“The Bible is a mass of fables and traditions, mere mythology.” -Mark Twain
I keep rolling across badly written pieces on the Interwebs, and sometimes they anger me, but this one? Actually, pretty funny:
7 Ways To Tell If An Atheist Is Not Worth Your Time
Christians sometimes find themselves engaging in dialogue with people identify as atheists. Often, these conversations will amount to nothing more than intellectual sparring or preaching. The atheist is only looking for a platform to recite the latest one-liner that they read in a meme. Yet the conversation persists out of pride. The Christian does not know when to back away from the conversation because they may not have a lot of experience with atheists. One needs to realize that congruence is unlikely. There are times when continuing in the conversation with an atheist is no longer prudent or helpful. Hence, we should withdraw when the conversation seems to reach its’ capacity (with atheists, this capacity is often quite limited). I would like to suggest that there are 7 ways to tell if an atheist is not worth your time.
Right out the gate: ‘Christians sometimes find themselves engaging in dialogue with people identify as atheists’. Properly translated, this means ‘All those people you harass on the street and on the internet’. For the most part, Christians continuously bombard (most) atheist blogs, blither blather, refusing to listen, steadfastly insisting that they’re right and you’re wrong, no matter how many times you patiently re-explain the point, until you get fed up and lash out at the willful ignorance. Regular ignorance is forgivable, as we all make mistakes, but refusal to submit to reason?
And no, we don’t go about blindly reciting memes like they recite their fairy tale quotes: there’s a thing called context, and this needs to be apropos. Anyways, there’s more (there always is):
1 – They tell you what you believe. Atheists often come from a Christian background wherein they were taught certain precepts. Upon investigation, these precepts were found to be lacking and this led to the eventual abandonment of the Christian faith. Now, when this atheist encounters Christians, he assumes that they all believe exactly what he did. It is unthinkable that there is a more robust version of Christian theology. For if the breed of Christianity that you represent is less defeasible, it follows that they could have been wrong about their criticisms of Christian belief and will have to re-evaluate the system and question their atheism. This means that many atheists will accuse you of believing certain things and will not listen what you summarize your views in a different way. This is one of 7 ways to tell if an atheist is no longer worth your time. Why should you bother talking to somebody who thinks that they already know what you are going to say?
Now not only is this a bad hasty generalization, it’s a tu quoque statement. It’s an automatic assumption that the atheist does the same thing as a theist: follow blindly, think blindly. There’s as many variations on Christianity alone to boggle the mind.
Here’s the other caveat: we have heard all of this before. A variety of ways, a variety of verbiage – sadly, most Christians don’t do any due diligence, they just listen to a priest or minister, and if that person is wrong, they don’t check it, hey this guy’s in the upper hierarchy, he must know what s/he’s talking about. Now in atheist circles, if you get something wrong, nobody cares about hierarchy: you hear about how wrong you are, and usually there’s proof to back it up. My point here is, atheists and theists can both be wrong, but the atheist usually tends to be more honest about it.
2 – Both of you are trying to have the last word. Discussions between people who disagree are often perennial and lead to frustration because neither party is willing to end the discussion. If they do not have the last word, then they think that they have left a particular point hanging in the air and have conceded the entire debate to them. But when you are at a point wherein you are just trying to have the last word, then it is likely that you are just repeating earlier content. That is just unnecessary and it makes you look foolish. Rather, if you already outlined or summarized your case, and you feel confident in your arguments and counter-arguments, there is no need to repeat it again. Even if the atheist brushes passed your arguments and repeats their original point, or summarizes your argument in an unsympathetic way, you should not feel inclined to repeat yourself. If their last word is pathetic and unimpressive, rest in the confidence in the arguments that you already made.
This is actually good advice if standalone. Sadly, in this culture, it is the person who has the last word who seems to win (even when they don’t).
3 – They start talking about the Flying Spaghetti Monster. This would also apply to Santa Claus, fairies, leprechauns and other nonsense. If they start comparing your belief in the existence of God to that sort of thing, then this individual obviously has no respect for you and they are not worth engaging. For nobody comes to believe in Santa Claus as an adult. There are no adult conversions to belief in Santa Claus. There are no scientists who come to believe in Santa Claus the basis of scientific data. The agnostic astronomer with NASA, Dr Robert Jastrow said in his book God And The Astronomer, “For the scientist who puts his trust in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance. He is about the conquer the highest peek. As he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.” There is no equivalent to this with regard to belief in Santa Claus. The atheist who renders this comparison is not a critical thinker, has no respect for you and therefore, this is one of 7 ways to tell if an atheist is not worth your time.
Ahem. Horse manure. Your ‘gawd’ is just the same as all those other mythical creatures: you can’t prove this critter exists. Pointing to phenomenon and saying “Look! Proof!” is just….well, just stupid. You may as well as claim that reindeer prove the existence of Santa Claus. And who really cares about this Jastrow fellow? Dim appeal to credentialism. Newton was fantastic at physics, but he was wrong about the bible’s alleged worth. Linus was fanatical about Vitamin C as a universal silver bullet, but he was wrong. I respect your right to have an opinion, but I don’t have to respect the opinion itself. There IS a difference (and if you can’t tell, you may want to work on your self-awareness).
4 – They imply their intellectual superiority. The most common method of feeding pride is by contrast. People will contrast themselves with others to demonstrate their intellectual superiority. Atheists are fond of exercising this. They will tell religious people that that once they read the Bible, they began to read the Bible, they become atheists. Therefore, they reason, if religious people read the Bible as well, they would be atheists. Since they are not atheists, it follows that they do not read the Bible. This also chauffeurs with it the implication that atheists know more about religion than religious people. They will cite Pew Forums wherein atheists may have scored high in a particular category. But what is interesting about that survey is that atheists score lower in the category of Christianity than Christians do. However, they score higher in general religion. Atheists and Mormons lead the knowledge of general religion. Well done to the atheists and the elders. But still, again, they score lower in their knowledge of Christian belief. Either way, the only reason that they would bring up this misinformation is to feed their pride. If somebody is just trying to elevate their intellectual repute by stomping on yours, that is one of 7 ways to tell if an atheist is not worth your time.
Can’t speak for all atheists, but I do try to talk to people on an even keel. However, it is difficult to explain to the stubborn theist, that it is possible to be smart in one thing, and stupid in another. Or as an old roommate once said, “Just because you’re smart, doesn’t mean you’re not stupid”. See the Newton example above. Also, I have found (as many of us have) that most of us ARE better versed in that biblical folderol than most theists, only because most mammals prefer the easy meal, therefore prefer the easier explanation. Human beings tend to be lazy thinkers (now there’s a broad generalization that sticks). As for this accusation of narcissism, there are atheists and theists alike who do this, but more for the former than the latter (yeah, really sucks being the majority). But for me, it’s not about dishonestly elevating myself above others: I am genuinely worried about our species and our world. There are HUGE amounts of people actively trying to trigger the ‘apocalypse’.
5 – They caricature Christian belief. Atheists are often caught attacking straw men. This means that they will conjure up versions of Christian theology that are easier to attack and refute. They will attack the cartoon version of Christian belief rather than the robust and carefully nuanced theology that we believe in. For example, atheists have constructed a meme that says that Christianity is the belief that “A Jewish zombie will make you live forever… et cetera, et cetera.” Obviously, this is just a poor and insulting caricature. Christians believe that Jesus rose from the dead, but they do not believe that he is a mindless zombie. For a zombie is one whose body is no longer inhabited by the human mind. It is just a walking virus. But in the case of Jesus, he was raised in an incorruptible body to glory and immortality. But that is not at all akin to a zombie. If the atheist renders that criticism, they are just trying to construct a version of Christianity that is easier to refute. They are not interested in an open and honest discussion. Hence, this is one of 7 ways to tell if an atheist is not worth your time.
That ‘zombie’ meme – it’s not too far off. Definition: Zombies are undead creatures, typically depicted as mindless, reanimated human corpses with a hunger for human flesh. (Also ahem: that cannibalism shtick is strictly movie crap) And let’s face it: the Synoptics and John are so contradictory to one another, it’s hard to believe that anyone accepted it at face value. Of course, centuries of burning documents and people that disagreed with their set of fairy tales tends to shut folks up right quick.
6 – They do not listen to your responses and are only out to refute you. When we engage in debates with people, it is often the case that they do not really want to hear what you have to say. They do not want to take your arguments seriously. They do not care about arguments and they do not care why you believe what you believe. They only care about what they believe. Your beliefs stand in the way of that, and therefore, they need to find a way to refute it. Symptoms of this will be that no matter what you say, they are presenting little ways to refute it. They are only interested in refuting your arguments and debating you. But they are not interested in considering that you may be right.
Here’s where this entire paragraph is silly: Christians constantly parrot the same dreck over and over again. There’s a ‘meme’ about this too – PRATT is an acronym for Points Refuted A Thousand Times. I have read and carefully considered most (if not all) religious ‘arguments’ – they always fail to stand up against the cold light of logic, they tend to wilt. One of the items I carefully considered in my early days, is presuppositionalism. Rather than insist “God IS!”, the rational mind must consider, “Is God?” Logic took care of that rather nicely.
7 – They reply in memes and one-liners. Anybody who has spent a significant amount of time speaking with several atheists will notice something astonishing. They all say exactly the same things. They will recite clever little soundbites that they heard somebody else say which they have committed to rote memory. They will say things like, “I just go one God further,” Or “who designed the designer?” or “If you had been born in India…” These are not to considered to be serious arguments. Rather, they are one-liners and memes. They read these arguments in pictures that they saw on the internet. They are bumper-sticker arguments, but there is really no latitude behind them. Atheists will often promulgate these bumper-sticker arguments. When they do that, you can be sure that they are not really thinking seriously about the conversation that they are engaging in. They are just looking for a platform to recite their favorite one-liner. Thus, this is one of 7 ways to tell if an atheist is not worth your time.
Again, this is mostly tu quoque. I can very easily prattle this off about the delusionists as well. ‘These are not to considered to be serious arguments.” Ummm, no that’s a strawman AND an ad hominem poison-the-well. ‘Who designed the designer’ is actually an argument against infinite regress, and “If you had been born in India…” speaks to cultural influences (if a Hindu has an NDE, why does he see Ganesh or Vishnu? The answer of course, is that some malign demon is trying to trick the poor idolatrist out of his soul).
My nutshell point is this: I don’t attack religion out of some childish churlish need to be ‘right’ – how I feel and what I believe are irrelevant. The facts point to religion being an anachronistic, barbaric holdover that humanity is too fond of and needs to be freed from. And this infantilization of our species needs to end. While all these well-fed Christians are shouting hosannahs to the sky, nobody realizes that their alleged god plays favorites. Why are you, these Christians in America, eating 3 squares a day and living in a house, more privileged over some starving child in Africa with an eyeworm in his/her eye? Why on earth would your deity step in on a football game, when a few decades ago, his ‘chosen people’ were lined up for extermination?
Religion is just humanity’s infantile effort to force its shadow upon the universe.
Till the next post then.