An open letter to non-crazy Christians

I wrote this as a forum posting for Justin Brierley’s Premier Christian Radio discussion forum, but there is a waiting time for membership approval, so I’m making it available here as well. Please pass it on. I realise it’s quite long winded, but it’s important we set the record straight regards an important matter and I’d like to think that this is something which those of us who are both non-religious and those who are not on the extremes of Christianity can help each other raise awareness of, in the interest of clarity and an open exchange of information.

I welcome your feedback in the comments section below, but can I also ask that if you are a member of http://www.premiercommunity.org.uk/forum/ that you post replies there as well, so as many people as possible can read and respond. Thanks!

EDIT: I’ve been asked to summarise this, since it is quite long. I normally try to keep things as short as possible, but I didn’t want to be accused of leaving anything out. But if you are tempted to skip, the final four paragraphs pretty much sum things up.

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Hello! I wanted to start by saying that I admire Justin’s evenhandedness on the podcast, and his willingness to engage with people who fundamentally disagree with him on issues which are clearly very important to him. I hope, as I learn more about other Christian contributors here, that he is not alone in this regard, and that we can have a civil and polite debate on a range of topics. Some internet forums, open to debate between atheists and the religious, tend to fall apart pretty quickly, but I hope to discover that this one stands in-line with the general theme of the radio show, and treats all points of view with respect, and intellectual honesty.

With that said, I hope what I’m about to say doesn’t cause any unnecessary ructions, because I would like to issue something of a warning about a scam which myself and some friends of mine, who produce the Fundamentally Flawed podcast together, have unearthed recently, which we worry might affect some Christians who aren’t aware of the backstory, which I’ll attempt to flesh-out here, as best I can.

The main reason I want to make it absolutely clear, before going any further, that my being non-religious has nothing whatsoever to do with my genuine concerns, is that the scam does involve some of the religious terminology used in Christian apologetics, which it is necessary for me to use in my analysis of the scam, and in order to explain the problem. This might be seen by some as rude, or disrespectful, given that I am an atheist and proud of it. But this is not my intention. I simply want to help honestly motivated, ordinary people who just so happen to be Christian, avoid being ripped off — and my views on Christianity, as a whole, are neither here nor there — at least for the time being.

Being that it is my main worry, that the vast majority of honest Christians might be victim to this scam, there is a lot of misinformation being put “out there” on my true position with regard certain types of apologetics, which the people who are responsible for this scam would dearly love for the wider Christian community to think me and my friends are “running scared from”, presumably out of some sort of worry that their argument (or lack thereof) might hold a degree of intellectual merit which we are incapable of exceeding to. To be clear, it doesn’t, and we aren’t. But with your kind indulgence, I would like to explain exactly why this is the case, as well as explain some of the possible reasons as to why some of these individuals are bearing false witness about us.

Chief among the possible explanations for this campaign of misinformation, is that the particular brand of presuppositional apologetics we believe people are being duped into accepting, rises and falls on a provable falsehood, which they would prefer ordinary Christians like you didn’t know about — least of all in the words of a “dirty atheist”.

I would like to think that the fact we refuse to go away quietly, having uncovered this scam, has begun to have an affect on the profit margins of those who propagate this lie. What’s rather more likely to be true, is that we have begun to affect the tone of emails which these scammers are starting to receive from other Christians — which might also go some way towards explaining the amount of lies and historical revisionism, which some of you might have seen in the blog-o-sphere and beyond, in relation to our involvement in this story, which these people are largely responsible for producing.

To clarify this once again, I can assure you, it is not the case that we disrespect, or “hate” anyone with genuine religious convictions. We are simply concerned that these people appear to be targeting emotionally vulnerable people in their recruiting program, and are clearly drawing them into a distinctly un-Christian type of cult, for which only other Christians can help their fellow believers avoid — hence this bipartisan appeal.

So, cut to the chase:

Several month ago now, when our little podcast was still finding its feet, we received an offer from a certain Eric Hovind, to debate him in a joint broadcast between our podcast and his ‘Creation Today’ radio show — which is a part of his multimillion dollar, tax free ‘ministry’, based in Pensacola, Florida. Some of you might be familiar with Eric’s father Kent Hovind, who was convicted on several counts of tax evasion in 2007, after leading a ministry which encouraged adherents of the predominantly rightwing homeschooling community to teach anti-science and young earth creationism to children, under the brand-name of ‘Dr. Dino’. It would later transpire that “Dr.” Hovind’s credentials as a dinosaur expert were purchased from a diploma mill, after the Wikileaks website published a copy of his doctoral dissertation, which was written in the first person, contained numerous spelling mistakes, and listed zero evidence-based citations.

Tentatively we agreed to debate Eric on the explicit understanding that none of our comments would be used out of context, or edited in such a way that we appeared to say something which we hadn’t said. This was stipulated after several bad experiences with Christian radio hosts far less honest than Justin, in the past, who had literally removed large sections of audio, from appearances I had made on their shows, so as to doctor what I had said to make is seem as if I was rather less well informed than I am on certain arguments.

It’s at this point I should clarify that for the first 17 years of my life, I was a born-again Christian, whose journey towards atheism began one day in church, when the sermon was given on Jesus throwing the money lenders from the temple, before the collection plate was passed around. I would later learn that this money was used to launder Mafia drug money through the Vatican bank. But I digress.

We were aware that Eric had attempted to distance himself from some of the things his father became infamous for preaching, and fully intended to take him on face value. But we were also aware that if we hadn’t made the stipulation that we would not mute anyone’s microphone, or edit their comments in post-production, he might seek to profit from our comments in a way which ran counter to our beliefs about open information, and a free exchange of ideas. In that vein, we also made it clear that we would be giving away a free complete audio recording of the debate, via our website, and did not seek to make any money from it in any other way, such as by placing Google adverts or other co-branding on our website. Eric seemed happy to go along with this at the time, as an off-air pre-show recording we have of him, which we did not (yet) publish, fully confirms.

When it came time to record the podcast, Eric introduced us to a friend of his named Sye ten Bruggencate. It turned out that Sye knew rather more about me than I knew about him, and that he had previously posted comments to numerous religious articles on my website. At the time I didn’t immediately connect his name to the same Sye who had used my blog, and it wasn’t until what unfolded next that I began to recall the particular type of aggressive tactics which he had used, when posting blog comments under the username SyeTenB.

The conversation quickly took a very bizarre turn, when Sye started asking a series of questions for which there were no right or wrong, affirmative or negative answers, while insisting that, in-fact, we must answer them with definite ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ replies. This was made doubly confusing when he also refused to acknowledge that, for this very reason, he was just as incapable of answering his own questions as we were, if these black or white criteria were imposed upon him as strictly as he insisted they were upon us.

Even stranger still, Sye seemed to believe that this constituted some kind of strength to his position, when to any dispassionate observer it was clear the opposite was true, and that all he had succeeded in doing was to confirm many of the “crazy Christian” stereotypes, which so many of the well intentioned religious have fought so hard to dispel over the years — which we have always fully acknowledged, and welcomed.

It’s was at this point in the recording, when their true modus operandi became apparent. Far from having any legitimate interest in knowing what we, as atheists, felt about “life, the universe and everything”, it became clear that all they were actually interested in doing, was capturing as much audio as they could, so as to do to others what they would not have done to themselves.

They began pressing us even further on meaningless psychobabble, such as “is it possible that everything you think you know could be wrong?”, and “how do you know that?”, whenever we made any statement which requires longer to explain than the 10 second window which was opened to us, before one or the other would close it again by interrupting us with the next line of their pre-rehearsed script — which seldom bore any relationship to what we had just said.

To these specific questions, I lost count of how many times I explained why answering ‘yes’ wouldn’t encompass my true position, anymore than answering ‘no’, but Sye pressed on regardless, seemingly oblivious to the fact that if I were to ask him the self-same questions he was asking me, his answering either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ would paint no truer picture of his faith-based position, than it would of my evidence-based worldview — another of those awful “in-speak” phrases which Sye seems to believe means “assumption without evidence” when spoken by others, but “unquestionably true” when spoken by him.

Sye’s one and only response to this, was to repeatedly assert that his position is valid, regardless of his ability to adhere to his own arbitrary rules of engagement, because, as is it claimed, he has had it privately revealed to him that the bible is word-for-word true in a way which cannot be objectively demonstrated, but which he knows for certain to be unquestionably valid. When he was reminded that this “claim to know” is extrinsic and unfalsifiable, we were told that in our basic unwillingness to lower our standards of proof, merely to encompass his fundamentally self-contradictory worldview, that we risked being tortured in the fires of hell for all eternity. So much for peace, love and forgiveness.

No-one, dear friends, expects the Spanish Inquisition — least of all in what was fast becoming a distinctly one-sided conversation, in which he seemed to feel entitled to throw out every appeal to authority fallacy in the book, while we were mysteriously limited to his distorted view of what atheists (all of them, mind you) do and don’t “believe”. But the deception, and dark hilarity, didn’t end there.

Once the recording was published, we began to take feedback from our listeners, and discovered that the essential core of the method they had been using, was first proposed by Cornelius Van Til in his “doctrine of the ontological Trinity” — which was almost immediately rejected as meaningless by contemporary theologians and philosophers of the time, as being no more that a conclusion drawn from its own proposition. This was later clarified by the first Vienna Circle of Logical Positivists, in the early 1920’s, and the father of scientific falsification Karl Popper, who asserted that all metaphysical truth-claims are “essentially meaningless”, when they contradict the validity of that which is immediately observable — or, ‘The Logic of Scientific Discovery’ to you and me.

Because of this syllogism at the heart of what is known as the Transcendental Argument for the existence of God, it is a method of apologetics which has been largely abandoned by theologians of all persuasions for many decades — save for a very narrow band of Americanised evangelicals, renowned the world over for their particularly belligerent insistence that TAG is a rather more substantial argument than it actually is. If we had known this prior to “debating” Sye and Eric, the conversation might have turned out differently. But because we were completely unprepared to encounter someone so ready, willing and able to stoop to new lows in an already strong field of intellectual dishonesty, we had no choice but to notch it up as a “win” for them, and a much needed visit to the library for us.

What we would uncover, in that learning process, is that a band of anti-science activists, who are loosely affiliated with everything from supermodel-endorsed anti-vaccination, which has resulted in a ten-fold increase in cases of measles, mumps and rubella in some of the most developed nations in the world, to a type of global warming denial which is largely backed by the same oil and gas giants who fund the Republican party, are attempting to revive this type of presuppositional Christian apologetics, as part of their “war on atheism”.

But don’t let the ‘A’ word fool you. This is an all-out, politically motivated attack on rationalism, science, intellectual honesty, and everything which most ordinary people, Christian and non-Christian alike, would consider to be basic common sense. Moreover, Christians who see the problem with this type of non-reasoning, are just as much of a target for misinformation and ad hominem attack, as we non-religious are all too used to experiencing on a daily basis.

We had, in other words, inadvertently found ourselves on the receiving end of an elaborate set-up, architected by two of a small but vocal minority in American evangelicalism, who specialise in producing misinformation and propaganda against anyone who just so happens to hold themselves to higher standard of proof than belief for belief’s sake.

A few weeks after this first encounter, my podcast co-host Alex Botten, invited Sye back onto the show, to talk about what we had learned about the TAG argument in the intervening time. What followed was a piece by piece dismantling of Sye’s entire position. He simply couldn’t account for any of the things he had previously attempted to bully us into believing he could in-fact account for. At one point, in response to the fact that TAG is syllogistic and logically fallacious — precisely because it assumes the existence of Yahweh according to the same criteria which could be used to postulate the existence of myriad other gods (the existence of which Sye is as atheistic towards as we are towards Yahweh) — Sye simply began babbling even more incoherently than he had before.

The pace with which he went from being absolutely certain that he can “prove God exists”, to churning out every logical and informal fallacy in the book, was astounding. Here, before our very ears, was the man who runs a website called proofthatgodexists.org, falling apart like a Taiwanese Rolex on Boxing Day; literally tripping over his own tongue, and in relation to some of the most basic problems inherent to the very nature of his own truth-claim. He simply had nothing left. The mask had been removed.

This clearly irked Sye — for what happened next stands as clear an example as any I can think of, as to why legitimately motivated Christians such as you, the sexually attractive and might I say rather dashing reader, should be as cautious of, as we on the opposite benches had to find out the hard way, for ourselves.

We began to hear rumours that Sye and Hovind intended to break our agreement not to commercially exploit the audio recordings, of our conversations, and that they were planning to release a DVD of our “debate”. Sadly, we found out too late that there was a precedent for this, as they had also done a similar thing to another blogger / podcaster, who would later become a friend of mine, named Paul Baird.

When asked directly about this, both Sye and Eric simply remained silent. Days passed and no emails or twitter messages were replied to, or even acknowledged. This, against the backdrop of the story of what happened to Paul Baird, began to paint a very disconcerting picture, which we then had no choice but to respond to, in the absence of any contact from Sye and Eric, to either confirm or deny that these rumours were true.

Paul had found that a debate he recorded with Sye was being sold on Sye’s website for $19.95 a pop, and was disappointed to find that Sye had told Justin Brierley, who made this recording, that Paul had given his full permission for it to be made available as a commercial publication. In reality, Paul had made no such concession — he simply hadn’t been asked, and so Sye simply lied when Justin asked him if Paul had given his permission for the recording to be used.

Then an edit of our conversation with Eric and Sye appeared on YouTube. Bearing in mind that we had specifically said our comments were not to be edited or used out of context, alarm bells began to ring that Sye and Hovind might be planning on doing to us what they had done to Paul Baird. There’s some considerable disagreement at this point, as to why Eric posted this edited video to YouTube — with Eric claiming that it was simply to demonstrate that Alex Botten had said something which he later contradicted, despite that Alex was later able to show that Eric had indeed used these comments out of context.

Eric, in a later Skype conversation, was told in no uncertain terms, that if he planned on releasing any further edited recordings, featuring our comments out-of-context, we would take legal action. To date, and to the best of our knowledge, Hovind has not released any recordings which breach our verbal agreement to this affect.

Fast-forward several weeks. Sye had been told in a series of email exchanges that he would be welcome back onto the podcast, as and when he felt ready to explain the basic contradiction inherent to his own position — i.e., that he claims to have proof that Yahweh exists, while refusing to accept that this is either a fundamental contradiction of his insistence that he holds a faith-based position, or he simply doesn’t understand the basic definition of words like ‘evidence’ and ‘proof’.

Sye’s explanation for this basic contradiction, is to insist that he holds both positions in a way which is “virtuously circular” — an unintentionally amusing punchline to a bad joke first mooted by Greg Bahnsen, an influential Calvinist philosopher, and apologist, who wasn’t unaware of the logical inconsistency in claiming to hold two completely contradictory positions on Yahweh’s basic existence at the same time.

Sye now appeared ready to confront this problem head-on. From the very moment Sye’s Skype call to record his third appearance on the podcast began, he was reminded that we did not give our permission for any of the audio to be used in a commercial setting, or used in any other way, including in YouTube video clips which might accrue a share of Google’s Ad Revenue, or as part of any third party religious ministry. He was then asked directly if he was finally ready to present evidence of Yahweh’s basic existence — to which he replied, “I already have”.

Aware that this was more of the same “cart before the horse, abracadabra, proof of the bible is in the bible” playground nonsense which, remember, we had already told Sye we would not stand for, he was once again invited to present his claimed proof that Yahweh exists. Now, faced with the fact that he did not have our permission to commercially exploit the recording for his own financial gain, and that he had finally been held down to a very specific question with regard to his own basic truth-claim, he simply ran away — literally quitting Skype in a hissy fit, befitting a spoiled child.

Crown Rights Media

No-one has ever said that Christian organisations shouldn’t be entitled to produce media which presents their case for God. Indeed, some of the high production values in editing, computer animation and sound design, which many of these productions employ, is a clear indication that there is a great deal of money to be made from releasing these type of instructional videos and lecture series presentations.

What we do take great objection to, is when these videos are promoted on the back of comments which the producers have been specifically told they do not have permission to use for commercial purposes. So when a promotional video, for an upcoming DVD from Crown Rights Media appeared on YouTube, and posted to Sye ten Bruggencate’s channel, featured an edited portion of the very same recording in which he was specifically told he did not have our permission to use our comments for commercial purposes, you can imagine that we were distinctly unimpressed.

Sye appears to believe, that a recording in which he was held down to a very specific question relating to his own worldview, which he refused to answer and stormed off the recording session when pressed, somehow represents us “running scared” from his particularly nasty brand of pseudo-apologetics. Such is the down is up, up is down, through the looking glass nature of Sye’s entire worldview, one can only presume that by that same internal logic, a recording of us refusing to answer any of his questions, and storming off in a fit of anti-Christian hate speech, would constitute a “win” for the Richard Dawkins brigade — who think that “atheism” is best served by being as offensive towards people who don’t deserve it as possible.

This, dear reader, is not the type of non-believer we represent. Yes, we crack the occasional joke about priests and altar boys, and yes we make clear our disgust at the crystal danglers and homeopaths, but the “something out there” openminded religious, who don’t think that religious belief starts and stops at believing in things which are not true, and insisting that other people believe in this kind of nonsense too, simply aren’t on our radar — indeed we regularly complain about that narrow-minded type of atheist, who behave with disrespect towards the religious in this way, and knacker-up the whole deal for the rest of us.

Since being asked, repeatedly, to remove media which he does not have the right to use, from YouTube, Sye ten Bruggencate has consistently lied to Crown Rights, and their supporters, about the nature of our involvement in the promotional video which he produced against our specific permission to do so — to the point that, at one stage, he even appeared to deny that he had edited out the parts of the albeit very brief conversation, in which he was specifically told he could not edit our comments, or use them on YouTube, or use them in promotion of a commercial product.

Then, when the full unedited recording of him being told exactly this, was posted to Crown Rights Facebook page, a certain Marcus Pittman, of Crown Rights, removed the 70 plus-long comment thread which followed this unambiguous evidence that Sye ten Bruggencate had simply lied, exactly as he had with Paul Baird and the host of Premier Christian Radio’s ‘Unbelievable’, Justin Brierley — saying, as a justification for this clear attempt to silence the facts, that I was “being annoying”.

Think about it. “Annoying” for proving that someone is lying to your face, but “virtuously circular” for claiming to have proof that Yahweh exists, while refusing to present any evidence of it.

These people, dear readers, are not your friends. They are not even your fellow Christian. They are scam artists, who for $20 a go, promise you everything and tell you nothing. Do not be deceived. Please do not do make the same mistake we did, and have anything at all to do with these provable liars. They will rip you off, they will lie to you, and they will lie about you if you have the simple temerity to question their motives. Please, be warned. They are far more of a threat to your image, true beliefs, and motives, than anything the vast majority of atheists like me would, or could seek to impose upon you.

Thank you for your time. Jim.

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The beginning of the end for $ye ten Bruggencate

When $ye ten Bruggencate was first asked to remove a YouTube clip which contained content he didn’t have our permission to use, he promised to respond with evidence that we were in the wrong and he was in the right.

This evening he has posted an entry on his comment disabled blog, aimed at myself and my Podcast co-host, Alex Botten, which fundamentally fails to address this issue. He doesn’t even mention it. Instead, he chooses to focus on a time towards the end of last year, when we made the mistake of presuming he and Eric Hovind were interested in actual dialogue, as opposed to syllogistic wordplay and preaching provable falsehoods.

There are two possible explanations for this. One is that he knows full well he’s in the wrong with regard to using our content without permission, and he is beginning to regret making such a song and dance about it, now that he has been given the same legal advice as I have — which clearly shows he would be unsuccessful in any court of law, to show that he is entitled to commercially exploit something which he did not produce, even for promotional purposes.

The second possibility is related to a Facebook message I received yesterday, from a supporter of Crown Rights (the media organisation who ostensibly intend to release $ye’s upcoming DVD, for which the trailer contains our audio content without permission). The message was very straightforward. The person who sent it had looked into the facts surrounding this, and was extremely concerned by what they found.

$ye’s mask is beginning to slip. He has started to lie to too many people, all at the same time, and is losing track of what he’s said to whom and when he said it.

To anyone reading this from Crown Rights. Let me be perfectly clear. All we have EVER tried to say about $ye, Eric and the all too many charlatans like them, is that the first people they dupe, are those whose team they claim to be on. Please be extremely careful. These people are not your friends, and they do not share your true beliefs.

This, in other words, has nothing whatsoever to do with “dodging questions” which are of absolutely no interest to anyone other than $ye ten Bruggencate. It is to do with using our ability to think critically, so as to help people who cannot. That is why he spreads misinformation about us, because lying is the only method he understands. And he would say the same things about you, which he says about us, if he thought it was to his advantage to do so.

I don’t know which part of John 2:16 “Make not my Father’s house a house of merchandise” $ye believes doesn’t apply to him. But I do know what it means to people who genuinely believe it was said by Jesus, and these are the only people who can put an end to this insidious little man’s program of misinformation and blatant lies.

And yet according to $ye’s version of events, the reason we’re doing this, is because we want to silence Christianity, or champion an atheistic agenda. Nothing could be further from the truth. Everyone is perfectly entitled to believe whatever they want to believe. It is $ye who uses manipulative tactics, and these sorts of absolutist, black versus white, meaningless pseudo-philosophical arguments, in an attempt to coral the well meaning religious into a corner of his making; to emotionally manipulate them, using the language of Christianity, into feeling as if there is a “them and us” war between the religious and the non-religious, which only he is fit to wage on their behalf. He is not your champion. He is that which he wants you to fear.

That is the whole purpose of his “ministry”. It is not designed to foster understanding and common ground, it is design to engender the exact opposite. And the sooner his target audience realise that his money motivated ambition to join the ranks of Ray Comfort, Ken Ham and Kent Hovind is one of greed, lies and manipulation, the sooner the dollar signs will cease to spin in his eyes, and the reality of a modern more connected world, where people of his calibre are seen for what they truly are, will begin to dawn on him with the terrifying clarity he deserves.

Finally, speaking directly to anyone who has ever seriously considered that $ye’s “argument” might have some merit, and it is this which we are “running scared” from in our attempts to expose him for what he is. Please, consider the following. If you could prove Yahweh exists, you would no longer require faith to believe in Him. $ye doesn’t want you to have faith in God, he wants you to believe in $ye ten Bruggencate. This is the blatantly obvious scam at the heart of $ye’s entire, single track argument. And to those of us who have had the misfortune to deal with him directly, this is as plane as the nose on his money grabbing face. We have no reason to lie to any of $ye’s legitimately misled victims.

Do not hate $ye for what he is. Pity him for what he has the ambition to become.

Matt. 21:12

Sye ten Bruggencate: The turd that won’t flush

Bungle, out of Rainbow

Let’s be honest, we’ve all been there. You pull the chain to send your little brown bombs to the beach, and just as you’re washing your hands, up floats Bungle’s finger. So you wait for the cistern to refill, and pile on a few extra pages of blog roll, pull the chain, and “Eureka! It’s gone!”

Would that it were so easy with $ye. Like a buildup of pungent effluent, in the lavs outside Hardwick shops, the King of wishful thinking is evolving into a new species of bacteria, and becoming the massive cult leader we always knew he had ambitions of achieving. And by massive, I mean analogous to a three day buildup of chicken jalfrezi, post oesophagus.

After PZ Myers and reddit.com picked up on the story, surrounding his illegal use of our content in a promotional video for his up-coming DVD release, tentatively entitled ‘I don’t know jack shit, and neither do you’, the $yentologists went into Bachman Turner Overdrive; leaping to his defence, and all without seeming to know anything at all about the actual depth of his lies.

Crown Rights, who think they’re going to release a DVD containing media which isn’t theirs to commercially exploit, under the Creative Commons Licence attached to all Fundamentally Flawed works, started posting on their Facebook about the article on reddit and PZ’s kind intervention. Pretty soon people who hadn’t read the details of the story, started commenting on the said Facebook post.

Among the usual flurry of “atheists are so hateful” and “sounds to me like they’re scared” gibberish, one Michael Alan Guilford had the simple honesty to point out that our grievance has nothing whatsoever to do with “hating God” but that $ye ten Buggerface was using something he was specifically told he didn’t have permission to use, and had simply lied about when he was told these specifics, and why he was told them.

What, do you think, L. Wrong Cupboard’s response to this was? Did he point Mr. Guilford towards the evidence he repeatedly claims to have, that he is allowed to commercially exploit our content without our permission? Did he respectfully suggest Michael look at things from another point of view perhaps? No. No he didn’t. He suggested, instead, that he would be angry if his brother in Christ; his customer in waiting, who had already bent over backwards to make clear that he was himself a bible believing Christian who meant no offence to $ye; he would be “angry” if it turned out that Michael was a “child molester”.

That’s right folks, if you dare to question circular $ye’s basic honesty, with regard to something he is provably wrong about, and for which you have publicly available documentation to back up, you’re the one who needs to change your mind and ignore the facts. Not $ye. No. YOU are the one who is wrong. $ycophant $ye is never in the wrong.

Don’t take my word for it. Here are the screenshots:

Crown Rights are clearly a group in need of a leader. Ironically, $ye was the natural selection. It’s rumoured that his arrival was foretold; that he would come like a thief in the night, to pilfer other people’s content and lie about where he “found it”, so that the single digit IQ brigade, or as $ye calls them his brothers and sisters in Christ, can self-confirm their preexisting opinions about him, and his “ministry”, and what it is exactly that he claims to have proof of, but refuses to ever demonstrate.

Let’s just remind ourselves, for a moment, of the love and devotion to the truth which these clodpate can enjoy under $ye’s tutelage — and doubt no further what $ausage ten Baguette’s actual motives really are.

A long overdue reply to Ryft

I found a folder on a back-up drive with links to articles marked “reply to these” from several months ago. This one jumped out at me.

http://aristophrenium.com/ryft/you-smelt-it-you-dealt-it/

My reply is included here, since comments are held for moderation on the originating blog, although I have no doubt Ryft will approve them when he gets around to it. He was a good guest on the podcast and seems like a nice enough chap.

In what has to be the longest gap between receiving an invitation to comment and the actual posting of that comment, a subtle combination of my recently finding a back-up of a Documents folder from my old machine, which had a text file simply marked, “Reply to these” with a link to here, and my renewed determination to tell anyone who will listen just how much of a massive liar Sye ten Bruggencate really is, has finally allowed me to respond to this very well written reply to our original conversation. So, better late then never, I shall proceed.

I am struck by the irony of saying “A person cannot be expected to defend a position they do not hold.” in an article which expects me to defend a position I do not hold. In your case, however, I am prepared to accept this is more likely down to my simply failing to explain myself more clearly than it is your unwillingness to actually listen to what I’m saying. We had a good chat when you spoke with us for the Fundamentally Flawed podcast, and you certainly helped us clear up a few things. You’re part of a refreshing if all too rare breed of apologist who are genuinely confused, as opposed to deliberately manipulative.

In a way the passage of time between your first posting this and my finally responding to it, does give me something of an unfair advantage, in that I do understand a fair bit more about the differences, for example, between the cosmological argument and the transcendental argument, than I did at the time you wrote it. Poor word choice on my part perhaps made it seem as if I lumped them both in together, when clearly there are subtle differences between the two, in some key areas — although I have to admit I still don’t see how you get from a problem which essentially belongs to philosophy, to a truth claim about theology, without resolving the original problem first. There still seems to be a fair amount of ‘cart before the horse’ going on, in simply saying “abracadabra, it’s in the bible.”

Having said that, and despite you being quite right to point out that I wasn’t fully familiar with what I was objecting to at the time, I think it’s a little unfair to suggest I was simply wrong. You have to remember, the subtle differences between this argument and that argument, don’t really add up to much in the grand scheme of things, from my point of view, because for all one apologists might make a better turn of phrase than another, or present more interesting interpretations of scripture than his or her predecessors did, in this book or that, the only thing which really matters as far as I am concerned, is whether or not they’re honest about their actual starting point — that is, do they claim to have objectively verifiable evidence of Yahweh’s basic existence, or is their worldview based upon faith alone.

I’ve gone to great lengths in the past to explain that I depart somewhat from other activist anti-theists, in on-line debate, in that I have zero problem with people who adopt a faith-based argument, so long as they’re honest about it. You can, as far as I am concerned, believe whatever you like. It is literally no skin off my nose, and indeed I would defend any religious person to live their life as they see fit, so long as they don’t insist I am somehow morally inferior, or incapable of knowing right from wrong, simply because I don’t believe what they believe.

But the original draw towards debating the particular kind presuppositionalism you’ve identified here, as avowed by messieurs ten Bruggencate and Hovind for example, is that they use it to justify going beyond personal beliefs for personal reasons. They use it to instruct people, at some considerable financial gain to themselves, to believe in things which simply are not true about people like me, and actively preach against the scientific methods which we believe offer a truer picture of the universe, than one which presupposes the existence of a god they already just so happen to believe in, without ever seeming to understand why this shouldn’t go unchallenged.

But where I would have once said that this makes all presuppositional arguments “fair game”, I now realise that these methods are as odious to the vast majority of Christians, as they are to everyone else. So I apologies if my eagerness to point and laugh at the provable liars in our midst, gave anyone the wrong impression about my actual motivation — which is to engage with and understand as many different legitimately held points of view as possible.

Now, to your actual article. You said, “There is one thing I would like to know. Gardner said quite frankly, “There is no God to deny or accept.”[6] That is a very interesting truth claim, and I would really like to see the argument which produces it. I challenge Gardner to provide the premises which lead to that conclusion.”

The premise which led to that conclusion is that you claim the specific god of your specific religion provably exists, but you have yet to present any evidence of it. In the absence of that evidence, one can only conclude that this is either a faith-based position — which I’ve already said you’re fully entitled to hold — or it is a claim for which you have objectively valid evidence, but for some reason choose not to share with anyone who doesn’t already believe in His basic existence.

It is, in short, your claim to demonstrate, not mine. Insisting that I lower my standard of proof, merely to encompass that which it is yours to establish, isn’t the gold standard against atheism far too many are keen to insist it is, and I’m somewhat surprised this is something you appear to endorse.

My statement to this affect, “…who are so clearly capable of researching and understanding all of this for themselves still somehow manage to come to such obviously flawed assumptions about the validity [or even] the intellectual honesty of their own position”, therefore still stands. I am simply amazed that anyone who exposes themselves to both sides of the argument, fails to see the weakness of their own position, versus the strength of the alternative.

Again, I probably have something of an unfair advantage in this regard, as I do have the benefit of having seen things from both sides of the fence. I’ve been hearing the faith-based argument since I was born, and up until the age of 17 or 18 it worked well enough for me, that I would happily identify myself as an evangelical Christian. The rational explanations for some of the things I experienced when praying, or attending church, or performing praise music, and so on, took the best part of the next 10 years to truly make sense to me. I brushed them aside for a very long time, until I simply realised one day that I no longer needed to believe a word of it, in order to continue being the same good person that I always was.

Most people who are still inside Christianity, see this as a process of stripping away, and they lament our loss. But when you actually go through it, it is quite the opposite. I didn’t lose my faith, I gained reason. That is the number one thing which I find Christians are most reluctant to take on-board about atheists who were once Christian — beyond, of course, simply saying we never truly believed.

It is this which, in the past, I’ve been far too quick to interpret as being a wilful delusion on their part, simply because I know how deluded I was when I believed it too. But I now accept that some people really do believe it, and simply can’t understand how anyone could not.

However, this doesn’t need to be the insurmountable problem some might want to make it out to be. All we have to do is be honest about the true motivations of those who nevertheless assert it is a far bigger bone of contention than it actually is. When we do this, we quickly identify the liars, profiteers and the thieves in the temple. When seen for what they actually are, their claim that this merely proves even the non-religious know there is a God, reveals its own circularity with such efficiency, there is no need to address it further.

Suffice to say, this doesn’t dissuade the terminally obnoxious. But it goes a long way towards highlighting their eagerness to stay on the topics where they feel the most comfortable, so as to avoid the ones they don’t like to talk about.

Those in this remaining group, who think that spreading provable lies are permissible tactics, and give each other a pass to get away with using the threat of hell’s fire, to indoctrinate the emotionally vulnerable into their cause, are the real enemies within. These are the people both true Christians and atheists should be fighting against together. After all, these are the very people who the parables and mythology commonly attributed to Jesus of Nazareth are warning us all against, and on which we can agree, without having to additionally claim they are therefore divinely inspired.

Whether you believe the latter or not, it doesn’t stop it from being the perfect argument in favour of both humanism and Christianity. It is this which comprises the common ground they would prefer we didn’t have — hence their insistence it is exclusive to the religious, when in reality it is an inherently human trait, and an emergent property of our evolutionary heritage, as opposed to a magic trick breathed into us by a composite character from bronze-age folklore.

Is it so difficult to accept, that this universality is the real reason the bible stories have stood the test of time? And how does believing the contrary carry any weight, when by definition this also requires believing in things which are provably false? How, exactly, are these self-evident facts contingent upon that which is self-refuting? Why the massive non sequitur between this universal message of peace and love, and an obligation to believe in the supernatural? And is Ryft up to the challenge of explaining this, without drawing a conclusion from his own proposition?

David Fitzgerald: Examining the Existence of a Historical Jesus

Bible scholars the world over have long known about the many discrepancies and contradictions in the bible. And while your common-or-garden parish priest can at least fallback on the argument that it’s all somewhat above his pay grade, to inform his flock about these facts, his superiors in the church have no such luxury.

We regularly have guests on the podcast who seem surprisingly untroubled by the notion that the very experts upon whom they ultimately rely, when they begin their screed with the sentence “Jesus said…”, are in total agreement with one another on some startling facts, surrounding the basic Jesus story.

For instance, the fact that Saul of Tarsus never writes about the life of a physical human being, but refers only to Jesus as a spirit, and that most of his letters are provable forgeries. Or that Mathew and Mark’s gospels are almost completely contradicted by that of John’s, and that all three borrow from Luke, who borrowed from Josephus, whose only reference to Jesus in his 1st century tome “Antiquities of the Jews” is acknowledged the world over as a fake by every bible scholar outside of those tied to Americanised evangelicalism.

A possible reason for their apparent lack of concern for these facts, is that many apologists share one very telling trait; that no amount of evidence and reasoned argument can trump the faith card. Their inability to see what is completely obvious to everyone else; that believing something and proving something are two completely different things — enables them to split their brain in two, and hold completely contradictory opinions on certain matters, while believing that this is itself a component of faith; that it is not for mere humans to understand the ways of a god they only believe in because they are compelled to by the very biblical text which has been so resoundingly falsified.

The game of switcheroo they must then play, when presented with these facts, has become so heavily steeped in loaded terminology, that when they find themselves in need of an answer to an awkward question from an atheist friend, they dive headfirst into a pool of sounds-like-an-answer-but-isn’t-an-answer religious in-speak, without paying any mind as to where their words are actually coming from. Their very eagerness to avoid such questions, and get back onto a topic they think they know, has the rather amusing effect of highlighting how little they actually understand about their own religion.

Of those Christian scholars who have thought to make basic enquiries, for example into the efforts made throughout the centuries to solve some of the bible’s many contradictions, many have started out as evangelical warriors for Jesus, on a mission to convert the world to Christianity and send the atheists packing. Few of them have remained as certain of their belief that Jesus was the creator of the universe in human form, once the problems thrown up by their own investigations begin to pile up.

One well known example of this, is the author Bart Ehrman, who began as a graduate of Moody Bible Institute, and found himself writing a number of best selling books, on his journey towards agnosticism, including ‘Misquoting Jesus’, ‘God’s Problem’, and ‘Jesus, Interrupted’. Each of these books are an excellent read, but they rely heavily on the real nitty gritty of the academic process; the near endless lists of ancient historians with almost impossible to pronounce names and political axes to grind, which tends to make Ehrman’s books a little heavy going, once you get beyond the opening chapters.

David Fitzgerald takes a different approach. In his book ‘Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed at All’, he enumerates the origin of ten myths, commonly associated with the Jesus story, and traces their lineage throughout the early Christian movement.

In the below video, David talks us through a brief overview of his work, by way of a few example passages from the bible, which Christian apologists continue to use when debating with the non-religious, despite that they’re provably false.

While he’s clearly nervous addressing a large audience, some of Fitzgerald’s set-ups are among the clearest explanations of certain biblical contradictions I’ve yet to hear, and I look forward to a healthy comment thread, once the usual crowd have either turned off their caps-lock key, or run out of ways to try and change the subject.

Enjoy!