VeggieTales Creator: Christians Avoid Teaching Kids to Think Critically Because They Might Do It January 1, 2014

VeggieTales Creator: Christians Avoid Teaching Kids to Think Critically Because They Might Do It

A couple of months ago, Philosophy professor Peter Boghossian released a book with a very blunt title: A Manual for Creating Atheists.


Phil Vischer, the Christian creator of the popular VeggieTales series, discussed the book (with his faith-filled colleagues) on his podcast recently and the discussion around the 40:15 mark is striking for how honest it is regarding the intersection of Christianity and critical thinking:

Vischer [possibly reading from Boghossian’s book]: Here’s what I want to do. I want to encourage parents and Christian educators to teach critical thinking skills… do you know why we don’t do that?

[Co-host] Skye Jethani: ‘Cause it’s hard.

Vischer: ‘Cause we’re afraid our kids will actually use them.

Jethani: And they might come to a different conclusion.

Vischer: And they might come to a different conclusion than we have come to.

Vischer: … some in the home-schooling movement, because of Michael Farris who’s the head of the [Home School Legal Defense Association] and founded [Patrick Henry University]… he’s been encouraging home-schoolers to learn forensics and debate so that they can debate the world… And so home-schoolers are debating and kids are learning how to debate, but what’s happening that no one foresaw is some of these kids are using their new critical thinking skills to question their parents’ beliefs, and parents are becoming very upset.


That’s precisely why it’s important, especially as atheists, that our kids learn how to think instead of what to think. If they know how to think critically and ask the right questions, they’ll eventually find their way to the correct answers. On the other hand, if parents tell their kids that evolution is a conspiracy, or that Jesus was born of a virgin mother, or that David Barton knows what he’s talking about, the pesky truth will eventually lead to a hell of a lot of cognitive dissonance and the child will learn to abandon the Bible-based thinking in favor of something more reliable.

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  • Sven2547

    This is along the same vein as the Texas Republican Party’s official platform of forbidding critical thinking in public schools, as well as any ideas that may cause kids to challenge the tenets of their upbringing.

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    “‘Cause it’s hard.”

    Actually teaching those skills is not hard, but as said many don’t want to do it because they worry that kids will actually use them.

  • robotaholic

    I’ve read Boghossian’s book and he is exactly right. There is no definition of faith that a Christian will accept If it is ‘belief in something without evidence’ then they say they have evidence so then they don’t need faith…and it is a vicious cycle. Faith is what we should actively try to destroy.

  • James Lindsay

    The video of Vischer, et al., is worth watching. Near the beginning, the lady suggests that Boghossian might be a “demon,” and then later they call him a “Vulcan” directly before repeatedly commenting on how illogical he is. They also say a lot of stuff that makes faith, as a way to claim knowledge, look really, really bad, like the one this post is about.

  • NotThatGreg

    Should be no surprise, it’s in Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding”. Don’t be using that brain; it can only lead to trouble. Trouble for exactly who or what? No, don’t ask that.

  • I think it’s important, as atheists, to recognize that teaching our kids critical thinking skills will not necessarily make them atheists, and that is okay. I mean, they may get to there eventually, but the important part is that whatever conclusion they come to, they should be able to defend it using logic and critical thinking.

    I feel like atheists who expect everyone intelligent to be atheists are no better than Christians who expect everyone intelligent to be Christians. The world has a diversity of viewpoints, and that is okay. That is why I want critical thinking skills taught. Not so people will agree with me, but so people will become better able to sift through those viewpoints and find the logic (or lack thereof) in them.

  • CryoFly

    But then, that is exactly the issue with every other religion. Often times religion dictates that all the answers to a question is contained in the religion itself and hence one need not think beyond the religious texts.

  • Matt Potter

    My two children are still in elementary school and I have to say some of the fondest and the proudest moments I have of them are when they have used critical thinking skills to challenge me, respectfully that is. Anyone can simply regurgitate information back as they were told, it’s in those challenges that I know they are using their mind and actually thinking about what’s being said.

  • Jordan

    Lol. Or maybe they don’t work because prayer doesn’t work. @ 44:00

  • Jordan

    Also, lying is a sin @ 47:00

  • Matt E. S.

    The point Vischer is making.

  • Lark62

    I think I read this in the comment section of this blog (forget which topic):

    It is better to have questions without answers, than answers that cannot be questioned.

    (To whoever I’m quoting – thanks – I love it.)

  • cary_w

    Yup, you can feel all proud and pat yourself on the back for your excellent parenting skills, and then… feel like an idiot when they talk you into getting a third cat using rock-solid logic, reasoning skills, and everything you’ve ever told them about morals, family values and responsibility. Isn’t parenting fun?

  • Lark62

    According to the bible, one unforgivable sin that started it all in the garden of eden. This sin condemned mankind to death and has served as the basis for the mistreatment of women for 6000 years. This original sin was so bad that god couldn’t forgive it without human sacrifice and it has tainted every person who ever lived. What was this sin? Murder? Rape? Torture? Genocide? The enslavement of other human beings? Nope. This horrible sin was, drum roll, the desire for knowledge.

    And we are supposed to worship this so-called god? What a crock!

  • It almost makes you wonder how many of these religious folks are just trolling for a living. Many times it has occurred to me that I could completely take advantage of people and make a killing just by spewing out some religious nonsense, but I’m not that kind of person.

  • A3Kr0n

    This will be great! I’ve spent most of today reading Peter Boghossian’s new book, and was just taking a break from it. I’m half-way through chapter 4: “Interventions and Strategies”. This book is what I’ve been looking for around the Internet since I saw Intelligent Design on Trial several years ago. My persistence paid off!

  • observer

    May’ve been inspired by this quote:
    Philosophy is questions that may never be answered. Religion is answers that may never be questioned.

  • Feral Dog

    Don’t forget this knowledge included knowing good and evil.

  • Conuly

    Three is the right number of cats for a family, if they’re altered. Four is a bit much, one is a bit lonely for most cats. Two is okay, I guess, but three is the right number.

  • The Homeschool Apostate

    Having been raised by such parents it’s very simple and fits into their worldview like this:

    1. We have the truth, we’re right and that’s it.

    2. Critical thinking is ‘of the world’ and at times leads some out of Christianity.

    3. As we have the truth and no question about it, that means those are being deceived.

    4. If they’re being deceived, that means critical thinking is a lie and it’s just anti Christian deception from the devil

    That’s exactly how the thought process works for most of the hardcore fundies

  • DarkStar

    Quote: “He could actually have that experience if he was having a delusion and how would he know the difference”.
    Are these people Irony impaired or what?

  • Mario Strada

    It would be pretty easy too. I know for a fact that with some of the people I know if I debased myself and invoked the Lord and Jesus and whatever else work for these people I would be able to scam them to no end and they would be happy in the process. Then I could take those skills and buy some airtime and drive around in a Bentley.

    But like you, I would make myself vomit each morning while shaving.

  • aaa

    All of the god stuff aside, I actually like Veggie Tales. Some of their stuff is actually really funny.

  • A3Kr0n

    I thought the show was good. I liked all three people, and Phil is sharp as a tack. I do think his faith in the evidence that God said something is flawed. It’s based on evidence from the Bible presumably, and that is not evidence. There were a couple deepities, and a couple light attacks on Peter. I have no idea why Phil believe in a God other than he thinks the Bible is true. I want some of that candy!

  • Art_Vandelay

    Is there a defense of Christianity supported by logic and critical thinking? It doesn’t mean Christians are unintelligent but there’s a ceiling to their critical thinking when it comes to their religious faith and in fact according to their faith, surrendering your critical faculties is actually something to be considered morally virtuous.

  • Matt E. S.

    The Python-style French Peas were priceless, and their version of LOTR was also hilarious. VeggieTales is the only time I’ve ever seen a true intersection of religion and humor.

  • Exposing children to “faith” using either definition is certainly suspect, but why would you attempt to remove faith from people who are already of the faith? Having conversations with them is fantastic, but what do you get out of them having no faith if they are not infringing on you?
    Where is the tolerance?

  • I would question your interpretation of his statements about not teaching children to think critically. In the section prior (36:00ish) he bemoans that most Christians cannot think critically and chides them for their inability to question and learn. He may come to a different conclusion that we might, but he seems to want people to question their own faith to become stronger Christians.
    In the section you cite, I think he is speaking more from a devils advocate position.

  • I get a world where fuzzy, wishful thinking is not considered a neutral or positive thing, where empirical evidence and logic are the most privileged modes of thought, and where facts are considered a superior thing to base opinions on over wanting something to be true.

    A world where empiricism beats ideological blindness is a good one for all of us.

  • Lori F

    If you don’t watch the biblical reading at the end, the veggie tales are nice morality tales.

  • I agree totally, but OP is essentially saying that people of faith inherently cannot be good people and that’s false.
    We both may value logic and thought, but not everyone does. Atheists and Humanists don’t have common value sets, so I think trying to impose our values on Christians is not right. Convince, sure. Impose, nah.

    A little more live and let live, please.

  • Oh of course not impose. Hell no, never. I read it as demolishing faith more often intellectually and emotionally, not actually going after people of faith.

    Humanists do have a common value set (humanism is specifically a statement of beliefs and values), though atheists of course do not. Replacing Christian values with humanist ones would be great, I think, but it has to be a process of education and convincing argumentation, not coercion. That would be horrible.

  • Anna

    Really? I have to admit I shudder whenever I come across those cartoons. It seems like such a perfect recipe for indoctrination. The show obviously presents a particular god as real, and humor is used in order to make children more attracted to the religion.

  • Douglas

    I really enjoyed watching this. It’s refreshing to see intelligent, articulate Christians, though all the more painful to see when they assert what must be demonstrated, or make unjustified logical leaps.

  • There are logical defenses to Christianity, yes, and for many people, the world makes more sense with a creator god than without. Now, obviously I do not think those arguments are better than the arguments against it, but I understand that different people have different experiences with life and different interpretations of reality, and even if I think my view is right, I also understand why other people logically do not arrive at the same conclusion, or at least have not arrived at that conclusion yet.

  • Randy Wanat

    Examples of logical defenses include…?
    If it’s based on faulty premises or logical fallacies, it’s not a logical defense.

  • Malcolm McLean

    Lefties teach half of evolution – the evolution of the body, because its a nice stick with which to beat fundies. When it comes to the evolution of behaviour and, for example, sex differences, the lefties turn into creationists.
    As for the virgin birth, the standard argument against it, which is that the Hebrew word ‘almah in Isaiah means “young woman” is a bad one.The septuagint translated it as “virgin”. But it’s pretty clear that Matthew is finding a quote which supports a pre-existing belief that Mary was a virgin, it’s unlikely that the belief was created by the quote. Unlike creationism, it’s very hard to disprove the virgin birth by scientific means, no-one is claiming that it was a normal, natural, everyday event.

  • I’m not going to try and argue theism here, but I will put this out there. I believe that every atheist out there has to look at the meaningless void of the universe and say, “I’m okay with this.” It does not mean that they are necessarily nihilists, and plenty of atheists, myself included, have found that meaning is something that you can create within your own life, but you have to live with the idea of there is no prescribed meaning or value given to the universe.

    And really, that does not make sense at all. Why is this universe at all like this, and why isn’t there meaning? Some people can’t deal with facing this possibility. It does not mean that they are weak, stupid, or ignorant, but they just think differently. They cannot deal with the thought of purpose being something you create rather than find or are given. And so for them, they cannot say that there is no divine presence anywhere, no matter how much they concede other points.

  • Just putting it out there: this is not the best place for you to try and start an argument. Your comment isn’t even related to the post.

  • Malcolm McLean

    This is from the post:
    “On the other hand, if parents tell their kids that evolution is a conspiracy, or that Jesus was born of a virgin mother,”

  • Silent Service

    I’m at least glad that Vischer wants to teach critical thinking to kids.

  • My Fundie Brother-in-law gave my kids copies of those videos, and we used them as a tool to tech critical thinking. We would talk about the central message of each story, then discuss whether it was a good idea. My kids were on board with “share” and “be nice”, but thought that “do it god’s way even if it doesn’t make any sense” was really terrible advice. (Both my kids have wound up atheists now.) So they aren’t necessarily only for indoctrination. And some of them are really funny.

  • Marie Alexander

    They sound like great kids

  • Ron Boyd

    Those comments cited were in a satirical mode.

  • Anna

    I’m sure the creators would be delighted to hear that, LOL. I’m glad some atheist parents are using them to teach critical thinking, but think of how many non-religious or mildly religious parents present their children with these videos without any sort of discussion.

    It’s all slick propaganda that I would wager does its job at least 90% of the time. Children whose parents have taught them to believe in the biblical deity have their god-concept reinforced, and children who are not otherwise exposed to religion get a heavy dose of Christian supernatural assumptions.

  • Randy Wanat

    Faulty premises and logical fallacies. No logical defenses here.

  • RegularJoe

    Think not, lest ye be thinked.
    (or some such nonsense)

  • Okay, the post made a passing reference to the evolution debate and the virgin birth. That’s still clearly not the point of the post, and this still is not the best place for you to try and start this discussion.

  • Why does there have to be a why? The universe just is. The human idiosyncrasy of looking for patterns in everything has its downsides, and one of those is demanding that everything have a purpose even when it doesn’t. Finding patterns in things is so useful so much of the time that we find false patterns where none exist, which can definitely affect us. That just means a quick course on human cognitive biases is a good idea for everyone.

  • newavocation

    Maybe a new identity label we need is “Anti-Gullibleists”

  • Nixie Knox

    I agree with this. As a parent, I realize that I can’t make my kids’ choices for them, including what they believe. Although I’m doing my damndest to teach them to think critically, as well as investigating all the different belief systems out there & the roots of each (with the goal of teaching them that none is Truth, all are invented by awesomely imaginative humans), ultimately I have to let them figure it out for themselves. My parents did not do that for me, and breaking free of their theological box was a long and painful process. I refuse to do that to my kids, even if that means they come to a different conclusion than I’d like.

  • Sparty

    No, there are no logical “defenses” for christianity. Period. None. Zilch. Nada. Zero.

  • You do realize, though, that telling someone, even convincing someone, that they have cognitive biases does not make those biases go away, and some people will still have an incredibly difficult time believing that there isn’t a purpose to this world or existence.

  • JH

    Christianity makes a lot more claims than “a creator god.” Even if there are understandable, if not logical reasons to believe in some kind of creator, that lends Hinduism as much support as it does Christianity, which is about nil.

  • Lark62

    I watched Veggie Tales with my kids when they were younger. If you are selective, some are fun to watch and have nice messages, with a few inside jokes for the old folks (a play on Star Trek with the USS ApplePie looking a lot like the Enterprise). You have to be selective, though. The Moses video, gleefully glossing over the mass murder of babies, went in the trash fast.

  • Lark62

    I found them cute, but my kids had out grown them by the time I was solidly atheist. I guess you can only get so much indoctrination from talking vegetables. That said, it depends on the intended message of the video – things like be kind, tell the truth are fine. A couple made me gag, and got tossed in the trash (Moses and the dead first born, for one.)

  • Lark62

    I, for one, would love it if Boghossian joined him on the show. Vischer seems fairly rational and open minded – values critical thinking despite the likely outcome. A conversation between Vischer and Boghossian would be fun to watch.

  • Lark62

    Some are able to apply critical thinking skills to those stories. They just don’t stay christians all that long after that.

  • katiehippie

    I think Adam is the wimp in that story. At least she questioned the serpent. Adam just ate it. Now who is the dummy?

  • katiehippie

    I realized I didn’t want to be leaning on anyone else’s understanding either.

  • Golfie98

    It’s still knowledge

  • Golfie98

    Not sure that I would agree that all were created by awesomely imaginative humans. Much of it seems to have been created by humans without the imagination to allow their fellow humans to follow their own path. Or maybe they just wanted to tell others what to do in order to shore up their own power base.

    Religion, to me, seems to be the subjugation of others imagination.

  • InvisibleSkyWizard

    True, not to mention that they had no concept of what good and evil were at this time or what it was like to disobey or the consequences. So an all knowing and benevolent creator tempted 2 people he created with the mental capacity of young toddlers that don’t understand “No” and said don’t push the shiny red button in your paradise I have created. Just by placing it the temptation was there and then purposely allowed a “serpent” to further talk them into it.

  • I think I see how lying for Jesus can be justified under that thinking. Jesus is the Truth, so anything said in support of that conclusion can’t possibly be a lie. It’s like a reverse fallacy fallacy.

  • TCC

    Your virgin birth argument has two glaring flaws:
    1. The burden of proof is on the person asserting that virgin birth occurred, despite everything we know about reproduction and technology available in the 1st century BC.
    2. The Septuagint, being a Greek translation, didn’t translate almah as “virgin”; it didn’t even use a term that unequivocally implied virginity, and the term used in Isaiah is also used in Genesis 34 to describe Jacob’s daughter Dinah after she has been raped.

    Also, I have no idea what you’re on about with the evolution stuff.

  • Rick Studd

    Im atheist, the thing is both Christians and Atheists are missing the point. Quit making divisive ideas, its only adding to the problem and starting to lose credibility for it. Come together. Find some compromise that works in the meantime until a solution is found. I quit bad mouthing religion because both sides think the same.

  • Rick Studd

    Its a metaphor for human nature. Gods a parent figure, adam and eve are naïve children. Made a mistake, one by trick the other by accident and its something that doesn’t go away. The bible sounds strange to let you know its a book and to not get fanatical but to be intelligent enough to see the point.

  • Mark Moore

    Dear Jesus, please save us from the Christians

  • Rick Studd

    Im atheist. I reread the bible recently, the main is “Be a good person and set the example” Those crazy stories are to show, hey this is how bad it can get. Not like the euphemistic society that wants to hide graphic ideas from the young but to make sure as soon as theyre old enough, don’t let them be fooled. Quit pickin and choosin hate. Its written with a style just like the boy who cried wolf. A child dies, but that’s not the message

  • Rick Studd

    Im atheist, I reread the bible recently and saw a whole new story. Its metaphoric, I wrote this in another comment but its like ‘the boy who cried wolf’ a child dies but that’s not the message. Its written like it is so you know its a book and to not get crazy. Show you the graphic realities of life so you aren’t ignorant. I blame society today much more than the bible for the problems. Some people do get it though. It says its not your job to judge others choices and to not use religion to justify negative actions.

  • Rick Studd

    Im atheist. I tried to get atheists and religious people to compromise until a solution is found. The atheist side has the same low ceiling critical thinking as well. I quit hating on religion when I was trying to help and atheists were attacking me the most and 2 muslims were the only ones willing to cooperate out hundreds of people. Some enjoy hating others, its sad

  • Rick Studd

    Did you ever think both sides have it wrong? I argued it with religious, they didn’t budge. I offered a compromise, everyone attacked me. For some its just a narcissistic expression for misguided emotions. Most don’t care for the issue, they just want to fight. I took down the logic argument for both sides. Fighting will never end, this route is fruitless we need a new solution

  • Studd

    Religion and philosophy are the same. Just stupid people

  • Studd

    Unfortunately its on both sides. I argues against religion got nowhere. Tried offering compromises both sides can agree upon and atheists attacked me the most. At the end of it I found its just egocentrism, narcissism and cognitive dissonance. I actually took the logic defense away from both sides. They need each other to feel important. Both sides think the same, those same idiots are in atheism too. Finding out is why I don’t bad mouth religion anymore. Its taking away credibility

  • Dave

    I’m fairly sure it was a woman disobeying direct instructions.

  • Nixie Knox

    I get what you’re saying. I was thinking of my son in particular, and how he loves to check out library books about world myths. We read them, note the similarities, puzzle over their peculiarities. He knows that myths are ways that ancient people tried to explain the natural world. We talk about the similarities between Bible stories and other ancient myths. He will make up his own stories that use bits and pieces of all the different stories. So I do indeed think humans are awesomely, endlessly inventive and creative, and that’s what I choose to emphasize with my kids, not the rightness or wrongness of any myth.

  • Matthew Baker

    After watching a few VeggieTales I feel Vischer owes the world an apology. The world doesn’t need that much saccharine.

  • Of course. However, the average person does a lot better controlling for their cognitive biases if they know what those biases are. At the very least, people learn something about how people think, and that’s always a good thing.

  • Dum Dum Dog

    “Christians need to be ok with uncertainty” Yet they will claim to know the majical answer to the secrets to the universe and it is GOD … How dishonest to be ok with uncertainty and claim to know or have faith a god is real ….. Ha

  • Ravi T

    Well said 🙂

  • Ravi T

    ….for we are racking’ up unnecessary debt in December….like every year, lol!

  • Jeremiah Traeger

    How do you suggest that we “compromise”? Atheists probably aren’t going to accept “there might be a god”. And Christians definitely aren’t going to accept it because they “know in their hearts” that their god is there for them.

    I suggest you look up the golden mean fallacy.

  • Nemo

    How do “lefties” (since political beliefs and religious beliefs must by synonymous) turn into creationists when it comes to evolution of behavior? Look up research on how morals and social behavior developed. Many animals display such things. Animals who stick together are more likely to survive. Sticking together often requires some form of conscience.

  • Arthur Dallas Appelgren

    His claims of being a critical thinker himself go right out the window when they talk about a reveal truth as opposed to a discovered truth. By having a “revealed truth” that absolve themselves of all responsibility for demonstrating a knowledge claim that they have.

    I do agree to some extent that Faith is a funny word, but he seems to make it all inclusive, when the reality is it has several levels and differing meaning. The emphasis by Peter Boghossian is to clarify the term so as to be on the same page and not confuse it with something else.

  • Brian T Hall

    langrage is very, very, very, very, hack-able.. you can take one word and change the meaning of that word. and that tends to make a slang version of a dictionary version.. lets get in to some things like technology that are 100% Langrage, a computer is easy to hack into, because the Computer is 100% made of Langrage.. now lets get into the word “faith”
    complete trust or confidence in someone or something.
    strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.
    OK hear is the problem.. the word Faith, has two definition, 1. is confidence in someone or something and 2. is Strong belief in god or in doctrine of a religion with out proof… what these guys get mix up with is confidence in lets say a friend is more about trust in some one you know, that might mean proof that you have evidence from past experience that that person is trustworthy. knock on wood.. so what these guys did on the radio show was they didn’t look deep in what or how the words were used but hacked into the word FAITH, and prove that this guy dose not know what he was saying. that means those god glasses that are super glued on there faces with fear is very powerful to their world view that tends to be very narrow.. another problem with words, satisfied dose not always mean happy, and being unsatisfied dose not always mean being unhappy.. The original connotation rather positive or negative do not always work in using what you factually describing with your feelings… that means surrendering your selves might be a good thing or a bad thing… next langrage will never capture the hard reality a 100% of the time. that means there is no absolute truth in reality.. absolute truth is how you take real hard reality and convert it to written langrage or spoken langrage or drawing langrage, its impossible to get real hard reality in an art form as absolute truth.. you might capture like one frame in reality but not the hole movie in 3D or 4D in 75 frames per seconds….

  • diogeneslamp0

    Exactly. There are no logical defenses of Christianity. Only working backward from a predetermined conclusion.

  • Randy Wanat

    If one cares whether one’s beliefs are in agreement with objective reality, and is of the mind that a lie, no matter how comfortable, is still a lie, and that such a lie is less desirable than the uncomfortable truth, one cannot accept claims about gods as true, nor claims about the supernatural. If logical fallacies and faulty premises are the foundation of one’s beliefs, those beliefs are pernicious.

  • Intelligent Donkey

    The whiskered old wanker created the whole damned universe, but couldn’t be bothered to put up a little fence in the garden? Yeah, right.


  • Sinfanti

    AKA “argument to moderation” for anybody like me who thinks “oh hey, I DO want to look that up.”

  • Randay

    The point being what? As Bill Maher said, leaving two naked teenagers in charge of the planet, that is really intelligent design.

  • Randay

    Saint Paul, who more or less invented xianity, said more than once that he learned his views not from any man, but from revelation from guess who.

  • Leiningen’s Ants

    What a terrible role model for a parent.

  • fuhreous

    yeah, you’re right. be good to slaves by not beating them to hard, stone the bad kids and women who didn’t yell “rape” loud enough. If you’re a woman, be sure to se the example by sitting down and shutting the fuck up. I’m sorry, but even if the bible’s message is to be a good person, it has a fucking horrible definition of “good”

  • Leiningen’s Ants

    It’s the one that goes “I want to kill you, you don’t want to die, so we’ll compromise and I’ll only put you in the intensive care unit and everyone will get some of what they want which is a good thing for everyone.”

  • Leiningen’s Ants

    Well, or at least an actual intentional one.

  • fuhreous

    yes, the book that is the “literal word of god” is most definetly written so you don’t take it seriously. And people indeed haven’t taken it seriously. the crusades were piniata wars, and the witch burnings were barbequeues. You probably got attacked because your critical thinking skills don’t seem to be switched on, i’d say.

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    Listening to the segment of the podcast, I don’t think Vischer et al were entirely condemning critical thinking. They seemed to recognize that it can lead you away from Christianity, but is also important for defending their faith. At 42:20, Vischer says:

    “…every example that Peter Boghossian gives of engaging a conservative Christian in a debate, it is clear that the person he is talking to does not know how to think critically cause they can’t respond. And it’s not that their beliefs are false. It’s that they don’t have the facility to answer what is being asked of them cause they don’t know how to think about it.”

    Hemant, you also cut out from your quote Jethani enthusiastically answering that teaching critical thinking skills “sounds like a good objective.” *

    The segment was a bit garbled as to what point they were trying to make, but I interpreted it this way: “Critical thinking can potentially lead people away from Christianity, but we shouldn’t be so overprotective to shield kids from every little thing that only has a potential to harm them. Proper critical thinking can also be used to defend the faith so it’s not so bad.”

    * The quotes you posted made it sound like they were universally against
    critical thinking and leaving Jethani’s quote out kinda looks like you are
    quote mining to make the point. Not sure if that’s intentional, but it
    appears that way to an outside observer.

  • Clinton Max Walker

    Every story involving God sets up the human characters to fail. God plays the antagonist, protagonist and pax machine in every event. Creating mistrust, curiousity and doubt in humans, planting a tree of edible fruit not to be eaten, creating an entity that can manipulate the characters. Adam and Eve are set up to fail, so that a moral would be taught. Here’s a profound question though – if Adam and Eve did not have the knowledge of good and evil, could they realistically know right from wrong?

  • unbound55

    Rick Studd – you really need InvisibleSkyWizard’s response above. That is the huge gaping problem with what your god set up.

  • Art_Vandelay

    I agree with all of that Devin but this is simply an explanation for why people might believe illogical things. I think that there are reasons that this may occur but it doesn’t make those things cease to be illogical. That’s also more a defense of deism than it is Christianity.

  • KMR

    It’s funny but I’m finding this exact issue in my household at the moment with my six year old. She’s intelligent and also a worrier. The concept of death and it’s permanence is very troubling to her and there have been more the a few moments where she has started crying at the thought of what happens when she dies, what will happen to me when I die, what will happen when the sun blows up 15 billion (give or take a few billion) years from now, etc. The only thing that gives her any comfort is to tell her what her grandparents and other religious people believe. I never profess certainty of course but the thought that our lives have some divine meaning, that darkness and oblivion isn’t our final destination stops the tears. I wonder if she’ll outgrow this fear but maybe not. Maybe she’ll be on of the people who just can’t deal with it.

  • KMR

    The progressive Christian values are virtually indistinguishable from the humanist ones. I don’t think you have to replace, just educate people enough so that there religion evolves if they are the type of people who are inclined to be religious.

  • GoldenBoy

    “O ye who believe! Ask not of things which, if they were made unto you, would trouble you”
    -the quran

  • Richard Thomas

    200 deaf altar boys beg to differ.

  • Richard Thomas

    Every time someone starts an argument with “lefties” or “libs” you just KNOW it’s going to be a well reasoned post.

    Anyway, there is PLENTY of non-religious, scientific literature available discussing behavioral evolution. One of the sites we like to use the most is called “Google.”

    Also, we have no duty or responsibility to disprove any kind of virgin birth.

  • Jeff

    These children made a mistake so terrible that god feels the need to punish people who hadn’t even been born at the time.

  • UnePetiteAnana

    “Why does there have to be a why?”

    For the same reason you’re asking “why?”

  • UnePetiteAnana

    This was exactly my thought. Vischer was defending critical thinking – the quote was from the “segment” of what he believed the author got right.

  • Please offer me some examples of people masquarading as atheists simply to make money off of delusional followers.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    But Vischer also points out (rightly) that Boghossian’s definition of faith is embarrassingly wrong, which causes the entire rest of his reasoning to fall apart. He’s also presupposing the illogic of anything supernatural, which begs the question.

  • What are you trying to say here? The message of this post is learn critical thinking so you don’t have to trust everything your parents tell you. But you seem to be confusing “the Lord” with “your parents.” Whatever this is, it’s bad argumentation.

  • pictor

    I hate when people cherry pick a quote like that and don’t explore the entire implication. I watched the rest of the podcast from that point, and here’s what really goes down.

    -They admit that this is an uncomfortable truth, but they DON’T say that means we should stop teaching critical thinking.
    -They also say they should be willing to embrace uncertainty, to say that they believe in God and Jesus, but that it’s ok to admit that is is not a 100% certainty belief.

    It’s really a fairly honest discussion, and honestly, any Christian taking this stance is really one that I would be cable of having a conversation with.

  • islandbrewer

    My kids liked the pirate film – it was cute and fun, I gave it a slightly above-average rating for kid’s fare. But I cringed at the end when they started trying to shoehorn god into the story, as much for the contrived and twisted logic as for the religiosity. I would typically interrupt that part (it was boring anyway) with snacks, and then turn back to where they parody the B52’s Rock Lobster (“Rock Monster“).

  • islandbrewer

    I’d love to bring that up in a law school Torts class, just to see what the right wing students do.

  • AttilatheBlond

    My question: If ‘God’ gave people free will, why does he get so nasty when they use that gift? Seems like ‘God’ is a very abusive ‘parent’

  • I think you missed the point of the post; There are logical defenses that exist, such as the Cosmological or teleological arguments, but that doesn’t mean that those from opposing worldviews will accept the premises that are used in those arguments.

    Square wheels probably exist, but it says nothing about their functionality, and if someone is stubborn enough, they can convince themselves that square wheels are better. Ergo “logical” arguments for MyPersonalGod.

  • The value of educated skepticism is less highly valued in progressive Christianity, though. People still encourage fuzzy thinking and wishful thinking. They really need to stop that.

  • /facepalm

    Rhetorical question is rhetorical.

  • KMR

    They’re getting there. I’m just grateful to know some Christians who are really phenomenal people. Die hard progressive Christians may not always have a ton of common sense but they make up for it with their kindness and compassion IMO.

  • Agreed there! I wouldn’t have any problems with religion if all its adherents were like progressive Christians- we could argue about it over cocktails or something, but it wouldn’t be important at all.

  • Studd

    Its in what you define the word ‘God’ as. Both sides assume what the other ‘thinks’ it is. Its ambiguous to the point that everyones arguing a formless idea. Do you honestly know how each and every individual person defines that word? Once I figured that out, I stopped arguing for or against god and religion and am just trying to get everyone to work together as humans and keep their religious position to themselves. Its like arguing the color of a picture and everyone sees a different color.

  • Studd

    The book is blunt, simple reality. Then exaggerated and put in story form. Im not Christian but I understand the messages.

  • Studd

    Its just a story with a moral. Gods not punishing anybody, its simply human nature. Whether you are religious or not, you cant deny people are that way regardless. We have to understand and deal with that as a part of life.

  • Studd

    Im atheist. The problem is manipulative preachers twisting the story for their gain. The book itself says not to make the religion into a business and for the followers to stop going once they understand the point. People rather be told what to think than read it themselves. I promote telling people to read the whole thing on their own just to raise enough internal questions.

  • Rick Studd

    You took that way too far. Its a collection of stories to not leave people ignorant to those atrocities. An intelligent person sees these things as wrong just as you did. The issue is with the preachers twisting it to get money and stupid people who cant see the obvious. The book says don’t make religion a business (mega church), Jesus says don’t bow to authority (believers not questioning their leaders), also not to view god as a superior in anyway (giving up common sense and kissing gods ass expecting privilege). The example is simply being a good person and spreading kindness not being a submissive fool. It shows those bad things so when you see it you stop such behavior NOT incorporate it as how it should be. Do you see my point of view now? Its funny, I think most atheists follow their religion better than they do. But its so ambiguous and people nowadays are just dumb.

  • Rick Studd

    Yes. Read John, Jesus says: Do not turn the church into a business (mega church, fail) When Jesus is said he is to be stoned to death for his preaching he says the 10 commandments say you cant kill (contradiction designed to force you to think) Jesus says also to not use religion to justify bad behavior. The bible itself is just stories with morals so that you are not ignorant that rape is bad, slavery is bad, sexism is bad etc. I think the message was lost in translation so now people think such activities are ‘acceptable’ but missing the idea that its there to show you that you can be ‘tricked’ into thinking its ‘acceptable’ but you know its not and to have enough sense to not fall for it but they get tricked instead. Its not like todays culture of sheltering people from these things but instead to show you ‘hey, it can get this bad’ as early as possible. The summary is simple “Treat others how you want to be treated” Gay marriage- do want to be denied marriage? Do you want to get stoned to death for speaking your mind? Do you want to be submissive and viewed as inferior to the opposite sex? Its that simple. Im atheist and I understand the message. You need to join a religion to learn what it teaches

  • You are very mistaken. The examples fuhreous offered you were from the law given by God, and were not in any sense cautionary tales or exaggerations.

    Your interpretation of Jesus is also a bit off. Matthew 22:21 “Render unto Caesar…” is usually interpreted as a call to submit to political authority, which is later clarified by Paul in Romans 13:1 to include even unjust or tyrannical authority. The only authority that Jesus unequivocally challenges is religious authority (Pharisees, Sadducees).

  • Rick Studd


  • islandbrewer
  • Your giving the benefit of a doubt that those to whom it applies, themselves, do not claim. It is a seductive way of thinking–they couldn’t possibly mean this stuff seriously, because literally taken many of these things are hideous and obviously evil, so it must be a metaphor!–but it is dramatically wrong on pretty much every level. When it was written down, they very clearly meant every word; it reflected the best understanding of ethics and the natural world available to the people who wrote it at the time.

  • islandbrewer

    Well, the important thing is that you’ve found a way to feel superior to both.

  • Jeremiah Traeger

    You are incorrect Studd, as I am happy to allow people to define a god however they would like. Have you ever watched The Atheist Experience where instead of assuming the viewer’s beliefs they ask “What do you believe and why?” in an attempt to meet the caller where they are? We as atheists are capable of recognizing the non-homogeneity of religious beliefs out there.

    Just because we can’t possibly know every individual’s beliefs on what a god is does not mean we can’t recognize a trend behind them. For every meaningful definition of the word “god”(supernatural creator of sorts), I have found unfounded assertions, some woo, and often the desire to “convert” me or take political actions based on these unfounded assertions and woo. This is HARMFUL.

    Atheists are by and large HAPPY to get along with the religious in a secular society. If the religious would keep their religion to themselves and not impose violence, anti-gay, anti-women, anti-science stances and try to impose their religions into the government, then we wouldn’t fight religion nearly as much (or at all?). But they do. Atheists do not impose any “no god” policy anywhere. The two sides are not equivalent.

  • Jeff

    In the story, god punishes EVERYBODY, whether they were involved or not, whether they had even been born yet or not. Whether it’s a literal story or just an allegory, that is exactly how the story goes.

    Allegories tend to fail if the story does not match up with real life in a meaningful way. What part of this story matches up with reality?

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