Strong Enough To Stand

Let me make a disclaimer before going any further. I do not write this with intent to give this group credibility or value.

In a recent post “Compelled”,  there was mention of a group called the Rational Response Squad.  They are basically an “organized” group of atheists. Or rather, an organized gathering of philosophy, logic, and debate masters with a primary premise that religion is an “opiate of the people” (Karl Marx) and “god is dead” (Friedrich Nietzsche).

Since learning about this group, I have occasionally monitored their forums and “listened” to some of their interaction with people who write in. They are very well coached and very well informed. In fact, they run circles around most inquirers. The same is true, if you look at any of the so-called “debates” they have had on national television. Why? They come armed with facts, “we” come armed with notions. 

Is what they say true and accurate? I can’t say for certain. They very seldom quote sources – and I am certain, like most preachers and Christians in general, they use “proof text” just like anyone else. Nevertheless, here is what they say that is very accurate:

  1. They know the content of the Bible better than many Christians
  2. They know basic history – biblical, US, and constitutional – better than most Christians
  3. They can prove their position with scientific evidence and we cannot (apparently)
  4. Most Christian’s belief system is not strong enough to stand against their assault (based on facts)

Is what they do new – of course not. The fact that they have the Internet as a forum has helped them a great deal. The fact that they are as brash as they are, with their “blasphemy challenge” is similar to the man who garnered all the publicity by urinating on the American flag.  The only difference is, these people are marketing their “product” on other Web sites.

As of yet, I have not seem them debate anyone with any credentials. At least not yet. Perhaps one day they will. Until then…

Here’s a warning. If you encounter these folks. Leave them alone. You will not, cannot, “win”.

Just look into their eyes – you will see the emptiness and what it might be like to look into the canyon of the damned.

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8 Comments

Filed under Apologetics, belief, Rational Response Squad

8 responses to “Strong Enough To Stand

  1. Thanks, Norm!

    That is one of the most honest reviews of RRS that I have seen, and I can’t disagree with much of what you say. I will make a couple of corrections, though.

    You said, “They very seldom quote sources – and I am certain, like most preachers and Christians in general, they use “proof text” just like anyone else.”

    This is actually not true. Rook, one of the core members, has one of the largest libraries of sources I’ve ever seen for biblical/Jewish/mythological history, and he always cites his sources. Those of us who specialize in logic and philosophy are always happy to write out the exact logical argument, and we’ll be happy to point you to external sources explaining the foundations and rules of logic. Those of us who are scientists have volumes of peer reviewed sources, and we’re always happy to provide them.

    You said, “As of yet, I have not seem them debate anyone with any credentials.”

    We have debated Ergun Caner, the president of Liberty Theological Seminary. By all accounts, including comments from hundreds of theists, Mr. Caner looked really incompetent.

    There is, and has always been, an open invitation to anyone with any level of credentials. If the pope would debate us, we’d happily engage him. The problem is not our availability or willingness, it’s the lack of theologians willing to enter a debate against anyone who knows history/logic/philosophy. Trust me. We try to get them to debate.

    You said, “The fact that they are as brash as they are, with their “blasphemy challenge” is similar to the man who garnered all the publicity by urinating on the American flag. ”

    I don’t like the comparison much, but I suppose it’s valid. We are brash, and we do want publicity. We’ve noticed that we don’t get any publicity when we’re being good little atheists and letting religion run rampant in our government, in our schools, and in our families.

    You said, “Just look into their eyes – you will see the emptiness and what it might be like to look into the canyon of the damned.”

    This is the only thing in your essay that I have a problem with. As it turns out, most of us have really fulfilling, really happy lives. I’m sorry you felt like you needed to resort to emotional appeal, although I respect you for admitting that we know our stuff and that you can’t win logically. The arrogance necessary to imply that your belief is the only one that keeps people from being empty and meaningless — wow. How sad for all of us who feel like we have great lives!

    Thanks again for the honest review! Of course, you’re welcome to post anytime you like at RRS, and if you feel like giving us the names of a few competent theologians, we’d be happy to debate them so that you know for sure how we do against the best.

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  2. nmacdonald

    This comment is for Frank Walton.

    Frank, I sincerely appreciate your stopping and the references to your sites on the Rational Response Squad. However, my intent is not to antagonize or mimic their tactics. I simply want to point out to those how frequent my sites, that they exist and their arguments are not much different then those in years past.
    I have emailed Brian Sapient on a couple of occasions to see if he would be willing to debate some people of substance instead of being the school yard bully on the internet. But so far, he has not agreed to that. Which does not surprise me.
    Again I appreciate your comment, I did not post it, or your links, because I felt your blogs were too antagonistic and played into their hand. In my opinion, that is not what we are about as Christians.

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  3. nmacdonald

    Hambydammit…
    I’m pleasantly surprised to see your comment. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

    First, my comment about the “sources”. From what I’ve seen in the forums I have looked at, sources don’t seem to be a regular occurrence. Could be wrong, so I’ll pay closer attention.

    Regarding the debate challenge…just today, I emailed Sapient to get on board at the National Apologetics Conference in Charlotte and go a round or two with some of those men. Of course, he referred to them as “moronic apologists” and said he could basically debate their type anytime on-line from the basement bunker. 🙂

    About the look in the eyes…One sees what one sees. I suspect it is no different than when y’all characterize us as chasing empty myths. But we’ll not go down that road.

    We know we are on opposite ends of the spectrum and that’s fine.

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  4. Thanks, Norm. All I ever ask is honesty, and your post was honest.

    As for the debates, I’ve seen for myself that Sapient works 18 hours most days. Most offers for debates turn out to be wastes of time, and I know for a fact that he’s pursued many debates actively. They say they’ll debate, but they want to dictate the rules in such a way that it will not be a collegiate style debate. We don’t want to give preachers a forum to preach. There are enough churches for that. We want actual debate.

    For what it’s worth, any theologian can come to RRS, and I, or one of the other high level mods, will guarantee a heavily moderated thread where only the two debaters are allowed to post. That way, there’s no question of who said what. Everything’s in print, and nobody can edit videotape to try to make it appear different than it actually was.

    Off of the top of my head, I can think of at least four of the RRS guys who will happily engage in a print debate on their subject of expertise.

    I suspect that we could arrange a suitable neutral internet location if you didn’t want to plug RRS for the debate. I’m sure we could set up a neutral livejournal page for a debate, assuming we agree on a trustworthy moderator.

    It seems you’re genuinely interested in seeing if we can back up what we claim, and I’m committed to helping you get your wish. Feel free to send me a PM on the RRS boards if you want me to help arrange a debate.

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  5. Now that’s a stand-up offer! Guess the ball is in my court to see if I can get any takers on this end. Let me do some checking.

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  6. “Just look into their eyes – you will see the emptiness and what it might be like to look into the canyon of the damned.”

    I defy you to line up 100 men and try to pick out the Atheists just on the basis of “looking into their eyes”. I mean your statement doesn’t really surprise me, it’s a mix of typical Christian scare tactics and ignorance. Obviously this is a claim you would never be able to prove with factual evidence, but then again thats something Christians specialize in.

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  7. Thanks for the credit in your original post.

    So does this mean you’ll be trying to deliver the most credentialed guest we’ve ever talked to, for a “debate” on our board?

    Should we have Richard Carrier stop by for the special occasion?

    B.A… M.A…. M.Phil… and a PhD almost complete. In fact he was planning on staying for a few days in about a month. Maybe we could arrange to do a webcam debate.

    Think for a second about the collective credentials of all the brilliant people who have lived throughout history that believed in a god. All of the credentials that have been had in the world have never been enough to bring a coherently logical reasonable and falsifiable argument for the existence of any god(s)(ess)(esses).

    With such extremely credentialed theists throughout history to compare to what you’re bringing to the table, I think Joe Schmo has just as much chance as making a coherent point as the theologian does. And Joe Schmo tends to be able to admit, when he’s wrong.

    This statement of yours was very telling… “As of yet, I have not seem them debate anyone with any credentials.”

    What are credentials to you? Did you not notice the free download of Ergun Caner coming on our show on every page of the site on the right hand side through all your browsing?

    Ergun Caner is the President of Liberty Theological Seminary at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. When Caner was named to the position in 2005, he became the first former Muslim to become the leader of an evangelical seminary. Along with his brother Emir, Caner has become a leading voice for evangelicalism on the national stage. He has been a guest on such networks as FOX News, MSNBC, CNBC, the BBC, and TBN.

    Caner has debated Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Bah’ai over sixty times at universities and colleges. He has written fourteen books, including When Worldviews Collide (LifeWay 2005), on the subject of Global Apologetics and defending the Christian faith.

    Fred Klett was on and he stunk, I think they all stink. The credentials in my mind equal “professional fraud/liar/thief/con.”

    After studying at Johns Hopkins University from 1971-1974, he became a Christian and then completed his undergraduate work at Towson State University in 1975. Rev. Klett earned his Masters degree at Westminster Theological Seminary, where he focused on Old Testament and Jewish studies whenever possible.

    “As of yet, I have not seem them debate anyone with any credentials. At least not yet. Perhaps one day they will. Until then…”

    Your putting down some very competent (or at least the best ya got) Christians, when you try to discredit us in that manner.

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  8. nmacdonald

    Brian,
    Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your observations. In fact, I did look for the Ergun Caner debate on your site. I looked under the free download section and either did not or could not find it. I also went to his Web page, where it is listed, but the file does not come up. I sent him an email to inquire about that.
    As I indicated in my follow up to this original post, there is little doubt “fact” trumps “faith” in most instances. So there is really no sense in even going there. At least at this time, for me anyway. I am still sorting through your arguments and those of the “other side”. That is by no means an admission of doubt, it is simply a willingness to look at how each side assembles their evidence.
    Thanks for pointing out the other debaters that was helpful.

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