Changing One’s Mind

by Luke Muehlhauser on November 28, 2009 in Debates,How-To

changing direction

In the past, I defended the position that Jesus was, according to Christian doctrine, a magical wish-granting friend (1, 2, 3). Christians argued against this, and I recently conceded that I had been wrong: Jesus is Not Magic.

Some atheists do not appreciate this. They see it as weakness. Moreover, they see it as a “bad move.” They see it a bit like they see the Democrats’ decision to make political concessions in order to pick up Republican votes on important bills. That weakens good bills, and the Republicans never pay back political favors anyway! They just keep on using the most outrageous tactics to fatten the wallets of their corporate overlords.

But I didn’t concede my mistake for political favors. I didn’t do it to change Christian behavior. And Christians aren’t my enemies. I conceded my mistake because I was wrong and I care about the truth.

The comments on my earlier post and at Discussion Grounds exemplify what I see as the common quest for truth. We try to understand each other, we share arguments and counterarguments, and together we try to overcome our own biases and track toward the truth. This Thanksgiving weekend, these commenters helped me get a little closer to the truth. It’s not the first time they’ve done that, either. And while I can’t recall having a Christian change his mind about anything on this blog, I know it does happen. John at Debunking Christianity sometimes gets letters from people who say his work actually made them deconvert altogether.

This is a blog for those who care about the truth and want to pursue it.

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Steven Carr November 28, 2009 at 11:29 pm

Didn’t Jesus tell his friends how to get free money by looking in the mouth of a fish?

I bet Penn and Teller could do that!

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lukeprog November 28, 2009 at 11:31 pm

Carr,

I also do not recommend the Biblical cure for leprosy, which is magic in every sense of the word.

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Beelzebub November 29, 2009 at 1:00 am

Is this the atheist version of “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” ?

I’m sorry, but I fail to see the import of definitively nailing down whether Jesus was magical or not.

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lukeprog November 29, 2009 at 1:10 am

Lol @ Beelzebub.

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Beelzebub November 29, 2009 at 2:39 am

Luke,
My apologies for the snide remark, but there are better questions to pursue — and my sympathies to you for needing to get diverted to “the magicality (magicalness?) of Jesus.” The banality of the details underscore the absurdity of the topic.

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mikemarsh November 29, 2009 at 2:45 am

Luke,
I have followed along with your argument of “Jesus is magic”, and, even while you were asserting the claim, I wasn’t able to understand its significance to the debate on the factual nature and existence of Jesus, the messiah. Since you have reversed your stance on claiming Jesus as magical (which I respect your willingness to be corrected), where does this leave the debate?

I doubt you have re-converted as a result of your concession to the magical perception of Christ. As I see it, the argument never had any legs to begin with. It was an argument posited for Christians to see their belief as a Disney fairy tale. If you were right or wrong, it didn’t hold any weight on your atheist position.

Since you have reversed your stance on Jesus as magic, is this a victory for the Christians? As well, if a Christian were to concede that Jesus is, in fact, an invisible, magical friend who grants you wishes, how would that change the debate for either side?

I think the word “magic” was being asserted because it holds a phony, cartoonish reputation in Western culture. The main point in using this description of Jesus is for a Christian to see their beliefs of a supernatural relationship with an invisible god as silly and childish.

As you saw in your exchange with Thinking Christian, this approach to the debate only leads to a dead end. The recipient likely feels berated and disrespected, and sees no reason to carry on with someone who appears to be making fun of their beliefs.

Overall, your approach to debating TC, and other Christians on the internets, has been solid. I think you’re on the right track by stepping back from the “Jesus is magic” stance and focusing on more important points… like the historical inaccuracies in the Bible and the lack of concrete evidence for the resurrection and Jesus’ claim as God’s son. There are many more worthy points to be contending.

I look forward to more debates and learning all that I can from this excellent site.

-mike

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Edson November 29, 2009 at 4:10 am

I slightly have a different perspective with God, Jesus, Christianity and Magic. I have no idea why a Christian should be pissed if magic is associated with his faith.

Dictionary definitions aside, I understand “magic” to be the occurence or experience something mind-boggling, absolutely abnomal to our mindset, awestrucking, if that something happens to be real.

For instance, it is narrated that God instructed Moses to straighten up his hand stick, and immediately the Sea was parted. The event, if true, was obviously magical but reported to be real. Why anyone should be pissed about magical but real powers?

I guess that today’s naturalistic thinking is what is making the issue of magic to be a big deal, especially among westerners. Actually, I am of the view that even what happens to be magic is not really magic, in the common use of the word. It is just speed that the event or a phenomenon happens that make it magical to us. A terrible and terminal disease can be cured magically for a fraction of a second, but the process of healing, at any rate, just followed, usual biological patterns of cells recovery.

We only get awe-struck by the speed and the unlikelihood of the magical phenomenon.

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Jeff H November 29, 2009 at 8:39 am

Luke, since I started visiting the site here, I have always respected your honest and straight-forward search for truth. Changing one’s mind in light of new evidence/arguments is not a weakness; it’s a great strength. It’s dogmatism and stubbornness that get us into petty squabbles – I’ve done it far too many times, where half-way through I realize that I actually am wrong, and they’re right, but I still continue arguing my case simply because I can’t stand admitting defeat. That is the real weakness.

Kudos to you for admitting that you don’t know everything and being willing to learn from others.

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Haukur November 29, 2009 at 9:06 am

Luke, you truly are a magical, wish-granting friend :)

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ayer November 29, 2009 at 10:14 am

Luke,

Kudos to you.

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Sharkey November 29, 2009 at 10:49 am

Mike says:

Overall, your approach to debating TC, and other Christians on the internets, has been solid. I think you’re on the right track by stepping back from the “Jesus is magic” stance and focusing on more important points… like the historical inaccuracies in the Bible and the lack of concrete evidence for the resurrection and Jesus’ claim as God’s son. There are many more worthy points to be contending.

Right now, the quote at the top of this page is: “When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours” by Stephen Roberts.

Some Christians dismiss other gods and other religions on the basis of “magic”; therefore, showing the fallacy in that argument aligns with Roberts’ quote. I posted in the earlier thread that “Jesus is magic” is still a true statement, even with the expanded definitions. If the truth of that statement offends Christians, that is their problem.

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J November 29, 2009 at 11:16 am

Why did you use WWII Nazi warplane for the picture? (Just curious.)

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Haukur November 29, 2009 at 12:33 pm

J: Why did you use WWII Nazi warplane for the picture? (Just curious.)

The real question is why Luke is still using crappy old Bf 109 instead of the superior new model Fw 190.

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lukeprog November 29, 2009 at 1:01 pm

Mike,

No, this topic has no significance on the rational debate over theism vs. atheism at all. That wasn’t the point.

I like how Beelzebub put it: “Is this the atheist version of asking how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?”

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lukeprog November 29, 2009 at 1:14 pm

Because it is clearly changing directions. Is it really a Nazi warplane? How can you tell?

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Thomas Reid November 29, 2009 at 1:47 pm

lukeprog: Because it is clearly changing directions. Is it really a Nazi warplane? How can you tell?  

Luftwaffe aircraft I think always displayed the iron cross as a symbol of nationality.

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Haukur November 29, 2009 at 2:15 pm

lukeprog: Is it really a Nazi warplane? How can you tell?

Well, it’s a Messerschmitt Bf 109 with Iron Cross markings.

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Bebok November 29, 2009 at 2:39 pm

Haukur: The real question is why Luke is still using crappy old Bf 109 instead of the superior new model Fw 190.

Maybe he’s trying to say that changing mind about the nature of Jesus is as hard as turning back the Bf 109, not as easy as turning back the Fw 190.

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Mark November 29, 2009 at 3:33 pm

Hey boss dee plane is not only changing direction, it’s changing orientation too. Let’s get a breathalyzer for that pilot when it lands. ;)

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Jeff H November 29, 2009 at 4:45 pm

lukeprog: I like how Beelzebub put it: “Is this the atheist version of asking how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?”  

Lol I thought you might be laughing at “nailing down” Jesus…

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Lee A. P. November 29, 2009 at 5:23 pm

Luke,

It may be helpful to remember that these superstitious pieces of dogshit believe that you and everyone who believes differently than they do will be tormented forever for disagreeing with them about very hard to believe things written in books thousands of years ago.

These people, people you and I love, millions of people — are pathetic, hateful assholes when it coes to their religion. They are pathetic, putrid pieces of dino-feces when it comes to their religion. It blinds them. It controls them. It changes the rules of the game as it would otherwise be played for them.

For all intents and purposes, Jesus IS their magical, wish granting, invisible, best friend. They say so themselves, only while using different words.

The wise change their minds based on the EVIDENCE soley. If you changed based on any other reason then it is not genuine. Remember that. Otherwise, so be it. Christians believe in stupid supernatural shit.

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lukeprog November 29, 2009 at 6:33 pm

Bebok: Maybe he’s trying to say that changing mind about the nature of Jesus is as hard as turning back the Bf 109, not as easy as turning back the Fw 190. 

Uh, yeah. That was it.

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Lorkas November 30, 2009 at 3:00 pm

Cheers for having the maturity to change your mind publicly, but I’m still not convinced that there’s a useful distinction between “magic” and “supernatural powers”. I agree that it’s not a very important question though :P

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