The straw-man, the Christian and the unfinished book

SEVERAL months ago, an evangelical right-winger invited me and some other twitter agnostic/atheists to take part in a radio phone-in that was so one sided and poorly organised it resulted in one of the Christian participants crying foul over the way some of the non-religious were treated. A week later, in another discussion, she was rewarded for her honesty by having some similarly dirty tricks played on her too.

Impressed with her refusal to be clumped in with the lunatics, I stayed in-touch with Heidi (@aslansmane) and exchanged several emails with her, in which we eventually decided to coauthor a statement and counter-statement book together, which attempted to address some of the truth-claims made by the religious and the tactics some use to preach their message.

So far, so good. But after sending her my introductory chapter and fielding some feedback on the best direction for the rest of the book to take, I discovered that Heidi had closed down the original twitter account she had been using during the time we met, from across the proverbial divide, and had begun instead to use an account which trotted out many of the logical fallacies and straw-man arguments our joint venture was ostensibly charged with combating.

Keen to both give her the benefit of the doubt and see the project through to completion, I simply asked her to ensure that the series of “experiments” she was running via her blog, didn’t stray into bait and switch territory that might leave anyone feeling tricked into taking part. This stood for both her Christian readership as well as those drawn into the debate by her increasingly antagonistic tweets.

Sadly it now seems that’s pretty much exactly what Heidi wanted to do. I don’t for the life of me know why, but there you have it. It could be a limelight thing, if I’m being rude about it, but I think what’s more likely is that she simply didn’t fully think through what might go wrong and wasn’t about to take advice from a non-Christian on how the experiment she claims to have been conducting might have yielded much better results if she’d worked with me on it, thereby positively informing the debate we had hoped to play out in our coauthored book.

Given the wording of her latest blog entry on this matter and noises she has made to me in private emails, where we are right now with this joint project is that Heidi is no longer involved. That leaves me with two chapters I spent a considerable amount of time researching and setting out with nothing by way of any genuinely intended push-back from a Christian perspective to balance things out—save for a rattled out in five minutes reply chapter, penned by Heidi, which sadly couldn’t have more completely ignored each of the points I attempted to make in my opening statement if it tried. (Not included)

So if you’re a Christian or you know a Christian who would like to read and reply to the two opening chapters below, please contact thatjim@gmail.com

If nothing else I hope you enjoy reading what I have so far—and I look forward to one day completing the project in the way it was originally intended to be read.

UPDATE: I’m cleaning up some of the bits that need cleaning up. As I say this a working version, not a final piece. Thanks to all who are helping out. Stay tuned.

Chapter one: Good without God
http://issuu.com/arsearse/docs/1._good_without_god

Chapter two: The pursuit of happiness:
http://issuu.com/arsearse/docs/2._the_pursuit_of_happiness

NOTE: As with Please Don’t Feed the Troll, I’m hoping to make the completed book available as donation-ware for a variety of platforms, including iBooks on iTunes and other ePub formats, like Kindle and Sony eReader. For now issuu.com is fine for reading in-browser or you can click the Download button to retrieve the PDF. Feel free to print it out and leave general feedback in the comments below.

15 comments on “The straw-man, the Christian and the unfinished book

  1. I was one of those initial atheists sucked in by Heidi’s supposed “disgust” with the treatment of non-believers on that podcast show. I went to bat for her on Twitter, defending her to fellow atheists. My repayment? When I showed disappointment in her childish behavior toward another atheist and his child, she blocked me and then went on a bizarre lying rampage.

    You’re better off without that particular (ahem) “Christian” on board. If I come across any theists who are decent writers (and not two-faced), I will let you know!

  2. You’ll be aware of the fact she accused you of hacking her Twitter account then?

    Correction, she accused you of setting up fake account named AsIansmane, where the L of Aslan is actually an upper-case letter ‘i’.

  3. I think in Heidi’s mind people are hiding behind pushes, lurking in her windows, tracking her accounts, and have nothing better to do but obsess over her. And further, I think it is wishful thinking on her part. She clearly has insecurity issues and creates drama to get attention. Very sad. I truly hope she get’s some professional help, as I would hope for anyone. Life is tough enough without having to deal with insecurity issues that lead to drama such as this. It is most unfortunate that you got caught in this mess, Jim. You’re a wonderful person. I hope you are able to finish your book, it is an interesting concept, for sure!

    I will keep my eyes and ears open for you, friend. :)

  4. PS: I haven’t been back to her blog and don’t care to even know what she wrote. Really really really do not care. The more attention people who are not invested in this (as you are) keep engaging with her even to say what a “so and so” she is… is only feeding the problem. Attention for a person who is craving it doesn’t have to be good attention, so long as they are ‘getting’ attention. I wish everyone would stop feeding the trolls. It doesn’t help people like Heidi seek help (because this type of thing goes on all the time and it’s like self therapy at everyone else’s expense and they don’t get proper help); also, it just makes the person getting all caught up in the drama just as indulgent and attention seeking. Just ignore her. Once she realizes she’s not getting attention, she will move on to either a different group or maybe… a therapist. Who knows. Stop feeding trolls! Sheeeesh! That message wasn’t for you personally, actually. Just to troll feeders in general. LOL

  5. No worries :) I think it bothers me a great deal because I care a great deal about people in general. When I go out of my way to defend someone who isn’t part of my normal social circle, I give a large bit of myself in that defense. To have it…well, to put it mildly, pissed on, makes me rather angry. At both the person I defended and myself. Mostly myself.

    I agree with not feeding the trolls. However, when those trolls decide to piss on mutual friends as well, then they’ve stepped out of the role of troll and have firmly placed themselves in the role of asshole (sorry).

  6. As a Christian who lives in the same state as Heidi (2 hours away), I initially knew Heidi under the name @abusedsurvivor; as a survivor of abuse myself I was there to give Heidi much support and encouragement. I *never* knew the name @Aslanmane until last week where in which Heidi sent a two mentions and said something of the effect “How are you I haven’t talked to you in a while, lets get together I’ll cook”.

    It wasn’t until that moment that I realized the *username* who I had heard cause so much apparent trouble with those who believed a little something different, was Heidi (people I am proud to call my friends). I was shocked, sickened to be honest that she would lead a double life of sorts. I excused myself as I’m expecting in March. Prior to this I was going to meet her, I had no problem meeting her, I was set on a day of shopping and perhaps lunch. She took it well.

    While my username did not change and Heidi was well aware that I was very good friends with Renee Hendricks, moments later I was going through pure hell because I refused to drop Renee as a friend. I had said nothing to this woman, only the no to the dinner. The next day I was the Hollywood Glamour Queen in the Twitter experiment and being threatened for slander over statements not addressed to her on my Twitter and not about her.

    I honestly cannot believe this women and how she acts towards society. She changed on me in seconds over a fact she was well aware and had no problem with like a vicious dog. To think I am now a subject of some secret Heidi “book” really leaves me feeling violated and tricked into giving a hand to someone who was using abuse as a mere ploy for attention..

    Jim I wish you the best on your book. You’re probably better without having such a two-faced non-professional writing it with you. IMO.

  7. Firstly, Amanda, thanks for speaking up when you didn’t need to, that’s much appreciated. It must be difficult to be treated like that by somebody you tried to help.

    Secondly, I wouldn’t worry too much about being included in anything written by Heidi. Let’s just say she doesn’t exactly have a high opinion of her audience, or their capacity to read beyond the same tried and tested non-arguments.

  8. http://christiansafehouse.blogspot.com/2010/11/note-to-readers-from-how-good-is-that.html#comment-form

    Heidi has blogged about this thread and me in general. Since she has comment approval turned on I have no way of knowing if she’ll authorise my reply, so I’m including it here with a ping-back so at least she knows people have read it weather she wants them to or not.

    Heidi. There are no direct links to this blog from my blog [except the above ping-back]. If you’re seeing more traffic its because you’ve spent the last few weeks doing to others what you wouldn’t have done to you. I don’t appreciate the way you turned on me and my friends to score some moot point about “atheists” when the reason you received such a negative response had nothing to do with belief or religion, it was to do with playing games with people. You got caught.

    On the off chance you decide to actually authorise any replies to this thread, I want to make it clear that I did not agree to coauthor a book with you, you agreed to coauthor one with me. Your one and only attempt to respond to my main points was to trot out the same tired arguments which have been debunked a million times already and you didn’t even have the common courtesy to use a spell checker. It was clear from this you didn’t read what I wrote and had no intention of doing so and that you weren’t interested in having a sensible debate. What has followed since then is proof of that.

    I didn’t fall out with you, you fell out with me and you did it for no reason whatsoever and completely out of the blue. You have done this to people before. They have contacted me privately and via the comments on my blog.

    My sincere advice to you is to seek emotional counselling. I think you have some issues that aren’t going to go away if you keep blaming your mistakes on other people.

    Have a nice life.

  9. Isn’t it strange as to how every story has two parts – and of course, the area some would call the “gray midland”. Yet in those two parts it is evident which one holds a deeper substance. It’s actually a bit hard to believe that anyone would agree to co-author a book she had suggested and in accordance go on two be the dominate force; I didn’t quite understand that on Heidi’s blog, but obviously I see your side has greater substance as to the truth. I’m also largely troubled by her proclaims she is a journalist when it’s true that she points to websites conclusive she is no less than that of a freelancer; very different to those of us who actually have completed schooling in journalism. She seems to rave onward about her qualification yet I may add none are reflected in what she has written on her blog(s).

    Thank you Jim for clarifying this. In addition to the trouble I have previously detailed, I have great trouble taking the word of someone who I have caught in many falsifications; including acting two-faced to innocent parties dragged into the need for attention as she did to many including myself. People need to realize a single misrepresentation of the truth coupled with a serious need for unjustified attention kills the dignity.

    Lastly, if Heidi is reading this I encourage her to pound sand if she disagrees with my statements. My opinion is only based on the childish actions of a woman I once respected. Alas, I have no regrets and I’m not the one waking up in the night. We are all a reflection of a larger picture.

  10. Thanks, Amanda! I honestly don’t think Heidi is a writer at all—and if she does have something going on in a freelance capacity, I don’t think she has much respect for this audience she keeps going on about having, since she once referred to them as ‘thick babies who don’t read many books’. Our book together started out as me writing a chapter for her book aimed at thick babies and morphed into her responding to alternate chapters in my book about intelligent adults who are sick of religious morons playing games with people just to get more followers on twitter. But hey, I’ve had some amazing offers to continue with this from a bunch of cool people and, if nothing else, a brilliant preface :)

    Stay tuned and thanks again. x

  11. Can I just say what a relief to find an individual who really knows what theyre talking about over a internet. You actually know how to bring an problem to light and make it important. Much more folks need to read this and realize this side on the story. I cant consider youre not much more well-liked due to the fact you really have the gift.

  12. I’ve known Heidi since her first account where she was hawking that Silpda (iirc) jewellery. This behaviour is pretty par for the course for her, if she doesn’t get what she wants, the toys go out of the pram. She’s a nice enough person to make smalltalk with, but keep at arms length is the handling technique I’d suggest, after she used the “make spurious legal threats” tactic ( and was advised to go and get lolled at by both myself and the police ).

  13. Naggedbycats: It’s just so weird that she would be like that when the single biggest reason we stayed in touch was because someone she trusted did exactly the same thing to her. Maybe her and Juanita Berguson are really just the same person with interchangeable heads?

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