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Dec 11 2013

How Not to Share the Gospel

Greg Stier, who fancies himself something of an expert on proselytizing, has a column in Charisma News explaining to his fellow Christians how to witness to atheists. He uses a conversation he had with an atheist on a plane and gets some things rather annoying wrong. Like this:

2. Listen deeply for the real “why.” Often atheists have a reason (other than “reason”) for becoming atheists. Listen for it. Sometimes it’s anger over losing a loved one. Other times it’s that they were hurt by the church in some way. But often there’s a “why” behind the lie they are embracing.

In John 4, Jesus masterfully attacked the why behind the lie the woman at the well was embracing. She was not an atheist but a hedonist who thought that satisfaction could be found if she finally found the right guy. But Jesus offers her living water to satisfy her deepest needs and, finally, her thirst was fully quenched.

James shared with me about his upbringing in England and his regular attendance at the Church of England. He told me about how his wife had left him and how he could only see his kids every other weekend. James shared how he reads at least a book a week and how he loses himself in novels.

As he shared, I couldn’t quite nail down why he was an atheist, but I could sense that he was a lonely man. My heart went out to him, and I think he could sense my sympathy.

More likely he sensed your condescension and presumptuousness. This notion that all atheists are wounded or broken or had some terrible experience that explains why they’re really not a believer is incredibly annoying and offensive. Yes, there are some who have had experiences that helped push them away from the church. But a whole lot of us just decided, after a great deal of study and reflection, that it wasn’t true. And the more you dig and presume that we must have some secret tragedy that explains why we don’t believe what you do, the angrier I am likely to get at you.

4. Assume that, down deep inside, they do believe in God. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who genuinely rejects the existence of God. Sure, I’ve met many who have claimed God’s existence to be a lie, but I’m convinced that, down deep inside, they really do believe there’s a God.

Why do I believe that? Because Scripture makes it clear in Romans 1:18-21 that there are no real atheists:

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

They may try to suppress their belief in God, but sooner or later in the discussion, atheists say something like, “Well, if God is so good, then why does He allow … ?” This is the point in the conversation where they have “forgotten” their atheism and revealed some of their challenges with not the reality of God but the nature of God.

No, you dolt. That’s called a hypothetical question. It’s testing the logic of your position, not an admission that deep down in our “heart of hearts” (or whatever annoying bullshit phrase you use) we really do believe in God. And there are few things that will get me angry faster than trying to tell me what I really believe. Presumption is not cognition.

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  1. 1
    Crimson Clupeidae

    Without clicking on the link, I’m going to guess that they don’t allow comments over there? (Or worse, they require registration, which is a guarantee of religious spam….?)

  2. 2
    Alverant

    “Scripture makes it clear in Romans 1:18-21 that there are no real atheists”
    The fact such a passage exists tells me that not even christians feel deep down their religion is true. Why else would it include such a built-in defense against that notion. The scripture doth protest too much me thinks.

    See Stier, two can play that game.

  3. 3
    Loqi

    Why do I believe that? Because Scripture makes it clear in Romans 1:18-21 that there are no real atheists:

    Are there real Hindus? Or do they secretly believe in god too?

  4. 4
    Tabby Lavalamp

    You’d think that if people REALLY believed in “God” and “Heaven”, funerals would be full of joy at someone finally getting to paradise.

    Yeah, two can play at the “what you really believe” game…

  5. 5
    tubi

    Re #1

    They do allow comments, there are hundreds, although I didn’t read through them. They don’t moderate prior to publication, but do reserve the right to edit or delete comments after the fact.

    There terms also include these gems, posted in sequence:

    Do not question others’ faith just because you disagree with them. It adds nothing to the discussion and only causes strife.

    Do not question why someone comes to this website just because they disagree with you or the content of the article.

    So, we can’t question their faith in the comments, but they can question ours if they sit next to us on an airplane. Fuck that.

  6. 6
    eric

    He uses a conversation he had with an atheist on a plane..

    I might not believe in God, but these sorts of events, the TSA, and 12-hour flight delays leave me pretty open to the idea of Satan.

  7. 7
    raven

    Look at it on the bright side.

    With his approach, he is going to make more atheists, not more xians.

    I haven’t gotten around to sharing the Good News about Thor. But Thor and the Aesir got rid of the Frost Giants and keep them away. They must exist because no one has seen a Frost Giant in centuries.

  8. 8
    Al Dente

    Assume that, down deep inside, they do believe in God. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who genuinely rejects the existence of God.

    This is one of the most annoying things that theists like to say. Come on Stier, you really deep down believe that Cthulhu exists and the only reason you claim Jesus is god is you think that’ll cause Cthulhu to eat you first.

  9. 9
    raven

    Yes, there are some who have had experiences that helped push them away from the church. But a whole lot of us just decided, after a great deal of study and reflection, that it wasn’t true.

    For me, it was colliding with the creationists and forced birthers. People that messed up called the whole religion into question. Reading the bible helped a lot. What a kludgy, horrible, and pointess anthology.

    US xianity is losing around 2 million people a year. A lot of it is due to the ugliness of the christofascists. Like Gred Stier. If he really wants to know why US xianity is dying, all he and his cohort have to do is…look in a mirror!!!

  10. 10
    iknklast

    I’m never sure which is worse, people like this or liberal Christians who ask me what I believe, and when I tell them I’m an atheist, say, Oh, no, you mean agnostic, don’t you? If I meant agnostic, I would have said agnostic. But they know I’m a nice person (at least most of the time ;-) ) so they assume I can’t be atheist, because we all know atheists are not nice people.

  11. 11
    richardelguru

    raven
    Actually we had one down here in Dallas just the other week…
     
    Well there has to be some reason for the roads at the moment

  12. 12
    Michael Heath

    If we presume Greg Stier is an actual expert relative to other Christian proselytizers, imagine how bad the median proselytizer is.

  13. 13
    raven

    raven
    Actually we had one down here in Dallas just the other week…

    Well there has to be some reason for the roads at the moment

    Yeah, I know what you mean. Even in parts of the Bay area, it has been frosty in the morning. Hard on the orange trees.

    It’s been that way all over the USA, the west coast included.

    I’m going totally off topic here because it is bothering me. While it is almost record cold between SF and the Canadian border, it has been very warm in…Alaska. A few days ago it was 32 in Anchorage and 27 in Pt. Barrow, the northermost Alaskan city.

    WTH, it is warmer in Alaska than the Pacific Northwest and Northern California. This is strange. My theory is that the cold air normally bottled up in the Arctic is flowing down south. And being replaced by temperate air moving north.

    This is a prediction of some global warming models. Winter air circulation patterns change such that the Arctic warms much faster than rest of the earth. Meaning that Arctic cold has to go somewhere and it goes south. This may be a new normal.

    I don’t know enough about climatology to telll how reasonable this is though.

  14. 14
    Modusoperandi

    I’m sick and tired of these mother fuckin’ atheists on this mother fuckin’ plane!

    And there are few things that will get me angry faster than trying to tell me what I really believe.

    You’re just saying that because you don’t think you believe in the God you really believe in.

    eric “might not believe in God, but these sorts of events, the TSA, and 12-hour flight delays leave me pretty open to the idea of Satan.”
    Satan’s evil, but he’s not that evil. His power is trickery, not scheduling. Only the Lord can do that, as it says in Paul’s Epistle to LAX.

  15. 15
    Michael Heath

    If Christians were currently in development of a new holy book, I think it’s probable they publish the following two stories. One would be the atheist in the plane unable to respond to the convincing (not) argument of the Christian.

    The second would be the Christian student refuting the atheist professor in a lecture; where countless strawmen would be slayed in the process.

    Perhaps the biggest irony of Christianity is its claim to be objectively true coupled to Christians predominately avoiding any credible scrutiny of their faith; all amplified by their utter dependence on the most rudimentary logical and rhetorical fallacies.

  16. 16
    Modusoperandi

    Michael Heath “If we presume Greg Stier is an actual expert relative to other Christian proselytizers, imagine how bad the median proselytizer is.”
    I don’t have to imagine it. My median proselytizer is pretty bad. It never recovered after I strained it playing basketball.

  17. 17
    bionichips

    I went to the site and read maybe the 1st 150 comments. My opinion is that we our side (the non-believers) gave much better than we received. Had you just looked at the comments you would have thought there was a very good chance that this was an atheist web site.

    Please read before judging.

  18. 18
    Michael Heath

    Ed writes:

    And there are few things that will get me angry faster than trying to tell me what I really believe.
    [Heath bolded]

    I’m not all that comfortable getting into verbal exchanges about these matters. Instead I prefer written exchanges for a list of reasons where most of us here could develop a similar list.

    What’s recently stopped such verbal discussions in their tracks when the Christian raises the topic of belief is the following. I’ve only used it a handful of times, and plan to continue given its success rate to date:

    I abandoned belief as a way of thinking a long time ago. Rejecting belief and faith as juvenile thinking defects is part of the ongoing work I’ve done in hopes of becoming a smarter, wiser person. Instead I now make conclusions based on facts. The more facts and the broader consensus by the relevant experts of how to explain those facts, the more confident I am in my conclusions.

  19. 19
    Abby Normal

    It may be interesting to note that deep down inside Greg Stier believes there is no god. In 2007 he wrote:

    If there is no God then there is no heaven and no hope, just the hell and hopelessness of everyday living in a pain-stained world.

    This is the point in the article where he has “forgotten” his faith and revealed some of his challenges with not the absence of gods but with finding meaning in his life.

  20. 20
    Michael Heath

    Greg Stier via Abby Normal @ 19:

    If there is no God then there is no heaven and no hope, just the hell and hopelessness of everyday living in a pain-stained world.

    Thirty-some years ago when my family became aware of my abandoning religion, a couple of relatives were constantly foisting books on me that “proved” the existence of the Christian god. You’ve all heard the top ones (Josh McDowell, Lee Stroebel).

    Of course these weren’t books that convinced them, they never read them which is par for this type of book. But instead acknowledging the mere existence of such books “by experts” proved their beliefs, along with serving as a method of rebuttal to arguments against belief they couldn’t refute. Which was why I got these books, they attempted to stop me from “backsliding” (I didn’t), I countered why I’d left the church, they couldn’t coherently respond to my arguments and acknowledged such. Thus these books.

    There was one book from that period (1980s/1990s) that was supposed to be the icing on the cake. It was written by a PhD who IIRC was from India; I forget his name. It wasn’t Deepek Chopra though he followed a similar tack, claiming to use science to prove the Christian god. One of his leading arguments in this book, a book that was supposed to prove God using scientific means, was exactly what Abby Normal and I quote above. This is the level of stupidity of Christian apologists, not the laymen, but the ones getting paid and becoming popular for their arguments.

  21. 21
    jnorris

    I have a ‘Why’ question for Mr Stier: If there is a Christian god as described by many evangelicals, then why do so many True Christians ™ need the state and federal governments to force the False Christians and non-belivers to worship their god?

  22. 22
    Modusoperandi

    Michael Heath “This is the level of stupidity of Christian apologists, not the laymen, but the ones getting paid and becoming popular for their arguments.”
    Why would they need to be smart? They don’t need to be competent, or right, or honest. Apologetics isn’t a gateway helping skeptics and non-believers in; it’s a wall keeping in the already convinced (and the slipping-but-really-want-to-be-convinced). As such, they don’t need to be good; they just need to be good enough.

    And that it didn’t work on you doesn’t make them stupid. It clearly points to your rebellion from God. (/me sits down beside you in airplane) Perhaps it’s because someone in your church led you astray, perhaps by giving you an unconvincing apologetics text? (/me digs in bag) Here’s one by Lee Strobel that comes highly recommended…

  23. 23
    suttkus

    God is love, so if you believe in love, then you believe in God!

    Similarly, Thor is thunder, so if you believe in Thunder, then you believe in Thor.

  24. 24
  25. 25
    fmitchell

    “Well, if God is so good, then why does He allow … ?”

    … isn’t evidence that atheists really believe in a god. It is evidence, however, that the subjunctive mood has all but disappeared from English.

    Oh, and we’re all “broken” in some way. That’s Confidence Trickery 101. Perhaps the more “broken” of us have of necessity become better at spotting cracks in society’s facade. Spotting parental hypocrisy or fundamental injustice is the gateway to noticing the unspoken and unsupportable axioms of religion.

  26. 26
    abb3w

    Steir’s theory may be unsound in underpinnings, yet tend relatively effective in its proselytizing application — at least compared to some others that Christians use. Which seems a rather pragmatic way of defining a pragmatic sense of “expert”.

    My impressions from the social psychology research…

    1) Yes, surprise is one of the most effective means for atheists to trigger reflective reconsideration. Therefore, expecting surprise (paradoxical as that is) is the best way for theists to diminish its impact, thus reducing the risk of the religious proselyte experiencing an irrelgious deconversion themself. And in the other direction, Yes, asking questions helps prevent the atheist from getting the impression you’re working on complete blind stereotypes, which in turn is the easiest way for the atheist to discount the proselytizing.
    2) Yes, there’s often a trigger that got the person asking questions in the first place; often involving a failure of emotional support when it was expected. If the proselyte can identify such, they may be able to have the atheist to consider whether their reasoning between then and now was motivated/biased reasoning; which may be particularly effective, if the proselyte has happened to try at a time of particular personal stress when an offer of emotional support may (unnoticed) trigger a motivated/biased reasoning.
    3) Such emotional connection and social support is one of the most common correlates of irreligious-to-religious conversion. Ergo, it’s an obvious target to focus on.
    4) By blindly assuming that the atheist actually does believe in God, the proselyte can save cognitive effort from that question, and thus be more willing to spend effort, and have more of their limited mental effort available to spend. Even if the atheist does not believe, in so far as more effort tends to yield at least marginally more converts, encouraging Christians to such increased effort at proselytizing helps maximize the chance of making religious conversions whenever such conversion has a slim chance. Additionally, this particular emphasis conditions the proselyte to reflexively interpret a hypothetical about God as indicating a deeply hidden belief in God, which helps prevent the hazard of reflectively considering some hypotheticals that may be raised, such as the Problem of Evil.
    5) Again: irreligious to religious conversions appear to tend largely to be emotional events; thus, emphasis on the emotional elements of the Christian narrative tends to be a low-effort result to the most likely sort of convert. Intellectual converts such as CS Lewis is characterized do seem to occur; but those tend to require hard work to develop the background skills to attempt, and considerable time to induce. As these effectively require an expert specialist, it’s more efficient for the masses of amateurs to focus on making sure all the low-hanging fruit gets gathered.

    He’s an ass, but that doesn’t make him utterly ineffective.

  27. 27
    eric

    Modus @14:

    Satan’s evil, but he’s not that evil. His power is trickery, not scheduling.

    You are forgetting, he is the prince of de seat.

    Abb3w:

    Steir’s theory may be unsound in underpinnings, yet tend relatively effective in its proselytizing application

    I am skeptical. Let me give you an alternative explanation for why his approach may get more people nodding along with him:

    “Oh crap. He’s starting in on a classic line. If he’s trying this one out on me, he’s probably going to try all the other ones on me when this one fails. Do I really want to listen to this dreck for the next five hours? Maybe I can hand him some token victory, say somethnig like ‘wow, I’ve never thought of that before, let me think on it,’ and he’ll let me put my headphones on and go back to my book.”

    IOW, the sheer mundanity of the argument may get people to try a polite brushoff, whereas more interesting or intellectual arguments would likely provoke a more forthright or honest response.

  28. 28
    Hercules Grytpype-Thynne

    But often there’s a “why” behind the lie they are embracing

    I wonder if Stier believes the old “no atheists in foxholes” canard. If so, doesn’t that entail that some believers have had traumatic experiences that pushed them toward religion? Maybe he should be concerned about the “why” behind the lie he himself embraces.

  29. 29
    abb3w

    @20, Michael Heath

    Of course these weren’t books that convinced them, they never read them which is par for this type of book. But instead acknowledging the mere existence of such books “by experts” proved their beliefs, along with serving as a method of rebuttal to arguments against belief they couldn’t refute. Which was why I got these books, they attempted to stop me from “backsliding” (I didn’t), I countered why I’d left the church, they couldn’t coherently respond to my arguments and acknowledged such. Thus these books.

    One of the interesting bits about computer science is the close relations between computer programs and proofs. Finding the bugs (or lack) in a computer program corresponds quite exactly to the proof or disproof that the program behaves as it’s “supposed” to under the full range of possible inputs. In turn, Brian Kernighan famously made the observation that “Everyone knows that debugging is twice as hard as writing a program in the first place. So if you’re as clever as you can be when you write it, how will you ever debug it?” These sorts of books seem to me to be the equivalent of programmers re-using the cleverest programs/proofs/arguments that the cleverest minds of the last 2000 years have been able to come up with in their cleverest moments.

    To pass them on, people don’t have to be clever enough to find the bugs; they don’t have to be clever enough to write the code; they don’t even have to be clever enough to follow the argument. They only have to be clever enough to recognize that the argument was made by someone more clever than them (possibly in one of that person’s cleverest moments), and that other clever people liked it. Each of those seems a qualitative step below the next. And worst, to prevent further spread requires someone out there be clever enough to not only find bugs, but find a way to explain the bug to someone who is far less clever — which seems to require a qualitatively higher degree of cleverness still.

    No wonder these sorts of attitude bolstering continue in circulation.

    (I’ve made this sort of observation before, but I see little harm to repeating it.)

  30. 30
    Sastra

    Expressing sympathy and displaying empathy is a tried-and-true tactic which will successfully persuade those who tend to choose their views based on emotion and a desire to belong to the ‘right’ group. I once read an article about people who studied new religions: there’s evidently an alarming number of them sprouting up at a regular rate. The difference between the ones which died out pretty quickly and the ones which stuck around for a good while had nothing to do with doctrine. Iirc the experts labelled the distinction “The Casserole Factor.”

    If some member of the religion is likely to come over with a casserole when another member is sick (or the metaphorical equivalent) … then the religion was likely to last. A rule of thumb.

    It wasn’t evidence, argument, apologetics, or preaching so much as the casserole. Stier should have offered to share his peanuts.

  31. 31
    Randomfactor

    “Well, if God is so good, then why does He allow … ?”

    Make that “…why does SHE allow.” Drives home the point that we’re not conceding the Bearded Guy in the Sky.

  32. 32
    abb3w

    @27, eric

    I am skeptical.

    Note the carefully placed weasel-word “relatively” to modify “effective”. As the worst proselyte methods tend to produce more deconverts than converts, it makes for a low hurdle.

    @27, eric

    IOW, the sheer mundanity of the argument may get people to try a polite brushoff, whereas more interesting or intellectual arguments would likely provoke a more forthright or honest response.

    As I alluded, the data from the Altemeyer/Hunsberger “Conversions” study suggests irreligious-to-religious conversions more often result from emotional appeals than rational reflection. Furthermore, more interesting or intellectual arguments involve the hazard of the would-be-proselyte needing to develop more/better critical thinking skills, and high risk of the process triggering self-deconversion. (Corresponding to a “critical failure” roll?) A polite brush-off is not a success, but seems to have much lower hazard of triggering self-deconversion (particularly given the many Bible verses warning Christians against expecting that making converts will be easy).

  33. 33
    Moggie

    In John 4, Jesus masterfully attacked the why behind the lie the woman at the well was embracing. She was not an atheist but a hedonist who thought that satisfaction could be found if she finally found the right guy. But Jesus offers her living water to satisfy her deepest needs and, finally, her thirst was fully quenched.

    I have such a dirty mind…

  34. 34
    montanto

    “Invisible qualities have been seen”? I think that’s what we call an oxymoron.

  35. 35
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

    How exactly do you see invisible qualities?

  36. 36
    heddle

    For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

    How exactly do you see invisible qualities?

    Come on, you do not have to believe the bible or be an English major to parse it. It is saying that certain attributes of God, while invisible, are made manifest in creation. It is why (in human terms) some of us are scientists and Christians after we first were scientists and atheists.

    You do not have to accept the argument to agree that it is not trivially wrong by a counter of “how can you see what is invisible?” In science we are often in the business of seeing the invisible. We see dark matter. And yet we don’t see it.

    The bible is meant to be read intelligently.

  37. 37
    Modusoperandi

    Back when I was the Captain of an invisible ship, I hated pulling in to port to stock up. Do you know how hard it is to create an invisible manifest?

  38. 38
    beardymcviking

    This kinda reminds me of a night out with a friend who was drunkenly evangelizing to people on the street about Crom… also singing loudly parts from ‘Conan: the musical’.

    I’m not sure he made any converts either, but I think he was a lot more fun than aeroplane sky daddy guy.

  39. 39
    hunter

    “This notion that all atheists are wounded or broken or had some terrible experience that explains why they’re really not a believer is incredibly annoying and offensive.”

    It seems to me much more likely that a wounded, broken, lonely people are more likely to seek solace in religion.

  40. 40
    raven

    For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

    So god is the Big Bang and evolution? OK, whatever.

    How exactly do you see invisible qualities?

    We use instruments. To study the Big Bang, telescopes and Cosmic Microwave satellites.

  41. 41
    Michael Heath

    Heddle writes:

    The bible is meant to be read intelligently.

    You keep asserting this where instead we find the cogency of an inerrant Bible fails at any level of intelligence, e.g., the falsity Noah flood story, a god incapable of revealing himself in a manner any human can accomplish, a god incapable of communicating clearly, a god who we’re expected to celebrate for his qualities in spite of his promise to punish some for all eternity.

    Unless it’s read as if there were no gods involved; from that perspective it does require some intelligence and some historical and literary perspective. In this framing, I too can appreciate how the Adam and Eve stories resonate as an insightful commentary on the human condition, while condemning the fact these people attempted to maintain loyalty with the threat of eternal hellfire, or promoted misogyny and slavery. The idiocy starts when someone starts to reconcile all passages of the Bible to literal truth.

  42. 42
    Mobius

    In my own case, I would say there were two main factors that led me away from Christianity.

    The first of those was the study of science. The more I studied science, the more I learned that the claims that such-and-such required a miracle of God were downright false. I did not know the term “God-of-the-Gaps” at the time, but I realized that was what was happening, that people were hiding their God behind their ignorance.

    The second thing that led to the break was the downright hypocrisy of so many of the members of my church. It became more and more clear that they believed the 10 Commandments were really the 10 Suggestions and should be ignored if they were inconvenient.

  43. 43
    raven

    It seems to me much more likely that a wounded, broken, lonely people are more likely to seek solace in religion.

    QFT.

    In college, we used to say, “You can judge someone’s pain by how religious they get.” That was back in the Dark Ages.

    I don’t know of any real sociological or psychological studies of this but suspect someone might have done them.

    One person who posted here and whose name is forgotten, once went back to his Catholic church after a long absence. The only ones left were people who hadn’t been able to get it together, people struggling to make a living, divorced, the usual story of 21st century America. This is a story, not a data point so your mileage may vary.

  44. 44
    Michael Heath

    For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

    How exactly do you see invisible qualities?
    [Heath bolded]

    heddle responds:

    Come on, you do not have to believe the bible or be an English major to parse it. It is saying that certain attributes of God, while invisible, are made manifest in creation. It is why (in human terms) some of us are scientists and Christians after we first were scientists and atheists.

    You do not have to accept the argument to agree that it is not trivially wrong by a counter of “how can you see what is invisible?” In science we are often in the business of seeing the invisible. We see dark matter. And yet we don’t see it.

    While taking down the rhetorical question, you missed the obvious failure in what you respond to here. And that’s the assertion we’re without excuse when it comes to recognizing the existence of the Christian god and his nature. In spite of the fact we have absolutely nothing compelling to suggest the existence or nature of this god. Nothing.

  45. 45
    raven

    I put Depressed People are more religious into Google and these are the first two hits.

    Are religious people more depressed? – Salon.com
    www. salon. com/2013/09/…/are_religious_people_more_depressed_partn…‎

    Sep 20, 2013 – The researchers found that religious people were more prone to depression, with rates of developing depression in places like the United …

    Are Religious People More Depressed? | Alternet
    www. alternet. org/are-religious-people-more-depressed‎

    Sep 19, 2013 – A new study finds a high correlation between religiosity and depression.

    1. I haven’t read the studies yet.

    2. This is just a correlation. You need more data to get cause and effect. Does religion make you depressed or the other way around?

  46. 46
    D. C. Sessions

    These sorts of books seem to me to be the equivalent of programmers re-using the cleverest programs/proofs/arguments that the cleverest minds of the last 2000 years have been able to come up with in their cleverest moments.

    In other words, the evangelists you run into are religious script kiddies.

  47. 47
    Nick Gotts

    The bible is meant to be read intelligently. – heddle@36

    Then it was written by a bunch of complete incompetents, because an intelligent reading reveals it to contain a great deal of stupid andor malignant crap. Consider the vileness of the “God” character and his chosen servants (Moses, Joshua…), the ludicrous taboos, the doctrine of Hell, the internal contradictions, the obvious fabrications in the gospels (e.g. the birth narratives)…

  48. 48
    had3

    Heddle@36
    I noticed you said it was meant to be read intelligently, but not intelligently and skeptically? I wonder if those scientists who were atheists and then became Christian apply the same degree of skepticism to their religious conversion that they do to their science. In other words, what are the data points that they accept as disproving their new found beliefs? (Eg, god cures cancer, but not amputees – how is this proof for or against a god? Etc…)

  49. 49
    democommie

    “Do I really want to listen to this dreck for the next five hours? Maybe I can hand him some token victory, say somethnig like ‘wow, I’ve never thought of that before, let me think on it,’ and he’ll let me put my headphones on and go back to my book.”

    Or, you could summon a flight attendant and say, “Excuse me, I specifically asked for the “NON-asshole proselytizer section”. Or appeal directly to the individual, as in:”STFU”.

    “The Casserole Factor.”

    Or, in MN, the “Hot Dish Factor”.

  50. 50
    eric

    Heddle:

    It is saying that certain attributes of God, while invisible, are made manifest in creation.

    You also don’t have to be an English major to see how the passive voice in your sentence makes it a complete non-answer (to the queston of ‘how do you see an invisible property’).

    What’s the manifestation? How does it occur? Who can experience it? Does it leave evidence? If so, doesn’t that undermine the whole ‘its invisible’ claim? If not, how can people experience this “manifestation” at all?

    The bible says something is invisible. A skeptic then asks how we can experience it*. You respond “Its made manifest.” Really Heddle, I’d think you could do better than that.

    *I’m assuming you’re not going to take the pedant’s way out and claim that invisibility here only refers to the eyes. After all, the “qualities” Romans is talking about is almost certainly not referring to the color of God’s beard or some other photon-reflecting quality of God. The text is obviously referring to nonphysical qualities, and thus ‘invisible’ is being used in a broad sense.

  51. 51
    heddle

    eric,

    You are right, it is not talking about what God looks like. It is taking about his power and his deity. A very fair paraphrase for those lowbrow critics who have no better argument than “It sez invisible, how can we see it? bible is dumb” is this:

    God is powerful. You can not see his power directly. But you don’t need to. Creation itself demonstrates his power.

    I’m sure someone will try to argue about the quality of that statement as an argument for the existence of god. I’m not. That’s not the point. The point is that the statement is not wrong merely because, superficially, it says you can see the invisible. It just doesn’t take the time (just like any other writing about which you wouldn’t be critical on a hair trigger) to close every possible loophole of speech and hyperliteral–no figures of speech allowed–criticism (when it suits).

    If you were at a physics seminar and someone said “we see dark matter in galactic collisions” you wouldn’t argue “oh what a dummy you are, you can’t see what is (at least by all experiments done so far) invisible.” You would in the context understand what they meant. This is the same type of speech. It is simply saying that the writer’s opinion is that, even though you can’t see god, you can see, in the magnificence of creation, that he must exist. It may be wrong but it is a perfectly fine sentence and construct. No serious, scholarly bible critic (at least none that I’ve read, and I’ve read a lot) would argue about this passage, in that it claims you see what it is invisible, is of interest. Only preaching-to-the-choir know-nothing blog commenters think that it is a biting critique.

    had3,

    I wonder if those scientists who were atheists and then became Christian apply the same degree of skepticism to their religious conversion that they do to their science.

    I don’t. I only apply scientific-level skepticism when I am doing science. In all other aspects of life–religion, personal relationships, sports, entertainment–everything, there is rationality but with heavy admixtures of instinct, gut-feelings, whims, emotions, moral conflicts, and feelings.

  52. 52
    Michael Heath

    had3 writes:

    I wonder if those scientists who were atheists and then became Christian apply the same degree of skepticism to their religious conversion that they do to their science.

    heddle responds:

    I don’t. I only apply scientific-level skepticism when I am doing science. In all other aspects of life–religion, personal relationships, sports, entertainment–everything, there is rationality but with heavy admixtures of instinct, gut-feelings, whims, emotions, moral conflicts, and feelings.

    Which is why Christians have no credibility when it comes to their objective truth claims in regards to their religious beliefs. They avoid or deny those findings by science and reason that in some combination: falsifies their beliefs, reveals the lack of evidence for their claims, reveals the logical impossibility regarding some of their beliefs, reveals the absurdity of much of their reconciliation attempts.

    The response that faith is therefore required, “full stop”, is a cowardly dodge. It increases the lack of credibility – it doesn’t justify such avoidance and denial. I find the faith defense to also be juvenile. We wouldn’t stand for such in other realms – like those managing a public corporation.

    Religious belief is also not on the same plane as sports or entertainment, precisely because believers predominately argue not only for the objective truth of their beliefs, but also frequently advocate their beliefs should influence public policy and whom to elect in a manner that causes us all undue suffering.

  53. 53
    thebookofdave

    That’s called a hypothetical question. It’s testing the logic of your position, not an admission that deep down in our “heart of hearts” (or whatever annoying bullshit phrase you use) we really do believe in God.

    Note to self: bible apologists fail to understand or respect the difference between literal interpretation and analogy. Hypothetical examples must be prefaced with the qualifier: “this is a hypothetical scenario”. Another underused statement is: “in case you are wondering, this is sarcasm”.

    Do you know how hard it is to create an invisible manifest?

    Next time, Modus, use invisible ink,.

  54. 54
    Raging Bee

    And the more you dig and presume that we must have some secret tragedy that explains why we don’t believe what you do, the angrier I am likely to get at you.

    That’s part of the standard evangelical script: keep on denying you have any rational reason not to believe in his god, keep on insisting there has to be some deep underlying emotional motive, keep on making you angry until you show your anger, then use that as proof that HE is the rational one and you’re just a sad fool angry at god for letting your puppy die or whatever. It’s all about the manipulation, always.

    If we presume Greg Stier is an actual expert relative to other Christian proselytizers, imagine how bad the median proselytizer is.

    They’re the ones handing out the Chick Tracts. (There’s also the Children of God, who are at least nicer and more flirtatious.) And sadly, we don’t have to imagine them — they’re happy to get in our faces any chance they get.

    God is powerful. You can not see his power directly. But you don’t need to. Creation itself demonstrates his power.

    Yeah, that’s what we get from “expert” evangelists like heddle: ridiculous deepities, stated with supreme confidence that’s supposed to shut down reason by making critics sound petty and nattering when they question the grand (empty) pronouncement.

    Yo, heddle, I could just as plausibly say that “creation itself demonstrates” the power of Odin, or wood nymphs, or Chthulu, or that gaggle of invisible pink unicorns in my backyard that you keep trying to ignore.

    The point is that the statement is not wrong merely because, superficially, it says you can see the invisible. It just doesn’t take the time (just like any other writing about which you wouldn’t be critical on a hair trigger) to close every possible loophole of speech and hyperliteral–no figures of speech allowed–criticism (when it suits).

    No, the statement is wrong because it’s ILLOGICAL — the mere existence of the Universe, or any part of it, does not prove even A creator-god, let alone YOUR creator-god. Anyone with any common sense knows this.

    A very fair paraphrase for those lowbrow critics who have no better argument than “It sez invisible, how can we see it? bible is dumb”…

    Really, heddle? You know damn well you’ve had your bogus theology repeatedly and intelligently debunked here — and yet this is the place you choose to pretend your religion’s critics are dumb? How dumb is that? Do you have a short memory, or do you expect ours to be shorter?

    If you were at a physics seminar and someone said “we see dark matter in galactic collisions” you wouldn’t argue “oh what a dummy you are, you can’t see what is (at least by all experiments done so far) invisible.”

    No, but we would, at some point, be looking for the observations, experiments, and/or reasoning that leads scientists to believe this currently-unseen stuff exists. We are at least vaguely aware that some scientists think “dark matter” is a plausible explanation for certain things they’ve observed, therefore we at least tentatively accept statements like the one you quoted above. And we reject your religio-babble because we know of no facts, reason or observations that back any of it up. So for the fuck-umpteenth time, stop comparing religious belief to dark-matter theory — we know the difference.

  55. 55
    colnago80

    Re Michael Heath @ #52

    A perfect example if the disingenuousness of Heddle his his weaseling around the question of whether the Sun actually physically stayed stationary in the sky for a day, as claimed in the Book of Joshua. He generally resorts to name calling when that question is posed to him, which is de rigueur for someone who avoids answering the question.

  56. 56
    Raging Bee

    I’m not sure he made any converts either, but I think he was a lot more fun than aeroplane sky daddy guy.

    I also had a bit of fun watching the Great Religious Debate in the original Conan the Barbarian movie, which I’ll try to paraphrase from memory here…

    “I worship the sky god.”

    “I worship the earth god.”

    “The sky god is bigger because he’s above all the earth.”

    “No, the earth is bigger because it’s more solid.”

    “Life-giving sun and rain come from the sky. So does thunder and lightning.”

    “Yes, but everything grows from the earth. Oh, and earthquakes and volcanoes.”

    Most grounded religious debate EVER.

  57. 57
    colnago80

    Re Raging Bee @ #54

    We also can’t “see” the quantum vacuum but we can infer its existence from quantum electrodynamics which attributes the anomalous magnetic moment of the electron to its interaction with the quantum vacuum to 10 significant digit agreement with measurement.

  58. 58
    heddle

    Raging Bee,

    we know the difference

    I see that you still use we when making an argument, as if you are a spokesman. Do you still pull that crap with Ed? When Ed writes a post on, say, the lack of a right not to be offended– do you still make arguments like “If you really believe that you are not as smart as we give you credit for?”

    If so, you really should stop. It is time for you to stop drinking milk and move to solid food.

  59. 59
    Raging Bee

    I see that you still use we when making an argument, as if you are a spokesman.

    In this case, I was giving credit where it’s due. Are you trying to say this crowd is less intelligent than I give them credit for? I’ll be happy to retract my statement, if other regulars say they’re not as smart as I said they are.

    Oh, and first you tell us how you effectively refute us dumb atheists — and now you’re quibbling over my use of the word “we?” That’s one hell of an undignified retreat there.

  60. 60
    colnago80

    Re Raging Bee

    Hey, you and I are helping to pay the Newport News nudnik’s salary.

  1. 61
    Postcards from the culture wars (1.7)

    […] “This notion that all atheists are wounded or broken or had some terrible experience that explains why they’re really not a believer is incredibly annoying and offensive.” […]

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