Friday, January 27, 2012

John Loftus Logic

Been a while since we tweaked John's nose, so I thought I'd share this graphic someone sent me.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Morons and Omissional Sin

I received an email this week, typical of a handful I have received over the years -- fewer of late than earlier -- objecting to harsh language used on a commenter at the Ticker blog who had been making a set of the usual foolish arguments we've seen from American churchgoers these past few years -- the sort which insinuate that the Spirit is one's own personal instructor and sometime therapist, and makes any pew sitter as competent to exegete and interpret Scripture as (say) N. T. Wright. I also got a YouTube PM from someone who made similar objections to harsh words accorded to YT atheists, using the standard emotional claptrap and poor exegetical reasoning. When I pointed out that I had heard all this before, and linked to my article, the complainer merely reasserted his arguments as though nothing had been said.

After all these years, there's nothing in the mindset of such complainers that seems at all comprehensible. It seems that they're quite tolerant of those who spread error, or bully the innocent, or even cravenly devour the faithful with falsehood; but call one of these wolves a name like stupid or ignorant, and you may as well have announced that you made a hobby of dropping live puppies into boiling water.

It's an ironic sort of sickness that considers harsh words the greater sin. It isn’t, but let’s just grant the premise that is it, just for the sake of argument. I would like to ask such people a simple question.

Let's say you were transported back to 1958, and were brought face to face with a young pastor named Jim Jones. Yes, that one: He who would in 1978 caused over 900 of his followers to kill themselves.

Let's say also that you knew that to halt that career from happening, all you had to do was berate and mock Jones to the point that he became unnerved, lost his confidence, and from them on would become nothing more than a minor cult leader that few people paid any attention to.

Would you call him names? Or would you decide it was sinful because Jones was a human made in God’s image; or because you had been insulted once yourself and felt bad about it? (That was the two main arguments used by my detractors – bad as they are.)

Complainers of this sort lack the perspective this story implies. No, I am not saying that every fundy atheist wolf, or ever wacky Christian who thinks the Spirit is a personal hotline, will end up being a Jim Jones. I am saying, however, that we have foolishly convinced ourselves that harsh and confrontational language -- the sort of thing that can and does effectively break down such people before they can reach their prime -- is a sin, and a worse sin than what such wolves and Spirit-mongers go on to do.

Can anyone honestly say that we'd have been worse off had someone confronted and berated an insecure and foolish young Joyce Meyer so that she never got to the point today where she teaches to millions such nonsense as that the Spirit instructs Christians to do things like make fruit salad and open their eyes during sexual intercourse, but instead remained an obscure nobody who taught nothing greater than a home Bible study – which is frankly the most she really deserves to be?

I expect the whiners will say that not everyone I call an idiot will have such influence. Assuredly, that is so -- but let's reduce the stakes and see if it gets any better for them. Is it better to allow even ten people to be deceived out of eternal life just because you're squeamish about telling someone they're being -- well, stupid? How about five? How about one?

I also expect the complainers to say that well, maybe you will turn someone INTO a Jim Jones by insulting them. I rather doubt that; the arc of behavioral psychology doesn't make that very realistic. But even if it were possible, odds are far better you'd create a Jim Jones by ignoring him or being nice to him than by berating him. Do spoiled children get spoiled because they've been spoiled -- or because they've been disciplined?

Wake up, folks. We're in this mess we're in now because – among other things -- for too long we've turned insults into something more to be avoided than letting wolves run amuck. And the problem is still the same – either Jesus was a hypocrite, or else it is indeed not a sin in certain circumstances.

After all these years, no one’s given me a good argument against that point, either.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Tebowled Over

The Holding household hasn't turned a football game on in at least a decade, but I've been kept abreast of some of the latest scuttlebutt concerning designated Christian superstar Tim Tebow -- not in the least because he attended college not 50 miles from me, and now as well, thanks to a reader in the Denver area who is a close follower of Tebow's professional team -- and to whom, I am indebted for many of the descriptions below.

The reader wrote me with some observations made as he typed several permutations including Tebow's name into Google. Early on, the reader noted, he was suspicious of Tebow's religious profession, for by his accounting (which I have no reason to doubt), Christianity in professional sports (especially football) has become something of a spectacle, a game in itself. Players routinely (especially in their rookie years) talk about how their "momma's raised 'em up" with the Bible, poke at the sky whenever they score touchdowns or make big plays, and thank God when they win the Super Bowl. Then next week, they get busted selling sex-slaves out of the back of trucks for cocaine. For this reason, many people roll their eyes when a player professes faith and say, "Aw, how cute. Let's take bets on how long before he's arrested."

So far, this has not happened with Tebow. He's come out playing better than expected (even I know that, as little as I watch sports!), and has walked the walk his talk professes: He bows for prayer during games, works with charities in his free time, and starts all of his interviews by thanking Jesus for his life. Not his wins, just his life.

But then there's those Google searches. Our reader plugged in everything from, "Tebow's a creationist dumbass" to "Tebow wants to kill Muslims" to "We should kill Tebow" and found these popping up in the atheist blogosphere. Then there's what's beyond the blogosphere: Everyone from Bill Maher to "Tex the atheist Quizboy" find it necessary to denigrate Tebow as much as they can.

But why?

It is not, apparently, because he claims God is helping him win games. Lots of Christian sites, and ESPN analysts, our reader tells me, make that stupid assertion for him, but he never has actually done so that he has seen recorded. Not once.

Although I have not seen any of this myself, I think our reader hits it on the head when he says that the problem is that they see a person in the midst of, arguably, the largest and most active American popular culture center (the NFL), who:

1) Fails to make stupid claims about God that they can poke fun at later, like "Jesus was there with me on the field", or, "I believe the Bible never makes an error, like when it teaches women to shut up."

2) Fails to play by the game's mockery of "I'm a Christian but I'm gonna do all the drugs and women I can get my hands on cause I know Jesus looooooves me and we all make mistakes right?"

And personally, I can relate to that. My own career in apologetics has meant plenty of atheist hatemongering. But of course, the best they can come up with is 1) "Uh, he's mean to people." 2) "He's fat." 3) "Dah. his name is Turkel. I mean, it used to be Turkel. Dah. Whatever."

But it's not hard to see how Tebow is a threat even if he's devoted his life to throwing touchdowns instead of atheists. How terribly threatening to a place (pop culture) where atheist/secularist ideals have had free reign for so long, for there to appear a popular Christian who is both outspoken and -- so far at least -- not able to be pegged with some moral indiscretion or some exegetical wackiness.

Little wonder criticisms of Tebow are so vitriolic (even for online atheists). If you're of a mind, check some of those Google results -- it's screwball city.

And one more thing. Pray for Tebow -- there's a lot of temptation in the world he's in.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Tekton Tenure: 1st Half of 2004

It’s now time to look at past foes from 2004 and what they’re up to. We’ll move faster through the years right now because we’ve covered so many repeat opponents already, so this round we’ll look at the first half of 2004.

Wayne Dyer – he’s still around, and still peddling the same contrived self-help lit. You’d think eventually someone would catch on and realize that all you’d need, if this crap really worked as he said, is one book.

Alan Colmes – so likewBoldise, still around, though it seems he never set foot in Bible commentary again.

Jacob Spinney – originally praised by James Randi, Spinney has gone on to a career in magic himself, and is still around, even with his own YouTube channel – where he discusses politics, diet, economics, and – only very rarely – religion. Maybe that means he’s learned his lesson.

Anton Thorn – as far as I can tell, no longer actively writing online, though he may have a Facebook page.

Christian Crimeline – in 2010 a nutcase named Hans Atrott presumed to comment on about er….01% of this feature we did. See the Ticker for details. Atrott was also used for a few other additions, but as can be seen from the Ticker, he’s not a reliable source. Otherwise it’s still being thrown around with the same crap, by the same guy.

And that’s all that’s new.