An Open Letter to Jason
I write this with a heavy heart but I have been seriously rethinking what I wrote in my previous post. After my most recent e-mail correspondence with John Loftus, I have come to agree with my reponse to Jason Engwer's critique of my article series on visions was too antagonistic. I have been thinking about it and I believe that I owe Jason an apology for my behavior. I have to say in all serious and honesty, that I do not like being nasty or combative towards people who disagree with me or hold an opposing view. In fact, I really enjoy having friendly, polite, and highly civil discussions with people of opposing view points and this includes Christians. When I meet Christians who are very well-read in the subject of Christian theology and apologetics, the fact of the matter is that I often hope that I can find within that person a good discussion or debating partner, someone who can help to sharpen my mind and perhaps I can serve the same goal for that person. I don't believe in befriending any Christians only for that purpose. I gladly befriend people because I really like befriending people; I just love having good discussions with people whose passions and confidence of convictions either match my own or are greater than mine.
I had written for Loftus' blog an article series on the origins of Christianity and I put forth a hypothesis of visionary origins that I find plausible. I wrote subsequent articles with the intent of answering objections to any theory or hypothesis of Christian origins that proposed visions, such as mine. Jason Engwer wrote a response. I have to admit that I found his responses a bit unnerving at first because I thought that he had trouble understanding what I said, but I certaintly wasn't trying to be antagonistic towards him. I guess I might've been a bit blunt and perhaps even curt in what I wrote to him but I wasn't trying to be nasty or antagonistic. The problem is that trying to educate or explain your viewpoint in order to clear up what others misunderstand can be tiring and trying, especially if they greatly misunderstand what you wrote. I got the impression that Engwer considered me just another ignorant skeptic who needed to be put in his place and although I hadn't intended to be nasty or antagonistic, what really rubbed me the wrong way was an article I read on Engwer's website called "Don't Waste Your Life". I got the serious impression, however mistaken that impression may have been, that Jason was just looking down in contempt on the retired couple who were collecting seashells, wondering where the hell he got the nerve to judge them like I felt that he was. I further read the blog of one Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong who had a somewhat nasty impression of Jason, himself. He believes ( or believed at the time that he wrote his blog entry) that Jason was guilty of sophistry and double-standards. That only darkened my opinion of Jason further.
It was the accumulation of what I considered to be his rude and condescending contempt for the retired couple, the reports of sophistry and double-standards by Dave Armstrong (certainly no God-hating atheist by the way), and what I felt were condescending remarks towards me as well as gross misunderstandings of what I had written as well. My impression of Jason turned worse and I began to consider him a loathesome individual, another Jonathan Sarfati or Jerry Falwell, so to speak. I decided to write a detailed response to Jason. I decided to be just as confrontational as I thought he was being towards me and I not only had the intention of dosing him with his own medicine but I had planned on trying to best to make Jason feel as though he had his head handed to him.
That's the reason why I got a bit nasty at times with my writing. I wanted to cut Jason down to size and make him feel an inch tall, wanting partly to avenge the retired couple as I saw it and also to give Jason a bit of a intellectual flogging so he would come to understand that there are folks like myself who would not put up with what I thought was abusive condescension on his part, as I believe that Robert Turkel is horribly guilty of.
The fact of the matter is that I hate abuse and I react very strongly and even violently (never physically violent unless the abuse is physical) to abuse, especially emotional abuse. Now, granted, there are some Christians who do not accept that there is any such thing as emotional abuse but I believe that there is. I grew up as a minister's son and I suffered from terribly low self-esteem for many years because I seriously believe that my dad abused me emotionally. There were so many times growing up that my dad made me feel so stupid and so utterly worthless that more than one time I contemplated suicide. I get along a lot better with my dad these days and I suspect that he has great many regrets over his past behavior and how he reacted. I can tell that my dad has his share of regrets but he has always had a horribly difficult time apologizing for wrongs committed. I have forgiven my dad for what he has done to me because I realize that he regrets his abusive ways towards us at times growing up, wishing that he handled things differently and also because I realized that my dad reacted the way to us kids that his mother reacted towards him.
I tend to react very negatively towards abusive people, particularly people who are bullies. If I see someone who is a bully heaping undeserved abuse on another person I will get in that bully's face and try and cut that bully down to size and I am ready to put such a bully in the hospital if I have to. For me, Turkel is such a bully and I was hoping that Jason wasn't one himself and I still hope he isn't. Why was I so offended?
Part of it started with an article on Jason Engwer's website called "Don't Waste Your Life". Perhaps my criticism is misdirected at Engwer and it is John Piper who has one heck of a nerve sticking his self-righteous nose where it doesn't belong! I mean, really, who is Mr. Piper to criticize and look down his nose at a retired couple for playing softball and collecting seashells? And why on earth would Jason endorse such a book? I got the impression that Jason shared in Piper's condenscension, and like Piper, looked in contempt on such a couple. Why though? So what if a couple "wastes" their retirement years, what is that to Mr. Piper or even Jason? I certainly saw no condemnation on Jason's part or Jason saying "I really wish Christians like Mr. Piper wouldn't act this way towards people; it turns them off of the Christian message and, besides, isn't what the couple does with their declining years between them and their creator, assuming they meet one? If Jason condemns Piper's attitude here then I retract my judgement of Jason on this point and I apologize for it. But Jason did endorse the book by Piper and I best concluded that Jason, too, shared in Piper's condemnation and arrogant contempt for the couple. Seriously, if Piper told me I was wasting my life as an atheist, I would tell Piper where to stick it. Maybe Jason doesn't mean to look down his nose at the retired couple and maybe he doesn't tend to look down his nose at even me. If this is the case- then I apologize for telling Jason to "drop dead"! Maybe it's Piper who I should be telling to "drop dead" if I ever met such a character. But if Jason really does endorse Piper's work and shares in his attitude, at this point I can only shake my head in regret.
The last thing that we need are arrogant and condescending people in this world who have no business judging others. What reward is there for sounding like a snob, and worse, being one? Judgement is best reserved, in my opinion, for a lack of integrity and for law-breaking, but for playing softball and collecting sea-shells. I would say to the Pipers of this world: keep your loathesome attitude towards yourself!
Jason also linked repeatedly to Robert Turkel. As I have said before, I now have a very low opinion of Turkel and I consider him to be the worst spin-doctor imaginable these days. I do share in Farrell Till's judgement that Turkel is most probably out to fleece the faithful. I likewise called Jason a spin-doctor and accused him also of out to fleece the faithful. I very much regret that I said this to Jason. Whether Jason is a spin-doctor for the Christian faith remains to be seen and perhaps he is not and I unfairly misjudged him. I also have no proof that he's out to "fleece the faithful"- and I retract this statement with an apology because I was, in effect, calling him another Robert Turkel and that may well be a very unfair and even libelous comparison. Jason, I am very deeply sorry that I said this. I don't think you even beg for money like Turkel does. You seem to actually have a life of your own and apologetics seems to be a very serious hobby of yours whereas Turkel is just an intellectual wanna-be who wants to make his living tickling the ears of the faithful. I apologize for such a senseless and unjust comparison.
Now at this point I want to address a criticism. Why is that I can link to Farrell Till and others whom I don't fully embrace and don't agree with what they say and yet Jason cannot? For one thing, I carefully qualified my agreement. Everyone knows that I don't agree with everything that Farrell Till says or does nor do I agree with everything Robert Price or Richard Carrier writes. Price and Carrier advocate the Radical Critical school of thought. I find such an approach fascinating and very delicious sounding but I am just not all that sure and I won't be until graduate school. Hence, when I don't always agree with an given author, scholar or not, I often try and qualify any such areas of agreement or disagreement, at least to fellow skeptics. The fact of the matter is that I didn't see Jason qualify any endorsement or links to Turkel. I never read from him any statement like "I don't agree with everything Robert Turkel writes, does, or says."
I also think however that the situation is much worse than I am making it out to be here. It's not just simply a matter of whether Jason agrees or disagrees with Robert Turkel and over what it is they disagree with but it's also a matter of behavior and tactics on Turkel's part. Turkel has not only made some stupid mistakes and statements ( the famous software blunder and his stupid statement about we having only ourselves to blame if we find the message of the Bible unclear) but I also strongly challenge Turkel's professional ethics ( I am nearly convinced that he hasn't any) as well. I believe that regardless of the qualify of his arguments, Turkel's attitude, his behavior, and his antics are very questionable. I believe that Turkel is guilty of being dishonest, abusive towards people he disagrees with, has often behaved childlishly, has been very disprespectful, and on top of this, he seems to want people to take him seriously as some kind of intellectual. It's this disgusting behavior and antics of his that I have a very low opinion of him.
I seriously ask Jason if he is aware of this behavior by Robert Turkel and just why folks like myself regard Turkel has a complete creep? I'd be happy to write some articles on Robert Turkel in attempt to document his disgusting behavior if Jason is open-minded to it. My sincere hope is that Jason will come to discover what kind of person that Turkel really is and will remove all links to him. I really would rather not see Jason link to Turkel at all. I honestly hope better and I would like to see Jason condemn Turkel for his disgusting antics and behavior (not to mention his crappy research at times- I am also willing to document this if Jason finds himself in need of persuasion). Turkel is an apologetic joke of the worst sort and I regret that any Christian might have a high opinion of him. It's my hope that the Christian community will one day, in strong unity, condemn and chastize Turkel for the charlatan that I am convinced that he is. I earnestly hope Jason will be a big part of that.
Next, I want to especially apologize for suggesting that Jason be "bitch-slapped". Again, it was keeping in tone with my intent on making Jason feel doused by what I thought was his own medicine and making him feel flogged and an inch tall. I thought he might've been abusive and I was hoping that he would feel abused for once as to know how it feels. I won't apologize for hating abuse and earnestly wanting abusive people to feel the pain that they heap on others. I am a very strong believer that one goes around should come around and that people who are abusive suffer ultimately for the abuse that they have undeservedly shown others.
I can well admit that I am wrong. I can freely admit that I am wrong. I admit to being wrong all the time and I apologize not only for errors but for hurt that any errors of mine cause other people, and it's hurt that I am most often concerned about. If Jason was not intending to be abusive, or arrogant, or condescending, and if I have indeed really misjudged him, then I very deeply apologize for it and vow never to lapse from any professionalism in my writings that I made an exception this one time in my lengthy reply. If Jason wasn't trying to be spiteful, arrogant, judgemental, or condescending, then Jason, I very much apologize for what I wrote to you. I apologize for anything hurtful or spiteful I said and for any unfair characterization about you or anything that was uncalled for, unprofessional, or unethical on my part. Jason made a great observation that is well worth quoting here:
"However I, Steve Hays, J.P. Holding, or other people may have erred in our treatment of Matthew, I think that we've been much more reasonable in our treatment of him than he's been in his treatment of us."
I commend Jason for bringing up this point. And I apologize for having erred in my treatment of Jason and for any misjudgements I have made. I notice, too, that Steve Hays wrote a response to what I wrote in response to him. I am personally glad that Jason didn't join in that and has even given me the benefit of the doubt and assumed that I do get along well my father and I do want to be more friendly when he could've joined in Steve's effort to hose me with acid like that. I say to Jason: I appreciate what you wrote and I believe that, I, have unfairly misjudged you.
I am really starting to think that Jason may not be the insidious apologist I originally took him to be and that my judgements and treatment of him was uncalled for. Jason may actually be quite gentlemanly and cordial. If getting to know him more and better can be the best way to confirm this, I am very much willing to get to know him, and I freely invite him to do so likewise. I want to close by saying that I am looking forward to good discussions with Christopher Price of the Christian CADRE and I hope I can gain a friend in Price. I also hope, as well, that I can gain a friend in Jason as well.
With respect and apologies where applicable,