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Feb 28 2013

How to Turn an Atheist Into a Christian

Steve Cable of Probe Ministries has a long essay about how to convert different types of “leavers” — those who were Christian and left for various reasons. It’s all based on a book called Generation Ex-Christian: Why Young Adults Are Leaving the Faith…And How to Bring Them Back by Drew Dyck. And he groups post-modernist and modernist thinkers together, with a strategy for how to convert them back to Christianity:

Postmodern and Modern Leavers

Postmodern thinking is becoming the cultural norm for young adults. The postmodern view holds that there is no objective truth applying to all, but rather each person or group of people defines their own truth. As J. P. Moreland puts it, “In a postmodernist view, there is no such thing as objective truth, reality, value, reason and so forth.”{2} Yet, many young adults still adopt modernity, the dominant view throughout the twentieth century. Those with a modern view believe linear thinking and rational thought can lead us to objective truths valid for all. In his book Generation Ex-Christian, Drew Dyck finds both of these viewpoints create stumbling blocks for belief.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is true for all people in every age. This view runs counter to the “true for you but not for me” mentality of the postmodern generation. Many young adults influenced by postmodern thought have a difficult time accepting the all-encompassing, meta-narrative of the gospel. These leavers believe that Christianity is too narrow and judgmental to be a part of their own truth sphere.

Dyck points out that those with a postmodern perspective are not really interested in hearing your apologetic arguments. Even if you weave a compelling logical argument, they will nod, smile, and ignore you. They need to see the impact of the truth of Jesus lived out in your life before them. Invite them to participate with you in serving others, creating an opportunity to share your story. They are, initially, more interested in your personal story. How has Jesus Christ made a difference in your life?

Conversely, those with a modern perspective are not as interested in your personal story. With moderns, ask questions to understand how they decide if something is true. Model a concern for the truth before laying “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” on their plate. Focus on the truth of the gospel, not letting ourselves get sidetracked into other arenas. How satisfying is their alternative view, and what are the consequences if they are wrong in their perception of truth?

Many modernists report that most Christians hastened their departure from the church through trite, unhelpful answers to the questions they were asking. Be willing to do the research to answer their questions thoughtfully and with confidence. Remember, there are good cogent explanations to their questions and their objections.

No there aren’t. Who offers those cogent answers, exactly? Josh McDowell? Ray Comfort? William Lane Craig? Greg Bahnsen? Sure, Craig and Bahnsen give more sophisticated-sounding answers than McDowell or Comfort, but that doesn’t make them any less nonsensical.

39 comments

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  1. 1
    Bronze Dog

    The postmodern view holds that there is no objective truth applying to all, but rather each person or group of people defines their own truth. As J. P. Moreland puts it, “In a postmodernist view, there is no such thing as objective truth, reality, value, reason and so forth.”

    Sounds like they’re talking about Creationists, not ex-Christians.

  2. 2
    Nick Gotts

    Model a concern for the truth

    Translation: Pretend you care about the truth.

  3. 3
    jamessweet

    Believe it or not, I think Cable is actually making a lot of sense here. He’s ultimately got a major epistemic FAIL on his hands, but there are aspects of the problem that he’s perceiving with a rare cogency. For instance:

    Many modernists report that most Christians hastened their departure from the church through trite, unhelpful answers to the questions they were asking. Be willing to do the research to answer their questions thoughtfully and with confidence.

    Yeah, I can pretty much say that if the attitudes of the religious were more like what Cable is suggesting here, it would have taken me a LOT longer to abandon faith. WAAAAAY longer, and in fact if I had also been part of a community that I actually liked (e.g. UU), and the people I was surrounded with had been able to approach any question with seriousness and careful thought, it’s conceivable I might never have had enough of an impetus to give it up. (I’m guessing I would have, given that eventually I would get around to asking questions about religious dogma that are simply unanswerable… but it’s far from certain)

    Imagine if the response to my inquisitiveness and my willingness to explore complicated questions within the framework of faith had been encouragement and enthusiasm… instead, the response was confusion at best, and more often an outright attempt to shutdown critical thought. Honestly, the result of this was that I despised faith and religion before I had fully formulated my epistemological objections to faith and rejected religious dogma. It was just such obviously shit, or at the very least “not for me”, I didn’t really need to make it all the way through the coherent objections before it was obvious that the whole thing was a crock.

    Ultimately, Cable’s project is doomed to failure, for two reasons: The first is that for many questions, there just are no good, coherent answers. He’s championing an idea that is false, and no amount of improvement in articulating he message will change that. The second reason is actually a result of the first — there inherently cannot be a religious community where entirely unrestrained critical thinking is allowed, and where inquisitiveness and questioning is invariably encouraged. Oh, there are religions that get closer to that ideal… Reform Judaism, UU, Quaker… but ultimately, some questions must be off the table, whether explicitly or by the de facto unwillingness of the congregation to ask, or else the community can’t function indefinitely (what with that whole “being total bullshit” problem…

    So yeah, Cable’s not going to succeed here. But I give him credit nevertheless for identifying some of the correct problems.

  4. 4
    Phillip IV

    The gospel of Jesus Christ is true for all people in every age. This view runs counter to the “true for you but not for me” mentality of the postmodern generation.

    Not really. If there ever was a ‘truth’ that each person or group of persons defines for themselves, it’s that one. It’s perfectly compatible with postmodernism in the way there are several thousand contradictory interpretations of it…

  5. 5
    Gretchen

    There are plenty of postmodern ex-Christians, but they don’t tend to be atheists– at least, not in my experience. Precisely because they are most interested in what is “true for me” as opposed to “true, period,” it’s more likely that they will end up pagan or some other kind of newage. That’s a step along the way to atheism for a lot of people, but if your problem with Christianity is primarily that you view it as sexist or otherwise privileging of worldviews that don’t include your own, and not because it’s false, then you may well end up in a Goddess faith eternally searching for the feminine divine…or some such nonsense.

    Julia Sweeny’s “Letting Go of God” takes a turn into Deepak Chopra territory before she concludes that he’s “full of shit” and proceeds to actually learn about the mind and evolution and become a logic-based atheist. But a lot of people don’t, or fall into a mushy category somewhere in between and stay there– Michael Dowd is a notable one. I once watched him give a talk on “the gospel of evolution” at a conference where Daniel Dennett was also giving a keynote talk. The expressions on the faces of so many anthropologists and psychologists, mostly atheists by far, there to talk about the evolution of religion, was a thing to behold.

  6. 6
    Michael Heath

    Steve Cable writes:

    Postmodern thinking is becoming the cultural norm for young adults. The postmodern view holds that there is no objective truth applying to all, but rather each person or group of people defines their own truth. As J. P. Moreland puts it, “In a postmodernist view, there is no such thing as objective truth, reality, value, reason and so forth.”{2}

    The cite appears to be for the quote within a book, not for the provocative assertions on how postermodern thinking is defined and that it’s, “becoming the cultural norm for young adults”. This reminds me how Allan Bloom led-off The Closing of the American Mind, which was his misrepresentation of young people coming from high school and into his college classroom. Bloom’s assertion also went uncited.

    Steve Cable reveals his talent:

    Focus on the truth of the gospel [1], not letting ourselves get sidetracked into other arenas. How satisfying is their alternative view [2], and what are the consequences if they are wrong in their perception of truth? [3]

    That’s a lot of fallacies in one mere sentence.
    1] It’s a lie to claim the gospel presents truth since there is zero evidence to validate the claims which distinguish it. It’s also a lie relative to what we objectively understand and have validated as true which contradicts his, “truth”.
    2] The comfort, utility, or aesthetic beauty of one’s beliefs do not necessarily correlate to objective truth.
    3] Another idiot who can’t discern the fallacy of Pascal’s wager, i.e., there are not two choices but near-countless choices, with many competing choices even within Christian where one sect claims hell for other sects. All of which suffer from the same amount of evidence on the veracity of their beliefs – zero.

  7. 7
    Marcus Ranum

    Many modernists report that most Christians hastened their departure from the church through trite, unhelpful answers to the questions they were asking.

    Like William Lane Craig’s “because, god said so” response to the problem of evil and god’s prediliction for ethnic cleansing?

  8. 8
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    The mere fact that the problem is so bad that they are now writing books with advice about how to bring people back to the faith is enough to cheer me up greatly :) “These leavers believe that Christianity is too narrow and judgmental to be a part of their own truth sphere”, you’re damn straight it is. Maybe start with making it not so narrow and judgemental?

    Also, “Drew Dyck”. Is everyone else assuming Dyck is pronounced the way I am?

  9. 9
    Reginald Selkirk

    How satisfying is their alternative view,

    Because people who are concerned about what is actually true will probably be swayed by fantasies that are more satisfying.

    and what are the consequences if they are wrong in their perception of truth?

    “Pascal’s fucking Wager. Game over. This is confirmation that you are talking to an idiot.

  10. 10
    Wes

    Dyck discovered a surprisingly large number of Neo-pagan leavers. Neo-pagans have gravitated to the beliefs that they are ultimately gods living in a society where the earth is to be nourished and women are as important, if not more so, than men.

    Women as important as men??? Shock!!! Horror!!!

    The fact that he felt the need to point this out as if it’s something alien or unheard of says quite a bit about the intended audience for this piece.

  11. 11
    Marcus Ranum

    Postmodern thinking is becoming the cultural norm for young adults. The postmodern view holds that there is no objective truth applying to all, but rather each person or group of people defines their own truth.

    Other than strawman postmodernists and the more extreme “bullshit artist” forms of postmodernism, there are milder versions that don’t claim there’s no objective truth, but rather question what is objective truth and what is merely opinion. That’s actually very very important for combatting entrenched cultural ideas like patriarchy and religion. Aside from the shock jock postmodernists it’s important to expose the idea that a huge number of “truths” are cultural and have no objective basis.

    That’s why authoritarians and the religious can’t stand “cultural relativism” (though they practice it enthusiastically) – it defeats their favorite argument, “I’m right and you’re not” by encouraging people to sort opinion and artifact from fact.

  12. 12
    unbound

    Even if you weave a compelling logical argument…

    I literally laughed out loud on that one coming from a xtian.

    Overall, the premise is likely wrong. Young adults are more likely leaving due to the outright lies and hypocrisy than any “post-modernist” philosophy.

  13. 13
    Gregory in Seattle

    “Even if you weave a compelling logical argument, they will nod, smile, and ignore you.”

    Mainly because “Turn or burn” is not a compelling, logical argument.

  14. 14
    tacitus

    Cable is whistling in the wind. Surveys over the last several decades that by the time a generation reaches adulthood, its (non-)religious beliefs are pretty much set in stone from then on. Sure, some individuals will always find religion later in life, but that will be balanced out by the people who lose theirs.

    At this stage, it’s pretty much all down to a battle for the hearts and minds of America’s teenagers, and currently, Cable’s team might still be ahead, but they are losing a lot of ground, and fast.

  15. 15
    mvemjsun

    “Even if you weave a compelling logical argument” when have the ever wove a “logical argument”?

  16. 16
    Kevin

    This is one of those “don’t you want to live forever in heaven?” Christians. The straight answer is “no”. The only slightly longer answer is “it’s quite immature of you to believe in such a thing.”

    My “alternate view” is very satisfying, thank you very much.

    No god, no soul, no afterlife, no judgement, no heaven, no hell, no purgatory, no limbo, no reincarnation, no transmitting my soul to another planet, no Hades, no ghostly visitations to my living relatives or an old house, no arising again as a zombie, no nothing not one single thing after my brain has stopped working.

    It’s crudely childish to wish for some post-death existence.

    Is that modern or post-modern?

  17. 17
    DaveL

    Model a concern for the truth before laying “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” on their plate. Focus on the truth of the gospel, not letting ourselves get sidetracked into other arenas. How satisfying is their alternative view, and what are the consequences if they are wrong in their perception of truth?

    To put it more simply:

    Pretend to care about what’s true – but concentrate on how different alternatives make you feel rather than the evidence. If that doesn’t work, use threats.

  18. 18
    Michael Heath

    Re Cable’s claim on young people increasingly adopting his definition of postmodernism. The book Cable cites doesn’t allow Amazon users to paste in a quote from the book to reference it; so I have no way of verifying it’s backed by evidence. However I’m skeptical given this description of the book Cable cites:

    [Drew] Dyck’s book [Generation Ex-Christian: Why Young Adults Are Leaving the Faith . . . And How to Bring Them Back] is not primarily driven by general survey data. Instead, it tells a more personal story.

    I also got a kick out of how this Christian dealt with one of the topics Christians struggle to confront, why a subset of young people who abandon their faith do so for reasons having to do with objective truth:

    Modern leavers — those who believe only what they can prove and Neo-Darwinism seems more provable

    Cable shows his ignorance on how we optimally approach the discovery of objective truth by misusing the word ‘prove’. It’s amusing watching him demonstrate his tribe’s obsessive inability to confront the fact of common descent. Bob Altemeyer’s work better describes this particular set and why the rejected authoritarianism and therefore conservative Christianity. In The Authoritarians Altemeyer reports his surveys found young people indoctrinated to be conservative Christians were relentlessly pounded at church and home on how important the truth was. Some of the highly intelligent ones accepted the extreme importance of truth, tested the factual claims of their religion, and found the key premises either false, lacking any evidence, and frequently – incoherent and contradictory.

    I doubt Messers Cable or Dyck have a credible rebuttal for this dilemma. Instead they paint those who seek objective truth who dismiss their beliefs because they’re not true as just another religionist – i.e., his use of the term ‘Darwinist’. That’s always ironic because he’s effectively demeaning how he finds truth with his dishonest attempt to bring science down to his level as just another religion / ‘ism’. He’s also acting as a relativist with zero compunction to actually adapt his position to what’s objective true, but instead acting as the very post-modernist he disparages.

  19. 19
    Strewth

    I like how he unilaterally discounts all the civilizations that predate Christianity.

  20. 20
    oranje

    If I threw the term “discourse community” at them, would they be able to handle it? I mean, this notion that morality is either absolute or it is individually defined is such a dichotomy of fail, it’s painful. If you can’t understand the prevailing philosophical movements of an age, it’s a fair bet you shouldn’t be trying to argue against them like you know them.

  21. 21
    Akira MacKenzie

    Marcus Ranum @ 7

    Remember, God is the ultimate good even when he commits or commands what we mere mortals would think is unspeakable evil, his morality is objectively true and absolute even after he changes his mind, and not only can he create a rock so heavy he can’t lift it, but he can also bench press it with ease.

  22. 22
    eric

    It’s crudely childish to wish for some post-death existence.

    Assuming my faculties don’t degenerate, I could get behind the idea of a few more decades. Also the idea of regular optional extensions – i.e, ask me again later if I still want to keep going. But there’d have to be some sort of reasonable opt-out clause before I signed up for eternity, and Christianity doesn’t appear to have one. And, of course, what I might occasionally daydream about has little to do with what I think is actually true or how I’m going to act. I also daydream about how nice it would be to win the lottery…but I don’t go out and buy a ticket because of it.

  23. 23
    hunter

    Wes, @10:

    Dyck discovered a surprisingly large number of Neo-pagan leavers. Neo-pagans have gravitated to the beliefs that they are ultimately gods living in a society where the earth is to be nourished and women are as important, if not more so, than men.

    I assume that quote is from Cable. If so, it’s clear he knows nothing about neo-Paganism, especially from his statement “they are ultimately gods.” Maybe it makes him feel better to think that, but it has nothing to do with reality.

  24. 24
    Bronze Dog

    On “thoughtful” answers, the internet skeptics I talked with demonstrated their blunt dissatisfaction with faith and postmodern shrugging. They didn’t want to be placated, patronized, or pandered to. (Yay, alliteration!) They wanted demonstrable, useful, accurate answers. I knew that if I wanted to make an argument for the stuff I was wishfully thinking about, they’d keep me honest with myself in the attempt. Eventually, they won me over as they helped me filled in the gaps in my knowledge, specifically philosophy of mind, the state of neurology, and the problems with substance dualism. They also got me out of the rut of being satisfied with “could be” and moved me towards wanting answers to be probable, not merely possible.

    Science was going places, they wanted to share the passion and curiosity, and they were more open and honest. I was bored with the spiritualists’ deepities and walking around in circles.

    Focus on the truth of the gospel, not letting ourselves get sidetracked into other arenas. How satisfying is their alternative view, and what are the consequences if they are wrong in their perception of truth?

    So, which is it? Is it about truth, or is it about wishful thinking? Is it about using objective measures and logic to search for truthful conclusions, or is it about creating fear and insecurity as a means to dishonestly scare someone towards a particular conclusion? Make up your mind, Mr. Cable.

    Oh, and the ends do not justify the means. You don’t threaten someone with eternal, purposeless torture as a means of obtaining agreement. You monster.

  25. 25
    Michael Heath

    jamessweet writes:

    I think Cable is actually making a lot of sense here. He’s ultimately got a major epistemic FAIL on his hands, but there are aspects of the problem that he’s perceiving with a rare cogency. For instance [sweet quotes Cable]:
    Many modernists report that most Christians hastened their departure from the church through trite, unhelpful answers to the questions they were asking. Be willing to do the research to answer their questions thoughtfully and with confidence.

    [back to Sweet's comments]Yeah, I can pretty much say that if the attitudes of the religious were more like what Cable is suggesting here, it would have taken me a LOT longer to abandon faith. WAAAAAY longer, and in fact if I had also been part of a community that I actually liked (e.g. UU), and the people I was surrounded with had been able to approach any question with seriousness and careful thought, it’s conceivable I might never have had enough of an impetus to give it up. (I’m guessing I would have, given that eventually I would get around to asking questions about religious dogma that are simply unanswerable… but it’s far from certain)

    Imagine if the response to my inquisitiveness and my willingness to explore complicated questions within the framework of faith had been encouragement and enthusiasm… instead, the response was confusion at best, and more often an outright attempt to shutdown critical thought. Honestly, the result of this was that I despised faith and religion before I had fully formulated my epistemological objections to faith and rejected religious dogma. It was just such obviously shit, or at the very least “not for me”, I didn’t really need to make it all the way through the coherent objections before it was obvious that the whole thing was a crock.

    Ultimately, Cable’s project is doomed to failure, for two reasons: The first is that for many questions, there just are no good, coherent answers. He’s championing an idea that is false, and no amount of improvement in articulating he message will change that. The second reason is actually a result of the first — there inherently cannot be a religious community where entirely unrestrained critical thinking is allowed, and where inquisitiveness and questioning is invariably encouraged. Oh, there are religions that get closer to that ideal… Reform Judaism, UU, Quaker… but ultimately, some questions must be off the table, whether explicitly or by the de facto unwillingness of the congregation to ask, or else the community can’t function indefinitely (what with that whole “being total bullshit” problem…

    So yeah, Cable’s not going to succeed here. But I give him credit nevertheless for identifying some of the correct problems.

    Your points are all good ones and your overall argument is both excellent and insightful, so much so I hated editing down that which I respond to here; so I quoted you in full. You certainly earned a repeat.

    There is another aspect worth mentioning here though. And that’s the fact that while Cable is promoting a more credible approach to answering tough questions, he in no way employs that method here and even demonstrates he’s ignorant of the mechanics of that method. He’s just another wingnut incapable of constructing an argument free of false premises and logical fallacies. Hopefully, he might be one with a chance of evolving if he ever cared to educate himself on the basics of critical thinking, along with the processes academics and scientists use to publish and promote facts and ideas.

  26. 26
    rowanvt

    How do they plan to overcome my feeling that the god they follow is *evil*?

  27. 27
    Sastra

    With moderns … Focus on the truth of the gospel, not letting ourselves get sidetracked into other arenas. How satisfying is their alternative view, and what are the consequences if they are wrong in their perception of truth?

    How ironic — his second sentence actually contradicts his first.

    So you’re approaching a modernist — a new atheist, say. We start with the idea that you’re supposed to focus on truth and truth alone: does God exist? Is the supernatural real? Is Christianity true? Okay. So how do you do this and not get sidetracked into some other arena, an area other than objective, truth-seeking empirical inquiry?

    Ask them if an atheistic universe is personally satisfying to them. And then appeal to their fear of pain.

    Umm.. those are sidetracks, Cable. Those are distractions from what you yourself just admitted was the main point — is it true? Not is it useful, is it fulfilling, is it satisfying, is it a “safer” shot in the dark. Jeezus. You can’t even be consistent with your own basic premise.

    The weird thing about his attack on postmodernism is that the pop pomo view he’s dealing with is a throwback to religious thinking and one of the quickest and easiest refuges in modern apologetics. “Everything is faith. You can’t know anything or be sure of anything at all so we work on faith all the time. You have faith in your doctor; you have faith in your spouse; you have faith in the value of life; you have faith in the existence of the sun. How can we be assured that we’re not all brains in vats or stuck in the Matrix? Faith. We need it. We all just pick and choose what we believe according to our individual nature.”

    And now that everything is leveled down to undifferentiated mush then believing in God is no more unreasonable than believing in trees. The only difference between the Christian apologist and the postmodern ecumenicism is that the first one announces that relying on a God you can count on is the only way to rescue yourself from the confusion — and the second group insists that respecting all “paths” is the only way to rescue yourself from the confusion. But both groups love the chaos they create because they rely on it. Philosopher Stephen Law calls it “going nuclear.” Destroy the possibility of any reliable knowledge whatsoever in order to grant a bad argument equal status with a good one. Blow up the world — and take reason along with it.

    There’s a reason atheists don’t insist that atheism is a “faith.” It’s because we don’t need the protection; we don’t need the ability to play these sorts of mind games. And the fact that Christianity IS a faith is going to turn Cable’s advice to “be willing to do the research to answer their questions thoughtfully and with confidence” into a losing strategy. Take it seriously and that will backfire. We know.

    I mean, come on. The modern perspective has a scientific temper. If there really were “good cogent explanations to their questions and their objections” then you wouldn’t have to make the big song and dance about how Christianity is a faith and you just got to make that leap and believe and think of the consequences if you don’t and think how keen and peachy if you do. The case would stand on its own intellectual merits. You wouldn’t have to have a lot of helpful people pushing it by making sure everyone gets sidetracked into other arenas.

  28. 28
    catbutler

    Focus on the truth of the gospel [1], not letting ourselves get sidetracked into other arenas. How satisfying is their alternative view [2], and what are the consequences if they are wrong in their perception of truth? [3]

    I’m not so sure any of the above is different from what Christians almost always do:
    1 – Cite the bible to prove the bible
    2 – You can’t be truly happy without Jesus.
    3 – If you’re wrong, you’ll go to hell.

    Sounds like the same old crap to me.

  29. 29
    Bronze Dog

    These leavers believe that Christianity is too narrow and judgmental to be a part of their own truth sphere.

    Clearly inapplicable to me. I left Christianity because it wasn’t narrow or judgmental enough. They were happy to tolerate evils like genocide, racism, sexism, religious persecution, censorship, torture, rape, deceit, mind control, and televangelism. Where are the standards? They paid lip service to them, but they didn’t actually try to enforce them to any level I could discern back then.

    The only time they were too narrow and judgmental was with regard to non-rape sex, which is what I believe Freud described as a “negative perversion.” It’s an unhealthy obsession that hurts people for no justifiable reason.

  30. 30
    Howard Bannister

    @jamessweet:

    You’re absolutely right. This was me, too. I started asking questions, trying to find those ‘deeper truths’ and ‘sophisticated theology’ that explained everything. And the deeper I dug, the worse those around me reacted. Just believe! Ignore your doubts! Stop questioning!

    At first I thought I was just among a bad batch of believers. It took me a while to realize that it was the only kind of believers. Because if they couldn’t squelch that bad independent thought, then they were doomed. Doomed!!

    Doomed to see through the lies and hypocrisies.

  31. 31
    David Marjanović

    That bit about postmodernism is so fascinating. It’s such a transparent projection! They are the ones who believe “there is no truth, so let’s pick something and try to believe it lest our minds turn to Lovecraftian chaos”.

    Is everyone else assuming Dyck is pronounced the way I am?

    Nope. In the original Dutch at least, it’d usually be spelled Dijk without the confusing c, and pronounced with “eye”.

    I left Christianity because it wasn’t narrow or judgmental enough.

    Just wanted to quote this.

  32. 32
    abb3w

    The Rise of the Nones has become obvious enough (and publicized enough) to begin to penetrate the conservative evangelical reality bubble, and to even prod some of them into trying to study it.

    However, my impression is that their study is hampered by trying to force the phenomena into narratives and categories they’re familiar with. They seem to be paying more attention to their own preconceptions than to actual observation — which impedes them in developing effective approaches for re-converting of the deconverted.

  33. 33
    kermit.

    Hmmm. It only took me a few years of pre-teen thought to realize that the Southern Baptists I was growing up with were terrified of objective truth such as science. Their moral code consisted entirely of loyalty to their lord, whose commands were unpredictable and frequently horrifying. Moreover, they seemed to be of the opinion (apparently correct for them) that they could believe something based on how much they wanted it to be true. A horrifying, amoral, nihilistic morass.
    .
    Sorry, Cable. If you want to talk about objective truth, you had better start at the fundamentals – show me evidence for gods of any sort. If you want to talk of satisfaction, I’ll tell you that I find little more distasteful than the sight of people living a life of self-delusion, based apparently on their fear of death or tribal loyalty. And if you dare bring up morality, I will point out the nature of the monster you serve – he is both evil and imaginary.
    .
    If you want peace of mind, then bid me good morning and ask about the garden. Don’t bring up your fancies built on fear if you don’t want to be discomfited.

  34. 34
    Michael Heath

    abb3w writes:

    . . . my impression is that their [evangelicals] study is hampered by trying to force the phenomena into narratives and categories they’re familiar with. They seem to be paying more attention to their own preconceptions than to actual observation — which impedes them in developing effective approaches for re-converting of the deconverted.

    They’ve always been comfortable addressing so-called backsliders. As one raised to be fundie which never really took, I also vividly remember the avoidance and denial of those who abandoned their faith through reason and evidence. I’m pleasantly surprised Drew Dyck ascends to this level with this observational concession, albeit still a dishonest defective description of this group:

    Modern leavers — those who believe only what they can prove and Neo-Darwinism seems more provable

  35. 35
    Ace of Sevens

    THis si a common affliction of modern Christians. They complain that other peopel don’t believe in objective truth (my dad goes so far as to claim the diea of objective truth is an inherrantly Christian idea and is absent from pre-Christian philosophies, an idea he got from Francis Schaeffer), but when pressed, they don’t believe in objective truth at all. They only believe in whatever God says, which isn’t required to be consistent with anything else. They need to do this to deal with the Bible’s odd morality and various mismatches with the known facts.

  36. 36
    raven

    The Rise of the Nones has become obvious enough (and publicized enough) to begin to penetrate the conservative evangelical reality bubble, and to even prod some of them into trying to study it.

    What probably did that is..Money!!!

    Or lack of it. Their intake of loot is down. For all they claim to want to save your soul, they always seem far more interested in getting paid for it.

    What they don’t get is that they caused the rise of the Nones. Fundie xians make more atheists in a day than Dawkins and Myers do in a year. The hate, lies, hypocrisy, craziness, and xian terrorism just isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

    The fundie xians seem to be getting worse too. More lies, more craziness, more vicious, more hate. When everything started going wrong with their religion, they just doubled down.

  37. 37
    tacitus

    What makes things tough for them is that there are as many “objective truths” about God as there are believers. Once you have distilled it down to only the things the vast majority of Christians can agree on, you’re left with little more than a deistic idea of a creator god to whom some level of devotion should be accorded.

    I read the whole article, and frankly, see nothing new there, not that I was expecting anything. They can’t change the message, so they’re left with trying to find new ways to convey it, to tailor it to as many scenarios they can dream up. But even that requires them to be connected with reality, and while they are still talking about “culturally captivity” and people wanting to “spit in the eye of God” you know that’s not going to happen.

    Just like right-wing conservatives who believe that a majority of people will vote for them if only they can get the messaging right, they just don’t get it, and probably never will.

  38. 38
    martinc

    I think Cable’s efforts are doomed. Trying to get his churchgoers to argue the Bible with atheists is going to quickly hit the roadblock that most of his churchgoers don’t actually know the Bible. Probably better just to have them stick to the traditional psychotic ranting.

  39. 39
    John Horstman

    Oh FFS, the factor linking various postmodern epistemologies isn’t that there is no objective truth (this was popular decades ago), but that context matters. Functionally, the claim is that cultural context constructs how we can think about things and interpret them, such that – while there may or may not be an objective truth – it’s impossible for any individual person to observe objective truth. Personal experience is always situated in a particular historical-cultural context (discourse), and it is thus always subjective.

    For a really striking experimental example, check this out: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2011/08/15/bbc-do-you-see-what-i-see-colors/ While most of our eyes respond to different wavelengths of light in similar ways, our brains’ interpretations of these responses are socially constructed, to the extent that we are actually able to perceive only certain differences in color, dependent upon how we culturally construct color differentiations. The observation that context bounds (and in some cases entirely determines) how we experience reality has become wildly popular because it’s true. The term “postmodern” is certainly over-used, though technically it just refers to any models or concepts in academia, art, and other cultural products that developed after Modernist models. Except for some stragglers*, most of academia has adopted postmodern models, frames, perspectives, etc. Wooy visions of reality as The Matrix aside, postmodern epistemologies mostly boil down to various applications of social constructivism, and really aren’t terribly controversial.

    *A lot of them are in the ‘hard sciences’, where people frequently forget that they’re constructing simplified models of how reality works and instead think that they’re Discovering Truth. Such scientists really don’t like it when one points out that, for example, the electron is a cultural construct – it’s an abstracted model meant to stand in for actual reality as a simpler concept that’s easier to work with but still functionally predictive and descriptive in the ways important to its intended use, while the reality of the electron is simply the particle/energy/force/whatever (all of those are constructs as well: language functions by analogy, so it’s turtles all the way down, but hopefully you get the idea) that exists and does stuff in actual reality. That it’s a historically-culturally contextualized model SHOULD be abundantly clear, given how the development of quantum mechanics changed perceptions of and thus models for fundamental particles, but then people have weird cognitive biases.

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