So you’re a theist who wants to comment on an atheist blog? Read this first!

There are certain arguments and tactics which we see over and over again, usually (but not exclusively) from Biblical literalist Christians (included hereafter for brevity under the umbrella terms “fundamentalists” or “fundies”). Sometimes their posts are very offensive, but usually they’re just repeating arguments that we’ve already seen many, many times. With that in mind, I’m aiming to create a thread that can be linked to whenever a new commenter turns up and uses these same arguments and tactics.

If anybody thinks of something they’d like to add to it, leave it in the comments. I’d like this to be an evolving entry in the style of a wiki, open to all contributors and commenters to improve over time. So, like I said, leave suggestions and I’ll try to keep on top of them.

If Daniel, Vorjack, or Elemenope want to alter it, they should feel free.

So, tips for the theist commenter:

Consider your audience

Whilst UF has regular commenters who are religious, the vast majority of the blog’s audience is atheist and the religious guys tend to be liberal Christians. This means that there are certain things which you might be used to expressing in social situations with other Christians, which would cause offense here. Examples include, but are not limited to:

“The fool says in his heart there is no God”;

“Repent before it’s too late”;

“You’re all going to go to hell if you don’t bow down and obey Jesus”;

“You can’t experience love if you don’t believe in God”.

Comments in that vein may well draw an angry response, and if it’s your first comment and we don’t know you, it’s possible we’ll assume you’re just a drive-by troll and delete your post. This leads me nicely to my next point:

Trolling softly is still trolling

As a general rule of thumb, if you’re getting some kind of thrill out of “witnessing” to all us Godless atheists, then chances are you’re already winding people up. It comes across in the tone of comments, and it’s very rude. Remember, we’re only atheist because we reject one more God from history’s ample supply of Gods than you do – You yourself are likely atheist about Thor and Odin and Pan and Baal and Bacchus and Helios and Ganesh and all the rest. We’re not so very different, and the fact that we’re not convinced by the supernatural claims made for the personality at the centre of your particular religion does not make us bad people. So be nice and engage politely! Lurk a while, read some old threads, and for the love of all that’s good don’t use some of the following tired arguments:

Evolution is “just” a Theory

The number one, all-time favourite Creationist line of argument: Not acknowledging that the same word can sometimes have two different meanings. In general, what Creationists are actually arguing is that evolution is a hypothesis, not a Theory (I’m capitalising Theory to denote a scientific Theory as opposed to the other kind). Creationists are wrong about that, as we shall see. A hypothesis is a precursor to a theory; it’s the idea that’s initially being tested – So it must be falsifiable. For any non-scientifically literate people reading, that means that it must correctly predict the outcomes of testable questions. It doesn’t become a theory until it’s been tested many times and some kind of consensus exists that it provides a model that accurately reflects what’s going on in the real world.

This is why the Theory of Evolution is science and Intelligent Design (ID) is religion – There are criteria which, if met, would prove the Theory of Evolution wrong. There are no criteria by which ID could even be tested as a scientific Theory. It cannot change or adapt with evidence; it is a matter of faith – It might be a religious theory, but it is certainly not a scientific Theory.

So, to summarise, courtesy of http://notjustatheory.com/:

When scientists use the word theory, it has a different meaning to normal everyday use.

In science, a theory is not a guess, not a hunch. It’s a well-substantiated, well-supported, well-documented explanation for our observations.

Some people think that in science, you have a theory, and once it’s proven, it becomes a law. That’s not how it works.

A theory never becomes a law. In fact, if there was a hierarchy of science, theories would be higher than laws. There is nothing higher, or better, than a theory.

Just because it’s called a theory of gravity, doesn’t mean that it’s just a guess.

The Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection is our best explanation for the fact of evolution.

Evolution is not just a theory, it’s triumphantly a theory!

In case you were wondering, a scientific law (as opposed to a theory) is the name given to a description of consistent observations; observations so consistent that one can make predictions by analyzing them. For example, the law of gravity is the consistent observation that massive objects attract each other proportionately to their combined mass and inversely to the square of the distance between them. Laws, in short, tell you what’s happening in a results sense about a physical system. Theories, in contrast, are explanations as to how things work such that they produce the observations we observe. As a metaphor, if one were to take the example of pressing the gas pedal of a car, a law about the gas pedal would be describing how fast the car goes when the gas pedal is pushed down with a certain amount of force, whereas a theory about the gas pedal would be an account of how the gas pedal regulates the flow of gas into an engine turning a crankshaft which turns an axle which turns the wheels which drives the car forward. Science is the process of popping the trunk and poking around inside.

“Truth” can be different for different people

Fundies use the word “truth” a lot – But to quote Inigo Montoya, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means”. Of course, it is arguable that fundies use “truth” in a special, specific-to-context way that is not the same as the way that it is used in everyday conversation – Scientists have their own meaning for “Theory”, after all. The difference is that scientists can use that word in both contexts and know the difference, while fundies tend to learn their own definition of “truth” – which seems to be “what feels emotionally pleasing and agrees with my beliefs” – in everyday conversation, as if it is the only version of the word that matters.

Well, seekers after truth, let me give you a heads-up:

Truth

Noun

1. Conformity to fact.

2. A statement proven as true.

And just for completeness:

Fact

Noun

1. The quality of being actual.

2. Something that has occurred or is actually the case.

It is important to note that neither strength of belief nor emotional response have any bearing on what is “truth”, in the normal conversational use of the word. So go ahead and use “truth” in a specific, religious context if you want to – But please be aware that it also has a wider definition that has nothing to do with faith!

The historicity of Jesus is proven by evidence

[Update] I feel the need to put a note here for the skim-readers since this particular entry has sparked discussion. I’m not arguing that Jesus did not exist as a historical person. I’m arguing that’s there’s no substantive, third-party evidence that Jesus existed as a person. Read the whole entry before accusing me of being a conspiracy theorist or a kook, please![End of update]

This has been a favourite line around here lately. We’ve had a lot of commenters blandly assert that the actual existence of Jesus is a proven historical fact – But not a single one of them has ever presented any of the alleged “proof” when asked. In fact, to get a serious analysis of the evidence, I had to ask another atheist – Cue Nox with a wall of text on the forum. Whether you’re a Christian or an atheist, I strongly suggest you read it – Nox is a very knowledgeable cookie when it comes to theological history, and you will be educated by it.

The upshot is: There’s no good extra-Biblical evidence for the historicity of Jesus. I accept that if you believe the Bible is true then you won’t find that such an issue – But most of us don’t believe that, so it is a problem for us.

The other part of this issue is, as Ursa Minor has repeatedly pointed out, so what? It’s not difficult to accept that in a time and place where there were a lot of Jewish apocalyptic “prophets”, there might possibly have been one named Yeshua, who might possibly have inspired the writing (decades later) of the various books of the New Testament. But so what? It certainly doesn’t follow automatically that he was God, or the Son of God, or a miracle worker, or in any other way supernatural.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, folks. I see lots of claims and zero evidence.

The universe was created by God – My God

This is one that I strongly recommend fundies to sit and think about for a while:

Could any of the arguments you use in favour of your God, be used only in favour of your God, and not in favour of any other Gods?

Let’s enter fantasy land and assume for one second that you can prove that the whole universe was created by an omnipotent being, who then endowed the first naturally formed amino acids with the gift of life, setting the whole chain in motion to create you: Why does that mean that the omnipotent being in question was the particular version of the particular one that you worship?

Just a point to ponder.

John C says it, therefore I can say it too

In a word: No. John gets a pass on what would be considered trolling from anybody else, because, well, he’s John C. He’s been here about as long as the blog’s been going, and nobody is 100% sure that he isn’t the most successful Poe in the entire history of the internet. He denies it. I’m not so sure. But either way, he gets to behave in ways that you don’t.

You can’t disprove my God, so it doesn’t matter that I can’t prove it, so we’re even

Thanks to Len for reminding me to add this one. It’s a common argument, and it completely ignores the fact that burden of proof doesn’t lay with the disbeliever. To be specific: I do not believe in God, not because there’s any positive evidence against God, but because there is no positive evidence for God (though it should be noted that there’s lots of evidence against many specific versions of God).
Let’s base a quick metaphor on Russel’s Teapot. It’s an example I’ve used before, but it’s one I happen to like and it works:

Atheist: “How did the universe come into being?”
Theist: “God did it.”
Atheist: “I will need to be convinced of that before I believe it. What is your evidence?”
Theist: “I have none, but since you can’t disprove my explanation, you must accept that it’s true.”

Does that seem reasonable? How about if we alter the metaphor slightly again:

Judge: “Why have you arrested that man for murder?”
Police: “Because he murdered another man.”
Judge: “I will need to be convinced of that before I convict him. What is your evidence?”
Police: “I have none, but he has no alibi and therefore cannot prove he didn’t do it, therefore you must accept that he is guilty.”

Does that seem reasonable? The point here is this: As a theist, you are providing an answer to the question the atheist posed above, therefore it is for you to provide the evidence.

This is where theists really need to take a step back and decide which side they’re arguing: Do they want faith without evidence, or do they want to debate their religion as a question to be settled? If the former, then commenting is probably pointless – We don’t have faith, and you can’t convince us without evidence. If the latter, then have at it – If you are the theist who can actually post substantive evidence for the existence of something supernatural, then the Randi Foundation has a million dollars waiting for you to claim.

Everybody will be impressed with the story of how I was a baby-eating, Satanical, rock ‘n roll loving, junkie, atheist with a miserable life before I found love and joy in Jeeeeesus-uh!

No. We really won’t. It’s amazing how many theists try that nonsense here – Each and every one of them is absolutely convinced that being an atheist necessarily means leading an immoral, criminal life of debauchery and hedonism. And that’s how every atheist who reads such tales knows that they’re an absolute crock of shit. Save those stories for other fundies – Apparently some of them are ignorant enough to believe them. Here they’ll earn you nothing but scorn.

If only you’d crack a Bible / read my favorite passage, you’d embrace Jesus!

Again: Nope. In the words of Blonde Nonbeliever:

“If you have a Bible on your bookshelf, you may be a Christian.
If you have a Koran on your bookshelf, you may be a Muslim.
If you have a Torah on your bookshelf, you may be Jewish.
If you have all three, you are probably an atheist.”

We have regular commenters and contributors who know several versions of the Bible inside out and back to front. If you ask deconverted Christians why they started on the road to deconversion, I would bet dollars to pesos that a lot of them would answer simply “because I read the Bible”. Perhaps you are a Christian who has read the whole thing, however most Christians we encounter here seem to be blissfully unaware of what the Bible says beyond specific cherry-picked passages that their Pastors have selected for them.

You also need to remember that the Bible is not just a religious document; it’s also an historical social commentary. As Richard Dawkins has observed, one cannot make a serious attempt to fully understand any historical English literature unless one has read the Bible – So a lot of us have read at least one version of it, and some of us have read more than one.

You deconverted therefore you weren’t really a Christian in the first place – No True Scotsman

The phrase “No True Scotsman” was coined by Anthony Flew* in his book “Thinking About Thinking”. It goes something like this:

“Imagine Hamish McDonald, a Scotsman, sitting down with his Glasgow Morning Herald and seeing an article about how the “Brighton [Brighton is on the South coast of England] Sex Maniac Strikes Again.” Hamish is shocked and declares that “No Scotsman would do such a thing.” The next day he sits down to read his Glasgow Morning Herald again and this time finds an article about an Aberdeen [Aberdeen is on the East coast of Scotland] man whose brutal actions make the Brighton sex maniac seem almost gentlemanly. This fact shows that Hamish was wrong in his opinion but is he going to admit this? Not likely. This time he says, “No true Scotsman would do such a thing.

The point here is this: Before you can use something as an analogy, you must first define it. In this case, a Scotsman: Was he born in Scotland? If yes, he is a Scotsman, regardless of other considerations.

This extends to religion fairly simply: When told of Christians who have deconverted, it is standard for other Christians to respond “Well, s/he can’t have been a true Christian” – But that’s nonsense! First define the term:

Christian

Noun

1. A person who is a believer in Jesus Christ and his teachings.

That’s it. that’s all a Christian is. There is nothing in there about inability to be persuaded by evidence or change their mind.

* I’m well aware that Flew embraced Christianity at some point after he’d already embraced senility, please don’t feel you have to point that out.

What is a straw man and why do theists keep burning them?

In simple terms, a Straw-Man argument is where you misrepresent your opponent and then argue against your own misrepresentation of them, rather than arguing against what they’re actually saying.

This is not always deliberate. Straw-man arguments often result from ignorance of the subject that you’re arguing against, or from repeating arguments you’ve heard from other people who you regard as authorities (such as your Pastor). For example, when discussing the Theory of Evolution it is common to hear phrases such as:

“Evolution is just a theory!”[See above]
“Dogs don’t just randomly turn into cats!” [Theory of Evolution agrees]
“I ain’t evolved from a monkey!”[Theory of Evolution agrees]

This leads me to suggest a top tip for all theists who seriously want to engage in debates: READ! Learn about what you’re arguing against – You might not be quite so keen to argue against it if you do, and you’ll be a lot more interesting to talk to either way. Another top-tip to avoid the straw-man is, be critical when you hear arguments from others, and ask yourself if the person you heard it from can make a serious claim to authority on that specific subject. Your Pastor might be considered a reliable source of apologetic arguments, but that doesn’t make them an expert on evolutionary biology.

Theistic and Atheistic Morality

In view of the rather lackluster way that religion’s physical, empirical claims stack up against comparable scientific ones, a common backup claim among the religious is that religion really shines in the mushier, less clear cut areas where science has been either absent or somewhat less successful. Psychology, aesthetics, and personal well-being come up under this heading, though not nearly as often as morality. This is used as a form of trump: “Science may well discover how things work, but can never tell us what matters and why!” This generally segues into how their particular religion purportedly succeeds to provide these things that science and materialistic, atheistic philosophy cannot. In the context of monotheism, this means that religion is claimed to reveal God’s preferences for human behavior and action, which rather straightforwardly dictates what is right and what is wrong, what is pious and what is profane. Because God has an objective perspective of the universe and the creatures within it, God’s view on rightness and wrongness is the highest standard for those concepts and is unappealable. Without this guidance, it is claimed, morality devolves into sentiment, competing personal tastes, and arbitrary choices.

There are several problems with this account. The first, perhaps the most important, is also the oldest. Predating Christianity itself by nearly four centuries, in a short dialogue called the Euthyphro Plato pointed out through the character of Socrates that the religious claim of an objective source of morality is entirely hollow. Long story short, Socrates asks the question (altered slightly to apply to modern monotheists):

“Does God like good things because they are good, or are good things good because God likes them?”

If the first is true, then God really had nothing to do with defining what is good, since God is merely responding to a quality preexisting in the thing or behavior at issue; God is not the source of morality. If the second is true, then God’s determination of goodness is entirely arbitrary, since no concept of goodness preexists God’s assignment of goodness. With this short, simple argument, the theist is presented with a stark choice: abandon God as the author of morality, or admit that if there are God-given morals, they are as arbitrary as those of other sources.

Aristotle, a contemporary of Plato, had meanwhile codified an approach to ethics that was essentially atheistic, in that its claims to authority do not rest on it being God-given or divinely inspired in any way. This approach is generally referred to today as Virtue Ethics. While a generally vast and complicated subject, virtue ethics at its base is about developing character. The idea is that the goal of life is to flourish, and in order to accomplish that goal a person must recognize the goodness of certain virtues which if properly identified and acted upon lead to well-being; when a person is properly trained by good teachers and becomes experienced through real-life moral dilemmas they become better at being moral. In this view, in short, morality is a skill: the ability to identify in specific situations which general virtues lead to the best outcome. The emphasis isn’t on whether a particular act is right or wrong, but rather upon the capacity of a person in a situation to figure out what is right or wrong, given their commitment to virtue, their experience, and their training.

Plato’s list of these virtues–wisdom, justice, fortitude, and temperance–should sound familiar to most Western theists, who tend to call them the “Four Cardinal Virtues”. They sound familiar because they were copied wholesale from Plato, which shouldn’t be terribly surprising given that this approach was the popular approach to ethics at the time and place the events in the New Testament allegedly occurred. There was really only one competitor.

The other major ancient approach to ethics that predates Christianity in the West is the ethical system of its progenitor, Judaism. In Judaism, from its earliest written records up to about the time of the New Testament, there was a very obviously theistic system, wherein God makes a contract with his worshipers to adopt a certain number of programmatic rules and prohibitions in return for being their patron. In this case, the generally accepted number is 613, separate rules that either prohibit or require certain behaviors, activities, and relationships. Obeying and internalizing these rules formed a covenant that signaled to the ancient Jews that they were acting morally, which literally meant in accordance with God’s wishes.

As with all rules-based ethical systems before or since, there was a magical ingredient left out of the text of the Torah that had to be provided by the people following the rules themselves. That magical ingredient was abstraction, and it is made necessary both by the simple fact that six hundred rules simply isn’t enough to cover all human situations, and even more worryingly sometimes the rules directly conflict with one another when one tries to apply them to a real situation. Abstracting a rule is an attempt to figure out the essential concepts behind it; what is a rule aiming to achieve, why is it important? This allows the resolution of ambiguities by analogy, and of conflicts by figuring out which rule supports the more important essential concept in the situation.

By the time of the New Testament, the Jews had been using these rules for several hundred years and under many different circumstances and contexts. Given this, the drive to abstract the law into the most general possible terms was finally famously brought to conclusion by two fairly different answers. A famous one is attributed to the Rabbi Hillel (the Elder), who was challenged to state the essence of the whole law while standing on one foot and replied:

“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.”

The other famous summation is written in the New Testament and attributed to Jesus:

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

This desire to distill the laws and regulations of God down to a simple universally applicable statement will again crop up when we get to modern systems of ethics. Before we do that, though, let’s recap the important points for enterprising theists who wish to comment in an informed fashion:

1. Theistic and atheistic ethics are equally subjective, either because they are both subjective in precisely the same way (good things are good simply because they are considered so), or because the theist claim to access to the source of morality is false.

2. Christian morality borrowed very, very heavily from contemporary pagan Hellenic philosophers

3. The theistic moral rules upon which Christianity is based (the commandments of the Torah) is fundamentally incomplete, as it requires a process not indicated in the text itself to extract useful, meaningful guidance for behavior.

[more to come; section in progress]

Topics waiting to be addressed:

Atheists and the slightly bizarre “intellectual elite” ad hominem
You lose nothing by worshiping my specific God – Why Pascal’s Wager was meant to be ironic
Thermodynamics and evolution?! Seriously?!

  • http://larianlequella.com Larian LeQuella

    Has anyone else noticed that theist arguments really haven’t changed… ever? While they may view that as some sort of strength, it’s really a show of how unimaginative and static their arguments are. If the world were left to them, they’d repeal the 13th and 19th Amendments for sure.

    • Gordon

      There was that small change from “we will torture and kill you” to “you’d never dare say that about people who’d be willing to torture and kill you”

      at least the attitude is consistent.

    • Raymond

      Funny you should mention that as I saw a youtube video where this preacher was touting the fact that his bible compared to the 1637 Gutenberg bible was exactly the same and had not changed at all, while science cannot be pinned down and changes all the time, so why should science be believed, that being the case. Wow an argument on behalf of ignorance as something good. He apparently has no idea that science advances, or changes, as new information becomes available. A person would not want to go by last week’s weather report, or believe that what your thoughts were when you were 7 years old is still relevant at the age of 30. So, why would anyone believe, in the 21st century, that a book that was last written in in 98 AD, would have anything to do with today? 2000 year old tribal laws, burnt sacrifices of innocent animals, selling one’s daughter into slavery, or keeping away from a woman who is in menses(how would anyone know, I personally dare not ask any woman I know no matter how close we are, not even my wife, tho’ my wife died years ago, nor my girlfriend would I ask such a thing), none of which seems relevant. Is it just a matter of getting these folks to turn their logic on themselves, as in they are atheists where Zeus, Odin, Loki are concerned so why would they still believe in god, they no longer believe in Sant Claus either, do they?

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Camels With Hammers

    Nicely done, Vorjack. While these are not forum-commenting specific, theists might consider consulting my Top 10 Tips for Reaching Out to Atheists as well.

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Camels With Hammers

    Also, the link to Nox in the forum didn’t work.

    • Jabster

      … also it was posted by Custy not Vorjack ;-)

      • Vorjack

        Ha! Now it’s you being mistaken for me, rather than me being mistaken for Daniel. I feel like I’m moving up in the world.

        • Custador

          Does that mean I moved down by default? Dang :-/

          • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Camels With Hammers

            hahahaha, sorry guys!

  • Rich Wilson

    The Nox link you want is http://www.patheos.com/forums/unreasonablefaith/topic.php?id=1685&page=3

    Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show That Jesus Never Existed at All is also good

    http://www.amazon.com/Nailed-Christian-Myths-Jesus-Existed/product-reviews/0557709911

  • Rich Wilson

    I think I’d also point out that while Biblical Creationism at least presents an explanation (actually two of them) for how we got the variety of life we have, ID doesn’t even do that. ID is just a set of arguments against evolution, but provides no alternatives, other than ‘something intelligent did it’. Until ID can actually say something testable about this ‘designer’ then it’s useless. And a MUST see/read in this vein is Neil deGrasse Tyson on “The Perimeter of Ignorance” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMXHKixqOM8

  • Len

    Great idea Custy :-)

    Maybe also worth having a link to this somewhere at the top right of each page (maybe just above or below Recent Comments), so it’s always easily findable. Like a ReadMeFirst.

    Something to add: You can’t prove (my) god doesn’t exist.

    • Len

      And, you can’t have morals without (my) god.

  • Kodie

    I thought it said, “So you think you’re the first theist to post on an atheist blog.”

    They all think they are, too.

    • http://theskippyreview.worpress.com Skippy

      Seriously. Why do they think they’re positing these arguments for the first time?

      • trj

        Because many of them can’t conceive of someone being an atheist by informed choice. Surely it must be because we’re simply unaware of the relevant Bible passages or whatever lame argument they throw at us. Noone must have ever told us these things or we couldn’t possibly stay atheists.

        If they can just present that scrap of “proof” to us we will surely see how foolish we are (or alternatively the theist can get to feel good that he has demonstrated how we cold-hearted atheists refuse to acknowledge his self-evident truths).

        • Raymond

          Part of the whole of Xianinanity is the notion that you have to spread the gospel, or tell others the good news that god loves you, and then to point out now what you must do to please their god by believing in him, or giving your heart to Xst, or being saved from hellfire and damnation due to their notion of original, as in god lives, but you’re going to hell if tou don’t reciprocate, and right now as judgment day can come at any moment. They’re as bad as used car salesmen saying we can’t make the deal as so good it won’t last beyond a certain time limit, so decide right now, sign the papers, commit and lock in the price, creating a false sense of urgency. Pentecostals are famous for saying things like are you ready to spend eternity in hell? Then you must be saved right now commit your heart to god. Maybe I am ignorant, but are there any other religions that really push so handily the idea of proselytizing everyone right off the bat, advocating folks to convert or accept the Xianinanity god, or else?

      • http://fugodeus.com Nox

        Because the apologetics book/video they are copying their arguments from promised them that the facts are on their side and these unbeatable arguments and would win them converts. Also many of these apologetic works include the claim that the author was an atheist who set out to prove christianity wrong but then came across evidence that convinced them it was right. Implicit in this is the claim that this evidence can be expected to work on atheists. If the arguments in these books are as good as the cover claims, then logically we must not have heard them before. Why else would there still be atheists?

        • Len

          … but then came across evidence that convinced them it was right.

          But, strangely, they never seem to include that actual evidence in their books or videos.

          • Jabster

            Ah yes, that all elusive evidence that never turns out to be what most people term evidence or indeed what the believer of religion X will accept as evidence for religion Y.

          • http://fugodeus.com Nox
        • Reginald Selkirk

          Why else would there still be atheists?

          Yes. And why are there still monkeys?

  • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

    I’ve gotten into a few heated discussions with theists in the last few days, and had the same old lame assertions tossed at me.
    1. I think I’m smarter than theists. — Nope, there are many theists smarter than I am. It’s just that they are wrong on the existence of a deity.
    2. I think theists are bad people. Nope, there are plenty of good people who do good things in the world who are theists, but they happen to be deluded on the God issue.
    3. I’m painting all theists will too broad of a brush. Well, to be a theist is to do the math wrong: faith>reason; fairy tales>data; etc…

    • http://filipinofreethinkers.org/ Twin-Skies

      //2. I think theists are bad people. Nope, there are plenty of good people who do good things in the world who are theists, but they happen to be deluded on the God issue.//

      I’ve had this thrown at me too by a Christian friend.

      My point to him was that while I thought he was a good man, my problem is that his being good was being diminished by him working with a religion that tolerated gay bigotry and misogyny – two issues I knew he thought were bullshit.

    • Raymond

      I have to say, I am an atheist and have been from the start as a kid, but wasn’t free to admit it. The Methodist Church was good to me,(my sister, half brother, and two cousins were also at the same institution, though at different times due to our age differences), in my childhood. I was for two years at a Pentecostal orphanage, they(even the Methodist orphanage was called a home) liked to call these places “homes” euphemisitically instead of using the word orphanage, same difference though. I was, in effect, rescued, along with my sister, by the Methodist Church from all of the indoctrination of the Pentecostals, and it took far longer than I had wanted it too, to get the hell out of Dodge from that stultifying, repressive, oppressive, and downright backwards thinking organization. Seems like we were always in church, or reading the Wholly Babble, having prayer meetings, chapel, having devotionals, which wasn’t such a problem, after all, I was just a compliant kid, mostly, as they were bigger and intimidated me more than I them. It was when I asked questions which they could not answer about religion(either because they didn’t know the answer or did not like this young upstart invading their religiious authority), that I learned there are some things you just cannot question and religion was one of them. But thanks to the Methodist Church I was removed from the Pentecostal orphanage to the Methodist one. As for religious indoctrination from them, we had to go to church every Sunday, go to Youth Fellowship Sunday night, but that was it, so we cursed like sailors, every kid there, I felt we had religious freedoms, as at the Pentecostal place we were in church each day and sometimes several times a day. And they were sadistic a**holes who thought nothing of popping you in the mouth without notice for any transgression(like laughing in church over the word “come” as masturbation was a topic and activity of the time), kinda like this video: “How to debate an atheist child, pop’m the in the mouth.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5fo1mbumYA&feature=player_embedded

      So, as you say, all theists are not bad, I really knew the staff at the Methodist XXXXXXX Children’s Home cared for us and wanted the best for each of every one of us 264 kids there. Twice each year the Methodist congregations in the Southern state I was from took up donations for us. And that was our subsistence, except for federal gov’t cheese, butter, and milk though we worked on their farm that milked 150 cows twice each day and we fed hogs, had a few ponies that on the weekends we gave the younger kids rides on at the farm. The farm is no longer there as some thought the kids were being used as a type of slave labor, not true, not true at all. I learned of my love for animals, milking the cows especially at that farm, and how to do meaningful work.
      Even though as a child a part of religion was bad, while the Methodist Church was a positive experience, I never bought the belief in a god thing. And my bias is that some people who are theists are good people, while some as in the Religious Right who wants to use their religion as politics, and make their religion paid for by taxpayers in their schools of Xian indoctrination using vouchers, or keeping the US motto In God We Trust, or insisting the USA is a Christion nation, and who want to remove IRS religious exemptions from political campaign endorsements, and who want to remove the separation of church and state guaranteed in the First Amendment, and even though there is codified in the US Constitution no religious test to hold public office, through sheer majority of numbers alone who call themselves Xian, who refuse to vote for an atheist for public office.
      There are some definitely evil Xians, I am just unable to include the ones in the Methodist Church who cared for me as a kid.

  • Devysciple

    John gets a pass on what would be considered trolling from anybody else, because, well, he’s John C.

    WIN!
    Oh, and my personal hobbyhorse:
    “Something cannot come from nothing!”
    For the umpteenth time: Yes it can and does so all the time.
    Is there any way to prohibit the use of arguments from ignorance? Those tend to be the ones that really bug me.

    • Lurker111

      Just the other day I saw a post from John C. and wondered if it was, in fact, a Poe. Then I see this text: “… nobody is 100% sure that he isn’t the most successful Poe in the entire history of the internet. He denies it. I’m not so sure.” At least now I know I’m not the only one wondering.

      The one argument that really gets under my skin is “If God did it, it was moral!” Ugh. List your own favorite set of biblical atrocities here: ___________________________

      • trj

        There are a lot to choose from, but IMO the story of Job is a prime example of God behaving immorally. Killing Job’s innocent family and servants, not because of something Job did, but to win a bet with Satan. Those are the actions of an immoral god.

        And then God “defends” himself to Job by claiming he has the right to do whatever he wants. Unable to morally justify his actions, he is reduced to bluster and threats. For all his grandstanding God comes off as being callous and pathetic, and, of course, immoral.

        • Revyloution

          The book of Job is the most beautiful piece of writing in the Bible. It lays out a perfect excuse for evil in the world. When the believer is challenged with the pain and suffering that exists in every corner of the world, and tries to reconcile that with a loving father god, they can turn to the book of Job. There, they may learn that their loving father might be capricious and cruel. In that cruelty, they see that the world is merely a forge for faith, and that no matter what suffering they endure, they will be rewarded for holding that faith.

          It’s an amazing chapter, because without it, Christianity would have died out centuries ago. I have to give kudos to the author, because they somehow made an evil tyrant into a loving god, and made sense of vicarious redemption.

          • trj

            Agreed, the book of Job is probably the most interesting as well as one of the best books in the Bible from a literary viewpoint: elegant prose, a good story with character building, an interesting conflict between god and man which is never resolved but instead left open to the reader.

            From a theological point of view I suspect it probably works better in Judaism, which tends to see humanity’s relationship with God as more of a mutual contract rather than the divine love relation Christianity teaches.

            There’s no doubt Job has brought comfort to many Christians who see the story as the perfect example of a test of faith. Of course, you need to disregard that your supposedly perfectly moral God is willing to kill off your innocent loved ones through no fault of their own but simply in order for him to make a point. Kind of a dick move, if you ask me.

          • Michael

            Aside from the very beginning and the very end (the frame story), I agree that Job is very interesting, but not really with your interpretation. It makes it abundantly clear that Job is treated unjustly and that not only do bad things happen to good people, but horrible, nonsensical events happen even to the best of them. But there is no resolution. When God speaks to Job from the whirlwind, he does not explain himself; in fact, he chastises Job for even seeking an explanation. God gives him nothing back (well, ignoring the frame story put on later, “new family” and all), and says, “I’m God, suck it up.” It’s history’s greatest “fuck you.”

            I doubt the author of Job actually believed might made right; I think he was trying to make a statement that if all events do indeed follow a plan, that plan is awful. At least I hope that’s what he meant.

      • Raymond

        Hmmm, I am so dumb, uh…..what does it mean to be a Poe? I don’t understand and internetslang.com was no help, as all it gave was pissed off as poed.

        • UrsaMinor

          A Poe is a parody that is mistaken for the real thing.

        • B-Lar

          That feeling you get where you are unsure whether someone is satirising some kind of stereotype or is a perfect incarnation of that stereotype… That is what being poed feels like.

  • vasaroti

    I’ve found this site to be very useful in identifying the kind of mistake the theist is making:
    Hundreds of Proofs of God’s Existence
    Formerly: Over Three Hundred Proofs of God’s Existence
    Originally adapted from a forum on the Internet Infidels.
    http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/GodProof.htm

    Theistic commenters should definitely work their way through this lot to see if the comment they wish to make has already been trounced.

    • Matt P

      I’m having a hard time getting my father to read AiG’s list of Arguments Christians Shouldn’t Use. Look, if even young earth creationists say its not evidence, shouldn’t you listen?

      • Matt P

        Actually I was looking for this page, which is arguments THEY don’t use. You’d think they could combine the pages?

        • vasaroti

          Thanks for the link. That’s a sad little list.

          • Raymond

            And what drives me bats**t crazy, is this blurb using credible words by folks who really make sound arguments, and valid ones as well. Maybe that is the kicker, these Creationists make sound arguments but invalid ones, as in if the premise is wrong the conclusions will be wrong. Their making sound arguments does not validate their claims,……ever! These guys are so infuriating and complete ignoramuses. Here’s the quote that makes me want to bang my head on the desk….hard:
            “…to represent Christ well when we defend His Word. This means using honest, intellectually sound arguments that are based in Scripture, logic, and scientific research. Because there are so many good arguments for a recent creation (which the Bible clearly teaches), we have no need to grasp at straws—arguments using questionable logic and tenuous or no evidence. Answers in Genesis is not willing to distort evidence or resort to bad logic to defend the Bible.”
            GRRRRR!!!! UNF**kingbelievable!!! They are exactly willing to distort evidence and resort to bad logic to defend the Babble. It is like a baby having the capability to say complex words, but knows absolutely nothing about what they mean, and cares very little about it anyway.

  • http://www.atheistnexus.org/profile/MattDittloff Mattmon

    So you say you want this to evolve in the style of a wiki. I’ve got the perfect wiki for you. Start a page over on Iron Chariots.
    http://wiki.ironchariots.org

  • http://www.loreleiarmstrong.com Lorelei

    A general knowledge of argument would be nice. If folks would avoid some of the better-known fallacies of argumentation: ad hominem attacks, straw man, slippery slope, etc., that would be a vast improvement. The cartoon about playing chess against someone playing checkers is very apt, but too often the checkers player is throwing the pieces and the board at us.

  • Noelle

    1. I’d watch your terminology of the word fundie. I may not be as smart a cookie as Nox (and who is?) but I’m not a complete idiot. I was raised a Christian and had never even heard the term until I stumbled onto a couple blogs over a year ago (I came for the humor, and stayed for the conversation). Not all theists are Christians. Not all Christians are fundies. You may be forgiven for including the term, as your more excitable Christians who would get all trolly on the blog have a good chance of being fundamentalists. But not everyone knows what that means (perhaps an index of frequently used terms and phrases would be useful?). Many thiests are capable of real conversation, but may be new to this particular atmosphere. For an outsider, y’all take some getting used to. It took a good month before my comments came through without a 30% deletion on contact rate. I saw something worthwhile in staying and stuck it out.

    2. May I also encourage utilization of the forum for blanket questions and statements? Attaching the lifetime tirade of everything you thought you knew about atheists onto a post about scientists discovering a molecule that travels faster than the speed of light is not going to get it the proper treatment.

    3. Necrothreading is sick and wrong. If it started in 2008 and already has 300+ posts, leave the poor thing alone. It’s going to preschool now and learning it’s alphabets.

    • Noelle

      Spell check would be nice too. Sorry for the typos.

    • Revyloution

      Custador recently learned how hostile it can be when commenting on a new forum. It’s quite impressive how quickly people can become a tribe, and defend that tribes culture. I’ve seen, and been part of it, here and at other places. It’s almost like an initiation ritual, how much abuse and misunderstandings can you take? How much bickering and censorship will you endure? If you pass the crucible, you are allowed to become part of the tribe, even if you’re John C.

      • Custador

        I did write the bulk of this post before that encounter :-)

        • Noelle

          I agree with Revy. That was a good lesson for you in virtual tribal warfare. :)

          • Custador

            My giant ego forbids me from commenting lest I imply historical fault on my own part ;-)

            • UrsaMinor

              No worries. We all know that you’re practically perfect in every way.

      • John C

        *Check/Like* (you really need to work on that ‘like’ button, Daniel. :)

  • julie42

    The “truth” one is especially annoying.
    I know what they mean. I know they’re not talking about provable facts. They’re talking about “deeper truths.” It’s the feeling you get after reading a good book or looking at a work of art that the author or artist understands the world and human nature, and through that, you gain a better understanding of the world too.
    The problem is, people have different philosophies about the world, and very few are provable. It was especially annoying when I was arguing with my sister about “deeper truths.” To her, the meaning of life is to love other people…to the extreme. She feels like she has to be loving to everyone she meets. It gets her into very bad relationships with people who need therapy more than they need a friend. But she insists that that is the ultimate truth for everyone.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    I think it might be worth distinguishing between the existence of a historical Jesus (not a miracle worker, not thought to have been divine) and the historicity of the full portrait of Jesus found in the various writings of the New Testament. The former is something that historians agree on irrespective of whether they have a religious background or not, and if so what that background is. The latter is something that only a conservative Christian apologist would accept, and no one who credulously claims that there is historical evidence for everything said about or attributed to Jesus in the NT deserves to be given the label “historian” since they are being uncritical.

    I know there are a small handful of atheists who’ve bought into the pseudohistorical viewpoint of a handful of bloggers and self-published authors arguing that Jesus most likely didn’t exist, but it does no credit to atheism or the claim to be a freethinker to accept such claims, which do as much justice to the actual available historical evidence as creationist do to the scientific evidence for evolution.

    • Revyloution

      Prior to the internet, I was among the people who thought the entire Jesus story was myth. Fortunately, I’m quite easily persuaded by evidence. The idea that a real person inspired the Jesus story makes much more sense than some conspiracy theory about creating a religion from whole cloth.

      • http://theotherweirdo.wordpress.com The Other Weirdo

        Why? Look at the claims coming out of North Korea regarding the circumstances of Kim Jung-Il’s death, especially those that say the sky turned red. If we’re not witnessing a religion being spun out of whole cloth, then I’ll eat another chocolate bar. And if I’m right, I’ll eat *five*.

        • http://theotherweirdo.wordpress.com The Other Weirdo

          Heh. That didn’t come out quite as expected. I think I was thinking of another post and responding to that. My bad.

    • Custador

      I did delineate between the two. Read again.

      We’re not discussing whether Jesus actually existed, though: We’re discussing whether there’s any evidence that Jesus existed. And there isn’t. So, much like God, Russel’s Teapot and the Invisible Pink Unicorn, I’ll believe he existed when somebody gives me a reason to think he did. I’m not making any claim either way – Not saying he did, not saying he didn’t – But I am saying that I don’t believe he did. I’ve seen a lot of expert opinions on the matter (exclusively from experts raised in a Judeo-Christian culture in which the existence of Jesus is treated as a given – Coincidence?), but I have never, ever, ever seen substantive EVIDENCE on the matter. And as anybody who posts here will tell you, I ask people to provide it. A lot.

      • Revyloution

        Is that a reply to me or James?

        For me, it was just using Occams razor. What’s more likely, a secret group decided to create a religion loosely based on the Torah, or that the ravings of a apocalyptic street preacher were told and retold until they were exaggerated into the stories we know today?

        We have so many examples of the later, that it just seems to be the best explanation for why we have Jesus stories in the first place. Or Paul Bunyan stories, or Johnny Appleseed stories, or stories about George Washington’s false teeth and lumberjacking abilities.

        • Custador

          I always thought it was possible that Jesus was a re-telling of the OT story of Joseph that got Chinese-Whispered up a bit. I agree, it’s an explanation that fits – But like I said, the post is about whether there’s evidence for Jesus, not whether he actually existed.

          • Kodie

            So what, if he existed, he was magical? No. I see that whole angle as a diversion. It’s like – SO YOU ACKNOWLEDGE THAT JESUS EXISTED…. No, there’s no evidence that he did, and besides that, there aren’t any magical martyrs anywhere, so what does a Christian gain from this argument anyway?

            • Custador

              I thought I’d addressed both points: There’s no evidence that he existed, and if he did he wasn’t magical.

            • Kodie

              I’m not the most observant reader.

        • Reginald Selkirk

          … We have so many examples of the later, that it just seems to be the best explanation for why we have Jesus stories in the first place. Or Paul Bunyan stories, or Johnny Appleseed stories, or stories about George Washington’s false teeth and lumberjacking abilities.

          What an awful mix. One of these is not like the others.

          1) Johnny Appleseed: actual historical existence. There is evidence, which has been much written about.
          2) George Washington stories: copious evidence of actual existence for George Washington.
          3) Paul Bunyan: Well now. Please show me the evidence for the existence of an actual historical lumberjack named Paul Bunyan.

          • Reginald Selkirk

            Is there any chance of having one of the historians on the staff (Vorjack?) take up Paul Bunyan as an example in a separate post?

            While it may be plausible to suggest that such stories built up around an actual person, this is most certainly not the same as having evidence for the existence of such a historical person.

    • abb3w

      My subjective impression…

      It’s mostly done by younger/newer Atheists, trying on the one hand to do a bit of “Overton Window” shifting, and on the other to provoke (annoy) Christians into critical thinking. It’s also one of the questions that ex-theists may remember as a particularly prominent landmark encounter in their own journey out of religiosity, and thus may tend to over-estimate how generally effective it is on Christians who encounter the idea.

    • Reginald Selkirk

      I think it might be worth distinguishing between the existence of a historical Jesus (not a miracle worker, not thought to have been divine) and…. The former is something that historians agree on irrespective of whether they have a religious background or not, and if so what that background is.

      1) Custador did distinguish. 2) Shame on those historians. The evidence is not at all impressive.

      … but it does no credit to atheism or the claim to be a freethinker to accept such claims, which do as much justice to the actual available historical evidence…

      What actual historical evidence? Show me the freaking evidence.

  • Paul

    My two cents in fallacy busting: The second law of thermodynamics disproves evolution.

    This argument relies on the high school, non-calculus, definition of entropy– that systems tend towards disorder (e.g. ice tends to melt from an ordered cube to a disordered puddle). Since organisms are highly structured and certainly not disordered, evolution must be in conflict with thermodynamics.

    This argument falls apart on two accounts. First of all, the definition applies to a closed system– a system that has no interactions with things not apart of it. The Earth is not a closed system due to the simple fact that we receive light from the sun. The sun is constantly donating new energy to the Earth, which gives us ways of keeping more “ordered” systems from increasing their entropy (e.g. If we put our ice cube into a freezer, then the freezer uses energy that it got from an electrical source to keep the ice cube cool enough to not melt into a disordered puddle).

    The second reason that this argument does not work simply because it is a bad definition. This definition only works in that same high school physics classroom that you learned it in. It is not well defined, and it is not used by physicists. The only merit this definition has is that it gives a quick and simple conceptual idea of entropy that can be built off of for understanding thermodynamics.

    A better definition would be one that talks about energy states– systems tend to a lower energy state. Consider two states: a ball some height above the Earth, and one on the ground. The ball that is in the air has potential energy, while we may say that ball on the ground has zero potential energy. Now, according to entropy, that ball in the air should move to a lower energy state, that it should give up its energy and fall to the lower energy state of resting on the ground. And that is what happens!

    The Earth’s gravity pulls the ball down to the ground. In fact, this interaction is why the Earth (to an ok approximation) is a sphere. Gravity tries to smooth out the high points on the surface of the Earth; it tries to get rid of the bits with a lot of potential energy and move them towards lower energy states. So while a sphere floating in space would appear highly “ordered” and seemingly in violation of the second law of thermodynamics, it isn’t. That spherical structure is the lowest energy state of the system.

    What does this have to do with evolution? Well, in evolution, the rules of the game are electromagnetic; all of those electric forces between molecules act in a similar manner to gravity. Molecules form by finding the lowest energy state– it would take more energy to keep the constituents apart. Coupled with the fact that we receive energy from the sun, biology can create complex molecules that by no means violates entropy. How that happens is another story, but simply stated, the second law of thermodynamics does NOT disprove evolution.

    • abb3w

      I’d add that Natural Selection can be mathematically derived as a result from the open-system form of the Second Law equation; see (doi:10.1098/rspa.2008.0178).

    • Revyloution

      It might just be the internet effect, but I’m seeing fewer people bringing up the 2nd law to disprove evolution. I think we might be close to seeing the end of that particular argument, which is nice.

      Another argument I see less and less is the ‘if we came from monkeys, then…’. It gives me hope that were actually making a dent in the ignorance that pervades our ball of mud.

      • Paul

        I was surprised to see the “If we came from monkeys then…” argument on the Matt P’s link to AiG’s page on arguments that should not be used.

        I haven’t been in among these debates for very long, but it is nice to hear that some of the arguments may actually be disappearing.

        • Matt P

          Unfortunately, they are not disappearing, which is why AiG feels the need to refute arguments from fellow Christians.

      • Nate Frein

        I was, unfortunately, aghast to hear my math teacher at ITT-Tech make a comment that evolution violates thermodynamics.

        He’s brilliant with numbers. I told him to stick with those.

  • abb3w

    I’d suggest there might be uses to listing what grounds you consider sufficient for disemvoweling posts, removing posts, or banning someone from posting.

    Oh, and getting in early on one of the “topics waiting to be addressed”, I’ll throw out that an isomorphism can be shown between deontological and utilitarian ethics. They’re as alike as a donut and a coffee mug.

    • Boomcoach

      While I don’t normally correct typos, and am not doing so here, I suppose, I did enjoy the word “disemvoweling”. I imagine a result something like:

      “f vltn s tr, wh r thr stll mnks?” (OK, not sure if the “y” in “monkeys” should have been removed or not.)

      • Noelle

        that is exactly what I thought when I read that. The svr mnkys are taking your vowels until you learn to behave!

        • Len

          They’re in y’r blog posts, stealing y’r vowels. Should be a cat in there somewhere.

      • abb3w

        It wasn’t a typo; removing all vowels from an offending post is exactly what’s involved. It’s used as a moderation tactic in some discussion forums where the admins are generally opposed to outright censorship or otherwise reluctant to delete posts entirely.

        • Noelle

          Huh.

          Do they ever take out all the consonants?

    • Elemenope

      Topologically similar but materially distinct?

      • UrsaMinor

        Topologically identical, actually.

        • Elemenope

          True. A torus is a torus is a torus.

  • http://theskippyreview.worpress.com Skippy

    Also, can the theists who show up on atheists’ blogs stop acting all butthurt when people soundly and roundly thump them in conversation? No, you are NOT being “persecuted” for your beliefs–especially when you repeat oft-critiqued canards and passive-aggressive nonsense. Stop invoking persecution as though you have no idea what persecution really is.

  • Bill

    This thread is a great idea.

    I would add a positive suggestion for theists coming here to talk. Answer questions. Don’t avoid them. Don’t hand waive. Don’t move the goal posts. If you really want to have a substantive discussion about theism and atheism, answer our questions. Prove to us that you are right.

    Also, if “it’s a matter of faith,” please tell us up front. That really ends the discussion on many levels, and it’s nice to know on the front end.

    • Kodie

      The existence of something is not subject to opinions.

      • Kodie

        I meant to add to your point, not oppose it in any way.

      • http://theotherweirdo.wordpress.com The Other Weirdo

        Actually, yes it is. SOMETHING may exist, or it may not. However, its existence or nonexistence doesn’t preclude our holding an opinion about it, especially if it’s not something immediately verifiable.

        • Len

          I think the point was that we may have an opinion about something – including whether or not that thing exists. But our opinion doesn’t change that existence or non-existence – ie, it exists or it doesn’t regardless of whatever opinions we may have about it.

        • Kodie

          Those kinds of opinions are kind of half-assed. I mean in the sense that “everyone’s entitled to their opinion,” well, no, they’re not. There are things about which one is entitled to an opinion, like, “the room looks too cluttered,” and a point of “too cluttered” upon which most people will even agree. But you might have an opinion that there is a red house on the corner. That might be a memory – it was recently painted blue, but there’s no red house on the corner. Maybe I don’t believe you, I’m thinking of a different corner. So show me the red house on the corner, and if you bring me to the corner and there’s no house at all? Maybe it’s a store and you choose to call it by a wrong name, a house. Maybe it’s an empty lot. Maybe it’s a red car. You are not entitled to your “opinion”; that’s not really an opinion that you say there’s a red house and I say there’s no red house. It’s either there or it’s not, and one of us will be forced to agree with that.

  • Theory_of_I

    Perhaps, as an early part of the intro to this advisory, there could be something of an admonition to the theist to “put your bible (q’ran, annotated guide to quote-mining etc.) back in it’s prominent place on your coffee table and leave it there. In this forum, the Bible (et al.) is generally considered an uninspired and overly long work of fiction. That, in the absence of any substantive evidence, it claims itself as it’s own authority is good and sufficient reason to reject most, if not all of it’s subsequent claims.

    “If you wish to engage the members here in any discourse about the existence of a god, be prepared to offer your evidence for your god without resorting to scriptural regurgitation and/or anecdotal testimonials.”

  • joe

    In most of the comments science and evidence were used to disprove the existence of God and Jesus. I learned a lot. I also noticed that whether they exist or not in fact. Jesus and God are a huge motivator for this group in your quest for scientific supremacy over religion and the eradication of ignorance. Nice work.

    • Devysciple

      [S]cience and evidence were used to disprove the existence of God and Jesus.

      I doubt that. Most atheists (including myself) see the existence of good as an unverifiable claim. Thus, it is impossible to disprove it (also known as agnostic atheism). Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
      The reason why a lot of scientific evidence is used is that many christians, when engaging in an argument with atheists, rely on “evidence” for the existence of god(s) that flat out contradict scientific results. As it often happens, apologists use various tactics to weasle themselves out of such a dead end, which happens to irate atheists when done repeatedly, predictably, and intentionally.

  • Jabster

    I think some of the terminology as to how people may react isn’t really correct. Does anyone really take offence if someone posts I’ll pray for you? For me, my more ‘abrasive’ posts (or enthusiastic dickishness) are not because I’m angry it’s just my own little way of saying someone’s an idiot who I have no respect for or wish to converse with.

    Politicians who pass bills that that don’t understand make me angry; politicians who pass bills in the name of anti-terrorism make me angry; politicians who think that the freedom of information act is good for the little people but shouldn’t apply to them make me angry; the BBC thinking that if an issue of child welfare is to be discussed two appropriate people to have on are a trained child welfare protection employee and somebody who writes second rate books but knows someone at the BBC – that makes me angry … [that's enough of what makes you angry - Ed]

    I really can’t think any poster who’s made me angry – disdain, contempt, live organ donor – all of these, but not anger.

  • drax

    Each and every one of them is absolutely convinced that being an atheist necessarily means leading an immoral, criminal life of debauchery and hedonism.

    Oh, if only it were true.

    • UrsaMinor

      You’re just jealous because you’re not one of those helmet-haired televangelists with hot and cold running mistresses and a boy toy or two on the side.

      • drax

        Am I that transparent?

  • John C

    Thanks Custy and UF (editors, readers, any and all). I greatly appreciate you and your gracious acceptance/inclusion of sorts and am honored to be counted amongst you in any capacity, makes for a welcome start to the New Year. You guys are exceptional, that’s for sure. And although I’ve greatly reduced my participation in the forum’s discussions of late, I’ll be in touch from time to time and, as always, will strive to reciprocate in kind.

    Happy New Year, all my best (ugh, I think its about time I came up with a new closing/sign off motto, eh? Ha, that one’s getting old by now, I’m sure).

    Poe? No. Love for UF? Yes, and how.

    Let there be…Light (that’s it! Ha. 2 Cor 4:6 :)

  • http://twitter.com/#!/AtheistJohnny Johnny

    August Berkshire‘s list of ’21 Unconvincing Arguments for God’ can also be a good resource to point to.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2007/09/24/21-unconvincing-arguments-for-god/

  • http://twitter.com/#!/AtheistJohnny Johnny

    Oh! He’s got it up to 34 now…

    ’34 Unconvincing Arguments for God’ – PDF version: http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/files/2007/11/34-Unconv.-Arg.-for-God.pdf

  • Devysciple

    After having given this whole enterprise a lot of thought, I think there are two main reasons why, in the end, it will be futile:
    1. I come from a religious background, and when I was about 13 or 14, I tried to do exactly what the apologists do: prove that there is one specific God (Christianity). Or any specific god (Theism). Being unsuccessful, I settled for any benevolent god (Deism). Since there was no evidence for that either, I pondered about any supernatural entity, incomprehensible to the human mind (Pandeism). I finally reached the conclusion that I could not know (Agnosticism), and a while later, that any “god hypothesis” was unlikely (Atheism). I know many of you have taken similar paths. Mine took me some 8 or 9 years to complete (well, technically I’m not finished, since I am still curious). I put a lot of time and effort and thought into it. But when an apologist approaches me and presumes that I know nothing about religion, that I’m either ignorant or even wilfully so, my blood reaches boiling point in no time. It is presumptuous and insulting.
    Apologists will not stop doing that.

    2. There has been already many attempts to compile lists of Do’s and Don’t's(?), some of which were already mentioned in this thread. Most of them are very good, albeit not necessarily complete. Here’s the problem: the apologists won’t read them. Even if they do, they won’t acknowledge a single argument. The reasons for this behaviour have also been discussed extensively throughout the Atheosphere. In my humble opinion, it is an enterprise that, while being noble, sensible, and entertaining, is ultimately just an exercise in futility.
    You can’t reason with apologists. If you could, there would not be any.

    • Stony

      This is similar to my path as well. Add on new in-laws that have just discovered Joel Osteen and are what I call “kindergarten xtians”. They are so excited to share everything they are experiencing and feel so so sorry for me when I respond with barely disguised disdain. They don’t realize that I “experienced” all that years ago, taught it, lead it, and eventually rejected 99% of it.

  • https://plus.google.com/106166434029666510237/posts Ben Grimm

    Maybe consider using page anchors for the different topics, so one can link to the entire page or to a specific ‘dogma’ on that page if that works better in the context of a ‘discussion’.

  • Michael Wylie

    Here’s and argument I hear all the time, and my response:

    Atheism is my favorite religion.

    Atheism is the absence of belief in the existence of gods – it implies no further belief system. Atheism has no dogma, no rites, no holy books, no places of worship and no clergy of any description. It offers no moral guidance, no political opinions and no world view.

    Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values.[1] Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the universe. They tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion

    Atheism is a religion in exactly the same way as not collecting stamps is a hobby.

  • http://clintonskakun.com Clinton Skakun

    I think every theist should read this and learn from it. From the amount of times these same arguments are thrown around, it’s obvious not too many religious people care to actually understand what atheism actually is. It’s like they’re afraid that just merely reading something other than the bible will deceive them. As a result all they have in their artillery are arguments from the 1940′s. I think my new 2012 new years resolution is end discussions with theist as soon as a comment like, “you can’t disprove god” or “well my god’s more powerful than your evolution god.”

    Yeah – if you haven’t taken the time to sit down and read a few books, let’s not waste each other’s time by (for the 50,000th time) going through with old worn out arguments from 1923. Please!

    Great post BTW

    Clinton

  • John Woodward

    One bone of contention: a scientific theory such as Evolution cannot really be proven ‘wrong’ according to Kuhn’s notion of the ‘paradigm shift’. Other than that, seems like a lovely site I look forward to exploring.

    • Elemenope

      Which is why Lakatos’ refinement of Kuhn’s notion of paradigm shifts into ‘research programmes’ was so important, because it gave an account of how science progresses through Popperian falsification under normal circumstances and only loses the ability to falsify hypotheses during the actual crisis precipitating the paradigm shift.

      Besides, Ockham’s razor ensures that the average scientist’s tolerance for ad hoc helper hypotheses is a great deal less than the theoretically infinite tolerance postulated by Kuhn. Short of that, it is clear that scientists effectively use intuitionistic heuristics to know when to bail on a poorly explanatory model instead of altering it.

      • Custador

        …. What ‘Nope said.

  • Custador

    I’m deeply impressed by your addition on morality, ‘Nope. I’ve got some time off next week, so I think I’ll get working on a section or two myself, too.

  • Norm

    Like Noelle,i am interested in the conversation.I understand there are atheists who are more academic and intelligent than I but so what we are people having a conversation,thats all.I dont pretend to know God absolutely and dont feel persecuted if you dont believe what i do.If there is a post that is juvenile,derogatory or in bad taste,[and there are plenty] i will respond using the same tone.I used to comment on the friendly atheist site but was blocked for reasons i dont know,to me if these sites are only for atheists to whine and complain and dont like anyone to disagree then what is the point.Now when i follow the comments on that site ,thats all there is,its boreing.Anyway, i like people,and they dont have to agree with me to like them so no im not trying to be contentious ,i just like to discuss things with real people.Oh,one final thing, it really must annoy you to quote Antony Flews strawman analogy now hes aChristian,have you read his book,There is a God”.

    • Elemenope

      Welcome to the site. It’s always good to have new perspectives in the conversation. Juts make sure you stick to our No Evangelizing rule and you should be fine.

    • Nox

      Wouldn’t that be Anthony Flew’s scotsman analogy?

      Also Flew is not now a christian. He’s now dead. And before he died he converted to soft deism, not christianity. No one here bases their disbelief on the disbelief of Anthony Flew. But if we had said no true scotsman would ever convert to deism, Flew’s conversion would have been quite annoying.

    • Rosemary Lyndall Wemm

      Anthony Flew remained actively anti-Christian until his death. He “converted’ to a form of Deism (not Theism) at the commencement of this decline into senility. He did so on the basis of his misinterpretation of scientific evidence that he was not qualified to assess. In other words, he converted to a belief that something with no interest in humans created the universe and then had no further input in its development. He did so as the result of a fallacious “argument from ignorance”. Arguing that Flew converted to Christianity is also an “argument from ignorance” – as well as an “argument from wishful thinking.”

  • Kristina D

    If they were true Christians anyways, they’d just be accepting of you no matter what you believe. I mean, isn’t the whole point to ‘live in the image of Jesus’?

    It reminds me of this video I recently came across– it’s a cute little song about how Jesus and his followers actually Occupy Jerusalem.

    Anyways, here it is: http://youtu.be/a6akkb_afqs

    Which, it has a point.

  • Rosemary Lyndall Wemm

    I dispute the truth of the statement that Anthony Flew accepted a form of Christianity in his senile years. Everything I have read on the subject implies that Flew became a DEIST, not a theist, as the result of a misunderstanding about certain scientific material which he did not have the academic background to competently assess – and actually admitted that fact when challenged by those who did understand the material. That he became senile is reasonably supported. That he continued to believe in Deism, even after admitting that he had got to that position as the result of scientific ignorance, is reasonably supported. It would be reasonable to assume that his declining cognitive abilities has a great deal to to do with this.
    The bottom line: Flew never returned to Christian belief in his old age, but continued to be “anti-Christian” until his death.

  • Jean

    I appreciate civil discourse, which I do not always get when I speak with fundamentalist Christians. What I dislike most is their telling me that I am not a Christian since my church is far more liberal than theirs. What I dislike equally is being told that I am deluded/a fool/stupid for believing that yes, there is a deity behind all we see. I expect that in this I am similar to atheists who (like me) must also dislike being told they are going to hell/are ignorant/are wrong because they do not share a fundamentalist Christian belief. I have no problem with people rejecting my church or my religion or me, but I fail to see why a certain stripe of atheist feels compelled to insult *all believers b/c some churches/believers behave in ways we reject as good (atheists) or Godly (me). It seems to me that rational thinking would make the error of such generalizations quite clear as well as the offensive nature of insulting terms used to describe people of faith – particularly when they are speaking to the world at large or to Christians who, like me, have no desire or compulsion to ‘save’ or ‘convert’ or ‘correct’ atheists.

    I was taught evolution in a Catholic school. I continue to believe that belief in evolution does not compromise my Christian faith, but then I was taught that the Bible is a collection of writings in which ancient authors tried to share what they understood about God and the world, given the information they had available to them. Ultimately, I think what we believe matters far less than what we do in terms of caring for others and helping them, being people of compassion and acceptance of our and others’ failings. To me, good ethics and good Christianity are indistinguishable: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven,” (Matthew 7:21-23) which, according to Jesus, is to love each other, heal the sick, help the needy, etc. etc.

    I’m not really interested in discussion, but did want to point out that not all Christians are gleefully rubbing their hands at the thought of atheists roasting in the fiery pit. Some of us don’t even believe in that pit. Guess that makes me a bad Christian! ;)

  • Jean

    Note that when I change ‘a certain stripe of atheist’ to ‘a certain stripe of Christian’ when I find myself in a discussion wherein Christians insult and condemn everyone who is not one with them in their belief system.

  • ORoutdoors

    The argument I most frequently hear is in regards to the social benefits of religion. It goes as follows, “If everyone believed in Jesus the world would be perfect, and as less people believe we become more terrible. Therefore Christianity must be true because it leads us to morality.” My response, do you believe that Christians in the real world act ‘more moral” then other people? I have yet to hear anybody say no, and they are all pretty nervous with the direction of the conversation. Next statement goes as, if you make the assumption that religion is a construct of human social behavior, then all of the moral behavior that Christianity has created in this world is thereby a social construct. For me, this seems like an obvious statement to make, but I’m amazed at how many fundamental Christians don’t seem to even consider that there are explanations of how religion is created through incentive, (power, control, social cohesion etc) and that these organizations can affect individuals behaviors according to their guidelines. Maybe it’s because of the whole divine intervention rhetoric that this line of thought is passed over. Johny gave up drugs and became a true christian, or maybe Johny found a group of supportive individuals who helped him make better decisions and move away from that lifestyle. It seems like there is a desperation to believe that it must have been the hand of god, any good must be god, while bad must be satin. Basically, the point I’m trying to make here is that it seems like many fundamentals argue in terms of faith, but faith really seems to be represented by an emotional conditioning to a topic and not necessarily showing any sort of cause and effect or evidence. To simplify the analogy above, Christianity is truth, god exists because the tenants and moral guides lead people to morality in the social environment. My response, well… social morality or righteousness sound like good things, but what evidence does this offer to say that the world was created supernaturally. Or that god exists, or another million supernatural claims. Social dependence does not provide proof for supernatural claims.

    • Custador

      That’s a good one. I’ll add it to the post at some point in the next couple of weeks.


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