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.

  • 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://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.

  • 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.

  • PJ Evans

    And was quite possibly not an actual guy.

    I figured that that wasn’t going to fly, when dealing with someone who believes otherwise.

  • 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. 

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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. 

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.   

  • 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.

  • 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://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

    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?

  • PJ Evans

     Presidential elections are not direct democracy.

  • 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

    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. 

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

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

  • 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.

    )

    )

  • 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.

  • 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.

    )

  • PJ Evans

    Faith is ignorance made into a point of pride.

    Whaa… I don’t even.

    That’s quite a misunderstanding of faith.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Hypocee

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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://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.

  • 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.

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

     

    …but forgive us for getting frustrated.

    No forgiveness required; my sympathy was sincere.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

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

  • PJ Evans

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

  • 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.


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