A Christian Explains Why He Won’t Argue with Atheists Online Anymore April 13, 2010

A Christian Explains Why He Won’t Argue with Atheists Online Anymore

Last year, Christian Nathan Campbell posted a list of “Five things that would make atheists seem nicer” and got properly “pissed on” by PZ.

Nathan says he’s been one of those Christians who comments on atheist blogs in order to present an alternative perspective to readers — but now, he’s “on the verge of giving up.”

And there are 8 reasons why. He goes into more detail on his website, but my responses to the main claims are below.

1. If you argue with atheists online, especially on their turf, you will almost always be outnumbered.

I agree. And Nathan explains it perfectly: We don’t have a church, so many of us congregate on the Internet instead. We also have each other’s backs if we see a commenter going after one of us.

2. Being outnumbered makes actually engaging with arguments hard.

Being outnumbered shouldn’t be a problem if there were good arguments to make. Christians don’t have them when it comes to most of our issues, plain and simple. It’s not an issue of the token Christian only being able to address a couple of points among the many presented — it’s that even when they address specific points, they often do it poorly and dig themselves into a deeper hole.

3. If you’re going to talk about science, logic or morality you need to be careful to frame your terminology accurately.

Damn right. Christians need to realize they’re talking to people who have studied these topics extensively. As a result, they make rookie mistakes. Hell, I do it sometimes, too. But I also know my limits and I try to avoid talking about scientific research and philosophy because I know those aren’t my areas of expertise. Some of the online Christian commenters think their pastor taught them all they need to know about science and logic and morality.

They’re wrong.

4. Atheists have no interest in nuance. They don’t pay any regard to context.

Nathan calls us out for “quote-mining” the Bible, among other things. That’s just ridiculous. We quote Bible passages — in context and out of it — as much as pastors do. If you want to call us out for taking a passage out of context, I want to see you calling out pastors for doing the same thing because they do it all the time.

You have a problem with us taking something literally? Tell that to the approximately 100,000,000 Christians who believe the same thing. Are they good Christians or foolish ones? What do you say to them?

The Bible’s full of good ideas and bad ideas (mostly bad ideas), true statements and untrue statements (mostly untrue statements). Don’t whine just because we happen to be the people who aren’t afraid to point them out.

5. “Christians” are your own worst enemies in these contexts. A week’s worth of reasoned and fruitful discussion can be very easily undone by one comment made without being mindful of presenting the “truth with love.”

Yes, there are a lot of annoying Christians out there. They make the same mistakes. They quote the Bible (in and out of whatever “context” Nathan thinks applies). They CAPITALIZE EVERYTHING as if their thoughts are more important than anyone else’s. They make comments that have nothing to do with the topic at hand.

What makes someone a “good Christian commenter”? Well, I have a number of them on this site and I think I can explain why I appreciate their input. Their end goal is not conversion of everyone else. They know better than to do that. Their goal is to offer a different perspective and they’re not afraid to defend themselves. If they rebut a point that has been made, they’re respectful when they do it. They acknowledge when Christians make mistakes and aren’t afraid to criticize their own people.

6. Most “atheists” are antitheists, most hold atheism at the core of their identity — but this is not true for all of them.

Frankly, I don’t know what this has to do with anything. There are different types of atheists just as there are different types of Christians. Even if I don’t agree with what other atheists say/believe, I don’t deny their atheism. I know they don’t believe in any gods.

Nathan claims “there are, in fact, external issues to take into account when deciding if a Christian is a Christian.” I’m sure there are… but every church/sect/denomination has their own set of rules. It’s usually, “We’re Christians and everybody else is not.”

7. You’ll almost never change anybody’s mind online.

Not if you make bad points, you won’t. And most Christian commenters make absurd claims that won’t win anyone over to their side.

However, people who have something intelligent to say, with the ability to back it up, can really make a big dent in someone’s preconceived notions.

I don’t know what the number is of people who have become atheists — or who have become more active about their atheism or who have come out of the closet for the first time — because they read atheist blogs online.

My guess, though, is that the number is not trivial.

8. Your best bet in these situations is just to bring everything back to a question of the historicity of Jesus and his resurrection, this, after all, is the lynchpin of our belief.

Many Christians have tried and failed. Books have been written and debunked. If that’s all you have to offer, then you have nothing.

All of this isn’t to say Christians shouldn’t bother commenting online or remarking on atheists’ blogs.

But if their purpose in doing that is to evangelize, they’re not going to accomplish anything worthwhile. They’ll just make it that much harder for Christians who want to participate in a real debate on the issues — something that is increasingly difficult to do at Christian blogs and in churches.

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  • Nora

    I was able to finally accept the fact that I was a *gasp* atheist and that, hey, maybe that’s okay almost solely due to the repeated, logical arguments presented in an online message board.

    Anecdote and all, but it DOES happen. If you’re RIGHT or at least making enough sense to seem like it.

  • plutosdad

    What a quitter, my girlfriend is a theist, and a trial lawyer, and likes to interrupt. Try arguing with someone like that!

  • From just reading his little list, it seems he tried to preach at atheists instead of having a conversation.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Nathan claims “there are, in fact, external issues to take into account when deciding if a Christian is a Christian.”

    Sure there are. Such as whether they wear a kilt or not.

    (for the particularly clueless: that’s a reference to the No True Scotsman fallacy)

  • Kyle Von Stroodle

    I have usually been out numbered, especially on the God page of Facebook, but hell, I can deal 60 notifications. 😛

  • Matt

    “Many Christians have tried and failed. Books have been written and debunked. If that’s all you have to offer, then you have nothing. ”

    That is ALL they have to offer, the sooner they actually realise tht the sooner they’ll be free from the strictures of their medievalist (hell, Bronze Age Pastoralist) beliefs.

  • Killer Bee

    Why argue?

  • Ross

    I was a little disappointed reading this article. I was really hoping the reason he would no longer argue online is that he became an atheist. Oh well.

  • Peregrine

    I’d hardly agree with his assumption that most atheists are antitheist.

    It might be more accurate to say that most atheists who would bother to reply to a Christian comment on an atheist blog tend to be antitheist.

  • funny about thing about “2. Being outnumbered makes actually engaging with arguments hard.” is that this dude lost sight of the first 300 years of the tradition. what we see here is a dude confronted with his own privilege of being in the majority and thus is uncomfortable in having to reason out his beliefs. it’s easier to be a lazy blogger, make claims and have them go unchallenged. things like “there is a God” “Jesus died for your sins” and “Jesus is God” are things rather widely accepted in most Christian circles. but if you question these presumptions often times the believer has no idea how to answer them.

    that being said, i recognize that i myself do these things and i speak as being a Christian myself. i think what Beamstalk had to say is right on. he’s looking to convert whereas i’m looking for blindspots in my own worldview. i think that makes a big difference.

    i do agree with “4. Atheists have no interest in nuance. They don’t pay any regard to context.” with some modification. i think some anti-theists have no interest in nuance and thus will just say no to anything a believer has to say. not all atheists are anti-theist hence the title of this blog which i have found to be true. also with bloggers like Sabio and Luke from Common Sense Atheism.

    to make short claim and sum up the last paragraph: i dislike anti-theists who say no to everything just as much as i dislike anti-atheists who claim damnation for others and state that other Christians are not Christian. both get on my nerves. /rant

  • Slickninja

    I’d say there’s a bit of a disconnect between the values that many Christians fail to understand about many atheists.

    For me, hard irrefutable evidence, constructed out of research, reason and logic is what matters. Christians value faith and piety.

    Most of the time we talk at each other but not really to each other. I’m not exactly in the bridge building, holding hands school of thought when “tolerance” means discrimination, persecution of civil rights for women, gays, minorities and so on, but I know I’m guilty of not bothering to hear out the other side at times at the same time.

  • I will miss Nathan if he ends up only preaching to the choir. I found his arguments over time about the Christian perspective interesting (though not convincing).

    For example, Nathan argues that the correct Christian position on morality is that something is good only if God says it is good and evil only if God says it is evil. And that since God is all powerful, He gets to make the rules. End of story. Any humanistic value system that departs from God’s law is sinful (missing the mark).

    I appreciate that Nathan argues this point of view consistently without vacillating all over the place trying to have it both ways (conflating “good by human standards” with God’s law).

    I appreciate Nathan’s view. I just don’t believe this is the way the world works (or should work even if there is such a God). Not even for a second.

  • mkb

    “You’ll almost never change anybody’s mind online.” Did anyone change Nathan’s mind?

  • I know that I was able to finally come out with my Atheism through reading ‘anti-Mormon propaganda’ (what the LDS church calls anything that paints them in a bad light) and Dawkins, and blogs by Atheists.

    I think that is why I stay away from religious arguments. I have been on the other side of the fence and I know nothing would have shaken my faith because faith is not based on logic or reasoning.

    I don’t think that most Atheists are “antitheists”, if you want to believe in gods or goddesses, fine. I think a lot of us do fall into being anti-religion. It’s usually the religious organizations who are trying to force bullcrap down our throats. Trying to write their beliefs into law, and having no regard for others who also live around them. Brainwashing their minions into starting ‘white only” blood banks and supporting discrimination, bigotry and hate. I think that is usually what ticks off normal, rational people; at least in my opinion.

    Believe in whatever you wish, just don’t push it on others.

  • Alex

    What’s an antitheist to him?

    My position that religious practices should be private was considered “intolerance” by brother who feels persecuted by secular issues like gay marriage and restoring the Pledge to its original, pre-1954 words (from a Christian minister!). He’s always being persecuted by something. We have lively debates but he thinks I’m an antitheist if I don’t want to give every high school graduate a Bible with their diploma.

  • Atheists have no interest in nuance. They don’t pay any regard to context.

    Really? He’s going to use the “LOL CONTEXT” gambit? He needs to look at every single time that a Christian has quoted Psalms or Revelation. And he needs to realize that there are many things in the Bible that make no sense at all no matter what context you put them in. The Old Testament God endorsing slavery and genocide is cruel no matter the context.

  • Your “best bet”, as far as I’m concerned, is to (a) stop trying undermine facts with bullshit (start by getting an education) and (b) don’t tell other people how to live their lives.

    At that point I’m happy to talk nicely to anyone.

  • Ted

    @Luke; I have never met an anti-theist that says “No to everything” without due reason.

    It only appears that way because many of these anti-theists, such as myself, have heard the same stories from people like YOU and others hundreds of times, so when the words start to come out of your mouth, before you finish your sentence, we know what you’re talking about and where you’re going with it, so we interrupt you and give you the reasoning against what you’ve said, which leads you to think we don’t listen or don’t care what you’ve said – when in essence you haven’t given us anything new.

    Religion is a dying failed science. Hop off that failed wagon now and be wiser for it.

  • Nosmo king

    At least “atheist” websites will let christians post. If an atheist tries to post on a christian site (they rarely have a place to post) then they are usually blocked or deleted.

  • skinman

    Hemant – It’s nice to see your claws come out for a change. Not that I’d like to see you go all PZ on us, but sometimes you seem a little too friendly (for my tastes). This swipe at Nathan and you passive-aggressively sticking it to your mother the other day makes me smile. That was very reminiscent of my relationship with my mother. I don’t want to crush her with my atheism, but I don’t want her to forget it either.

    Wow, this comment took a weird turn.

  • littlejohn

    Actually, I have no beef with many of his points.
    But his distinction between atheists and antitheists sounds like hair-splitting in the extreme.
    I suppose Hitchens, with hiz zeal to argue with theists, might qualify as an antitheist.
    But what would you call those assholes who knock on my door and try to convert me? Anti-atheists?
    At least Hitchens doesn’t go around annoying people. You can choose to avoid his debates and books if you wish, but I have to threaten those little bastard Mormoms with bodily harm to make them go away. (My screen name is ironic.)

  • Killer Bee

    “(My screen name is ironic.)”

    “But don’t let the name fool you, in real life I’m actually very big.” – Little John, from Robin Hood: Men in Tights.

  • Biggie Fries

    “8. Your best bet in these situations is just to bring everything back to a question of the historicity of Jesus and his resurrection, this, after all, is the lynchpin of our belief.”

    Hahahahahahah!

    Why do Christians always give each other such bad advice?

  • Jennifer

    Why argue at all? We have to use reason and logic to counter their ever changing myth? It’s not worth wasting one’s life, not even a few minutes!

  • Jen

    I was a “lapsed Catholic” when I met my boyfriend… I still believed fully in the basic tenets about god and jesus, but I didn’t agree with the church as an institution, and many of “their” rules, so I didn’t support it.
    My boyfriend is an atheist, so I searched online to read about the viewpoint, in order to understand him better.
    Over the course of a year reading 3 or 4 different atheist blogs regularly, I pretty much decided that all god-beliefs are ridiculous, and now I count myself as an atheist 🙂

  • Sounds like a LOT of other Christians I used to debate with and against. They were not interested in discussion or learning, but conversion or proving they were RIGHT. That alone causes me to become completely disinterested.

    When I was still a Christian I was interested in understanding other people and attribute that to being the reason why I got along with so many Aggies and Athies as I used to call them. (Cheezey, I know). I wish there were more Christians with that mindset as it makes discussion SO MUCH MORE ENJOYABLE.

    <3

  • @littlejohn I once answered the door to some Mormons, not realising I was wearing that t-shirt from Threadless with 2 unicorns fornicating in front of a rainbow. I couldn’t figure out why neither of them could look me in the face and they excused themselves very quickly after I explained that whoever they were asking for wasn’t home. So that’s a good way to get them to leave.

  • The “outnumbered” thing is actually pretty real. I can manage one conversation. Or three. But from my own experiences with the Rational Response Squad a few years back, it’s a bit hard to discuss something when fifteen folks are calling you a doodoohead in fifteen different ways. Doable, but connecting with another human being in a gracious and rational way is tough with a flamewar going on around everything you say.

  • Hi Hemant, I’m only an occasional reader here, but I got here this time via Nathan’s blog.. and I must say, his post seems somewhat “prophetic” given some of the comments here.. kilts and all!

    I am interested in the comment you made regarding the argument to the Historical Resurrection:

    “Books have been written and debunked. If that’s all you have to offer, then you have nothing. ”

    Obviously, there is a certain amount of rhetoric in that comment, but even so, I’m interested to know if you could perhaps point me to a piece of scholarly published work that specifically interacts with, and “debunks” N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God? As this (rather heavy) tome is considered one of the benchmark pieces of scholarship regarding the resurrection, I would be interested to read the scholarly response that you imply would nullify the argument.

    (Or are you perhaps prepared to admit that there is a legitimate argument made that you simply don’t find persuasive?)

  • Alex

    A UU minister I know holds a class about discovering the bible. I suggested that he rename it to Salvaging the Bible, and maybe that would get more people to attend. My requests to him to about what “good” things are in the bible that are not already revealed in previous history and what “good” things are presented in the bible that any caring and humane non-believer would not know already? I never seem to get an answer to these questions.

  • Richard Wade

    Nathan’s entire text of number 8 is:

    Your best bet in these situations is just to bring everything back to a question of the historicity of Jesus and his resurrection, this, after all, is the lynchpin of our belief. If they can disprove the resurrection then our faith is in vain. And it’s this argument that needs to be convincing. Questions of science and methodology are secondary.

    This to me is both his most insightful and his most clueless statement. Yes, that is the lynchpin of his belief, and of all the claims that Christians make. But these two sentences show his gigantic blind spot:

    If they can disprove the resurrection then our faith is in vain. And it’s this argument that needs to be convincing.

    He considers the claim to be proven by what he considers valid criteria, which are assertion and argument. Then he expects atheists to have to disprove it, but he wants it done by the same criteria, the only ones he recognizes, which are assertion and argument. From the atheists’ point of view, he’s the one making the claim and so he needs to prove it, and his assertions and arguments lack the criteria that they value, recognize and find convincing, EVIDENCE. He thinks that arguments are evidence. No, Nathan, arguments desperately cry out for evidence. Without evidence, arguments, no matter how eloquent, are just a mouth chopping up air.

    His final sentence has irony that I suspect is lost on him:

    Questions of science and methodology are secondary.

    He may be referring to specific issues surrounding science here, but this well expresses how he’s constantly missing the point. A scientific, evidence-driven methodology is what would be convincing to atheists, and he not only doesn’t have the evidence to use, he just doesn’t see its value.

    He’s seduced by the power of assertion and argument. Those were powerful over his mind, and so he thinks that they should be powerful over everyone’s minds, and if he could just somehow deliver those assertions and arguments in just the right way, they would work.

    Nope. The most brilliant, perfectly presented argument against an empty gas tank isn’t going to get you down the road.

  • Vene

    You damn well better know science, logic, or philosophy if you’re going to talk about them. To engage in a conversation and throw around terms without know what they mean is both dishonest and lazy. More than anything else, this one stuck out to me. One of the worst thing you can do in an argument is to let the conversation drift to an area you don’t know, but your opponent does. And then, as I’ve seen time and time again, the layperson actually challenges the expert on the subject. In internet vernacular, lulz were had.

  • Dave Barry said, “People who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share your religious views with them.”

  • If this is a christian, how sad the life of a christian must be!

  • J. Allen

    Some people are saying ‘why argue?’

    People argue because they want to understand each other, and arguing is good because it forces you to observe other opinions that you might not observe normally. As an atheist I believe that challenging my ideas is something that should be done daily.

    Certainly, arguing can spend time, but asking ‘why argue?’ is like asking ‘why think?’. A discussion of points isn’t about convincing anyone at that particular time, but laying out a case to be mulled over later. Argument is an important part of the search for truth, because it is arrogant to assume you can imagine all possible objections to your theories of the world.

  • J. J. Ramsey

    Being outnumbered shouldn’t be a problem if there were good arguments to make.

    Careful here. That’s your weakest point. Imagine dealing with creationists on their own forum. Even if you have good arguments, you can still get swamped with the B.S. from the other side.

  • Stephen P

    Atheists … don’t pay any regard to context.

    I’ve heard this one often, and I have to say it irritates me intensely. It’s not so much the pot calling the kettle black: it’s the pot calling the bone china black. Ignoring the context is an absolutely standard method of Christian argument, used by practically every apologist I’ve ever corresponded with.

    To take a single example, no-one reading Isaiah 7:14 (the Immanuel passage) in context could think it referred to Jesus. Yet Christians have been insisting that it does ever since “Matthew” first managed to ignore the context 19 centuries ago.

  • Rachel

    I don’t understand why the whole “You’re an antitheist not an atheist” meme is so important to people like Nathan. I know a lot of atheists and not a single one of them wants to force religious people to believe anything other than what they want to believe.

    Is it just because they feel attacked when they have no response to logic and science?

  • JB Tait

    I wonder if there is directionality to conversion.

    If you were a Believer and the persuasive atheists showed you a new way to believe, is this more likely than if you do not believe and the persuasive Christians showed you a new perspective?

    In other words, does Faith succumb to logic more often than logic and science are overruled by faith?

  • Greg

    I just read the initial 5 things to make atheists seem more nice thing (and about 5 of the comments) and I have to say: that made me feel so angry I may have to make any extensive comment on this thread later.

    This is a wonderful example of someone who does not want to discuss a subject, but rather wants people to agree with him, and tell him how wonderfully intelligent he is. Because he certainly seems to think he is the bees knees.

    Well, no, he might not be like that, but that’s certainly the way he has come across from the two things of his I have read. Of course, we all know the dangers of misrepresenting people based from just a few comments on the internet.

    Anyone who is so capable of generalising so completely a group of people, united only by not believing in one thing, as being smug is… Well. Wow. Words fail me.

    I have noticed that in all subjects – not just theism – those people who have the least information backing them up are the quickest to call their opponents smug, rude, mean, and so forth. It often appears to be codespeak for: ‘I can say nothing that even starts to bring what you just said into question. True, I can’t back up anything I am saying, but there is no way I am going to change my mind.’

    Please note that I do not mean by the above ‘people who argue against my views’ – I have seen this happen in plenty of arguments I have had no stake in.

    I suspect he will not be particularly missed. And I know plenty of people who are theistic, and would be missed if they withdrew from intelligent discourse.

  • robert

    For those who try to pull the ‘bait and switch’ when it comes to discussing the bible, specifically the “Oh, that passage doesn’t mean what you claim – it’s just allegorical”, I say “OK. You go through your bible and mark all those passages that are to be taken literally and all those that are allegorical and *then* we’ll have the debate. Oh, and by the way, I think I’ll ask half a dozen other Christians to do the same – after all, they’ll all come up with *exactly* the same annotations, won’t they?”

  • Andy

    I’m reading his comments on this thread (http://friendlyatheist.com/2010/01/07/20207/) and wow this guy sounds like a broken record.

    Also apparently we haven’t “disproved” Pascal’s wager (not sure how you disprove a wager, can I disprove a craps game?). Can’t wait to wake up in Muslim hell with him.

  • Edmond

    I remember debating back and forth with Nathan here a while back, our exchange finally ended with Nathan being frustrated that I was too “hung up” on the problem of circular reasoning (I was bothered by the fact that he believed the bible was true because the bible stated that the bible was true). He didn’t feel our debate would go much further, because he was personally OK with circular reasoning. How can you argue with THAT? Ironclad.

  • Miko

    “Being outnumbered shouldn’t be a problem if there were good arguments to make.”

    Not true. If five-hundred people are shouting nonsense, the one person making sense is still probably going to get drowned out. Also, the majority can split itself into two groups over a meaningless/fake difference and then pretend that its two wings represent the entire spectrum of discourse (e.g., consider the way the Democrats-and-Republicans party marginalizes all other political parties in the U.S.).

  • Greg

    Wow – thanks for the link to that Andy.

    After reading quite a bit, and skimming the rest, I think I’m right to say he won’t be missed.

    I must say after that I find it even funnier he calls atheists smug though.

    As an aside, one of my pet hates about certain theists is when they start redefining terms. Rather like Nathan did with good and evil in that post. I’ve seen a disconcerting trend, for example, among a group of internet theists to attempt to get around the inherent contradictions in omnipotence by saying something along the lines of: ‘Biblical omnipotence is different.’

    Then don’t call it omnipotence, and make up another word. Calling it omnipotence is to knowingly foster confusion, in an attempt to obfuscate the discussion and fool the person you are talking to.

    All it is is deceit, and people who do that have no interest in getting to the truth of the matter (which is all such a discussion should be about).

  • Parse

    So, I’ve read the original post, and I can’t say I’m that impressed.

    His point 1) is mostly accurate, but it’s lacking one key realization: he’s outnumbered *because* it’s our virtual turf. It’s like going to Madrid and complaining that everybody’s speaking Spanish there.

    Something that he misses with point 2) is that the ‘victory from numbers’ is claimed when the visitor cherrypicks the insults and irritation that’s directed at him. It’s fair to say in a discussion that you’re only one person, but if a bunch of people are replying to you, reiterating the exact same question, you should probably answer that question. Also, given the example thread he links to towards the end, there were mainly two or three other people arguing against him, not the hundreds he claims he was facing.

    In point 3), Nathan reveals that he thinks that Pascal’s Wager is a good argument that hasn’t been refuted, and claims to know what makes a True Scotsman. Yes, you can claim that a person doesn’t represent your specific sect of Christianity, but if you claim that a person isn’t a Christian at all because of some behavior or another, we’ll call you on it.

    I can’t add anything about points 4), 5), and 6) that Hemant hasn’t already said – but I want to reinforce what Hemant has said:

    Nathan claims “there are, in fact, external issues to take into account when deciding if a Christian is a Christian.” I’m sure there are… but every church/sect/denomination has their own set of rules. It’s usually, “We’re Christians and everybody else is not.”

  • Hemant,

    The best thing about my original “five things” post was that PZ’s response pretty much proved it.

    I’ll comment briefly on each point you made … I did say “mostly” given up. I’m not going to devote hours of my time to this discussion like I did on that last long thread… There were 42 comments here already when I woke up this morning – I’m not going to try to answer people here. If people want clarification they can seek it on my blog. Where my post is given in full (context people…).

    Re: 1. We agree.

    Re: 2. “Being outnumbered shouldn’t be a problem if there were good arguments to make.”

    That’s simply not true. Good arguments are drowned out by noise just as easily (if not as quickly) as bad ones. Discussions online are just as open being shouted down as discussions in the real world. Imagine trying to lecture on mathematics and having an angry mob in the room shouting over the top of you. It doesn’t work. Nobody pays attention to what you’re saying, and those who are trying get distracted every time you seek to quieten the rabble.

    “Christians don’t have them when it comes to most of our issues, plain and simple.”

    That’s just untrue, unless your definition is “a good argument that convinces me” or “a good argument that convinces atheists” – we’re not as self deluded as you might think.

    Re 3. We agree.

    Re 4. Oh absolutely. “Christians” are terrible with context too. It’s the biggest failing of the church. Not understanding that the Bible had an original point for its original first century audience (like Revelation being written to Christians suffering under Nero) are responsible for almost every bizarro sub-Christian cult, and just about everything you point out that’s wrong with the church on this blog (like not giving your sick kid’s medicine).

    But I feel a bit like your approach to quoting my post has been “quote mining” – I appreciate that it’s difficult not to. But my “you can’t generalise when talking about atheists” line seems to have gone missing.

    I have no problem with the Bible being taken literally (and indeed I do) so long as the question of function and purpose is also addressed. So “what purpose did this play for its original readers?” is a really important question.

    The problem, as I mentioned, is when people take verses from parables – stories that are clearly allegorical – and see them as instructions that Christians need to be following. Or taking a verse where the writer is criticising something as though they are affirming it. Picking a single verse to quote, rather than a passage, is almost always a sign of taking something out of context. No verse is an island.

    Re. 5. I think in my post I defined the bad Christian commentator as one who condemns rather than seeks to convert. Or rather, one who speaks without love. I have no problem with telling you that I’d like to see you converted. Believing in hell, as I do, means I want nobody to end up there because they didn’t ever have an opportunity to consider their decision.

    Attempting to convert someone to your point of view is at the heart of conversation or argument. Telling you that you’re going to hell because we disagree doesn’t seem loving. Again, it’s about nuance.

    Re 6. What I should have said, as I think a commenter pointed out, is “most atheists online are anti-theists”, if the classical distinction is to be understood this has huge significance on the discussion.

    An atheist should be open to thinking about each different presentation of a “god theory” in order to check their foundational premise. An anti-theist is against any such premise by default – they prefer to talk about believers as deluded and their beliefs as ridiculous (which seems a little hard if religious beliefs are a meme right? We can’t help if it we’ve evolved in a way that causes us to require religion).

    Re 7. You won’t even change people’s minds if you make good points – see 2. Unless you immerse yourself in another community and start to go with the crowd.

    Do any of you participate full time in a Christian forum while trying to investigate Christianity (like some of the commenters have indicated they did in reverse while considering atheism)?

    It’s much easier to be convinced that something is not true if you’re seeking to do that, than it is to be convinced that something is true – especially if the choice involves making life choices that you want to make as opposed to adopting a more stringent moral code.

    8. I say this because, as my point in full said, this is the point at which Christianity lives or dies. Show me Jesus’ body, or come up with a plausible account for the rise of Christianity in the Roman empire. If we started crucifying atheists do you think more atheists would come out and say “I’m an atheist”… I’m yet to be convinced by any of these “debunkings”…

    Thanks for the post, and the conversation.

  • muggle

    You all do know that I’m not exactly dying of heartbreak, don’t you? 😉 There was definitely no love lost between ole Nathan and I and this example of his behavior is the reason why.

    In short, he’s an annoying shit. Not because he says things that chip at your worldview but because it pisses him off that he doesn’t. He refuses that he has to but rather seems to assume you’re an ass if you don’t see the light when he keeps buzzing around like a mosquito after your blood. Hell, my apologies to mosquitoes. Those freaking little vampires are less annoying than Nathan is.

    I’m glad you posted this Hemant but I’ve got to say I don’t really give two shits what Nathan thinks. Though I am fairly certain, based on past behavior, that he will come over here and quote mine the place for examples of mean Atheists for his blog. Being the bitch I am, he likes to take me out of context but I’m hardly alone and he does as bad to those who are much nicer and more considerate of him than I am.

    That said, what I most resent is the anti-theist remark. Let me translate that Nathanese for you: “I can’t seem to save your soul. No matter how hard I try to, you persist on insisting you don’t have one. Therefore, you hate Christians.” Nathan very much subscribes to the theory whoever isn’t for me is against me. It’s rather paranoid and I resent it for I am most decidedly not anti-theist. To be anti-theist, I would have to give up one of my deepest held values — religious freedom. I treasure the freedom to believe or disbelieve any nonsense you choose.

    I don’t give a flying fig what someone thinks. I think they’re mistaken and they think I am and I am perfectly fine agreeing to disagree with them. However, there are certain theists who are not fine with that. I tend to call them hypocrites and, yes, I tend to clash with them big time. So do my theist friends. Not the least of which are those who consider themself Christian (and I am willing to accept people as whatever they consider themself to be unless perhaps they claim to be Jesus Christ himself or the King of France.)

    Hypocrites are those whose god is so weak that they feel he needs defending from mere mortals. Those whose faith has to be legislated. In short, those who have no more faith than I do and who are terrified by that fact because they do not have the self-confidence to stand tall and sort things out for themself and want a book of rules telling them precisely what to do and what not to do. If they truly trusted “god”, they’d trust him to judge for himself and would be all too glad to leave it to him as he instructed them to.

    So, bah, to his first nonsense 5! Bah, humbug, to his subsequent 8. Triple phooey to his next set (I’m guessing 10 but maybe 11 or 15 or 13 for the unluckiness of it) of standards he thinks we should care his listing about us on his blog.

    You do know what he can do with each and every one of his little listies, don’t you? 😀

  • muggle

    How did I know the devil himself would show up here? So much for not bothering anymore.

    Geesh, what an ass!

  • @Ted,

    If you stop them before they finish, it makes me wonder if you’re really listening. That would be poor manners in my book. as for “Religion is a dying failed science. Hop off that failed wagon now and be wiser for it.” i see that as a problem. i’ve never viewed religion as a science but as an art. that maybe a helpful distinction. and you would be correct in asserting (speaking of knowing what the other will or will not say/assume) that many theists see their religion as science, but i’m not one of them. my best to you and thank you for your response.

  • Show me Jesus’ body, or come up with a plausible account for the rise of Christianity in the Roman empire.

    Hahahahaha! Oh, Nathan, you silly little man. Christianity rose in the Roman empire because of syncretism and because the emperor embraced it.

    In case you REALLY don’t get it, Nathan, until you’ve proved your myths beyond a reasonable doubt, we have no reason to believe them. We do not have the burden of proof.

    Show me Zeus’ body, or come up with a plausible account for the rise of Hellene religions in ancient Greece.

    Show me Mohammad’s body, or come up with a plausible account for the rise of Islam in the Middle East.

    Get your head out of the Bible box, Nathan, and you might start to realize what a house of cards apologetics really is.

    Oh, and putting Christian in smarmy little “scare quotes” whenever you’re using it to describe a person whose actions you disapprove of? That’s what we call a “cop out.” The claim that YOUR interpretation of the Bible is flawlessly correct and that ANY judgment you make about whether a person is or is not a Christian places YOU in a position of purported omniscience. Talk about hubris!

  • Andrew

    Maybe he just got bored?

  • Andrew

    @Miketheinfidel
    I actually just finished reading a book about the rise of Christianity by Rodney Stark, a University of Washington sociologist. He writes in the book that Christianity grew like most other religions do by adding people who are close to those people already in the group. In the book he writes the early Christians had to grow at a rate of about 40% per decade in the first several centuries to reach the numbers we see later on. A plausible rate considering that is about how fast the Mormons have been growing. Also the emperor in Rome embraced the faith because many of the Roman elite class had already become Christian so it was most likely a political move on his part.
    Also it is probably impossible to prove the existence of God since people believe him/her/etc. to be a supernatural being so proving his existence with science is not possible. This is because science deals with the natural world. So any scientific “proof” of God can simply be ruled a coincidence by non-believers. Just like the other way around where it is obviously impossible for non-believers to disprove God’s/gods existence.

  • Richard Wade

    8. I say this because, as my point in full said, this is the point at which Christianity lives or dies. Show me Jesus’ body, or come up with a plausible account for the rise of Christianity in the Roman empire. If we started crucifying atheists do you think more atheists would come out and say “I’m an atheist”… I’m yet to be convinced by any of these “debunkings”…

    You just can’t seem to get it that when you make a claim, the ball is in your court, and only you coming up with evidence to back up your claim is going to hit it out of your court. After 2000 years, this tennis match is still waiting to start. You seem to think that the lack of Jesus’ body can only be “proof” of his resurrection. It could also just as well be evidence of his not having ever existed at all, or evidence that the body of a troublemaker executed by the Romans was not very well cared for. Show me Jimmy Hoffa’s body. Is the lack of a corpse evidence that he is still alive? That he rose physically from the grave directly into heaven? That he never existed at all?

    The lack of evidence is the lack of evidence. All the talking about the lack of evidence doesn’t lend any weight or significance to the lack. Endlessly talking about a claim is not evidence for that claim. All it does is make people suspect that you just don’t have anything to offer but vibrating air.

    I don’t know where you’re going with that bizarre remark about crucifying atheists. That just doesn’t make any sense at all.

    Are you implying that the rise of Christianity in the Roman empire is some kind of evidence of the veracity of its claims? Then I suppose so is the rise of Scientology in the American empire. So is the rise of all the silly woo of hundreds of dead cultures, kingdoms and empires. People produce lots of crap, both physical and mental. Without something of substance to back up the claims of spooks and magic, it all eventually goes into the midden.

    The popularity of a claim is not evidence of its veracity. The longevity of a claim is not evidence of its veracity. The eloquence of a claim is not evidence of its veracity. The emotional appeal of a claim is not evidence of its veracity. The good things that happen to someone making a claim is not evidence of its veracity. The number of books written making a claim is not evidence of its veracity. The claims offered as evidence for a claim, none of which have anything but yet even more claims to offer as evidence for their own veracity, is not evidence for the original claim’s veracity. Claims supporting claims supporting claims supporting claims supporting claims, all the way around the world back to the original claim in a 25,000 mile circle of claims is not evidence of any of their veracity.

    Only actual evidence can give a claim veracity. We’ve been waiting for over 2000 years for the evidence, and people like you are still talking, talking, talking, wrapping claims around claims around claims, using an old, self-claiming, self-referring book, and insisting that all that gigantic midden of empty claims is the evidence.

    I think you are very wise to finally stop arguing with atheists, because it is very apparent that you will never have the evidence that they need to believe your claims, and it is apparent that you will never understand why evidence is even important in making a claim.

  • Andrew: Very interesting. I certainly wouldn’t want people to think I was saying “this is definitely what happened,” because I don’t know – I was just offering a plausible explanation. Needless to say, there are plenty of purely natural reasons – enough that a claim that supernatural forces must be involved can be dismissed as simplistic, shortsighted, and childish.

  • By the way, regarding #8:

    Your best bet in these situations is just to bring everything back to a question of the historicity of Jesus and his resurrection, this, after all, is the lynchpin of our belief. If they can disprove the resurrection then our faith is in vain. And it’s this argument that needs to be convincing. Questions of science and methodology are secondary.

    If your arguments about the resurrection are not convincing, why on earth would you believe it in the first place? What sense does it make to assert that your claim is true, THEN try to find an argument to support it?

  • Andrew

    @ Miketheinfidel
    That is exactly what I am saying. No one can prove that God did not do something and no one can prove that it was not natural forces. It is impossible to prove the negative which I’m sure you know which makes a debate on the existence of God ridiculous. Organized religions on the other hand can and should be debated.

  • Hi all,

    Like I said, I won’t really be addressing point by point questions here. While I love a good argument, and am always happy to answer genuine questions, I’d prefer this discussion to take place on my blog where my argument is presented in full.

    I’ve updated the post to take Mike’s criticism into account – the one I’ve requoted below.

    “Oh, and putting Christian in smarmy little “scare quotes” whenever you’re using it to describe a person whose actions you disapprove of? That’s what we call a “cop out.” The claim that YOUR interpretation of the Bible is flawlessly correct and that ANY judgment you make about whether a person is or is not a Christian places YOU in a position of purported omniscience. Talk about hubris!”

  • cathy

    ” I say this because, as my point in full said, this is the point at which Christianity lives or dies. Show me Jesus’ body, or come up with a plausible account for the rise of Christianity in the Roman empire. If we started crucifying atheists do you think more atheists would come out and say “I’m an atheist”… I’m yet to be convinced by any of these “debunkings”…” Things like this just crack me up with their delicious logical fallicies. First of all, it uses circular logic. We would have to believe that a crucifiction took place to be convinced it would be a deterant. Also, we would have to believe the odd claim that people never use god-beliefs for political gain. Because it’s not like Julius Ceasar also claimed to be descended from gods…wait…he did. And we have some really solid evidence that Julius existed and won lots of battles. Yet, somehow, I still don’t believe he is related to actual, existing deities. Even if Christians could prove that a religious leader named Jesus existed (something not corroborated by contemporary records of any sort), they would still have to prove the magic elements of the story were factual rather than embellishments. The discovery of the ruins of Troy has not convinced me that Athena and Aphrodite exist and fight over golden apples. A reasonable person assumes that the story of Troy, while based on actual events, was distorted and mythologized over time. And even if there were some tiny scrap of historical evidence of a Jesus, it would be absurd to jump to the assumption that magic exists rather than presume some errors and exaggeration in the retellings. After all, many sects of Islam acknowledge a historical Jesus and claim he was a prophet who was still alive (undetected by the Romans) when removed from the cross and took several days recovering before making a reappearance and dying soon after from complications. Here we have an acceptance of a large part of the Jesus story without any acceptance of Jesus as the son of god or the messiah. Historical Jesus gives you nothing in the way of proving your religion is right anymore than the existence of Cleopatra proves Isis exists. The number of historical figures who have claimed divine relations likely numbers in the thousands and appeals to divinity, especially when teh religion coincides with pre-existing social beliefs, are often effective political tools.

  • Is Nathan five years old? This sounds like he’s trying to prove to himself that he’s not going home and taking his ball with him just because he can’t win unless we play by his rules.

  • R9

    “You’ll almost never change anybody’s mind online.”

    I’m sort of sympathetic to that. Peoples minds can change over time, reading articles and arguments.

    But let’s face it, “oh good point, I’ll have to go and think about that” are words people are generally far too proud to every actually type. On both sides of the issue.

  • “Is Nathan five years old? This sounds like he’s trying to prove to himself that he’s not going home and taking his ball with him just because he can’t win unless we play by his rules.”

    Perhaps, or perhaps I’d just prefer people to be engaging with everything I wrote rather than just the bits Hermant responded to (though they’re mostly representative of what I had to say – no complaints there).

    Perhaps I just want what could be an animosity filled discussion to take place on my home turf, not elsewhere.

    Perhaps I don’t want to put up with Muggle’s vitriol.

    Either way, there are over 61 comments here, I’m not going to cherry pick which ones to respond to… if you want answers from me ask the questions on my original post.

  • Jen

    If you want to read a very interesting debate on a forum that has nothing to do with religion, check this out:
    I’m studying to be an actuary, and on the forum over at Actuary Outpost, they had a lively debate on the Mississippi prom thing – it went over for over 70 pages!
    http://www.actuarialoutpost.com/actuarial_discussion_forum/showthread.php?t=187813
    From a couple of other threads, it looks like a larger-than average percentage of the folks there are atheist… See also this one: http://www.actuarialoutpost.com/actuarial_discussion_forum/showthread.php?t=164348, wehre someone brings out a really silly theory about dinosaurs and the rest try in vain to point out what’s wrong with his theory.

  • J. J. Ramsey

    Nathan:

    An atheist should be open to thinking about each different presentation of a “god theory” in order to check their foundational premise.

    The catch is that there are arguments that deal with whole swaths of “god theories.” Take, for example, the “god theories” that are supported by assorted fantastic, miraculous tales, which includes the Abrahamic religions, tribal religions, and many Eastern religions as well. These can be undermined by pointing out the problems that we tend to see in such tales, and the high burden of proof that is needed as a consequence of such problems. This is one reason why we don’t put that much stock in the Christian resurrection accounts. As I had put it, “Everything we know of the story is from biased reporters who have either committed known distortions of fact or, in the case of Paul, provide no details that would have been checkable by readers.”

    An anti-theist is against any such premise by default – they prefer to talk about believers as deluded and their beliefs as ridiculous

    I’m not too sympathetic to the sort of anti-theists that you talk about, but if you find it unacceptable to judge Christianity by treating its most obnoxious manifestations as if they were the norm, then you should find it similarly unacceptable to judge atheists by treating the more obnoxious ones as the norm. Yes, Dawkins has said some pretty stupid things from time to time, but as a gauge of the truth of atheism, this is a non sequitur.

  • plutosdad

    AndrewFinden:

    I haven’t read that book in particular but many of us here spent years reading apologetics in our search for truth before we finally stopped believing. Most apologetics texts have the same arguments in them, so I probably have read the arguments in other books as many of us did. I used to even believe them, before I started reading about the historical Jesus and the New Testament outside of only apologetics texts.

    It’s all explainable, and not a single argument stands. From the “500 witnesses” to the lack of not-discredited extra-biblical references to Jesus, to the outright lie of “10,000 copies” to the way the gospels were put together and written – with increasing miraculousness over time. And on and on.

    It was quite disheartening to start reading ouside of apologetics texts to see some arguments I believed in were old and already proven insufficient decades ago, and some others were simply lies. Just as nathan asks atheists to consider other arguments, if we only confine ourselves to studying sources we know we will agree with, we never grow or learn or change for the better.

  • after talking with Nathan and reading his original post, he really fleshed out some areas. my objection to #2 was met with ” I was saying it’s very hard to seem anything but disingenuous if you appear to be cherry picking the easy questions while ignoring the hard ones.” which is true.. we ignore the logs that we can’t get around and instead focus on the specks. or we resort to asking if the poster is “5 years old” when they disagree with us or can’t provide the necessary evidence to our continually changing rubric. it is much easier to poke holes in someone else’s claim than to make our own.

    what i see happening on this site is a mob mentality setting in and y’all scape-goating Nathan who was trying to provide an alternative understanding to what he views. i think that would be helpful to y’all who are reviewing tenants of faith to have someone of faith speak and clarify. mob-mentality and the scapegoat mechanism is alive and well and atheists are just as subject to it as we believers are. such is the nature of the human condition.

  • Parse

    Luke,
    See, Nathan isn’t appearing to cherry pick the easy questions; he is cherry picking the easy responses. Of all the posts above, he responds to the one which that is uniformly insulting – not one which gives the reasons why the commenter thinks the way they do. I’d have much preferred he respond to some of the points Richard Wade or Greg raised. Heck, Richard’s not just another commenter; he’s a regular guest contributor to the blog, with a regular advice column. He’s able and willing to change his mind, based on what others write.

    I agree that the “5 years old” insult is out of line – the ‘take your ball and go home’ strategy is a part of life, from international politics and treaties, to union negotiations, to buying a home/car/whatever. If things are going too badly, or the other negotiating parties aren’t willing to compromise enough, walking away is an important choice to consider.

    I haven’t read the entirety of the “Yahweh’s Murderous Tendencies” thread (skimmed, yes; read, no), so I’m uncertain as to the nature of the continuously changing metric you refer to. The basic request is for Christians to provide objective, physical proof that doesn’t self-authenticate. You may consider this to be poking holes in a claim, but in any other circumstances the person making a claim needs to provide proof for it.

  • Greg

    Luke:

    Nathan’s comment on #2 is true – thing is, it is true about any discussion on the internet that provokes even mild interest. You should always be outnumbered in a discussion – otherwise there is little point in actually having it. If you all agree with each other, and know it, then what exactly is the point?

    It doesn’t strike me as a reason for not arguing with atheists, it strikes me as a reason for not arguing on the net.

    By the way, I imagine the question about whether he was 5 years old was a reference to his throwing his toys out of the pram, which, unfortunately for him, both the posts mentioned in the article show him doing pretty dreadfully. (Incidentally, given his claim that PZ’s response to his initial ‘5 things…’ verified him, he obviously doesn’t realise how he came across. That alone would give me pause before engaging him in conversation.)

    Indeed it is much easier to poke holes in someone elses claim than to make our own. That doesn’t mean that making a claim is somehow more deserving of respect.
    Mob mentality, scapegoating? I’d really like to see you back that up. Just because a lot of people think he is spouting tosh doesn’t mean anything like a mob mentality is in effect. Especially seeing as the majority of the comments have actually addressed the issues, rather than jumping on bandwagons and repeating what the ringleaders are saying.

    As for scapegoating… do you have a different definition of scapegoating to me? I always thought that scapegoating was the act of blaming someone for things someone (or ones) else had done. I could throw in an allusion to Jesus dying for people’s sins, but I suppose to avoid people taking offence I’d better not (oops, too late…). How exactly are we scapegoating Nathan? The people commenting are replying to the things he has written. I haven’t said much, incidentally, because as I inferred, all he appears to me is to be someone with far too high an opinion of himself, and closed to discussion. I don’t see anything coming from the dialogue, so why bother with it?

    I’ll end by stressing that I don’t have anything against him because he is a Christian. For one thing, although I imagine he would call me an anti-theist (Because I think his arguments are weak), I’m not one – maybe because I live here in the UK, without the plethora of insane theists that appear to be across the pond – and my biggest gripes are with theism rather than theists.

    Hate the sin and all that.

    Edit: To Parse:

    To be honest, I think my more pertinent points weren’t addressed to him, but rather generalisations – I was too irritated by the things he had written to make any particularly erudite comments! XD

    Thanks tho’ 😉

  • “don’t know what the number is of people who have become atheists — or who have become more active about their atheism or who have come out of the closet for the first time — because they read atheist blogs online.

    My guess, though, is that the number is not trivial. ”

    At least 1

  • Luke: Nathan is not trying to provide an alternative understanding for what he views. He is asserting that he is correct. There is a difference.

  • Parse- “Nathan isn’t appearing to cherry pick the easy questions; he is cherry picking the easy responses.” -happens to the best of us 😉 good point, i can see how that claim could be made.

    “I agree that the “5 years old” insult is out of line” -sweet! (notice the cherry-picking here, i went right to where we agreed! ;-))

    “The basic request is for Christians to provide objective, physical proof that doesn’t self-authenticate.” -kinda hard considering the socio-historic context of when the source-material was generated. the common folk, from which Jesus came out of, were largely never mentioned by the elites, like Josephus and such. what can be pointed to is that something is up with this Jesus guy who a movement has sprouted around. James C. Scott has written about this in his Domination and the Arts of Resistance and Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the US and as for Christian specifically: Borg’s Jesus:Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary may be helpful.

    Greg: “It doesn’t strike me as a reason for not arguing with atheists, it strikes me as a reason for not arguing on the net.” excellent point, i think that’s a better idea. as for scapegoating, i’m using the term as understood by Rene Girard where a person is singled out as the cause of the trouble and is expelled or killed by the group. This person is the scapegoat. i just wanted to note that while we’re all guilty of sloppy logic and lazy blogging at times, everyone is placing those labels on Nathan as he exits. i don’t think that’s very fair. again, this is what i observe with comments like the “5 year old one” as well as many others; but i’m a theist and thus my perspective could be skewed.

    plus, i don’t think there is a system, faith or scientific that can account for everything, and our understandings of such systems are limited, despite our best studies. there are some things we have to take on faith.

    MikeTheInfidel: and what makes you think you are correct this claim?

  • @plutosdad

    sorry, but you can’t get away with dismissing a serious piece of scholarship by just labelling it ‘apologetics’ as if it were akin to Lee Strobel or something (and as if any kind of popular level apologetics book would sell at 700+ pages!) No, Wright is a legitmate, peer reviewed scholar, and this is a legitimate published scholarly work (although he has published several books aimed at a more popular level, this isn’t one of them), and so, I ask again for the specific scholarly reply that would nullify his extensive argument.
    If one is going to suggest that there is no argument, then they carry the burden to produce the rebuttal of the most significant opposing arguments. Simply asserting a philosophical presupposition will not do as an answer to historical questions.
    (and please don’t assume that I only read ‘apologetics’. I’m well aware of the work of people like Ehrman – I agree that it’s very important to read opposing views, which is why I ask for the rebuttal of Wright’s tome)

  • Parse

    Andrew Finden,
    First page of search results produces this: Robert M. Price’s review. It seems pretty detailed, and contains a lot of sharp criticism. If you want me to expound on this I can, but you’re just as capable of reading the linked article as I am. Does this meet your criteria for a scholarly reply? If not, what would?

    Frankly, I’m not about to buy it with my hard-earned money, nor am I about to spend my too-short free time reading it even if I would get it from the local library. I have better things to do with both.

    Additionally, I find it strangely suspicious that there exists only one negative review of the book on Amazon, and that several other reviews are in response to reviews that are no longer posted. I’d wager good money that Bishop Wright, or people who share his interests, take an active role in removing negative commentary from this book.

  • Swampfox

    I find that most people are ignorant and bring ridicule upon themselves. Like

    “Yes, there are a lot of annoying Christians out there. They make the same mistakes. They quote the Bible (in and out of whatever “context” Nathan thinks applies). They CAPITALIZE EVERYTHING as if their thoughts are more important than anyone else’s. They make comments that have nothing to do with the topic at hand”

    Like athiests don’t do this. Please. When pressed with direct questions ignorant people give responses and change the point since they don’t know. I find a majority of people don’t know what the hell their talking about.

    Please enlighten me ye ole athiests, how can an athiest stand for the U.S. Constitution when it declares that it is the duty of the governement to protect the God given Rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of hapiness?

    If there is no God there is no God given Rights for athiests, there is only privileges granted and can be taken away by the government.

  • Swampfox

    I also find that most athiest don’t have a clue as to why they believe what they believe other than they get ticked off at something the Pope has said or soemthing they think the Bible teaches not knowing that just because the auhtors of the Bible say something doesn’t mean that that is what the Bible teaches.

  • Hypatia’s Daughter

    You’ve got it wrong, Swampfox.

    how can an athiest stand for the U.S. Constitution when it declares that it is the duty of the governement to protect the God given Rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of hapiness?

    It is the Declaration of Independence that uses the phrase “endowed by their Creator”, not the Constitution. The DoI says Creator, not God/Gods/Jesus/or any variation of the Divine thereof. Evolution, aliens or Isis could be construed as the Creator in this context.
    The DoI was an open letter of intent to the leaders of all nations that the American colonies were going to secede from Britain and form a new nation. These leaders all ruled by Divine Right – they believed their authority to rule over their citizens came directly from God. The DoI, by declaring that men were naturally endowed to rule themselves, was a pointed slap in the face to that belief.
    The US Constitution, which is the document that defines the government of the US, never uses any form of God, Creator, etc (the one lonely exception being that is is dated “in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven”.)
    It starts out with “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” Note that – We, the People……ordain and establish the Constitution – nothing about coming from God, ruling in His name or anything even close.
    It is notable that the Presidential Oath of Office, as written in the Constitution, is “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” (Look, Ma, no “So help me God”!!)
    It is also significant that, the men who wrote the Constitution, could have added all the “in the name of Jesus” and “under God” that they wanted – it was standard practice to do so in their time – but went out of their way to avoid any references to divinity.
    Swampfox, you can brush up on the Constitution here: http://www.usconstitution.net/const.html
    I think you need it.

  • Sweet merciful crap, please, the christians must carry on commenting! At any cost, they must continue! However am I supposed to be entertained if not through christian comments on atheist blogs?

  • @Parse

    First page of search results produces this: Robert M. Price’s review. It seems pretty detailed, and contains a lot of sharp criticism. If you want me to expound on this I can, but you’re just as capable of reading the linked article as I am. Does this meet your criteria for a scholarly reply? If not, what would?

    Thank-you for the link, it was certainly an interesting, if not frustrating read. I wouldn’t call it ‘scholarly’ however. Price is, no doubt a scholar (even if he sits on the fringe of scholarship and holds views that are rejected by mainstream scholars) but this piece has no references or quotes and has not been published in any kind of journal (as far as I can tell).
    But perhaps worse is what you seem to call ‘sharp criticism’. The language he uses generally shows why it is unpublished – it is not the language of a careful scholarly review, but full of contemptuous, fallacious (lots of ad hominem) and derogatory remarks, and simply writes the whole thing off as merely apologetics.
    Price’s main objection is that Wright doesn’t share his a priori rejection of miracles. Price also makes the mistake of taking pagan mythology, wrapping it up in the language of Christian resurrection and then acting as if he’s found some kind of borrowing, completely ignoring (or perhaps disregarding) Wright’s exploration of resurrection beliefs in both 2nd Temple Judaism and the other ‘Pagan’ concepts of the time.

    nor am I about to spend my too-short free time reading it even if I would get it from the local library. I have better things to do with both.

    If you’re happy enough to just assume it’s been ‘debunked’ because a fringe scholar says so, then fine… I don’t consider that review to be anywhere near sufficient to support the original assertion that there is no argument, as interesting as a few of the points were.

    Additionally, I find it strangely suspicious that there exists only one negative review of the book on Amazon, and that several other reviews are in response to reviews that are no longer posted. I’d wager good money that Bishop Wright, or people who share his interests, take an active role in removing negative commentary from this book.

    Tom Wright has better things to do then worry about a few negative reviews on the internet! I find it incredibly telling that you would prefer to make assumptions about his character then concede that most of the people reading the book find it useful.

  • Engarde

    Wow…you actually took all this time to rebuke this guys list of reasons why he doesn’t argue with atheists online?
    Maybe want to stop telling all the Christians to get a life and get your own?
    And to anyone who seeks ethical/religious/belief support, whether it be Christian or atheist, the internet isn’t the place to be looking. Trust me

  • Engarde

    And, in all fairness, I have yet to meet an atheist portraying themself pleasantly to someone they have reason to beleive is Christian.
    Maybe that’s why Christians “hate” atheists so much. Don’t exactly make any efforts to make friends.