Ode to the stupidly brave troll.

Come get me, Tiger.

It’s gotten so that for most talks I give, some believer will charge into the facebook event page or onto my blog ahead of time, puff out their chest, and declare that they are coming to my talk and are going to ask questions during the Q&A.  What response do they anticipate?

“Oh no! Some nobody off the internet is going to show up and ask that one question that I always ignore because it destroys my position!  Whatever shall I do?”

“Gasp!  An argument from a theist?  Perhaps it will be that one that I haven’t heard in a decade of doing this!  What if they tell me we can’t be moral without the god who said to kill people for working on Saturday?  What if they bring up that wicked Catholic, Hitler?  What if they hit me with Stalin as an example of reason-gone-wild?  What if they use Pascal’s Wager?  So many different arguments that could be answered with ten two minutes on google, aaaaaaaaargh!”

“Please don’t let them recommend Lee Strobel’s books…pretty please don’t let them recommend Lee Strobel’s books…”

“Zounds!  What if they lift some scientific jargon off a creationist website to demonstrate, right there in front of god and everybody, how well they understand an entire body of scientific information that says the exact opposite?”

Oh, that?  No, I’m salivating because I’m afraid.  Quick, somebody pray for me so I won’t be scared anymore.

I honestly don’t know what they’re trying to accomplish.  Maybe they’re used to attending talks by Christians that are intended for believers, that have Q&As meant to allow the speaker to swing at softballs about scripture, where atheists asking questions about the validity of religion are jeered at and unwelcome.  Well, atheist talks work a little differently.  I want believers there and I want them asking questions.

Ask the organizers of the talk I gave at Grand Valley State last year, where 90% of the 300+ people there were Christians.

They didn’t have to console me before quietly saying “It’s time, JT.  You have to give your talk.”  I couldn’t wait to get out there!  I was giddy like a kid at Christmas. I’m an atheist activist because I want to challenge the pretensions of religion head on.  I don’t want to just speak to atheists, I want to dismantle religious arguments to the faces of Christians.

Unfortunately, virtually every single troll who comes to my blog (helping me to earn a living in the process) and does their little bravery dance to taunt me with their impending presence, never shows up.  Or, if they do show up, they lose their nerve and never make a peep.  They’re kind of like prayer in that regard: they could actually do something, but posturing is easier.

So, to the self-important troll who got caught in my spam filter trying to intimidate me this morning, if you show up at the Kansas City American Atheists Regional Meetup in a couple weeks like you said you would, identify yourself during the Q&A and I’ll bring you up on stage to ask your “gotcha” question that I’ve undoubtedly never heard before.  It will be your time to shine.  If nothing else, my willingness to share the limelight with my detractor should demonstrate that atheists can be generous.  I’m a giver like that.

Of course, if you don’t show up (again), then I get to use you as an example of how Jesus neither makes people more honest or more brave.  Don’t just bark, little doggie…

  • Ray

    Go get him JT.I hope this person shows up and the cameras are rolling.

  • Inlaid

    Hey, have you got a transcript of that vid – darned hard to make out!

    • http://oolon.co.uk oolon

      You could try getting someone who is an A+ scribe to do it… https://a-plus-scribe.com/doku.php?id=about:contribute

      • http://oolon.co.uk oolon

        Oh and a good Q&A if you can make it out – Questions were often incomprehensible even after one poor guy asked JT to repeat them!

        • Gordon

          I could hear all the questions but I turned the sound way up. I hope people noticed there are two further videos of Q&A.

  • jose

    “They’re kind of like prayer in that regard: they could actually do something, but posturing is easier.”

    Oh burn!

  • http://benjaminrosenbaum.com Benjamin Rosenbaum

    Well, all that sounds fine and all, but I’m brought up short by one thing in your talk: did you seriously just say that “no Christian believes Allah exists?” Seriously? Because, dude, this is another one of those things that could be cleared up with two minutes of research on the internet. The first place I went to, off the top of my head, was the Catholic Encyclopedia, which has this definition of Allah: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01316a.htm Note that the official Catholic definition of Allah is “what Muslims call God”.

    I’m not saying that this is germane to any of your main points or anything, but one telltale hallmark, for me, of the distinction between New Atheists and atheists in general is this. Atheists in general are either uninterested in religion, or, if they are interested in it, they are actually interested in it as a phenomenon; they’re curious how it works; they study it as scientists study an object of empirical investigation. Atheists-in-general who are students of, say, Catholic history, would only to have an opinion of Catholic interpretations of Islam if, you know, they knew something about it.

    New Atheists, on the other hand, are passionately eager to talk about religion, while scorning the effort involved in actually studying it as a phenomenon. They are much more interested in religion as a consequence of a series of deductions from some a priori premises, say, “Religion is anti-science”; they snort derisively at emprical objections to these premises.

    Am I wrong here? Tell me I’m wrong.

    • ACN

      Just because muslims are monotheists, doesn’t mean that they worship the same deity as catholics.

      The claims of the catholics and the muslims about the properties of their deities are incoherent with each other. Just ask a muslim whether or not jesus was the son of god come to redeem the sins of the world, and then ask a catholic if mohammed was god’s final prophet to humanity.

      The catholic encyclopedia is lazy, and unduly universalist here.

      • http://benjaminrosenbaum.com Benjamin Rosenbaum

        That they disagree on the details of the various exploits of various divine figures is obvious and trivial (if they agreed on everything, they’d be the same religion). It’s true that there was a vigorous debate among Jews and Muslims in the Middle Ages about whether Christians, having added the Son and the Holy Ghost into the pantheon, counted as monotheists. But there was never any debate about whether “Allah” and “God” referred to the same entity. Indeed, the protected status of Christians as dhimmi, and the status of Isa/Jesus as a prophet in Islam, trivially establish that Muslims believe that Catholics are worshipping Allah. They of course also believe that Catholics are worshipping Allah *incorrectly*, but that’s why it’s an “inferior revelation”.

        But anyway, you’re tossing up a bunch of smokescreen here, because the claim I was criticizing was as follows: “no Christian believes Allah exists.” That is a strong claim: to refute it, I need to produce one Christian who believes Allah exists. I produced the editor of the Catholic Encyclopedia. I submit to you that the editor of the Catholic Encyclopedia counts as a Christian. In point of fact I think he’s being precise, not lazy and universalist (and there’s an amusing catch-22 in calling religious people dogmatic and narrow-minded, then criticizing them for being too universalist)… but all that is beside the point, because let’s just go ahead and concede that he’s lazy and universalist; still, JT’s claim was not “no Christian, except for the lazy universalist ones, believes that Allah exists.”

        You may correctly contend that I am nit-picking; JT’s point was that Christianity and Islam have incommensurate dogmas. Sure. I (and everybody else in the world) will concede that they have incommensurate dogmas. The standard atheist contention — shared by New and Old Atheists alike — is that they therefore can’t both be true, and thus that the probability of any one of them being true is low. This is a somewhat respectable opinion. I think, personally, it’s a false opinion, because it misconstrues what religion is, and ignores a vast body of religious thought and practice which suggests that religions are not principally in the business of making truth claims, and that “Islam and Catholicism can’t both be correct, so you cannot both pray as a Catholic and believe that Muslims are acting correctly” is thus like saying “Green Eggs and Ham and Goodnight, Moon cannot both be correct, so you cannot both read Green Eggs and Ham to your children and also believe that those who read Goodnight, Moon to their children are behaving correctly.”

        However, this opinion of mine, while not totally idiosyncratic, is also not universally obvious. Lots of religious people would side with atheists on this question, and contend that religion is in the business of making truth claims. So I certainly respect the position JT was attempting to express.

        (And actually I think “oops, good point on Christians and Allah, my bad” would be a perfectly reasonable response and would some way towards convincing me that JT is actually interested in religions as real-world phenomena to be empirically investigated rather than ideological ghosts)

    • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com Ubi Dubium

      The only difference between an “atheist” and a “new atheist” that I’m aware of is that a “new atheist” will talk about their non-beliefs in public, and perhaps blog or even (gasp!) write a book. That doesn’t preclude knowing one heckuva lot about religions, and many are quite knowledgeable.

    • alfaretta

      Not that it’s terribly relevant to either JT’s article or your argument, but I believe “Allah” is the Arabic word for “God,” and Arabic Christians refer to God by that name. The gods of wikipedia say: “The use of the term Allah in Arab Christian churches predates Islam by several centuries.”

  • Greg

    I can get you all the info you need on these guys, and one girl.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      I’d love it. I must admit I’m curious.


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