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Ten “Oh so clever” questions for Atheists – Part 3 January 30, 2022

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Questions, Responses.
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Finishing up my responses to Herald Newman’s transcriptions of apologetic questions from a Braxton Hunter Video.

Part 1 can be found here and Part 2 is here

7 – Most atheists I’ve met humbly admit that they don’t think they can have absolute certainty about much of anything but what they want from the Christian is a demonstration that God exists. or that Christianity is true, when we offer the reasons to believe that we do have those are typically deemed “not good enough.” So what sort of evidence, if any, would be enough to convince you?

I don’t know.  I don’t have to know.  If this apologist is in contact with an actual omnimax god that knows everything, then that god already knows better than I do what the right sort of evidence would be.  Why not go ask it?

But I can tell you some things it won’t look like:

It won’t look like an apologetic argument.  Or a sermon.  Or a bunch of quotes from an old book that you happen to like.

It won’t look like a personal testimony from a believer in your religion.  Any religion can and does produce people who give similar testimonies.  Which makes them worthless for establishing the truth of your particular flavor of religion.

It won’t look like a prophesy that was made and fulfilled within a book or set of books.  Any author could write that. Or a vague prophesy that you claim has happened, that could have been fulfilled by a ton of different things that you can twist to make them kind-of-fit.  Or a self-fulfilling prophesy that only came true because people who believed the prophesy decided that they wanted to make it happen.  All those are human things, not evidence of anything supernatural.

It won’t look like a “miracle” that can be reproduced by a stage illusionist, or that conveniently goes away when you try to investigate it.  Or one that is an occurrence of a low-probability event, that’s only called a miracle because humans are really bad at statistics.

It won’t look like knocking down a field of science.  Even if you were successful, that would only get us back to “I don’t know” and not ever to “and therefore god”.

It won’t look like a personal experience that happens to only me.  Because when I look at the likelihood of something going wrong in my brain, versus the likelihood of a “Damascus Road” event, I think the brain problem is by far more likely.

Since an all-knowing god would know what it would take to convince me, would be able to send it, but hasn’t, apparently your god wants to hide from me on purpose.  Which isn’t my fault, and I can’t do anything about it.  I don’t need to spend any brain power on trying to find an invisible omnipotent being who doesn’t want to be found.

8 – To what extent did social and moral issues start you down the path toward your atheism? that is to say the typical Christian or religious views on sexuality, gender rights, and acts and commands of God in the Old  Testament, it seems that many deconversion stories online begin with, or at least include LGBT issues, purity culture, or hell, as instrumental in the deconversion process. It strikes me that what should matter most is the truth and not what we might prefer that the truth were. I honestly wonder how much those issues, and ones like them, motivate the deconversion rather than all this talk about evidence?

I agree that what should matter most is the truth, and not how we feel about it.  But when someone joins a church for emotional reasons, somehow that never comes up.  If someone has an emotional experience at a church service, answers an altar call, wants to join the church, are they discouraged from joining because it’s based on emotion and how they feel about it?  Nope.  So quite a bit of hypocrisy there.

Regarding his list above, perhaps someone may start on a path of investigation because they have realized that all these nasty culture warrior issues conflict with their ideal of a benevolent god, and they need to get to the bottom of it.  Perhaps it’s something else. It could be something trivial, even.  But whatever the thing is that kickstarts their path out of religion, it doesn’t invalidate where their further investigations eventually lead them. People almost never deconvert based entirely on just one social issue, so it’s disingenuous to belittle them over what their first problem with religion was.

As for me, those social issues had almost nothing to do with it.  As a liberal protestant, none of that was being pushed on me, my religion was nice.  It was loving and friendly and tolerant.  But looking at the rise of the religious right, which was happening around that time, did give me pause, in that the people who supported those awful political positions were using the same source book I was, and yet coming to completely different conclusions.  Why wasn’t Biblegod telling the “Moral Majority” to knock it off already? How could they be getting it so wrong?

And while I was in college our campus was visited by a couple of campus preachers.  My freshman year there was some guy ranting in the quad with a giant sail painted with “Hell is for you and forever!”  A year or two later we were graced with a visit from a young Brother Jed, prattling the same nonsense he always has.  I was “christian” and they were “christian”, yet their religion had turned them into arrogant obnoxious idiots.  And the campus fundamentalist groups were filled with people who walked around with big Jesus-smiles plastered on their faces, and yet were some of the most judgmental people I knew.  The Methodist student hall was occasionally rented by ultra-conservative Orthodox Presbyterians, who were so close-minded and insular that would say that they were risking their salvation just by talking to a Methodist minister.

So it wasn’t so much that my church held regressive moral positions, because it didn’t. It was that religion as a whole was such a contradictory mess.  That should be enough to prod anybody into rethinking their childhood indoctrination.

9 – Can you name the last three academic books you read by theists on the subject? How long ago did you read them or is most of your understanding of apologetics and atheism from non-scholarly internet sources, pop level books, and let’s face it YouTube videos? And be honest with yourself about this. Anyone can google up a list of books and paste them in the comments section but i want to know are you getting the best from the other side?

Here we have the standard “Courtier’s Reply”.  (This term was coined by PZ Myers on Pharyngula, and you can read more about it here: https://pharyngula.fandom.com/wiki/The_Courtier%27s_Reply) The “Courtier’s Reply” is referring to the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes. When the little boy in the story observes that the Emperor is naked, the Courtiers respond to him that you can’t possibly have a valid opinion about whether he is naked until you have done advanced studies in his fine Corinthian leather boots, his ultra-sheer brocades, and the feathers on his hat.  Without all that pointless intensive study of imaginary clothing, they are just going to dismiss you as unqualified.

Now while I appreciate the value of study, and some subjects really do require quite a lot of it to reach valid conclusions, my problem with it here is the hypocrisy of expecting the person leaving a religion to do an intensive study into the details of that religion, but not requiring it of someone joining the religion.  Are new converts asked whether they have read at least three academic books on non-belief before they are allowed to get baptized?  When someone comes up to the front of the church for an altar call in the heat of an emotional moment, are they handed scholarly books on Islam and Hinduism that they need to go study before they “ask Jesus into their hearts?”  No, they are not. Nobody makes them “get the best from the other side.” This expectation of academic work is only ever put on the person who disbelieves.

I also think it’s relevant that our questioner is an author of the very type of apologetics book he’s insisting a non-believer should read.  As with his “which apologetic is the best” question, he’s desperately trying to have his field of “study” still be relevant to ex-christians.  And it just isn’t.

And to answer his question, none of the sources I read as I was deconverting were internet sources, because I deconverted long before the internet was a thing. I’ve been a non-believer for over thirty-five years.  My sources were books, mostly.  I grew up on the Narnia books, but also the Oz books and every book of mythology I could get my hands on.  I went to church every Sunday, but I also read Asimov, Heinlein, Sagan and Steven J. Gould and Douglas Adams.  I read Augustine and Dante, but also Lucretius and Galileo and Einstein.  I’ve read the Nag Hammadi Library, and about a third of the Qu’ran.  On TV I watched “Jesus of Nazareth” and “The Ten Commandments” and “The Ascent of Man” and “Cosmos”.  I’ve read a lot of Bart Ehrman and a huge multi-volume set of books by Joseph Campbell called The Masks of God.  I read the bible, twice through, cover-to-cover, in two different translations, just to be sure.  When I started on the first bible reading, it was because I was a young believer in confirmation class, and the pastors said we should read it to strengthen our faith, and I’m a completionist.  I finished the second read-through, of the KJV no less, in college and was a non-believer by the time I finished it.  Everything just finally clicked into place, that this was a human book, written by men for men, and the whole god-thing was just pretend.

Since then, my reading has focused more on learning about why human brains are so susceptible to holding weird beliefs.  It’s been much more interesting than any book about the picky details of one specific religion.

10 – If you found out today, to your satisfaction, that Christianity were true would you accept God’s authority, repent of your sins, and trust Jesus as your king?

First of all, the tone of this question is very pushy and manipulative.  It seems like he’s trying to get you to say in advance that if he gets to some “Aha, checkmate atheist!” point successfully, then you would have already pre-agreed to convert to his specific brand of religion.  This is not an honest tactic.

But as to my answer to his question, it’s this:

Nope.

To be more specific, it would depend on which “christianity” turned out to be true.  There’s something like 40,000 different sects, and you’d have to be referencing a specific one.  If the liberal Presbyterianism I grew up with turned out to the true, I suppose I could go back to it without any major problem.  They never used their religion as an excuse to be awful to anybody, they tried to be socially responsible, and did a lot of service projects in the local area.  There was community and music and potlucks. I had a positive experience there, no major complaints, apart from boredom.  If all the culture warriors and christian dominionists would switch to PCUSA or similar churches, it would be a very good thing indeed.

But he is not trying to get me to go back to liberal Protestantism, that would not be a win for him.  That’s not what he’s selling, and make no mistake, he is a salesman.  Apologists like this are only able to claim a win if their mark joins their specific sect, and becomes a butt-in-the-pew, fully tithing, fundagelical, all-in culture warrior.  He’s looking for sheep for his flock, new recruits for “Team Jesus”. And even if I thought his religion was correct about Biblegod, that’s just not happening.

The state of modern evangelicalism is a corrupt authoritarian cesspool.  Their bible says “you shall know them by their fruits” and the fruits of this religious movement are rotten. If these are the people with “god in their hearts” then count me out. People who join up don’t automatically become better people, they often become smug arrogant assholes. Their leaders take their unearned unsupervised power and demonstrate that they have this power by abusing it.  There’s financial mismanagement, psychological abuse, sexual abuse of children, and sexual harassment of members, and their church members are seldom able to hold any of their leaders accountable for any of it.  People are indoctrinated to support regressive social positions, vote for unethical politicians who pay lip service to the evangelical leaders, and to shut off their critical thinking abilities to the point that they become easy prey for conspiracy theorists.  Oh, and they want your money.  Gobs of it, and before taxes, please.  Even if I thought the beliefs were correct, I want nothing to do with any such organization.

Look at that telling phrase in his question “…would you accept God’s authority…”  Except that his god never verifiably tells anyone anything, so what this translates to is “accept my church’s authority.”  Which also translates as “accept the authority of me and other men like me.”  (Because in evangelicalism it’s almost always men, isn’t it?)  Which boils down to “give me the power to tell you how to live your life.”   Big old nope on that.

For comparison, consider a religion that you consider actively harmful to its members and the community around it.  Maybe the Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Scientology.  If you read Dianetics and conclude that L. Ron Hubbard was right about engrams and thetans, does that mean that you will immediately sign a billion year contract with the Sea Org, and obey every order that David Miscavige gives you for the rest of your life?  I hope not!

Or, another comparison.  There’s a supernatural being that a lot of christians believe exists.  According to their lore, this being is powerful, has opinions on what humans think and do, and would certainly like to be worshiped. Of course, I’m talking about Satan.  They think he’s real, and yet they don’t do what he wants.

So belief in a being doesn’t automatically lead to submission and worship.  That’s a separate question, and if I thought a god existed I’d need to evaluate the character of this god before I change my life in response to its existence.  According to at least some parts of their bible, belief alone is sufficient, anyway.


So, having now gone through this set of just ten “honest questions”, I’ve found equivocations, deceptive phrasing, logical fallacies, pushiness, sermonizing, culture warrior dogwhistles, and belittlement of the non-believers’ deconversion process. This is typically the sort of thing I see when an apologist shows up to a non-believer’s website or group.  They claim to be “Just Asking Questions” (or JAQ-ing off, for short), but then they hit us with not-so-cleverly disguised “gotcha” questions such as these.  If any would-be apologist wonders why the “heathen” aren’t willing to talk with them, this kind of thing is one big reason why.

Comments»

1. Ark - January 30, 2022

I never bother even trying to consider the ‘what evidence etc’ question simply because any god worth its salt would know the evidence to provide
I always ask for details of the evidence that convinced them ( the theist asking the evidence question).
To date, I have never received a straightforward answer, and most replies will at some point include mention of the resurrection and the 500 ‘witnesses’.
Such replies tell me all I need to know about their evidence!😊

Liked by 1 person

2. Nan - January 30, 2022

That question #10? It will never happen, so my answer is the same as yours (without any qualification) … “Nope.”

Really enjoyed all your responses.

Liked by 1 person

3. shelldigger - February 1, 2022

Great post Ubi.

Hell before I was ten, I could sense these people were full of shit. The adults all go along with it, play acting the entire time.* It’s a goddamn production.

I find myself very concerned about people with invisible friends that tell them what to do.

* How do I know that? … because I have seen and heard what they do when they aren’t at church.

Liked by 1 person

4. Daniel Digby - February 6, 2022

This apologist is really on top of things with question 8. How did he know that I have impure thoughts? That has to be the reason so many Gods are refusing to talk to me.

Then he hit me with number 9. Do Chick tracts count as books, and are they academic enough? I have to admit they’re certainly convincing, but why doesn’t the sinner’s prayer at the end fix things up for me? Isn’t the wording magic enough?

Number 10 is another tough one. I’m quite sure that Vishnu or Kokopelli is more likely to satisfy me with their truths. Then I may finally learn whether ants have a Buddha nature. Can your God do that? I’m patiently awaiting your response. Somehow I think we may be twins — Epimetheus has the same hold on me as He does you (see comments in part 2).

Liked by 2 people

5. Arnold - March 11, 2022

Perhaps the right approach looks beyond textbook evidence- maybe engage in casual conversation with some “I don’t know’s” mixed in.
If God created us for relationship, as the author of Genesis claims, something’s wrong. Not one of us KNOWS what’s wrong- we can but claim to know what’s wrong.

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6. hgummer - April 20, 2022

I’m late, but I just found this and needed to say thank you for writing it!

I might say to the #8 question… of course the atheist demands proof of a positive claim. 🙄 Then the theist comes back with, “you prove god doesn’t exist.” And then…… I walk way. 🤣🤣

Liked by 2 people

7. Headless Unicorn Guy - May 30, 2022

Ubi, I’ve encountered this too. From both sides.

I trace this back to the “Christianese Bubble” phenomenon, where said Apologist has absolutely NO contact with anything “Heathen(TM)” except for drive-by proselytizing sallies.

My most painful memories of this came from Campus Crusade in the late Seventies, where they had “Witnessing Practice” where you would try to Witness (the Four Spiritual Laws) to a Campus Crusade leader role-playing a “Heathen”. I actually had “outside contacts” (mostly thru D&D),and THESE GUYS HAD NO CLUE HOW ANYONE OUTSIDE THE BUBBLE REALLY ACTED! NONE WHATSOEVER! It was like something you’d see on South Park!

Oh, and the Heathen(TM) in these practice sessions always ended up AcceptingJesusChristAsHisPersonalLORDandSavior by the end of the session. All resistance broken through. SUCCESS!

We’re all living in a South Park episode. There’s no other explanation. Other than either we’ve gone batshit crazy or everyone else has.

Liked by 1 person

8. Headless Unicorn Guy - May 30, 2022

P.S. When going through any sort of training exercise, you have to make it difficult. Throw in roadblocks. Place the system under stress to test it. Because the flaws in any system will never surface unless you place it under load.

Liked by 1 person

Ubi Dubium - May 30, 2022

But the Fundagelical apologists can never admit to themselves that their system might have any flaws. So they don’t see the need to stress the system in practice, and are then blindsided when they try it in the real world and it doesn’t work. Then they have to try to figure out what they were doing wrong, because they can’t admit to the possibility that it’s their system that’s borked.

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