Sunday, October 31, 2010

Thom Stark's Hot-Air Defense


These poor fellows. They give me such inspiration for my art...it's too big to put in a post, so see here.




Ernst, Ernest, and Ernie

Thommy Stark, as I have said, is a dishonest manipulator who doesn’t do his homework and never wants to admit error, and there’s plenty of examples of how. But I’m going to focus on one in particular here, which he can expect me to bring up repeatedly for the rest of eternity, along with many others.

Background – I appealed to the work of a scholar named Ernst Herzfeld for a point in an older article. In a more recent reply to Thommy, I appealed to the same work, only instead of calling him Ernst Herzfeld, I referred to him as Ernest Herzfeld.

The other day, I said that I couldn’t recall why I did this. I thought it may have been a typo; or it may have been a subconscious remembrance of my community college classes in German coming through, for as I have noted, “Ernest” is just a proper Anglicanization of Ernst. (See an example of both being used here and also an interesting explanation of the relationship between the two, as last names, here.) More recently, I thought it was also possible that Microsoft Word automatically “corrected” Ernst to Ernest, and this seemed to be the case while I typed this entry, at first; but if that was the case, it no longer does so.

But it really doesn’t matter how or why this happened and why Ernst got changed to Ernest. The point rather is that Thommy decided to make a big deal of it, thusly:

Holding claims that I am unaware of the work of Ernst ("Or “Ernest,” if you ask Holding as of 10/28/10) Herzfeld on Son of Man and am unaware of the way that Bar Enash (Son of Man) was used in Old Babylonian to depict royalty.

Since, as I said, the two variations are both legitimate spellings, Thommy ends up looking more of a fool than usual here. It illustrates something I have said of many critics of Christianity: They don’t do their homework before mouthing off. And actually, even common sense and logic should have told Thommy that it MIGHT be possible that the two versions were both legitimate, but Thommy obviously lacked even that component of intellectualism here – which is something else I have said about him.

Everyone makes mistakes, of course. But only a fool chooses to make such a big deal over someone’s mistakes (especially a trivial one), mouthing off about it without checking to be sure his own house is in order. Thus here, Thommy proved himself a fool of the highest order, someone whose concern for accuracy and integrity is at a bare minimum standard. (This is also why I don't mock other people's possible typos, unless they either do so to mine first or there is ample reason to think it is not merely a typo: Eg, Richard Carrier spelling "Revelation" with an S on the end.)

And you can bet I’ll hit Stark on the head with this bungle a lot over the next several years until he admits his error. That, and his error in having Loftus as an endorsee.

Have a happy eternity,Thommy.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Scrubbing New Jerusalem's Toilet's, Part 2: The Bad Stewards

I had to take a little thought to decide what the exact subject of this post would be. “Rich Christians” came to mind at once, but that didn’t quit capture the nuances I wanted, because there are many rich Christians who use their resources wisely. Acknowledging that led to the more nuanced subject: “Bad Stewards.” And best of all, Jesus had already said plenty about such people ending up as heaven’s toilet-scrubbers.
Okay, not literally. But it’s the same principle.
This is not a very controversial one to posit, admittedly. It won’t get much disagreement from anyone out there, except maybe from the people who think they don’t belong on the list. Like who? I’ll give the example that hits me first: Joyce Meyer.
In the E-Block, I commented on her teaching over three articles, and will sum it up here just by saying that I’ve had Cream of Wheat that was thicker. Meyer missed her calling as a pop psychologist and handles a Bible the way Wile E.Coyote handles ACME products.
But the issue for this post is the sort of conspicuous consumption Christians like Meyer perform. She’s not the only one, so I won’t mention her name again. I also don’t want to expand this post into something I don’t know well, which is economics. There are all kinds of arguments that could be made here:
“So and So shouldn’t buy a luxury yacht, it’s poor stewardship. That money could be given to the poor.”
“Yes, but that yacht-making company employs hundreds of people, to say nothing of all the people employed in side businesses like the harbor it is kept in. If not for the buying of that yacht, there’d be more unemployed people who are poor.”
And so on. The financial navel-gazing isn’t my bag; let’s just keep this at a simpler level, because let’s face it, when So and So the Christian buys a yacht, they aren’t usually doing it with the intention to keep people at the yacht company employed. They’re doing it in order to consume conspicuously, and in order to please themselves. And that’s what Jesus is going to look at when rewards in heaven are (or are not) handed out.
We’ve all heard about the critic who cruises church parking lots and sees all the luxury cars. They have a point, though I might add that they’re not exactly riding a tricycle themselves so that they can give their car payment to the poor. Most of us could do more, theoretically. If resources were used more responsibly in the world at large, there’s a good chance our giving wouldn’t have to be that sacrificial.
But that’s not the point when there are still poor people even in the church itself.
Admittedly part of the problem, as I have written elsewhere, is that we don’t follow the early church’s model in Acts as well because we’re more concerned with the individual than with the greater good. But there’s certainly more to it, a more calculated indifference and self-interest, when some wealthy “Christian” lords it over his or her local assembly to the point that the pastor won’t even use the church restroom without their permission.
I know of one such less fortunate Christian who, following their conscience, decided to leave the church of their youth and join one that was more vibrant and had better teaching. Problem was, some of the wealthy folks at the original church had pledged to pay for this person’s college education – and said they’d not do that after all, if this person didn’t change their mind pronto and come back home to First Baptist Snobville.
Conscience took a back seat that day.
I haven’t had so much of a problem with that sort of thing myself, though I do continue to wonder at those I meet who live in costly homes, provide their children with acres of toys, have three cars in the driveway – and tell me that sure, we can spare something for the Tekton ministry’s work. How about a $100 one time gift?
Your kid’s Playstation cost four times that much, friend. Thanks for having your priorities in order.
Ironically, another aspect of the problem is the erroneous teachings we spread about tithing. The Bad Stewards give 10% because that’s all they’re told they have to give. If we followed the true Biblical model, what we call “reverse tithing” (giving away 90%) would be more the rule of the day. (See the article on that here.)
I’m not saying there aren’t generous givers out there. Tekton has survived all these years in good measure because of them, and other ministries have done so as well. I am saying that the time will come – if we believe Jesus – that those who didn’t get the message of stewardship will find themselves on the non-business end of a toilet scrub brush for a very long time. The resources they could have shared wisely could, long term, have advanced the kingdom that much more. To the extent that this wasn’t done, and they placed the burden on others to make up for the lack – there will be a price to pay.
Might want to buy that yacht used instead of new.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Apologetics and Comics: Separated at Birth?

I consider myself a moderately capable amateur when it comes to cartooning. Early on some suggested I ought to pursue it as a career, but I didn’t. To this day it’s just a diversionary hobby.

The reasons why have some poignant parallels to the current situation with apologetics, and I want to note two in particular.

The intended audience frequently doesn’t want anything new, unusual, or insightful to disturb their peace of mind. You might notice that when a major cartoonist dies – someone like Charles Schulz (Peanuts) or Dik Browne (Hagar the Horrible), their comic strip doesn’t always disappear. Instead it’s either continued as “Classics” (Peanuts) or someone else takes over (Hagar).

The companies that broker the publishing of comic strips – they’re called, appropriately, “syndicates” – will often, rather than use new talent, find some way to keep the old stuff alive. Part of the reason for this is undoubtedly money, but the reason keeping the old stuff alive makes money is because average readers are too uncomfortable with anything that is new or different.

As an illustration, some years ago my local paper here in Orlando dropped Snuffy Smith – a comic that had even then long outlived its usefulness as a source of humor and hadn't had a fresh idea since the Kennedy administration. The outcry from readers was astonishing, and illustrated by one benighted soul who said, “What’s a newspaper without ‘Snuffy Smith’?”

Um…how about, “a better newspaper”?

That any person would suggest to any serious extent the lack of Snuffy Smith ought to have some bearing on the quality of a product mainly intended to inform the public of current news affecting their daily lives is tragic in and of itself – reflecting a shallowness of mind that is pitiable.

In contrast, I think our comics should challenge people – and the success of those like The Far Side and Mother Goose and Grimm that do break the status quo show that this is the case. So likewise, I think we’d succeed in presenting apologetics if we just challenged our pew sitters a little more.

Relatedly, what’s with the survival of absolutely horrible comics like Hi and Lois which are only slightly funnier than a hotel fire? Why is it that so many comics are just the same thing placed in different settings? There’s no difference at all between atrocious comics like The Wizard of Id and Beetle Bailey except that one is in a supposed autocratic kingdom and the other is in the modern military. The gags from one could virtually be transplanted to the other. The reason: It’s again because too many people don’t want to be challenged with the unfamiliar. They want a situation they can “relate to” instead (so forget an apologetics teaching, instead we’ll have a night of alluring personal testimonies). This is bad enough that, as I recall seeing, there was a new comic offered to papers back in the 80s that featured a family of bears. The syndicate “sold” the strip on the premise that this bear family acted “just like humans.”

Not much point in having bears as characters, then, is there?

I could come up with more, but I’ll just close with a second reason.

The whole business is brokered by people of average ignorance. Ever wonder who decides what new comic strips get to see the light of day? Syndicate editors do. And most of them have no idea what they’re doing, only vaguely thinking of the factors in reason one above.

Their decisions are frequently far from rational. One editor decided that he would add a comic to his syndicate’s roster because he had brought some samples of it home, and his wife had woken him up in the middle of the night to say how much she liked it. Can you imagine if Bill Gates made policy decisions based on something Melinda said during a bout of insomnia?

That comic, as it turned out, did become a moderate success. But that’s nothing compared to the fact that some highly successful comics – such as Garfield – were originally turned down by syndicates other than the ones that took them, as noted by this article from TIME magazine:

Garfield was rejected by two syndicates (King Features and Chicago Tribune-New York News) before United Feature signed Davis to a contract in 1978.

You think maybe King Features and CT-NYN are kicking themselves a little over that?

Obviously, the selection of comics by these guys is more touch and go than it is a matter of being able to read the public pulse accurately. I’ll be the first to admit that the syndicates get a lot of junk submissions, by the way. In that respect the field is also a lot like that current commercial for a job hunting website that shows the whole crowd getting on a tennis court to play the match.

In the end, I’m glad I didn’t take the route of cartoonist as a career, because it’s clear that too often, getting somewhere in that field isn’t a matter of skill, or of talent – it’s a matter of trying to appease minds that are not very quick on the uptake and would rather curl up in a ball in some corner than go for a walk down the street.

Which, all too often, is also a description of apologetics ministry.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Are Your Pants on Fire?

This political season there’s a race in my area that’s quite interesting for the moral lesson it offers. I won’t say who the candidates are nor what party they belong to; that’s beside the point, and I could find another example with the parties switched from the races two years ago, albeit with a slightly different set of accessory circumstances. We’ll call the incumbent in the race “Hal” and the challenger “Stan.” (If you’re smart, and know my area, you’ll get from that who I am talking about.)
Hal has conducted what many from both sides have recognized as a dirty campaign. He’s slandered Stan from several directions, using ads that neutral fact-checking organizations, local news programs, and local newspapers have determined range from incomplete to misleading to outright false. This is in spite of the fact that some of these papers and news organizations would otherwise approve of Hal’s general policy inclinations. My local paper has even endorsed Stan, when they otherwise may not have done.
Stan has refused to descend to Hal’s level. He’s a genteel sort who has decided to keep the focus of his campaign on the issues. He has mostly let third parties answer Hal’s distortions (for example, by linking to third party analyses of Hal's ads on his campaign website).
As of my last check, Stan is a fair number of points ahead of Hal in the race and is likely to win next week. There are many reasons for this other than the above matter. Stan has been a popular politician on a local and state level for many years, with an excellent reputation. He might have just as ably won a race against an opponent who ran a clean campaign as he did.
I will also say that I have seen far, far fewer campaign signs in people’s yards for Hal this year, which suggests (as the media also indicates) that his former fan base has had a change of mind.
But still – Stan’s lead isn’t astronomical. He’s up by less than 7 points. The question I have, in light of Hal’s record of dishonesty above, is – why?
All of us lie, of course. Even yours truly has fallen for that sin. But at there’s a certain level of dishonesty, one that involves an extended time and effort, as well as a refusal to acknowledge error, that deserves stronger sanctions than the everyday lie all humans fall for. In my view, any person who descends to this level ought to automatically be disqualified for public trust in any position. Frequent readers will know one such opponent of mine I won’t name here, but there have been many others, and we have plenty of our own to worry about, like good old Jim Bakker. I can’t imagine how or why anyone has put him in a position of trust, but to this day he still has a ministry with significant trappings. If I had my way he'd be serving no higher than soup kitchen server and would never handle donor money again.
When a person pursues dishonesty to the level of a Hal or a Bakker, we have to ask why anyone at all continues to support them. Here are some suggestions.
1) Such a strong interest in a predetermined agenda that Hal could proclaim for the pedophilia and still get a certain person’s vote. Truth just doesn’t matter. Some people are just too dead set on an agenda to care about the morals of their representative. They even go so far as to say their own candidate is just telling the truth about the other (as Hal himself has also tried to say).
2) Following tradition blindly. Otherwise known as straight ticket voting. You could put down Fozzie Bear as a candidate for this person’s party, and they’d vote for Fozzie over Thomas Jefferson if he was with the other party.
I once knew someone like this, who, though she shared the values of one of the two parties, had grown up in a family that always voted “straight ticket” for the other. So she did – every time. Except once: When her local representative, a member of the other party, did her a good turn, from then on, she voted for him – her one break with a “straight ticket” vote. And she stuck with that candidate from there on.
3) Ignorance. They just haven’t looked up Hal’s record. Maybe because of 1 or 2, they don’t care to.
The lesson for today is that one need not wonder why certain critics of Christianity still make a living these days in spite of being such proven, abject liars. Honor and shame worked as a corrective on this sort of person in the Biblical world, where Hal would have found himself challenged constantly by opponents who would be in his face and shouting him down. Not so much today, where “dialogue” is too often given value of place over the moral character of the presenter.
Naturally, I am not saying a liar cannot still be right in their arguments. But their record means they’d better do a much better job of documentation in order to deserve trust. Nevertheless, I’d still say that extreme abuses warrant their exclusion from trusted circles. They ought to be ignored by publishers, banned from participation in discussions (or else chided mercilessly), and refused any position of authority in any institution of learning. If they are politicians like Hal, they ought to be busted down to dogcatcher. They should never hold any position again in which public trust is required, and that goes for whether they’re a minister or a carpet cleaner.
You may be asking about repentance. Well, Biblical repentance has more to do with personal relationships, as we call them, than with public positions. The Biblical world maintained this dichotomy more strongly than we do; we’ve mixed the two together, thinking that if Hal repents, then he should keep his office. I’d say that it’s more that, if Hal repents, Stan should forgive him. Restoring his office is another matter. I think that would have to involve a lot of hard restorative work, given the level of responsibility involved. After all, nothing in the Bible says to “forgive” criminals by dropping their prison sentences, and we’re still called to maintain and support the social order than governs our nations. To that extent there’s clearly a scale of responsibility and stewardship recognized, and a difference between an offense that is merely personal and an offense that is against the social order.
I’m dreaming here, of course. But at least I’m being honest about it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

One Remarkable Record of Retention



The other day a friend of mine told me a tragic story of how a nephew of his declared his apostasy from Christianity. That’s bad enough but there’s more to it.
This nephew was actually the latest of several children in this family to do this.
The first one to do so eventually committed suicide after several months of trying to reconcile themselves to their new view of the world.
One of the others is now a strident, vehement “fundy atheist” who does her very best to offend Christians.
And this family, by the way, attends a Southern Baptist church.
Obviously this is anecdotal evidence. But a story like this doesn’t emerge in a vacuum. It’s clear from this and many other stories like it that we have failed when it comes to discipleship (especially youth discipleship) in our churches. Our youth programs are mostly vapid entertainment sessions that don’t prepare students for the real world of challenges to their faith. (In that, they tend to imitate the adult programs, though.) Many youth pastors (and many adult pastors, yes) are themselves ignorant of nature of their faith, yet they’d rather be eaten alive by weasels than surrender their pulpits to a competent scholar or apologist for even one Sunday – or even do much to encourage a class being taught by them.
A youth pastor at my former church is a model for this sort of thing. When he first arrived and I met with him, his first words were, “I’m scared of you.” Eventually I convinced him to let me do an occasional teaching to the youth, which I hoped would grow into something more. You can still hear the remnants of this in the Tekton Audio Library -- seven sessions. Only a few minutes. Plenty of time to get these youth informed on those hard issues. Right on.
For the next semester, that youth pastor started getting evasive. He vaguely said they were trying “something different,” though they had no idea what it was and they were making plans, so he’d get back to me. He never did. I rang his bell (figuratively) every 2 weeks or so to see what was going on and got the same evasive answer until the very end – when suddenly, 2 weeks after the last edition of that same evasive answer, he told me that the plans had been made now and there was no room for any more sessions like the ones I did.
Uh HUH.
This youth pastor’s foolishness continued for some time after that. The most stunning example was his use of church funds to purchase a used automobile – a rather nice model – which he offered as a giveaway prize to the youth, on a night when they were supposed to invite all their unsaved friends to come too. Come to church, win a car. That’ll pack ‘em in, won’t it?
It’s not necessarily the youth pastors who are the doofuses, of course. I had also met a very energetic youth pastor in a county to our west who was very interested in bringing apologetics into his youth programs. That never happened, though. You see, his programs were so good that the church kids were able to encourage their non-Christian friends to come, and they did. Regularly. Unfortunately, some adults at the church decided that that wasn’t the type of crowd they wanted to attract and politely informed him of that.
Imagine that. We’re actually attracting the unsaved to church. Who woulda thunk?
He resigned, and I don’t blame him one bit.
Is it any wonder I look forward to seeing these people scrubbing toilets in eternity?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Scrubbing New Jerusalem's Toilets, Part 1: The Good Old Boys


No holds barred here on the Forge, folks -- not even when it comes to bad sheep. So here's the start of a series (sure to be intermittent as well as irritating) on Christians who will deserve to scrub toilets in the New Jerusalem.

I might name names -- later, if the nuclear clock reaches midnight, so to speak. For now let's just deal in categories. Today's category is The Good Old Boys.

Had a quite recent example of this, which is what brings it to mind.

I needed to contact a certain leader in a certain organization. I telephoned this leader's office and left a message. Three weeks later, I hadn't heard back from him.

So I had a friend of mine -- whose last name would have really rung bells with this leader, because he was the son of another leader in the same organization's ranks -- contact this first leader, which he did by email.

The response was nearly immediate.

James 2:1-4 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, [the Lord] of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?
James didn't have my specific situation in mind, but there's a principle that remains intact here to this day: Don't give preference to those whom you consider of greater honor. The sickening entrenchment of what some call the "good old boy" system in our churches is a symptom of one of our great evils in capitulating to the temptation to give in to honor, riches, and good looks.
Do you know a pastor who is a "pretty boy" -- a Joel Osteen wannabe, who fills his sermons with feelgood garbage that sounds more like an Erma Bombeck column than like Paul or Jesus?
Do you know a church where some wealthy or influential deacon always gets his way, even when it is clear that he's being an egomaniac?
Do you know a promising ministry that has been denied funding because it is not run by one of the "good old boys"?
I've known all of these -- and in some cases its been personal, but not always.
Most of them probably think they're going to hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant" after they bite the big one. But chances are they'll end up hearing, "You're here? Good. Start scrubbing."


Friday, October 22, 2010

A Little Monkey Pulls a Loftus


Oh, dear. One of my atheist admirers seems to have learned some techniques from John "the Liar" Loftus when it comes to posting material under a fake identity and then using it as justification for your point under another identity. Read all about it at TWeb here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

John Loftus in Hell


Of course, I'm no adherent to the view of hell as literal fire and torture. But it does serve some fairly good satiric purposes.

Wanna know when the hell will really start for John, though?

When he finds out everyone there already has a copy.

And every one of them wants a refund.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Responding to Petulant Pandering Parades



We open the Forge with a strike upon the anvil that has been well-deserved in coming. In over 15 years of apologetics ministry, I have acquired a fair number of what could be called parasitic hangers-on of varying quality. Having little of quality to offer in arguments they seek in the main to gain public exposure by riding on my coattails.
To that end, there were produced some time ago rather petulant panderings in response to my item, “Dawkins’ Ironic Hypocrisy” available on creation.com at http://creation.com/dawkins-ironic-hypocrisy We will not here credit the source of this pandering with the dignity of a name, for to do so would be to serve their purpose of bringing undeserved exposure to themselves as a marginal entity.
Instead we will indicate and address what few actual arguments (if they may be called that) may be beheld. There is little reason to otherwise credit persons under the impression that having an unerring ability to say in 5000 words what could have just as capably been said in 50, and gyrating incessantly in modern renditions of the Red Herring Two-Step, serve in place of quality argumentation.
Petulance #1: It is said to be “misleading” when I indicate that Dawkins “appeals to the work of G. A. Wells.” Reason: By using the word “appeals” I have insinuated that Dawkins finds “appeal” in the thesis that Jesus did not exist.
One can only wonder at this sort of suggestion, by which the author indicates an exhaustion of local supplies of aluminum foil for the purpose of constructing his extended personal haberdashery collection. There is nothing “misleading” whatsoever in my use of the word “appeals” – this is a figment of a limited linguistophobic imagination, as is the attempt to correlate the meaning of “appeal” in the sense of “a reference to some person or authority for a corroboration” and the meaning of “appeal” in the sense of “the power or ability to attract.”
Despite the vain semantic fantasies, Dawkins indeed “appeals” to Wells -- he references Wells as an authority who can corroborate the claim that one can mount a case for a mythical Jesus. No amount of lexical gerrymandering will change that. He does not merely refer to him as an example of an author who has written about the Christ myth, but provides Wells as a reference for a “serious” and “historical” case for the Christ-myth. The pretension that I have somehow quoted Dawkins out of context is an exercise in despair.
Rather imaginatively, it is supposed that by way of replacing Wells’ name and book title with my own in Dawkins’ quote, it proves some sort of point, and this is supplemented by asking the inane question: “Would this make Dawkins an advocate of creationism?” No, and that subject is not mentioned by Dawkins with reference to Wells. I referred to nothing of evolution or creation, or any other topics; I referred only to the bare issue of the existence of Jesus. So goes the methodology: Hoist red herring, rub vigorously beneath armpit.
It may however, legitimately be asked what I do expect Dawkins to say about the Christ myth, if indeed I am to be the guide. The answer is that I want Dawkins to mind his own business on subjects he knows absolutely nothing about. The reference and implicit endorsement of Wells is completely gratuitous and serves no other purpose in Dawkins’ book than simply to endorse consideration of, and bring attention to, a crackpot theory. Those who fail to see this link might consider asking a child of five for assistance, as Groucho Marx might say.
My sole subject was Dawkins’ hypocrisy, and his intellectual honesty, in endorsing a crackpot theory outside is expertise (this is a critical point; see below) even as he accuses young earth creationists of adhering to crackpot theories. I am not addressing any criticism of creationism by Dawkins. The fact is, I could be a materialist, evolutionist, and atheist and the point would be the same: If you’re going to accuse others of being crackpots, you’d best not do so while sporting tinfoil millinery. In any event, those who do think that there is no evidence that Jesus was a historical person may take in hand my own materials on the subject , and see if they can answer them; provided, of course, that they are not too busy trying to contrive cross-fertilizations in the meanings of words to address that case.
Petulance #2: I wrote that Dawkins made an “appearance” in the film The God Who Wasn’t There. This is misleading because a) the film never appeared in theaters, only on DVD; b) Dawkins provided only an audio commentary, and not on the Christ myth.
What point is being reached for in the first portion is hard to discern. Presumably the point is that actors only “appear” in films if they hit the silver screen; if the movie is on DVD only, they do not actually “appear.” We will simply have to wait for the evolution of language (sorry!) to proceed further before finding out what the argument here is meant to be.
But the appeal is foolish in any event. At http://www.cmt.com/news/country-music/1579902/rhonda-vincent-back-on-road-with-new-album.jhtml we find one example of many of this sort of phraseology: “She even came up with the wedding song, ‘I Give All My Love to You,’ which appears on the album.” Presumably the author of this piece is to be counted ignorant for supposing that the words of the song “appear” inscribed on the physical compact disc associated with the “album.”
In terms of the secondary objection, yes, it is true that Dawkins’ appearance was merely a six-minute narration on the subject of memes. But apart from semantically limiting “appearances” to purely visual expression – a questionable, if not wholly gratuitous, nitpick of expression [see note below], this is merely a contrivance to act as though there is little significance in Dawkins lending his credibility to the film’s subject matter simply by appearing in a supporting role. If, for example, Lee Strobel lent his voice to a film where the main subject was the denial of the Holocaust, I doubt he would be excused from that, provided he was talking about how history was sometimes made up by people (and didn’t mention specifically the Holocaust). The main issue here is Dawkins lending his celebrity to the film – not information.
Petulance #3: I accuse Dawkins of endorsing the Christ myth as a crackpot theory, but I write articles for CMI, which promotes the crackpot idea of young earth creationism.
Whether or not a young earth view is indeed “crackpot” is something the critics can argue about with others here without begging the question. Nevertheless, this misses a vital difference in a vain attempt at guilt by association: Although I may indeed serve CMI in this capacity frequently, I do not make the mistake Dawkins does of addressing topics I know nothing about. I have never “endorsed” young earth creationism by saying, “it is possible to mount a serious, though not widely supported, historical case that the earth is 6000 years old.” That is because I recognize that my knowledge of relevant fields is insufficient to say such things with authority. This is the lesson Dawkins has not learned when he endorses the Christ myth as a plausible thesis.
It may be argued that in this sense, my work for CMI is still comparable to Dawkins’ work for Flemming’s film. But it is not, for two reasons. The first is that Dawkins has elsewhere, in The God Delusion, given the Christ-myth specific intellectual support, whereas I have nowhere written anything in specific defense of young earth creationism, acknowledging freely that I hold to it as a personal decision only. Second, it should be manifest that whereas I serve CMI as one whose ministry is of lesser reputation, Dawkins’ reputation is such that his name adds credibility to Flemming’s film in the eyes of observers. It is thus not so much what Dawkins said in the film as that he appeared in a supporting role at all.
What makes this analogy even more inappropriate is that the Christ-myth is considered crackpot by persons with no axe to grind in the debate – that is, even non-Christian or even atheist historians. Contrarily, it is hard to find disinterested parties when it comes to young earth versus old earth, creation versus evolution. Dawkins, in endorsing the Christ myth as plausible, is setting himself against experts in an entirely different field, and with no unanimous ideological alignment. As I said quite clearly in my prior article, to Dawkins “it doesn’t matter at all whether those ideas are considered a minority, crackpot view by experts in other fields!” The last phrase is most critical – and thus, I repeat, my indictment of Dawkins would be the same regardless of what ideology I was offering otherwise.
In sum, again, if Dawkins had simply kept his silence on this subject, then he would not be a hypocrite. If he merely held to the Christ-myth as a personal belief, and did not try to persuade others in any way that it was viable, I would have had nothing to write about. It is Dawkins’ public commentary that creates the hypocrisy – not that he merely holds a certain viewpoint.
Petualance #4: I say Dawkins praised Flemming's movie warmly in The God Delusion, despite its crass errors, but all he did was call it "a sincere and moving film advocating atheism."
It seems that we have here yet another case of redefining terms into insensibility. Calling a film “sincere and moving” is, to put it mildly, warm praise. The last I checked, “sincere” and “moving” were adjectives used to describe person, books, and films in a highly positive way. It also adds to Dawkins’ hypocrisy for the same reasons we have already noted. It also does not matter if Dawkins’ praise for the film was not more effusive. This is an attempt to excuse someone breaking a window with a rock simply because they did not level an entire city block with a nuclear bomb
In the final analysis, it is only those who lay their coats at Dawkins’ feet who can possibly contrive any excuse for his irresponsible behavior here. It is also simply one example of many in The God Delusion in which Dawkins speaks out of turn on subjects he knows nothing about – and thus I could in fact multiply the examples of hypocrisy easily. The example of his tacit endorsement of the Christ myth was simply one I found most glaring and relevant. I might add that Dawkins’ tendency to speak far outside his field is affirmed by no less than atheist philosopher Michael Ruse, as documented for example at http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/ruse-on-dawkins-delusion/ where he says:
Dawkins is brazen in his ignorance of philosophy and theology (not to mention the history of science).
Dawkins is a man truly out of his depth. Does he honestly think that no philosopher or theologian has ever thought of or worried about the infinite regress of the cosmological argument?
And on the front cover of Alister McGrath’s The Dawkins Delusion, Ruse offered: “The God Delusion makes me embarrassed to be an atheist, and the McGraths show why.” In effect, I could readily cite Dawkins’ commentary on philosophy, etc. as further examples of his hypocrisy.
So it is that those who palm themselves off as critics prove once again that they deserve the unlinked obscurity to where I relegate them. Cry me a river, little man.