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Tom Quinn - O Sweet Jesus
Posted: 23 July 2010 06:42 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Tom Quinn has spent the past 15 years as a documentary TV writer and producer for Discovery Channel, History Channel, National Geographic and others. He has traveled the world producing programs that explore and deconstruct urban legends, psychic claims, religious myths and conspiracy theories, and has worked with the likes of James Randi and Michael Shermer.

He’s a graduate of the American Film Institute, he’s been a film critic, a story analyst for Universal Studios and HBO, and, in 2005, he received two Emmy nominations for his History Channel special, Beyond the Da Vinci Code. He has subsequently done programs for Discovery Shark Week and on the book, Angels and Demons.

Tom is the author of a new book, What Do You Do with a Chocolate Jesus? An Irreverent History of Christianity. He also gives humors lectures on all of these subjects, and blogs at choco-jesus.blogspot.com.

In this conversation with Robert Price, Tom talks about his new book and how satire can be an effective education tool. He discusses his views on the history of Christianity and how to best approach the books of the Bible. He explains why those who couple religion with morality are wrong to do so, and responds to the claim that one must be religious to have an ethical worldview, and much more.

http://www.pointofinquiry.org/tom_quinn_o_sweet_jesus/

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Posted: 24 July 2010 03:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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*sigh*  Yet another skeptical author who disassociates himself from those “uppity” atheists who take religion to task for what it says and does.  I doubt anybody would’ve much cared to read his book had these uppity people not paved the way for non-believing to be more accepted.  He actually brought out the old “Some Atheists are just as dogmatic as fundamentalists” argument at one point (15:40)!  I literally groaned out loud when I heard that.  Too bad Quinn is such an ungrateful toe-rag, since he seemed like a nice guy.  Robert is just as guilty of jumping on the blame-the-atheists-who-speak-their-mind bandwagon in this podcast.  He says at one point that he doesn’t approve of people making fun of Christian sacraments and being all mean, but then later contradicts himself by preferring parody as a means to deal with believers.  Which is it Rob?  Making fun is bad, or making fun is good?  Shame on them both.

I have to admit that when I heard the title of Quinn’s book, I though he was commenting on the tendency for Jesus to be portrayed as Caucasian when he likely would’ve been a dark-skinned Palestinian.  A lot of Christians wouldn’t know what to think about that Jesus.  It is a bit hilarious that Quinn meant a literal chocolate Jesus though.

[ Edited: 24 July 2010 04:24 PM by Hardcore ]
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Posted: 25 July 2010 06:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I’m a straight out atheist and a pertinacious skeptic but far more tolerant and respectful of Christianity (and Judaism for that matter) than the rapidly left moving apparent center points of the formal skeptical and atheist movements. As far as I’m concerned reverence is one of the most noble and admirable of human traits and irreverence is one of the nasty pimples on the face of baby boomer immaturity. Modern skeptics vastly under value the decency, benevolence, and charity of organized, historical Christianity. And they seem unaware of the immense sophistication and diversity of both Christianity and Judaism. That is intellectual irresponsibility that reminds me somehow of the self serving, ridiculously oversimplifying doltishness of quack medical purveyors out to close a sale.
  I think modern liberal atheists in general are glass house ill-positioned for any kind of moral stone throwing. Religion may not be essential for morality, but can be an infinitely patient teacher and example and an inescapable nag, and thus can do great service.
  I see a trend toward concentrating on the more bizarre and extreme social and psychological manifestations of the UFO “community” as tempting targets for more of this liberal compulsive snobbery and validation through ridicule. I think any visitation from extraterrestrial aliens is extremely unlikely, but if you are going to call yourself a skeptic, you should be willing to patiently examine more plausible accounts and scrupulously seek and examine alleged material evidence with respect for the dignity and intelligence of the people who report it when those people merit it.

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Posted: 25 July 2010 07:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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@rg21, I agree that we best represent ourselves when we are respectful and not rude for the sake of being rude.  That being said, I don’t see how we can revere any religion that has brought so much pain and ignorance into society.

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Posted: 25 July 2010 10:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I respect, rather than revere it. I admire reverence as a human trait. As religions go, as great ideas and value systems of human history go, mixed blessings all, Christianity stacks up very well. Marxism would be my favorite modern counter-example. Modern people seem to have absolutely no shadow of a concept of the danger and terror, the crudeness and filth, the tragedy, the injustice, callousness and brutality of ancient times, tribal society, or 20th century Communist states - just for a few examples . The words don’t even reach the reality. No words could.

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Posted: 25 July 2010 02:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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rg21 - 25 July 2010 10:18 AM

I respect, rather than revere it. I admire reverence as a human trait. As religions go, as great ideas and value systems of human history go, mixed blessings all, Christianity stacks up very well. Marxism would be my favorite modern counter-example. Modern people seem to have absolutely no shadow of a concept of the danger and terror, the crudeness and filth, the tragedy, the injustice, callousness and brutality of ancient times, tribal society, or 20th century Communist states - just for a few examples . The words don’t even reach the reality. No words could.

I’m sorry, but if you think Christianity is an example of anything but a well-adapted totalitarian regime, then you are painfully ignorant of history (willfully or not).  You accuse modern folk of having no concept of the hardship faced by ancient peoples, but I think it is you who has no concept of how much of that hardship can be laid directly at the feet of the Christian religion.  Millions upon millions of people were murdered, tortured, and/or oppressed by the theocratic governments of the past.  Knowledge was constantly “suppressed”, often by the burning or imprisonment of the knowledgeable.

And before you drag out Nazism or Communism or other accommodationalist trash, remember that while Christianity did not use nukes or gas chambers, this was likely a result of them simply not having been invented.  Even if religion was directly responsible for a mere 1000 deaths per year (a conservative estimate even for a single nation), remember they’ve been at it for millennia!  It makes the holocaust look like small potatoes in comparison.  And before you argue that they’re not the same, let me point out the only difference is time.  Christianity did it over 2000 years, Nazis did it in a decade.  Modernization at work.

I’ve just been referring to direct religious effects, too!  If you count their indirect influence (advocating the use of barbaric medical practices such as trepanning, forbidding the medical use of ether for centuries, blaming disasters and plagues on peoples’ sin, etc, etc) and the amount of misery they’ve caused is literally incalculable!

Your willingness to deny all this by seeming to reference only the Christianity of the last 50 years or so (a mere 2.5% of the religion’s life, BTW) is rather like ignoring the murderous habits of your neighbor because he’s well-mannered, very active in the community, and holds a public barbecue every Sunday!  “So what if Bob dismembers a hooker now and then, the man makes a mean BBQ!” .  Not to mention the systematic rape and torture of thousands of children by the RCC….or their denying of contraception to AIDS-ravaged Africa and the accompanying campaign of misinformation….. So, I guess Christianity isn’t a decent example of a value system even if you limit it to the last few decades!

So….rape, murder, bigotry, racism, torture, oppression, hypocrisy, callousness….What exactly, I wonder, would you consider to be a bad value system?!

[ Edited: 25 July 2010 02:27 PM by Hardcore ]
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Posted: 25 July 2010 03:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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You express this very trendy attitude quite succinctly. But I suspect much of it is bad logic. It doesn’t separate out what is essentially Christian from what would have taken place anyhow and from what was only blamed on Christianity as a convenience, and it embodies a very problematic and dogmatic attitude about the assignment of blame for the past vs the present for long enduring institutions. This is all very difficult to do. Maybe much of it is impossible, but you and modern atheists take on the cavalier, dogmatic, and simplistic approach of ideologues, nasty ideologues with self-exculpatory and suspiciously malevolent motivations.
  The Christianity of the bible was radically benevolent in its time and the Christianity of the last 300 years has been a mix with considerably more benevolence than most identifiable, nameable, segregatable aspects of human thought or history. The rest, I’m not so familiar with, but militant, conquering, mass by-the-sword-converting Islam does come to mind in that time span, Meso-American institutionalized mass human sacrifice, Tamerlane with his mountain of skulls, Genghis Khan who but for the advice of one man would have conducted the greatest mass slaughter of the Middle Ages and made north China into pasture land.
  I know Medieval Christian Europe was a horrible place to live, but at least those people had some recognizable concept of right and wrong and expected to spend ages in purgatory for their sins and vices (in other words, they had a conscience) – a small concession, a small step, but when you talk the contest between good and evil, you better be thankful for even that rather than actually losing ground. That’s what I fear today. Contemporary ideas of good and evil are such that I think the last 50 or 100 years have seen an unfortunate turning point. I think Christianity, like Western Civilization, like capitalism, like science, like American Constitutional government, was a rare outlier for the over all good of man that is being destroyed by modern liberalism, the death wish of western civilization.

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Posted: 25 July 2010 05:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Whew, boy!  Where to start?  How about where you fail to even try to dispute my arguments (such as Christianity being a bad value system that is still wreaking havoc across the world today in a very public fashion) and simply fall upon the old, accommodationalist defense of “Oh, that bad stuff was going to happen anyway.  You nasty, strident atheists just like to blame Christianity for them.” and “Well, Christians may have done some bad things, but there are other people who did much worse.  So we were actually lucky we had Christianity when we did, you know.  Or else who knows where all that terrible godlessness may have led!  *gasp* Maybe we’d all be Muslims right now.”.  But I’m willing to forgive you those very general, very common reactions, and actually address some of your statements.  A courtesy which you utterly failed to show me.

rg21 - 25 July 2010 03:11 PM

But I suspect much of it is bad logic. It doesn’t separate out what is essentially Christian from what would have taken place anyhow and from what was only blamed on Christianity as a convenience

Of course I don’t separate the purely Christian action from what would have occurred anyway.  That would be pure speculation and close to impossible to do accurately (as you rightly mention).  But that does not mean the argument has no basis whatsoever.  All we have to go on is what actually happened.  It follows that if the government is Christian-controlled, the people are 99.9999% Christian, and the priests are the only literate people in the community and also running the schools…..that at least some of the atrocities committed have purely religious motivation/inspiration.  There is simply no other source of behavior to draw from.  I mean, when the court waves the bible around as its book of law, it’s a little disingenuous to argue that liberalism or secularism is to blame.  Which brings me to my next point.

The Christianity of the bible was radically benevolent in its time and the Christianity of the last 300 years has been a mix with considerably more benevolence than most identifiable, nameable, segregatable aspects of human thought or history.

Ok.  I’ve got to ask;  have you ever even opened a bible?  Because this statement reeks of second or third-hand knowledge (information that has been filtered through others and distilled down, rather than coming straight from the source).  The Pentateuch alone contains some of the most horrible, barbaric, racist, misogynist material I have ever seen!  Nobody can read that garbage in an unbiased way and see it as overly benevolent in any way.  Any snippets of good advice or nuggets of wisdom can also be found in other sources not so covered in bronze-age filth (Just because you find an apple on the ground covered in horse shit, it doesn’t mean that’s the only place to find an apple)  There are no unique concepts in the bible except perhaps the unbridled malevolence of both the deity and his servants.

I know Medieval Christian Europe was a horrible place to live, but at least those people had some recognizable concept of right and wrong and expected to spend ages in purgatory for their sins and vices (in other words, they had a conscience)

I can’t really even begin to explain how ridiculous this statement is.  All the raping, pillaging, murdering, torturing, and general barbarism makes it soooo clear they knew right from wrong.  Say what now?!  Wouldn’t this concept of right and wrong have been more recognizable if they had, oh I don’t know, NOT DONE THESE THINGS IN THE FIRST PLACE!  Are you really saying “Well, people back then may have done horrible things to each other, but that’s OK because they felt bad about it?!

[ Edited: 25 July 2010 09:46 PM by Hardcore ]
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Posted: 25 July 2010 06:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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You have a real nasty zeal.
  Trying to pick a few addressable points out of all the passion and breast beating: 1. I reject your reasoning for blaming everything bad that happened since Christianity originated and the previous several hundred years to boot on Christianity. It is responsible for everything bad and nothing good in that period? Suspiciously ideological. You sound like you’ve been involved in partisan politics too long and your thought habits sound like there is some spill over from blame-Bush.
  2. Oh, sure. I’ve read much of it and in several translations which I collect for no particular reason. Have you? Something tells me I might have a little more experience than you both with apples and horse manure too.
  Notwithstanding the book of Ecclesiastes is one of my favorites and the story of David and Nathan is a lesson in double standards that needs to be universally taught, and other such examples – I did think we were discussing Christianity up to this point. Christianity has a far more complex relationship to the Old Testament than to the New which is probably best set aside for now.    3.Unique? Relevance of that objection?
  4. I’m not excusing Christianity or Christians for any of their sins and horrors. Straw man and breast beating.
  5. The best response to your screed is the old wife joke: compared to what? We have, for the 10 millionth time, the old game of one side being judged by behavior and record, the other by promise. We are talking about human beings and human history. Mostly bad, always has been, always will be, and is now. Like most things now, this argument is monumentally biased by pathologically huge contemporary liberal conceit and self adulation. What non Christian heritage country would you rather live in now? What time and place in the past? There are reasonable answers, but not easy ones.

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Posted: 25 July 2010 09:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I’d like to think I have a kind of zeal, yes.  However, only those who cannot stomach hard truths about the subject at hand would think it of a nasty variety.  This is plainly your problem since the first thing you do is make wild accusations to derail the discussion.

I reject your reasoning for blaming everything bad that happened since Christianity originated and the previous several hundred years to boot on Christianity. It is responsible for everything bad and nothing good in that period?

Nowhere did I blame Christianity for everything bad that occurred in its past.  I merely pointed out that in a society with a Christian government, education system, and law, wherein atrocities occur, it makes sense that Christianity should shoulder responsibility for at least some of them.  Especially when it makes outrageous claims to being the source of all truth and morality and vastly superior to any other system (it’s the only way to heaven, after all).  You seem to be arguing the worldview of a society’s government, people, and laws are irrelevant to any wrongdoing that may (coincidentally?) occur within it.

Oh, sure. I’ve read much of it and in several translations which I collect for no particular reason. Have you? Something tells me I might have a little more experience than you both with apples and horse manure too.

Yes.  The whole point of that section was to determine who has more manure experience.  Very well deduced.  You certainly spout enough of it.

I did think we were discussing Christianity up to this point. Christianity has a far more complex relationship to the Old Testament than to the New which is probably best set aside for now.

I’m a little confused by this statement.  Are you inferring that I was wrong to reference the Pentateuch when discussing the bible?  I was under the impression that the OT was simply part of Christian doctrine, as is the NT.  Every time I’m told about the 10 commandments, Adam and Eve, Abraham and Issac, or Noah by believers it doesn’t seem all that “complex"a relationship.

Unique? Relevance of that objection?

Unique, as in only found there.  For a book claimed to be the unerring word of the creator of the universe from which all knowledge flows, it doesn’t seem too much to ask that it have a bit of actual original material, does it?  I would have though this was self-evident.

I’m not excusing Christianity or Christians for any of their sins and horrors.

Funny, with your constant excuse-making (I believe there was something about a “benevolent bible” and a “recognizable concept of right and wrong, despite evil deeds done” in there somewhere) I thought that was exactly what you were doing.

The best response to your screed is the old wife joke: compared to what? We have, for the 10 millionth time, the old game of one side being judged by behavior and record, the other by promise. We are talking about human beings and human history. Mostly bad, always has been, always will be, and is now.

I’m not quite sure of the point you’re trying to make here.  Who do you think is on which of these “sides” you perceive are at work here?  It seems at first glance like you’re making my point for me.  Am I misinterpreting, or did you forget what you were arguing?

What non Christian heritage country would you rather live in now?

How is this relevant in any way to the discussion of Christianity (or any other religion)‘s past or present actions?

It must also be mentioned that you still have not addressed my original point:  If a Christian system that condones rape, murder, bigotry, racism, torture, oppression, hypocrisy, and callousness stacks up very well as a value system….just what would you consider to be a bad one?

[ Edited: 25 July 2010 09:53 PM by Hardcore ]
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Posted: 26 July 2010 02:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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How is it relevant that you can’t point out a civilization preferable to Christendom while you are condemning it as the worst in the world? That’s the wife joke. You are beginning to sound like a crank. Again, all you seem to be able to talk is the selected evils of Christianity vs. - what. Nothing in the real world apparently.
  To your original point as expressed in your last paragraph. Are you calling Christianity the collective behavior of all nominal Christians? Are you passing judgment on the bible, on Christian teachings originally, at some given point, now, averaged, or on behavior originally, at some point, averaged, or all the above or any one at any point varyingly that you find convenient?
  Judaism and Christianity are two different things and the relationship of Christianity to the Old Testament and the New are different no matter how inconvenient you find that.
  No, it is not excusing people who do evil to point out they know what they are doing is evil. It is a legitimate point, and a practical one, in the discussion of ethics, values, philosophy, and many other topics that there is a difference between condoning evil or advocating evil while doing evil vs. doing evil against one’s ideals or against the teachings of one’s value system. And it is important to judge value systems apart from what their believers do and to recognize the difference and to be aware of the nature of those conflicting interactions. Zealots and cranks can’t get that nuanced, however.
  I’d like to point out that Christianity was around at the same time as Nazism and Marxism but failed to kill a comparable number of people in that time. It didn’t even try. In fact all that time it was trying to save people. Hmm.
  Another point you should look at. Legalized abortion has resulted in and excused one of the largest mass murders in history. The victims are the only truly innocent people on earth but they are killed because they are inconvenient and powerless. They are arbitrarily defined as non-human by liberals and it looks to me like liberals are able to swallow that at least as easily as Christians ever swallowed the excuses for killing heretics and infidels .

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Posted: 26 July 2010 01:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Let’s not get off the point.  Abortion is a whole other subject.
It seems to me the emphasis by rg21 that hardcore is objecting to and alot of us atheists object to is that christianity makes better people.  Not so much true in reality.  There are loads of horrible things done in the past by the christians and still today with the Catholic church covering up pedophiles and moving them into a new field of victims over the years.  If that is not evil bad behavior I am not sure what is.  And the number of people in jail now who claim christianity is not consistent with their being better people.  If you could show me that a religious population are less likely to commit crimes than a secular society then your point would be made.  The atheists as far as I understand, are not claiming moral superiority here- we are just saying “your sh*t stinks too”.  You have no corner on the moral market.  Cast the first stone those of you who are without sin….

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Posted: 26 July 2010 02:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Well stated.  I was about to bring up that very point and request that rg21 re-summarize his arguments so we could begin again with a more focused discussion, as I realize we’ve been going on for quite a while here and have kind of taken over the thread.  My apologies for that.

My original post was dealing with Tom Quinn’s willingness to treat religion with kid gloves while looking down upon those who openly take (all) religion to task for what it says and does both today and in the past.  He appears to be touting himself as the proverbial “good cop” while labeling the more vocal atheists as the “bad cops”.  He is not the first, nor likely the last, to do so but I feel this is a deeply disingenuous action and have lost a lot of respect for the man as a result.

It was not my intention to get into war of words over Christianity specifically, but it’s the religion I’m most familiar with, so when arguing I use it as the default.  This is as much my fault as rg21’s.

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Posted: 27 July 2010 02:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Hardcore - 24 July 2010 03:28 PM

*sigh*  Yet another skeptical author who disassociates himself from those “uppity” atheists who take religion to task for what it says and does.  I doubt anybody would’ve much cared to read his book had these uppity people not paved the way for non-believing to be more accepted.  He actually brought out the old “Some Atheists are just as dogmatic as fundamentalists” argument at one point (15:40)!  I literally groaned out loud when I heard that.  Too bad Quinn is such an ungrateful toe-rag, since he seemed like a nice guy.  Robert is just as guilty of jumping on the blame-the-atheists-who-speak-their-mind bandwagon in this podcast.  He says at one point that he doesn’t approve of people making fun of Christian sacraments and being all mean, but then later contradicts himself by preferring parody as a means to deal with believers.  Which is it Rob?  Making fun is bad, or making fun is good?  Shame on them both.

I have to admit that when I heard the title of Quinn’s book, I though he was commenting on the tendency for Jesus to be portrayed as Caucasian when he likely would’ve been a dark-skinned Palestinian.  A lot of Christians wouldn’t know what to think about that Jesus.  It is a bit hilarious that Quinn meant a literal chocolate Jesus though.

Now that I have (finally) listened to the podcast, my thoughts echo your almost exactly..

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Church; where sheep congregate to worship a zombie on a stick that turns into a cracker on Sundays…

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Posted: 27 July 2010 08:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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@Hardcore: Thanks for your lucid responses and dialog here.  I’m sure you appreciate that you will never “win over” the dogmatic believers that you engage directly, but there are those reading this thread that may be influenced in a positive way.  I hope you don’t mind if I borrow some of your engaging analogies for future discussions (disputations?) of my own.  grin

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Posted: 29 July 2010 06:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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You’re quite welcome.  I’m pretty much a novice at this myself, and hardly a source of great wordplay, but feel free to use anything you like.  You’re correct that it was never my intention to “win over” rg21 because I share your belief that it can’t be done in most cases.  “One cannot be told what the Matrix is”, as the saying goes.  One must discover it for oneself.

And that is the true value of forums like this.  People can come across them days, months, or even years later and find useful bits of information.

One thing I try to keep in mind when entering discussions with believers/apologists/accommodationalists is that they all essentially draw from the same playbook.  They may put a shiny new cover on this playbook every so often, but the arguments within are still all decades, or even centuries, old and have been successfully rebutted many, many times before.  I find this kind of sad in that no truly new discussion can occur, but that’s what happens when one side has too much to lose by admitting defeat.

Learn the common counter-arguments from sites like:
TalkOrigins’ Index to Creationist Claims, The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, Quran, and Book Of Mormon, and What’s The Harm?

Then, when your opponent whips out the ol’ playbook, you’ll be ready and they won’t have a proverbial leg to stand on.

————-
P.S.  Was it just me, or did the whole CFI website get sucked into a black hole for a few days?

[ Edited: 29 July 2010 03:14 PM by Hardcore ]
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