Now, for me, I’ve seen Christianity grow, and count the New Atheists (even those whom, um, are tag alongs) as sort of like prophetic figures who are pushing us to greater heights.
Now, John has admitting lying in the past, among other things, so I don’t put anything past him, but come on… even this is just stupid on his part.
Oh, and I’m not ‘majoring’ in anything at the Master’s level, John. I’m writing my thesis on mimetic criticism while writing a book on mimetic criticism which is neither exegesis nor interpretation. I’m not sure where you went to school at, but they should have taught you better, buddy.
I’m beginning to think that John is so deluded, that he has started to become unconvinced even in his own arguments. That’s why he’s quitting. Because he is convincing himself that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
Our good friend, John Loftus, has declared that since he had made no head way in his war on Christianity, he is packing it in. Bully for him. Of course, he says that he is just tired of kicking a dead horse, although it seems that atheism is the dead horse.
You know, I don’t mind people going against the flow – as a matter of fact, I suggest it – but when no one listens to you, you may wish to reconsider your position. I mean, if you are only attracting people like you, then you may in fact be wrong.
Now, for me, I’ve seen Christianity grow, and count the New Atheists (even those whom, um, are tag alongs) as sort of like prophetic figures who are pushing us to greater heights.
People like John have come and gone for a very, very long time and yet Christianity is still here. So, John, we’ll wait for you to come back around to the faith. Good luck. I hope that if he comes back this way again, his arguments are better. They were the same, tired, stuff.
Oh well… You can read his poor, poor pitiful me post here:
So, Jim posted something this morning calling for the death of atheists everywhere, including but limited to the practical ones. He described in minute detail the methods of torture he would use for a confession and do so with the intent that the revolution against our secularist overlords start sometime this evening.
Or, rather, that seems to be the version that I pick up from Loftus. Before actually thinking that he should have read the tags and ignored Jim, he attacked Jim personally. Tom has waded in, noting,
When Loftus put out his collection ‘The Christian Delusion’ and Dawkin’s put out ‘The God Delusion’ and when atheists sent banners to be flown over the beaches on the 4th of July weekend, what are these but deliberate attempts to provoke the religious communities in this country? Jim West is just as guilty when it comes to provoking atheists, but that is precisely the point, isn’t it? In context, lots of things are said on TV or on the radio or in movies which, out of context, would be considered hate speech and provocation. But they are said within a context and those who get the context understand the humor. Those like John Loftus, who seems to have a very rocky relationship with Jim, are of course going to read it as something depraved and disturbing. But John says some rather depraved things as well about the status of Christians and Christianity as a whole.
Well, Tom’s correct. Both sides seem to like to provoke. On the biblioblogosphere, sometimes, a lot of times, that has to do with hits, and yet, Jim wasn’t trying to provoke John, just everyone. I note that John has a history of blowing things up which he admitted here, a page which has since been removed when I pointed it out to him once before. He has even gone so far as to say that someone would beat his wife:
In Paul Manata’s case I got pretty upset with him based upon his violent past and predicted he’d probably beat his wife someday,…
Mark my words, Paul, you will beat your wife when she disagrees with you in the future. If I were her I would be scared to marry you. But I’ll never know if what I predict will happen, and I hope it doesn’t. But it will, even as a Christian. And when it does, remember who is was who told you (the truth) that you would do it. And then reflect back on the conversion experience you’ve had and how it changed your life.
The bottom line for me is that I have to develop thicker skin. I need to ignore the taunts, the ridicule, and the belittling that Christians do out there. I have to understand that they feel personally attacked by the simple fact that this very blog exists. If I can keep my head above water here, I’ll do okay. I plan on doing much better about this from now on. I’ll try not to miss that daily shower again!
John responded with his usual wit by calling Tom a name. As I noted above, John has previous admitted that he has no problem attacked, even in a deceptive way. He often fills provoked. He is angry. But as he said, he needs to grow a thicker skin.
There have been a very few times that I have dialogued with John via email. I think that he and I would agree on several issues, but in this, I think he is using it as a cover to attack Jim.
Tim brought this to my attention today. John writes,
Osama Bin Laden was probably a good man; sincere, devout and God fearing. But all it takes to make good people do evil is religion. Keep that in mind. That is the lesson of his life. He was deluded in the same way as other believers. Some delusions cause more harm than others though, and he caused a great deal of it. The problem is he will never know he was deluded. Neither will any of the rest of them. What a waste of a life.
Today, in the post linking to Tim’s, Dr. Gayle left a comment quoting Frank Schaeffer,
“I agree with the New Atheists: It is time for religion to go — intolerant, politicized ugly religion as we know it, that is. I agree with religious people, too: Atheism has killed many more millions of people, specifically in the name of godless ideologies, than all religions combined ever killed in the name of God or any gods. Or put it this way: The atheist yells, ‘Crusades!’ The religious believer counters, ‘Stalin!’ The atheist says, ‘Faith in science!’ The believer answers, ‘Faith in God!’ We are stuck trading catchphrases like school children taunting each other on the playground, or is there a better way to discuss what boils down to just two issues: the quest for meaning in our lives and the search for an answer concerning the origin of everything?” –Frank Schaeffer, Patience with God: Faith for People Who Don’t Like Religion (or Atheism), page 7
I considered John’s viewpoints, and more than I would like to admit, I have considered them greatly over the past few years, but in the end, the evil, miscreant, and/or violent leaders under the guise of religion (I note that people don’t blame capitalism for the barbarous actions of a few capitalists, well, not like they do believers anyway) aren’t representatives of their belief systems. But, in this, and in a few other things, John is wrong.
To equate all believers with Osama Bin Laden (no matter in that calling him a ‘good man’, questions are raised about John’s lexicon) is simply ludicrous. I could mentioned John of the Cross, the monks, the nuns, Catherine of Siena, Francis of Assisi, Pope John Paull II, William Booth, John and Charles Wesley, and other notable figures from throughout Christian History (I am not familiar enough with Islamic of Jewish leaders to include them here, but they are not my concern.) who have lived selfless lives with harm only to the establishment, or with lives in service of their God, in love to one another, and in hope that they could peacefully make the world a more holistic place.
But, those names are ‘out there’. They are his and herstories. They are them.
When I think about the Christian figures which I would use against John’s assumption that religion and people who do religion are evil, I think about my fellow believers at Christ Church United Methodist Church. I think about the women of the United Methodist Women who organize various fund raisers to help the community feed and clothe the poorest amongst us. I think of those who are meek and seeking only their place in the world, but in their meekness, they too contribute to the community in a positive way. I am not going to mention any names, but some of the women in my Sunday School class could help John understand what ‘good’ is. Or our Deacon. Or our Senior Pastor. Or our Pastor of Parish life. Shauna has a heart to help out the disenfranchised, unassuming of their response to the Gospel or their contribution to the local church. In speaking with the Senior Pastor just the little that I have, I found someone who cares about his congregation a great deal and could help John understand what sincere is. Our Deacon(s) have a great love for God, and for the lay ministries, and could help John understand what God-reverencing is. And our Sunday school could help John understand that believers aren’t deluded, but some of the most faithful struggle, openly, with their faith, traditions, and convictions. I would like to introduce them to our resident Bishop and to two of our pearls to understand what a led lead in the fullness of God really looks like.
But these people will never get the credit that they deserve. Instead of them, people like Tony Perkins and Jerry Falwell are considered the Christian majority. People like Fred Phelps and Osama bin Laden are considered ‘religious believers’ and held as examples of such. And people like John will hide their hurt caused religion by equating all believers with the worst possible examples that they can find, instead of being honest and admitting that for the majority of believers, faith is an enriching and wonderful thing.
● But first: the definition of what is good and bad in the moral sense. Harris proposed to start as in science or math with a concept that is unprovable, yet everyone would agree. He said: consider the state of maximal suffering for everyone for all times. Everyone would agree that this state is bad.
Now, we can define good which everyone agrees is the opposite, as the state of minimal suffering or the state of maximal well being for everyone for all times. Between these two states, there is a landscape of infinite possible states, of varying degrees of good and bad.
This was a major blow to WLC, who had defined that morality can only be grounded in God, who is the source of all good. And furthermore, WLC had accused that in the atheist world, anything goes as the atheist cannot say that one action is good or evil since in nature, everything is neutral.
● Another major blow to WLC was when Harris proposed a fictitious tribe who believed that God order them to pull the eyes of everything third child. Since God commands, and God is the source of all good, then pulling out the eyes of everything third child would be consider good.
● Another major blow to WLC is Harris saying: suppose Islam is the true religion, then everyone here, including me, who is not a Muslim will go to hell and burn eternally, because even though we will live a life doing good, we bet on the wrong God, or we were born in the wrong country, inheriting the wrong religion or wrong set of values.
● Another major blow to WLC is when Harris said that in India, where the vast majority are Hindus, according to WLC’s religion, there are all going to hell, regardless of how they will have lived their lives.
● Another major blow to WLC is Harris pointing out that each year millions of children across the globe will die before the age of 5, which boils down to thousands a day, and by the end of this sentence 17 children will have died. Imagine he said the suffering of these parents, many praying with all their heart. Yet God who is the source of all good will let them die. And many of them, millions of them, because they were born in the wrong religion will go to hell for eternity.
● Another major blow to WLC is when Harris pointed out that WLC had accused atheists of being incapable of defining what is good, yet WLC himself could only define good in terms of God being the source of good, which is circulatory.
● And to conclude this, not that Harris concluded his debate in this way, but Harris proposed that we can live like those christians who proposed how we should live two thousand years ago, or like the muslims, what was proposed a thousand four hundred years ago, or live in the 21st century by using science to determine what is good, which everyone in the end can agree, and putting an end to sectarian strife that has marked our history so far.
Now, I dont consider myself qualified to really comment on this, but I’d be interested to hear what some of you have to say.. or more importanly, what we think WLC would respond to the above.
John wants us to believe that he was at the destruction of Sam Harris by William Craig, but where was he really? He was supporting Michele Bachmann’s destruction of the United States – which she was against but is now for. That’s right we now have certifiable proof that Atheism is supporting the Tea Party – that means, the Tea Party hates God.
Please note, that after I am finished with this giveaway (Feb 25th), I will be giving away Thom’s book (great guy, met him in Atlanta this year at SBL), at which time, I will finish my review.
Anyway, Thom (great guy, met him in Atlanta at SBL) takes on Loftus (never met him, the Joker to my Superman):
First, I’d like to thank John Loftus for taking the time to write such a strong review (click here to read it), and for caring enough about the material to make the criticisms he’s made. Thanks, John.
But I’d like to respond to his criticisms, because I think many of them reflect a misunderstanding of my language or, in some cases potentially, a misrepresentation of my arguments. The easiest way for me to respond is piecemeal, so I’ll do it that way.
Because John Loftus shares a name with one of the Gospel writers, I’ll refer to him by his surname, rather than his Christian name. [insert laughter here]
Loftus said: Chapter eight argues that Jesus was wrong about the end of the world. It did not take place as he predicted. In this chapter Stark says of my chapter on this topic in “The Christian Delusion” that “the claims made [by] Loftus cannot be ignored by Christians.’” I liked that.
I just want to clarify that although I certainly do think every Christian should read Loftus’s chapter on Jesus’ apocalyptic expectations, that does not mean I endorse his overall conclusion. Loftus quotes my footnote from p. 168. But on p. 207, I ask whether Loftus is correct that, in his words, “at best Jesus was a failed apocalyptic prophet.” On that page, I do not offer an answer but I do offer my response in the final (tenth) chapter of my book, where I state clearly that I believe Jesus, while indeed a failed apocalyptic prophet, was much more than that, and that all of his teachings should not be dismissed just because some missed the mark. I am very critical of Jesus’ apocalypticism in that chapter, but I also highlight the aspects of his apocalypticism that are beneficial, in my estimation. I also point out that not all of Jesus’s teachings can be traced to apocalyptic roots, and that other facets of his teaching are valuable. So, while I agree with many of John’s conclusions about Jesus’ apocalyptic expectations and failed predictions, I disagree with John that Jesus was nothing more than a failed apocalyptic prophet and should be totally disregarded.
Let me state that while not every Christian will like Thom’s book, I do believe that it should be read and wrestled with. Think of him as Amos – coming from the outside (or inside, actually) to make you uncomfortable. Can you challenge his challenges to you?
3) Atheism can’t win because it offers no eternal hope. It offers no hope to live forever in a blissful heaven with a loving all-powerful eternal God, which ultimately means that our life has no eternal significance. It offers no hope to ever see dead loved ones. It offers no hope that there is some supernatural being outside this world who can help us when we’re in need as we pray. When I see that picture of Jesus welcoming a pilgrim into heaven I know atheism cannot compete since there is nothing we can offer to replace that wishful hope.
John Loftus, in a sorta response to this article, has posted several reasons why he believes that Atheists lose their arguments to Believers. I doubt that I will take on every one of his arguments, offering a correction or emendation to them, but I might take a point at a time and post on it. For example, John’s view on the evolution of the brain and the role in which it plays in the religious conversation. He writes,
2) Atheism can’t win against the the brain. Our brains evolved from the lower species of animals and so we have a built in agency detector inherited from them. Animals who survived were the ones that saw faces in the leaves and the grass and the trees. Precisely because they saw faces in random objects in the woods they also had the time to escape from any predators lurking in the woods before they struck, even if this meant a lot of false alarms. It’s this same agency detection that caused the ancients to see divine agents behind strange events their world, like lightening, or thunderstorms, or disasters like fires. And this same agency detection was at work when they had a good crop, or the birth of a boy, or when they had a dream. As agency detectors they saw divine beings behind these events and it still lingers on today. Even in today’s world after a plane crash kills everyone on board except one woman, she will see the hand of god in it and believe god has a purpose for her life because she was spared.
The brain’s evolutionary response to religion is not exactly as simple as John would have us believe. I wouldn’t see it as a response at all, nor a mechanism of explanation, but I would posit that religion is an evolutionary design which actually benefits the human race giving it all sorts of benefits, including but not limited to, morality, (yes,) agency, and indeed, the very fabric of society – familyhood. This is nothing new, actually, with severalposts on this blog noting breakthroughs in the area of science and the brain’s religious gene. Essentially, many scientists posit that the very reason that humanity was able to form into a society was the fact that religion developed. As religion developed towards ethical monotheism, notably, in Isaiah, society moved to focusing on the corporate good. It is not about mere agency, where we need to attribute something which happens to a higher power, but a evolutionary response which essentially created humanity. While we may posit that it is about ‘being watched over’ or whether or not it is about ‘hearing’ and thus heeding God’s call to become created in His Image, the fact is, is that we have a ‘religious gene’ which causes us to form and has propelled us into a society. We can discuss evolution, etc…, but keep in mind, that this is really not what this post is about. Scientists are recognizing the inherent historical value in religion, and it is not necessarily about agency.
Now, moving beyond that, the idea that religion is a socialized institution has been debunked. More and more, it is becoming a scientific reality that religion is a natural reaction caused by evolution. Evolution’s premise is that a life changes for the better, adapting, etc… to meet the challenges of the natural world. If this is the case, then surely John and others will see that religion is nature’s way of promoting the human race. Further, it may be that it exists because we are called to look higher because something is calling us to do so. It is, quite frankly, the God Gene.
The reason that Atheists will not win the argument over religion is that evolutionary speaking, they are on the losing end.
No offense to a-theists or atheists – some of my best friends are atheists. This is intended to be a friendly dialogue, as I took John’s post with light-heartedness.