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« Skeptics' Circle #45 The RantsComing Out of the Aneboda* »

How To Be Your Own Unicorn
2006.10.16 (Mon) 21:42

Ah, proselytizing. Nothing makes our asses pucker quite like it. It's bad enough that some people harbor silly, delusional beliefs in a magical sky daddy, but add to that a compulsion to ring our doorbells at nine o'clock on Saturday morning in an attempt to spread those delusions like the common cold, and that'll really get our juices flowing. In fact, if you take our intense dislike of proselytizing, along with our generally grouchy demeanors in the morning, and add the touch of extra grouchiness we feel when we are jarred awake by the doorbell on one of the days we had slated for sleeping in only to find two women holding bibles and asking us what we think is the biggest problem in the world today...well, it's pretty amazing that, instead of beating these people severely about the head and neck with our shoes, we merely answered "Religion" and closed the door in their faces. (Yes, true story.)

But as many of you are no doubt aware, keeping the Jesus freaks off of our doorsteps is only one small part of the battle, as they also assault our inboxes with waves of specious bullshit that, amazingly, they think will bring us into the fold, or perhaps blow our minds with sheer force of, um, logic. We recently received one such missive from Heather, and it was so chock-full of the same old stereotypical nonsense that we felt the need to address it here. It isn't that we haven't seen every single one of these slack-jawed arguments before — it's just that seeing them all together like this under one roof, so to speak, was truly staggering.

The missive in question was called "Gleanings From The Word: Experience an extraordinary God in ordinary life. Issue #1756 Prove?" Based on issue #1756, we can only speculate that if we were forced to sit through issues #1 through #1755, we would no doubt claw our own eyeballs out with shrimp forks just to escape the sheer horror of wading through nearly two-thousand times the garbage in just one issue, but we digress. This edition started with the following:

People spend a lot of time trying to "prove" or "disprove" the existence of God. The Bible does not bother to do so. As God's revealed Word to us, it must presuppose that there is a God. After all, if there is no God, then who is it that is being revealed in the pages of Scripture?

Let's start with an analogy. If you read the Lord of the Rings, it is clear that the text you are reading is supposed to be the Red Book of Westmarch as written by Bilbo Baggins (and completed by Frodo Baggins). As both Bilbo and Frodo's revealed Word to us, it must presuppose that there is a Bilbo and there is a Frodo. After all, if there is no Bilbo and there is no Frodo, then who is it that is being revealed in the pages of the Lord of the Rings?

Of course, even a relatively mediocre intellect reaches the obvious conclusion a few yards before the finish line — that J.R.R. Tolkien wrote the Lord of the Rings and that he just pretended that they were books written by fictitious hobbits as part of the story. The question that we have is how anyone who isn't an abject idiot can fail to see or understand that the exact same thing holds true for the bible.

"But if there's no god," whines this essay, "then what is being revealed in the scripture?" How about the deep-seated need, shared by the majority of naked apes on this rock, to mythologize every aspect of life? How about ancient man's understandable ignorance of the universe he lived in, and modern man's unconscionable unwillingness to shake free from that ignorance? How about a quite effective means for those in power to control the masses? We could go on, but you get the point.

Saying that the bible is "god's revealed word to us," of course, assumes the existence of god in the first place. Yes, the bible must presuppose that there is a god. That's the whole damn problem — that the bible assumes a priori that there is a god. If you don't believe in god, then the bible is simply literature (and poor literature at that). So how does the fact that someone says that it is god's revealed word go anywhere towards providing evidence for or confirmation of the existence of god? This is why this most frustratingly vacuous of arguments pisses off critical thinkers so much.

So one is driven to ask: if this lesson began with the statement that the bible doesn't bother to prove or disprove god, then what the hell was the purpose of this entire missive? If, by their own admission, the bible doesn't provide proof of god, then by all means stop offering it as proof of god! But no, despite their claims, they are relying on the bible as "proof" of their god's existence. What other reason was there to put this string of utterly meaningless biblical citations together?

Skipping some bible verses, the next argument expands on an error that started in the paragraph above:

Even the most diehard atheist cannot disprove the existence of God. Even in their search to do so, we see echoes of a recognition of the concept of God. After all how can reject something or disprove something if there is not at least a conceptual knowledge of what you are trying to discredit?

Again, let's start with an analogy. As most people are aware, disproving the existence of something in anything other than a relatively small closed set is impossible. Yes we've got a good shot at proving that there are no dragons in the garage (though the "true believers" could no doubt foil our attempts with appeals to invisible, floating, incorporeal dragons à la Carl Sagan), but as soon as we expand the sample from one garage to the entire universe, things begin to get dicey. Case in point: even the most die-hard skeptic cannot universally disprove the existence of ass gnomes. Even though these skeptics are not searching to do so, we still see the echoes of a recognition of the concept of small gnomes who live in asses. After all, how can one reject something or disprove something if there is not at least a conceptual knowledge of what one is trying to discredit?

As the analogy above shows, the analysis about atheists and their views on god is flawed on many levels. The most important thing here is the recognition that, except in very rare cases, atheists aren't trying to disprove the existence of god any more than skeptics are trying to disprove the existence of ass gnomes or tooth fairies or Santa Clauses. We just recognize that the odds of any of these things existing are so miniscule as to make no difference, and as such, we treat them as equally fictitious concepts. The fact that we recognize the concept of a god is no more telling than is the fact that we recognize the concept of ass gnomes, or hobbits, or unicorns. They are all fictional creations that elicit certain images, but that doesn't in any way make them more likely to exist in reality. To sum up for the slow-witted peanut gallery: we can conceive of damn near anything, but that conception doesn't even remotely confirm or deny the actual existence of its subject.

From here, the text moves on to one of the most infuriatingly asinine arguments that it's been our displeasure to hear on a semi-regular basis:

Every culture has a concept of some form of divine being. The very existence of life demands it. Some would disagree and say that secular humanists do not recognize a form of divine being. I would have to disagree with that assessment; they simply see mankind as god. That is a frightening thought since most (all?) secular humanists are believers in the evolutionary theory. To believe that one somehow goes from the chance product of a random combination of chemicals to pond scum to fish to mammal to man to divine is an absurd belief at face value.

That's right — it's the old "atheists are their own god" bullshit! Even though this one hardly merits an analogy, we'll toss one down anyway. Saying that atheists are their own god is tantamount to saying that skeptics are their own unicorn. Does that sound like a nonsensical statement? Yeah, no shit — because it is. It doesn't matter how many cultures have deific concepts; it doesn't matter how long these concepts have been held. Concepts exist in the mind, and only the uneducated, miseducated, or willfully ignorant would claim that the existence of a concept demands the existence of the object being conceived. How sad that these pathetic fools hold human imagination in such low regard, obstinately certain that we can only conceive of that which already is. Sad and very, very stupid.

Further, saying that atheists are their own god presupposes that every person must believe that the concept of "god" extends to a physical presence in the real world, and that everyone who conceives of a god must therefore recognize one in reality. So, the argument goes, if you don't believe in our god, then you must believe that something is god, and since you don't believe in any supernatural phenomena, then you must believe that you yourself are god. However, this idiotic assumption ignores the obvious answer that's implicit in the word atheist itself — an atheist has no belief in any god, neither up in the sky, nor occupying the earth. An atheist is no more his own god than he is his own unicorn. Being able to conceive of an idea by no means forces us to believe in the actual physical reality of the idea, and this silly argument is pure bullshit.

Again, we'll skip some inane scriptural references and move on to the next inane argument:

The further one goes out into the vastness of the heavens the more the majesty of God is declared.

The smaller on goes on a subatomic level, the more God is declared. To not see that there must have been a creator is simply willful blindness.

No analogy here — we'll just rephrase this so that it's correct. The further one goes out into the vastness of the heavens, the more the majesty of the universe is realized (thanks to scientific investigation and critical thinking). The smaller one goes on a subatomic level, the more the majesty of the universe is realized (again, thanks to scientific investigation and critical thinking). To insist that there must have been some magical superhero that created all of this just for the benefit of mankind is supremely egotistical. To insist that there is a purpose to your life beyond what you alone make of it is stubborn and misguided arrogance. To insist that the beauty and wonder of the universe, both large and small, isn't good enough, and that there must be something grander still, is willful blindness and betrays an utter contempt for reality. And that's all we have to say about that.

Here we'll skip not only more scripture, but also some silly and wholly unsupported statements (like "only fools deny god," et cetera), and move on to this exciting tidbit of stupidity:

God is who He is and always will be. Accept that truth or reject it at your own peril, but please do not patronize me with comments about the God of the Bible [not] "being truth for you". His existence cannot be denied. We can debate His nature, but the God of the Bible cannot be true for me but not for you. Either He is who He is or He is not.

In point of fact, we're a little bit surprised by the author's recognition that there is an objective reality that we all must live in, regardless of our beliefs. Of course, we differ significantly on the nature of that reality — ours supported by evidence, and the author's supported by baseless assertions. It's certainly true that belief or disbelief in a concept does not in any way alter the objective existence or non-existence of such a thing in reality, so we agree that god cannot exist for some and not exist for others. In fact, that's exactly why we spend so much time alternately laughing or crying at the preponderance of religious stupidity in the world today, and why we often feel like we're living among raving, delusional zealots. And the last thing we're doing is trying to patronize the believers. We aren't dancing around belief and saying that god exists for them but not for us — we're saying flat out that the concept of god or gods is a fiction created by mankind, that god doesn't exist, not for you and not for us, and even the fact that you really, really want to believe that there's a god in no way alters the reality that there just isn't.

Continuing on:

Most who reject God as revealed in the Bible have never read the itwith an open and honest mind. It is a fearful thing to fall under the wrath of a holy God. It is sheer stupidity to fall under the wrath of God simply because you are too lazy to read the book and instead base your decision on second and third hand opinions of some person's thoughts on what the Bible might say.

In our experience over the years, it is far more often the atheists and other critical thinkers who have read the bible much more carefully and thoroughly than the most ardent of evangelicals. It seems that many of the latter group are so busy thumping their bibles that they never bother to open them up and read the words inside. Case in point: our exchange with Jody from a while back, in which she claimed that nothing in the bible contradicted science in any way. When we pointed out and directly referenced a bunch of blatant contradictions, Jody replied by sticking her fingers in her ears and using the very argument above: that we shouldn't rely on the words of others in our arguments by quoting from scholarly works discrediting the bible. The problem with her counterpoint, of course, was that the only work we referenced in making our points was the bible itself. Not only did Jody show that she had never bothered to read the bible carefully enough to come across one of the numerous and obvious scientific inaccuracies (like "bats are birds," or the idea that if goats copulate in front of a striped stick they will give birth to striped offspring), she showed that she couldn't even be bothered to read our statements concerning the bible. So, who's too lazy to read the bible and instead relies on second- and third-hand opinions?

In fact, this seems to be common practice for many Christians. In many (if not most) cases, it seems they are encouraged to not read the bible too closely. Why? Because a close reading is more likely to be a critical reading, and under such scrutiny, all but the most feeble of intellects must see the problems inherent in Christianity (and most religions in general). So instead, the masses are incessantly preached to — they are spoon-fed the ideas and opinions to which they are meant to cling blindly and unquestioningly.

The essay ends with:

The choice is yours. You are free to agree or disagree. There are consequences to accepting or rejecting. Do not make your decision without at least taking the time to see what the Bible has to say on the subject.

There are indeed consequences to accepting or rejecting the bible. Unlike many Christians, we have assessed those consequences soberly and at great length. We're very confident in our decision, and we can't help but think that, if more people did the same research that we've done — if they would just read the book that supposedly governs every aspect of their lives without wearing the blinders of faith — then they would come to the same conclusions that we have.

We've received countless e-mails like this one, and by far the most frequently made mistake that we see is the fallacious claim that "everyone really believes" in the divine in some way. That simply isn't true. To say that the majesty of nature reveals the existence of god persupposes the divine (and ignores the science behind nature). Equating knowledge of the concept of a "god" to belief in the existence of said god (and even more astoundingly, to a specific belief in the Christian god) is simply erroneous. To wit, we all now (we hope!) recognize the concept of "ass gnomes" — we understand what the phrase refers to — but hopefully none of us believes that they really exist. And there's no need for an atheist to proclaim that man is god because "god," like "unicorn" (or "ass gnome"), is merely a fictional term describing something that simply doesn't exist in objective reality. We all know what we mean when we say "Spider-Man," too, but we don't labor under the delusion that the wallcrawling webslinger is bouncing over the rooftops of Manhattan as we speak.

Now, seriously, to those who've sent us e-mails like this in an attempt to convert us, or frighten us, or "teach" us, or whatever it is you think you're doing — please stop. Just because you can't think your way out of these pathetic paper bags, it doesn't follow that we can't. And if you absolutely must persist, then at least have the decency to show up at our front doors where we're able to hit you about the head and neck with our shoes until you see reason. But please, for the love of your god, just don't come before noon.


— • —
[  Filed under: % Greatest Hits  % Religion  ]

Comments (13)

Matt, 2006.10.17 (Tue) 06:11 [Link] »

Everytime you say god doesn't exist, an ass gnome dies.

*giggle*



Darthcynic, 2006.10.17 (Tue) 19:09 [Link] »

:D

Good lords what a mind numbingly feeble minded twit, man you guys put up with a lot. Shit if these credulous twats really think its our free choice, that gods gonna throw down his furious vengenance upon us lumpen unbelievers. Why do they care, why do they insist on demonstrating their thundering stupidity by assailing us rational thinking folks with their whimsical sky fairy delusions?.

That said, why do they never knock on my door?, sure I'd be pissed with em a callin that early but its been ages since I had any sport tormenting the tools. Like the mormons a whiles back, boy they were a hoot, genuinely, visibly shocked at my lack of sudden road to Damascus conversion. Btw before any true believer bothers to say I should'nt mock others beliefs, I don't. Unless. Unless they knock at my door to peddle their beliefs, then I feel its fair game to tell them why they be just plain wrong.



ed, 2006.10.18 (Wed) 04:34 [Link] »

From now on, anyone who sends you shit like that should get a link to this book, which is the most rational and devastating critique of superstition I have ever read.



The Rev. Schmitt., 2006.10.18 (Wed) 10:20 [Link] »

it's pretty amazing that, instead of beating these people severely about the head and neck with our shoes, we merely answered "Religion" and closed the door in their faces. (Yes, true story.)

Ah, lordy. That's absolutely hilarious.

I frequently get the impression from those sort of long lists that even the people writing them don't think the logic is sound, or that they've not thought it through that much. The screed sounds like it's showing the flaws in atheism, it says it's showing the flaws in atheism, and there's a lot of it, so damn the details; any old rubbish thrown on the pile will help convince the unbeliever so might as well be stuck in.

There's a lot of information...it's just got the depth of analysis and critical thinking which go into the average list supposedly proving a given conspiracy theory or pseudoscience.



Eric, 2006.10.18 (Wed) 15:01 [Link] »

Well done, but I'd prefer to be my own Bigfoot, rather than a unicorn. The pure and virginal aren't as much fun as everybody thinks they are.



Jason Spicer, 2006.10.18 (Wed) 21:27 [Link] »

Here now. What's all this about ass gnomes not being real? What else could be responsible for all the crap spewed forth in Gleanings From The Word? In fact, I think Gleanings From The Word is one of those thinly veiled religious euphemisms for Spewings From The Ass.



jay denari, 2006.10.18 (Wed) 22:20 [Link] »

Like the mormons a whiles back, boy they were a hoot, genuinely, visibly shocked at my lack of sudden road to Damascus conversion.

I've had run-ins with them, too. It was interesting: one of them (the younger one) seemed curious and clearly wanted to ask questions, but the older one wouldn't let him get a word in edgewise. You know, he couldn't possibly let one of the flock be corrupted by a heathen like me.



Akusai, 2006.10.19 (Thu) 00:29 [Link] »

Two tales:

One friend, when the Mormons came to his front door, invited them in and listened excitedly to their schpeil. When they asked, midway through, if he was religious, he said "Oh, yeah. But I'm a Zeus man, myself." They were struck speechless. One eventually asked if his parents knew (he was in high school at the time). He replied "Oh, yeah, they're cool with it as long as I only make the sacrifices in the back yard and I clean up after myself." He invited the Mormons to continue. They politely excused themselves.

Another friend had some missionaries come to his house in the form of three 15-year-old girls preaching the word. He invited them in and sat them all on his couch, with him in between two of them. As they proceeded to uncomfortably and unskillfully preach the word, he took every opportunity to subtly hit on them. Inside 20 minutes he had his arms around two of them and they realized it was then time to leave. They went outside to a waiting car. He saw them say something to the older man in the driver's seat, who then flashed the evil eye before turning away.



ed, 2006.10.19 (Thu) 04:43 [Link] »

Akusai, I love that. 'Hey girls, time for ME to preach the word...the word of the story of Lot and his hot, horny daughters. Anyone have a skin of wine? Cause you're about to get a pillar of salt where you've never had one before.'



martinx, 2006.10.19 (Thu) 20:21 [Link] »

I'm with you on all of your skeptical/crit thinking positions I've read so far, and THANKS for the loose and entertaining Rants (sometimes "fuck that shit" is just the appropriate response!).

I deviate on the proselytizing bit, though. Maybe it's creeping sentimentalism, but I appreciate just about ANYONE getting real about their passions. The windbag/action ratio is way too big in most areas, I reckon, and anyone taking their own genuine opinions seriously makes for a much more interesting world. I can find a bit of admiration even for the sad childish JWs who occasionally reach my door. They have no clue, and are unable to debate anything. They face ridicule continuously, and maybe even get off on some martyrdom aspect of it, but who cares? On the whole, I think it spices up western suburban life a bit - and for this short dance with consciousness, I'll take spicy! (strangely mixed metaphor...)



Jesse, 2006.10.21 (Sat) 19:55 [Link] »

Damn, I was hoping for more unicorns and/or advice on how to become one. Unicorns are wicked rad.



The Two Percent Company, 2006.10.24 (Tue) 21:59 [Link] »

Yeah, we'll definitely agree that, when they aren't waking us up way too freaking early, door-to-door evangelists of any stripe can be pretty entertaining. At the very least, and as some of your comments illustrate nicely, they can give us some funny stories to relate. But their e-mailing cousins are really just annoying. So, at ed's suggestion, from now on we're simply going to reply with a link to The God Delusion. Damn, why didn't we think of that?

By the way, Eric, we can honestly say we've never encountered a pure and virginal unicorn — not once. So for all we know, they're the randiest little bastards in the equine world — they are the horniest, after all (sorry, sometimes we can't resist a bad pun, no matter how hard we try). You know, like Lot's daughters. (And Jesse — if you want to become a unicorn, it shouldn't be all that more difficult than this.)

And we're sorry about saying that ass gnomes aren't real. We feel like the older cousin who just ruined Christmas. So ignore that. Never happened. Take heart in the knowledge that ass gnomes are just as real as Jesus, and realer than Santa.



ArseBiter, 2007.11.12 (Mon) 16:43 [Link] »

I like answering the door on Saturday and Sunday mornings in an elephant trunk posing pouch "just in case" The god-bother's don't knock on my door anymore and nor do the police. (Which is a real shame 'cos she looked so hot in her uniform, it made my elephant raise his trunk)




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