Hello to All

Just wanted to touch bases with people more versed in Skepticism and “Free Inquiry”…
Just read an article by John Dickson: Top 10 tips for atheists this Easter; http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2014-04-18/dickson-tips-for-atheists/5397892
I wonder if anybody here have read it and what are their position to his argumentation.

Welcome, Angel. No, I haven’t seen it, but I’ll check it out after I finish up here. Thanks for the heads-up.
Occam

He is proselytizing for Catholicism. When someone says “the church”, they mean the Catholic church. He lost me at “Christianity’s Intellectual Tradition”.

Angel, sorry, but a friend called so I have to go help him with his problem. However, here’s my quick analysis of that article. You’ll probably have to go back to it to connect my notes with his statements. Let me know if you have any concerns so I can spend a bit more time on my answers.
Occam

Preface: I tried this many years ago, and the rebuttal was, “The Old Testament is history; the New Testament is truth."
#1 From my personal experience, most atheists I know have more familiarity with the Bible and religious writings than do most religious people.
#2 Sorry, the argument of different word meanings doesn’t hold. For a discussion to be meaningful, we all have to agree to use the dictionary definitions. Faith is used in religious discussions as a replacement for nonexistent physical evidence.
#3 I agree, but the point they were making wasn’t just about that statement being false, but rather to raise a question asking how much more of the Bible is merely “a literary device" that shouldn’t be taken at face value?
#4 No, it’s basic to scientific progress. Early society has had a great many theories for our observed world, and as we have continued learning, many of those theories gradually faded away - geocentric universe, gravitational acceleration being dependent on weight, the genetic intellectual inferiority of women, etc. The fading god is just another example of our growing knowledge of the universe.
#5 Unfortunately, the vast majority of theists are not “trained philosophers". This is not an argument suggesting logical proof, but rather a demonstration of the need for more intellectual clarity among the average theist.
#6 Essentially every organization has some benefits. For example, Hitler’s fascism raised Germany out of a severe depression. “Religion poisons everything” is the basis for a straw man argument by using the extreme. Most atheists recognize that religious organizations do some good along with some bad. They feel that the harm can be phased out while other organizations can do the good.
#7 Of course there are zealots on both sides. The question should be whether Jesus was a man or a god, not whether or not he existed.
#8 Another strawman argument. While there are extremists, most recognize that belief can be based on early conditioning or on evidence. The former usually trumps the latter. I find what “Christians frequently admit" is their rationalization for early conditioning. Most sceptics do not “insist that their unbelief is based solely on ‘evidence’", rather on lack of evidence to the contrary.
#9 Apparently, he hasn’t met enough knowledgeable Christians. The response as quoted above is, “The Old Testament is history; the New Testament is truth." While I don’t accept the last of this, it does respond to his concern.
#10 Geez, this guy doesn’t even know much about modern church Christianity. More and more of the denominations have shifted away from the eternal damnation concept to temporary punishment, then redemption. Any atheist who argues along this line is also not too knoweldgeable.
Edited to correct typos.

Thank you!!! Here’s my assessment. as I wrote it to the friend that had sent the article. Would love your critique!
Tip #1. “Dip into Christianity’s intellectual tradition… “gain some awareness of the church’s vast intellectual tradition.”
ARB: What does this suppose to mean? I am not saying that the philosophers that came before us were not “intellectuals"…
Wikipedia: An intellectual is a person who primarily uses intelligence in either a professional or an individual capacity.
ARB: Against positions by intellectuals one can only argue with facts that counter their arguments! The most problematic issue with the intellectuals that Dickson makes reference to is that they base their argumentation on what the bible says!
In a very interesting book by Thomas Sowel: “Intellectuals and Society, not only the track record of intellectuals is tracked in the things they have advocated but also analyzes the incentives and constraints under which their views and visions have emerged. One of the most surprising aspects of this study is how often intellectuals have been proved not only wrong, but grossly and disastrously wrong in their prescriptions for the ills of society–and how little their views have changed in response to empirical evidence of the disasters entailed by those views."
http://books.google.com/books/about/Intellectuals_and_Society.html?id=YIYu_9ONsU8C
Tip #2. “Notice how believers use the word ‘faith’
One of the things that become apparent in serious Christian literature is that no one uses ‘faith’ in the sense of believing things without reasons… but it is important to know that in theology ‘faith’ always means personal trust in the God whose existence one accepts on other grounds. I think God is real for philosophical, historical, and experiential reasons. Only on the basis of my reasoned conviction can I then trust God - have faith in him - in the sense meant in theology.”
ARB: The most critical part of this argument, is one of the false logic argumentation; circularity: “theological faith means personal trust in the God whose existence…" This is belief in the belief, not in the fact per se!
As per Wikipedia: Reason is the capacity for consciously making sense of things, applying logic, for establishing and verifying facts, and changing or justifying practices, institutions, and beliefs based on new or existing information. It is closely associated with such characteristically human activities as philosophy, science, language, mathematics, and art, and is normally considered to be a definitive characteristic of human nature.
Reasons: In contrast to reason as an abstract noun, a reason is a consideration that explains or justifies some event, phenomenon or behavior. The ways in which human beings reason through argument are the subject of inquiries in the field of logic.
Tip #3. “Appreciate the status of 6-Day Creationism”
ARB: Agree… Not worth arguing with anybody that still support this notion!
Tip #4. “Repeat after me: no theologian claims a god-of-the-gaps
“But the god-of-the-gaps is an invention of atheists.”
Kraus sounds like a clever mechanic who imagines that just because he can explain how a car works he has done away with the Manufacturer."
ARB: Atheists have not invented the notion of “god-of-the-gaps."
That is a direct result of believers that keep changing their interpretation of facts to fit their preconceptions about the world. The most clear of this is the notion of “intelligent design." Some believer scientists, intellectually confronted with the reality of evolution and unable to deny it (with intellectual honesty) only recur to “cognitive dissonance" to explain that God used evolution to create! This only makes the problem more difficult to swallow! Why an all-powerful god would use so a deficient mechanism to create anything? 99% of al the species that have ever lived on the Earth have been destroyed or disappeared because of evolution! Most problematic is the notion of evolution as a thing, sort of a mechanism with a purpose. Evolution is ONLY the result of three things: a biological entity that reproduces, at-random variation on its pool of genes and environmental pressure that allows to live those entities that are prepared (by default, by chance alone) to thrive in the new environment.
Now… why dos people believe that there should be a creator? Because the human mind can only conceptualize things along their timeline. The human is the only creature that can modify his/her environment to control evolutionary circumstances. That is why mongolism persist… we protect Down syndrome persons and “allow" people to have children how have Down syndrome fetuses based on religious grounds.
Since people “create" artifacts to control the environment it is completely logic to believe that there needs to be a creator! It takes a lot of “faith" to trust physicists explaining how there are only two things: matter/energy (two versions of one thing) and time/space (two versions of the second thing. These two things have ever exist and will ever exists and the world we know was meant to be just because these two things ever exists! Now… why do we have to “entitize" these two things as a GOD! So personal that it makes no sense! BECAUSE it is our nature to try to make sense of what se see and know in out only known timeline!
Tip #5. “Atheists just go one god more” is a joke, not an argument
Christians are not absolute atheists with regard to other gods. They happily affirm the shared theistic logic that there must be a powerful Mind behind a rational universe. The disagreements concern how the deity has revealed itself in the world."
ARB: What king of logical argument is this?
Because all the believers “happily believe" (argue) that there MUST be something else… That something else exists??? Perfect example of one of the false logic argumentation; insisting on ignorance!
Tip #6. “Claims that Christianity is social ‘poison’ backfire
I don’t just mean that anyone who dips into Christian history will discover that the violence of Christendom is dwarfed by the bloodshed of non-religious and irreligious conflicts. I mean that those who find themselves, or their loved ones, in genuine need in this country are very, very likely to become the beneficiaries of direct and indirect Christian compassion.”
ARB: Excuse me… This is only laughable!
Without going into the real argument that almost all, if not all, of the wars and massacres throughout history have been either instigated or sanctioned by religious bodies… The notion that in the U.S. we practice Christian values par excellence only follows the Calvinist logic that those that have it deserve it for been God given! Just as an example of the distribution of wealth in the U.S. The WORST in the whole world! "Ours is real compassion… Calvin’s way!
Tip #7. “Concede that Jesus lived, then argue about the details
New Atheists should accept the academic reality that the vast majority of specialists in secular universities throughout the world consider it beyond reasonable doubt that Jesus lived, taught, gained a reputation as a healer, was crucified by Pontius Pilate, and was soon heralded by his followers as the resurrected Messiah.”
ARB: Unfortunately, what the author (historian himself) will NOT accept, or is prepared to accept, is that OUTSIDE of the bible there is almost nothing about Jesus to say the least.
From the book, Evidence that Demands a Verdict (Josh McDowell), we are presented the following extra biblical evidence: (highlights mine)

  1. Cornelius Tacitus (born A.D. 52-54): Roman historian, in 112 A.D. “alludes" to the death of Christ and to the existence of Christians… He also makes reference to the burning of the Jerusalem temple in A.D. 70.
  2. Lucian: A satirist of the “second century", who spoke scornfully of Christ and the Christian also “alludes" to Christ as the man who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced this new cult…"
  3. Flavius Josephus (born A.D. 37): A Jewish historian, around A.D. 66 is quoted writing: “Now, there was about this time Jesus, a wise man,…" Antiquities. Xviii.33 (Early second century)
  4. Seutonius (A.D. 120) Roman historian writes, “As the Jews were making constant disturbance… at the instigation of Chrestus (another spelling of Christus)…"
  5. Plinius Secundus: Governor of Bithynia… (A.D. 112) was writing the emperor Trajan seeking counsel as to how to treat the Christians.
    NOW… How can anyone, with a reasonable notion of intellectual honesty, can claim that there is even “an once" of historical evidence OUTSIDE of the bible? FIVE sentences making reference to some Christus (the anointed one) and Josephus mentioning a Jesus in ALL THE LITERATURE OF THE WORLD in relation to the most important religious figure of the monotheistic religions!

Tip #8. “Persuasion involves three factors
Aristotle was the first to point out that persuasion occurs through three factors: intellectual (logos), psychological (pathos), and social or ethical (ethos). People rarely change their minds merely on account of objective evidence. When skeptics, however, insist that their unbelief is based solely on ‘evidence’, they appear one-dimensional and lacking in self-awareness.”
ARB: Agree! The problem is that this lack of awareness of the atheist about how much emotional investment they might have on their believes DOES NOT gives credence to the believer on what they believe! That simple!
This is sort of “killing the messenger" argument, the third of the false logic argumentations!
Tip #9. “Ask us about Old Testament violence
Most thoughtful Christians find it difficult to reconcile the loving, self-sacrificial presentation of God in the New Testament with the seemingly harsh and violent portrayals of divinity in the Old Testament.”
ARB: True
“I am not sure this line of argument has the power to undo Christian convictions entirely. I, for one, feel that the lines of evidence pointing to God’s self-disclosure in Christ are so robust that I am able to ponder the inconsistencies in the Old Testament without chucking in the Faith. Still, I reckon this is one line of scrutiny Christians haven’t yet fully answered.”
ARB: Perfect circular logic example. God self-disclosed in Christ!
Who says? The Bible? BTW… The principal problem with this argument is that if as the bible says Jesus came to make true the Old Testament, the Old Testament cannot be dismissed in any way or else the same justification can be called into question. One cannot have it both ways!
If I were a Christian, I would accept Thomas Jefferson’s recommendation, discard completely the Old Testament and accept Jesus as a moral human being!
The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth by Thomas Jefferson (Mar 26, 2009)
Tip #10. “Press us on hell and judgment
Questions can also be raised about God’s fairness with the world. I don’t mean the problem of evil and suffering: philosophers seem to regard that argument as a ‘draw’. I am talking about how Christians can, on the one hand, affirm God’s costly love in Jesus Christ and, yet, on the other, maintain Christ’s equally clear message that those who refuse the Creator will face eternal judgment.
Again, I’m not giving up on classical Christianity because of this internally generated dilemma, but I admit to feeling squeamish about it, and I secretly hope atheists in my audiences don’t think to ask me about it.”
ARB: Finally the author comes to terms to his own contradictions! And “naively" asks NOT to be asked! PERFECT DEMONSTRATION of the psychological mechanism of YES… COGNITIVE DISSONANCE!!

Will review your post as soon as I go through the rest of the discussion areas.
Occam

Fascinating that without too much overlap we both attacked his article extensively. It would be interesting to get his response to both our sets of comments.
Occam

Angel, sorry, but a friend called so I have to go help him with his problem. However, here’s my quick analysis of that article. You’ll probably have to go back to it to connect my notes with his statements. Let me know if you have any concerns so I can spend a bit more time on my answers.
Occam

Preface: I tried this many years ago, and the rebuttal was, “The Old Testament is history; the New Testament is truth."
#1 From my personal experience, most atheists I know have more familiarity with the Bible and religious writings than do most religious people.
#2 Sorry, the argument of different word meanings doesn’t hold. For a discussion to be meaningful, we all have to agree to use the dictionary definitions. Faith is used in religious discussions as a replacement for nonexistent physical evidence.
#3 I agree, but the point they were making wasn’t just about that statement being false, but rather to raise a question asking how much more of the Bible is merely “a literary device" that shouldn’t be taken at face value?
#4 No, it’s basic to scientific progress. Early society has had a great many theories for our observed world, and as we have continued learning, many of those theories gradually faded away - geocentric universe, gravitational acceleration being dependent on weight, the genetic intellectual inferiority of women, etc. The fading god is just another example of our growing knowledge of the universe.
#5 Unfortunately, the vast majority of theists are not “trained philosophers". This is not an argument suggesting logical proof, but rather a demonstration of the need for more intellectual clarity among the average theist.
#6 Essentially every organization has some benefits. For example, Hitler’s fascism raised Germany out of a severe depression. “Religion poisons everything” is the basis for a straw man argument by using the extreme. Most atheists recognize that religious organizations do some good along with some bad. They feel that the harm can be phased out while other organizations can do the good.
#7 Of course there are zealots on both sides. The question should be whether Jesus was a man or a god, not whether or not he existed.
#8 Another strawman argument. While there are extremists, most recognize that belief can be based on early conditioning or on evidence. The former usually trumps the latter. I find what “Christians frequently admit" is their rationalization for early conditioning. Most sceptics do not “insist that their unbelief is based solely on ‘evidence’", rather on lack of evidence to the contrary.
#9 Apparently, he hasn’t met enough knowledgeable Christians. The response as quoted above is, “The Old Testament is history; the New Testament is truth." While I don’t accept the last of this, it does respond to his concern.
#10 Geez, this guy doesn’t even know much about modern church Christianity. More and more of the denominations have shifted away from the eternal damnation concept to temporary punishment, then redemption. Any atheist who argues along this line is also not too knoweldgeable.
Edited to correct typos.
Damn, O, you’re not being a very good role model, here, for being concise. You must have been procrastinating re: going to help your friend.

My impression of the article is that it provides some good points for atheists who know and interact with people who are religious AND reasonable. I am not as confident, as the author seems to be, that most people who are religious are ALSO reasonable.
IOW, the author’s points don’t apply well, at all, to religious persons who are fundamentalists. If all religious people were non-fundamentalists, what a beautiful world it would be.

Hey Tim, I thought I did well when you consider that I responded to each of the eleven long ideas “Tips” in an average of 2.6 sentences. Think of how short the answers would have been if I had time before I left, to make them more succinct. :lol:
And Easter must have made you more charitable.

My impression of the article is that it provides some good points for atheists
I thought they were almost all pretty dumb ideas that a christian trying to slip a snow job past atheists would offer. :snake: :slight_smile:
Occam

On a serious note, personally, I don’t care to undermine the religious orientation of persons whose religion motivates them to behave in ways consistent with a humanistic belief system. (e.g. Go Pope Francis!)
Though I remain disdainful of anyone’s particular beliefs that are obviously at odds with reality.

I agree, but it does concern me that, no matter how well qualified a person is, if it’s determined that s/he’s an atheist, there’s a fair chance that elementary and high school teaching positions will be closed, and there’s no chance that s/he can be elected to a public office. I guess that’s one reason I wouldn’t mind softening the views of the religious.
Occam

I agree, but it does concern me that, no matter how well qualified a person is, if it's determined that s/he's an atheist, there's a fair chance that elementary and high school teaching positions will be closed, and there's no chance that s/he can be elected to a public office. I guess that's one reason I wouldn't mind softening the views of the religious. Occam
Good point.

Additionally, a boy cannot be a Boy Scout, if he is an atheist. There are still places in the world where atheism is punishable by death. And, generally, people do not consider atheists to be morally trustworthy. Etcetera.

The first couple points were pretty standard, then it got worse, so I started just skimming. This thing at the end really bugged me:

I doubt there are any strong scientific, philosophical or historical arguments against Christianity. Most of those in current circulation are nowhere near as persuasive as New Atheism imagines.
Rather dismissive. Not sure what he even means "against Christianity". Against the existence of man/god or the existence of gospels by unknown authors or the against the idea that "the church" has been overall a force for good throughout history? These points are disguised as arguments for Christianity but what I see them as are ways to engage someone who holds some degree of belief. Like he says, might as well concede that Jesus was at least a man. I don't agree with him that it is the historical consensus, or that the consensus is correct, but I agree that most people believe that so there isn't much point in arguing it. At least in the context of dinner table conversation that most of us engage in. It looks like you've done your homework angelbranamd, welcome to the forum.