I try not get into online debates in comment sections, on Facebook, or even via email. I have too to else do. In fact, I give this as general advice for most people online, in forums, on Facebook, etc.: these are great places to be poor stewards of the time with which God has entrusted you while neglecting your business, work, housework, etc.
But once in a while I’ll engage someone if I think there’s some larger benefit to it. This post is an example of that, and I was encouraged by others to make a post of the email exchanges below.
The following exchange took place after a 73-year old atheist emailed me via my public email address in regard to my article, “Social Security: 78 cents on the dollar?” which exposes the scam of the Social Security Trust Fund among other things. The man desired to express to me his despair in regard to the future of the Social Security system—from which he derives his sole source of income—but mostly to poke at me with this atheistic cane. While his expression of the standard old atheistic arguments is hardly the best I’ve seen, it does carry with it an interesting vignette into atheism that I deemed worthy to set forth as an example.
What this man revealed as I led him further into his own irrationalism, was the utter despair to which his worldview leads, as well as the angry expression of pure envy which can develop from one’s own embrace of pessimism. Rarely do these things come out so clearly in an exchange with an atheist.
The exchange occurred as follows in block quotations, and will be punctuated in a few places with my further comments.
Response to your 78 cents on the dollar article.
Dear Mr. McDurmon:
I’ve danced through the hoops from childhood “brainwashing” in fundy Baptist Scofield dispensationalism to BA and MDiv degrees in religulous schools, and DC in a secular school (now am 73, retired with only SS).
In all this, my and all American citizens’ lives have been hampered and restrained by the corruption in corporate governments and corporations at various levels. Peace and happiness are only illusions in such an environment.
Yet I was taught that there is a “god” in control of this world, and all things will work out for good for all. Seeing the falseness in such promises, the religulous schools, churches, and media still push these illusions.
So, “what’s a mother to do?” so to speak. I just read your Social Security: 78 Cents on the Dollar? re. the sham of social security. Another government lie to us. Your solutions for us seniors are very disheartening.
We were taught to live in this corrupt society, and, through faith in the supernatural, we’d all come out all right, while contemplating “pie in the sky by and by.” More illusions (falsehoods?).
I was taken in wholly by all this religulous propaganda, only to abandon it around the mid 1960s. It occurred to me that it was a false illusion, disappointing, and not worthy of pursuit, merely a system for creating guilt.
My question to you is: Why do you and others keep up the illusion of happiness and “making a difference” in the world when you and I realize that there is a sinister power of banksters and gangsters funded by the banksters that is unstoppable? Too many profit off such corruption, so there is no successful defeat of it.
One head of an institution near here in answer to my question said we are training the young to go out and take care of the mess which we created/are leaving behind (a paraphrase). Wasn’t he trained to do that with the mess left to him? Evidently he and others before have not made a difference!
Do you believe in a heaven and hell, Mr. McDurmon? If a god created all things and declared them “good,” what happened to his control of them? And hell fire for eternity declares he made a mistake and desires to punish those who, through no fault of their own, who never had a chance at peace and happiness, must now be punished eternally by their very creator who, I believe, should “save” them.
And, to me, “free will” is another illusion constantly pushed. We’re all controlled by our genetic inheritances and environmental restraints, so how could our wills really change things for the better? All evidently must resign to things as they are and try to make the better of a bad situation.
My conclusion to it all? I now enjoy what I can and have no fear of the future, be there a “god” or no. When my journey here is over, I shall return to the earth from which I came, and to the silence from which I sprang. I see no “life hereafter,” just unconscious sleep as before my birth.
My challenge to you is to convince me that your life, beliefs, and teaching is any better than my life just described to you. Further, no religulous book can be proven. Thank you for your response.
Bob (ret.) in Talbot Co., Ga.
I responded to Bob:
Thank you for taking the time to write me in regard to my article. Yes, the government lied and the future is bleak, whether you refer to my particular “solutions” or anyone else’s. Sorry for that.
I am also sorry you were so poorly misled (like most Christians) when you were young. My organization, American Vision, exists specifically to counter that “pie-in-the sky” false religion. We proclaim with so much of ignored Scripture that we are to focus on good works, hard work, responsibility, thrift, ethics, charity, decentralization of government power, etc. in this world, by God’s command. We expect, as our Lord taught us to pray, that His will be done ON EARTH as it is in heaven. James said that faith without works is worthless: “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:15-17).”
I was specifically responding to Bob’s claim that he was “taught that there is a ‘god’ in control of this world, and all things will work out for good for all.” It should be added that this is a distortion of the standard dispy-Baptist teaching, which would usually come directly from the Bible. The typical verse to which I think he is referring is Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” But notice, this does not teach that things work out for good “for all,” as Bob said, but only for God’s elect.
Further, Bob later says that “We were taught to live in this corrupt society, and, through faith in the supernatural, we’d all come out all right, while contemplating ‘pie in the sky by and by.’” But the typical fundamentalist view is that one’s reward for faith is heavenly, not necessarily earthly by any means. Many of these Christians expect only persecution and suffering in this world, and peace only in the next. Bob seems to have believed that he would “come out alright” in this life simply by believing in God. No Bible-believing Christian group I know of teaches this with perhaps the exception of some word-of-faith charismatics.
What is unclear here is whether Bob was actually misled or whether he has abstracted some ideas which he himself has misunderstood. In either case, American Vision teaches that both the traditional “pie-in-the sky” view of Christianity and Bob’s characterization of it are incorrect.
So, with you, we detest the mentality that says we must endure a corrupt society and through faith in God we will come out alright while contemplating pie in the sky. While this is certainly the majority view of religion, it is also certainly wrong and misguided. It prevails so strongly because most people like to be told they have no responsibility, works are not necessary, and escape is just around the corner (whether through rapture or mysticism, or whatever).
So this takes away his pessimistic stance against the faith, at least in regard to his discussion with me. From this point, he would either have to admit with me that the Christian faith does not of necessity rely on “pie-in-the-sky,” or he would have to retreat further into his own pessimism. As we will see in a moment, he would rather take the latter route than admit to anything positive about Christianity.
As for your reservations to the supernatural in general: my answer to the problem of evil is in this article I wrote a couple years ago. I take that question very seriously, and I hope you find time to read what I have written.
I linked him to my article “Harlequin ichthyosis and the Justice of God,” in which I responded to another atheist’s challenge in regard to the problem of evil. I see no need to rehash arguments I have already written elsewhere.
Suffering can have very powerful redemptive effects in society. So, your question, “Why do you and others keep up the illusion of happiness and ‘making a difference’ in the world when you and I realize that there is a sinister power of banksters and gangsters funded by the banksters that is unstoppable? Too many profit off such corruption, so there is no successful defeat of it,” I think assumes too much on the side of the evil.
First of all, I don’t accept the fallacious “complex question.” See my newly-reprinted Biblical Logic (pp. 162–167) on this. I don’t accept the assumptions that happiness and making a difference are an “illusion,” or that the power of evil is “unstoppable.” So I continued,
Yes these gangsters exist, but just look around you: their power to control information is dwindling more every day; the internet has destroyed the power of gatekeepers. Even in China, for example, where Christianity is virtually outlawed, the greatest revivals of millions of people are taking place. Christian literature is for the most part outlawed, and yet a thousand books can be smuggled in on one tiny thumb drive, and this is done every day. Likewise, the bankers are suffering terribly for their great frauds. Vastly more people today are aware of the frauds of central banking and fiat money. Millions of people want to “end the fed”; this would have been inconceivable just ten years ago. So the “sinister power” of these people is being broken. Thus I hardly see them as “unstoppable,” and hardly believe there is “no successful defeat of it.” I don’t believe that happiness is an illusion; in fact, I cannot believe that, I refuse to believe it—not because of pie in the sky, but because I believe in pie in the earth. And while I may not see it develop fully in my lifetime, I plan for my grandkids. I work hard so that they may have a better future than I; and even if I don’t succeed, I would rather die (or be killed) trying rather than sitting back and saying “it’s impossible.” The only sure way to fail is not to try. I refuse to die with that on my resume.
I would turn the tables on you for two things: first, you say all of these pessimistic things about unstoppable corruption and sinister power which can’t be stopped, and then you say you have “no fear of the future.” Sounds to me like you can’t make up your mind. Sounds to me like you’ve resigned to live your last years facing the overwhelming victory of evil in this world, and you don’t care. You’ve accepted an evil-dominated world as a place in which you can live without fear. Sounds strange to me. I suspect that if that evil comes knocking personally at your door, you may speak differently. You may even choose to fight it.
Secondly, and more importantly, IF there is no God, why in the world should I or anyone else care about your bleak future? Why should we even care about your present? If I were to follow out the premises of an atheistic world logically and consistently—there is nothing but physical matter and motion, and humans are merely “highly evolved” instances of matter and motion, all feelings and ideas are mere by-products of this—then I would have a far more bleak future for you. I may conclude—as many tyrants have in the past (and still do today)—that a particular 73-year old man is more of a liability to society than an asset, depending on the circumstances and whatever mood I’m in at the moment. In an atheistic world, there is no reason we should suffer you live out those last days slowly, consuming scarce resources, until you return to the earth. In that world, you may actually have been chosen to be euthanized even earlier. In others, more polite [for no good reason], they may simply just encourage you to leave early. In that world, there is no transcendent, authoritative moral code. It is not even a question of “appropriate,” for no such category can exist—at least not with any genuine authority. What the most powerful members of society impose on the less powerful is by definition “right”—and the weaker bags of protoplasm either have no complaint, or can complain while they’re being forced to comply. As my unregenerate friend used to say, “Tough [doo-doo].”
In my religion, however, we are taught to value the elderly for the wisdom and example they can provide. Thus, “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD” (Lev. 19:32). (Does that dang ol’ harsh and obscure book of Leviticus really teach that? Yep.)
I agree, btw, that our genes and environments have enormous power over our circumstance; but how this destroys our wills completely is another question. I suspect that if you’re standing in the middle of the road and a truck is hurling at you, you will freely choose to move out of the way—irrespective of your DNA. And just because my DNA did not help me sprout wings to fly, there’s no reason for me to stay motionless on the couch while wife and kids expect me to work and win bread (though some men choose to do so). Perhaps my DNA or my environment will leave me susceptible to some disease or disorder, or not; but in any case, it will be my choice ahead to time to purchase life insurance, health insurance, and if such a time should come, it will be purely my choice whether to receive treatment or not. I think the whole “nature versus nurture” debate is highly oversimplified, and creates in many cases a false dichotomy.
And should I ever have to exercise my insurance options, I thank God I live in a society still Christian enough to honor contracts. In an atheistic society—say like the old Soviet Union, or perhaps a worse one yet to come—they may just find a special place for me to go to.
With these things said, I wish I could say much more, but my time is accountable to the donors of AV, who expect me to finish my “County Rights” project someday. I am very sorry, but I cannot accept your challenge to try to convince you. [I said this somewhat in jest, considering I had just replied so much to his challenge already.] I am exactly half your age, but already have learned enough to know if a man won’t listen to the Scripture, he won’t listen to me either; such a man will not even believe if he personally witnessed the resurrection (please read Luke 16:19-31). All I can do is keep fighting the evil, proclaiming the truth, working to better myself and effect change. I would only encourage you—even if you persist in your unbelief—you quit being pessimistic about this world in the future. For in that regard, you still sound too much like a old “fundy Baptist.”
That was it. It was a very brief apologetic treatment in summary form to standard atheistic arguments. Nothing really special, and nothing extraordinary except Bob’s special twist of pessimism. But I think Bob was not happy with what I wrote, especially my last line implying that his atheistic version of “doom and gloom” and triumph of evil in this world sounded too much like the dispensationalist Baptists from whom he claimed to distance himself.
What followed actually surprised me a little. Usually atheists retreat into a pretended optimism here, attempting to prove that “atheists can be moral people too!” or “an atheistic society can be just as moral and caring as a religious society,” or things of that nature. What surprised me was Bob’s willingness openly to display his despair:
You must realize that the powers already view old folks like myself as “useless eaters.” Obummer has planned to rid the world of the old. I know I won’t convince you of my thoughts, because you have “faith” in a book and being which have no hold on me. And many don’t believe a “jesus” rose from the grave, witness the Jefferson bible, which contains no miracles or resurrection passages.
Then he let his despair expose his envy. Keep in mind, envy is that emotion that sees someone else have something they don’t, but instead of trying to obtain that something somehow, they try to destroy it so that the other person can’t have it either. This is exactly what Bob expresses to me: if he can’t have optimism, he will try to destroy it for me as well. As he says,
Planning for your kids and grandkids will have no good effects, because the wicked have completely hijacked the US and the world for their nefarious purposes. The world has no bright future. Because the US has been influenced by the KJV thumpers, people have a false idea that they just “wait for Jesus” to straighten things out, so they sit on their butts at home and church, allowing the wicked to turn the nation into a hell hole. You say you reject that, but how different is your view of things? Voting makes no difference, as the wicked control every election for their agenda.
Ironically, I agree with him about the false idea of the rapture and waiting for Jesus, and I already explained to him (however brief) how diametrically opposite my view of Christianity is. And yet he totally ignores it, because he cannot accept it. It would imply that we should accept responsibility, act morally, stand for good in the face of evil, and even fight against the odds.
Instead of being mature and courageous, Bob chooses the easy way out. Evil will triumph, there’s nothing we can do, but thank (thank what? earth?) we have no final judgment to fear, Bob says, he will simply die and return to unconscious silence.
So having just disavowed the “waiting for Jesus” view of the world, Bob embraces the “waiting for nothing, but still waiting nonetheless” view of the world.
This is the atheistic version of the “rapture.” Rapture or unconscious silence—both are doctrines of escapism.
Bob denies that my view is any different, but does not explain why. Then, with as much reason, he denies my other claims (expectedly):
You haven’t “turned the tables on me,” Joel. Why fear the future, when one realizes there is no eternal hell fire prepared by your “god” for his mistakes? There’s nothing to fear because we’re only returning to the earth, to experience the silence as was before our birth. You need not care about my, what you called, “your bleak future.” I don’t even know you, so why should you even consider my future or I yours?
I though this last sentence was quite funny, rhetorically asking me why I should “even consider” his future: for starters, he had just challenged me to convince him that my view of life is better than his. So I did. Yet he has no idea why I considered something he asked me to consider.
It’s apparent that Bob has neither any real answers to life, nor any good false answers—in other words, he’s not even very well trained at giving classic atheistic rebuttals. So he quickly lapses into relativism and personal attacks.
All your beliefs and arguments center on the KJV, which is written by one or two men for their purposes (Shakespear, Marlowe, Bacon, etc., who knows?) It makes no difference how you or I view it. Truth is as each views it.
It’s interesting how you, “half my age,” want to sound so full of wisdom, attempting to straighten me out, etc. Our opinions are only worth about 2 cents, as “Jon Christian Ryter” likes to say. You must realize that people like you have been trying all through history to “make a difference,” only to pass into the silent realm without having fulfilled their goals.
Then we see the real reason Bob wrote back: he was stung by my paralleling his pessimism with that of the dispensationalists. I think he immediately realized that while he “left that world,” he never really left that world. He’s still the same dogmatic, doomsday preacher, but with the added dark cloud of disbelief, no hope at all. He suddenly saw that he was never liberated from anything, he only dug his hole deeper. Worse yet, he now had to argue with me from the bottom of that abyss while I stood in daylight, on the rim, looking down. Thus, to some atheists, optimism, happiness, and strength in people of faith are often disclaimed as pride and arrogance. (This is true, by the way, even of debates between Christians, when one perceives themselves to be on the losing end: the tendency is to grow entrenched and display one’s own lack of spirituality by attacking that of your opponent.) So Bob quotes my line and then responds:
“I would only encourage you—even if you persist in your unbelief—you quit being pessimistic about this world in the future. For in that regard, you still sound too much like a old ‘fundy Baptist.’” Your last dig before wishing “God bless”! You sound like the prideful religulous I’ve known in my past religulous experiences, i.e., humility and how I attained it. That’s why I left that world, and don’t have any regrets about it. Please don’t write to me again, as I won’t you.
Ironically, Bob, who not so many moments before had genuinely challenged me to convince him, is now angry, spewing, irrational, and demanding I write him no more. But he had already engaged me, and had issued the challenge to be convinced; I could deprive him of the privilege. So I did write him again:
Just a couple parting thoughts:
Denial of future judgment is the atheist’s “rapture.” The atheist has only traded one fundamentalism for another.
I have no pretence of sounding wise; only matter-of-fact. If that is prideful, I stand condemned. Either way, I would expect an atheist—a la W. E. Henley style—to praise pride rather than condemn it.
Granted, Henley was not an atheist; but his poem “Invictus” to which I linked is legendary among humanists and others who wish to express their own boldness to brave anything the “gods” can throw at them. I can’t imagine an atheist would disapprove.
I am open to correction, be it by your beliefs or anyone else’s. Condemning me as someone unable to be convinced is a supreme insult.
I said this in response to Bob’s claim that “I know I won’t convince you of my thoughts, because you have ‘faith’ in a book and being which have no hold on me.” This is the atheist’s way of discounting why his own arguments fail. It’s a self-justifying, self-created immunity from criticism. No matter how well I eviscerate his arguments, he can retreat to this position, essentially saying, “Anything you say is only the result of your irrational faith. Whereas my arguments should convince you, you are irrational and cannot be convinced because of your ‘faith.’” The irony is that (even if this were true of my “faith”) Bob is the one really using this tactic. Anything I say to him is dismissed.
In reality, this tactic does nothing but display one’s own childishness. It’s Bob’s way of covering his ears and yelling, “Ah lah lah lah lah lah lah!”
I then addressed his reference to the Jefferson bible, not because I think Jefferson believed in resurrection or miracles, but to show him how even the least faithful of the fathers was far from being the type of atheist or “free-thinker” people like Bob often portray them as today.
Jefferson scissored-out the words and narrative of the life of Jesus in order to simplify. He said nothing about cutting out the miracles or supernatural per se, and specifically stated that he avoided the question of Jesus’ divinity. He was only interested in Jesus’ personal teachings. These he used in his own version of sectarianism, to “dismiss the Platonists and Plotinists, the Stagyrites and Gamalielites, the Eclectics, the Gnostics and Scholastics, their essences and emanations, their logos and demiurges, aeons and daemons, male and female, with a long train of … or, shall I say at once, of nonsense.” Granted, Jefferson was no believer in the same sense as myself, but it is funny that when he wanted to establish his “pure and unsophisticated doctrines” that he did not go to the Koran, or the Greeks, or the British Free-Thinkers, French Philosophes, or even Thomas Paine, but… to the Bible. You would do well to follow his example.
Granted, Jefferson’s bible does end with the stone being rolled over the grave, and omits the resurrection passage. But keep in mind Jefferson was a lawyer and thought in terms of legal training. He would have been the first to say that the omission of something is night-and-day different than the denial of it.
Further, unlike my dogmatic atheist, Jefferson believed in an afterlife: after Abigail Adams died, Jefferson wrote to her widower John reminding him of a time approaching when they would “ascend in essence to an ecstatic meeting with the friends we have loved and lost, and whom we shall still love and never lose again. God bless you and support you under your heavy affliction.” Further, while he wrote with no love for John Calvin’s reformed faith, Jefferson nevertheless affirmed the commandments and faith of Jesus, and the belief in not only an afterlife, but of eternal rewards and punishments in that afterlife. He wrote:
The doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend all to the happiness of man.
1. That there is one only God, and he all perfect.
2. That there is a future state of rewards and punishments.
3. That to love God with all thy heart and thy neighbor as thyself, is the sum of religion.
And even in his Unitarianism, Jefferson specifically avoided the type of pessimism this atheist has fallen into. Perceiving such to be a threat against his view of final judgment, Jefferson warned himself against “the afflictions . . . which corrode the spirit also, and might weaken it’s resignation to continuance in a joyless state of being which providence may yet destine.”
Jefferson aside, I continued in regard to the Bible:
And it doesn’t have to be the KJV. I personally read several translations, and check against the Greek and Hebrew often. www.biblegateway.com has several translations and is free.
If Shakespeare’s alleged involvement bothers you, get a Geneva Bible, which was translated into English before he was born; or one of dozens of others which had no input from him.
I have to admit, I am a bit confused: first you challenge me to convince you, then after one minor volley, you assert “please don’t write me anymore.”
Finally, I am openly ashamed in your behalf at the pessimism and resignation you spew. This is disgusting. You sound like a bitter old man. You have a longing to find genuine Christian fellowship, and I understand (believe me) that it is hard to find among all of the religious posturing and vying for power in churches, and outright hypocrisy; but I think that longing is still there; you’ve just convinced yourself of a world in which it is impossible to obtain—for you or anyone else. It’s classic envy. If you can’t have it, you’ll deny it for anyone else, too. This is transparent, and pitiful. The sad fact is that a man your age should be encouraging the next generation and exemplifying goodness even in the face of evil, yet you spout nothing but bitterness and defeat.
You say you don’t fear the future because of no after life; but you live NOW in defeat and fear. No wonder a silent death is a solace to you.
I have no intention of adding anything to this. The man had already eaten up more of our time than he deserved, and I ended my comments with an open rebuke. Imagine this: a man of that age who can have nothing good to say about life, lives in constant defeat, and is so embittered against life and God that he will openly deny that all attempts to be happy or make a better life for your children are futile and will end in defeat. In other words, he’s defeated, and he wants everyone else to be defeated as well.
My refusal to accept such a defeated worldview he criticized as prideful and arrogant. It really ate at him. He couldn’t hold it in. So, despite his promise never to write me again, he fired back, “I told you not to write me. . . . again, arrogance!!”
It’s a shame; but it’s perfectly consistent with the Bible’s view of fallen human nature: Cain saw that Abel’s sacrifice was accepted while his own was rejected. So rather than getting himself a better sacrifice, Cain despaired and envied.
Then he murdered his brother.
Don’t tell me atheists will create a moral society. I know better.
[Originally posted July 21, 2011.]