Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The Prosblogion entry on atheist burnout

Knowing both Parsons and Beversluis, (Parsons through having lived in a house with him when we were both seminary students in the late 70s, Beversluis through correspondence about Lewis), I do find this dismaying.

I would just note that the believer-unbeliever divide is one of the things that divides us most deeply. Being in error about God certainly has a greater impact on who we are than being in error about abstract objects, or counterfactual conditionals. You also have to realize that the atheist philosopher is talking about what he doesn't believe, while the Christian is talking about what he does believe.


Headshaker said...

Victor I believe you linked to the wrong blog. Did you mean this ?

Blue Devil Knight said...

Interesting article.

When I first became atheist, I joined all the groups (American Atheist, local skeptics groups, etc). It was mostly people who recently left the flock acting all confident and dismissive and arrogant toward religious people (who were typically just called deluded idiots).

Usually there was a male leader that people would gravitate toward. Looking back, these leaders were actually clueless, but at the time they seemed to know what they were doing. At least they seemed secure in their disbelief, and we needed reassurance.

People eventually mellowed (except for the older male preachers in the groups, who seemed to be unable to get a life going on their own independently of their dislike of religion). They realized that things were not as cut-and-dried as they had thought. They became able to have civil and intelligent conversations about religion, to consider the other side without giving a knee-jerk reflexive response as you'd find in a spinal cord. In other words, they got their brains back.

And for the most part, they lose interest in arguing about these topics. They live a life free from religion, not dominated by it.

I look at those old atheist preacher types as serving a very useful purpose: they function as therapists and coaches for people very insecure about leaving the flock. They provide a sense of reassurance, a pat on the back. It is hard to leave one's religion, and we need support and reassurance during the process. For some reason, it often takes the form of derision and ridicule, but Christians that get offended by such behavior, perhaps it will help to see it for what it is: basically a hug and pat on the back for someone making a very difficult transition in their life.

You'll find the same dynamics at many atheist-oriented blogs on the internet. The insecure adolescent atheist (not adolescent in age) sucking up the overconfident vitriol of the old preacher skeptic whose life is still dominated by a superstition. Don't worry, they will get their brains back. It's just a phase, like when teens think their parents are idiots and are embarassed to be seen with them.

To such new atheists: if you are an undergrad, please consider getting into math, computer science, or a natural science. Right now you may be tempted to major in philosophy so you can get "one up" on the religious nuts, but do you think that is the person you will want to be in five years? Is that the kind of adult you want to be? Minor in philosophy if you must, but major in a real discipline that has nothing explicitly to do with your dislike of religion.

As for the last part of the post at prosblogion, it seems a no-brainer that philosophy of religion should have way more theists than other fields of philosophy. How many people who don't believe want to get a PhD in that topic? What a waste of a huge amount of intellectual energy, basically pissing the best years of your intellectual life into something you think is a superstition.

Note I have no idea where Parsons fits on this spectrum, am not saying anything about him personally, have no idea if he is the 'thereapeutic atheist preacher' stereotype. I am speaking based on experience with actual groups I have been involved in, and observed on the internet.

Shackleman said...


I think you trivialize the impact both for the atheist and the theist.

You say: "Christians that get offended by such behavior, perhaps it will help to see it for what it is: basically a hug and pat on the back for someone making a very difficult transition in their life."

This is simply not true---the atheist "pastors" are not just giving hugs and pats. They're actively recruiting. Especially within the younger, impressionable late-teens to early twenties. Further, they're actively promoting an agenda of dehumanizing and demonizing their metaphysical opponents.

You also say: "Don't worry, they will get their brains back. It's just a phase, like when teens think their parents are idiots and are embarassed to be seen with them."

This is also not true in my direct personal experience. You do not speak for all other atheists here. I have personal friends who have yet, after having deconverted decades ago, to become comfortable enough in their atheism not to evangelize for their position, dehumanize their opposition, and actively try to demoralize them as well. It's by no means a "phase". Especially when one considers that the "chief pastors" among them, such as Richard Dawkins, is actively pushing the notion that religious people are a DANGER to society, and therefore it's the atheists' duty to do what they can to help eradicate religion from the planet---for the good of humanity.

This is no benign "need-a-hug campaign". Some atheists have declared a war against religion, and they're seeking recruits to join their army.

*You've* gotten your brain back (ironic turn of phrase BTW, considering this blog is dedicated to the AfR), and you're (mostly) tolerant of your opposition. But many, I'm afraid are locked, long term, into the "burn 'em at the stakes" spell that the atheist "pastors" are weaving.

Further, this is bad news for those Christians who think that the souls of the athiest are forever lost upon their death (not my position, as you know). So, for the compassionate Christian, they may want to save those souls. Not for their own benefit, but for THEM. A point I've tried to make before.

The evangelical Christian's motives are oftentimes born out of love, concern, and altruism. Meanwhile, the evangelical atheist's motivation is to....what?....make themselves feel less alone in their scary Godless universe? It doesn't seem very altruistic, loving, and born of concern to me.

Blue Devil Knight said...

The evangelical atheist has many motivations I'm sure. One is likely a pursuit of truth. Another is to fight what seem to be ridiculous manifestations of religion in culture (e.g., young earth creationism and attempts to change biology textbooks).

For me, there was a necessary exploration of an entirely new take on the world. Things I had previously unthinkingly explained in terms of God would suddenly pose an interesting challenge. When you first leave the system, it hasn't left you. It takes time to reconfigure one's belief system in a godless framework.

I am not convinced that these people actively recruit. They are there for people to talk to and read. Loftus may be a bit of an exception, he has described himself as an evangelical atheist, and he has many of the characteristics that I have the least respect for among the less savory evangelical Christians (the cagey slick overconfident ad hominem argument style with more concern for persuasion than truth).

A good skeptic feeds much more on doubt than on certainty. Some of these adolescent atheists are reversing that trend.

Dawkins I give a pass. He is so witty and entertaining and clearly intelligent, and doesn't take himself all that seriously (or the subject matter). It's the angry weird personal attacks from some of these people (PZ Meyers and Loftus, assumign people don't know what they are talking about just because they are Christian) that really rub me the wrong way.

And I do think most people grow out of this period of adolescence. That doesn't mean they become Christian again(I wouldn't expect them to, and I didn't), but that they mature and develop intellectually to be able to handle opposition more. In other words, they turn from petulant kids to adults that know how to behave with others.

I know so many people like this, the small minority just leaving the fold that get really into the combative and name-calling stuff truly are the minority, even though they are the ones you will see the most of because they are so obnoxious. I guess this is a sociological claim.

Gordon Knight said...

Christian and atheist need to calm down. Its HARD to figure out what is really going down, we are finite minds, nothing is obvious.

Our epistemic situation is one of ambiguity, not sure fire definite answers.

A little open mindedness goes a long way.

Its a good thing to think about whether there is a God, but that is quite different from assuming one's own epistemic predicament is like that of a God.

Anonymous said...

I don't know....
I think to things that John Loftus pulled (making a fake blog under someone else's name to agree with Loftus in his criticisms of Holding) and then I think to Parsons and it's like "sure, you aren't able to address salient points so turn it into something else. Turn it into "golly, I just no longer have any interest in such a fruitless endeavor."

I don't buy it.
I think it's just another tactic.

What better tactic than "the whole thing is just a bunch of bullcrap anyway. Oh, but please don't think that I'm trying to invalidate anyone's opposing view on the matter. HEaven forfend!!"

Blue Devil Knight said...

Anon: My impression is that Parsons doesn't deserve to be lumped in with Loftus. That's insulting to Parsons: they are very different people.

Victor Reppert said...

I agree about Parsons.

Anonymous said...

Maybe there's been a change. Maybe Parsons was previously at a level above Loftus, and now is at his level.

Shackleman said...

It is a bit passive aggressive. If he really didn't care about the subject anymore because he feels it has *zero* merit, then why announce that to the world? He could have just walked away from it, and went on about his business pursuing the things he *does* think are meritorious.

I predict this will not be the last word we ever read from Parsons on religious matters, if so, anon's point would be proven correct.

Blue Devil Knight said...

It's not like he's made an argument. He's just sick of it. I believe him, I know what it's like. Even after one semester studying some lame topic in a philosophy class as a grad student I was ready to hang myself, even though for a while I would get into it enough to say something.

'Passive agressive' is impossible for us to say, as it gets at his motives. For one, it doesn't seem there is anything particularly passive about it. Also, what if he just disappeared from the scene with no explanation? It doesn't seem a big deal that he explain what is going on, and that we take his motives at face value.

I can't imagine having to teach that crap, the same arguments about God, every freaking year. I would go insane. ONe reason I left philosophy for neuro was because I prefer to teach neuroscience than Plato.

Walter said...

I agree that those of us who have deconverted do go through a phase where we have an evangelistic zeal for what we now consider to be the truth. The most vocal opponents generally are the recently deconverted. I was pretty bad for my first couple of years. The longer I go the less interested I am in "heated" exchanges with religious believers. I do still enjoy a good discussion, though. Many of my friends that were raised completely non-religious could absolutely care less about arguing religion at any time, online or other. The enthusiastic zeal which comes when one feels they have had an epiphany can probably explain Paul's zeal when he switched from persecutor to champion of Christian faith. Some atheists are just the flip side of the coin, going from champion to persecutor.

Shackleman said...


Come on now. He's not just benignly announcing what's going on so that he doesn't appear to just disappear from the scene. Not when he uses language like this:

"I found the arguments [in favor of theism] so execrably awful and pointless that they bored and disgusted me"

" I have to confess that I now regard “the case for theism” as a fraud"

"I can no longer take it seriously enough to present it to a class as a respectable philosophical position"

"I just cannot take their arguments seriously any more"

"As for the rest of you who are fighting the good fight against supernaturalism, please do carry on. Somebody needs to oppose this stuff."

and then in the comments section he continues:

"Again, I admire and encourage those who continue the battle against theistic obscurantism, but I have such a sense of ennui and disgust that I am going to be hors de combat."

"Nietzsche one time that said "I cannot spend my time swatting flies." Swatting flies is what it feels like I've been doing for some time."

"My view of the "case for theism" is not that it is a dishonest fabrication but that it is completely vacuous."

These are not the thoughts of someone simply explaining why he will be absent from the scene he helped to create for so many years. No, these are passive aggressive damnations of *all* of the arguments employed by his opposition. He's not JUST saying he's had enough, he's ALSO saying he's had enough because his opposition is completely devoid of any merit whatsoever.

Dawkins has tried this same tactic, yet he does NOTHING BUT respond to the arguments.

You give him the benefit of the doubt because you agree with his conclusions. I'm calling it for what it is---a display of disrespect and a complete lack of humility and grace shown to the people with whom he disagrees.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Shackelman: yes, he is announcing it in an emotional way, my impression is he is genuinely sick of it and just expressing his disgust. Perhaps overselling it a bit? Sure. But that doesn't mean he is lying.

Walter puts things very well as usual.

Shackleman said...

Ah yes, because both the content and the delivery style of the arguments put forth by the likes of Reppert, Lewis, Hasker, Plantinga, McGrew, Craig, and others like them are most certainly deserving not only of derision, contempt, and disrespect, but of disgust as well.


I'll tell you what disgusts me...when the flock simply refuses to be critical of anything their leaders have to say even when they are so obviously being disrespectful and pompous blow-hards.

Besides, who mentioned anything at all about him lying? Is that the start of a straw man you're building? Don't even go there.

Anonymous said...

Nicely put, Shackleman.

Really, there's another, obvious way to read Parson's announcement: It's because he's been superseded in a popular sense by Dawkins, he's been an intellectual failure, and even a culture failure.

Really, if a YEC said they were disgusted with "evolutionists" and would no longer bother engaging their arguments, one obvious reply would be "They're saying this because their own arguments are failures, and they can't reach the goals they wanted." What makes Parsons so special that he's above this suspicion?

He's a failure, intellectually and culturally. He's hit the Loftus level.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Yes, he is getting in a final pot shot, maybe even something of a cheap shot, at the system of thought he says he finds completely lacking. It's pretty transparent. I take what he is saying at face value. If you don't, that's your prerogative.

I understand that it is annoying. But being annoying doesn't mean his cards aren't out on the table or that he has ulterior motives and doesn't really plan to leave or that this is just a low blow ploy (I substituted 'lying' for the suggestion that he wasn't being completely forthright in his claims, but whatever you want to call it that gets at his motives and intentions which you don't know).

He got his pot shot in, he's finally going to work on what he thinks is right, rather than refuting what he thinks is wrong. I commend him, and only wish it had happened sooner as it seems a waste of one's mental energy.

Shackleman said...

You know, the more I think about this, the more despicable I think it is.

This guy has spent much of his professional life building up a career for himself (a career that has paid him quite handsomely surely) engaging in this debate, and now, presumably after he has acquired tenure, is spitting in the eye of his debate opponents, saying they're specious and vacuous, and so now he takes his ball and is going home and pouting all the way.

What a crock. Even in his Dear John letter he admits that there is merit enough for "others" to waste mental energy debating his opposition.

I think Anon is onto something here. He admits to being irrelevant now, considering others have made his case for him better than he himself can make it. To leave now with such little class is just showing his true colors, and nearly tacitly admits defeat.

And BDK, with all due respect, if it's a waste of mental energy to devote time debating apologists, why have you devoted so much of yours over the years on this blog and others doing just that? You're one of the most consistent posters here, sometimes devoting days of thorough and obvious rigor of thought in your defenses and arguments.

Alex Dalton said...

Eh, I think I'm a pretty good read on people. From my very limited interaction with him, I can still tell Parsons is a good guy. He's bright and he's been cordial and fairly open-minded within most of the theist/atheist dialogues I've seen him in. I'll have more to say on his deconversion from active skepticism (something to be celebrated) at another time.

I don't really see much similarity with Loftus at all. If there is any at all, it might be a tendency to get a little riled up, blow off steam, get frustrated, etc. Listening to him debate Craig, at a minimum, you can see he is a passionate person. I know he teaches in Texas. I'm not sure where he's originally from, but having lived in Austin for the last 6 yrs or so, he reminds me of several intellectuals that I've had extended discussions/debates with over the years. They make great debate partners but occasionally they get red in the face, start yelling, and tell you "ah, that's just a buncha crap!". They don't mean anything personal by it; they've just hit their patience limit. If I had to speculate, I'd say Parsons probably had a specific instance where he experienced frustration with regards to theism, theistic arguments, or a theist in particular, and his latest blog is his way of venting about it.

Alex Dalton said...

BDK wrote: he's finally going to work on what he thinks is right, rather than refuting what he thinks is wrong. I commend him, and only wish it had happened sooner as it seems a waste of one's mental energy.

Alex: Yes, I understand your view here and I pretty much agree that on some level that's the way to go for Parsons. But we want to be careful not to attribute that commendable motive to him either. Indeed, that may simply be the consolation of the decision.

We have to remember that working on what one thinks is right, as you say, can be done quite successfully within POR. It is just alot more difficult to do in an environment where worldviews are as polarized as they are in the theism/atheism divide, and passions run as high as they do with all of the real-world implications of one's position (ethically, politically, socially, etc.). Oppy and Sobel have done it quite successfully. Arguing that a god probably does not exist is on the face of it no more of a waste of time, or less of an instance of arguing for what one thinks is right, than arguing about scientific realism, the demarcation problem, etc.

I think Parsons has been pretty clear that he feels he simply doesn't have much more to contribute beyond what some of the luminaries already have. There's nothing to be ashamed of all.

Obviously I think it is silly to suppose some of the books he's mentioned have the last word. I've seen some very powerful critiques of them already (particularly Oppy who makes some really strange [and I think "vacuous" - to borrow from Parsons] arguments for the possibility of something arising from nothing).

As a philosopher, I just think he should realize, there really never will be a final word on this debate, from either side. And I think that's the (somewhat immature) desire for certainty in him, as a Skeptic, that you speak about in another post.

Ultimately, I think it is very obvious that there's a struggle going on between Parsons the "skeptical debunker", and Parsons the philosopher, and I'm glad to see hope that the latter might win out. I don't think it will if he keeps dabbling in POR as he has been.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Shackelman: I did what Parsons did with young earthers. I spent a year or two dealing with them, and then just stopped for similar reasons. Their beliefs were so silly, and they were so inflexible and incapable of evidence-based thinking, I just stopped. So I can understand him.

I post and read here because people here, for the most part, aren't pushing such a silly system of thought. Also, there is a huge difference between messing around in blog comments and getting a PhD, becoming a professional philosopher to teach about these issues. My time is devoted to neuroscience. My free time I post at Victor's blog (though frankly lately I have realized what a time sink it is and that I should probably stop just to be more productive in my real persuits).

Parsons obviously feels he has hit a point where he is sick of it. He is burned out. I don't feel that way (even though I do agree the arguments aren't all that great). I haven't spent enough time on it to get burnt out, but I understand that it could easily happen. Kudos to him for lasting as long as he did.

Ya'll are annoyed. It's understandable. Don't read too much into it. Anonymous got very personal attacking Parsons, while Parsons quite explicitly attacked the ideas, and that's what I respect (as opposed to Loftus). Parson's said:
"BTW, in saying that I now consider the case for theism to be a fraud, I do not mean to charge that the people making that case are frauds who aim to fool us with claims they know to be empty. No, theistic philosophers and apologists are almost painfully earnest and honest; I don’t think there is a Bernie Madoff in the bunch. I just cannot take their arguments seriously any more.."

This seems quite reasonable. It's how I feel about young earth creationists, and I would probably feel that way about most theistic arguments if I spent the last X years studying the topic as much as he has.

But yes, I'm sure it is annoying and who am I to stop someone from venting their feelings :)

Blue Devil Knight said...

Alex I largely agree with you (though I left philosophy as a whole because I feel it is largely a waste of time as a profession versus a hobby, so I might not agree that it is all that useful to spend so much time on realism/antirealism and other endless empirically underdetermined endless philosophical argument spirals).

I basically feel toward philosophy as a whole the way parsons feels toward philosophy of religion. Difference is I left philosophy as a profession to be a scientist, thank goodness. Somehow he stayed a philosopher of religion for a very long time. Silly rabbit!

Shackleman said...

Sorry, the Parson apologists both on his blog and on here seem to be blind to a hypocrisy. I would bet good money that they would never be so tolerant and excusing of a prominent and respected theistic apologist exiting the stage whilst whining that *all* opposing arguments are vacuous, merit-less, disgust-inducing frauds.

No, instead they would (rightly) cry foul, and vehemently denounce those antics.

But, one of their own resorting to such self-righteous indignation, and they rush to his defense, excusing his antics as just being the emotional outbursts of a Texan, exhausted and wronged by the nitwits he has had to contend with for lo these many years, and *praising* him for doing so.


Blue Devil Knight said...

Shackelman I said I understand the annoyance so I'm not sure why you are complaining about me. Neither Parsons nor the people annoyed with him are wrong here: we are talking about sentiments not arguments.

We could argue about whether the arguments that he rejects truly are as crappy as he says. If he were leaving a life of fighting holocaust deniers, nobody here would be complaining. We'd all understand his frustration.

I am sympathetic that people here believe he is dismissing something significant, not at all analagous to such things. So you are annoyed. However, if I had to spend 20 years addressing 'liar lunatic lord' arguments, arguments about martyr-risk behavior, and such, I bet I would lose patience much faster than him.

It seems you are intent on not simply taking what he is saying at face value and keep trying to paint him as somehow defective (comments about getting tenure and then leaving...huh?).

It is annoying and hurtful and you don't think it is as silly and stupid as he acts. I get it.

I also know it is easy to offend religious people, and being nonreligious myself I have to actively watch what I say around the religious, as I do tend to make jokes and mock Christian beliefs when I am among people who are not Christian. I do find them sort of funny and superstitious and pretty much unbelievable.

However, when interacting with said believers, I try my best to interact with the ideas, to honor the seeming complexity of the arguments, and see thing from their perspective. To realize I really don't have a knock-down argument against theism, etc.. Humility and respect to other people is called for even though my personal attitude toward the ideas is generally one of dismissive irreverence. And that's all he said, was that he thought the ideas were ridiculous.

As an atheist, a fairly staunch one at that, his seems a fairly innocuous declaration, something like I would have given if I had just spent 20 years fighting YEC.

At any rate, this discussion is sort of weird and personal and psychological so I'll bow out. Plus I need to stop reading/posting at this blog so my goal is none for at least a week (so, no good posts, please, Victor). No blog activity for a week for me.

Shackleman said...

First, when I direct something toward an individual, I say so. You are not the only apologist for Parsons commenting here, so I wasn't talking exclusively to you or about you. Relax.

Second, there are two distinctions I'm drawing here that you are (willfully?) ignoring. I'm irritated at Parson's antics, yes, not because I'm an "easily offended religious person". But because Parsons matters. He's influential. He's respected. He's published. He's a full-time, careful, measured, professor of a field that matters to an awful lot of people. He's not "BDK the part-time weekend blogger". What he says is actually taken seriously. Therefore he ought to leave the debate that has been so good to him with dignity, class, and respect for his opposition. He's not. That should be admonished.

To wave your hand dismissively and compare his commentary with yours or my commentary does not give his status as a professional philosopher its proper due.

Which brings me to my next point.

The second (and separate) irritation I have is with his apologists. Not because they feel I, as a Christian am worthy of being mocked and ridiculed (I couldn't care less what they think of me personally), but because their continued attempts at excusing his indignant mockery and puffery border on hypocrisy, and somebody ought to point it out.

Anonymous said...

Interesting, the Loftus-bashing going on in this thread...

Arthur said...

Walter said.."Many of my friends that were raised completely non-religious could absolutely care less about arguing religion at any time, online or other. The enthusiastic zeal which comes when one feels they have had an epiphany can probably explain Paul's zeal when he switched from persecutor to champion of Christian faith. Some atheists are just the flip side of the coin, going from champion to persecutor."

Yes its a fact people not so effected by religion dont often bother think about it much.A bit like people who are not personally effected by cerebral palsy, often dont bother even thinking or considering what it might be like if they were effected by cerebal palsy.

In my opinion its all part of the reason so much abuse is still able to exist among faith and religion.

Do we see many faithful folk actively fighting to help stop abuse among religion?.How many church faith groups are actively involved in trying to help bring about change in abusive cults like westboro baptists, who will activly preach hate and excommunicate and disown any children who disagree with their nastiness.

Many?.No sadly not many.

So we have plenty of church folk in liberal churches all cozy-rosy and feeling God is great.And plenty of other general folks not effected or so bothered by religion,who couldnt care less.

And then we have some other angry folk ,folk who people like Blue admit often have had past involvement in religion themselves.

Some of these people have now been named as the new atheists.Many are angry and loud and disrespectful etc.

When many church folk in cozy liberal churches often do so very little themselves, about taking any positive action! towards helping free captives stuck in abusive faiths.I would like to ask, why then is this respect they demand of them, always so honestly deserving?.Does faith deserve respect?,if so why

Im extremely thankful for the atheists like Blue and Walter, i have to admit i do specially admire their very calm and collected type attitude of reasoning.I see extreme value in it, and i would be sad if i saw it had changed.I even hope some of their type attitude rubs off on me.

But in saying that, i also have to say i think it would be a very great shame! for both atheism and also Christianity if the new atheists ever disappeared.We still need many more angry new atheists around, not less of them.Because without the new atheists in all honesty, many more liberal Christians would all simply get handed the unopposed right, to simply go straight back to sleep in all their cozy-rosy liberal churches.Lulled into thinking all within faith was rosy and quite fine .

While many kids in the more nasty churches still got continually spiritually abused and treated very badly and suffered onward in silence.Silence born out of their own personal fear! of even daring to speak up about problems they themselves need to face each and every day.Fear to disagree with the faithful nastiness they are often born into, and never even get the right to choose.Nastiness that would simply excommunicate! and totally disown! any of them, should they dare even try to claim the right to the freedom of thought, to dare think and act a little differently than the faith group they were born among.

These kids and even many adult have become captives of faith terrorism.Their lives controlled by threats that bind them together.They dont even have honest freedom.

Christianity has been around for thousands of years now, and all the while during that whole time, certain groups of these christians have still continued onward to freely abuse and harm many among them.

There is plenty of very good reason for all the anger publically on display these days about faith.Things surrounding matters of faith need to change and evolve a whole lot more quickly than they have been.

Not only for benefit of atheists but for benefit of the Christians honesty of right to even claim they actually do deserve to be respected.

Charles Starck said...

Being as honest as possible here, but I'm also close to giving up on debating with theists.

I will admit with Parsons, there are alot of good people out there. Are some of the very bright? Definitely.

One day I was arguing over which football team was the best with one of my friends.
It quickly dawned on me that the way he was responding was alot like the way theists respond to arguments.
No, we all know that one team isn't "better" than another. It's all a matter of taste. It was then that I thought, "he's not believing this so much because he sincerely thinks it to be true - it's a matter of taste to a large extent."

When I was a kid we used to fight with kids from another street.
In philosophy we would call that distinction a 'per accidens' distinction (opposed to a per se distinction). One street is more "true" than another.

These realizations make it hard to debate with theists at times.

Charles Starck said...

Couple of corrections in my post:

I meant to say which team you like more. Not which team is better.
Obviously there is a way to determine which team is better.
But I meant to state which team you like more, you're affiliated with, etc.


I meant to say "one street is no more true than the other".

Alex Dalton said...


You are *way* too upset over this. It is just a blog. The Secular Outpost is not a very influential or popular blog at that. It is very surprising that so many theistic blogs have picked up on this, but that's probably bc they just keep it in their blog reader, on the radar so to speak. If you're one of the few who actually regularly read it, 90% of the posts are the snobby rants of Taner Edis, the content of which very few writers of the same blog would even agree with.

Shackleman writes:

But, one of their own resorting to such self-righteous indignation, and they rush to his defense, excusing his antics as just being the emotional outbursts of a Texan, exhausted and wronged by the nitwits he has had to contend with for lo these many years, and *praising* him for doing so.

Alex: Shackleman, you seem like you are referring to me here (re: Texan outburst comment). While I like Parsons, he is not "one of my own". I am a Christian theist (perhaps a bit more liberal than some of the regulars on this blog).

You guys need to chill out. Stop being so angry and blowing things out of proportion. Parsons was venting and in doing so he pushed some buttons (that's kinda the point of venting like that). Learn to be more tolerant of occasional intolerance. If someone isn't making any actual arguments, in what way are you or your beliefs threatened exactly? Who really cares?

Alex Dalton said...

I'm starting to think alot of the Christians that get into apologetics and philosophy of religion really think Christianity hangs in the balance of these arguments that go back and forth. Nothing could be further from the truth. We need to recognize the insignificance of this little subculture of intellectual religion debaters. I think it is great and fun for nerdy Christians, it can be helpful in a pastoral setting to be able to answer certain questions, and there is even the (VERY RARE) conversion of the skeptic. Further I think there's some trickle-down into the wider culture on alot of levels as Craig has argued. But for the large part, I doubt anyone would notice or the world would be much different if all parties involved (theist/atheist alike) were raptured tomorrow.

Alex Dalton said...

Shackleman wrote: But because Parsons matters. He's influential. He's respected. He's published. He's a full-time, careful, measured, professor of a field that matters to an awful lot of people.

Alex: This is almost delusional. Parsons has barely published anything in POR. He certainly hasn't published many influential works. How often do you think any of his publications are actually cited within the field? I would say close to never. What percent of the population do you think would recognize the name "Keith Parsons"? I would wager that, outside of the internet subculture of religion debaters or people who read popular apologetics and popular skepticism, you will never meat a person offline who knows that name.

You need to learn to chill out or apologetics is going to eventually affect your health.

Alex Dalton said...

Anonymous wrote: "He's a failure, intellectually and culturally. He's hit the Loftus level."

Alex: This is obviously very mean-spirited. What happened to loving your enemies?

It also is simply not true. Why is he an intellectual failure? Because he doesn't have international fame like Dawkins? What are the criteria here for intellectual success. If someone feels they've acquired a significant amount of knowledge and that's enabled them to formulate a view of the world that they feel is coherent and significantly justified by the evidence, that is enough intellectual success for me. Not every atheist is going to be Graham Oppy. There really are very few people on either side of the debate who can carry it on at the level of rigor it requires. Re: cultural failure, an atheist need not have lofty evangelistic goals.

I would even say it is going too far to call Loftus a cultural failure. I was away from the web completely for a few years and when I returned, the influence and output of Loftus seemed to increase exponentially. We can both agree that he's a bit of a clown, but I would say, if anything, his cultural impact is peaking or at least increasing.

Alex Dalton said...

Honestly, BDK's views in this thread strike me as extremely wise - his take on Dawkins (who I also think is fairly harmless and entertaining), his comments about the relative scarcity of combative skeptics, etc.

As Christians, we shouldn't stoop down to trying to beat guys like Loftus at their own game. Our call is to be loving, not stoop down to the mocking and abuse. And I admit that I've done this on several occasions myself.

I feel like, at least within the blogging world, I'm seeing alot of this kind of behavior - even on this thread. As Christians, we don't fight fire with fire. That's not what Christ has called us to do. Christ has called us to suffer shame in the face of abuse, and to offer love in return. This was the cost of His love for us, and it is the cost that we must pay as well if we wish to show others the love of Christ.

I think the truth of the matter is that alot of theists were simply just upset or even *hurt* by what Parsons had to say. He pretty much just poo-poo'ed the entire apologetic enterprise in one blog. I admit to feeling a little upset myself as I had just been discussing some of these issues with him recently. But not many Christians responded with vulnerability or honesty. Instead we see alot of personal attacks on his intellectual ability, his career, his influence, etc. He spit on Christian thought, Christians punched him in the face.

Parsons thinks theistic arguments are losers, so Christians start calling Parsons a loser.

Shackleman said...

Really? Now I'm being censored and my posts are being deleted?

There was nothing in my post deserving of that, but hey, it's your blog, Dr. Reppert, do what you want.

I'm flabbergasted after seeing what others have put up here that *my* post would be deleted. It was respectful disagreement, even if a bit harsh. But delete-worthy? Just, wow. I really don't know what to say.

*shrug* Thanks for the rewarding few years of discussions. Best of luck everybody.

Alex Dalton said...

Shackleman wrote:
The second (and separate) irritation I have is with his apologists. Not because they feel I, as a Christian am worthy of being mocked and ridiculed (I couldn't care less what they think of me personally), but because their continued attempts at excusing his indignant mockery and puffery border on hypocrisy, and somebody ought to point it out.

Alex: The problem, Shackleman, is that while you call to others hypocrites, you engage in hypocrisy yourself. For example...

Parsons has been called an intellectual and cultural failure by Anonymous (twice within the same short post). Instead of pointing out that this is the kind of mockery you claim to dislike, you "continue to excuse" it and even half-endorse it when you say:

I think Anon is onto something here.

Victor Reppert said...

Shackleman: I didn't delete any of your posts, at least not deliberately, except to delete the ones places marked where you deleted them already.

Victor Reppert said...

Look, there are plenty of people in secular philosophy departments who reject Christianity, and who don't really put any time and effort into criticizing it. You can go to a philosophy of mind meeting at an APA meeting and hear two philosophers going at it about something like propositional attitudes or qualia who are both firmly convinced physicalists, and who are debating demoninational differences amongst types of physicalism. That's life in philosophy.

Shackleman said...

Dr. Reppert,

My guess is that you inadvertantly deleted the wrong one then. My comment posted successfully and I refreshed the screen to make sure. After coming back a few minutes later, it was gone, and my "deletion" message from the prior post was still there.

No biggie...I thought it was rather unusual.

Shackleman said...


Relax, and stop stalking my posts. You might want to take a step back for a minute, reread what I actually wrote in this thread, and then reread what you've written about me. Not only is it untrue, conceited, and mean-spirited, but it's also just weird.

Ask yourself, why do you take such interest in my little posts, attempting to dress me down in front of mere strangers? And further why take a scalpel to my comments, picking out each and every one in exacting detail, trying to find fault with every sentence where I may have been too critical, or uncharitable, when you *should* be doing that with Parsons---you know, the real philosopher? Instead, you give him a free pass, though he insulted the *entire* field of apologetics. It's creepy, actually. I've never been stalked like this before. I suppose I should take it as a kind of backwards complement. My comments must have struck a nerve in you.

I suggest before you start pointing fingers from atop your perch, you take a good long look in the mirror. You've gotten personal and insulting and you are assaulting my character for no reason. What is wrong with you?

Now, for the record, I am not, nor have I been upset or emotional. I simply don't mince words. And when a prominent (not super famous by any means, but influential and prominent none the less) professional philosopher loses his sense of decorum, I'm going to call him out on it. Nice guy or not. Same to his apologists. Same with creepy stalkers.

Now, on that note, I'm done with you, Alex. I have little doubt you'll pick this apart too, and take every opportunity I've given you to try to twist my words around and attempt to undermine me. Whatever floats your boat, man. Have at it. I'm out.

Arthur said...

Hi Shackleman, there is something that needs some adjustment on peoples blog settings.Ive had comments disappear here the way you discribe, but happens elswhere also.

I think if you google it you will see lots are having the same type problem.

Alex Dalton said...


I was not trying to stalk you. I thought I was just responding to your comments.

You write:
why take a scalpel to my comments, picking out each and every one in exacting detail, trying to find fault with every sentence where I may have been too critical, or uncharitable, when you *should* be doing that with Parsons---you know, the real philosopher?

Alex: Don't we, as Christians, have a higher standard that we ought to hold one another to, and that we will ultimately be judged by? You accuse Parsons of a complete lack of humility and grace. You seem to be holding him to a fairly high and characteristically Christian standard of conduct. Yet I don't see either of these qualities in your posts in this thread. Do you? Yet you also accuse Parsons of hypocrisy? Think it over...

I apologize if I've offended you or you feel attacked.