Video of an Atheist/Christian Dialogue January 28, 2011

Video of an Atheist/Christian Dialogue

Zachary Moore, the Executive Director for Fellowship of Freethought Dallas, was invited by a local church to speak about his beliefs to a Sunday School class.

Regardless of motive, Zach was glad to take them up on it:

I was invited by Heath Hill to speak with him during the Sunday School class he teaches at Lakepointe Church in Rockwall, Texas.

What’s really surprising to me is that Hill owns the advertising company whose ‘I Still Love You — God” truck followed Fort Worth buses carrying the “Good Without God” ads a couple months ago:

I’ve said this before and a lot of you disagree, but I like these sorts of gestures from churches, where the aim is to converse instead of convert.

Did the Christians learn anything from Zach? Who knows. But if you have a chance to address your message to the very people who need to hear it the most, why wouldn’t you take that opportunity?

I haven’t had a chance to watch this whole exchange, but if there are any parts you feel we should see, please let us know the timestamps in the comments:

(Thanks to Zach for the link!)

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  • Iason Ouabache

    Ugh… the news clip at the beginning was difficult to sit through. Terry did a great job with the hostile interviewer.

  • Iason Ouabache

    24:00 – It was very interesting that the Christian said that he can’t think of a single event that their church does where they don’t evangelize. That’s kinda sad.

  • Iason Ouabache

    39:48 Genuinely funny moment that I won’t ruin. He channeled his inner Sagan to answer that question.

  • TheG

    13:40 – The youth leader really vocalizes the ignorance of many in the christian community of what atheists are about. It is a refreshingly honest admission of the vilification of us that begins at an early age. Good for him! Not that I’m comparing him to an alcoholic, but Zach is successful in the campaign by getting people to start off by admitting they have a problem.

    16:22 – Zach lays out the history of the misconceptions about atheists.

    24:05 – “If I’m going to give you a coat, you’re going to hear about my god… I don’t even know how to separate the two.” Which is exactly the problem most people have with religion, but seems particularly prevalent in the USA. While this guy is being good and educating his flock, I’m starting to wonder what is his motivation since he admits every good deed comes with a hitch (of judgment).

    26:41 – What, are they raising chickens in the next room? (LOL…just a lighthearted thought that keeps coming up!)
    36:20 – Thank you, Zach for laying out the ground for why some of us non-believers participate in the holidays. I didn’t know “Thursday” is supposed to be “Thor’s Day”. I’d love to look more into that.
    40:45 – “A person in search of the truth” and “I’m always ready to revise that” are two pretty good sentences to sum up my atheistic creed.
    43:27 – I like how poetically Zach puts together his feelings about relying on himself and awe in the universe. A better way to put the way I feel about relying on myself for the first time as a non-christian is a way the audience could understand better: “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” – 1 Corinthians 13. Or maybe some Carl Sagan?
    48:45 – “He’s either a liar and lunatic or he’s lord.” What always bothered me about this C.S. Lewis postulate is that it is supposed to be a “gotcha” towards non-believers, but it is equally supporting to both sides. Zach handles it really well with pointing out problems with slavery in the new testament.
    51:20 – I don’t think the woman asking the question was really asking a question. She’s reiterating a stereotype that atheists are not for improving the country. Thank you Zach for bringing up Doctors without Borders and “Good without God” campaigns.

  • Iason Ouabache

    48:15 False Trilemma Alert!

    50:47 And we have a slavery apologist in the audience. Awesome!

  • Brice Gilbert

    That was really interesting to watch. The question period was interesting. One in particular was a response to him explaining morality by giving en example of parenting. If you have two kids and one steals from the other you explain to the kid that stealing is wrong, because “how would you like it if someone stole from you”.

    The response from the person in the audience was something along the lines of “You shouldn’t steal your brothers things because I said so.

  • Iason Ouabache

    58:19 Oooh… George Washington was a very bad example for the Christian in the audience to use.

  • Brice Gilbert

    Rapid fire things at the end that he didn’t get a chance to answer that were infuriating “Society has shown when we don’t have God we fall apart” “What if your wrong”

    The prayer at the end is exactly what atheists hate. Basically asking God to turn him into a Christian.

  • Iason Ouabache

    The response from the person in the audience was something along the lines of “You shouldn’t steal your brothers things because I said so.

    That woman sounded a little crazy. He did a good job of answering her but I would have added that “because I said so” is a horrible answer because it doesn’t teach your child anything other than to obey you. That just means that they will wait until you aren’t around before they do something wrong. That’s the worst way to teach decision making skills.

  • JD

    I don’t think any congratulations are in order when the point of the dialog is only to convert, or to interrogate.

    Also, I don’t think a gift with a price tag attached is really a gift. It’s really just an icebreaker at that point, because of the expectation of an evangelization moment.

  • Brice Gilbert

    That woman sounded a little crazy. He did a good job of answering her but I would have added that “because I said so” is a horrible answer because it doesn’t teach your child anything other than to obey you. That just means that they will wait until you aren’t around before they do something wrong. That’s the worst way to teach decision making skills.

    Yeah the entire time during the Q&A it felt like (like it always does in these type of discussions) he was walking that line. Not to be too confrontational. Which I think is appropriate in such a setting.

  • Iason Ouabache

    1:08:00 “At the core we are terrible as humans”

    And reason #1 why I hate Calvinists.

  • Iason Ouabache

    Yeah the entire time during the Q&A it felt like (like it always does in these type of discussions) he was walking that line. Not to be too confrontational. Which I think is appropriate in such a setting.

    He did a great job. I would have lost my patience on quite a few of those questions, especially the woman who was trying to make slavery in ancient times out to be just indentured servitude when the Bible clearly tells you how much you can beat your slaves.

  • Erp

    @theG on Thor’s day.

    In English all the weekday names derive ultimately from the seven known ‘planets’ (including the Sun and the Moon) of older days which were usually associated with gods and then some equating by the Romans of their gods with the gods of other people.

    Sunday – Sun’s day
    Monday – Moon’s day
    Tuesday – Tiw (or Tyr)’s day (Roman Mars)
    Wednesday – Woden’s day (Roman Mercury)
    Thursday – Thor’s day (Roman Jupiter)
    Friday – Freya (or Frigga)’s day (Roman Venus)
    Saturday – Saturn’s day
    (French and Spanish tend to keep the Roman gods’ names in the days of the week)

    The early Quakers recognizing the connection used first day, second day, … instead of the standard English names (Quakers still generally say they are going to ‘first day meeting’ instead of ‘Sunday church’).

  • P. Coyle

    I would have lost my patience on quite a few of those questions, especially the woman who was trying to make slavery in ancient times out to be just indentured servitude when the Bible clearly tells you how much you can beat your slaves.

    Are you laboring under the misconception that one could not beat indentured servants?

  • That was pretty cool. It should be a model for all such interactions.

    I also think it’s great how the “leaders” or “spokespersons” of atheism generally behave better than the leaders of religions.

  • Korinthian

    Ugh, Vimeo.

    Can’t watch it for some reason.

  • Wow, that was a really good session. Zach nailed every question I thought.

    I think my jaw dropped when the lady said that she read a book about how we should teach kids not to harm others only because the parent said so and not because its wrong. Really?

  • Tim

    he used the word “freethinkers” more than once, i like that.

  • Brad

    I live in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, and after listening to this, am feeling extraordinarly pleased to know that there is someone this eloquent out there. Thanks Zack for all you are doing, and thanks to you folks here for posting the video. I can only hope I can be half as well spoken as he was if I am ever in such a position.

  • Wow, he did an amazing job! He had all his talking points, he brought out just the right facts and examples at exactly the right times, and he never showed frustration (despite how absolutely deserving some of the questioners were). Absolutely awesome!

    1:02:25 reminded me of the discussion we were having the other day about The Pearls’ To Train Up A Child. What an absolutely horrendous view of parenting! “I am the authority, I am to my child what God is to us.”

    The worst part was when this woman says that she has a daughter and is currently “working on her obedience.” I have to say that when I was a child, the absolute worst thing an adult could do if they wanted me to behave was say “because I said so.” To me, that was code for “there’s no good reason for this, I’m just being a big meanie.”

    As Iason Ouabache, all it teaches is that the behaviour shouldn’t be done in the parents’ presence, or when the parents might find out about it. It absolutely does not teach them that taking a toy from another child is bad.

    If this kind of upbringing is common in Christian households, no wonder we keep hearing that they would have no reason not to rape and murder if they didn’t believe in God!

  • You know what impressed me the most? HEATH LET ZACH TALK WITHOUT INTERRUPTION! Wow. How refreshing was that?

    Oh, and 39:48 is brilliant! Great line!

  • @JD said:

    Also, I don’t think a gift with a price tag attached is really a gift. It’s really just an icebreaker at that point, because of the expectation of an evangelization moment.

    The Christians are actually getting the worse of that bargain. A freethinker can take a little evangelization; it’s water off a duck’s back. Christians being confronted with non-orthodox thinking, that carries the potential for actually challending some minds. The pastor may have chuckled that he had Zach in his slingshot sights, while missing the shotgun leaning on Zach’s shoulder.

  • Rich Wilson

    I hope this ends up on Youtube. 30min or so in and an optical mouse jump-click and it’s gone.

  • Darin

    39:48 is great, and I love how later he goes back and says “Well… actually we happen to meet on Sunday and we do donate”

  • Rich Wilson

    That woman working on her child’s obedience is teaching how to tell right from wrong via the “give a kid a fish” method, rather than the “teach a kid to fish” method.

  • Rich Wilson

    And that bit about “19 of the 20 religions we studied beleive in Jesus and 18 of them portray Jesus …”

    So I’m guessing they studied 18 Judeo-Christian variants including Satanism, and Hinduism.

    Too bad they didn’t (I’m guessing) cover Wicca/neo-Pagan. That’s another group that is woefully misunderstood by Christians.

  • @Rich Wilson – I picked up on that as well. What 18 religions did they look at? I was actually thinking Mormon, Baptist, Catholic, Lutheran…

    Unless they are counting “he might have been a historical figure – don’t care, he isn’t relevant to our religion” as “believe in Jesus.”

  • Rich Wilson

    Sorry, meant to say “19 Judeo-Christian variants including Satanism” (Satanism being the only one which I could think might portray Jesus in a negative light. Surely that one wasn’t Judaism…

    And they must have covered Islam. I wonder if they studied Sunni and Shia.

    And Zach, hope you’re reading, how did the ‘after’ bit go? Did you get to unleash Richard Dawkins’s “What if YOU’RE wrong?!” response 🙂

    Fantastic job not letting your buttons get pushed.

  • Jeff Handy

    The guy at around 1:09:30 cites history, but doesn’t seem to know any. Society, in fact,has become more humane and less barbaric over time.

  • @Jeff Handy – Agreed. In the same discussion where slavery was brought up, it seems a bit silly to propose that societies can’t move towards a more enlightened state.

  • Valhar2000

    For the record (not that anybody is keeping it) I am pleasantly surprised by the result of this meeting.

  • Thanks for posting, Hemant!

    For those that are interested, my sense of the audience was that about 50% were ambivalent about me being there, 25% were really thrilled to hear what I had to say, 10% really loved what I said, 10% really hated what I said, and 5% really understood what I was saying.

    There was about 30 minutes of post-discussion time answering various individual questions; the best for me was a Christian couple that approached me and asked if I thought it was possible for Christians to be freethinkers, since they really liked what I had said about using reason and evidence.

    My reply was that it’s technically possible (or at least, Betrand Russell thought so), although it would be difficult for the Christian to maintain a freethinking stance if he or she were relying on personal revelation or visions as their evidence (which many do, ultimately).

    It was a lot of fun for me, and I hope to be able to participate in more “Lambs’ Den” events in the future! I’d also encourage anyone else who might be interested in this type of event to seek out opportunities in your area. There are a lot of Christians out there with a lot of ignorance about what it means to be an atheist.

    Best,

    -Z

  • For those that are interested, my sense of the audience was that about 50% were ambivalent about me being there, 25% were really thrilled to hear what I had to say, 10% really loved what I said, 10% really hated what I said, and 5% really understood what I was saying.

    “5% really understood what you said.” Got that sense from the feeling in the room. Also from the standpoint of education, they can’t let their kids go to Cincy for college cause everyone that goes there ended up like you, I’m sure. The level of entrenched, restricted, linear thinking going on in this church (and I’m sure many others) is just kind of sad to see. Good talk though, for those that weren’t hostile, I’m sure you did a lot of good.

    It’s no surprise that the Q & A slightly devolved into them asking questions that were merely meant to Evangelize to you.
    Like Heath said, “I can’t hand you a coat without telling you about my God.” And that’s to a stranger on the street. Here you are, an incarnate refutation to their worldview, of course their gonna get a little knives out in their proselytizing after listening to you for a full hour.

  • Jessica

    I think he did a wonderful job! He was very polite and spoke well.

  • Hipopotamo

    Following on Erp’s explanation of day names, i’m attaching the Spanish names and meanings:

    Sunday – Sun’s day
    Monday – Moon’s day
    Tuesday – Tiw (or Tyr)’s day (Roman Mars)
    Wednesday – Woden’s day (Roman Mercury)
    Thursday – Thor’s day (Roman Jupiter)
    Friday – Freya (or Frigga)’s day (Roman Venus)
    Saturday – Saturn’s day
    (French and Spanish tend to keep the Roman gods’ names in the days of the week)

    Sunday – Domingo: from dominus, the Lord’s day (ugh!) Yes, they suplanted the Sun
    Monday – Lunes, from Luna (the moon)
    Tuesday – Martes, from Marte, (Roman Mars)
    Wednesday – Miércoles, derived from Mercurio (Roman Mercury)
    Thursday – Jueves, from Jovi, which refers to Jupiter(Roman Jupiter)
    Friday – Viernes which refers to Venus (Roman Venus)
    Saturday – Sábado, refers to the Shabbath (another steal from judaic religions)

    Cheers from the Hippo

  • Robert W.

    Jeff,

    The guy at around 1:09:30 cites history, but doesn’t seem to know any. Society, in fact,has become more humane and less barbaric over time.

    I believe this is a matter of opinion. There were more people killed in the last century then at any time in our collective history. Slave trading is still going on, exploitation of the poor and weak is still continuing, genocide has occurred multiple times in this last century, dictators have killed millions indiscriminately, children are still being abused and in my opinion killed by the millions through abortion (not changing the subject of this thread its just an example) etc..

    I suppose in some respects you can say we have become more civilized, but in many others we haven’t. I would argue that our sense of a less barbaric society is just because through technology and some advancements our daily life has become less barbaric on the surface. Just below that surface horrible atrocities have been committed which would greatly outweigh the advancements for some groups.

  • Andrew

    Zach — I’m curious did you say you left Orthodox Christianity? is that orthodoxy with a capital ‘O’?

    Andrew

  • Iason Ouabache

    Robert W.: Steven Pinker respectfully disagrees.

    http://www.ted.com/talks/steven_pinker_on_the_myth_of_violence.html

  • @Andrew- No, orthodox in the general sense.

    Best,

    -Z

  • Anne

    Zach, I am proud to have drank your homebrew! Thank you for doing such a great job- you were so patient and articulate. My smiling pic is on the bus and I’m glad to have you as our spokesperson. One thought, at the Demski/ Hitchens debate Hitch made a great point that atheism predates Christianity and then encouraged the audience to read profoundly. I’d love to see you add that to the arsenal next time. Keep up the great work.

  • Pureone

    When believers ask about logic and reason, I tend to give an intro on skepticism and of course, suggest the SGU. Double win.

  • Ben

    Fantastic! Well done, Zach.

    Watching that reminded me of the study that came out recently suggesting that actually have more knowledge about religion than those who are actually religious. The look on the pastor’s face after he pulled out “Lord, Liar, and Lunatic” and Zach casually replied, ah, the old C.S. Lewis argument was priceless. The pastor had no idea what you were talking about.

  • Lizzy

    I found the questions about sin interesting. I think that it may have helped to also point out that atheists simply don’t find many so called sinful things wrong. As a married woman I don’t mind that my husband looks at pornography, I don’t think that sex outside of marriage it a detriment to society, etc. In fact I think that many sinful things only become problematic when they are forbidden and it becomes necessary to hide them. Addictions almost always have a deeper psychological connections and I would argue that the repressiveness inherent in Christianity contributes to them. Many Christians have issues surrounding sex that I think can be traced directly to the unhealthy view that the church has on nearly anything sexual.

  • Rich Wilson

    @Lizzy raises something that kind of sat at the back of my mind too. That whole bit about “up from 2-6 spending money on porn” (or whatever it was) was really two issues. 1) porn (whether or not that’s bad) and 2) an addiction taking time and money away from your family. I’m not aware that the bible actually addresses 2)

    So is it a ‘sin’ to stay up all night playing video games, with the effect that you then don’t have as much time/energy for your family?

  • mike

    If you look back to the Anti-Atheist Bingo card, BINGO! It’s the middle row: They told him how god loves him (when they prayed for him); the without-morality-we’d-all-go-killing talk came out; Pascal’s Wager just made it in time (in a nice Texan drawl too!); heaven and hell and the afterlife were discussed; and the last one is a bit of a stretch but they did ask about his reasons for life (not explicitly but quite clearly implicitly).

    I really expected the Hitler square to get checked off. After they apologize for slavery and challenge your opinions on raising children, I considered the field wide open and was eagerly awaiting the zingers (but they didn’t come … well Pascal’s Wager counts a little). I would have had a rather difficult time restraining myself from inflicting venomous ridicule at such crass idiocy. Kudos to Zach.

    You could tell that he was holding back. ‘the bible is a historical text’, ‘the bible was written by those who witnessed jesus’ life’, ‘I always evangelize during charity’, ‘we are all terrible people’, ‘slavery wasn’t so bad’, etc. They are all so easy to respond to; but to do so would sour the conversation, so he did well.

    Thanks for that Steven Pinker link. It reminds me of when Senator Colburn (R.) said that we are less free than 30 years ago. Senator Amy Klobuchar asked him how many female Supreme Court Judges or Senators there were (0) and how that was more free. The Bingo card might include a square for “mythic moral past” to go with “deny slavery or misogyny”.

    I am emboldened by the 5% that care. It really redeems the whole effort. I wish there were more.

  • Zach,

    You did a fantastic job. Keep up the good work!

  • Zach, first of all, I think you did a kick a** job here 🙂 And I think that only good can come from such discussions (as opposed to some of the Christian/Atheist debates most of us have seen and left us feeling like it was just a waste of time). So, thanks so much for being an incredibly thoughtful, calm and ‘measured’ rep for the atheist community 🙂

    Rich Wilson wrote:

    @Lizzy raises something that kind of sat at the back of my mind too. That whole bit about “up from 2-6 spending money on porn” (or whatever it was) was really two issues. 1) porn (whether or not that’s bad) and 2) an addiction taking time and money away from your family. I’m not aware that the bible actually addresses 2)

    So is it a ‘sin’ to stay up all night playing video games, with the effect that you then don’t have as much time/energy for your family?

    I had a very similar reaction to that particular point Rich ~ negative repurcussions of behaviour make themselves pretty evident…if a spouse is spending excess money and time on almost any ‘outside addiction’, potential damage will be done to a relationship. No need for a god or ancient text to tell us that.

    When it comes to marriage, every individual relationship is its own thing. Every couple works out (or sure as hell should work out) what their collective ‘boundaries’ are. If one couple decides that having a sexually ‘open’ relationship ‘works’ for them, and it’s mutually agreed upon, then where’s the justification to call it ‘sinful’?

    That, right there, demonstrates one of the primary failings of having such a black&white moral outlook….

    It doesn’t acknowledge the very real human reality of grey ~ and it doesn’t respect specific, individual human lives. Just because thinking in black and white may feel more satisfying doesn’t mean that it’s the best way to approach human relationships and morality.

  • Ben wrote:

    The look on the pastor’s face after he pulled out “Lord, Liar, and Lunatic” and Zach casually replied, ah, the old C.S. Lewis argument was priceless.

    That’s where I was hoping Zach was going to reference the fourth potential ‘L’ that never gets mentioned….

    ‘legend’.

  • After getting to the end of the video, I really have to comment on why I think Zach’s ‘performance’ here is outstanding……

    – He never showed any degree of hostility or annoyance or mocking
    – He listened and showed respect for those he was interacting with by offering responsive replies to their specific questions
    – And he was honest without pulling any punches

    In short, by doing the above, he dictated the discussion and kept the focus on the points at hand….

    When there’s no anger or vitriol or smugness, you don’t give them any opportunity to hang their hats on that….which forces them to ONLY deal with the points at hand.

    and there’s almost nothing more ‘disarming’ than that.

  • Drew M.

    Zach,

    That was brilliant. Thanks!

  • Mir

    I love the look he gave the camera while they were praying for his soul. 🙂

    I was waiting for a sheepish grin but it never came. In the times Ive found myself being prayed for in my presence I can never help almost giggling at the silliness of it.

  • Robert W.

    Iason,

    I reviewed the video of Mr. Pinker and I respectfully disagree with him. He uses the warfare death rates in a few Amazon based tribes to totally discount the 100 plus million deaths in our own century to make the assumption that at those same percentages the deaths would be 2 billion.

    He then uses amount of deaths since 1950 when there were no major world wars to show that violent deaths are actually going down. That ignores millions of deaths and atrocities.

    He then uses the punishments for crimes to show that we are more compassionate on our criminals, without showing that the number of violent crimes has actually greatly increased over this time.

    Finally, he only uses statistics from Europe and the US which leaves out a large part of the world where there can be no dispute that violence has greatly increased- Mexico. Middle East, Africa. etc..

  • mike

    Robert W,

    Lets compare the deaths of the 20th century with those before it. You rate the 20th century as producing 100 million deaths.

    The genocide of the North American Indians also produced 100 million deaths (over 200 years). US presidents have said “the only good indian is a dead indian”. The genocide of certain South American Indians as well as the destruction of their empires produced millions more. The Aborigines of Australia are almost gone too. At least 6 million Africans didn’t arrive in America as slaves. Colonialism had a darker side.

    When was the last outbreak of Influenza? It was 1918 and killed 20 million (some estimates go as high as 100 million). We have only tracked influenza pandemics since the 16th century and they occurred multiple times each century killing millions each time. The last influenza “pandemic” was last year’s H1N1 with 18,000 deaths. We have known about the flu for almost 3,000 years and for most of that time it ravaged humanity, but no longer.

    Ever had polio, or smallpox? They used to kill millions and now they barely exist. The black death killed 1/4 to 1/3 of Europe.

    1 of every 2 children used to die before reaching adulthood and now it is around 1 in 100.

    1 of every 10 mothers used to die in child birth and now it is closer to 1 in 10000 (in the worst cases).

    Back to war specifically. In the 20th century we had WWI and WWII, but these world wars didn’t actually cover the world, they covered as much land as the Napoleonic Wars or the Pax Romana.

    Back in antiquity the Trojan war killed 100,000 as did the Persian Invasion (after Thermopylae). 1 million people lived in Rome before it fell and it was one of the largest cities on the planet.

    Alexander the Great conquered more territory than Napoleon. The Arabs beat even that in the 8th and 9th centuries. And Genghis Khan still holds the record for land area.

    The Dark Ages were so called because of the constant war, death, famine, and plague. Colonialism was about world conquest and not in a peaceful way.

    For your 100 million number, I would remind you that 40 million of Stalin’s 50 million and around 20 million of Mao died of starvation because communism is the most idiotic method to feed the masses. While starvation has killed millions throughout history, only in the 20th century did Norman Borlaug single handedly feed 1 billion people.

    The earth has a history of war that stretches back thousands of years. Do you really think that WWII trumps all of that? The only real difference between WWII and all of the rest is the invention of the camera.

  • Steve

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_and_disasters_by_death_toll

    There are a couple of wars in China that no one remembers or even heard of with death tolls in the dozen of millions

  • Robert W.

    Mike,

    Let’s compare apples to apples. Violence and crime is different from disease which of course has been helped through modern medicine.

    The genocide of the North American Indians also produced 100 million deaths (over 200 years).

    Do you have a source for this? My understanding is that we really have little idea how many native Americans there were here when Columbus arrived in 1500. Though it is true that there were far fewer as of 1900 alot of that was disease, not violence.

    One estimate of the total killed in war and as the result of war in the 20th century is actually closer to 180 million is over 165 different wars, conflicts and genocides. That is an awful lot of casualties in a very short period of time.

    Plus, the atrocities of slavery and exploitation is still continuing. We may not have plantations here anymore, but the slave trade is alive and well. In addition, we have a whole new scourge on our society through the drug trade and the violence that comes with that.

    I understand that some people like to selectively choose some statistics and say we are living in a less violent time, but I think that is just the arrogance of our alleged advancement.

  • Robert W.

    Steve,

    Thank you for that cite. It actually proves the point that between war and genocide this century has been by far the most violent in history. Just add up all the deaths for this century alone and see what you get. Well over 210 million.

  • Steve

    Religion really does teach people to ignore anything they don’t want to see, interpret results to suit their predefined conclusions and selectively quote from their chosen books. And as always, irony is completely lost on the Christian. Disgusting doesn’t even begin to describe it.

  • Robert W, I have one simple question for you….

    do you think that if the people who committed all of the violence/killings pre-20th century had 20th century technology, the numbers of those killed would have been the same or higher?

  • Steve

    @AxeGrrl
    Also don’t forgot the rapid increase in the world’s population in the last 200 years. There are simply more people about around to kill these days.

    Which makes instances of wars, killings or disease outbreaks that killed tens of millions of people before the 18th or 19th century a lot worse.

    It doesn’t matter if 10 million or 100 million Indians died due to diseases. What’s important is that by any estimation it was about 80-90% of the population.

  • Baconsbud

    Axegrrl beat me to it but will support her in this. Robert W. if you take away the modern weapons I would say the 20th century has been less violent then the centuries before. Only in the last 100-150 years have we been able to kill in the numbers we do now with weapons.

  • mike

    Robert W,

    Look at the link that Steve provided. The genocide of the Native Americans is in there. Google it, go to a library, the information is out there.

    The slave trade is not alive and well. It no longer has Papal law to support it nor do any nations officially support it. And if you think that the exploitation of women and children is still on par with historical levels, I don’t know what to tell you.

    There have been thousands of wars in human history, most of which occurred before there were over 1 billion people. 100 million out of 1 billion (that grew to 6 billion) over a century is quite a dent, but we recovered. Keep in mind that the entire indigenous populations of North America and Australia were effectively annihilated.

    You are correct to say that many of the Native Americans died from disease (measles usually). Many of the Jews died from diseases too and from starvation, yet we still count them among the 6 million. If Europe had not invaded America, all 10 million of the natives would have lived normal lives as would their descendants.

    In 1500 there were about 10 million Americans and about 50 million Europeans. By 1900 there were less than 1 million Native Americans and 75 million new Americans and 325 million Europeans.

    Do the math.

  • Robert W.

    AxeGirl,

    do you think that if the people who committed all of the violence/killings pre-20th century had 20th century technology, the numbers of those killed would have been the same or higher?

    Clearly we have more deadly weapons today then we did in past centuries and what is even scarier is that we never seem to stop striving to make them even more deadly. Just look at the development of the weapons in the past century if you want to see how much more brutal we have become. If our overall collective mindset was to become less brutal and less violent would we have seen the ever progression of deadly technology such that we can now kill the entire world population many times over? And why are we fighting to prevent some from getting this technology if there was no real fear that they would do just that?

    Steve,

    It doesn’t matter if 10 million or 100 million Indians died due to diseases. What’s important is that by any estimation it was about 80-90% of the population.

    Steve the difference is clearly important in a discussion of deaths due to violence and brutality.

    I went to the cite and saw the mention of the Native Americans. The number was unsubstantiated and most was by diseases that they didn’t have immunity to, not genocide.

    I do think it is ironic that I am accused of being selective when I point out the numbers of people killed in the number of wars, conflicts and atrocities that we have had this last century and when those numbers are far greater then all of our past human history combined, you ignore them and say there were less people then or the weapons were not as efficient so the numbers don’t mean anything. Neither the percentages of people killed in a battle nor the efficiency of the weapons is what is important. It is the overall level of violence in the past century that has led to these staggering losses in multiple worldwide conflicts that span the century in every decade which confirms that not only are we getting more violent, we are getting better at it.

  • I asked:

    do you think that if the people who committed all of the violence/killings pre-20th century had 20th century technology, the numbers of those killed would have been the same or higher?

    Robert W replied:

    Clearly we have more deadly weapons today then we did in past centuries and what is even scarier is that we never seem to stop striving to make them even more deadly. Just look at the development of the weapons in the past century if you want to see how much more brutal we have become. If our overall collective mindset was to become less brutal and less violent would we have seen the ever progression of deadly technology such that we can now kill the entire world population many times over? And why are we fighting to prevent some from getting this technology if there was no real fear that they would do just that?

    Robert, thanks for writing an entire paragraph that completely avoided answering my very simple question to you.

    Could you read my question again and actually reply to it?

  • dc

    I was so impressed! Great discussion.

    Zach, you had such poise. Way to represent!

  • Stutz

    Amazing restraint from Zach, and excellent job being open and positive. I would say that he did pull some punches that could have easily been thrown, but would have turned many people off and left them with a bad impression.

    As to the violence discussion, we have done a great job of reducing and in some cases nearly eliminating many systemic types of violence and death. I would classify the World Wars as outliers in a trend, not as definitive evidence that life is worse for the average person in the modern age, because I don’t think there’s any doubt that life is generally safer and more stable. I’m kind of stunned that Robert W would claim, “Neither the percentages of people killed in a battle nor the efficiency of the weapons is what is important.” Actually, the percentage is the ONLY way to fairly compare violence in different times. If there were only 10 people on earth at one point, and 9 were killed in feuds, then the rate of violence at that time was far worse than at a time when only 9 out of 100 million were killed in feuds, even though in both cases only 9 people died. Is that not obvious?

  • Robert W.

    AxeGirl,

    do you think that if the people who committed all of the violence/killings pre-20th century had 20th century technology, the numbers of those killed would have been the same or higher?

    Too many other variables to answer with a simple yes or no. I will agree with you that are weapons of today are more deadly then those of the past.

    Let me ask you a fundamental question- Why is it important to you to believe that we are less violent as a human race? In light of the staggering number of people that have died in the last century due to man on man violence why try to say that those numbers are skewed due to population or weapon technology?

    Stutz,

    Actually, the percentage is the ONLY way to fairly compare violence in different times. If there were only 10 people on earth at one point, and 9 were killed in feuds, then the rate of violence at that time was far worse than at a time when only 9 out of 100 million were killed in feuds, even though in both cases only 9 people died. Is that not obvious?

    Actualyy percentages is only one variable to take into account if you are trying to determine how violent a society or century would be. I would include the number of violent conflicts, the time span between them, the reason for the conflicts, the indiscriminate violence outside of formal wars, the places across the globe where the violence is taking place- is it localized or is it widespread, among maybe some others.

    Reducing to simple percentages like Pinker did in his speech is only a part of the story. For example, saying that if you were born in an Amazon tribe as a young male your chances of dying in battle were sixty percent but as a young man in Europe in the 1950’s it was less then 10% tells us nothing about the violence of the century as he was trying to say.

    And respectfully, calling two world wars outliers in a trend when those wars and their aftermath killed over 130 million people and included one of the worst genocides of our history is ignoring the obvious. Granted through medicine and science most peoples lives have become better from disease at least in parts of the world, but not in all of it. However, i would disagree that the level of violence for most people in the world has shown a trend downward over the last hundred or so years.

  • Baconsbud

    Robert W. you keep bringing up how as a creature we are violent. I do agree part of humankind turns to violence first before they try other solutions. I don’t think pointing out how violent we can be is doing much good and instead we should be looking at why some of us turn to violence so quickly. We also need to look at which nations are the most violent and which are the least violent. I am betting most of us already know which nations will be on top of the list as the most violent and which will be near the bottom of the list. Why is there such a huge divide between the most and least? If you can answer that you will find where to start to ending the violence.

    I think some people have found an answer to those questions and they have been able to implement these methods without turning to violence.

  • mike

    Thornton, Russell (2000). “Population history of Native North Americans”. In Michael R. Haines, Richard Hall Steckel. A population history of North America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 13. ISBN 0521496667.

    J. N. Hays (1998). “The burdens of disease: epidemics and human response in western history.”. p 72. ISBN 0813525284

    Thornton even has a wonderful chart of scholar’s Native American population estimates. His estimate is over 7 million (for North America). Hays makes his estimate at 50-100 million (for all of the Americas). Note that these are just two sources and I would encourage independent research into the field by all, but esp. Robert.

    Do the math.

  • Robert W.

    Baconsbud,

    I agree with you. I think this is a cause for alot of violence in our world.

    Mike,

    I will be happy to study it more. Don’t get me wrong, what happened to the Native Americans was horrible but I think that the numbers are enhanced by natural diseases and not all through violence.

  • mike

    Robert W.

    The numbers are enhanced by diseases. That does not make them any less relevant. Do you not count the victims of the Holocaust who died from disease? Half of the Jews died by execution, mostly the gas chamber. The other half died of starvation, thirst, being worked to death, and disease.

    Ann Frank died of Typhus. Did she die a natural death?

    Their deaths count just as much.

  • Robert W.

    Mike,

    If Native Americans died from disease simply because they were exposed to other people from a different part of the world and had no immunity, I would count that different then those in the holocaust that died from catching disease from being in prison under harsh conditions and starved and worked to death. Native Americans who died under similar conditions from disease I would count as a violent death.

    I hope you see the distinction.

  • mike

    Robert W.

    Disease is not a singular event. There are many contributing factors. Being destitute because the white man killed the men of the village and evicted the large remainder to walk a “Trail of Tears” out of the area contributes to the spread and endurance of disease. And when the Indians were evicted, they were often rounded up and put into camps first, and then they were set to march (and never mind the lack of provisions or shelter). Being on the receiving end of perpetual war (the Indian Wars) does not allow for a healthy life.

    Native Americans in California did not contract measles until the Americans arrived on their doorstep with no regard for their sovereignty. The US was fully aware of the immunological hazard to the Native Americans and did not care. They were going to kill the Indians anyway, so they did not mind if their job was made easy through disease. Settlers did not peacefully move next door to the Natives and accidentally infect them. The US gov’t had a official policy of territorial expansion and the US Army had orders to aid and enforce this policy, all with complete disregard to the rights of the Native Americans to live in their ancestral lands.

    If the US gov’t had negotiated to purchase the land before sending settlers and troops and had respected the Native Americans desire to not be invaded, then I would consider this an honest mistake. But that did not happen.

    This was not an accident.