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« Media Reports Semidiluvian Days in North Jersey The RantsSkeptics' Circle #20 »

What Would Skeptics Do?
2005.10.21 (Fri) 18:28

A brief exchange on Bill Maher's show last Friday (we caught a re-run) got us thinking:

Washington Post columnist Tina Brown: Given that we're in this — I mean, given the sort of religious persuasion of this administration, I think there's a real sense that we're in the end — we're in the middle of the Last Days.
Bill Maher: Oh, yes.
Brown: I mean, I genuinely think — I think that this is —
Bill Maher: They believe that.
Brown: — they've got us into this panic room and now we are just sitting here waiting for the Rapture, you know.
Bill Maher: They believe that.

Their discussion was a political one, and there were some good points raised. However, upon hearing this part, we went off on a more speculative tangent.

One of the favorite pet claims of religiosos — of nearly any flavor — is their insistence, when confronted with skepticism, that "you'll be changing your tune when Jesus comes back!" There are several variations — "You'll find out the truth of the Bible when you die and go to Hell" comes to mind — but they all follow pretty much the same theme. That theme is a simplistic and, we might add, childish one, which does nothing more than reveal the speaker's ignorance of how science works.

Let's go way out on a speculative limb here. If Jesus Christ, LnS, suddenly appeared tomorrow, genuinely performed a bunch of miracles, spoke at length with reliable witnesses, and hung around to answer questions...would our minds be blown, our worldview shattered, our belief in the importance of science, reason, logic and critical thinking fly out the window as the religiosos predict?


See, all that would mean is that there was evidence that supports certain hypotheses suggested by the Babble. But regardless of whether or not their Happy Fun Instruction Book has got anything right, the scientific method would still work. If Jeebus was actually here, and we could study the things he does, and figure out how they work, that would just open up a whole new branch of scientific inquiry — it wouldn't "shut science down," as the religiosos seem to think.

Honestly, they're so tiresome, always going on and on about "What will you skeptics do when Jesus comes?" Well, quite simply, we'll talk to this person who claims to be Jesus. We'll test his capabilities, and study how any phenomena associated with his claims work. We'll continue to implement the scientific method to learn more about this person, his claims, and his abilities (if any). We'll do all this in stark contrast to the flaming religiosos, who'll all be running around with their heads chopped off (figuratively speaking) — bowing, praying, worshiping, repenting, and, lest we forget, bragging.

This is just something we were discussing, and thought we'd point out to preemptively counter such claims in our comments (and e-mail). The whole idea is such a big deal to the religosos: "When Jeebus comes, you'll be sorry!" — as if the arrival of an unfamiliar phenomenon will push all scientifically accepted knowledge aside, and throw logic and reason out of whack. You know what, gang? Scientists have been confronted with unfamiliar phenomena time and time again...and yet, somehow, they find the strength to soldier on in such a bleak and unforgiving, oh-so-inexplicable world. Why the heck do you think some nut who can walk on water would suddenly change that?

The Second Coming

— • —
[  Filed under: % Bullshit  % Religion  % Two Percent Toons  ]

Comments (11)

Ford, 2005.10.21 (Fri) 23:52 [Link] »

Nice halloween look. Yeah, it's one of my pet peeves hearing that arguement from the xtians. In my personal experience, when you try to explain it to them like you did above, they break out into some "Ah ha!! So you admit it!" without actually listening to you and as you try to continue explaining they do pretty much the equivalent of sticking their fingers in their ears and repeating the "aha" statement, all the while feeling good about themselves and thinking that they're winning the arguement.

Fan-man, 2005.10.22 (Sat) 20:18 [Link] »

I always heard that God will have mercy on the ignorant, so in case Hay-seuss does return, ignorance will be my plea and all will be forgiven. Over the years, I've learned to cover my bases. The whole concept of Heaven and Hell makes me scratch my head though. When religiosos refer to Heaven, they point or motion toward the sky. When referring to Hell, the point or motion down. Well, we already know what's at the center of the earth, and it ain't Hell. We've also been through the clouds, out of the atmosphere, to the moon and then some. If there is a Heaven and Hell, they're in another solar system or make believe (or just really hard to find, kinda like the smurf village).
I have a good friend that is very religious and not very flexible in his beliefs. He likes to drop the "God bless you's" on me from time to time. The last time, my wife chimed in with "better specify which one Dave, 'cause he doesn't believe in them all." Maybe I'm not really a skeptic... maybe I just like to argue.

Tim, 2005.10.24 (Mon) 13:09 [Link] »

Whenever I'm told "if the rapture happened, I bet you'd believe it" I just say, "and if I looked out my window and saw the Death Star (or superman) in the sky, I 'd believe that, too." Just to point out how ridiculous that argument is.

The Two Percent Company, 2005.10.24 (Mon) 14:41 [Link] »

Ford, we've certainly seen that smug "Aha!" response more times than we can count, so we know what you're talking about. The true believers sometimes get so worked up by what they think is validation of their nonsense that they fail to realize that they aren't actually being validated.

As Tim points out, if anything were to suddenly appear before us — whether it's Jesus or Superman or the Death Star — that would go a long way towards convincing us of that thing's existence. What the believers so often miss is that the chances of any of these things appearing are so slim as to make no odds — they can't help but conflate the concept of possible with the concept of probable, if only in the case of their pet belief.

And Fan-man — you've hit on it! If the magic protecting the locations of Heaven and Hell is the same as the magic protecting the Smurf village, then we can draw only one conclusion: Papa Smurf is God! Hey, it's every bit as logical as, for example, Christianity. Also, they both appear to have white beards and archenemies who want to broil their followers (though for purportedly different reasons).

Rockstar, 2005.10.24 (Mon) 16:20 [Link] »

As Tim points out, if anything were to suddenly appear before us — whether it's Jesus or Superman or the Death Star — that would go a long way towards convincing us of that thing's existence

I love the apologetics inherent in Xianity - one is not supposed to ask gawd to reveal itself. So when some guy starts claiming to be Jeebus, are the Bleevers going to take his word for it?

Ford, 2005.10.24 (Mon) 19:11 [Link] »

Yeah, I mean, hey, Jesus keeps comin' back but he keeps getting locked up in an asylum:) Honestly, based on everything else in the bible, Jeebus wouldn't come back down on some fancy light crap, no, he would be reincarnated in some hobo. That's just how religion works, you never see fancy lights and explosions, the miraculous stuff is always just short of having any tangible evidence and just happens to happen to people without any sort of credibilty at all. You'd think gawd could put on a little bit more of a show, the lazy bastard.

It might help his cause a little bit if he stopped sending messages via unscrupulous and or crazy people. I mean, damn, take control of James Randi or something, not the homeless bastard down the street that gets drunk every tuesday and talks to/pees on himself.

Rockstar, 2005.10.25 (Tue) 09:39 [Link] »

Wow man. If Randi starts spreading the word, I really will believe in hell. Because it'd be fucking frozen over...

jay denari, 2005.10.30 (Sun) 14:27 [Link] »

Great column; that blathering bugs me, too. But one thing nobody else has yet mentioned is this is probably NOT going to happen if JC shows up:

(They'll) all be running around with their heads chopped off (figuratively speaking) — bowing, praying, worshiping, repenting, and, lest we forget, bragging.

In fact, they're so set in their ways they wouldn't recognize their own saviour if he did show up, identifying his "miracles" as tricks of the devil instead. If Jesus did come, he wouldn't be assisting THEIR cause.
Remember... these people do not worship Jesus; they worship a book ABOUT jesus.

The Two Percent Company, 2005.11.01 (Tue) 16:38 [Link] »

Well, it depends. If the person claiming to be Jesus takes a hard line against two guys kissing, then the Christian nutbags will probably fall down and worship him. After all, we seem to recall them doing something similar in 2004.

Grendel, 2005.11.02 (Wed) 16:35 [Link] »

If you really want to set a fundy's anger off like a million Chinese rockets, accuse him of having merely taken Pascal's Wager when he trots out the "you'll see when Jesus comes!" nonargument.

When the fundy uses that, all he has done is explained why he believes: Out of fear that it might be true, he believes in Jesus as the safer bet. (If you're an atheist and wrong about raptures and afterlives, uh-oh, big trouble. But, if you're a fundy and wrong, no problem, and better yey, you'll never even know you were wrong about it all).

I thought a pesty Southern Baptist door-to-door preacher was gonna absolutely blow a gasket when I hit him with that notion.

The Two Percent Company, 2005.11.03 (Thu) 11:30 [Link] »

Nothing like pushing the buttons of a fundy! Good to see you again, Grendel.

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