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“It just didn’t go the way we wanted it to go.”

There’s this Evangelical church near Sacramento, Adventure Christian Church. Last weekend the church hosted a debate between David Marshall, a Christian author, blogger and founder/director of the Kuai Mu Institute for Christianity and World Cultures, and Phil Zuckerman, Professor of Sociology and Secular Studies, Pitzer College in Claremont, California, who reports how things went.

The question at hand: “What provides a better foundation for civil society, Christianity or Secular Humanism?” David Marshall took the Christian position, and I took the secular humanist position.

There was advance planning for months. They provided nice snacks.

I was repeatedly told — via e-mail, as well as in person — that not only would the debate be video’ed by their expert video team, but the video of the debate would be posted on vimeo soon after the debate.

And so we had the debate. And I won. Now, that’s not my opinion — its the opinion of Adventure Christian church, because they now refuse to post the video on-line.

Instead, what they’ve done is post a series of rebuttals to the debate — refutations and criticisms. But they won’t post the actual debate. And they’ve disabled my ability to even comment on their posted refutations.
When I called pastor Bryan, and asked him why they are refusing to post the video — even after repeated promises of doing so — he replied, “It just didn’t go the way we wanted it to go. We were not represented well.”

Thus neatly demonstrating that Christianity of the more absolutist variety (at least) is not good at doing civil society.

Does that sound familiar? Yes, it does. Two years ago, Jerry Coyne debated the theologian John Haught and then Haught refused to let the video be released. I did a post about it at the time.

Zuckerman is surprised and disappointed at Adventure Christian church, but not willing to tar all evangelicals with the same brush.

I don’t think all Evangelicals are like those at Adventure. I am sure that there are many, many evangelical Christians who keep their word, are open to debate and dialogue, and have the courage of their convictions.

But, unfortunately, that wasn’t my experience at Adventure Christian Church. They are indeed afraid to air the underling truth of my position: that no civil society can thrive if it does not exist upon a bedrock of democracy, and democracy is not a Christian value — it is not articulated anywhere in the Gospels, nor is it promulgated, in any way, by Jesus or Paul. Rather, democracy is a secular humanist ideal — something dreamed up and established by and for people.

But the good pastors at Adventure Christian church would you prefer not to know that!

There are Christians who claim – indeed, insist – that democracy is a Christian value and that we wouldn’t have it if it weren’t for Christianity. I think that’s bullshit, but counterfactuals are hard to rebut.

Comments

  1. yellowsubmarine says

    So it wasn’t taped by anyone else who would post it to the web? I really want to see this debate, but if he thought they’d follow through on posting, I imagine he wouldn’t have seen a need to have someone else taping it in case they reneged. Which makes me sadface.

  2. Claire Ramsey says

    Cowards. If Mr. God is so great and Christianity is so compelling, what the fuck are they afraid of???

  3. says

    David Marshall appears from time to time in the Pharyngula comments. He alternates between sneering, and trying to plug his vanity published books.

  4. A. Noyd says

    When are humanists and atheists going to learn to refuse these debates unless they get to do their own recording? Zuckerman may be right that not all Evangelicals pull that shit, but enough do (or release dishonestly edited recordings) that it’s absurd to trust any of them.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    @hyperdeath (#4)
    Marshall’s sneering (and book plugging) once inspired me to write a parable to illustrate how idiotic he was being.

  5. says

    David Marshall appears from time to time in the Pharyngula comments. He alternates between sneering, and trying to plug his vanity published books.

    That David Marshall? Heh. This is a person who synthesized Toaism with Christianity and then pretends that all Christians are just like him when he isn’t even really all that Christian anymore. Pretty much similar to the kinds of people PZ recently blogged about at the Paradigm Symposium 2013–an Armstrong type who blurs religious traditions into one hodgepodge to justify whatever silliness he wants to that day.

  6. Acolyte of Sagan says

    It didn’t go the way we wanted it to go calls to mind the homeopathic ‘scientist’ who said he didn’t do double-blind testing ‘because it never works’.

  7. says

    Right: from now on, anyone signing up for one of these gigs is wired to make their own clandestine recording. Won’t be great quality, but it will mean that a public record exists.

  8. maddog1129 says

    No, not clandestine. Open and above-board. No one should agree to sign up for one of these gigs unless they are allowed to record it (too). It should be top quality so that a public record exists.

  9. aziraphale says

    “that democracy is a Christian value and that we wouldn’t have it if it weren’t for Christianity.”

    That’s not hard to rebut. The Athens of Pericleswas a democracy (as were some early Celtic societies). Yes, it excluded women and some other groups from voting, but so did almost all Christian nations until the 19th century. In fact a property qualification for voting was common in Christian nations but absent in Athens.

  10. says

    Yes but. “Christianity invented the idea of human dignity, and thus the idea of human equality, which is the foundation of true democracy.” That’s the claim.

  11. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    There are Christians who claim – indeed, insist – that democracy is a Christian value and that we wouldn’t have it if it weren’t for Christianity.

    It’s one of those concepts that Christians like to claim and then struggle to explain when asked ‘then why did it take so long after the bible was written for it to come to pass? I mean The vast majority of Christians had no problem accepting the Divine Right of Kings for centuries; why didn’t they speak up about democracy before?’

    Also, where in the bible does the word democracy even appear? Does election? Vote? Candidate? Polls? Ballot box?

  12. Silentbob says

    @ 12 Ophelia Benson

    “Christianity invented the idea of human dignity, and thus the idea of human equality, which is the foundation of true democracy.” That’s the claim.

    And the claim is laughable. As aziraphale & Wowbagger have already said:

    We have evidence that the concept of democracy predated Christianity by half a millennium.
    We have evidence that a thousand years of Christian domination in Europe produced not a whiff of democracy (in fact, was used to justify the monarchies).
    We have evidence that the Apostle Paul did not see all people as equal (women being subordinate to men) and had no problem with slavery.
    We have evidence that Christians have historically used the bible to oppose suffrage for women and PoC.

    (Of course you know all that. I’m just underlining the point. ;-) )

  13. says

    The thing is, if this debate was a fluke, if there were plenty of other debates in which they felt that the Christian won the argument, they could have just put up the video, and also put up videos of other debates as well. And that could have gotten their point across that this debate was out of the ordinary. But they didn’t do that.

    Yes but. “Christianity invented the idea of human dignity, and thus the idea of human equality, which is the foundation of true democracy.” That’s the claim.

    Honestly, I think this claim (whether made by Christians or members of any other religion) sounds like religious bigotry. It’s a failure to notice any good contributions to equality and human rights made by people with different or no religious beliefs.

  14. Silentbob says

    I really wouldn’t be surprised if in a hundred years it goes…
    “Christianity invented the idea of human dignity, and thus the idea of human equality… therefore Christianity gave us gay marriage”!
    ;-)

  15. left0ver1under says

    Haught was being very haughty, as are Marshall and that church.

    We’ve seen the same thing many times: theists start losing, so like a petulant child, they cry and take their ball to go home. (See also: quote mining and misrepresentation of “interviews”.) One answer is to start bringing your own ball – or in the case of debates, your own recording equipment. The religious simply can’t be trusted.

    Silentbob (#20) –

    They did the same thing about slavery, about women, about jews, about blacks and civil rights in the US. Why be surprised if they do what you’ve suggested? Rewriting history to make one’s own look like the “good guys” or “victims” is an age old tactic (see also: Japanese school textbook controversies).

  16. beardymcviking says

    @Silentbob #20 – Hundred years? I’d not be surprised to see it in just twenty, surprised not to in fifty.

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