Patrick Greene checks in »« An irrational atheist

Want to see something really scary?

Microbiologychick went to Jesus Camp.

It’s not precisely the same kind of Jesus Camp that was on display in the movie (which we saw in 2006); this one was for teens and young adults instead of really little kids. As a result, they needed to use somewhat more devious cultish tactics like sleep deprivation and repetitive chanting to keep all the sinful teens mindful of the fact that abstinence pledges are a really great and productive idea.

Also this:

Stories of dubious authenticity were told as gospel. One of my favorites was about a dumb, redneck type of Christian boy who has to deal with an evil smart atheist evolutionist boy at school. The boy faithfully brings his bible to school every day and leaves it on the corner of his desk in class. Atheist boy begins to pick it up and read it, making fun of it at first. Eventually atheist boy gets saved and becomes a Christian.

Yeah, I love Christian meta-stories. They’re not the stories of Christianity, they’re stories about the stories of Christianity. Because, you know, the actual stories are often not enough to convince people to believe in God, so people have to invent new stories that describe a time when the stories were effective.

It’s like some Jack Chick tracts, where you actually see cartoons within the tracts wherein the characters are shown giving Jack Chick tracts to other characters, and then the characters in the story convert. You know, just to prove that it’s not a waste of time to hand these tracts out in the first place. It’s the ultimate in fictional wish fulfillment.

I imagine that the characters inside the tracts in the tracts are also carrying more tracts, and so on ad infinitum. I guess if we include enough recursive repetitions in the story, we hope that it will eventually break through to the top level and enter the real world. And if you repeat this stuff to teenagers often enough about how OTHER people were convinced, then they won’t see any further need to wonder how they can know that the Bible stories are actually true. Thankfully, in some cases this tactic fails.

Comments

  1. says

    This may sound hard to believe, but I know a person who told me long ago that everyone sees things the way he sees them, and people who “disagree” with him actually see things the way he sees them, too. They’re just being contrary.Did he believe that? I have no idea, but he said it with conviction.The Christian idea that I’ve encountered in most online apologists is that if only I had the same data they had, I’d come to the same conclusion they have come to. What’s particulary funny is that this means they feel sure they’re info is correct and that their interpretation of the data could not be in error.Why is that funny? Because if you disagree, you’ll be told that you’re being arrogant to rely on your own interpretations of the data to come to a contrary conclusion. It seems that there’s nothing arrogant about doing exactly the same thing, if, in the end, you agree with their conclusion.I connect this to the Bible story, because it’s the same idea: “The Bible convinced me. If you read the Bible, it will convince you.”Many online apologists come right out of the gate with a ton of preconceived ideas about what an atheist knows/doesn’t know. And a lot of time is wasted explaining things like, “I _have_ read the Bible,” or “I _am_ familiar with the historical data about Jesus.”Then how can I not believe? Because I don’t find it convincing. It’s a failure to understand that different people require different levels of support and evidence to draw a particular conclusion. If someone’s standards are lower than my own, they might lack the capacity to understand how I’m convinced. But I assure them that as someone with slightly higher standards, I’m just as shocked at what they find convincing.

  2. says

    tracieh: “..I know a person who told me long ago that everyone sees things the way he sees them, and people who “disagree” with him actually see things the way he sees them, too. They’re just being contrary.Did he believe that? I have no idea, but he said it with conviction.”Yikes, so everyone knows s/he holds the absolute, universal truth but we’re just putting our fingers to our ears and going “LA-LA-LA, CAN’T HEAR YOU!”?. You’re right, it is kinda hard to accept that someone so arrogant could exist.You know what? I bet dollars to doughnuts that s/he doesn’t really believe that but just enjoys being stubbornly antagonistic. :D

  3. says

    I’ll throw my own hat in this ring- Most of the atheists I’ve met became atheists by reading the bible. Conversion to theism can be a relatively quick event, especially if the person in question is going through a bad time in their life and has never really been brought up to think critically- appeals to emotion do work.Leaving faith is a much longer, more drawn out process and by the time someone dons the mantle of atheism, they’ve asked the questions, read the bible, and realized the evidence for their beliefs were lacking.So, that said, a Chick tract or a bible carelessly laid out on the corner of a desk won’t bring them back to the fold.Those stories of dubious authenticity end up like pale, hollow things that end up on sidewalks after it rains.Is it lying for Jesus, because the ends justify the means? I don’t know, but telling stories like this that have become part of the Christian lexicon seem like it. Thanks for the post, Kazim.

  4. says

    Yikes, so everyone knows s/he holds the absolute, universal truth but we’re just putting our fingers to our ears and going “LA-LA-LA, CAN’T HEAR YOU!”?.I haven’t seen it much lately, but that’s been one of the most common things I’ve heard from Christians about atheists–“they know God exists, but deny him so they can keep sinning,” or some variation thereof. On one hand, I think a lot of it results from people never questioning their beliefs. These people have generally been raised from birth immersed in Christianity; to them, it’s treated as axiomatic, and they can’t imagine anyone not having the same experience.On the other hand, it may have something to do with equivocation (intentional or unintentional) on the phrase “believe in.” When an atheist says “I don’t believe in God,” they’re saying that they don’t believe God exists. When a Christian says “I don’t believe in sex before marriage,” they’re not expressing doubt that people actually copulate without contracts, they’re expressing disagreement and disapproval of the action. I think they may be inferring the same meaning from “atheists don’t believe in God”–that atheists merely disapprove of God, not that they do not accept his existence. Or, more likely, it’s a combination of both.

  5. Frish says

    “Yeah, I love Christian meta-stories. They’re not the stories of Christianity, they’re stories about the stories of Christianity. Because, you know, the actual stories are often not enough to convince people to believe in God, so people have to invent new stories that describe a time when the stories were effective.”I listen to Christian Radio.Wow, what a trip.They are having a conference (I don’t listen for comprehension, just to fill the time between customer visits in Los Angeles, so I couldn’t tell you where or what!) for Christians!People will be sharing the word of god, AND INTERPRETING IT, just in case one’s level of comprehension isn’t up to just getting whatever meaning might be there all by itself…No wonder there are 20,000+ Christian sects, and counting…it requires and followers desire, interpretation!So much for God’s Revealed Truth. Wouldn’t thing that true TRUTH would have so many dissenters and interpreters!”Many online apologists come right out of the gate with a ton of preconceived ideas about what an atheist knows/doesn’t know.”I really love the Christians who not only let me know what an atheist “believes”, but tells me why my “belief” is false.What part of DON’T BELIEVE IN GOD, and KNOW THERE IS NONE suggests my entire life philosophy.(Well, if you don’t believe, then, you MUST think that such and such is true, and first cause and dualism refute that according to Aquinas etc.!)If you truly understand all the best theologians, writing on the topic of god for 1000+ years and more, their entire conclusion about how god can operate in this universe can be summed up (and dumbed down) to:God works in mysterious ways.THAT’S THE ABSTRACT OF ALL OF THE DEEP PHILOSOPHICAL THINKING ON THE SUBJECT!

  6. says

    I’m not sure it’s arrogance in all cases. A recent study has shown that people will overestimate their knowledge and capabilities more the less they actually know and can do. I think the article was posted at richarddawkins.net. People who were considered top of the field and experts in their profession tended to underestimate themselves more.I’m getting at the methods of ‘witnessing’ people use. In Corinthians, Paul tells his brethren in faith how he tries to ‘get’ people, how to convince them of his religion. Christians keen on missionizing, proselytizing, handing out tracts and all that try to emulate Biblical proselytizers. Many of them seem to think that they will be successful just by getting the method right. It doesn’t even occur to them that some people will be critical, skeptical and intelligent enough to not be convinced. If someone’s unconvinced, he’s the one who’s arrogant, self-deceptive, or even under demonic influence, loving his sin. I guess you know the gist of it.In the same vein, some think they’re great theologians, just because they know two different meanings of some word or other in the Bible.Some theologians think they’re great historians, paleontologists or linguists.Most people who overestimate themselves have one thing in common: they don’t understand the value of methods like peer review. And the reaction to a rejection is the same, from an incompetent street preacher to an incompetent engineer to a self-proclaimed scholar. Denial, suspicions of conspiracy, anger, and then often followed by walking into crank territory.In conclusion, it’s not only important to learn critical thinking at young age, it’s also important to learn how to cope with losing; not only to learn that you can lose, but also to self-reflectively find out why. That ability alone would take a great amount of nuttery out of the world.

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