Why are atheist conversion stories by Christians so damned unconvincing?

There most certainly are people who made sincere conversions from a state of godlessness to one of devout certainty. This is actually a very interesting process, and I’d like to know more about it, because I can’t imagine myself ever becoming a god-believer. I want to understand what makes for a persuasive argument for patent nonsense.

One example is Holly Ordway, an atheist professor of literature who became a Catholic. She’s got a whole memoir on the subject, which I haven’t read because all the summaries make it sound awful and unbelievable.

For example, Ordway describes her state of atheism:

Dr. Holly Ordway has published a book titled Not God’s Type, telling her personal story. She begins “I had never in my life said a prayer, never been to a church service. Christmas meant presents and Easter meant chocolate bunnies–nothing more.” But her views get hardened: “In college, I absorbed the idea that Christianity was historical curiosity, or a blemish on modern civilization, or perhaps both. My college science classes presented Christians as illiterate anti-intellectuals who, because they didn’t embrace Darwinism, threatened the advancement of knowledge. My history classes omitted or downplayed references to historical figures’ faith.” Still later, “At thirty-one years old, I was an atheist college professor–and I delighted in thinking of myself that way. I got a kick out of being an unbeliever; it was fun to consider myself superior to the unenlightened, superstitious masses, and to make snide comments about Christians.”

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Big boat go boom

stupidarkcliche

Think for a moment about the creationist’s own views of Noah’s Ark and the Flood. This was a cataclysmic event: Over a month of intense rainfall, gigantic fountains of water erupting from the deep, and in some pseudoscientific versions, a canopy of metallic hydrogen surrounding the earth exploded in an interaction with the almost pure oxygen of Earth’s atmosphere, converting 80% of that oxygen into water that deluged the planet. At the Creation “Museum”, Ken Ham imagines a wall of water hundreds of feet high crashing into the land in a kind of super-tsunami that swept all the way into the center of the continents. The Genesis Flood imagines that most major geological features were generated in this relatively brief event — the Himalayas were thrown up, the Grand Canyon gouged out. Forests were shredded, and the oceans were clotted with debris. Ham argues that there were huge floating rafts of logs and dirt adrift on the seas immediately afterwards, that were used by the survivors — those few organisms on the Ark — to drift to all the newly formed continents afterwards.

Oh, yeah, the Ark. Big wooden barge. It survived all of that chaos.

One has to wonder, then, why Ken Ham couldn’t have used 4,000 year old building techniques to assemble an indestructible floating wooden frame in his Ark Park, or how come the Dutch model of the Ark crumpled when it bumped into a boat in Oslo?

arkbroke

That’s the thing about creationists: they want to imagine that their all-powerful god wields immense cosmic forces and emphasize the dramatic, catastrophic power of their world-killing flood, but at the same time they can’t even comprehend the energies involved in an ocean swell.


We even have video of the collision! It’s a slow-motion bump.

The “context” excuse

Context

Of course context matters, but one reason it matters is because people abuse it. There is a legitimate complaint to be made when someone distorts or mangles an isolated quote to say something completely different from what the author intended. Here’s an infamous example: the creationists’ favorite quote from Darwin’s Origin.

To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.

They love it because all they read is natural selection…absurd in the highest degree, and think they’ve got a slam-dunk debunking straight from Darwin himself. This is a case where you must read the rest of the context, because what he’s doing is setting up a rhetorical case that selection seems absurd, but what follows is a whole chapter in which he explains all the gradations and intermediate steps in the evolution of the eye. And of course all it takes is the next two sentences to make it clear that he’s saying exactly the opposite of what creationists want him to say.

When it was first said that the sun stood still and the world turned round, the common sense of mankind declared the doctrine false; but the old saying of Vox populi, vox Dei [“the voice of the people = the voice of God “], as every philosopher knows, cannot be trusted in science. Reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a simple and imperfect eye to one complex and perfect can be shown to exist, each grade being useful to its possessor, as is certain the case; if further, the eye ever varies and the variations be inherited, as is likewise certainly the case; and if such variations should be useful to any animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, should not be considered as subversive of the theory.

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Evangelical Christianity: a movement built on hypocrisy, by the worst people in the country

Samantha Bee gives a history lesson, and as always, evangelical Christianity has been on the wrong side of history, and for the worst reasons, and under the leadership of some of the most awful, terrible, horrible people. It’s also telling that they have so consistently rejected the people who espouse positive Christian values (like Carter) to support scum (like Reagan). At least nowadays they’re reduced to choosing between scum (Cruz) and scum (Trump), and they still favor the least Christian, and most bigoted choice.

I also have to note that two of the most scathing critics of modern American politics, Bee and Wilmore, are also the kind of people these conservative Christians would love to oppress.

An ugly myth, gloatingly portrayed

flood

Rebecca Watson is exactly right in this video: Ken Ham’s ark is not going to be a happy story about cute baby animals. He really likes to play up the horror.

For the record: I agree with Ken Ham. The Christian God is a horrible monster.

Ham is not in any way trying to contradict this reading of the Bible, and in fact the Ark is going to have an entire exhibit debunking the “dangerous” image of Noah as a happy old man surrounded by cute animals and rainbows. Ham wants people to know that it is not a happy children’s story — it is a horror film in which God literally commits mass murder, and he believes that it’s dangerous for kids to grow up thinking otherwise.

It’s the same story in the Creation “Museum”. When I went through it, I was rather repelled by the portrayal of what they imagined happened in their mythical flood: they almost gleefully show all the damned souls drowning and begging to get on the big boat, and they also show this heartwarming little video of what they think happened. Notice the innocent, happy people just living their lives when the giant wall of water sweeps over their village? They all died, and deservedly so, because God decreed it.

So no, Ham doesn’t sugar-coat the murder of innocents by his god, he revels in his righteousness, the sick fuck.

Also, think about what that video shows: a tsunami that sends a wave that is miles high, and that is so immense it crashes all the way to the center of the continent.

And his little wooden boat rides it out, no problem.

There are way too many creation “museums”

creationisttrex

They’re everywhere. I’ve been to the overhyped lie in Kentucky, and also to cheap sheds in Missouri and Pennsylvania and Utah and Washington, where deluded Elmer Gantry wannabes stack up a few fossils and make up Bible stories about their provenance and history. The latest to get written up in a newspaper is Glendive Dinosaur & Fossil Museum in Montana. I’ve never been there. It’s completely unsurprising, though — it’s the same crap I’ve seen dozens of times before.

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Morris gets noticed!

Some big organization just noticed our little school district!

Uh-oh. It’s the ACLU.

And it’s not because our schools did something good.

lookbeyond

As part of their celebration of a Day of Silence (a student-led national event that brings attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools) students at Morris Area High school donned t-shirts with the slogan “Look Beyond”. The same day a group of anti-LGBT students wore shirts that said “Loud and Proud”, the dark blue shirts had an image of an American flag and a pickup truck on the front. Students who were a part of the Gay Straight Alliance efforts said that they were shouted at and harassed by the students wearing the Loud and Proud t-shirts, but school officials did nothing to stop the harassment that day.

Yeah, I heard about this, and it’s troubling — not just because some of the students were assholes, but because this was organized assholery. Somebody designed and ordered a bunch of those stupid t-shirts with a pickup truck and a flag — I guess those are internationally recognized symbols of American jerkiness — and distributed them to the students with a suggestion that they disrupt a day of silence.

But, although the school district did nothing the day of the disruption, surely they got their act together and eventually responded appropriately? You don’t know our school district.

Morris Area High School has banned t-shirts with two slogans — “Loud and Proud” and “Look Beyond” — after student demonstrations turned disruptive last Friday, April 15.

On Wednesday, Morris Area High School Principal Bill Kehoe announced the decision to ban the specific slogans on shirts or other clothing at school and school-sponsored activities.

“We will not tolerate demonstrations or any conduct by any student or groups of students that disrupts the school environment or puts the safety or well-being of students at risk,” Kehoe said in a statement read over the intercom at the end of the school day.

Morris Area Superintendent Rick Lahn said the district’s decision is designed to keep students safe.

They banned them both, of course. To keep the students “safe”, they silenced the peaceful, non-disruptive message as well as the asshole message. Which means, of course, that the assholes who distributed those t-shirts got exactly what they wanted out of it.

The ACLU is coming down hard.

This is not the solution. The t-shirts themselves are not the problem, the harassing of students who were a part of the Day of Silence is the problem.

Schools should be a safe space for all students to attend. Morris Area High School has a responsibility to address any bullying that occurred regardless of the clothing worn by the perpetrators. Instead they just chose to limit the free expression of both sides by outright banning the shirts. This won’t get rid of bullying.

Instead of banning the slogans and t-shirts the school should be focused on making the school a safe and welcoming environment for its LGBT students. This is not the first time the ACLU has heard that Morris High School is an unwelcoming climate for LGBT youth. The school should use this opportunity to talk to its students about bullying and harassment and figure out steps it can take to make it safer.

The ACLU of Minnesota sent a letter to the school district telling the school that they should lift the ban on the t-shirts and instead focus on the heart of the problem.

This is a common problem around here — every once in a while, the religious totalitarians bestir themselves and try to assert their mightiness by slapping down kids. Especially kids who are in some way slightly different.

Sightings on the road

I don’t understand these billboards. What are the people who put these up thinking? Do they think Jesus might come tooling down I94 from Fargo in a tan Ciera and be reassured by its message? Jesus is the big guy. The Holy Ghost is the little guy, kinda funny looking, and he’s driving.

Jesus: Where is Pancakes House?

Holy Ghost: What?

Jesus: We stop at Pancakes House.

Holy Ghost: What are ya nuts? We had pancakes for breakfast. I want to go somewhere I can get a shot and a beer, and a steak, maybe. No more fuckin’ pancakes, c’mon man. C’mon man! Okay here’s an idea. We’ll stop outside of Brainerd. I know a place there we can get laid. What do ya think?

Jesus: I’m fuckin’ hungry now, you know!

Holy Ghost: Yeah, yeah. Jesus. I was just saying we could stop, get pancakes, and get laid.

[As they pass the Sauk Centre exit, they see a billboard]

trustjesus

[Jesus smiles]

Holy Ghost: Hey, look at that. You ever been to Sauk Centre?

Jesus: Nope.

Holy Ghost: Would it kill you to say something?

Jesus: I did.

Holy Ghost: “No.” That’s the first thing you’ve said in the last four hours. That’s a, that’s a fountain of conversation, man. That’s a geyser. I mean, whoa, daddy, stand back, man. Shit. You know I’m sittin’ here drivin’, doin’ all the drivin’, man, the whole fuckin’ way from Brainerd, drivin’, just tryin’ to chat, you know, keep our spirits up, fight the boredom of the road, and you can’t say one fuckin’ thing just in the way of conversation? Well, fuck it. I don’t have to talk either, man. See how you like it. [Pause] Just total fuckin’ silence. Two can play at that game, smart guy. We’ll just see how you like it. Total silence.

[They pass another sign]

jesusonlyway

Jesus: Unguent.

Holy Ghost: What?!

Jesus: I need Unguent!

At least, that’s the conversation I imagine as they’re on the way to the Big City as they pass these colossal non sequiturs.

These really are billboards mounted along the freeway. I don’t get the point, other than making a display of public piety, unless they really do believe Jesus cruises around on I94.

Inshallah

This is a painfully common story: parents give child a deadly weapon as a present, child accidentally kills someone (because CHILDREN SHOULD NOT BE PLAYING WITH GUNS), and everyone shrugs it off because, well, these things just happen. It’s no one’s fault. Nope, no blame anywhere. This is a rifle intended for children, so it was being used properly. Of course, it was used by a five year old boy to accidentally slaughter his two year old sister, but hey, It’s just one of those nightmares, a quick thing that happens when you turn your back, say the police, as if there was no agency involved anywhere in the whole tragic series of events. It just happens.

And then Grandma has to come along and open her mouth.

Riddle said she is devastated, but comforted knowing that her granddaughter is in a better place.

It was God’s will. It was her time to go, I guess, she told WLEX. I just know she’s in heaven right now and I know she’s in good hands with the Lord.

Fuck you, Grandma.