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God is Real! -says some guy who wrote a book about God being real

A few days ago we received an email with a four page Word doc attached. The email addressed us politely and personally, so I thought it wouldn’t be nice to ignore it.

Messrs. Dillahunty and Glasser:

I see you on You Tube and like your way of thinking about the Bible.  Please review the attachment and let me know what you think.

In the book I wrote How to deal with life: Genesis Simplified I also express a different view of Genesis to make it more meaningful.  If you should like a copy, I will send you one if you give me an address.

Thanks,

Sam

The author in question is Sam Chacon, and just to be nice, here’s Amazon the link to that book. I anticipate helping Sam to make approximately zero sales, but you never know.

So the attachment, as I said, is four pages, about 2000 words, and very definitely will count for most people as a candidate for TL;DR. I toyed with the idea of posting it in full, but in the end I decided to just post the first few paragraphs, then relevant highlights that I’m responding to. Hope you don’t mind.

GOD IS REAL

July 13, 2013

In God the Designer’s name, Dear Friends:

This is an important message:  God wants people to establish a personal relationship with him.

It is extremely noticeable that spirit dynamics are changing in a huge way.  According to John 12:31, Lucifer is prince of the world.  As Evil, he and his angles are stronger and more active than ever as evidenced by the killings that are taking place and youngsters that are leaving their church for many reasons after finishing high school.  One teen left the church because the monsignor of his Catholic church told him that if he played with Protestant boys he would go to hell.  This remark made it clear that Catholic leaders have a problem interpreting the bible.  Mathews 5:44 says, “Love your enemies.”  Protestant boys were friends, not enemies.  If he were to love his enemies, why not love his protestant friends.  The teen decided to skip the church and deal directly with god.

So, yeah, it goes on like that. And on. And on.

Here’s what I wrote back:


Samuel,

Thanks for writing. I looked over your document, and it doesn’t seem to me like you have much experience communicating with atheists. You spend a lot of time explaining what you believe, i.e., “Lucifer is prince of the world,” “Adam and Eve disobeyed God and they did not repent,” “God exists as energy “there are many gods and each one has a name related to what each one does”, etc, etc. What’s missing is a plausible reason why you would expect us to believe those things.

[There follow some more excerpts from the message]

To communicate with god, what one needs to do is ask God to reveal himself to him, or her.  The author did that in 1950.  God revealed himself in different ways.  The first time was in the Kumsong Valley, Korea.  At the battle front, one day, in the winter of 1951, the author was an assistant platoon leader reviewing bunkers and foxholes and talking to soldiers and planning the best lines of fire.  As he stood next to a foxhole, something told him to jump into it.  As he jumped, a bullet passed about a foot above his head.

About a month later, around noon, he was with a squad of men on patrol about one hundred yards in front of the front lines.  To observe more terrain, he maneuvered into a standing position against a steep side of a hill covered with snow.  No one was above him, but somehow, snow fell covering the breech area of his rifle.  To clean it, he took a step backward; as he did, two bullets hit where he had been standing.  He received an honorable discharge in 1952.

Then a different event happened in the summer of 1954.  Around 10:00 a.m. he decided to go shopping.  He got in his car parked in the driveway.  He was about to insert the key into the ignition slot when a voice in his head said, “Do not, move the car.”  It was so strange—it had to mean something, like when something told him to jump into a foxhole.  He stepped out of the car, looked around, saw no one, and went back in the car.  As he tried to insert the key into the ignition slot again, the same voice told him, “Do not, move the car.” This time, it was exceptionally strong.  He then looked under the car and saw the neighbor’s four-year-old boy sleeping against the left front tire.  He took him to his parents, went shopping, and forgot about it.

It seems that you believe it because you had a number of subjective experiences which you interpreted as the voice of God speaking to you. In many cases, the “voice of God” appeared to be giving you good advice, such as,

  1. Feeling paranoid about getting shot in a war zone, and acting on that paranoia correctly.
  2. Having an uncomfortable feeling about moving your car, then checking and discovering that the discomfort was justified.
  3. Becoming skilled in a profession.
  4. Deciding to go to the library in order to learn more about a subject you are curious about.

While trying to be careful of your feelings, I have to say that none of this is particularly convincing. A lot of people could have the same things happen to them, and simply chalk them up to “intuition.”

To put it another way, throughout people’s lives, they have all kinds of feelings and inner voices telling them what to do. Occasionally, they make a lucky guess. Occasionally they make a very lucky guess, good enough to save a life. Of course, the guesses that happen to be good ones are the ones that make you sit up and take notice, and then you file them away in your list of good stories for your entire life. We rarely notice the misses.

For instance, if you had gotten in a car, and suddenly had that nagging “DO NOT START THE CAR” feeling, but then you checked and there was nothing there… you would have shrugged, driven away, and forgotten about the incident entirely. It’s only when an event seems really surprising in hindsight that we make up interesting explanations about it.

All I’m saying is that however important those events might have felt to you at the time, to an outsider they are not very convincing evidence of an all-powerful being.

In one section you say, “The question atheists ask is, ‘Why does not God just show himself?’” I feel like this question is completely missing the point. Atheists aren’t demanding that God perform parlor tricks for them. What we’re asking is, “Why would anyone find claims about God persuasive in the complete absence of evidence?” As a response to this question, you tell another personal story about how you went looking in the Bible for an interesting verse, and by golly, you found one. Like the other examples I listed above, it may have seemed like a cool story to you at the time, but I’m not impressed.

I am in no way saying that “God” is obligated to pop in for a cup of tea every Thursday. I’m just saying that, lacking any kind of really solid demonstration, Christians are often force to resort to describing voices in their heads, or giving God credit for finding their car keys, or seeing God’s work in something they were able to do for themselves

To understand why this isn’t convincing, imagine how you would feel if, for example, a devout Muslim told you that he prayed toward Mecca, and he thought he heard God list some chapters in the Koran, and the Koran said something really poignant about Allah. If you heard that story, probably you would agree with me right away. The Koran wasn’t written by God. The passage they found so great was written by humans with delusions of grandeur. And praying towards Mecca means jack squat to us, because Mecca has no magical significance.

If you give some serious thought to what you would think about a Muslim who wrote you a letter similar to the one you sent us, I think you’ll have a clearer understanding of why your presentation needs some work.

Comments

  1. Corwyn says

    I like the bit from the blurb: “Teamwork is what won world war II.” Teamwork is also what LOST world war II.

  2. CGM3 says

    Lucifer has angles? Egad, the Hounds of Tindalos must be loose! The Old Ones are about to rise!
    (Sorry, I sometimes succumb to my latent grammar nazi impulse.)

    • unfogged says

      Lucifer knows all the angles.

      When I read “Do not, move the car” I hear it with a Raymond Burr pause and deep breath where the comma is.

      • jacobfromlost says

        That misplaced comma makes me read it as:

        “Do not (do something unsaid), (and) move the car.”

        Perhaps the message god was giving him was that the child would grow up to be the AntiChrist, and he was supposed to run over him to save billions of souls. Too bad he made the wrong choice and didn’t listen to god.

        I guess the lesson here is:

        do not, read too much into what god tells you.

  3. jacobfromlost says

    Anyone who is lucky enough to survive several decades of life will have dozens of such “close call” stories. Why? Because the people who died in their close calls are not around to tell the stories! lol

    This is just the confirmation bias of survivors.

    My dad is a Vietnam Vet, and has dozens and DOZENS of these “close call” stories. He believes in god in some vague way, but NEVER includes it as part of these stories. I don’t think it ever occurred to him.

    (Some of them as an aside: **the brakes went out on a garbage truck he was once driving down a hill, and he skillfully shifted down through his gears, blasted through a stop sign where luckily no other traffic was in the way, swerved to the side to slow his remaining speed, tipped the truck slightly…to come to a stop when the two left wheels slammed back down. His fellow garbage man apparently shouted, “That’s the best damned driving I’ve ever seen!” **Another time he was filling a metal gas can, it sparked, flames shot up, and he managed to get it out…and the next day when back and did the SAME THING, flames and all. We suggested a plastic gas can at that point. **Another time he paid some irrigation dude to fix a rather large weir box for the irrigation. The guy had to crawl inside the box, and put his arm down one of the pipes to pull something out…and got his arm stuck with the water filling the box around him. Dad said “something told him” to go check on the guy, but in reality he just can’t keep himself from anything irrigation-related, and ended up hearing the dude screaming for his life once dad god about 5 feet from the box. Since the guy was inside the box, the sound simply went straight up and no one at a distance could hear him. Dad pulled him out and saved his life. **Another time he decided to go cut firewood by himself in the woods with a chainsaw, the chainsaw got awkwardly stuck in the wood, and he dropped in on his leg. Luckily it only gashed a couple inches out of his calf, and he drove himself to the hospital. **And these aren’t including the grenade story, or the dropped rifle story, or dozens of others I can’t even remember right now.

  4. says

    Much of this is straight up pareidolia.

    It’s like trying to convince me that an intergalactic space dragon exists, because you found several scorch marks on the ground over your life. You think maybe they could have been lightning strikes… or something much less extraordinary?

    What has this person done to eliminate other possibilities, most (all) of which are better explained without invisible sky wizards?

    That’s precisely where people like him lose me. Clearly, they’ve employed exactly zero critical thinking.

    People underestimate how many coincidences we encounter on a daily basis. There’s so many potential coincidences that it becomes likely that some will happen. We’re just not aware of the full scope of possibilities.

    … when you’ve got a full life of coincidences to cherry pick from, it’s easy to create what’s essentially a supernatural conspiracy theory…. all the while ignoring the preponderance of evidence.

    • says

      There’s also sort of a “lottery winner” effect.

      If you were to win the lottery, the chances were probably something like 1:100,000,000. It may seem “so unlikely, it couldn’t have happened without divine intervention”… but that’s a perceptual error.

      If 100,000,000 people play that lottery every week, we would, with nothing but raw statistics, expect someone to win that lottery every few weeks, if not more frequently.

      … and that person, whoever happened to be the lucky one, if he/she is religiously primed, is going to think divine intervention is involved, even if no such thing happened.

      We don’t hear from the hundreds of millions of people who didn’t win the jackpot.

      We don’t hear from those soldiers who didn’t check under their trucks to make sure there wasn’t a problem, or didn’t duck for cover in time, etc… the tens of thousands of normally unfortunate people.

      No, we hear from the statistical “lottery winners” who can’t comprehend their situations in any other way than magic.

  5. L.Long says

    “If you give some serious thought to what you would think about a Muslim who wrote you a letter similar to the one you sent us, I think you’ll have a clearer understanding of why your presentation needs some work.”
    Is an easy answer……
    Well I would agree with them because they have the same gawd I do, its just that they are a little misguided in the details. or ….

    “If you give some serious thought to what you would think about a Satanist who wrote you a letter similar to the one you sent us, I think you’ll have a clearer understanding of why your presentation needs some work.”
    Well he probably heard the same from gawd but his delusion just attributes the advice from the wrong source.

    As an atheist I can answer the question. But I do like your ending statement because it would make most xtians sputter incoherently for a while.

  6. says

    I came across this same sort of character all the time in my journalism days.

    One time, a guy came to our offices demanding to see the medical reporter. That was me.

    He was convinced to the point of frantic waving that shards of metal from dull can openers caused cancer. I had to point out to him that lots of people who didn’t use can openers got cancer. And lots of people who had sharp can openers got cancer. And lots of people with dull can openers didn’t get cancer.

    Didn’t matter. He was fixated on the concept that those little shards of metal from dull can openers could cause cancer.

    These days, this type of person is running his own personal blog or trying to self-publish an e-book on the subject. I bet if you dig deep enough into the interwebs, you’ll find someone convinced that shards of metal from dull can openers cause cancer.

    Back then, there was no internet. And even the process of writing down one’s thoughts was much tougher — no computers. You had to insert a sheet of paper into a typewriter and hit “RETURN” at the end of every line!! (OMG- the horror!!!)

    Point is, it’s lots easier for people with idees fixe to tell the world about their crazy notions. Because there are few hoops to jump through and functionally no filters. I miss hoops. I miss filters.

  7. says

    Wow, the delusions of grandeur are strong here. A bullet going by about a foot above his head? UNBELIEVABLE powers of observation! Don’t start the car? 4Yr. old sleeping under the front tire?
    Just take him to his parents and forget about it? Very rational calm way to deal with an everyday problem!
    Lotto winners? Every single human walking the face of the earth outswam 250,000,000 other swimmers just to be here. Were the second place finishers 1/ mini souls? 2/semi souls? 3/recycled souls? They were already alive so they all must have had a soul (oh wait, you going to tell me your biblical apologetic interpretation of when the soul begins)! Every time there is a fertilized ovum, there is a holocaust of dead souls created by your god. Because all of the sperm cells are living, flagellums at full speed ahead, singing fertilize, fertilize, fertilize. I remember almost all of us had 23 on our backs. What is so incredible to me is how can a religious family watch Nat Geo or The Discovery channel? They can’t. That’s why honey booboo gets such high ratings

  8. Matt Gerrans says

    As he jumped, a bullet passed about a foot above his head.

    Well, if you didn’t jump there probably would have been even more clearance, dummy! Next time, try ducking instead. By the way, this story is probably poppycock anyway. Outside of The Matrix, it is pretty near impossible to tell how close a bullet might have passed by (or even if it was a bullet and not a bit of bark or rock dislodged by a bullet 20 feet away). Moreover, in addition to the vertical direction, you have the other two dimensions, so even if he had the hops to get a foot higher, it was probably off to the side by five more feet.

    Do not, move the car.

    Others have commented on this grammatical snafu, but I think it is also worth pointing out that apparently omniscience does not include proper English grammar. Or maybe it was a really message from Yoda and was actually “Do not, the car move.”

    What we really need here is to offer a test of this man’s divine guidance from the god of the Old Testament. How about we propose this to him: We have 10 glasses of milk, nine of which are spiked with cyanide, or hemlock or whatever deadly thing and one of which is safe. You pick one to drink. Don’t worry, your god will certainly whisper in your ear (as he has done before) and tell you which one to take.

    Queue the “god won’t submit to tests by humans” cop outs.

  9. says

    So, god specifically intervened, to save this guy’s life. Twice. One wonders why anyone has ever died in wars at all, considering god’s willingness to give warnings like that. Not to mention accidents, natural disasters, diseases, etc.
    It seems like god is being terrifyingly random in his decisions on who to save and who to kill. Almost as if there’s no intelligent force guiding these events at all. Almost as if that god doesn’t exist in the first place.

  10. James McMullen says

    “…what would you think about a Muslim who wrote you a similar letter. . .?”

    On a slightly related tangent, I had a Jehovah’s Witness flyer left tucked in my screen door two days ago, and saw a pair of white-shirt-and-black-tie Mormon missionaries walking through my neighborhood just last night. I kinda wish I knew how to arrange it so they both ended up on my doorstep at the same time so I could watch them fight it out from the sidelines.

    Anyone ever manage to set that up? Dueling missionaries? Could be pretty entertaining under the right circumstances.

  11. Larry Lee says

    I can recount several stories where I avoided certain death. All of these stories would involve near-misses while driving in traffic. In one instance, I narrowly avoided a head-on collision when someone entered a divided highway going the wrong way. I happened to swerve the opposite direction of the van that was coming straight at me at night. If I had swerved the other way, I would not be here to tell the story. I cannot explain why I swerved to the right instead of the left, which would have been the natural impulse given the circumstances of the event.

    Therefore, there must be a God that is looking out for me.

    Just kidding. I am lucky to be alive, as most of us are.

    • Lord Narf says

      Or, there was the head-on collision I had, with some idiot who turned right in front of me, when I was about 20 yards from him, on a 55 mph road. Clearly, the baby Jesus spared my life in that incident.

      No, wait. That was the seat belt.

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