Yet another example of Christians unable to make an honest argument

Oh lord. This looks awful. It’s Matt Dillahunty in a debate with some evangelical clown named Glen Scrivener, where he totally fumbles an easy question. “Are all human beings worthy of all provision and protection?” he’s asked, and he pauses for a long time, and finally answers, “I have no idea”. It’s intercut with somebody pretending to be an exasperated. Then they cut to him saying he doesn’t think humans have intrinsic value, the universe doesn’t care about human life, and then this bit where he doesn’t think a person sitting around and just consuming doesn’t add value, etc., etc., etc.

It’s not how I would have answered anything, but OK, I think he’s overanalyzing and trying way too hard to be logical, and some of this is just plain bad argumentation. I had to look at the source, though, to get the context. So I did. It was agony. Not so much because of Dillahunty — although he does say some bullshit about bothsiderism, and the damn thing is an hour and a half long — but because Scrivener is such a flaming idiot. Also, whoever made this abbreviated cut is grossly dishonest. The part of the debate it’s taken from is at an hour and five minutes in, and it’s spliced together from short fragments sliced out of the following half hour. This is the audio analog to the notorious creationist ellipsis, where they splice together sentence fragments scattered over a whole paragraph to cobble together something the opposite of what the author intended.

If you’re going to mock anything in that debate, a worthier target is Scrivener. Around 38 minutes in, for instance (and at other points scattered throughout), he starts babbling about how secular humanism is just Christianity Lite, or a little later that all other religions, except Christianity, are built around the principle of Survival of the Fittest, (which is a Herbert Spencerism, not intrinsic to the scientific understanding of evolution or even to any of the religions he’s misrepresenting). He’s also got this smug Christian Exceptionalism, saying that it is the only religion that is inclusive and preaches universality and brotherly love and all that stuff.

You have in Christ the fittest who is sacrificed for the survival of the weakest, and what you get birthed out of the Christian movement is a unique preference for the poor, the marginalized, the weak, the outsider, to draw them in. Such that…we include everyone, even our enemies, into the circle of our humanity.”

[Christianity] is founded on the god who became flesh, who became the weak one, in order to rise up again and bring us weak ones into his family, and he uniquely gives to the entire human race a dignity.

He also has this weird schtick where he gushes over his god who became a single human cell. All that in order to enable his blood sacrifice to redeem, somehow, everyone. He never thinks twice about the twisted logic, or the lack of evidence, for any of this.

But you know what’s really annoying? I was all ready to critique what seemed to be a weakness in Dillahunty’s argument, and then I discover that the only way that excerpt was able to bring it up was to cut out an hour of flamboyant, ridiculous bullshit from Scrivener, and then hack up Dillahunty’s response into micro-fragments, and intersperse it with an actor hamming it up. I am always ready to argue my disagreements with other atheists, but then the theists have to dishonestly butcher a discussion to make their point, whatever it is, and I lose all interest in the atheist and just want to point and laugh at the capering Christian twit in the room.

So yeah, I don’t care that Matt Dillahunty paused for a few seconds before answering a question in a debate, especially not when the Christian is spewing glib garbage the whole time.


  1. Artor says

    As you know well, this is also the favored technique of Ray Bananaman Comfort. The only reasonable response is to assume all Xian interviewers/filmmakers are dishonest hacks, just like this. Don’t bother talking to them. They aren’t honestly interested in your answers, and they will never represent what you say accurately.

  2. nomdeplume says

    Why oh why, in spite of decades of examples of reasons not to, do people like Matt keep debating these dishonest morons: Exactly what does he think it achieves? And that leaves aside the fact that they can be used, as in this case, to produce fake news.

  3. DanDare says

    I like Matt in debates.
    His default is to over analyse and say ‘I don’t know ” when he doesn’t know. He is the only person I have seen take on Jordan Peterson directly and leave JP looking silly to himself.
    I still don’t like debates much but at least these give something that reaches people on the borders and can pull them away from the fruit loop magnets.

  4. wzrd1 says

    “He’s also got this smug Christian Exceptionalism, saying that it is the only religion that is inclusive and preaches universality and brotherly love and all that stuff.”

    Indeed, it is Exceptional! Why, look how inclusive the Crusaders were, why they even invaded the Byzantine Empire, which was Christian.
    And the Grand Inquisitors were infamous for their tolerance and love.

  5. says

    Why oh why, in spite of decades of examples of reasons not to, do people like Matt keep debating these dishonest morons

    They think it shows how smart they are.

  6. brucegee1962 says

    I think Scrivener has a point about Christianity’s appeal to the downtrodden, the slaves, etc. It’s hard, otherwise, to explain its rapid spread during the first few centuries of its existence. And the texts really do preach all that “least of these” stuff, if you bother to read them.
    It’s just that it got so successful by the 4th century that Constantine figured it would be a great thing to coopt to keep the plebs in line. Once the wealthy and powerful took over, most of the stuff about looking after the poor got conveniently overlooked.

  7. says

    sez nomdeplume @2: “Why oh why, in spite of decades of examples of reasons not to, do people like Matt keep debating these dishonest morons: Exactly what does he think it achieves?”

    If it’s happening before a live audience, it may be one of the few (only?) times those people have been exposed to rational thought, and it may well plant a seed of doubt in at least some minds. On the downside, a recorded debate can be edit-mined (by analogy with “quote-mined”) all to hell, and the edited travesty is likely to be seen by orders of magnitude more people than were in the live audience.

    So… while I agree that it was a mistake for Dillahunty to take part in this idiocy, I don’t agree that there was no point in him doing so.

  8. nomdeplume says

    @8 It just seems to me extremely unlikely that the atheist is going to change any minds. On the other hand the religious representative will use it to strengthen beliefs, and the religious audience, believing it inconceivable that their side could lose the debate, will see their beliefs affirmed. After all, if the atheist thinks they need to debate they must be unsure of their position, right? I watch Paulogia and his “Ham and AiG News”. An audience of creationists laughs and cheers at every piece of nonsense Ham and his disciple say as they reject every bit of scientific evidence showing the reality of evolution. Logic, facts, and debate don’t penetrate the fundamentalist mindset.

  9. microraptor says

    Can anyone even translate that quoted word salad into English? Or is that doomed to end only in anguish and madness?

  10. bionichips says

    To those asking “why engage” – I expect it is NOT to show how smart they are nor are they totally ignorant of the likelihood of success, but rather if nobody exposes the ignorant to other ideas there is literally no chance.

    Engaging the fundamentalists – especially on their home ground – is IMHO a very complicated question with no good answers. Yes, it gives them credence but it also exposes them to other ideas. I do appreciate the decision of those who say “a debate looks better on your CV than mine” so perhaps the best “compromise” is the heavyweights do not engage, leaving it to people like Matt to do the engagement which gets ideas presented without the serious credentials of well-respected scientists.

    I used to see the world very differently than I do now. If I did not have access to other information sadly I would probably have remained what totally embarrasses me now.

    My point is if people live in a bubble, someone from outside of the bubble has to plant the seeds of doubt

  11. brightmoon says

    Bionichip I agree . I occasionally teach science classes . Being exposed to creationist ideas let me know what misconceptions I needed to correct . Didn’t always work with individuals but just knowing the misconceptions were out there helps expose it as false.

  12. unclefrogy says

    @11 that is true but it is very hard to do. one of the most important things to overcome is the fear that believers have been taught over and over that none believers especially atheists are “out to get you”. that atheists hate you, while none believers have suffered at the hands of religion often and there is an understandable hostility toward religion and “priests” in particular, debates are or should be a way of discovering the truth and not just a fight with words.
    you can not convince with a word fight only defeat which will not change any ones mind about fundamentals only improve tactics.
    uncle frogy