The Atheist’s New Worst Nightmare: Gerry Rzeppa’s rhyming couplet apologetics

12 04 2008

Have any of you received an email from a Gerry Rzeppa regarding a $64,000 challenge he’s laying down to Richard Dawkins? (I only ask because I noticed a post on Pharyngula about it a few days ago, and if it has made its way to my inbox I can only surmise that this Rzeppa bloke is spamming everyone on the Atheist Blogroll.) Apparently Rzeppa has promised to pay Dawkins the princely sum if Dawkins will answer a question about Rzeppa’s shithouse Christian poem, “Some of the Parts“:

I’m offering the doctor $64 000 of my very own money if he will join me before a live audience to answer a single question about my little poem. I’ll read the story aloud and pose the mystery query. He’ll answer and walk away with the loot. Simple as that. 

The poem, in which non-believers are cast as heartless skeptics who smash infants to death with hammers, is hailed by some Christian reviewers as a “good defense against atheism,” though one of them seems to be unwittingly making our argument for us when he praises the way the poem

brilliantly captures the antithesis between Christianity and atheism. Joyful submission and hyper-skeptical folly; intelligent trust and angry fist-shaking are both beautifully portrayed within the lines. 

Skepticism bad; submission good. Ouch. The same reviewer goes on to assert that those of us “whose thoughts run along Dawkinsian lines” won’t understand Rzeppa’s doggerel (PZ calls it “Vogon poetry”): you have to

love the living God through Jesus, then you’ll find that Gerry’s tale is itself more than the sum of its parts. [. . .] The story is undergirded by Christian teachings, particularly man’s creation in the image of God – but how much they are appreciated depends on what you bring with you as you read. 

In other words, the poem is so devoid of meaning that you can read into it what you want to read into it, and if you’re a fundie presuppositionalist, you’ll find your fundie presuppositions reinforced when you read Rzeppa’s poem.

There’s a word for that: propaganda. And “The Sad Part” is that a lot of people could be fed and clothed with the $64 000 Rzeppa feels is better spent feeding his ego.

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7 responses

6 05 2008
Richard Romano

“There’s a word for that: propaganda.”

What a pathetic review and outlook — honestly, you have to do better than that. Did you even read the book?

7 05 2008
Bruce

Richard,

The base premise of the book and the challenge to Dawkins is a shifting of the burden of proof, from the apologist’s positive claim to Dawkins’ negative. Hence, no further reading is required to know that the work is rubbish.

The presuppositionalist nature of the text though (i.e you have to except the truth of God’s existence as a pre-condition of recognising the proof of God’s existence – a vicious circle fallacy) is an additional logical furphy. AV is right to point this out.

The book is predicated (multiply) on false grounds, yet is lauded for it.

Your review of AV’s analysis is flawed (in that it has no valid points at all, just assertions) and pathetic. Do you even comprehend what you read?

7 05 2008
AV

What a pathetic review and outlook — honestly, you have to do better than that.

As Bruce pointed out: what a pathetic comment.

And of course I read the book.

8 05 2008
Spend Gerry Rzeppa’s Money « Five Public Opinions

[…] As I blogged last month, Gerry Rzeppa wants to pay Richard Dawkins a shitload of money for the privilege of proselytising to him. Rzeppa is offering Dawkins $64 000 of my very own money if he will join me before a live audience to answer a single question about my little poem. I’ll read the story aloud and pose the mystery query. He’ll answer and walk away with the loot. Simple as that. […]

12 05 2008
Jason

You read the book and wrote a review saying “non-believers are cast as heartless skeptics who smash infants to death with hammers”? Seriously did you even read the book? How did a person smashing a picture of an infant turn into an infant. Did you misrepresent on purpose or is it really that hard for you to read a children’s book?

12 05 2008
AV

“The old fool struck the infant/With heavy savage blows . . .”

Did you even read the book, Jason? It’s pretty obvious who “the old fool” represents.

21 08 2008
Gerry Rzeppa

AV – I don’t know why I got a Google alert on this page today (8/20/2008), but when I re-read your remark above I felt it deserved comment.

First, you quote from my little book: “The old fool struck the infant/With heavy savage blows . . .” Then you ask another participant: “Did you even read the book, Jason? It’s pretty obvious who “the old fool” represents.”

I reply, Is it?

The old fool actually represents several things in the story. (That’s one of the beauties of poetry — one can pack so much into so few words). Two of the things he represents are “random chance” (which can, as in the case of fatal accidents, be irreversibly cruel) and “chance mutations” (many of which are seriously harmful to organisms). It is fitting, therefore, that these unthinking, unfeeling, merciless and inexorable entropy-increasing facets of the fallen creation are said to “strike the infant with heavy savage blows.” And I think this description helps to make the child’s “resurrection” — energized by the purposeful, sensitive, merciful and gracious entropy-reversing input from the Maker without — all the more glorious by contrast. Note also that these occasions of entropy increase and decrease are tied together in the book’s graphic presentation by the sparse use of color on the just those three critical pages where this topic is addressed.

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