SEB Mailbag: Joyce tries to defend Frank Turner.

It always amuses me when some random Christian happens upon one of my entries and takes it upon themselves to email me with why I’ve got the Reverend So-And-So all wrong and how I’m in danger of going to Hell etcetera and so on. You know the drill—Ministry by Email. I especially like it when they don’t bother reading the entire entry before dashing off their missive to me. One such recent example comes from someone named “Joyce” who stumbled across a rant I wrote back in May of 2002 about a Detroit area TV news anchor and clergyman by the name of Frank Turner. Here’s her email with my reply woven in:

    From:
    Date: 11/24/2006 11:18AM
    To: Les Jenkins
    Subject: Re: Frank Turner

    Joyce wrote:

    I only read a few words of your rant against Frank Turner.  One Question:  What if he is right and you are wrong about accepting Jesus Christ being the only way to heaven?  He will go to heaven and you will go to hell – to everlasting torment.  He has nothing to lose if he’s wrong, but you have everything to lose.  You need to think about it!

    Good old Pascal’s Wager. Believe me I have thought about it and it’s a silly argument to make. The problem with that line of argument is that it’s a fallacy known as the false dichotomy. First it assumes that God rewards belief with the only possibilities being that 1) the Christian God exists and punishes or rewards as stated in Christian theology, or 2) God does not exist. It doesn’t take into consideration any of numerous other possibilities.

    It’s equally possible that a God exists that rewards skepticism and punishes blind faith, or rewards honest reasoning and punishes feigned faith, or does not punish belief or disbelief at all. Consider the following argument put forth by Richard Carrier:

      Suppose there is a god who is watching us and choosing which souls of the deceased to bring to heaven, and this god really does want only the morally good to populate heaven. He will probably select from only those who made a significant and responsible effort to discover the truth. For all others are untrustworthy, being cognitively or morally inferior, or both. They will also be less likely ever to discover and commit to true beliefs about right and wrong. That is, if they have a significant and trustworthy concern for doing right and avoiding wrong, it follows necessarily that they must have a significant and trustworthy concern for knowing right and wrong. Since this knowledge requires knowledge about many fundamental facts of the universe (such as whether there is a god), it follows necessarily that such people must have a significant and trustworthy concern for always seeking out, testing, and confirming that their beliefs about such things are probably correct. Therefore, only such people can be sufficiently moral and trustworthy to deserve a place in heaven—unless god wishes to fill heaven with the morally lazy, irresponsible, or untrustworthy.

    The argument also assumes that Christianity is the only religion that makes such a claim and it’s not. It’s equally possible that a God as described by any of the thousands of other belief systems in the world is the one that exists. What if it turns out that you’re worshiping the wrong God? If you are then you could be in just as much trouble as us atheists are.

    The wager also assumes that the existence of a God is possible at all—that is to say it assumes there is a non-zero probability of him existing. It is not clear what is meant when “probability” or “chance” is said in the context of something possibly existing, but probability cannot be used as defined in mathematics to justify the wager as is, since God being possible does not mean that God’s existence has positive probability.

    The wager also fails to consider the costs related to belief. Most modern religions require you to devote your time (in attending services/doing outreach/etc.) and money (tithes/donations/etc.) to your church/temple. The claim that if you’re wrong you have lost nothing is patently false as you will have lost valuable time and resources you spent on your religious belief that you could have spent on doing more important or productive things. How many hours of your life have you wasted sitting in your church listening to sermons? How many thousands of dollars have you tithed to your church? If God doesn’t exist you could have made a bigger difference in the world by donating that time and money to a worthy charity and help feed the homeless or something that actually produces more results than sitting around singing hymns and praying ever would.

    Then there’s the tiny problem that if the only reason I believe is because I fear I might be wrong in not believing then I’m not expressing a genuine faith, but rather a cover-my-ass faith. Surely a God of any real power would know if my belief were sincere so merely believing because I’m worried Hell might be real wouldn’t be likely to win God’s favor.

    Lastly it also assumes that one can choose one’s beliefs. You believe something to be true because you feel you have good reason to believe it and it takes new evidence to convince you to change your mind. For example, most sane people don’t just wake up one day and say something like, “I think I’ll believe that 2+2=5 today!” My belief, or lack of, is a direct result of what I have experienced and know from the life I have lived. Pascal’s Wager gives me no real reason to modify that belief other than the vague warning that “You might be wrong.”

    You have no hope of eternal life, but we do.

    You mistakenly assume that I want eternal life. That I am bothered by the idea that I only exist for a very brief period of time and then cease to be. You are wrong. The idea that my existence is short and finite is what makes living life so worthwhile and precious and gives me my purpose.

    You could, however, if you change and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior.

    Unless you’re wrong and he doesn’t exist. Then I’m just wasting my time with wishful thinking.

    Remember, he is the only person in the world who rose from the death.

    Prove it. Many other religious books make similar claims of their Gods.

    No other religion can claim this in the people they worship.

    Sure they can. You need to study other religions more. Christ’s story is remarkably like many other religious figures including some that predate him. In particular you should read up on the religion known as Mithraism, which gets its name from its God—Mithras. The parallels between Christianity and Mithraism are quite striking, especially considering Mithraism got started first, but even more interesting is how they both share so many similarities with the older Egyptian savior cult of Osiris.

    You see, I was once a devout Christian and I’ve actually studied a number of different religions in my time. Christianity isn’t unique in its tenets or mythology. It brings nothing new to the table. In fact it borrowed Judaism from the Jews and then tacked on different bits from a lot of other older religions that were semi-popular at the time. The major holidays are all corruptions of much older Pagan celebrations in an attempt to subjugate their followers.

    I may not agree on Frank with all of his beliefs, but this one I do.  Please check this out – I’ll be praying for you.

    You need to pray less and study more. You join a long line of people praying for me, numbering well into the thousands at the moment, to no effect. Either your prayers are powerless or your God doesn’t exist to answer them. Either way it’s clearly time you could be better spending doing something that would actually make a difference in the world. At the very least you could come up with a more original, and perhaps better, argument than Pascal’s Wager.
     

    http://www.billygraham.org/SH_StepsToPeace.asp

    It’s bad enough you agree with Frank Turner, but a hypocrite like Billy Graham as well? Stop letting others think for you and start thinking for yourself. Haven’t you ever heard that a mind is a terrible thing to waste? Do you really think your God would give you a brain and then expect you to let everyone else do your thinking for you?

    Les

As you can see I put some time and thought into composing my reply, though not a whole lot as I’ve got a lot of this stuff memorized anymore. It took a couple of days, but “Joyce” finally sent a reply today. I’ll include it along with my reply back after the jump.

    From:
    Date: 11/27/2006 10:53PM
    To: Les Jenkins
    Subject: Re: Frank Turner

    Joyce wrote:

    Les –
    Wow!  If you have no hope for eternal life, why waste your life trying to prove there is no God?  What kind of life’s purpose is that?

    Who said that I’m wasting my life trying to prove there is no God? That’s your assumption, not the reality. Do you spend time trying to prove the non-existence of Invisible Pink Unicorns or do you not bother to think of them much at all until someone, like me, happens to bring it up? I’m willing to bet that you don’t spend your time trying to prove the non-existence of Invisible Pink Unicorns because you have no good reason to think they might exist and the same is true of me and God(s). I don’t spend much time thinking about it until someone like you comes along and tells me how I’m going to be in trouble if I don’t suddenly start worshiping your invisible sky-daddy. If you hadn’t brought it up we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

    We try to get people to turn to God through Christ because we want them not only to be saved from eternal torment but to live better lives on earth as well.  If Frank Turner can get drug addicts off the streets, his ministry will be well worth all the time he has put into it.  Life doesn’t just end – you will not just “cease to be,” you will have eternal life; but where you spend it is your choice.

    That’s your opinion, not a fact. You think life doesn’t just end, but you have no real way of proving it. Unless you’ve died and then come back to life you have no way of knowing and you’ve already said that only one person has supposedly pulled that trick off in over 2,000 years. Unless you can give me some good reason to accept your claim that life doesn’t just end then I’m going to assume you’re mistaken on the issue.

    As for Frank Turner, there’s plenty of more effective ways to combat drug addiction than praying to a non-existent deity. You’re just replacing one crutch for another and I fail to see how that really helps.

    You say you were once a devout Christian.  Many people claim to be Christians who have no real relationship with Christ. They are not really “born again” as the Bible says we must be.

     
    Now you’re going to be so arrogant as to presume to know enough about me to pass judgment on how real my relationship with Christ may have been? You know exactly jack shit about me and my past and yet you think you’re in a position to tell me how good a Christian I once was? Why is it anytime someone points out Christians behaving badly or falling away from the faith the first and only reaction from you people is to say, “Oh, but they weren’t REAL Christians!” If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard that claim. You people can’t even agree on what a “real” Christian is.

    I would suggest you spend more time studying the Bible that has stood the test of the ages and read “Evidence That Demands a Verdict” by Josh McDowell, a former skeptic.

     
    Your arrogance is amazing. Had you bothered to read more of the archives on my website you’d already know that I’ve completely read the Bible front to back four times over and have spent countless hundreds of hours studying it both as a Christian and after I lost my faith. You’d also already know that I’ve read Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell and found the arguments in there unpersuasive. I can, and have, rebutted those arguments on a point by point basis, but you have no way of knowing that because, like so many other “good Christians,” you decided that because I don’t buy into your delusion I must not have bothered to actually read up and studied your belief system.

    Do you go around making assumptions with no basis in reality on everything in life? Why should I trust anything you say when it’s clear you don’t know what you’re talking about and are relying on what you think to be true rather than what actually is true?

    For evidence that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, see http://www.leaderu.com/everystudent/easter/articles/josh2.html or will you just spend time trying to discredit all that McDowell says as other Atheists are doing.

    If that’s the best evidence you can come up with then you may as well move on to other more gullible people as I’m not impressed. I don’t have to try and discredit McDowell’s claims as their lack of veracity should be self-evident to anyone with even a modicum of education.

    How can you be so disrespectful of Billy Graham, an humble man who has spent his life helping people change their lives for the better and for eternity.

     
    He’s a hypocrite and a liar. I don’t see any particular need to respect a man who’s a hypocritical liar. See this entry I wrote for a good example of why he’s a hypocrite and liar.

    Again, why waste your time?????  It’s your choice!

     
    I’m not wasting my time. I don’t know about you, but when I see people espousing lies and acting hypocritically I tend to stand up and call them on it. If you’re going to come here and tell me I’m wrong and not provide any good reasons to make that claim, indeed to demonstrate your ignorance of me and my past history in the process all the while passing judgment on me, then I’m going to take the time to set you straight.

    You don’t know me. You are not qualified to tell me how “true” a Christian I once may have been or how much you think I need to study the Bible more because you are clueless as to my past. The fact that you would have the gall to presume to lecture me on my failings without actually knowing what they are is every reason for me to write you off as yet another gullible sheep who’s ability to think for herself has long since atrophied from disuse. You have demonstrated clearly that there is no reason for me to take seriously anything you say because it’s all based on your prejudices and preconceptions and not on reality.

    Many prayers are with you,

     
    Whatever floats your boat, Joyce.  Though I will say this: Your emails will be useful in at least one regard—they’ll make for a good blog post that’s sure to amuse my readers. Thanks!

    Les

Never a dull moment in the SEB mailbag.

40 thoughts on “SEB Mailbag: Joyce tries to defend Frank Turner.

  1. Fantastic response, Les. But what really got me is this.

    You join a long line of people praying for me, numbering well into the thousands at the moment, to no effect

    Whoa.

  2. Though I will say this: Your emails will be useful in at least one regard—they’ll make for a good blog post that’s sure to amuse my readers. Thanks!

    Darn tootin! I love posts like this, keep them coming Les!

  3. Maybe if you piss off enough true believers you can finally notch the set amount of sky-daddy mojo energy needed to get you a PS3 this Xmas.

    Hrm.

    Maybe I need to work on pissing off more Christians too.

  4. Great stuff. Les.  smile
    I so wish I could remember all those nice, logical, non-threatening arguments – they sound much better than my normally, short-on-patience, cut-to-the-chase, all encompassing response: Aaahh, fucking bullshit, ya fucking wanker!  LOL

  5. My Hero! Yes, people like this would serve better if they spent their time worrying and doing something about real issues like Darfur or the many displaced veterans in our back yard the list could go on….

  6. A quote from Cheech and Chong describes these thumpers the best:

    “Your’e all fucked!(insane laughter) Well, that’s what it is man!”

  7. Mick, I admit that the true number of people praying for my immortal soul is currently unknowable and I based my estimate on the number of similar emails and comments I’ve gotten from people over the nearly six years (come this December) that I’ve been running SEB. If I were to be totally honest there’s probably, at most, a dozen people currently praying for me as I’m sure the hundreds of others who have said they’ll pray for me over the years have given up by now.

    Though you never know with these people. Some of them can be quite persistent.

  8. Good responses to the ravings of a programmed believer.  One tactic that can knock them out of the programmed set of responses is to attack the core of their beliefs, that is to say the Bible.  Most of these folks are literalists, or near literalists so quoting chapter and verse that shows either a) how evil, petty and capricious the god of the bible is, or b) how self inconsistent the bible is really throws them off their stride and out of easily memorized rote responses.  Usually the King James version verbage is best to be used as it is held in particular esteem by such beleivers over better, more modern translations.

    A quick Google search will throw up many examples of this.  Quoting scripture back is a knife aimed directly at the heart of their irrational belief system.  I think it may be the best way to lay the seeds of doubt, or at least causes them to go away and shutup. 

    dufus

  9. As Pascal’s Wager is really nothing more than CYA, I don’t understand how these people can believe that is anything remotely like the “faith” their religion demands.  The mere fact that they advance it demonstrates the utter lack of critical thinking their belief system requires.

    But then, if they can state “the Bible stands the test of time” and can keep a straight face I don’t hold out much hope for their enlightenment.

  10. I read that proof link…did it seem to anyone else like they were saying the resurrection is real because it really happened? The most convincing part to me was the part about roman soldiers going AWOL…but since soldiers still go AWOL, that proves shit. Cant say I blame the guys. Hell, if my job was to stand in the woods guarding a dead lunatic behind a two-ton rock i’d probably leave my post to go get shit-faced too.

  11. (Les) Christ’s story is remarkably like many other religious figures including some that predate him.

    Anybody seen The God Who Wasn’t There? The documentary sported a mythologist (I think) who did a “feature comparison” between Christianity and religions predating it. He found a remarkable overlap and mentioned that for many centuries, Christianity’s official response is that Satan planted all these earlier religions as a test of faith.

  12. I’ve never understood the impulse that many Christians seem to have to “pray for” complete strangers. I seriously doubt that Joyce genuinely cares about Les or any of us here, and I suspect that offering to pray on our behalf is really about boosting her own ego.

  13. In my many years of being prayed for by various strangers I can say with some confidence that there are some who truly seem to have a genuine concern for the fate of my so-called immortal soul.

    But more often than not it seems the statement that they’ll pray for me is used as an expression of their disgust with me and is said in a manner that implies they don’t really think it’ll do any good because I’m obviously a child of Satan; if not the anti-Christ outright. Or, also a possibility, it’s said in a manner that suggests it’s a threat to call down God’s wrath upon my heathen head. For yet others it’s said only because that’s what they’ve been taught they should say.

  14. I’ve never understood the impulse that many Christians seem to have to “pray for” complete strangers. I seriously doubt that Joyce genuinely cares about Les or any of us here, and I suspect that offering to pray on our behalf is really about boosting her own ego.

    In some instances, I’m sure you are right that it is about ego.  In most though, it has been my experience that the desire for other’s well being is at the forefront in including them in their prayers.  Altruism, more often than not, I believe.

  15. But more often than not it seems the statement that they’ll pray for me is used as an expression of their disgust with me and is said in a manner that implies they don’t really think it’ll do any good because I’m obviously a child of Satan; if not the anti-Christ outright. Or, also a possibility, it’s said in a manner that suggests it’s a threat to call down God’s wrath upon my heathen head. For yet others it’s said only because that’s what they’ve been taught they should say.

    I’ve had people offer to pray for me (more times than I can count on two hands), and I also get the distinct impression that it was sort of the “Christian” (and in one case, Jewish) way of saying “you’re hopeless” or “I find you utterly appalling.”

    Joyce at least comes off as marginally more articulate than some of the contributors to the SEB Mailbag that you’ve recently presented us.

  16. I’ve never understood the impulse that many Christians seem to have to “pray for” complete strangers.

    What the others said. In my experience, it ranges from genuine concern to a code-phrase for fuck you and in context, there’s little ambiguity.

    I don’t pay attention to the subjective proportionality of each sentiment. It all depends on where the encounters happen, anyway.

  17. As a Christian I prayed earnestly for people whom I’d never met in person: a teacher who seemed troubled, a struggling student, an overworked waitress, a child who seemed very sad.  Nice to believe you can help someone out by talking to an omnipotent creator who will listen and swing things their way. 

    Trouble is, that belief is so irrational, I couldn’t keep it up.  It became one of the crumbling pillars of Christianity that I couldn’t repair.

    But I never told anyone I was praying for them.  Prayer was supposed to be a private thing.  That, too, bothered me as so many people prayed for show.

  18. Most of the time when people say they’ll pray for me, they really mean, “Ptcha, another one who thinks she’s all smart and stuff…scratch her off the guest list to heaven.”

    The condescension gets so annoying.

  19. If they insist on claiming “compassion” as their motivation, the “truly” compassionate among them honestly should offer a prayer to their deity instead asking that “this poor sinner” be given “their place” in heaven despite not being worthy. Like that offer would ever be made. You should ask one of them – sometime – if they would consider the “alternative” prayer.

  20. i get annoyed when someone says they will pray for me to. it is like they are saying, there is something wrong with you.

  21. my normally, short-on-patience, cut-to-the-chase, all encompassing response: Aaahh, fucking bullshit, ya fucking wanker

    You’re not Australian by any chance are you John?

    The parallels between Christianity and Mithraism are quite striking

    There is a quite interesting parallel with Odin.

    None days and nights I hung on the tree, pierced by my own spear, myself a gift to myself

    at the end he gains wisdom and his godhood. Also, after Ragnarok the Earth is/will be flooded and everyone killed, except for one man and woman who climb ito a tree, and restart the human race.

  22. I’m actually surprised you spent the time on a well composed reply, to someone so obtuse. Nothing in the history of mankind has brought more murder, more thievery and more treachery than the religion of Christianity. It’s saddens me when people like Joyce, with a righteously emboldened ego, and so many others lean on Christianity in vain when selflessness was its main teaching.

  23. Bugger- failed proof read test- NINE days (nine crops up a lot in Norse mythos).

    As I’m double dipping on numbers.

    13=Unlucky because of 13 at the last supper.
    13 often though of unlucky in Norse mythos, BUT an unexpected guest who makes 13 is lucky.

  24. Hotwing: Nothing in the history of mankind has brought more murder, more thievery and more treachery than the religion of Christianity.

    You might want to do a little reading on the history of Islam.

  25. Remember, he is the only person in the world who rose from the death.

    Didn’t Lazarus rise from the dead, too?

    I recently had a similar debate with a True Believer (dang, what’s the code for the Trademark thingy?), and she trotted out much the same guff, though a lot less coherently than Joyce. I thought she was about 14, but then I found out she’s about 18…terrifying! confused

  26. Les, That … was … so … beautiful!

    MisterMook: Maybe if you piss off enough true believers you can finally notch the set amount of sky-daddy mojo energy needed to get you a PS3 this Xmas.

    Heh … don’t think sky-daddy had much to do with the PS3.  Might have been peripherally involved in Resistance: Fall of Man, if anything.

    Now, with the 360, on the other hand … thank-you Jesus for XBOX Live!

  27. Looking at her “proof” link that was written by Mcdowell, the first exceptional thing that I noticed, is this:

    After more than 700 hours of studying this subject, I have come to the conclusion that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is either one of the most wicked, vicious, heartless hoaxes ever foisted on the minds of human beings—or it is the most remarkable fact of history.

    Man, how profound.  With “proofs” like this:

    By the end of the 1 9th century, however, archaeological discoveries had confirmed the accuracy of the New Testament manuscripts. Discoveries of early papyri bridged the gap between the time of Christ and existing manuscripts from a later date.

    Along with numerous other proofs based on conjecture, assumptions, and appeals to authority,  anyone with an objective mind should come to the exact opposite conclusion that McDowell is trying to reach.  That is to say, that “the resurrection of Jesus Christ is either one of the most wicked, vicious, heartless hoaxes ever foisted on the minds of human beings.” 

    Well said Mr. McDowell, you’ve provided all the evidence I’ll ever need.

  28. “I don’t understand! I was a devout Christian! Why am I in hell!?”
    “I’m sorry. The correct religion is: Mormonism. Yep. Mormonism.”
    from South Park, from memory

    Suppose there is a god who is watching us and choosing which souls of the deceased to bring to heaven, and this god really does want only the morally good to populate heaven. He will probably select from only those who made a significant and responsible effort to discover the truth. For all others are untrustworthy, being cognitively or morally inferior, or both. They will also be less likely ever to discover and commit to true beliefs about right and wrong. That is, if they have a significant and trustworthy concern for doing right and avoiding wrong, it follows necessarily that they must have a significant and trustworthy concern for knowing right and wrong. Since this knowledge requires knowledge about many fundamental facts of the universe (such as whether there is a god), it follows necessarily that such people must have a significant and trustworthy concern for always seeking out, testing, and confirming that their beliefs about such things are probably correct. Therefore, only such people can be sufficiently moral and trustworthy to deserve a place in heaven—unless god wishes to fill heaven with the morally lazy, irresponsible, or untrustworthy.

    That’s pretty much the exact same rationalization that I used to shed my old ways. Except I said it like this: “My God wants me to learn.” I’m a simple person.

    -Bob

  29. I’ve the perfect response to those who say they’ll pray for me-if only I had the balls to say it (I almost wrote prey-quite the same if you think of it)
    mindless person..‘I’ll pray for you’
    me..‘instead of praying for me, hold my hand when I miss my father or kick me when I have the urge to overspend just don’t pray for me because that will accomplish nothing’

  30. As for the ‘I’ll pray for you’ stuff, I’ve been going back through the files I keep haphazardly organised in my brain and I don’t recall an instance when anyone ever said they’d pray for me.
    This could be the result of my being an arse’ole or not meeting any compassionate xians.
    I lived next door to a Baptist priest for about 6 years up until five years ago.
    He musta been a good bloke cos he never shafted me to the cops when I was so obviously growing and watering dope plants in the back yard. We had one conversation and he told me he believed all the bible stories and I told him I didn’t.
    I’d like that conversation again now as I’d feel better prepared.

    Trish: (dang, what’s the code for the Trademark thingy?)

    I do most of my stuff in word so I go to Insert/Symbols and insert ™ from there.

    LH: You’re not Australian by any chance are you John?

    Dutch Australian – it allows me to be arrogant as well as an arse’ole.

    DoF: As I mentioned above, in agreement with Consi, usually it is out of genuine concern.

    I suppose it’d depend on the circumstances and the level of hypocrisy I felt was going on with the person but I think my response would be a casual: Whatever ya reckon, mate. smile

  31. Yea I was just saying that my response above is the one I don’t have enough balls to say.  But more than that, as Consi, I realize they mean well most of the time, so I just smile and move on.

  32. A reasonably well know british comic once said,.. when asked about making racist comments (jokes)… being heckled by someone in the audience, not unlike joyce, at the start of this blog…“what would you say if jesus came down, proving that he did exist and said to you, why do you ridicule and make fun of your fellow man, for you are all equal” to which he replied “do that thing with the loafs and the fishes lets have some sarnies!”

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