Dear Bob Thomas - why do you prefer a pulpit instead of a discussion group?

Bob Thomas is a retired high-tech industrialist who sometimes writes about Christianity (and atheism) in the Nevada Appeal.  

Bob's most recent column is in answer to an anonymous atheist writer protesting his last mischaracterization of atheism.

I would have liked to reply to Bob in the Nevada Appeal, but there is no way to leave a public comment.  

It isn't unusual for Christians to shut out public comments.  Many Christian writers prefer to write their articles in walled gardens where they can avoid discussion of the topics they choose to write about.  It also is not unusual for these articles to be made available to the public, in fact they often find their way into news gathering services like Google News due to their high search engine ranking.

Why do Christians do this?  

The quick answer is that they are "afraid" of dissent.  But I'm not quite sure about that.  "Afraid" might be too strong a word.  Perhaps "dislike" or "distain" is better?  

The problem is that Christians hold an idea sacred.  They have a hypothesis about the way that the universe works - i. e. a god exists - and they treat this hypothesis in a very precious manner.  When anyone questions another person's dearly held beliefs it is all too easy to take it personally, and react accordingly.  And of course angry reactions provoke angry reactions - and who needs that?  Better to have your say where a response can't happen.

In a way, this is very much like a church - where the preacher delivers a sermon from a pulpit, and does not expect disagreement at any time during the service.  Anyone who attempted to turn a sermon into a discourse would be quickly shown the door.

Is this why Christians use walled gardens when they write online?  They are preaching, they are witnessing to the unsaved, and if we poor sinner would just shut up and listen, we would see the truth?  Isn't that better than having to answer all those darned inconvientient questions that people like me would bring up?

This is a fundamental difference between theology and science.  Good science is best done openly, in full view of the most critical people.  Facts, knowledge and truth do not require protection from dissent.

As it happens, the article invited me to Bob Thomas' web site, which has a convientient "contact me" form on it.

I wrote him an email, and have included it here:

Letter to Bob Thomas

Hi Bob!

I just read your article online on the Nevada Appeal, "Dear atheist: I have faith you'll read this".

As an atheist, I have a couple of things to say about it.

First, it seems very brave of you to post such an article online where no one is able to comment on it. This seems disingenuous to me as it allows you to have your say, without worrying about the refutations of critics.

In fact, I've noticed that many of the outspoken Christians and creationists tend to do this, they speak in closed forums and do not invite critique. I find this puzzling, because in science all critique is invited. It assists scientists in finding out what is true.

I also want to comment on the practice of taking an email and shredding it in front of an audience. As an atheist, and leader of a local atheist organization, I sometimes get some pretty wild email from believers. The uneven fonts, the differing colors are funny, and the content is often bizarre.

I don't make the mistake of confusing this email with the character of all Christians. That would be a logical fallacy wouldn't it?

Next you make the mistake of thinking that nonbelievers have always been nonbelievers, and that it is illogical for such a person to learn about your religion in any depth.

The truth is that many of us come from a Christian background. In my case I was a devout Christian for over 20 years. So to begin with, we have some knowledge in religion.

Second, many people - myself included - enjoy religious mythology. I love to read about Greek, Roman, Jewish and Christian mythology, and have recently started reading Islamic and Mormon mythology too.

Not only do I find mythology fascinating, but I enjoy the added bonus of learning the origin of common cultural sayings and practices. It is better to understand the culture you live in than to remain ignorant, would you agree?

I had to laugh at your hand-waving dismissal of Bertram Russell while simultaneously endorsing Lee Strobel for providing "scientific details" that have "scientifically discredited" "Darwin's tree of life" - by which I assume you mean the theory of evolution.

I have Strobel's books, "A Case for Christ", "A Case for Faith", and "A Case for a Creator", and I have to say I'm unimpressed with Strobel's built-in bias and his unwillingness to consult with critical experts in these fields.

It only takes a few moments with Google to find people who are qualified in evolutionary biology that have poked holes in Strobel's arguments. So saying that Strobel, a writer, has "scientifically discredited" evolution is intellectually lazy at best, and intellectually dishonest at worst.

Lastly, you poke at your letter writer saying that atheists "secretly fear" that they are wrong, which is why they write so many atheist books.

This statement amazes me at its demonstration that you do not hold a mirror up to yourself. If atheists write books and articles because they are afraid they are wrong, then the same must be true about Christians, right?

This is a wonderful example of an ad-hominem, fallacy. It amounts to you saying that atheists are wrong because they are scared, not because their arguments are wrong.

And while I'll admit that there are atheists who deny the existence of any god or gods, most atheists, myself included, merely doubt the claims that a god exists due to an overabundant lack of evidence that a god or gods do exist.

I would suggest you take a moment to use Wikipedia to figure out what an atheist really believes instead of attacking a strawman atheist.

Since I can't write my comment in direct response to your article, I'll be publishing a copy of this response in my blog at

Mark Boyd
aka Calladus
Fresno California

1 comment:

R. Moore said...

See the DVD “The Case for a Cre ator” by Lee Strobel for scientific details.

I had to ROTFL over that one!