Life in the Kingdom?

Do you live in the buckle on the Bible Belt? Are you a skeptic, unbeliever, or other form of non-Christian sojourner there? The Uncredible Hallq is hosting a discussion for people to share what the secular experience is really like for someone in the midst of the Kingdom of God.

Strange as it may sound for someone who writes about religion so much, there are times when religion seems like this thing that’s “out there” but which doesn’t affect my life. And I guess that’s been true for some parts of my life, particularly when I’ve lived in the “blue” (i.e. liberal) city* of Madison, WI. So let this be a thread for people to talk about their experiences living in “red” parts of the country.

Stop on over if you’ve got an interesting story to tell. Or even a boring one. All perspectives are welcome.

 

ID creationists and their grasp of “reality”

The Coppedge v. JPL and CalTech lawsuit is living up to its early promise and perhaps even surpassing it. David Coppedge himself has submitted a deposition which includes—I am not making this up—a screenplay in which he fantasizes about his co-workers reduced to tears and desperately searching for a way to escape from the invincible correctness of ID propaganda. Here’s a tiny sample.

WEISENFELDER

…and there was a sticky note on the DVD package. It had names on it and – I think he’s trying to keep track of who he loans his DVDs out to. I don’t want him to offer me DVDs ever again. I can’t take it. I just can’t! …

You know, I’m an ordained minister in the Metaphysical Interfaith Church and I –

[NARRATOR (or something)]

According to Weisenfelder, she “feared” Coppedge would try to loan her another DVD when she did not want him to contact her again. (Weisenfelder Dep. Tr. 159:25-161-4). This is a difficult thriller to appreciate without more information, but that’s where Weisenfelder’s dramatic confrontation with Coppedge ends.

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Conservative trust in science in sharp decline

From the color-me-surprised department comes news of this study showing a very clear trend towards anti-science hostility among conservatives and/or people who regularly attend church.

Relying on data from the 1974-2010 waves of the nationally representative General Social Survey, the study found that people who self-identified as conservatives began the period with the highest trust in science, relative to self-identified moderates and liberals, and ended the period with the lowest.

A whole major subculture adopting hostility towards science as one of their major tribal identifiers. This won’t end well.

Laws are for other people

Courtesy of the aptly-titled “Danger Room” at wired.com, we learn that at least some FBI agents have been instructed that ordinary laws don’t necessarily apply to them.

One FBI PowerPoint … stated: “Under certain circumstances, the FBI has the ability to bend or suspend the law to impinge on the freedom of others.” … Like other excerpts from FBI documents Danger Room reviewed for this story, it was not dated and did not include additional context explaining what those “circumstances” might be.

FBI spokesman Christopher Allen did not dispute the documents’ authenticity. He said he would not share the full documents with Danger Room, and was “unable to provide” additional information about their context, including any indication of how many FBI agents were exposed to them.

Swell.

Well darn.

I had a feeling Mighty Timbo was bailing out when he ended his last comment here by saying, “Contact me again when you’re interested in genuine discourse.” A strange thing to say, considering that “genuine discourse”—as opposed to following a Jack Chick style script—is exactly what I have been doing, and what he appears to be trying to extricate himself from. He did, at least, promise to let me keep reviewing the material on his site: “You are always free to use quotes from my site. It is my request that when you do so you provide a link to the page you took the quote from. And you can certainly use anything I say as a springboard for any future articles.”

Except… quite suddenly, his entire web site has disappeared. This is not just a glitch. As of 5:00 AM GMT, his domain was listed as cancelled, and sortly thereafter someone was able to purchase the domain name and point it at The Secular Web.

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The skeptic’s role

Mighty Timbo appears to be upset with me for failing to follow whatever script he had in mind for my part in his proposed “debate” (which, as he may recall, I declined to participate in). I’ve been examining his post entitled “Why Doesn’t God Show Himself To Us and Prove He Exists?” and showing how (a) it fails to give the full scope of the apologetic difficulties inherent in God’s failure to show up, and (b) it fails to give an adequate answer even to the question as he proposes it. Apparently I’m not supposed to do that. Skeptics, it would seem, are only allowed to raise carefully-framed softball objections that can be easily dismissed by facile and disingenuous sermonizing.

Well I’m sorry, but that’s not really my role as a skeptic. The role of skepticism is to examine both the claims and the evidence, to expose any internal or external inconsistencies, and to prefer those conclusions that are more consistent with real-world facts than competing claims, rejecting any that are manifestly inconsistent with themselves and with the truth.  Thus, when Timbo points out that Bible accounts of God’s appearances are followed soon after by accounts of people rebelling and falling away, there’s an underlying inconsistency there, in that this is a remarkably poor outcome for Someone as great as God is supposed to be. As a skeptic, it’s my role to point out that Timbo is glossing over this problem when he tries to use the disobedience of men as a mere excuse for why God doesn’t show up. I’m not supposed to just blindly follow his script and say, “Ok it must be all man’s fault then.” My job is to cross-examine his evidence and give it a more comprehensive context.

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No God? No charity.

The good folks at Rock Beyond Belief have been given the final word: no, absolutely positively no atheists will be allowed to feed homeless vets in connection with their secular, godless concert.

This means that the evangelicals surely had to follow this law too, right? Of course not.

They were permitted to raise funds (in the form of cash!) for months on post. They raised $54,000 in tithing at every chapel on post – there are several. That is a colossal fundraising effort, repeatedly violating the regulation – at multiple locations on post.

But atheists won’t be allowed to collect a few canned goods to help out their fellow soldiers. Because really, what’s the well-being of a bunch of starving, homeless heroes (who have sacrificed so much for the rest of us) compared to the awful and terrifying prospect of having the public realize that atheists are—gasp!—nice people?

Good to see the leadership at Ft. Bragg making such a plain and forthright statement of their priorities.

An inadequate apologia

Mighty Timbo says he has now “fixed” the wording in his attempt at excusing God’s failure to show up. It no longer explicitly declares that “It doesn’t seem like knowing him personally did a whole lot of good,” but instead now only implies it. Semantics aside, though, the thrust of his argument remains the same: in the Bible stories, God’s presence among men was typically followed very shortly by disobedience and rebellion, sometimes while God was still there. It does indeed seem like this allegedly mighty, loving, and wise deity was singularly incapable of doing much good, whether the apologetic comes right out and admits it or not.

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Gospel Disproof #43: The hallucination hypothesis

Over at the Evangelical Realism blog, we’ve just finished looking at William Lane Craig’s attempt to discredit the hypothesis that the postmortem appearances of Jesus were actually just hallucinations on the part of the disciples. He gave it his best shot, and used some of the best debating tactics he knows, but couldn’t quite pull it off. And yet for all that, the hallucination hypothesis does have a flaw: it’s overkill. Christians don’t need anywhere near that amount of psychological incentive to induce them to believe that they’re receiving some kind of special visitation from supernatural divinity.

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Excusing God’s absence

A few days ago I published a piece by a Christian apologist who goes by the handle “Mighty Timbo,” on the topic of why Mormonism is false. He has a web site devoted to Christian apologetics, so I thought I’d stop by and see what kind of defense he has to offer to the kind of disproofs he levels at the Mormon church. And I found this.

One of the more common questions we get from Atheists is “If God is actually real, why doesn’t he prove it? Why doesn’t God show himself and eliminate the faith?”

That’s certainly a valid question and if you’re a Christian you may have asked it yourself at weak spiritual moments.

I’ll get to his answer shortly, but first I want to point out that he has the question really, really wrong. First of all, if God were to show up, it would not eliminate the faith, it would eliminate the doubt. There are all kinds of people who show up all the time, and yet I have no faith in them whatsoever (and a bunch of them want to be President of the USA, apparently). True faith is a confidence that is built up by repeated real-world experience, and God’s being here would only help that. Mighty Timbo is confusing faith with gullibility—the willingness to believe what men tell you in the absence of real-world confirmation and/or presence of real-world contradictions of the things they say.

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