Home > Uncategorized > A response to Cracked (a new article)

A response to Cracked (a new article)

I like cracked.com, it’s one of the few websites I check everyday. I listen to both podcasts that they produce and have submitted articles for their publication (both were rejected. I’m not bitter, I just didn’t have the time to work on them that I needed to). About six months ago, Mark Hill wrote a piece entitled “5 Ways Atheists Argue their Cause that Aren’t Helping.” I responded to that article in three separate posts, agreeing with him on some points and disagreeing vehemently with him on some others. Last week one of my personal favorite writers on the site, Luke McKinney, wrote an article entitled, “5 Atheist Arguments Which Aren’t Helping Anyone,” to which I will give the same treatment. I teach critical thinking and reasoning as a profession and while I know it’s impossible I have tried to evaluate each point as objectively as possible. I am no stranger to pointing out a bad argument even when it’s something I agree with thus I’m not on new ground. In fact I have in the past used the term “Red Team” to criticize some of the arguments that I find terrible even when they attack religion.

5: “There’s no Scientific Proof”

I have no problem with McKinney’s analysis of this argument. Yes it is often misplaced, a theist doesn’t require proof. That’s the whole thing. In fact there are seven points in the New Testament which specifically say that belief without evidence is good (especially the story of Thomas who is rebuked by Jesus for disbelieving that the dead can rise John 20:29). I make this point to my classes, you can’t argue against a particular belief if that belief is founded in something other than evidence. It’s pointless because it’s a non-starter. The two people who are arguing can’t agree on what counts as a legitimate foundation so in essence they are arguing two different things. The lack of evidence: scientific or logical isn’t going to make a single dent in a person who has absolute faith.

However…that restriction comes off the table when the faithful try to enforce their faith over scientific and logical principles. McKinney addresses this and is again correct. Pointing out that there is no evidence of a god won’t matter. However when they start claiming that we need to teach literal biblical history instead of science and actual history, it’s perfectly appropriate to point out that there is no evidence that their book/belief is correct.

4: “Logical Paradoxes”

Here’s our first substantial disagreement. McKinney’s point is that claiming belief in god means turning a blind eye to certain internal contradictions isn’t the right strategy. He admits that asking the believer “why do bad things happen to good people?” is an argument that won’t effect them in anyway so we should abandon the strategy along with questions like “who created god?” I agree that it’s unlikely to be effective but that doesn’t mean that it’s a question that ought not to be asked.

The issue is that the belief in a loving, caring, all powerful god is somehow watching over us doesn’t mesh with the indifference that the world seems to have for all of the things which live in it. The stock answer to the problem of evil is always, “god works in mysterious ways” and that’s an entirely unsatisfactory answer. It’s an appeal to ignorance combined with a special pleading fallacy. When someone like Pat Robertson says that god killed a two year old child because that child could have grown up to be Hitler (he really said this) that’s a bullshit excuse but it’s an answer because we could literally fill in anything to explain what we don’t know. Claiming that it’s part of the plan assumes there is a plan and if that’s why I’m supposed to tolerate the indifference I’m going to begin questioning the “goodness” of this divine being.

He gives a great piece of advice though: don’t make the person feel stupid. That only makes anyone get defensive and closed off from new information.

3: “The Bible/Torah/Quran/Tripitaka/Whatever Is Full of Screwed-Up Stuff!”

Again we disagree. He gives a good explanation about how things were much different in the past but then he misses the point entirely. I’ve pointed out how both the Bible and the Quran are full of impossibly horrible crimes committed by the deity itself and failing to address this for the most part is a failing of knowledge. The reasoning is that even followers of a religion who aren’t that devout will still point to their book as a moral guide. They will say that while the stories can sometimes be morally offensive, the rules are still moral.

Most religious people still believe that it’s impossible for a person to be moral without religion and then point to their book, cherry picking parts from Jesus or Muhammed that say the good stuff and ignoring everything else. Yes it’s great that Jesus gave us the golden rule but he also said that his followers must follow the old laws (Matthew 5: 18-19; Luke 16:17 but then in a different book contradicts that Luke 16:16 [right before the last one too]). So all of the rules about murdering fortune tellers and non-believers still apply and this is somehow a book of morality? Sorry, that’s not going to fly. The screwed up stuff matters especially, as he points out, when arguing with fundamentalists. All of these things matter not simply because they are terrible but because people try and selectively enforce those laws over the rest of us.

I’m not going to follow those rules. I personally don’t care about all of the little things like what kind of fibers I’m wearing or what crops I plant. However I also don’t care about witches, homosexuals, and people with tattoos enough for their blood to be upon them. The problem is that both of those groups of crimes are deserving of divine wrath, the “screwed up stuff” merely points to the cherry picking that the faithful do when try to say that the “screwed up stuff” doesn’t matter. Unless they can show a solid consistent reason for that cherry picking then it is very important.

Part II next week.

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Categories: Uncategorized
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  1. February 2, 2016 at 2:08 am

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