Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Internet Atheist Facts O' Fun: UPDATED

Here is a repost of my favorite inviolate laws of internet atheism, with a few new added at the end. I'm sure I've forgotten many--so if you have any you'd like to add, leave them in the comments.

1. The Law of the Converts: Every atheist who claims to have been a devout Christian was. Every Christian who claims to have been an atheist wasn't.

2. The Pharyngulyte Corollary to the Law of the Converts: The more the atheist's deconversion was due to encountering someone similar to a Revrun' Mike, a prototypical Baptist minister who wears a white suit, chews tebaccy, routinely preaches on evilution and miscegenation, and instructs young children (under six, when they're impressionable) with explicit images of unimaginable torture in hell (which they must color in Sunday School), the more credible and weighty is the testimony.

3. The Law of the Biblical Knowledge: Atheists in general know more about the bible than Christians—who in fact only read certain parts of their so-called holy book.

4. The Law of the Biblical Scholars: Atheist biblical scholars are credible because they have no agenda. Christian biblical scholars lack credibility because they have an agenda.

5. The Law of the Useful Idiots: Dime-a-dozen atheist Religious Studies professors such as Hector Avalos at Iowa State are useful. Just don't let them know that when we're in charge the first thing on the chopping block will be Religious Studies Departments. 1

6. The Law that Blind Faith is The Ultimate Christian Virtue: Christians are never told to think, only to accept without thinking. Using your brain, they are taught, is not sporting. Those pesky Bereans are never a model for actual Christians. And never mind that those praised for their faith in the Faith Hall of Fame (Hebrews 11) had no need for blind faith since they spoke to God, demanded proof of God, and witnessed miracles. 

7. The Law of Bright Darkness: The worse the behavior of a Christian, the more honest the Christian is. For example, this comment from a reader on Ed Brayton's blog 2:
If you really want to see the most honest adapation [sic] of what the bible and Christianity really stands far if you follow the most literal interpretation of the bible, go to [Fred] Phelps.
8. The I-Say-Therefore-I-Am Law: Questioning the sincerity of self-identified Christians such as the late Fred Phelps (or the Big H—-you know, that guy with the funny little mustache) is immediately dismissed as a No True Scotsman Fallacy. The definition of a Christian is: "anyone who claims they are a Christian."

9. Exception to the I-Say-Therefore-I-Am Law: Anyone questioning the atheism of an inconvenient self-proclaimed atheist is granted blanket immunity from the No True Scotsman Fallacy. It's only fair.

10. The Ipso Facto No Atheist Is That Bad Law: Stalin and Mao were not atheists. They were demigods of the religions Stalinism and Maoism. We know this because mass murder on such a scale can only be committed by religionists.

11. The Law of "When Ken Ham is right, he is really right! (Also known as the "Use the Desired Effect to Generate the Proper Cause Law"): Atheists frequently assert that YECs like Ken Ham are the dumbest jackasses in the world. Except when they [YECs like Ham] interpret Genesis One. For that single chapter in the bible they are exegetical savants. Atheists know that the only proper way to interpret Genesis One is with literal 24-hour creation days and a young earth. Because science and the bible are incompatible.

12. The Coyne Corollary to the Law of Ken Ham: Ken Ham is also correct in his claim that modern science and Christianity are incompatible.

13. The Law that Logical Proofs regarding God are like Diodes: All logical proofs for God are trivially wrong 3. However, the construction:

P1: God is omnipotent.
P2: God is omnibenevolent.
P3: Human suffering exists.
C1: Therefore P1 and/or P2 is wrong.
C2: Therefore God does not exist.

is bulletproof.

14. The Law of the Atheist Hermeneutic: The most important verse in the bible is "Judge not, lest ye be judged." This means that Christians cannot judge Fred Phelps (for example) to be apostate. How dare they! As for the verses that follow (don't give what is holy to dogs, pearls before swine,--verses that would seem to presuppose judging) as well as the verses which seem to indicate how they are to judge (by their fruit) —and also those verses that describe excommunication—which again presupposes judging--well for Christians to bring those up is disingenuous.

15. The Ruby Tuesday Law: The second most important passage in the bible is
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished."
This means that the only reason Christians don't call for stoning of blasphemers or condone slavery is that they are cafeteria Christians. Arguments that this passage means anything other than "All Levitical Laws are still in effect" are to be dismissed as evasive. Be prepared to dismiss summarily alleged counter-arguments such as:
  • Jesus encountered blasphemers and didn't call for their stoning. 
  • Jesus upgraded the law in the Sermon on the Mount. (To, effectively, not "What Would Jesus Do?" but "What Would Jesus Think?")
  • A phase transition occurred on the cross--it wasn't just an interlude after which things returned to normal.
  • Jesus violated Levitical rules on the handling of lepers and the Sabbath. 
  • Jesus claimed he was Lord of the Sabbath and that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
  • Peter has a vision telling him to ignore the Levitical food laws. 
  • The church's first council, recorded in the Book of Acts, voided the sacrosanct law regarding circumcision.
  • In the Old Testament animal sacrifices were commanded. In the New Testament  their use for the same purpose would be an abomination.
  • Consider this passage concerning Jesus:
    For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, (Eph. 2:14-15).
  • Consider this passage about Jesus the new High Priest:
    For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. (Hebrews 7:12).
All these are but red herrings. The full force of the Old Testament law—a law intended for a nation that no longer exists—is still in effect, and only honest Christians like Fred Phelps admit it. All others are cowardly hypocrites.

16. The Law of Small Miracles: All theists believe in the mother-of-all-miracles: that the creative force behind the universe is God. Some such theists (e.g., His Vomitousness, The Bishop John Shelby Spong) are useful tolerable because while they quietly accept this big miracle, they loudly poo-poo what are by comparison itty-bitty miracles, like Jesus walking on water.

17. Irrefutable Proof that Miracles can't happen: Miracles, by definition can't be explained by science. Everything can be explained by science. Therefore miracles can't happen. Because they can't be explained by science. Therefore science and religion are incompatible.

18. The Law of Axiomatic Incompatibility: Science is how we know what we know. Science demands experimental testing. Nothing is exempt from this requirement. Except for The Holy of Holies: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion. It has no observable effect. Nobody has ever designed an experiment that demonstrates the incompatibility. But nevertheless it's true axiomatically. Like A = A.

19. The "We Know" axiom: A more general case of the Law of Axiomatic Incompatibility, this is a common favorite of internet atheists.  Anything that “we know” is simply—true. You might read, for example, “we know that most of Paul’s letters are forgeries.” The “we know” axiom has the advantage of precluding the need for evidence or rational debate.

20. The Super-duper Paul of Tarsus View: Atheists often attribute the Apostle Paul with powers far beyond what Christians grant. To wit: it is often suggested that he a) did not exist. And yet in spite of  not actually being real he managed to b) usurp Christianity, creating an entirely new religion quite different from that taught by Jesus—who by the way probably did not exist either. And c) Paul managed, while not existing, to steal Christianity —through the use of forged letters. Remarkable! In a nutshell the "super Paul" view is that two people who never existed created two distinct religions (fraudulently). Then later fools, who believed in both of these non-entities, merged their contradictory teachings into a franken-religion.
21. Atheist Biblical Inerrancy: Internet atheists have a form of biblical inerrancy which goes like this:  The King James Version of the bible mentions unicorns. Therefore, ipso facto,  quid pro quo,  quod erat demonstrandum, the biblical writers believed in mythical one-horned horses guess they missed Noah’s boarding call, ha ha!!  Any attempt to go back to the biblical Hebrew to investigate the word, or to suggest that the KJV translators might have used unicorn as something different that the modern picture of myth is, of course, heresy.

22. The Universe is Atheio-centric: This is the myth that Christians obsess over atheists, think about them all the time, are afraid of them,  hate them, irrationally demand their respect, and tremble at the thought of their ridicule.  The truth of course is that we rarely think of them, are not afraid of them, don’t hate them, and wish only that if they criticize us they do it intelligently or at least with humor. Dear Dawkins, the look we give you when you say “if god invented  everything, then who invented god?” or “religion ruins everything” is not one of fear or hate or anger or puzzlement, it is a look of boredom. And no, we don’t obsess over you. When I hear atheists mentioned in church it is usually along the lines of Christians need to behave better; our behavior should distinguish us from the atheist, but it doesn’t. And really—try to remember that you are not as famous as you think—the real world is not the internet. My church is made up of educated people—lawyers and NASA engineers, teachers and shipbuilders.  I suspect I am the only person in the church who has heard of PZ Myers, even though he is “so famous” that  Sam Harris (now of him we have heard, and also Dawkins, but who is this Myers? Who is this Coyne?) correctly dubbed him the “shepherd of internet trolls” and the purveyor of a “odious blog.” That demonstrates a certain internet notoriety—but in the real world it translates to a big fat zero. We wouldn't be afraid of you even if we knew you--which we don't.

23. Up to 30,000 and counting: This is a composite myth that is usually stated something like: There are 30,000 Christian sects each one claiming to know the absolute truth.  First of all there are not 30,000, but more like 800. The 30,000 comes in part from things like counting independent Baptist churches as separate sects, even though their theology is indistinguishable. Secondly, very few of these sects, only a few on the lunatic fringe, claim to be inerrant. Hell, most people do not agree with every jot and tittle in their own church’s doctrine statement, let alone claim their church has sole ownership of the “absolute truth.” Of course atheists have their own stratification, where the mouth-breathers are  "dictionary atheists" and those who can offer a spirited defense of their atheism are True Atheists™.  And they even a brand new denomination, Atheism-Plus, with its own iconography and wiki. But that's different. We know.

24. Jack Chick Developed Our Curriculum Myth: This is the certain knowledge among many internet atheists that we get our kindergarten Sunday School materials from Jack Chick. That we send four-year-olds off to class and they return with nicely colored pictures (stay in the lines, Billy-Bob, like your sister/cousin/aunt Billie-Bob did!) of sinners in hell screaming in agony—dancing in flames while being skewered by ferocious demons. In the top center, lording over the entire scene, Satan is laughing, and saying: “it all started when they were bad children who sassed their mammas!”  We keep the Crayola factory running day and night with our insatiable demand for red, orange and yellow crayons.

25. Back in the Closet Rule: One of the verses at the fingertips of every internet atheist is Matt. 6:6: But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Oh noes, where dat come from?) The atheist apologist will plunk this gotcha verse down knowing we never read it (see #3. The Law of the Biblical Knowledge.) It will be applied to any instance of public prayer in this manner: Stupid christoidjits don't even read their own babble! No nuance is permitted. It cannot be, as the context suggests to some, that this is a reference to personal petitions and confession, not corporate prayer. And of course the fact Jesus himself prays in public (e.g., Matt 19:13, Luke 3:31, esp. John 17) as do the apostles on numerous occasions (Paul, alone, more than 20 times) must never be interpreted that maybe, just maybe Matt. 6:6 is not a blanket prohibition of all praying in public. For Dawkins's sake, may it never be! No, these counter-examples are only allowed to be applied to the theory that the babble is full of inconsistencies.

26. The Our Secretary (but not your Secretary) will Disavow Rule: Atheists have no leaders. Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, etc. They are just famous people with intelligent, critical readers. At the very most, primarily as a courtesy, you might call them fans.  But if, for example, Dawkins says or does something beyond the pale of atheist orthodoxy embarrassing, why  it's all on him. Christians, however, have leaders. Pat Robertson, John Hagee, Ken Ham, just to name a few--these all are bona fide Christian leaders. If they say or do something embarrassing (when don't they?) it reflects on all Christians. Because they are Christian leaders and spokesmen and all Christians are their loyal followers and sheeple.

27. The meta-rule rule: If you cite a named rule or fallacy, and claim some theist has committed it, they have in fact committed it. (HT: Nathan Duffy)

28. The Richard Carrier Rule.  To five significant figures we can use Bayes' Theorem to compute the strong probability that Jesus did not exist. And if he did exist, we can use Bayes' theorem to prove that he suffered from ingrown toenails (but only to three significant figures.) And for $50 you can have the peer-reviewed masterpiece: How to use Bayes' Theorem to prove anything, by Dr. Richard Carrier, super-genius.

29. The Power-Of-One Rule.  Any Christian argument, no matter how (apparently) compelling and backed by (allegedly) solid research, can be negated by a personal, unsubstantiated anecdote from just one atheist. For example, in spite of scholarly data suggesting that many Protestants believe that Catholics are saved (and vice-versa),  absolute, ubiquitous denominational intolerance is conclusively demonstrated by this authentic-sounding anecdote from a single atheist: "Before I used pure, rational, critical thinking and became an atheist, I was in a bus station in Hoboken when a man came up to me and asked me if I knew Jesus. When I told him I was a Catholic, he said 'all papists are minions of the antichrist and going to hell.'"

30. The War of Northern Aggression Rule. The Bible teaches –even commands slavery for all time. How do we know? Because God commanded the Israelites to enslave some of their neighboring nations. That can only be interpreted as a general principle of “slavery is always and forevermore affirmed”. Never mind all those other scriptures which would appear to limit, mitigate, or even repudiate slavery in any way, such as an explicit condemnation of slave traders  (1 Tim 1:10) and Paul pleading with Philemon to free the slave Onesimus (Phil 16). Never mind Jesus teaching that we should love our neighbor as ourself--we don't really consider those people as our neighbors! These are but negligible exceptions (if not 21st century insertions) to the obvious rule that the Bible condones all slavery. How do we know this? Because certain slavery proponents in recent history made use of the Bible to help justify the practice, and any pro-slavery figure is automatically an exegetical genius on the Bible while present-day scholars – especially Christian ones, obviously don’t know anything since they have forgotten the axiomatic foundation: that the Bible teaches that for all time and in all circumstances slavery is okay. (HT: Merv Bitikofer)

31. That Don’t Count Rule: Any answer that a theist gives to an atheist who asks a question for which the atheist has “never received an answer from a theist” will not nullify the claim. For an example of the dynamic in action, I have had this exchange several times:
A: I always ask a bumpkin Christian: “what could make you lose your faith?” Their jaw just drops! It’s like, sooooo funny!  I have never gotten an answer. 
D: I’ll answer! If intelligent alien life landed on Earth, or if a parallel universe was detected, it would shatter my faith. 4 
A: No, no, that don’t count!
The atheist, fine soul that he is, will begin to assure me that my faith is very strong indeed:
A: I’m sure you’d keep your faith. Why couldn’t your god make infinite parallel universes? Why couldn’t your god create intelligent life elsewhere? 
D: Well I’m sure he could, but it would be so unexpected given what I read in the bible that it would, in fact, destroy my faith. 
A: No, no, you’d be fine. Your faith would survive. See, no theist has ever given me an answer to the question  “what could make you lose your faith?”

32. Bridge that Gap Rule:  Stupid theists always give fallacious  “God in the Gaps” arguments, such as cosmological fine-tuning or ex nihilo creation, as prima facie evidence for God. Intelligent atheists, on the other hand, will only accept as solid evidence “real, manly” gaps. Something like “If I look up some night and see 'I am the Lord your God' written in 88 languages (including Pig Latin) by a rearrangement of the stars.”  (HT: Doug)

1 In a broken-clock sort of way, on this I am in agreement.
2 To be sure, I would bet the farm that Ed would call this guy an idiot.
3 See footnote 1.
4 I'm being honest. That really would severely test my faith.


  1. Very good. Another:

    The meta-rule rule: If you cite a named rule or fallacy, and claim some theist has committed it, they have in fact committed it.

  2. Great post, could I suggest you make some tabs for sharing available so its easier to share your posts...especially this one?

  3. failedatheist,

    I don't know how to do that on blogger. Any suggestion?

  4. One which I have noticed on atheist sites (particularly Dawkins' own site) is what I call the 'All REAL atheists love Dawkins rule': Any self-identified atheist posting on the internet criticising Dawkins in any way(such as claiming that he does more harm than good for atheism, is not persuasive in his arguments and/or is not a wonderful person all round)is 'lying for Jesus' and is no atheist at all.

  5. I'm an atheist and agree that most of these atheist beliefs are crap, but I also would say they are straw men positions when applied to me or any atheist I get along with.

  6. Re: sharing buttons, this post looks pretty thorough:


    and here's an older post with other tips and code:


    I hope one or the other is helpful.

  7. Only 800 Christian sects? Well then, by all means, go ahead and codify your beliefs into legislation that affects everyone.

  8. Regarding 16. I don't think Spong even believes in God, as such.

    He once wrote "Theism, as a way of defining God, is dead. So most theological God-talk is today meaningless. A new way to speak of God must be found."

    You ought to have a new game show in America: "TEC Clergy Say the Darndest Things."

  9. The Bible teaches –even commands slavery for all time. How do we know? Because God commanded the Israelites to enslave some of their neighboring nations. That can only be interpreted as a general principle of “slavery is always and forevermore affirmed”. Never mind all those other scriptures which would appear to limit, mitigate, or even repudiate slavery in any way – those are the exceptions to the obvious rule that the Bible condones all slavery. How do we know this? Because certain slavery proponents in recent history made use of the Bible to help justify the practice, and any pro-slavery figure is automatically an exegetical genius on the Bible while present-day scholars – especially Christian ones, obviously don’t know anything since they have forgotten the axiomatic foundation: that the Bible teaches that all slavery is okay.

  10. Unknown: Thanks! I added it (very slightly modified).

  11. Nice additions.

    I really enjoyed reading through your list, which inspired me to add this one.

  12. I must add that it really is a bit of a caricature (for most atheists I would hope!). As I think they can rightfully deny (or concede) that they have claimed the Bible teaches slavery is okay *for all time*. For them it is enough to show that the Bible commanded it for *any* time at all, which then stands as proof positive for them that God is a nasty tyrant. This subject more than most seems to inspire the most back-and-forth ire over the apparently "hallowed ground" of how the bible handles this issue. Rarely (likely never) seen words in any internet forum over the topic of the Bible and slavery: "you know ...you have a point there. I'll have to read up and think about that some more."

  13. Regarding your rule #31, I think the 'atheist' character may have a good point, at least in terms of the specific example used. Extra-terrestrial life (even intelligent life) would be a pretty weak reason to get ones faith shaken up, given how some Christians over the centuries have prized, even authored science fiction fantasies involving aliens and with nary a reason occurring to them why this should be antithetical to a biblical faith. I do think other better reasons might be given for shipwrecked faith, but your main point is probably sound that the question is over-asked and answers ignored.

  14. Merv,

    In some sense that's the point. ET intelligent life is indeed a weak point for some (almost every Christian I've talked with about this says it would not harm their faith) but for me it is an honest answer to the question. So the tortured point that I'm trying to make is not that we don't, as the atheist claims, have an answer to the question: what would destroy your faith? We probably have a gazillion different answers. All (if given honestly) are valid, because it is a very personal question.

  15. Rule #32: "Gap" logic is verboten, unless an atheist uses it in a reply to that pesky theist question "What would you count as 'actual, credible, real world evidence for God'?"
    refs: Mike Gene & some other guy

    1. Doug,

      Let me see if I understand the rule, is it:

      Atheists complain that Christians bolster their faith by God in the gaps arguments, but they would only accept as proof a God in the gaps demonstration?

      Also: Is that Mike Gene posting on ShadowToLight?

    2. Or even substituting "evidence" for "proof". I.e., "they would only accept a God-of-the-gaps demonstration as evidence for God".
      "Yes" concerning Mike.