Embarrassing Facts about Christians

by Luke Muehlhauser on September 25, 2009 in Funny,Video

Above, Edward Current points out 5 embarrassing facts that are literally true about Christians. Christians have some embarrassing beliefs, but they cover it up by substituting sophisticated-sounding words. “Prayers” is another word for “wishes.” “Supernatural” is another word for “magical.” Etc.

If you’re talking to a Christian, ask them questions like:

  1. What is it like to literally have an invisible friend who talks to you and grants you wishes?
  2. What is it like to literally believe in magical stories of a talking bush, a talking snake, a woman turning into salt, people being healed by a shadow, and God throwing rocks from the sky?
  3. What is it like to literally admire someone who, according to your holy book, commanded genocide, rape, and baby-killing?
  4. What is it like to literally believe in magical incantations like “amen” or “in the name of Jesus”?

Seeds of doubt

It is unlikely these common sense questions will break through their will to believe. But they might.

As a Christian, I was told that when I evangelize I should not expect to convert people on the spot. Instead, I would be “planting seeds” that, over time, the Holy Spirit would grow into the fruits of conversion.

As atheists, everything we say about religion should be planting seeds of doubt among believers. We should not expect them to abandon their entire way of life immediately. But, the believer may develop a taste for skepticism and rationality after the 100th time she is faced with the fact that she literally has an invisible friend, or after the 100th time she confronts the immorality of her imaginary God, or after the 100th time she meets an atheist who is happy, moral, and filled with purpose.

Plant seeds of freethinking wherever you go.

(Also please read Is It Okay to a Mock Religion? and Christianity and Caricature.)

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{ 69 comments… read them below or add one }

alden September 25, 2009 at 4:33 pm

“planting seeds of doubt?” I don’t think this is what the original free-thinkers were after. Proselytizing is not free thinking.

And by the way, your characterizations of prayer and “amen” are wrong, as you should know. If you want to criticize Christianity, you are certainly free to. But at least be honest about it.

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KT September 25, 2009 at 7:03 pm

From my understanding of the history of Christianity, most of the early Church Fathers of the 2nd and 3rd centuries who held that the “Old Testament” was the Word of God interpreted it allegorically. I derived this knowledge from the study of Jaroslov Pelikan, author of an excellent 5 volume work on the history of Christian doctrine. Obviously, a literal interpretation of the Old Testament presents great philosophical difficulties (besides the obvious absurdities such as Noah’s ark and the creation narrative, how can one hold to the immutability of God if He is constantly passing into one emotional state after another? And if He is not immutable, he can not be perfect because any change from a perfect state must be to an imperfect state.) My point is that a literal interpretation of the Old Testament is by no means necessary to be a Christian. The allegorical interpretation is nothing new.

(BTW, I am not a theist; I am leaning towards metaphysical naturalism.)

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Steven September 25, 2009 at 8:34 pm

There are many, many types of Christians. The conservatives are the loudest. Many whom I admire do not hold to a literal view of even the resurrection (John Shelby Spong, John Dominic Crossan, etc.).

While I am “atheist-friendly” I think that many hold two views that I disagree with:

1. All Christians hold to a “traditional” Western God.

2. Symbols have no true power.

I believe that symbols are employed to describe realities which are too great to be described with the vernacular.

Great blog, I enjoy it a lot!

Steven

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Bob September 25, 2009 at 10:14 pm

Wow. I’m a little disappointed with this post. In your post titled “Why this blog is different”, you boast amongst other things that this blog is “cutting edge”, “original”, broad and deep”, and that it offers “high quality dialogue”. With this latest post you seem to have failed in your mission.

Vox Day has written that atheists exhibit social capacities that are commonly found in individuals with autism. This post seems to confirm that notion. Do you really believe that you can approach people with the kind of smug, superior attitude that you are suggesting and that this will make them see your point of view? Most people would laugh at you.

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lukeprog September 25, 2009 at 10:50 pm

Bob,

Certainly, not all my posts are cutting edge, original, and deep! But many of them are.

Also, you may call my post smug, but can you call it untrue? Is it untrue that Christians have a magical invisible friend? Is it untrue that Christians defend God’s commanded genocides as morally good?

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lukeprog September 25, 2009 at 10:53 pm

alden: And by the way, your characterizations of prayer and “amen” are wrong, as you should know. If you want to criticize Christianity, you are certainly free to. But at least be honest about it.

I realize this characterization of prayers and ‘amen’ and ‘in the name of Jesus’ is not true of all Christians, but then, NO characterization is. Christians are a diverse bunch. But these ARE pretty common in evangelical Christianity, which is what I was raised in. As a child I was taught that prayer has many purposes, but one of them is to actually influence what happens in the spirit realm – to influence the will of God, basically. I was also taught that phrases like “in the name of Jesus” had special supernatural power, especially during spiritual warfare with demons, which I believe in literally.

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Steven Carr September 25, 2009 at 10:56 pm

Laugh at you? The creator of the universe came down from Heaven to earth, and people recorded his divine message, which , inter alia, was him telling his friends how to get free money by looking in the mouth of a fish?

And you are going to laugh at us?

The early Christian allegorical readings of the Old Testament were even more laugh out loud funny than the literal one. Ever read why Abraham had 318 servants? It was to symbolise Jesus dying on the cross….

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BathTub September 25, 2009 at 11:09 pm

Vox Day can’t tell the difference between Richard Dawkins and some random schoe on Facebook. I certainly don’t trust his discernment.

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Tron September 26, 2009 at 12:02 am

God cannot be seen.
We can call God friend.
Therefore, he is an invisible friend?

Sounds like equivocation to me, as well as using loaded words.

The people you talk to on the internet can’t be seen.
You consider them your friends.
Therefore, you literally spend a lot of time online talking to your invisible friends.

I guess the fact that Amazon sends me parcels in the post makes them my magical wish-granting genie then as well.

You say, “yeah, but isn’t it true?” True in the same way that you are online talking to your invisible friends and Amazon is granting wishes while the packages magically show up on your doorstep.

I agree with some of the other commentators. This is disappointing post among some other fairly decent posts.

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Dan September 26, 2009 at 2:10 am

Ok, that was a funny video, but I have to ask Luke a couple things about the article’s interpretation.

Where does the bible command rape?

Where does the bible command child sacrifice?

–Dan

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Bob September 26, 2009 at 2:28 am

lukeprog: Bob,Certainly, not all my posts are cutting edge, original, and deep! But many of them are.Also, you may call my post smug, but can you call it untrue? Is it untrue that Christians have a magical invisible friend? Is it untrue that Christians defend God’s commanded genocides as morally good?

The truth of it is irrelevant. Approaching people with a condescending attitude is not an intelligent strategy. Personally, I would require that you first provide evidence that you are, in fact, the rational person you would have me believe you to be. The approach you propose wouldn’t support this contention. At best, it would be an exhibition of extreme social retardation and at worst a zealous irrationality. Do you honestly believe that approaching people with an attitude that basically tells them that they are stupid is an effective method of persuasion?

After all, under what circumstances do you envision these conversations taking place? What social situation is an appropriate setting to inform people that they are stupid for not sharing your worldview? How would people react to this? Would you come across as rational and intelligent or as an obnoxious bombast? If it’s the latter, then who would be convinced by such a person?

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Noel September 26, 2009 at 3:57 am

I wonder, do you protest this loudly when Christians call the atheist worldview idiotic, irrational, or otherwise absurd? Don’t tell me you find Christians to be particularly tactful when they express the exclusivity of their faith.

The fact is, people disagree. And disagreement will always be interpreted by one side or the other as disrespect.

As for this post, at the very least these questions could help Christians think about why their belief in God is not a belief in a magical invisible wish-granting friend. It may plant seeds of doubt in some; and in others, it will cause them to reexamine their faith for more honest, intelligent, and coherent ways of believing.

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Bob September 26, 2009 at 5:56 am

@ Noel

Why do you believe that approaching people in a boorish and condescending manner will encourage them to consider your point of view?

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Matthew G September 26, 2009 at 6:19 am

An embarassing fact about atheist is that this tactic that even Kent Hovind uses is an argument.

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lukeprog September 26, 2009 at 6:27 am

Tron,

Nobody thinks people on the internet can’t be seen. In fact, I keep meeting them in real life and they are not invisible. But God is supposed to be literally invisible.

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lukeprog September 26, 2009 at 6:32 am

Dan: Where does the bible command rape?

Where does the bible command child sacrifice?

God commands rape in Numbers 31:7-18.

Re: child sacrifice, oops! My mistake! I meant to write “baby-killing,” which Yahweh commanded MANY times according to the Bible.

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lukeprog September 26, 2009 at 6:40 am

Bob: Why do you believe that approaching people in a boorish and condescending manner will encourage them to consider your point of view?

Because that is exactly what finally got through to me.

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IntelligentDasein September 26, 2009 at 7:09 am

Bob, do you realize how big of an Ad Hominem that is? Are you and vox going to make your momma jokes about atheists too?

Bob: Wow. I’m a little disappointed with this post. In your post titled “Why this blog is different”, you boast amongst other things that this blog is “cutting edge”, “original”, broad and deep”, and that it offers “high quality dialogue”. With this latest post you seem to have failed in your mission.Vox Day has written that atheists exhibit social capacities that are commonly found in individuals with autism. This post seems to confirm that notion. Do you really believe that you can approach people with the kind of smug, superior attitude that you are suggesting and that this will make them see your point of view? Most people would laugh at you.

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Bob September 26, 2009 at 7:57 am

lukeprog: Because that is exactly what finally got through to me.

That is a surprise. When people approach me in a boorish and condescending manner it just makes me believe that they are boorish and condescending, and I find myself disinclined to actually listen to anything that they say.

Furthermore, it’s not rational to expect people to respond positively to mockery, in fact, it suggests an almost pathological social ineptitude. Mockery in any relationship is generally acknowledged to be an emotionally and psychologically unhealthy practice. If mockery is being put forward as an acceptable way of relating to others then it simply shows a disturbing social pathology. Emotionally healthy people don’t do it.

Finally,to claim that mockery is an effective and rational method of persuasion goes against the weight of historical evidence. Historically, attempts to end religion through boorish mockery have failed. How is it rational to pursue this course of action when all the evidence suggests that it generally doesn’t work?

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Lee A. P. September 26, 2009 at 9:44 am

lukeprog: Because that is exactly what finally got through to me .

Me too Luke!

I love that you can be serious, scholarly, fair and even handed and that you will admonish poor reasoning whenever you see it; yet every now and then, as to shock some readers from their comfort levels, you reveal your opinion of Christianity without pulling any punches! This is perfectly ok to do! Afterall they believe we will be tortured for eternity for not agreeing with them.

Christians clearly believe in some of the silliest, most stupid shit that anyone can believe in, yet sometimes we get caught up in so much philosophical argument and theo-babble with the other side that we forget that.

I know that when I am dialouging with the other side, every now and then I almost forget that these supernaturalist cheeseballs actually believe that a talking fucking snake is the cause of all human hardship.

As your other post states, it is a disgrace!

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Steven Carr September 26, 2009 at 10:06 am

‘Furthermore, it’s not rational to expect people to respond positively to mockery, in fact, it suggests an almost pathological social ineptitude.’

SO what do you say to flat-earthers, or people who believe that Jesus told his friends how to get free money by looking in the mouth of a fish?

Mockery is certainly not the attitude that should be adopted.

Just look at 1 Kings 18 where Elijah has 450 prophets of Baal killed.

1 Kings 18 ‘At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.”

This is the sort of mockery that Christians do not like.

Their Bible dishes it out, but they can’t take it themselves.

Hey, if you can’t take mockery, stop waving around a book which openly mocks people of other religions.

Condemn the mockery of passages like 1 Kings 18, and then we might take your claims that mockery is bad a tad more seriously.

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Chris September 26, 2009 at 10:20 am

1. What is it like to literally have an invisible friend who talks to you and grants you wishes?

* I’m not alarmed that God is invisible (in this created realm). He doesn’t grant wishes; that sounds like Aladdin. Prayers are requests, the answers to which depend on God’s will.

2. What is it like to literally believe in magical stories of a talking bush, a talking snake, a woman turning into salt, people being healed by a shadow, and God throwing rocks from the sky?

* I like those stories. They reveal there’s more to reality than the mundane. They reveal God’s power over His creation.

3. What is it like to literally admire someone who, according to your holy book, commanded genocide, rape, and baby-killing?

* The Canaanite invasion was a one-time event (not ongoing, not applicable at any other time than immediately after the exodus). It was primarily a judgment (Gen. 15:16) upon a people whose depravity was immense, particularly in how they practiced human sacrifice.

“God commands rape in Numbers 31:7-18.”

* No, the reference here is to taking these foreign captives as wives — not raping them. There were strict guidelines set down for how to treat female captives of war (Deut. 21:10-14). They could not be treated as slaves, only as wives. You won’t find anything this humane in any other ancient near eastern literature — on this topic or on dozens of others.

4. What is it like to literally believe in magical incantations like “amen” or “in the name of Jesus”?

* Again, there’s no magic involved here. Even a cursory reading of the New Testament shows that we have no power to direct God to do anything — “Not my will, but yours be done.” That’s the paradigm.

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Bob September 26, 2009 at 10:52 am

@IntelligentDasein

I think you misunderstand the notion of the Ad Hom fallacy. In an ad hominem fallacy, personal attacks on the person making the argument replace attacks on the argument being made. The argument being made is basically that mockery is effective in convincing someone that you are more rational than they. I’ve addressed this argument as follows;

1. Exhibitions of boorish and condescending attitudes are repulsive to most people
2. People who believe that mockery will result in a positive response from emotionally healthy people are exhibiting an inability to understand the obvious fact that most people are repulsed by it – they are exhibiting symptoms of social retardation and ineptitude
3. Social retardation is a common symptom of autism, but not necessarily of a rational mind
4. Relationships between people that utilize mockery are considered by most experts to be emotionally unhealthy ones
5. Putting forward mockery as an effective tool against religion is irrational, because there is no historical support for the notion that it has ever succeeded in its aims – it’s a faith claim.

Clearly, I have addressed the arguments of this post. There has been no ad hominem on my part.

@ Steve Carr
I’m not entirely sure what it is you are trying to say. I think you are agreeing with me that mockery is not an effective method to utilize when trying to win someone over to one’s way of thinking. I also agree with your suggestion that the atheist use of mockery is not based on rationality (because there is no rational basis upon which to put forward the idea that it has ever been successful), and that it is more of a vague tit-for-tat method of mudslinging.

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IntelligentDasein September 26, 2009 at 10:57 am

Chris:
In pagan religions, magic (like curses and incantations) does not force the gods to do things either. They are requests also and are incredibly similar. You made yourself sound very ignorant about magic and paganism.

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IntelligentDasein September 26, 2009 at 10:59 am

bullshit. You said atheists have the social skills of autistics in an effort to devalue our arguments. It has nothing to do with our validity or soundness and is nothing more than a personal insult. This is a textbook example of an ad hominem.

Bob: @IntelligentDaseinI think you misunderstand the notion of the Ad Hom fallacy. In an ad hominem fallacy, personal attacks on the person making the argument replace attacks on the argument being made. The argument being made is basically that mockery is effective in convincing someone that you are more rational than they. I’ve addressed this argument as follows;1. Exhibitions of boorish and condescending attitudes are repulsive to most people
2. People who believe that mockery will result in a positive response from emotionally healthy people are exhibiting an inability to understand the obvious fact that most people are repulsed by it – they are exhibiting symptoms of social retardation and ineptitude
3. Social retardation is a common symptom of autism, but not necessarily of a rational mind
4. Relationships between people that utilize mockery are considered by most experts to be emotionally unhealthy ones
5. Putting forward mockery as an effective tool against religion is irrational, because there is no historical support for the notion that it has ever succeeded in its aims – it’s a faith claim.Clearly, I have addressed the arguments of this post. There has been no ad hominem on my part.@ Steve Carr
I’m not entirely sure what it is you are trying to say. I think you are agreeing with me that mockery is not an effective method to utilize when trying to win someone over to one’s way of thinking. I also agree with your suggestion that the atheist use of mockery is not based on rationality (because there is no rational basis upon which to put forward the idea that it has ever been successful), and that it is more of a vague tit-for-tat method of mudslinging.

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Bob September 26, 2009 at 11:18 am

IntelligentDasein: bullshit. You said atheists have the social skills of autistics in an effort to devalue our arguments. It has nothing to do with our validity or soundness and is nothing more than a personal insult. This is a textbook example of an ad hominem.

No. You have absolutely and unequivocally misunderstood both my post and the idea of Ad hom. I’ll try to make it more clear. The argument being put forward is that mockery will be effective in attracting people to one’s way of thinking. Human nature is such that mockery is an unwelcome quality for most healthy people. So, for you or anyone to believe that people will respond positively to mockery is to exhibit characteristics commonly found in those with autistic spectrum conditions because there is a clear misunderstanding and miscomprehension of how a healthy person would react.

The point is, that it would be extremely unusual for an emotionally healthy person to be persuaded by mockery, and to think otherwise is making an irrational faith claim. I have addressed the arguments in question and outlined clearly why they fail. There has been no ad hom. I hope that clears it up!

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IntelligentDasein September 26, 2009 at 11:27 am

Bob, that has nothing to do with you saying that atheists have the social skills of autistics. And I am quite aware what an ad hominem is. I am one of the few people that posts that actually has formal logic and philosophy training.

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Bob September 26, 2009 at 11:39 am

IntelligentDasein: Bob, that has nothing to do with you saying that atheists have the social skills of autistics. And I am quite aware what an ad hominem is. I am one of the few people that posts that actually has formal logic and philosophy training.

The point is that any attempt to propose mockery as an effective tool against religion fails for two main reasons;

1. There’s no rational basis upon which to make the claim that it has ever succeeded with the vast majority of people anywhere
2. The notion that people will respond positively to mockery is an irrational contention that stems from miscomprehension of how people will react to it and those who do ultilize it will come across as extremely socially inept, which will further undermine the message that you are trying get across

So, again, feel free to argue my points, but it should be clear by now that no ad hom has taken place. Hope that finally settles it!

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Lee A. P. September 26, 2009 at 11:43 am

It is mockery to suggest that atheists are autistic. It is also incredibly stupid and simply untrue.

Yes it is mockery to suggest that Christians literally believe in a wealth of really silly things like talking animals but the distinction here is that it is also completely TRUE.

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Reginald Selkirk September 26, 2009 at 11:49 am

Edward Current is a master of Poe.

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Bob September 26, 2009 at 11:49 am

Lee A. P.: It is mockery to suggest that atheists are autistic. It is also incredibly stupid and simply untrue. Yes it is mockery to suggest that Christians literally believe in a wealth of really silly things like talking animals but the distinction here is that it is also completely TRUE.

But how effective is the use of mockery? If you approach someone and mock them they would think that you had a socialization disorder and they would be far from open to what you had to say. So it’s easy to see how proposing mockery as a serious method of engagement could be interpreted as indicative of social retardation and ineptitude.

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Jeff H September 26, 2009 at 12:13 pm

@Bob,

I don’t think that most people here are claiming that mockery is an accepted form of argumentation. I took a quick look over the previous comments again and didn’t see anything like that (although maybe I missed it). You’re absolutely right – mockery is not in any way a substitute for well-reasoned arguments.

However, as I read Luke’s original post, I saw it more as an argument ad absurdum. In other words, take what a person believes, then show how it can be drawn out to ridiculous conclusions. This is an accepted method of argumentation, and I don’t think it’s at all unreasonable to use it. It can also be done in a non-condescending manner (although I’ll admit that it’s probably easy to let it become condescending). Presenting a person with the conclusions of an argument ad absurdum could at least potentially get them to take a step back and rethink their views – or else, try to come up with a counter-argument against yours.

At any rate, I still see at least some possible value in coming across forcefully and “boorish” as you say. If someone thinks that they have “THE answer” to life, the universe, and everything, usually they need a pretty good slap in the face to wake them up. Sometimes it may cause them to go into defensive mode, but at other times it may have the effect of making them seriously rethink what they believe. After all, people don’t tend to rethink their views once they settle on them – sometimes it takes some shaking up in order to reset the thinking process.

Mind you, when I say all this, keep in mind that this must all be backed up by solid logical reasoning as well. You shouldn’t go up and say someone’s views are silly without having any reasoning to back it up. If the person says, “Why do you think so?” you had better have an answer. Luke’s questions, I think, provide great conversation-starters (or maybe at least argument-starters). I don’t think they can be used in isolation, but when combined with a decent argument, I think they can become very powerful.

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Jeff H September 26, 2009 at 12:14 pm

*sigh* Sorry. I’m too long-winded.

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IntelligentDasein September 26, 2009 at 12:42 pm

It is one thing to critique Christianity through parody and another to call atheists autistic. The second is what you are doing. You are no longer critiquing my ideas, but calling my friends and I names that I find deeply offensive. To avoid being fallacious, you simply changed the subject to critiquing our critique of your ideas and then said you were not insulting us.

Bob:
The point is that any attempt to propose mockery as an effective tool against religion fails for two main reasons;1.There’s no rational basis upon which to make the claim that it has ever succeeded with the vast majority of people anywhere
2.The notion that people will respond positively to mockery is an irrational contention that stems from miscomprehension of how people will react to it and those who do ultilize it will come across as extremely socially inept, which will further undermine the message that you are trying get acrossSo, again, feel free to argue my points, but it should be clear by now that no ad hom has taken place. Hope that finally settles it!

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IntelligentDasein September 26, 2009 at 12:45 pm

Jeff H: *sigh* Sorry. I’m too long-winded.

well put :).

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Bob September 26, 2009 at 1:18 pm

@JeffH

Thanks for your reasonable response!

I would have to disagree that the opening post presented an argument. It simply listed a series of questions that atheists should ask a Christian during the course of a socially awkward conversation. There was certainly no suggestion that this strategy be supported by reasoned arguments. To call that an argument ad absurdum is a stretch.

Furthermore, Luke did, in fact, link me to another of his posts where he clearly states that mockery is an effective tool in attacking religion. Fair enough, but people are well and truly repulsed by mockery. It is an ineffective method.

It’s already condescending to assume that someone (a Christian!) will have that particular set of beliefs that is outlined in Luke’s post, or that they haven’t examined any possible contradictions or problems in their faith. Using the approach that Luke suggests, you have already repelled the target of conversion.

@ IntelligentDasein

Sorry, but are you actually reading my posts? I’ve already laid out my arguments clearly and simply, what “ideas” have you put forward for me to critique? If by “ideas” you mean the idea that I have made an ad hom attack then I have well and truly answered you. Do you have anything substantial to add to this conversation?

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IntelligentDasein September 26, 2009 at 1:29 pm

IntelligentDaseinSorry, but are you actually reading my posts? I’ve already laid out my argumentsclearly and simply, what “ideas” have you put forward for me to critique? If by “ideas” you mean the idea that I have made an ad hom attack then I have well and truly answered you. Do you have anything substantial to add to this conversation?

Of course I am reading them. And I think you really misunderstood what an ad hom is and what you are doing BUT for the sake of progression, I too will drop the subject.

May I ask you, if someone was practicing a religion with stranger beliefs than Christianity, like Mormonism or Scientology, would you consider it rude to tell them that the religion’s tenants are ridiculous?

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Bob September 26, 2009 at 1:33 pm

IntelligentDasein: Of course I am reading them. And I think you really misunderstood what an ad hom is and what you are doing BUT for the sake of progression, I too will drop the subject. May I ask you, if someone was practicing a religion with stranger beliefs than Christianity, like Mormonism or Scientology, would you consider it rude to tell them that the religion’s tenants are ridiculous?

Yes.

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Steven Carr September 26, 2009 at 2:36 pm

BOB
Mockery in any relationship is generally acknowledged to be an emotionally and psychologically unhealthy practice. If mockery is being put forward as an acceptable way of relating to others then it simply shows a disturbing social pathology. Emotionally healthy people don’t do it.

JESUS
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!

“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?

CARR
If mockery is not allowed, how about vulgar abuse and name-calling? Are there any names which Jesus was not prepared to use when he abused people and called them names?

Are we allowed to call Christians the sons of murderers? Is that acceptable discourse?

WWJD?

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Steven Carr September 26, 2009 at 2:39 pm

BOB
The point is that any attempt to propose mockery as an effective tool against religion fails for two main reasons;

CARR
OK.I take your point.

So should we follow the lessons of 1 Kings 18 and just kill people who follow gods we disagree with?

If mockery is not allowed, is the Biblical precedent of murder the way to go?

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Jeff H September 26, 2009 at 3:58 pm

@Bob:

Fair enough (and I see the link to the “mockery” post now). However, I don’t think that mockery is necessarily something that NEVER works. Just picture this. You come up to me and, all smug and satisfied, you say, “Did you know that the moon is made of green cheese?” I say, “Uhh, no it’s not.” And you insist that it is. I stare at you blankly, and then I say back to you, “You really believe that? Seriously? You actually believe that the moon is made of green cheese? What, did you like read one too many Dr. Seuss books when you were growing up? Did you parents tell you that those books were historical documents and that Dr. Seuss is a brilliant scientist or something? Or are you just completely out of your goddamn mind?” At this point, your jaw drops to the floor, because you had always taken it as a matter of fact that the moon was, in fact, made of green cheese. It had never occurred to you that this might not be the case. Confused, and somewhat taken aback, you go home and think about how maybe you need to check your sources…

Okay, so it’s a bit of a silly example, but I can see mockery – or at least forceful questioning – as a useful tactic. Not for everyone, at all times, in all settings. Sometimes it will get you a slap in the face. But other times, perhaps it may be useful. I think, at the very least, it remains to be shown that it is NEVER a useful tactic, and that people are ALWAYS repulsed by it.

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lukeprog September 26, 2009 at 4:05 pm

Bob,

Looks like I’m not even the only one who was deconverted by mockery on this blog. See Lee A.P.

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drj September 26, 2009 at 4:31 pm

I certainly think that its a bit of an open question as to how well social pressure in the form of ridicule helps to encourage or discourage beliefs and behaviors – and whether it is a valid and honorable tactic – in some cases in backfires, in some cases it seems to be indispensable for maintaining some social order.

I think the type of language that Luke uses in the entry is effective and most definitely called for in certain types of discussions – especially in discussions where the tone of theistic argument is very sermon-like, and laden with hyperbole and flowery rhetoric… we all know how over the top a believer can be in the throes of some hardcore witnessing – and diminishing his rhetorical power with matter of fact language (ala, “invisible friend”) is often one of the only ways to attempt to bring the discussion back down from the clouds, onto more rational footing.

Its the right tool, in some situations. But it can be wielded improperly in many situations as well, to the detriment of the unbeliever.

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IntelligentDasein September 26, 2009 at 4:46 pm

I personally see nothing wrong with mocking dogma. This is very different than mocking a person (like saying atheists are socially autistic) and some people need to hear it. It is ok to tell someone killing themselves because a comet passing by it stupid. In a world were people with crazy beliefs kidnap women and force them into polygamous relationships and other crash planes into buildings it can be hazardous not doing so.

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drj September 26, 2009 at 4:56 pm

IntelligentDasein: I personally see nothing wrong with mocking dogma. This is very different than mocking a person (like saying atheists are socially autistic) and some people need to hear it. It is ok to tell someone killing themselves because a comet passing by it stupid. In a world were people with crazy beliefs kidnap women and force them into polygamous relationships and other crash planes into buildings it can be hazardous not doing so.

Yea, I tend to agree – most have no compunction whatsoever about severely ridiculing other types of beliefs, like political beliefs. Much of the schtick from new atheists, like Harris and Dawkins, has been to address this sort of double standard. Why can’t religious beliefs be ridiculed in the same way?

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Laughing Boy September 26, 2009 at 6:33 pm

I’m sorry, Luke, but I have to agree with Bob’s assessment that your claim to have a different sort of atheist blog is unsupported by its content. You seem to have all the resources available to you to fulfill your goal yet you repeatedly return to the same type of antagonistic and condescending comments that characterize so much of the worst of the blogopshere. Even if I agreed that the mass of American evangelicalism is ripe for such attacks, you can’t build a better blog along those lines. Engage the ideas of Christians that you respect and leave the lowest-common denominator blathering to those incapable of anything better.

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Steven Carr September 27, 2009 at 8:00 am

People seem to be concluding that because Luke linked to a video which explained that Christians do not have an invisible friend, they merely have a friend that is invisible, that Luke was somehow mocking Christians.

The logic seems to be
1) Luke’s post contained mockery
2) Luke was mocking Christians.

Anybody who has read top Christian apologists like Alvin Plantinga will know that that is not a logical argument.

2) does not follow from 1), as Luke’s blog may have been hacked.

So why do Christians think Luke is mocking Christians when they cannot produce a logical argument to show that he really is mocking Christians?

I am ,of course, mocking Plantinga whose defense of Christianity is the Doomsday device of Christian apologetics, taking all rational discourse down with it in trying to save Christianity from logical reasoning.

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lukeprog September 27, 2009 at 9:57 am

Carr,

Now you’re getting it. Yes, there is no valid deductive inference from (1) to (2), and your example does illustrate the desperation of Plantinga’s Free Will Defense.

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Bob September 27, 2009 at 10:43 am

Steven Carr: JESUSWoe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers! “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?CARRIf mockery is not allowed, how about vulgar abuse and name-calling? Are there any names which Jesus was not prepared to use when he abused people and called them names?Are we allowed to call Christians the sons of murderers? Is that acceptable discourse?WWJD?

Those are insightful points. I never said that mockery was “not allowed”, I said that it is a pointless exercise and that to propose it as an effective method of persuasion suggests an inability to relate to other human beings in an emotionally health way. Ideally, you shouldbe able to decide for yourself what is or isn’t acceptable discourse in interactions with other people. The question is, if you are trying to be persuasive, will mockery be effective against an emotionally healthy person? In the Bible verse that you quoted, was Jesus trying to be persuasive? Which Bible verse are you quoting?

Steven Carr: CARROK.I take your point.So should we follow the lessons of 1 Kings 18 and just kill people who follow gods we disagree with?If mockery is not allowed, is the Biblical precedent of murder the way to go?

Again, I never said that mockery shouldn’t be allowed, just that it is ineffective as a method of persuasion. I don’t think that murder is an effective method of discourse when the goal is to persuade.

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Bob September 27, 2009 at 10:50 am

Jeff HOkay, so it’s a bit of a silly example, but I can see mockery – or at least forceful questioning – as a useful tactic. Not for everyone, at all times, in all settings. Sometimes it will get you a slap in the face. But other times, perhaps it may be useful. I think, at the very least, it remains to be shown that it is NEVER a useful tactic, and that people are ALWAYS repulsed by it.

Again, thank you for the well reasoned response.
I agree that it probably cannot be shown that mockery never works or that all people are repulsed by it. The question is, are most people repulsed by it and is it ineffective most of the time? I would argue that, yes, most people would be unimpressed with someone basically telling them that they are stupid for not sharing your worldview. After all, historically, I can’t think of a single atheist anti-religious campaign that utilized mockery that proved successful.

You do bring up a very excellent point though about forceful questioning in conjunction with mockery as an effective tactic in some situations. It had already crossed my mind that mockery only has really been shown to be a successful tactic in extreme conditions where individuals are being tortured or otherwise abused. This would seem to support my notion that it works extremely well with those that relate to others in emotionally unhealthy ways.

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Bob September 27, 2009 at 10:58 am

drj
Its the right tool, in some situations. But it can be wielded improperly in many situations as well, to the detriment of the unbeliever.

The rhetorical power of mockery is impressive to those already convinced, but I’m skeptical that there is much evidence to support the idea that it can persuade those who aren’t. So, in fact, it’s more detrimental to the non-believer that utilzes it, since they may well come across as pompous and arrogant, qualities that many people find unimpressive. After all, nobody wants to come across as pompous and arrogant.

drj: Yea, I tend to agree – most have no compunction whatsoever about severely ridiculing other types of beliefs, like political beliefs. Much of the schtick from new atheists, like Harris and Dawkins, has been to address this sort of double standard. Why can’t religious beliefs be ridiculed in the same way?

But that’s not the kind of mockery that Luke is suggesting. According to your post, Dawkins and Harris are utilizing mockery to attack a double standard, not as a means of persuasion. Their’s is a more honest approach that isn’t pretending to care that religious believers don’t see the naturalistic light. Either way both approaches are pointless.

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Bob September 27, 2009 at 11:05 am

IntelligentDasein: I personally see nothing wrong with mocking dogma. This is very different than mocking a person (like saying atheists are socially autistic) and some people need to hear it. It is ok to tell someone killing themselves because a comet passing by it stupid. In a world were people with crazy beliefs kidnap women and force them into polygamous relationships and other crash planes into buildings it can be hazardous not doing so.

Again, it’s not a question of whether you find the practice acceptable, that is missing the point completely. Most emotionally healthy people will not be persuaded by it, regardless of whether you think it is a good idea or not. Show me one person that enjoys being mocked, and I’ll guarantee that that person has some major emotional problems. For instance, do you really think that if you told someone that was about to kill themselves that they were stupid that they would find you persuasive? That’s why I used the analogy (or parable, if you will)of the socially awkward autist to make my point. If you approach people with mockery it destroys the relationship before it’s had time to develope.

Just for the record, I would like to re-iterate that I used neither ad hom nor mockery in any of my posts. What you are describing above is not mockery, but a blatant name-calling insult – something which I haven’t done. I thought we had dealt with this already.

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Bob September 27, 2009 at 11:07 am

Steven Carr:
I am ,of course, mocking Plantinga whose defense of Christianity is the Doomsday device of Christian apologetics, taking all rational discourse down with it in trying to save Christianity from logical reasoning.

Yes, but is mockery rational discourse? There is no historical precedent that shows that mockery is a successful method to “de-convert” believers. If it has not proven successful historically, then it isn’t rational to believe it will be effective. You are making a faith claim.

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Bob September 27, 2009 at 11:12 am

lukeprogLooks like I’m not even the only one who was deconverted by mockery on this blog. See Lee A.P.

There could be several reasons for that, none of which would support the notion that emotionally healthy people respond positively to mockery. Of course, it could show evidence to the contray, but historically mockery has failed to deconvert believers.

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Lee A. P. September 27, 2009 at 5:14 pm

lukeprog: Bob,Looks like I’m not even the only one who was deconverted by mockery on this blog. See Lee A.P.

As you point out eslewhere, along with Loftus, it is a cumulative case; but it WAS partly mockery that I read on the internet combined with what I saw was good reasoning FOR said mockery, which went a long way in swaying me.

No one thing is completely effective all at once for any believer. That much is obvious — not even pure empirical evidential proof would knock some hard headed Christians out of their beliefs right away. But mockery is effective as part of a cumulative case.

The main crux here to me is “is there good REASON for mockery”. Those who say “Ha ha! Evolutionists say a turnip is related to a human! How stupid! From goo to the zoo to you! Hahahaha!” are engaging in mockery. But it does not jive with the evidence for evolution.

Mockery of Christianity jives with the evidence and works as part of a cumulative case against Christianity.

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Hylomorphic September 27, 2009 at 8:21 pm

Bob, I’m rather surprised to see that you think healthy-minded people lack an aversion to mockery or that mockery is an ineffective tool for persuasion.

It’s a basic element of human social fabric. A lot of men like kilts, but don’t wear them because they fear they might be mocked. In advertising, the phrase “guilty pleasure” applies either to chocolate or to things that people might enjoy, but which carry a risk of mild social opprobrium–such as listening to crappy pop songs. In intellectual circles, people tend not to admit to belief in things like psychics and UFO’s lest they provoke smiles–and it’s implausible to think that this doesn’t play a role in managing actual beliefs.

While it’s true that hyper-sensitivity to mockery is often a sign of underlying insecurities or other mental health issues, it’s just not correct to say that mockery does not play a role in persuading healthy-minded people. Not only has it been demonstrated countless times historically, but it can be seen in thousands of little ways in average, day-to-day life.

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Steven carr September 27, 2009 at 10:59 pm

BOB
I don’t think that murder is an effective method of discourse when the goal is to persuade.

CARR
Well, I read the Bible and 1 Kings 18 shows how prophets of the loving God dealth with people who belonged to other religions.

And now I find that mockery and murder are not the way to go!

What was the point of me reading God’s instruction manual?

I might as well have read something that wasn’t inspired by God.

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lukeprog September 27, 2009 at 11:05 pm

Carr,

Great stuff as usual. There are so many absurdities in Christian doctrine that I can’t keep up!

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Steven Carr September 28, 2009 at 12:43 am

What is the correct response to people who claim the Bush administration planned 9/11 or that the creator of the universe was incarnated as a man and told his friends how to get free money by looking in the mouth of a fish?

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Bob September 28, 2009 at 3:40 am

Hylomorphic: Bob, I’m rather surprised to see that you think healthy-minded people lack an aversion to mockery or that mockery is an ineffective tool for persuasion.
It’s a basic element of human social fabric. A lot of men like kilts, but don’t wear them because they fear they might be mocked. In advertising, the phrase “guilty pleasure” applies either to chocolate or to things that people might enjoy, but which carry a risk of mild social opprobrium–such as listening to crappy pop songs. In intellectual circles, people tend not to admit to belief in things like psychics and UFO’s lest they provoke smiles–and it’s implausible to think that this doesn’t play a role in managing actual beliefs.
While it’s true that hyper-sensitivity to mockery is often a sign of underlying insecurities or other mental health issues, it’s just not correct to say that mockery does not play a role in persuading healthy-minded people. Not only has it been demonstrated countless times historically, but it can be seen in thousands of little ways in average, day-to-day life.

I don’t believe that I’ve argued that healthy-minded people lack an aversion to mockery. If you agree with that notion, then you are agreeing with me. That aside, I appreciate your well thought-out post. Despite this, I fail to see how your reasoning can lead to the conclusion that emotionally healthy people will respond positively to mockery.

For instance, people mocking the pop music genre hasn’t lead to a demise in its popularity. It is still popular! Plus, there are probably many reasons why people don’t wear the kilt, the main one being that most people outside of Scotland and parts of Ireland never wore kilts to begin with. But, within Scotland itself, it’s not so culturally unusual that people who wear it would find themselves being mocked. I also don’t believe that people are mocked for eating chocolate. I interpret the “guilty pleasures” tactic as an appeal to one’s “rebellious” side.

Finally, people not admitting to belief in UFOs, and psychics, does not mean that they don’t believe in those things. It simply means that they do not admit to believing in them. History records many cases where people’s beliefs were hidden. So, again, mockery fails in this scenario.

I think it would be hard to find any counselors or psychotherapists that would recommend to anyone that they remain in a relationship with someone that utilizes mockery. The reason being that mockery is a psychologically unhealthy way of relating to others, and those who accept mockery are generally emotionally unhealthy. Additionally, from a social point of view, people that use mockery in their relationships with others are generally viewed unfavourably as lacking social mores. This is why mockery is ineffective.

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Bob September 28, 2009 at 3:47 am

Steven carrCARRWell, I read the Bible and 1 Kings 18 shows how prophets of the loving God dealth with people who belonged to other religions.And now I find that mockery and murder are not the way to go!What was the point of me reading God’s instruction manual?I might as well have read something that wasn’t inspired by God.

I’m afraid I didn’t find anything in that verse that suggests that murder is a good method of persuasion. The killings as described in Kings 1:18 do not in any way imply that it is intended as a method for persuasion, or that it was used as such. I’m not sure how you have come to this conclusion. Maybe I’m incorrect, but I don’t think so.

But still, you haven’t shown that mockery it is an effective method of persuasion. In Kings 1:18, does the mockery by Elijah persuade the prophets of Baal in any way? Certainly not! Of course, there’s no reason to think that we are being called to mock others from this chapter. That’s not being said here.

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Bob September 28, 2009 at 3:50 am

lukeprog:Great stuff as usual.

I disagree with you here. I don’t believe that Mr Carr has given a good example of how mockery is effective in persuading people to your worldview.

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Bob September 28, 2009 at 3:53 am

Steven Carr: What is the correct response to people who claim the Bush administration planned 9/11 or that the creator of the universe was incarnated as a man and told his friends how to get free money by looking in the mouth of a fish?

I think the answer you are looking for is that we should mock them, but will it persuade them that they are wrong? If the answer is no, then it’s irrational to believe that mockery is an effective course of action. I see no reason to believe that mockery will be effective.

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Jeff H September 28, 2009 at 12:40 pm

Okay, Bob, let’s try this one, then. Assume that there is an individual who believes something despite all evidence to the contrary. This person distrusts the consensus of experts on the subject matter, and comes up with completely ad hoc justifications in order to continue to believe. In other words, no amount of evidence or reasonable persuasion is going to affect them in any way. They are like a brick wall.

Now, if someone wants to persuade them otherwise, what recourse do they have other than social pressure – i.e. mockery, unfavourable group associations, and other emotional appeals? Certainly this is not the first tactic one should try. If you have a great logical argument, use it. But if the person is insistent that your evidence is fabricated, that you’re an incarnation of the devil, etc. etc., would mockery at least be a reasonable last-ditch effort in this case?

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Bob September 28, 2009 at 11:45 pm

Jeff H: Okay, Bob, let’s try this one, then. Assume that there is an individual who believes something despite all evidence to the contrary. This person distrusts the consensus of experts on the subject matter, and comes up with completely ad hoc justifications in order to continue to believe. In other words, no amount of evidence or reasonable persuasion is going to affect them in any way. They are like a brick wall.
Now, if someone wants to persuade them otherwise, what recourse do they have other than social pressure – i.e. mockery, unfavourable group associations, and other emotional appeals? Certainly this is not the first tactic one should try. If you have a great logical argument, use it. But if the person is insistent that your evidence is fabricated, that you’re an incarnation of the devil, etc. etc., would mockery at least be a reasonable last-ditch effort in this case?

Well Jeff, that’s a good question!

The short answer to your question is no. For it to be a reasonable approach you would have to believe that it has worked well historically. There is no reason to believe this.

Furthermore, the scenario that you put forward would be a further indication that there was an inability on the part of the one prone to mockery to comprehend the nature of a healthy social interaction. If your strongest logical arguments are rejected and you resort to mockery, then, to any healthy person you wouldn’t come across as logical or intelligent. To most people it would seem as though you were taking your marbles and stomping off home – a la Cartman from Southpark, “screw all you guys, I’m going home!

People just don’t respond well to being mocked.

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Steven Carr September 29, 2009 at 1:07 am

BOB
In Kings 1:18, does the mockery by Elijah persuade the prophets of Baal in any way? Certainly not!

CARR
Agreed. So Elijah had them murdered, because they still believed in their imaginary god.

There is a lesson for us all here

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Ched September 30, 2009 at 10:46 am

You’ve shown how to sow seeds of doubt, and how to emphatically split infinitives. :)

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Roman November 25, 2009 at 10:13 am

“Agreed. So Elijah had them murdered, because they still believed in their imaginary god.
There is a lesson for us all here ”

LOL.

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naturist January 8, 2012 at 10:24 am

I find God and gods, religion and agnosticism embarrassing, because agnosticism is silly, you draw ridiculous things, it’s embarrassing. Searching for a thing that doesn’t exist, believing in a soul, being “happy” (faux happiness) with a bit of suffering, calling an ascetic way of life happiness (it’s pseudohappiness), I can’t agree with that. I believe in walking in and caring for nature, and my fantasy of a dragon and skull (I don’t believe it exists, only a madman would). I can’t say I’m an atheist, I’m a nature-boy, not a believer, it’s simple logic and it shouldn’t take 100,000 years to understand, and it’s proof, it’s quite simple: there’s no such thing as God, gods or a soul. There’s no such thing as karma. Reason is the only certainty of knowledge: if it doesn’t follow the laws of causality, effect, function or physics, or the laws of existence, it can’t happen. A woman didn’t turn into salt by a true factual history, nor is it reliable, because women can’t for no reason change themselves into thousands of tiny pieces, turn translucent, and change taste without blood escaping from her body, without liquid, or by magic. It has to have a reason, it has to be extremely horrible, it has to be very painful, and it can’t happen just like that, otherwise it can’t happen, therefore religion is not real truth: for example Sufism: a ghost can’t be black as a symptom of bullying a victim, if you shove apples in a person’s mouth the symptom of it can’t follow three conditions intersecting at once without a cause, an effect or a reason, therefore a human soul doesn’t fly out of an apple, and something can’t happen if it has anything to do with a soul, therefore a spirit doesn’t fly out based on bullying or how nice you are, a spirit can only fly out as a physical cause determined by the laws of physics and a spirit can’t be different from its body, therefore a spirit of a rotten apple is a rotten apple, it’s not a black person. Now you see how rational I can get.

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