Cassidy McGillicuddy, who goes by “Captain Cassidy” runs a blog called Roll to Disbelieve. She describes herself and her views as follows: “I was raised Catholic by a very fervent family, converted to evangelicalism in my teens, and became a full-on fundamentalist shortly thereafter, . . . But shortly after college I figured out that my religion’s claims weren’t true. . . . I’m a humanist, a skeptic, a freethinker, and a passionate student of science, mythology, and history. . . . I care more about what people do than on what they call themselves. I don’t think of myself as having much of a specific religious or non-religious label beyond “ex-Christian,” . . .
Cassidy wrote a post entitled, “Why Christians Need Satan to Be An Idiot” (11-1-18). I love the little psychological judgment there. In it she takes me to task, by “critiquing” [???] an article I did about Satan: “Satan is Highly Intelligent—and an Arrogant Idiot” (National Catholic Register, 11-27-17). As usual, I wasn’t informed of it so I could reply. I just happened to run across it last night. Her words will be in blue.
First of all, to get an idea of the polemical / insulting spirit in which Cassidy undertakes this criticism, I cite her comment in the combox under her post (11-4-18), with my reply:
I originally thought I must have banned him [i.e., me] from here already, but since we’ve never really delved into his blathering, he has no real reason to care about us so I probably haven’t. When I think about Christians who are bullies but wilt like orchids under a hair-dryer when they get pushback, he’s one of the first people I think of!
Really? That must be why I wrote 30 papers (yes, thirty: all on different topics he wrote about) in response to atheist Bob Seidensticker (at his initial urging), without one peep in reply: because I’m the coward and he is obviously intellectually confident . . .
Thanks for letting me know, by the way, about this piece, so I could reply. It’s a sign of your sublime intellectual confidence [sarcasm alert!]. I had to run across it. Having done so, it’ll get a full reply tomorrow. It looks to be a very fun piece. I look forward to it!
Will you flee to the hills, too, like Bob always does, after you are critiqued? Well, we’ll see, won’t we?
Now onto her paper itself:
When I was a Christian, every single Christian I knew had two completely contradictory opinions about Satan. First, everyone thought he was beyond infernally intelligent. But second, everyone thought he was a stone-cold IDIOT.
It’s not contradictory at all: rightly understood. And I explained this in my article. There is intelligence / cleverness / brain power / ability to analyze and be subtle and sophisticated / high IQ. That’s one thing. And then there is wisdom and knowledge, which is the ability to arrive at truth and an understanding of reality as it actually is, as opposed to falsehood and pretense and self-delusion or plain befuddled ignorance.
Satan possesses the first quality, and utterly lacks the second. Thus, he can be described simultaneously as “infernally intelligent” (the perfect description of that) and an “idiot”: because they are referring to two different things. As usual, the atheist / skeptic thinks it is a contradiction when it is not at all (they love to do this with the Bible, and one of my sub-specialties is to refute such efforts).
Perhaps the reason that Cassidy doesn’t grasp this distinction (which isn’t rocket science) is because some atheists / agnostics / humanists have an outlook which is quite similar to Satan’s: the denial of God, or undue skepticism towards Him, while usually having above-average brain power, IQ, and “book learning.” They can’t see the forest for the trees: just as Satan couldn’t. They stand outside of reality, in terms of spiritual and metaphysical matters. More on this below.
And that may also (I speculate) account for Cassidy’s anger and insults in her paper. Perhaps she understands down deep that these same criticisms of Satan apply to her and other non-Christians (i.e., to the intransigent sorts among them, who have been informed of Christian truths and the gospel — have enough knowledge to understand and believe — and reject them).
Catholic author, conspiracy theorist, chest-thumper, and zinger-flinger Dave Armstrong somehow missed the message that Jesus wanted him to love his enemies and forgive seventy times seven. He finds way more pleasure in doling out abuse, dripping condescension, and blistering scorn.
Apparently, for Cassidy (follow her link above), any philosophical defense of Christianity (such as the teleological argument) is “conspiracy theory”. That would be news to the philosopher David Hume (often erroneously regarded as an atheist), who held to a form of the teleological argument, and believed in some sort of deity (though not the Christian one). I need not waste any more time with silly personal insults like this, which have no relation to truth. As for the charge of abuse and so forth, this is, in my opinion, essentially code language for “a Christian who dares to get uppity and critique atheism and their atheist intellectual superiors and overlords”.
Even this line of mine (the previous sentence) will be classified as a species of “abuse” because atheists usually are unaware of how condescending they routinely are towards Christians. Thus, when we fight back against lies told about us, we get this accusation (almost to the extent of atheist paranoia and abject fear of any serious criticism of themselves). We can’t win, no matter what we do. We either take the lies and do nothing, or if we oppose them, then we’re accused of yet more false charges. I’d rather stick to the issues.
People may read my exchanges with Loftus (who exploded into the stratosphere and melted down to goo when I critiqued his deconversion story) and my discussions with Babinski (one / two / three), and make up their own minds. Cassidy thinks I got slaughtered (what a surprise). Whatever the case may be, I am happy to present both sides of these debates on my site. That’s what I do: I engage in debates and dialogue: just like this present effort. And I have scores and scores of debates with atheists (see my Atheism web page). Folks can read, use their critical faculties, and decide who made the more plausible case and arguments.
Armstrong decides Satan is “stupid.” Mainly, his argument consists of this following (and unsupported) burst of mental arithmetic:
- Satan knew better than anybody what his god liked, wanted, demanded and expected.
- He didn’t need to be “a rocket scientist” to guess what would happen to him if he didn’t fall into line.
- He rebelled anyway.
- What kind of nitwit even does that? Only someone really dumb!
- Corollary: when TRUE CHRISTIANS™ like himself tell us unwashed heathens the totally-for-realsies penalties for rebellion and we reject their control grabs, we reveal to King Them that we are just as dumb as Satan is.
The first four points, notwithstanding some bias, basically present what I argued. The last one emphatically does not. Belief or nonbelief is an extremely complex matter, and it doesn’t help to caricature what Christians believe about it. I make a sharp distinction (following the New Testament) between “open-minded agnostics” (who aren’t sure God exists, but open to possible proof) and “rebellious” atheists (like Satan!): who know that God exists, but reject Him anyway.
I don’t hold that all atheists are automatically wicked and evil; quite the contrary, I contend that some atheists may be saved in the end, given certain conditions of invincible ignorance and what they have been taught (or not taught). I think my position is quite tolerant and irenic: compared to what many other Christians say. I base it on biblical teaching. Cassidy was in anti-intellectual fundamentalist circles in her past life (so she would have observed — and perhaps joined in on — a lot of Dumb Christianity™). I never was. Most Christians (the vast majority: especially through history) never were.
My view, then, is far from thinking all atheists are “dumb” and “evil.” Some are (just as some Christians are, too: and some of those will be damned). It comes down to each individual case. Our job (and particularly mine, as an apologist and evangelist) is to share the Good News of Christianity and the fullness of Catholicism. God goes from there, and people may accept what we share or reject it or remain undecided.Cassidy says in her profile that “I’m generally friendly to the idea of spiritual stuff, but I want evidence for it.” I take her at her word, which means I would classify her as an “open-minded agnostic” rather than “rebel” (a la Satan). She has not ruled God out altogether.
I’m focusing on this post because it reveals the toxic Christian playbook in such detail. Though nowhere near all Christians believe in Satan (or Hell, for that matter), the ones who do definitely qualify as toxic. Nor is this belief exclusively evangelical—plenty of Catholics just like Dave Armstrong believe in a literal Satan. So his opinion represents a commonly-held opinion in those nastier ends of Christianity. Indeed, I heard exactly the same sorts of statements about Satan in both Southern Baptist (SBC) and Pentecostal (UPCI) churches.
Note what she is saying: all Christians who hold to the actual historic teachings of Christianity: in this instance, the existence of Satan and hell, are bad people, and “toxic Christians.” Lest we miss what she means by this, let’s follow her link above and see how she understands it:
Zealotry demands control over other people’s lives even if those people aren’t even members of its group. It is not love but hate, though zealots may relabel hate as love to make its members think that by harming others, they are really showing love to them (though the people being harmed are not fooled in the least).
Zealotry doesn’t care about facts in its rush to push its bizarre understanding of “truth;” it will do whatever it must to spread itself, because spreading itself is what is important. Love, truthfulness, faithfulness, a servant’s heart, charity, none of it matters to a zealot. The ends justify the means. . . .
So when I talk about a “toxic Christian,” I’m talking about that narrow subset of zealots who harm others in the name of their religion, want to force their narrow interpretation of their religion’s dictates on everybody else, confuse love with hate and abuse with caring, and care more about proselytizing than they do about following their religion’s primary commands. They are a poisonous cloud of gas seeping over every surface and poisoning everything they touch, and their form of religion just spawns more people like themselves: zealots ready for the cause.
According to her, any Christian who merely believes in hell and Satan (standard Christian beliefs) are “toxic” and hateful, despicable scumbags. But if we start discarding Christian beliefs, like good theological liberals and dissidents, then we are fine and dandy in her book, because we are more similar to her. Very charitable and tolerant, isn’t it? Contrast that with my irenic, ecumenical view that atheists might possibly be saved and should be treated with respect and charity and approached as sincere individuals.
Cassidy has decided beforehand that hundreds of millions of Christians are evil and wicked wascally wascals because they dare to accept the historic Christian beliefs about hell and Satan. Talk about massive bigotry! And this would explain her hostility to me, wouldn’t it?: since I believe in Satan, and critique his behavior. That means that I am a scumbag, by definition. And scumbags and morons need not be treated with civility and charity. All the while she lectures us Christians about charity and behavior . . . the ironies here are very rich and sad.
It’s not that there aren’t many millions of Christians who do a lousy job at both properly living the Christian life (trying to be Christlike) and at sharing (or bearing witness to) the faith. There certainly are, and I roundly criticize them all the time, because they give Christians a bad name. What is so objectionable and beyond insulting is that Cassidy classifies everyone who believes in hell and Satan as a “toxic Christian”: someone who hates others and is not Christlike at all. This simply doesn’t follow. Reality and the facts of the matter are not nearly that simple and simplistic. We can’t classify millions of people as morons simply because we disagree with them on some point of theology (or anything else). This is the classic bigoted or prejudiced outlook.
By the way, the United Pentecostal Church (UPCI) is not Christian, but rather, Sabellian heresy, which is a denial of trinitarianism and the orthodox doctrine concerning Jesus. This is apparently part of Cassidy’s background (we know she at least attended such churches), which would partially explain some of her confusion about and rejection of true Christianity.
Christians talk this way for a reason. They seek to reassure each other that while there’s everything to fear, they’re all perfectly safe because ultimately, Satan is easy to defeat because he is an idiot.
This isn’t true as a blanket statement. Mainstream Christianity (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant) teaches that he can certainly be defeated by Jesus and for us, through the power of the Holy Spirit granted to us as Christians, but not that this is easy-as-pie. Top the contrary, most Christian groups teach that we have to be constantly vigilant against the wares of the Evil One: against “the world, the flesh, and the devil.” It takes faith and work and perseverance.
Toxic Christians fear their enemies for their greater intelligence, popularity, and reach–and also for their apparent lack of fear of Christian threats and retaliation, which are such devastatingly effective tools in their culture. At the same time, they hate those enemies for what they see them as taking from the tribe.
Every terrible thing these Christians do is driven by one of those two emotions (and sometimes both at once). The harvest of those dark seeds is terror and rage. Indeed, terror and rage propel them. These emotions feel familiar.
Ideally, manipulating these two emotions will produce either a lessening in their own fear or an increase in others’ fear, which will bring about an increase in their own power and holdings–or a lessening in that of their enemies. That motivation about covers moral panics in general. But it applies beautifully to all the other awful stuff they do.
Faux-psychoanalysis from a hostile, bigoted perspective, rather than objective rational analysis, and so unworthy of a reply . . . Cassidy continues on in this vein. She’s in her own little world: thinking that all Christians are somehow like the anti-intellectual fundamentalist ones she used to be part of. It’s very common among atheists and agnostics: identifying the whole with a small, poor representation: throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
Not only is Satan himself super-smart-but-abysmally-stupid, but so is anybody else who refuses to fall into line.
As I have already stated: this isn’t true: not for thinking Christians. It only is for lousy Christians who haven’t thought-through or loved their faith very well: again, the ones Cassidy used to be among. That is not — repeat, NOT — the whole ball of wax. But we can’t prevent her from employing this fallacy and this caricature and stereotype over and over, to the cheers of her fan club.
The rest of the post simply repeats ad nauseam the same fallacious views (repetition doesn’t make a flimsy, non-substantive pseudo-argument any better). Very disappointing. I was expecting much better, but I suppose the insults were a clue that it wasn’t to be.
Cassidy “responded” on her blog (after banning me there):
You are just one tiny piece of exactly why Christianity is declining. You, personally, shout to the whole world that absolutely no gods of infinite love and grace inhabit you, and that you can’t even take your own religion’s commands seriously.
It’d probably blow control-freak Christians’ little minds to realize just how little anybody cares about their various tantrums.
Abusive people are their own kind of drama. They can’t help but act out, but acting out makes their situation worse, which makes them act out worse… He’s exactly why his religion is failing. He shows us . . . that no gods of love inhabit him–and that his “faith” is really his permission slip to abuse others.
So I don’t care what this guy has to say. He offers nothing whatsoever of interest or value to anybody. He’s a hateful, spiteful, reactionary, vengeful, rage-filled bore just like the rest of his tribe, howling and beating their chests with their fists and lashing out at any criticisms. Hell, I won’t even remember he dropped by in a day or two.
It’s downright amazing to see their ingenuity in avoiding the commands attributed to Jesus himself. That wriggling comes in second only to their pretenses at rationality.
Christian hypocrisy just reminds me that Christianity is morally bankrupt. So many people just like this guy can operate in the religion and even flourish in it because there’s nothing real to its claims. It should be impossible for him to be like this. And yet here he is, and nobody will ever convince him that he is a stone-cold hypocrite who ought to be ashamed of himself for the way he sets back the cause of Christ. The ways of a man truly are right in his eyes, eh? This is why religion is poison. The foxes voted themselves long ago to be the keepers of the henhouse, and they don’t see any problem with that–and they sure don’t care what the hens might have to say about their self-granted liberties.
Who’d want to join a group that allows someone like that to run roughshod over people? Literally the only reason people put up with Christians is because we had to. We don’t have to anymore.
The fact that someone can be a Catholic author, fully complicit with all the ghastly things the Catholic church is doing and has done, and look down on others is just mind-blowing. But that’s how controllers and oppressors are. When they have no real defense, they hit offense as hard as they can.
Photo credit: Lucifer (1890), by Franz Stuck (1863-1928) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]