Putting the “Fun” Back in “Fundamentalist”

Posted by on November 21, 2011 in Thoughts | 3 comments

Twitter is not the best place to discuss anything worth discussing. 140 characters is only enough space to get a small idea to across to people, so when the idea is large, for instance the concept of evolution, the best place to do it is in a blog. Services like Twitlonger and Deck.ly are okay, but I rarely click on these and read them. I admit I am a man of convenience, and to have to wait for the longer Twitter update to load is just a tad annoying.

However, I have seen many debates between fundamentalist Christians and atheists over the past few years, and given my new-found aim of helping people where I can, I thought I would attempt to answer a question posed to me by just such a fundamentalist Christian. I really did make an effort, but as you will see below, what transpired was less than constructive. It’s not worth mentioning his name, you can find thousands of people just like this one by searching on the #atheism or #teamJesus hashtags.

The initial tweet was this (any spelling mistakes by @Fundie or myself have been left in, just to be completely fair.)

@Fundie: “So evolution says we came from randomly formed molecules. How does evolution explain reproduction”

I would not have seen this tweet had not a friend on Twitter answered “ask @martinpribble”, and never being one to back down from an argument where I have some knowledge, I decided to reply to @Fundie:

@martinpribble: “rather than asking on twitter where we are limited to 140 characters, why not read a book on the subject?”
@martinpribble: “I suggest “The Blind Watchmaker” by Richard Dawkins. If you actually want to know that is. It’s all explained.”
@martinpribble: “who knows? You might learn something :)”

I had a pretty good idea that @Fundie was not asking the question out of a real desire to learn, but he was yet to prove this to me, so up to this stage I was focusing on being as helpful as possible, and not lapsing into a tone of condescension. Eventually I had a reply (probably because of timezones, @Fundie is in the USA and I am in Australia):

@Fundie: “Read a book on denying God? LOL No thanks I already know what happens when we do that”

and then:

@Fundie: “So everyone is asking me to ask you. Well atheist I like how your sooo proud to deny God.”

At this point I went to bed. I was tired after my flight to Sydney, and had an early start. The conversation continued while I was asleep between @Fundie and another friend on twitter, but I won’t relay that as I wasn’t there to see it. I awoke this morning however, read through the replies (and the insults) and followed up with this:

@martinpribble: “I was trying to be helpful, you asked a question and there are answers. Unfortunately you won’t listen.”
@martinpribble: “you won’t read a book because you “know what happens” when you do that? What happens?”
@martinpribble: “you call troll?Wait I think what you are doing is trolling. I(f) you don’t want to know, then why ask?”
@martinpribble: “instead you turn to insults and aggression. I hope one day you can see beyond the indoctrination your religion serves you”

Okay I admit, I am not being the most diplomatic person in history here, but I was hoping he actually wanted to know, and would admit as much. Instead, this is what happened:

@Fundie: “So what I don’t really care what you say. Atheists like you are bullys and need prayer along with salvation”
@Fundie: “Insults?? Whatever dude your tactics won’t work on me.”

As I said, my diplomacy may have not been top notch, but to call me a “bully” is a bit far fetched isn’t it? It continues:

@martinpribble: “man I’m not even trying tactics on you, just saying it like it is. I don’t care whether you learn or not because it’s your loss
@martinpribble: “why not see these “atheists” you are scared of as people first before you start calling names? Oh wait, that would be polite…”

@Fundie: “Ok first it’s your lack of faith and hate for God.Second atheists are known haters and often attack.”
@Fundie: “It’s incredible how atheism affects different people. What’s your prob w God,he made you not evolution.”

@martinpribble: “I don’t hate god. How can I hate what I don’t honk (think) exists? I’m not going to bully anyone. I just advocate education. #learn”

@Fundie: “fair enough”

Finally I thought I was going to make some ground with this guy. He seemed genuinely to be listening to me, even if I can’t type on my iPhone as well as I’d like to. Then:

@Fundie: “Education for disproving God you mean”
@Fundie: “Just admit there are supernatural forces in the world and I will be happy :)”

Yes this seemed to be finally going swimmingly, but of course I would not admit to that, because from my understanding of the world, there are no supernatural forces. Trying to stay polite and upbeat I replied:

@martinpribble: “well I guess you will leave disappointed :)”
@martinpribble: “no the education is separate. You need to come to that conclusion on your own.”

@Fundie: “why”

@martinpribble: “because education is just facts about the universe. If you get enough you can go either way. Look at Paul Davies. He is educated”

At this point, I was trying to lure him with honey, rather than vinegar, by pointing out that education does not necessarily mean atheism. I’m not a huge Paul Davies fan because of his ultimate conclusions about the universe, however one would be a fool to deny that he isn’t a top notch astrophysicist and thinker. Thinking I had some leverage here, I continued:

@martinpribble: “way more educated than you or I, yet he still posits the existence of god. God’s existence is irrelevant to education”
@martinpribble: “personally I don’t believe there is a god, but it doesn’t mean that all educated people think that way.”
@martinpribble: “for many people education leads to a disbelief in god. Francis Collins believes in god, but he is an incredible physician.”

Okay, I felt I was finally getting to him! Maybe debating on Twitter was a good idea? Maybe we could all make a difference to someone’s life, get them thinking out there, beyond their comfort zone? Who cares if they become atheists? I don’t, but if they start thinking, maybe they will start taking better care of each other and the planet? I was feeling good, then I got this tweet:

@Fundie: “Blah blah blah get lost”

And it was over. Just like that. He has since blocked me. Like his bio says:

“I love, Jesus, and my Wife and family. I love proving a young earth and the Bible. Atheist who are rude get blocked and get lost.”

He’s probably not a bad person, but his beliefs about god stifle his knowledge, and his need to learn. He loves his wife and his family, as I do mine. He is not very good at proving “young earth and the bible”, but who knows, he may actually be the next William Lane Craig?

I should have never hoped to get through to him, but I thought this story was worth relaying, if only to show what happens time and time again. A person will ask a question, then when someone makes an effort to help that person to pursue the answer, they block their ears and say “I can’t hear you… I can’t hear you…”

Don’t be discouraged by this, I think there IS room in atheism for people to engage, but just don’t be surprised when it ends like this story did.

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  1. Talking sense to a theist is always fraught. It seems to me that it’s impossible for them to see outside their own limited world view.

    Nicely done.

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  2. There are altogether no supernatural phenomena, only supernatural interpretations of phenomena.
    — the anti_supernaturalist

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  3. I’ve been there too Martin. Sometimes the discussion seems to be going friendly, and then they get mad and shut down. Sometimes it’s like talking to a wall. But you are right to say, don’t get discouraged by it.

    Every now and then you do score a break through! A Theist realizes the Atheist position is not one of denial or anger. Now and then the discussion picks back up days or even weeks later. On a few occasions I’ve been contacted by Theists I talked with months ago!

    So the conversation is always worth it. The seeds of doubt don’t grow at the same speed for everyone.

    PS When all else fails, #HEADDESK is a great hashtag.

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