Atheist Jonathan MS Pearce made a response to my critique of an atheist deconversion story that he hosted on his site. The combox then went wild in questioning me (with not a few of the usual obligatory rank insults). I spent many hours replying to lots of the comments (mostly late last night), but at length wrote: “Obviously, I can’t argue with 40 atheists about 120 topics at once (though it appears to be assumed that I would be able to do so). I’ve done my best to reply to the major points.” Well, here are some of the highlights. Opponents’ words will be in blue (my replies in regular black):
Atheists come in all shapes and sizes but, ignoring any extreme positions, I never see the case put that the apologist doesn’t understand the case being made. Every single variation of religious belief that we are told we don’t understand, can be rejected in exactly the same way; lack of evidence. There’s no reliable evidence to support miracle stories. All bible stories have the ring of folk lore to them. The gospel authors are unknown. The texts are wildly inconsistent and implausible. There’s not even certainty as to the historical Jesus. And many, many more.
I can only sensibly discuss particulars. Do you think it is actually possible to “reply” to a wildly broad and “100-topic” sort of post like this? Only a fool would attempt to do so.
It’s the oldest rhetorical trick in the book, to simply throw out 100 different topics (none proven; none even properly explicated) and then to assume a seemingly smug faux-posture of intellectual superiority: since, after all, there are so many problems with the view being critiqued. Your second-to-last paragraph contains an amazing seven sentences in a row with as many large-and-lumpy topics in them. That may impress the choir, but it is not a rational argument for anything. It’s one bald assertion after another.
Nos482 Now what did Jesus say about the unity of xtianity? The simple fact that there are ‘extreme and twisted version[s] of Christianity’ disproves the whole shebang… at least the bible tells me so.
How is it that you think counterfeits prove that there is no genuine thing? The Bible teaches precisely that there will be sects claiming to be followers of Jesus that are not in fact so, and it condemns sectarianism and divisiveness. This is a major reason why I am a Catholic. You never heard of “wolves in sheeps’ clothing” either?
What constitutes an “insult” varies from group to group. For example, I wouldn’t count the statement “all atheists are going to hell” as uncivil; it’s theological and not a personal attack. A discussion rule against gratuitous insults then shouldn’t include it (or its atheist equivalent) — unless it does due to a personal choice of the authority, who has that right. But it’s not an obvious violation. Most sites would not only allow it, but wouldn’t even see it as walking particularly close to the edge.
I’m glad you have highlighted the example of “all atheists are going to hell” as something I ban for (because it will be understood here). That is extremely uncharitable, it simply can’t be stated, according to consistent Christian theology (which holds that we have no knowledge of anyone going to hell or not, save the devil and his demons), and it immediately crushes any hope of Christian-atheist discussion.
If I allow that sort of garbage, then visiting atheists who see it will get a wrong impression of my approach and what I am trying to achieve. They themselves write about how offensive and absurd such sweeping statements are. I agree! I’ve written posts about legitimate atheist anger at how many dim-witted, uncharitable Christians treat them. So it can’t be allowed. Conversely, atheists saying that all Christians are stupid, infantile, or intellectually dishonest, are not allowed. Both attitudes kill mutually respectful discussion. Since that is always my goal, I simply can’t allow either.
Ian Cooper The problem with David Armstrong’s ban hammer is that it seems to be triggered by statements as mild as “The Catholic Church is wrong”. . . . preventing them from defending themselves from such attacks is the act of a coward and a bully. A decent, fair and honest person does not pick a fight with someone he’s bound and gagged first. If David Armstrong doesn’t want atheists to respond, maybe he shouldn’t be attacking us in the first place.
How many were banned is irrelevant, unless we look at the specifics as to why they were banned. It’s merely the ad populum fallacy.
What I do know for sure is that many online atheists are extremely insulting towards Christians, so we would fully expect that people like that would be banned from Christian sites, just as insulting, stupid Christians are banned from atheist sites (though not as much, because atheists love to interact with dumb Christians: it confirms to them that they were right in rejecting Christianity — baby-bathwater stuff, but still . . .).
Atheists have a vested interest in thinking that Christianity is stupid and that Christians are imbeciles. And I’m the first to admit that Christians often have the same unsavory attitude towards atheists. Both are wrong, and I’ve always condemned both attitudes.
Dave hates stridency.Dave loves true dialogue and is utterly contemptuous of pseudo-dialogue, talking past each other, and the despising of free and open, mutually respectful and amiable, truth-seeking exchanges.