Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Ignorance Is Strength.

Try exchanging banter with a Christian fundamentalist on Twitter, or some other social media like the comments section on these blogs, and you very quickly discover that very many of them know next to nothing about their religion. It's hardly surprising that few of them know anything about science either, but you really would expect them to know about the thing they constantly wave in peoples' faces.

Take an exchange a few days ago with one such Christian. I won't identify her because I don't want this blog to become a vehicle for continuing things started on Twitter.

The exchange started with her asking me why I was so afraid of Christians (note the smug judgmentalism). So I answered in kind with "Because of what they would do to us Atheists if only they had the power. Jesus tells you to slay his enemies." I always try to play with a straight bat (a cricket metaphor, not a reference to the sexuality of flying mammals).

The reply was almost immediate: "Jesus did NOT say that. Where does it say that in the Bible? You're a liar"

So I gave her Luke 19:27 (But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me)

A long silence. I could almost hear her looking for a Bible and trying to find the chapter and verse. At one point, out of boredom, I tweeted that Luke was the chapter following Mark, if that would help.

I would love to have seen her face. Obviously, no Sunday-school teacher, preacher or televangelist had ever told her that verse. No one told her Jesus instructed her to slay his enemies. The Jesus she had been told about was the one who told her to turn the other cheek and forgive her enemies (and not to judge them either, though that seemed to have passed her by). Just the nice, kind, carefully cherry-picked and sanitized version of Jesus from the milquetoast Bible.

Eventually, about twenty minutes later, a tweet came back - "That is a parable, not Jesus telling us to do something". She had actually found and read it!

Me: "Indeed. A parable in which Jesus tells you to bring his enemies and slay them before him. Was Jesus right or wrong?"

Inevitably the reply was the fall-back "You have taken it out of context". Strange how every inconvenient Bible quote is always "out of context" yet random quotes from the Christian rent-a-proof Bible can be used to support whatever a Christian needs it to support, no matter what the context is.

And that was that. All my questions went ignored.

Someone who proclaimed her love for Jesus and had came rushing onto Twitter to defend him had not actually read the Bible and seemed to have just swallowed a version handed out to her by someone else. Her Jesus was was a Jesus of her own or someone else's creation, yet she felt empowered by it to wave her holier-than-though judgmental moral superiority in our faces and would no doubt welcome the opportunity to force-feed our children with her 'faith' and have our laws based on her notion of Christianity.

Obviously, when you know it all you don't need to look in the books, where it stands to reason that God and Jesus will just be agreeing with you. Hardly worth the bother of opening it really. Just display it where visitors can see you have one and marvel at your piety and devotion to Jesus.

No wonder that many people who DO read the Bible are Atheists and many of those who profess to be Christians have only read selected passages if any, and are much more likely to be just going by what they've been told is in it or even what they assume is in it.

So, Christians, risk Atheism and read the Bible if you fancy your chances in debate against an Atheist. The chances are they will know it far better than you do. The nasty, inconvenient bits won't go away if you ignore them. Your ignorance really does not trump knowledge, and your 'faith' won't tell you what's in there. For that, you need to read it.

That goes for science too, by the way. Ignorance is not your strength; it's your weakness.

Debating from ignorance is like running proudly out onto the pitch and finding, when the pitcher throws the ball, that you don't have a bat. Hilarious for the watching crowd...

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  1. There is truth in what you say here, but I am not convinced that such ignorance is a particularly Christian trait. Atheists can also be quite good at quoting verses out of context as a means of putting forth arguments.

    If you have taken the time to read and study these texts in context, then all credit to you. However, if you are just quoting verses on their own without ever having read them in context yourself then you are no better than the Christians who do the same thing and your cries of "ignorance" amount to the pot calling the kettle black, as the saying goes.

    1. The good old fall-back "Out of Context" defence, eh? Aren't you even embarrassed that you need these stock excuses?

    2. I'm not making excuses for anything.

      You assert that Christians don't always seem to know the Bible - which is a fair assertion.

      I just think that if you are going to accuse people of ignorance than you yourself need to be above reproach. As it happens in this case you do seem to be well read, but my point stands that to accuse people of ignorance and then to quote verses from the Bible without having read the context would be hypocritical.

  2. As an aside, I notice you are quite hard-line about "preaching," "offensive" religious advertising and quotations from holy books. I'm not convinced this conveys the tolerance one might expect from soneone who declares themselves to be "centre-left" nor that your look at religion from this perspective is particularly open-minded.

    1. So it's somehow centre-left to allow the right wing to spout their noxious poison unchallenged?

      Of course, you are perfectly free to challenge what I've said if you ever find that an ad hominem attack isn't a very intellectually satisfying way to conduct a discussion.

    2. My statement that the attitude on this blog is not as tolerant as one might expect is no more ad hominem than your post about the ignorance of (some) Christians.

      I never said anything about (not) challenging opposing views. In fact, I am very pro such challenges. However, making sweeping statments about religion being "offensive" and the right wing being "noxious" is not reasoned debate, and it does not convey open-mindedness.

      Such sweeping statements are not so much of a challenge to as a blanket dismissal of both "religion" and the "right wing."

      It's fine by me if you want to make such statements, and I am not going to hold it against you, but don't kid yourself that it's demonstrating the tolerance so often preached by some who identify themselves as "left wing."

    3. I notice that you haven't challenged anything I said yet but are merely continuing with ad hominem abuse. Presumably, you still find this the most intellectually satisfying way to deal with disagreement rather than confronting the arguments.

  3. In terms of this particular post, no, I haven't challenged anything you have said. Mainly because I largely agree with you - with the exception of the fact that I know people who profess to having become Christians after reading the Bible.

    I have, however, challenged what you have said about religion being "offensive," "preaching" being unwelcome and the right-wing being "noxious poison." To observe that it is not necessarily consistent with the tone you set out for this blog is not unfounded, and it is not meant as a personal attack (although I am sorry if you took it that way).

    I will add that I know from experience as a blogger myself that the tone in which something is meant is not always the tone in which something is read - this sort of communication where one does not necessarily know anything about the author or the readership is undoubtedly fraught with difficulty at times.

  4. I know I've commented on this before, but exactly how you get from Jesus telling a parable about a King to Jesus condoning such behaviour is a bigger step than what you have illustrated here.

    I think you can do it, but to stop the post looking like an actual out-of-context criticism I think you do need to make the leap.

    1. Ask yourself what the point of the parable was and why it's in the Bible. What were parables used for, exactly?

      I don't think they were intended as nice bedtime stories for the disciples, were they?

  5. I'm with you on the preaching front. Whilst I believe that everyone is due their own opinion and should be allowed to follow whichever religion they choose (the operative word there being 'choose' rather than 'forced') no one has, in my opinion, the right to force others to follow the path they themselves have chosen. As far as I can see (& this is my own opinion!) most organised religions appear to be run by people who wish to control others, Christianity very much included.

    If I wanted to follow Christianity I would make the decision myself & go to a church, I would not be converted by somebody knocking on my door and spouting the bible at me.

    I had, many years ago in Australia, a 'discussion' with a Christian on my then doorstep for over an hour, much to the disbelief and disgruntlement of my house mates. The chap I was talking to absolutely believed that there was no other path than the one he had chosen and steadfastly refused to consider that a) I had a choice in the matter & b) that I could be happy living my life the way I had chosen to. I, on the other hand, did not question his beliefs or the fact that his God existed, I merely suggested to him that there are other ways to reach the same end point.

    I wonder, if everybody believed that their own religion was true, yet allowed that others' gods were different faces of their own & that other forms of worship were different paths, how much of conflict and violence borne of religion would be reduced? For those who believe that no gods exist at all, science definitely weighs in your favour but isn't that also a different path & a choice?

    There is a quote from a Rush song which I like to remind myself of when I get irate with people;

    'Each of us in some kind of way are imperfect and incomplete,
    genetic blends of uncertain end on a fortune trip that's far too fleet.
    You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice,
    you can choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.
    You can choose from phantom fear or kindness that can kill
    but I will choose a path that's clear, I will choose Free Will.'

    That's my tuppence worth anyway!


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