Sunday, September 11, 2011

Debates with believers part a million....

This is yet another repost of an exchange that occurred on a social network. Before I get into this thread, I'd like to note again how readily believers read general comments, take them personally and wade into an argument. Anything that is italicised and bold has been added by me in this post to clarify my thoughts on the exchange.

I'd also suggest readers of this post (and other similar post that appear here also) note who is using the word "YOU" in their comments - and how and when they're using it, and who is using the word "I" - and also how - when commenting or replying.

The use or not of "You" is significant. I have bolded the occurrences of "you" in this thread (some may have been missed, however).

Also, although I have inserted the Latin term 'sic' behind spelling errors in the early part of this thread, I eventually gave up....

Finally, if you're reading this and it feels a bit like déja vu, you're right: I posted the early part of this conversation last week. This week, however, a bunch of other people decided to gang up on me.

As always, I invite your comments but PLEASE READ the entire post first, yeah?

Progressive Christianity: the definitive oxymoron.
This was my general, not-directed-to-anyone-in-particular comment.... This is the conversation that followed.

JP: Depending...

WriterWriter: I'm not sure how 'progressive' relates to '2000 year-old tribal writings'....

BW: here's my take on religion in general.....
If you believe.....then you can't persecute those who don't .....
If you don't believe....then you can't persecute those who do....
(Just to note, the person who made this TRUE comment resorts to some persecution and threats later in this conversation.*)

WriterWriter: True.
However, asking questions is not persecution.
Asking for substantiation is not persecution.
Pointing out fallacies, inconsistencies, falsehoods is not persecution.

Those are the rights of rational, thinking people in a democracy.

In THIS democracy, freedom OF and freedom FROM religion are protected by our constitution and Bill of Rights but neither of those protect any religion or any subscriber to religion (of any type) from being questioned.

JP: It can be when the tone is mocking. (I'm not sure what 'it' refers to here or when the 'tone' is mocking).  Its (sic) not a question when you are "pointing out realities" (actually, I said fallacies, falsehoods and inconsistencies).

For some people, this (I'm not sure what 'this' refers to here) is a part of their reality, and whether you believe their view of reality to be true or not, that (not sure what 'that' refers to either... )needs to be honored (sic) (WHY??).

Its (sic) not a question when you consider those who think rationally different from those who don't (no, the writer is correct; it is not a question to think those who think rationally are different from those who don't)

There are lots of religious people who think rationally (Ok, I'll concede this point except they don't on the points of religion, which is not rational in any way and doesn't pretend to be rational: hence, faith)

It's not a question when the "question" makes others feel small.
(Ah, yeah, it is. Their feeling small has no bearing on whether a question is a question).
Perhaps those within religion have made you (why did this suddenly become about me?) feel small and insignificant and that's why you attack* (question?) it with such vigor (sic). There is a difference between an opinion and a question. I respect yours (my question or my opinion?), as a rational, thinking human being (I don't know if the writer means they are or I am the rational being)

I hope the same courtesy can be given to me. (When did this suddenly become about this commenter? My initial four-word post is entirely general).

WriterWriter: How did this become about anyone in particular???

Why is it people always try to find reasons (i.e. I've been made to feel small) for atheism? Why should there be any reason beyond there's NO evidence for any god: not the god of the christians and jews and not that of the muslims - no more evidence than there is for ANY of the 5000 or so gods that have passed through human history.

Here's a question: If you had been born in the Middle East to parents who follow Islam, would you still be a christian? (This question was never answered)

I will say I disagree intensely with the idea that religion 'needs to be honoured.' Why?

Being affiliated with a religion - ANY religion - does not make a person good or nice or honest or ethical; nor do such affiliations insure morality. So honour then based on what?

Tell me why I "need to honour" beliefs that are based on no evidence. Why should such beliefs benefit from any more honour than a belief in Thor or Krishna or pink unicorns?

... please give me any example of when I have attacked.

Also please tell me why questioning with vigour constitutes attack. (not answered)

WriterWriter: I wish I could take bets on how much - if any - of this excellent article will be read by certain participants here but there you go...

And before anyone slams me for being aggressive or mean or too frank whatever term, I didn't write this...

If you're just going to use your own conscience and your own mind to decide what's right or wrong, true or false -- why do you need God?

JP: I didn't "slam" you for being too aggressive* (Um, yeah, ya did, by alleging I attack). I don't think you're mean or being to (sic) frank (We'll keep this comment in mind too, for later...). I'll read your article, if thats (sic) who you mean by "certain people".

WriterWriter: Lots of people are following this thread. Lots won't read that.... Like I said, don't take the general personally.

WriterWriter:  Just to quote you, " Perhaps those within religion have made you feel small and insignificant and that's why you attack* (question?) it with such vigor (sic)."... You suggested I attack... attacks are, by definition, aggressive.

What I will say to all the religious readers of this thread is this: my comments here provide you every opportunity to provide evidence, proof, backup, substantiation, etc. and provide you a wide-open opportunity to convert someone.

What I often - and I mean 99.9% of the time - get in response to my questions or suggestions is defensiveness, not reply. (for evidence of this, keep reading...)

I have asked SEVERAL people (two pastors) to define the 'beliefs' I have and have had NO answer - although they have both responded with insults (about my character and intelligence, much preceded by 'you are,' or 'you should' type comments) (Twitter).

I have asked for substantiation of the main players in the stories and have again had insinuations and outright insults but no answers.

I have asked simple questions like the one I posted today about Noah (where did he get polar bears and south-pole penguins, etc) and another about how 'god' managed to create light three days before the light source, but have been told (and YES I WILL pull the direct quote) that I am intellectually bereft and incapable of comprehending the bible.

I have provided endless links to excellent writers and research sources, videos, refutations, encyclopaedic references and have had back only biblical references to support biblical references: the concept of circular reasoning seems to escape.

Finally, I have had any number of insinuations about my mental health in the sense that I must be mentally damaged to be doubting something for which there is absolutely no evidence.

But not one has taken the much-proffered opportunity to convert an educated person who comes from generations - TEN - of staunchly christian family that has at least one pastor in each of those 10 generations (five in this one). (They have, however falsely accused me of saying they're stupid because I have read more than they have....)

If I were on the other side of this fence, I'd say that someone like me was a hell of a catch and I'd make every effort to research my sources, know what I was talking about, answer questions, read the heck out of every possible resource, back up my answers and be real in order to hook such a fish.

(I have emphasised certain words in the next comments to highlight the use of charged words. I just thought it was an interesting contrast to my having tried to keep my comments as neutral as possible, considering the subject matter)

GP: RESPECT !!!........a very SIMPLE concept......but not... seemingly for you!!!! (aaaannnddd cue the attacks).....RESPECT my son for his belief system......RESPECT me....for mine!!......I don't give a rat's ass for what YOU believe (So, I have to respect this person's belief system but they don't give a rat's for mine. OK.... ) is YOUR belief system!!.....I listen to to (sic) what you believe......I don't question it (maybe you should?) is YOURS......your verbal retaliations (VERBAL? Maybe they're using reader.... Retaliations? WHERE?) come across as a personal one is really caring to debate you.....most of us don't have the time or energy too (sic).....not that you would listen anyway's (sic)!! just delete friend's (sic)......or block comment's (sic)!.......because they anger you!.......and....just for the have raised your children in YOUR belief how are you different than ANY of ???......
(For the record, I have not raised my children in any belief system: they are and have always been free to consider all or none). 

GP: ‎~R~E~S~P~E~C~T........  Thank you nailed it! (relates to the third comment in this thread)

DN: I truly get a kick out of people who can open there (sic) mouths and spew their thoughts while while (sic) anyone who tries is so wrong (except I am STILL waiting for any of these people to comment on the SUBJECT rather than attacking me). Respect oh there's that word again. Respect. I guess that word only works for certain individuals. So unbelievable. i personally don't care to read someones link (translation: I don't care to educate myself....).

maybe these links are spewing propaganda for atheists (so, let me get this right; this writer won't read any links I post because they don't want to read anything that might be "atheist propaganda,' whatever that is...?)

Oh yeah right i'm probalby not educated enough to understand. Im sure i will hear about it. My thoughts and beliefs are totally wrong (OK, if you say so.... ).

BW: I'd just like to know why it is you demand justification for someone elses beliefs? You seem to crusade against religion with radical passion, and respond with someone elses diatribes about their own personal convenient choosings and how that just makes a mockery of the whole belief system......You enjoy fitness activities and photography, and no one slams those activities or crusasades against them or blogs about the lack of proof that fitness activities are indeed one on here challenges anything that you enjoy, believe, or take comfort in. And yes, the beauty of the web is that it is indeed an open forum, ...but using it to take a stab at the beliefs of a life long friend and her family , for all the world to see, shows a complete lack of respect. Ask yourself if the challenges are worth the cost of a life long friend?
(Ok. I must note here that I did not and did not intend to single out anyone. My comments were - and are, as much as possible - GENERAL. This commenter is suggesting - via veiled threat on someone else's behalf - that I should shut up or lose a friend)

WriterWriter: Nope. I did NOT attack, pinpoint, or disrespect Jared with my initial post. It is GENERAL and not about anyone specifically.

Secondly, I note - as always - that the participants in these threads rarely, if ever, reply to specific questions and resort VERY quickly to attacking my character. (See? No names and no identifying information)

But this idea of respect is really interesting: I will say quite categorically that those of us who err on the side of evidence, proof, verification and reality are on the short end of the respect stick.

It isn't a question of not respecting the PERSON. Not at all: it is, however, a question of retaining respect at the same time as having the RIGHT (and responsibility) to ask questions about things that don't make sense, aren't true or don't add up.

I have always and will always have respect for people's beliefs - and for this country's constitution that protects the right to believe - and the right to FREE of belief.

HOWEVER, those who claim a belief in something are substantially responsible for providing some reliable evidence and support for those beliefs. What almost always happens is when those beliefs are put to the test, rather than a rational discussion ensuing, the above types of comments occur.

Reacting angrily and throwing insults at a writer who says something one does not agree with or know about is NOT a discussion: it is tantamount to a temper tantrum and has no relationship to discussion.

DN, PLEASE tell me - and QUOTE me - where I have "spewed propaganda for atheists," and what exactly that might be.

GP; Please, please, please tell me what it is I believe given that the definition of atheism is an ABSENCE of belief. Secondly, please tell me where I said anything disrespectful to or about J; and finally, SOMEONE please explain how a general comment became about anyone in particular!

BW, I am not 'demanding' justification: however, I am educated, as I grew up in a church environment and come from a very large family of religious people - and ten generations of the same.

Yes, now that I have stepped back and have spent more than five years reading everything I can get my hands on and researching what I grew up believing, I am asking people to substantiate what they say they believe (in this conversation because they jumped in to the conversation. I don't walk up to strangers and start in on them...although, sometimes I'd really like to.).

Re your comparison of real things - tangible things like running and photography - to things for which there is no evidence, proof or substantiation for 'real' it's a stretch.... (I have evidence for my photographs and for my running - or lack thereof at the moment, given my waistline; Believers have no evidence whatsoever for the claims they make)

I am SHOCKED by how angry those same people become when they encounter information that is at odds with what they say they believe. I am also shocked to comprehend how unwilling people are to read anything that challenges their paradigm.... wait. Actually, no, I'm not surprised by that at all: the only way to be sure of one's beliefs is to never put them to any significant test... but I digress...

To the original post: My comment, that progressive christianity is an oxymoron is NOT directed at anyone in particular ... (redacted); however ... chose to make it about ... and others here have gone there too.

Secondly, this is MY ... feed. I am comfortable speaking as I do and have no embarrassment about the opinions I hold or the research I've done or the things I post. If others are offended, they have several choices:
Research - and post countering opinions (but please understand that I may also continue to post other also-countering opinions and information;
Remove the 'friend' connection.

However, under no circumstances will I be cowed into censoring myself because others don't agree with me. Just because people don't agree does NOT mean that I am wrong or disrespectful. It means that I respect people enough to engage them in a very complex subject because I believe them intelligent enough to engage.

Finally, to the point of respecting religion in general: WHY. Why should any philosophy deserve any respect simply for existing? Why should one religion deserve more respect than any other - and more than no beliefs - when thousands of religions - and gods - have preceded it and when there is no more proof or substantiation for it than any other in existence now or in the past?
Why should the North-American version of religion deserve any more respect or be accorded any more 'truth' than religions elsewhere?

Have your beliefs but don't be surprised, and don't resort to insults and insinuations, when people who choose to really consider what 'belief' and 'faith' mean ask pointed questions.

And DON'T take the general personally: it indicates a certain insecurity.

As always, I hope you will, even in the smallest way, take advantage of the links I post here:
Greta Christina is one of my favourite writers: here is some of her work, particularly on the subject of believers debating atheists

.. and on the dangers of 'progressive' christianity':

Some readers may not like this stuff - but not liking it only means they don't like it, not that it's wrong;

Stuff that challenges one's paradigm will do one of two things: it will allow them - or force them - to go find material that supports their beliefs and paradigm or it will bust them out of their beliefs and paradigm. THIS applies to me too, which is why I read EVERYTHING for or against my subject matter.

GP:Wowzer' just don't get it...on any level....

DN: Oh julie you crack me up. Your rants are hilarious

BW:You're strong in your convictions....we get that.....but so are Grace and Jared, and all who believe....
(Fine. My issue is that you hold these convictions you refuse to challenge AND you get all angry when anyone else challenges them.)

Your posts and questions indicate to me that you're looking for proof and answers (Congratulations, Sherlock....)
 but challenging people on a public forum isnt the way to go about it. (Women should shut up and not speak in public? Don't ask questions in public so we believers won't have to be shamed in public?)

Perhaps you should investigate a term at a bible college where you are encouraged find your own answers.
(Ahahaha... I can't imagine how a bible college would even consider letting me in or what they'd do with all my questions, but reading everything I can and asking questions of believers is exactly how one goes about finding their own answers... or do you mean finding the answers YOU want me to find?)

While you may view your posts/comments as matter for debate, they are delivered in such a manner that they are viewed as an attack....
(This is exhausting. "... viewed as" does not equal "are.") 

you're making these people defend and justify what they believe in and you simply DON'T have that right.
(Ah, yes, I sure do. I every right to question the extraordinary claims of 'believers.' its one thing to enter in to a fact based debate (Religion is not fact)...but the truth of the matter is that what you have here is a debate based on beliefs where there can be no victor....your beliefs/views and opinions cannot trump anyone elses just because you want them to (Ok, that's just dumb: these people all jumped into what was NEVER supposed to be a debate and then tearing me down because they chose to engage???)

Quotes from various blogs are also someone elses opinion that you seem to think back up your opinion....(Ok. I don't know if this person finished school but I'm pretty sure they went at least to grade nine or 10 - where they would have had to go to the library, read other people's writing and use it to support the points of their own essays.)

If you can believe said blogs without challenge (When did I say I 'believe' blogs without challenge?), why can't the faithful believers of the world believe in their convictions with the same courtesy?? (They can. They just can't be pissed off if I ask them a question and they can't answer it). you've made your point....your (sic) a non one bothers you about it (EXCUSE ME??? No one bothers me about it??? NO ONE has put a LOT of time into writing the above comments.... ) let it go.......unchallenged as it is.... 

So, GP if I understand correctly, as long as I don't say anything - no matter how general - that you disagree with, all's well; but the second I make a general comment you don't like, or ask a question that I'd like an answer to it's a personal attack?

Are you also suggesting I have no right to question religion on my own Facebook page?

Are you suggesting that I censor myself because my opinions and the links to other opinions I post offend some people? Would you apply that same expectation to yourself?

Dave, I'm glad you find this amusing. I also find it quite amusing that a completely general comment was taken personally to the point that four commenters came out swinging....

I'm not sure how my four-word general observation, or my comments in response to others here constitutes a rant or why the very pointed and very personal comments do not....

If anyone who has commented here would like to ante up and QUOTE me when I have personally attacked any specific person here, please do. Just be mindful that I will do the same.

One must be judicious in their use of the word "YOU" in exchanges such as these....

Anyway, this exchange continues, even as I write this blog. The players are either cornering themselves or exiting the conversation because what else can they do besides end up looking stupid.... E.G.:

I have no interest in proving, or disproving any of just doesn't matter to me one way or another....

I think it's weird to weigh in on something you not only don't know anything about, but when you actually don't want to know..... 


  1. So, the long/short of all this is none of these people answered any question put to them; they didn't read anything provided to them - and in a couple cases refused to do so; they equate real things (running and photography for which there is evidence and in which many people I know personally participate) with a storybook full of unsubstantiated stuff they will not do any research on.

    The bottom line, which this conversation shows, is believers do not know or understand what they say they believe and they will not put it to the test. This gives me to believe they are, somewhere in their brains, not as convinced as they say they are - and the level of anger they display reinforces that for me.

    Religion is bullshit people.

    That said, the second anyone - god itself/himself/herself included - shows any real, replicatable proof for anything purported to be true, I'm all in.

    In the meantime, where the hell is any - ANY archaeological evidence that a large tribe of people wandered around in a desert for 40 years? Seriously? They did that for 40 years and didn't once run into anyone else or come across a town anywhere? BULLSHIT.

    And WHERE did Noah get the penguins and polar bears? And how did he deal with the daily piles of poo on his boat!?

  2. I really "enjoyed" reading this post. It really amazes me how ignorant people can be. How incredibly ironic for your attackers to bring up the subject of respect to you whom they were being disrespectful to.
    I am not surprised that not even one of them could or was willing to answer any of your questions. Why did any of them even bother to comment on your post to begin with? Or if they felt the need to say something they could have been honest and say like - they didn't have proof, but they personally don't feel the need for it. There isn't any substantiation, but at least would be a better comment to your post. It would show that they follow in the religion the supposedly believe in - does the bible not tell us to be good to our neighbors?
    I say good on you for taking the time to research as you did on this subject - I think that that shows you have more conviction than your attackers do.
    Oh and the religious school suggestion was hilarious! As if anyone is going to get real answers there!


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