Amazing Atheists

by Luke Muehlhauser on September 20, 2010 in Amazing Atheists,Video

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Zak September 20, 2010 at 9:21 am

Oh snap, it’s my video! Thanks for posting it, Luke.

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Dan September 20, 2010 at 9:44 am

I don’t think the use of “fool” in the bible is meant to be a description of their book smarts.

Maybe this is a bad analogy, but I’m guessing they are using the word in the same way I’d use it in this sentence: “The nobel peace prize winning rocket scientist who wrote 6 books and 50 papers on the topic of rocket science, is foolish for smoking cigarettes.”

So I think the bible is saying you can have book smarts, but are foolish in how you treat your health. My example uses cigarettes where they take it to the next level mentioning eternal damnation.

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Zak September 20, 2010 at 9:55 am

Dan, you are right. In the footnotes of most modern bibles, it states that a fool is someone who is morally corrupt. However, if you look in many bible commentaries (such as Adam Clarke’s), it says “fool signifies an empty fellow, a contemptible person, a villain. One who has a muddy head and an unclean heart; and in his darkness and folly, says in his heart ‘there is no God’…”

Also, to TONS of Christians, it means exactly how I have quoted it. Just do a google search, and you will find loads of Christian sites claiming atheists are ignorant, immoral fools, and citing psalms as proof.

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dh September 20, 2010 at 10:38 am

The Protestant notion of common grace addresses this directly. from the wiki – “Human advancements that come through the unredeemed are seen as outcomes of God’s common grace. For example, medical and other technological advancements that improve the lives of both the redeemed and unredeemed are seen as initiated by common grace.”

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Sam Norton September 20, 2010 at 10:56 am

Psalms frequently use a literary device, called parallelism, whereby the sense of the first part of the verse is then repeated, rephrased, in the second. An example would be Psalm 40 verse 8: “I desire to do your will, O my God;// your law is within my heart.” This is two ways of saying the same thing.

Psalm 14.1 needs to be understood in this way, that is, the atheist is someone who acts unrighteously. It’s not a confessional question, it is a question of behaviour. So _biblically_ speaking, those in the video who act righteously in their lives do not qualify as fools.

Great site btw.

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G'DIsraeli September 20, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Did you watch Dawkin’s welcome for the Pope…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_0kFU7IfPM
My favorite line is “as tho a penis was an essential for pastoral duties” XD

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cartesian September 20, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Well done and entertaining, but I worry about the main argument.

(1) The Bible says, “The fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God’.”
(2) Therefore, the Bible says all atheists are fools.
(3) But many atheists are not fools.
(4) Therefore, the Bible is wrong.

The bit I’m concerned with is the move from (1) to (2). All the Bible says is that the fool is an atheist. There are, to my mind, two reasonable readings of this (at least in English! Maybe someone who knows the Hebrew can shed some light here):
(A) All fools are atheists.
(B) The type of fool I’m telling you about is (at least in general) an atheist.

I’d choose reading (B), since (A) is pretty clearly false.

The following is NOT a reasonable interpretation:
(C) All atheists are fools.

But Zak Attack — the guy who made this video — infers (C) from that passage of Psalms. I think that was a pretty hasty inference. So: hooray for a well-made video, but boo for some poor interpretation of ordinary English.

In the argument above, (2) doesn’t follow from (1). So the argument is invalid.

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lukeprog September 20, 2010 at 2:38 pm

cartesian,

In Zak’s defense, a great number of Christians, including theologians, interpret that verse from Psalms as (C). So I read Zak’s video as responding to those Christians.

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Lorkas September 20, 2010 at 3:02 pm

My favorite retort to the quip “The fool says in his heart there is no God” is “The wise man says it aloud”.

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lukeprog September 20, 2010 at 3:14 pm

Lorkas,

Good one.

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cartesian September 20, 2010 at 3:25 pm

I found a clearer way to put my point:

“The cow says ‘Mooo’”
means
In general, cows moo.
It does NOT mean that all moo-ers are cows.

“The duck says ‘Quack!’”
means
In general, ducks quack.
It does NOT mean that all quack-ers are ducks.

Therefore,

“The fool says ‘There is no God’”
means
In general, fools are atheists.
It does NOT mean that all atheists are fools.

What sentences of this type communicate is that there is some quality that’s characteristic of a kind, i.e. there is some trait T is generally shared by members of some kind K. But that’s consistent with other things having T and not belonging to K.
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Luke,
That’s a very generous interpretation you have there! ;-) I mean, how do you know this guy had those other people in mind? I watched the video again, and it sure *looks* like he meant to argue in this way:

(1) The Psalms say “The fool says ‘There is no God’”
(2) Therefore, the Psalms say all atheists are fools

He doesn’t mention anyone else making this inference. He doesn’t say “Suppose this is the right way to interpret the Psalmist here.” He just goes for it. At the very least, Zak Attack signs on to a bad interpretation that he heard elsewhere. He endorses it without qualification. He pretty clearly seems to think that’s the right interpretation of the verse, and he goes on to attack the truth of the claim that all atheists are fools.

So I still think he’s guilty of making a bad inference. Even if he got the idea to make that bad inference from someone else, he’s still guilty of making it.

I think I’m taking all the fun out of this video by over-analyzing it, though, so I’ll stop. Hope you’re all doing well.

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lukeprog September 20, 2010 at 4:12 pm

cartesian,

I dunno. I’ve heard that interpretation so much that in my experience, it’s the usual Christian interpretation. So I can see why Zak would respond with this video.

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Zak September 20, 2010 at 4:37 pm

Cartesian,

Luke is correct. I was never trying to make some air tight argument. When I made the video, I was essentially just a way for me to vent my frustration about Christians who would always quote that verse to me (specifically, ex girlfriends family). I also never expected more than 50 people to ever see it.

But maybe you are right. And if a Christian wants to take your interpretation, that’s fine with me. But as Luke pointed out, this video is not targeted at those Christians. It’s targeted at the Christians who use that verse to claim atheists are idiots.

Just google that verse, and you will find tons of Christian websites endorsing that view. Or read Bible commentaries (such as Adam Clarke’s)… they often take that interpretation. In fact, I never heard any other interpretation of that verse until I made the video. I wasn’t even aware of the possibility.

So anyway, if someone is guilty of making a bad inference, it is the Christians, and not me. Since I was basically just quoting them verbatim.

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Zeb September 21, 2010 at 7:33 am

Lorkas
I’d say, “The fool says in his heart there is no god; the wise man says it aloud,” could be a good maxim, from my Catholic mystic’s point of view. I would assert it as “Anyone who says in his heart there is no god is a fool, but some who say it aloud are wise.” I interpret “says in his heart” to mean “follows the spirit of truth, beauty, and goodness and, above all, love,” and “says it aloud” to mean “confesses the falseness of all concepts of god or the failure of any claims about god under his preferred epistemology.” So perhaps in the sense that Gandhi called his atheist friend Charles Bradlaugh “a God-fearing man,” I would agree with both you and Psalms.

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vmanuel September 28, 2010 at 1:41 am

In your “Amazing Atheists”: nothing about BERTRAND RUSSELL!

I do not believe in your work !

Best regards,
Portugal, 2k100928
vmanuel

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