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Sep 28 2011

My run in with the Jesus Fan Club

Today was the activities fair for all of the student organizations at the University of Washington. I was helping out the Secular Student Union booth, which was smack dab in an ocean of religious groups. Despite the fair organizers saying no one should set up before 10am, a dozen religious groups came super early to snipe all of the best tables. Some great religious ethics, right there.

We lamented the fact that no atheist student was going to wander into the religious section, but we did get a good amount of signatures. I shamelessly ate the free food that the religious booths were handing out.

Religious rice crispy treats

As I was looking around, I spotted a table that I needed a photo of: The Jesus Fan Club. If that name wasn’t enough reason for a photo, their apocalyptic advertisement sure was.

Jesus Fan Club

I went over to get a good photo. Then I forgot I was wearing my “Atheist, Ask Away!” sticker, and the girl working the booth approached me.

Let’s play the “How many apologetics can we fit into one fifteen minute conversation?” Game.

Christian: Oh, so you’re an atheist?
Me: …Yep.
Christian: Why?
Me: I haven’t been given enough evidence that would convince me that god exists.
Christian: So if someone gave you evidence, would you change your mind?
Me: Sure!
Christian: Well then I should tell you about all of the signs that the end times are coming…
Me: …Look, I’ve talked with a LOT of Christians and I have a feeling you’re not going to tell me anything new, but if you want to, go ahead.

She then went on to explain how all of the natural disasters, famines, wars, and HIV were proof that God was punishing his children. And that these things had risen by 200% in the last ten years. I blinked and didn’t even bother to confront the random statistics she was pulling out of her ass.

Christian: And the Bible proves these things, and even explains a lot about science that the people of that time wouldn’t have known otherwise.
Me: Oh yeah? Like what science?
Christian: …Let me get back to you on that.

Mhmmm.

She then explained that these natural disasters happen because God loves us. She asked me if I had heard of the story of Noah (…who hasn’t?) and said that was the perfect example. If a parent saw their children doing something bad, they would punish them instead of letting them keep hurting themselves. So God has to punish us with stuff like earthquakes.

I’m pretty sure she had no idea who she was talking about when it concerns the supernatural and earthquakes.

Christian: And when you look at earthquakes, they’re correlated with areas that are full of sin. Like Haiti, it had a very high rate of HIV.
Me: Earthquakes are also correlated with fault lines.
Christian: Well, God doesn’t break his own laws. So he has to use what he already has in place. Like if he wanted to punish Seattle, we’re more predisposed to earthquakes over other natural disasters, so he’d probably use an earthquake.
Me: That’s very convenient that God uses the type of disaster that’s already inclined to happen there due to random chance.
Christian: God has to work within the own laws he created for the universe, because God created everything. He can’t just like, stop the sun in the sky or something.
Me: …Except that God did stop the sun in the sky so one of his prophet could perform genocide on a whole race of people.
Christian: *look of shock* You know that story?!
Me: Yes.
Christian: Did you used to be Christian?
Me: No, I’m just well-read about the Bible.
Christian: The part about God stopping the sun is just a parable. A lot of people interpret the Bible wrong by interpreting it too literally.
Me: How do you know your interpretation is right? I mean, what if the whole Bible is a parable? What if God is a parable for the general goodness of people, and the whole thing is a story to teach us ethics? How do you know which parts are actually true?
Christian: They’re obvious.

Not to me.

The conversation then devolved into Pascal’s Wager.

Christian: But what if you’re wrong?
Me: What if you’re wrong? What if any of the other of hundreds of religions are right?
Christian: Well, then it doesn’t matter.
Me: Exactly.

Ah, that was refreshing, though it seemed a little unfair. Random Christian Undergrad vs. Person Who Has Been Writing and Speaking About Atheism for Four Years. And as tempting at the Mormon booth with their sign on the Five Absolute Truths was, I decided I had enough.

The first rule of Jesus Fan Club is you don’t talk about Jesus Fan Club. The second rule is to only use stupid arguments people have already debunked a thousand times. (Joke blatantly co-opted from Crommunist).

51 comments

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  1. 1
    cnjnrs

    Did you take a picture of the Mormon booth? I want to know what the Truths were.

  2. 2
    Quixote

    According to the second photo, we can prevent the end-of-the-world™ by simply not preaching the gospel to all the nations. Excellent advice that.

  3. 3
    Sili

    Heh. The Christians at my school presented themselves as the Jesus Fan Club as well (but I don’t think they put it on any banners).

    I didn’t feel it was my place go chat to them, but hopefully some of the kids did.

    Pretty sad, really. They seemed so happy, and yet so utterly maladroit.

  4. 4
    Randomfactor

    Well, I guess it’s a way for the maladroit to feel happy…

  5. 5
    Matthew Smith

    “Ah, that was refreshing, though it seemed a little unfair. Random Christian Undergrad vs. Person Who Has Been Writing and Speaking About Atheism for Four Years”.

    Also unfair because you’ve done a bit of research into earthquakes.

  6. 6
    Jacob V

    Well, well, well, you just don’t have any evidence there is no god! So there!! ;-))

  7. 7
    Thomas Lawson

    It works well the other way, too.

    Mention Finland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, etc. and have them ponder why those countries don’t seem to get more natural disasters, considering they only have about a 5-10% church attendance record.

    Why do THEY get a free pass?

  8. 8
    hiro

    I laughed when I saw “blue sky church”.
    According to Websters online dictionary, the definitions of blue sky are:
    1. Having little or no value
    2. Not grounded in the realities of the present. visionary.

    Take your pick but neither is very flattering. Perhaps a closet atheist was on the naming committee.

    Great post Jen

  9. 9
    annie

    The Jesus fan club has uses a tri-fold science fair board?? Kickin’ it old school!

  10. 10
    Elmo14

    I always find it funny when you tell a Christian you are atheist and the assume that it means that you know little to nothing about Christianity. I’ve unintenionally upset a few of my friends by knowing more about their specific Christian sect which they supposedly espouse.

    I would also be very curious to know what the Mormon booth’s top five list was. If it was a list of assertions I have a feeling that at least one or two insult specific groups of people.

  11. 11
    Wilson

    I have to wonder… at which point in human history was that list of signs of the apocalypse *not* true?

    Well, except for the gospel one, maybe, depending on how you define “nation”. Which leads quite nicely into Quixote’s point above.

    And I think Steve Pinker’s latest book has something to say about the “increase of wickedness”…

  12. 12
    Mike

    Have them hang out at the Seattle Lein statue.

  13. 13
    Rixaeton

    She asked me if I had heard of the story of Noah (…who hasn’t?) and said that was the perfect example. If a parent saw their children doing something bad, they would punish them instead of letting them keep hurting themselves.

    I would have thought that if you love your children, you would explain to them what they are doing wrong, and show them the right thing to do. You don’t punish naughty children by doing the equivalent of drowning them in a bathtub.

  14. 14
    jen

    I looked up the Jesus Fan Club site. I’m a relatively conservative Christian and it scared me.

  15. 15
    Jurjen S.

    That’s pretty much what I was thinking. If anything, we’ve had fewer wars and famines the past few two decades than in centuries past. Natural disasters are probably about the same, it’s just that–like the wars and famines–the ones that occur receive more media coverage (“if it bleeds, it leads,” after all), which also holds for violent crime, even though violent crime (which I will take as a proxy for “wickedness”) is now at levels not seen since the early to mid-1960s.

    What has markedly increased over the past few decades is the number of 24-hour rolling news channels on television.

  16. 16
    Jurjen S.

    Well, yeah, but isn’t one of the tenets of eschatological millennialism that they want the End-of-the-World™ to arrive? Right-wing fundies support the more intransigent elements in Israeli politics in order to bring about Armageddon, or somesuch crap.

    So if you point out that their proselytizing is helping bring about the End-of-the-World™, it’ll actually encourage rather than dissuade them.

  17. 17
    Quinapalus

    I’m pretty sure she had no idea who she was talking about when it concerns the supernatural and earthquakes.

    Internet: you have won it.

  18. 18
    Jurjen S.

    Christian: The part about God stopping the sun is just a parable.

    Bollocks. A parable is “a simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson,” of the kind told by the character of Jesus in the Gospels. Even the Gospels acknowledge they are just that: stories, fictions, fabrications, told by Jesus, with the (supposedly) factual being only that Jesus told these stories.

    By contrast, the Book of Joshua asserts as fact that God stopped the sun at Gibeon so that the Israelites had enough light to finish slaughtering the Amorites. Moreover, what “moral or spiritual lesson” can one draw from the alleged event of God stopping the sun?

    So our Christian undergrad here doesn’t know what a parable actually is. Hint: it’s not a magical word that lets you hand-wave away something that defies the laws of physics.

  19. 19
    G.Syme

    My university has a strict policy that there can be only one society within a particular niche. For instance, the Rationalist Association was a forced merger between the atheists and the skeptics (who are obviously NOT part of the same niche, but that’s what happens when you have a fundamentalist Catholic in charge of Clubs & Societies).

    Yet I discovered last night that there are FIVE different Christian societies on campus, all receiving student union money and grants. I sense a campaign coming up (once we’ve drummed up a bit more membership or bred an army of atheist orcs).

  20. 20
    Francisco Bacopa

    Shit, You call that a backboard? I did better backboards than that back in the 80′s when I had to stick on letters and drill my own holes in cheap-ass plywood and cover it all with the least offensive shelf paper I could find.

    Now my brother had this awesome locking enclosed case my dad built for him with toting handles and everything. He used it for two projects and went off to college. Could I use it for my awesome project that won district where I proved most aquarium bacterial supplements didn’t reduce ammonia levels worth shit? Hell no, it was part of the holy family archives. Would my unemployed dad help me build a similar case? No, even though he was working huge hours and making huge bucks when he built my brother’s case. I went to regional with my lameass plywood.

    I was totally fucked up back then. I was an abused scapegoat child. totally socially isolated by my parents. Wasn’t beaten much, and by 9th grade realized I could beat back. To get my mom to drive me to regional science fair at the convention center I had to choke my dad and threaten to kill my mom’s mother. It worked and I won third place and got an award from the Texas A&M Galveston biology department. Alas, I gave up my rage, and started blaming myself for everything.

    What I went through was as weird as anything you will read on Butterflies and Wheels, and my parents were secular atheists.

    I have a job. I maintain a car. I pay my rent and bills, I have had moderately successful sexual relationships. I have overcome. Just to overcome the anhedonic death wish where nothing matters emotionally, but you struggle to make the intellect serve in roles the emotions are more suited for without dying is victory.

    BTW, I only ever elevatorgated once and figured out why it was a bad idea pretty quickly and it’s never happened again.

  21. 21
    hoverfrog

    “Do you know what time it is?” Hammer time.

    That’s right isn’t it?

    As for someone asking you why you’re an atheist shouldn’t it be the other way around? They are the ones who hold belief in a deity without strong supporting evidence. Shouldn’t they be justifying their stance?

  22. 22
    TGIAA

    *Googles “mormon 5 absolute truths”

  23. 23
    benjaminsa

    You went from earthquakes to Pascal in 5 minutes, with so much insanity, logical fallacies and general fail thrown out, that it would take hours to pick through it all. Why I find these sorts of conversations endlessly frustrating, if amusing. Wish I could stop them at point 1, and force them to clarify.

  24. 24
    Midnight Rambler

    By contrast, the Book of Joshua asserts as fact that God stopped the sun at Gibeon so that the Israelites had enough light to finish slaughtering the Amorites. Moreover, what “moral or spiritual lesson” can one draw from the alleged event of God stopping the sun?

    The lesson is that if you truly love God and devote yourself to worshipping Him and following His laws, He will reward you. So much so that He would even violate the laws of nature at your command so that you can kill thousands of people. That’s exactly what the Republican Party is all about.

  25. 25
    Kevin, 友好火猫 (Friendly Fire Cat)

    Well obviously only True Christians™ can understand what parts of the Bible are literal and which are to be taken as parable. You were clearly not deep enough in the Word to get that, Jen.

  26. 26
    hoverfrog

    Absolutely. Defining the terms used is a requirement for any reasonable hypothesis. What is meant by this term “god” that keeps being referred to? No theist has ever given a working definition for “god”. Most simply dodge the question and the rest load the term with so much (God is love, God is the ground of all being, God is infinite, ad nauseum) that is ceases to have any meaning at all.

  27. 27
    John K.

    Don’t forget killing off all but 2 of every other animal that could not survive in the ocean for 40 days. Animals, which by all accounts, god had no beef with at all.

    The whole “god makes us suffer because he loves us and we deserve it” bit is really one of the nastiest things about religion. Good on you for keeping your cool while that was spouted at you, I doubt I could have done the same.

  28. 28
    ButchKitties

    It baffles me that Christians expect us to be impressed by so-called predictions of events that happen (and always have happened) regularly. Especially since the Bible’s predictions of these events are pretty much devoid of any specifics. It’d be like me saying, “I won’t say exactly where, when, or how much, but it’s going to rain,” and then expecting Al Roker to give me his job because there was a drizzle in London.

    I’d me far more impressed if the Bible predicted a specific day without any earthquakes, and then all the seismographs went still for a day. That would actually indicate some future-seeing powers, at least more so than vaguely “predicting” a natural phenomenon that happens an average of 1300 times every frigging day.

  29. 29
    John K.

    I was only able to find four Mormon truths.

    1. There is a god in heaven and Jesus is his son.
    2. There is devil who wants to tempt and trick you away from god.
    3. People can make their own choices
    4. Faith and repentance always beat Satan’s tempting.

    Not all that impressive really.

  30. 30
    Daniel Fincke

    So God is now punishing people for having HIV? I thought HIV was the punishment. This must be like the whole original sin deal where we are punished by being cursed with the inability not to sin and then punished again for sinning.

    In either case, people who look at HIV and earthquakes and praise God for his punishments need to be morally scolded immediately.

  31. 31
    raymoscow

    As someone who grew up with and used to play on Team Jesus, I sometimes wish that some of the present team might, just once, come up with some argument that had not been refuted a thousand times.

    But no such luck. It’s the same old crap, over and over.

  32. 32
    ButchKitties

    She then went on to explain how all of the natural disasters, famines, wars, and HIV were proof that God was punishing his children. And that these things had risen by 200% in the last ten years. I blinked and didn’t even bother to confront the random statistics she was pulling out of her ass.

    Just in case you ever change your mind about confronting her random statistics…

    According to Millennium Goals Development Report (commissioned by the UN) The number of new HIV infections fell from 3.5 million in
    1996 to 2.7 million in 2008. The annual number of AIDS deaths started declining with the expansion of antiretroviral therapy programs, with the tide finally turning around 2004.

    The number of people living with HIV has increased from 24.6 million in 1998 to 33.4 million in 2008, but that’s not anywhere near the 200% increase your Christian acquaintance claimed, and rise in the number of people living with the disease is partly due to the fact that AIDS death rate is declining. Fewer people dying of the disease = more people living with the disease.

    We still have a long, long way to go. The increase of access to antiretroviral therapy has not kept pace with the rate of new infections, and we still need a vaccine, but the claim that HIV has risen 200% in the last ten years? Demonstrably false.

  33. 33
    chrishayduk-costa

    Haha, oh man, talking to some believers is like teasing a cat with string. They think they stand a chance, that they have an irrefutable argument that you’ve not yet been presented, but no, they just present Pascal’s wager.

  34. 34
    Kevin

    Well, the set was inclusive of natural disasters, famines, wars, and HIV. Not just HIV disease.

    However, there’s no evidence for a 200% increase in the inclusive set, either.

    From 2001 to 2011, one might assume in fact that the amount of war actually decreased — because we’re no longer at war with Iraq, for one. And the “Arab spring” was largely bloodless, other than in Syria and Libya.

    As for the rest:
    Earthquakes? Nope, same as ever. The big one associated with the Japanese tsunami kinda sucked, but there’s no increase in the frequency or severity.
    Volcanoes erupting? Nope, same as ever.

    Of course, there has been an increase in weather-related disasters — due to anthropogenic global warming. So, when Rick Perry prayed for rain, he got fire instead. But a 200% increase? Well, I think someone would have noticed that.

  35. 35
    Flah the Heretic Methodist

    Here, let me help: Person swallowed by whale/fish? literal truth. Talking snake? literal truth. Job’s life being toyed with by God and Satan in some freakish crap game? literal truth. Big flood? literal truth. Earth created in six days? literal truth. Song of Solomon good lovin’ sexy time? Metaphor for Christ’s love for the church. Or something. We don’t know, but it’s NOT sex. (Stolen without permission from the wonderful Darryl.)

  36. 36
    Kevin

    Of course, if you told the JFC folks that you agreed with them — AND that you believed the date for the end of the world was October 22, 2011 (this is what Harold Camping’s crowd believes), they’d call you crazy.

  37. 37
    savoy47

    I am in full agrement with #3

  38. 38
    The Lorax

    I love Pascal’s Wager…

    What if I’m wrong? Well, according to the Christian argument, God already loves me and Jesus died for my sins. I’m a pretty cool guy and I doesn’t afraid of anything, so if I’m wrong, when I die, I should be forgiven for the ONE sin of not believing in God and be let into Heaven. In fact, most atheists should, because they tend to be humanists and thus actually care about the health, rights, freedoms and liberties of their fellow humans. Love thy neighbor, right? So if I’m wrong, according to the Christians’ own arguments, I still get eternal bliss; I still win.

    And if God doesn’t let me in… guess what? That means he’s an uncaring asshole, which is what most atheists already know (hell, it’s pretty clearly spelled out in the Bible), and have been trying to convince people of. So if I’m wrong about God but he still doesn’t let me into Heaven due to either my disbelief or my disgust, or both, (which is the other side of the coin of Christian arguments), then that means that, in life, I was right all along about my perception of God, and so is every other atheist. I get to spend eternity being smug and justified, hanging out with the supposedly Head Honcho of Folks Who Hate God, and thus, happy. I still win.

    Suck it, Pascal. Suck it hard.

  39. 39
    John Hinkle

    Me: Earthquakes are also correlated with fault lines.

    Me: Innocently sipping a vodka drink, listening to Furthur (current incarnation of the Grateful Dead), casually perusing freethoughts, and then I come across this line.

    That, my friends, was nearly a “new keyboard” moment.

  40. 40
    Alex

    I love Jesus! He makes the best burritos!

  41. 41
    F

    Dude!

  42. 42
    F

    So, I’m looking all through Matthew 24, and I can’t find the shopping checklist. Is there a different “Matt” 24 somewher else? In the only-correct-bible KJV, maybe?

    I notice the really weird correlation of “gospel preached to all nations” with all the other bad or possibly bad (earthquakes) stuff. Maybe they should stop doing that, and we could see if there were causation if the rest of the stuff (wickedness) let up.

  43. 43
    BCskeptic

    Yeah, asking them to defend their belief in a supernatural deity, for which there is no evidence, is pretty much my standard reproach to religionists. Also, asking them “which god” they believe in.

    They are the ones claiming that something exits outside the natural world, the burden of proof is on them.

    It is mind-boggling that that kind of delusion is so prevalent in this day and age. Face-palm.

  44. 44
    Eric RoM

    OT: Jen, thought you might enjoy the sentiment on this Chinese poster, even if it does (and it >does<) look like a mid-60's science-fiction monthly:

    http://chineseposters.net/posters/e13-891.php

  45. 45
    Noadi

    Clearly you have been toying with nice cats. I learned from my mom’s big old maine coon cat that sometimes they get fed up with chasing the strong and claw you for it. I still have scars from that cat and he’s been dead for 10 years.

  46. 46
    briannelson

    Yep. But no matter how many times you tell them that, they still think our “weird, unnatural” lack of a belief in the supernatural is what oughta be justified.

  47. 47
    Savagemutt

    5. Profit!!!

  48. 48
    Carlie

    Homer Simpson refuted Pascal’s wager: “What if we picked the wrong God? Then every time we go to church we’re just making the real one one madder and madder!”

  49. 49
    Pierce R. Butler

    Those guys with the (small, cheap) candy bars may be promoting a non-Christian god at their “Blue Sky Church” on Sundays at 9:15 & 11:15 am.

    The Mongols at the time of their Golden Age (and no doubt long before and after) worshiped what they called The Eternal Blue Sky – and continued to do so long after the Khan invited representatives from all other known traditions to an all-out god-out at his place, which TEBS won.

  50. 50
    Eclectic

    Not quite. The first rule of Jesus Fan Club is that you don’t stop talking about Jesus Fan Club.

  51. 51
    lpetrich

    I’ve long found the Muslim version of Pascal’s Wager to be very fun.

    If you believe in Islam and Islam is correct, you get to live in paradise, an oasis resort with a moderate climate, lots of vegetation and water, fresh fruit, milk, and honey, lots of jewelry and fancy clothes, cute boy servants and a harem of lovely ladies.

    If you believe in Islam and Islam is incorrect, you go blank when you die, and you are no worse off than if you did not believe in Islam.

    But if you did not believe in Islam and Islam is true, you will get sent to Hell. You will be shackled in place and burned alive forever and ever and ever, with nothing but boiling water to drink.

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