PZ Myers – Contra Mitch Daniels and Pro Positive Affirmation of God’s Non-Existence, part 1 of 2

PZ Myers has picked a bone with Mitch Daniels as Daniels was prompted to make certain statements about atheism. Mitch Daniels is the Governor of Indiana whom PZ Myers, in accordance with his characteristically belligerent mannerism, has chosen to refer to as, “profoundly stupid…a mindless ratbag.” [fn]PZ Myers, “I’m so sorry for you, Indiana,” Pharyngula, December 27, 2009[/fn]

PZ Myers has picked a bone with Mitch Daniels as Daniels was prompted to make certain statements about atheism. Mitch Daniels is the Governor of Indiana whom PZ Myers, in accordance with his characteristically belligerent mannerism, has chosen to refer to as, “profoundly stupid…a mindless ratbag.” [fn]PZ Myers, “I’m so sorry for you, Indiana,” Pharyngula, December 27, 2009[/fn]

There are two relevant portions of an interview with Mitch Daniels[fn]Mark Mellinger, “Daniels talks candidly about his faith,” Wayne-TV December 24, 2009[/fn]:

To me, the core of the Christian faith is humility, which starts with recognizing that you’re as fallen as anyone else. And we’re all constantly trying to get better, but… so I’m sure I come up short on way too many occasions.

The prompting of the following comment came about due to Mitch Daniels’ recent recommendation of the book “No One Sees God – The Dark Night of Atheists and Believers” by Michael Novak, “which Daniels characterized as responding to ‘aggressive atheism’ with Christian charity.”

Mellinger: Is there part of you that is bothered by the aggressive atheism of a [Sam] Harris, a [Christopher] Hitchens, a [Richard] Dawkins? And what I mean is… this atheism is a little different than atheism has been in the past because it does seek to convert people.

Daniels: I’m not sure it’s all that new. People who reject the idea of a God -who think that we’re just accidental protoplasm- have always been with us. What bothers me is the implications -which not all such folks have thought through- because really, if we are just accidental, if this life is all there is, if there is no eternal standard of right and wrong, then all that matters is power.

And atheism leads to brutality. All the horrific crimes of the last century were committed by atheists -Stalin and Hitler and Mao and so forth- because it flows very naturally from an idea that there is no judgment and there is nothing other than the brief time we spend on this Earth.

Everyone’s certainly entitled in our country to equal treatment regardless of their opinion. But yes, I think that folks who believe they’ve come to that opinion ought to think very carefully, first of all, about how different it is from the American tradition; how it leads to a very different set of outcomes in the real world.

Note that the supposedly heroic New Atheists constantly abscond from tackling that which supposedly ignited their movement, the radical Islamic attacks on 9/11, and instead sit in the safety, comfort and lucrativeness of the UK and USA—countries premised upon Judeo-Christian principles—and constantly besmirch the world’s true evil (apparently) in the form of popular Christian televangelist types (this is mostly why the New Atheist movement discredited itself). Not to disappoint, PZ Myers follows this cowardly suit in referencing Pat Robertson or James Dobson. And, by the way, he likens Joseph Stalin, the atheist Communist murderer of some 20,000,000 people, to Sarah Palin.

What comes across in PZ Myers’ response is, sadly, a typical barrage of unfounded assertions, misunderstandings, illogicality and contradiction. I understand that Myers is emotive, exiting and knows how to push all of those little buttons that cause his reader’s adrenaline to spike but his words must be considered and dissected so as to consider his actual content.

For example, consider the following:

The core of Christianity has never been humility, but arrogance. This is a faith that claims its followers have privileged contact with an immortal, omniscient being, that claims that believers are especially loved by the most powerful intelligence in the universe, and that those who believe most devoutly will be rewarded after death with cushy lives in paradise, while the rest of us burn in torment for eternity. Governor Daniels needs to crack a dictionary.

a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness.

There is nothing humble in believing one has an inside line to god. Sure, Christians talk about being “fallen” and “sinners”, but what it’s all about is false modesty: we’re all fallen, but Christians get to be saved, and you don’t.

Is stating that 2+2=4 and does not equal any other number arrogant or is it simply true? It is narrow and exclusivist but is it true and thus, not arrogant. If, and I ask that you momentarily grant me this if, the gospel is true then it is no more arrogant than 2+2=4.
Note that Myers makes it impossible to find evidence contrary to his assertion that the core of Christianity is arrogance. This is because if you were to present, as evidence, even one single humble Christian PZ Myers claims to know that they are merely expressing “false modesty.” But how does he know that it is “false”? He does not; he presupposes it because it is convenient to his prejudice. What he is claiming is that he knows that the estimated 2.1 (to 3) billion Christians in the world are 1) not humble and if they are, they are 2) falsely modesty.

Yet, this assertion of his is based upon his faulty conception of what is Christianity. It is not a “faith that claims its followers have privileged contact with” God. Rather, it is a faith that claims that everyone on Earth has privileged contact with God, “For God so loved the world the He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
The ultimate Christian message is not the pessimistic atheist retelling of it as there being only one way, but the message is that there is a way and it is available to all, “you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). Thus, we all have “an inside line to god.”

The juxtaposition between those who are “rewarded after death” and “burn in torment” (for information on hell see here, here and here) is that the first group chooses to spend eternity with God and the second do not.
Note that he knows very well that he is wrong in admitting that Christians affirm that we are all fallen sinners thus, “we’re all fallen, but Christians get to be saved”, you likewise have a chance to be saved and Christianity is likewise premised on telling others that they may be saved. It is not arrogant for a beggar to tell another beggar where to find bread.

Note that PZ Myers is an adherent of atheism, which is the ultimate in “I am right and anyone who disagrees is wrong.” Consider the words of one time atheist C. S. Lewis:

If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through. If you are an atheist you have to believe that the main point in all the religions of the whole world is simply one huge mistake.
If you are a Christian, you are free to think that all these religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least some hint of the truth. When I was an atheist I had to try to persuade myself that most of the human race has always been wrong about the question that mattered to them most; when I became a Christian I was able to take a more liberal view. [fn]C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1960), p. 29[/fn]

PZ Myers goes on to write:

Our country was founded by people of diverse faiths, many of which modern Christians would not recognize as anything like their beliefs; Thomas Jefferson and Tom Paine only get to be kept in the fold post mortem because they’re Thomas Jefferson and Tom Paine, but anyone who says the things now that they said in life is a heretic and apostate.

Equality was not one of those principles held to with any consistency by the founding fathers. Slavery was condoned. Slavery was justified by the Bible; what kind of “just God” orders his people to slaughter whole nations and enslave their women and children? Equality was an ideal of the Enlightenment (implemented poorly, in fits and starts, and with its own share of blood and pain), not Christianity. The Christian ideal was a hierarchy on earth and heaven; a monarchy topped by a god.

Ok, so, “Our country was founded by people of diverse faiths” aka non-Christians. But these non-Christians were slave owners and justified slavery via appealing to the Bible. I suppose that when they did something evil they appealed to, and we can blame, the Bible but when they did something good they were freethinking non-Christians.
But why did some appeal to the Bible in support of slavery? Indeed, because they were not consistent with the Bible. The reason that the USA was the last one in and the first one out of slavery is because of the Bible. That some sought to justify the unjustifiable via the Bible does not mean that they were actually able to justify slavery via the Bible but that they were committing the fallacy of eisegesis (or isogesis) and reading into the text that which they wanted to see there—they took texts out of context to make pretexts for prooftexts. They bought African slaves from Africans (who are still doing the same today) and did not want to lose their free workforce.
This form of slavery is condemned in the Bible and carried with it the penalty of capital punishment (in the Old Testament, Exodus 21:16) and is likened to murder (in the New Testament, 1st Timothy 1:9-12). Having written on slavery I will direct the interested reader to: Does the Bible and its God Condone Slavery? and Does God Command You to Beat Your Slaves?.


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