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Mar 17 2013

Freeper Has Blueprint to Convert Atheists

A poster on Free Republic, maybe the craziest wingnut site on the net, has the perfect plan to talk to atheists, especially of the ex-Mormon variety (for some reason). Like Ray Comfort, he likes to invent conversations with straw atheists to make his point seem much stronger:

I used to be intimidated to talk to atheists. They are, in my experience, generally confident about their atheism and have tough questions. But over time I discovered that the average atheist hasn’t read a substantive book defending atheism or theism, and gets his intellectual prowess from…image memes and YouTube. Today, I like to start off conversations with atheists by asking, “Have you ever read a good book defending atheism or theism?” Usually they haven’t. “Have you ever heard any good arguments for the existence of God or the resurrection of Jesus?” Usually they haven’t. “What are the strongest arguments for theism or Christianity, and what about them do you find lacking?” Blank stare. “What do you think are some of the most difficult questions for atheism to answer?” Ughhh…

These are great introductory teaching moments. “Would you mind if I shared a few good arguments for the existence of God and for the resurrection of Jesus?” What an awesome opportunity, especially when it culminates in a presentation of the most beautiful (and true) story in the world: God, yes, God, became a man, suffered with us and for us, and paid our penalty on the humiliating and shameful cross, and showed us the best display of sacrificial love there has ever been, simultaneously vindicating the righteousness of God, raising three days letter, showing us that the Lord Jesus Christ has all authority under heaven and earth and infinite power to keep his promises.

And what devastating argument does he have for us? This one:

My favorite argument for the existence of God is the “moral argument for God.” I push it really hard:

1. If there is no God, there are no objective moral values or duties.

2. There are objective moral values and duties.

3. Therefore, God exists.

But this isn’t an argument for the existence of God, it’s an argument for why he wants a God to exist. Not exactly a compelling position. But for some reason, he has a particular problem with Mormons:

Mormonism already is a form of atheism: it denies the existence of an all-powerful, all-knowing, first, most high God, and instead teaches a kind of naturalism or materialism: everything is matter, even spirits, and everything is subject to eternal laws of ultimate nature, even the gods. It feeds its people conspiracy theories about the corruption of the Bible, and it scares the heck out of Mormons over non-Mormon churches: if you don’t stay with the One True Church, you’ll have to settle for an abominable evangelical church with a corrupt pastor who is a minister of Satan.

Okey dokey.

38 comments

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  1. 1
    Jeremy Shaffer

    If he actually tries to start off talks with atheists with those questions I’m sure he gets blank stares and stutters in response but not for the reasons he thinks. Most likely he gets them because the atheist is trying to determine if he’s mentally deficient and they need to start helping him find his caretaker or if he’s just a moron they don’t need to waste their time with.

  2. 2
    Artor

    I would have a blank stare while I try to think if I’ve ever heard a compelling argument for the existence of Gawd…No, sorry, I’ve got nothing. Oh, that old “objective morality” canard? No, that one doesn’t work either. I thought he was looking for GOOD arguments?

  3. 3
    Alverant

    “If there is no God, there are no objective moral values or duties.”
    Naturally this claim is assumed and not justified. Without it, his case falls apart.

  4. 4
    John Pieret

    There are objective values or duties.

    Then why are there so many different values and duties? Is it objectively moral to kill women who aren’t virgins when they are married? Is it moral to kill Jews because they were “Jesus killers” or because they “poluted ” the master race? “Objective” in this case is simply a synonym for my morals. Even such things as “don’t kill (human) babies,” which is a good evolutionary rule, presupposes that it is a moral good to preserve our species … and, notably, didn’t hold for the Midianites in the Old Testament.

  5. 5
    observer

    To be pedantic, the Moral Argument is an argument for God, just not sound one. In this case there is an implied premise which should be stated along the lines of “objective moral values or duties can only come from God.” Given that, the argument is logically coherent. Where it would fall down is on the validity (or lack of) of the premises.

    Is it true that objective moral values can only come from God? Plato tackled this question pretty effectively well before the birth of Jesus. Is it true that objective values exist? How would you go about establishing this? Needless to say, he doesn’t even try.

  6. 6
    zippythepinhead

    1. If God exists, It necessarily dictates arbitrary morals and duties and thus there can be no objective moral values or duties.
    2. There are objective moral values or duties.
    3. Therefore God does not exist.

  7. 7
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    My favorite argument for the existence of God is the “moral argument for God.” I push it really hard:
    1. If there is no God, there are no objective moral values or duties.
    2. There are objective moral values and duties.
    3. Therefore, God exists.

    That’s his best argument? It’s one of the least-compelling and most easily-refuted arguments around.

    1. Assumption
    2. Undemonstrated
    3. Question successfully begged

    You don’t even have to point out the problem of evil to demonstrate the weakness of this line of argument. It fails at the outset. It’s relatively easy to demonstrate that dictates are not morality, but law. Most theists refer to the collection of rules as “God’s laws,” rather than “God’s morality.” If they did that, the horrendous nature of God’s so-called morality becomes obvious. I mean, murdering women and children and torturing people just to demonstrate that Job was loyal? What kind of morality is that? Calling for the death penalty for wearing mixed-fiber clothing or eating shellfish? Seriously?

    And the subjective nature of morality is also easily demonstrable. (I shall create my own strawversation.)

    Me: “So, name one truly objective moral.”
    Theist: “Murder is bad.”
    Me: “So if you could travel back in time and had the chance to kill Hitler, you wouldn’t?”

    (Now, there are plenty of good reasons not to travel back in time to kill Hitler, but those arguments are based on the cohesion of the universe, not on the act of murder.)

    Of course, I can see the continuation of that conversation:

    Theist: “I wouldn’t murder him. I’d convert him to The Lord and save his soul, and he’d be a good person.”
    Me: *facepalm* “Hitler was a Christian, you bozo.”
    Theist: “Oh. Well, Not a real one.”

  8. 8
    doublereed

    I just don’t understand number one. Why can’t you have an objective morality without God? Where does that come from? That’s just completely random.

  9. 9
    Zeno

    “Have you ever heard any good arguments for the existence of God?”

    “No.”

    “Well, have a listen to the moral argument for God!”

    “Heard it. And the answer is still no.”

  10. 10
    Bronze Dog

    I just don’t understand number one. Why can’t you have an objective morality without God? Where does that come from? That’s just completely random.

    Because authoritarianism. You ask a lot of treasonous questions, friend. Are you… one of THEM?

  11. 11
    raven

    Mormonism already is a form of atheism:

    Nice smear here. Calling Mormons atheists.

    The guy is playing One True Xian cult here.

    I’m sure he could say the same thing about Catholics, JW’s, SDA’s and most of the other 42,000 xian sects.

    When fundie xians get tired of hating their usual targets; gays, women, scientists, Democrats, other religions, nonwhites, the educated, they hate each other.

  12. 12
    Larry

    My atheism comes from…YouTube?

    From what dark area did he pull that out? The main thing I take out from YouTube is that a whole lot of people have way too much time on their hands.

  13. 13
    fifthdentist

    “Have you ever read a good book defending atheism …?”
    Yes, it’s called “The Bible.”

  14. 14
    raven

    If there is no God, there are no objective moral values or duties.

    How do you know the moral values and duites that (supposedly) come from god are worthwhile and good?

    We don’t.

    In fact, modern people and modern xians have rejected most of them.

    Much of what xians claim as xian morality was invented during and after the Enlightenment and is in direct opposition to what is found in the bible. We have rejected polygamy, slavery, and capital punishment for disobedient children, nonvirgin brides, adultery, sabbath breakers, false prophets, apostates, heretics, and atheists. Genocide is now considered an abomination.

    Anyone following an Old Testament lifestyle today would be doing multiple life sentences in prison. Warren Jeffs tried it and got life + 20 years.

  15. 15
    abb3w

    The other questions he challenges atheists with are almost as bad:

    Is there anything you reasonably believe to be true, yet can’t empirically demonstrate?
    Are there any objective moral values or duties?
    Is torturing babies for fun morally objectively wrong?
    Does atheism have a ‘problem of evil’?
    Does every effect have a sufficient cause?
    Do you trust your cognitive faculties? To what extent and why?
    Is an infinite regress possible?
    Is it possible that God exists?
    Is truth important for its own sake?
    Is the question of God’s existence important?
    Do you feel angst or sorrow over the absurdity of life?
    What do you think of the person of Jesus?
    Have you ever heard of the “trilemma”?

    For most of them, responding would bog down in semantics.

  16. 16
    Modusoperandi

    “…and everything is subject to eternal laws of ultimate nature, even the gods.”

    God isn’t? What morality, then?
     
    Larry “My atheism comes from…YouTube?”
    That’s why all atheists believe in sneezing pandas!

  17. 17
    raven

    Have you ever heard of the “trilemma”?

    For most of them, responding would bog down in semantics.

    Oh no!!!

    Not the fake Trilemma!!! There are actually at least 6 possibilities. Liar, lord, lunatic. Or, mistake, misattribution, or mythology.

    The other weak one is Pascal’s wager. Brahma hates Pascal’s wager. Anyone who repeats it, loses a huge amount of merit and gets reincarnated as a tape worm. You can set yourself back by millennia using that one.

    You know anyone bringing up the Trilemma or Pascal’s wager hasn’t ever actually thought about…anything.

  18. 18
    Argle Bargle

    I was an atheist long before YouTube was even a gleam in Hurley, Chen & Karim’s collective eyes. The book which, more than any other, brought me to atheism was the Bible.

  19. 19
    sskinner

    Psst!

    Hey buddy,

    Your claim 3 doesn’t follow EVEN IF THEY ACCEPT 1 & 2!

    Criminy.

  20. 20
    sskinner

    Retract comment 19, the logic flows if you grant the premises. Sorry, I got confused trying to follow his goofy assertions.

  21. 21
    tommykey

    It never seems to occur to these people that a lot of us who are atheists once were very religious people and that our path to atheism did not take place over night but rather was the result of a long process of trying to find answers to questions. For me at least, atheism was the conclusion at the end pf that process.

  22. 22
    Gvlgeologist, FCD

    “maybe the craziest wingnut site on the net”

    Boy, there’s a lot of competition for that!

  23. 23
    Sastra

    They are, in my experience, generally confident about their atheism and have tough questions. But over time I discovered that the average atheist hasn’t read a substantive book defending atheism or theism, and gets his intellectual prowess from…image memes and YouTube. Today, I like to start off conversations with atheists by asking, “Have you ever read a good book defending atheism or theism?” Usually they haven’t. “Have you ever heard any good arguments for the existence of God or the resurrection of Jesus?” Usually they haven’t. “What are the strongest arguments for theism or Christianity, and what about them do you find lacking?” Blank stare. “What do you think are some of the most difficult questions for atheism to answer?” Ughhh…

    I wonder if the gentleman who wrote this has ever considered the deep theological sophistication of the average Christian? I suspect that if I started off conversations with random Christians sitting in coffee shops or walking down the street and asked them “Have you ever read a good book defending atheism or theism?” I’d get a lot of negatives. Same for the other questions.

    Most people — religious or not — are not well-versed in apologetics. They’re focusing on other things in life which have to do with living it. If they are religious then they likely know a few simple arguments like “how did we get here then?” or “if there’s no God then there’s no ___” — but most of them spend their religious time with fellow believers. They don’t go around arguing with atheists or reading Aquinas, Swinburne, and Plantinga. Atheists, being in the minority, have often had to develop better skills — but not always.

    Anybody who thinks they’ve got a firm grasp on the truth because they can easily out-debate the average unprepared opponent forgets that the other side can probably say the same. I’m not saying that this guy has been honest and he’s NOT inventing a lot of straw-man atheists. I’m just pointing out that even if he isn’t — it doesn’t say much. It’s too easy to play philosophical “Gotcha!” when you’re talking about the general public, regardless of the position on God.

    I also found it interesting that apparently hardly any of the atheists he’s talking to have read The God Delusion. It gives me a sneaking suspicion that he’s talking to a pretty young crowd.

  24. 24
    Reginald Selkirk

    “Have you ever heard any good arguments for the existence of God or the resurrection of Jesus?” Usually they haven’t.

    No I haven’t. And I’ve heard them all.

  25. 25
    Reginald Selkirk

    2. There are objective moral values and duties.

    Fer realsies? Like what?
    .
    Why is it that morality tends to be mostly about the sexual behaviour of just one species of mammal? Do we even care how many sexual partners a chimpanzee or a lizard has? And if our morals are so obviously anthropocentric, how can you possibly imagine they are objective?

  26. 26
    Reginald Selkirk

    “What do you think are some of the most difficult questions for atheism to answer?” Ughhh…

    1) What to have for lunch?
    2) Which god to disbelieve in today? There are so many to choose from.

  27. 27
    d.c.wilson

    “Is there anything you reasonably believe to be true, yet can’t empirically demonstrate?”

    Well, I reasonably believe that you have a functioning brain, but I can’t empirically demonstrate it.

    “Are there any objective moral values or duties?”

    Do no harm.

    “Is torturing babies for fun morally objectively wrong?”

    See previous answer.
    BTW, the fact that you even thought of that speaks volumes about your own personal morality.

    “Does atheism have a ‘problem of evil’?”

    No, but a belief in a omnipotent yet benevolent deity does.

    “Does every effect have a sufficient cause?”

    Yes.
    Corollary: Just because we don’t know the exact cause behind everything, does not mean it doesn’t exist.

    “Do you trust your cognitive faculties? To what extent and why?”

    No. The human brain is an imperfect machine and is prone to confabulation and self-delusions (See: Religion).

    “Is an infinite regress possible?”

    Not sure. Don’t see it as a problem with atheism either.

    “Is it possible that God exists?”

    Possible? Yes.
    Probable: No.

    “Is truth important for its own sake?”

    Yes. Which is why we should question everything and not accept something at face value just because a Bronze Age shepherd wrote it down thousands of years ago.

    “Is the question of God’s existence important?”

    Not really.

    “Do you feel angst or sorrow over the absurdity of life?”

    No. Do you?

    “What do you think of the person of Jesus?”

    Never met him.

    “Have you ever heard of the “trilemma”?”

    Yes I have. Why

  28. 28
    cactuswren

    Not the fake Trilemma!!! There are actually at least 6 possibilities. Liar, lord, lunatic. Or, mistake, misattribution, or mythology.

    My favorite thing about the trilemma is that it’s based on an equally false dilemma: “EITHER every word attributed to the man Jesus is to be accepted as True and Right and Good, OR every word attributed to the man Jesus MUST BE REJECTED as False and Wrong and Evil.” With a little dose of poison for the well: “You don’t think Jesus was God? You don’t think Jesus spoke the truth? Then you’re saying YOU think ‘Love thy neighbor’ is no more meaningful or significant than ‘I am a poached egg’!”

  29. 29
    anandine

    Have I ever …? well, yes, including several by Bertrand Russell, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, H.L. Mencken, Stephen Jay Gould, and Robert G. Ingersoll, among others. Thank you for asking.

  30. 30
    The Lorax

    1. If there is no God, there are no objective moral values or duties.

    Let me stop you right there…

  31. 31
    richardelguru

    Don’t knock the Trilemma!
    I once made $40 from a Trilemma!!

  32. 32
    richardelguru

    Oh! No!!
     
    Sorry!
     
    Forget that.
     
    Mine was a trifecta.

  33. 33
    BrianX

    My mother is in long-term home hospice care (as in, she’s not immediately dying but she’s beyond our ability to properly care for) and we have both a priest and a nonsectarian chaplain (a very nice rabbi) come by. The priest amuses the hell out of me when he tries to re-evangelize me, but I think he blew right by the time I told him that a big part of the reason I’m an atheist is because I think the universe simply doesn’t need a god. I would think that would be a very hard position to argue against.

  34. 34
    Stacey C.

    Man, I’d LOVE for him to ask me those questions. Also I *do* watch a fair amount of YouTube atheism and some of it is quite intellectually rigorous.

  35. 35
    Leo Buzalsky

    My favorite argument for the existence of God is the “moral argument for God.” I push it really hard:
    1. If there is no God, there are no objective moral values or duties.
    2. There are objective moral values and duties.
    3. Therefore, God exists.

    I don’t think anyone pointed out the logical flaw. It is affirming the consequent. The first premise would need to be restated to say something like “If there is a God, there are objective moral values or duties” to be valid. But this lacks the emotional manipulation component of scaring people into thinking that the world would be worse than it already is.

  36. 36
    dugglebogey

    If all moral obligations originate from God’s commands, then so must our moral obligation to obey these commands. He commands us to obey his commands. But what is the moral reason to obey that command? An earlier command? What is the reason to obey that?

    Do we have a moral obligation to follow God’s commands because we love him? This implies that we ought to love him. Why? Because he commands it? That’s a circle. Because he’s good? That seems to mean only that he follows his own commands — or else that goodness is a standard independent of God.

  37. 37
    Nemo

    @Sastra #23:

    I also found it interesting that apparently hardly any of the atheists he’s talking to have read The God Delusion. It gives me a sneaking suspicion that he’s talking to a pretty young crowd.

    Or an old one? Sue me, but I’ve never read TGD either. I hear great things about it, but mostly in the context of deconversion stories. Well, I’m 43, and I’ve been an atheist for almost 30 years. I don’t really need any help with that.

  38. 38
    lofgren

    In his word, !p->!q implies q->p.

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