Monday, March 03, 2008

Alex the cowardly atheist

I thought I had made a new friend over at Alex the Atheist's place. I decided to engage him in a discussion on the inanities of his post on the power of prayer.

After I commented, he commented, I responded, he responded and summarily cut off the debate! Then he went a step further and deleted all traces of our exchange from his combox. That's hilarious. I laughed out loud. I repost here the comments, since he for whatever reason has deleted the fruit of 20 minutes out of my life.

My first:

Hey AC Chase,

Just a few clarifications from a Christian. I hope you won't mind.

According to Matthew 18:19-20 (of any Bible), you only need to agree with one or two other people on something

Most Christians get this dead wrong, and that's a shame, and it's led you to the faulty interp. Not your fault. :-)
The context of that verse deals with the topic of church discipline; putting out someone from the church body that is not repenting of their sin. It doesn't even mention prayer.

You know that whole "Ask and ye shall receive" jazz.

Now that's better, true. Probably John 15:7 or something would work better for your example.
Just remember, it's not viable exegesis to take one statement only and make that your end-all. Jesus didn't just say those things; He also discussed praying in His will, for reasons of glorifying Him and having a relationship with Him and loving others and helping others. Not greed.

The 700 Club

Just so you know, not every Christian thinks the 700 Club is worth anythg. I certainly don't. Their theology is shallow, P-Rob makes false prophecies, etc. I'd ask you to consider not making them a yardstick for Christianity.

This is most likely because they are not true, and we cannot assume that the responses are even meaningful.

Yes, it's always easier to disregard statistics. Do you just summarily dismiss EVERYTHING that doesn't fit your worldview like you did here?

I am sure the research for these numbers does not meet the standards of evidence a rationalist would accept

Why be so sure? Maybe this is a post that could've stood a little more thought, meat, or dealing with counterexamples.

Going back to praying for those who are sick, there have amazingly been studies on the power of prayer in this respect.

Which I agree are a complete waste of time. As if God were a circus monkey, waiting to perform.

the very nature of religion and religious beliefs means that they are based on outrageous leaps of blind faith and this means they don't have to be proven.

Have you ever done a post on what it means to "prove" sthg like this? Or are you more of the persuasion of Sam Harris who said in The End of Faith that no evidence would be sufficient to authenticate many elements of the Pope's (that was his example) faith?

There is no limit to the selfishness, pettiness or absurdness of what someone will pray for.

How does abuse of a tool constitute evidence that the tool doesn't work?

makes a prayer appear to come true.

How could you possibly prove that it was chance and not the hand of God causing that prayed-for thing to come to pass?

I knew a Christian who credited God for his enemy buying a 'lemon' car

Incidentally, that kind of prayer is not a Christian prayer. We are commanded to love our enemies and wish them good, not evil.

And how about when it doesn't work ? ...Then what exactly is the point of praying? The short answer is there isn't one.

A prayer's "success" is not based on whether it "works" or not.
The whole point of prayer is to build a relationship with God, to communicate with Him. It's not a helpline for getting stuff.

Those are my thoughts. Hope they've helped a bit.


His response (in yellow, which is the most appropriate color for his actions):

sean: Thank you. Likewise for your additions to my original points. You would think an all-powerful deity would be able to heal amputees, even once.

paul: Nice. That quote would also fit quite nicely in my previous post about how religion trivializes morality.

Rhology: Your "clarifications" are meaningless, as you are just another apologist Christian who wants to use the context argument to make the Bible say what you want it to say (and, as a result, mold your religion into what you need it to be). The cited verses on Matthew do not and cannot refer to prayer, eh? You seem to be the only Christian who interprets Matthew 18:19-20 "correctly" then.

Concerning The 700 Club, note how I said "all kidding aside" after discussing them and their amazing statistics, and proceeding with my main argument. Even so, concerning their statistics, I provided my reasoning (which you conveniently omitted in your response - ironic, since you hypocritically condemned me for dismissing things that didn't fit in my own world view the sentence earlier) as to why their statistics were inherently meaningless (something to do with subjectiveness, which you, as a Christian are certainly familiar with). You aren't very good at debating, as you are taking quotes out of context and reducing any debate to slogans (partial quotes) rather than ideas you can elaborate on (or the ones clearly communicated by me). And yes, I know The 700 Club is not a complete representation of Christianity.

On another matter, I agree with you that God is not a circus monkey called on to perform at will, because he does not exist (prove me wrong). Very difficult to attach character traits to something that doesn't exist, so you win that one (sort of). Also, I have done a post on the futility of trying to prove faith (letting you know in response to your comment on whether it beliefs based on it can be proven or not). Perhaps you missed it because the title was confusing. It is called Faith & Trying to Prove Religion. Maybe you should run along and make some equally ridiculous comments on that post as well.

On another note, what you call "abuse" of prayer is how the majority of Christians like to believe it works (there's that faith thing again). Again, it is nice that you have the "true" interpretation sitting in your ivory tower, but you cannot change the facts. Also, I was not attacking prayer as a tool, because I do not believe it is useful in any way (or a tool). Please do not jump to conclusions or put words in my mouth to meet your own religious ends.

You have actually proven this post's point (Thank You). You turn your religion and your prayers into whatever you want them to be and then you turn their meaning in terms of a relationship with God (or some other supernatural force) into what you need it to be, regardless of the "success" or "failure" of them. Again, religion and religious faith (including prayer) are nothing but wishful thinking and speculation based on personal opinion, not human reason. The whole point of both means you do not need to prove them, otherwise there is no need for faith because you only need faith as a result of such things being unreasonable and hard to believe (see: there is no evidence for them... still following along?).

A wonderful example of this is how you confidently classify a "Christian prayer," as if the debate is over after you have spoken (I had a good laugh at that attempt to enforce some type of religious orthodoxy). You seem to ignore the fact that the same religious faith that has brought you to that conclusion is the same foundation your opponents have for their own religious interpretations (note: they also think they have God on their side). And this is what makes religious faith the most absurd - the ability to believe anything based on what you call faith, no matter how absurd it is. The fact that you have missed this point is not surprising, though (your religious tunnel vision and all).

In the end, I thank you for serving as a willing example to prove my points. So in that way, your thoughts have actually helped in that they serve as a reinforcing tool for my own argument. Have fun talking to yourself (praying) in your decidedly one-sided relationship with your magical friend in the sky.

Thanks for commenting.

My 2nd response:

Hi AC,

You're welcome for commenting! Your tone is, however, pretty harsh. Too bad - I was hoping for less froth from the mouth.

If you think that my appeals to context are invalid, why don't you present an argument to that effect? I know, it's easier to make naked assertions, but you could at least pretend.
I'm not the only Christian who says that about Matt 18 - my whole church does too.
Now, I may be in a minority, but so what? Make the argument.
The majority of Americans don't believe that Darwinian evolution is factual, but you still think they're wrong, right? B/c you think the arguments are on your side, right?

As far as the "arguments" on the 700 Club, here is my best guess at what you're referring to:
these supposed facts are amazing and seem just too good to be true. This is most likely because they are not true, and we cannot assume that the responses are even meaningful. Quantify, or describe universally, "very good" or "happy." These are inherently meaningless terms that are based on opinions that can change on a whim.

I am sure the research for these numbers does not meet the standards of evidence a rationalist would accept - like a scientist or statistician or someone who does not believe in an invisible man who is concerned about who we use our private parts with.

And of course, I took issue with the latter statement, to which I don't see an answer.
The former is nothing more than a statement that you find these incredible. Whoopie - I don't. What's your argument, sir?

Let's say that, IF God exists, He is not a circus monkey. Right? Why even write this post, then? Just say "Prayer doesn't work b/c God doesn't exist. Thanks for reading"?
You seem to be trying to point out inconsistencies in the 700 Club viewpoint, and then you appeal to atheism to plug your holes.

(prove me wrong)


run along

You're really encouraging me to do so! Maybe I will, if I feel like getting treated like a sick puppy dog.
I'd argue of course that you as an atheist have faith positions as well, so whatever.

I was arguing that you're attacking a poor representation of Christian doctrine. If many Christians hold ignorant positions, that's not my fault, and it's in my interest to differentiate between ignorance and actual teaching. Instead of mocking it, the reasonable thing would be either to accept it or to offer an argument why it's wrong.


His 2nd response:

If you can't debate in a passionate, cutting way then you have come to the wrong place. My counter-argument to your context argument has been presented. A religious person only needs the faith that their interpretation is correct and it is, the end. Fine, you and your specific sect do not read into Matthew 18:19-20 in the way it was presented here and you view prayer as an entirely different, yet no less meaningless, concept – a one-sided relationship with God. Great. Just do not pretend that how prayer has been presented here is the way that only The 700 Club sees it, because that is not only dishonest but you have made no argument proving it, likely because you can’t. To do so you would have to prove to me that your specific view of Christianity is correct while all others are not.

Perhaps Christians who disagree with your interpretation of Matthew 18:19-20 are confused by what appears to be a prayer in 18:18 and applied the concept of prayer to 19-20, as well. You keep on going back to your view of religious orthodoxy, but seem to overlook that truth with authority in matters of religion is just the opinion that survives. Ask the Gnostics. And who is to say what Christians should believe when they all presume to speak on behalf of God? This is why religion trivializes truth.

So you expecting me to take your interpretation of Christianity, which you think is based on a superior form of orthodoxy (see: your sect's version/opinion), over another Christian's faithful interpretation of your religion is absurd. You calling other Christians "ignorant" is also a telling sign of exactly where you are coming from. Again, must be nice in that ivory tower with the master of the universe on your side. You are a hypocrite who dismisses other theists for their interpretation of religion and the supernatural (both absurdities in their own right) when your methods are exactly the same - using faith as a source of religious knowledge (you also take the supposed truth of the Bible on faith). Also, if you think atheists work on faith, make an argument, sir. And if you want a good post on the experts of plugging up the holes, which you accuse atheism of trying to do (which makes no sense whatsoever as it is simply a lack of belief), I suggest you read my post God of the Gaps, Ignorance.

You accuse me of making naked assertions when you are guilty of making the mother of all naked assertions - that God exists. Your evidence "proving me wrong" was a lengthy non-argument invoking false issues like Pretended Neutrality and Special Revelation, without proving the relevancy of either to your argument. You even have the nerve to attack the very nature of logic and reason as sources of attaining knowledge, which is not surprising. Your entire argument depends on what I have been talking about the whole time – FAITH.

Finally, you define a poor representation of Christianity as any that is not your own. My argument as to the weakness of your own position has been presented. It is not my fault that you continue to ignore it.

NOTE: Rather than continue this debate to nowhere I am taking the final word in it. This blog was not created to debate endlessly with theists who will never be convinced of their own foolishness, but is geared towards those who respect human reason and value human life outside of ridiculous supersition and blind faith. I am done humoring you.

Then, take a look at the comment that is in place now!

sean: Thank you. Likewise for your additions to my original points. You would think an all-powerful deity would be able to heal amputees, even once.

paul: Nice. That quote would also fit quite nicely in my previous post about how religion trivializes morality.

I love it - he deleted the whole thing and then posted his response to his fawning yes-men. Cool, man. You know, you may not like this blog, my ideas, or me, but you have to respect the courage to leave it all out on the table rather than deleting thoughts from others. AC loves to rip the current administration for its curtailing of freedom. He champions free thought and free expression elsewhere. Just not on his blog.
I can see why he deleted it. His arguments are a sham and fail to follow my points in many cases. He's not a deep thinker; just take a look at his first post that he touts and from which he pulls content in his first comment for evidence of that.

For his actions, he earns a place on the Wall of Shame on the sidebar. A pitiful performance from a fairly well-known atheist blog.


Anonymous said...

FOTFL! It must be Carrie in desgise! Did he close the combox to?

NAL said...

Yellow is too hard to read.
How about orange?

NAL said...


In Christian practice, intercessory prayer is the act of one person praying for or on behalf of another. The prayer intercedes on behalf of the subject, believing that God will answer the prayer accordingly.

I have to get my religious knowledge from Wikipedia :)

About Intercessory Prayer

“There is no scientifically discernable effect for Intercessory Prayer (IP) as assessed in controlled studies. Given that the IP literature lacks a theoretical or theological base and has failed to produce significant findings in controlled trials, we recommend that further resources not be allocated to this line of research.”

Rhology said...


It's not closed but $100 says that he won't post another comment from me.


I like yellow.
Highlight it with your mouse to read it better. Still easier to read than AC's white print on black bkgrd, IMO.

And intercessory prayer is one thing, yes, but that's one element of prayer, not prayer in general.
And I agreed that "studies" of prayer are a waste of time. We're together on that. You don't think there's a God to perform like a circus monkey; I don't think God performs like a circus monkey.


Rhology said...

Oh, and Carrie engages people quite a lot of the time. She shuts down comboxes when the comments become too amazingly bizarre and stupid for her taste. I don't really agree with that approach, but I can see why it annoys her. Maybe the biggest difference is that Carrie makes sense, as opposed to AC.

Matt said...


It's always an enjoyable sight to watch an angry atheist go bananas...thanks for saving the conversation. He's even created an entire commenting policy in response to you. Way to make waves, Rho.

On the other hand, we can't fault Alex too much can we? I mean, after all, his own worldview doesn't provide any objective standards for blog combox conduct. As long as he values mindless invective and childish censorship, and as long as it "shouldn't" provoke a violent response, he "should" be able to do it all that he wants, right? ;)

Carrie said...

I don't really agree with that approach, but I can see why it annoys her.

Hey! No one is allowed to disagree with me!! BTW, it's nice to see Captain Kangaroo still worried about my combox control. If that is the best he can come up with against me, I'll take it.

Alex now has a comment policy posted because of "theistic trolls". However, it looks like you still abided by his rules since your comments were on topic and not anonymous.

I actually can sympathesize with his opinions on the combox. Just b/c you post on a blog to a specific target audience doesn't mean you want to deal with people outside your target audience, or that you interested in a discussion at all.

My flaw is that I hate to leave comments unanswered, but often when I do answer there is just an endless back and forth that goes nowhere. I just don't have that kind of time to waste. I'd rather focus on content for posts than play combox merry-go-round and that is my right. In fact, the combox fanatics who insist on their right to open comboxes on my posts really crack me up.

Rhology said...

The plot thickens a bit.

Carrie said...

FOTFL! It must be Carrie in desgise! Did he close the combox to?

Now that I think about it, I don't remember ever deleting someone's comments without a warning first. And even when I do start deleting (which is very rare), I don't delete retroactively.

Alex the Atheist went and removed all signs of Rhology's presence. That does seem cowardly.

Of course, why this topic was used to bring up my name in the first place is odd. But I guess it is usual behavior for the DA-brand of Catholics.

John Morales said...

You know, you may not like this blog, my ideas, or me, but you have to respect the courage to leave it all out on the table rather than deleting thoughts from others.

I do. It is an admirable trait.

As an aside, I posted a comment on his blog expressing my concern.

Um, I suppose I should clarify that I'm assuming it will be posted, subject to moderation ;)

Rhology said...

Heehee, nice. Well said. :-)

John Morales said...

It's been five days, and my comment has not appeared. I wonder if it's because I mentioned you explicitly.

I take this opportunity to reiterate that atheists' only common denominator is their disbelief in deities; our other characteristics range across the human spectrum.

Rhology said...

Well, it's certainly obvious that not all belligerent atheist bloggers are created equal, that's for sure!