Responding to a Christian

In the previous article discussing the origin of rights, I mentioned that I was in a conversation with a Christian on the conservative blog "The Right Scoop". In a recent response1 she asked a few questions of me that I realize are statements of my opinions and point of view that deserve some clarification on my blog – a fresh insight into past statements, if you will. As such, many of the points will be addressed not only to the Christian in question, who goes by the moniker Jackyl on the Disqus discussion system that The Right Scoop and this blog use to manage comments, but to all Christians in general. I will be going somewhat out of order with her comments, but I will do my best to address each point she has made.

After recognizing that I am, indeed, a libertarian, not a communist as she initially alleged because I have said that rights do not come from God, she said that she "somewhat" understands my reasoning behind what she called a "strong internal emotional need to argue with and somewhat demogogue christians or those who hold other religious beliefs."[sic] She explains the "somewhat" modifier as such:

It is consistant that if you are truly agnotics, at least by my understanding of the term, you will rationally admit that you can not deny the possibility that a god exists and you have done so.

However, where you lose me in terms of my ability to follow you is in how your develop and support your conclusion that a Christian god exists? Your writings are somewhat fuzzy in this area.

She is correct in that I have not stated really anywhere how I have come to the conclusion that the Christian God does not exist. It is not something that I have explored on my blog, so I will take this as an opportunity to do so.

First, Christians, would you agree that without the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments, Christianity would not have any definition? In other words, much if not all of the theology behind the religion called Christianity relies on the Holy Bible. It is where the teachings and story of Jesus are recorded, and it is the basis if not sole source for the theology most often cited by Christians. Now Mormons, I am aware, also have the Book of Mormon, but that is merely an addendum to the Holy Bible, as far as I am aware, so everything for Christianity still rests on the Bible.

And in the Bible lies many problems.

Numerous scholars have written about the authoring of the Bible, including the identification of the various authors of not only the Pentateuch, but the other books of the Old and New Testament. To put it simply the Bible is riddled with numerous problems, errors, contradictions and the like. The Bible is not the work of a god, or if it is, it is certainly not an infallible God as has been declared so readily by Christians. As the Bible provides a definition of God accepted by Christians (and further defined, molded, polished and primed by apologists), and as the Bible has been shown by numerous scholars to be wrong about so many things between its covers, it is not only my opinion but the opinions of many others that the Christian God, the "God of the Bible", Yahweh, Jehovah, or whatever name you wish to ascribe to the God first mentioned in Genesis, does not exist.

Now my firm belief that the God of Christianity is an utter lie perpetuated upon (currently) billions of people does not, as I have already stated, mean that no deity of any kind exists at all. I cannot know for certain if that is the case. As I have also said, there is only one way to know whether there is an afterlife and a deity controlling that afterlife, and that requires that I die. So as far as I’m concerned, the longer before I learn whether there is an afterlife, the better. Others who are so enormously curious as to the answer to that question that they must discover the answer for themselves can feel free to take the plunge necessary ahead of me. Just don’t pull me in with you.

Now I could be surprised.

It could be that after I die, I discover that the God of the Bible is, in fact, real. However if that were to actually happen, let’s just say God would have *a lot* of explaining to do. And if he were to condemn me to a tortuous eternity for my failure to believe in him, then he would not be good at all for he would also have to realize that my failure to believe in him is not entirely of my own fault, as some fault does lie with those Christians who failed to convert me.

However, in her response Jackyl seems to have adopted a particular fallacy that I’ve seen repeated countless times:

However, if you do not have definitive proof, then it follows logically that you are merely speculating based on some for of indefinite technical analysis of your perception of reality against the words of the Christian Bible.

If I am interpreting what she has written correctly, she is implying that I am seeking definitive proof that the God of Christianity does not exist. This is not the case, and the fallacy lies in the perception of the burden of proof. You see a lot of theists I’ve encountered like to play the game that the burden is on atheists and agnostics to "disprove" Christianity. Basically they can make any fact or philosophy claim they like about God and the nature of God, and it is up to non-Christians to disprove those claims.

Not so. This fallacy has been outlined in what is called "Russell’s teapot":2

Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a mistake. If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.

This has been parodied by several others into such concepts as the "invisible pink unicorn", "flying spaghetti monster", and "the dragon in my garage". I recently parodied it myself in a conversation with a friend in what I called the "million-dollar bank account". Thus it is not up to me to disprove the existence of the Christian God, but up to Christians to prove it. And as I and millions of other atheists and agnostics have said, the burden of proof has not been met for we are still unconvinced. The fact that some atheists have converted to Christianity means only that some do not hold a very high burden of proof on those attempting to assert claims for which there is not only no evidence, but likely no possibility of evidence applicable only to the claim.

It’s very easy to ascribe certain events or phenomena to a deity or supreme being. It’s a whole other matter actually backing up that assertion.

It seems that you may have inferred that the patterns you see in the bible are consistant with patterns you would expect to see if the bible were indeed a control mechanism and since you have percieved such patterns, this fact definitively proves that a Christian god does not exist.

The idea of religion being another control mechanism is not just my own. I also certainly do not limit this idea to only Christianity. My observation and interpretation of history leads me to believe that religion is one of many control mechanisms that have been employed. One need look no further than the Middle East to see this to be the case. The same can be said of the control the Catholic Church held over monarchs, and thus entire nations, until the latter half of the Middle Ages. Indeed the Church had their own Courts separate of those of the government with the full ability to deprive a person of life and liberty in the name of God. Look at the cases of Galileo and Jeanne d’Arc to see that, not to mention the witch trials of Salem, Massachusetts.

The claim to be speaking for a divine power, supreme being or deity has a profound psychological effect upon people. Further when one claims that it is possible to earn the salvation or redemption of this deity if they pray, show devotion, and, let’s not forget, hand over 10% of their earnings to those claiming to represent the deity, things start to get a little complicated. Control is not complete because the idea of salvation or redemption is still only perceptively voluntary.

No to actually bring the people in line and get them to act in a particular fashion, one must instill fear into those people. And how best to instill fear than to say that if you fail to believe, show devotion, and follow a long list of rules that until recent history most people couldn’t actually read and verify for themselves, then you will spend a very tortuous eternity in a place you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.

Given that the God of the Bible does not exist, there is only one reason to threaten hellfire upon people starting from the earliest days they are able to actually formulate independent thoughts: to maintain control over them. You see, Kings had a way of threatening you with violence in life to have you comply with laws. Priests, Cardinals and Popes, on the other hand, could not only threaten you with violence while you are still alive, but could threaten you further with violence to your soul for eternity after you die if you waver and sin against a deity they allegedly represent, or at least if you fail to seek redemption for your sins by confessing them to these very "representatives".

Sounds like the idea behind religion is control. Now it doesn’t have nearly the level of control it once did. Once the Church lost their ability to threaten violence upon people while they live, they ramped up their threats to your eternal soul once you die. All of this in the name of control.

If it is true that you are merely speculating based on indefinte technical analysis, then there are a few remaining possibilities as to the somewhat "harsh and demeaning" tone of your responses in this forum:

1) you percieve Christians views to be a threat to your own views and thus, are attempting to exert a moral superiority of your viewpoints over others because you are, without knowing it, narcistic.

I do not perceive Christian views to be a threat to my own views. I perceive Christian views to be a threat to liberty itself. I have written on this concept extensively on my blog. If Christian law were the governing law of this country, what I have written on my blog and in other places would land me in jail if not on death row. The same could be said for what I have done in my personal life. That is one thing that needs to be made painfully clear. The two biggest monotheisms in the world – Christianity and Islam – are anti-liberty and anti-freedom. Any Christian who attempts to assert otherwise is lying through their teeth and living in a fantasy.

I do not declare or assert a moral superiority over anyone. However I wish the same could be said of Christians I have encountered as, except with respect to only a few, I have encountered numerous Christians who attempt to assert themselves as morally superior because of their God backing them up. One such Christian literally implied in a discussion that I could adjust my morality to suit whatever purpose, implying in the process that I have no moral base, can rationalize away anything I have done such that my conscience is free and clear, and am, in essence, downright evil. Here are her actual words, written August 20, 2010, on my Facebook wall:

Kenneth even if you are correct in your non-belief in God your morality and my morality are different because if you violate yours you can simply walk on and change your morality or rationalize what you have done to fit in with your morality. If I violate mine I have committed a sin and that will weigh on me and cause me much more pain than your indiscretion will on you. I cannot rationalize it or change my perspective if it is a clear violation of what I believe are God’s laws.

Needless to say, reading this response from that person pissed me off to no end.

I cannot just simply walk on or change my morality. If I violate my morals, it’s like a hit to the chest. For example I don’t like the idea of killing any animal, including spiders and insects I find around my apartment. If I kill an animal with my car, I am visibly upset and disturbed by it. Ask anyone who has seen me after I have done this. There is no justification, rationalization, or changing of my morality. I could tell myself all I want that the occurrence was purely accidental, but that doesn’t lessen the sting.

As such, I can never kill an animal purely out of sport. And even if I had to kill an animal to eat, such as a rabbit or deer, I would take no joy and would feel plenty of regret in having to do it. I don’t like the idea, I don’t relish it, and I won’t ever relish the thought.

Yet the sad fact of the matter is that there are people who feel quite different, who feel no disturbance of any kind in killing anything. In fact there are people, such as the Governor of Idaho, who want to kill certain kinds of animals, such as wolves, and regret that the law is standing in their way. And many of these people are devout Christians, such as the Governor of Idaho.

And they have the audacity to assert any kind of moral superiority because they are Christian? Fuck that!

2) you have an aggenda to push your libertarian views into government practice which drives a need to "attack" the Christian Right which simply means the harsh and demeaning attitude in this forum which you tend to reflect in your posts is politically motivated.

I do have a political agenda by voicing my opinion in various venues. Everyone who voices their opinion has some kind of agenda behind it, otherwise there would be no need or desire to voice their opinion.

However attacking Christian beliefs is not part of trying to push my libertarian views into public policy. Okay, it is a part, but it is not the driving force. The need to counter social conservatism to advance social liberalism, which is one part of libertarianism, is the driving force. The fact that social conservatism is driven in large part by religion, namely Christianity, means that religion, namely Christianity, receives collateral damage in the process. One can be socially conservative without being religious, but in modern politics, the two are very much intertwined. One need look no further than the Republican party’s platform for evidence of this.

My attitude and tone is derived from the kind of responses I have received when I have commented in those venues before. As a libertarian there are points wherein I do agree with conservatives. My comment history on The Right Scoop shows this. However there are also points of contention, and where there is a point of contention, I do not take highly to being referred to as an intellectually inferior juvenile (I am a college-educated working professional in his early thirties) nor will I be driven away by such utterly unintelligent and juvenile responses.

Finally, one last question for you. You say that you believe man is a product of evolution. While that is truely an agnostic answer to my question as to "who is the source of man", it is an incomplete one.

An incomplete answer to this question implies a world view that humans or groups of humans are simply in competition with one another at a complex level and therefore, must fight for their beliefs or otherwise except servitude to the popular belief.

Before addressing her question, first let me speak to my abhorrence of this notion:

A failure to do so is in my mind a sign of someone who has weak convictions about their viewpoints and insecurity about their intellectual capability to carry out a rational debate to its endpoint without being humiliated.

Jackyl, you will think of me how you may, regardless of how I answer this question. I am not making any attempt to earn your respect. If you wish to think of me as one with weak convictions or intellectual insecurity, then so be it. I cannot change that. You already thought me to be a coward who decided to turn tail and run when in reality I was down and out with vertigo: "Run Kenny, run! I knew you were all wet! What are you afraid of little Kenny-I’m just asking questions." Nice to see you are unwilling to grant an opponent the benefit of any doubt and will readily judge a person without a lot to go by. I recall reading something in the Bible about that. In fact, I believe I wrote an article last year on that topic.3

While you have passed judgment hastily upon me, I will not stoop to that level.

But do not hold out there the possibility of earning your respect as a carrot in hopes it will get me to respond to your questions. I cannot care any less whether I have your respect or whether how I answer this question will change your perception of me.

As such this article is not a courtesy extended to you, for given what I have discovered that you have written of me while I was offline, noted above, I am not extending you any courtesy nor any respect. Instead this is merely a discussion prompted by questions that you have posed and nothing more.

Whether you believe we were created by God, or some other deity, or are the product of the processes of evolution or some other natural process, it can undoubtedly be said that we appear to be more than just our biology. Biologically speaking, we are one species of millions (possibly billions) to have existed on this planet across its entire history. Modern man, that is to say Homo sapiens, has been around for, conservatively speaking, about 100,000 years. If there is any "source of man", it is man, in his various civilizations around the globe striving to find better ways to survive, while at the same time striving to be more than those who came before us.

We are a product of those who have come before us, nothing more.

Take that response how you may, but don’t you think of me as someone with weak convictions or intellectual insecurity when I have shown time and again in my blog and in comments in various venues that I have neither.

Now let’s address a couple statements made in addendum to the response to me:

Kenneth and I fundamentally disagree on many of his statements, but that is fine with me as long as the he relies on reason in his thinking and is honest about what he can and can not know.

This statement is typical of what I have encountered with Christians and other theists. It is rather interesting that you and other Christians will say that I cannot know for certain whether there is not a god, yet you appear unwilling to allow yourself to consider the same possibility with your own beliefs. You cannot know for certain whether your beliefs are real or whether you have been living a lie for your entire life – or however long you’ve been a Christian. And don’t even think about pulling Pascal’s wager on me because you cannot know if your religion is correct or if some other existing or extinct religion is actually correct. Or, very likely, no religion has gotten it right yet.

Just as I cannot know, neither can you.

And what kind of measure of reason shall you be putting against my statements? Many that I have encountered have a very flawed idea of what reason actually means, and the typical definition seems to be something along the lines of "if you think along the same lines I do, then you’re using reason, otherwise you’re completely insane".

In my opinion, Kenneth has a right to attack Christian viewpoints if he wants, but if he does then he should be willing to be attacked for his viewpoints. I hope Kenneth will enlighten readers of this site as to his objective and agenda in attacking Christian viewpoints.

The words of Betty Bowers come to mind in reading this: "As true Christians, we are called upon to marginalize other faiths or people with no faith and to scream ‘PERSECUTION!’ when they rudely return the favor."

Attack my points of view all you want. Say what you want in response to any points I make. However do not make ad hominem attacks against me personally, for then you have revealed yourself to have no argument at all and are only trying to do what you can to keep a failing line of thought alive. I have deleted comments from my blog and from my Facebook page that I have interpreted as being ad hominem attacks, and I removed a person from my Facebook friends list and blocked him for repeatedly making ad hominem attacks instead of attacking and responding to points I make.

In other words, if you have no response to what I have said, say so. Don’t go on attacking my character because you can’t conceive of a response to my points.

As for being enlightening as to my "objective and agenda", see what I have written above. To recapitulate, I see the views of Christianity, and those attempting to enact those views as public policy, as a threat to the rights and liberty of all Americans. And yes, I feel the same about Islam as well.

The authors of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights intended there to be a distinct separation between religion and the government, and the two were to not intermingle. Now it is impossible for our representatives in government to ignore or disperse with their religious beliefs when they enter the congressional chambers, but they must be able to set them aside when discussing and debating public policy and must not show any preference for any one religious point of view.

This is what one Christian libertarian I have encountered has dubbed a "libertarian filter".4

  1. Jackyl’s response to me on The Right Scoop []
  2. Russell, Bertrand. (1952). "Is There a God?" []
  3. "Presumption of Innocence" []
  4. "The Libertarian Paradox". Posted July 28, 2008, on the blog "Zeal for Truth". []