What to do when the opposition starts making sense…

That sums up the conundrum of a female believer who goes by the name Kell of a problem she’s facing with an atheist college professor who teaches her Classical and Christian backgrounds to English Literature class. The folks over at The Raving Atheist came across Kell’s message forum post and offer their views on the irony of a believer who finds herself on the wrong end of the Argument from Authority.

Those who wont be bothered with justifying their religion frequently resort to the argument from authority (discussed here), asserting that thereҒs some wise Holy Man somewhere who could win the debate on their behalf. But I dont know how to classify the argument I found on this discussion board. It comes from a college student who’s trying to figure out how to deal with the atheistic lecturer of her “Classical and Christian backgrounds to English Literature” course whoҒs been trashing the Bible for three weeks. She’s never experienced anything like this, having attended Christian schools from “prep to year 12,” but knows her teacher “has to have a massive change of heart of else he’s gonna be lost for all eternity” for corrupting the youth in violation of Matthew 18:6 (“it would be better for them to have a big stone around their neck and be thrown into the sea”). Since hes a “nice guy” she wants to confront him, but:

    Here’s the reason why I’m holding back. He claims to have read the Bible many times, having studied it in depth for most of his life. So if it comes down to a debate with him, I’m almost certainly going to loose [sic]. Also, anything I say to him has probably been said to him before. I’d be pretty stupid to think I’m the only Christian to have ever taken this subject. If he’s not a Christian by now after all he knows then I really shouldn’t bother. He has no excuse for not believing in God, given his extensive knowledge of the Bible (Not that that’s a reason to not talk to him, because according to Romans 1:20, all men are without excuse, and yet we are still commissioned to reach out to them).

    I’ve prayed about it and I still don’t know what to do. But the feeling that I have to do something keeps pressing in my mind. It’s driving me nuts and really upsetting me. I leave each lecture completely emotionally drained.

    What’s worse still is that a lot of the stuff he says really makes sense . . .

In other words, the fact heҒs much more of an authority on the very book that she say proves him wrong—and that he could beat her in a debate about it and is already starting to convince her—proves that hes enough of an authority to know better.

The entry goes on to highlight some of the typical responses Kell has garnered so far including the ever popular “pray harder” suggestion. Reading the message board entry itself makes for no small amount of amusement at some of the advice being dolled out, but I must admit that I find Kell’s responses the most interesting such as this first bit from her on what she’s going to do:

I really don’t believe debating is the right thing to do.  It’s clear to me that he knows the debate.  Alll I can do is pray, let him know what I believe and show him love.  And I really need your prayers because I tend to obsess over these kind of things.  All the little facts floating around in my head really play on my mind and stop me from focussing on God and what he wants me to say.

Cause ya know you wouldn’t want facts getting in the way of your faith. Seriously, though, Kell seems keen on discussing the topic of God with her professor (who apparently has also indicated a willingness to speak with her on it) but she clearly understands that trying to debate him on the topic would be fruitless. She feels his knowledge of the Bible coupled with the likelihood that she won’t be the first to bring the topic up with him is probably not going to win him over. Interestingly enough when the thread she started gets involved in a debate of some of the very concepts involved in any potential discussion, Kell opts not to participate as she doesn’t feel she can get her “head around this philosophy stuff.”

Anyway, I thought it made for an interesting read and it was another opportunity to point out some of the fine reading to be had over at The Raving Atheist.

20 thoughts on “What to do when the opposition starts making sense…

  1. A honest question here, is it within the right of the teacher to offer persion bias to the class?

    I cant speak intelligently about what he “should” be teaching the kids because im not sure of the cirriculum regarding that particular class.  However, I dont think there is really anything to be done.  The guy has his opinion and is in a teacher position.  He might wanna re-evaluate the manner in which he is teaching his students so they can come to their own conclusions.  But hey…i cant speak for him…

    I think the girl is doing a good thing by praying…hope it takes effect.

  2. A honest question here, is it within the right of the teacher to offer persion bias to the class?

    I cant speak intelligently about what he “should” be teaching the kids because im not sure of the cirriculum regarding that particular class.  However, I dont think there is really anything to be done.  The guy has his opinion and is in a teacher position.  He might wanna re-evaluate the manner in which he is teaching his students so they can come to their own conclusions.  But hey…i cant speak for him…

    I think the girl is doing a good thing by praying…hope it takes effect.

  3. As a “Teacher” factual information should be your main concern, sounds as though that is exactly what he is providing.

  4. Actually, the most frightening thing to me was when someone offered this “Kell” girl the following bible quote:

    “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”
    - Luke 12:11-12

    …and then Kell responds to this thusly:

    “Thanks for reminding me of that verse.  It was really special to me a while ago when I started regular debating with members of a certain sect.  I need to remember it because I have an awful tendancy [sic] to rely on my own research instead of God.”

    Yeah, boy, wouldn’t it be terrible if we all relied on our own research instead of just hoping for an invisible superhero to crap the answer into our heads right when we need it?  What kind of rational, intelligent, sensible hell would we be living in then?  Ooh, I shudder to think.

    Side note: Les, this is my first time posting, but I’ve been reading your site (and the Raving Atheist and a few others) for a couple of months now.  It was such a relief to find such intelligent people out there in cyberspace (after a previous couple of months spent discovering the fundamentalist nuts out there).  I am really impressed with a lot of the people who post here at Stupid Evil Bastard.  Thanks for raising my hopes for mankind!

    -
    Joe P Guy

  5. This post is sort of semi off-topic.

    Actually since the class is about Christian backgrounds, I guess religion have to be included. I believe that Christian was inserted into the course name so the person can give his personal opinion. After all English literature is steeped in Christian background. Hard to pick up one of the classics or even certain modern texts without reference to Christianity either direct or indirect.

    Now for the off topic part:
    I have to share. Not too sure if you folks have seen this before but… Enjoy. Get your own Jesus Christ Action figure (Crosses not included). Features include being able to bleed

    http://jesus-action-figure.com/

  6. Obviously, “Kell” cannot come up with an intelligent argument, but what really makes me wonder is this…..how did she get all the way to university and not be able to spell worth a shit?  Is this a product of her 12 years of “Christian” schooling?

  7. Thanks for the kind words, Joe. Easily half the joy I get out of running a site like SEB is finding folks out there who give me hope that mankind hasn’t lost its mind completely yet.

    Pop Tarts, I was going to post about that today, but you beat me to it.

    Cindi, I’m giving Kell the same benefit of the doubt that I give anyone else who posts on the net with regards to her spelling. Most folks don’t make use of spell checkers and the like when commenting on message boards (or blogs) and Kell’s misspellings weren’t as bad as some of the folks I’ve tried to comprehend. Check out the Conversations With A Dumbass Part Deux thread for an example, just be careful your head doesn’t explode.

  8. Such “quotes” like that and there are many in the Bible is exactly why religion, especially Christianity is the mother of all learning disorders, it destroys the thinking, rational, reasoning, mind.

    I stumbled across this site here “Walk away from Fundamentalism” seems as though the XFundies themselves are quite aware that Fundy Christian brainwashing has either caused or brought out & made worse the mental disorders they are all suffering from.

    http://www.aimoo.com/forum/postview.cfm?id=319472&startcat=1&start=1&CategoryID=28325&ThreadID=60465

    Sounds to me as though “Kell” is just yet another victim out of Millions infected with the Fundy Christian Mind Virus.
    Once infected its entirely up to the individual to inoculate themselves with reality if they have any hopes to rid themselves of this insidious disease.

  9. Good point, Les.  I shouldn’t be so harsh.  The older I get, the less well I tolerate some things. I did read the “Dumbass” conversation yesterday and I am just now pulling the pieces of my brain back together.  Hard to argue with such logic, eh?

  10. OfW0lfandMan - Why on earth would you think it wrong for an opinion to be placed in a COLLEGE by a COLLEGE PROFESSOR??  I think it’s just about commonplace these days to have opinions flying around, especially by those people (mostly the pompous ones).

    As far as the praying goes: You know, I’m still just as irked by that, regardless of a person’s right to believe whatever they want to believe.  Because regardless of that right, people should be open to THINKING - I should certainly hope that’s not a sin.  In regards to the girls own personal beliefs, she can still keep them - but for Chrissakes, if she doesn’t believe enough of her own dogma to stand up to what this guy’s saying, perhaps she should start listening to other PEOPLE, or study the Bible herself and stop complaining.  The main problem I have with religion in general is that it gives people to “opt out of action” by simply praying to a “God” that may or may not exist.  She could improve her standing, but that’d be too hard.

    OR am I just being sacreligious by promoting activism instead of theocratic pacifism??

  11. I would like to point out something, which sometimes gets lost. It is the fact that just because one is a firm believer of Christianity does not make that person stupid. Or even having a “Christian Schooling.”

    I know of people who before the start of work, during lunch gather round for prayer sessions. And yet they are not stupid. In fact one of them went to Cambridge, Oxford and Harvard.

    By the way have you people ever ‘converted’ a person away from religion. I did it partially, not too sure how successful it was eventually. But it was surprising since the person was one of those street evangelist, or to be more exact a teenage student trying to spread the word. The person seemed slightly shaken perhaps like Kell when I left. It really was not my intent, I was just sitting around waiting for someone when I was approached.

    Oh, there is this interesting religious book out. I say religious because at the end of the day the author still believes in Christianity and religion. But the thrust of the book is that Christ did not exist. Have not have time to check it out. But if any of you folks have the time, it seems quite interesting from the review.

    http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/item.asp?N=35&R=695260&act=A03&Item=978088762145&Section=books&Catalog=Books&Lang=en&mscssid=T17P6737R7BC9JGGNMKSHDWF5DSQBRP9&WSID=2004C3ECDA4196154348A2462D5338BBFA0C5421
    Pagan Christ: Recovering the Lost Light
    Author: Tom Harpur

    PS, I went to a religious school, Catholic to be exact. But it was surprisingly progressive. Biology with full evolution. They even showed a pornographic video so that we could have an open discussion about it and also based on the belief that if you suppress something it will only make it more desirable.

  12. Pop Tarts, I am probably one of the biggest advocates for the intelligence of religious people in my town, so far as atheists go.  I’ve also “converted” people - I’m pretty good at debating effectively.  As far as to how blunt I was with OfW0lfandMan, that’s just because I actually know the guy personally; he goes to my school, and I’ve known him since I was six years old.

    I never said that religious people were generally stupid.  I just think that the idea of Creation or God in general, REGARDLESS of how it’s held, is an uneducated opinion in lieu of the scientific evidence that proves otherwise.  In addition is the tendency for people with such beliefs to pray to a higher power in order to solve a problem, instead of actually DOING something about it (like our President, for example, who sent our troops to war with the full belief in his heart that “Our Lord” will protect them in battle).  It’s also the fact that time and time again, when an issue such as abortion or the “under God” phrase comes up in a debate, people turn to religion as opposed to their own values.  That, I think, is also a sign of stupidity if not stubbornness.

    I will, however, acknowledge that I have to be understanding when I consider these people and their beliefs, and I understand that there is a certain amount of respect that has to be recognized when debating with someone else; I usually never breach that code of respect.  It’s only with people like OfW0lfandMan that I get like this - I just give him the same amount of respect that he gives me in his arguements.  We rag on each other all the time in our own little bickerings.

    So in short, I don’t lose respect for a person based on religious belief - it’s HOW they hold ANY belief that I judge respect on.  I have the same lack of respect for atheists or “nonconformists” who are just as pig-headed as other fundamentalists.  You seem to be a very well read person, as every time you make an entry it seems you have a link to a very well written article of some sort.  You also have a very open mind when it comes to opposing viewpoints, and I respect that.

    But it’s when people like OfW0lfandMan say:
    “I think the girl is doing a good thing by praying

  13. Anyone who believes in a god based on current knowledge is stupid. Period.
    It only takes money to go to college. I am constantly dismayed with the quality of grad students being crapped out by the system today. I know - I’ve hired them and fired them.

    We are all athiests when we are born.
    We are all agnostics all our life.
    Some of us start believing in fairy tales - these people are stupid fucks.
    - Spocko’s Theorem

  14. That, I think, is also a sign of stupidity if not stubbornness.

    Let’s put that statement (referring to a religious view of the world, made by an atheist) into perspective:

    If you talk to a Democrat, it is likely that he would make the same statement about a Republican.  And the Republican is just as likely to say that about the Democrat.  There are many views in life, be they political, religious, labor-vs.-management, etc., where each side considers the other side’s position to be totally irrational.

    In Les’ link above “Conversations With A Dumbass Part Deux”, Les cites a lack of personal religious experience as a primary reason why he does not believe.  If he had a religious experience, then, there is some likelihood that he would reconsider his atheism and maybe become a member of an established religion.  But maybe not.  If he discounts his religious experience as less than genuine or a trick of the mind, couldn’t it be said of him that he was being stupid, if not stubborn, for ignoring newly discovered evidence?

    I guess my point is this:  In life, we take in a whole lot of information, and our brains process it.  Due to many factors, the processing is different from one person to the next.  But just because one person reaches a different conclusion on a given subject than you do, does not mean that person is stupid, if not stubborn.

    It just means you and he have a difference of opinion.

  15. Paul_H:

    I agree with you wholeheartedly.  Difference of opinion does not equate to one party being stupid or stubborn.

    I think that the majority of the “anger” (if you’d like to call it that) that most atheists feel towards fundamentalists is due not to this difference of opinion, but due to the fact that the fundamentalists are constantly trying to force their opinions on everyone else (as in the case of those such as Christian fundamentalists) or hurt those who have a different opinion (as in the case of those such as Muslim fundamentalists).  The atheists and agnostics I know unanimously feel that everyone is entitled to believe whatever they want, provided that how they choose to practice those beliefs does not infringe on anyone else’s rights (including the right to not have to listen to endless testimonials to Jesus), and provided that their actions do not stand in the way of the forward progress of civilization scientifically, medically, technologically, educationally, politically or in any other way.

    I will frankly admit that a large part of why I personally reject religion is because it is my own belief that - while for a time it was a useful cultural tool - at least since the dawn of Christianity (I will happily chalk that up to coincidence if it means that much to Christians), religion has done nothing but hold back the forward progress of humankind as an intelligent, liberated (please do not misinterpret that to read “liberal”) species.  The current debates on abortion, stem cell research, and gay marriage are perfect examples of this hindrance.

    Over on the Panda’s Thumb site, someone mentioned that a large group of fundamentalists denied the connection between the HIV virus and AIDS.  Following this policy of denial, the government of South Africa refused to treat victims of the HIV virus with drugs that were readily available, and thus paved the way for a terrible AIDS epidemic.  In a case such as this, I blame religion, for so often ignoring the evidence of science, and ignorance, which accounts for the governments and organizations which allow such beliefs to dictate their policies.

    -

    Joe P Guy

  16. Oops.  I finally found where Paul_H grabbed the quotation from, in JoshMan3D’s post.  I just wanted to point out that JoshMan3D did not say that having a religious view of the world was “a sign of stupidity if not stubbornness.”  He said that constantly turning to religion to support arguments rather than turning to one’s own values and, if I may extrapolate, intellect…that is the sign of stupidity and/or stubbornness.  I respectfully refuse to comment as to whether or not I agree with JoshMan3D (I’m sure it can’t be too hard to guess!), but I just wanted to set the record straight for him.

    -

    Joe P Guy

  17. The facts are in! Stupid people more likely to believe.

    Here’s a snippet from an interesting review…

    According to Nature 394:313, a recent survey of members of the National
    Academy of Sciences showed that 72% are outright atheists, 21% are
    agnostic and only 7% admit to belief in a personal God.

    According to the Skeptic magazine vol.6 #2 1998, in multiple studies,
    there is a negative correlation between theism and morality. By
    Franzblau’s 1934 study, there’s a negative correlation between
    religiousity and honesty. Ross 1950 shows atheists and agnostics are
    more likely to express their willingness to help the poor than the
    deeply religious. 1969 Hirschi and Stark found no correlation in
    lawbreaking by churchgoing children and non-churchgoing children.

    This same Skeptic published the results of another study that compared
    professions and likelihood of believing in God. The general public was
    just over 90% likely to believe in God. Scientists in general were just
    under 40% likely. Mathematicians were just over 40% likely, biologists
    just under 30%, and physicists were barely over 20% likely to believe in
    God.

  18. Thank you Joe P. Guy.  You couldn’t have said it better, and ya saved me a bit o’ typing as well.

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