Bad, Billy!

The other day I posted a facebook status.

If god wanted a personal relationship with me, there would be no need for long-ass books detailing how I can know this. It would be obvious. Books on how to find your personal relationship with god would be as plentiful as books on how to find your ass with both hands.

Simple, concise, and sensible.  If god wants a relationship with me, he’d have it.  There are many obvious facts such as the fact that the Earth is round or that exercise will get you into better shape.  If god wants a personal relationship with me, then these facts are so infinitesimally unimportant by comparison.  It makes no sense that god would make them infinitely more obvious.

But a commenter, Billy, didn’t see it that way.

I have read most things due with big bang, evolution, and its still no more proven then the Bible is. However if I am going to have to put my faith in something its going to be what some guy who cannot actually prove his theory says.

Forgetting for a moment that these two sentences are an abortion of the English language, I must point out that this type of thing happens all the time.  I say something about religion that has absolutely zero to do with evolution, and the believer fires back with all sorts of errors about science.  Is this how they treat other conversations?

I’m an artist.

And evolution is no more proven than the bible?  A concept we use to produce medicine, increase the global food supply, and which is supported by multiple lines of evidence from genetics to synteny to transitional fossils is less proven than a book written thousands of years ago telling us that a Canaanite Jew rose from the dead and walked on water, things that are impossible by definition (that’s why we call them miracles)?  Ordinarily you’d need a syringe of epic proportions to inject that much wrong into anything.

Seriously, this guy is sitting at a computer, probably charging his cell phone, in a building constructed with the aid of machines, and is trying to convince people that science is just as flimsy as stories about global floods and people living in the belly of a giant fish.  There are several words that are applicable here, none of which are either flattering or sufficient to express the level of foolishness in that argument, or to express my dejection that Billy couldn’t have taken the five minutes necessary to familiarize himself with the subject he was about to comment on.  Instead, it’s easier just to say you’ve read up on science or that you’ve put some effort into forming your opinions.

Are we to treat people like Billy as though they are trying to formulate accurate beliefs and that they are genuinely attempting to understand science and just failing?  Why should we?  People like this are not trying.

But Billy wasn’t done…

Besides that most things in science have been disproved its just a matter of time before they disprove what ever is wrote by some other idiot trying to get a Nobel prize. That is how its been throughout history.

Really?  First, how pretentious do you have to be to call Nobel prize candidates idiots?

Second, look around you, Billy.  What do you see?  Airplanes?  Electricity?  Indoor plumbing?  Clean water?  Abundant food?  Cell phones?  Why don’t you hop on your computer, which couldn’t function if not for our understanding of electromagnetism, and type a message to me about how most things in science have been disproved.  You can use that same computer to access pictures of the cosmos, invisible to the naked eye.  We took them with satellites that we put into orbit using our understanding of gravity (just a theory) and relativity.

Now, it’s true that science adjusts itself.  But this is a good thing.  As new evidence arises, we change our stance to give the evidence supreme authority.  If we did not alter our beliefs as new evidence is uncovered we’d still believe in Santa Claus, and citing that sometimes we get things wrong would not be a sufficient defense to rescue you from looking like an abject loon for that belief.

Here, I made some more art to show you what I mean.

What you reprovingly call ‘disproved’ is the process by which science becomes increasingly more reliable while religion stagnates with the same ideas.

So putting my faith in what man says seems kind of silly because its just a matter of time before somoene else comes along and disproves it all again.

But you do put your faith in the knowledge of man.  Every time you bite into a cheeseburger you’re putting your faith in our understanding of germ theory.  Every time you take a pain reliever, you’re putting your faith in our knowledge of medicine.  You do this in every part of your life except when it comes to the claims of ancient tribes.

Even those claims are the knowledge of man.  Men wrote the bible, so you are undeniably trusting what men say.  You are deferring to their wisdom on the matter of Jesus.  Sadly, you’re taking the scientifically illiterate stories of human beings from a time when magic was thought to be a viable explanation for many different phenomena over the facts humankind has unmasked over the last couple of thousand years that have transformed this world into a paradise by comparison.  You have absolutely, without question, backed the wrong horse here.

And what does this mean that science alters its stance to conform to the evidence?  Because we replace old explanations supported by evidence with better explanations supported by more evidence…then somehow all beliefs are equally likely to be true?  Not remotely.  People don’t rise from the dead, even if we’ve refined our understanding of medicine.

However, you can prove through history most everything in the Bible has been historically proven.

This is flat out horseshit.  But even if it wasn’t, so what?  If you took a history book, which would be compliant with all the historical facts/conclusions available to us, and on the last page wrote “…and Elvis rose from the dead”, what would that mean?  That Elvis rose from the dead?  Of course not.

Right now there are several new religions springing up across the world which neither of us think are true.  Some of them will author holy books that will be historically accurate – not because their stories of the supernatural are true, but because they were written at a point in history.

The bible is a mish-mash of erroneous historical claims.  Even if it weren’t though, that would not mean somebody rose from the dead.

I still think its funny that you all can read something written by people you don’t know and have complete faith in it. Yet, you can completely disregard the Bible, yet most of you refuse to read and try to understand. It just goes to show that if you have no faith you will fall for anything.

First, there is an ocean full of irony that pours from this spring.  You believe a guy rose from the dead and walked on water, but you accuse us of falling for anything because we defer to the conclusions of the scientific experts.  Conclusions, as I’ve already pointed out, that you already accept when it doesn’t conflict with the beliefs to which you are emotionally attached.

Second, we do not live long enough to become experts in every field.  For fields in which we are not experts, it makes sense to trust the people who went to college for 12+ years and who have contributed to the advancement of the discipline.  To do otherwise would be incredible arrogance.  So yes, I don’t know virtually any physicist who publishes in peer review, but I see the effects of their work all around me (I gave you several examples earlier) and defer to them every time I step onto an airplane.  I also have access to peer-reviewed literature so I can properly ascertain what the conclusions of the experts are.

As I’ve written before

For those of us like myself who are not experts in a field, the best we can do in forming a coherent worldview is to defer to the opinions of the experts.  It is no more my responsibility to argue with biologists about biology than it is to argue theoretical mathematics with mathematicians, and anybody who is a non-expert who does think that’s their place should be given a two hour-long paper cut in a bath of lemon juice  for having too high of an opinion of themselves.

Third, polling indicates that atheists and agnostics tend to know more about the various religions than the adherents of those religions themselves.  We’ve read the book.

But how many of you have read the book? According to Bill Keller Ministries, a Christian group, statistical research shows that less than 10% of Christians have read the bible. Ironically, a survey conducted by Knowledge Network at the behest of Christianity Today found that 74% of professing Christians believe the bible to be the authoritative guide to faith.  If only there were a commandment forbidding people from pretending to know things they didn’t…not that most Christians would have read it.

Perhaps this biblical illiteracy is understandable. The bible is a hulking read at about 1,200 pages long after all. However, I can’t help but wonder how many Christians have read at least two Harry Potter books.  The fact that one is more appealing should say something about god’s abilities as a communicator.  I also wonder just how it is you determine that the witches in Harry Potter are obviously fiction, while the witches in Leviticus were real.

The reason we disregard the bible is because, unlike science, it makes ludicrous claims that it does not support with any evidence.  In fact, as I’ve already pointed out with cases such as rising from the dead or walking on water, it makes claims that directly contradict what we do know.  We should disregard things like that.  It’s embarrassing when we don’t.

Okay look at that, most of the world believes in some type of religion, are you saying that most of the world is wrong and you are right?

Most of the world once believed the Earth was flat.  I assure you, it was still round.

But let’s turn this around, Billy.  Most of the people on this planet believe that the bible is a myth and that Christians are wrong.  Are you saying most of the world is wrong and you are right?

What the atheist is saying is that those believing in god have yet to produce a single piece of good reasoning or reliable evidence to support that claim.  Consider all of your offerings so far.  There is not so much as a minor attempt to explain/defend why you believe in god buried beneath your attempts to create a false equivalence.  You have only said (wrongly) that science is unreliable (while conveniently using the products of science to submit that idea to the rest of us).

Hopefully you have not made a virtue of being unreasonable and accept that people should be ashamed of holding irrational beliefs.  If you do not accept that, there’s not much I can do for you.

God is all around us if one will just open their eyes. But to each their own, luckily my salvation doesn’t depend on whether you people believe or not. So for that I’m glad :)

I have looked for reasons to believe in god and have found only excuses for why these reasons don’t exist.  As Richard Carrier puts it:

There was once a time when nothing was explained.  Since that time, everything we have explained has been explained through science.

When humanity has explained something, we have not found god.  We have instead found mindless forces acting upon inanimate objects.  You can say that not finding god is a personal failing until your ass falls off, but that’s just a cop out.  You could have used some of your time typing to try and provide a reason for why we non-believers should believe, but you haven’t felt moved to do so.  Seems like all the believers providing nothing but lousy reasons (or, in your case, failing to provide any reason at all) should share at least some of the culpability for our godlessness.

And then you sneer at the rest of us, posturing as if upon a throne of manure, that you are saved.  The implication of this is that we’re going to burn in hell for all eternity, a concept upon which you seem impervious to sympathy.  In fact, you’re even worse.  You put a smiley on the end of the sentence, indicating your delight at the idea.  So not only have you propped yourself up as exhibit A in the case that religion keeps people from understanding science and from treating their world view as though its accuracy matters, you have now also shown us, quite plainly, that religion doesn’t make people better.  In fact, in your case, it has likely made you more arrogant and caused you to smile at the potential suffering of those who disagree with you.


Okay and for the record you show me with your own work exactly real evidence like a video recording of the big bang, and i’ll gladly look at it.

Yes, because you have a video of god making the universe.

And why do we need a video?  Must someone have been there for us to conclude what happened via the evidence at hand?

By your logic, this would be a reasonable conversation:

“Hello police? Somebody robbed my house! The door is kicked in, all of my stuff is missing, and there are tire tracks in the front yard!”

“You say your house was robbed, were you actually there to see it?”

“Well no, but…”

“I’m sorry, in that case I have to regard your explanation for what happened to your things as a theory on equal-footing with the possibility that trouble-making pixies made off with your possessions.”

“What? Pixies? But there’s no evidence to support that idea! That doesn’t explain the tire tracks or the busted door…”

“Were you there?”


“Then I’m sorry, we just don’t have enough to go on to know your house was robbed.”

So Billy, what if we have a mountain of evidence based on the same techniques that allow us to make computers or fly airplanes?  Would that be good enough for you?

And you do realize that for every website that tries to pick apart the Bible, there’s another website picking apart all of these other science theories. But way to go on have your bookmarks readly available :)

That’s the thing, Billy: any goober can make a web site.  A seven year-old could make an apologetics web site.  Not any goober can get their work published in scientific peer review.  That you are going to creationist web sites, often written by people with no scientific credentials, rather than to science books/peer review suggests that you’re not really out to understand science.

Consider how ludicrous this looks on your part.  The Poincaré conjecture is a century-old math problem. It is one of seven Millennium Prize Problems for which one of the world’s most prestigious mathematics organizations has offered a $1,000,000 prize to anybody who can solve one of them. It is also the only one that has ever been solved. It was solved in 2006 by a Russian mathematician named Grigori Perelman. The journal Science called it the scientific breakthrough of the year. This was the first time the honor had been bestowed in the area of mathematics. So complicated was the problem that it took a team of world-class mathematicians four years to confirm Grigori’s proof as correct.

Now, when Perelman came up with his answer, do you think he wrote a book attempting to convince plumbers, secretaries, restaurant managers, and all other manner of laymen that he was correct? Do you think he launched a political campaign to try and get his work into the public school curriculum? Or do you think he did the responsible thing and went first to professional mathematicians to make sure that his work was sound, laying it before the judgment of people who have spent their lives studying mathematics?

It should worry you that groups like the Discovery Institute and those who write web sites claiming to have the wherewithal to overturn entire scientific disciplines are more concerned with the minds of the non-scientists. It’s how they get away with getting you to repeat a positively idiotic line like, “Evolution is just a theory” or that the second law of thermodynamics invalidates evolution or confirms god’s existence. It’s not that science is an anti-god coup. The fact of the matter is that scientists would catch them lying, but maybe not you. The authors of the anti-science sites to which you grant credence rather than the consensus of the experts are counting on you not doing your homework. Not only are they depending on you to swallow the misinformation, they’re hoping you will help them to spread it further. Sadly, you have not disappointed them. In short, they’ve played you like a cheap fiddle. In the future I hope you will remember who they are and how they operate.

Here’s the plain truth here: Billy is not uncommon.  Go to a church sometime and talk to the people in the pews.  This is what we’re up against.  Perhaps religion has not turned people into this, but if not then it certainly keeps them this way.  This is why we must unmake faith and religion – it keeps people ignorant.  It keeps our society ignorant.

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About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.