Archives for August 2013

Arguing with atheists

southernprose_cover_CAFGMy friend Fred described a weak atheist as a person who simply doesn’t believe any sort of God exists, while a strong atheist wants to get in your face and tell you why you’re stupid for believing in an invisible man in the sky, or some such nonsense.

I liked those helpful definitions, and knowing the distinction.

You might believe that, having written a book titled Counterargument for God, I relish every opportunity I get to argue with every atheist who I might happen to encounter. But you would be wrong.

In fact, you couldn’t be more wrong, and always remember that there are gradations of wrong.

There’s simply no reason to argue with a weak atheist. He or she isn’t spoiling for a fight, and it would be rude to goad them into one by insulting them or calling them names.

I have no interest in flaunting my faith, and it most certainly isn’t my place to judge somebody else and tell them they’re going to Hell for not believing exactly as I do.

Isn’t that fun to hear!

For that reason among others, I’m still quite reluctant to invite strangers to church because I don’t want weak atheists to feel like I’m trying to shove my God down their throat.

In my opinion, it requires the mutual interest of two people to maintain a dialogue, and my interests are far from limited to theological discussions.

Now, if someone is interested in polite conversation about what I personally believe and why I wrote the book, I’m more than capable and happy to accommodate, if returning three times to the same radio show to be interviewed by the same atheist friend serves as any indication.

And if someone tells me they don’t believe in Hell, I’ll be delighted to explain why I do, using only two words: Matthew Botsford.

Please note that I didn’t simply take the information from a video.

I took the scientific approach to his story, meeting Matthew in person, interviewing him about his claims of visiting Hell, even holding the image of his skull, with the bullet still embedded in his brain, in my hand.

Matthew’s a guy whose story ought to be heard. But if you’re really that disinterested in learning about his personal experience and remarkable recovery, it’s your loss.

Rarely if ever do I inject God in the course of a “normal” conversation or while conducting my day-to-day business. If God does get mentioned, the other person almost certainly brought it up. I can talk about a lot of different things without getting bored — writing “Rocky Leonard” detective novels, tennis, golf, Braves baseball, University of Georgia football, politics, abrupt climate change, just to name a few topics that can get me started.

I don’t go to church every Sunday, so I can’t look down on others who aren’t there, either. My attitude, to a large degree, is that as long as its legal, what you do is your business, not mine.

Truthfully, I have very little interest in shoving my faith down the throat of somebody else, finding the idea almost as repugnant as super-aggressive atheism. If you don’t want to talk about God, fine. We can always talk about something else. I just gave you a short list of ideas.

I’m not a pastor or theologian. I’m pretty sure that my personal perception of what Christianity really means is unique to me, therefore not necessarily intended for mass consumption.

I only wrote Counterargument for God as a response to those allegedly free-thinking “strong” atheists out there who might be open to new ideas and a unique perspective.

Most of my counterargument relies on knowledge gained from the best experts in their respective fields of physics, chemistry, biology, paleontology, cosmology, and neuroscience using logic, reason, and a fundamental understanding of statistical analysis. Interesting stuff.

My counterargument for God is based on a simple, straightforward premise: if you don’t believe some form of supernatural intelligence is responsible for your existence, then you must accept that virtually impossible good luck is the reason you are here. There isn’t a third option.

Let me be crystal clear: I have NO desire to create a new religion or start my own cult. If you want to know details about my specific Christian beliefs, you’ll have to read the last section of the book.

The argument about the existence of God was basically over long before that point, logically won by the scientific arguments I put forward.

Why write Counterargument for God, if personally I’m so apathetic about evangelism?

The answer is quite simple. I got really tired of seeing and hearing about the nasty, confrontational tactics of strong atheists who make absurdly wrong claims, when I’m almost certain those arguments are egregiously wrong.

Now if I choose to believe in supernatural intelligence that I like to call God, it hurts no one. So my attitude is that you can believe what you want, as long as you respect the right of others to believe something else, and leave me alone.

But strong atheists,¬†or antitheists, aren’t content to simply be atheists; they want to convert others to atheism. That from of “enlightenment” I truly don’t understand, especially when I’m sure they’re wrong.

Please don’t misunderstand; strong atheists¬† can be entertaining to engage in debate, in a controlled environment or print.

The problem is that the overwhelming majority of them aren’t nearly as smart as they think, mainly because they don’t know how to think for themselves.

Here’s a hint for those strong atheists out there spoiling for a fight: if Dawkins, Darwin, Harris, Hitchens, or Hawking said it, there’s a pretty good chance I’ve heard it before and developed a superior rebuttal to whatever argument you’ve chosen to parrot.

I don’t particularly care for arguing with strong atheists who lack original arguments, in the same manner I dislike arguing with idiots, or people trying to insult my intelligence.

The purpose of writing Counterargument was to establish a starting point for spirited, intelligent conversation, but unfortunately, I don’t get the best effort of atheists very often.

This is not to suggest that the average atheist in incapable of intelligent thought, but when the majority of them don’t seem to bring their “A” game when they come to pick a fight, apparently because they grossly underestimate my ability to provide serious competition.

Presumably they automatically assume that I’m stupid because I unashamedly admit that I believe in a supernatural God, and specifically refer to myself as Christian. What’s really hilarious is when one of these intellectual giants tells me that I’m a waste of his time after seeking me out for a confrontation.

Don’t get me wrong; I love to be underestimated by my opposition in debate. But it isn’t very much of a challenge to decimate the same old tired arguments, over and over.

The problem is that I haven’t had very many takers, even though I’ve offered practically anyone who might be willing to accept a free electronic copy of my book so we would have a common understanding of thought as a starting point.

With all due respect, I’ve already read the books of Russell, Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens that evangelized for atheism.

I know most of the best atheist arguments that have already been published. They were the inspiration for my counterargument for God.

I’ve also read Darwin, Gould, Impey, Hawking, and many other experts in their respective scientific fields, seeking information adequate to form answers to my own existential questions.

I may be completely wrong about any given topic of which I write, but you should rest assured that I am not stupid, illiterate, or delusional. Logic and reason are my two best friends.

Compounding the problem is the fact that I have a nasty tendency of responding to insults in kind. Respect is earned, not freely given. Traffic on that street runs both ways.

My harshest critics are often surprised to learn that I’m not particularly partial to the idea of turning the other cheek, preferring to remember “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”

On the other hand, there have been a few worthy opponents willing to step up to the plate.

For example, my Facebook friend and former president of American Atheists Dr. Ed Buckner and I met for an official debate back in February 2012.

Ed was both a worthy opponent and a pretty fun guy.

He kept me loose and on my toes beforehand, with harmless pranks such as sending a friend of his an email promising that I’d pay $10,000 to have our debate videotaped.

Naturally, I responded that I would honor that agreement and hoped the friend had no objections to currency issued by Milton Bradley.

Apparently one debate was enough for Ed. He has never asked for a rematch. I’m more of a writer than public speaker, so it’s never going to be my suggestion.

Perhaps Dr. Buckner felt that he won our first debate convincingly, or perhaps he was irritated that in the heat of the moment, he erroneously declared that Darwin never wrote the words “Monkeys make men.”

Then — after I explained that for the Darwinian theory of evolution to be truly correct and account for all of the diversity and complexity of modern life, we must not be only related to monkeys, but the bananas we both like to eat — Ed shocked me, when he agreed that my logic must be correct.

Really? It seems rather absurd to believe that sexual reproduction and genetic recombination over time can explain the shape-shifting relationship of humans to the oak tree, but that’s exactly what Darwin’s theory leads us to conclude — but only if we completely eliminate any possibility that supernatural intelligence was involved.

If that’s what floats your boat, that’s your business. Just please don’t simultaneously try to convince me that what I believe is stupid.

To be brutally honest, I’m really not interested in dissenting opinions that attempt to rebut my counterargument but lack solid scientific evidence. However, I am keenly interested if to learn if such evidence exists.

So if you’re a strong atheist looking to pick a fight with an idiot, first try looking in the mirror.

I’ve got better things to do.

Pure Evil

Codex_Gigas_devilWriting horror and detective novels requires research into some very dark subjects. The writer must always ask his or herself, why do people intentionally hurt or kill other people?

What was the motive for the crime?

The villain in my novel Secondhand Sight was the embodiment of pure evil, a sadistic person who derived pleasure from the suffering and pain of others. Do people that sick and twisted really exist?

Absolutely!

My imagination isn’t anywhere near that dark or fantastic to conjure up a serial killer without any inspiration from real life.

My dreams are of rescuing puppies, not beheading them.

I can’t comprehend nor want to contemplate the sort of evil, twisted mind that could compose a letter to a young mother suggesting that she euthanize her autistic son.

We all know that such evil exists. That is inarguable. History is replete with accounts of evil people committing atrocities for various reasons or flimsy excuses.

The only remaining question to consider is whether or not pure evil exists, which has been defined as the idea that bad people inflict intentional harm on others for no rational reason.

Do Satan and his minions actually exist? Are real demons present in the natural world?

I say yes.

Professional skeptic Michael Shermer reported that Florida State University professor Roy Baumeister proclaimed that the concept of pure evil is nothing but a myth, asserting that any act of aggression can be sorted into one of these four categories:

  1. Instrumental violence — meaning violence with war-like purpose of conquest and plunder.
  2. Revenge — payback; rather self-explanatory.
  3. Dominance and recognition — violence with the motive to gain attention.
  4. Ideology — violence committed in the name of religion.

There seems to be at least one glaring omission from the list: sadistic pleasure derived from the pain and suffering of others.

Here are a couple of examples to consider:

In the early morning hours of July 23, 2007, Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky broke into the home of Dr. William Petit. Komisarjevsky’s attention had been drawn to the family by the doctor’s eleven-year-old daughter.

Without warning and for absolutely no reason, Dr. Petit was viciously attacked and beaten with a baseball bat. His wife was raped and strangled. His two daughters were also raped and tortured, doused with gasoline and then set on fire.

When my friends ask me why I support the death penalty, the tragic events in the case of Dr. William Petit often come to mind, and rather quickly.

Some “academics” might try to categorize the incident as instrumental violence because robbery was the secondary motive. But remember, the Petits were only chosen because a pedophile was attracted to their eleven-year-old daughter.

But here’s a tougher nut to crack for the deniers of pure evil: the senseless murder of Christopher Lane. The three perpetrators have been caught and the motive revealed, though not understood because it is truly incomprehensible.

The three murderers said they acted because they were bored. So these teenaged thugs decided to kill somebody, a total stranger, for absolutely no reason whatsoever.

One of the three said they shot Lane in the back as he jogged “for the fun of it.”

FOR THE FUN OF IT.

Ponder the implications of those new words, long and hard, for a few minutes.

One life has tragically ended. Three more lives will be permanently altered for committing a capital crime without a real motive.

Families will probably be destroyed by the ripple effects of this single, random act of violence.

There is no consolation to think that these three future convicts will learn the true meaning of boredom as they rot in prison for the next several decades.

No logic or attempt to rationalize such a travesty can begin to explain such mindless insanity.

For the fun of it.

Sadly, it wasn’t just a loner nutcase. The shooter had two accomplices, neither of whom said anything like, “Hey, that’s insane. You can’t shoot somebody in the back for no reason.”

Truly, it boggles the mind. Senseless, cruel murder, only for the fun of it.

Now that’s pure evil.