question. If you’ve read a book by Carl Sagan, even though you have never actually employed the scientific method and you were expelled from school for trying to light a joint on the Bunsen burner in chemistry class, go ahead and tell theists “We freethinkers operate according to the principles of SCIENCE!” Always raise your voice and speak with an air of authoritativeness when you use the word “science”. We’re pretty sure that this scares theists.

    9. Another buzzword is “Enlightenment”. Don’t worry about all of the philosophical debate about the extent to which theistic or religious thought is responsible for or compatible with certain Enlightenment principles.
    Theists will generally associate

    9. Avoid academic monographs and peer review and publish excessively with Prometheus Press, especially if you’re writing outside of your field. If you’re an atheistic physicist and you want to write a book that’s primarily philosophical with a title like “Why SCIENCE(!!!) Refutes the Invisible Pink Spaghetti Monster!”, don’t test your ideas in any of the major journals for philosophy of religion first. Go straight to Prometheus and get it into print. We don’t want to waste any time here; we’re in a culture war!

    10. Last but not least — If you’re an undercover atheistic freethinker who has earned himself some degree of respect amongst the theistic community by generally refraining from the arrogant and dogmatic tone, contemptuous barbs, and expressions of utter disdain for theism and religion that so many of us are known for, you need to occasionally post blogs that embody these principles and values of freethought under the guise of humor or sarcasm. This will serve a dual purpose: 1) It lets the rest of us know you’re still one of us without completely blowing your cover. When we see you so often being all tolerant and respectful towards these idiots, some of us start to wonder just whose side you’re really on. We need to be on high alert for defection after that whole Antony Flew incident (our deepest gratitude goes out to Richard Carrier for his attempt at damage control here). Just give us something subtle to show us that you still pledge allegiance to the tried and true “more heat than light” approach. Too much sensitivity breeds tolerance. We need polarization and eradication. 2) It will also allow you to express some of your repressed rage against God that the rest of us have been able to vent through the use of the “Flying Spaghetti Monster” analogy that you’ve chosen to abstain from. We would like to see you use it at least once though — at least at a Freethought rally or something (maybe wear a T-shirt if you don’t want to say it?).

    Now that was fun…buuuut probably somewhat offensive and ultimately not conducive to a better dialogue and understanding between theists and atheists.

    Bilbo

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15799168778162687036 Bilbo Bloggins

    Oops…my numbering is off. I skipped six and have two 9′s. Yeah yeah…have at me.

    Bilbo :-)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Wow, Bilbo, you obviously didn’t take my disclaimer seriously given your #10. In fact, it would appear that you’re now trying to make the issue personal. While I could write a substantitive response, I don’t think I’m going to dignify your ad hominem attack by doing so.

    To everyone else who has been following this: I do intend to post a similar sarcastic post entitled, “How to be an Atheist Apologist.” I’ve been corresponding with some non-atheists privately about my examples before posting it. Look for that post soon.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08026334505132729732 Steven Carr

    Bilbo is quite wrong to say atheists don’t believe gods exist.

    Many people worshipped the sun.

    Even in Britain, I can sometimes see evidence of the sun, so I have to admit that their god does exist.

    Produce evidence for a god and I will happily concede that it exists.

    After all, even Antony Flew, a hard-line agnostic, was open minded enough to consider new evidence.

    Of course,the evidence was evaluated badly by him, but that isn’t the point.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08026334505132729732 Steven Carr

    Not all Christian-atheist debates are as unfair as Jeff implies (rather mischeviously, in my opinion).

    My debate on Premier Christian Radio was handled as a model of fairness by the presenter Justin Brierley.

    A recording can be heard at Carr-Cole Debate

    Canon Michael Cole has had a non-bodily experience of Jesus, and that convinced him Jesus was not dead. I wonder if early Christians would also believe what modern Christians find very reasonable to believe – that Jesus can make non-bodily appearances that cannot be detected except through faith?

    BTW, does Craig promote his debate with Shabir Ally on-line, as being free to download?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15799168778162687036 Bilbo Bloggins

    Now it seems that you’ve ignored my title and heading.

    #10. is not intended literally or personally in any way whatsoever. Indeed it is intended as the height of sarcasm. I am playing off of the common notion that sarcasm is mockery due to repressed anger. See the Wikipedia definition of Sarcasm that I used as reference. Further, see their comment that “Because it is vocally oriented, sarcasm can be difficult to grasp in written form and is easily misinterpreted.”

    In addition to that, you are not even the target/victim of the sarcasm. The hypothetical cultish fundamentalist Freethinker dictator that I’ve made a caricature out of in the past 9 pts. is, in pt. 10, projecting his insecurity and repressed anger *onto* you, and even ending on a note of desperation (the request to don the T-shirt) in requesting that you conform.

    If anyone takes that as implying on my part that you really ARE an “undercover” member of some shadowy freethinker fundamentalist cabal, then they are completely misinterpreting me.

    That potential for misinterpretation is again, one more reason not to employ it in this sensitive debate. This fact is further evidenced by the first two comments. Vjack wants to *disregard* genre completely, and sees no reason for the disclaimer. Thus he *utterly* misinterprets you. And I don’t know what Todd Katz is on about but he’s obviously blown a gasket.

    What all of this goes to show, in my opinion, is that sarcasm aimed at the opposing side is counterproductive in this kind of discussion. Intellectual theists and atheists, as intellectuals, are an overlapping subset of their respective worldviews that often have more in common than the indifferent members of their own camp. We devote our lives to discerning the mysteries of existence, and we have no better or more interested conversation partners than one another. At the core, we are often people who see the extreme beauty and utility in argument, and the dialectic between us sharpened the arguments of one another to a degree hardly attainable in mere in-house disputes. The competition of ideas, like competition in so many other areas, breeds better ideas. We ought to be thankful for one another. We should be close friends – not sworn enemies. My favorite conversation partners have *often* been atheists.

    Let me close by saying that I am *very* sorry if I have offended you. For the record, I think you are a very intelligent and insightful person, an all-around good guy, one of the most charitable members of this ongoing debate, and I am *very* happy that you exist.

    Bilbo

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15799168778162687036 Bilbo Bloggins

    I now see that I posted the wrong edited version of the original list from Word where I was composing this. #8 in full was supposed to read:

    8. Another buzzword is “Enlightenment”. Don’t worry about all of the philosophical debate about the extent to which theistic or religious thought engendered or is currently compatible with certain Enlightenment ideals. Theists will generally associate the Enlightenment with anti-supernaturalism and this is all we need. Plus the word “Enlightenment” just sounds so cool. It’s like we’ve learned something so important and just left them groping in the dark! “Been there, done that. We’re ‘Enlightened’ now…”
    This imagery of illumination also sets the stage for you to tell them that you’d like to be called a “Bright” instead of an atheist now. We need to do whatever we can to make this transition as smooth as possible. Once we get them all to start calling us “Brights”, they’ve pretty much lost the argument and we won’t have to waste all of our time reading all these books and crap.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12648338473296940751 Hallq

    On a tangentially related issue: is a coin flip pretty much the established of deciding who goes first in a debate?

    To Todd: if you’re so impressed with the ability of theists to win debates, what would you say to a formal written debate on the existence of God? (Say, at Internet Infidels?)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16826768452963498005 Jim Lippard

    Bilbo:

    Einstein referred to himself as an atheist and an agnostic, but not a theist. I think the strongest evidence about Einstein’s beliefs about a deity comes from the letters he wrote to Guy Raner in 1945 and 1949.

    There is thus a very good reason to defend calling Einstein an atheist–factual accuracy.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15799168778162687036 Bilbo Bloggins

    Jim Lippard:
    Einstein referred to himself as an atheist and an agnostic, but not a
    theist. I think the strongest evidence about Einstein’s beliefs about a
    deity comes from the letters he wrote to Guy Raner in 1945 and 1949.

    There is thus a very good reason to defend calling Einstein an atheist–factual accuracy.

    Bilbo: Well, I’m not sure how appropriate this response is as I don’t really dispute the factual accuracy of supposing that Einstein is an atheist in my list–the point of my post being sarcasm, focused in that particular
    instance on the extreme importance that my caricature of the
    freethinker/atheist places on Einstein’s beliefs on the matter.

    But, regardless, the letters you cite, relative to Einstein’s other
    writings, and even in and of themselves, aren’t particular strong evidence
    for anything other than that Einstein is very hard to interpret, probably
    because he wasn’t always the best communicator, especially on matters of
    religion (often seeming to be intentionally ambiguous and contradicting
    himself).

    A few caveats before we delve into the matter….

    1. Firstly, I don’t think it matters one way or the other in the debate over
    atheism/theism what Einstein ultimately believed about God, though I do think he expresses some interesting points of view.

    2. I’m somewhat skeptical of all sources related to Einstein’s beliefs until
    I can actually hold them in my hands as Einstein (as you can see even in
    Raner’s letters) has a history of being misrepresented and misappropriated. A Google search will show you that there is a wide variety of opinion on Einstein’s religious views, though my search of academic journals in JSTOR seemed to turn up more articles in favor of theism/pantheism.

    But, from what I’ve seen so far, and what sources I have access to, I will
    say that I do not think there is anything “factually accurate” about saying
    that Einstein was an atheist. I think, at best, the atheist might be able to say that we’re unsure of Einstein’s belief on the matter, but I do think the balance of the evidence indicates that Einstein believed in some sort of deity.

    First – I’ll start with Raner’s letters (of which these are apparently not
    the full versions). BTW, has anyone analyzed these documents published a
    generation later by this member of the Freedom from Religion Foundation?

    In his first response, Einstein is particularly upset over being
    misrepresented on this matter (a recurrent theme throughout his life). He
    responds that “From the viewpoint of a Jesuit priest I am, of course, and
    have always been an atheist.” Now, this is definitely *not* an admission to atheism. Firstly, and most obviously, he qualifies the statement with “from
    the viewpoint of a Jesuit priest”. He does *not* say that he considers himself an atheist in any way whatsoever. Secondly, it is unlikely that he
    would be affirming a *correct* assessment of his own thoughts on the matter of the existence of God by a Jesuit priest, immersed as they are in “childish analogies” and “anthropomorphic concepts” (another
    consistent grievance Einstein has with traditional religious views
    throughout his life). Making an affirmation of a correct assessment on the
    part of the Jesuit even more unlikely is that fact that, in saying that he
    is and always was an atheist from the Jesuit’s viewpoint, he has already
    attributed a mistake to the Jesuit, as Einstein has admitted in his
    autobiographical notes that he was *deeply* religious until the age of 12, when he first began to disbelieve stories in the Bible. Einstein is
    typically vague here, but If we can get *anything* related to Einstein’s
    alleged atheism out of this particular letter, I would say it counts
    *against* such a concession.

    Now, onto the second letter. Einstein is responding to a request for
    clarification by Raner (the fullness of which I’d like to see), in which Raner could not be any clearer that he wants a yes/no answer
    on whether or not Einstein is an atheist, closing out with an insinuation
    that theism is superstitious and humanism something to aspire and ascend to (which it should be said, is a great tactic to push Einstein over the edge and actually get him to concede atheism). What is Einstein’s response? It
    certainly is *not* the clear answer Raner wants. He says simply that Raner’s
    convictions are “near” to his, and reiterates his oft-declared opinion that
    a *personal* God is a childlike notion. Nothing new here. This is certainly
    not a confirmation of atheism and looks more like an evasion of such a concession. He then says Raner *may* call him an agnostic (not an atheist), and closes out with “but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist…”, and stresses the need for humility in these matters. Now I have *no* idea what that is supposed to mean. It looks on the face of it simply to be a disavowal of common atheist *behavior*. I’m not sure that the “may call me an agnostic” statement is even an admission that he views himself as an agnostic (and if it is, as we will see, it is contradicted by what he writes elsewhere, or indicative of an uncommon definition of agnosticism ). This response is extremely hard to interpret and that is probably intentional. It is certainly not a “Yes, I fit the dictionary definition of an atheist” that Raner wants. Indeed, that Einstein does *not* give this straight answer to a very straightforward question about whether or not he is an atheist, makes it likely that Einstein does *not* want to identify himself as an atheist.

    So do we have any evidence whatsoever from this correspondence that Einstein saw himself as an atheist? I would say clearly “no” evidence in favor, and some evidence against. But let’s look at some other statements from the man. Though I think they do, IMO, render it initially unlikely that Einstein is an atheist, for now I will put aside short statements such as his talk of “tapping into God’s thoughts”, “God does not play dice”, “God does not wear his heart on his sleeve”, “the Lord is subtle but not malicious”, and even his statement to the effect that “The deeper one penetrates into nature’s secrets, the greater becomes one’s respect for God.”

    “My comprehension of God comes from the deeply felt conviction of a superior intelligence that reveals itself in the knowable world. In common terms, one can describe it as ‘pantheistic’ (Spinoza).” (Answer to the question, “What is your understanding of God?” Kaizo, 5, no.
    2, 1923, 197. in Alice Calaprice, editor, The Expanded Quotable Einstein,
    Princeton Univ. Press, 2000, 203)

    “Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes
    convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe — a
    spirit vastly superior to that of man
    . . . In this way the pursuit of
    science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort . . .” (Calaprice, ibid., 211-212 / To student Phyllis Right, who asked if
    scientists pray, January 24, 1936. Einstein Archive 42-601, 52-337)

    “My religiosity consists of a humble admiration of the infinitely
    superior spirit
    that reveals itself in the little that we can comprehend about the knowable world. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence
    of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the
    incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.” (Calaprice, ibid., 204 / To a banker in Colorado, 1927. Einstein Archive
    48-380; also quoted in Dukas and Hoffmann, Albert Einstein, the Human Side,
    66, and in the New York Times obituary, April 19, 1955)

    “You will hardly find one among the profounder sort of scientific minds
    without a peculiar religious feeling of his own . . . .His religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.”(Ideas and Opinions, p. 40.)

    “I am not a family man. I want my peace. I want to know how God created
    this world.
    I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the
    spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts, the rest
    are details
    .”(Clarck, Ronald, W. The life and Times of Einstein. New
    York: The World Publishing Company, 1971, p. 18-19.)

    I have *never* heard of an atheist speak about a superior intelligence,
    reasoning power, or great spirit revealing itself in the knowable world, and
    even creating it — ever. Nor have I ever heard anyone speak of the laws of
    physics in this way. How this is compatible with atheism, I have no idea.
    Moving along…

    There is also the famous statement: “I believe in Spinoza’s God who
    reveals himself in the harmony of all that exists, but not in a God who
    concerns himself with the fate and actions of human beings.” (Calaprice, ibid., 204 / Telegram to a Jewish nespaper, 1929. Einstein Archive 33-272)

    But of course, we have the later somewhat inconsistent statement he made when pressed further “Do you believe in Spinoza’s God?”:

    “I can’t answer with a simple yes or no. I’m not an atheist and I
    don’t think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a
    little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different
    languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does
    not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see a
    universe marvellously arranged and obeying certain laws, but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force
    that moves the constellations. I am fascinated by Spinoza’s pantheism, but admire even more his contributions to modern thought because he is the first philosopher to deal with the soul and the body as one, not two separate things.” (Denis Brian, Einstein, A Life, New York, 1996, p. 186)

    So Einstein is hesitant to identify fully with pantheism though he has
    described his views as ‘pantheistic’ in the past, or Spinoza’s conception of God, but he denies that he is an atheist. And we also see intimations of theism in the comment “The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how.”

    Lastly, most damning of all is the following statement:

    “In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind,
    am able to recognize, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what makes me really angry is that they quote me for support of such
    views
    .” (Calaprice, ibid., 214 / Said to German anti-Nazi diplomat and author Hubertus zu Lowenstein around 1941. Quoted in his book, Towards the Further
    Shore, London, 1968, 156))

    Einstein had several other negative things to say about the atheists of his
    day – calling them fanatics, intolerant, and unable to hear the music of the spheres. He also denied being a “Freethinker”. The above quotes should be sufficient to refute your claim that it is “factually accurate” to say Einstein was an atheist. As I said, I think the balance of the evidence favors an unconventional belief in a deity of some sort. Perhaps you can convince me otherwise. Feel free to pick his statements apart, show me where I’ve taken out of context, etc. At the end of this, given your feelings on the Raner letters as the “strongest evidence”, I doubt you’ll have made a very good case for the fact of Einstein’s atheism.

    Bilbo

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15799168778162687036 Bilbo Bloggins

    Sorry about the formatting on that one. I have no idea why that happened. In fact, in seeing it in the preview, I deleted a bunch of spaces to correct it. It still came out that ugly.

    Bilbo

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16826768452963498005 Jim Lippard

    Bilbo:

    I appear to be mistaken, thank you for the corrective evidence.

    I agree with your point about those who stress the importance of Einstein’s position, but I see the atheist position (as shown in sites like the celebrity atheists website) as a reaction to Christian testimonials and appeals to authority.

    The letters from Einstein to Raney appear in full on the site I pointed to; they have also been published as facsimile images in _Skeptic_ magazine (vol. 5, no. 2, 1997, pp. 62ff).

    Your comment has pointed me to sources I’ve not been acquainted with, of which the Denis Brian book appears to be the most dispositive. (I also found this interesting discussion online.)

    Your conclusion of “belief in an unconventional deity of some sort” appears well-founded; his views do seem similar to Spinoza’s (despite his somewhat weak denial of pantheism).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04549444906381131734 Martin Wagner

    Well, I’m not sure how appropriate this response is as I don’t really dispute the factual accuracy of supposing that Einstein is an atheist in my list–the point of my post being sarcasm, focused in that particular instance on the extreme importance that my caricature of the freethinker/atheist places on Einstein’s beliefs on the matter.

    Bilbo, I agree with Jim here. I’ve never known atheists, including myself, make a big deal out of Einstein as some atheist celebrity in a fallacious “appeal to authority” sense. Usually we bring up Einstein’s atheism as a response to believers mischaracterizing him as theistic (usually by making hay out of his “God does not play dice” quote). The non-existence of God is not contingent upon the fact one of history’s greatest scientists didn’t believe in him, any more than the existence of God would be a settled issue had Einstein been a tongue-talkin’ pentecostal.

    Of course, we’re all dealing with sarcastic caricatures of theist/atheist positions here, so I suspect you know all this.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08026334505132729732 Steven Carr

    Some more advice to Christian apologists.

    Make claims about sceptics and their methodology which make them look ridiculous. EG say that until 1961 sceptics didn’t believe Pilate existed. Remember that even if you are found out , your supporters will say you made an honest mistake, so your reputation as a top-notch apologist will still be safe.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15799168778162687036 Bilbo Bloggins

    Jim,

    Thanks for the link and references.

    Martin,

    I’m not sure you’ve read my full post, or Jim’s response. I can’t speculate about the motives of either group in the appeal to Einstein. I can only stress its overall irrelevance. But the point of that post was really that Einstein was clearly not an atheist. This seems to be a misconception that is very widespread amongst freethinkers.

    Bilbo

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04549444906381131734 Martin Wagner

    Einstein himself clearly stated that he was.

    “It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.”
    [Albert Einstein, 1954, from "Albert Einstein: The Human Side", edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, Princeton University Press]

    “I cannot conceive of a personal God who would directly influence the actions of individuals, or would directly sit in judgment on creatures of his own creation. I cannot do this in spite of the fact that mechanistic causality has, to a certain extent, been placed in doubt by modern science. My religiosity consists in a humble admiratation of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we, with our weak and transitory understanding, can comprehend of reality. Morality is of the highest importance — but for us, not for God.”
    [Albert Einstein, from "Albert Einstein: The Human Side", edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, Princeton University Press]

    By “superior spirit” he was not referring to supernatural beings, and when he discussed his “profoundly religious” views, he was not describing theistic belief but his sense of awe at the universe. I note how the quotes you use are markedly different than those offered by most other sources (for example, your version of the second quote conveniently omits the opening sentence), which makes me suspect they’ve been misquoted or even doctored.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15799168778162687036 Bilbo Bloggins

    Martin wrote:
    Einstein himself clearly stated that he was.

    Bilbo: I guess you missed the quotes where Einstein specifically says he is not an atheist? Or where he says he is *angered* by those who use him to support such views? Please read my entire post.

    Martin:
    “It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.”
    [Albert Einstein, 1954, from "Albert Einstein: The Human Side", edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, Princeton University Press]

    Bilbo: Right, something I acknowlege in my post. This is old news here. We all know Einstein did not believe in a personal God — nothing new here, and nothing indicative of atheism at all.

    Martin:
    “I cannot conceive of a personal God who would directly influence the actions of individuals, or would directly sit in judgment on creatures of his own creation. I cannot do this in spite of the fact that mechanistic causality has, to a certain extent, been placed in doubt by modern science. My religiosity consists in a humble admiratation of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we, with our weak and transitory understanding, can comprehend of reality. Morality is of the highest importance — but for us, not for God.”
    [Albert Einstein, from "Albert Einstein: The Human Side", edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, Princeton University Press]
    Bilbo: Again, same thing. Einstein doesn’t believe in a personal God. Old news.

    Martin: By “superior spirit” he was not referring to supernatural beings, and when he discussed his “profoundly religious” views, he was not describing theistic belief but his sense of awe at the universe. I note how the quotes you use are markedly different than those offered by most other sources (for example, your version of the second quote conveniently omits the opening sentence), which makes me suspect they’ve been misquoted or even doctored.

    Bilbo: I don’t know what supernatural means for you, or for Einstein, but regardless, as I’ve shown, he clearly believes in a “superior intelligence,
    reasoning power, or great spirit revealing itself in the knowable world, and even creating it.” You can call that whatever you want. Its definitely not atheism, and it looks like a deity to me. I’m open to being shown otherwise, but ignoring what I’ve written, and posting things that all parties are aware of (e.g. that Einstein didn’t believe in a personal God) isn’t going to do the job. As far as the accuracy of my quotes, I list the sources. I’ve actually seen different translations for those involving “spirit” in a journal article I have handy, but I chose to go with spirit as it lends itself *less* to theistic interpretation than “mind” which is used in its place in some sources.

    Bilbo

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02586263666357538615 Jeffrey Byrge

    Thiests gets offended when someone says “You are wrong, we (scientists, athiests) are correct.”

    Athiests get offended when thiests say “We are right, god exists. {you likely are going to die or burn eternally for not believing us}”

    I will say that there are times that atheists and evolutionists get carried away with their own claims and even get involved in name calling, but this I believe is a direct result of the purposeful demonization and mis-charecterization of thiests, particularly in the United States. That is why athiest/agnostics need to be the ones to elevate the level of dialouge.

    Having recently found this, it is easy to see how easy it is to get thiests going on a rant. I don’t believe there is anything wrong in admitting there are things as to the nature of the universe that we don’t understand. Thiests at some point have to be willing to admit that they can’t prove anything of their claims. From there, reasonable discourse might result.

    Btw, I love the parody. Very funny. (is it all right for Christian Theists to have a sense of humor?)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02586263666357538615 Jeffrey Byrge

    “but this I believe is a direct result of the purposeful demonization and mis-charecterization of thiests, particularly in the United States. “

    should read …”by theists, particularly in the United States.”

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11250370621742484257 Paul Manata

    Just wondering… if TAG is “crazy” then how is “TANG” described?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11250370621742484257 Paul Manata
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13565890121197051580 John W. Loftus

    See my contribution called How to be an apologist.

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