CL emails

I’ve had requests for the emails between myself and cl that were the beginnings of my first attempt at a blogalog.  Here’s the story.

After the pleasantries, it started with cl.  His emails will be in green, mine in blue.

SOunds good, I’ll keep in touch. What’s your schedule like? Any real limitations?

Anything you’re absolutely off-limts to as far as debate topics go?

Lastly, I think we need to define some key concepts like “evidence” and “warrant” etc. before we get going… your thoughts?


I had said in my post that I’m looking for a discussion on the existence of god. As long as that’s the subject, no, go any direction you wish.

I think the only term that really needs to be defined here is “god”. The audience, I suspect, will be a good enough means of accountability if people get dodgy with the two you suggested.

Okay… good to know… I’d say I’m firm on the definitions thing, though. Since you’ll be arguing the position “there’s no evidence for God,” you need to define just what you mean by evidence. I want to start this exchange with clearly cemented goalposts. Otherwise we’re both just moving targets.

I’ll be arguing that there’s no good evidence for god. Important distinction on the *good*. There’s plenty of bad evidence for god.

Do you really need me to define evidence?

Yes, not only do I want you to define good evidence, I want you to provide examples. Context is key. “Reproduced in a laboratory” simply does not apply here. Most importantly, since we’re arguing two metaphysical positions here, you have to step outside your comfort box of logical positivism. Meaning, history comes into play, logical arguments come into play, etc.

This is like painting a house: the more time we spend prepping, the better the end result.

*sigh* says…

that which tends to prove or disprove something; ground for belief; proof.
something that makes plain or clear; an indication or sign: His flushed look was visible evidence of his fever.

Bad evidence example: tacos are tasty therefore grass is green.

Good evidence example (For the claim “I own a baseball”, since I know of no good evidence for god): pictures of the baseball, history of people owning baseballs, videotape of baseballs, etc.

If this gets too absurd, I’m dropping out of not wanting to waste my time. I suspect our own standards of not wanting to be gullible as well as the audience’s similar standards will suffice for what constitutes good/bad evidence, since I suspect you and I will not see eye to eye on that (but you never know).

Your criteria aren’t absurd, they’re just incredibly naive and subjective. Remember what you said about Bible prophecies not being specific enough? That’s what I’m trying to avoid here: wishy-washiness on *YOUR* part. The whole, “Oh, I know good evidence when I see it” crap that atheists love to pull. I’m going to define exactly what I mean by “God” and that’s what I’m going to argue for. Similarly, I want you to plant firm goalposts here and now so I know exactly where I have to kick the football. What I DON’T want is a debate where “good evidence” REALLY means “evidence that makes JT Eberhard give a public concession thus overturning his entire career as an atheist apologist.” We both know that’s not going to happen, right?

Really, we should have this discussion in the threads on either of our blogs. Why email, then copy and paste? It’s extra work, think about it. It’s not like you believe you have an eternity of time to waste…

Lastly, I’m beginning to sense a lack of patience here… if you really don’t want to take the time to cement some goalposts, fine, I’ll still oblige, but realize that’s exactly what you fault the Bible for and you’re coming off looking like a golden example of that which you criticize. The choice is yours.



It was at this point Adam Lee and another prominent atheist blogger got a hold of me and warned me that cl was a waste of time.

I recently received an email from Adam Lee over at Daylight Atheism.

OK, so here’s the deal with cl: What he loves, more than anything
else, is to hear himself talk. He was a regular on my blog for a
while, back in 2009, but I ultimately banned him for persistent and
incurable trolling.

In the beginning, he seems like a civil and somewhat reasonable
fellow, but if his past patterns hold up, he’ll soon begin hogging
comment threads. He loves to write filibuster-length comments that
rarely, if ever, say anything substantive, and he posts them with such
frequency that other commenters will get exasperated and start
dropping out of threads that he shows up in. He also loves to nitpick,
to quibble about definitions, and to constantly complain he’s being
misinterpreted without ever saying what his position actually is.
Judging by your comments on Twitter, I imagine he’s already making
some of these characteristics clear. What finally drove me to ban him
was when he started bragging about how he loves being the center of
attention, as well as posting petulant demands for me to pay attention
to him when I stopped writing personal responses to what he was

Adam also pointed me to the post where he banned cl.

The other blogger said the same thing of him.  Already these patterns were becoming clear and so, rather than commit myself to a huge waste of time with someone who was, in my eyes, setting himself up to redefine evidence as an intro to a discussion, I decided to abandon the project.  In doing so I said…

Cl will undoubtedly conclude that this is because I fear his overpowering intellect.  I’d ask him to consider the situation.  He’s been banned from other atheist blogs, blogs written by people who, like me, allow religious commenters and who have a history of conceding good points when they’re made.  What are the odds that cl is just so much better than all the rest that we fear him versus the odds that he’s getting repeatedly banned because he’s annoying as all hell?

We shall find that I’m like a prophet.  My next email to cl was…

I’m dropping this blogalog with you. Explanation here:

I think you should have a vote, personally, but if you want to go the fascist authoritarian route, so be it. It’s your world, JT.

Either way, I’ll have my say. I’ve been systematically dismantling your writings for 48 hours now.

Maybe you could at least do this: will you at least post links to my pieces when I write them? There were people on your blog who were interested…. I’m sure you’ll hear from some of them in the thread.

take care,


Because I was on shitty airport internet sending my previous email I accidentally sent it twice, which prompted this email from cl.

Hey look… you don’t need to email me twice. I get it. You’re over it. Drop it already and quit emailing me. Also, relax a little. I’m not going to waste any more time commenting on your blog. All you had to do was say “stop” and I would have saved it all for a debate. You, Greta, Adam and the rest of the “freethinkers” on your site are acting like high school cheerleaders.

You’re not the first atheist to chicken out, and you won’t be the last. If you can, just let me know if I’m allowed to post a link to my critiques of your so-called “arguments.”

Best of luck to you.


No. You get no links and no further attention. You’re a troll.

Hey am I banned or not? Last I asked, you said I wasn’t even allowed to post a link to my critiques of your “arguments,” and you withheld the only comment I tried to post on the “Ban Hammer” thread. Did you change your mind? Can you give a straight answer please??


No links to your blog. I’m not giving you any more attention.

You are presently not banned. If you keep with the same behavior you’ve exhibited so far (de-railing threads with endless tedium, trolling), you will be banned. This will be entirely at my discretion.

Okay… so did you cool off enough to pick the debate back up? I’m ready. I’d rather do that than comment on your blog anyways. This isn’t about attention. This is about truth.

And if I’m not banned, can you release the only comment I tried posting?

The comment he refers to bore a link back to his blog and several others, which is why it was caught up in the spam filter (if a comment contains an excessive number of links it gets sent to me for moderation since those comments are often spam). And since I’m not in the habit of linking to trolls, I didn’t release his comment.

It’s not a matter of cooling off It’s a matter of not wasting my time.

How would it be a waste of time to confront both my positive arguments for the God of the Bible, and my critiques of arguments you’ve already made? C’mon, you offered… let’s do this.

And after that I just ignored him.

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.

  • Tony Ryan – Coffee Loving Skeptic

    You, sir, have far more patience than I!

    I’ve had experiences of trolls, and I’m ashamed to say I have been far ruder than I needed to. In hindsight, I wish I’d been more polite, but it’s difficult when pushed to the brink of frustration.

    Kudos to you.

  • Matt Meeks

    Good choice. The fact that he wants to define evidence indicates that he knows he has either no evidence, or “evidence” that’s already been discredited by others, but wants to paint you into a corner for having to accept it as “good evidence” before you’ve even seen it. Attention whores are a waste of time.

    • Alifib

      I think defining a criteria for evidence is really important for a debate. Especially since different fields have different criteria and their are a lot of different philosophical positions when it comes to questions of epistemology.

      • Alifib

        I should point out that I agree that it was a good move to ignore CL. He’s completely ruined Common Sense Atheism, which was honestly the best Atheism blog on the net (or at least the best I ever saw)

        • Sandro

          What’s that saying? Opinions are like assholes because everyone has one? Yeah, I agree defining “good evidence” is a wise move, JT shouldn’t have got so upset about that. As for CSA, I was a regular reader there and there were many atheists who endorsed CL’s commentary there.

          It’s like anything. People see what they want.

  • ACN

    Better stock up on torches and wands of melf’s acid arrow, looks like you have a grade A, bridge dwelling, billy-goat eating, green, regenerating, troll on your hands.

  • Zinc Avenger

    Well, you see, it depends on what you mean by the word “is”. In fact, we have not yet agreed that linguistic constructs can convey concepts at all! Furthermore, you haven’t yet demonstrated the existence of a “concept”. And by “concept”, I don’t mean a unit of meaningful information that describes a single idea or framework of ideas, it’s more relative than that. And even if you do define a concept to my satisfaction (highly unlikely), I await with bated breath your proof of so-called “language”. I think we both know you’re not taking me seriously.

  • adamfuehrer

    Don’t feed the trolls and deny recognition. We can all move along now.

  • eric

    I can understand he’d want “evidence” defined if he were to present something and JT were to simply say, “That’s not good evidence.” without following up with why. But that’s not the case as we can see when JT followed up with the guy in the other blogalogalylogblog when he explains in detail why the guy’s feeling about a loving god isn’t good evidence.

  • John-Henry Beck

    Seems to me some of the problem is that it’s not very feasible to define evidence for something without a definition to start with.
    Once you have an idea of what a baseball is you can articulate convincing evidence of it. But when you still think it’s an imaginary idea with only vaguely assumed properties, it’s pretty hard to define the evidence.

    So while the idea about setting the goalposts ahead of time sounds reasonable at first, it quickly disappears in to tediousness when it looks like you’d have to delve in to the philosophy of epistemology first. Not to mention calling the definition of evidence “incredibly naive and subjective” looks like quite a big red flag.

    • Besomyka

      That’s the problem I’ve run into discussing these things with people. It always comes down to epistemology disagreements. For them revealed truth and a gut feeling IS a way of gaining knowledge. People like me disagree and view knowledge as something that represents a shared reality. Knowledge can be shared and discovered independently and be consistent between people. Naturalism, mainly.

  •!/scthinks scthinks

    I’m a little surprised you let him get away with trying to shift the burden of proof onto you. While I do agree that “there’s no good evidence for god” is a defensible position, it can only be argued as a response to bad attempts to “prove” a god. Proactively listing and debunking each supposed proof that theists have put forward would be so arduous that it’d be ridiculous for someone to expect you to to start a discussion this way.

  • brianpansky

    all cl had to do was:

    1)provide something that counted as evidence to him

    2)show that this is a valid ‘type’ or definition of evidence by: showing that is is a type that is actually employed for other reasonable conclusions.

    simple much?

  • Robert B.

    If P(B|A) > P(B|~A), A is evidence for B. The goodness of the evidence is P(B|A)/P(B|~A).

    Just in case the issue ever comes up again.

    (By the way, in case that looks easy to anyone, to convert an atheist you’re probably looking for P(B|A)/P(B|~A) > 10^6 at least. If this seems unfair, you should pick less ridiculous things to try to convince people of.)

    • Drakk

      Is that “B, given A” and “B, given NOT A”? It’s been ages since I did statistics…

  • Art

    Good call.

    Religion is the accepted default for most people. It cannot be defended logically. So instead of debate, where something is settled, more or less finally, religionists will seek to make it sound like they are debating by talking about debating. Part of this is endless argument over rules and, when they can’t get their way, endless arguments over fairness. It is a delaying tactic to avoid the open, set-piece, imminently fair battle of debate. Delay doesn’t win battles. But religion is the default so by doing everything but debating they keep the societal territory and privilege they have. They delay defeat one more day even as the people they occupy with their prattle are each one day closer to kicking the bucket.

  • rrpostal

    So he wanted you to admit he had good evidence before the debate even began? I understand setting some basic ground rules, but wasn’t this kind of what the whole debate was supposed to be about?

    Kind of an aside, but I really hate the term “troll”. It is used so often for so many different things, it conveys almost no information to me. Some people will use it for any dissenting opinion.

  • Maude LL

    I guess cl learned from the “are we there yet? are we there yet? are we there yet? are we there yet? technique of argument. It’s not even a fallacy! How could you let that one go, JT (you logical positivist! Did you learn that from Ayer?) !? If you’re annoyed, you must be hiding something! [high level of sarcasm]
    I must say, I am interested in a real debate for this though. I don’t understand why people believe but I am genuinely interested in understanding.

  • sqlrob


    Only 10^6?

    I’ll take that for existing of deist style gods. Try a lot higher for Yahweh / Allah / Zeus…