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Feb 27 2012

I read the Regal Standard so you don’t have to

Dennis Prince is one of those humble Christians who, like the evangelicals who plan to evangelize at the Reason Rally, is determined to intrude on the Global Atheist Convention. His method: he has produced a rag of a paper called the Regal Standard which he’s asking people to buy and distribute as testimony to the godless heathens who will be gathering in Melbourne.

I feel special because Prince has personally mailed a copy of the paper direct to me before the convention, and I have it right here in front of me. All 8 pages of tripe. There’s not much to it — it’s all the familiar nonsense. But here’s what Prince has to say about it:

“It surprised me when I got all the articles together how compelling was the case for God and his greatness. I was delighted and humbled by that. But I know that atheists will raise hard questions — some are insurmountable.”

Oh. There’s a “compelling” case for God here? Let’s go through it, page by page.

Page 1.

The Antony Flew story. Well-known atheist philosopher’s faculties begin to erode in his old age, and under the influence of an evangelical Christian, changes his mind…therefore, God.

The Colton Burpo story. Four year old boy almost dies in a medical emergency, and afterwards begins telling his fundamentalist Christian father stories about meeting a blue-eyed Jesus in heaven, which self-serving fairy tales Dad gathers into a book and sells to credulous Christians…therefore, God.

Page 2.

Continuation of previous stories, and DNA means “Definitely No Atheism. DNA is really complex…therefore God.

Page 3.

The Matthew Parris story. Conservative UK MP and atheist thinks Africans need Christian influence to bring them out of their primitive barbarism…therefore, God.

Page 4.

The Bible argument. The Bible is the top-selling book of all time…therefore, God.

An unsourced survey. Most people go to church because it helps in their relationship with god…therefore, God.

The Lady Hope story. Unfortunately, the story of Darwin’s deathbed conversion are false. He did not convert before he died, but after he died (yes, it really says that)…therefore, God.

Page 5.

The argument from distorted data. 2.5% of the world’s population were Christians in 1900, now it’s 12.5%…therefore, God.

The persecution argument. The Chinese have not been able to exterminate Christianity, and some Muslims have had dreams that led them to convert to Christianity…therefore, God.

Page 6.

The problem of evil. Sure, Christians have tortured, raped, and murdered in the name of God, but so have the Muslims, and besides, they’ve also built hospitals…therefore, God.

The problems of suffering. Why doesn’t God stop all the suffering in the world, if he’s so powerful? He did, by sending Jesus…therefore, God.

Page 7.

God & Sex. God says sex is OK, as long as it is between one man and woman within the bonds of holy matrimony…therefore, God.

Page 8.

Atheist authority. British politician and atheist Roy Hattersley wrote a book about the Salvation Army and was impressed with their dedication…therefore, God.

The promise of salvation. Kneel and pray to God right now and you will go to heaven…therefore, God.

That’s it. I’ve only given the gist of each story in the paper, but really, I think you can see that it is a lot of fluff, and there’s absolutely nothing compelling about any of it.

It’s a bit of a scam. I’m sure some well-meaning Christians will send Dennis Prince some money and get copies of this crap to hand out at the conference, but all the atheists who get it will find it pathetic and laughable, so it’ll be money wasted.

I’m mainly astounded that the two best arguments for the existence of god that this guy could find, judging by their placement in his newspaper, are the ridiculous Heaven is for Real book and an anecdote about an elderly atheist who get wobbly about his unbelief. If that’s the best they can do for evidence, it’s clear that Christianity is dying.

100 comments

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  1. 1
    Glen Davidson

    Oh no, DNA material is so difficult to explain, we need a fiction about something involving no solidity or mechanism at all to it to explain it.

    Because if you say it can do anything, what’s the problem? I mean, besides the fact that you just made it up?

    Glen Davidson

  2. 2
    kevinalexander

    “, so it’ll be money wasted.”

    No, it’ll be money in Dennis Prince’s pocket.

    Ergo, Jesus

  3. 3
    markr1957

    Man gets rich out of scamming believers – therefore god…

  4. 4
    PZ Myers

    I don’t think he’ll get rich — he’s asking a pittance for these papers, and I don’t think he’ll get a lot of takers. I suspect he’s losing money on this effort.

  5. 5
    myeck waters

    So he’s sincerely delusional. Got it.

  6. 6
    4004bc

    There are gifts under the tree…Santa is real
    There are hundreds of songs about him…Santa is real
    Most western children know who he is…Santa is real
    He spies on you all year to decide if you get gifts…Santa is real
    The Biscuits and milk disappear on Christmas night…Santa is real
    Even biologists acknowledge the existence of reindeer…Santa is real.
    This is fun, please give me some money and I will print this and the other compelling proofs out for you.
    You know it is true! Just believe and Santa will come into your life.

  7. 7
    kevinalexander

    Goes to show that not every believer hates atheists. Many, like those in my family, weep real tears for our lost souls.

  8. 8
    Ing

    Goes to show that not every believer hates atheists. Many, like those in my family, weep real tears for our lost souls.

    Much like the mother who really really loves her kids and is so sad when her step father beats them with a lead pipe.

  9. 9
    Anthony K

    The other night, I had a dream I had sex with a total stranger. I vividly recall running my hands up and down over her hips as she sat astride me.

    Which god(s) or none does that prove?

  10. 10
    Ing

    @Brownian

    Ishtar

  11. 11
    Aratina Cage

    @4004bc

    Add Scrooge to that list.
    Miserly old man dreams of travelling through time, sees his own death, and then wakes up knowing the true spirit of Christmas is giving presents to the little children…Santa is real.

  12. 12
    Anthony K
    Goes to show that not every believer hates atheists. Many, like those in my family, weep real tears for our lost souls.

    Much like the mother who really really loves her kids and is so sad when her step father beats them with a lead pipe.

    When will we learn to stop antagonising Father with our commitment to self-actualisation and simply roll over and take his absolute-feality-of-body-and-mind-demanding love like good little owned objects?

  13. 13
    Ing

    @Aratina Cage

    Also that Christianity is wrong (by some interpreations)

    Scrooge is saved or damned through works not grace.

  14. 14
    Ing

    ALso yes I know about learned helplessness I think the social and economic investment and intermingling of the church in people’s lives and sense of self worth mimics those barriers to leaving women can face as well so it’s an apt metaphor.

  15. 15
    Anthony K

    @Brownian

    Ishtar

    Really? Theology is weird.

    [Begins building shrines to the twin demigods (apparently) of Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman.]

  16. 16
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    @Brownian

    Ishtar

    I dreamed about sex with a stranger, therefore shitty movie?

  17. 17
    Glen Davidson

    PZ has no business writing a post like that and leaving us hanging.

    Where do I send all of my money, now that I’m convinced by such irrefutable arguments? Did PZ just expect us to remain wallowing in ignorance after such a brilliant display of God’s reality?

    Glen Davidson

  18. 18
    hjhornbeck

    Ugh, not Flew again. The only work I’ve read by him is “There is A God,” and if that’s typical of his output as a philosopher then he couldn’t reason his way out of a wet paper napkin. It’s a big bundle of “Richard Swinburne asserted this, and I think that has merit.” He never advances an actual argument, preferring to quote summaries of other’s work instead, and the closest to an exception I can find is a single flawed analogy dealing with Cosmological. He’s never heard of the principle of charity, as the only counter-argument he bothers to summarize (Hume’s critique of Cosmological) is given a whopping two sentences. Despite claiming to be deist, he ends several chapters asserting the existence of a divine, interventionist Mind.

    If anyone’s interested in more, I’ve got an incomplete takedown of Flew’s “There is A God” starting here.

  19. 19
    Louis

    My face, it is in my palm.

    And I can assure the assembled readers that that is not my palm’s usual resident.

    Louis

  20. 20
    Anthony K

    I dreamed about sex with a stranger, therefore shitty movie?

    I recall a few catchy tunes, but the Box Office moves in mysterious ways.

  21. 21
    Aratina Cage

    Scrooge is saved or damned through works not grace.

    And apparently, so was Anthony Flew. Would he even be on this pathetic list if he hadn’t produced works that make Dennis feel all warm and mushy inside?

  22. 22
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    I recall a few catchy tunes, but the Box Office moves in mysterious ways.

    Wait. You liked Ishtar? The movie, right?

    [edges quietly away. goes to lunch.]

  23. 23
    PZ Myers

    hjhornbeck: keep in mind that “There is a God” was actually written by Roy Abraham Varghese, a self-promoting huckster for Jesus who dragooned the body of Antony Flew into a prop for his theology.

  24. 24
    Anthony K

    My face, it is in my palm.

    And I can assure the assembled readers that that is not my palm’s usual resident.

    At that, my mind mentally inserted a soft, onomatopoetic ‘splort!’, proving that Ishtar exists! There’s no other explanation!

    Then let us pray to Ishtar, through her intercessory servants, using the words we were taught so many years ago:

    Of course I don’t have my underwear. I’m definitely not wearing my underwear.
    (You probably think this song is about you)
    These are not boxer shorts. Mine are boxer shorts. These are Hanes 32.
    (I bet you think this song is about you)
    My boxer shorts have my name and it says Raymond. I get my boxer shorts at K-Mart in Cincinnati.
    (Don’t you? Don’t you?)

    Amen, Mrs. Robinson.

  25. 25
    Aratina Cage

    keep in mind that “There is a God” was actually written by Roy Abraham Varghese

    I guess I should say, “Would he even be on this list if his name hadn’t been used to produce works that make Dennis feel all warm and mushy inside?“, then.

  26. 26
    Inaji

    @Brownian

    Ishtar

    Her Sumerian name is Inanna and would be more fun to say in sex dreams.

  27. 27
    Anthony K
    @Brownian

    Ishtar

    Her Sumerian name is Inanna and would be more fun to say in sex dreams.

    The One True Religion™ of Ishtar has already been established. If you’d like to start your own sect of schismatics, you’re welcome to, heretic.

  28. 28
    Synfandel

    The Bible argument. The Bible is the top-selling book of all time…therefore, God.

    “Top-selling”? Where do the sales figures come from? Do they include the mass-manufactured-and-given-away-but-never-read copies, which are probably the majority?

    Eventually, Anne Rice might outsell the Bible…therefore, Nosferatu.

    Or J.K. Rowling…therefore, wizard.

    Or J.R.R. Tolkien…therefore, um, wizard again?

  29. 29
    Sastra

    I’ve only given the gist of each story in the paper, but really, I think you can see that it is a lot of fluff, and there’s absolutely nothing compelling about any of it.

    The summaries are fine because there’s not a new one in the bunch. We can fill in the details ourselves.

    A lot of Christians fail to realize the huge gulf between a scientific frame of mind and the attitude of faith. They think both sides are pretty much looking for an excuse to believe — and will settle for something that sounds like it could be evidence.

    In this case, the more the arguments accumulate, the worse it gets. Each one is so bad it can’t be built on. The weight of all of them together sinks a hole into the floor.

  30. 30
    rr

    Why not just distribute KICK ME signs? A lot less effort for the same result.

  31. 31
    jnorris

    During the conference someone could organize a mass origami class to create art from the paper and give the pieces to hospitals and homeless shelters.

  32. 32
    greame

    Eventually, Anne Rice might outsell the Bible…therefore, Nosferatu.

    Or J.K. Rowling…therefore, wizard.

    Or J.R.R. Tolkien…therefore, um, wizard again?

    Or Miguel de Cervantes… Therefor Windmill Giants. Don Quixote being the most widely translated book besides the bable.

  33. 33
    feralboy12

    Eventually, Anne Rice might outsell the Bible…therefore, Nosferatu.

    Or J.K. Rowling…therefore, wizard.

    Or J.R.R. Tolkien…therefore, um, wizard again?

    Or Stephenie Meyer…therefore sparkly vampires. Or whatever.

  34. 34
    shoeguy

    I always take all the free literature, DVDs, bibles, etc from these sorts. I figure every dollar they spend on me is a buck they don’t have to harass poor third world folks with magical fairy stories. Ask for extra copies for your friends. An invitation to a bogus meeting is always a big financial black hole, but take some skills to pull off.

  35. 35
    Inaji

    Brownian:

    If you’d like to start your own sect of schismatics, you’re welcome to, heretic.

    Ooooh. I’ll go with the Idol House of Astarte, then.

  36. 36
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    Off topic, but every time I read ‘schismatics’, my brain translates it into ‘prismatics.’

    Oooh. Colours.

    Sorry.

  37. 37
    unclefrogy

    Or J.R.R. Tolkien…therefore, um, wizard again?

    Frodo!

    no actually Eru called Iluvatar,
    as real as any others though not as old
    maybe age has something to do with it.
    If it is an old myth and is still believed then it must be real?

    uncle frogy

  38. 38
    alektorophile

    @ Brownian

    Why not Xochiquetzal? If nothing else, nobody ever named a bad movie after her. And as patron goddesses of fertility, sex, and prostitution go, one could do worse. At least you’d get a chance to hang out with the Centzontotochtin, the 400 drunken, hard-partying rabbits. If I ever build a shrine in my home, it will be to them.

  39. 39
    Maureen Brian

    Are there no stage coaches or mail riders to where Dennis Prince lives? With access to news he would know that Matthew Parris hasn’t been an MP since 1986.

    Then, Roy Hattersley also wrote a book called Buster’s Diaries – Buster being his dog – so I suppose that would mean he’s changed species. Could that be seen as proof of the existence of god too?

  40. 40
    Erp

    The argument from distorted data. 2.5% of the world’s population were Christians in 1900, now it’s 12.5%…therefore, God

    odd. I’m wondering who he counting as Christian as about a third of the world’s population is Christian (~33%) not 12.5% in 2000 (and about the same or a little higher in 1900).

  41. 41
    Sastra

    Ogvorbis #36 wrote:

    Off topic, but every time I read ‘schismatics’, my brain translates it into ‘prismatics.’
    Oooh. Colours.

    “Terry and I worship an unconventional deity. The power of another dimension. Now you are not going to read about this dimension in a book or a magazine because it exists nowhere… but in my own mind. Through our ceremonies and rituals we have witnessed the awesome and vibratory power… of color.”
    “This is not an occult science. This is not one of those crazy systems of divination and astrology. That stuff’s hooey, and you’ve got to have a screw loose to go in for that sort of thing. Our beliefs are fairly commonplace and simple to understand. Humankind is simply materialized color operating on the 49th vibration. You would make that conclusion walking down the street or going to the store.”
    “No, ladies and gentlemen, we don’t ride around on broomsticks and wear pointy hats. Well, we don’t ride on broomsticks. ”
    (From A Mighty Wind)

  42. 42
    Gregory Greenwood

    Brownian @ 9;

    The other night, I had a dream I had sex with a total stranger. I vividly recall running my hands up and down over her hips as she sat astride me.

    First things first – I assume that this was fully certified ghey dream secks with Brownian? If so, why the fictional hell-trope do figments of your subconscious mind get to jump the queue?

    Which god(s) or none does that prove?

    I’m going to go with Aphrodite – hey, aphrodisiacs are named after her, afterall…

  43. 43
    ButchKitties

    The names of Xochiquetzal and Xiuhtecuhtli are really complicated. Ergo…. Aztec gods.

  44. 44
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    get to jump the queue?

    I thought it was the queue to jump or get jumped. Now we get to jump the queue? This is getting confusing.

  45. 45
    mikee

    Best selling book of all time? Rubbish!
    Most printed perhaps but not “sold” unless you count the Vatican and other religious organisations “buying” it to give away to people or to sit in churches.

    Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code” was/is a best seller too but most people recognise that as fiction (apart from the various deluded “scholars” who make stupid programmes about it to air on the “History” channel.

    The Bible is being surpassed by OTHER FICTIONAL stories about vampires, werewolves etc.

  46. 46
    Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts

    During the conference someone could organize a mass origami class to create art from the paper and give the pieces to hospitals and homeless shelters.

    That is a good idea. Properly dismissive. Just to be safe though, there should be a fingerpainting class beforehand so that the shitty logic contained on the paper is properly obscured. Hospitalized people have it tough enough without having to accidentally catch a whiff of Prince’s stupidity.

  47. 47
    Anthony K

    Why not Xochiquetzal? If nothing else, nobody ever named a bad movie after her.

    No bad movie, no sacrifice. No sacrifice, no redemption. No redemption, no regression.

    Ishtar is cautious optimisim personified; it’s the most important story humanity can tell: here we are, individually, collectively, at our darkest moment. But dawn is breaking, and we have the potential to follow the light of Rain Man, or remain in the darkness of Dick Tracy.

    What could be more sublime?

  48. 48
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    What could be more sublime?

    A shot of scotch, a good cigar, and a good (and no, I do not mean the bible) book? Far more sublimer. A shot of scotch, a good cigar, a good book, and a comfortable chair with a view of a mountain and some lakes on a warm but not hot summer afternoon? Even more sublimerest!

  49. 49
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    I’m sure some well-meaning Christians will send Dennis Prince some money and get copies of this crap to hand out at the conference, but all the atheists who get it will find it pathetic and laughable, so it’ll be money wasted.

    I dunno; I can see an event this size running low on toilet paper.

  50. 50
    seditiosus

    “Compelling”, eh? I don’t think that word means what he thinks it means.

  51. 51
    stevebowen

    Nope, fuck it! i’m convinced, there is a god after all, how could I have been so blind, hallejulah etcetera, etcetera, etcetera…

  52. 52
    fireweaver

    Here’s an idea that will probably send the jeezoids up the wall.

    There is a filksong called “old time religion” (sung to a familiar tune) with several hundred verses like:

    “We will sing for great Diana,
    Who will teach us love and honor,
    But you truly gotta wanna!
    And she’s good enough for me.

    “Young Bacchus in the springtime,
    Leads the dancers round the grapevine–
    Soon those grapes are gonna be wine,
    And that’s good enough for me.

    “It was good for fair Apollo,
    For the Sun’s rays he doth follow,
    He’ll be back again tomorrow,
    And that’s good enough for me.”

    Find it in places like:

    http://home.naxs.com/melaniet/religion.htm
    http://users.erols.com/jesterbear/notes/OldTime.html

    Anyway, when the jeezoids get too obnoxious, encircle them and sing.

  53. 53
    thomaslewis

    The only “argument” this rag is missing is “Bumblebees can’t really fly, therefore they were magically created by God”.

    Really, if you’ve never heard a creationist make that argument in person with a straight face, you are missing out.

  54. 54
    Therrin
    Humankind is simply materialized color operating on the 49th vibration.

    Does this mean Canada is monochrome?

  55. 55
    Anthony K

    A shot of scotch, a good cigar, and a good (and no, I do not mean the bible) book? Far more sublimer. A shot of scotch, a good cigar, a good book, and a comfortable chair with a view of a mountain and some lakes on a warm but not hot summer afternoon? Even more sublimerest!

    Truly, you atheists are tone-deaf to religion.

  56. 56
    Anthony K

    Does this mean Canada is monochrome?

    In February it is.

  57. 57
    christophermoss

    Quite a conflict between Page 3 and Page 7: Matthew Parris is gay.

  58. 58
    A. R

    Brownian @ 9;

    The other night, I had a dream I had sex with a total stranger. I vividly recall running my hands up and down over her hips as she sat astride me.

    I’m going with Hathor.

  59. 59
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    The Colton Burpo story. Four year old boy almost dies in a medical emergency, and afterwards begins telling his fundamentalist Christian father stories about meeting a blue-eyed Jesus in heaven, which self-serving fairy tales Dad gathers into a book and sells to credulous Christians…therefore, God.

    Forgiotten the kids name but this sounds exactly like a story – almost certainly the same case & book, got to be unless there are two very similar stories – that was promoted and screened “straight” (for want of a better word – ie. reported seriously and as if true and “inspirational” good news fluff) on one of the Aussie “breakfast” TV talk /news / advertorial type morning shows sometime last year. (Quite a few months ago if memory serves.)

    Forget which one – ‘Today’ or ‘Sunrise’ or something like that.

    As a kid I once dreamt vividly that I was back in the dinosaur era. Wondering now if I should’ve written a serious book claiming it as proof of astral time travel or something!

    OTOH, this :

    .. some Muslims have had dreams that led them to convert to Christianity…therefore, God.

    If true does strike me as kinda impressive although I’d love to have more details and context. A dream powerful enough to actually convert someone to a different religion – especially if they weren’t already contemplating a change of faith – must be one powerful dream!

  60. 60
    Travis

    In February it is.

    It certainly is monochromatic here in Ottawa. In fact I was just outside and it is snowing once again. I was in Toronto last week and the only snow I saw was a little patch less than 2-3 cm thick and less than one metre across. Coming back here was a little depressing. I would take the brownish, drabness of Toronto right now, or the lush greenness of Vancouver over this any day.

  61. 61
    Travis

    I wish I had more opportunity to get my hands on this kind of literature. I see the occasional little book left around campus, or when out shopping but it is fairly rare. I have also taken them up on their free offers online once and a while, usually under the name Theodosius Dobzhansky as I am sure many of them would not like that type of Christian, if they happened to know who he was (though I doubt many do, it would require knowing a little bit about history and science). However, it is rather rare for me to actually come across copies of this stuff.

  62. 62
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Brownian :

    The other night, I had a dream I had sex with a total stranger. I vividly recall running my hands up and down over her hips as she sat astride me. Which god(s) or none does that prove?

    Depends how many arms she had!

    Sounds possibly Hindu given the karma sutra is a religious text right?

    Or the two for the price of one Greco-Roman Aphrodite / Venus maybe?

    Or lots of pagan goddesses from various religions around tehworld – it would tend to rule out the patriachial all-male / gender neutral gods such as Allah, Christ, Jehovah etc .. though on a couple of grounds – they’re not into blessing their followers with sex from strangers* and, assuming you were having sex with a Goddess** then they’re not likely to be participating!

    * Well they haven’t been for a long while, I gather there were perhaps Jewish sacred prostitutes once back in the days of the Judah & Tamar.

    (See :

    http://www.thebricktestament.com/genesis/judah_and_the_prostitute/gn38_14.html )

    ** Hmm .. one of Charlie Sheen’s goddess’es perhaps?

  63. 63
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Oggie:

    Off topic, but every time I read ‘schismatics’, my brain translates it into ‘prismatics.’

    And I read that as “Plasmatics”. O.o

  64. 64
    lancefinney

    I got “Heaven is for Real” for Christmas from a well-meaning family member. It really is tripe. It just goes to show how credulous people can be when being told what they want to hear.

  65. 65
    faehnrich

    Nice succinct write-up. And thanks for taking the bullet of reading that crap.

  66. 66
    Sili

    Or J.K. Rowling…therefore, wizard.

    Or J.R.R. Tolkien…therefore, um, wizard again?

    Yes.

    It’s called independent lines of evidence.

  67. 67
    theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物)

    @ PZ (OP)

    Here is an interesting exercise… take apart a very old set of goddist arguments that where proposed by Socrates no less:

    CHAPTER IV. SOCRATES PROVETH THE EXISTENCE OF A DEITY. (Link)

    PZ takes the role of Aristodemus (a poorly sketched atheist) while Socrates plays himself.

    Let the games begin…

    (Note. The arguments that Socrates (a deeply religious person) uses are exactly the same as those still used by xtians today. If the stupidity cannot be put out of its misery after about 2500 years, I have little hope that it ever will. On the other hand, it may help to point out that the best xtian arguments are Pagan in origin and are older than their religion!)

  68. 68
    hjhornbeck

    PZ Myers @ 23: (Oh, I’m quite convinced Varghese was pulling on Flew’s strings in a shameful attempt at Argument from Authority; unfortunately, the only solid proof of that is tucked away in Varghese’s private papers. I’d rather argue against the hilariously inept philosophy contained within, given the choice, so I just reflexively concede that “There is A God” accurately represents Flew’s position to hurry along the argument.)

  69. 69
    mgilmour

    I’m into risk mitigation so I went through this process.
    1. By not believing in a God I’m having a great life.
    2. Seems to me that many Christians that believe in a God seem to have a great life.

    The challenge is what happens next….
    1. If there isn’t a God then both Christians and non-Christians don’t have anything to worry about as their 6 fee under.
    2. If there IS a God then the Christian lives in heaven and the non-Christian is potentially in hell.

    What I don’t get is the downside to being a Christian? Other than betting eternity on the decision to not believe there just doesn’t seem to be any.
    Go figure?????

  70. 70
    bcskeptic

    Yeah, you’d think there’d be something a little more compelling for evidence if some all powerful god actually existed. You know, like, all of a sudden a bunch of stars in the galaxy all went supernova at precisely the same time (as seen from earth), or 1000 pulsars all spinning at the same speed and their pulses all arriving in phase (that *would* be impressive!). Or, some strange complex thingy suddenly materializing out of thin air right in front of a crowd, with a booming voice saying something like, “stop fucking up my planet, you dumb apes”, or, “Republicans are stupid idiots, don’t vote for them!”, or something like that.

    Nope, just vanishing straws, that only the mentally weak can grasp at and cite as evidence for an “all powerful, all knowing creator”. Hard to believe that one of those believers could actually be the next U.S. president…shudders…

    What does it take for these dumb-fucks to give up their dellusions and actually deal with reality?

  71. 71
    bcskeptic

    I have further evidence for the Christian God!!!

    If you see the documentary “BLAST” (about a balloon borne sub-millimeter telescope), it is RIGHT THERE. We gotta notify Richard Dawkins…he’ll be on his knees! He’ll repent! PZ will repent!

    Anyway, one of the PIs is a “practising Christian” (sees evidence of God’s presence in the cosmos, somehow), and, after the telescope lands, the chute does not get disconnected and it drags the telescope 120 miles across the Antarctic snow and ice…bits and pieces falling off along the way. So, they fly along the drag path, everyone looking for the payload…they make several passes, and, suddenly, there it is! Clear evidence God (not just any god, but the Christian God) exists! It is irrefutable!

    Personally, I think it would be more compelling evidence if they were sitting around wondering what to do, and suddenly it materialized out of thin air, and a booming voice said, “here is your flight data package, praise me and know that I created it all (and, by the way, why didn’t you put a locator beacon on it?)?”

    But that’s just me.

  72. 72
    Aratina Cage

    @mgilmour

    What I don’t get is the downside to being a Christian? Other than betting eternity on the decision to not believe there just doesn’t seem to be any.

    The downsides to being a Christian are too numerous to cover in one comment, but the primary one is that Christianity offers no truth, only outrageous falsehoods, one of which is the obviously untrue idea of there even being an afterlife. The “bet” is nothing more than a false ploy; nobody puts any part of their time as a living creature at risk by not believing in gods or the religions those gods are associated with. You can’t bet with wishes or with make believe things.

    In short, if you value truth and knowledge over faith and indoctrination, then Christianity is not for you.

  73. 73
    theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物)

    @ mgilmour

    What I don’t get is the downside to being a Christian?

    [gumby]
    I don’t see the downside to being a Pagan. I don’t see the downside in believing Shaka was a demi-god. I don’t see the downside in believing fairytales. I don’t see the downside in believing the misogynistic and anti-scientific crud that is spread by the christian right. I can’t see the harm in acting on this drivel.
    [/gumby]

    Are you trying to tell me you honestly believe what you wrote? (Pascal’s wager is old and boring and long since refuted. Do we constantly have to keep burying it?)

  74. 74
    raven

    @ mgilmour

    What I don’t get is the downside to being a Christian?

    Because the real gods, Allah or Brahma will fry you.

    Pascals wager is a false dichotomy. There isn’t a choice between a xian god from one of the 42,000 xian cults or nothing. There are thousands of gods.

    The best god is Bob the Rain God. Bob the Rain God isn’t really all that needy or vicious and couldn’t care less if you believe in him or not. It still rains anyway. But Bob the Rain God thinks mgilmour is stupid and uneducated.

    So mgilmour, you are a good example of one of the countless downsides to xianity. You are dumb and can’t reason past a third grade level.

    I’m sure you’ve found more downsides to xianity and are collecting them all. Don’t forget to send huge quantities of money to Pat Robertson or one of the other TV xian conmen.

  75. 75
    pelamun, the Linguist of Doom

    Again, let me reiterate, the best deal is to be had with Amida, who promises to forgive you and bring you to heaven, whatever you may have done, the only condition being that you have to say his mantra ten times or so.

    (Yes, this is what one of the most important Japanese Buddhist denominations believes)

  76. 76
    mgilmour

    I love this site!
    As soon as you express an opinion you get derided and abused. Got to love that!

    I said to my brother-in-law who proclaimed his belief in aethiesm, “Whatever you do be a really good aethiest.” He was surprised and shocked at my reaction.

    A true aethiest is not scared to examine the truth and respects the opinions of others….even if they do disagree with their own. This means that a true aethiest should genuinely test their own faith of believing their is no God by enquiring in the beliefs of others (Christian or non-Christian). When there is sufficient evidence to cause them to change their mind they should never be too proud to change it.

    Likewise, followers of other religions should do the same. Show respect and test their own faith.

    Just for the record…..this is what I effectively did and I happen to be highly educated! LOL!

  77. 77
    DLC

    Wait. . . Moslems convert to christianity ergo God ?
    So, they were believers in Poppa Smurf before that ?
    Allah isn’t god ? :::Shrug:::

    Underpants, therefore God ?
    really ?

    Really Crappy Movies, therefore God ?

  78. 78
    Koshka

    As soon as you express an opinion you get derided and abused.

    Oh! The poor Christian tone troll is being persecuted.

  79. 79
    Louis

    mgilmour, #69 and #76,

    1) You’re highly educated and repeatedly you can’t spell “atheist”? Please sue the institutions that educated you. They seem to have short changed you. As for your “be a good aethiest” comment to your brother in law…the misconceptions inherent within are almost too horrific to contemplate.

    2) You present “Pascal’s Wager” as if it were a) novel and b) not previously refuted. Surely a “highly educated” person would know this.

    3) You complain about derision and abuse and yet haven’t got the manners to know the basics of the subject you are attempting to discuss before posting. Manners run both ways. Repeating tiresome misconceptions and useless arguments, failing to deal with the substantial bits of people’s replies, focusing on the ONE slightly rude reply you have been treated to instead of the substantial bits of other people’s replies, these are not polite, mannerly or even intellectually honest ways to begin or engage in discussion. Perhaps THAT is why you receive short shrift.

    Pro tip: When engaging in a discussion one hopes will be to some degree intellectual, it behooves one to approach said discussion with a modicum of intellectual acumen, curiosity and honesty.

    4) What makes you think that people here have not “tested their faith” (Pro tip number two: atheism is not a religion, there is no faith in not believing in a god or gods. You have it backwards) or more precisely “tested their ideas”? Rather a bold presumption on your part. Is it perhaps because you are still so enthralled by simplistic drivel like Pascal’s Wager that the idea that others may have already reasoned through the testing process, may in fact be in a state of continual testing, why you appear to be so confused about this simple matter?

    5) I am going to tell you to fuck off. I want you to brace yourself because as already demonstrated you do like to clutch the odd pearl. Be aware that fuck off doesn’t mean go away, it means fuck off. It means you are wasting your time and ours by blithering semi-mindless drivel at us and really you should either shape up or…well…at the risk of repetition…fuck off.

    Have a nice day, hope this helps.

    Louis

  80. 80
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Likewise, followers of other religions should do the same. Show respect and test their own faith.

    Faith is required when you believe without solid and conclusive physical evidence. Since there is no solid and conclusive physical evidence for any deity, there is no faith required in saying they don’t exist. It is a conclusion based on evidence, not a statement of faith.

    Keep in mind that delusion is also believing without evidence. Faith is a form of self-delusion, making godbots delusional fools.

  81. 81
    Snoof

    I’m into risk mitigation so I went through this process.
    1. By not believing in a God I’m having a great life.
    2. Seems to me that many Christians that believe in a God seem to have a great life.

    The challenge is what happens next….
    1. If there isn’t a God then both Christians and non-Christians don’t have anything to worry about as their 6 fee under.
    2. If there IS a God then the Christian lives in heaven and the non-Christian is potentially in hell.

    What I don’t get is the downside to being a Christian? Other than betting eternity on the decision to not believe there just doesn’t seem to be any.
    Go figure?????

    The false dilemma has already been mentioned but there’s another major problem with Pascal’s wager:

    You’re assuming “belief” is something you can consciously control. People don’t “choose” to believe things, they either believe them or don’t, and typically require an external impetus to change. I mean, if it was “perform the correct rituals and go to Heaven, fail to perform them and go to Hell” it’d be easy to qualify, but actually genuinely believing something (especially something you can’t support from experience, evidence or reason) is tricky. Try believing in green elephants some time – not just thinking about them, but genuinely believing they exist. Or are you assuming that merely _claiming_ to believe is enough to fool the cosmic judge into letting you into the clubhouse?

    There’s a bunch of other terrible assumptions in there, such as “eternity in Heaven is better than oblivion”, but I can’t be bothered getting into them.

  82. 82
    McCthulhu, now with -25% less fat.

    My disdain for Pascal is based more on the assumption of a correct square to place your bet, based on the arrogance of the religious that assume that if they have kissed enough god-ass they will be assured a place in heaven. Bring up the wager, convert a rube, win a prize. ie. Horseshit.

    Assume there is a deity, testing people with whatever set of standards and hoops to jump through it wants. What if said deity, rather than being the deity the typical goddists want you to believe in, was actually some clever fuck who actually wanted people to be skeptical and not believe every snake-oil salesman “everything on faith” televangelist who rode into town, still wiping tar and feathers off himself from the last place he tried to mindfuck-over. The wager would be the last thing you want to do because the smart deity is actually looking for decent company to spend time with, drink a cognac or two and talk about how ridiculously stupid mindless faith and blank credulity are. Taking the wager based on this deity waiting for you would be suicidal! A one way ticket to reincarnation as Carlton, your doorman, or even John Travolta!

    Best not to place the wager at all, if you don’t know all the rules and players of the game you’re playing.

  83. 83
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    Show respect and test their own faith.

    Which are two things that hard-core theists, of any religion, do not do.

    Why show respect for the opinions of others when you know that you, and only you, have the one and only real and true word of gods, and all the others are heretics, schismatics, devil worshippers, and poor deluded fools who cannot, or will not, see the elegant truth in your personal sect of one of many theistic religions? Atheists, however, do respect other ideas as long as (and this is the important part) the person expressing the idea actually has some evidence to support their idea. There is a great deal of evidence that has been presented for reality; there is zero evidence that has been presented for gods. Respect goes both ways; unfortunately, theists, such as yourself, cannot marshal enough evidence to actually state your case, are forced to used tired old arguments like Pascal’s Wager, and then claim persecution or abuse when I, and others like me, do not immediately fall in line with your personal faith.

    Second, hard-core theists refuse to test their faith. Instead, they insulate themselves from reality, insulating themselves within carefully vetted books, cutting off relations with those who hold different views, and ruthlessly attack any hint of independent thinking. Since the bible (in the case of Christianity) is the true and inerrent word of gods (except where it isn’t), there can only be one truth and the other 30,000 sects of Christianity are willfully wrong and can be ignored. Or abused.

    Atheists (note the spelling), however, are fully aware that each one of us does not have anything even approaching truth. Therefore, we are concerned with evidence. And as more evidence comes in, our views change. Geologists have, within my lifetime, moved from Lyell’s strict uniformitarianism to a mix of uniformitarianism and catastrophism. Biologists have moved from gradualism to punctuated equilibrium as models for how evolution happens (and it is still being actively argued today). Even views regarding the why and how of recent events, such as the Great War, are still being revised as new evidence comes in. Those who embrace reality, a reality based on evidence, are more than willing to reconsider. Faith has nothing to do with it, so there is no faith to test.

    You claim to have been abused. Oh, you poor, poor Christian, throwing yourself to those evil Pharyngula lions in the arena of Blogospheria. You have not been abused. Your ideas, your argument for gods (Pascal? Really?), your dismissal of reality, are being mocked and abused.

    Look around this blog. Read the posts and the comments. You will see how atheists challenge themselves and their perception of reality. Then visit a Christian blog and read their posts and comments. Then tell me this: are rationalists more willing to challenge their view of reality, or are theists more willing to test their faith? If you are honest, and I hope that you are, you will do this and then come back here and learn a little bit about how to argue.

  84. 84
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    @mgilmour:

    Well, suppose there’s a god out there who’d punish you for not believing in him but instead believing in the God of the Bible? Or a god who punishes blind faith as a gamble against a possible afterlife? Or a god who demands you give up all your worldly possesions?

    Pascal’s Wager is a shit argument. Always has been, always will be.

  85. 85
    mgilmour

    For a start let me apologise for my spelling….not a good thing to spell Atheist incorrectly. I obviously offended a lot of people with that typo and I’m very sorry.
    I actually tried to express a very open point of view earlier as I am actually very curious about the atheistic position. I’ve been online since the 80s in BBSs and I’ve never had a reaction to a post like I have so far here….which is not necessarily bad. I have obviously insulted a lot of people here and for this I’m truly sorry but the reaction has made me even more curious.
    So if you are able to excuse my impertinence here’s my question….and it’s actually a genuine one. What would prove there is a God?

  86. 86
    Aratina Cage

    I have obviously insulted a lot of people here

    Why focus on the insults instead of the content? Besides, if you think those are insults, you have extremely thin skin.

    What would prove there is a God?

    Define “a God”.

  87. 87
    raven

    Mgilmour the idiot troll:

    As soon as you express an opinion you get derided and abused.

    Oh! The poor Christian tone troll is being persecuted.

    You will if it is exceptionally stupid.

    Mgilmour, you are dumb even by xian standards.

    Pascals wager is faulty logic and this was known centuries ago. We’ve also heard it a million times. It basically is an infallible indicator that someone is stupid and uneducated. Dumb xian trolls are boring.

    Mgilmour is also evil. There is a threat behind Pascals wager. Believe in our god or be tortured in hell forever.

    No big deal. If Allah is real, Mgilmour is going to burn in hell forever anyway. So guy, believe in Allah before it is too late. Brahma is a better deal though. You are just going to be reincarnated as a tapeworm in your next life.

    I’d avoid Bob the Rain God though. He hates Pascals wagerers. I believe the punishement after death is to live a Panamanian swamp full of mosquitos for a century or two.

  88. 88
    Christoph Burschka

    He did not convert before he died, but after he died (yes, it really says that)…therefore, God.

    So… Darwin’s a Mormon now?

  89. 89
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    What would prove there is a God?

    First defining the concept so can can be falsified. Then solid and conclusive physical evidence that would pass muster with scientists, magicians, and professional debunkers, and being of divine, and not natural (scientifically explained), origin. Something equivalent to the eternally burning bush.

  90. 90
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    @mgilmour:

    Direct, incontrovertible truth that cannot be chalked up to hallucinations or trickery. In short, pretty much nothing. Besides which you need to define what you mean by a god first.

  91. 91
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    @my 90:

    Er that is to say “evidence” not “truth.”

  92. 92
    Ing

    The christian god we know can not exist because we can trace its evolution from folklore and theology to the bible to ploytheism etc. Basically since the xian god is a misunderstanding of a translation of a group of stories removed from context that were adaptations of pagen stories we are almost sure it is of human imagination. If true it would be by sheer dumb luck.

    Furthermore Pascals wager relies on grace through faith not works or characters…meaning its a God who promotes cronyism and will damn those of good character as easily as those who are of bad character…which makes him unfair and unjust…which means you’re nbetting on a being that is known to be unjust and unfair to keep its end of a promise.

  93. 93
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    So if you are able to excuse my impertinence here’s my question….and it’s actually a genuine one. What would prove there is a God?

    To which I respond with these questions:

    1. To which god or gods do you refer?

    2. What is your actual definition of proof (please note, this is not mathematics!)?

    3. If a phenomena is explicable by natural processes, would you still consider that to be evidence for god or gods?

    and,

    4. What is your definition of god or gods?

    And I would also point out that I, as an atheist, am not making an unsupported claim. I merely state that there is no evidence for the existence of any god or gods. You are the one making a claim for something that is supernatural, so the burden of evidence is on your shoulders. So I will turn this around: What evidence do you have for the existence of god or any gods?

  94. 94
    opposablethumbs

    I can thank mgilmour for the biggest laugh I’ve had online in a while. Seriously, our old pal Pascal? And with a straight face, yet.

  95. 95
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    @opposablethumbs:

    Pascal and I used to be such good buds. Then he stopped calling and started hanging out with those other guys (Aquinas and his posse.) What happened, Blaise? :(

  96. 96
    David Marjanović

    The other night, I had a dream I had sex with a total stranger. I vividly recall running my hands up and down over her hips as she sat astride me.

    Which god(s) or none does that prove?

    It actually proves Christianity. Why?

    Because it follows the parable that Jesus concludes by explaining: those that have will be given more, those that have next to nothing will lose what they have.

    Almost enough to turn one into a misotheist. ;-)

  97. 97
    McCthulhu, now with -25% less fat.

    Almost enough to turn one into a misotheist. ;-)

    Oh yeah – those weirdos that believe in a god made of a light broth with some green onions and little cubes of tofu floating around. That’s actually more believable than some religions’ deities. Would be nice if he made brief appearances just before the FSM though.

    Now we need gods made of a dessert item and an alcoholic beverage.

  98. 98
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    I love that question.

    “What would prove there is a God?”

    Study theodicy for a little while. Theologians can’t actually change the facts — there is suffering and evil in the world — so they resort to endless, desperate redefinitions of both evil, suffering, and God to make him conform to the real world while still retaining a few of the properties that Christians usually grant him.

    How can you prove something exists when the people who spend their days talking about that thing can’t even define it?

    You Christians have had thousands of years to come to a consensus on what this God thing is, what it does, and what it wants. Get off your asses and define what you’re talking about. Then we can talk about evidence.

    And then you’ll have to face all the other gods.

    I won’t be holding my breath.

  99. 99
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    I have obviously insulted a lot of people here

    I certainly felt insulted. Pascal’s Wager is insulting. It is cynical, it is illogical, and it’s been refuted so thoroughly and so often that it is tiresome.

    This forum is full of people posting about theist thought, going directly to to the source. That you come in and present Pascal’s Wager demonstrates that you don’t have the decency to return the favor and learn anything about us. That you whine about being “abused” when your terrible argument is quickly destroyed shows you have no stomach for engaging with people who don’t agree with you and that you are simply wasting our time to get attention.

    So yes, you’ve insulted us. You’ve insulted our intelligence, and you’ve insulted our integrity. You’ve also insulted yourself by showing yourself to be a small-minded, petulant whiner who can’t bear any criticism of your ideas at all.

    I’ll have forgotten about you in an hour, but you’ll have to live yourself indefinitely. I’d feel sorry for you if you weren’t so insulting.

  100. 100
    lpetrich

    Origin of DNA? It’s modified RNA.

    Aside from that, it’s just another version of the argument from design.

    Let’s see about that. The only designers are multiple, finite, and fallible, so we therefore conclude that the designers of genetic information are multiple, finite, and fallible.

    A MUCH more plausible hypothesis than that of some omnimax superbeing.

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