The third letter: evangelical nonsense

My third letter is standard Christian evangelism. It’s a bit nicer than the other two, I think, but still is loaded with oblivious assumptions.

I hope my correspondent was professional in their educational career, and wasn’t trying to persuade their students to accept non-scientific ideas in the classroom, but the use of the Christian tell “evidences” is a little worrisome.

But to answer their questions:

A freethinker is someone who rejects dogma, especially the religious kind. Freethinkers can be theists, but they will not accept the dogma of any particular religion. I’m not that kind of freethinker: I reject all religion totally, and also don’t accept many cultural shibboleths.

It does not imply an absence of value. It says that I’m going to think freely about what values I’ll believe in.

I know enough about Christianity to see that there are a great many flavors of faith, and I’m not interested in any of them. I went to church regularly as a child, but I was not disillusioned — I grew up and learned to see through the pretense of false claims and historical failure. I do not accept the authority of this Jesus guy, who seems to be a figure painted over with 2000 years of ever-changing claims and beliefs, and also seems to be an empty figurehead that modern Christians fill in with bad ideas and discredited nonsense. I do not believe that my correspondent has any better knowledge of the True Jesus™ than I do, or than Jerry Falwell Jr. has.

I don’t think I’m “swine”.

I’m an atheist. I didn’t arrive at that conclusion because I was preached at by Madalyn Murray O’Hair or Richard Dawkins. I have already investigated thoroughly; my first dates with my wife-to-be involved going to different churches to see what they’re like. We concluded that there were a lot of nice folks out there, going to church, but that there was nothing convincing about any of their doctrines (if we had decided our faith on the basis of how nice the people going there were, we’d be either Buddhist or Russian Orthodox today, but that’s not how we made up our minds). I’m also not going to be persuaded by a nice letter from a Christian.

Also, praying more won’t accomplish anything.

And thus endeth my three letters of Christmas.


  1. Stuart Smith says

    Not so much ‘casting pearls before the swine’ as ‘casting swine shit wherever you happen to be.’

  2. blf says

    I am just curious about your label as a “free thinker”. Exactly what does that mean?

    There is a thing called a dictionary, where you will probably find it spelt feeethinker or free-thinker. As one example, which also shows the word has been in use for over 300 years, is from the Online Etymology Dictionary:

    free-thinker (n.)
    “one not guided in belief by authority; one who submits the claims of authority to what he deems the test of reason,” 1690s, from free (adj.) + think (v.) […]

  3. blf says

    On þe evidences: A “quirk” I’ve acquired from my French colleagues (whose English varies from excellent to “Ok”) is þe adding of suffix -s, meaning plural, to words not normally so-pluralised. So I will say “evidences” or “childs” or whatevers… In part, þis is a reaction to some confusion from some of þose people (and other non-native English speakers I interact with) wheþer or not þe singular or plural is meant. (Hence, i will also sometimes write “evidence (plural)” or similar (plural).)

  4. ORigel says

    The character of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels is an awful person. The character of Jesus in the Gospel of John is a preachier sort of jerk. Paul of Tarsus in his epistles is a sexist, power-hungry jerk.

    I don’t like Christianity’s legendary founders.

  5. KG says


    I have encountered the unnecessary plural most often as a postmodernist affectation – put “The geographies of” into your favourite search engine, for numerous examples.

  6. blf says

    Geographies is in multiple dictionaries as the plural of geography, which is singular (albeit is sometimes used as plural); see, as one example, Collins English Dictionary. However, evidences, not so much (at least in English, where evidence is both singular and plural).

  7. stroppy says

    “I just come to the conclusion that you don’t know enough, about Christianity…” etc.

    Clueless, condescending talking point, or weepy self-comforting piffle masquerading as piety; I say both.

  8. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Funny how these evangelicals don’t realize a significant route to atheism is actually reading the bible and finding out what piece of contradictory rubbish it is.

  9. stroppy says

    It’s a passive aggressive reaction to having ones views challenged. If the complications of a pluralistic society are too daunting, they resort to conformism.

  10. says


    In addition to your point that this guy seemingly does not know about dictionaries, let me add that words are not defined by their etymologies (which is what he is trying to do). If they were, “awesome” and “awful” would mean the same thing.

  11. KG says


    “Evidences” is also in multiple dictionaries – just put the word into your favourite search engine – and it has a history going back centuries. These days, it’s mainly used by creationists, just as “geographies” is by postmodernists. In both case, the non-standard pluralisation serves as an ideological signifier.

  12. blf says

    ahcuah@14, Good Point! Thanks. Especially, perhaps, since words can and commonly(?) do have multiple meanings. As one example, the Cambridge English Dictionary lists multiple ones for free. The first listed is “not limited or controlled”, and another is “not or no longer a prisoner or an enslaved person”, as well as others, such as the Chemist’s “If an element is free, it is not combined with anything else or attached to anything else”. (Thought has broadly one definition.) Ergo, freethought must mean, if etymology defines words, something like “a sentient unlimited not-enslaved unbound element”. Probably a Doctor Who monster (the Periodic Table is out to eat you / take over the Universe / stir the quantum soup / drive the real four elements from our precious bodily fluidstextbooks /…).

  13. Susan Montgomery says

    To be totally fair, his description of “free thinker” pretty much sums up a lot of the IDW and Alt-Right.

  14. blf says

    Yes, evidences is in some low-quality dictionaries, I’ve yet to find it in any professionally-edited work (the OED might be exception (I have not checked)). On the other hand, geographies is, with one of multiple examples previously cited.

    In both case[s (evidences and geographies)], the non-standard pluralisation serves as an ideological signifier.

    Citation needed. And what “ideology” is signified by the (US) Census Bureau (Geographies)? Or the UK ONS (UK geographies)?

  15. KG says


    “Evidences” is certainly in the OED, with a number of examples from some centuries back. And how do you know whether the multiple online dictionaries that include it are “professionally-edited” or not?

    Citation needed.

    I’m simply noting that I recognise an article as likely to be by a creationist if it uses “evidences”, and by a postmodernist if it uses “geographies” – when linked to a singular topic with a geographical aspect (I should have made this clear before) – so why should I need a citation, other than “KG (2019) personal communication”? In the ONS case, “geographies” refers to the geographies of a set of different topics – it explicitly refers to “administrative geography”, “postal geography”, “health geography”, etc., while a postmodernist would say: “administrative/postal/health geographies“. I’ve no idea why the US Census Bureau uses “geographies” in the place you link to, since it’s referring to geographic products, not to either one or many geographical topics. Just feeling the need to have some page heading, possibly.

  16. KG says


    Find me a postmodernist article with a title beginning “The geography of…” and I’ll concede the point!

  17. indianajones says

    I have heard of your religion and your evidence et al. I Understand them too. I have discussed and thought about them. I still reject them as laughably childish and full of shit.

  18. Alt-X says

    Too many questions about evolution, but no questions about a jewish space daddy alien? And you’re a science teacher of 40 years?

    Yep, a freethinker for sure, free of thinking.

  19. says


    I don’t know whether or not they’re specifically postmodern, but there’re tons of entries for “feminist geographies” on google scholar (I first encountered the term 10 or 20 years ago through the work of Eli Clare).

    Here are two:

  20. consciousness razor says

    I don’t know whether or not they’re specifically postmodern, but there’re tons of entries for “feminist geographies” on google scholar (I first encountered the term 10 or 20 years ago through the work of Eli Clare).

    Given the large proportion of feminist writing that is or is heavily influenced by postmodernism (perhaps branding itself as “Theory” and so forth), especially in texts from 10 or 20 years ago, I would say it’s more likely than not. No? That is at least my prior, without knowing anything more about the stuff you linked.
    This is one of my only encounters with “there’re.” I can’t decide whether it looks more ugly than it sounds or vice versa. I am certain it’s pretty awful in my Midwestern/Southern accent.

  21. Pierce R. Butler says

    I am writing to you just to let you know how much God (in Jesus) loves you.

    A full page of verbiage later, Dr. Myers still lacks that information, or even the scale by which to measure “how much”.

  22. consciousness razor says

    This much, Pierce: God (in Jesus) isn’t the one who bothered to write a letter. Perhaps PZ did get something from God (around Jesus) or from God (between Jesus) or from one of the others. But God (in Jesus) apparently doesn’t give a rat’s ass.

  23. says


    Given the large proportion of feminist writing that is or is heavily influenced by postmodernism … I would say it’s more likely than not. No?

    That’s definitely my impression and why I thought those results relevant.

    @Pierce R. Butler

    I am writing to you just to let you know how much God (in Jesus) loves you.

    A full page of verbiage later, Dr. Myers still lacks that information, or even the scale by which to measure “how much”.

    YES! I myself was wondering throughout whether or not we would get a quantity – any quantity – named as the answer to this question.

    How much does Jesus love me? More or less than my cats? More or less than my children? 32% more? 87% less? THIS IS KILLING ME, I HAVE TO KNOW HOW MUCH JESUS LOVES ME!

  24. consciousness razor says

    He has the whole world in his hands, because he has really big hands.
    It’s not clear whether that means the whole planet Earth, the whole of a geocentric solar system which doesn’t exist, the whole observable universe or something more than that, the whole multiverse which may or may not exist, or I know not what.
    Be that as it may, he doesn’t love everything in his hands. You might be among the things in his hands which he doesn’t love, like the plague or the Star Trek reboot films or the sound of a garbage truck waking you up at three o’clock in the morning.
    Don’t panic. I’m setting up a gofundme page. ( wasn’t accepting my login.) You need to send $100,000 to determine how much love he may or may not have for you. But give it time. Within a few decades or so, we may finally have our answer.

  25. jrkrideau says

    @ 10 Nerd of Redhead
    Funny how these evangelicals don’t realize a significant route to atheism is actually reading the bible…

    Well, most of them have not read it so they have no idea what’s in it. A lot of evangelical ministers want to keep it that way. Rank and file church members have been spoonfed selected cherry-picked bits in Bible class.

    The reporter, Chris Hedges, in an interview with Seve Paikin says that as soon as most Evangelical preachers learned he was, IIRC,’ an ordained minister with a Divinity degree from Harvard, they suddenly didn’t want to discuss scripture with him.

    Bob Altemeyer, in his book The Authoritarians, discusses how little his “Christian” students and their parents have actually read of the bible.

  26. says

    You need to send $100,000 to determine how much love he may or may not have for you.

    I don’t need decades. I’d just send an auto-reply that we’re working on it and we’ll get back to them in 7-10 business days. I’d charge an extra 100k for 2-3 day service, and for a cool USD $1M total you can get your answer in 23hours 59min or less.

    Of course, no matter what service they pay for, the reply neatly quantifies the relevant god’s love to the same precision:


    Information on the units of measurement is much more expensive.

  27. bcwebb says

    “Pearls before swine” is the correct response only when someone first holds a door while saying “age before beauty.”

    [cf. Dorothy Parker. ]

  28. flange says

    “You appear to have a great love for your family.”
    That’s a tell for me. More than condescending. That’s how an army might talk about its enemy. “They seem to be sad when we kill one of them. Maybe they’re more like human beings than we thought.”

  29. ANB says

    I grew up in the Methodist Church. Converted to the Romans in college. (There are good reasons, and less than good reasons: Mine were “good” reasons. Atheist at this point.) I’m about your age. Long gone from religion, but still good friends with religionists (including the wonderful priest I knew/know from college). All that said, I like and appreciate your view (my dad had a Ph.D. in Biology, and grew up in South Dakota: born in 1912). Point being, I have that heritage (intelligence, science, Midwestern world view at that time, etc.).

    I guess my point is that we should love others despite their views (yeah, I know about all those assholes you highlight in your blog, and I agree with you about them). So, that’s my background, but I would identify as a Stoic these days. With residual Christian values (of the best kind, but philosophically grounded in 1) Stoic philosophy, 2) Buddhist philosophy, and 3) Christian philosophy (of the best/lovinging/kindest kind). But that’s just me.

  30. PaulBC says

    redwood@35 But did he wake up and send off the nearest boy on the street to buy the prize turkey? (not the little one, the big one).

  31. bryanfeir says

    I don’t see ‘evidence’ as plural so much as a collective, referring potentially to a coherent related group. In which case, ‘evidences’ would be perfectly valid to refer to multiple disparate collections of evidence.

    That said, I’m also finding it difficult to figure out a case where it would be used, because pretty much any case where you would be referring to multiple collections at once kind of collapses them into one collection for the purposes of the statement being made.