Anontroll is up to his usual tricks in this comment thread. His latest attempt to refute me takes the form of one of the most creative straw man arguments I’ve seen here: a faux Socratic dialogue which amounts to the usual dishonest Christian apologist’s stunt of “I will simply tell my opponent what his position is by putting words in his mouth, which will let me flatter myself that I have defeated him.” Too bad it doesn’t work in the real world.
Update: Anon has admitted something I suspected (after all, the spelling and grammar were all better than usual), that he didn’t write this dialogue, but ganked it from here and just plugged our names in (or rather my name, since he still lacks the courage of his convictions to use his own). I have emailed CARM to appraise them of my refutation of their dialogue.
Allow me to construct a dialogue now that actually reflects the way our conversation has gone up to this point. Rather than making up bullshit lines in the interests of pumping myself up (you know, like anon), my exchange will consist solely of things actually said by anon and myself. Among other inaccuracies that my version will correct is that anonymous started this exchange.
I think you will find the reality of the dialogue is a little bit different than anon’s fanciful reconstruction of it. Among other things, you will notice that anon is now attempting to portray his position as being that he’s got gobs of proof, but no matter what proof he offers, I will not accept it. It’s the old “skeptics are closed-minded” dodge. In reality, his actual position on proof is that he has no burden of proof in the first place. So yeah, it’s easy for Christians to manufacture these little dialogues when they’re only too happy to lie about both the atheist’s position as well as their own.
Finally, I will, at the end, repost his original dialogue, but insert the things I would actually say rather than what he thinks I’d say. I’m sorry I’m not able to be as stupid and compliant as I’d have to be to make anon’s script work for him. As many religionists have learned to their dismay, reality doesn’t often conform to your pious, self-flattering fantasies.
So here we go.
Anon: Let me ask this: Why are you depending on man to help your salvation… Remember if you go to man to show you God you will be disappointed forever. Hope this helps you find God, if any of you are truly searching for him.
Martin: You have failed to understand one very rudimentary point: we don’t believe your God exists. We do not think there is adequate evidence to support claims of your God’s existence. …I am willing to be persuaded…by evidence.
Martin: Then do not be surprised if, from here on out, I decline to take seriously anything you say. Not only that, but why should anybody believe anything you say or consider you a trustworthy person in any way, shape or form?
Anon: If I tell you that you may go to hell for your stubbornness and resistance to His authority and you say prove it in defiance (I will try my best at first) in the end I will just say nope. It truly is up to God to reveal himself to you.
Martin: Again, you are essentially throwing any vestige of credibility you could ever have on any subject out the window…. You turn up here, make claims about your God, and collapse like a cake in the oven upon my very first request for evidence, all on the preposterous basis that you think you can waltz through life never having to account for anything you say. You have no conviction, no sincerity, no honesty, no integrity. You want to tell us we’re wrong for being unbelievers, but you not only fail but flatly decline to give us reasons to think you’re right. …Here’s the deal, anon. Nobody is obligated to believe as you do. I never cease to be amazed by the inability of Christians like yourself to grasp this very basic point.
Anon: Just not believing or what anyone says about God doesn’t work as an excuse and besides all of creation itself is the “ID” of God…. Then you go off in an angry rage about my credibility and such but here was what I was getting at. You are in denial… Take care Martin I still love you enough to tell you your wrong there is God even if He will not allow scientific evidence. But if you want evidence of God’s footprint there is all sorts of that.
Martin: More unsubstantiated claims from a guy who says he doesn’t have to substantiate his claims. Why should I take this seriously? Either present evidence that your God exists, and that all creation is its “ID,” or I will continue to refrain from believing you with complete justification. Once more with feeling: If you want me to believe your claims, you must back them up with evidence. I am under no obligation to believe what you say just because you say it.
And so on… You know, anon just doesn’t seem as level-headed, sensible and brilliant when you read extracts from the actual dialogue we’ve been having, as opposed to the alternate-reality dialogue he’s just made up, does he?
Now, here is my rewrite of the fake dialogue. Note that at no time do I alter any of anon’s own dialogue that he attributes to himself. I do not have to distort or (as he’s done to me here) completely invent statements for him in order to refute him. Though I guess it can be argued that, since the whole thing was a cutpaste from CARM, anon’s already faking his own lines anyway.
Martin: I do not believe in the existence of God. However, I am willing to be persuaded by evidence. Surely, as a devout Christian, you could come up with evidence I would find compelling.
Anon: I do not think I can do that, because of your presuppositions.
Martin: What presuppositions are these? All I have claimed is that I don’t believe in your God, for the very excellent reason that there is insufficient evidence to convince me. What’s more, I know a thing or two about the history of civilization, and I know that there have been thousands of gods worshiped by thousands of religions over the centuries, in addition to the fact that your own religion, Christianity, borrowed many of its legends (like the global flood) and core beliefs (like the notion of a savior born of a virgin and then sacrificed and resurrected) directly from some of these other religions. So, placing your religion in the context of human history further gives me no reason to suppose its supernatural claims are any more valid than any other. Yes, I strive to be open-minded, but I ad
mit things don’t look good for Christianity at this point.
Anon: See? There you go. You just confirmed what I was stating.
Martin: Anon, I cannot help it if you are bothered by the fact that I am willing to state plainly my opinion that your beliefs are irrational and intellectually insupportable. I can understand how that might offend you, but your feelings and my own are irrelevant to the issue at hand, which is: I do not believe in the existence of a deity, and you do. You may be right and I may be wrong. But as the maxim states, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I never said you would have an easy time of it, but I repeat it is not impossible for you to convince me I am wrong.
Anon: Your presupposition is that there is no God; therefore, no matter what I might present to you to show His existence, you must interpret it in a manner consistent with your presupposition: namely, that there is no God.
Martin: Don’t be ridiculous. Whyever would I do this? You could also say that I have a presupposition that there are no fire-breathing dragons. But if you showed me a real-live fire-breathing dragon, why would I “interpret it in a manner consistent with your presupposition,” that there are no fire-breathing dragons. You are basically trying to claim that I am lying to you when I say I would be persuaded by evidence, and that I am the sort of person who would deny the evidence of my own eyes. But I have not given you any indication I would do this, and you are simply trying to prejudice the discussion in your favor by claiming that I would. All you’re doing here is a little rhetorical stunt that allows you to avoid meeting your burden of proof for your God claims by stating that the atheist would reject any evidence out of hand no matter what you did. You hope people will not notice you’re doing this, and will instead think you’re being the reasonable one here and I am not, by virtue of some little rhetorical sleight of hand on your part that presumably makes your burden of proof vanish in a puff of smoke. This kind of thing may fly on a fundie forum, but I think the folks here are a little sharper than you think.
Anon: If I were to have a video tape of God coming down from heaven, you’d say it was a special effect. If I had a thousand eye-witnesses saying they saw Him, you’d say it was mass-hysteria. If I had Old Testament prophecies fulfilled in the New Testament, you’d say they were forged, dated incorrectly, or not real prophecies. So, I cannot prove anything to you since your presupposition won’t allow it. It is limited.
Martin: Actually, if those three examples are representative of the evidence you would be inclined to give me, then I’m afraid what is limited is your evidence. Setting aside what you have said to me in an earlier exchange, that your God does not allow scientific evidence of his existence in the first place (though you gave no reason for this), then if these examples are the best you’ve got, you’re right: I would not be impressed. I would have to consider the option that video footage of God could be special effects, because I know what can be done with special effects these days. I would have to consider mass hysteria in the case of thousands of people who claim to be eyewitnesses, because I know that, especially where religious beliefs are concerned, mass hysteria is a very easy thing to make happen. Jim Jones got 900 followers to drink cyanide. Intense religious belief is not the sort of thing that attracts the most well-educated and rational people in a given culture to begin with, and religious services, especially these huge revivals in third-world countries that attract hundreds of thousands of people, are really big on whipping people up into an emotional frenzy in which all higher thinking functions are basically disconnected like a bad hard drive. Finally, you’re right, I would not take prophecy-fulfillment claims all that seriously, for more or less exactly the reasons you said. Indeed, I would list prophecies as a prime example of that which you accuse me of: seeing the world through a set of rigid presuppositions. Interpreting current events in such a way as to seem to fit ancient prophecies is something of a cottage industry in religion. Guys like Hal Lindsay have made a career of it. In his book The Late, Great Planet Earth, Lindsay argued that Biblical prophecy predicted the USSR would invade Israel. His book became one of the biggest selling titles of the 1970’s. Of course, he got everything wrong, but he’s still out there working the prophecy angle.
Are you really saying that these three examples of evidences for God’s existence are all you’ve got? Or are they simply the best you’ve got? If either, then I don’t think you have a good case. And this isn’t due to any “presuppositions” on my part “limiting” my understanding. It’s simply due to the poor quality of your evidence. No scientist would expect to get a paper through the peer review process on such feeble evidentiary support, so why be surprised when I say that no, video footage, thousands of hysterics, or ancient prophecies easily shoehorned into current events don’t impress me much. This is an omnipotent being whose existence you’re arguing for! You truly cannot do better than this? And what about your earlier exhortation not to rely on man, but go to God directly? If that’s the case, what’s wrong with giving me my own “road to Damascus” experience. Saul of Tarsus was not merely a non-believer, he was an active persecutor of Christians. If he can have an incontrovertible conversion event given to him by God directly, why not a little guy like me, who’s never persecuted a soul, and has only said, “I don’t believe”?
Anon: Don’t you see? If I DID have incontrovertible proof, your presupposition would force you to interpret the facts consistently with your presupposition and you would not be able to see the proof.
Martin: Again, this is just pure nonsense. You’re just projecting the inflexible, dogmatic irrationalism of a religious fundamentalist onto me. If you and I were talking, and I stated a belief that there were no apples within 200 miles from me at this exact moment, and you pulled an apple out of your pocket, I would not, as you insist, shut my eyes and start singing “Mary had a little lamb” in a very loud voice. What I would say is, “Well, fancy that, an apple. Guess I was wrong.” Your insistence that I simply won’t accept any evidence you give me is, as stated before, just a dishonest rhetorical dodge to help you weasel out of your burden of proof. But you give the game away with this one little phrase: “– providing that there were factual proofs of His existence.” This would seem to indicate that, deep down inside where you might actually have trace amounts of honesty that your faith hasn’t rooted out and gunned down, you know that you in fact have no “factual proofs” to support your God claims. You think that accusing the atheist of intractible closed-mindedness will be enough to divert people’s attention away from this fact. But I think you’ll be disappointed.
Anon: Then, I must ask you, what kind of evidence would you accept that would prove God’s existence? I must see what your presuppositions are and work either with them or against them.
Martin: And I’ve told you, a “road to Damascus” experience would do fine. I’ll give you another. If your God is all-powerful, he could make me omniscient. That would certainly eliminate all doubt. But he needn’t go that far. Again, he’s your God. If he’s all knowing and all seeing and almighty and all powerful, I’m sure he can think of something sufficient to blow away the doubt of a mere, fallible mortal like me.