I wanted to post a follow up to the Sunday show that created some stir on the Internet this week. The best thing I’ve seen come out of it has been people on threads debating these ideas.
Not long ago, I started saying that religion has “The Best P.R. Machine Ever.” No matter what they do or what they teach, they have but to weakly spin it as valuable and good, and like magic, society says it’s valuable and good. And if you point out the problems with it, you are suddenly immoral and wrong. It’s “Through the Looking Glass” all the way.
That being said, I see a trend in these discussions that is interesting. Christians are offering “rebuttals” that aren’t rebuttals. Let me use a nonreligious example before I proceed.
Me: Oh no, I got a flat tire.
Him: No, you just misunderstand what it is that’s happened. See, you drove down this road where they did construction yesterday, and there was a nail left on the road. So, you drove over that, and it got into your tire, causing your tire to deflate. See?
Me: How is that different than what I just said?
The fact is, Christians often will say they’ve found some way out of Problem of Evil, or Euthyphro’s Dilemma or certain religious paradoxes that have been identified. And when they explain, they haven’t “gotten out” of them at all. They’ve merely started their statement with “You misunderstand,” and then gone on to explain precisely why they are smack dab in the middle of that problem, dilemma or paradox. They then look at you, like they’ve offered more than confirmation the problem, dilemma or paradox is right on target. How do they get away with confirming these problems, dilemmas and paradoxes are valid, while claiming to have trumped them in some way? Is this a Jedi mind trick I could learn?
In the discussions online, a few I’ve seen have contained the following, just to sum up:
- People saying that the caller was wrong to call the girl “evil,” then saying that in truth we’re all born sinful (i.e., evil) and need salvation (from our evil nature)—and then claiming that if we’d only let the caller talk longer, he’d have explained that for us.Explained what, exactly? That the girl is evil? How is the Original Sin explanation anything but a reinforcement of what Shane said? Explaining why you say she’s evil doesn’t change the fact you are calling her evil. You haven’t changed the claim, you’ve just added more words to it and asked me to agree you’ve said something entirely different, when you’ve only restated it.
- People saying that it’s wrong to say god allows child rape. God doesn’t allow child rape, they say, he just doesn’t want to impede our free will.Again, you’ve simply added more words; but in summary, you’re still agreeing that god knows the child is being raped, could stop it, but allows it. You’re simply saying why you think a god that allows child rape is good. And your explanation—that he doesn’t want to inhibit the actions of child rapists—as your justification for why god should be considered good, is unfathomable to anyone but someone indoctrinated into your religion–or perhaps a child rapist, who is likely right on board with wanting to not be inhibited.
- I’ve seen many Christians (and a few atheists) claiming that the caller has to be a Poe, that we set it up or were duped, and they know this because no Christian would say what this guy said. If you think that’s a good position, please Google “Why do we need salvation?,” to see an endless list of sites representing churches and individuals explaining:(a) We are all born into sin (evil).
(b) The just result of that condition is that you should die.
(c) Believing in Jesus won’t make you deserve anything better, but will result in you getting something better regardless.This is by no means a rare Christian doctrine.
- Today I got a real live Calvinist on a thread, who wanted to explain to me that he doesn’t believe god allows child rape, he believes god causes it.
Keep in mind, this god is morally upright. He went on to be sure I knew that, while the child may not have transgressed yet and become sinful, she’s born with a sinful nature, and will get to it later if she doesn’t die young. So, in essence, if not in deed, she is equivalent to the child rapist in nature. He also went on to clarify that any transgression against god is deserving of the same hell fire. That is, god has no capacity to make moral evaluations—having sex outside marriage is just as evil as mass murder; god can’t, or doesn’t, apparently, discern that subtle nuance. (Ironically some people “rebut” this by saying that god is so good he can’t abide evil, and so any blemish can’t exist in his presence. In addition to undermining god’s omnipotence, this, again, just restates what has been said already. It’s not a rebuttal, it’s confirmation.) This person also noted that “sin” (or evil) is simply defined as not doing what god wants you to do—again, no judgment involved, just obedience. So, you can’t trust your moral inclinations, so why not just obey this book/god/pastor, and not worry about whether you’re doing horrible things or wonderful things? Lastly, he put a cherry on top by saying that if the rapist accepts Jesus, he will spend eternity in the great reward, and not suffer any punishment at all for his life of child rape. This is the god he loves and worships and just thinks is all that and a bag of chips. In his own words:
@Tracie: God doesn’t “allow” child rape. He ordains it, just as He does everything else. Make no mistake; the rapist will be cast into Hell for eternity if God doesn’t cause him to repent. But that is the fate of ALL unrepentant sinners. We as humans think, “Well, I may be a sinner, but at least I don’t rape children.” This is measuring by human standards, not God’s. ALL sin, if not repented of, has the same price: eternity in Hell.Original sin is an invention of the Catholic church to justify infant baptism. Yes, we are born with a sinful nature. But the Bible defines sin as a “transgression of God’s law.” Since infants have no concept of right or wrong, they are called “innocents” in the Bible.Calvin didn’t invent the idea of man being inherently depraved; God did. Remember, we are not dealing with man’s ideas of “good”, but God’s.
While in Denver with Godless Bitches, I said one of the best ways to break down this P.R. machine may actually be to make sure people know what is really taught in a good many Christian churches in the U.S. When you ask a Christian, they give you the feel-good-lure-you-in parts up front. But after you’re in that church, the real doctrines come at you; but, as you’ve already bought into some milder ideas, these full-blown doctrines don’t seem so foreign to you when you hear them. Often these Christians really don’t realize what they’re saying. They really do believe they’re saying something different than they are—than what was just said. When they hear another Christian say what they, themselves, believe, without couching it in the more kind, religious terminology/context, they honestly don’t recognize it as their own doctrine anymore. But when you ask for clarification—you just get a more wordy version of the horrible thing they are trying to explain is not what they believe.
This is not a rebuttal. This is confirmation.