Richard Carrier On the Use of Ridicule (via email)

By and large the minds of the ridiculous can't be changed. It's their flock we're talking to. But even the ridiculous change under ridicule some respond by getting more ridiculous (and those are the ones who could never be swayed even by the politest methods), but others accumulate shame until they see the error of their ways (I've met many ex-evangelicals who have told me exactly that). Thus, ridicule converts the convertible and marginalizes the untouchable. There is no more effective strategy in a culture war.
I like what he said.

53 comments:

Al Moritz said...

Obviously, since atheists cannot come up with convincing rational arguments against the existence of God and divine revelation, it is not surprising that some would try to ridicule any religion and any believers. It does not work for me, rather it is an intellectual turn-off.

I do agree with atheists, however, that certain fundamentalist and creationist beliefs are ridiculous indeed. But fighting them with ridicule may backfire. And when Dawkins says that evolution and science in general are incompatible with religion, he both makes himself a great asset for creationists ("didn't I tell you, science is atheistic, so we cannot trust science") and does the cause of science great harm.

Eric said...

Interesting. When Craig somewhat mildly ridiculed Carrier in the past, Carrier responded (at great length, as usual) by characterizing Craig's remarks as "sad" and "petty" -- "bigoted" even -- elements of a "childish rant." Apparently, even the mildest ridicule is childish and sad when directed at Carrier, but, when directed by Carrier at others, is the most effective strategy in a culture war.

And people wonder why I'm consistently unimpressed by Carrier.

josef said...

I think this is the fundamental truth that lies within the accommodationism debate. Conciliatory gestures and compromise of message is a strategy for cooperating with leaders, but not for changing the minds of the followers of those leaders. It may have the effect of reinforcing cooperation on already existing common ground, but it will fall far short of changing minds. What is worse- it doesn't

To change minds, you need, I think, to clearly and unambiguously present an idea in intellectual space that can be moved toward. This is something that can't be achieved merely by emphasizing common ground.

Joshua Jung said...

Al,

What the heck are you talking about?

Sure, you can't disprove something that has not been defined, but as soon as you define something it can be disproven because its nature has become predictive.

And if the thing defined does not actually interact with anything (and therefore cannot be tested), it is worthless.

So, come up with a definition of God that cannot be shown to be internally contradictory and that is actually worth something.

Otherwise, what the heck are you talking about.

Definition of God, please.

I love how you said:

Obviously, since atheists cannot come up with convincing rational arguments against the existence of God and divine revelation

We all realize you meant "convincing TO ME". You do realize other human beings exist who, goodness gracious, might actually be convinced by these arguments.

Don't throw all of humanity under your broken umbrella in order to make it seem like your umbrella is not broken.

Mike said...

Atheists do not have the burden of proof to come up with "convincing rational arguments against the existence of God and divine revelation." You can't prove a negative.

Hence, ridiculing people who come up with ridiculous assertions. Flying unicorns, magical virgin births, alchemy, golden plates in Missouri, etc, etc. They are ridiculous beliefs, and should be pointed out to be such. Hence, Mr. Carrier's point.

I fail to see how it would backfire to call a spade a spade.

Tyro said...

@John: You like this? I genuinely don't understand, didn't you just write:

The ridiculous needs to be ridiculed, they think. But I don't do that.

John W. Loftus said...

Yes Tyro, I wrote what you linked to. This was Carrier'ss response to what I wrote. It's not that I do this, mind you, although I am gravitating to the dark side, having argued with fundamentalists for about five years online now. It's just that such an approach has a justification and it's needed. And it's not as if Carrier or I don't also have the arguments to back up our ridicule, either.

Just consider this on a continuum. Perhaps I've been too polite and need to move in that direction. Notice some of my posts since I wrote what you linked to. They have more ridicule in them. In some ways I'm preparing for my debate with Dinesh D'Souza. Do you see how he ridicules his opponents for rhetorical effect? I'm not going to let him get away with that with me. To do that I am gearing up to it by using part ridicule as practice now.

Cheers.

Tommy said...

I suppose the big fear, at least for me, is that ridicule will alienate the other person to the point that dialogue will be shut down. Whether this is a reality or not is another matter entirely. Perhaps the key is ridiculing in such a way that it is clear that the beliefs, not the person, are the target. Otherwise I fear that the ego and security of the other person will be threatened so much that they will avoid the ideas that made them feel that way at all costs.

On the other hand, I really do wonder if this is all needless fear. I have had quite a few personal interactions in which the "safe" approach has gone nowhere. And I wonder now if it is because being safe made it too easy to just brush off what I was saying. After all, if they listened or not, there weren't really any consequences. I was going to be a nice guy, respect their beliefs, and agree to disagree.

I'm highly interested to hear others opinions on this topic as I feel it is vastly important these days. There are so many resources available dealing with the arguments, but very little dealing with the best way to actually get things across.

Al Moritz said...

John:

Just consider this on a continuum. Perhaps I've been too polite and need to move in that direction. Notice some of my posts since I wrote what you linked to. They have more ridicule in them. In some ways I'm preparing for my debate with Dinesh D'Souza. Do you see how he ridicules his opponents for rhetorical effect? I'm not going to let him get away with that with me. To do that I am gearing up to it by using part ridicule as practice now.

Yes, I have noticed that, John, and I have lost some respect for your argumentation along the way. It is, as I said, just an intellectual turn-off. I remember the good old days when you were against the New Atheists, and emphasized the virtues of "old atheism".

And defending clowns like Dawkins*), Harris et al. does not particularly lend anyone intellectual credibility.

And no, like Eric I am not impressed with Carrier either.

*) nevermind, I still recommend Dawkins' writings on evolution highly. As long as he stays within his realm of expertise, he is fine.

Al Moritz said...

We all realize you meant "convincing TO ME". You do realize other human beings exist who, goodness gracious, might actually be convinced by these arguments.

Yes, I do realize that, Joshua, and I am still amazed ;-)

WAR_ON_ERROR said...

I'm curious as to the exact nature of the ridicule that helped those fundamentalists see the light. Was it *mean-spirited* ridicule? There is polite ridicule after all where you rigorously show the errors, but still come off overall as having done so in good will. No one is going to tell themselves, "well gee, sure he destroyed all my arguments, but he was nice about it, so my arguments are good after all."

Further, just because *some* people respond to a tactic doesn't make it the *most effective* way. Even right here in this very post, Carrier is getting blowback for his position. So we "help" some and alienate others. Who exactly does the diplomat alienate while he builds bridges of communication?

To me, it sounds like a somewhat favorable outcome with the wrong decision. We need to make the right decisions and we'll get get more of the favorable outcome.

Further, the virtue of choosing only to engage in positive attitudes in heavily contentious protracted debates is just plain good for *you* as an individual overtime regardless of the other consequences. Of course, it can't just be a tool for someone that's really angry on the inside. It has to become a lifestyle that is wholeheartedly embraced.

Ben

Tyro said...

John,

I see, thanks. For the record I agree that some positions are so absurd and, well, ridiculous that the don't deserve the respectful treatment. No one is going to agree on that line and there will be people on both sides who will say that any disrespect is over the line. But after seeing this chiding at billboards merely announcing the existence of atheists I've started to think that this "don't disrespect my ideas" claim is really a way of telling us to shut up. And lets face it, humour is a powerful rhetorical device and another weapon in the kit is always welcome.

Bang away!

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Ridicule, mockery, mimicry - these exist - it would be folly to deny such. However, while it is relative to speak to people at the level of their understanding, these practices are a symptom of base humanity for which we are offered grace and salvation from God. Humiliating, shaming and embarassing people are practices consistent with subjugation, not free spiritedness.

Of course, as always, we are at liberty to develop and put into practice a heartfelt practice for either light or dark.

Our characters are shaped by the methods we crave and employ.

the best to you,
3M

John W. Loftus said...

MMM would you think that the belief in Elves should be ridiculed, or the beliefs of Scientology?

I do.

And although I do treat Christian beliefs respectfully for the most part, I think Christian beliefs are no different than theirs. They are just as ridiculous.

Al Moritz said...

See, John, comparing belief in God as the basis for the existence of everything with belief in elves is something that does not help atheism to be taken seriously. It is just like Russell's funny and unsubstantial teapot. In both cases theists will just turn their back on the silliness -- a silliness immediately obvious to theists but not to atheists, remarkably. It just backfires. If you want to get attention, you have to come up with *real* arguments, like the argument from evil. Not that I find it a crushing argument, but it is clearly is a substantial one that seriously demands and gets consideration. And it certainly is not a ridiculous argument, unlike the ones of the teapot and the elves.

Harlan Quinn said...

I don't think what carrier is said is true in all cases.

If you are ridiculing something, and someone that has no emotional investment sees you, it may create a negative feeling towards you and achieve exactly the opposite.

I go with the persuasion research and say that the elaboration likelihood model is the most effective method of persuasion.

Harlan Quinn said...

al,
it is a relevant analogy, and in my opinion, if it is presented in the right way, it won't be taken as ridicule.

And my problem with the argument from evil is that it is so old, and is not as effective as it should be, and that is my problem with most arguments atheists use, is that over the course of a couple of hundred years, where have they gotten us?

Don't get me wrong, I think someone needs to man that battle station, but I also think some new weapons need to be developed. Thats why I prefer information science, information quality research, persuasion research, informal logic, and the latest developments in science.

In my opinion, a sustained attack on the quality of ALL divinely revealed texts using more recent research and novel but robust ideas, is another good way to go.

The reason is that we learn as children about religion, but we also learn as children what constitutes quality information for a research paper.

Divinely revealed texts don't cut it for research papers for a variety of reasons that are expected to be learned by those children that are learning about religion. As people grow up, the religion is reinforced, but the information quality criteria are not. I'm hauling that out of storage and putting it into action. I'm trying to level the battlefield.

kilo papa said...

I speak from personal experience when I say that ridicule played a part in my deconversion from fundamentalist Christianity.

I live deep in the heart of the Bible Belt and until I bought my first computer, roughly 10 years ago, I had never encountered any questioning or mockery of my religious beliefs because I was surrounded by people who believed the exact same thing.

When I first came across blog discussions that mocked belief in the virgin birth, Jesus' blood sacrifice and resurrection, and quoted the many absurities that saturate so much of the Bible, I was at first slightly startled. My knowledge of the Bible didn't extend much beyond John 3:16 even though I spent most Sundays with my behind on a church pew. I wasn't much of a reader at the time so I just believed what those preachers, and my parents and friends, told me. Looking back I'm somewhat ashamed of my years of blind belief but I don't think my story is uncommon.

A big part of what started me down the road of critically questioning my religious beliefs was the fact that I could not answer, to my own satisfaction, the critiques of my faith by non believers. And mockery of the doctrines and absurities that saturate the bible played a significant part in that. I was forced to look at the bible and my faith in ways that I simply never had before.

I'm sure many Christians are more knowledgeable about their reasons for belief than I was as a believer. And perhaps ridicule may not be as powerful an influence to them. But I don't think my story is particularly rare.

And Eric an Al, not being impressed with Richard Carrier probably says far more about yourselves that it does with Carriers abilities and intellect.
When either one of you guys get your "Discrediting Richard Carrier" blog up and running, please let us know.

John W. Loftus said...

I'm sure ridicule has it's effect, you idiot.

Just practicing. ;-)

Al Moritz said...

Kilo papa,

sorry to hear your story which, however, surprises me just as little as probably it does you.

Three differences between us, which I just mention as facts, not to put myself in "a better light":

1. I am not a Bible Belt fundamentalist, but a Catholic. Catholics have rarely difficulties reconciling their beliefs with the realities and science of the modern world. In fact, I am a scientist (biochemist) myself. A literal reading of the creation story is simply not an issue for informed Catholics.

2. I have grown up in an environment hostile to belief (Austria, The Netherlands; in school I was one of the two believers out of a class of 20). My beliefs were never sheltered, therefore 'surprise attacks' never worked on me.

3. I had the immense fortune (really, luck, not much merit of mine, except an open mind to the opportunities presented) to have acquired a solid philosophical foundation to my thinking, and I have learned to detect and decode the many transgressions of atheists when it comes to confusing the boundaries of science and philosophy. This was also aided by my education as a scientist. There is simply too little analytical thinking going on in that area, and I don't fall into the many traps and confusions that others do (or if I ran into confusions, I could relatively quickly resolve them for myself).

And Eric an Al, not being impressed with Richard Carrier probably says far more about yourselves that it does with Carriers abilities and intellect.

Really? How can you assert that without knowing my arguments? Anyway, you don't want me to start a rant on the shortcomings of his reasoning. Besides, it is not worth my time.

Al

Al Moritz said...

I'm sure ridicule has it's effect, you idiot.

Just practicing. ;-)


Hehe.

Eric said...

Kilo papa, check this out. Keep in mind that this is supposed to be one of Carrier's areas of expertise. And this. Keep in mind that Carrier also claims expertise in philosophy.

I think Vallicella's comment here says it all:

"A further question is why Reppert, or anyone should take him so seriously."

I've often wondered that myself.

"And Eric an Al, not being impressed with Richard Carrier probably says far more about yourselves that it does with Carriers abilities and intellect.
When either one of you guys get your "Discrediting Richard Carrier" blog up and running, please let us know."

Hmm. Being unimpressed with Carrier may be a necessary condition for starting a "Discrediting Carrier" blog, but it's not sufficient. With Vallicella, I see no reason to take him so seriously. So, while this is quite consistent with my writing short comments like this one, and providing Carrier "fans" like you (I assume you count yourself as one of his "fans") with links demolishing Carrier's arguments, it's not consistent with my starting a blog to debunk Carrier.

Let me be clear: I don't in any sense think that Carrier is an idiot. Far from it. But I do think he's capitalized on the fact that most people on the web -- including most Christians -- are ignorant of the philosophical and historical issues he discusses. And it is this ignorance, coupled with Carrier's eloquence and broad (though apparently not deep) knowledge of sundry topics, that leads to incredible overestimations of his abilities, such as this from the Rational Response Squad:

"Richard Carrier is one of the most scholarly individuals on the planet..."

Come on now.

I'm studying philosophy at a pretty good school, and philosophy of religion is an AOS of mine. Carrier's work is *never* discussed -- indeed, I can't even recall his name being mentioned -- by either my professors or by my fellow students (and I'm at a large, secular university). Again, this doesn't mean he isn't bright, has nothing of value to say, etc. All I'm saying is that while he's a sensation among the larely ignorant on the internet, he's not even acknowledged in academia (at least not when it comes to philosophy, and especially when it comes to philosophy of religion. I'm aware of his influential work on "Hitler's Table Talk," and I believe he's published one article on the philosophy of biology, but again, with respect to philosophy of religion, his work is simply not discussed).

Tyro said...

While I don't see any difference between believing in elves, resurrected demi-gods, or body thetans, these aren't good examples of beliefs that I consider worthy of ridicule. Personally, I would reserve that for claims which are bigotted or hypocritical (e.g.: the Catholic Church's stance on child rape or Rick Warren's public persona compared to his private anti-gay diatribes) or beliefs which are strongly contradicted by evidence (e.g.: the distance from LA to NY as 6 inches is the same order of magnitude as believing the earth is 6,000 years old).

There are some claims which intelligent audience members may convince themselves are plausible, but there are some claims which are so absurd that they probably wish would just go away. Biblical literalism in the face of contradictions, eating shellfish and wearing mixed fibres as abominations (comparable to homosexuality), etc. Even "sophisticated" theology has so many ridiculous holes that it is ripe for parody and ridicule, for instance in this recent excellent review by Troy Jollimere of Karen Armstrong's latest tome on why we can't know anything about god (a walking contradiction). No personal attacks, nothing hateful, no insults but certainly digging out the contradictions and exposing them to the mockery and derision they deserve. Net result? Jollimere looks like a nice guy, Armstrong looks like a wooly-headed doofus who will say anything. Without gentle humour, I doubt this would be as clear.

Al Moritz said...

I should correct myself a bit:

2. I have grown up in an environment hostile to belief (Austria, The Netherlands; in school I was one of the two believers out of a class of 20).

This should read:

2. I have grown up in an environment indifferent or hostile to belief (Austria, The Netherlands; in school I was one of the two practicing believers out of a class of 20, the rest were mostly indifferent or agnostics, not necessarily hardcore atheists).

bobius said...

The key is that ridicule needs to be gentle, and directed at particular POSITIONS not at particular INDIVIDUALS.

It may help you in the debate to use your great deconversion story to your advantage... "I can see why this would be persuasive to someone, since I used to believe it myself, but now I see it as rather silly becauase... *insert ridicule*)

D'Nish insults individuals. His debates are full of ad hominems. I don't think you should sink to his level.

Laurel said...

Al Moritz wrote:

"See, John, comparing belief in God as the basis for the existence of everything with belief in elves is something that does not help atheism to be taken seriously. It is just like Russell's funny and unsubstantial teapot. In both cases theists will just turn their back on the silliness -- a silliness immediately obvious to theists but not to atheists, remarkably. It just backfires. If you want to get attention, you have to come up with *real* arguments, like the argument from evil..."


I would say that it's believers who need to come up with "real arguments." In my experience, believers who are willing to engage in debate with non-believers on religious matters frequently, after all other arguments fail to persuade, end up taking refuge in one or another form of externally unconvincing, non-communicable, and thus virtually unassailable claims of personal knowledge that they consider to be sure proof of the existence of God---which personal knowledge arguments give rise to unicorn and flying teapot analogies from non-believers. Never the twain shall meet.

Al Moritz said...

Laurel, I never argue from "personal knowledge", for reasons you cite.

Al Moritz said...

Thanks, Eric, for those links on Carrier. Ouch. But it oes not surprise me.

One of those links leads to:

http://snipurl.com/tks7e

Double ouch. Now this does surprise me.

Gandolf said...

bobius said... "The key is that ridicule needs to be gentle, and directed at particular POSITIONS not at particular INDIVIDUALS."

I agree with bobius the trick is to try and not let the ridicule get to personal,it should be directed more at the position rather than the person who holds the postion.


However my opinion is its still a real bonus that there is non believers working from all different angles.Yes its very important we do still need the gentler more knowledgable persuasive types, but the rottweiler types is just as important too

The new atheist rottweiler type approach with righteous amounts of ridicule etc thrown in,serves the purpose of stirring up some dust like a tornado.Busting down old blissful complacent attitudes and taboo, and bringing the need of the issues to be forcefully brought forward to the table again to be discussed.Religion needs all the heat that its getting from the "very many angles" at the moment and all the more if possible!,for far to long now has religion been able to blissfully hide within old undeserved taboo`s.

That doesnt change the fact there is still the very important need for other more knowlegable folks to still be busy discussing these matters on a more specialist type scholarly/technical level also.

The two angles combined work well together,because one angle works at negating old undeserved escape routes of peaceful complacency inactivity and silence.

Meaning nowadays whenever the scholarly/technical specialist type level discussions take place,the heat is on because its now more well known the world is starting to demand real answers and real action.

Laurel said...

Al Mortiz wrote:

"Laurel, I never argue from "personal knowledge", for reasons you cite."

While you may not, a great many believers---perhaps most---ultimately do when their other arguments fail to convince, which is what gives rise to non-believer analogies involving unicorns and teapots, etc., which you find to be turn-offs. I don't think you can reasonably disparage unbelievers for resorting to such analogies of ridicule given the flaccid theist argumentation of most believers, both clergy and laity.

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Hi John - I don't use my faith to put down the beliefs of others - I would use the courage from my faith to intervene compassionately if I recognized a danger was being imposed upon someone based on their beliefs.

As far as elves go, who am I to discard such a notion? I think a better question to be posed about such matters is "Can we be trusted with elves?". I sincerely doubt it - I, myself, am much too cynical - I might be tempted to exploit and commercialize such creatures or chase them away with mockery and scorn. No, elves(Santa Claus, etc) are not for me--- these are the treasures reserved for the innocent, imaginative and faithful.

Please Take care,
3M

Eric said...

Laurel, what precisely is the problem with arguments from 'personal knowledge' (which I take you to mean arguments from 'religious experience')? Philosophers of the caliber of Hilary Putnam of Harvard (emeritus) and Brian Leftow of Oxford have found such arguments reasonable (indeed, even persuasive). Could you lay out what you think are the strongest objections to arguments from religious experience? (Or, if you distinguish religious experience from personal knowledge, could you give me an example of an argument for God's existence from personal knowledge, and your objections to it?)

kilo papa said...

Eric and Al,

Richard Carrier has thoroughly explained his translation of Romans in "The Empty Toomb" on his website, which more than answers the first link you posted.
As for the second link, the fact that the author Carrier was critical of felt a response was needed must say something about Carriers credibility or else he would have just been ignored. Maybe you don't think Carrier is worth rebuting but apparently others,who are actually published authors,disagree.

And as for Carrier not being discussed in your philosophy class, his Ph.D is in ancient history and he's only received it in the last year, I think. Is he the only historian not discussed in your class? I realize that he has blogged on philosophy many times, which I assume one is allowed to do if one choses.

Out of curiosity, can you link link me to peer reviewed articles that either of you have published? Books? Stone tablets? Graffiti?Anything?

Eric said...

"Richard Carrier has thoroughly explained his translation of Romans in "The Empty Toomb" on his website, which more than answers the first link you posted."

I encourage you to reread Wallace's criticism and Carrier's response.

"As for the second link, the fact that the author Carrier was critical of felt a response was needed must say something about Carriers credibility or else he would have just been ignored."

That's a rather obvious non sequitur. I may take the time to respond to someone because he's influential, not because he's credible. Does Ken Miller of Brown regularly debate creationists because they're credible, or because he's trying to counter their pernicious influence?

"And as for Carrier not being discussed in your philosophy class, his Ph.D is in ancient history and he's only received it in the last year, I think. Is he the only historian not discussed in your class?"

First, I didn't say "class." Second, my point precisely is that his work on philosophy of religion isn't discussed in academia. Third, I was comparing his influence and reputation in this area on the web to his influence and reputation in this area in academia. Fifth, Carrier has claimed expertise in philosophy, not just in ancient history.

"Out of curiosity, can you link link me to peer reviewed articles that either of you have published? Books? Stone tablets? Graffiti?Anything?"

Out of curiosity, can you explain how this is in any sense relevant? Or can be formulated in any way into a sound argument? Or makes a decent point? A point at all? Anything?

kilo papa said...

Eric wrote: "Out of curiosity, can you explain how this is in any sense relevant? Or can be formulated in any way into a sound argument? Or makes a decent point? A point at all? Anyting"?

A simple "No Mr. Papa I can't link you to those articles because they don't exist as I am not a published author" would have sufficed.

Ever critiqued Carrier or anyone of any "influence" yourself? Again, just curious.

Eric said...

"A simple "No Mr. Papa I can't link you to those articles because they don't exist as I am not a published author" would have sufficed."

Um, no, it decidedly would not have sufficed, since it would've implicitly countenanced your logical error. Fallacies of relevance are fallacies, and the fact that you have avoided reformulating your question into an argument, a declarative sentence with a point, etc. evinces that you know this, but simply don't care. There's a technical term for that: bullshit.

geomort said...

Carpet bombing a religion with ridicule in order to convert a few pawns to non-belief is a highly ineffective method of creating a better society. What you would be left with are a few more atheists and a still large body of religious people who have been winnowed down to those with a neurology that boarders on patients who have asperger's syndrome. How dangerous would that be?! Come on Richard Carrier. Let's have some grown-up ideas.

Laurel said...

Eric wrote:

"Laurel, what precisely is the problem with arguments from 'personal knowledge' (which I take you to mean arguments from 'religious experience')? "

I'm not saying there's anything "wrong" with them. I'm saying that subjective personal religious experiences used as attempts to prove something to unbelievers about the existence or intentions of "God" are unconvincing to unbelievers, which is what gives rise to unbelievers equating the religious interpretations of such experiences by believers with stories of unicorns and flying teapots.

"Philosophers of the caliber of Hilary Putnam of Harvard (emeritus) and Brian Leftow of Oxford have found such arguments reasonable (indeed, even persuasive). [/quote]

I'm not familiar with their findings. Of what were they persuaded by the arguments they heard?

Eric wrote:

"Could you lay out what you think are the strongest objections to arguments from religious experience? (Or, if you distinguish religious experience from personal knowledge, could you give me an example of an argument for God's existence from personal knowledge, and your objections to it?)"

I wouldn't say I necessarily have "objections" to such arguments. My point is simply that subjective personal religious experiences aren't convincing arguments that prove anything about "God" to unbelievers despite whatever the experiences may prove to those who experience them.

A personal note: Thirty-three years ago today I had a tremendous physical/emotional/psychological experience in the William James mode that I interpreted at the time and for years after as a born-again "God" experience. Today, I no longer interpret it as such. As far as I know, my relating of the experience to others would never have convinced an unbeliever of anything at all about "God," although it's true that quite a few believers hearing it at the time appeared edified and validated by my story.

Tyro said...

The problem I have starts with the observation of how "personal experience" is used. One person concludes that Jesus is the son of god but also one with God and was resurrected by God, and another person will use their personal experience to conclude that the first person isn't merely mistaken but is actually offensive.

There's no methodology, no consistency and no attempt to integrate the observations of others.

I on the other hand think that the personal experience of everyone should be accounted for, not merely your own personal belief whilst excluding the experience of everyone else. We must have a methodology that everyone of all cultures and beliefs can follow and reach similar conclusions, but the "personal experience" system seems to preclude all of this. The way it's used in theology is intellectually bankrupt and hypocritical.

ismellarat said...

[I had two DC windows open, and had meant to type the following into this thread, not into ""Skeptics and the Question of Audience." Could you post it here instead?]

If it weren't for the spectre of an eternal Hell, I think most of what Christians argue about would hardly seem so important to them. It is imperative that God be believed in, and defined in exactly THIS way, and not THAT way. OR ELSE!

I think there's much indispensable good in the church(es) that atheists overlook, but Christians too often never get around to defending what I think should really count: putting any church and family-based solutions to our problems they may have on the table, and receiving credit where it's deserved.

Instead, they spend their time bickering amongst themselves and with atheists about these definitional trivialities that they themselves only half understand - apparently made not-so-trivial by their belief that they're important to God. It seems suicide bombers have the same motivations - "what we do may be unpleasant, but think about eternity..."

I find it so ironic that none other than Adolph Eichmann found traditional Christianity too abhorrent to believe, when told that his victims would be going to Hell. A mass murderer who might have been saved - save for his conscience. Imagine that.

Even William Lane Craig thinks his God is unjust - and says all real Christians think the same:

"No orthodox Christian likes the doctrine of hell or delights in anyone's condemnation. I truly wish that universalism were true, but it is not."

I keep waiting for him to revise this insanity-inducing quote, but it's been up since the late 90s.

What's so bad about an afterlife in which you don't get punished eternally, and which eventually works out for everyone? "The Bible doesn't teach it," might start wearing a little thin, once people start realizing how easy it is to shame the fundies with holocaust pictures.

"Tell the camera what you want to see happen to these people. Go on. Jesus is listening; don't disappoint him, now..."

If only I could prove these people have it right:

http://www.tentmaker.org/

Eric said...

"My point is simply that subjective personal religious experiences aren't convincing arguments that prove anything about "God" to unbelievers despite whatever the experiences may prove to those who experience them."

Thanks for the clarification. I agree.

I do have one question, though: did you mean to imply by the following -- "despite whatever the experiences may prove to those who experience them" -- that the person who does have a religious experience is justified in claiming that, for him, the experience gives him good grounds, though not necessarily dispositive grounds, for concluding, say, that God exists? (Obviously, much would depend on the sort of experience, and on the conclusion derived from it, but for the sake of argument assume any experience that does at least seem to provide one with grounds for believing that some kind of God exists.)

steph said...

Ridicule is just childish.

Tyro said...

Calling people childish is just ridiculous.

steph said...

I called ridicule childish. Children do it in the schoolyard. Ridicule is ridiculous in adults. Most civilised people understand that.

Tyro said...

For the irony impaired, calling Carrier childish and now uncivilized is ridicule.

If you really believe that all beliefs and claims are worthy of respect and nothing is worthy of ridicule then I wonder if you have any concern for truth or reality.

steph said...

I'm afraid you seem to be intentionally missing the point. There is no need for ridicule. It defeats the purpose of achieving any sort of progress or understanding and is the stuff resorted to by children.

And yes, I am concerned with history. I'm not concerned with insulting and destroying peoples' lives.

Note, I have never believed but grew up aware of believers of different faiths. I have not been crippled by any past religious experience and have no desire to attack religious people. I have not a spiritual bone or need in my body.

Tyro said...

How can treating all beliefs with respect and consideration help progress? The way to change the status quo isn't by treating the belief that, for instance, the world is 6,000 years old (which is wrong by a factor of 1,000,000, equivalent to believing that the width of the US less than a city bus is long) or that God kills infants to show how much he loves them. There are some beliefs which are so opposed to evidence and common sense that this milquetoast approach just gives them undeserved credibility. If evidence isn't going to change their mind, dialogue won't either. But what we can do is refuse to treat such absurdity with the respect that has been granted for a thousand years, what we can do is to laugh at the laughable and tear down the cloak which has protected them from the meekest criticism.

Lets face it, some beliefs are ridiculous and when we don't ridicule them, we're supporting them. Do that if you want, but don't get all high-and-mighty and pretend that by respecting their delusions you're doing anyone a favour.

steph said...

... and while I think people are wrong and say so, it is not helpful to insult them with words like 'deluded' and 'ridiculous'.

It is interesting that Carrier is a classicist and not a biblical scholar.

steph said...

I haven't actually said any of the things you attribute to me. I treat people with respect - they can believe what they like - I just do independent history and I don't worry about them. After all ignorance is bliss is it not? You're not going to convince anyone by being rude except your own social sub group who believe you anyway.

steph said...

I haven't actually said any of the things you attribute to me. I treat people with respect - they can believe what they like - I just do independent history and I don't worry about them. After all ignorance is bliss is it not? You're not going to convince anyone by being rude except your own social sub group who believe you anyway.

Laurel said...

Eric wrote: I do have one question, though: did you mean to imply by the following -- "despite whatever the experiences may prove to those who experience them" -- that the person who does have a religious experience is justified in claiming that, for him, the experience gives him good grounds, though not necessarily dispositive grounds, for concluding, say, that God exists? (Obviously, much would depend on the sort of experience, and on the conclusion derived from it, but for the sake of argument assume any experience that does at least seem to provide one with grounds for believing that some kind of God exists.)

Hmmm. Interesting question. Well, I'd say that from my own experience of having had such an experience, my experience convinced me at the time of the existence of "God" and "God's love" and I suppose I believed at the time that my experience should convince others as well. In fact, remembering back, what I thought at the time early on after it occurred, was that I had at last discovered what everyone else already knew, i.e., what this God thing was all about. I thought I'd struck gold, metaphorically speaking. I was wrong, of course, but nevertheless. that's what I thought. Was I justified in thinking my experience proved that "God" exists? Probably not, but given how ignorant I was at the time of religious matters---despite having been a church-goer much of my young life and despite how eager some others were to validate it, I think it's at least understandable. Do you?

Richard Carrier said...

Much of what has been said in comments here is way off the point. Perhaps the lack of context John provided is responsible. I did not mean ridiculing any opponent. I said ridiculing the ridiculous. The non-ridiculous believer should not be ridiculed because they aren't ridiculous, they're just wrong. Hence I was talking about people like Ray Comfort, not W.L. Craig. As anyone who knows my work should know, I generally don't ridicule Craig, I just refute him (my behavior in our recent debate being a prime example). But I would definitely ridicule Ray Comfort. Only if Craig actually forwarded a defense of something patently ridiculous (like Young Earth Creationism) would I then ridicule him, and for only that. As I have said elsewhere, ridicule is only warranted when you can prove what is ridiculous is what the target of your ridicule really meant and believes.

Craig essentially misrepresents the facts and my views and then ridicules that straw man. That's wrong. We certainly shouldn't do that. And neither should he. For example, in our recent debate he ridiculed my view of the mythic structure of the Gospels, claiming it was fringe, when I had just named half a dozen distinguished scholars who have proven it, and most scholars I know in the field of Biblical studies consider it mainstream, not fringe. So Craig is basically lying, and then using that lie to make me appear ridiculous.

That, in turn, is not ridiculous, however. It's merely pathetic. And morally dubious. I do believe Craig occasionally lies, and is victim to an assortment of delusions, but he doesn't usually say ridiculous things, like J.P. Holding, for example, or Josh McDowell, or Ken Ham, et al.

Hence the context of the remark Loftus quoted here: I had just explained that I used a neutral tone in my chapter (for The Christian Delusion) on the Resurrection, because the claims made there are not ridiculous, they are merely wrong, but I used ridicule in my chapter on Christianity causing science, because the statements I attack there are truly ridiculous and the scholars who made them ought to be deeply ashamed. I explained the difference with the paragraph John quotes: the ridiculous ought to be ridiculed. The rest should only be refuted. But obviously I also believe the ridiculous should be refuted: that's exactly what I do in that chapter. I just don't do it nicely. Nor should I. But in general, if you can't refute them, then you can't claim they are ridiculous--quite the contrary, the fact that they are so easily refuted is precisely what makes them ridiculous.

I also mentioned to John in that same email that my resurrection chapter has only one statement of ridicule: when I attacked the ridiculous view of many Christians that Jesus plans to descend from outer space and kill me (in the Apocalypse; lest I repent, of course), but that's because that belief is ridiculous. Which may be why you don't hear Craig copping to it, and why you can bet he'd hedge and haw over it if asked it in public Q&A--rather than simply saying "Yes, I believe Jesus is going to descend from outer space and kill Richard (lest he repent)." Though if he did say that, then he will have crossed on over into the ridiculous. Then he will get what he deserves.

These distinctions I hope clarify the meaning of my original mark, and shows much of this thread's discussion to be far off the mark regarding what I meant.

John W. Loftus said...

Sorry for not being involved in this discussion too much, Richard. But thanks for the clarifications. As I said, I liked it. Ridicule does have an effect.