For believers only

The Friendly Atheist has the story of Glyn Barrett, pastor of the “!Audacious” Church, who claims to have utterly defeated “the atheists” in a debate with “the atheist society” at Cambridge University—in only 2 minutes! The only problem is, he apparently did not merely exaggerate claims of success, but made up the debate entirely. When skeptical viewers saw the video of Pastor Barrett’s talk, they contacted the only atheist/agnostic society at Cambridge and found out no such debate ever happened.Thus far no explanation has surfaced for why the pastor said it did, and the video has been pulled from the church web site. But it did happen, and The Friendly Atheist still has a downloaded copy of the original.

It seems like a pretty clear-cut case of lying for Jesus, and the only question that remains is how on earth could Pastor Barrett possibly have expected to get away with it?

I think the answer is simply that he didn’t expect any non-believers to see it. This was clearly a video intended only for believers, and believers tend not to fact-check as well as skeptics do. That’s kind of what the term “believer” implies. Belief, aka faith, is supposed to be a special spiritual virtue that you exercise by believing things despite evidence to the contrary. After all, if you only believe what can be conclusively demonstrated to be true, what merit is there in that? So going out of your way to uncover contrary evidence is counter-productive.

From Pastor Barrett’s perspective, “true” means “that which supports and promotes the Truth, i.e. the Gospel.” Perhaps from that perspective, his story may have seemed to him to be “true” in some sense. It got the reaction he was hoping to get from his fellow believers (at least in the short term), and that may have seemed to him to be a sufficient justification for telling the story. The fact that the event never actually happened might be merely a negligible and irrelevant detail.

But here’s the important point: everything we know about the Gospel comes to us in the form of stories told and re-told by believers like Pastor Barrett. We must never forget that the “truth” of a believer’s story does not rest on whether or not it factually happened, but on whether or not it has the desired effect upon its audience of believers. And that right there tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the Bible.


  1. says

    Religious people don’t do fact checking (verification) at all, they do Confirmation. Google seems to know the difference between these things:

    >When something is to be confirmed, it is usually already believed to be true. Confirm means that the truth is there and you double check. Verify means that you doubt something is 100% true, so you double check.

    “Already believed to be true” is the essence of religion, “doubt” is the essence of science. Simply having someone else “confirm” something is not enough to dissuade doubt.

    In the software industry, confirmation is something done by a second party (someone else inside your organization, ie the church), verify is something done by a third party (someone outside your organization, possibly even a competitor).

    Religion follows a method of software development (for the mind) of designing the user interface first before the code that runs behind it, then not actually bothering to write the code behind it. The fact that there are buttons to do things means the software can do those things even though the buttons don’t actually work.

  2. paul collier says

    Has anybody bounced any of this off Barrett’s followers? I’m intensely curious to get their reactions.

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