Sunday, October 21, 2007

Doug Giles: Excited about the Same Old Nonsense

Poor Doug Giles, he was so upset about all the atheist attacks on religion recently. Having such a place of social privilege for so long, where one's inanities are given respect they don't merit, will leave one open for an attack that has been long in coming. Indeed, Dennet, Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens have people touting atheism, and challenging religion, like never before, if book sales and the Blasphemy Challenge are any indication.

Now he fancies his side will get their day in the intellectual sun, as pious heroes Dinesh D’Souza and Robert Hutchinson come to counter the atheist swashbuckling attacks with a little swordsmanship of their own. The problem is, it's the same old embarrassingly easily refuted nonsense religionists have been pushing for centuries. D'Souza's and Hutchinson's retort is a rapier-like thrust from an armless D'Artagnion. Giles fancies these arguments will shut atheists up. They are more likely to just make us laugh that anyone would offer such idiocy as something worthy of consideration. Observe:

"1. When the prissy anti-Christs tell you the Bible stands in the way of science, inform them that the greatest scientific geniuses in history were devout Christians—and scientists from Newton to Einstein insisted that biblical religion provided the key ideas from which experimental science could develop."

Giles impresses here, but not for the reasons he thinks. Not only is his premise false, but the logic doesn't follow anyway. Scientists are overwhelmingly atheistic today compared to the population, and that has been the case for decades at the least. If Giles is trying to illustrate a positive correlation between scientific achievement and religiosity, he's going to have to explain why the most scientifically successful era has been an era of record low religiosity. Those great scientists who were Christians mostly lived in times and societies where EVERYONE was a Christian.

Further, I would challenge anyone to produce documentation on Giles' claims about Newton and Einstein. Newton denied the trinity and Einstein denied believing in a personal god, so I find the claim they credited the Bible with much of anything scientifically to be most tenuous. It doesn't surprise me that Giles gives us no cite for this claim.

Now it is the case that many scientists and mathematicians are religious and see science as revelations of a sort. Newton indeed believed the universe would have a discernible order because God would make it that way, and the great Indian mathematician Ramanujan believed he was reading the mind of god. But just as the meaning of the 1st amendment depends on what the framers said, and not what their personal religious views were, a scientist's work is judged by the evidence, not his religiosity. "There is no place for god in the lab" is common refrain for a reason. There may be Christians who do good science, but they behave as atheists would when they do so.

"2. When the pissy God haters tell you the Bible condones slavery, you can remind them that slavery was abolished only when devout Christians, inspired by the Bible, launched a campaign in the early 1800s to abolish the slave trade."

Many apologetic arguments don't really address the issue at hand, and instead reveal the Bible to be so self-contradictory that it can often be used to argue both sides of the same issue. This is such a case. The Bible gives rules about slaves, how to have them, how to punish them, and in some cases the punishment for crimes against a slave are less than crimes against a free man. Nowhere is it outrightly condemned. Whether or not Christians joined the battle to free the slaves is completely irrelevant to the question of whether the Bible condones slavery. It does. One need only be literate, not a god-hater, to recognize this. That Christians can also cherry pick phrases and philosophies from it that appear to oppose slavery only shows how flawed their Bible truly is. By supporting all sides, it shows it's lack of moral fiber.

"3. When the screechin’ teachers tell you the Bible has been proven false by archaeology, hark back and show them that each year a new archaeological discovery substantiates the existence of people, places and events we once knew solely from biblical sources, including the discovery of the Moabite stone in 1868, which mentions numerous places in the Bible, and the discovery of an inscription in 1961 that proves the existence of the biblical figure Pontius Pilate, just to name a few."

This is similar to problem #2. That certain aspects of the Bible are true is beyond dispute. But just like the existence of New York City, as mentioned in Atlas Shrugged, does not make John Galt a real person, likewise the fact that some things in the Bible are true does not change the fact that archaeology does not, in general, support Biblical claims. For example, there is no evidence that a large group of people roamed the Sinai Peninsula for 40 years, or even that a person called Moses existed. The sciences of biology and geology are no more kind to Biblical claims, as we know the earth is not 6,000 years old, animals did not appear fully formed ex nihilo, and there was never a worldwide flood. There was no time of darkness when Jesus was crucified, nor did all the dead saints appear. The Bible flunks the science test,and the history test, and it only takes the ability to read it, and only the most basic knowledge, to know this.

"4. When they get sweaty and tell you that the Bible breeds intolerance, refresh their memory with the fact that only those societies influenced by biblical teachings (in North and South America, Europe, and Australia) today guarantee freedom of speech and religion. Period."

This is nonsense. There is no mention of freedom of speech or religion in the Bible. The 10 commandments pretty much rule both out, since saying certain words, or having religious views that differ from Yahweh's claims, are deemed sins of the highest order. Perhaps Giles needs to freshen up on his early American history, from Columbus to 1776, when those good Christians in the new world were apparently completely unaware that freedom of religion was a Christian concept, as they imprisoned those who believed differently. For Christians to claim credit for a concept that appears nowhere in their theology is remarkable to say the least. One could be forgiven for wondering if Giles thinks Christianity ought to get credit for inventing the internet too.

"5. When one of them queues up and quips that the Bible opposes freedom, smack ‘em with the fact that the Bible’s insistence that no one is above the law and all must answer to divine justice led to theories of universal human rights and…uh…limited government."

Uh, no it didn't. Human rights and limited government as it is practiced here in the US grew out of English common law and the writings of John Locke, which had little to nothing to do with the Bible. Perhaps it passed Giles' notice that Christianity was around for many hundreds of years before the concepts of human rights and limited government arose, and it was hardly a bunch of conservative Christians leading the charge.

This is just standard fare for the Liars for Jesus crowd. Just as the creationists like to claim credit for what science finds, Christians like Giles like to claim credit for what secular philosophy and science accomplish. It is intellectual dishonesty, plain and simple.

"6. When they tell you that Christianity and the Bible justify war and genocide, unsympathetically remind them that societies which rejected biblical morality in favor of a more “rational” and “scientific” approach to politics murdered millions upon millions more than the Crusades or the Inquisition ever did. Hello. “Atheist regimes have caused the greatest mass murders in history,” says D’Souza. Inside D’Souza’s book you’ll find little gems like, “The Crusades, the Inquisition, the Galileo affair, and witch hunts together make up less than 1% of the murders that have occurred during modern atheist regimes like Stalin, Hitler, and Mao.”

DING DING DING. We have a winner in the Liar's sweepstakes. Hitler was a Christian, plain and simple. He renounced Darwin, and believed he was doing God's work. The most obvious way you can tell someone is lying is when they talk about Hitler being an atheist. It just goes to show again how these Christian apologists know they can't win the factual analysis, or worse yet, don't care whether they can or not, so they resort to MSU (Making Shit Up.

Stalin, Mao, and one could add Pol Pot to this nasty mix, did not have science-based intellectual freethinking regimes. They simply substituted their own authority, or the party's, for where the gods had been, and that is the proximate cause of the atrocities they caused. One point we atheists constantly make is that it is blind adherence to any dogma that we oppose. Religion just happens to be the most successful model. Communism and Nazism are others.

Atheism is impotent to motivate such behavior. Lack of belief does not inspire, or give direction. Communism had far more in common with fundamentalist Christianity than it does with atheism, because unlike any of you, we can question and challenge our leaders, and our most basic precepts, and indeed are encouraged to do so.

Poor Giles actually thinks this rubbish will be a problem for atheists:

"Senior pastor, college pastor and youth pastor: do yourself and your congregants a favor and teach this stuff to your church. Equip Christians to stand against the BS (belief system) of the atheists. The culture war is heating up, therefore make sure your people don’t stand intellectually naked and neutered before these no-God numb nuts.

Lastly, comfortable and cocky atheists, you had better brace yourselves. Hundreds of thousands of Christians and authors are about to read these books and, as stated, systematically dismember your old and haggard arguments. "

Dream on Douggie. These arguments are a joke, the sort of thing that stopped being a challenge for most of us when we were, oh, around 14. They will persuade no one, but will merely feed the deluded frenzy of your slowly shrinking choir.

To people with an actual education, or the gods forbid, who have actually read that mish-mash of literature you so comically worship, your arguments just demonstrate how truly intellectually vapid you are. You worship a book you haven't read or understood. If anything in the scientific world could be considered a sin, it is that: belief without knowledge. You call it faith. We call it ignorance. And you can't make us pretend it is anything else any more.

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