How Christian Apologists Teleport Across Lessing’s “Ugly, Broad Ditch”

How Christian Apologists Teleport Across Lessing’s “Ugly, Broad Ditch” February 7, 2019

Eighteenth-century German philosopher Gotthold Lessing gave us the concept of Lessing’s Ditch, the “ugly, broad ditch” of doubt that he couldn’t cross with only the assurance of history. The gospel story of Jesus as the son of God? Sorry—the record of history is insufficient to carry us to belief on the other side of that ditch (discussed here).

You say that the gospel authors were inspired by God so that their writings are trustworthy? That is itself a historical claim, and Lessing argues that it fails along with all the rest.

If nothing hangs in the balance then I might believe. Alexander conquered Asia, historians tell us? Sure, I’ll buy that. But now you say that Jesus died to satisfy the sense of justice of a Bronze Age god, the one and only god who created everything? That’s perhaps the most incredible claim possible, and it comes with a lot of consequences. That isn’t to be accepted lightly. Not only does history not back this up (the discipline of History accepts no supernatural stories), but the gospel story looks just like other unbelievable stories from a more gullible time. I can’t cross that ditch.

Evaluating different kinds of claims

Let me take license with Lessing’s metaphor by exploring different kinds of ditches. Let’s say that the depth of the ditch represents the consequences, what you risk if you’re wrong. And the width of the ditch is the evidence gap, how plausible the claim is. This creates four categories.

  • Shallow and narrow: the consequences of being wrong are minimal, and the evidence is good. An example of this kind of ditch might be anything mundane that I’ve seen myself—what I had for lunch yesterday or the color of my car.
  • Shallow and wide: minimal consequences but poor evidence. One of the stories told about Alexander the Great was that he tamed the unridable horse Bucephalus as a teenager. Believing this and then being proven wrong would have negligible consequences.
  • Deep and narrow: big consequences but good evidence. “Driving to the store will be a safe errand” is almost always true, though the unlikely bad outcome can be fatal.
  • Deep and wide: big consequences and poor evidence. The claim of the resurrection of Jesus is an example. About this kind of claim, Lessing says, “The problem is that this proof of the spirt and of power no longer has any spirit or power but has sunk to the level of human testimonies of spirit and power” (emphasis added). For some, going along with one’s community has minimal downsides, but for many of us, one’s self-respect is on the line. I must evaluate the claims of the Christian with the same standard that I evaluate the claims of Scientology, Islam, or Harold Camping’s rapture day.

Enter Alvin Plantinga

Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga has this take on evidence and belief.

Lack of evidence, if indeed evidence is lacking, is no grounds for atheism. No one thinks there is good evidence for the proposition that there are an even number of stars; but also, no one thinks the right conclusion to draw is that there are an uneven number of stars. The right conclusion would instead be agnosticism.

Plantinga is lumping together a shallow ditch problem (Is the number of stars even or odd?) with a deep ditch problem (Does an omnipotent god exist who created the universe?). No one cares whether the number of stars is even or odd at any instant, but Plantinga’s God proposal demands to remake one’s worldview.

I agree with Plantinga that the right stance with respect to the star question is agnosticism, because we have absolutely no reason to pick one answer over another. But do we also have no way to evaluate claims about leprechauns, fairies, unicorns, Blemmyes, or toves? In the sense that we don’t know with certainty, yes, that’s agnosticism. But we don’t consider the existence of mythical creatures like leprechauns to be equally in balance like the even/odd star question so that we have no opinion. Do we think leprechauns exist? Do we live our lives as if they do? Of course not. Lack of evidence is the reason for not believing in leprechauns.

Consider other religions: Islam, Shinto, Hinduism. Is the question of the accuracy of these worldviews equally balanced, with observers unable to make a tentative conclusion? Do we throw up our hands in befuddlement? Of course not—believers in those religions have the burden of proof, and it hasn’t been supported.

Now consider the question of the Christian god. Here again this bears no resemblance to the even/odd star question, because the Christianity has had millennia to support its burden of proof. We can be agnostics because we don’t know, but we can also be atheists because the burden of proof has not been met.

Enter another philosopher

William Lane Craig cuts through the problem in his usual blundering way.

It was the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard who, I believe, provided the correct response to Lessing. Through an existential encounter with God Himself every generation can be made contemporaneous with the first generation. We are therefore not dependent on historical proofs for knowledge of Christianity’s truth. Rather through the immediate, inner witness of God’s Holy Spirit every person can come to know the truth of the Gospel once he hears it. . . .

So that’s how I leap Lessing’s ditch. Christian belief is confirmed by the historical evidence for those of us fortunate enough to be epistemically so situated as to be able to appraise it correctly; but Christian belief is not based on the historical evidence.

These kinds of arguments help make apologetics the poor cousin to magic. (More on Craig’s uncomfortable tension between evidence and belief here.)

Conclusion

If you can’t get over the ditch with evidence, don’t bother. You can’t cross; get over it. Teleporting over on a lavender cloud of make-believe works for children but not adults who want the truth rather than The Secret.

Craig hasn’t leapt Lessing’s ditch; he’s fallen in,
and in order to compensate,
has decided the world is upside down.
— commenter Dys

.

How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded,
“This is better than we thought!
The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said,
grander, more subtle, more elegant?”

Instead they say, “No, no, no!
My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.”
A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence
of the Universe as revealed by modern science
might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe
hardly tapped by the conventional faiths.
— Carl Sagan

.

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 2/16/15.)

Image credit: elyob, flickr, CC
.

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  • Lex Lata

    A (rerun) thought experiment for any visiting theists interested in discussing the epistemology of miracle claims–

    Let’s say I make two assertions:

    1. Last week I walked across the surface of the Mississippi, parts of which are safely frozen over here in Minnesota.

    2. Last July, I walked across the Mississippi, kept upright and on the surface by guardian spirits.

    Given nothing but my testimony to start with, do you think both assertions are equally likely to be true?

    • Herald Newman

      I’d also love to know what amount of testimony it would take to convince them that the second assertion is likely to be true?

      • Lex Lata

        Yes, that’s the next part of the thought experiment. Would one handwritten statement from a purported witness be sufficiently persuasive? Two? Four? What about a video (in this age of CGI)? Would that do it, or would the assumption of fraud or prank prevail?

        Would anything other than first-hand, personal experience of my miracle be convincing? If not, then . . . .

    • Verbose Stoic

      Well, let this theist answer it, then:

      No, they aren’t equally likely to be true. In fact, the first one is far, far more likely to be true than the second. That does not, however, mean that the second one is necessarily false, nor that I shouldn’t or can’t believe it to be true.

      So, to answer the follow-up question, it depends. Obviously, if you were someone whose testimony I trusted as being accurate and honest, I’d be more likely to accept that just on your own word. If not, then I’d need more evidence of varying kinds.

      But this situation isn’t the same as religious belief. First, the entity that we would be talking about committing the miracles is one that was established as such a being from the very beginning. Second, the belief has a long cultural acceptance in most cases that gives it some warrant for at least being successful for most people (ie not causing a meaningful contradiction). And, finally, most believers start with the belief in that entity and what it can do and so have a default that isn’t simply lack of belief because of that cultural learning, so in general evidence is required to overturn it rather than to support it (this is the same reason that most believers don’t believe in other gods, as they started with one when they were children and only reject the others because there is no more evidence for those than theirs and so no reason for them to drop the one they have for another). So if you believe in God and Jesus, for example, then you accept those miracles happen. The miracles are supported by that belief, and aren’t used to provide evidence for that belief.

      • Lex Lata

        Thanks.

        Starting with your last paragraph, I think we’re in general agreement. People will tend to credit miracle narratives–even those that are thinly supported by only the written record–if they are consistent with the religious expectations or presuppositions they’ve acquired from family, belief groups, culture, etc. Yet they will tend to disregard other religious traditions’ analogous claims having similar or even better documentary or archaeological support. For instance, many or most Christians believe the Red Sea miracle narrative in Exodus is historically accurate, although the only evidence of it happening is a single written account of uncertain provenance, likely transcribed centuries after the period depicted. Yet they would readily dismiss Herodotus’ account of the Greek deities intervening to save Delphi from maurading Persians just a few decades earlier than the time of composition. In other words, from an historiographical and epistemological standpoint, there’s a double standard–one for the in-group’s miracle claims, another for the out-group’s claims. Are we still in agreement?

        Back to the thought experiment, if you’re game. (If not, no worries.) Let’s assume I’m a stranger and you don’t know anything about me. What sort of written documents could I reasonably provide that would persuade you of assertion 2’s probable verity?

        • Verbose Stoic

          I don’t see it as being a double-standard, though, or at least as a double-standard in the negative sense. I am always going to give preferences to propositions that align with what I already believe to be true as opposed to those that don’t. I can’t see any other way that we could function at all in society without that. So if someone is already a Christian, they don’t accept those other accounts not because of the specific evidence for or against them, but because they believe that the Christian God exists and not that the Greek gods exist, and so the Greek gods couldn’t have granted miracles because in order to do that they’d have to exist, and they don’t. Again, the existence belief is what underpins the belief or lack thereof in the miracles, and the evidence for the specific miracles is not relevant to that prior existence belief.

          I’m not sure you could provide any, but again you’re missing the underlying issue here. I presume that you put the focus on “written documents” to try to make the link to the Biblical accounts, but again that’s not why most Christian believers are believers, and especially not why those who were raised in the religion are believers. They get it from the cultural influence or from what they’re taught, so their belief is NOT grounded in the historical evidence at all and so comparing that evidence is pointless. Craig is right when he says that the historical evidence is irrelevant because most people simply are not making that sort of comparison or determination wrt their religious beliefs.

          If I don’t believe your direct testimony, I’m not going to believe it just because it was written down. But if it was written down and it was a strong cultural belief that it happened, then I may well accept it, and I don’t think, given that cultural backing, that it would irrational or unreasonable to do so.

        • Lex Lata

          No, I’m not missing your point at all. I get where you’re coming from, and I agree that it’s not irrational to believe in claims that one has essentially been culturally acclimated to favor. (Whether the claims are actually true is another matter.)

          I’m not with you on the double standard, of course, which I was careful to qualify with a reference to historiography and epistemology. Let’s see if I can put the idea in a way that you’d find acceptable. Believing the rescue miracle account in Exodus and not the rescue miracle account in Herodotus’ Histories is more a function of theology, than of rigorous and consistent historiography and archaeology. Does that sound right? If not, we can just disagree on this point.

          Incidentally, there are apologists (Craig not so much) who do make aggressive biblical historicity arguments for belief. But that’s another kettle of loaves and fishes we need not get into.

        • Verbose Stoic

          Actually, I’d say that it’s more a function of epistemology than theology or anything else, specifically the epistemological combination of “Prefer beliefs you already have to new beliefs” and “It is reasonable to accept beliefs on the basis of their cultural acclimation even in the face of a lack of strong historical evidence”. This is what makes it dissimilar to your original thought experiment, which has neither, and also rules out the miracles of other gods, because the belief that they exist is not already present.

        • Lex Lata

          Well, I did rely on “guardian spirits” specifically because those are consistent with the Abrahamic traditions (or at least certain strains thereof). But if I gave credit to “God,” rather than “guardian spirits,” would that materially affect your assessment of the assertion’s verity as a practical matter? I don’t think so; I think you’d still conclude I was almost certainly making stuff up, but I could be wrong.

          One further thought. I presume you’d agree that it’s reasonable for atheists and certain other non-Christians to view Christian miracle claims as skeptically as Christians view, say, the Delphi miracle, correct? (Given that we/they lack the prior belief that characterizes a Christian.) That seems to be implicit in your position, but I don’t want to attribute opinions to you incorrectly.

        • Verbose Stoic

          I wouldn’t necessarily conclude that you were “making stuff up”, because that would be me making a judgement about your honesty, which I wouldn’t want to do. But before I’d accept that the Christian God did that, you’d have to give me a reason for why that happened that comported with what I’d consider a valid intention for God. Again, that’s because your action fails the “existing belief” test, and again fails the original comparison to Jesus: Jesus performing miracles is part of the definition, but you performing miracles isn’t.

          And yes, I agree that their skepticism is reasonable as well. Unless we have knowledge and can impart the information to produce knowledge, skepticism and the lack of skepticism end up being more personal choice and internal consistency than anything else.

        • Lex Lata

          Sorry, part of the definition of what? Not-Jesus characters perform miracles throughout the Bible, to say nothing of extra-biblical media, such as saints’ lives, modern miracle accounts, etc.

        • Verbose Stoic

          Once I accept that Jesus is the Son of God, then his being able to perform miracles is part of that definition, and so I accept that. The same thing applies to the Apostles and the saints. But if you just tell me that, you don’t fit into those categories, hence the immediate request for you to provide evidence that you should fit into one of those categories. In short, since I don’t possess the belief that you can do miracles, you need to provide reasons for me to accept that before I’ll accept your account.

        • Lex Lata

          Well, okay, but again, I don’t quite know what “that definition” refers to. What’s being defined? Jesus? Son of God? Miracles? Miracle workers generally?

          And this seems to lead to a certain circularity, from my perspective. In order to convince you that I performed a miracle, I need to convince you that . . . I’m the sort of person who performs miracles. 🙂 Not sure how I could actually do that, especially using only written statements and not a first-hand, personal demonstration.

          I’ll go ahead and bow out now. Feel free to have the last word. Cheers!

        • Verbose Stoic

          The definition was Jesus as Son of God, as well as the Apostles as Apostles, saints as saints, etc.

          As for what you’d need to provide, I DID give you a starting point: a reason that God would work through you to produce a miracle that aligns with my views of His intentions, a point that you dropped in the next comment. But, essentially, that’s what you’d have to do: show that you fit the criteria for being, say, a saint or other similar person to make it credible that God might work miracles through you. Without that, even doing it in person could raise skeptical doubts that it wasn’t a miracle that came from God.

        • Greg G.

          Even Vespasian performed spit miracles at the Serapis temple in Egypt, though according to the reports, his modest family background needed to be compensated with some propaganda about favor from the gods, lest we would know it as the Year of Five Emperors.

        • Lex Lata

          Fake news!

          Vespasian saves!

      • Cultural acceptance itself isn’t evidence however. Many things have been accepted that contradict this. So unless they have evidence for the initial beliefs, what you described is begging the question.

        • Verbose Stoic

          I don’t really understand the context here. What are you saying that cultural acceptance isn’t?

          At any rate, the point of that statement is to a) show how the person first acquires the belief and b) show that it in and of itself isn’t outlandish. There’s no rational requirement to keep a belief that you gained through learning, nor one to abandon it. I’m really not being absolutist here in any way; as long as we don’t have knowledge, what one believes or not is going to be determined by their own set of existing beliefs, however they got them.

        • It’s not evidence. The fact that something is culturally accepted doesn’t itself make it true.

          It’s not unusual, but that tells us little here. There are some rational requirements to keep or abandon beliefs in the face of the evidence. You seem to be assuming there is no knowledge concerning God, unless I’m mistaken. I disagree with that.

        • Verbose Stoic

          It’s not evidence. The fact that something is culturally accepted doesn’t itself make it true.

          I never claimed it did. I use that to show two things: 1) how the person came by that default belief in the first place and 2) that the belief will in no way seem outlandish to anyone inside that culture. Given that, it seems that the person holding the belief is certainly not unreasonable for treating it differently than one that they don’t have and that is considered outlandish by their culture. Leprechauns, for example, fit into both of these, and so using them as a comparison to God is a bad comparison.

          There are some rational requirements to keep or abandon beliefs in the face of the evidence.

          Sure, but you’d have to support the requirements you think we have, and the thought experiment doesn’t work because it tries to insist that beliefs are or should be supported only by examination of the historical evidence, which isn’t how they work and it seems necessary for people to learn things without having to examine the evidence directly — like most of our beliefs as children — and to only change them when we are given sufficient reason. So you’d have to be asserting that we have sufficient reason, which then leads to the knowledge question.

          You seem to be assuming there is no knowledge concerning God, unless I’m mistaken. I disagree with that.

          I think we don’t have enough evidence to know that God doesn’t exist. Even without getting into the details of the evidence, I can offer in support of that that atheists tend to spend a lot of time simply saying that the evidence of God’s existence is insufficient and that theists have the burden of proof. If atheists really had enough evidence to show that we know that God doesn’t exist, they wouldn’t make that move, and I assert that I have no need to provide sufficient evidence to convince someone else to believe something in order to show that it is reasonable that I, at least, don’t drop my existing belief. As long as I say that I believe but do not know it, anyone challenging that belief would have to show that I shouldn’t believe it.

        • Okay, but earlier evidence was at issue, hence my confusion. I’m sure we can agree on why most believe things. However, that does not by itself then make a belief reasonable. Per your logic, belief in leprechauns will be reasonable if some culture accepts them.

          If you think that God exists, and try to convince others, a burden of proof exists. From what I’ve been gleaning, you don’t. I think atheists who argue that way are wrong. That’s common among what I call “movement” atheists, but atheist philosophers argue against God’s nonexistence. So it just depends on where you look. In any case too, failure to refute something does not make it right. Based on what you’ve said so far, I don’t think that’s reasonable. It seems to be based on fallacies.

      • LastManOnEarth

        Oy very, what a fiasco.

  • epicurus

    I would love to ask Kierkegaard why he didn’t take his leap of faith to the Islamic God, or a Hindu god. I’ve read two of his books and the whole time I was reading, my mind just kept hovering over this idea. He wrote in a bubble, as so many do.

    • I Came To Bring The Paine

      He wrote in a bubble, as so many do.

      He wrote for the bubble. 😉

      • epicurus

        Good point

  • Polytropos

    Christian belief is confirmed by the historical evidence for those of us fortunate enough to be epistemically so situated as to be able to appraise it correctly; but Christian belief is not based on the historical evidence.

    How does WLC say this stuff with a straight face? He must know he’s admitting belief is a matter of confirmation bias, even if his audience can’t figure out what that sentence actually means.

    Lessing’s ditch is a really good way to discuss the topic, because exploring the consequences of belief is important. And yet Plantinga and WLC here don’t seem to want to engage with the consequences of belief at all. Call me a cynic, but I think this is because they know a realistic assessment of consequences won’t support their case.

    • Herald Newman

      Christian belief has never been about the evidence. Christianity wouldn’t have creeds and dogma if it was about the evidence! I honestly can’t imagine any evidence we could ever find that would change the religious beliefs of many Christians.

      Looking over all of Craig’s statement, it’s clear that it’s simply more apologetics aimed at those who’s faith may be wavering.

      • Kit Hadley-Day

        i don’t think it even gets to that audience, his piles of bullshit are for the person who wants something that sounds smart when confronted with common anti theist arguments, it does not matter that the person repeating this crap does not understand the problems, they are quoting a ‘smart’ person making a ‘smart’ argument, in their mind that means they must be right,

        • Greg G.

          A two bit argument wearing ten dollar words.

      • Sample1

        Sunk cost is pretty damn gripping. It prolongs failed marriages, businesses, friendships, and on and on. Why should metaphysics be immune?

        Mike

    • Kit Hadley-Day

      redneck on / by using them there fancy words, he is done showing how smart us evangelicals is / redneck off

  • ThaneOfDrones

    Shallow ditching fails:

    Google Fiber’s secret weapon in its gigabit comeback has failed

    The Google Fiber team cited the experimental construction method used in Louisville as the reason behind the failure. That deployment technique, called “nanotrenching,” enabled Google Fiber to deploy fiber at greater speed and lower cost.
    The construction crews for Google Fiber in Louisville were digging trenches only two inches deep on the edges of roads, laying the fiber cables and then filling in the trench with a rubbery liquid that would solidify when it dried.
    Within several months, though, some of the fiber cables started popping out of the trenches and were lying exposed in the streets…

    • Pofarmer

      I don’t think they actually employed anyone with sny experience who thought this would work.

  • ThaneOfDrones

    I would imagine the number of stars in the universe varies over time.

    New stars are constantly being created out of clouds of hydrogen. This takes time. At what point does the star “exist” to be counted?

    Likewise, stars are going out of existence all the time due to going nova, dying down to ‘dwarf’ status, or getting swallowed by black holes. All of these processes take time, so there is the usual difficulty in determining the exact instant at which the star no longer “exists”.

    Add to this the effect of the Theory of Relativity on comparing the times of these various star creation and destruction events which are happening at different places in the universe. The number of stars might be odd at one place in the universe and even in another at a particular time (which we have already stated, is problematic to compare from place to place at relativistic distances)

    The clear conclusion is that Alvin Plantinga is a nitwit who shouldn’t comment outside any area of expertise he might have, which clearly does not include astronomy and astrophysics.

    • Plantinga, with his EAAN argument, happily blunders into biology as well.

      • ThaneOfDrones

        I have seen it, and it is quite stupid.

    • Michael Murray

      You’ve also got to decide what everything is before you start counting. I was a bit surprised to discover that there are things like brown dwarves which are a bit ambiguous.

      https://astrobob.areavoices.com/2010/06/29/not-quite-planet-not-quite-star/

      • RichardSRussell

        Excuse me! Didn’t you mean “dwarves of color”?

    • ThaneOfDrones

      It occurs to me that the universe could be infinite in extent, which would probably mean that the stars are infinite in number, so that the concept of odd or even would not even apply.

  • skl

    … Christianity has had millennia to support its burden of proof.

    As I understand it, Christianity is not about proof but about faith. It lacked proofs from the very beginning. That’s why, I suppose,
    the bible says many people followed Jesus but then rejected him and even sought
    to kill him, and the preaching (not proving) disciples after him.

    Telling Christians they have the burden of proof is sort of
    like telling a butcher he has the burden of providing you fruit.

    • eric

      No, it’s not like that because Christians are asking the government to base policy on their beliefs. Pro-life is a predominantly religious position based on the notion of the soul coming into the body at conception. The Anti-gay movement is also predominantly religious. As is the opposition to providing birth control as part of health care. In SC this month, a Christian legislator just introduced a bill demanding creationism be taught in schools.

      It seems to me that there is no rational reason for society to accede to any of these requests until the Christian can show that (a) there is actually a God and that (b) He actually opposes such freedoms (or in the case of creationism, insists we teach creationism).

      So to fix your analogy, the butcher is demanding *I* give *him* fruit because he claims God wants me to do that. And I see no reason to give him any fruit unless he first shows this to be true.

      • skl

        No, it’s not like that because Christians are asking the government to base policy on their beliefs. Pro-life…The
        Anti-gay movement…the opposition to providing birth control…demanding creationism be taught in schools.

        All off-topic.

        • Michael Neville

          As usual, you’re wrong. Certain Christians not only have some very specific beliefs, they want the rest of us to live by those beliefs. That is very much on topic, which is Lessing’s deep and wide ditch with big consequences and poor evidence.

        • skl

          Certain Christians not only have some very
          specific beliefs, they want the rest of us to live by those beliefs.

          So do certain Communists, Socialists, Atheists, Liberals, Muslims, Gays, etc.

        • Pofarmer

          Which if those hold those beleifs on the basis of things that can’t be independently assessed?

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          oh wow, a list of unconnected things, political movements, philosophical statements, religions and sexual orientations, is this supposed to prove anything other than you have no idea how the world works?

        • Michael Neville

          And your point is what? Did I say that only Christians try to inflict their beliefs on others? No I did not, something that even an evangelical Christian like your dumb ass should be able to understand.

          Do you want to try to rebut what I said or are you going to continue to use logical fallacies, in this case tu quoque?

        • skl

          Do you want to try to rebut what I said…?

          No. I supported what you said, and then expanded on it.

        • Michael Neville

          I see, you’re such a poor writer than what looked exactly like tu quoque was you supporting me. I suggest that when someone makes a negative comment about Christian behavior on an atheist blog that you don’t say that other people, including atheists, also indulge in that behavior.

        • skl

          I suggest that when someone makes a
          negative comment about Christian behavior on an atheist blog that you don’t say that other people, including atheists, also indulge in that behavior.

          But atheists do indulge in that behavior,
          along with Communists, Socialists, Liberals, Muslims, Gays, etc.

        • Michael Neville

          You saying it and repeating it is tu quoque, a logical fallacy.

          You’re not only a Christian apologist, you’re a pretty poor one.

        • skl

          I thought you might be a person who was interested in
          calling out “negative” behavior (e.g. ‘Those trying to inflict their beliefs on others’) no matter where you found it.

          I was wrong.
          Sorry.

    • WallofSleep

      “Telling Christians they have the burden of proof is sort of
      like telling a butcher he has the burden of providing you fruit.”

      https://cdn.someecards.com/someecards/usercards/well-there-it-isthe-dumbest-shit-ive-read-all-day-8761d.png

    • Michael Neville

      Telling Christians they have the burden of proof is sort of like telling a butcher he has the burden of providing you fruit.

      See, liar, this is exactly what I’m talking about when I say that you use Christian arguments and nothing else.

      Plus this is a bad argument even for a Christian like your dumb ass. If you want us to believe that your god or any other gods exist then you have the burden of proof to support that claim.

    • Kit Hadley-Day

      only if the butcher claims to to be the soul supplier of fruit, despite all the evidence that he is more of a meat man

  • William

    Self-respect, yes; but also a great deal more is on the line. Christian belief has real-world consequences. It affects how people act; who they vote for. It matters whether or not it’s true, and not just for the sake of the believer’s internal life.

    • TheNuszAbides

      good point: expanded consequences as an emergent property of expanding Christian populations?

  • Pofarmer

    So, with Bobs permission, I’m going to og OT, since this blog so often deals with ethics and morality. I don’t know how I feel about this.

    https://people.com/human-interest/krysta-davis-baby-rylei-dying-organ-tennessee/

    “Mom Carries Dying Baby to Term to Donate Her Organs: She’ll Give ‘Other Babies a Second Chance’”

    • Susan

      I don’t know how I feel about this.

      Wow, that’s a tough one.

      So much more interesting than the standard apologetic “murder” “slavery” and “torturing babies for fun”.

      Right in the middle of the grey zone. Which is where so many moral issues lie.

      Thanks for posting it.

      • Cynthia

        See, stuff like this is why I won’t say that there is one right way to handle things.

        I’m not in that mom’s shoes. It is a heartbreaking situation. I think that it would have been entirely understandable for a mom to decide to terminate since there was no real chance of survival, since continuing to term posed additional burdens and health risks to the mom without any chance of a viable baby at the end. OTOH, if a mom is grieving and this is a way that she was able to gain meaning and some sort of closure and comfort, then I’m glad that some other babies were able to benefit and I hope this mom is able to find peace and one day know the joy of parenting a living child for much longer.

        • Susan

          That’s pretty much what I was left with.

          To interfere in her choice would have been immoral.

          Life is heartbreaking enough.

      • Verbose Stoic

        I’m not sure why this is morally grey at all, and so why it is interesting at all for the moral debate. The foetus was not going to survive, and so it was only a choice of whether she carried it to term or not . Her intentions for the choice were unselfish and didn’t cause hardships on anyone else. Unless you want to argue that in such situations a woman should be morally obligated to make that choice — which I presume you don’t — I don’t see a moral conundrum here.

        • Doubting Thomas

          I think we have to take into account the possible suffering that the baby probably experienced by being carried to term. This suffering could have been avoided if the pregnancy was terminated early enough in the child’s development.

        • Verbose Stoic

          Perhaps, but that doesn’t seem to be the concern that the other commenters had (and I’m not even sure how relevant it is in this case).

        • Pofarmer

          I think suffering is a concern. This baby, and I think baby is appropriate after it’s born, I think almost definately didn’t have enough brain function to experience anything as “pain”, really. I suppose another problem is pro-birthers will use this examples to attempt to force women to carry to term.

        • Doubting Thomas

          I suppose another problem is pro-birthers will use this examples to attempt to force women to carry to term.

          I would almost think the opposite since the idea of having a child in order to harvest it’s organs seems initially repulsive.

        • Pofarmer

          I’ve had a pro-birther tell me that it was Gods choice and the “baby” should be allowed to live till it’s natural death. But, of course, they get all overwrought if modern, heroic methods aren’t then used to save said “baby”.

        • Phil Rimmer

          There is no suffering that I can see possible.

    • I haven’t read the article, but from the title, it sounds like a 100% selfless act.

      People have donated kidneys for strangers, which might be in the same bin.

      • Pofarmer

        Yeah, but once the baby was born, now you’re donating somebody else’sbody parts. Granted, there was no consciousness, and never would be. I’ve made the argument here and elsewhere that sentience and sapience are necessary for personhood, so perhaps that’s where this fits in.

        • Verbose Stoic

          Parents make decisions for their children until they reach an age to make them for themselves, which would include this case.

        • Pofarmer

          I’ve been intimately involved with making medical decisions involving pain and suffering for a child who really didn’t have the capability to understand them. I get that. But to have a child born, just to let it die?

        • Isn’t that similar to how it works when you or I donate organs? They wait until you’re dead to remove them, but only just.

        • Greg G.

          I recall a Monty Python documentary or two where that wasn’t the case.

        • Pofarmer

          Well, you or I get to consent………

        • True, but we were at one point sentient. Aren’t we assuming that the fetus in our example never was/would be?

        • Pofarmer

          Yeah, I think you have to assume that, but is it correct? I mean, I had a lady claiming to be a neo-natal nurse hit the “Babies can feel pain at 12 weeks in the womb” thing the other day. Well, no they can’t, they don’t have a developed brain at that point in time, so the concept of pain is meaningless. But in this case? I dunno. I think that’s where it could get questionable.

        • Phil Rimmer

          Synaptic coupling doesn’t even begin until 27 weeks. Pain assessments on 30 week premature babies show no distress.

        • Pofarmer

          I know that, and you know that. Try explaining that to these nut jobs. It’s like these “heartbeat” bills claiming a heartbeat at 6 weeks, or whatever. There is no heart, it’s just a fibrous muscle bundle at that point.

    • Lark62

      Her body, her choice.

      There is no moral gray area.

      She made the best decision she could for herself and her family.

      Other people might make the same choice. For good and valid reasons, other people would make a different choice.

      That’s what choice means.

      • Doubting Thomas

        The moral gray area is that she created a sentient being knowing that it would suffer with no chance to live. She chose the trade off of helping other children live by accepting that suffering of her own child. The “Her body, her choice” doesn’t seem to be part of the moral quandary here.

        • Lark62

          What about the 50% of fertilized eggs that never get to become “sentient beings”? Those pregnancies, 100s of millions or billions of them end with spontaneous abortion every year. Where is your concern for them? Why do you worship a deity who created that process?

          What about all the millions of precious sentient beings that don’t get to exist every time an egg is fertilized? About 6 million sperm are “also rans” that could have been people if they’d come first.

          Where is your concern for those pweshus widdle baybees?

          What about the eggs that don’t get fertilized? What about fertilized eggs that don’t implant and end their existence on a used tampon?

          Why aren’t you weeping for them?

          When a fetus has a functioning nervous system and can breath independently, it is a person. And you should be demanding that that person have food, shelter, education and medical care. Until that point, keep your nose out of other people’s business. And out of their nether regions.

        • Doubting Thomas

          What about the 50% of fertilized eggs that never get to become “sentient
          beings”? Those pregnancies, 100s of millions or billions of them end
          with spontaneous abortion every year. Where is your concern for them?

          My level of concern is directly related to a level of sentience, so zero sentience = zero concern.

          Why do you worship a deity who created that process?

          I don’t. You should try to have less knee-jerk in your responses.

          What about all the millions of precious sentient beings that don’t
          get to exist every time an egg is fertilized? About 6 million sperm are
          “also rans” that could have been people if they’d come first.
          Where is your concern for those pweshus widdle baybees?

          What about the eggs that don’t get fertilized? What about fertilized eggs
          that don’t implant and end their existence on a used tampon?
          Why aren’t you weeping for them?

          To repeat: “My level of concern is directly related to a level of sentience, so zero sentience = zero concern.”

          When a fetus has a functioning nervous system and can breath
          independently, it is a person. And you should be demanding that that
          person have food, shelter, education and medical care. Until that
          point, keep your nose out of other people’s business. And out of their
          nether regions.

          I’m allowed to have an opinion and I’m allowed to express that opinion. If you think otherwise, then fuck off.

        • Pofarmer

          I don’t think this child was ever sentient.

        • Doubting Thomas

          Why do you think so? Her condition seems to make that a possibility, but not a necessity.

        • Pofarmer

          Yes, you’re probably correct. Which is another reason I think there’s a quandry here.

        • Not really receiving a formal education . . . in the womb?

        • Doubting Thomas

          Is sentience determined by education level?

        • You seem to be an example of the absence of one, or some shortfall of the other!

          Just how did you get access to a keyboard while still attached to an umbilical?

        • Doubting Thomas

          In a professional setting you would refer to me as Dr. Doubting Thomas.

          And your question dodge was impressively childish.

        • Since this forum is NOT, in any normal understanding, a professional setting – your initial sentence just reveals your own grandiose levels of presumption. Did you stick out your chest in front of a mirror when you composed that line?

          On the second sentence: well, that’s just your own conjecture – and you come across as an extremely biassed person.

        • Doubting Thomas

          It wasn’t a presumption of grandiosity. It was a response to you referring to me as uneducated. I was refuting that idea with facts. Sorry if that upsets you.

        • Phil Rimmer

          she created a sentient being knowing that it would suffer

          No! In every single regard.

        • Doubting Thomas

          While you might be correct that she wouldn’t necessarily know it would suffer, do you not consider the child sentient?

        • Phil Rimmer

          Only in a very, very restricted sense if at all. A few reflexes may be possible. If otherwise normal but premature 30 week old’s show no response to painful (nociceptor) stimuli apart from the one or two synaptic junction step responses like those of reflexes (knee chop reflex. Because neural development is chronotopic (sequenced) the lack of development of the bulk of the grey matter beyond a brain stem, the subsequent initiation of synaptic formation in any residual grey matter is most unlikely.

          From wiki.

          A baby born with anencephaly is usually blind, deaf, unaware of its surroundings and unable to feel pain. Although some individuals with anencephaly may be born with a main brain stem, the lack of a functioning cerebrum permanently rules out the possibility of ever gaining awareness of their surroundings. Reflex actions such as breathing and responses to sound or touch may occur.

        • Doubting Thomas

          Thanks.

      • Pofarmer

        I get that. But to have a baby born, for the express reason of harvesting it’s body parts? What if, say, there had been enough brain stem to support reporation and heartbeat indefinately? I assume it was unable to eat.

        • Verbose Stoic

          The worry would be over having the baby produced for harvesting its body parts, which isn’t the case here. The only consideration I can see is deliberately prolonging its suffering to do so, as Doubting Thomas suggested.

        • Pofarmer

          Once they knew the fetus was non-viable, it was certainly produced from that point on for the purpose of harvesting it’s body parts.

        • Lark62

          In some situations, there is no good outcome. One simply has to choose among horrible options. In this case, allowing the fetus to grow to term did not cause it to suffer. The mother found comfort in giving a chance at life to other babies. Let it be.

        • Doubting Thomas

          In this case, allowing the fetus to grow to term did not cause it to suffer.

          How do you know this?

        • Lark62

          I read the article. Past that, I will leave this to the grieving family and their doctors.

        • Doubting Thomas

          Could you quote the part of the article that mentions the child not suffering?

        • Lark62

          The child as described as “smiling” (which in a baby that young is a reflex) and there is zero indication the child was experiencing discomfort.

          What is your basis for concluding otherwise?

        • Doubting Thomas

          I think it’s possible the child would suffer because dying usually seems like an unpleasant process.

        • You speak through experience – of the First-Person kind?

        • Doubting Thomas

          Do you need to experience death to know that it seems unpleasant? If so, feel free to give it a try and report back to us your findings.

        • I simply enquired whether you yourself can share your own experience on this matter — which, as living beings, we will all be subject to.
          You seem to prefer to dodge such an query, and respond- in the manner of a child- “No you do it first!
          Not out of the preschool behaviour pattern yet, Mr Doubting Thomas – I notice?

          I can well determine that a experience of swift death would be preferable to being slowly crushed out flat under a mass of 5 tonnes while pined down on a hard, unyelding surface,- or instead of being slowly torn limb from limb (also referred to as “disruption”) which was a horrid process sometimes inflicted by pius christians holding total power in the Dark Ages.

          In these last two examples I judge that swift death itself would be the lesser of unpleasant experiences.

        • Doubting Thomas

          Of course I can’t share my own experience of dying. Your question was f’n stupid.

          But I don’t need to die to understand that it generally seems unpleasant. Do you need to experience everything in order to determine how it feels? Do you wonder whether running your arm through a wood chipper would fall on the enjoyable or painful side of the spectrum?

          The child might have suffered due to its condition. I think this needs to be factored into the decision to carry it to term.

        • Well, the question was crouched to suit your particular condition (as in your second sentence)- a condition which is quite evident to all.

          But you change the goal-posts when you replace ordinary death by extremely painful injury. As I have already made mention, a swift death process would be preferable to experiencing inescapable circumstances involving extreme levels of pain.

          The word might is so very flexible and just so convenient. I, myself, prefer certainty over conjecture. But hey, YOU are someone who prefers your own guesswork in lieu of reality, aren’t you?

        • Doubting Thomas

          The idea that the child might have suffered has to be taken into account because, at the time the decision was made, the mother couldn’t have had certainty about that, no matter how much you prefer “certainty over conjecture.”

          Adults realize that things like this aren’t perfect. I understand that reality often does have guesswork. To think otherwise is naively childish.

        • Phil Rimmer

          Suffering needs pain introspected upon or recalled. Outside of a little fishy thread to eyes and spinal chord, no white matter (module interconnection) begins formation until after birth being formed from the sufficient supply of lipids in milk. Synaptic connections in the grey matter are only started around week 27. Whole regions (the associative corteces) only become possible after white matter formation in a chaotic scramble from 0 to 18 months, becoming increasingly useful only from the “terrible twos” onward when the misery of over stimulation is tamed by pruning, a neural topiary formed from an experiential flux, into a more coherent and useful form. Only then, once the topology is more or less completed can biographical memories form, having a stable map to work with.

          Distress is possible immediately. Homeostasis is the proto-purpose that drives the most primitive life forms, else death. But distress is detectable. Suffering we can only impute.

        • Doubting Thomas

          I was using suffering in a more inclusive way to include things like pain, discomfort, distress, etc.

          Do you think there would be a level or duration of suffering that the child would experience that would make the termination of the pregnancy the morally right thing to do even when considering the benefit of the organ donation?

        • Phil Rimmer

          I don’t believe there is a coherent neurological argument for suffering (my definition) in foetuses. Nor could there be any “legacy” to it. (Though there is plenty of legacy to temporal deficiencies affecting development.) Indeed the grim horrors of the Romanian orphans and the myriad studies after that have shown that the sustained neglect, the distress and the complete absence of affection had no discernible effects on the children unless persistent after the age of two.

          Pain, stress and its excess imposition, distress, are highly observable in their effects. Foetal heart rate is a good indicator. The precautionary principle must not allow pain and distress to be an option here. There has, though, never been a case of retarded neural development leading to pain and distress, except in some adverse post partum situation, which could and would be guarded against.

          Sorry, so the answer to your simple and clear question is, I believe any any signs of distress above those of a normal pregnancy would argue for a termination. The likelihood of distress is very low indeed.

          For the record I think this woman’s actions are highly moral with that precautionary caveat in place. I think she’s done good. She deserves our collective support, just like those mothers terminating their trisomy 21 longed-for-babies for the avoidance of undoubted future suffering, and just like those others unwitting mother’s of trisomy 21 babies prepared to commit their lives to their offspring. And, of course, support for all trisomy21 folk, so often a lesson in resilience and finding delight and dignity in adversity. These can all sit consistently together.

        • Doubting Thomas

          In my question above I was referring to a child after it was born and any suffering it might experience, not a fetus.

          Sorry, so the answer to your simple and clear question is, I believe any
          any signs of distress above those of a normal pregnancy would argue for
          a termination.

          Would the benefit the other children received not make it ethical for the fetus to experience some level of discomfort without terminating the pregnancy?

          I also think the mother did the right thing and appreciate the sacrifice she went through by not only carrying her child to term as well as having to watch it die in order to help other children live. I was just running some scenarios through my head in order to think about the general morality of such situations.

        • Phil Rimmer

          I’m suggesting the discomfort/distress of a normal birth makes some sort of threshold with which we are currently comfortable. I see no reason to expect any difference from that. Indeed it is arguable that with so little brain development beyond a brain stem that this can only be less.

        • TheNuszAbides

          Appreciating the details.

          unless persistent after the age of two

          Meaning “after the second birthday” or “after the third birthday”? (i.e. is “the age” referring to having reached that age, or to the year-long period during which the subject would be referred to as “two”?)

          And do you have a preferred source for the “Romanian orphans” reference?

        • Greg G.

          In Asia, you are one year old during your first year of life, two years old during your second year…

        • TheNuszAbides

          Well it’s not fair to call anyone “zero” for their first year! But is the literal label “one year old” (literally entirely untrue) or “one” (plenty of wiggle room)?

        • TheNuszAbides

          “baby’s first year” and such make perfect sense, but it’s not like there’s a universal intuitive grasp of precision in terms. Often enough we go no further than “you obviously know what I MEANT …”

    • RichardSRussell

      Ha! By “OT”, you meant “off topic”, not “Old Testament”, didn’t you? Here I was expecting a much different attitude.

    • Sample1

      The numbers appear to be anywhere from 350-1200 births are seen annually in the US. The range is due to pregnancy versus birth and some of the stats I briefly looked at aren’t clear what is being addressed.

      But for those parents experiencing this, ugh. I mean this in the opposite way of callousness but they sure are taking one between the eyes for Team Humanity.

      Recently lost a friend in a plane crash who was 26wks pregnant. She was so many things I am not, a Republican a Christian. But she was also a mom who was so happy about her first pregnancy. I just read an insta note she wrote to her unborn daughter. It’s making me well up just thinking about it.

      One thing I hope, from an atheist through and through, that when the plane was diving head down into the sea, that she had a moment to caress her belly and whisper to Delta, her daughter, “I’ll see you soon.”

      I know that’s delusional but if it made her happy in her final seconds that’s all her friends care about. I so hope that’s what took place.

      Ugh.
      Mike

      • Pofarmer

        Ugh, indeed.

        • Sample1

          Decided to look for anencephaly forums. Not many. The few I read through were 99% full of Christian condolences centering around their gods’s blessings and angels. Many were about whether they should carry to term or not. Mixed bag.

          Then I searched for Islamic forums about anencephaly. The confusion seemed deeper than the Christian ones with one mother being advised to carry to
          birth because Allah might create
          a miracle and heal the skull.

          Others were concerned about aborting after 16 weeks because they believed that’s when the breath of Allah is given to the fetus. In short, if you at or beyond 16 weeks, you must carry to birth.

          The moms on those forums have tried to make a terrible genetic situation tolerable in a relgious framework. But the ones who say, “god needed your baby sooner than normal” just grate on me. God is such a needy asshole. Isn’t being god enough?

          Mike

      • Pofarmer

        Seperate comment. I wonder how odd it would seem, the way we look at unborn children now? If you look up until the 1940’s, and the advent of vaccines and antibiotics, the chances of a child dying before the age of 5 was something like 1 in 4. At certain times it was greater. Can you imagine that, 25% mortality among children under 5? Would this issue of children not being born, seem like such a pressing issue if you were watching a child die of measles, or flu, or pneumonia?

        • Sample1

          I’m with you in how emotional priorities could be shifted. And I’m not using emotional in a derogatory way.

          But the hyper religious will not be swayed by what we see as celebratory progress in child mortality. They will say apples and oranges: accepting the progress is separate from abortion. Come to think of it, if I could, I’d poll all believers with a moral dilemma questionnaire of about 50 scenarios. People who answer moral dilemmas easily and quickly raise red flags for me. Not all do. But a quiz is one small tool to ferret out possible personality disorders. Do some religious environments grow personality disorders? No clue and I could be way off base. No offense to any relgious person here. But it’s a question I haven’t seen addressed. Those in the field do suggest that environment can be a factor; empathy restrictive parents, violence, etc. Maybe it’s a dumb one but religion is a kind of environment too.

          Mike
          Edit done

        • Pofarmer

          A religious “Friend” on Facebook posted this today. You’re brain believes what you feed it. Feed it Faith. Feed it Truth. Feed it love. I imagine you can guess what my objection was.

        • Too many Feeding their brains Make-believe? Just being plain gullible?
          That’s a weakness daily exploited by Pishers, Scammers, and Conmen.

        • Pofarmer

          Yep. So here was my response. What do you think.

          “O.K. Let’s look at this. “Your mind will always believe everything you tell it.” This, as I understand it, is pretty true. We don’t have any internal mechanism to seperate what’s true from false. If something “feels” good to you ,and solves whatever problem you’re in, so you can concentrate on the next problem, that’s good enough. “Feed it Faith” Faith in what? You can have faith in virtually anything. This faith can be properly placed or missplaced. See answer 1 above. “Feed it truth.” Are conflating Faith with Truth? We’ve established that our brains don’t have an independent way to establish truth, and that our mind will, indeed, believe what we tell. it. So, if you’re feeding it stuff that isn’t true, and calling it faith, you’ll never know. It’s a perfect way to deceive yourself, and it is, in fact, pretty much how cults are created.”

          Care to guess the response?

        • Something simply lame – such as “I base MY Faith on MY relationship with Jesus.” -or- “I have Full Faith in my Lord and Saviour“?

          Alice was not the only one to easily fall right on down a rabbit hole. Campfire cooking utensils, if sentient, would be unlikely to notice that they were ALL blackened.

          Many WTF comments from a insulated bystander can be generated when witnessing someone religious employing a circular mental process in which Faith, Gullibility, and plain Bullshit chase themselves round and round in a never-ending circuit.

          There are really no limits to what can be claimed through saturated religious make-believe.

        • Pofarmer

          I see you’ve done this before.

          when you have been face to face with the spirit there is no doubt, only faith. May not be constant, but constantly there. The truth. Each time God moves through the spirit within, you begin to trust in yourself and fight the deception.

          Which is pretty much exactly what I was talking about

        • TheNuszAbides

          Each time God moves through the spirit within,

          Of course only supernatural entities (incl. supposed souls looking back from supposed afterlife) ever know whether this is what has happened per instance.

          you begin to trust in yourself

          Each time this not-quite-knowable thing occurs, you begin … all right, built-in absence of progress! Or maybe they’re just spewing without thinking anything through? Nah, that couldn’t be it … Wouldn’t want you to appreciate the effort or anything!

          and fight the deception

          not to ever actually defeat it. That’s only the Boss’s prerogative, amirite?

        • Rational Human

          I agree. When I was a Christian, games like Scruples were no fun, and full of virtue signaling when played with other Christians. Everything was black or white, according to the bible or the church teaching. Now, I have a small collection of books of philosophical/ethical/moral puzzles and conundrum s, and I love being able to think freely and unencumbered, and process input and opinions from all sides when working through them.

        • Greg G.

          I saw a display about children at the local History Museum which had letters from the 1800s. They were mostly very sad due to the loss of a baby. They didn’t bother naming them unless they survived the first month.

        • Phil Rimmer

          In Sweden they started before others keeping good records. In Victorian times Infant mortality stood at 40%.

          It is only comparatively recently we dared started counting our chickens, decorating nurseries and having baby showers (mostly American).

        • ildi

          Death portraiture became increasingly popular. Victorian nurseries were plagued by measles, diphtheria, scarlet fever, rubella – all of which could be fatal.

          It was often the first time families thought of having a photograph taken – it was the last chance to have a permanent likeness of a beloved child.

          https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-36389581

    • ThaneOfDrones

      Paid to carry a stranger’s baby – then forced to raise it

      In June last year 33 pregnant women were arrested and confined to a villa in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh. All were surrogate mothers bearing children for foreign customers.
      They have since been released – but on the condition that they bring up the children themselves. The penalty is up to 20 years in jail.

    • Kevin K

      The ultimate in virtue signalling. It’s appalling.

      • Pofarmer

        Hadn’t thought of it that way.

  • Jeff Hinkle

    I maintain that treating being mistaken as something evil already disqualifies any religious claim as anti human, never mind if it’s true. It should be rejected even if that god IS real. Go to helll with dignity.

  • RichardSRussell

    Ah, so that was Gotthold Lessing. My first thot was that you meant Doris Lessing, who, like Plantinga, was willing to use the occasional astronomical metaphor: “We are all creatures of the stars.” —Doris Lessing (1919-2013) British novelist, Nobel laureate, Re: Colonised Planet 5, Shikasta

  • skl

    As I understand this “Lessing’s Ditch”, I don’t see
    Christianity today as a deep ditch. That is, I don’t see how
    rejecting (not bridging to belief in) Christianity results in significant and unwanted
    consequences
    to the non-believer’s life. The non-believers continue on with
    their lives, saying and doing what they want.

    Regarding consequences, you say

    Let’s say that the depth of the ditch
    represents the consequences, what you risk if you’re wrong.
    For some, going along with one’s community has minimal
    downsides, but for many of us, one’s self-respect is on the line.

    I think such people must have had little, if any, self-respect
    to begin with.

    • eric

      Logically it would be the other way around: someone with little self-respect would see going along with the community against their own opinion as a minor consequence (i.e. shallow ditch).

      You don’t even insult well.

      • skl

        The person has less respect for himself than he does for the community whose beliefs he secretly rejects. He chooses to lie, to betray his beliefs, just so he can maintain the respect of the crazy community.

        What a guy!

        • ildi

          The person has less respect for himself than he does for the community whose beliefs he secretly rejects. He chooses to lie, to betray his beliefs, just so he can maintain the respect of the crazy community.

          Now, now, skl, don’t be so hard on yourself!

        • skl

          I have enough self-respect to challenge this caustic “community”, as well as to remain separate from any religious community.

          Apparently, you’re more of a cowering comformist.

        • Susan

          I have enough self-respect to challenge this caustic “community

          What a brave, brave little weasel you are.

          No, you’re not challenging anyone skl. And you get negative reactions because you repeat the same old canards and ignore the responses.

          as well as to remain separate from any religious community

          But you have a big, fat crush on Jesus and all the dishonest tactics of any standard, christian apologist.

          you’re more of a cowering conformist

          Nobody’s cowering, my little weasel.

          Nobody.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          LOL! So those who can recognize poor logic – and by necessity will agree on how and why SKL’s nonsense fails – are merely “conformists”?

          Holy shit what a stupid thing to say.

        • ildi

          Yeah cowering is weird choice; if skl was going for alliteration, I would go with “craven conformist” or how about “shrinking sheeple?” Maybe skl thinks they’re channeling Tesla:
          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e9c48a932dadf81329e0c9f286f95be547545186563d91be18da7e9f360f8b2c.jpg

        • ildi

          I have enough self-respect to challenge this caustic “community”…

          Oh, please. You don’t respect your beliefs enough to directly defend them, hiding behind third-person “Christians would say…” and “From what I understand, Christians believe…” and other faux atheist clap trap “There is no good or bad, just what I like or don’t like.”

          I have more respect for the drive-by Christians spouting bible verses than your passive-aggressive trolling.

    • Rational Human

      That’s a bit uncharitable. Think of someone growing up in Saudi Arabia, or Alabama, for some perspective.

  • Mythblaster

    Well I’ll be damned (probably!). All these years I thought my philosophy professors were talking about Lessing’s bitch! Boy, oh boy, do I ever feel foolish…