Evangelists and the Reason Rally, First Epistle June 2, 2016Posted by Ubi Dubium in Events, Rants, Responses.
Tags: atheism, bible, christianity, Evangelists, Ray Comfort, Reason Rally, religion
I’ll be at the Reason Rally on Saturday. This is kind of a no-brainer for me, all I need to do is drive to the Metro station and take a train downtown, it’s not like this will require any special travel arrangements. I went last time, and even though it was a cold rainy day in March, I had a blast. I’m expecting this one to be just as good, and better weather.
But there was one extra bonus I was looking forward to for this year’s Rally, and that was that Ray Comfort was planning to spend a weekend training up a thousand preachers with his version of “converting the atheists” and then bring them to the rally and sic them on us. He was also going to bring books to give away, and free Subway gift cards, since apparently the bestest and truest Truth™ ever still requires bribery to get people to listen to it. Since there’s likely to be at least 20,000 atheists at the rally, that’s twenty atheists up against each of these poor indoctrinated people, at a minimum. And not just your everyday apatheists, either, the crowd will be full of people who care enough about non-belief to turn out for an event like this. Bloggers and podcasters, and people with real experience against apologists. This was shaping up to be really entertaining.
Alas, Ray’s quest to “save the atheists” will not be happening. Turns out that bringing a group like that counts as a “counter protest” and that he would have to get a permit, and also do his protesting at the other end of the mall from our Rally. So much for the fun, there. At least Ray is donating the Subway cards to the homeless, or so he says.
I had some things I wanted to say to those wanna-be Magic Christians at the rally. But since they are not showing up in a group*, I’ll outline a few of them here instead.
Ubi Dubium’s First Epistle to the Evangelists
“Well, Mr. Preacher, let me talk to you about false teachers. You are an evangelical christian, yes? So I hope that you will agree with me that if you are right, then all those other preachers from all those other religions and sects out there must be at least partially wrong, if not totally wrong. You want me to listen only to you, yes?
“Well, if there is somebody out there that actually has correct answers, then I would want to listen to that person. But I think you and I would agree that the world is full of false teachers. (Your bible even says there will be false prophets.) How full? I looked up some numbers. Out of a world population of 7 billion people, the population of Evangelical Christians is 300 million. Or about 4%. So, Mr. True Christian™, if your sect is the one with the correct message, that means that 96% of the potential preachers out there are false teachers. So from my point of view, a random preacher has at least a 96% chance of being the wrong person to listen to. (I actually think that this percentage is much closer to 100%, but I’m being generous here.)
“That’s the first hurdle you need to get past to get me to listen to you, Mr. Preacher. You are talking to someone who thinks there’s at least a 96% chance that you are full of B.S. You have got to be pretty amazing to overcome that. You can’t just come at me with the same tired old apologetics that’s I’ve heard a million times before. Rhetorical tricks like Ray is famous for won’t do it either. If you really have a “message from god”, you have got to stand out from all those other guys.
“And by “stand out” I don’t mean preach “we have this one bit of dogma that’s really great, and nobody else has exactly this.” I mean different in a major way, not just in the picky details of belief. Let’s take a look at a bunch of religions that you consider false. They believe in a god that started out only being concerned with a small group of humans. They believe that a special select human was given a particular message from god, that was written down by humans in a holy book. A book that requires copying and translating by humans. That message is now spread from person to person by preaching and encouraging unquestioning belief in that book. And the believers in each of those sects form tribal groups with specific customs and rules to distinguish members of their in-group from everybody else, and they require financial support from those members to support their organization.
“That’s the way false religions are spread. Why would a real god who wanted people to spread a true religion have them spread it in exactly the same way as all the false ones???
“The question of whether there is a god, and whether that god talks to people, is an important question. Too important to be determined by whatever random preacher feels like pushing their dogma on me today. Too important to leave to an accident of geography, for whichever is the majority religion in the area I find myself in. If I’m going to listen to a preacher, they have to distinguish themselves from all the others in some meaningful way, a way that I’m not going to confuse with a guy just being a persuasive speaker.
“So what am I looking for? Here’s an example that I’ve used before – my passcode. I have a sentence that I have thought in my head many times, but never told anybody or written down. It’s a sentence in plain English, but one that would never come up in casual conversation. An actual god would know what it is, and somebody that can really communicate with a god could ask their god to tell them what that code is. If an evangelist comes up to me, and can tell me my personal code, that person will have my undivided attention. That person has done something that no other preacher has ever been able to do, and different enough to make them stand out. And I shouldn’t even have to tell them I want this code, their god could tell them the code and tell them to go talk to me, that would be even more convincing!
“Now is my passcode the only thing that I would accept? No, of course not, but it’s the minimum level of extraordinariness that I would accept. Any other evidence you want to use is going to need to be as strong or stronger than that. For example, if you can produce a holy text that does not require translation, but can magically be read by anybody as if it were in their own language, that would also work. Or if the stars rearranged to spell a different bible verse every night. Or if the tree in my front yard stopped growing crabapples and started growing KJV bibles. Or you actually moved a mountain, a real one, just by prayer. You know, real things happening, not just a bunch of talk.
“If there is a god who can read people’s thoughts then that god would already know, better than I would, what evidence would convince me. And an all-powerful god could send it. But there’s nothing so far. So either your god doesn’t want to be found, or doesn’t care whether I believe, or is a jerk, or (what I think is most likely) is fictional.
“So consider, Mr. Preacher, why your all-powerful god sends you out to preach with no better tools to work with than all the false preachers out there have. Go ask your god for something better. Or resign yourself to the fact that you are not the magical evangelist that is going to convert all the heathens out there, you’re just another member of the fan club for your hidden, silent god.”
Thus endeth the first epistle. Stay tuned.
*Some of those preachers may still show up on on their own at the event, since it is free and open to the public.