I love Christian “love”!

This is frickin’ awesome! There’s a service online at christiannewswire.com where they allow any faith-head lunatic to post a press release. Only on a site such as this would something this hilarious be printed with a straight face. This is from some frootloop named Pastor Wiley Drake, and while it sounds exactly like the sort of thing you’d see over at Landover Baptist’s peerless parody site, this is one case where I believe reality is funnier than parody.

In light of the recent attack from the enemies of God I ask the children of God to go into action with Imprecatory Prayer. Especially against Americans United for Separation of Church and State. I made an attempt to go to them via Matt 18:15 but they refused to talk to me. Specifically target Joe Conn or Jeremy Learing. They are those who lead the attack. (You can see their press release attack at www.au.org )

Boy! This “imprecatory prayer” stuff sounds pretty hardcore. Certainly it put me in mind of that classic hymn of righteousness, “The Hand of the Almighty” by John R. Butler. (Ain’t heard it? Get ye some salvation, sinner!)

Anyway, I decided I’d better look the term up. After all, if “imprecatory prayer” is at least as effective as “intercessory prayer,” then it seems like the AU has…well…nothing at all to worry about. But as Pascal’s Wager reminds us, why take chances, eh?

So the first Google result I got for the term was this demented page, which reveals Christian love in all its glory.

What is a Christian to do when the government protects criminals and criminal activity such as the abortion clinic? What is a Pastor to do when the government, or the news media, or well funded liberal hate groups persecute and bad mouth him because of his doctrine? What is a Christian to do when he can not go to the courts, police, and government for justice? What if the courts, police and government are the criminals. The answer is imprecatory prayer.

Poor Christians, persecuted everywhere you turn! I mean, I had no idea you guys weren’t allowed to go to the police or to the courts any more! When was that law passed? And how was it passed by all of our Christian senators and congressmen, and not vetoed by our Christian president? Oh well. No use worrying about that now, Christians! What will you do? What will you do? Well, apart from making damn sure you buy American Express Traveler’s Checks, you go right to the head office.

Imprecatory prayer is a last resort appeal to God for justice. The so called ‘curses’ are simply the just penalty called for in the scriptures for the alleged crime. Imprecatory prayer is an appeal to the court of divine justice (1) for protection and (2) the appropriate punishment for the criminals.

Imprecatory prayer is most often used when the criminals are the rich and powerful or corrupt men in government. The prayer asks God to solve the problem and bring the criminal to repentance, or to judgment.

You know, maybe it’s just me, but it sounds like “imprecatory prayer” is just for pussies who can’t work up the chutzpah to strap on a suicide bomb. (Then again, I suppose we don’t see “imprecatory prayer” practiced more often than we do because all of the rich and powerful and corrupt men in government at the moment are conservative Christians.) But as we are soon warned, if not performed with the proper gravitas, “imprecatory prayer” can backfire something nasty. After all, this is an all-powerful deity we’re talking about here, and as Brother John Butler reminds us, he can really f*ck you up!

Here are a few words from a sermon by Pastor Pete Peters as he was commenting on pages 216 and 217 of Paradise Restored by Rev. David Chilton.

“You be careful with imprecatory prayer. Because if your life is not right. It can have a boomerang effect. You see, as you judge, so shall you be judged. Think about that. Does that make sense? I say that because, the other day somebody pointed out to me that a woman has been praying for me to die in an airplane crash. She is a Christian woman. She wants me dead. Well, now, I was thinking about that, you know, If I was her son I would not want to get into an airplane. You see what I am saying? You got to be careful how you use that power. With imprecatory prayer, if we don’t mature as Christians, it is like putting a loaded 45, `hammer-back, cocked and the safety off, into the hands of a five-year old. Does that make sense?”

Well, hell no, it doesn’t make sense, you cross-eyed inbred psychopath! You’d have to be completely non compos mentis to believe there’s some all-powerful invisible magical man in the sky who loves us, and who made us in his image, but who will not only f*ck us up if we don’t love him back to his satisfaction, he can also be prayed to for some divine f*ckin-up action if Christians feel they’re just too put upon by this invisible man’s so-called enemies. Furthermore, if this invisible man is really omnithis and omnithat and omnieverythingelse, then you’d think he’d already know who his enemies were, and would be about f*ckin’ em up all on his own, without needing the “imprecatory prayer” of his paranoid sheep to point out to him that he had enemies needing some f*ckin up in the first place!

Ah, Christianity. Institutionalized madness.

Anyway, thought I better check out the AU site to see what brought on Pastor Wiley’s histrionics.

Yesterday, Americans United asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park, Calif., for a potential violation of federal tax law barring electioneering by non-profit groups. Dr. Wiley S. Drake, pastor of the church, issued a press release on church letterhead endorsing Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and subsequently offered the endorsement on a church-affiliated radio show.

Respondeth Barry Lynn: “Calling for curses on us might distract Drake’s supporters, but it won’t help him with the IRS.” Heh heh. Yeah, Kent Hovind found that out the hard way.

This stuff just gets funnier and funnier! Everybody thinks I have it in for Christians. But I swear, on a day like this, with this kind of thing going on, I hold them dear to my heart.

Now, if I can only figure out who these “well-funded liberal hate groups” are. Project much?

So much hate. So much fear. So many lies.

One of the stupider arguments from Ray Comfort, an already pitifully stupid evangelist as it is, is the “have you ever lied?” argument, which Comfort fancies is a slamdunk takedown of non-Christians and their imagined lack of moral fiber. The deep, deep irony of this is that no one lies like a fundamentalist Christian. Lying is so pervasive amongst their ranks that one can imagine the altar call involves taking a solemn oath never to tell the truth for the rest of their lives when they can help it. (The innate contradictory nature of that act would be one that a fundamentalist could in all likelihood dismiss with ease.)

Donald Wildmon’s dispicable American Family Association is among the fundie flock’s most reprehensible organs of dishonesty. A rabid anti-gay hate group, they are equally infamous for linking their website to another organization, the pretentiously-named Family Research Institute — a loathsome rabble that has been openly classified a hate group by watchdogs the Southern Poverty Law Center for calling for the extermination of gays — as well as using the F.R.I.’s pseudoscientific “research” to bolster their own homophobic position. The AFA are such pathological liars about, well, everything that even Snopes.com has had to run interference on their disinformation (here and here).

The latest eeek-teh-gayz liefest to erupt from the AFA sewer is an “Action Alert” regarding the refusal of a Dallas church to hold a funeral for a Desert Storm vet once they discovered that the deceased was gay. The church made a national disgrace of itself by likening homosexuality to murder, and further cemented the reputation of fundamentalists as simple-minded Neanderthals who preferred hanging on to their divisive, hate-feuled ideology even if it meant pissing on the bereavement of a family.

Naturally, the AFA is right there with the attempted save. To them, it’s the church being persecuted for refusing to push — all together now! &#151 “the homosexual agenda”!

There is a battle taking place in Dallas. It is a battle trying to force a church to lower their Scriptural standards to meet homosexual demands.

When High Point Church refused to allow their building to be used in a memorial service celebrating homosexuality, the homosexuals became very upset and started a campaign of harassment and public ridicule aimed at High Point.

If those pushing the homosexual agenda get their “hate crimes” bill passed into law, this is only a sample of what churches, pastors and Christians can expect.

Now, one actual look at the article reveals this:

An Arlington church volunteered to host a funeral Thursday, then reneged on the invitation when it became clear the dead man’s homosexuality would be identified in the service…

But the photos that the family selected alerted church officials that there might be a problem with the service, Mr. Simons said.

“Some of those photos had very strong homosexual images of kissing and hugging,” he said. “My ministry associates were taken aback.”

Gee, you’re kind of left with impression there that the family wanted a whole barebackin’ photospread laid out along the altar, complete with anal creampie. I suspect that the “strong homosexual images of kissing and hugging” actually consisted of the deceased with a boyfriend, arms around each other, and maybe sharing a smooch in exactly the same way a man and wife/girlfriend might. In the deranged, paranoiac world of the AFA, the family’s desire to have photos of their loved one in his service is perversely morphed into “homosexual demands.” Thus do Christian lies spread, from a warped, hate-crazed worldview.

Having just observed the funeral of my best friend’s mother, and seen firsthand how Christians exploit such opportunities to hold just another sales-pitch sermon (I’ve talked to my friend since I blogged about that, and she’s told me not only was she disgusted by the whole thing as well, her mom would have been pissed to boot), I can see the church’s problem. And frankly, I’m not sympathetic. The church was going to want to use the funeral of this brave vet to push their Christian message, and to have photos of a happy, contented, and loving gay man on the altar brazenly defying their agitprop that gays are loathsome miserable sinners, they’d be in a conundrum. Good. Churches deserve to find themselves in conundrums 24/7. Let the light of reality and reason shine on their lies day and night, until the human race as a whole understands what religion really is, a repellent, mindless practice of faith-based ignorance and fear, and throws it over the side once and for all.

As for the survivors of the late Cecil Sinclair, they have my sympathy and support, plus my assurance — though I’m sure they don’t need it — that they’re entitled to feel nothing towards Cecil but love and pride, despite the efforts by “loving Christians” to tell them he was a piece of shit who didn’t even deserve a memorial.

Atheist Experience #500-501 double feature

Okay, we’re still running — cripes — three months behind on posting the TV shows. But so what? They’re always entertaining no matter when you watch ’em.

I see that audio is still an issue with the fine vintage-’80s technology available at Austin Access. It’s pretty hard to hear anyone in #500. Things are a little better in #501. Sorry. Hopefully the enjoyable content will compensate for technical imperfections.

Episode #500, 5/13/07: Consciousness: The way-cooler-than-you Tracie talks about our current understanding of the consciousness and that our selves are completely in our brain.

Episode #501, 5/20/07: Creationism Evolves: Russell talks about how creationism has evolved into intelligent design.

A grotesque memorial

My best friend’s mother died last Monday, and the memorial service was today. During the past week it’s been a pleasure for me to be there for her, just being supportive, and driving her the 40 minutes from Austin (a couple of times actually) to Seguin to be with her family.

My friend isn’t Christian, nor is she atheist. She’s kind of in that waffly in-between area, but it doesn’t come between us. (Indeed, she asks me lots of questions and agrees with most of my criticisms of religion.) But her uncle is a Baptist minister, and the memorial service was held at his church. It was probably the first time I’ve walked into a church in about ten years, and I couldn’t avoid a little of the feeling of being a sheep among wolves. But mainly I could chuckle at that, as I was, once again, just there to support my friend. I don’t think anybody noticed or cared that I was the only guy remaining seated during prayers.

Apart from a nicely-assembled slideshow at the beginning, and my friend’s own eulogy, I was surprised to find myself as appalled and offended by the memorial service as I was. I expected, of course, a formal eulogy, some songs, prayers, and that sort of thing. You know, the funerary routine; touching, sweet, and above all, respectful. But the pastor also saw fit to offer what amounted to a standard-issue church sermon. This had the effect — which I’m sure only I noticed, since I wasn’t viewing the whole thing through the veil of faith — of disrespecting my friend’s mother on a couple of levels, not the least of which was that the whole affair suddenly stopped being about her and started being about God. When a quartet sang “Amazing Grace,” and the pastor followed it up with an obligatory, “Praise God!” I wanted to blurt out, “Oh, silly me. I thought we were here to praise Carol.”

Part of the reason I find Christianity so vile is that, no matter in what context it decides to inject itself — a funeral, a tragic accident, even just a bunch of right-wing families at a high school football game in the deep south — it ultimately boils down to spiritual used-car salesmanship, hawking the invisible space daddy and his catalogue of false hope to the punters. Never mind all the cracks and seams we’ve Bondoed over.

The stupidest part of the sermon came when the pastor veered into a misology theme. We were reminded that while all the most brilliant scientists and philosophers in the world have been pretty doggone smart guys, figuring out a bunch of useful stuff, ultimately all their knowledge hasn’t worked out what we were told is the most important issue, which is, according to the pastor, what happens to us when we die. I thought that issue was pretty well worked out: our bodies organically decompose. But of course, the pastor was talking about “souls,” I suppose, and so we were cheerfully reminded that Christianity did provide that answer that has eluded the great minds of our time. And what’s best is that you don’t have to be some brilliant intellectual giant to understand it! The Bible makes it simple!

How handy is that? Yes, keep it simple, above all. I mean, most people can’t figure out how to set the clocks on their video players, so doesn’t it make sense that the answers to life’s most penetrating questions ought to be even simpler than that? Just take all of those profound conundrums about the nature of life and the universe to which scientists and philosophers have dedicated their entire lives over the past several millennia, and boil it down to “Goddidit!” See? Simple!

Okay, this is all just boilerplate Christian anti-intellectual silliness. But when you realize that people by the millions are getting slammed with this moronic message every Sunday — “Hey, education is okay and all, but it hasn’t got the real answers, and you’ll get those today, and the best thing is they’re as easy as pickin’ your nose while sittin’ down!” — then is it any wonder that we live in a country where something as retarded as the Creation “Museum” can actually be built? When religion hands ignorant people a bunch of wish fulfillment fantasies and then tells them they’re smarter than “brilliant scientists and philosophers,” it’s an act as essentially cruel as the drug dealer giving a third-grader the “first one’s free, kid” spiel.

But the worst part of this sermon is that my friend’s mother was a schoolteacher, working with learning-disabled children, and was deeply dedicated to her vocation, even spending her own money on teaching materials when whatever school she was at was too cheap (or, to be fair, underfunded perhaps) to provide. And here’s this jerk giving a sermon that completely devalues education, thereby devaluing my friend’s mother’s life, and pronouncing that old delusion, “faith,” as infinitely preferable and more valuable than knowledge.

I’m pleased I was able to be there for my friend in her time of mourning. But it saddens me that all I got out of the service was a bleak reminder of why religion is such poison. What should have been a tribute to her mom’s life turned into another gross sales pitch for Christianity, and a stomach-turning exercise in misology that demeaned the legacy of the woman it should have honored.

And I thought I was the world’s most stubborn procrastinator!

Megablogger and science fiction writer John Scalzi demonstrates once again that he will think of anything, and I do mean anything, to avoid having to meet a writing deadline. Here’s an impromptu home movie (in ToyVision!) mocking Ken Ham’s belief, enshrined in his moronic Creation “Museum”, that dinosaurs co-existed with people and that the fearsome T. Rex was actually a placid coconut-eater until that dadburn “fall of man” thing that fucked it all up. The video is silly as hell and a total waste of time. But then, so is the “museum,” so Scalzi’s essentially mocking Ham at Ham’s own level.

Dan McLeroy’s true designer colors

Those of us who have been in the front lines of the fight to keep fundamentalism from poisoning science education in Texas have long known Dan McLeroy, recently appointed by our Ken-doll governor Rick Perry to head the Texas State Board of Education, has been a Christian Right tool. (And only in a state where the governor is himself a Christian Right tool could an uneducated — in science, that is — person be appointed to head the Board of Education!)

Now, with a hat tip to the Texas Observer blog, McLeroy’s real agenda is right out in the open for everyone else to see. It must be humiliating for the ID movement, every time they try to repeat their nonsense that ID really-honesty-truly-no-really-we-swear has nothing to do with promoting religion, to have a creationist then come out and proudly proclaim that yes ma’am, it shore is! Humiliating for them — hilarious for us.

The Observer has unearthed (now this is journalism, people!) a recording of McLeroy addressing a sermon to his church, Grace Bible Church in College Station, on the subject of ID and evolution. The real battle, evidently, is against liberalism and naturalism. McLeroy sees ID as this glorious “big tent” that brings together religious pseudoscience of all stripes to unite against evil liberal naturalistic…uh…all that stuff. I can imagine the flacks at the Discovery Institute groaning over this one:

“Why is Intelligent Design the big tent? Because we’re all lined up against the fact that naturalism, that nature is all there is. Whether you’re a progressive creationist, recent creationist, young earth, old earth, it’s all in the tent of Intelligent Design.”

I especially love this passage from the Observer article.

McLeroy counsels fellow travelers to publicly battle evolution on the merits. “We must know our subject — facts and evidence are crucial,” he said in his sermon. But he acknowledges that this strategy has proven an utter failure.

Well, duh. ‘Cos ya know, before you can present facts and evidence, you gotta have some!

No need to think for yourself

I just finished watching this video, which shows the responses of anti-choice demonstrators in Libertyville, Illinois when asked what sort of punishment women should receive if they had an abortion after abortions became illegal. Go watch it…I’ll wait…

The responses speak for themselves.

I don’t want to get into the specifics about abortion (though I’ll proudly admit to being pro-choice) because it’s not an atheist issue. Atheists can be pro or anti-choice. I do believe, though, that it is (often) a church-state separation issue, fueled by emotion and irrationality.

My purpose in posting this video is to point out the sort of mindless sheep that are produced by religious thinking.

(I know, I know…you’re not all mindless sheep, so don’t get your panties in a twist about my generalization. If you’re not like the folks in the video, I’m not talking about you.)

Dogma, in all of its disguises, is evil. Magical thinking poisons the mind. Religion, as a combination of the two, renders its victims unable to deal with reality, incapable of questioning their beliefs and completely unconcerned about the consequences of their actions. They’re unable to follow any logical argument that might, in any way, jeopardize their beliefs.

The people in this video aren’t rabid fundamentalists. They’re not calling for the death penalty (though one of them allowed for that possibility). They don’t fit in with the true hatemongers who call for homosexuals to be put to death like some politicians have done… and some countries. They sincerely believe they’re doing the right thing — protecting innocent little babies — and none of them have given a moment’s thought to anything else. They believe that they’re doing god’s work and that they cannot be mistaken; which makes them just as dangerous and delusional as the truly hateful. To quote William S. Burroughs:

“No one does more harm than those who feel bad about doing it.”

I’m still amazed that anyone could avoid the simple concept that there’s no point in making something illegal if you don’t have a punishment for breaking the law… but that’s not the big question, the big question is this:

Why were they able quickly and easily to proclaim that abortion is the murder of a human being and yet they couldn’t quickly and easily agree to the punishment proscribed for murder?

The answer is simple. Even these sheep recognize a difference — they’re just unable to act on that recognition because their brains have been poisoned by religion. They neither need nor recognize rational arguments. Somewhere, deep in the compartmentalized recesses of their minds, protected by gross rationalizations, shielded by emotional pleading, they know that their beliefs don’t make any sense.

Now, if they could only be convinced to give a damn.

New rule: Integrity and honesty required

As fundamentalists seem to love the way online anonymity enables juvenile trolling, we have yet another new rule here. No anonymous comments. This will immediately separate the (honest) men from the (dishonest) boys, the latter of whom will promptly whine and snivel over how this proves we’re too chicken to allow dissenting views to appear here, all we want is an echo chamber where we preach to the atheist choir, and so on, waah waah waah, I want my invisible space daddy!

Anyone who makes this claim can, of course, be immediately shuffled into the “loser” file and discarded. As always, Christians are allowed to comment here, they are allowed to disagree with us, tell us how wrong and misguided we are not to believe in the Lord, and so on. Only one thing has changed: Christian commenters are now required to demonstrate integrity and the courage of their convictions by attaching a name to their posts. Either you’re here to engage us honestly in stimulating debate, in which case you should have nothing to fear by identifying yourself, or you’re a mindless troll in a state of arrested development. If the former, consider yourself welcome, and we look forward to discussing the arguments you care to bring in support of your beliefs.

Those of you who don’t like the fact that the comments are moderated should realize that it is only the disgraceful behavior of your righteous brothers in Christ that has led to it. Look, it would be very easy to leave the comments entirely unmoderated, and allow your fellow fundamentalists to run amok with one abusive, offensive post after another. It is almost guaranteed this would happen, and happen with such frequency that they’d do all the discrediting of Christians for us, and we’ve rarely if ever have to put up a new post of our own. But as admin, I’d really prefer this blog were a civilized place. Which means the bad guys among you need their leashes jerked. Really, by moderating comments and requiring names on them, I’m doing believers a huge favor, as now every Christian commenter here will be a person with a modicum of character, at the very least. You won’t have the worst among you making all the rest of you look bad.

If you’re going to try a Socratic dialogue, make sure you know what you’re doing

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.

Anon: Says who? You? you claim fallacy but who said I have to prove anything to you at all? IN a debate maybe but not real life.

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.

Anon: No matter what you believe God is responsible for the outcome, be it repentance or hardening. I pray in your case it is repentance.

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.