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Tag Archive: Christianity

The great danger that bedevils any powerful heuristic or interpretive discipline is the tendency to mistake method for ontology

Posted: Friday, September 30, 2011 (1:57 pm), by John W Gillis


Quote of the Day for Friday, September 30th, 2011:

David Bentley Hart, from an On The Square article today over at First Things, on the inherently epistemologically-limiting nature of intellectual methodology, and the dangers of ignoring that fact:

The great danger that bedevils any powerful heuristic or interpretive discipline is the tendency to mistake method for ontology, and so to mistake a partial perspective on particular truths for a comprehensive vision of truth as such. In the modern world, this is an especially pronounced danger in the sciences, largely because of the exaggerated reverence scientists enjoy in the popular imagination, and also largely because of the incapacity of many in the scientific establishment to distinguish between scientific rigor and materialist ideology (or, better, materialist metaphysics).

This has two disagreeable results (well, actually, far more than two, but two that are relevant here): The lunatic self-assurance with which some scientists imagine that their training in, say, physics or zoology has somehow equipped them to address philosophical questions whose terms they have never even begun to master; and the inability of many scientists to recognize realities—even very obvious realities—that lie logically outside the reach of the methods their disciplines employ. The best example of the latter, I suppose, would be the inability of certain contemporary champions of “naturalism” to grasp that the question of existence is qualitatively infinitely distinct from the question of how one physical reality arises from another (for, inasmuch as physics can explore only the physical, and the physical by definition already exists, then existence as such is always “metaphysical,” or even “hyperphysical”—which is to say, “supernatural.”)

This interesting little aside into the role of methodology in the intellectual life got me to thinking about the role of religion in the academy. It seems to me, when you get right down to it, that the idea of methodology serving as a definition of the limits of knowledge, thus marginalizing thought which falls outside the methodology as non-knowledge (or “un-scientific”, as one hears it imprecisely put today), is essentially a superstition. Superstition, after all, is nothing more than a belief that a methodology (i.e. cult), whether in act or incantation, will cause effects which in reality are quite independent of their alleged explanations, despite appearances to the contrary (superstitions that did not appear to “work” some convincing proportion of the time would, of course, never have been held). This is not merely a conflation or confusion of correlation with causation (though it certainly can involve that), but an actual belief in the power of allegedly explanatory phenomena, which misdirects the intellect away from its proper end, which is the contemplation of truth. That’s a fancy way of saying that people are deceived by their own cleverness, and so take their eyes off of God.

The history of true religion, be it Christianity or the Israelite religion that spawned it, is a history of struggling against and overcoming the superstitions of pagan religions, and of pointing to the one, true, un-manipulable Cause. It’s ironic that the Yahwists of yore could be denounced essentially as atheists for their rejection of the cosmology, cult, and attendant morality of pagan religion, while their modern descendants are reviled as “religious theocrats” by people often calling themselves atheists, who are practitioners of a methodology (cult) believed to be bringing relief (salvation) to the human condition, but which superstitiously claims both to explain things clearly beyond its competence and invalidate ideas beyond its scope, furthermore is based on a cosmology of Original Violence, or intrinsic struggle – with its resounding similarity to pagan mythology – and is producing in its wake a social morality that resembles nothing so much as pagan hedonism.

It’s been said often enough that wisdom depends on an apt understanding of the meanings of words. Our society could benefit greatly from a non-obfuscatory working definition of religion.

We have children because love overflows

Posted: Sunday, January 30, 2011 (8:55 pm), by John W Gillis


Quote of the Day for Sunday, January 30th, 2011:

Timothy Dalrymple, writing at Patheos.com, on Why We Have Children:

At the thought of fathering a daughter, waves of joy rolled through me. I loved my little girl long before I met her. I read her stories in the womb, sang to her, prayed for her. It wouldn’t matter what she looked like or what her personality was. She was mine—mine to nurture and protect, mine to train and guide, and mine to love with all my might.

We have children because love overflows. I believe as a Christian that I am created in the image of a God who is Love, a God whose love so desired an object that it brought us into being. Although the wisdom and power of love within us is clouded and twisted by sin, still the image of Love is there. We have children because love is essentially creative, and because our souls long for other souls we can love lavishly and forever.

I’ve been less than impressed with most of my infrequent visits over to the Patheos site, but this piece by Dalrymple really struck me. It struck me that, with all the noisome, tiresome tumult that the so-called culture wars generate, it really comes down to the gentle, magnificent truth that we have children because love overflows. This is a very personal essay that will surely vindicate the few minutes it will take to read it.

Revitalizing Catholic Education?

Posted: Wednesday, January 5, 2011 (11:40 pm), by John W Gillis


On this feast day of Saint John Neuman, the great champion of Catholic education in America, I want to give a shout-out to St. Jerome’s Catholic Classical School in Hyattsville, Maryland. This school, like so many other modern Catholic parochial schools, was facing almost certain closing not long ago. A recent article from insidecatholic.com tells the story of what happened after the archdiocesan consultation at the parish in consideration of the school’s future:

Multiple parishioners approached [school principal] Donoghue and [pastor] Father Stack, arguing that what the parish needed was a more rigorous curriculum and authentic Catholic spirit. One of the loudest of these voices was that of Michael Hanby, a professor at the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. Hanby had lately been introduced to a local homeschooling community’s miniature school, known as the Crittenden Academy, which had inspired him to write an essay describing his philosophy on the subject. That November evening, attending the consultation and listening to the parish’s presentation, he recalls thinking, "I’m not sure that the school they just described is really worth saving."

Following the meeting, Hanby sent a letter saying as much to Father Stack, including a copy of his essay on education and emphasizing that "a wonderful birthright [was] being denied" the children of the community. Students needed, he argued, "to love thinking and to have something noble to think about," but Catholic schools had instead "drifted toward a public school model." His essay, Donoghue recalls, presented "a good analysis of where Catholic education had gotten off track," and she was impressed with its proposed remedies.

The parish had the sense to abandon the sterile and futile public school framework for their school, and go back to the future to adopt a classical model of education for K-8. The apparent result has been a vibrant, successful school which incorporates the reality of God in Christ into the fabric of life, overcoming the bizarre dissociation modernity imposes between creation and Creator by treating “religion” as if it were one among several more interesting “subjects” occupying compartments in the life of the analyzed self.

Truth be told, I’ve been disappointed with my experience with my local parochial school, Saint Paul’s in Wellesley, because it has long struck me as being not a whole lot more than a public school with a Catholic veneer – such as First Friday Masses, and “religion” classes daily, instead of weekly CCD fiascos – errr, classes. I know there are other important differences – mostly things that one happily won’t find at Saint Paul’s, plus an overall vastly higher level of behavior from the children – but there’s still so many arrows left in the quiver. What Saint Jerome’s is doing, I truly hope represents the beginnings of a broad revitalization of Catholic education in the US:

The curriculum emphasizes the conviction that human culture expresses the natural desire for God, and that Christianity is therefore historically and culturally decisive. Curriculum committee member Rebecca Teti says, "Jesus Christ is the Lord of history, and God is the author of truth, beauty, and goodness. We wanted kids to see their unity, their connectedness to all people, and the goodness [Catholic] culture has brought to history."

Hanby adds, "Christ cannot ultimately be the center of students’ lives if He is not at the center of history and existence and if He does not satisfy the longings implanted in them. The public-school-education-plus-religion-class model ends up reinforcing the impression that religion has little to do with real life. We wanted to overcome the separation of faith and life by showing how profoundly Christ and the Church have affected history and culture — and by giving students something better to love."

Jonathan Sperry and the Messaging of Faith

Posted: Tuesday, October 13, 2009 (7:03 am), by John W Gillis


sperry I took the family to see The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry last weekend. This is an independent “family” movie by Christian director Rich Christiano, with an explicitly Christian message and worldview. The movie had been vigorously promoted locally by some good friends of mine, who were obviously excited to see something in the theater that was not only not antithetical to Christianity, but which explicitly promotes Christian faith.

I understand the urge to try to gain a foothold for decency in all kinds of public arenas, but I had a hard time getting excited about the potential for this movie, in part because of my previous experience with Christian movies and other forms of Christian popular art, in part because of the doubt-confirming sappiness I detected in the movie trailers I saw, and in part because I think any attempt to sprinkle the local movie house with holy water is likely to be about as effective as baptizing a brothel these days, as these venues have truly become houses of sin, peddling fare that seems more and more debased each year, promoting grotesque visions of both humanity and God, blatantly contemptuous of virtues and virtuousness – especially marriage – and generally just being corrosive of character in every conceivable manner. It’s hard to see how spitting into that foul wind can truly be to our advantage.

Nonetheless, I packed up the family for the field trip, hoping that at least my youngest would like the movie (she did). The Christian sub-texts were easily identifiable: the need for knowledge of Christ in order to know eternal salvation; the power of personal forgiveness – including praying for others – to effect spiritual transformation in others; the power of personal evangelization to effect conversion in others; and the centrality of the Bible as the means of properly knowing God. This seemed like pretty standard evangelical fare – not without theological weaknesses, but certainly a worthy and important message to share with the world. But it is one thing to have a message worth proclaiming; it is another to proclaim that message worthily.

Movie-going is no intellectual exercise. Movies need to make their point through effective dramatization that leads viewers to understand the message the movie intends to convey. I think it’s fair to say that, as drama, this movie fails to compel, and so can hardly be considered an effective vehicle for the message it seeks to share, regardless of how worthy the message is. The plotline is feeble, corny, pat, predictable, and far from believable in the simplistic way its events conveniently converge, with nary a trace of struggle arising from either temptation or circumstance. In sum, it completely lacks what is these days called authenticity. The characters are paper thin, and weakly acted. The only sympathetic character in the movie, in my view, is the young friend who doesn’t know how to shut his mouth. Otherwise, this is a wooden story about cardboard characters. More proof, perhaps, that the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.

This kind of naively idyllic portrayal of the Christian experience could easily lead to disillusionment among the young or newly converted, as people don’t very often turn their lives around on a dime when you start praying for them. Nor does one’s own conversion experience very often reflect an unambiguous conquest of personal sin; rather, periodic backsliding, of a greater or lesser degree, is an all-too-common aspect of the spiritual journey. I appreciate that the story was not attempting to convey such a journey per se, being rather narrowly focused over a short time period, yet even great moments of repentance are normally marked by a gradual comprehension of the of the depth and scope of one’s transgressions, as well as a developing apprehension of the redemptive grace at work. Any such complexity was conspicuously absent from this story, and when the bully is wholly cured of his bullying ways after an emotional “calling out” to a hitherto unknown God, you sense the film has conjured up the fantastic conceit of cheap grace.

The only even remote resemblance to Christian community in the film were the Bible Studies the Jonathan Sperry character led the boys in at his house – which frankly came off more as Sunday School games with trite moral lessons than anything resembling immersion in the Word of God. Rather, everyone went off on their own to read their Bibles. Is that kind of mutual isolation for “devotions” supposed to somehow reflect the ecclesial unity for which Christ prayed? Yet the reading of the Bible was presented as something at lest pretty close to the pinnacle of Christian life. But reading the Bible – especially alone – not infrequently produces heresy as well as holiness, and we’re talking here about a group of thoroughly wet-behind-the-ears pre-teenage boys, with no apparent Christian community to provide them wisdom, temperance, and mature direction. Whatever role “church” played in the film’s home-town community, it was unrelated to the thematically crucial issues at the center of the movie, and peripheral to the lives of those characters who were meant to reflect Christianity. And that is a thoroughly impoverished view of Christianity.

Never mind community, these young boys didn’t even have families to speak of – they either didn’t exist, or they served as minor props. The plot’s most important parental character was the deceased father of the bully! In what was perhaps the most bizarre example of the disconnectedness of the film’s Jesus movement from the realities of human community, the wife of that man, whom were are told had thoroughly despised and rejected her deceased (ex-?) husband’s turn to Christianity, never even makes an appearance in the story as her son adopts of the same faith under the tutelage of the elderly Mr. Sperry. Are we to suppose that she would not have had some kind of reaction, which might somehow have complicated the story – at least for the boy? This is just clueless story writing.

It might be objected that I am criticizing the movie for not being what it did not set out to be. Fair enough. But if the point of the movie was to convincingly show how one person’s faith can influence others for the good, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to insist that the faith in question – and its alleged effects – be presented at a level of authentic personal engagement which exceeds that of a typical Care Bears episode, which is pretty close to where this film engages its audience. With better character development, it could have been a Hallmark Special with a Jesus message – not that I’d ever expect to find a Jesus message in a Hallmark Special, seeing how offensive such blatant religiosity is to the gatekeepers of cultural standards. But as a piece of evangelism, I have to say that I think the film fails for lack of believability and, hence, credibility.

molokai Ironically, the day after I viewed the movie, Pope Benedict XVI canonized Damien of Molokai, about whom a feature film had been made roughly ten years ago. The film, Molokai: The Story of Father Damien, portrays the life of Damien as he ministers to leprous outcasts exiled to to an island colony in 19th century Hawaii, becoming one of them, and eventually dying of their shared affliction. Rich Christiano could learn much about authentic presentation of the Christian faith, and its power to transform communities through the faithfulness of individuals, by watching this moving, and truly evangelistic, film.

Given the blank slate of pure fiction, Christiano created a bunch of cardboard characters engaged in a series of events that together make Christianity look unbelievable and childish, if not downright cartoonish. Director Paul Cox, by contrast – not even a Christian filmmaker, mind you – working with the actual life events and legacy of a real saint, painted a picture of Christian love that continues to inspire, and that reveals many of the finer aspects of a practical Christian faith. One hero is today known as the patron saint of HIV/AIDS sufferers, and their caretakers. The other will soon pass the way of a plastic Happy Meal toy. If evangelization is worthwhile, we need more of the former, and less of the latter; more message, less messaging.

Things an Atheist Should Know Before He Tells Christians Things They Should Know Before Talking to an Atheist

Posted: Saturday, November 29, 2008 (10:52 pm), by John W Gillis


I came across a tease tonight on the WordPress.com dashboard for a post entitled “Things Christians Should Know Before Talking to an Atheist” and, having more curiosity than prudence, I bit on it. It turned out to be from a blog called Proud Atheists, written by an atheist who either thought he had some sage advice for Christians who might be inclined to try to convert him, or perhaps he was only looking for pats on the back from his fellow atheists for his cleverness. I would have given him the benefit of the doubt and assumed the former, but his replies to some other commenters later in the night became highly defensive and cantankerous, leading me to doubt his readiness for meaningful dialog.

Hence, since I have little confidence that my rather lengthy and time-consuming response to his post will survive the editorial delete button over at the Proud Atheists blog, I am posting it here on maybetoday.org first. Without the context of the original post, it may not make complete sense, but you can follow the above link to the original, or probably just figure it out. This isn’t rocket surgery.

[Update: Sure enough, the original post has been closed to comments, and the existing comments have, ummm, disappeared – but not before I received at least one reply worthy of an eight year-old schoolyard bully, replete with personal insults, and taunts that sounded eerily like “I’m rubber and you’re glue.” JWG]

[Update2, Dec. 20, 2008: My understanding is that the comments on the other site reappeared (resurrected?) after things died down. Regardless, since I got a decent amount of traffic on this post, and since I can have a do-over whenever I want on my own website, I’ve edited my counterpoints below to clarify both what some of the issues were, as well as some of my responses. JWG]

Since this post is supposedly directed at Christians for their instruction, and since I am a Christian forever in need of instruction, I read it. In doing so,I uncovered more than a few questionable assumptions being made. This, in turn, prompted me to put together what I here offer as a well-intentioned, point-by-point rejoinder, which I suppose I should title:

Things an Atheist Should Know Before He Tells Christians Things They Should Know Before Talking to an Atheist

1.) I’m not sure why your very first assertion is that Hitler was not an atheist. I suppose it must be because you sometimes hear people associating him with your cause, but I think most thinking Christians couldn’t care less whether Hitler was an atheist, a refashioned pagan warlord demigod, or a New Age guru selling a vision of utopia built upon a bloody battlefield. He was an idolater in any case.

However, this raises another point that bears mention: atheists often play flip-flop in their apologetics, arguing one minute against theism, and the next minute against Christianity proper – conflating the two tendentiously. It might, therefore, seem to some Christian apologists to be a case of “turnabout is fair play” to lump Hitler in with the major atheistic mass murderers of the 20th century (Stalin and Mao), since the three of them form a kind of perfect demonic troika of testimony to refute the tired atheistic canard that Christianity’s “wars of religion” in Europe and/or Crusading in Asia are “proof” that religion is the seedbed of humanity’s warring violence.

So, before you protest your disassociation from Hitler so loudly as to call attention to it, you’d do well to carefully examine the actual philosophical similarities and differences – apart from playing “label” games, and name-calling – because he was nothing if not committed to abolishing the Christian religious virtues in Europe, which is precisely the aim of militant atheism. Contemporary atheism may have a much narrower agenda than German National Socialism did, but it can hardly be disputed that they both drink from the same well of modern, anti-Christian thought, such as that of Nietzsche.

2.) Morality is not a “state of conscience” at all, whatever that means. Rather, it is the consideration and accomplishment, in particular circumstances, of the good and/or evil inherent in an act or idea, and a measure of the moralness of an act or idea in terms of its conformance to the good. If you are attempting to claim that morality is not the exclusive domain of Christianity, and that atheism can also produce morality, you are half right, but you have a problem.

The problem is that since morality measures the moralness (or goodness) of an act by its conformance to the good, the good must really exist in order for morality to be rational. Atheism, however, cannot coherently accept the actual existence of either good or evil as real things, as opposed to concepts that are products of either individual people’s preferences, or of collective opinions. Because if there is such an independent reality “out there” as the good, against which the opinions of individuals or groups or even all of humanity can be measured, then “the good” is God (in the most basic, theistic sense).

And if there is not such a reality as the good “out there” to produce the judgment of morality, then there can be no such thing as actual morality, only opinion – meaning that social “morality” would be nothing but the prevailing opinion of the most powerful interest group (=might makes right). This kind of irrational tyranny is not what Christians (or other theists, for that matter) are referring to when they speak of morality.

So, no, atheism cannot produce morality – and atheists cannot even intelligibly engage in discussions evaluating morality. Atheism can produce value systems based on opinions of greater or lessor worth, but in order for such a value system to be judged moral or immoral, there must be some pre-existing standard of the good to be measured against (i.e. the moral order, or the truth) – the very existence of which would prove the inanity of atheism.

3.) Kindly do not tell Christians who or what they can or cannot pray for. Christians are free human beings who do not tolerate such attempts at thought control, especially coming from someone who holds them in such obvious contempt. As for the millions of “ill and starving,” God is not “testing” them; it looks to me like God is waiting for you to go tend to them. Yes, God is testing you. Please be sure to leave us all a note telling us when you’ve decided to put your money where your mouth is. If you’re, you know, too busy, I’m sure God can find someone else.

4.) The “leprechauns” bit really makes atheists look like clowns. It takes a number of forms, but they all basically come down to the accusation that believing in God is no different than believing in (fill in the blank: leprechauns, fairies, Santa Claus, etc.). The problem, of course, is that these are not the same at all. To an atheist, perhaps the existence of a leprechaun might seem as likely as the existence of God, but that does not make God a leprechaun, nor does it follow that belief in one is the same kind of belief as belief in the other. Any time an atheist accuses me of believing in a “sky pixie” or something of the sort, I know he has run out of intelligent things to say – he is ridiculing me on the obviously false premise that I believe in what I do not in fact believe in, all for the sake of asserting that he is justified in his unbelief of that which I really do believe in. That’s pathetic.

An illustration: To a theist, it seems equally likely that there is no such reality as air, as that there is no such reality as God. Now, if theistic apologists started mocking atheists’ unbelief in “invisible things” by claiming that atheists must believe there is no such thing as air, atheists would probably be beside themselves. They would complain: “This is an outrageous accusation. Just because we don’t believe in God doesn’t mean we don’t believe in air. Even though neither God nor air is visible, there are other rational means we have for believing that air is real, which are not applicable to the problem of the existence of God.” This complaint would be 100% valid, of course.

But if the theists nonetheless continued to mock atheists by claiming that their atheism was, at least by extension if not explicitly, a denial of the reality of air, the atheists would have no other option but to eventually come to the conclusion that the theistic apologists were intellectually dishonest. They would be right. Theistic apologists, after all, have an intellectual responsibility to grapple with the best arguments atheism has. To instead sidestep the real arguments, and construct an absurd strawman argument that bears none but the most blatantly superficial resemblance to the view held by the opposition, is really an admission that you don’t have the gonads to tackle the real arguments.

Ridiculing people with lies when you don’t have an intelligent argument to offer against them might make you feel less impotent, but it only makes you look like a clown. You might want to rethink the “leprechaun” shtick.

5.) If you tell a Christian that you think Jesus is an imaginary person, you’re likely to get a bemused look – if not a pat on the head. The historicalness of Jesus of Nazareth is beyond honest dispute. Now, whether he really is God Incarnate might be an open question, but his disciples were not willing to be tortured and killed for the sake of an imaginary person they conspired to pretend existed. Jesus was a real man whom they really loved.

6.) Atheists may think they know the Bible better than most Christians (and some Christians hardly know the Bible at all, so that’s not saying much), but actually atheists generally know very little about the Bible. If they know anything, they know a handful of carefully selected “gotcha” passages, yet even those they don’t know well enough to understand properly. Most Christians would be well aware of that fact, if and when confronted with demands to answer some “gotcha” question or other. In Biblical language, knowledge implies intimacy, which is the one thing that atheists, by definition, can never achieve with the Bible and still remain atheistic. For to become intimately knowledgeable with (or even about) a book means to come to know, in some manner, its author.

7.) While certain Protestants have, admittedly, muddied the water with their self-contradictory Sola Scriptura doctrine, most Christians would look at you with a bit of incomprehension if you tried to claim that the Bible does not “prove” God. The Bible is a collection of stories that reveal God, not argue for His existence. The Bible, being understood as inspired by God, presupposes both the existence of God, and the existence of the knowledge of God. Christianity has produced some philosophical proofs for God (such as those of Anselm and Aquinas), but these have no real bearing on the life of faith – and certainly have nothing to do with the Bible.

The great theological virtues are faith, hope, and love – the implication being that faith and hope are stepping stones to love. But “proof” (or perfect knowledge), when it comes, will obsolete both faith and hope. This is obvious in the very meanings of faith and hope. That is why the Christian seeks “proof” (of what is yet still hidden) within faith and within hope – and not in the Bible as some kind of cosmic trump card or master answer sheet. You’re barking up the wrong tree.

8.) The founders of the USA did not flee Europe, as you assert; they were mostly born here. I live in a state (Massachusetts) that produced some of the finest of them. On the other hand, those folks who did flee Europe to come here did not flee Christianity, they mostly (especially early on) fled to practice Christianity – albeit in the manner they saw fit, which the states they fled were hostile to. When their descendants later founded the USA, they founded it on ideals of political and religious liberty, avoiding the anti-religious zealotry that would, just a few years later, turn the French Revolution into the abomination of The Terror.

The genius of the refusal to establish a national church, protecting the rights of all to practice their religions freely, needs to be extended in our own day to combat the new, modern threat to religious liberty, which is the militant atheistic tendency to attempt to suppress public religious expression through the use of the power of the state to enforce a practical atheism on public life. This is precisely the kind of state interference in the free exercise of religion that the First Amendment to the Constitution intended to protect against.

9.) I agree that evolution is not just for atheists. But evolutionism, as a post-modern intellectual movement, is simply not content with evolution. Instead, it extends incessantly into philosophical (or metaphysical) naturalism, which is indeed, by definition, for atheists only. This all gets very confusing to discuss, since no less than three completely different ideas end up going by the name of evolution. These three can be more precisely called: micro evolution; macro evolution; and philosophical naturalism. It is my contention that this linguistic confusion is intentional on the part of philosophical naturalists, who benefit from the public conflation of their absurd ideas with the simple and provable (micro)evolution observed in particular species by biologists.

10.) Attendance at “God’s judgment day” will not be voluntary. As for you not needing to be “saved,” what Christianity offers is salvation from death, and if you think you are going to somehow slide by that obstacle without Christ, well, good luck to you, but the Christians you announce this to will not be impressed.

11.) If you believe that someone, before Jesus, was born of a virgin, and resurrected from death, I’d be interested in hearing how it is that you believe it. I suspect this is a pointless point, boldface and all…

12.) Regarding proofs and elves, please see earlier comments on proofs and leprechauns.

13.) Love and faith are not, in fact, emotions; they are acts of the will. While there are feelings associated with these, they are at root rational, outward-focused expressions of human freedom, not feelings.

As to the anatomy matter, you are not likely to impress anyone with pedantic biology lessons. We know what a heart is.

14.) I agree that quoting Bible verses to an atheist is a waste of time, but not because the Biblical writers were ostensibly insane. Rather, it is a waste of time because atheists do not accept the authority of the Bible, and have no interest in what it says – with the exception of those things that can be misconstrued for dubious ends. The Bible itself actually boasts wisdom to this effect.

15.) Regarding your claim that not all atheists are intellectuals: I couldn’t agree more. Heck, I was an atheist myself once, as a teenager. But I ended up discovering that my adolescent atheism – as convenient as it was at the time – was even more childish than the childish “faith” of my youth, and I had to give it up.

I’m afraid many of the Christian apologists you will meet will have had a similar experience to mine, and I don’t think it will be a revelation to them that disbelief is running rampant through all the several strata of our society, and not just in the ivory towers of academia. I must admit surprise, though, that you find it worthwhile to distance yourself from the intellectuals of your movement. Perhaps you think that buys you authenticity. Whatever.

You may or may not have some decent arguments to make, but I think you gain little in distancing yourself from the Dawkins and Hutchins of the world unless you have something more civil and substantial than they do to offer in terms of disagreement. I don’t see any evidence of it here.