Ken Ham’s biblical exegesis is just as sound as his science

Let me step back and explain where I’m coming from with today’s odd burst of posts. I’ve been butting heads with young-earth creationists for most of my life.

This goes back more than 30 years, to the middle-school “science” classes wherein I was first, unsuccessfully, indoctrinated in “scientific creationism.” We studied “the controversy” — but in our case that meant learning about the “gap theory” and the “day-age theory.” These were treated as the primary alternative views, as though everyone believed one of these three options — with those other two theories being a refuge for the semi-apostate scoundrels who lacked the true faith that demanded belief in a universe created in six 24-hour days some 6,000-10,000 years ago in precisely the order outlined in Genesis 1 and not the order in Genesis 2.

Our teacher’s clumsy, dismissive attempts to reconcile those two disparate back-to-back accounts was one of the first things I remember giving me pause. And it seemed the more questions I asked, the less satisfied I was with the answers. (The only teacher who took those questions seriously was my social studies teacher, Mrs. M., who was the Best Teacher I Ever Had. She didn’t know a great deal about social studies, but she knew everything about kids. “Just remember,” she told me subversively, and probably at some risk, “the Bible says God created the world. But if someone tells you they know how he did that, they didn’t get that from the Bible.”) I got A’s in that science class, providing the expected answers on the exam, but I didn’t believe them.

Since then I’ve learned a great deal more about science, theology and biblical exegesis, and everything I’ve learned in each of those areas has strengthened and deepened my opposition to the pernicious nonsense of young-earth creationism.

Over the many years I’ve been engaged in this argument, I have found many solid allies, invaluable mentors, and delightful friends among the ranks of the freethinkers and atheists who have been fighting the same foe. Most of those folks were scientists — people I came to rely on because I myself am not a scientist.

These scientist allies, friends and mentors had also spent many years butting heads with “scientific creationists” like Ken Ham. And they had learned from that experience. They had learned that Ken Ham is not trustworthy.

As scientists with scientific expertise, they were able to evaluate Ham’s scientific claims. That evaluation showed him to be someone who was woefully ignorant, brazenly dishonest, willing to deliberately distort facts and words, and full of grandiose claims about his own importance.

These scientists would sometimes ask me about Ham’s assertions involving biblical exegesis, Christian belief or church history.* I could tell they were doing so out of a kind of scientific curiosity. They were testing their working hypothesis regarding Ham.

That hypothesis involves a rather compelling logic: Ken Ham claims to be an expert on biology, but his statements about biology are ignorant, dishonest and ridiculous. Ken Ham claims to be an expert on geology, but his statements about geology are ignorant, dishonest and ridiculous. Ken Ham claims to be an expert on astronomy, but his statements about astronomy are ignorant, dishonest and ridiculous.

Ken Ham claims to be an expert on biblical exegesis. Given the above, what does our hypothesis predict will be the case for Ham’s statements about the Bible?

They tended to be delighted that I was able to confirm that their hypothesis held true in this case as well. But then they didn’t really need my input to know that. Those scientists may not have been experts in biblical interpretation, Christian teaching or church history, but they were experts on Ken Ham. They knew enough of his flim-flammery and distortions to suspect that his claims about the Bible could not possibly be any more trustworthy than his claims about the fossil record or about radiocarbon dating.

And yet, increasingly, I’ve begun to see a new and disturbing alliance between young-earth creationists like Ham and those who subscribe to a certain aggressive strain of Internet atheism. These two factions can often be found speaking with a single, united voice — banding together to staunchly defend an identical biblical hermeneutic.

And since that hermeneutic is the same illiterate, Ham-fisted literalism I’ve been railing against since the Reagan administration, I am disappointed by this development.

For decades I’ve been having this argument:

YOUNG-EARTH CREATIONIST: The Bible clearly says that God created the universe in six days, 6,000 years ago.

ME: No, actually, it doesn’t. [Insert everything I’ve ever written or said about the Bible for the past 25 years.]

YEC: Does too.

That argument was exhausting and depressing. But the new variation of it is even more so:

YEC: The Bible clearly says that God created the universe in six days, 6,000 years ago.

ME: No, actually, it doesn’t. [Insert everything I’ve ever written or said about the Bible for the past 25 years.]

INTERNET ATHEIST: Does too.

ME: Wait … what are you doing here? And why on earth are you siding with him?

IA: I’ve apparently decided he’s the most knowledgeable, reliable and trustworthy interpreter of Christian orthodoxy and biblical scholarship.

ME: Him? He’s really not.

IA: I’ve read Answers in Genesis. I know all I need to know about what you Christians believe. And Ken Ham warned me against your seminary trickery …

That’s dismaying on several levels. And I fear it can only get worse. Once you decide that Ken Ham is trustworthy and respectable when it comes to biblical exegesis, you’re one step closer to deciding that maybe he’s also trustworthy and respectable when it comes to “debunking Darwinist propaganda.”

Once you decide that Answers in Genesis can be relied on for accurate, honest and reliable information about biblical interpretation then you’re well on your way toward suspecting the same might be true of its information about evolution. Once you let them convince you that you know more than biblical scholars do about what’s in the Bible, then they’ve already gotten you to swallow the premise of all their crackpottery. You’re all set to believe that you also know more than scientists do about science.

After so many years arguing with fundamentalist Christians who refuse to believe in radiocarbon dating, I don’t relish the prospect of a future in which I may get to argue with atheists who refuse to believe in radiocarbon dating.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

* They were atheists after all, and thus hadn’t needed to study any of that for themselves. Some Christians have an odd notion that no one can become an atheist — or a Hindu, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist or anything else — unless they first become an expert in Christianity. The idea, I suppose, is that atheists are rejecting Christianity, and thus are obligated to learn everything there is to know about that which they are rejecting.

By that logic, of course, then every Christian is obligated to spend years studying the intricacies of Hinduism. And of Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Jainism and every other possible belief system they are “rejecting” by becoming Christians.

That’s silly. For most of us, we believe whatever it is we believe because we choose that, not because we’ve systematically evaluated and rejected every other possible option. An atheist is someone who chooses to be an atheist, not someone who chooses to reject Christianity and thus somehow winds up an atheist by default. And a Christian is someone who chooses to be a Christian, not someone who chooses to reject atheism and thus somehow winds up a Christian by default.

If it didn’t work this way, then none of us could ever get married until we had dated every single person on the planet. Plus our marriage vows would be infinitely longer, because instead of just saying, “forsaking all others,” we’d have to list them all, by name, and explain in detail why we were choosing to forsake each one.

I am a Christian. I think it is good for me to learn as much as I can about other beliefs. Knowledge is better than ignorance, and such learning is also a way of respecting, and of loving, my neighbors. But I am not compelled to study all other religions in order to legitimize my choice to be a Christian.

However — and this is important — if I went around claiming that I had chosen to become a Christian because I had looked into all those other religions and found them all to be foolish, then I had better be able to back that up with an exhaustive and accurate knowledge of the intricacies of those other faiths. I’m a Christian, and thus I do not need to be an expert in Hinduism. But if I, as a Christian, tell you that I am a Christian because of the alleged inadequacies of Hinduism, then I had damned well better be intimately familiar with that faith on its own terms. Otherwise I’m not a critic, just a crackpot.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/chrisalgoo Chris Algoo

    Replying to an issue from a few pages ago – atheists find the idea that atheism is a choice disconcerting for two reasons:

    1 – The lack of solid evidence of the supernatural
    2 – The idea that everyone is born an atheist, until religion is introduced to them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     I have issues with the “religion/atheism as a choice” thing as well.

    It makes it sound like simply establishing a preference rather than a result of one’s life journey. And I think that for a lot of people, there really was never a reason to make a choice – I know several atheists who seem to completely lack any sort of religious impulse. How can they have “chosen” to be atheists when they’ve never felt any other inclination?

    Personally, I find the “religion as a choice” idea upsetting because of negative experiences. There was a web community that I was very active in for some years that was very progressive and opposed to bigotry – but then it turned out that anti-religious bigotry was just fine with the mods. Saying hateful things about religion wasn’t the same as saying hateful things about homosexuality, because “religion is a choice.” What had been a safe space for me suddenly proved not to be.

    For me to be other than a panentheistic Quaker, I would have to have had some very different life experiences, and I would be a different person. Atheist me, or Buddhist me, or Sufi me would all be very different people. To dismiss that much of my life experience and identity as “a choice” is very dismissive of me as a person.

  • Worthless Beast

    I’ve been to such forums, too – and for things that *weren’t* primarily for religious discussion, either, but for hobby-stuff.  (Back when I browed the Fandom Secrets Livejournal… some of the image-macro secrets that were posted… well, most were “strange” shipping, but occasionally, someone would post “I’m this religion and I find (my) fandom unwelcoming.”  Some  comments would be “Aw, poor you! That’s unfair!” but a great many were “Yeah? Well, you get out of fandom, then, you horrible thing!”   It wasn’t even for “I hate yaoi” stuff, it was “I believe in a thing” sometimes coupled with “and I’m a yaoi fan” if I remember, and still…

    It’s kind of hard to be on a forum for some geeky hobby or another and to have disscussion derailed into how you (if not you personally, than you by category) should not exist and can only hope to do anything good for mankind by somehow never having existed.  If I had a time-machine and could ret-gone myself, maybe I’d do that, but it’s not possible at present.

  • Tonio

    Without justifying or condoning those attitudes, I would strongly recommend against bringing up religion in fan forums in the first place. The reason is simple – it gives the very strong impression that the poster seeks to proselytize despite the poster’s intentions. I would make exceptions where a given religion is relevant to the work being discussed, such as C.S. Lewis or Dostoevsky. 

  • Worthless Beast

    It does happen sometimes.

    I mean, try discussing “Avatar: The Last Airbender” without bringing up reincarnation and other Eastern spiritualty concepts.  Try dicussing an anime where one of the main characters is a gun-slinging preacher whose main weapon is huge and cross-shaped and where the protagonist constantly brings up quasi-scriptural quotes about pacifism.  I once wrote an essay about the symbols of many religions that Nintendo mis-moshed into one of their game series (one which has its own in-story religion).

    Even moreso if you have a fanfiction hobby. There are a lot of annoying “preach” fics in some fandoms wherin a writer usually Mary Sues themselves into the story to save the protagonists from their evil magic or something, but occasionally, someone deals with real world religious concepts intelligently. It’s rather dismaying to be on a forum discussing fanfic writing in which someone will spout a series of Useful Notes on Wicca to help people’s writing, or all about how Shinto concepts come into play in this anime and “I’ve studied Shinto, here’s how you write about it,” and everyone’s all “Thank you for informing me! Yay!”  but as soon as someone even tries to dicuss odd bits of concept and ritual of different forms of Christianity for who might not know but need it for writing, the thread becomes a disscussion of Why Christianity Should Never Have Existed and how the world will only be a better place once all the Christians die out.  

  • Tonio

    And while that’s not excusable either, the context is different with Christianity because of its reputation as a proselytizing religion. Having seen derailments elsewhere, I doubt that it’s the majority of the community treating Christianity that way, but only a vocal minority who end up driving everyone else out of the thread. And even people who condemn the minority’s hatefulness might perceive that forum as a safe haven away from proselytizing religion that already dominates the larger culture, as if someone on a Hanukkah board started talking about Christmas. I would be interested to see the reactions on a Narnia forum if someone talked about using, say, Buddhist concepts to help with writing.

  • Worthless Beast

    I’ve been to at least one place where it was majority, but, all that taught me as to vacate the forum and find better places to be.  The place was a mess for a variety of other reasons, too, and had mods who didn’t care.   Though it’s non-fandom, I stopped commenting on any of the articles on Huffington Post for the same kind of reason – I mean, things like the “Religion” and “Spirit” sections are clearly marked, you’d think that would be red-flagging for people who hate those things to avoid them, but instead, it seems like an attractant.

    As far as fandom stuff goes – the worst I see on a favorite sane happy fandom board I go to is some things in the sigs – Scriptures and rants, respectively that tend to be ignored when funtimes discussion is happening.

  • Tonio

    I used to visit a board where I would question theology in the Religion section, and occasionally I was told that I didn’t belong there. I freely admit that I see myself as having a right to object when some theologies make universal claims about what’s best for people, and that I would prefer that more religions instead adopt the Amish live-and-let-life approach. But then and now, I strove for intelligence and politeness in my criticisms. It’s very possible that some members misinterpreted my approach or my presence as the equivalent of trying to sell iPhones to the Amish. If so, that was my fault.

  • Worthless Beast

    I don’t think you have anything to worry about.  The people that annoy me and drive me off places are folks who seek out a discussion to inform everyone of how they think that peaceful worshippers at a temple gunned down by a terrorist deserved to die for being worshippers, or to make barbeque jokes about Buddhist protestors and to say other very non-decent-human things, as well as the abundance of That Guys who may not be murderous, but who want to dictate to me what to believe after knowing me from two sentences on the Internet. 

    I don’t think Christians or even non-churchgoing spiritual-seeker quasi-christians like me are persecuted.  Nobody’s telling me that I cannot take the meds I need over it, or that I cannot marry whom I want over it, or anything like that.  Like Lilara, I’m a poor, disabled (mental rather than physical, a whole new stinking kettle of fish), woman.  I have greater things to worry about than Internet Insults. But just because I have those greater things to worry about doesn’t mean I’m not going to call the little annoyances “annoying.” 

    I think it would be nice if we could get along regarding common issues and threats rather than let the little annoyances put us in the “black” and “white” categories with each other.    For the most part, that happens here, but sometimes… How many pages is this up to now? 9? 10?

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    I think it would be nice if we could get along regarding common issues and threats rather than let the little annoyances put us in the “black” and “white” categories with each other.

    Word.
    Or even the big annoyances, come to that.

  • Madhabmatics

     August Comte + Ayn Rand dream date, gonna put that on kickstarter

  • Hypocee

    Tonio

    I’m sorry, but there is no fucking way that 60% of Americans, or even 60% of American Christians believe specifically in YEC.  Some form of deity-induced process, yes.  But to lump theistic evolution, gap theory, day-age creationism, and YEC together as if they were all the exact same thing is highly dishonest.

    Which is why I, and the researchers I trust, didn’t “fucking” do it! Thanks!

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/155003/hold-creationist-view-human-origins.aspx
    http://www.people-press.org/2005/08/30/religion-a-strength-and-weakness-for-both-parties/

    Gallup:
    1. Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process
    2. Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process
    3. God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so
    (Theistic, gap, and day-age are 1. My number is people who answer 3.)

    Pew:
    Life on Earth has…
    1. existed in its present form since the beginning of time
    2. evolved over time                         
      (a) Evolution guided by a supreme being
      (b) Evolution through natural selection
      (c) dont’t know how
    3. don’t know
    (Theistic, gap and day-age are 2. My number is people who answer 1.)

    Tonio
    I do not believe that 60% of American Christians believe that the earth is less than 10,000 years old.  I can’t believe it.  Otherwise, there would be no evolution “controversy”–the schools would just teach their illogical, unscientific garbage unchallenged and the word “evolution” would only be mentioned with contempt.

    You mean like it was until Scopes? Like it still is on the sly? Like the new attempt at an open loophole that hits the Supreme Court every decade or so?

    The facts believe differently from you. Sociological math is fuzzy and semantically laden, but 60% of American “Christians” generally works out to 40-50% of the population.

    Pat BAs far as I know, these are literally the first two posts he’s made about atheism in the years I read Slactivist, and they both rely on a pretty 1-D portrait of the “angry Fox-News atheist.”

    Nah, he does an Atheist Caricature post roughly twice a year, sometimes quarterly. They’re usually disappointing and dishonest – and I generally say so – but given the percentage of his Blog Hassle that comes from us, it’s hard to work up a real grudge. Just a bit of melancholy.

    LL
    According to Gallup, it’s 46%, which is still way too many.

    Yup. I didn’t say Americans, I said American Christians, and I did so advisedly. My point is aimed in the other direction, about reasonable inference from the word “Christian”. If an American describes themselves to you as a “Christian”, and based on no other information you guess that they’re YEC, you have a 6 in 10 chance of being correct (with another 2, 3…or maybe practically 4? consisting of various OEC flavors). So far Fred’s periodic posts about outsider/atheist assumptions have never included this fact. More subjectively, he seems to me to try to present YEC as a tiny-but-vocal fringe of evangelicalism.

    Pew
    Overall, about half the public (48%) says that humans and other living things have evolved over time, while 42% say that living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time. Fully 70% of white evangelical Protestants say that life has existed in its present form since the beginning of time; fewer than half as many white mainline Protestants (32%) and white Catholics (31%) agree.

    Incidentally I generally prefer Pew’s numbers because they explicitly associate faith and position reports rather than dissociating them into bulk percentages, but Gallup and Pew numbers agree remarkably closely if one assumes no significant overlap between the none/unaffiliated slice and the YEC slice. The number of atheists who believe Genesis is trufax is left as an exercise for the reader :|

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    This post did not disappoint me as an atheist, and I found it quite thoroughly honest. Fred didn’t make it out of thin air. It was obviously inspired by certain atheists posting certain comments on his own blog. People were having basically the same argument with those atheists before Fred made his posts, which I find absolutely brilliant, especially the one satirizing someone for finding a gorilla joke horrible. Because atheists do it. And not only atheists — people have hissy fits over every kind of story. A certain type of Internet Atheist does exactly the same thing as a certain kind of Snapefan and a certain kind of Twilight-hater. 

    Second verse, same as the first, because of course certain Christians do it too. It comes from lacking the imagination that is necessary to comprehend stories in any meaningful way.

  • Tonio

    Snapefan? I’m not familiar with that concept. But then, until the last season of Smallville I hadn’t even heard of the shipper phenomenon, let alone the existence of Clana and Chlark factions.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    It doesn’t have anything to do with imagination or lack thereof.  Nobody needs to imagine someone who takes seriously ideas of a worldwide flood or a talking snake or a man walking on water.  These people already exist.  And they aren’t exactly a tiny minority.

    Okay, atheists say, you wanna take these stories as fact, let’s do just that–let’s discuss the implications of these stories you say are fact, let’s discuss the character of the being you call all-loving as he murders thousands upon thousands of innocents.  Let’s do that, and maybe you’ll think, just for half a second, about what you’re really advocating here.

    We’re not breathlessly waiting to give up on science because some dork with a hilarious museum tells us to–we’re just not ignoring that people like him exist, and are powerful, and aren’t exactly fans of us or our civil rights.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    First, when you say “atheists” you seem to be trying to speak for all atheists. I’m an atheist. I think it’s pretty clear we’re either disagreeing vehemently or talking past each other. So I would appreciate it if you stopped talking about all atheists as if we were of one mind. 

    Second, you’re talking about something completely different from what Fred’s posting about. Is this a blog where a lot of people are arguing with you that this stuff is literal fact? Or is it, rather, a blog where the person who posted these things actually said he thought of the Noah story as a story, not a fact, and on which he posts disparaging things about people who say they take the Bible “literally” all the time?

    There is absolutely a lack of imagination involved in telling other people what they “really” believe, not appreciating the different reasons for stories to exist, and not appreciating the fact that different Christians believe entirely different things. And this is not a strawman, as so aptly demonstrated by Gordon Duffy’s comment. Fred didn’t pull this stuff out of thin air. The subject of this trio of posts was driving me batty before he posted his spot-on gorilla joke post.

    That some people treat some of the Bible a certain way does not compel anyone to take the Bible that way, and it certainly does not compel anyone to tell people like Fred (and many commenters on this blog) that they believe things which they do not believe, or to insult them for what they do believe. Yes, atheists don’t have the privilege that most Christians do. That still doesn’t make it okay for atheists to treat all Christians with such disrespect. The way I see it, it parallels this: women who do not want to be mothers are often vilified. That doesn’t make it okay for women who do not want to have children to call mothers “moos”. 

  • Tonio

     I didn’t write the posts that you are quoting.

  • Random Lurker

    Hadn’t seen it mentioned yet, so I’ll just leave this here. If anyone wants to see a meaningful discussion of atheism, google or youtube for “Aron-Ra.” (or perhaps AronRa, Aron Ra). He’s outspoken, educated, and makes excellent videos.

  • AnonymousSam

    Ah, there’s the connection in my head. The Internet Atheist is a variant of That Guy, except instead of rudely and condescendingly pointing out that you can drive on the shoulder of the road to pass people in front of you, he rudely and condescendingly points out aspects of Christianity that he assumes are perfect zing statements for an argument no one realized they were having, and just like That Guy, his assertions are rarely, if ever, as intelligent as he thinks they are.

    How’s that definition sound?

  • Madhabmatics

    It’s not even a variant of That Guy, it IS That Guy, it’s just that That Guy’s experience informs what his constant interruptions are going to be. If he were a Christian he would be having the exact same attitude, with the exact same language – which I think is what this post is getting at.

    Stuff like “Heh, you aren’t a -real christian- because you ignore what the bible REALLY SAYS, which is something that I have managed to come to a very definite conclusion on even though no one else has been able to reach consensus for 2000 years” coming out of both Theist and Atheist mouths should be enough to show the common roots of that kind of dumb attitude.

    It’s not just Christianity though, I see a lot of it when it comes to my own faith as well. If I had a dollar for every time someone said “But Shariah Law says x!” I would be funding a whole ton of rad kickstarters.

  • AnonymousSam

    Hmm, you may be right. And to derail myself yet again, as-salamu ‘alaykum, if I spell it correctly. ^_^ Nice to see  Slacktivist bringing people together, even if it’s just to gripe about That Guy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    It’s not even a variant of That Guy, it IS That Guy, it’s just that
    That Guy’s experience informs what his constant interruptions are going
    to be. If he were a Christian he would be having the exact same
    attitude, with the exact same language – which I think is what this post
    is getting at.

    It is the essence of That Guy-ness.

    Stuff like “Heh, you aren’t a -real christian- because you ignore
    what the bible REALLY SAYS, which is something that I have managed to
    come to a very definite conclusion on even though no one else has been
    able to reach consensus for 2000 years” coming out of both Theist and
    Atheist mouths should be enough to show the common roots of that kind of
    dumb attitude.

    Funny how both theists and atheists are just like people, isn’t it?

    I’ve have seen the following conversations more times than I can count:

    That Guy A and B: “All members of Group X believe Y.”
    Other Person: “Um, I’m a member of Group X, and I don’t believe Y. I believe Z.”
    That Guy A: “No, all members of Group X believe Y. Therefore, you are lying and are not really a member of Group X.”
    That Guy B: “No, all members of Group X believe Y. Therefore, you are lying and really believe Y.”

    Which version of That Guy is A or B? Depends entirely on the subject of the conversation.

  • Mark Z.

    As we’ve seen in this thread, there may be a That Guy C: “No, all members of Group X believe Y. If you also believe Z, that’s a sign of your sloppy and undisciplined thinking.”

  • Pat B

    “How’s that definition sound?”

    Trite, stereotypical and dismissive.

    There are atheists who are trolls. There are atheists who are idiots. But if the atheists I’ve seen posting here today, and in the past on other posts here on the Slactivist blog, are representative of the much derided “Internet Atheists,” well, I can’t imagine what you want atheists to say?

    Acknowledging what the majority of Christians actually believe? Troll.
    Pointing out that a “loving” deity is inordinately fond of genocide? Troll.
    Complaining about Christian Privilege in society? Whiny White Male Troll.
    Asking to not be dismissed as a troll when bringing up legitimate points? Guess.

  • AnonymousSam

    What makes you think the people here are representative of the Internet Atheist so described? You seem to have passed over the key point of the Internet atheist, which is to inform a Christian exactly what they believe. Not what a number (be it a minority or majority) of Christians believe, not what can be derived from literal or allegorical interpretations of the Bible, not whatever disgusting piece of filth the Catholic Church is passing off today as God’s Will, but what Christians (“like you” implicit) believe.

    Even when the assertion in question is something that a majority of Christians do believe, it’s still painting people with a broad brush to say they all believe any one thing (besides some of the more basic tenets of the faith — I’m not sure you can still be Christian without believing in Jesus Christ, for example). Worse, the Internet Atheist has an unhealthy habit of doing this with things that practically no one actually believes, like “Christians believe that slavery is justified. Just look at the Bible, it says so!”

  • Madhabmatics

     I actually don’t like the term “Internet Atheist” for a variety of reasons, but mostly because there are a lot of atheists on the internet but it’s not most of them that go into meltdown mode whenever the topic of religion comes up. It is pretty disrespectful, imo, to use Internet Atheist to describe it since any atheist you are talking to on the internet is an “Internet Atheist.”

    I can see why Fred used that term since everyone in the internet religiosphere is trying to coin a term for it: Even atheist blogs are grasping at straws to come up with a term to describe it so they can talk about it: See articles like http://freethoughtblogs.com/nataliereed/2012/08/10/all-in/

    I, personally, not wanting to smear people in movements or atheists who use the internet, have decided to avoid these terms and use one which, I think, conjures the appropriate images when you hear it:

    “A Redditor”

  • AnonymousSam

    Fair point. In my mind, the term has the same degree of distinction from normal use as That Guy would to “that guy,” but I’ll gladly switch over to just “people who interject their Internet foot where it doesn’t belong” if it benefits clarity. :p

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    I actually don’t like the term “Internet Atheist” for a variety of reasons, but mostly because there are a lot of atheists on the internet but it’s not most of them that go into meltdown mode whenever the topic of religion comes up. It is pretty disrespectful, imo, to use Internet Atheist to describe it since any atheist you are talking to on the internet is an “Internet Atheist.”

    Yes, and thank you for this.  I’ll add that many atheists are more active on the internet because we enjoy a freedom here that (many of us) don’t in not-internet: the freedom to be an “out” atheist.

    I’m an Internet Atheist.  I talk about atheism online and I have a blog that critiques Christian entertainment.  Do Christians (liberal or otherwise) think we can do this everywhere we go, with the same freedom that Christians have to discuss their church activities?

    Not so much.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    Acknowledging what the majority of Christians actually believe? Troll.

    So half of Fred’s posts are just trolling his own blog?

  • Pat B

    Hence why it’s a double standard. 

    Atheists who point out that Genesis, like any other Bronze Age Creation Myth, was almost certainly meant by the authors to be read as an actual account of the creation of the earth, are telling Chrisitans what they believe and are one step from becoming YECs themselves.

    Progressive Christians who point out the failings of their Fundie coreligionists are brave heroes fighting against oppression and get an automatic free pass from atheists being frustrated with their complicity in the Christian hegemony. 

    I like Progressive Christians, I like Fred, I like you (seriously, you’re a good poster). I don’t like the idea that anyone is immune to criticism, especially when they are usually good about avoiding stereotypes and ad hominem attacks.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    I certainly have no problem with atheists or progressive Christians calling out YECs in particular and fundamentalists generally in whatever way is appropriate in a given context, including outright mockery. I get an inordinate amount of entertainment from reading Fred on the one side and Hemant Mehta, Jerry Coyne and JT Eberhard (among others) on the other side do exactly that.

    But I think it’s a matter of context. It’s one thing to respond to, make fun of and fight the influence of YECs and Biblical literalists whenever they come up, but another to bring them up when they and their nonsense are not at issue, as happened in the Noah post that started this topic rolling. (For what it’s worth, that thread didn’t strike me as a particularly bad derail- “what is the moral of that story anyway?” seems a fair question and much of the discussion focused on that- but I can see how some of the comments served Fred as a jumping-off point.)

  • arcseconds

    Genesis, like any other Bronze Age Creation Myth, was almost certainly meant by the authors to be read as an actual account of the creation of the earth

    Many of us in the West, no matter what our metaphysical commitments are, work with a not terribly sophisticated correspondence theory of truth (i.e. a statement is true in so far as it conforms to the world), bivalence (a statement is either true or false), naïve realism (there is a straightforward way the world is, and we can access it straightforwardly, at least in principle) and non-contradiction (a statement can’t be true and false) and more generally consistency.

    Even if we officially hold a more sophisticated view, this is often the one we end up using ‘on the street’, as it were. 

    And we assume it’s also what everyone else is doing.

    This is almost certainly a huge mistake.  And this has been a hard-won revelation for me.  Realising that the above really doesn’t map on to how a lot of different cultures and individuals within cultures approach texts, statements, stories, theories, etc. has been probably the single biggest step forward for me in understanding human beings.  Not that I think I’ve got awesome insight or anything — I still don’t really understand such views to any great extent, but the first step is admitting you have a problem.

    Indigenous cultures are probably a better analogue to the early forebears of the Hebrews than anything else that currently exists.  People who live in Western culture while also belonging to an indigenous culture often do adopt the ‘modern scientific worldview’ in certain contexts, but this doesn’t prevent them from continuing to tell their traditional creation stories (or traditional migration stories, or whatever) with the same enthusiasm they always had.  You can also see something similar with cultures that have recently converted to Christianity (sometimes even not so recently).

    (Ditching an entire worldview in favour of another is something modern westerners do, because they can’t accommodate two. )

    If we had a better theory with better evidence for it than our current theory, we’d ditch our current theory in a trice.  That’s what we do with ‘actual accounts’.   That’s often not what people do with creation myths, and I think the best way to begin to understand this is that they were never being advanced as ‘actual’, scientific accounts (just really bad ones) in the first place.  It’s true that there’s a bit of overlap of social roles fulfilled by scientific theories and traditional myths, but the overlap is very far from being total.

  • Pat B

    I’m not a sociologist, and it’s been a few years since I took a college level history class but… not ditching all of your cultural traditions is normal with everyone.

    When Christianity was first introduced to the Romans, and then to the Barbarian tribes, and then again when European missionaries tried to spread it in colonial times, there was always the issue that people wouldn’t give up their old gods or their old forms of worship. Most Folk Lore and Fairy Tales can be traced back directly to displaced mythologies and old dead religions; people hate to give anything traditional up.

    Cognitive Dissonance is something people can easy learn to live with, and if you don’t think modern Western cultures suffer some serious cognitive dissonance you need to pay more attention to current events. 

    For Example: America is the Greatest Nation on Earth v. America is a Corrupted Hellhole, Capitalism is Awesome v. Corporations are Soulless Monsters, Thinking Creationists are a Tiny Fringe Group v. Knowing that 40-50% of us are Creationists.

    So forgive me if I don’t immediately buy into this idea that the Bronze/Iron Age Hebrew people had some super-duper pluralistic worldview which let them know that their myths didn’t accurately describe the world, even when contemporary Greek philosophers were trying in vain to convince their fellows that the sun wasn’t literally a chariot.

  • arcseconds

    I think my position is that ‘super-duper pluralistic worldviews’ are not all that uncommon and in a way are not that sophisticated, and may in fact be the norm in human cultures.  In fact demanding a unitary, consistent, exclusive worldview represents a cultural achievement of sorts.  Just one that leaves us a bit crippled when we’re attempting to understand people who have no interest in building unitary, consistent, exclusive worldviews.

    So, you know, I think ‘super-duper pluralism’ is a bit of a prejudicial way of describing it, as though it’s somehow unusual and sophisticated.

    There’s plenty of evidence that many cultures are really not that concerned with consistency and are quite capable of telling different, mutually inconsistent stories on different occasions.  In fact, everything you say is evidence for this.  Calling it ‘cognitive dissonance’ doesn’t do anything for your position, it just gives it a dismissive label.  

    I’m not sure your story about the greeks helps much.  The Greeks at some point did become quite concerned with consistency, and we probably picked up the habit from them.   Also, just because they reject a philosopher’s story doesn’t mean they intend the account as something that meshes well with what we think intending an actual, true account is.  The problem might really more be that the philosopher is undermining a tradition. 

    I’m suggesting that myths are advanced and treated in a way that differs substantially from the way intended actual accounts are normally advanced in our society.  One of the ways this manifests itself is in tolerance of inconsistency.  I’m not suggesting that they automatically embrace every account that comes along!

    (also, don’t make the mistake of thinking ancient greek natural philosophy is a kind of early science.  Sometimes it does approach being scientific, but more usually it’s a bunch of wacky ideas asserted without an argument, especially in the presocratic period.  The objection to this kind of account from a mythic society may well be “this isn’t a very interesting story – there are no characters!”, not that I think that anyone would actually say that.

    While I don’t think it has that much bearing on the topic at hand, I am interested in early Greek philosophy, so can you give me some more to go on with this argument about solar chariots? who was the philosopher, and where was the argument recorded? )

     The Vedas preserve several different creation myths, and they’re not even consistently attributed to the same god.  Sometimes it’s Vishnu that measures out the universe in three steps, sometimes it’s Varuna (well, someone other than Vishnu anyway, not utterly sure about Varuna).

    So how do you make sense of that, if creation stories are always intened by their authors as being ‘actual accounts’?   It seems to me something has to be ditched here: either the stories weren’t understood literally, or they were and those that understood them could cope with inconsistency (which in itself is so much unlike the way we approach things we think are actual accounts that calling them an ‘actual account’ seems misleading).

  • Pat B

    “So how do you make sense of that, if creation stories are always intened by their authors as being ‘actual accounts’?   It seems to me something has to be ditched here: either the stories weren’t understood literally, or they were and those that understood them could cope with inconsistency (which in itself is so much unlike the way we approach things we think are actual accounts that calling them an ‘actual account’ seems misleading).”

    That most people didn’t have enough familiarity with the dogma to see any inconsistancy and the people who did learned to live with the cognitive dissonance.

    Again, it’s not dismissive to say that they had the same mental abilities we did; Americans have a lot of mutually conflicting ideas about how the world works, and we can keep them in our heads simultaneously. The idea that western society is hyper-rationalist and we can’t tolerate inconsistency is ridiculous on it’s face; we do it constantly, as a way of life.

    It’s a lot more plausible to say that they dealt with inconsistency in their myths the same way we do today; ignoring it whenever convenient and saying “shut up” to people who question it too much. 

    With the Greek Philosophers; I would say Xenophanes and the Sophists are probably the most famous for fighting for naturalistic explanations for phenomenon and pointing out the logical issues with their society’s myths, but most of the philosophers did some of that. Obviously not scientists by any means, but the fact they had to fight at all is evidence that back in the Classical period people were looking at these kinds of stories as factual accounts.

  • arcseconds

    I’m specifically asking how you can make sense of the Rg Veda, which has several different creation stories in it, and attributes the same creation story (measuring out the world in three steps) to several different gods in different places.

    This is not some subtle thing.  It says Vishnu did this at one point, and later says Varuna did it, and I think there’s a third god it’s attributed to, as well.  The Rg Veda was transmitted orally for many generations and continued to be memorized for centuries after it was written down, so it’s not as if the priests, at any rate, would have been unaware of these different, entirely inconsistent stories.  There’s no attempt in the text itself to achieve consistency.

    You say they “learnt to live with the cognitive dissonace”, but isn’t that just a dismissive way of describing the same thing that I’m describing: that other cultures are tolerant of inconsistency in a way that we aren’t?

    As far as the Greeks go, having to fight to get recognition for your story doesn’t at all show that the account is considered factual.  I’ve already given two reasons why you might find resistance to a new story: it’s an affront to tradition, and it’s not a very good story. 

    If a fight means that they regard the story as factual, does that mean you think the ‘Batman’s not Gay!” crowd thinks Batman is real?

  • Jay

     Cognitive Dissonance is something people can easily learn to live with

    Actually, that varies.  Some of us find it hard to live with.  My resolutions for your examples look a bit like: America’s political system is paralysed and corrupt, well-regulated capitalism is awesome but unregulated capitalism stinks, creationists are apparently a majority in the South and by no means uncommon in the rest of the US.  I suspect that this temperament is a big part of why I’m an atheist; the contradictions of Christianity (theodicy first and foremost) are very uncomfortable to me.

  • arcseconds

     

     Genesis, like any other Bronze Age Creation Myth, was almost certainly meant by the authors to be read as an actual account of the creation of the earth

    Even if you were right about this, why should we care what the original intentions were when we read the text?

    Authorial authority has, I think, been widely rejected as being the sole interpretive principle by pretty much everyone who studies texts seriously.

  • Pat B

    Because Fred just put a whole three-part blog post together about how you would need to be a moron to think that Genesis was written as a literal account of the creation of the universe. 

    Pointing out that, well, it almost certainly was apparently puts me in danger of suddenly losing all of my expensive biology education and critical thinking skills and becoming a YEC. Internet Atheist! *Eyeroll*

    I can enjoy The Room even while knowing that Tommy Wissaeu (sp?) had no intention of making a comedy; it was created to be a serious drama and any attempt to deny that is disingenuous. So feel free to find non-genocidal moral lessons in Genesis, but don’t try to say I’m Ken Ham if I point out that it was likely meant to be taken literally.

  • arcseconds

    The comment you are replying to is asking why the original authors’ intentions are important.

    You haven’t addressed this.

  • Pat B

    They’re important because, according to Fred, the stories are not (and never were) meant to be taken literally, and I am illiterate or lacking in imagination to think so. 

    But if we can show the authorial intent was, in fact, to describe the creation of the universe in a roughly-factual manner akin to other creation myths, that claim is shown to be absurd. 

    Hence; authorial intentions are important because they are the reason Fred is insulting me.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    If you can manage to prove the authorial intent of the authors of Genesis, you’ll deserve a massive grant from pretty much every university in existence. Good luck with that.

  • arcseconds

    One problem that we haven’t discussed is that these texts don’t have ‘original authors’ in any straightforward sense.

    The Rg Veda was written down long after it existed as a ‘text’ that was memorized.  It was redacted into something like it’s current form in the early first millenia BC (or possibly earlier).

    One partial explanation for the blatant inconsistencies is that it was redacted from several earlier, distinct oral traditions, some of which may have been related to one another and others that may not have been.

    So, when it was originally written down (using an alphabet on a physical medium) the intention was to accurately record a pre-existing oral transmission of the same text.

    When it was redacted, the intention was different: to record a collection of at best loosely related material that was individually considered important.   The redactors clearly made no attempt to tell a consistent story – if their intentions had anything to do with an ‘actual account’ of creation in anything like the manner that we’d treat an actual account, it could only be to hope that one of the stories might be the correct one.

    Some of the stories in the Rg Veda are very old.  There’s one creation myth there involving the world being created out of a giant’s body which may well be indo-european, as you find the same myth in Norse mythology.

    From the redaction of the Rg Veda onwards the Vedic culture took pains to preserve their oral texts very accruately, but presumably creation stories from thousands of years prior were subject to less strict retelling, so we can presume that material crept in over time. 

    When a ‘fact’ gets added because someone embellished a story they heard from their grandfather, is their intention to tell an ‘actual account’ of whatever the story is about?
    They may not be even aware that they’ve embellished it, so that ‘fact’ may have no particular intention behind it, it’s really a kind of copyist’s error.

    Assuming there’s anything left of some primeval original author’s work discernable in our extant text, what they thought they were doing doesn’t seem all that relevant.   But even if it were, can we really say with any degree of certainty that the first time a story is told that later became a myth that the author intended it to be a factual account? 

    I’m not sure how much sense it makes to presume that someone tells a story around a campfire for the first time and immediately takes it to be nevertheless an accurate story about thousands of years ago.  But even assuming it does make sense, we don’t know that this was why they said it.  It may have been originally uttered for entertainment value, or a mnemonic for food gathering, or any one of a number of functions, and only got treated as a factual account much later. 

  • arcseconds

    I’ve talked about the Rg Veda here because it’s a really clear example of something that was redacted from multiple sources where little effort was put in to making it consistent.

    When faced with these multiple sources, the redactors decided it was more important to preserve at least parts of the various former traditions than strive for consistency.

    But actually, the story of Genesis is not dissimilar.  There’s at least two similar but not the same accounts that have been combined into one in there.  The redactors at this point decided that there was going to be one narrative, so they more or less did a ‘version merge’ on them, and you end up with bits of the narrative apparently repeating itself with slightly different details.   The Genesis redactors do seem to be doing more of what we’d expect of someone handling something they think is a ‘true account’ of something in some respects – we could suppose they decided that both the accounts they had were true, for example.  But they’ve nevertheless done some cleanup work and shoehorned them into one narrative, which still strikes me as a bit of a strange thing to do with something you think is telling you the literal truth about the world.

    Also, someone at some point removed all of the polytheism, leaving God talking to himself rather a lot.  I suppose we can see this as ‘well, there’s only one God, so this can’t be right, here, i’ll fix it for you’, but that’s certainly not taking the polythestic version as true!

    and actually, the motivation here may not be to tell a true account at all.  it may well be “well, this refers to all these other Gods, we can’t have people reading this!” – this kind of expurgation of ‘inappropriate’ material has been known to happen.

  • Tonio

    You mean that the Genesis god wasn’t talking to the assembled angels? 

  • Amaryllis

     Because Fred just put a whole three-part blog post together about how
    you would need to be a moron to think that Genesis was written as a
    literal account of the creation of the universe. 

    Pointing out that, well, it almost certainly was apparently
    puts me in danger of suddenly losing all of my expensive biology
    education and critical thinking skills and becoming a YEC.

    Well, probably not.

    But you haven’t shown us any evidence that Genesis “certainly was” intended to be a read as a literal factual account. Whereas the evidence from history, anthropology, and literature would seem to indicate that it wasn’t. Or, if you prefer, that factualness — apparently that’s not a word, but you know what I mean– was not what was important.

    Genre matters. Genesis isn’t a science text, or a history text either. Myth is something different.

    In the old days of the old Slacktivist, about now someone would drag out that quote from St. Augustine (354-430 AD), warning the more literal-minded of his co-religionists not to talk nonsense about the the physical world and claim to be basing it on the Bible, because they made themselves ridiculous and brought the faith into disrepute. Guess not much has changed since the fifth century.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    In the old days of the old Slacktivist, about now someone would drag out that quote from St. Augustine (354-430 AD), warning the more literal-minded of his co-religionists not to talk nonsense about the the physical world and claim to be basing it on the Bible, because they made themselves ridiculous and brought the faith into disrepute. Guess not much has changed since the fifth century.

    This one?

    One does not read in the Gospel that the Lord said: “I will send you the Paraclete who will teach you about the course of the sun and moon.” For He willed to make them Christians, not mathematicians.

  • Amaryllis

    That one, but also this part:

     

    Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth,
    the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the
    motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative
    positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the
    cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals,
    shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as
    being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a
    disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a
    Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture,
    talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to
    prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up
    vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is
    not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that
    people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers
    held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose
    salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and
    rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a
    field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his
    foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe
    those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead,
    the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they
    think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they
    themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?
    Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold
    trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in
    one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by
    those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For
    then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue
    statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof
    and even recite from memory many passages which they think support
    their position, although they understand neither what they say
    nor the things about which they make assertion.

    Whether or not you agree with Augustine about the necessity of “salvation,” or whether one should believe the Bible about “the kingdom of heaven,” he’s quite clear that the point of the Bible is not to teach science.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Ah, I see. Also good, but not as pithy.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Atheists who point out that Genesis, like any other Bronze Age Creation Myth, was almost certainly meant by the authors to be read as an actual account of the creation of the earth, are telling Chrisitans what they believe and are one step from becoming YECs themselves.
     
    Uh, no, when we say that the authors of Genesis thought that Genesis actually happened, that doesn’t mean we are also saying that modern-day people think Genesis actually happened. Some unquestionably do think the universe came to be over the course of a week. Others think Genesis describes the billions of years of history in a way and over a time scale that the earliest readers of Genesis could comprehend–case in point, the bit where God breathes on the waters is supposed to be the rapid expansion of the universe immediately post-Bang. (I don’t know about you, but every time I start contemplating the size of a billion, my brain goes fzzzt. Also that one Asimov story: Moses, we do not have enough papyrus to describe everything that happened over fourteen billion years!) And yet others, who include many people who consider Genesis a holy text, think Genesis is a story written by people for whom a couple thousand years was a mind-bogglingly long time, and who certainly had no access to the results of experiments with radiometric dating or of measurements of Doppler shift.
     
    What folk are objecting to is atheists who assume that only one of those three categories exists and that everyone who considers Genesis holy is in that category.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     

    Obviously not every atheist on the Internet acts this way. Every guy
    doesn’t act like That Guy. But the moment one starts speaking, you
    know. Oh, you know. Because it doesn’t matter who’s around and it
    doesn’t matter what the subject is, he’s going to interject and put you
    in your place, or so he thinks.

    Oh, yes. I remember one That Guy whose brilliant argument consisted of a 10%-remembered 90%-invented version of Documentary Hypothesis, that began with “Have any of you Christians even heard of “J”, the man who wrote the Bible?”

    The responses were quite entertaining. Being That Guy, he of course pronounced everyone who disagreed with him deluded and then flounced.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

    I think you are misinterpreting what the Internet Atheist is saying. We don’t think Ken Ham has a point, and we don’t think the bible matters. But we think that if you are going to say you are christian then you should think it matters and deal with what it says.

    Progressive Christians are progressive to the extent that they can ignore the bible. I’m all for that. I want your conscience (and scientific literacy) to be stronger than your faith. It is the next best option to not having faith in the first place.

  • Worthless Beast

    So, we’re “a little more human” but still “not quite fully human?”

  • Pat B

    Huh?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

     “Not fully human” is a charge made by a Catholic Cardinal about atheists. I know you are fully human. I just think you are mistaken about the supernatural.

  • Worthless Beast

    It’s still pretty insulting to outright tell people “close, but no cigar.”   I despise being condescended to and statements like confirm my paranoia that “atheists are incapable of truly seeing believers as human equals.” (Not that it doesn’t work from the other end, too, but but “tit for tat” does not make it RIGHT). 

    You may fully believe that we’re “still a bit dumb” compared to you and are just glad that we’re “less harmful kind of dumb” – I don’t think it’s possible to make you think any differently, but if you want to actually try to *compliment* people, either don’t make it so backhanded or don’t even try.

    If one of us were to say, visit a Muslim forum and tell the people there “Oh, you’re not Fundamentalists, that’s good.  Progressive Islam is the next best thing to being a Christian!” – would we not be supremely smack-able?

    I feel that same bristle toward “Progressive Christian?  It’s the next best thing to having no faith at all.” 

  • Worthless Beast

    By the way… before I’m accused of things…

    I am NOT Catholic.  I don’t give a poo what some Catholic Cardinal says.  Lots of other Christians (even some that are Catholic, I imagine) don’t give a poo what some jerk Cardinal says.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Yes, “tit for tat” doesn’t make anything right, but we are here discussing two posts that basically call atheists petulant children who are one step away from embracing Ray Comfort as our spiritual and scientific almighty leader, because we have the audacity to take seriously multiple interpretations of the Bible.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    but we are here discussing two posts that basically call atheists petulant children who are one step away from embracing Ray Comfort as our spiritual and scientific almighty leader

    I don’t see these posts that way at all.

    Fred wasn’t talking about all atheists in the first gorilla post any more than he was talking about all Christians in the second gorilla post. He was talking about a tendency of certain people to relate to certain stories in a certain way. I’m not sure how anyone got from that to him calling all atheists “petulant children”. Especially because this is Fred we’re talking about here. 

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Yes, this is Fred we’re talking about.  And as I’ve said before, I love it that Fred speaks up for gay rights and speaks out against the literalists who want to squash us.

    But Fred’s strong suit has never been atheism.  It’s very clear from his posts that he does not understand why some atheists take on literal interpretations of Bible stories.  To him, it means they are embracing creationists and preparing to turn in their “I support the scientific method” cards.  They’re being silly children: “OMG, like duh!  All the animals on the whole planet like totally could not fit on one boat and all you Christians are, like, so dumb.  You should totally pick a new religion off a checklist, like I did.”

    There’s really not anything wrong with discussing what we really think about the Bible and creationism and Bible stories when Fred made it the topic of conversation.

  • Tonio

    It’s very clear from his posts that he does not understand why some atheists take on literal interpretations of Bible stories.  

    The reason is simple. Atheists don’t go to church, most probably know little of the different denominations’ traditions, and the complexities of theology are not common knowledge, yet the bare text is available almost anywhere. So even the ones who don’t assume that all Christians subscribe to a literal interpretation still have to seek out the non-biblical information about the religion.

  • Pat B

    It would be a lot easier to sympathize with the way atheists have been oppressing you by saying you’re wrong and an idiot and immoral and worse than they are on the internet… if I hadn’t had people tell me all of those things in real life, for years.

    Don’t get me wrong; I’m a pretty privileged guy all told, really only a couple of areas where I’m marginalized or discriminated against and I can ‘pass’ if I need to. But the levels of BAWW coming from Christians here is really sickening. 

    You’re paranoid atheists don’t see you as fully human? I know, for a fact, that most people don’t consider me fully human because I’m an atheist; my ex had to lie about me to her family or they would have disowned her for dating me, that’s not even hyperbole. 

    “Internet Atheists are such jerks! It’s like their beliefs haven’t been treated with respect their whole lives, and they think it’s a double standard to have their arguments constantly derailed with Tone bullshit.”

    Well, back to lurking anonymously I guess. Maybe I’ll make a Disquis account later, but this is just such a fucking surreal situation.

  • Worthless Beast

    And, again, the way *I’ve* been treated makes it not as easy to sympathize with your “Baww.”  Everyone’s “baww!” matters more to them than anyone else’s “baww!” I think this is the condition of the human speices.  We never listen to each other as individuals. Very rarely to I see “I’m sorry you were hurt by people of my tribe, I’ve never hurt you as an individual but I acknowledge, and not superfically, that some of my tribe are jerks, and want to make amends and be equal here.”  Instead, it’s endless excuses and “Oh, don’t even talk about how anyone of my tribe was ever stupid anytime, anywhere!  We can only talk about the stupidity of your tribe!”  “Only the stupidity of your tribe exists / is worth talking about and any suffering you suffer means nothing!”  You suck!”
     
    Let me bring up another online forum experience of mine:  I frequent a blog run by a straight Christian man who champions LBGT people, defending them and others from what right-wing Christianity has done/is doing to them.  A lot of people share rather painful personal stories on the blog (the blogger likes to post anonymous letters, with permission and ask if commentators have any words of help or as an example of the damage certain people/ideas can do to good people).

    If an LBGT testimony is being discussed, it’s almost guarnateed that some preacher-troll will show up (there’s one with a roating IP-thing that the blogger can’t get rid of). Sometimes, less-trollish, but still “tradtionally minded” folks will show up and start in about how sorry they are Letter Writer was so abused, but then *immediately* go into all these excuses for why they believe Letter Writer is wrong and why their own beliefs are justified, this that and the other thing. Instead of shutting up and listening to someone’s pain, or leaving it at “I’m sorry people were jerks to you,” there’s always a knee-jerk, circle the wagons “Oh, but this!” thing. 

    I don’t have much faith in Humanity. Period.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    I frequent a blog run by a straight Christian man who champions LBGT people

    If you don’t mind saying: what blog?

  • Worthless Beast

    John Shore. 

    He’s often funny, but be warned, some of the letters he posts and dicussions that arise from it are heartbreaking. 

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    And I know, for a fact, that a huge number of people and governments around the world don’t consider me fully human because I’m 1) a woman 2) disabled 3) poor. Because of all those things, they want to take control of my body away from me, they want me to remain in pain for the rest of my life and talk in a condescending fashion about how I probably deserve it, and they want me to starve to death. And they are actively doing things to make sure those things happen to people like me.

    How many people have tried to take control of my body away from me because I’m an atheist? Zero. How many people have told me I deserve to be in pain the rest of my life because I’m an atheist? None. How many people have wanted me to starve to death because I’m an atheist? I dunno, but none of them have acted in any way politically to make that more likely to happen. How likely is it that I’m going to be raped, beaten, paid less, denied medical care, or even made to jump through bureaucratic hoops because I’m an atheist? It’s not.

    So the baawwwing from Internet Atheists about how oppressed all atheists are, yelling at a man who actually works against people who want to and do severely oppress me for being a woman, disabled, and poor, get no traction with me. Especially because all that man did was say that some atheists act in X way, while some atheists were in fact acting in X way on his blog, and the response from certain atheists has been “waah you’re saying all atheists act in X way when none of us do ever.” Um, yeah. Whatever.

  • Nathaniel

     Yeah, people are getting killed in Burma, so obviously any possible problems you have shouldn’t be talked about either until that’s fixed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

     it isn’t that you are dumb. I used to be christian and it is not as if my IQ magically went up.

  • arcseconds

    Progressive Christians are progressive to the extent that they can ignore the bible.

    this strikes me as being exactly the kind of thing that Fred’s talking about.

    The implication here still seems to be that if you don’t treat the Bible like Ken Ham treats it (or how he likes to think he treats it) you’re ‘ignoring’ it.

    That’s you ignoring what people like Fred say they’re doing in favour of deciding that Ken Ham has the only thing that counts as ‘paying attention’ to the Bible.

    So while you try to sound like you’re dismissing Ham, you’re still agreeing with his approach to biblical hermeneutics, whilst in fact dismissing and ignoring Fred’s.  Which is exactly what Ham does!

  • EllieMurasaki

    Progressive Christians are progressive to the extent that they can ignore the bible.
     
    [citation needed]

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Progressive Christians are progressive to the extent that they can ignore the bible.

    You are wrong. Just, completely wrong. Have you read all the Bible? The whole thing? All of it? Do you have any clue what Jesus said the most important law was?

    No one can follow all of the Bible. It wasn’t even written in order to be followed like that — it’s a religious text, not an Ikea manual. Everyone who follows any part of it only follows part of it. And I have known plenty of progressive Christians who use the Bible to be progressive. Like the person whose blog you are commenting on to tell him that he does not exist. Which I find so gobsmackingly disrespectful, I can’t think of anything to say about it except something inspired by AnonymousSam’s comment above:

    You’re being That Guy. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Riastlin-Lovecraft/100000678992705 Riastlin Lovecraft

    “Leaving the Old Testament aside for a moment (though Jesus explicitly commanded his followers not to), the New Testament contains very clear, unambiguous admonitions against homosexuality. ”

    Not having a bible near me atm, Where in the new testament is this explicitly stated? I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything mention any part of the new testament as anti-gay, but I do admit my memory/biblical education could be faulty. Also, forgive me if you’ve already mention it and I just managed to overlook it :/

    EDIT: reply tag eaten -.-. I was replying to the last post on page 5.
    EDIT 2: Reply, not replay.

  • AnonymousSam

    Explicitly in Romans 1:26–27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9–10, and indirectly in 1 Timothy 1:9–10.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Riastlin-Lovecraft/100000678992705 Riastlin Lovecraft

    Point made and taken. Thank you for the speedy reply.

  • AnonymousSam

    Yup. One of the reasons why, unfortunately, I can’t suggest just throwing out the  Old Testament (“Sorry Jeez, it’s less relevant than you think”) and keeping the books about love and peace- there’d be more cherry picking in that than one would guess.

  • Hypocee

    @cd92c7280752cce2854585ed246ce84f:disqus, indeed you didn’t and AFAICT I can’t edit them because I posted as named guest. I’m so sorry to have misrepresented you. I had furthered a statement of yours, then cut that segment as redundant and possibly condescending, messing up my attribution document in the process.

    My little fisking above is for comments from The_L1985.
     

  • LL

    Yeah, despite my fondness for Fred and other decent people who also happen to be Christians, I gotta go with sotonohito here. The reason atheists (and lots of people who aren’t atheists, but who also aren’t Christians) think that the likes of this Ham guy represent most American Christians is because he appears to represent them. Most of them apparently agree with him about evolution, homosexuality, abortion, etc. Sorry. I don’t know what to say to tell you how to change that. When religion and politics have entwined so irrevocably as they seem to have done here (fundamentalists and Republicans), I’m not sure there’s a way to undo it, without destroying at least one of them as an institution.  If I’m not mistaken, it took some difficulty to wrest power out of the greedy hands of the Catholic Church in Europe. I guarantee you, these people (the fundies pimping out Jesus in service of the Republican party) are not gonna give up their influence easily. The Catholic Church’s actions here in the present day are not helping, either, FYI, in convincing us godless, elitist, socialist, gay-loving, baby-killing folk that most self-described Christians in the U.S. aren’t insane. 

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    I don’t know what to say to tell you how to change that.

    Well, for my own part what I recommend is that Christians who aren’t the sorts of greedy political insane awful people that LL talks about here go on living their lives, be visible as Christians while they’re doing it, and where the opportunity arises to effectively oppose the greedy insane awful people (regardless of their religious affiliation), take it.

    The fact that some of their co-religionists have traumatized some perfectly decent people to the point where simply identifying as Christian marks them as an enemy is unfortunate, but it’s not their obligation to control how others think of them, nor do they have the right to do so, even if they had the power.

    That won’t change the situation radically in the near future, of course. But it does make a difference. And I don’t know of any better approach.

  • AnonymousSam

    .. Okaaaay, I think I see what’s going on. When I (and I assume others) use the term “Internet Atheist”, it’s not referring to “an atheist on the Internet.” It’s referring to a smaller subtype of this group who behaves in the aforementioned ways. Statements regarding the Internet Atheist are not to be taken as reflective on all atheists, be they on the Internet or not.

    Madhabmatics is right, this term’s not gonna work if it’s that unclear. Especially because unlike That Guy (wherein the capitalization sets off that the term is being used as a proper noun), “Internet” is a term some people (including myself) capitalize anyway, and some atheists capitalize “Atheist,” so the distinction is lost.

  • Worthless Beast

    TVTropes gives us the term “Hollywood Atheist,” but that would not be an apt term, either.  “Hollywood” Anything on TVTropes denotes a bit of unrealism in regards to how television and films portray things.  The “Hollywood Atheist” in a film, for example, is the guy who has a Rage Against the Heavens because of a Dead Little Sister and might turn around and say “There Is A God!” when something good happens to him in the course of a story. 

  • AnonymousSam

    Yeah, not quite the same, especially since it’s not just atheists who do this. It can happen in pretty much any context. “Hey, you’re from Texas? So, in between rustling cattle and driving your pick-up truck, which Republican are you voting for this year?”

    There needs to be a concise way of expressing the concept of “person who attempts to redefine his opponent according to attributes which may or even may not adhere to them especially in inflammatory ways” that’s a little more descriptive than “jerk.” It’s the denial that there can be any variation within a group of people who share a certain attribute in common with others.

  • Pat B

    What about Troll? Seems apt for that kind of behavior regardless of religion or lack thereof.

    My issue has been how this whole blog post and most of the comments assume it is a uniquely atheistic form of trolling, dismiss legitimate arguments because they’re “rude,” and paint atheists as 1-D cliches. 

    As long as we’re willing to discuss trolls and trolling without turning it into a counterproductive screed against “New Atheists”/”Internet Atheists” I’m all for it.

  • Madhabmatics

     Trolling implies doing something solely to rile people up at best, or at worst dishonestly posting in pursuit of the former. I don’t think that is the motivation for any variety of the meltdown crew.

  • AnonymousSam

    It’s a particular type of troll though, one who doesn’t even always realize what an ass they’re being. I’ve known a lot of this sort who genuinely think they’re arguing for a good cause when they pull the “Oh, Christian, huh? How’s that advocating slavery thing going on for ya?” schtick (it’s so prevalent in FriendlyAtheist’s comment section that it drove me away when I self-identified as atheist myself). It feels like it could have a more specific title, since “trolling” implies a certain amount of willful disingenuousness. This character argues, “You’re X, therefore you believe Y and are a worse person for it” and might even genuinely believe it. 

  • Pat B

    IDK, there are lots of Trolls who think they’re fighting for a cause. White Knights or Moralf*gs as 4chan would put it; they don’t Troll for the Lulz, but out of a misguided sense of idealism.

    Atheist Trolls, like their more numerous and more socially accepted Fundie Troll relatives, rely on hyperbolic inflammatory rhetoric to shock people. The theory is that once the shock wears off, the person trolled is supposed to reconsider their positions. The reality is people get defensive and even more stubbornly entrenched in their beliefs. 

    So I don’t see it as any different from other forms of Trolling, like Mansplaining on Feminist forums or telling Bronies to “grow the hell up” on an MLP forum.

  • EllieMurasaki

    As long as we’re willing to discuss trolls and trolling without turning it into a counterproductive screed against “New Atheists”/”Internet Atheists” I’m all for it.
     
    We’re not discussing Internet atheists, we’re discussing Internet Atheists. The capital letter is indicative of a great many negative traits that the latter group possesses and the former group does not, and it’s those traits that cause us to oppose the latter group and not the former. Rather like with nice guys and Nice Guys. Not a perfect parallel, because Nice Guys are invariably not nice guys while Internet Atheists actually are a subset of Internet atheists, but the similarity is there.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    My issue has been how this whole blog post and most of the comments assume it is a uniquely atheistic form of trolling

    On the contrary, I read the blog post and many of the comments as assuming exactly not that. It’s just that being a dickhead is not uniquely Christian, either.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeffrey.kramer.71 Jeffrey Kramer

     …upon which the Internet Atheist in the film would shout “NOOOOOOOOOOO! You deluded fool! I’ll never speak to you again!”

    In the Hollywood version of Inherit the Wind, the Menckenish character is the Internet Atheist (before the Internet), and he is rebuked for his inhumanity both by the Bryanish character (the Unthinking Dogmatist Christian) and the Darrowish character (who, in the movie, is not a dogmatic and somewhat obnoxious atheist like the real Darrow, but is a Thoughtful Searcher).

  • springaldjack

    The Internet Atheist is engaging in good old fashioned Motivated Reasoning. IA has ideological reasons to want Christians to be deluded or stupid or frauds and so (possibly unconsciously) favors evidence that Christians are like that over evidence that they aren’t. Motivated Reasoning is a big thing in human thinking, it’s why most “free-market” types genuinely believe that climate change is hoax.

  • Deepak Shetty

    If only you could evaluate the Bible the same way as you do Ken Ham.

  • GeneMachine

    Ok, I have been lurking here for years. Fred actually gave me the hope that some people can be christian without being all-out asshats. And now we go on a strawman-burning-spree regarding some “internet atheist” mind construct. Nice one. At least I know where we stand now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Riastlin-Lovecraft/100000678992705 Riastlin Lovecraft

    Welcome, then. Please don’t kill us with sheep.

  • GeneMachine

    The sheep are safely holstered. In a quick-draw setup, though ;)

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    And now we go on a strawman-burning-spree regarding some “internet
    atheist” mind construct. Nice one. At least I know where we stand now.

    I find it helps in such situations to be careful with my “we”s. The hostile threads, and people, are always present. The strawman-burners are always present. There are others present as well.  The question becomes, to whom will I grant my attention?

    Different people respond in different ways; there are usually many different threads going on at once. I get some choice about whom to treat as representative.

  • GeneMachine

    True according to the “we”. However, I just have to wonder why all of a sudden Fred picks up some reddit trolls and presents them as a strawman for atheism.  Over three posts. Nice inclusive work. I shall remember that when someone gets called out on the grounds of not all christians being fundamentalist idiots. 

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    I shall remember that when someone gets called out on the grounds of not all christians being fundamentalist idiots.

    (nods) Yes, I expect you will.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    You are not reading the same comments I am reading. The only strawmen I’m seeing here are the ones certain atheists are setting up. 

    I am an atheist. The people here who are saying things which are offending me deeply are also atheists. Because people who claim that other people believe things that they do not believe, and claim that other people are saying things that they are not saying, and claim that different people are not saying things which they very clearly are saying, offend me as a human being. I don’t care what side the people doing that are on. They’re wrong, they’re hurtful, and they’re part of the problem.

    There are a lot of atheists who appear to be coming into this presuming there are two opposing sides, and those sides are atheists and believers. And that is nonsense.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Ok, I have been lurking here for years. Fred actually gave me the hope that some people can be christian without being all-out asshats. And now we go on a strawman-burning-spree regarding some “internet atheist” mind construct. Nice one. At least I know where we stand now.

    OK,  if you’ve been lurking here for years you’d be familiar with J, Helena and Dea_Syria, right? They continuously act like arseholes towards Fred in the name of atheism. They shit most of us to tears, atheists and theists alike. That’s the type of person Fred is talking about. He is very clearly not tarring all atheists with the same brush, just expressing frustration at arseholish behaviour that does actually exist. For this you have decided that he is an “all-out asshat”? Your post seems to imply that you may now categorise all Christians as “all-out asshats” too. May I return your “nice one” with one of my own.

  • Samantha C

    re: choice. I think that at least for me, and I suspect many other people, I choose my actions but not my thoughts or feelings. And I think that distinction is important.

    In the careers case brought up, I never chose to love literature and dislike math, but I chose to study literature instead of math. The one obviously informs the other. But I could have chosen to suck it up and work harder at math in pursuit of another goal. It wouldn’t have changed the fact that I love literature.

    Religiously, I chose to leave the Judaism rather than work hard to reconcile when I realized how many things  I was being taught that I disagreed with. (One I remember very clearly was my instant “NO!” reaction on being taught that my body is just on loan from God, and not my own to do with whatever I want.) But I never made a choice to disagree.

    I think people choose to identify with things, to make religion x or no religion part of their persona. But the reasons they choose those actions aren’t “choices” like what to have for dinner or where to go on vacation.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    I think people choose to identify with things, to make religion x or no
    religion part of their persona. But the reasons they choose those
    actions aren’t “choices” like what to have for dinner or where to go on
    vacation.

    (nods) Sure; that strikes me as a perfectly reasonable and valid way to talk about choice.

    My original point, which may well have been obscured by now, is that it isn’t the only reasonable or valid way to talk about choice, or to interpret other people’s talk about choice, and that when someone uses the language of choice in a situation that allows for multiple interpretations, one of which I consider insulting and wrong, I generally prefer to not use that interpretation.

    Not because I think it’s necessarily false or anything… it’s probably true sometimes and false other times, just like many interpretations. Rather, because it gets me more of what I want, and less of what I don’t want.

    I understand that others have different preferences, and want different things, and therefore adopt different approaches and interpretations. Which is entirely their right; it certainly isn’t my place to tell anyone how they should or shouldn’t engage with a particular text, be it scripture or a blog post. 

  • Worthless Beast

    *Sigh* for those who are circling the wagons thinking Fred is strawmanning…

    I’ve met loads of the very people he’s talking about in various places-besides-here online. Athiests are human, believe it or not, just like Theists are. Trolls abound and yes, Virginia, one *is* as capable of genuine stupidity sometmes as the other.  

    I think this post of Fred’s is as much an attack on KEN HAM as anything else.  He’s pointing out a self-aggrandizer who has woefully taken in a whole lot of people and has enabled a particular subculture to remain deledued about science. It’s already a sad thing to have said subculture lead fruther astray and takin in by this guy, but I think maybe, in regard to those well outside that subculture, Fred has suffered that jaw-dropping reaction one has when one finds a friend and/or combatant “TOO SMART FOR THIS !”  He’s having a “You’re too smart for this!!!  You should know better!” reaction.  That is, why are people who *know* someone is a liar about everything he sets himself up as an “expert” at taking him as an actual expert and authority on *one area* just because they don’t want to bother with, or because they were raised by people who listened to people like Ham and don’t even want to see if any other takes on that area exist.  And, apparently, some people get a little angry when they find that other takes do exist?  So they react by telling they don’t? 

    It’s hard to be a unicorn.

  • Tonio

    Fred isn’t strawmanning atheism or atheists. He’s saying that a particular type of atheist is unintentionally giving aid and comfort to people like Ken Ham. I think he’s mistaken in arguing that IAs are one step away from treating the Hams as authorities on evolution. The  IAs aren’t treating the Hams as authorities on biblical interpretation but as “typical” Christians. If they recognize the concept of biblical interpretation at all (and they often sound as if they don’t), they would probably reject the idea that anyone can be an authority in it.

  • Worthless Beast

    I wonder if it’s thought of as being like an authority on Batman or on the works of Tolkien… Except I’m pretty sure those people actually exist, too.  Comics historians and people who study and translate Elvish.

  • Tonio

    No, I suspect they see the field as fundamentally phony. Fred is right that YECs and PMDs and RTCs and others in the alphabet soup are doing their own kind of interpretation and calling it literalist. The IAs don’t grasp this – they’re fond of saying that Christians who accept evolution or who engage in interpretation are going against their own book. 

  • Worthless Beast

    So it’s a case of “Define thy Enemy by thine own terms – even if thy Enemy does not wish to be thy Enemy?”

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

    Fred says we are allies against creationism, that’s the line he has drawn and wonders why the Internet Atheist isn’t standing shoulder to shoulder with him.

    But if the IA sees creationism as a symptom, and faith as the disease then we are not allies. Fred and Ken are on the “pro-faith” side and the IA is saying “you belong over there with him”

  • Worthless Beast

    Therein lies the problem.  It is black and white thinking.  Fine for a child, but the real world is painted in shades of gray.  Any person who cannot be an adult and accept that the world is not black and white and that people do not fit into neat little boxes… well, they’re going to get called on it by the square pegs they’re trying to force into a round hole.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

     So when Fred draws the lines: “The two of us against Ken Ham” that’s fine, but when I say “No, you belong with him” I’m using childish thinking?

    Sorry, that is not going to fly.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    But if the IA sees creationism as a symptom, and faith as the disease then we are not allies.

    You do realize that being an Internet Atheist is very different from being an atheist on the internet, don’t you?

    Also, anyone who sees creationism as a symptom of faith, the disease, needs to learn a lot more about religions both in the world today and in history before spouting off on the internet about who’s their enemy.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Several people have expressed dissatisfaction with the term, given that every atheist posting here is an atheist on the internet.  Surely there must be a better term that doesn’t seem to implicate every atheist with a blog or a Disqus account.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    *shrug* I like the term. As EllieMurasaki pointed out, it’s like the difference between nice guys and Nice Guys. Capitalizing things like that is a common way to distinguish certain types of people. The terms mean different things.

  • Guest

    The term “Fundamentalist Atheist” has been used, as in the statement “There are two categories of people who believe that the Bible should be read literally – Fundamentalist Christians and Fundamentalist Atheists”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     

    Several people have expressed dissatisfaction with the term, given that
    every atheist posting here is an atheist on the internet.  Surely there
    must be a better term that doesn’t seem to implicate every atheist with a
    blog or a Disqus account.

    Non-atheist and I agree with you completely. Some terms like Nice Guy are fairly well-known, though I find that one gets the meaning across much better as Nice Guy (TM). It makes it clear that the term in question is a big part of how the person in question is presenting themselves, and that it is a presentation.

    Internet Atheist does not have that recognition or that clarity – especially because, as has been noted, some people capitalize those words normally without any additional meaning behind it.

    I don’t like the term, and it frustrates me that I can’t think of a good one that is short and to the point.

  • Madhabmatics

    “He talks like he is an r/atheism poster.”

    The best part is that if you say this in atheist circles, they will know what you are talking about, because just about every influential atheist blog has had a couple of “holy crap have you seen this forum, oh my god” entries.

  • PJ Evans

    I don’t like the term, and it frustrates me that I can’t think of a good one that is short and to the point.

    Why not do the same thing, and add (TM) to it?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     

    Why not do the same thing, and add (TM) to it?

    I really don’t know if Internet Atheist (TM) would work. It still doesn’t feel right to me, though I can’t articulate it better than that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

    Do you honestly believe that in a world without religious faith there would be any creationism problem?

    Where would it come from?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Yeah, see, creationism is actually measurably harmful. If evolution doesn’t occur, then http://www.myhealthnewsdaily.com/1192-gonorrhea-antibiotic-resistance-sexually-transmitted-disease.html is just scare stories, because gonorrhea can’t possibly be evolving resistance to antibiotics. And if the earth is only six thousand years old, then it can’t possibly take millions of years to replace the oil we’ve guzzled up in the past couple hundred, so there’s no need to worry about switching to energy sources that renew more rapidly.

    Faith…what harm has faith itself ever done anyone? Don’t waste your time saying that the harms done by creationism are harms done by faith, because not all believers are creationists. Skip mention of various forms of discrimination, as well, because many atheists discriminate and many believers don’t.

  • Jay

    Faith…what harm has faith itself ever done anyone?

     You really don’t know?

    Faith itself, being intangible, never directly harmed anyone, but it was a primary justification for some Crusades (and about 1500 years and counting of intermittent warfare between Christians and Muslims), the Spanish Inquisition, the Thirty Years War and a bunch of other Protestant vs. Catholic wars, the partition of India and its associated nuclear standoff, the bombings of the IRA, various skirmishes between Mormons and other Christians, and so forth.  And that’s just off the top of my head.

    The faithful have mainly been acting better lately, but the rest of us have sensible reasons for concern.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Christian and Muslim, Catholic and Protestant, Yankees and Red Sox. They’re all names of tribes. People really love sorting themselves into tribes, and declaring one’s own tribe the best and at least one other tribe anathema. You’re saying that the excuse for dividing along this particular line is what’s harmful, rather than saying that the problem is division itself, or (probably more accurately) demonizing people in another tribe. Faith itself is not harmful, and trying to take people’s faith away can be harmful, so don’t try to take anybody’s faith away.

  • Jay

     Faith is harmful when it justifies actions that are otherwise morally indefensible.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Anything is harmful when it justifies actions that are otherwise morally indefensible. What’s your point?

  • Jay

     My point is that faith is one of the major elements in the tribalism toolkit, and has often been used to convince people that God wants them to kill.  Officially the American military doesn’t use faith this way, but unofficially it does.  See:

    http://www.harpers.org/archive/2009/05/0082488/

    Faith isn’t an unambiguous good, and many of consider it to be more dangerous than it’s worth (in addition to the implausiblity business).

  • EllieMurasaki

    There’s a lot of things people use as an excuse to kill. Should we eliminate everyone of a different skin color, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, and ability status, as well as everyone of a different faith? Wouldn’t it be a lot simpler and a lot less painful to convince everyone that ‘different’ does not mean ‘bad’?

  • Jay

     Ellie:  Good luck with that.

    Tonio:  In my experience faith can be a gateway drug to absolutism.  After all, if you really believed you knew what God wants you to do, to do anything else would be a horrible failure.  What could be more absolute than a command from God? 

    When Abraham went up the mountain to sacrifice Isaac, he was simultaneously proving his faith and planning a murder.

    I’m not saying faith is always and only bad.  If your faith promotes compassion, that’s great.  I’m just saying that there’s a long history of faith bringing out our worst nature, in addition to our best.

  • EllieMurasaki

    To quote a line well known and well loved around here: “All right, then, I’ll go to hell!”

    The sad part here isn’t that Huck believed in God and hell. I doubt any amount or kind of persuasion could have convinced him not to. It’s that the god Huck believed in considered helping a slave escape worse than owning a slave. I think Huck would have been much happier if he’d known there was such a thing as progressive Christianity.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Most progressive Christians I know don’t believe in a literal Hell.  So if Huck couldn’t not believe in it, what makes you think he would have given a crap about a different strain of Christianity?

    I would say that it would have been nice for Huck to know that there is no good evidence that Hell exists at all, but hey, I wouldn’t want to try to take away his faith or anything.  Surely no good could ever come of that.

  • EllieMurasaki

    There’s the belief that hell exists but is empty. There’s the belief that hell is the same place as heaven and which one we think we’re in depends on how we react to the ambiance. Or maybe he could come round to the belief that hell doesn’t exist, but as long as he’s not telling other people that they’re damned, nor hurting people in the belief that that’ll keep him from being damned himself, what harm does it do for him to go on believing hell’s real?

  • Tonio

    as long as he’s not telling other people that they’re damned, nor hurting people in the belief that that’ll keep him from being damned himself, what harm does it do for him to go on believing hell’s real?

    As much as I don’t wan’t people to believe that I personally deserve hell, even if they don’t voice that belief, what you describe is what’s really important.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Ah.  So, if you convince someone that Hell is empty, that’s fine.  If you convince him that Heaven and Hell are the same place, that is also fine.

    But showing someone that there is no good evidence for Hell or for the God who would create such a place…well, that’s stealing someone’s faith and is wrong and harmful.

    Just so we’re clear.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Absence of evidence is not actually evidence of absence, and there’s no harm in converting someone provided they first express interest in being converted. Just like there’s no harm in not converting someone who has not expressed such interest.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    “Faith itself is not harmful, and trying to take people’s faith away can be harmful, so don’t try to take anybody’s faith away.”

  • EllieMurasaki

    The way you say that implies you think you’ve caught me in a contradiction; perhaps you think that in the bit you quote I was saying that all conversion attempts are bad, without catching the implication, made explicit in the bit you think contradicts this, that making conversion attempts is not bad if the potential convertee is, and has made clear in so many words that they are, not sure that the belief system they currently subscribe to is true, or right for them, or what have you.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    I’m just trying to reconcile your assertion that people would be “happier” if they believed certain things with your assertion that we should never “try to take anybody’s faith away.”

  • EllieMurasaki

    I imagine you have a belief, or perhaps a possession, that you’d be better off without, but any attempt to remove it from you is an occurrence you would not welcome. You’d have to be willing to give it up, and if you weren’t, someone trying to take it away would hurt you in the trying if not in the success. And if you did come round to the conclusion that you were worse off with this thing, I imagine you’d delight in a third alternative, something that would allow you to keep the aspects that you find value in and be rid of the aspects that hurt you.

    Huck, immediately before the famous line, believes he has only two choices. Doom Jim or doom himself. I have little doubt that he would welcome a third choice were one presented, provided the third choice wasn’t ‘doom both’. I recall no indication that he’d prefer believing in some non-Christian god or in no god at all to believing in a Christian God that didn’t consider slavery good. Let him keep his faith, but make it clear that his faith doesn’t require hurting Jim or himself.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

    Faith is harmful. It is believing things with no reality check. Losing my faith was the best thing that ever happened to me.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Faith is believing without a reason. … It is believing things with no reality check.

    Please – do explain to me how I believe my faith without having reason to do so. And how I have no reality checks.

    It’d be quite difficult for you to do so accurately, though…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

     If you have a reason to believe something you do not need faith. Faith is the excuse for not having a reason.

  • Amaryllis

     Is there no difference between “there are several ways within the framework of your faith to think about this particular topic” and “your entire faith, and maybe your entire understanding of yourself and your universe, is wrong, stupid, always harmful and should never exist”?

  • AnonymousSam

    Quibble: You’re proving that faith is a foot in the door to extremism by citing a story which requires faith to believe happened at all, much less exactly in that manner. I see irony in this.

    I also refer back to my original post: A foot in the door is not a sure step down the path to a negative outcome.

    I also would remind you of what I think Fred’s point is: the only thing worse than arguing about interpretations of the Bible is arguing that there’s only one possible interpretation of the Bible, and when atheists do it, it feels twice as ridiculous.

  • Jay

     Your quibble is well taken, but there are other examples.  The 9-11 hijackers come to mind.  As for the rest, we broadly agree.

  • AnonymousSam

    I’ll agree that I’m not fond of how the Bible, the Torah and the Qur’an have varying amounts of open-endedness to some stories, very clear admonishments to do things which are clearly harmful to society, and then very good stories and moral advice on top of that. That kind of dualism, I’ll agree, I do believe to be harmful to people.

    I think it’s that dualism that’s a greater harm than the faith itself, or even what the faith is in. Take a look at 1 John 4:7-21. It has some parts I quibble at (and some of the translations change things in ways that make me want to strangle people, such as changing “love their brother and sister” to “love their Christian brother and sister,” which changes the meaning entirely in a way which is exclusionary), but imagine if the entire Bible were like this. Imagine if it looked like something a bunch of people drafted in the 1960’s.

    I think I’d be 100% fine with people believing in a mythical hippie who made water into wine and turned weeds into weed, who preached love for all and the end of all war. Woodstock was kind of a sweet haze anyway, right? No one can really say whether or not that long-haired dude was really there or not, but man, I heard he said some groovy things. If you wanna say you believe in him, man, that’s cool. I don’t, but it makes for a pretty nice story I might tell my kids anyway. Hey, pass that over, man.

    Some religion is actually like this. Some beliefs that aren’t quite religion are like this too — Taoism has things I quibble at, but is generally awesome in awesome ways. It’s just that Christianity has a way of making people forget that other religions exist by being the loudest and most obnoxious, and we generally have right-wing conservatives to thank for that.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    And history is chock full of people saying “Man, I really don’;t want to do this indefensible thing, but shucks, faith. Oh well, kill the infidels,” I suppose?

    Or “Man, thank God we’ve got religion to justify this terrible action, or else we wouldn’t be able to go invade that country and take their land and gold!”  THat happens all the time.

  • Joe Bleau

     

    And history is chock full of people saying “Man, I really don’;t want to
    do this indefensible thing, but shucks, faith. Oh well, kill the
    infidels,” I suppose?

    I assume that you’ve seen this?

    No, it’s not “kill the infidels”, but it’s pretty heart-wrenching nonetheless. And not just from the perspective of the son; do you suppose that the Father wanted his relationship with his Son to turn out that way?

    It doesn’t seem terribly controversial to assume that in the long and storied history of infidel-killing, there have been more than a few perpetrators and enables who were brutally conflicted between their moral intuition and what they believed their faith required them to do, and they chose Faith. Likewise, it seems inarguable that many truly bad people have found a certain comfort in the fact that their “Faith” gave them cover to do all manner of bad things that they were just itching to do anyway.

    That’s not to say that this is some sort of conclusive evidence for the “harmfulness of Faith”, whatever that is taken to mean. I do  think, though, that there is a cogent argument to be made that people with a particularly authoritarian mindset can find a lot of comfort and cover in the sacred texts of the major Abrahamic religions, if they are so inclined (and many of them are). And history is indeed chock full of examples where this particular mindset has led to incalculable suffering.

  • Tonio

    I’ve said many times that anyone who insists that I should believe that gods exist, or that gods don’t exist, should present evidence for his or her position. It’s in that light that I find it sad that you don’t grasp that the problem is not faith but absolutism, of which tribalism is one variety. Faith to justify murderous tribalism doesn’t make faith iitself bad, any more than Charles Manson’s atrocities make the Beatles bad. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

     I remember a recent 10 year anniversary of some harm done by faith.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

     What harm has faith done? Are you serious? Ok, let’s start with faith healing deaths, then move onto the suicides of gay teens who are bullied for not praying themselves straight, let’s detour around planes flying into sky scrapers and peer back to the crusades, then let’s look at modern day children being killed as witches. Let’s look at the opponents of assisted dying, and same sex marriage and as what they have in common.

    Faith is believing without a reason. If you cannot see why that is dangerous in itself re-read the story of Abraham and Isaac and ask yourself why it is good to be willing to sacrifice your own child.

  • Worthless Beast

    Excuse me for my vulgarity, but I FUCKING hate this.  “Faith” and religion completely aside, I FUCKING HATE when people want to make the dead they never knew “martyrs” for whatever high they’re on or agenda they have.

    A lot of people “of faith” were killed in 9/11, including, according to an article I read, some American Muslims who were peaceful and just doing their jobs.  Families of said had to work extra, extra hard to get death-benefits and clear their names on the grounds of “them being Muslim” alone.  I don’t think they, nor the Christians, nor anyone else who wasn’t the staunchest of staunch atheists who were killed would have ever wanted to become “martyrs” for the end of all faith.

    Gay teen suicides?  I remember an article on one young man in which the note he’d left behind read that he’d hoped to make it to Heaven and see his Grandma. He couldn’t take the bullying anymore, but it doesn’t mean he didn’t believe in things you’d call “superstious.”

    I just finished writing a short story where a bit of “unwanted martyrdom” was a theme – I used videogames-playing as my point as I wanted to get away from religious controversy and I thought that was more clever, but… that bit of my story was based upon this very thing.

    When I die, if I’m still a Theist when it happens, please spit on my grave rather than use me as an unwanted martyr if someone happens to “kill me over religion,” kay?  It’s much more honest.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

     What’s with the crazy tangent? People of faith died? Did I say otherwise?

  • EllieMurasaki

    What harm has faith done? Are you serious? Ok, let’s start with faith
    healing deaths, then move onto the suicides of gay teens who are
    bullied for not praying themselves straight, let’s detour around planes
    flying into sky scrapers and peer back to the crusades, then let’s look
    at modern day children being killed as witches. Let’s look at the
    opponents of assisted dying, and same sex marriage and ask what they
    have in common.

    Your actual problems with the above are (1) people trusting alternative medicine over traditional medicine, (2) heterosexism, (3) tribalism, (4) tribalism, (5) the fear of the unknown and/or misunderstood, (6) the idea that life is better than death even when the life in question comes with inescapable intense suffering, and (7) heterosexism. I observe that atheists do all of those too.

    Faith is believing without a reason. If you cannot see why that is dangerous in itself re-read the story of
    Abraham and Isaac and ask yourself why it is good to be willing to
    sacrifice your own child.

    So my acquaintances who tell me they’ve personally experienced the divine, they don’t have faith because they have evidence? (Not evidence that shares well, they admit, but evidence nonetheless.) And of course Abraham shouldn’t have been willing to sacrifice his child based on instructions from someone he knew, but if we’re to take the story at face value, God was in fact someone he knew, someone he’d conversed with more than once, not someone whose existence he was taking on faith.

    Try again: what harm does faith itself do?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

    Very patronising, but I don’t buy your excuses for faith. Faith is ignorance made into a point of pride. It does enormous harm. Pretending none of the things I mentioned were caused by faith is dishonest and I will not play along.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Atheists have never murdered people for being religious? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USSR_anti-religious_campaign_%281921%E2%80%931928%29 –oh wait.

    Atheist heterosexists don’t exist? http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2011/06/10/the-black-atheists-of-atlanta-and-homophobia/ –oh wait.

    Faith was an excuse for everything you mentioned, not the cause. Keep trying, I’m sure you’ll find something horrendous eventually that’s caused by faith alone, not by faith-and-something, and that doesn’t have a parallel incident committed by atheists motivated by the and-something. –oh wait.

  • Tonio

    I wish there was some middle ground between the fundamentalist argument that the totalitarian ideologies of the 20th centuries were the inevitable outcome of atheism, and the atheist No True Scotsman argument that atheism was incidents to those ideologies. Maybe it’s enough to point out that the name on the masthead doesn’t matter, that it’s absolutism and intolerance that are the real killers.

  • Madhabmatics

    It’s almost as if a persons ethics are actually determined by a variety of things including their background, culture, exposure to ideas and temperament and saying “Aha! I have found the single factor that causes this person to be horribly immoral. You can thank me after we ensure that we wipe this out” is both naive and dangerous.

  • AnonymousSam

     This.

    My parents have been atheists for as long as I’ve had any awareness or comprehension of their thoughts on religion. My parents are also some of the most prejudiced, homophobic, staunchly conservative Republicans you can get. Both of them watch Fox News exclusively and agree with 90% of it.

    Faith and religion play absolutely no part in them being impossible to have rational conservations with.

  • Hypocee

     A No True Scotsman would be “Atheists don’t kill people.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     

    A No True Scotsman would be “Atheists don’t kill people.”

    I’ve several times encountered the “the Scotsman was really an Englishman” argument that the ideologies of the Soviet Union and the People Republic of China are really religions, so it just proves their point further.

    The people making that argument seem to me to be following the same mentality that calls any government program they don’t like “Socialism!”

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

     If the rules are that I have to find something where you cannot *pretend* faith was not the cause then I will concede defeat. But the facts remain. Faith was the cause.

  • EllieMurasaki

    If the rules are that I have to find something where you cannot
    *pretend* faith was not the cause then I will concede defeat. But the
    facts remain. Faith was the cause.

    No, the rules are that you have to find something where faith is clearly the cause as evidenced by the fact that believers do it and atheists don’t. If believers and atheists both do it, then faith might be a contributing factor but cannot be the cause.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

     You think atheists fly planes into towers? Or kill children as witches? Please!

  • EllieMurasaki

    So the USSR didn’t execute more than twelve hundred Russian Orthodox priests in the first five years of the USSR’s existence? Because that’s the same thing, Gordon. The exact same thing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

    Did I say faith was the only bad thing in the world? I don’t remember saying that. But faith is a bad thing.

  • EllieMurasaki

    You keep telling me that faith is a bad thing, and then providing examples of faith being a bad thing in which the incidents you name were all caused by faith-and-something, and every single one has a parallel incident where atheists did the same damn thing, motivated by the and-something. Is it really so hard to understand that the cause of all</em the incidents is the and-something, that faith is only the excuse or the veneer?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

     No I just disagree with your assessment(s) – I disagree that you’ve shown the cause is always faith+something and I definitely disagree that you’ve even started to show that *every* one has a parallel incident where atheists did the same thing.

    Atheist faith healers? Atheists flying planes into skyscrapers? Atheists killing child witches? Are you insane?

    I get that you want to excuse faith and paint it as a good thing by pretending everything bad about it is actually caused by something else. I just don’t buy it.

  • AnonymousSam

    Actually, it’s more like “a thing” than a good thing. We’ve had plenty of athest biggots, homophobes, racists, murderers, serial killers, arsonists and rapists in this country alone, indicating to me that one doesn’t need an invisible man whispering in their ear to hear voices telling them to kill people. Sometimes the only voice they need is their own.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Are you saying faith healing isn’t a form of alternative medicine, or are you saying there have never been any atheists ever who bought into alternative medicine? Are you saying 9/11 wasn’t meant to scare the American population by killing our economic leaders, or are you saying the USSR either didn’t kill Russian religious leaders or didn’t mean those deaths to scare the Russian population?

    I’m not trying to say faith is a good thing. I’m trying to say faith is not a bad thing. I’m trying to say faith is neutral, and while faith can and does make somebody’s other motivations, whether benevolent or malevolent, stronger, faith does not in itself motivate anyone to anything.

    And you still haven’t answered why you think the world would be better off without faith when there are actual people who actually know (cannot prove, but actually know) that they have encountered the divine. Or since they actually know it, even though they cannot prove it, do they not count as having faith? Though as long as such people exist and are willing to talk about their experiences, other people will believe them when they say god(s) exist(s) and take this form and ask that of those who believe in them…

  • Tonio

    That touches upon the reason that I hold no position on the existence of things like gods. 

    Those people may know that they’ve encountered the divine, but I don’t know that they know. All I know is that they say that they’ve encountered the divine.  While I doubt that they are lying, personal testimony alone is insufficient for me to say that the divine exists in the objective sense. By “objective” I mean something like “would it exist if no humans existed.” All that is pretty much irrelevant unless the person insists that I accept the existence of the divine as objective knowledge, or tries to force hir belief on me, or uses the belief as a basis for hurting me or hurting others. Absent any of that, it’s not really my place to tell the person that the belief is wrong or misguided even if I felt that way.

  • EllieMurasaki

    All that is pretty much irrelevant unless the person insists that I accept the existence of the divine as objective knowledge, or tries to force hir belief on me, or uses the belief as a basis for hurting me or hurting others. Absent any of that, it’s not really my place to tell the person that the belief is wrong or misguided even if I felt that way.
     
    You’ve said. It’s “who’re you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes” guy I’m yelling at.

    And, y’know, if these people come to the conclusion that he’s right about there being no gods, that their eyes lied about seeing their god(s) and their ears lied about hearing their god(s), what else might they conclude that their eyes and ears have been lying about? And for no small number of these people, the answer is ‘everything’, which is not a recipe for maintaining these people’s sanity.
     
    This is why people should not attempt to convert people who have not expressed an interest in being converted.

  • PJ Evans

    Faith is ignorance made into a point of pride.

    Whaa… I don’t even.

    That’s quite a misunderstanding of faith.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

     I’d say anyone who thinks “faith is a virtue” is the one with a misunderstanding of faith.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Congratulations, you’re a very smart person. It must be fantastic being you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

     It is pretty good, especially since I lost my faith

  • PJ Evans

     Didn’t say that.
    Which doesn’t speak well for you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy
  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I think he’s mistaken in arguing that IAs are one step away from treating the Hams as authorities on evolution.

    I’ve read about 5 different people say this so I had to go back and reread what Fred wrote several times.

    He said “one step closer to”. Disagree with that all you like, but it has a completely different meaning to “one step away from”.

  • Tonio

    What’s the practical distinction between the two? One might sound more like a slippery slope argument, but both suggest similarity.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    There’s a world of difference to my ears. To be one step closer to something means that you’ve started to head in a particular direction, but that’s nowhere near as bad (or good) as being one step away, which means you’re practically there.

    When I head out the front door in the morning I’m one step closer to running a marathon, but that’s not at all like being one step away from finishing one.

  • Tonio

    Also, Fred uses other slippery slope terms here, like “you’re well on your way” and “you’re all set to believe.” His premise seems to be that people like Ham are merely crackpots, the Lyndon LaRouches of religion. YEC is a crackpot idea, but many people who believe in it are more sensible in other areas of their lives. Fred might as well argued that IAs are one step closer to treating YECs as authorities in car maintenance or Civil War history or assembly language. The IAs aren’t even treating them as authorities on how one should interpret scripture.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Heck, if anyone is “all set to believe” in creationism, shouldn’t it be Fred and other progressive Christians?  They, after all, share a belief in God with the creationists.  We do not.

  • Tonio

    Um, Fred’s argument is that IAs are “all set to believe” that YECs know their science. One reason this sounds wrong is because the latter’s version of science is so ludicrous that calling it a straw man is inadequate. Your argument is harder to refute, at least for me, because the idea of a being whom no one can detect sounds just as implausible to me as the idea of, say, dinosaur fossils being deliberately planted as tests or temptations. I think you’re mistaken because I see YEC as driven by a desperate desire to explain suffering.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    My argument was meant to be harder to refute, though based on the same logic Fred used: if you agree with someone about Subject X, you are more likely to agree with him about Subject Y.  I don’t think that’s necessarily always true to begin with, but assuming it is, it would seem to follow that liberal Christians would be more likely to be “well on the way” to agreeing with conservative Christians about creationism than atheists, since the Christians both already agree about a foundational issue: the existence of God.

  • Tonio

    “God” is not the foundational issue with creationism. Deists and Muslims and Jews see no conflict between belief in a single god and acceptance of evolution. The last is particularly relevant because Genesis is their book. Creationism is not about whether such a god created the universe and created human life. That’s what Ham would have everyone believe. It’s about fabricating an explanation for the existence of death and suffering. Evolution excludes the possibility that the world was once free of those things, implying instead that these are in the nature of existence. It excludes the concept of fallenness. Some YECs even suggest that Jesus’ sacrifice would have had no point. 

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    I take issue with your assertion that creationism is just about explaining death and suffering.  Regardless, my point is that Fred was saying, if you agree with Ham about X, you are more likely to agree with him about Y.  Like I said, I don’t think this is necessarily true in all cases, but assuming it is true, then Fred should be afraid that he and other liberal Christians will quickly come to embrace creationism as well, as he already agrees with Ham about things that we atheists do not.   

  • Tonio

    Why would you take issue with it? I hope you didn’t misinterpret my post as defending creationism – my thoughts about how it has corrupted science and education would take up several threads the length of this one. Focusing only on the belief in a god is misleading. Fred and Ham couldn’t be farther apart on not just death and suffering, but also on the nature of humanity and morality. 

    Years ago I almost bought Duane Gish’s Dinosaurs by Design for my kids, before looking at the book and remembering why Gish’s name sounded familiar. I was repulsed not only by the scientific inaccuracies but also by the misanthropic theology. But I also think I gained some insights into that mentality, and these were confirmed when I saw a slideshow of the Creation Museum displays. 

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Justified or not, when affluent, well-educated, able-bodied, heterosexual, cisgendered atheist white guys  complain about how disenfranchised, unpriviliged and oppressed they are, I can’t help but see parallels to what it sounds like when affluent, well-educated, able-bodied, heterosexual cisgendered conservative white guys complain about how oppressed they are because they ahve to pay taxes.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Yeah…I feel the same way when Christians start whining about how mean and unappreciative atheists are.

    Except, yanno, for the part about how everyone has to pay taxes, and a small minority of people are atheists.  (And the idea that the atheism is seen by some as a choice.)

  • Nathaniel

     Show me how many affluent, well-educated, able-bodied, heterosexual, cisgenered atheist white guys are openly serving in congress.

    Then compare that to the number of the other category you mentioned.

    But I’m sure I just sound whiny to you.

  • malpollyon
  • Steve Morrison

    EllieMurasaki wrote:

    I’m thinking of a scene from Carl Sagan’s Contact, I’m pretty sure it’s in the book but not the movie, but I haven’t laid eyes on either in quite some time–can anybody quote me the bit where our leads discuss what should have been in the Bible if its authors wanted to prove that they had access to more scientific knowledge than anybody else at the time?

    Here it is; Carl Sagan wrote:

    “But imagine that your kind of god—omnipotent, omniscient, compassionate—really wanted to leave a record for future generations, to make his existence unmistakable to, say, the remote descendants of Moses. It’s easy, trivial. Just a few enigmatic phrases, and some fierce commandment that they be passed on unchanged . . .”

    Joss leaned forward almost imperceptibly. “Such as…?”

     “Such as ‘The Sun is a star.’ Or ‘Mars is a rusty place with deserts and volcanos, like Sinai.’ Or ‘A body in motion tends to remain in motion.’ Or—let’s see now”—she quickly scribbled some numbers on a pad—“‘The Earth weighs a million million million million times as much as a child.’ Or—I recognize that both of you seem to have some trouble with special relativity, but it’s confirmed every day routinely in particle accelerators and cosmic rays—how about ‘There are no privileged frames of reference’? Or even ‘Thou shalt not travel faster than light.’ Anything they couldn’t possible have known three thousand years ago.”

     “Any others?” Joss asked.

     “Well, there’s an indefinite number of them—or at least one for every principle of physics. Let’s see . . . ‘Heat and light hide in the smallest pebble.’ Or even ‘The way of the Earth is as two, but the way of the lodestone is as three.’ I’m trying to suggest that the gravitational force follows an inverse square law, while the magnetic dipole force follows an inverse cube law. Or in biology”—she nodded toward der Heer, who seemed to have taken a vow of silence—“how about ‘Two strands entwined is the secret of life’?”

  • EllieMurasaki

    That’s it exactly, thank you.

  • Amaryllis

     

    But imagine that your kind of god—omnipotent, omniscient,
    compassionate—really wanted to leave a record for future generations, to
    make his existence unmistakable to, say, the remote descendants of
    Moses. It’s easy, trivial. Just a few enigmatic phrases, and some fierce
    commandment that they be passed on unchanged

    And unchanged, and meaning exactly the same thing, regardless of language and translation issues over thousands of years?

    To steal a line from one of the Anne books, humanity would have to be made over again and made different before that was even remotely possible.

    Also, I could interpret all of those examples in ways poetical and metaphorical which would not equate to the scientific principles that they are said to encode.

    That also assumes that the authors of the Bible would have wanted to prove access to scientific knowledge– a concept that didn’t exactly exist when any of the books of the Bible were written (although “natural history” was a thing). See again about the uses of Scripture.

    It also assumes that the God cares more about convincing modern skeptics in a particular cultural than about the entire rest of humanity. And that God dictated the Bible as if he were dictating to a stenographer or a dictaphone. That’s another fundamentalist idea, not in line with the way most Christians understand “inspired Scripture.”

  • arcseconds

    But Fred’s strong suit has never been atheism.  It’s very clear from his posts that he does not understand why
    some atheists take on literal interpretations of Bible stories.  To
    him, it means they are embracing creationists and preparing to turn in
    their “I support the scientific method” cards. 

    I somehow doubt he thinks Internet Atheism is really a likely route to Creationism via their shared literalism (*).  I think that’s a bit of rhetorical excess to highlight the similarity of both groups’ take on the Bible.  (I don’t really like the line he’s taking here myself — if I was his editor I’d be encouraging him to take it out.  but I don’t think we need to take it as his actual opinion. )

    I also don’t think it’s clear he doesn’t understand why atheists take literal interpretations.   Whatever their reasons, it doesn’t invalidate the general point: by insisting that a literal reading is the only valid reading, they are agreeing with creationists and refusing to engage in any kind of dialogue with other Christians (again, much as creationists often do).

    As to why some atheists take a literal view of the Bible, I’ve always assumed it was due to a combination of the following:

    — complete lack of hermeneutical sophistication in mainstream Western society, so the idea that there’s any attitude towards texts apart from ‘it’s fact’ and ‘it’s fiction’ just isn’t on the table as an option
    — ignorance (cf. Tonio’s remark)
    — previous experience of other people taking a literal reading
    — hubris
    — high profile of Biblical literalism due to a lazy media and loud Biblical literalists
    — lack of motivation to think very hard about how to understand the Bible
    — an easy target

    Not that all atheists insist on a literal reading, of course, or that those that do do so for all of the reasons above.

    But maybe I’ve missed something?


    (*) not that it couldn’t happen. atheists are atheists for all sorts of reasons, just like any other position on any topic that people regard as important, and i’ve known too many odd conversions to think that there’ couldn’t be someone who found net benefit in converting from atheism to fundamental christianity via literalism.  but I expect it’s not common.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    I don’t really like the line he’s taking here myself — if I was his editor I’d be encouraging him to take it out. but I don’t think we need to take it as his actual opinion.

    You mean we shouldn’t take Fred literally when he tells us not to take the Bible literally?  ;)

    I think a big part of what Fred’s missing is that we don’t argue about the literal meaning of Bible stories because we actually believe them.  We’re arguing about them because they affect our lives in very real ways.  It’s not because they are “easy targets,” but because they are important targets.

    We were discussing the Noah’s ark story a few posts back.  That story has always disturbed me, and that’s whether it’s meant as allegory or history.  Either way, disturbing story.  And this isn’t something that a few people casually have decided to take as fact but hey, faith is such a wonderful thing and who would want to do something mean like rob someone of beautiful faith, right?  These are many of the people who want to take science out of science class, think evolution is an evil hoax, and think that in addition to good history, the story of Noah is also a warning that the world will be coming to an end in the near future.

    So it’s actually pretty important that we engage with the story in ways that include a strict literal reading, because that is what other people are doing, too.  Hell, I am reading right now a Tim LaHaye novel in which he argues precisely what I’ve outlined above.  And, just as with the Left Behind series, it’s not because he just thinks it’s interesting material.  It’s because he actually does think that the ark is a real boat that people can see and touch. 

    Of course we understand that there are multiple ways to interpret the Bible.  But many of us like to focus our energies on the especially harmful ones.

  • Jay

     In short form, atheists consider biblical exegesis as a Rorschach test.  No answer is correct and no answer is incorrect, but some answers are indicative of underlying problems.

  • arcseconds

    OK, sure.

    It is a bit odd for atheists to even have a preferred reading of the Bible.  I suppose you could have some kind of preferred reading as a work of fiction (as a horror story, maybe), but it’s a very different thing from a reading advanced by the follower of an Abrahamic religion.

    The thing to do, it seems to me, would be to engage with whatever reading a religious person is advances.   So if they advance a literal reading, of course, engage with that.   If they advance a non-literal reading, then engage with that non-literal reading.  The problem with doing anything else, like continuing to discredit a literal reading that your interlocutor also doesn’t believe in, is that they can just shrug and say “of course.  I agree.  Literal readings are dumb. ”    That appears to be essentially what you’re saying, too.

    Engaging with their reading might mean showing why that reading is problematic.   Fred does this quite frequently, so he surely can’t be meaning to prohibit you from doing that.

    It seems to me pretty clear that what he doesn’t like is people insisting that a literal reading is the only way of reading the Bible.  He’s identified two groups of people who do this: Christian fundamentalists (and not all Christians) and a group he calls Internet Atheists (which doesn’t include all atheists).   The term is a bit problematic (although as others have discussed it’s not dissimilar to other terms we use colloquially), but most of us have encountered this phenomenon at one point or other.

    If you don’t insist on a literal reading all the time, then you aren’t part of the later group.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    It would be *nice* if Fred Clark’s vision of Christianity were the norm among Christians. Unfortunately he seems to be a member of a tiny minority. The majority of Christians, in the USA anyway, are Young Earth Creationists, homophobes, and would be theocrats.

    OK, now several people have included the caveat that the generalisations they are about to make about Christianity are based on the US, then happily go on as if that is of little consequence.

    Deird, where are you? It’s time for our song.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Indeed. So far I’ve been biting my tongue because at least there are caveats, but it’s still getting ridiculous…

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    So far I’ve been biting my tongue because at least there are caveats, but it’s still getting ridiculous…

    (nods) Yeah.

    I’m sorry folks outside the US are being so marginalized by this discussion.

    I guess it’s a natural consequence of the “I’ve seen X behave this way, therefore this is the way Xes behave” reasoning that has been driving so much of it, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I’m sorry folks outside the US are being so marginalized by this discussion.
    I guess it’s a natural consequence of the “I’ve seen X behave this way, therefore this is the way Xes behave” reasoning that has been driving so much of it, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying.

    It’s pretty much every conversation about religion or politics here. And on most of the internet. Not terrible in the scheme of things, but forgive us for getting frustrated.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    …but forgive us for getting frustrated.

    No forgiveness required; my sympathy was sincere.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Oh yeah, I got that. My comment wasn’t meant to suggest otherwise. More of a general explanation to the community, I guess.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     What I don’t understand is that, even in the US, if progressive christians are a “tiny minority” and most christians in the USA are “young earth creationists, homophobes and would-be theocrats”, how is it that evolution is still taught ANYWHERE, QUILTBAG folks aren’t executed on sight, and we don’t have a state church?

    I mean, christians have a substantial majority in ever state, every district, heck, almost every *community* in the US, but we don’t even have school prayer.

    If the vast majority of christians believe those things, how do the democrats ever win even a single election?

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Thank the Constitution, a plethora of Supreme Court decisions, and the fact that we don’t live in an absolute democracy where every citizen votes on every single issue. 

  • AnonymousSam

    In my state, whether or not homosexuals should be allowed to marry was put to a vote — and as a result, they now have the legal right to marry in my state.

    This said state also has a large number of very abusive churches, including one of the larger concentrations of Scientology, which still considers homosexuality a form of mental illness, a slippery slope into pedophilia and other sexual perversions which can only be treated with imprisonment, isolation and treatment akin to “the slime of society.”

    Last I had heard, we were on our third referendum for this law and it still shows no signs of budging. This indicates to me that we have Christians voting in favor of gay rights, and that seems at odds with your assertion.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    I never said there aren’t Christians who are in favor of gay rights.  I’m saying that even with the numbers and influence that conservative Christians have, they don’t automatically win all the time, because not every issue in the U.S. is decided by direct democracy.

  • PJ Evans

     Presidential elections are not direct democracy.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    If the vast majority of christians believe those things, how do the democrats ever win even a single election?

    My $0.02…

    I’ve lived my whole life in only a few places, all of which have been urban centers in the East Coast of the U.S. I don’t really have a good sense of how it is elsewhere.

    In the places I’ve lived, the majority of Christians I’ve met aren’t YECs and aren’t noticeably more homophobic than the general population. (That said, the majority of the active homophobes I’ve met have identified as Christians.)

    My understanding of electoral politics in the U.S. is that progressive sentiment is far more pervasive within urban centers than outside of them, and that those districts tend to vote Democrat. In fact, as I understand it, “blue states” in the U.S. (that is, the ones that consistently vote Democrat) are generally the ones where the majority of the population is urban.

    I suspect that if I looked at the demographics of those who agree that most U.S. Christians are “young earth creationists, homophobes and would-be theocrats,” and those who disagree, I’d find that most of the latter have spent a significant chunk of their formal years in more urban districts than the former.

  • Jay

     It varies by region.  If the South weren’t constrained by the Federal constitution, it probably would be like you describe.  The East and West coasts are more secular and more diverse, but surprisingly unsophisticated types of protestantism are still maybe 10-20% of the population.  The midwest is intermediate, and the West tends to be dotted with tiny enclaves of just about everything, plus a large Mormon region.  I’ve spent at least a few years in all of these areas except the West coast, where I’ve only spent a few months.

  • Nathaniel

     Because a lot of YEC homophobes are going to be black or hispanic, and they often vote differently for different reasons than white people.

    People often forget that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

    Here’s somewhere I think we can agree. There is no reason to suspect that Ken Ham’s thinking is muddy and wrongheaded on science and sharp and incisive on the bible.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    When Fred writes, “Once you decide that Answers in Genesis can be relied on…”, I don’t think he is actually (literally, natch) suggesting that these atheists are on the road to becoming YECs themselves. Rather he is using this as the reductio ad absurdum of trusting Ham and AiG about anything at all.

    You might argue that most atheists don’t trust Ham on the Bible, but rather, having read/studied the Bible themselves, agree with him about how it’s meant to be read. That’s a fair distinction, but either way Fred’s not saying we are literally going to become evolution-deniers.

  • Tonio

    I didn’t interpret Fred as saying that IAs were close to becoming YECs themselves, but as saying they were close to treating YECs as authorities on scientific knowledge, or at least as having some scientific credibility. You and I seem to agree that the IA argument isn’t about authority or trust.

  • Hypocee

    Worthless Beast
    *Sigh* for those who are circling the wagons thinking Fred is strawmanning…

    I’ve met loads of the very people he’s talking about in various places-besides-here online. Athiests are human, believe it or not, just like Theists are. Trolls abound and yes, Virginia, one *is* as capable of genuine stupidity sometmes as the other. 
    […]
    That is, why are people who *know* someone is a liar about everything he sets himself up as an “expert” at taking him as an actual expert and authority on *one area* just because they don’t want to bother with, or because they were raised by people who listened to people like Ham and don’t even want to see if any other takes on that area exist.

    *Sigh*. Or, because Ken Ham is in fact an authority on that area, in the sense that 100-some million citizens of the Empire believe him and his compatriots, and use that belief to determine whom to vote for.

    Ross
    Justified or not, when affluent, well-educated, able-bodied, heterosexual, cisgendered atheist white guys  complain about how disenfranchised, unpriviliged and oppressed they are, I can’t help but see parallels to what it sounds like when affluent, well-educated, able-bodied, heterosexual cisgendered conservative white guys complain about how oppressed they are because they ahve to pay taxes.

    Baw. As long as there’s a blind quadriplegic lesbian Native American with AIDS, we shall work on no other problems, especially not that tiny subset of problems where we can actually potentially achieve real results by arguing online. We see a daily trickle of people who self-report being provoked out of fundamentalism by a variety of channels including the most confrontational. The insular, alternate world tribalism supported by YEC culture hurts others far worse than us; that’s kind of the point. I’m capable of caring about people who are not me! Wow!

    Gordon Duffy
    Fred says we are allies against creationism, that’s the line he has drawn and wonders why the Internet Atheist isn’t standing shoulder to shoulder with him.

    But if the IA sees creationism as a symptom, and faith as the disease then we are not allies. Fred and Ken are on the “pro-faith” side and the IA is saying “you belong over there with him”

    Which is to say, you are. I’m saying “maybe point that gun back toward the enemy please?” Thanks ever so much for exemplifying the intrusive trolls he’s calling out in the post, so that the problems in his rhetoric will get buried under your game. You’re helping.

    Lliira
    You are not reading the same comments I am reading. The only strawmen I’m seeing here are the ones certain atheists are setting up.

    I am an atheist. The people here who are saying things which are offending me deeply are also atheists. Because people who claim that other people believe things that they do not believe, and claim that other people are saying things that they are not saying, and claim that different people are not saying things which they very clearly are saying, offend me as a human being. I don’t care what side the people doing that are on. They’re wrong, they’re hurtful, and they’re part of the problem.

    Welcome to the cycle.

    Fred: Why, oh why, do people persist in engaging with Ken Ham’s exegesis on its own terms when it is so silly? Mine is so much better and solves all my problems!
    Me and a few others: Um, because 100-some million Americans, the majority of American Christians and arguably the largest and most dangerous voting bloc on the planet, believe it and we see more signs of success in reducing that problem from reductio ad absurdam than any other approach?
    Ten-to-forty-percenters who want a fight (and eventually [un]holier-than-thou concern trolls, hi!): DON’T TELL ME WHAT I BELIEVE HOW DARE YOUUUUU

    Ruby_Tea
    Yes, this is Fred we’re talking about.  And as I’ve said before, I love it that Fred speaks up for gay rights and speaks out against the literalists who want to squash us.

    But Fred’s strong suit has never been atheism.  It’s very clear from his posts that he does not understand why some atheists take on literal interpretations of Bible stories.  To him, it means they are embracing creationists and preparing to turn in their “I support the scientific method” cards.  They’re being silly children: “OMG, like duh!  All the animals on the whole planet like totally could not fit on one boat and all you Christians are, like, so dumb.  You should totally pick a new religion off a checklist, like I did.”

    There’s really not anything wrong with discussing what we really think about the Bible and creationism and Bible stories when Fred made it the topic of conversation.

    Word-for-word Bingo. I don’t jump into all his posts, just these where he inexplicably but explicitly chooses to speak out against speaking out against YEC on its own terms.

    arcseconds
    I also don’t think it’s clear he doesn’t understand why atheists take literal interpretations.   Whatever their reasons, it doesn’t invalidate the general point: by insisting that a literal reading is the only valid reading, they are agreeing with creationists and refusing to engage in any kind of dialogue with other Christians (again, much as creationists often do).

    As to why some atheists take a literal view of the Bible, I’ve always assumed it was due to a combination of the following:

    — high profile of Biblical literalism due to a huge and important number of atrocious Biblical “literalists”

    But maybe I’ve missed something?

    Yes you have. Fixed it.

    Tonio
    Also, Fred uses other slippery slope terms here, like “you’re well on your way” and “you’re all set to believe.” His premise seems to be that people like Ham are merely crackpots, the Lyndon LaRouches of religion. YEC is a crackpot idea, but many people who believe in it are more sensible in other areas of their lives. Fred might as well argued that IAs are one step closer to treating YECs as authorities in car maintenance or Civil War history or assembly language. The IAs aren’t even treating them as authorities on how one should interpret scripture.

    Well…no, IAs/trolls/Redditors actually are treating them as authorites on how one should interpret scripture – it’s fun because they’re snitty teenagers or fundie abuse victims or whatever. Other people, making the exact same arguments in different contexts, are legitimately and deliberately trying to help people (especially isolated young people) learn to think about what they believe. But yes, his slippery slope nonsense is the other part, along with the perpetual blind eye toward the majority status of YEC/literalism, that consistently sets me off.

    Ross
    What I don’t understand is that, even in the US, if progressive christians are a “tiny minority” and most christians in the USA are “young earth creationists, homophobes and would-be theocrats”, how is it that evolution is still taught ANYWHERE, QUILTBAG folks aren’t executed on sight, and we don’t have a state church?

    I mean, christians have a substantial majority in ever state, every district, heck, almost every *community* in the US, but we don’t even have school prayer.

    If the vast majority of christians believe those things, how do the democrats ever win even a single election?

    Because two majorities multiplied do not necessarily make a majority. America’s not 100% Christian. .6 * .8ish = juuuust under 50% (and also

    Ruby_Tea
    Thank the Constitution, a plethora of Supreme Court decisions, and the fact that we don’t live in an absolute democracy where every citizen votes on every single issue.

    )

    )

  • Hypocee

    Reposted without two missed slashes. Sorry. FWIW I do all this HTML for easy reading.

    Worthless Beast
    *Sigh* for those who are circling the wagons thinking Fred is strawmanning…

    I’ve met loads of the very people he’s talking about in various places-besides-here online. Athiests are human, believe it or not, just like Theists are. Trolls abound and yes, Virginia, one *is* as capable of genuine stupidity sometmes as the other. 
    […]
    That is, why are people who *know* someone is a liar about everything he sets himself up as an “expert” at taking him as an actual expert and authority on *one area* just because they don’t want to bother with, or because they were raised by people who listened to people like Ham and don’t even want to see if any other takes on that area exist.

    *Sigh*. Or, because Ken Ham is in fact an authority on that area, in the sense that 100-some million people believe him and his compatriots, and use that belief to determine whom to vote for.

    Ross
    Justified or not, when affluent, well-educated, able-bodied, heterosexual, cisgendered atheist white guys  complain about how disenfranchised, unpriviliged and oppressed they are, I can’t help but see parallels to what it sounds like when affluent, well-educated, able-bodied, heterosexual cisgendered conservative white guys complain about how oppressed they are because they ahve to pay taxes.

    Baw. As long as there’s a blind quadriplegic lesbian Native American with AIDS, we shall work on no other problems, especially not that tiny subset of problems where we can actually potentially achieve real results by arguing online. We see a daily trickle of people who self-report being provoked out of fundamentalism by a variety of channels including the most confrontational. The insular, alternate world tribalism supported by YEC culture hurts others far worse than us. That’s kind of the point. I’m capable of caring about people who are not me! Wow!

    Gordon Duffy
    Fred says we are allies against creationism, that’s the line he has drawn and wonders why the Internet Atheist isn’t standing shoulder to shoulder with him.

    But if the IA sees creationism as a symptom, and faith as the disease then we are not allies. Fred and Ken are on the “pro-faith” side and the IA is saying “you belong over there with him”

    Which is to say, you are. I’m saying “maybe point that gun back toward the enemy please?” Thanks ever so much for exemplifying the intrusive trolls he’s calling out in the post, so that the problems in his rhetoric will get buried under your game. You’re helping.

    Lliira
    You are not reading the same comments I am reading. The only strawmen I’m seeing here are the ones certain atheists are setting up.

    I am an atheist. The people here who are saying things which are offending me deeply are also atheists. Because people who claim that other people believe things that they do not believe, and claim that other people are saying things that they are not saying, and claim that different people are not saying things which they very clearly are saying, offend me as a human being. I don’t care what side the people doing that are on. They’re wrong, they’re hurtful, and they’re part of the problem.

    Welcome to the cycle.

    Fred: Why, oh why, do people bother engaging with Ken Ham’s exegesis on its own terms when mine is so much better and solves all my problems? *Pearls*
    Me and a few others: Um, because 100-some million Americans, the majority of American Christians and arguably the largest and most dangerous voting bloc on the planet, believe it and we see more signs of success in reducing that problem from reductio ad absurdam than any other approach?
    Ten-to-forty-percenters who want a fight (and eventually [un]holier-than-thou concern trolls, hi!): DON’T TELL ME WHAT I BELIEVE HOW DARE YOUUUUU

    Ruby_Tea
    Yes, this is Fred we’re talking about.  And as I’ve said before, I love it that Fred speaks up for gay rights and speaks out against the literalists who want to squash us.

    But Fred’s strong suit has never been atheism.  It’s very clear from his posts that he does not understand why some atheists take on literal interpretations of Bible stories.  To him, it means they are embracing creationists and preparing to turn in their “I support the scientific method” cards.  They’re being silly children: “OMG, like duh!  All the animals on the whole planet like totally could not fit on one boat and all you Christians are, like, so dumb.  You should totally pick a new religion off a checklist, like I did.”

    There’s really not anything wrong with discussing what we really think about the Bible and creationism and Bible stories when Fred made it the topic of conversation.

    Word-for-word Bingo. I don’t jump into all his posts, just these where he inexplicably but explicitly chooses to speak out against speaking out against YEC on its own terms.

    arcseconds
    I also don’t think it’s clear he doesn’t understand why atheists take literal interpretations.   Whatever their reasons, it doesn’t invalidate the general point: by insisting that a literal reading is the only valid reading, they are agreeing with creationists and refusing to engage in any kind of dialogue with other Christians (again, much as creationists often do).

    As to why some atheists take a literal view of the Bible, I’ve always assumed it was due to a combination of the following:

    — high profile of Biblical literalism due to a huge and important number of atrocious Biblical “literalists”

    But maybe I’ve missed something?

    Yes you have. Fixed it.

    Tonio
    Also, Fred uses other slippery slope terms here, like “you’re well on your way” and “you’re all set to believe.” His premise seems to be that people like Ham are merely crackpots, the Lyndon LaRouches of religion. YEC is a crackpot idea, but many people who believe in it are more sensible in other areas of their lives. Fred might as well argued that IAs are one step closer to treating YECs as authorities in car maintenance or Civil War history or assembly language. The IAs aren’t even treating them as authorities on how one should interpret scripture.

    Well…no, IAs/trolls/Redditors actually are treating them as authorites on how one should interpret scripture – it’s fun because they’re snitty teenagers or fundie abuse victims or whatever. Other people, making the exact same arguments in different contexts, are legitimately and deliberately trying to help people (especially isolated young people) learn to think about what they believe. But yes, his slippery slope nonsense is the other part, along with the perpetual blind eye toward the majority status of YEC/literalism, that consistently sets me off.

    Ross
    What I don’t understand is that, even in the US, if progressive christians are a “tiny minority” and most christians in the USA are “young earth creationists, homophobes and would-be theocrats”, how is it that evolution is still taught ANYWHERE, QUILTBAG folks aren’t executed on sight, and we don’t have a state church?

    I mean, christians have a substantial majority in ever state, every district, heck, almost every *community* in the US, but we don’t even have school prayer.

    If the vast majority of christians believe those things, how do the democrats ever win even a single election?

    Because two majorities multiplied do not necessarily make a majority. America’s not 100% Christian. .6 * .8ish = juuuust under 50%(and also

    Ruby_Tea
    Thank the Constitution, a plethora of Supreme Court decisions, and the fact that we don’t live in an absolute democracy where every citizen votes on every single issue.

    )

  • Tonio

    To quote the Slacktivist slogan, it’s more complicated than that. IAs claim that interpretation is simply an exercise in finding whatever meaning one wants, and that that literalism is at least intellectually honest or consistent. That’s not the same as saying the literalism is the correct intended reading, because they usually insist that scripture is a scam. Their blind spot is not recognizing that the so-called literalists in YEC are also cherry-picking for their own agendas. 

    And no, we can’t assume that either literalism generally or YEC specifically has majority status. I agree with Fred that fundamentalism, of which YEC is a major component, is really about identity politics and not about religion. My theory is that large numbers of people who say they believe in creationism are declaring an allegiance, not a religious belief. For them, it’s a euphemism as a tribal marker, not much different from how they use terms like Muslim or socialist even when they’re not bashing Obama.

  • Hypocee

     

    Their blind spot is not recognizing that the so-called literalists in YEC are also cherry-picking for their own agendas.

    Yeah, I was trying to agree with you on that. I felt you were giving IA trolls the benefit of too much doubt.

    And no, we can’t assume that either literalism generally or YEC
    specifically has majority status. I agree with Fred that fundamentalism,
    of which YEC is a major component, is really about identity politics
    and not about religion. My theory is that large numbers of people who
    say they believe in creationism are declaring an allegiance, not a
    religious belief. For them, it’s a euphemism as a tribal marker, not
    much different from how they use terms like Muslim or socialist even
    when they’re not bashing Obama.

    I don’t see the difference. Beginning at the latest when the Republicans got the temple and the moneychangers together, “identity politics” and “religion” have been synonyms in the Empire. I see no reason to care whether the people who pass laws, buy textbooks, homeschool, visit the Creation Museum and so on are just pretending 24/7. I’m interested in their actions, not philosophy. People who group around creationist declarations are usefully termed creationists – and in terms of political potency they sure act like a simmering, solid, bare minority, so I’m not inclined to disbelieve their self-reporting when it spits out exactly that scenario.

    My reason, at least, for picking on YEC in particular is that of the Four Pillars of Christianism it’s the one that most rapidly runs into an embarrassing number of simple, numerical facts and absurd images. Similarly to confronting racism and sexism, the goal is to break that euphemism, forcing users to acknowledge what they’re actually saying when they unthinkingly pass it off.

  • Tonio

    <blockquote.
    I see no reason to care whether the people who pass laws, buy textbooks, homeschool, visit the Creation Museum and so on are just pretending 24/7. 

    That’s not what I was suggesting. The polls that have been cited here claim that creationism has a far larger base of believers in the US than just the fundamentalists. (In answer to Dave’s point, YEC and the type of fundamentalism that drives it seems to be uniquely US phenomena.) Although the established denominations have been losing followers and the independent churches have been gaining them, the latter still represent a minority in the nation. So if the polls are to be believed, large numbers of Episcopalians and Methodists and Catholics and Lutherans are creationists, and that might surprise the adherents of those denominations who post here. 

    My theory is that the religious right has succeeded in deceiving many of those non-fundamentalist Christians as to what creationism and evolution actually are. They probably believe in theistic evolution but call it creationism, and they probably believe that “evolution” is really an atheistic origin for both the universe and life, despite natural selection being silent on life’s origins. I’ve encountered the latter belief numerous times. The only pretense here is in what the religious right is pushing. It’s similar to how misogynists have defamed feminism to the point where it’s common for women to say, “I’m not a feminist, but I believe in legal and social equality for women.” That’s like saying, “I’m not a vegetarian, but I don’t eat meat.”

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    It’s similar to how misogynists have defamed feminism to the point where it’s common for women to say, “I’m not a feminist, but I believe in legal and social equality for women.”

    This actually helps me put a finger on exactly why I don’t like the term “Internet Atheist.”  Like the word “feminist,” “atheist” has a negative connotation, is in fact a slur to many people.  And I think until it is not a slur, there just has to be a different term for “jerk who happens to be atheist.”

    The example people keep using is “Nice Guy,” but that’s just not the same, in the sense that both the words “nice” and “guy” have positive connotations.

  • Tonio

    Although I’m not an atheist, I can appreciate your objection. In this thread I’ve been using Fred’s term of IA because it mirrors his other term of Real True Christian, but a better one would be “anti-theist.” Most atheists aren’t against religion, just as most adherents of religions aren’t against atheism, and both  regard religion as a personal matter. The terms anti-theist and RTC both refer to vocal minorities in their respective moments who share the traits of absolutism and self-righteousness, leading me to suspect that it’s a personality type that transcends any particular position on religion.

  • Worthless Beast

    “The terms anti-theist and RTC both refer to vocal minorities in their respective moments who share the traits of absolutism and self-righteousness, leading me to suspect that it’s a personality type that transcends any particular position on religion. ” _Tonio

    I didn’t want to reply to this after flipping my pancake a little, but nail on the head.  There’s a thing I want to say to a lot of people on both sides, inspired by at least one of the people being That Guy here – this applies to all Those Absolutist Guys, whatever side of the fence they’re on:

    “I understand that you see everyone like me as a ‘potential threat’ because on some fundamental level ‘we don’t think right.” _ I get that. I have to deal with that kind of thing in an area outside worldview-discussion, believe it or not. You want to ‘better’ me (and us all).  You ‘used to be where I am now and are now free’ – I wish you all the joy in the world in your freedom.  I cannot share your freedom without lying to myself and hoping it ‘sticks,’ and I’ve always been too honest for that game.  If I ever do “get better,” however, if it happens – I *hope I don’t become like you* in it.”

    It’s kind of like… how I want to become rich, but seeing as I’ve met all of ONE, maybe two rich people in my life who were not complete assholes to me, I worry that the addage “money changes people” is true – and it’s enough to make even a person living by the skin of teeth under a mountain of depts wonder if she really does want money… And this is a “necessary for physical life” thing rather than philosophy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

     All anti- theist means is that the person has noticed that theism is not just incorrect but it is harmful.

    It is a view as twisted and negative as anti-racist or anti-slavery.

  • Tonio

    I’m using it “anti-theist” to mean that the person opposes all theism, and that stance paints with far too broad a brush. What’s harmful is not theism but absolutism and authoritarianism and intolerance, which describes some theism but is not limited to it. Before the Civil War, both advocates and opponents of slavery used their scripture to justify their positions, which alone suggests that the problem with the former was something other than belief in gods. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

     Ok, but I do oppose all theism and I am not ashamed of that. I accept that there is a sliding scale, but my opinion is that the scale of theistic belief starts at “Oh dear, what a pity” and goes downhill from there.

    There’s a scale to racism too, but it is still ok to say you are against racism. The “less bad” racists might complain about being lumped in with the worse ones.

    That’s how this thread seems to me – people are saying “Why are you/how dare you lump me in with Ken Ham/Westboro Baptists/Faith Healers?” and my answer is “You think faith is a good thing, they think faith is a good thing, I think it is a poison”

  • Madhabmatics

    If one was going to try to come up with a Nice Guy equivalent, one would have to consider the two major factors that makes Nice Guy work:

    1) It’s sarcastic. Nice Guys are called that because they aren’t really nice.
    2) It’s a term they use to describe themselves. “Man, we can’t get laid because we are just nice guys and women want bastards!”

    “Smart Guy” would be a good stepping stone to figuring out a Nice Guy equivalent part – I say a stepping stone because “guy” is not something they would use to describe themselves because it is frivolous, unlike the Very Serious Men who Know Things.

    edit: Actually if there were some way to come up with a term that was related to famous rape-victim-hounder and banana-ruiner Amazing Atheist, that would also be p. funny.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     

    This actually helps me put a finger on exactly why I don’t like the
    term “Internet Atheist.”  Like the word “feminist,” “atheist” has a
    negative connotation, is in fact a slur to many people.  And I
    think until it is not a slur, there just has to be a different term for
    “jerk who happens to be atheist.”

    The example people keep using is “Nice Guy,” but that’s just not the
    same, in the sense that both the words “nice” and “guy” have positive connotations.

    Yes! Thank you. That is exactly why I feel that adding a (TM) to Internet Atheist doesn’t help any. I just couldn’t put my finger on it.

  • Hypocee

    Tonio
    So if the polls are to be believed, large numbers of Episcopalians
    and Methodists and Catholics and Lutherans are creationists, and that
    might surprise the adherents of those denominations who post here. 

    Anecdotally my fundie-Catholic homeschooling aunt and uncle claim to be creationist.

    My theory is that the religious right has succeeded in deceiving many
    of those non-fundamentalist Christians as to what creationism and
    evolution actually are. They probably believe in theistic evolution but
    call it creationism, and they probably believe that “evolution” is
    really an atheistic origin for both the universe and life, despite
    natural selection being silent on life’s origins.

    Shrug. That’s why both polls offer an explicit theistic evolution option.  The  Gallup poll twists itself into knots to avoid the E-word, and
    given sane assumptions the Gallup and Pew polls agree closely. To be clear, are you claiming that large numbers of non-fundies are choosing to pass over the option that describes their beliefs – and offers them a nice fuzzy conciliatory out – to stand up and be politically counted alongside their more spittle-flecked brethren?

    I, too, am sorry for excluding non-USians from the stats and discussion. It’s not through lack of consideration for you as it would be on most any other topic, it’s because to the best of my knowledge powerful Hamites are a problem unique to the US.

  • Tonio

    are you claiming that large numbers of non-fundies are choosing
    to pass over the option that describes their beliefs – and offers them a
    nice fuzzy conciliatory out – to stand up and be politically counted
    alongside their more spittle-flecked brethren?

    No. If anything, they could be simply ignoring the wording or be confused by it, because it doesn’t conform to the false dichotomy being pushed by the fundamentalists. Reminds me of some polls on health care reform that show support for individual pieces but lack of support for the whole, because the opposition has been pushing falsehoods like death panels. Maybe focus groups or interviews might be more useful tools for gauging the level of belief in creationism.

  • Tonio

     To clarify, I see the poll results as suspicious, not necessarily incorrect. They don’t jibe with the statistics on religious affiliations in the US, since most Christian denominations have no teachings against evolution. As other posters have said here, YEC instruction in public schools would very likely be law if they were as influential as the poll results suggest.

  • Hypocee

     YEC instruction in public schools is currently law in Missouri.

  • Tonio

    Huh? I read that attempts failed in the legislature this year, although there’s a valid concern that the right to pray law could undermine teaching of evolution. And no question that YECs have been pushing for laws in many other states. My point is still valid – if creationists were really as numerous as the polls suggest, evolution lessons would be banned outright nationwide.

  • Hypocee

    Whoops, got my states conflated. Missouri’s doing the right-to-pray posturing, Louisiana is funding fundie factories (and getting – y’know – out of the schools) by going full-voucher and abolishing the concept of a curriculum.

    …if creationists were really as numerous as the polls suggest, evolution lessons would be banned outright nationwide.

    …Really? If YECs were really a large and resentful minority they’d dictate federal law and constitutional amendments? I guess I don’t understand democracy.

    I do not believe that the lack of success in passing – or rather, in keeping – massively unconstitutional laws contradicts the existence of a large minority who fervently want them, and I view the new state-level successes every few years as confirmation of their existence (and local majority). But at that level of disagreement I guess there’s not much further to say.

  • Tonio

    I do not believe that the lack of success in passing – or rather, in keeping – massively unconstitutional laws contradicts the existence of a large minority who fervently want them

    To clarify,  I was suggesting that evolution would be considered an outlier belief that laws restricting it would be commonplace despite the First Amendment, and that the cultural influence of YEC would be far more pervasive. YEC has become much more of an outlier belief in the past century, and you’re exactly right that we must keep struggling so that it remains so. 

    My point is that YEC is virtually synonymous with fundamentalism and the religious right. In my experience, it’s rare to encounter a YEC who doesn’t also support some degree of theocracy, such as mandatory school prayer, and who doesn’t also Akin-like views on gender relations. But such people remain a vocal minority. The deceptive wording of right-to-pray legislation is not only an attempt to get around the First Amendment, but also to prey upon the fears of non-fundamentalists without seeming too extreme. Otherwise, what we’ve seen in Louisiana might be commonplace across the nation. The poll results that have been quoted here would almost require an America where non-fundamentalist Christians have been so culturally marginalized as to be invisible – an America where Akin’s comments would be cheered instead of jeered.

  • Hypocee

    I’m sorry to keep on this – I know we’re the only two left here and I look like I’m aggressive towards you – but I’m still literally unable to understand the objection you’re raising to the poll numbers. Is this an accurate expansion?

    I was suggesting that [if YECs comprised 44-48% of the US’ population, 60% of American Christians and majorities in some states,] evolution would be considered [such] an outlier belief
    that laws restricting it would be commonplace despite the First
    Amendment, and that the cultural influence of YEC would be far more
    pervasive.

    I agree with

    My point is thatYEC is virtually synonymous with fundamentalism and the
    religious right. In my experience, it’s rare to encounter a YEC who
    doesn’t also support some degree of theocracy, such as mandatory school
    prayer, and who doesn’t also Akin-like views on gender relations.

    word for word, but I rather thought it was my point :P I wince at the next bit, “But such people remain a vocal minority.” The phrase “vocal minority” usually carries an unspoken “small but” with it; is that your intent? YEC is indeed the most useful proxy I’ve seen for the fundamentalist complex. I’m saying that the religious right is actually about that big, a large and vocal minority, forty-some percent of the electorate and a solid majority of American Christians. To loop baaaack around to my reason for bringing the data up against Fred’s rhetorical choices, that means that Ham is as a matter of fact representative of a solid majority of American Christians, and that fact should be acknowledged both to form a factual basis for tactical choices and to avoid slandering those who engage YECs.

    The poll results that have been quoted here would almost require an
    America where non-fundamentalist Christians have been so culturally
    marginalized as to be invisible

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2012/08/02/progressive-religious-voices-not-irrelevant-just-ignored/

    – an America where Akin’s comments would
    be cheered instead of jeered.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2012/08/21/rep-todd-akins-views-typical-in-anti-abortion-religious-right/
    ;(

  • Tonio

     

    I’m saying that the religious right is actually about that big, a large and vocal minority, forty-some percent of the electorate and a solid majority of American Christians.

    And that’s what I’m questioning. That sounds almost exactly like the Islam-bashers who insist that the religion is dominated by murderous fanatics, or who wrongly claim that the moderates are being silent about terrorism. No question that the religious right represents a danger to freedom of religion and to democracy in general. I’m suggesting that their numbers are smaller than you claim and that the group simply looks larger because of the noise that it generates. Over and over Fred has been told that he’s somehow not really Christian or that he’s an outlier because of his progressive views, and he’s frequently lambasted by anti-theists who wrongly treat him as an enabler for the Fred Phelpses. Although I don’t belong to any religion and hold no position on whether gods exist, even I know that the religious right doesn’t dominate Christianity in the US. At least, not so far.

  • Tonio

    Also “non-fundamentalist” includes progressive Christians but includes many more moderate and somewhat conservative ones. And there are even more conservative Christians who oppose the religious right even while sharing some its theology. Dan Cathy and Bill Marriott both oppose same-sex marriage but the latter doesn’t use his millions to push his beliefs on others, even offering domestic partner benefits to his employees.

    Of course Fred is right that Akin’s views are typical of the religious right. My point is that if fundamentalists were really that dominant, we would hear almost no public figures criticizing him, and late-night hosts wouldn’t joke about him and (0ther) creationists for fear of losing their advertisers. No matter how dangerous the religious right can be, it’s wrong to treat non-fundamentalists as though they’re fellow travelers.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     

    They probably believe in theistic evolution but call it creationism, and
    they probably believe that “evolution” is really an atheistic origin
    for both the universe and life, despite natural selection being silent
    on life’s origins. I’ve encountered the latter belief numerous times.

    Same here. I’ve seen a LOT of YECs pushing the claim that “evolution” refers to an entirely atheistic framework for understanding the origins of the universe, stars, planets, and life itself.

    Google “peanut butter disproves evolution” for an example of someone deliberately trying to conflate evolution with abiogenesis.

    Trying to discredit something by spreading lies about what it onvolves is an age-old tactic, but no one ever accused YECs of being original thinkers.

  • Mark Chronos

    I find this example of the “internet atheist” who believes in Ken Ham’s version of reality (in whichever context one chooses) to be completely at odds with my experiences with internet atheists.

    I am an atheist and I have been around many atheists, online and offline. I have assisted in running 3 different atheists forums over the years, not to mention atheist blogs, so my exposure to atheists of any type is rather high. I have yet to encounter an atheist, online or offline, who believes anything that Ken Ham says, writes or otherwise excretes. In atheist circles, Ken Ham is routinely derided as the premier village idiot (though he has some competition). He is not taken seriously and even referring to Ken Ham is to do so for entertainment value rather than serious discussion. Making reference to Ken Ham is not to refer to what mainline Christians believe, but rather a more fundamentalist subset of Christians who have all sorts of bizarre thoughts on things, particularly scientific things. Anyone who claims to be an internet atheist and also claims to believe that Ken Ham emits anything factual is a poseur, a troll.

    As atheists, not only do we marvel at discovery and adhere to scientific methodology, we also appreciate logical arguments and factual references. One of the other commenters referred to us negatively, especially when one day we shall “come out”, so to speak, and we will make nuisances of ourselves. All of the atheists I know are polite, decent people who simply have no faith in mysterious, magical and unproven thoughts, concepts or deities. We don’t care if somebody is Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Ralien, Mormon, Hindu, etc. We only care if those same people try to make us to believe as they do, either through force, social pressure or law, the latter of which is of particular interest to us. It just so happens that much of the Christian cultural subset which follows Ken Ham is an easy cross-reference to people who have a strong desire to remove science from the classroom, remove science from casual cultural contexts and who wish to impose their stoic viewpoints as the law of the land.
    As Ken Ham is not representative of all or even most Christians, the internet atheist mentioned in the article is not representative of all of even a few atheists. He (and it is very likely a he) is a troll.

  • PJ Evans

     I think that got decided several pages back. (You’re late to the discussion.)
    Also, we were talking about Internet Atheists ™, not atheists generally, or even atheists on the internet. Not the same thing. (You’re very late to the discussion.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=807845190 Cheryl Hopper

    Where can I find information on what’s wrong with Ken Hamm’s teachings?

    I consider myself a conservative Christian, in that I believe the Bible is the inerrent Word of God, but, more and more, I find myself at odds with the mainstream of conservative Christianity in the United States, and I feel more and more like an outsider.  Finding your blog is a breath of fresh air for me.  Logic!  Reason!  Critical thinking!  Yay!


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