A handful of Christian arguments & tactics

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Hello, you're listening to the ex-Christian Monologues, a podcast from ExChristian.Net for April 30, 2006.

When Christians show up on this site, it is usually to argue. Rather than present positive evidence for their beliefs, they choose instead to throw out what I call side arguments on a variety of topics. These side arguments are not necessarily meant to show that Christianity is true, but they are meant to show that non-belief is an untenable worldview. Instead of presenting any positive evidence for the existence of a God, a Jesus, angels, devils, etc., they'll attack from different angles. The following is not meant as a comprehensive covering of all the possible apologetic directions Christians are in the habit of taking, but just a few of my favorite.

For instance: Hitler was supposedly an atheist.

Well, actually, the evidence shows he was a Catholic.

Hitler makes reference to God over 70 times in his autobiography, Mein Kampf.

Here are a few things he wrote and said:

Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.Mein Kampf, Vol 1, Chap II

Everybody who has the right kind of feeling for his country is solemnly bound, each within his own denomination, to see to it that he is not constantly talking about the Will of God merely from the lips but that in actual fact he fulfills the Will of God and does not allow God's handiwork to be debased. For it was by the Will of God that men were made of a certain bodily shape, were given their natures and their faculties. Whoever destroys His work wages war against God's Creation and God's Will.Mein Kampf, Vol II, Chap X

“My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was his fight against the Jewish poison. Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed his blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice. And as a man I have the duty to see to it that human society does not suffer the same catastrophic collapse as did the civilization of the ancient world some two thousand years ago—a civilization which was driven to its ruin through this same Jewish people.Speech given April 12, 1922

And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly, it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people. And when I look on my people I see them work and work and toil and labor, and at the end of the week they have only for their wages wretchedness and misery. When I go out in the morning and see these men standing in their queues and look into their pinched faces, then I believe I would be no Christian, but a very devil, if I felt no pity for them, if I did not, as did our Lord two thousand years ago, turn against those by whom today this poor people are plundered and exploited.Speech given April 12, 1922

May God Almighty give our work His blessing, strengthen our purpose, and endow us with wisdom and the trust of our people, for we are fighting not for ourselves but for Germany.Speech given Feb 1, 1933

At the head of our [National Socialist] program there stand no secret surmisings but clear-cut perception and straightforward profession of belief. But since we set as the central point of this perception and of this profession of belief the maintenance and hence the security for the future of a being formed by God, we thus serve the maintenance of a divine work and fulfill a divine will—not in the secret twilight of a new house of worship, but openly before the face of the Lord.Speech given Sept 6, 1938

Nazi soldiers had “gottmituns” or “God with us” engraved on their belt buckle. There is a nice selection of Nazi religious photos available at nobeliefs.com.

For more details on Hitler’s religion check out Hitler’s Religion by Anne Nicol Gaylor & On the Trail of Bogus Quotes by Richard Carrier.

Now, was Hitler a "True Christian™?" By his words he appears to consider himself a Christian. Who are we to judge another man's heart? He certainly didn't consider himself an atheist, and that's the point of this little section.

Okay, enough on Hitler. On to Stalin. He was an atheist.

And, he was monster.

Interestingly enough, from 1894 to 1899, he attended the Orthodox Theological Seminary in Tiflis. Apparently his early ethics were partly derived from, or at least influenced by, the Bible.

Now, I'm reminded all the time, by Christians, that just because there are hundreds and hundreds of Christian leaders living today who have been caught stealing, or in adultery, or molesting Children, etc., that doesn't mean that all Christian leaders are despicable criminals. Then, there are the hundreds of thousands of criminal acts, wars, murders, tortures, crusades, heretic and witch burnings, and other cruel travesties against humanity, committed by Christian leaders during the past ten centuries. Supposedly that doesn't prove that Christianity is false either!

Okay, fine. Just because there are uncountable Christian leaders who have done, and are doing, horrible things, I'll admit that that doesn't mean Christianity is false or that all Christian leaders are bad. However, it does seem to indicate that there is no special magic in Christianity—no sanctifying, all-powerful Holy Spirit of God who is powerfully leading His people into holiness and truth.

As an ex-Christian I don't claim to have "the truth." I'm only claiming that I am no longer convinced that there is any truth in Christian claims, especially claims of flying, fiery chariots; or world-wide floods; or talking donkeys; or demons, ghosts and angels; or war in the heavenlies; or an unconditionally loving, undead, flying savior with a fiery sword shooting out his mouth to slay the wayward at the end of the world, and... Well, you get the point.

So, let's be consistent. Stalin was an atheist, and he was a demented mass-murderer. Does that mean that all people who reject Christian beliefs are sick, demented mass-murderers? Because if it does, then 2000 years of Christian horror makes all Christians evil.

Here's my point: since there are good people and there are bad people under every umbrella, it seems likely that no single worldview, or religion, has yet presented the cure for all the world's ills. Christianity has not been supernaturally successful in making bad people into good people. There is no magic pill, or magic holy book. I guess we'll all just have to keep working at making the world a better place, slipping and tripping along the way, instead of sitting around on our laurels waiting for a magical, mystery God to rapture us out of here.

Okay, next argument. Supposedly America was founded as a Christian nation.

No, not really. The words Christian, God, religion, and church do not appear in the Constitution of the United States.

The third Article in the Bill of Rights, which became the First Amendment, says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814, stated that “Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the common law.”

Aricle 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli says, "The United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion."

Although some modern Christian apologists have gone to great lengths to throw doubt on this section of the Treaty by referencing the very real confusion that exists between the English the Arabic versions, Joel Barlow's English translation of Article 11, as recorded in the certified copy dated January 4, 1797, clearly contains this entire statement. Article 11 was read before, and passed unanimously by, the United States Senate, was signed by President John Adams and was approved by Secretary of State Timothy Pickering, without a hint of controversy or discord. This document remains perhaps the earliest and most definitive statement as to the "Founding Fathers'" view of the secular nature of the American government.

Perhaps my favorite Christian argument is the one that says: prove to me that god does not exist.

This is the popular Christian fallacy of shifting the burden of proof.

When someone claims something exists, it is up to him or her to prove it. To say, "Prove to me God does not exist" is to already assume that which has yet to be proved. In other words, the person is virtually saying, "God exists—prove that HE doesn't exist—you can't prove He doesn't exist, therefore God exists."

Let me illustrate another way. Prove that George Washington didn't exist. That statement is assuming there is a person called George Washington who exists, and then challenges the other to prove that he doesn't exist. The person is assuming that which he or she hopes to prove, namely, the existence of George Washington. The genuine questioner would phrase the inquiry something like this: "I've heard that there was a person named George Washington. What evidence do we have demonstrating the actual existence of this person?"

When a Christian says, "Prove that God doesn't exist," the Christian is assuming the existence of this god, demanding proof to the contrary, and then intimating that if no disproof can be offered, then that somehow proves that the god exists.

This is clearly circular reasoning.

For additional information on logical fallacies, visit Wikipedia.org.

Next we move on to "The Universe is so complex it must have been designed" argument.

How many times have you heard something along the lines of: "Surely you don't think all this just appeared here by chance?"

This is known as the Argument From Design.

It is a matter of dispute whether there is any element of design in the Universe.

Briefly, the Argument by Design is a belief that the existence of something as incredibly intricate as, for instance, a human being, is so improbable that human life itself is evidence of a deliberate, divine act.

But, if humanity is so improbable, then surely the existence of a being capable of fashioning an entire universe is even more unlikely.

If a creator created the Universe, then what created the creator?

And if the creator just "is" and was never created, then why not apply that same reasoning to the Universe itself?

Stephen Hawking, in his book "A Brief History of Time", explains his theory that the Universe is closed and finite in extent, with no beginning or end. He writes:
The idea that space and time may form a closed surface without boundary also has profound implications for the role of God in the affairs of the Universe. With the success of scientific theories in describing events, most people have come to believe that God allows the Universe to evolve according to a set of laws and does not intervene in the Universe to break these laws. However, the laws do not tell us what the Universe should have looked like when it started—it would still be up to God to wind up the clock and choose how to start it off. So long as the Universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator. But if the Universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundaries or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. What place, then, for a creator?Stephen Hawking

The Argument From Design is sometimes called the Watchmaker Argument. By analogy, if a watch is found on the beach, it can be assumed that it was created by a watchmaker. So, since the Universe is much more intricate and complex than a watch, then the Universe must have a creator.

The Watchmaker analogy is flawed. Since a watchmaker creates watches from pre-existing materials, and God is claimed to have created the Universe from nothing, these two kinds of creation are fundamentally different. The analogy quickly breaks down.

Also, a watchmaker makes watches, but if further along the beach we find a nuclear reactor, we wouldn't assume that was created by the watchmaker. This argument, rather than suggesting one creator, would suggest quite a few creators, each responsible for a different part of creation, or a different universe, if you allow the possibility that there might be more than one.

Here's the biggest flaw in this argument: We assume the watch was created, or designed, by a watchmaker, because the watch is orderly. The watch stands out in contrast to the natural randomness of the beach. Then the argument takes a flip-flop and says that the Universe is not naturally random, but orderly, and thus it must be designed. So which is it? Does the beach, which represents the Universe in the analogy, show order or randomness? The Watchmaker argument is just plain inconsistent.

Is it unlikely for life to exist? Perhaps. But how unlikely is it for any of us alive today to exist? Knowing how human reproduction works, with the nearly infinite number of possible genetic combinations that reside in our parents, and in their parents, and so on, back generation after generation, to somehow culminate in the birth of you and me, well, let's compute the chances of that actually happening. Yet, with all those odds against us, here we all are. No matter the odds that might be against it, every week we hear of someone winning the lottery.

In conclusion, there's always the insults.

When Christians start to lose an argument they often resort to insults to distract or change the subject. Ignoring the insult is sometimes difficult, but there are a few Bible verses that may help get the discussion back on track. Remind that Christian of these verses:

Proverbs 12:16, "A fool is quick-tempered"

Luke 22:65, “And they threw all sorts of terrible insults at him.”

James 1:26, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.”

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