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one more thing I don’t believe in

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I’ve subscribed to various “tag feeds”, on topics I’m interested in, and one of them popped up a typical Christian view of Atheism, one that “focuses on the person, not on the issue”. I started writing a comment , but I was having so much fun, it got a bit too big to be a comment, and big enough to be a post here. Before reading my responses, go ahead and read the article: 6 Points To Remember When Debating An Atheist, then my responses.

  1. I’ve never heard that one, and can only imagine it being used by someone who was already angry, and then by only a few. Just be aware atheists regard outright evangelizing as pointless, and prefer rational discussion without attempts to convert them. If by “Christians like you” they mean “Evangelists”, doesn’t that tell you something about how aggressive Evangelism fits in to a modern adult society? Tone it down!
  2. If someone calls you a “hypocrite” directly, that’s just insulting. However, while atheists generally don’t accept bible quotes as meaningful to them, many have read the bible, and are aware of the contradictory messages it contains (even if they can’t quote chapter & verse offhand). To say you follow the Bible, but only the “nice” New Testament bits and not the harsh bits, is to risk accusations of hypocrisy – that’s (mostly) where that kind of talk starts.
  3. I imagine that is an occupational risk for evangelists: if you don’t want resistance to your arguments, don’t evangelise to atheists. Or do you assume “they just haven’t heard the Word”, and are waiting for you to enlighten them? That can make you sound patronising, which some (like myself) really do find insulting. Avoid.
  4. I’m sorry, this is just the kind of really old fallacy that annoys rational atheists. What is so hard about the concept of people having “no belief”? Were you born with belief? Becoming an atheist is no harder than forgetting something you were taught, or enjoying silence after hearing noise. If an atheist tells you “that’s how I see it”, and you contradict them, you’re saying “I know atheism better than you” – despite you not being an atheist – and the discussion will go nowhere but downhill from there. Avoid!
  5. I don’t know what kind of atheists you go looking for, or what you say to them, but statements like “their bread and butter is in tearing up the Bible and shoving it down the Believer’s throat” are not helpful. That is mischaracterising atheists as “anti-Christian”, which I suppose makes it easier for you to hate them, but it’s not true, even if your preacher says so. Most atheists don’t go looking for fights, and don’t care what people believe, as long as no harm comes of it – but the last point is very relevant in the world today. Personally, I don’t even mention my atheism unless the topic comes up, and would only resort to such tactics in the face of an evangelical assault. However, if Christians feel under attack by atheists today, you need only look at the world today, the USA and Middle East in particular, and understand also that we don’t think Christianity is fundamentally (?) better than Islam, over long-term history.
  6. This is related to (4), I think: if you insist on evangelizing, when that is clearly unwelcome, that’s just bad behaviour on your part that is going to raise hackles, and while you may believe it is your Mission, be aware you may be overstepping personal or social boundaries in the process. You have to be sensitive, take no for an answer, and back up a statement with more than a bible quote – which tells an atheist nothing useful! Avoid any “arguments from authority” like “the Bible says so” – what is an atheist going to make of that? We know you believe it, but we don’t, so telling someone “you’re wrong because my book says so” is never a good idea, any more than “I say you’re wrong”!

Summary; the article is hostile to atheists, and contains a lot of overexaggeration designed to portray atheists as irrational, hostile, or unthinking – the kind of rhetoric a preacher might use to whip up a frenzy in his congregation. I don’t doubt you will meet such people – stupidity knows no religious divide – but if you insist on characterising all atheists in such negative terms, don’t be surprised if you find atheists hostile to your approach. My advice would be: chill out, treat the people you talk to as your intellectual equals, and assume they know and have thought about all this stuff. They just came to different answers, and who are you to tell them they are wrong, if no harm comes of what they believe or not?

If a Muslim says to you (as often they do): “if you but read the Qu’Ran, you will become a Muslim”, how do you react? Do you think there’s anything in there you need to know, or that it has the power to change your life? Do you accept Allah’s authority, because Islam says so? Well, atheists feel the same way about all “holy scriptures” and religions, and regard “God” as just another superstition they don’t believe in, alongside Vishnu, Fairies, and Santa Claus.

Written by brian t

October 10, 2006 at 6:09 pm

Posted in atheism, religion

11 Responses

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  1. I totally agree with the writer of this article. Christians often don’t realize they insult atheists. Their Bible is full of insults against non-believers. When I “converted” from Christianity to non-believing, my mother reacted by saying: “And you used to be so smart”, implying that I was no longer smart anymore. To me, that sounded as an insult. When I told her that, she wasn’t able to understand. Perhaps Christians (and other religious people) should put themselves in the atheist’s place (this might be hard, but try anyway) before saying anything. Or try something like the article suggests (see the last paragraph about a Muslim saying “if you but read the Qu’Ran …”).

    Martin

    October 11, 2006 at 3:00 pm

  2. Re point 3, Paul says that the gospel has already been preached to all living things (Colossians 1:5-6, 23).
    I generally find that christian responses to atheist argumentsinclude
    1. Hopelessly defending the bible. Particularly funny concerning the fact the bible does teach a flat earth (See some of Dylans stuff on Dawkin’s newsnight forum).
    2. When challenged to provide arguements of their own, they usually run, ar quote “don’t put the lord to the test.” Strange that the bible also tells you to test all things (1 Thess.5:21)
    3. When cornered, they resort to denial and mantra chanting
    4. They misquote scientists out of context to make it sound like they agree to their point of view. Not supprising, because their beloved prophecy of where Jesus was born (Micah 5:2) is also taken out of context. Read Micah 5, it, it has nothing to do with jesus.
    5. They accuse us of actively not wanting to believe – yeah, cos that makes sence. We actually want to go to hell!
    6. No matter what you say, yhey just shoul their verese even louder at you
    Just a quick six of my own. Is it a coincidence that there is a picture of a muppet on this site?

    Billy Sands

    October 12, 2006 at 11:34 am

  3. Nice response.
    I read the original article “6 Points To Remember When Debating An Atheist” thinking that I would be a 5 minute waste of my life reading some drivel. FAR FROM IT!!! How I laughed and laughed, thank you, Christian, who ever you are.

    I’m off to accuse a Christian of being insulting even when they haven’t been!

    zendal

    October 12, 2006 at 10:55 pm

  4. My responses to the six point for debating atheists are:-

    I have never said, ‘…it is “Christians [or Muslims, Jews, or any of the other 4,821 ‘faiths’ in the world] like you” that made [me] an atheist’, though I do admit to the fact that being of sound mind, with the ability to think rationally, able to construct validly logical arguments, and accept empiric scientific evidence are the reasons why I am an atheist. What’s more, I have never encountered a fellow atheist who would use such a puerile argument for being atheist when there is such overpowering reasons for being one.

    As for believers being hypocrites, well that is self-evident and undeniably true, since the word refers to someone who is feigning to be better than one is or to be what one is not, since no believers of any faith show any respect for the faiths of others or, more importantly, respect for those (i.e. atheists) who have no faith in a supernatural force which allegedly created the cosmos.

    As a dedicated anti-theist and misoclere, I react violently to believers of all descriptions since it is they who initiated the ‘shoving of ideas down the throats of others’ – whether those others be of different faiths or none. Accordingly, I see it as my right and obligation to do my utmost to defend mankind from these people.
    However, whenever I contradict their dogma and/or invalid logical arguments which they claim ‘justify’ their belief in (their own particular) god, and even though I use irrefutable evidence and logic to do so, they ultimately resport to the childish response that I am somehow trying to force rationality on them. If there is something harmful in that, then every psychiatrist is wilfully trying to harm their patients.

    I do not ‘lack belief’ in any one of the thousands of gods which have littered the human landscape over the millennia since these gods are simply the invention of the psychopathology and ignorance of those who believe in them. As a sane, rational, free-thinking human being, I have no need for such nonsense in my life.

    Nor do I ‘mischaracterize’ the statements of believers, whatever the accuser means by this, since I rely exclusively on empiric evidence, rationality and cold-ineluctable logic to prove that their claims are spurious nonsense.

    All believers are being insulting to me when they speak to me about their beliefs since they are implying that I am as mentally deranged and intellectually incpacitated as themselves. However, that is not sufficient for them. No, for they must also threaten me with the eternal punishment of their invented god for daring not to share in the psychopathic delusions that it exists. Whilst believers may consider that speaking the truth to them is insulting, I do not.

    In conclusion, the points put forward by the self-styled xtian are entirely spurious and without a shred of merit. Unsurprising, really, since neither the xtian poster, nor anyone else, has ever been able to produce a single shred of evidence that his alleged god exists, and neither have any of them been able to put forward a valid logical argument in support fo their claims.

    carolinedevilliers

    October 22, 2006 at 9:18 pm

  5. BTW, I have also posted the foregoing reply as a comment on that xtian blog, and it will be interesting to see if it is deleted by their moderator.

    carolinedevilliers

    October 22, 2006 at 9:23 pm

  6. Brian,

    Thanks you for visiting my blog. Though there is not much there to merit your attention – I have been too busy with other things – you are always welcome.

    Incidentally, have you noticed that the puerile xtian site in question deleted my comment entirely? Strange that they weren’t prepared to debate the issue rationally, isn’t it (NOT!).

    Fortunately, apart from my comment being posted on your site, it has also been taken up by The Old Git, who has incorporated it in his site; his take on the issue can be found here.

    carolinedevilliers

    October 23, 2006 at 8:23 am

  7. Addendum: Since the pathetic xtian over at Christian Outloud was unable to respond in an articulate and rational manner to my comments – which Brian has kindly allowed to remain posted here – he simply deleted them. So I posted the following comment there today, though I expect that will be deleted too:-

    Quote: See you deleted my response to your article, even though it was both civil in tone and rationally demolished everything you had said.

    How pathetic that you are unable to behave in an adult fashion when addressed in such a way.

    I expect that you will remove this comment too (as well as that of the previous one by The Old Git ), which simply confirms that you are not able to involve yourself honest debate. Unquote.

    I hope Brian will forgive me for adding that here, but I think that it is apposite to his thread since it confirms that xtians, and particularly Christian Outloud, are not capable or willing to invovle themselves in honest debate – especially when that demolishes all their cherished claims.

    carolinedevilliers

    October 23, 2006 at 8:37 am

  8. Thanks, Caroline: I think part of the problem that theists have, when trying to engage other people, is that they get all their material from a small number of sources, e.g. the Bible and their preacher, maybe their parents and friends. It leaves them with a rather brittle worldview.

    In an editorial last weeekend, Sam Harris talked about what is going on in Africa, how Christian missionaries are mixing good aid work with warped indoctrination, the most serious being the spreading of lies about contraception in the places where it is most needed (because of HIV). To miss that life-saving connection, or favour ideology over reality, shows a logical disconnect between theists and the real world.

    brian t

    October 23, 2006 at 8:58 am

  9. Brian,

    I agree with you that theists tend to obtain their material from a small number of sources – but I would also point out that all of these sources have a vested interest in deluding anyone foolish enough to accept uncritically the message they are purveying. However, the real issue here is WHY are these people so unwilling to think critically and rationally about the patent nonsense they claim to believe in.

    Initially, in evolutionary terms, it was due to ignorance – being unable to explain natural phenomena by natural means – and I dare say that still prevails in parts of the world where people are still primitive, in the anthroplogical sense of that word. However, as societies become less primitive, the real ‘engine’ of this desire to believe in a supernatural world is the psychopathology of the individual in question.

    The word ‘psychopathology’ used accurately, because belief in a god or gods fulfils the diagnosis and aetiology of psychosis, as described in the ‘Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Diseases (TR IV)’.

    Anyone who does not accept this fact has only to substitute the words “the Invisible Pink Unicorn” in their so-called ‘holy book’ in place of the name of their god, and then go around claiming that the IPU created the cosmos et al; they will rapidly find themselves incarcerated in an institution for the care of the mentally disturbed, even though they are saying and doing nothing other than any other theist does.

    Furthermore, any psychiatrist will confirm that one of the most intractable mental illnesses to deal with is psychosis, which explains why most theists are totally resistant to rationality.

    The only people who proclaim that they are theists who are not psychotics are those who are simply exploiting those who are! However, even they must take care; after years of pretending to believe in that nonsense, the chances are that they, in turn, will develop psychosis too!

    carolinedevilliers

    October 23, 2006 at 9:40 am

  10. Brian,
    I think you’re assuming that Christianists are serious about converting atheists. They need atheists to be their bogeyman. Their mischaracterizations of atheists are a means to build morale (“Look at how much better we are than them!”) and collective purpose, to discourage backsliders, and to create a nice explanation for all that is wrong with the world.

    If there were no atheists, then Christianists would have to invent heretics…oh, wait…

    Mr. Flibble

    November 27, 2006 at 6:46 pm

  11. I could not open the evengelising site, but as a Roman Catholic, a believer, i fully agree with the commnents in the article. Let me invite you to read the Gospels, and Isaiah where he’s coming and salvific mission is prophetised, and you will not see Jesus shovelling himself down people’s throats threatening them of going to hell brandishing a whip. Also there is no discussion of creationism there, and it is not presrciptive belief for the RC, but we are talking about the salvation of the soul. Something that all of you will say cannot be proved and so does not exist. Please, don’t let that aggressive attitude prevent you from lending an ear to those books. It is an invitation. Like the King’s to the wedding feast. Nobody is pointing a gun at you but stretching a hand, Jesus hand in our intentions.

    > Reply: I did read the Bible, all of it, many years ago. It is incorrect to say that people who do not believe in Christianity (or Islam, or Shinto) always do so out of ignorance. It does no good to tell me to read the Bible, because I already have, and those books you mention do not tell the whole story. I recommend that you read the Bible, including the parts your priest does not read in Church: the genocide, racism, and abuse of women and children. Then read about the origins of the Bible, how it was assembled by committees, who decided what to include and what to leave out.

    Alessandra

    October 17, 2008 at 12:42 pm


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