panelarrow

Evangelism Gone Wrong? Part 3: An Atheist’s Complaint

| 61 Comments

A frequent atheist contributor to this blog has taken exception to the way we evangelize in public, and is also disturbed at some of the places we do it. This atheist is thoughtful and reasonable, but does she make a valid point? I answer her concerns afterward. (Read original comments in context here. Start at part 1 of the series by clicking here.)

perdita wrote: “[T]he more I read here the more I’m convinced that your evangelizing is just a way for you to feel good about getting into people’s way, being rude, and creating conflict.”

Wrong places to preach, according to perdita, were outside beer gardens, inside elevators, the DMV. “When you do that,” she explained, “you’re just being a passive-aggressive bully. Yeah—and don’t preach to kids unless their parents are there and okay it.”

She did offer a list of appropriate places: “…your ‘corridor of conversion’, stop light evangelizing, or public places where people can stay or move if they want. Though, if your amp is loud enough that people can hear it in their apartments, it’s probably too loud.”

Then another atheist (believe it or not) jumped in to defend us , saying, “Presuming you weren’t in violation of anything, you have a right to blather on about anything so long as you aren’t inciting violence or causing panic.”

Perdita then said, I’m not saying he had no right to preach there…. However, that doesn’t mean what he was doing was ‘right’ in the larger sense of the word.”

I then explained that I just want our evangelists to respond in a gracious, tactful, gentle manner wherever we preach.

perdita would have none of it: “This seems to mean: ignore [them], unless [someone pulls a gun on you forcing you to stop.]

“Steve … states that the only reason to stop [preaching] is if there’s a gun. That’s one of the things I find appalling—that he thinks that the only legitimate reason to move on is personal safety. Not surprising, but appalling. His ‘audience’ aren’t real people to him, they’re merely a supporting cast in “The Adventures of Steve the Evangelist” and the sooner they learn to shut up, the better.”

I explained that it has nothing to do with “The Adventures of Steve the Evangelist,” but everything to do with getting the Word out. This is how she closed the discussion:

“I know you believe that. You think these people are drowning and the only valid reason to turn down the volume, shorten your spiel, or move on is mortal violence or the law.

“I don’t know if I can explain this well, but your belief that they are drowning is still unsubstantiated. I imagine it feels really real to you, but that feeling doesn’t make it true. And you seem so invested in this belief that it has become more important to you than the actual people you preach to—that’s why I call them a supporting cast.”

The best reason I can give to an unbeliever as to why we have to speak, regardless of the audience, is the urgency. I wrote an analogy sometime back called “The Drowning Woman” which likens the plight of the unsaved to a woman who doesn’t know she’s drowning. A former lifeguard attempts to rescue her anyway, though she fights and claws and protests. (Read it here.)

All unbelievers face a horrendous fate because of their sin against God: Hell.

The Moral Law, the 10 Commandments, stands in judgment of their actions, their consciences warning them. Because the Commandments are no longer thought of as valid in this post-Christian, anti-Christian culture, and since most people don’t know them, we consider it our sacred duty as evangelists to remind them of God’s standard: perfection.

If the unbeliever has broken one, just one Commandment, by lying, stealing, blaspheming, looking with lust, hating, or even dis-honoring their parents, they will be found guilty on the Day of Judgment of being lying thieves, blasphemers, adulterers-at-heart and murderers who do not honor their parents—and will end up  in Hell to pay for their sin. One sin, one broken Commandment, and the punishment eternal suffering.

Unbelievers hate that message and will do anything to stop it from being preached.

We don’t care.

We do care that people understand that they are not good enough to make it to Heaven.

Unbelievers will protest that there is no proof.

We don’t care.

We do care that the truth of what God has said is delivered. No evidence necessary.

Unbelievers will complain, though we are in a public area, that we are being disruptive, even though we try to be gracious and keep our messages to about five minutes.

We do care—that they hear.

We also want them to know that Jesus Christ was born, a Savior who took all the punishment they deserve for their sin upon Himself, dying for them, being buried for three days and rising again to give them the hope of eternal life should they repent and trust in Him.

We do care.

An unbeliever’s temporary discomfort—their disruption—pales in comparison to what they will experience should they disbelieve our message—or never hear it at all.

That’s why we will continue to speak.

Because we care.

Click here to read part 4: “The Man Who Hates Everyone.”

*****

In the future another analogy: The Bridge is Out!

61 Comments

  1. It’s worth noting as well that if we accept the atheist’s proposed limitations on our evangelism, we have de facto enabled her “cacagelism” (spread of the bad news of atheism). We leave the public square, never talk with a child, and so on.

    In other words, we insulate the public from one opinion in favor of another. Now while there are good reasons to make decisions on what techniques and methods to follow, the “heckler’s veto” is rarely it.

    Moreover, on what authority does the atheist tell us that “that doesn’t mean what he was doing was ‘right’ in the larger sense of the word”? Think about it; we can appeal to the “Golden Rule,” but even that…..presumes some moral decision about the intrinsic value of human life and freedom, something which cannot be arrived at purely by “rationalism and evidence.” Yes, there are profoundly moral atheists, but that does not mean that said atheists have a solid foundation for their moral choices.

    At least not one that they acknowledge. :^)

  2. Powerful video Pastor Steve thank you for sharing that! May God continue to bless you!

  3. Bike Bubba you nailed with this quote: “Yes, there are profoundly moral atheists, but that does not mean that said atheists have a solid foundation for their moral choices.”

    I’ll have to remember that one! You’re whole post was good, God bless!

  4. Bike Bubba,

    ‘caca’gelism – I love it! I think it deserves its own wiki page.

    Pastor Steve, as always: great post. Thank you

  5. Thanks for the encouragement, you guys.

    Still can’t get over that cacagelism….

  6. BTW, that’s as in “cacaphony”; there is no scatalogical reference intended there, as it’s a legitimate Greek root. Glad you all enjoyed that.

  7. Yes – I realize I was being touchy and snarky and apologize for that. (Some of your snarkyness set me the wrong way – again, I appreciate your edits.) I think my point is valid, but again, I don’t think I expressed it well.

    Unbelievers hate that message and will do anything to stop it from being preached.

    That isn’t what I said. That isn’t even supported by what I said. I take issue with only the ‘jerky’ stuff, specifically when you target people because they can’t easily move away. It sounded like that’s what happened at the parade site.

    Unbelievers will protest that there is no proof.
    We don’t care.

    Obviously. You don’t care if the woman’s sitting in a lawn chair and there’s no water in a 10 mile radius. If you think she’s drowning, she must be drowning. I mean, how could you be wrong about something like that?

    We do care that the truth of what God has said is delivered. No evidence necessary.

    For you, no. That’s also obvious. I care that my beliefs are grounded in reality, so evidence is important to me.

    An unbeliever’s temporary discomfort—their disruption—pales in comparison to an what they will experience should they disbelieve our message—or never hear it at all.

    I think I got that. You have this unsubstantiated belief and you don’t care if there’s evidence for it or not and you think that you and your message are the most important things for those people you preach to. What they think doesn’t matter. Isn’t that what I said?

    • perdita,

      Yes, that’s what you said. Remember, I’m writing this to encourage Christians to go for it, regardless of the opposition. Atheists like yourself get to watch and offer advice from the sidelines.

      EDIT: perdita, I wasn’t saying that you hate the message, but Jesus said “that all people will hate us because of me.”

      So in general, we are opposed because of our message, even if an atheist sayd that they don’t hate the message. Make sense? 🙂

  8. Bike Bubba :

    First – There were no ‘proposed limitations’. Steve asked my opinion and I gave it.

    Second – In no way did I suggest you leave the public square.

    Third – I would never target your child, or any child, for ‘atheist evangelism’ (whatever that means). I wouldn’t even speak to your child about my beliefs without your express permission. I wouldn’t try to ‘convert’ your child away from your beliefs. And I would be appalled if you evangelized to kids without their parent’s permission.

    “Moreover, on what authority does the atheist tell us that “that doesn’t mean what he was doing was ‘right’ in the larger sense of the word”? ”

    It’s opinion, I have a lot of those, and I kind of meant that in the ‘mom’ way. Didn’t your mom ever say something like, “Just because Timmy does it, doesn’t mean you should.” Just because it’s legal to preach to a semi-captive ‘unwitting’ crowd, doesn’t mean you should do it. But, then again, you might not see anything wrong in targeting someone else’s kid.

  9. Bike Bubba wrote:

    Yes, there are profoundly moral atheists, but that does not mean that said atheists have a solid foundation for their moral choices

    At least not one that you’ll ever spend 5 minutes on google looking up.

    Yeesh. Seriously, we’ve gone through this before. You can research this. Yes, the non-religious have a solid foundation for their moral choices.

    Bike, the word “atheist” describes what we are not; not what we are.

    Please understand this concept.

  10. Seriously, do you really expect that we’re just going to say, “ohmygosh Bike, you’re right… if I don’t have a divine authority telling me what to do, then I have no solid foundation for my moral choices!! Wowzers!!”

    Do you?

    Really?

  11. To Perdita-
    Matthew 19:14
    Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

  12. Tracy,

    And when Jesus shows up and says that, we can talk about it.

    Until then, it’s just hearsay.

    Tracy, how would you feel if a Muslim was evangelizing to your children when you weren’t around?

  13. Steve wrote:

    Unbelievers will protest that there is no proof.

    We don’t care.

    And that’s the problem in a nutshell. You don’t care about evidence of what you’re preaching. I bet you care about evidence in plenty of other parts of your life (such as if someone was trying to sue you), but in this particular part, you don’t care.

    You don’t care.

  14. Can you please do me a favour and imagine a situation that is not too far removed?

    An acai berry salesman puts you in a position where you had to listen to them sell you their supplements. It’s gotten so extreme that the only way they’d stop pitching to you is if you pull a gun.

    The acai berry supplement seller says he cares about you and that his anti-oxidant berries will keep you young, increase attention span and general intelligence, remove fat and as a result help you to be more effective at preaching.

    The acai salesmen doesn’t care that you want evidence for these miracle berries, because hey he just wants you to eat the supplement. He doesn’t even care that the evidence that does exist points out that none of those benefits exist he just wants you to regularly take the berry supplement. Instead he will continue just pitching to you, regardless.

    Now, in your opinion is this acai berry salesman reasonable or is he being a real jerk? Are you going to buy the berries off him?

  15. So, Tracy – you have no problem coming between parents and their children? You get to decide what’s best for a child and not their parents? Am I misunderstanding this? I truly hope I am.

    Steve said: I’m writing this to encourage Christians to go for it, regardless of the opposition.

    Yes, I know that. Encourage away! I’m just saying that sometimes there might be a valid reason for not going for it at a certain time or place. A reason that has nothing to do with you (you in general, not Steve in particular), but a reason that has to do with those you claim to care for.

  16. For the record: I have my kids talk to other kids about the Gospel or hand them tracts. If the parent is around I look at the parent and then talk to the kid in an age-appropriate manner.

    As a parent, I stop anyone from talking to my children unless I know what that person is about. Then I’ll stand by and watch my girls hold their own, like I did when that atheist tried to evangelize my then 8-year-old. Read it here: https://stonethepreacher.com/2008/02/05/my-daughter-confronts-the-atheist.html

  17. I usually involve the parents.
    My kids tell their friends about Jesus.

  18. To Vagon,

    The problem with your scenario is that it is way too mundane. Even if the berries were every bit as effective as he says they are… what are the consequences if I don’t eat them. I wont be as mentally acute as I could be. I will only live to be 85 instead of 80.

    Can you please do me a favor and imagine a situation that is not too far removed?

    You live on the first floor of a 6 story apartment building. The top three floors are completely engulfed. Many have already died and many more are going to if we don’t rush into the building and wake the tenants. Should we care if they don’t like to be disturbed from their sleep? Should we care if they don’t believe there is a fire? Should we not wake the children because the parents might prefer that they not talk to strangers?

    If you truly believed that I (or my children) were in mortal danger, I believe you would let me know that I was about to walk in front of a bus. Well, YOU ARE ABOUT TO WALK IN FRONT OF A BUS! Eternity is a long time. Once you have proof, it’s too late! Please excuse me if I seem a little freaky… I care that much!

  19. Steve and StevieD: How do you know the top floors are completely engulfed? Is it just your belief or do you have a legitimate reason to think this?

    Do you go into that 6 story building on a hunch? Or was there a smell? Did you see smoke? Maybe an alarm? Or do you just wake people up on the off chance that there might be a fire?

    Steve said: If the parent is around I look at the parent and then talk to the kid in an age-appropriate manner.

    Cool. And if the parent isn’t there, you don’t talk to them, right?

  20. Right on StevieD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. Stevie D’s scenario is not accurate. The fire would have to be invisible, produce no measurable, and let’s forget the rest and say there’d be no evidence of fire at all.

    If I burst into your house at 3am and yell FIRE! GET OUT! and you see nothing wrong at all, you’d be ticked. And then you’d have Stevie D’s scenario.

    Well done, indeed.

  22. Hey StevieD, thanks for taking the time to read my comment.

    I did not realise the fear angle was such a big part of the sale, so I’ll tweak it for you:
    How about if the acai berry salesman told you that the antioxidants could cure say skin cancer? I know some unethical naturopaths do this, but I did not want to make my example so hysterical.

    Also you made a bit of an error there with your scenario. See the flames on the top three levels have evidence (smoke, heat etc). Steve specifically mentioned evidence isn’t necessary.

    Same thing with the bus, imagine were about to cross the road and Perdita yells out for us not to cross. She tells us to watch out there’s a bus coming. We stop, look and listen but there’s no bus to be seen for a mile around – we can easily stroll across the road. Imagine Perdita kept insisting we not cross the road while minutes rolled by. Would you thank Perdita or tell her to visit your therapist friend?

  23. OK, Nohm, let’s try it out; give me a universally accepted atheist justification for morality.

    And tell me why renowned atheists like Stalin, Lenin, Kruschev, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Castro, Brezhnev, and millions of others who took part in the Communist barbarities failed to clue in to this obvious point.

    Sorry, Nohm, but the basis for morality without a higher power seems to have escaped a LOT of atheists in the 20th century, to put it mildly, leading to the murder of hundreds of millions and the enslavement of billions. The ugly reality here is that an atheological basis for morality is anything but self-evident, and just because I can “google” someone’s answer in five minutes does not change that fact.

  24. The thread is not about evidence, it’s right and wrong. Is it right to force your preaching on a captive audience? My scenario speaks to motive not to evidence. What would you do if you truly believed that a total stranger was in mortal danger? What would you do if you truly believed…? Do you doubt that these among my peers truly believe? Is it as Perdita claims that we take time from our lives and our families lives, just “to feel good about getting into people’s way, being rude, and creating conflict.”

    That would be wrong. But that’s not our motive… I doubt that Perdita even believes that.

  25. ‘Saright, perdita, we got your back.

    First off, ‘vangies, just a thought. Maybe you want to not talk to the children out of self-protection. Even if you don’t have an “altar-boy” scenario in mind, it might be best if you didn’t place yourself in a position where you might be giving the appearance of anything improper.

    There’s a lot of sick people out there. And you want to avoid making anybody think you’re one of them. If nothing else, how will this make bystanders feel about evangelists if they get the impression that some of them might just be chickenhawks in disguise?

    Now, just because I’m not sure how Steve will feel about this last comment, I’m going to nohm it in two.

  26. Now, Steve,

    in this post-Christian, anti-Christian culture

    Really? When over 75% of the country self-identifies as Christian (perhaps not your particular flavor of Christianity, but still…), why are you trying to claim that you’re an oppressed minority? That’s just a little silly, isn’t it?

    (Hmmm… Jesus died for our sins. You want us to make that sacrifice meaningless by not committing them?)

    OK, so you do your evangelizing schtick because otherwise, the rest of us are going to Hell. A big nasty place, full of fire and torment and little devils with pointy sticks who like watching us squirm.

    Well, that brings us back to the same old question you’ve never answered.

    Now, since God is omniscient, He, by definition, knows everything. Past, present and future. He knows what choices you’ll face, and He knows how you’ll respond.

    You can blather about “Free Will” all you want, but if God doesn’t know it already, then He isn’t “omniscient,” is He? (So really, you get to choose between predetermination, or multiple dimensions – of course, then you’re straying perilously close to string theory and that Devil Science, so be careful there.)

    Now, let’s ignore those billions who never knew about Jesus – Buddhists, various indiginous people, and so on. God knew that John Sixpack, American citizen, was going to be born, and knew that Johnny was going to be a relatively good person but was never going to accept Jesus into his heart.

    So God knew that Johnny was going to Hell. But He still allowed Johnny to be born. Born in order to suffer for eternity.

    So what you’re saying is that your God is a small-minded, sadistic tyrant who keeps a torture chamber in His basement for His own amusement.

    Am I getting that right?

    • To Nameless,

      That’s why I don’t, as a rule, talk to kids because of that perception. If I do, I stand waaaaaay back. Again, it’s the exception. I send my daughters in to do the evangelizing to the children.

      As for that figure of 75% that say they are Christian? I think the number is 76%. Anyone can say anything they want. But a Christian nation that kills 50 million babies makes homosexual marriage legal, and elects a man who was the most liberal in the Senate and pretty much stands against Christian mores, I would have to conclude that these people are Christian in name only.

      “You’ll know them by their fruit.” “If you love me, you’ll obey me.” —Jesus

      No true Scotsman can allow for the above-mentioned.

  27. Did Steve just say his whole post was a logical fallacy?

  28. My goodness, Stevie. Each of your points in that last (full) paragraph is a discussion on its own. Two of which I believe we’ve even had (and apparently been ignored).

    But, really? “Elects a man who was the most liberal in the Senate”? Your Fox “News” preference is showing, m’man. Obama rated, at best, as “relatively liberal,” and has since shown himself to be a true centrist. It’s only pinheads like O’Reilly and Hannity (and, of course, their ilk) who claim that Obama was ever “the most liberal” anything.

    And “stands against Christian mores”? Which one? “Thou shalt allow thy citizens to die in the streets or begger themselves when they can’t afford health care”?

    Or is it “Thou shalt invade other, sovereign nations to kill them, for no other reason than because thou canst”?

  29. Sorry StevieD, but evidence matters. Imaginary issues of right and wrong do not carry any sense of urgency. Again, if I told you something sinister was going to go down at midnight, you’d probably demand some kind of evidence.

    Your motive means nothing to me if you’re motivated by purely fictitious ends. Your Hell is specifically made to be the nastiest place ever so that people will not consider the evidence but rather make a decision based on fear. This worked on me for nearly two decades. It does not work anymore.

    If there is a fire. If I am drowning. Then show the evidence. And old book saying that these places exist because the old book says that everything in it is true is not evidence.

  30. Steve, where in the Bible does it say anything about abortion?

    In the Old Testament, God is constantly killing innocent children and babies just for the fun of it.

    First, He floods the entire Earth and murders everyone except Noah and his family. Surely a bunch of infants and pregnant women were killed then.

    After that, He has a tyrannical Pharaoh to deal with. Instead of killing him or using His infinite God powers to remedy the situation, He decides the best way to show the Pharaoh who is boss is to slaughter every first born child. Could you imagine if that was how the modern Egyptians responded to their tyrant? “I know how to get rid of Mubarak, we just need to kill a bunch of defenseless children. That’ll show him”

    And don’t forget Psalm 137:9

    Happy is the one who takes your babies and smashes them against the rocks

    Plus, aren’t miscarriages just divine abortions?

  31. Bike Bubba wrote: “OK, Nohm, let’s try it out; give me a universally accepted atheist justification for morality.

    Let’s go through this again: the word “atheist” describes what I am not; not what I am.

    Until you understand that, and until I believe that you actually care to know the answer, I don’t see the point in explaining something that you could easily research yourself.

    It’s my opinion that you’re stuck on thinking that I’m an atheist, instead of a secular humanist, and that you don’t really care to have an answer to your question.

    I hope I’m proven wrong.

    And tell me why renowned atheists like Stalin, Lenin, Kruschev, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Castro, Brezhnev,

    Let’s go over this again. The word “atheist” describes what these people are not; not what they are/were.

    What they are/were: dictators. That’s why they do what they do, because they’re dictators. “Atheist” is not what they are/were; it describes what they are/were not.

    “Communist” describes what someone is. “Atheist” describes what someone isn’t.

    and millions of others who took part in the Communist barbarities failed to clue in to this obvious point.

    Yes, they failed to clue in to it. Just like many Christians fail to clue in to the morality that they tout. Take Ted Haggard.

    The difference being that “Christian” describes what someone is.

    The people who listed were dictators or fascists, or both. That’s why they did what they did. That they were also atheists is meaningless.

    Sorry, Nohm, but the basis for morality without a higher power seems to have escaped a LOT of atheists in the 20th century,

    When you exaggerate and use hyperbole, as you do there, you make it difficult for me to take you seriously.

    Maybe if you don’t focus on dictators and fascists, and instead focus on the millions (that’s the “LOT”) of normal every-day atheists, you’ll find a difference.

    to put it mildly,

    Somehow, I doubt that was your true intent.

    leading to the murder of hundreds of millions and the enslavement of billions.

    Due to being dictators and fascists. You know, the things that they are. While “atheist” describes what they are not.

    I’d argue that you’re employing more hyperbole, by the way, as I doubt that you made those calculations yourself.

    The ugly reality here is that an atheological basis for morality is anything but self-evident,

    To you, yes. And that’s a problem. For you. Not for me.

    and just because I can “google” someone’s answer in five minutes does not change that fact.

    Yet you’ve never even bothered to. Huh.

    Strange, that.

    (By the way, just because you have an opinion on something, does not make it “fact”. FYI.)

  32. Coming from a living waters acolyte such as yourself Steve, that’s the funniest thing I have read in weeks.

  33. Steve, I can speak for myself, thankyouverymuch.

    Of course I have an answer, and it’s a lot like the one Vagon sent to you.

    Here’s the issue: it cannot be summed up into just a couple of sentences, without background, especially if I’m dealing with people where “God says it, so it’s moral” without even dealing with the Euthyphro dilemma.

    Morality is a very complex subject, which is why I want Bike (and yourself, Steve) to do some research first, and then I can answer any questions he would like.

    Until I believe that you’ve put some effort on your own to learn the answers, I’m not going to waste time explaining something to someone who doesn’t care about the explanation enough to research it themselves.

    Remember what happened when I tried to explain emergence and determinism to you, Steve? Remember how you did no research on it, and so I was spending time explaining something to someone who had no interest in understanding it? Do you remember that?

    That’s why I’m not wasting time on here explaining secular humanist morality.

    Something about pearls and swine, Steve, which you should know well.

    And geez, Steve saying someone has no answer to a question? The same guy who’s answer to the question of “why is Jesus better than the Shahada” is “you won’t understand the answer*”? Pot, meet kettle.

    *To be abundantly clear, that’s not what I’m doing here. I don’t know if Bike, or you, will understand the answer. I just don’t see the point in going into a long explanation when you can easily research it yourself.

  34. Steve, post the email that Vagon sent to you, and I’ll add any statements that I feel are necessary to the comments for that post.

    But it boils down to two words:

    Rational empathy.

  35. Lastly, before we even start that discussion, it would be important for you guys to understand the differences between an absolute system of morality (which I don’t claim) and an objective system of morality.

    If you conflate the two, which I have found is common, then the description won’t make sense.

    And for those of you who are interested in doing research on your own, here are links to learn about emergence, determinism, and secular humanism.

  36. Hi Stevie, thanks for replying.

    “The thread is not about evidence, it’s right and wrong.”

    Firstly, yes it is. Steve S specifically mentions evidence. His exact words were: ‘No evidence necessary.’ Secondly, the naturopath in my example believes he is right. Just like you.

    “Is it right to force your preaching on a captive audience? My scenario speaks to motive not to evidence. What would you do if you truly believed that a total stranger was in mortal danger? What would you do if you truly believed…? Do you doubt that these among my peers truly believe?”

    Many naturopaths believe in their homoeopathy and supplements too. Simply because your motive is pure, does not mean you do the good or appropriate thing.

    “Is it as Perdita claims that we take time from our lives and our families lives, just “to feel good about getting into people’s way, being rude, and creating conflict.”

    I cant read minds so I don’t know your motive. My guess is you actually think you’re helping. I’d like to show you that in reality you’re not, so you can get on with doing something productive.

    “That would be wrong. But that’s not our motive… I doubt that Perdita even believes that.”

    Good to hear you don’t mean to be a jerk, but you do need to read my comments again. My point is regardless of your motive you come off like a naturopath with an aggressive sales pitch. I hope you take this comment in the spirit intended: free advice directly from your target market.

  37. Thanks Steve, I kept it pretty short to make sure its readable. I even added a little provocative bit about Christianity in there for you 🙂 If you’re going to post it here I’d suggest starting from “the juicy bits” section, the rest was more explanatory for the people over at wearesmrt.com

    Let me know if anything doesn’t meet your posting criteria and I’ll be happy to reword it.

    I imagine there will be a few questions but the main point to get across is that there is a logical objective framework for morality, without theism.

    All the best,
    Vagon

  38. Nohm, exactly how do you determine what I have not done by a comment on a blog? Forget looking things up; let’s try some basic logic on your part and figure out what that obscure phrase “non sequitur” means, because that’s exactly what you’re doing.

    Reality here is that the links you’ve provided give absolutely no clue as to how a non-theist would establish a rationale for morality. None. You may perhaps be in many things a very moral man–wonderful–but there is no rationale for it without a moral agent.

    Let’s try something very basic; why is it wrong to kill a human being? By what natural authority can we say this?

  39. And incidentally, although I think Nohm said it very well, let me just emphasize one point. Because I suspect that many of our ‘vangie friends just let it slip by without paying attention.

    When nohm said “that discribes what (he) was/is not,” he’s saying that atheism doesn’t describe one specific group. When you say “he’s a redhead,” you’re describing a specific item about that person. When you say “he’s an atheist,” what you’re actually saying is “he does not believe in God.” It’s like saying “he’s a-unicorn” – there’s no one specific type of person who doesn’t believe in unicorns: it’s simply a person. Who doesn’t happen to believe in a creature about which there is no proof.

    Steve, you like to use “atheist” as if there’s one template for the form. Sorry, no such thing (as you should know, from the variety of comments you get around here).

  40. Nohm,

    The universal set contains 2 things: what you are, and what you aren’t. Knowing what you aren’t defines precisely what you are.

    We know there is no intersection since you can’t be what you aren’t and vice versa. Capice?

  41. Well, Glenn, that depends entirely on how arbitrary the distinction is, doesn’t it? For example, I recently mentioned to Steve that 76% of America self-identifies as Christian. (Technically, I said 75%, because I was working off the top of my head.) He immediately corrected me to say that many of them were obviously not “Christian” in his estimation.

    Therefore, it’s obviously possible to be Christian, and still not be “Christian,” at the same time.

    Perhaps it’s a matter of how you define yourself. If you measure your own worth only in how “Christian” you can be, then that is all that you are.

    Whereas the average atheist doesn’t see themselves only as an atheist – they see themselves as a person, with all the foibles and failings thereto, who doesn’t happen to believe in a God or gods. I’ve never met one for whom that was the core of their being, their defining essence: therefore, they are not simply atheists, they are people, who don’t share one belief with you.

    Whereas, from what you seem to be saying, you are much less complex: all you are is a Christian.

    How sad for you.

  42. Glenn wrote:

    The universal set contains 2 things: what you are, and what you aren’t. Knowing what you aren’t defines precisely what you are.

    The problems with this idea:

    1. That “universal set” is enormous.
    2. The “what I’m not” subset is nearly as large.
    3. If I say, “I’m not a stamp collector”, how in any way does that say anything about what hobbies I am interested in? How can you say “precisely” what my interests are based off of that comment?

    We don’t operate this way. For example, if you asked me what a chair is, and I started in with, “well, it’s not a rock and it’s not a tree and it’s not a monkey and it’s not a painting…”, does that help in any way?

    So, while you’re technically correct, it’s an observation that doesn’t help in any way that I can see.

    The word “atheist” describes what I am not. But based off of that, it doesn’t indicate what I am.

    We know there is no intersection since you can’t be what you aren’t and vice versa.

    Of course, but again… I don’t see what we gain from this.

  43. Bike wrote: “Nohm, exactly how do you determine what I have not done by a comment on a blog?

    Because it’s not just a single comment from you.

    Here’s the thing. If you actually had looked this up, you would be asking vastly different questions. You would be referencing what you had researched, looking for clarifications.

    You wouldn’t be starting at step one, which is what I see you doing.

    So I’m very convinced that you’ve put little to no effort into looking for an answer on your own.

    Forget looking things up;

    No, no, no. Do not forget looking things up. I would hope that your mom would have taught you that when you don’t know the answer to something, what do you do?

    You look things up.

    If I wanted to learn about the plumbing tools, I wouldn’t go to a messageboard and start asking plumbers basic questions; I would look things up first, and then, with that background, I could ask specific questions.

    Morality is an incredibly complicated issue, and I have no desire to write up a long essay (which is basically what Vagon is doing for Steve) to explain it, especially to people who show no initiative to do the basic research.

    let’s try some basic logic on your part

    Like modus ponens? Bike, I’m not new to either formal or informal logic.

    and figure out what that obscure phrase “non sequitur” means,

    “Obscure phrase”? I hope you’re being facetious there.

    because that’s exactly what you’re doing.

    Please show exactly where I made a non-sequitur, instead of simply asserting that I have.

    Reality here is that the links you’ve provided give absolutely no clue as to how a non-theist would establish a rationale for morality.

    Well, you’re actually wrong, there. One of them does cover that a bit. Did you actually read the pages?

    None.

    I repeat: one of them does. That you are so sure that the answer is “none” makes me question whether or not you actually read them.

    And that, again, is why I haven’t gone too much into detail about this, because I don’t think you care about the answer. If you did, you would have researched it far more thoroughly. Instead, you simply assert that no information on this was given, when in fact one of the linked pages does discuss it.

    You may perhaps be in many things a very moral man–wonderful–but there is no rationale for it without a moral agent.

    You keep on asserting this, yet you’ve provided no reason for why I, or anyone else, should accept this. Are you going to support this claim?

    Let’s try something very basic; why is it wrong to kill a human being?

    Basic answer: because I want to live, and I don’t enjoy causing harm.

    Rational empathy, as I mentioned before.

    By what natural authority can we say this?

    You keep on going on about “authorities”. No authorities are needed.

    I can say this, and I’m all the authority that I need.

    Bike, is God saying “no murder”, or your “God-given conscience”, the only thing stopping you from killing people? If it is, then you have problems. If it’s not, then what is that other thing that is stopping you? Think about that “other thing”.

    Bike, do you understand the difference between an absolute system of morality and an objective system of morality?

    Do you understand that, while an authority is maybe needed for the former, it’s unnecessary for the latter?

  44. Knowing what you aren’t defines precisely what you are.

    Glenn, I’m not a red-head. Please define precisely the color of my hair.

  45. Glenn, if I say I am not a Table, that doesn’t define me precisely as a wombat.

    Capice?

  46. Jesus said “that all people will hate us because of me.”

    Well, I don’t hate you because of Jesus, so that statement is false.

    So in general, we are opposed because of our message, even if an atheist sayd that they don’t hate the message. Make sense?

    “In general” is substantially different than “all people” and “opposed” is substantially different than “hate.”

    StevieD: The top three floors are completely engulfed. Many have already died and many more are going to if we don’t rush into the building and wake the tenants.

    And later,”The thread is not about evidence, its right and wrong.”

    If that’s true, then why did you start your scenario with evidence of danger? I think you understand that rushing into the building and waking the tenants would only be considered right if there was a valid justification for those actions. Generally speaking, ‘because I really believe there’s a fire even though there’s nothing to indicate there would be a fire” wouldn’t be considered a valid reason. Same for the bus. You tell me I’m about to walk in front of a bus, but evidence shows I’m sitting at my desk with a cat in my lap. Not only am I far from the street, but the buses are back at the garage.

    You ask what I would do if I truly believed someone was in mortal danger. Well, why do I believe someone is in danger? What evidence do I have that this is true? A good many people really, truly believe an awful lot of crap – the sincerity of their belief does not speak to the truth of their belief.

    Perdita claims that we take time from our lives and our families lives, just “to feel good about getting into people’s way, being rude, and creating conflict.”

    Not exactly. I said that’s what it sounds like to me from what I read here. Also, there is a difference between evangelism and ‘jerky’ evangelism. My criticisms are only for the stuff I’ve specifically mentioned as jerk behavior. I realize we are looking at this from two different viewpoints – that’s why I brought up Steve’s drowning woman analogy. But what I’m reading here is that there is never a valid reason to move, turn down the volume etc other than personal safety or the authorities. That any reason an unbeliever may have in asking you to move or quiet down is never valid. That if there’s a conflict it’s because of the message – never the messenger. It’s this lack of empathy, this ‘us v them’ mentality, that leads me to believe your great concern for us is just a bunch of words.

    Now, there are some bright spots. Steve said, “As a parent, I stop anyone from talking to my children unless I know what that person is about.” In turn, he respects other parents by not talking to their kids without their consent (…I look at the parent and then talk to the kid in an age-appropriate manner.) I was hoping for things like this.

  47. Because I fail at coding, this should have been:

    So in general, we are opposed because of our message, even if an atheist sayd that they don’t hate the message. Make sense?

    “In general” is substantially different than “all people” and “opposed” is substantially different than “hate.”

    StevieD: The top three floors are completely engulfed. Many have already died and many more are going to if we don’t rush into the building and wake the tenants.

  48. Spammin’ the blog (sorry)

    “Well, I don’t hate you because of Jesus….”

    That came out sounding like I hate you, but not because of Jesus. For the record, I don’t hate you. 🙂

  49. Bike, before you go off on nohm regarding the nature of morality, quick question: Why does every society more advanced than hunter-gatherer (without exception) have some variation of the “Golden Rule” – Do unto other as you would have them do unto you.

    This is a universal constant. It’s not a requirement that a society be Judeo-Christian. It’s basic human empathy. The ones who fail to live up to it, you call them sinners – other people call them law-breakers, or jerk (depending on the level of the “sin”), or some less-tasteful descriptor.

    If you can explain why God is required for this basic rule, and why it appears in those societies where He shouldn’t require anything but “Death to the heretics!” – well, maybe then we’ll be closer to agreement on something.

    Or maybe not.

  50. Nohm, BathTub:

    You deny the Way. Therefore, you are lost.

    You deny the Truth. Therefore, you have not the Truth.

    You deny the Life. Therefore, you are Spiritually dead.

    You deny Jesus. Therefore, you affirm the doctrines of demons.

    You do not worship God. Therefore you worship idols, be they principalities and powers or yourself.

    You are not humbled before God. Therefore, you are puffed up with pride.

    Your problem is not lack of evidence. You are surrounded by millions of people who have seen what you see, yet they will enter Life while you wait for evidence. All I can do is pray that the God of the Harvest will open your eyes and that you will see clearly before it’s too late.

  51. perdita says:

    “Knowing what you aren’t defines precisely what you are.

    Glenn, I’m not a red-head. Please define precisely the color of my hair.”

    I wouldn’t even let him get away with that much. Ask Glenn to tell you the colour of your eyes, because that’s pretty much the correlation here.

  52. Thanks for the clarification, perdita. 🙂

  53. Boy, Glenn, you just make it too easy, you know that?

    You deny the Way. Therefore, you are lost.

    No, I’ve also studied Do – I love comparative religions. (Not that you’re going to get that reference…)

    You deny the Truth. Therefore, you have not the Truth.

    No, just have a different view of it than you. (You know, just because you capitalize something doesn’t make you any more right. I Can Capitalize Too.)

    You deny the Life. Therefore, you are Spiritually dead.

    Like Casper?

    You deny Jesus. Therefore, you affirm the doctrines of demons.

    Nope. Deny the exitence of demons, too. You really don’t understand the concept of “disbelief,” do you? (Oh, sorry. That should have been “Disbelief” – that first letter is important to you.)

    You do not worship God.

    You’ve almost got it…

    Therefore you worship idols

    Actually, I think that getting rid of Paula Abdul was the best thing they could have done, but I’m not sure that Steven Tyler was the right choice as a replacement.

    You are not humbled before God.

    That’s true. I am humbled before Clapton, though – amazing guitarist – and there are people who would have said it’s the same thing.

    Therefore, you are puffed up with pride.

    But I just joined a gym. I’m hoping to take care of that.

    Your problem is not lack of evidence.

    No, technically, that’s your problem. You just refuse to admit it.

    You are surrounded by millions of people who have seen what you see, yet they will enter Life while you wait for evidence.

    Wow. So you’re saying that God gave us a brain to think, but demands that we don’t use it? We have critical faculties, but must accept your view of His words uncritically? That’s messed up.

    (Incidentally, I’m also surrounded by millions of people who believe in astrology, too. The weight of a belief is not improved by the size of the crowd.)

    All I can do is pray that the God of the Harvest will open your eyes

    You mean Saturn? Wow, you’re all about mixing your mythos, aren’t you?

    and that you will see clearly before it’s too late.

    We have optometrists for that, thanks. (Oh, and check out Leviticus 21:20 on that subject. Kind of makes the whole point moot, doesn’t it?)

    See, Glenn, I can’t be impressed by you – I think it was our little chat over here that told me what kind of person you are. That’s kind of why I like Steve, despite our fundamental differences on a number of issues. He at least tries to walk the Walk, where you seem to be all Talk.

    (Golly, capitalization is fun, isn’t it?)

  54. Mind reading again Glenn?

  55. Glenn wrote:

    You deny the Way.

    No, I do not. I do not believe your version of “the Way”, just as I don’t believe in the Muslim’s version of “the Way”. Not believing is not the same as denying.

    Therefore, you are lost.

    No, I am not.

    You deny the Truth.

    No, I do not. I do not agree with you about what is “Truth”. I do not deny reality.

    Therefore, you have not the Truth.

    So you say. Glenn, you have not convinced me that you have “the Truth”. In fact, you’ve convinced me of the exact opposite of that.

    You deny the Life.

    No, I do not. I accept my life.

    Therefore, you are Spiritually dead.

    That statement is meaningless to me.

    You deny Jesus.

    No, I do not. I simply don’t believe that he had superpowers.

    Therefore, you affirm the doctrines of demons.

    Wait, what?? No, I do not. I don’t believe in demons. I don’t believe in “doctrines” of demons, and therefor it’s pretty difficult for me to “affirm” them.

    I repeat: I do not believe in demons, or Satan. I think those are made-up, just like the monster in the closet.

    You do not worship God.

    Here we can finally agree. Yes, you’re correct; I do not worship any gods, whether your God or Allah or otherwise.

    Therefore you worship idols, be they principalities and powers or yourself.

    Wait, what? No I don’t. Stop that mind-reading, Glenn; it ain’t working for ya.

    I don’t worship myself. That doesn’t make sense.

    I certainly don’t worship “powers”, whatever you mean by that.

    I definitely don’t worship “principalities”, whatever you mean by that. I’m one of the least nationalistic people you’ll ever meet.

    You are not humbled before God.

    Correct; I am not humbled before things I don’t believe in, such as God or demons or Satan or Flying Purple People Eaters.

    Therefore, you are puffed up with pride.

    How so? Where have I exhibited the traits of someone puffed up with pride? Projection on your part, maybe?

    Your problem is not lack of evidence.

    Ho-ho-hold it there, Glenn. That’s exactly what my “problem” is, although it would be more accurate (in my opinion) to say that that’s your problem.

    You’re suggesting a reality where demons exist, a Satan exists, a God exists, and magical superpowers exist… yet you have no evidence for these things.

    Can you present a demon? How do we detect demons? What do they look like? Do they have DNA?

    Evidence matters, Glenn. You use it every day.

    You are surrounded by millions of people who have seen what you see,

    Not sure what you mean by that. Would you please explain?

    yet they will enter Life while you wait for evidence.

    So you say. And Muslims say the opposite. Glenn, if a Muslim said to you, “Glenn, you are surrounded by millions of pious Muslims who have seen what you see, yet they will enter Paradise while you deny Allah’s commands.“, how seriously would you take that?

    Do you understand that you’re doing the same thing to me that the Muslim would be doing to you? If you wouldn’t be persuaded by the Muslim, why should I be?

    All I can do is pray that the God of the Harvest will open your eyes and that you will see clearly before it’s too late.

    Thank you for that, Glenn. I’ll take that as a “I wish you the best”, even though your mind-reading needs a LOT of work (like, it’s really badly done, Glenn).

    Be well.

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.