CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

After engaging in debate about the truth claims of Christianity on the Internet for many years I have learned something interesting: Internet atheists tend to be angry and want to gather together to share that anger. To me, that's the only way to explain why so many of them banter around the trite and simple phrases of such luminaries as the New Atheists. Internet Atheists hate Christianity and they enjoy gathering at bulletin boards and blogs sharing that hatred and anger through their (allegedly) stunning insights about the stupid, ignorant Christians and their beliefs.

Oh, they deny it. I remember distinctly a conversation I had almost 10 years ago with a guy who went by the name of Cygnus. He had been kicked off the old debate boards at CARM, one of my old stomping grounds, for using foul language. I forget exactly how I came to speak to him outside of CARM, but he told me that he was actually very happy and could certainly go without using foul language if let back on the site. I believed him, and talked Matt Slick, the site's owner, to let him back onto the bulletin boards. It was less than a day later that he was kicked off a second time because he immediately reverted to his old unhappy, angry, swearing ways.

I used to go to atheist bulletin boards regularly and read their messages back and forth to each other. Even their posts among each other consistently contained swear-words and were unusually snide -- directed at ignorant Christians, of course.

Then there was the close-mindedness. Christians are, in their view, the ones who are incredibly close-minded. We Christians cannot see the simple fact that we are worshipping the non-existent Santa Claus-type in the sky. But I certainly see a very obvious amount of close-mindedness among these atheists in terms of their complete unwillingness to consider the Christian accounts as they are understood by Christians. Rather than consider what the Bible is actually saying in context they would rather continue to mischaracterize and flay at straw man arguments.

In fact, it is this attitude (coupled with a significant lack of time) that led me to give up posting on bulletin boards. It wasn't worth the time or effort to attempt to overcome the obvious two-faced nature of the posters who claimed to be open-minded but were instead the most close-minded individuals I have ever run across.

Of course, there are also idiot, close-minded Christians out there, but my experience has been that the nastiness and incivility has been heavily one-sided. Ninety-five percent of the vitriol on bulletin boards comes from Atheists who claim to be broad-minded.

So, I ask any readers to this blog who would care to comment whether their experience is the similar. Do you see Internet Atheists as good, decent people willing to constructively debate, or is your experience such that you find the vast majority of Internet Atheists to be angry, close-minded bores?

21 comments:

While I have much less experience then you. I would have to say that that the majority of atheists I have encountered on the internet, while there are exceptions, seem unwilling to engage any kind of meaningful debate and do not even try to understand what is being said in response to their arguments. Part of this may be due to a number of them being "deconverts" and angry at the belief they left, but I doubt this is the entire explanation.

I think Christians tend to be angrier and nastier. Matt Slick who you mentioned resorts to name calling and generalizations when he talks about atheists. He also calls Christians outside his Protestantism as "non-Christians. One of you contributors, Metacrock, has admitted to hate atheists couple of years ago on this blog. Somehow Christianity tend to produce groups like Westboro Baptists, Catch the Fire Ministries, even hard line Anglicans etc which are loud and full of what is perceived as hate against many groups of people outside their own denomination.

Betteridge's Law is true.

I'm not sure what the absolute numbers are; although considering there are vastly more Christians (of various stripes--and not even counting other theists!) than atheists I would expect there are more hostile vitriolic Christians than atheists on the boards. But maybe that wouldn't reflect relative proportions.


I can say that my experience over the years has been that more than half the atheists I meet on boards are reasonably polite and no more close-minded about their beliefs than the average Christian. But then, I pick where I go pretty carefully. {g}

Also, in my experience it sometimes depends on who is talking to whom. "Exapologist", to give an example familiar to folks around here, could lose his temper at times, but he was always unfailingly polite and thoughtful when talking with me. I've known several other examples of that sort as well; and I appreciate them taking the time to be thoughtful and considerate even if oppositional when talking with me. (That includes you, Peter, btw. {g})

But as I said, I'm sure my experience has been colored by where I've chosen to hang out and post over the years.

JRP

Peter said...

I think Christians tend to be angrier and nastier. Matt Slick who you mentioned resorts to name calling and generalizations when he talks about atheists. He also calls Christians outside his Protestantism as "non-Christians. One of you contributors, Metacrock, has admitted to hate atheists couple of years ago on this blog. Somehow Christianity tend to produce groups like Westboro Baptists, Catch the Fire Ministries, even hard line Anglicans etc which are loud and full of what is perceived as hate against many groups of people outside their own denomination.

I don't know what the story on Westburro baptist is but they are not a representative group. Neither is Slick. Slick represent a very tiny minority of extreme Calvinists, so he's an extreme within an extreme.

Hating and and lying about things I say is a major atheist hobby.

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Atheists are more hostile to me and the things I say because I have done more to expose the scam of their movement than anyone else. No one else has had the guts to actually say what it is, a hate group. No one else has the guts to say there is an atheist movement with an ideology and organized groups with big money.

Peter,

I guess you have had a different experience with Matt Slick than I did. I was on CARM for about three years and never once did he name-call. Generalizations, maybe, but arguably one generalizes when he says "Atheists say...." Certainly, he never said that I (who am not a Calvinist and don't belong to his denomination) was a non-Christian.

I will leave Metacrock to defend himself.

Yes, there are hate-groups that have spawned off Christianity (they are rightly called cults because they are not Christian), but surely you must recognize that the Westboro Baptist Church is virtually unanimously reviled by the church at large and in no way is "Christian". (BTW, I don't know what Catch the Fire Ministries has done to be labelled as a hate groups by you. It may be that they did something absurd, but what I know about the church is generally positive.)

Anyway, Betteridge's Law may be true because it says "most" headlines in the form of a question are answerable "no", but that doesn't answer the specific question I asked.

In my experience, almost everyone has a button that, when pushed, sends them over the edge. (Or maybe everyone does, and their button just hasn't been pushed in front of me.)

Whenever Christians follow what Christ said -- love your neighbor, love your enemy, bless those who curse you -- then that provides something of an antidote, a corrective that isn't available to the atheists.

So I'd say human nature is the same everywhere and is not always a nice thing, but improvement over general human nature comes from following Christ.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

I have sometimes wished that atheists had some sort of authoritative statement in their writings equivalent to I Pet 3:15, which says "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect."

We've all seen people on the internet with Angry Atheist Syndrome, who can't find any room in their minds to acknowledge any point made by Christians, however legitimate it might be. Some people abandon their faith and then go on a crusade against what they once believed in. But that is by no means universal. Blue Devil Knight, a staunch atheist, has a reputation for fair-mindedness on Dangerous Idea. On the other hand, Christians fight dirty, sometimes, too.

All of us get angry from time to time, myself included. I think some people feel angry and betrayed if they were Christians once and then found it all unbelievable. I think the "delusion" rhetoric is also partially to blame.

Hi Vic!

I'm also a big fan of BDK. {g} I wasn't sure how many people here would be familiar with him, though, compared to Exap (whom you also know.)

It's worth pointing out (as you did, sort of) that most atheists today in the United States are still deconverts (not born and raised that way). And I have trouble believing that they behaved much better when they were Christians (regardless of how they behave now). I have simply run into far too many Christians on the internet who have attitudes and behaviors exactly parallel to the annoying trolls we like to think of as being the "internet atheist" (formerly the "village atheist"!) stereotype.

Maybe we should call them trolltheists!--whether theist or atheist, they seem to be the same breed with different plummage. {g}

JRP

I do not see the anger that much, at least not in an open form. However, I do see the close-mindedness a lot. Even those who are polite and at first appear to be open-minded often turn out to not be willing to consider or understand the theist arguments. They come up with the same objections over and over again, even though these had been amply answered already.

Another problem that exacerbates the situation is this naive belief in science, and the wholesale dismissal of philosophy that is not based on science (and I say that being a scientist myself). This often prevents atheists from even in principle being able to understand the other side.

I should correct: I do see the anger a lot at, for example, 'Debunking Christianity', but less on, let's say, "Commonsense Atheism' and many other sites. However, I do see the mindset described everywhere with atheists.

And again, there are exceptions among atheists to the close-mindedness, of course. And there is close-mindedness among theists too (e.g. frequently around the evolution/ID issue).

Angry, tend to be arrogant and demanding, has been my general observation of internet atheists.

I used to participate in a chat room on Paltalk, a room of Christians and atheists debating, and atheists outnumbered the Christians by much, and they'd machine-gun questions to the Christian, the Christian better have kept up with every question because if not, in came the accusation that he/she was evading it.

And then the Debunking Christianity blog is a great exemplifier of anger and satire being used as substitution for thoughtful resonses to theist comments.

I have to say, I've seen more of that sort of thing from theists, including nominal Christians, than from atheists, too. But as I pointed out in my comment, that's probably to be expected, considering the unspeakable difference in numbers involved.

On the other hand, while I could make a good argument (or even at least attempt to argue) that the person making those threats against Michael Shermer isn't being Christian enough, I don't know that anyone could make an argument that a similarly unstable and militant atheist was NOT being atheistic enough.

JRP

JRP,

It is a red herring to claim someone is NOT being atheistic enough. People act based on what they believe. Its like saying Christians threaten atheists because these Christians are not being Islamic enough.

It is also irrelevant if some is “not being Christian enough” according to your standard? (Are you?) Christianity inspired him to threaten atheists. Unfortunately Christians don’t accept the negative side of their religion and non-Christians suffer.

And what are these “the unspeakable difference in numbers”? Christians outnumber atheist maybe 10:1 in the US.

Jason: {{I don't know that anyone could make an argument that a similarly unstable and militant atheist was NOT being atheistic enough.}}

Peter: {{It is a red herring to claim someone is NOT being atheistic enough. People act based on what they believe.}}

Like the atheist in my example. So it can't be a red herring to talk about whether he is acting consistently enough on the basis of what he believes to be true about reality.

Peter: {{Its like saying Christians threaten atheists because these Christians are not being Islamic enough.}}

You've got the parallels mixed up. I was talking about A threatening C and about whether A can be critiqued for doing so on the ground that they aren't being A enough.

You're replying as though I was talking about A threatening C and whether A can be critiqued for doing so on the ground that they aren't being M enough. But that wasn't what I was talking about. I was sticking strictly with A in consideration of what A believes as A.

JRP

Peter: {{It is also irrelevant if some is “not being Christian enough” according to your standard? (Are you?) }}

It is relevant if someone is not being Christian enough according to beliefs shared by other Christians, thus according to standards shared by both parties.

And, by the way, is is absolutely relevant that I myself am also not Christian enough, not only by "my own" standard of Christian belief, but probably according to standards of belief I share with the guy who wants to kill Michael Shermer.

Unless he's a unitarian or a modalist Christian. In which case our underlying theological beliefs are different enough that I couldn't appeal to them as shared beliefs. I could still make a claim he is being unethical according to a standard argued on the ground "if ortho-trin theism is true", which of course would be relevant if ortho-trin is true (and not, if not.)

The actual truth(s) of reality, whatever the set of real truths is, is necessarily relevant to the question of whether someone really is behaving unethically or not. If atheism is true, then that makes a difference to questions of ethical propriety and grounding compared to whether some other broad or particular metaphysical proposition is true.

If Islam is true, that makes some real difference to you and me on questions of ethical propriety, even though you and I do not believe Islam per se (or any subvariant thereof) to be true. If orthodox trinitarian theism is true, that makes some real difference instead. If cosmological dualism is true, that makes some real difference. If atheism is true, that makes some real difference.

In that sense, then, and now that you mention the topic (though I hadn't bothered to bring in that level of complexity in my comment), it actually is relevant whether a Christian, in how he treats an atheist, is being "Muslim enough", if some variant of Islam is true.

Similarly, it is in fact relevant whether a Christian, in how he treats an atheist, is being "Christian enough", if some variant of Christianity is true.

And it is in fact relevant whether a Christian, in how he treats an atheist, is being "atheistic enough", if atheism (including some subvariant of atheism) is true. The most obvious and simple example being that a Christian ought to be an atheist instead and so (presumably??) not threaten an atheist for being an atheist, if atheism is true.

But if it can be plausibly said that a Christian isn't being atheistic enough (obviously), and at least shouldn't threaten an atheist for being an atheist if atheism is true; then is there still some ground, assuming the truth of atheism, for arguing that an atheist shouldn't threaten a Christian (or anyone else, for being a Christian or for any other reason), that is coherent with the notion that, in threatening, the atheist is somehow not being atheistic enough?

I think the answer to this is obviously no. If orthodox trinitarian theism (or even binitarianism) is true, I can make some argument that a Christian (including both myself and that guy threatening to kill Shermer) or anyone else is acting in rebellion against an objectively ethical fundamental reality by doing such-n-such.

But if atheism is true, or any philosophy where fundamental reality is not an eternally actively coherent interpersonal union (which is every other philosophy other than trinitarian theism!--including other theisms), then what ethical critique can I seriously level at anyone (including myself in self-criticism)? That we aren't being non-rational enough?--not amoral enough?--not enough "might makes right"?--not irrationally instinctive enough?--not "survival of the fittest" enough?

But I've already written about this in great detail (and am in the process of updating that again for this year.)

JRP

Peter: {{Christianity inspired him to threaten atheists. Unfortunately [some] Christians don’t accept the negative side of their religion and non-Christians suffer.}}

Unfortunately, you left out the important qualifier "some". But fortunately, I provided it for you in the quote. {g}

Also, you do remember that you're talking to the team universalist around here, right? That guy threatening to kill Shermer is most likely doing so thanks to believing something I don't believe, despite him being probably a (nominal) trinitarian theist like myself--which I would consequently argue means first that (if ortho-trin theism is true) he shouldn't believe in hopeless punishment from God, and second that (even if universalism isn't true) he shouldn't be a gnostic.

It's the gnosticism, which is technically a heresy, which is the first problem we would disagree on; and a belief in the hopelessness of God which is the second problem we would disagree on; neither one of which is derivable from ortho-trin by any imagination, and I would argue neither one is even consonant with ortho-trin either. But I would argue on the ground of ortho-trin theism being true; thus on what we're supposed to nominally share belief on. (Though in my experience I typically discover that non-universalists, gnostic or otherwise, tend to end up denying some doctrine of ortho-trin in order to keep non-universalism.)

So it would be an inter-Christian argument on grounds agreed to by Christians as true. You're certainly welcome to propose, instead, some specifically atheistic grounds for why the Christian shouldn't persecute Michael Shermer (and for why his behavior would count immorally as persecution at all!)

JRP

Peter: {{And what are these “the unspeakable difference in numbers”? Christians outnumber atheist maybe 10:1 in the US.}}

Poetic emphasis. Which I emphasized (though maybe you didn't notice) in favor of defending my expectation of there being vastly more Christian trolls on the internet than atheistic ones.

But maybe the fact I was defending your side in expectation there (and have been doing so in all my comments of this thread, when on that topic) is less important to you than making sure the huge difference in numbers between us is spoken instead of unspoken (so to speak)?

JRP

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