Of battles and wars

17 02 2009

Christopher Hitchens will be debating William Lane Craig in April on the question: “Does God Exist?”

And the apologetics community is creaming its collective trousers. Craig is apparently a very skilled debater, so they’re expecting him to trounce Hitchens. Ergo more souls won for Jesus! Ergo more idiots rolling around on the floor speaking in tongues! Yea!

Hint: it doesn’t work that way. Perhaps it does work that way in the authoritarian-follower universe (call it the “argumentum ad D’Souzam“), but atheists don’t consider Hitchens their pastor or Pope, you won’t find Hitchens’ conversion to fundamentalist Christianity (should that eventuate) precipitating the conversion of the heathens en masse, and there will still be atheists around to scrutinise Craig’s arguments even if Hitchens is defeated. (Some would argue it wouldn’t be the first time.) An apologist defeating an atheist in a public debate only demonstrates that the apologist is a more skillful debater than the atheist. It does not constitute evidence that a deity exists. To paraphrase Al Swearengen, you may want to write that down and stick it over your one good fucking eye.

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The worst debate you will ever hear

16 10 2008

In one corner: talk radio host Jan Mickelson, a homophobe, creationist and complete ignoramus. In the other corner: Iowa State University professor of religious studies Hector Avalos, who seems—whatever his qualities as a Biblical scholar—seems incapable of debating his way out of a paper bag. Here’s the link if you want to hear Mickelson argue from assertion, appeal to the Bible, and regale you with his contempt for homosexuality (not to mention “atheist Darwinists”) and conspiracy theories about teh gay agenda; Avalos mount an argument that goes all over the shop; and both spend an hour and a half talking past each other. All to the strains of a college Republican/college fundie cheer squad. My advice to you is: don’t waste your time. (And keypad indentations on the forehead are unsightly.)





Walking on communion wafers

28 07 2008

When you attack the belief, do you harm the believer?

I would have thought the answer to this question was a sound and straightforward “no” . . . that there is, in fact, a difference between, on the one hand, abusive ad hominem rhetoric; and on the other, the critique, or even ridicule of beliefs, propositions, ideas and practices. We all misspeak, we all commit errors and brainfarts, we are all guilty of idiocy from time to time; but that does not necessarily mean that we are all idiots, anymore than the rhetorical tapdancing (“Not that there’s anything wrong with that”) engaged in by George Costanza and Jerry Seinfeld in the Seinfeld episode “The Outing” means that it is fair to describe these characters as Phelpsian homophobes. I would have thought it a given of the ethics of civil debate and dialogue that (i) while no belief should be immune from scrutiny, (ii) an attack on the belief does not constitute an attack on the individual who holds the belief. Disagreement over the issues (even for the sake of devil’s advocacy) is the stuff of reasoned debate. Abusive rhetoric, while entertaining in certain contexts, is just noise: both because it is irrelevant to the issues under discussion and because it tends to generate emotional heat. Abuse, then, is intended to be taken personally—that’s the point of abuse—whereas disagreement about ideas, even if it takes the form of mockery or satire, is not. Read the rest of this entry »





Sooks

22 02 2008

Take a vat of whine, add a heaped tablespoon of chutzpah, and you have the perfect recipe for an RWA on the losing side of an argument. 3 cases in point: Read the rest of this entry »