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Evangelists and the Reason Rally, Third Epistle June 2, 2016

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Events, Rants, Responses.
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10 comments

One more of these before the Rally.  Again, as a reminder, these are some of the things that I would be saying to Ray Comfort’s specially trained group of 1,000 evangelists, who were going to descend on the Reason Rally en masse until they found out they needed a permit and would have to demonstrate at the other end of the Mall.

reason rally preachers

Ubi Dubium’s Third Epistle to the Evangelists

“OK, Mr. Preacher.  I think I’ve made it clear that all the stuff you have carefully learned from Ray on what to say to atheists is going to accomplish exactly nothing as far as converting anybody.  Any of you who have tried this kind of the thing on us in the past should be well aware that it will not be producing the promised results.

“So the question is:  Why do you guys do stuff like this?

“Now I can’t claim to read minds, or know your beliefs better than you do.  But I have some hypotheses about what is actually going on that I’m going to suggest.  If any of the preachers who were actually going to go to Ray’s event want to comment here on these ideas I’d be happy to discuss them.

“An obvious answer is that their bible tells them to go “preach the gospel.”  But there are certainly easier audiences out there, ones that will give more “bang for the buck” as it were.  Even a college campus is more receptive than a crowd of thousands of atheists, and there’s a better chance of actually making converts.  I know people like a challenge, that’s why they do crazy difficult things like climb Everest.  But do you throw yourself at Everest if you know there’s zero chance of success?  So that can’t be all there is to it.

“Another thing that I see is that True Christians™ always seem to want to be seen to be accumulating “cosmic brownie points” with their god (or “treasures in heaven” if you want a nicer term).  Every opportunity for a public display of piety, or to throw a bible verse into an email, or to preach at somebody is a chance for a shout out of “Hey god, look how devoted to you I am!”  I rarely see that kind of thing from mainstream christians, they usually take the bible verses about not showing off their piety in public more seriously (see Matt 6:5).  It usually seems to be those of the fundigelical variety who are intent on making as big a public display as possible.

“But I think that even more than displaying their devotion for god, I think in many cases they are displaying their loyalty to each other.  I’ve talked about the idea of “honest hard-to-fake expensive symbols of commitment” before.  (And I still am looking for a better name for this idea, if anybody has one.)  This is the thing you do that is difficult, or time-consuming, or expensive, or personally embarrassing, or all of those, and is also completely pointless.  You would never do it except for the purpose of getting another group or individual to accept you as sincere.  Among the many things that would fall in this category are Mormon missions, gang tattoos, big diamond engagement rings, fraternity hazings, and tithing.  The bigger the gesture you make, the more you are telling your group that you are a devoted member.  And for a group where preaching is a show of loyalty, what bigger gesture can you make than to spend money to travel to another city, and preach in front of a guaranteed hostile audience?  I think going off to DC to do this is  a sure way to gain status and trust from the congregation back home.

“I’m thinking there may also be an element of territorial marking involved as well.  The atheists are meeting on the National Mall, in public, specifically to challenge christian dominance of politics and government in the country.  If the christians just allowed that to happen without getting involved, it would be a big event that was all about the heathens, and not about them. Perhaps they felt a need to take ownership and put their mark all over the event as much as possible, to reclaim this piece of the public attention “turf” for themselves.  Being relegated to the other end of the Mall just would not accomplish this goal at all.

“Those are my ideas so far.  It’s possible I’m completely wrong (which is something you never hear an evangelist say).

Thus endeth the Third Epistle.

 

That’s all for now.  If I have any interesting encounters at the Rally, perhaps I will have a follow-up.

Evangelists and the Reason Rally, Second Epistle June 2, 2016

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Events, Rants, Responses.
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3 comments

ray-comfort-2

Continuing on with all the things I wanted to say to Ray Comfort’s god squad that was supposed to show up at the Reason Rally to save our souls and stuff.

Ubi Dubium’s Second Epistle to the Evangelists

“OK, now Mr. Preacher I’d like to talk about the content of some of your preaching, but probably not in the way you expect.

“You’ve probably spent a lot of time learning all kinds of apologetics.  Endless arguments against evolution, and lots of arguments for the existence of god that go along the lines of “first cause” and “everything can’t come from nothing” and so on.  You’re prepared to go into those arguments at great length, and expect me to spend a lot of time rebutting you on them.

“Well, I’m not going to bother doing that.  Surprised?

“Let’s look at the bigger picture here.  Suppose that by some really amazing insight you were able to show that evolution wasn’t happening, and that it’s not responsible for the diversity of life on earth.  Well then SO WHAT?  All you would have done is get us back to a position of “I don’t know”.  And if you understand the fallacy of the argument from ignorance, you’ll see that “I don’t know” does not justify jumping to a conclusion of biblegod and Jesus and Noah’s ark and talking snakes.  You still need positive evidence to justify those beliefs, and knocking down evolution, or any other science you happen not to like, does nothing to establish the truth of your dogma.  You need positive evidence, not just an attack on what you see as the alternative.

“And let’s look at those “first cause” arguments.  “Something can’t come from nothing.”  “The universe is too fine-tuned not to have been designed on purpose” and so forth.  Suppose you were successful in making those arguments.  Again, SO WHAT?  The best you can do from winning all those arguments is a vague deism. But deism isn’t what you are trying to sell me on, is it?  Even if you establish that there had to have been some kind of mind behind the creation of the universe (which I’m not actually buying), you have done nothing to show that your religion is true.  Your creator god could be one that created the universe and then died, or left, or one that just  churns out universes all day and doesn’t care what happens to them, or one that became the universe instead of making it, or one that created the universe for some other purpose and we’re just a side effect, or any number of other possibilities.  Winning your “first cause” arguments still do nothing to get you to a conclusion of biblegod and Jesus and Noah’s ark and talking snakes.  “Look at the universe, therefore Jesus!” makes no more sense than “Look at the universe, therefore Muhammad!” or “Look at the universe, therefore Krishna!” or “Look at the universe, therefore the Flying Spaghetti Monster (pesto be upon Him)!”   If what you are presenting isn’t evidence that’s specific to what you are actually selling, then don’t even bother.

“And finally, Ray has probably taught you all kinds of rhetorical tricks to try to trick people into saying that they need god:  “Have you ever lied?  Have you ever stolen anything?  Then you’re a liar and a thief!  And therefore a SINNER!”  I have two things to say about that.  First, any god that would need his preachers to trick people into belief is a pretty pitiful god in my book.  And second, Mr. Preacher, have you ever lied about anything?  I bet you have!  And you know what that makes you?  A LIAR!  You’ve learned your craft from Ray Comfort, and I’ve certainly heard him tell lies.  And if you believed that you could bring somebody to Jesus and save them from the eternal fires of Hell by lying to them, would you do it?  I bet you would!    In which case, Mr. Preacher, that makes you a liar for Jeezus who is not entitled to be up on that soapbox.  Get off that high horse, knock it off with the clever trickery, and actually talk to us and pay attention to what we have to say.  Find out why it is we don’t believe your message, even though we live in a country saturated with it.   Listen before you talk.

Thus endeth the Second Epistle.

(Stay tuned, still more to come.)

Evangelists and the Reason Rally, First Epistle June 2, 2016

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Events, Rants, Responses.
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Reason Rally 2012

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.