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Nov 20

Foaming at the Mouth

[Minor mistakes of grammar and spelling have been fixed. – Funky]

Theomorph, my resident atheist gadfly, seems to be losing his cool. His latest tirade against Christianity lacks the kind of logical consistency and civility his previous posts had.

"Now, I could launch into a tirade on how this is yet another example of Christians having narrow (or even closed) minds, how they are bigger fans of censorship than they are of thinking freely (because, after all, people who think freely are free to say Christianity is 'a huge lie'), and so on. But I am quite certain that should I do so, Christians far and wide will come out of the woodwork to tell me that (a) these Christians were bad Christians and (b) that I should not judge all Christians based on the actions of these 'bad' ones."

"But, you know, I'm getting tired of that argument."

So if an argument ceases to placate you, it ceases to be valid?

"But, you know, I'm getting tired of that argument. Yes, Christians can be very nice people. But what, specifically, in the Christian canon (whatever that is to you personally, according to whichever brand of Christianity that gets your tithes and offerings–and, oh, they are legion), proscribes ripping down flyers promoting the appearance of an atheist who will do things like say that Christianity is 'a huge lie'? You can say all you want that these people were being jerks, but where do you get off saying that your religion requires tolerance of atheists? Chapter and verse please. Black and white. Divine decree. Something. Because if you can't provide that, you really can't say these people were doing anything wrong according to your religion, can you?"

That bit about the multitude of denominations is a classic red herring. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the argument and serves as an implicit ad hominem jab. Then he presents a misleading premise. If we can't quote scripture to directly and specifically address these jerks' actions, Christianity must have nothing substantial to say about everyday behavior and interpersonal relations. Anybody out there want to do the dirty work of looking through Scripture for statements regarding appropriate behavior? Off the top of my head, I'm thinking "Love your neighbor as yourself" and "Love your enemies and do good to those who hate you" are appropos.

"Remember, this is the religion whose God is planning to immolate all unbelievers eventually anyway. Why he should object to a few of his followers trying to squelch the opposition is beyond me."

Joy. It's another red herring. Why should he object to squelching the opposition? We're supposed to be loving them and evangelizing them. Furthermore, if you have to silence the opposition, your argument must be pretty weak, or at least it will seem so.

"Personally, I don't see much tolerance for atheists in the Bible. Shoot, as I read the Bible, Christians should see atheists as pathetic, ignorant saps, consider us the lowest of the low, and remember that we are wicked people with whom you should not fellowship. Loads of tolerance there, eh? (Oddly enough, despite all this contempt for 'unbelievers,' your messiah still hung out with sinners, but apparently only to convert them. Whole lot of tolerance for opposing perspectives in the Bible. Yessirreebob.)"

They don't show up in the above quotation, but he references the following verses from Scripture (in this order). He used the NIV, but I'll use the RSV. Why? I don't care for the translation.

"In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the likeness of God." – 2 Corinthians 4:4

"If any one does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his own family, he has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." – 1 Timothy 5:8

"Do not be mismated with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?" – 2 Corinthians 2:6

"And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, 'Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners? On hearing this, Jesus said to them, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'" – Mark 2:16-17

Impressive eisegesis, Theo. I'll just respond to each verse in order.

Satan, the god of this world (god is used here like idol, i.e. false god), tries to keep us from seeing the Light of the World. Where do you see "pathetic, ignorant saps" in that? We're all the same boat. Satan works against all of us. If you have not seen through his lies, you are to be pitied and given help, not scorned.

Paul is telling Timothy to instruct the Christians he ministers to to care for each other. Evidently that church had problems in that area. To whom much has been given, much will be expected. Christians have been commanded to love one another and bear each other's burdens. Little is expected from those who have not accepted Christ. If, as a Christian, you fail to obey the command to love, you are worse than a non-believer. You knew and accepted what was expected of you and you did not respond appropriately. Paul was not denigrating nonbelievers here. Rather, he was rebuking "Christians in name only"

I forget the verse, but other references are made to mismatching, i.e uneven yoking. If two oxen are pulling a plow, and one ox is much stronger than the other, the plow will go in circles, the weak ox will be dragged, and/or the stronger ox will be over-worked. It is not good for a person's confidence or self-esteem, let alone their soul, to be married to a nonbeliever. Furthermore, marriage is supposed to be the closest human equivalent of the life of the Trinity. It is to be a source of sanctifying grace. Spouses should be helping each other to be holier. How can any of that happen when one spouse does not believe, much less if he is openly hostile to the faith?

Israel, God' chosen people, had been called to be a light to the nations, a beacon to bring all to faith in and love of the Lord. They were to love their neighbors. Instead of reaching out to sinners in their iniquity, they treated them like lepers. They were so afraid of defiling themselves that they lost sight of what they were chosen for in the first place. Jesus uses numerous analogies and parables to drive this point home. The one that stands out in my mind is the shepherd who leaves 99 sheep alone in the field to seek out one lost sheep. The Jews, in particular the Pharisees, were losing sheep and not seeking out more sheep. The herd was shrinking as they self-righteously patted themselves on their backs and held themselves aloof from common sinners. Not all under the Old Covenant were ignorant of their calling, but Israel as a whole needed constant reminding. Read the Psalms. Read the prophets. As Psalm 51 says, God will not scorn a contrite heart, but He will reject sacrifices given by those who are impenitent. Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, seeks to bring all into His fold. We are all sinners and fall short of the Glory of God. We are all sick and require healing from the Divine Physician.

"Christianity. What a lovely religion. If you can't change the unbeliever's mind, just cast him into the lake of fire. What does that say about a religion when it is so intent on a paradise so pure that dissenters
are killed because you can't change their minds? Shouldn't the Truth be so blatantly clear and compelling that dissent is impossible? Oh, wait, the Bible says that, too. Except it certainly isn't very 'plain' to me. Oh, wait, that's because your God has 'blinded' me. This religion just gets better and better, doesn't it? First your God says the truth is 'plain' to see, then he blinds some of us, then he burns us forever because we can't see. Your scriptures, not mine."

Who's casting people into a lake of fire? Faith isn't about changing minds. It's about changing hearts. Those who know God's Word, willfully, and with proper reflection, reject it, and die in their unbelief have cast themselves out of Paradise. Atheists are generally willing to belong to clubs and organizations with far more arbitrary membership requirements than Christianity, but find a requirement of purity and holiness to be too much to bear. God is Love. He wants us to love Him. He wants us to love each other. He has given us commands and instructions to help us do both. We obey God because we love and trust Him, just as we obey our parents because we love and trust them. I suppose you'll be telling me how much you dislike the "God as parent analogy" I'm sorry. I can't help it. The creator of the universe has asked us to call Him "our Father"

"By the way, did you notice how these links to the Bible are going to the New Testament? That's the one where God is supposedly all about love and forgiveness. I'm not buyin' it."

Perhaps that's because your Scriptural exegesis leaves much to be desired.

"Oh, I can't wait for all the interpretive backflips to explain away all those bits of scripture…"

That's another fallacious argument, but I forget the name. By mocking someone's argument before it is given, one attempts to invalidate its conclusions in advance. By calling all exegetical responses "backflips" you have shown yourself to be the one with the narrow or closed mind.

Theo, this is not one of your better arguments against the faith. It is riddled with misleading and incorrect statements and sophistry. You would be well served by a visit to The Fallacy Files before you publish your next diatribe.

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