The Raving Theist

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Throwing Back the Gauntlet

April 5, 2006 | 25 Comments

The Center for Inquiry Community of Long Island recently challenged The God Squad to a debate. As expected, the Squad has declined:

TO OUR READERS:

Recently, some secular humanists challenged us to a debate. The note we sent them appears below. This closes the matter for us.

For those who suspect from our chosen calling that we are religious, we plead guilty. We are religious not just because we inherited our faiths. We both believe religion takes us closer to the truth than any secular philosophy. This conviction does not constitute bigotry, nor is it intolerance. It is faith.

However, it’s also a part of our faith to apologize to anyone we’ve inadvertently offended, so we apologize to all atheists for any feelings of hurt they may have gleaned from our faith in God, and for our belief that faith in God is the most secure foundation for ethical thinking and for the protection of the dignity of all people, whom we believe, with a complete faith, are made in the image of God.

TO SECULAR HUMANISTS:

Thank you for your offer to debate which, regrettably, we must decline. Tom is very ill with Parkinson’s disease, and Marc has no inclination to appear without him. You also invited us to debate on a Friday night, which is the Jewish Sabbath.

However, let us try to disabuse you of the impression you may have wrongly garnered from our writings. This is what we both believe:

1. We believe that atheists can absolutely be moral people.

2. We believe that every coherent ethical theory must be able to universalize its ethical imperatives.

3. We believe that there are secular and religious ways to universalize ethical theories.

4. We ground our ethical theories in a natural rights understanding that provides both religious and rational justification for ethical imperatives.

We endorse any person who is working for the betterment of humankind, and we condemn anyone who uses either religious or secular ideologies to oppress and exploit people.

We hope this clears up any misunderstanding, and though we cannot ask that God bless you for fear of offending you, we offer our best wishes for your continued work for goodness in our broken world. — Marc and Tom

Given that they responded at all, it was more than I expected. I’ll take their explanation for not debating at face value, but I’m a little skeptical. The two are still offering their services as speakers online. Even assuming that Father Hartman is too ill to venture out, I find it hard to believe that the Rabbi has stopped making appearances. And the bit about Friday night suggests they were just looking for excuses — if they were interested they could have easily suggested a different date.

That aside, is their apology good enough for you?

Comments

25 Responses to “Throwing Back the Gauntlet”

  1. PanAtheist
    April 5th, 2006 @ 8:29 am

    Several Raving Atheist Forum members recently challenged The Raving Atheist to a debate. As expected, the Raving Atheist has declined.

  2. Dada Saves
    April 5th, 2006 @ 9:02 am

    Hmm. The God Squad stills appears on ‘Imus in the Morning’ regularly. Maybe Tom’s Parkinson’s comes and goes?

  3. Dada Saves
    April 5th, 2006 @ 9:05 am

    Also, if Tom really is too ill to appear at a live event, maybe they would consent to an online debate?

    (What’s up with their apology to atheists? Did someone frmo the Center for Inquiry Community of LI cite ‘feelings of hurt’ when it made the challenge?)

  4. franky
    April 5th, 2006 @ 9:18 am

    “and though we cannot ask that God bless you for fear of offending you, we offer our best wishes for your continued work for goodness in our broken world”
    A little smart-alecky towards the end there, but that’s my only complaint.

  5. PanAtheist
    April 5th, 2006 @ 9:29 am

    I don’t know about these people, but Parkinson’s is a very nasty and terribly disabling disease, of which people who have never lived around it really have no idea. For a person with Parkinson’s to take on *any* committment is a VERY. BIG. DEAL.

  6. JUST_ANOTHER_PRIMATE
    April 5th, 2006 @ 9:33 am

    They might have had the debate if they had been offered their typical keynote fee of $12,500 :)

  7. hermesten
    April 5th, 2006 @ 9:37 am

    Smug, condescending, and obviously insincere. “We’re sorry for being smarter and morally superior to you atheists” is an apology? Us married guys can test this kind of apology at home. Next time the wife is upset, just say, “I’m sorry, honey, that I’m just a man, and I don’t have menustral periods that affect my emotions.”

  8. Andrea
    April 5th, 2006 @ 10:25 am

    We can all identify with being stubborn about our beliefs and really, it’s not like they’ve got anything legitimate to say. Honestly what is the goal of this debate – to get the Squad to see the truth?

    Please, Tom is suffering from Parkinsons, he’s not going to renounce Jesus at this point in his life. Nor is Rabbi Mark going to walk out on his Sabbath dinner when one of these secular humanists cuts the bread and says, “did you ever wonder if ‘faith’ might be a euphemism for ‘delusion’?”

    Since this debate is really just an excuse for atheists to feel superior, we can take comfort knowing that their “regret” at declining the humanists’ invite is a lie, which is a sin under the Ten Commandments. So either they don’t mind sacrificing their afterlife, or realize it’s all a joke anyways.

  9. simbol
    April 5th, 2006 @ 11:17 am

    Herm

    I think is good bussiness to exchange recognizing of your morality for a bland sarcasm.

    For them to recognize that you can be perfectly moral being godless, is a very big concession. In fact they are renouncing an effective weapon for a ‘god bless you’ that isn’t false will offend some jealous atheists. If an atehist can be a moral person, god and religion are not needed for basing morality.

    JAP

    It wouldn’t be wise to offer the Squad 12.500 bucks. It’d be a no-win situation. First of all you have to pay 12.500; second: can you imagine a bunch of atheists smashing poor trembling Farther Tom? Audience would hate them. Only possible favorable scenario would be Hermesten with Parkinson opposing Father Tom. But, alas, Herm is healthy ;-).

  10. Aaron Kinney
    April 5th, 2006 @ 11:39 am

    What a bunch of wussies they are! And they hold up “faith” as a virtue, knowing full well that they cannot rationally defend the concept of belief without evidence or logical proof.

  11. Mookie
    April 5th, 2006 @ 11:52 am

    An online debate at a different time could be an alternative. A series of prepared responses posted on a webpage would suffice. But we know there is nothing they can say that makes sense and can convince a rational person to see the world in such a twisted way as they do. Imagine millions of Americans witnessing their beloved squad being mind-wrestled with ease to the meme graveyard.

  12. Chris Treborn
    April 5th, 2006 @ 1:20 pm

    This posturing is very telling. Some people decide not to waste their time arguing with atheists who have already made up their minds and cannot listen to any other point of view, and you are all gloating about how you would have “kicked the theists around”. Why would you do that?

  13. simbol
    April 5th, 2006 @ 1:42 pm

    Mookie

    Is not what they can say. After all, they have the “market”, we are a small competitor and they can afford the safe luxury of not debating. What matters is what we can say for gaining some foot in the believer’s domain. But if we were the only rational persons, as you put it, to what use this debate would be?. We have found many believers which is hard to pick a bone with. They are not dumbs and I’d say that while they maintain their belief, they are open to discuss many aspects of it.

    Do you find hopelessly impossible that, say, 30-40 % of USA population become at least skeptical some day?

  14. Drek
    April 5th, 2006 @ 2:03 pm

    That aside, is their apology good enough for you?

    No. It really isn’t. If they wanted to decline “just because” I’d be fine, but the snarkiness bugs me.

    Realistically, though, there wasn’t really a winning outcome to this attempt in the first place.

  15. Facehammer
    April 5th, 2006 @ 2:20 pm

    CT:

    “Debating religion is like flogging a dead horse. But man, is that horse fun to flog.”

  16. Jason Malloy
    April 5th, 2006 @ 5:57 pm

    However, it’s also a part of our faith to apologize to anyone we’ve inadvertently offended, so we apologize to all atheists for any feelings of hurt they may have gleaned from our faith in God, and for our belief that faith in God is the most secure foundation for ethical thinking . . . However, let us try to disabuse you of the impression you may have wrongly garnered from our writings. This is what we both believe: 1. We believe that atheists can absolutely be moral people.

    Oh, what a lying asshole. Such doe-eyed innocence, do they even read their own columns?

    Aug 26, 2002:

    “If there is no God, there would be no reason to do good. If there is no God, there would be no difference between people and animals. If there is no God, there would be no souls and no chance that souls could live on after death. Mostly, if there is no God, there is just no reason to get out of bed in the morning and no reason to believe that life has an edge over death, hope an edge over despair and love an edge over hate.”

    May 25, 2005:

    “. . . without God, most kids never learn that they have been put here to serve others, not just themselves.”

    Here’s another gem:

    The last acceptable prejudice in our society is the prejudice against people who take their faith seriously. We think this anti-religious prejudice is influenced by several factors.

    Funny, I thought that new survey showed quite clearly that atheists were the most openly despised group. Just more Atheist Elders of Zion crap from the Squad.

    They’ve tried to square their circle of shitty ethical pseudo-philosophy assertions by claiming moral atheists actually have a belief in “God”, which they’ve defined down to a belief in “moral absolutes”. Which apparently just means “lying and murder is bad. . . except of course when we decide it is needed to fight some Greater Evil, but trust us, it’s still “absolute””. Which, again, “reduces” morality to just “inferior” old moral reasoning.

    Of course the Squad are the last people who should be asserting that telling the truth only comes with a belief in “god”, what with their consistent lying in the form of sophistry and support for creationist pseudoscience.

  17. Jason Malloy
    April 5th, 2006 @ 9:40 pm

    Also, it is extremely obvious that the Squad were just making bullshit excuses. If Thom still writes columns then his brain works fine, and a written Internet debate would have actually been superior (since live debates are heavily slanted by non-logical skills like public speaking ability anyway). The real reason the squad isn’t participating in any debate any time soon is that they know how precarious their religious lies are. God or God-belief have nothing superior to moral reasoning to add, and the system is actually inferior to the extent it justifies the authority of man (falsely attributed to a ‘god’), over moral reasoning. They have no response for the Euthyphro dilemma (logical failure); they have no statistics showing that atheist parented children are more delinquent, or any opther testable claims against atheists (empirical failure); and they use artful dodging and definitional legerdemain at every turn. Fuck you you cowardly hucksters, don’t pretend you are spreading anything more noble than lies and prejudice. Grow some balls and defend your (paid!) positions against real logical challenges, you “Intelligent Design” supporting cranks and money-stealing crooks.

  18. Troff
    April 6th, 2006 @ 6:48 am

    That aside, is their apology good enough for you?

    Hell, no.
    (No pun intended.)

    it’s also a part of our faith to apologize to anyone we’ve inadvertently offended,

    And not something we do because of right or wrong. Or consideration into how we might have offended.

    so we apologize to all atheists for any feelings of hurt they may have gleaned from our faith in God,

    Which they believe religion takes us closer to the truth than any secular philosophy, therefore they’re not going to actually change anything.

    and for our belief that faith in God is the most secure foundation for ethical thinking and for the protection of the dignity of all people

    In spite of the fact that this site (and a whole bunch of people otherwise) point repeatedly to instances in life and their bible that say otherwise.

    We believe that atheists can absolutely be moral people

    And elephants can absolutely be pink too, but I’m not mentioning how many cans of paint I’m seeing around the place.

    We believe that every coherent ethical theory must be able to universalize its ethical imperatives

    Is this a contentless statement? Is an ethical theory coherent or any good if it can’t “universalise ethical imperatives”?

    We believe that there are secular and religious ways to universalize ethical theories

    But as “faith in God is the most secure foundation for ethical thinking and for the protection of the dignity of all people”, guess what we think of the secular ways.

    We ground our ethical theories in a natural rights understanding that provides both religious and rational justification

    But “faith in God is the most secure” and correct foundation, therefore the secular foundation is wrong and therefore irrational.

    we condemn anyone who uses either religious or secular ideologies to oppress and exploit people

    … damn this web form. Anybody know how I can link to most of the God Squad reviews posted here before?

    though we cannot ask that God bless you for fear of offending you

    … which is a little like atheists saying “we cannot hope that you live healthy, meaningful, self-improving lives for fear of offending you”.

    … sigh. Sorry. I’m probably being overly aggressive for what really is my first post here. Been reading regularly here for a while thanks to the RSS feed.

    My best (but not only) justification for the attitude is that I work in tech support; and right now I’m using my double major degree to clean and sort benches and move boxes between storerooms in the solo-staff night shift when the NINE-staff day shift didn’t.

    Can I be forgiven for the tone of this post, please?

  19. hermesten
    April 6th, 2006 @ 10:05 am

    Thanks for those quotes Jason. Note the squad’s passive voice –always the voice of weasels. Also note the position of “absolutely” in their declaration.

    Simbol, any concession here is undermined by equivocation, such as the statement that religion is the “most secure basis” for “morality,” as if religion is not solely the product of man –patently absurd nonsense. And as Jason points out, there is good reason, by their previous categorial statements, to doubt the sincerety of this “concession.”

    In the first place, there is no basis for believing that when they use the word “moral” they’re even talking about the same thing we are. When US Christians speak of morality it hardly ever refers to anything more than sexual conduct, and the subset of abortion. Our pious “moralists” attacked Clinton because he got a blow-job from a woman not his wife, not because he bombed an aspirin factory in Africa or slaughtered civilians in Kosovo. The current admininstration is, by every possible measure, the most corrupt in the history of the US. In addition, Bush blatantly lies about everything, openly violates US laws, claims the legal right to torture children, lied his country into a war, and is responsible for the destruction of thousands of lives. But since there are no reports of him doing the nasty in the Oval Office he enjoys zealous support from our most pious Americans.

    Let’s reformulate their concession thus: “We atheists believe that Christians can absolutely be moral.” Is there not more than a little arrogance in such a statement? Changing the subject doesn’t change the nature of the statement. The squad claims presumptive “morality” and cocedes, conditioned by their preceding statement about the superior basis of religious thought, that other lesser beings have the “potential” to be almost as “moral” as they are. To accept such a “concession” is to subordinate yourself to their presumption of moral superiority.

    F-uck their phony “morality.” I’m not looking for a seat at the theist’s table. In any case, the squad is not the problem. They’re completely irrelevant to us as atheists. In spite of all the Christian bull-shit about Jesus being a model for Christian conduct, most Christians are primarily conformists concerned about their place in the congregation –not Christ-like rebels and independent thinkers with the courage of their convictions. The people driving the religious wagon in America hate atheists. The squad and their followers are just riding in the back, and they’re not about to object to the destination and risk getting tossed out of the wagon.

  20. simbol
    April 6th, 2006 @ 11:36 am

    Herm, In my view, the answer of The Squad is what in international law is known as ultra petita. For giving you an answer to the invitation they didn’t need to make that concessions. You, as a lawyer, would have advised them to write that letter? Not me. For their audience this letter is confusing and it is not needed to explain why.
    .
    What you and Jason want is an unconditional surrender in a situation where the Squad has his Army and weapons intact. I don’t think they are so dumbs.

    Is my take the squad fight his war in a chivalrous style. Is a war of course, but as the saw says, “to be corteous don’t precludes to be brave”. Try to extract this declaration from Pat Robertson.

  21. simbol
    April 6th, 2006 @ 12:10 pm

    I forgot something

    “The squad and their followers are just riding in the back, and they’re not about to object to the destination and risk getting tossed out of the wagon.”

    Surely right. But I ask, didn’t the liberals has some guilt for that?

    If you cannot discern the dfference between The Squad and Robertson, and atacks them as a block, don’t whine when they form a block. And if they form a block, not mediating your action, you cannot attack them as a block, but selectively, because your aim is to break that block.

  22. hermesten
    April 6th, 2006 @ 2:27 pm

    You can construe my remarks about the squad as an attack, but I’m merely commenting at an atheist website –I’m not over at some Christian blog attacking Christians. On the other hand, I did say the squad isn’t the problem. If the squad represented the predomninate thinking of politically powerful Christians I don’t think religion in this country would be anything to worry about. Even if the mainstream Catholic Chruch, or non-Orthodox Jewry, represented the predominate thinking of politically powerful theists, I don’t think religion in this country would be anything to worry about. After all, the Pope has not rejected science (well, the old one anyway), and historically, Jews have been some of the most prominent advocates of civil and constitutional rights in this country.

    The people in the driver’s seat, who have all but destroyed the Republican party, are the evangelicals and fundamentalists. They are the reference point for the trivilialization of law and pollitics that this website is supposed to be about. When these people preach hatred and intolerance there are very few mainstream Christians who speak out against them (and I’m talking about the Tom DeLays and the James Inhofe’s and the Tom Coburn’s and the Bill Frist’s here, not Fred Phelps). When push comes to shove, the “mainstream” will stand with the radicals who define their religion, not with secularists, agnostics, and atheists. Just as very very few Christians spoke out against the Nazis, and many many “good Germans” either participated in the holocaust, or just closed their eyes and let it happen, the squad, and those like them, will close their eyes and shut their mouths and go along to get along. This makes them entirely irrelevant.

    Still, I don’t mean to suggest we should treat all Christians the same, or as a block. I can even ally myself with some of the most radical Bible Beaters out there if their principles extend beyond their political party and transcend nationalism. I mostly detest the weasels and the hypocrites. Weasels, for instance, like those who claim that a fertilized egg is a human being, and that abortion is “murder,” and then cavil at punishing the mother like a murderer. Hypocrites who whined endlessly about Clinton getting a blow-job but have nothing but excuses for a liar who proclaims the legal right to torture. But when it counts, the squad-types riding in the back of the wagon are going to be part of a block, and that block isn’t going to include atheists if the same people are still driving.

    This just in, from Fox “News” of all places. These are the kind of people we’re dealing with. Fox –good God, FOX!!! is quoting Bill Frist as saying.: “Hell, if we want to plant I.D. chips in people and torture their loved ones until they break, we will.” Fox futher says:

    “Late Friday a series of memos between senior Bush Administration officials and management at Viacom, Inc. were leaked calling for the media giant to focus on stories and programming choices that “reinforce the Administration’s positions” and to “ignore and/or discredit points of view in opposition to the Bush Administration’s foreign policy objectives for the purposes of National Security.””

    This is what we’re up against. A government takeover by an administration of Christian criminals drunk on power.

  23. hermesten
    April 6th, 2006 @ 2:43 pm

    OK, I should have read the entire article before quoting from the first couple paragraphs. I didn’t look carefully enough and I was taken in by the realistic Fox News logo, until I got to the part of the article that went:

    “Debra L. Lee, president and CEO of Viacom’s Black Entertainment Television, agrees. “Even though our moniker is BET, our allegiance lies with our government and its directives, not the African-American community. Anyone who believes that we will endorse messages in contrast to our government’s wishes, or that express dissent, is sorely mistaken.””

    So, no smoking gun. Doesn’t change the fact that our government has been taken over by Christian criminals drunk on power.

  24. Viole
    April 6th, 2006 @ 5:42 pm

    When push comes to shove, the “mainstream” will stand with the radicals who define their religion, not with secularists, agnostics, and atheists. Just as very very few Christians spoke out against the Nazis, and many many “good Germans” either participated in the holocaust, or just closed their eyes and let it happen, the squad, and those like them, will close their eyes and shut their mouths and go along to get along. This makes them entirely irrelevant.

    Not irrelevant. It makes them complicit. Everyone who refuses to speak out shares some measure of guilt for the actions of the minority.

    Some people will point out that this isn’t going to win me any friends, but it isn’t intended to. I’m sure many of you know I have no respect for my government, considering many of the imperialistic, genocidal or unjust actions it has taken over the last two hundred and thirty years, but this kind of thing truly makes me ashamed to even live here. America needs to take its head out of its collective ass, and actually take a stand for its supposed ideals. If not, I shall have no regret when this country finally collapses into ashes.

  25. hermesten
    April 7th, 2006 @ 9:15 am

    Viole, having no respect for this government makes you a true patriot.

    Yes, they’re complicit. I meant irrelevant only in the sense that since they can be counted on to do the wrong thing, or the easy thing, they are irrelevant to any calculation of possible acceptance or support we can makes as atheists.

    As far as making friends goes….I’m not interested in friends without principles. This eliminates about 90% of the population of potential friends. In my experience, non-believers of all types –deists, unitarians, agnostics, and atheists– are more likely to have principles than Christians. I haven’t met many Muslims, Hindus, or Jews, but all I have met, are for some reason, more principled than the typical American Chrisitan (I do think this is primarily a product of the culture rather than the religion). In fact, I still find it remarkable how many Christians candidly reveal their utter lack of principle. When I do run into a principled Christians, it’s interesting to note that they are usually just about as isolated as us atheists.

    As far as this government is concerned, you’re no where near the nadir of shame. All the stuff that hasn’t come out is far far worse than the stuff that has.

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