Sunday, 17 October 2010

Twelve point guide for ripostes to militant atheists

by Kim Fabricius

—Your faith is unreasonable.
—Your reason is unreasonable – and you have such faith in your scepticism.

—So, you’ve had a religious experience?
—What’s that? And what’s it got to do with God?

—The Gospels contain inconsistencies A, B, and C.
—You forgot X, Y, and Z.

—Darwin made the argument from design completely untenable.
—Er, Hume beat him to it.

—Creationists are morons.
—That smart?

—Theodicies are invariably unconvincing.
—Worse than that, they are inherently evil.

—Prayer plainly doesn’t work.
—Thank God!

—Religion is the opium of the people; it’s a crutch.
—Yeah, but science and technology are the crack cocaine; and you don’t limp?

—Who can believe in a God who sends his Son to die to appease his anger?
—Only the seriously disturbed.

—Religion is inherently violent.
—You mean violence is inherently religious.

—Give me one good reason to believe in the existence of God.
—The existence of atheists: the protest kind because they take God seriously, the petulant kind because God doesn’t take them seriously at all. Oh, and more conclusively: cats and baseball.

—You’re a fucking fool!
—Alas, you’re half right.

33 Comments:

Randy Olds said...

Cats and baseball are definitely the strongest arguments!

bruce hamill said...

Alas!!! This is seriously brilliant. I particularly like the last one and the third last one

Pamela said...

I like No. 7.

Tony Johnson said...

BRILLIANT!!!

Nazaroo said...

a few were annoyingly inaccurate. but in this one:


—Religion is the opium of the people; it’s a crutch.
—Yeah, but science and technology are the crack cocaine;

I recognized the the ring of truth, as an engineer.

peace
Nazaroo

Anonymous said...

Many of those atheist comments are insults. If an atheist makes a flat, standalone statement to you like, "Your faith is unreasonable," you could say, "Please don't insult me. Let's talk about specifics."

The only statement above that has any facts to discuss in it is, "The Gospels contain inconsistencies A, B, and C." If you reply, "You forgot X, Y, and Z," you're not going to impress the other person. If you reply by showing how they aren't inconsistencies, both people have a chance to learn something. You'll find that quite a few atheists know more about the Bible than many Christians and there is a chance that either or both persons will learn something from the discussion.

It's pointless to have a conversation where both people walk away thinking the other person is stupid. It would be more productive to try and steer the conversation towards a respectful dialogue over facts.

big_M said...

Definitely my fav Fabricius post. ever.

David W. Congdon said...

Anon:

You're forgetting that the post title says "militant atheists." The point of this humorous post is the fairly uncontroversial point that militant atheists are simply incapable of having a rational discussion about the facts.

But Kim's more important point, I'm sure you must realize, is that Christians can play the atheist game better than the militant atheists themselves. The Christian ought to have the best arguments against faith – for faith is always against appearances. So the inconsistencies in scripture and other apparent "problems" are not problems at all, because faith does not depend upon what can be rationally verified and scientifically secured. Faith is always foolishness to the so-called wisdom of the world (see 1 Cor. 1:18-2:16).

Gorazd Andrejc said...

Hahahaha, a good one. But hey, that religious experience (strange term indeed: rather, felt intuitions of reality ;) ) is considered that far out for contemporary Christians is a tragedy of elephantine proportions.

Rather, the answer to Atheist's

"So, you’ve had a religious experience?"

should rather be:

"Yes, just this morning as I ate my Weetabix."

Kinda cat and baseball argument with a Weetabix flavour.

Anonymous said...

@David

It isn't true that people who define themselves as "militant" atheists can't have a rational discussion about religion. A person who defines himself as a "militant" atheist is making a statement that he doesn't accept religion with the same force of opinion as a religious person who believes in his God or gods. It doesn't mean that a rational conversation about religion can't be productive.

Like I mentioned, many atheists--even self-described "militant" ones--know more about the Bible than many Christians. Both sides have an opportunity to learn from a civil conversation on religion.

I'm not sure what you mean when you say, "Christians can play the atheist game better than the militant atheists themselves."

Are you saying that even if there are obvious inconsistencies in the Bible, you still reject considering why they are there? You don't want to know more about what the Bible actually says, for example, where the influence of people, copying errors, and mistranslations enter the picture?

kim fabricius said...

Here is Nicholas Lash on "religious experience":

"Our experience of God is by no means necessarily 'religious' in character nor, from the fact that a particular type of experience is appropriately characterized as 'religious', may it be inferred that it is, in any special or privileged sense, experience of God."
("Human Experience and the Knowledge of God", in Theology on the Way to Emmaus, p. 143.)

"Nevertheless, even if there are good theological grounds for insisting that there is no particular district of experience in which God is to be met, the question could still be asked: but are not some experiences more important than others, as far as our relationship with God is concerned? And the answer, of course, is yes. In denying that there are any particular districts, or places, or times, in which God is more likely to be met than in any others, I am not saying that anything that happens to us equally, or indiscriminately, facilitates a relation with God ... But the experiences that matter most - ... are at least as likely to have the character of responsibility acknowledged, or suffering endured, as they are to have the character of aesthetic satisfaction or heightened feeling. A Christian account of the 'experiences that matter most' should be derived from a condiseration of the ways in which Jesus came to bear the responsibility of his mission and, especially, of how it went with him in Gethsemane."
(Easter in Ordinary, p. 251.)

Nathaniel Wood said...

@Anonymous

Nobody here is saying that they aren't interested in learning more about the composition and transmission of the Bible. Most of the people here probably know quite a bit about that--more than most "militant" atheists, including the big names like Dawkins and Hitchens. Kim's answer was surely meant as a snarky response to the belligerent, "clever" atheist who thinks he can catch a Christian off guard by pointing out that the Bible has inconsistencies and ambiguities. It's like saying, "Duh, I know that--so what of it?" That kind of answer tends to confound the militant atheist who can't seem to wrap his head around the fact that not all religious people are Protestant fundamentalists.

Again, "militant" atheists--the ones who are out to stir up trouble and prove to everyone that they're smarter than the silly Christians, not the ones who are have serious questions and concerns and want to learn together.

Anonymous said...

Committed atheists (some might use the word "militant" to make a statement) are not trying to prove they're smarter than the silly Christians any more than religious people are trying to prove that they're smarter than the silly atheists. :)

That's why I'm saying it's unproductive to have those conversations. Instead of responding to an insult with a statement that leads the conversation further into a ditch, it would be better to stop the insult and turn it into a productive discussion.

Christians shouldn't automatically assume, "I know that." Atheists as an overall group actually do know more about the Bible than Catholics and Protestants. I don't mean anyone here in particular, but just as an overall trend. Both sides have something to learn from civil discussions.

Highanddry said...

@ Anon,

Is it that hard to let something be satirical? I don't know Kim apart from the knowledge I have gleaned through this blog, but I am sure that this post is written with humour in mind. From title ("Twelve point guide for ripostes to militant atheists"); to concluding remark ("You’re a fucking fool! Alas, you’re half right."). If the humour is lost on you or does not tickle your funny bone, I am deeply sorry.

I found this whole post very amusing. Particularly the "cats and baseball" line (although I would want to substitute cats for dogs and baseball for rugby).

Your general tone reminds me very much of the conversations I have had regarding the comic merit of "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan". If there is no satire, then yes, this film is deeply offensive and racist. But it stands as one of the most clever satirical critiques of America ever allowed to be released. Did Sacha Baron Cohen intend his film to belittle and denigrate the proud people of Kazakhstan? I don't think so. Did he want to critique (read 'make fun of') some of the ridiculous elements of American culture through the medium of humour? Almost certainly.

Please, let us have our fun. Most of us have to get back to the serious business of ministry tomorrow, and I for one appreciate the comic relief. I promise I won't actual use any of Kim's suggested ripostes in real life (not out loud anyway).

Zac said...

Anon,

Regarding the link you posted I have two comments: first, we are given no information as to what these questions specifically were. We do not know the exact questions asked and so have no way of knowing what those who conducted the survey consider "knowledge of" Christianity and the Bible. Second, you misquoted your reference: it does not in fact say that Atheists know more about the bible than Christians (where they do score higher is in knowledge of "religious knowledge" which pertains more to eastern religions, etc.). In fact it says the opposite:

"On questions about Christianity – including a battery of questions about the Bible – Mormons (7.9 out of 12 right on average) and white evangelical Protestants (7.3 correct on average) show the highest levels of knowledge."

So I think while I appreciate your desire to ensure that both sides can have "civil discussions", I think your desire to show that most atheists know more than Christians about the bible is misguided, even as many reputable atheists do have holy critiques of Christianity -- critiques that are necessary to heed for faithful Christian practice.

philq said...

I just thought of another one:

--Christianity is just a crutch.
--It's actually a full on life raft!

Great, great stuff Kim. Thanks for it.

philq said...

Crap I just realized Kim already has one about crutches. Drats!

Charles said...

Christians accord the Bible special status, whether via formal or instrumental inspiration, the text itself is inerrant or God chooses/has chosen to speak through these human texts. How does one decide what is the authoritative part of the Bible and what is not? It’s logical to say Jesus and the Gospel are authoritative and all the rest read through that lens, but what parts of Jesus are authoritative and how does one decide? The command to love one’s neighbor and the cross/resurrection seem great, but what about his casting out demons, his lack of egalitarianism (no women disciples), and his failure to laugh even one time? How can Paul have authority on the Gospel but not on women and homosexuals? If we consider the Resurrection the supreme historical/proleptic event by which we view all of life, how does that relate to the historical event of Sinai and the content of Sinai’s laws, many of which we would certainly consider unethical?

These questions have to do with authority, but perhaps this term is not applicable for the Bible in a liberal Christian perspective. Does one believe in the Gospel because of the authority of the witness, or simply because one is convinced by the gospel itself? Perhaps Paul has no authority, it's just that we buy his arguments about Jesus but not about women and homosexuals? What about Sinai – perhaps the event happened, but it was used by humans to authorize a variety of laws, some of which we autonomously accept as wonderful and some not; but none bear divine authority just because Sinai did happen?

I’m also curious about the authority of God. As liberal Christians, are you comfortable with God’s authority? I find the concept of authority problematic, but intrinsic to monotheistic traditions. In the end, if God says something and we know that God has said it, one can either submit or not. Do you buy anything on God’s authority, or does it all come from reasoned, autonomous acceptance? Does God want us to accept things on his authority, or is that a conservative Christian viewpoint? What about coercion? Jesus talked about fire and brimstone and John of the Apocalypse seems to think his mouth shoots swords at someone. Does God coerce people in the end? What justifies haram in the OT, or is that a practice we disagree with? Did God really command Israel to kill all the Canaanites and their kids, and if so, was he wrong? Or is this just a bit we think isn’t authoritative scripture?

I hope this message doesn’t sound argumentative. I am aware that there are probably very good and even somewhat easy answers to this from a theological point of view, I’d like to hear them, and I hoped you might be able to either provide the answers yourself or point me in the right direction.

Gorazd Andrejc said...

Kim, I am unconvinced by postliberalism, or barthianism. We find Scripture and the message of Jesus convincing becuase it meets something in us, it touches us experientially. Otherwise it is just fables, meaningless, impotent combination of words and signs. Scripture is a set of traces (culturally conditioned linguistic expressions) of people's experience of the realities beyond the visible, physical world. Revelation is nothing if not read by an experientially open human being.

Travis Sheehan said...

I don't want this to read as a challenge, rather I would like to ask a real question. As a former Agnostic who saw the intellectual battlefield between Theism and Atheism as "A Tale of two objectives." How would this post differ from my former position? It seems more like a great argument for Agnosticism than any defense of Theism. Am I missing the point? Is a defense of Theism simply not necessary? If that's the case, did I have it right when I was an agnostic? If that's the case I won't need a DVR for Sunday morning football because I can stay at home and watch it baby, yehaaaa!

Anonymous said...

Meh - not funny enough

Anonymous said...

You forgot...

- Why doesn't God heal amputees?

roger flyer said...

@ Travis. As Steve Martin sings in his song 'Atheists ain't got no songs': Atheists stay home on Sunday and watch football in their underpants, in their underpants.

ciphergoth said...

Your point about Darwin and Hume echoes this famous Richard Dawkins quote:

An atheist before Darwin could have said, following Hume: "I have no explanation for complex biological design. All I know is that God isn't a good explanation, so we must wait and hope that somebody comes up with a better one." I can't help feeling that such a position, though logically sound, would have left one feeling pretty unsatisfied, and that although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.

The Charismanglican said...

Number 10 is my particular favorite...at this moment.

kim fabricius said...

That's a good point, Ciphergoth. Before Darwin the choice in accounting for life in all its complexity was between chance and design - and most people opted for design. Darwin's theory of natural selection provided a compelling alternative explanation.

However, as Diogenes Allen has observed, "the fundamental issue nature's order poses is whether it is intended, not whether it is designed ... [and] whether or not nature's order is intended cannot be settled by Darwin's theory."

Ken e said...

Thanks for bringing some great comic relief to many of us! Great post!

Anonymous said...

Theodicies are inherently evil? Hardly. The facts are that there is evil and there is an all-loving creator God and to say that all theodicy is inherently evil is to deny one or the other or both. Besides, if God only created worlds without evil then Kim Fabricius, along with everyone else, except my mother, would not be.
And is it not about time that you broke out of Hume and Wittgenstein and read some philosophers belonging to the Christian tradition?
Evolutionary Theory and Kant's Critique
. . . .The theory of the descent of the species is fully developed [in the Critique of Judgment ], even including, as an explanation for the current fixity of the species, a theory of the former, now extinct, fertility of the productive force, such as Georges Cuvier was to advocate subsequently.
Nineteenth-century theories of evolution, especially Darwin's, added factual details to Kant's theory and improved it by removing many objective difficulties, but they changed nothing in the basic framework. On the other hand, compared to Kant's theory, the theories of the nineteenth century actually represent a huge step backward on account of the decline of theoretical culture and the consequent naiveté with which relatively insignificant details are considered important and lauded as progress in treating the question, while the crucial speculative-theoretical basic questions are overlooked.
Kant deals briefly but thoroughly with these crucial questions in a few sentences appended to the well-meaning consideration of the possibility of a real descent of species. He points out that if the radically immanent theory of evolution were accepted, researchers would have to ascribe to the universal mother, with her generative power, an expedient organization geared to all the creatures that have come forth from her and without which the appropriate forms of the animal and plant worlds would be impossible. "They have then only pushed the basis of explanation further back and cannot claim to have made the development of those two kingdoms independent of the prerequisite of ultimate causes. " In this one sentence the idea of the inner law of evolution is carried to its conclusion—at the same time that its theoretical significance is blunted.
The turn to the theory of evolution has the theoretical goal to explain the building principle [Baugesetz]of each species based on the preceding evolution of species. If this idea is followed to its logical conclusion, the law according to which species develop moves closer and closer to the beginning of the history of evolution, until the first life-form is endowed with the evolutionary tendency for the entire living world, and finally speculation pushes back beyond the first life-form into inorganic matter, from which the former spontaneously originated. The "explanatory" law that was intended to be immanent thus turns again into a transcendent one, into a law that "precedes" the evolutionary series of life. And the types of organisms, the species, in spite of their supposed historical descent from each other, nevertheless stand again side by side, inexplicable through each other since the conditions for the development of any one species cannot be found in the one that precedes it historically and generationally, but only in the law that stands outside the whole series of species.
The attempt to "explain" the species leads to the unexpected result that the species once again stand side by side as fixed types, similar to the way Linnaeus saw them, even though in reality they may be related to one another through genesis.

Anonymous said...

The fact that God permits evil is the GREATEST sign of his love for us.

paul said...

Loved the post Kim. So hilarious.

@the past two Anons

it's easy to endorse theodicies from a comfortable, western vantage.

try getting up close and personal with the world in places where millions are raped and killed to satisfy power lust.

personally, i find it's pretty repulsive to say "the fact that millions were raped and killed over the fight for blood diamonds PROVES God's love for me."

1. that doesn't make any sense
2. that is extremely twisted. If I were to ask God, "what is the GREATEST sign of Your love for me?" and He answered, "Look at the Holocaust. Look at Rwandan genocide. Look at Kim Jong Il oppressing his fellow people. WHAT GREATER SIGN DO YOU NEED?" I would run like shit hoping that He didn't love me. Because if that's His GREATEST sign of love, I certainly want nothing to do with it.

I believe the best response that Christians can give is:

"I don't know. Evil is a terrible problem. But, the God of the Universe craves intimacy with us as humans and loves us so much that He himself became human so that he could save us from ourselves and show us how to truly be the humans we were created to be."

or something like that

short answers rarely do justice to complicated questions

Anonymous said...

I'm not a militant atheist, but I don't think you can't beat non-Christian stand up comedians (nor non-Christian satirists like Voltaire, Twain, Vonnegut, and James Morrow, among others). The best non-Christian standups make the best Christian standups seem lame in comparison. Same with much of what passes for "Contemporary Christian Music." Though I still recall fondly the harmonies of the Second Chapter of Acts, some ingenious lyrics of Larry ("Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?") Norman, some intricate guitar licks by Phil Keaggy, and one Christian artist whom I can't recall at the moment who copped Kurt Cobain's grunge rock image and added religious lyrics (not too explicit) and had some mainstream radio hits. Aside from some artists like those the rest of the Christian music world is often under par. (A lot of music is, of course, we're flooded today with music from all sides.) But where is the Christian "Beatles," or, "James Taylor," or various other super groups? (I'm revealing my age by naming the major Christian and non-Christian groups whom I imprinted on in my youth.) Sure, back when 99.9% of folks were Christians (often at the risk of punishment for voicing a contrary opinion), Bach wrote some great stuff. But Beethoven doesn't seem to have been a conservative Christian, and so forth up till today when there's a major contemporary composer of Church Music, chorals I think, who is an atheist.

A year or two ago I read about a Christian comedian who appeared with a Jewish, Muslim and Atheist comic in a sort of ecumenical four man show. After the show was over the Christian comedian left the fold, and I'm not sure just how religious the Jewish and Muslim comedians were.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a militant atheist myself, more agnostic/mystic, but depending on how you define "militancy," it can have several different meanings. In the jokes listed above it apparently means someone who tries to knock out God with one verbal blow. But other kinds of atheists are militant in forming local and national organizations, publishing houses, same as any other group. By that definition there's a helluva lot of militant Christians out there as well. I'm just saying.

There's also a spectrum of humor. For instance, some of the people here might enjoy jokes made at the expense of super conservative religionists to the right of where they are at, and even feel free to share such jokes with their "militant" atheist friends. *smile*

Anonymous said...

errr, two posts above, I meant to type ...don't think you CAN beat. *smile*

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