Part 1, Part 2
This is especially the case when two people who disagree have a discussion and are attempting civility. Some people can only sustain a façade for a short amount of time so that by the end of the conversation their tone is harsh, accusatory, annoyed and perhaps even arrogant, sarcastic and insulting (this does not discredit their argument but is may be a window into their emotive motives).
This appeared to have been the case when Dr. Jason Gastrich interviewed James Randi.[i] James Randi aka The Amazing Randi is an atheist and pseudo-skeptic who is well known as a debunker of supernatural claims. He has been involved in various interesting investigations and experiments. For example, he once trained a young man to act, and speak, like a new age guru. He then had the young man give a series of lectures on new age spirituality where they sold power crystals. The young man soon came to be revered by many followers who came to seek his advice on spiritual matters and crystal power. Soon thereafter Randi exposed his own hoax/experiment and explained that the young man was doing nothing but acting a part. However, many people still sought the young man as a spiritual guide. They demonstrated that even when a sham is exposed by those who concocted it some people are so superstitious and desperate to be in touch with the paranormal/supernatural that they still held to a belief that had been disproved by the very person whom they sought as a guru.
James Randi has also exposed the frauds of various health-wealth-prosperity-faith-healers. One case was that of Peter Popoff who claimed receive divine revelation about people (such as knowledge of their illnesses). He would astonish the crowds by this miraculous knowledge. However, he was exposed as a charlatan because, as it turns out, before his appearances those in attendance would write down their prayer requests. Peter Popoff’s wife would collect them. Next she would direct him with whom to speak with in the crown via a small hearing device that he would wear. She would read from the prayer requests and he made it seem as if this intimate knowledge was coming from God.
In Jason Gastrich’s interview we meet two James Randis; one at the beginning of the interview and another at the end. The one at the beginning is reasonable, the intellectual, the fact finder, the open minded skeptic that merely requests evidence and who is willing to go where the evidence takes him. The one at the end is annoyed with Christian individuals, engages in petty complaints and expresses irrational emotional reactions to theology. Let us cite some examples.
James Randi sets up a straw man when he discusses a man who has convinced himself that he is the virgin Mary. James Randi states that the man may very well be the virgin Mary, but he doubts it. Jason Gastrich states that he doubts it also. To which James Randi replies that they doubt it for different reasons and states:
You already got it in the book, you see. You don’t have to think about it, you don’t have to reason it out. It’s already answered for you, it’s in the book.
In other words, since Jason Gastrich is a Christian he does not have to think because it is all in the Bible—which is misnomered the book. This is presumptive in various ways. One is that it assumes that Christians do not augment reason with what the Bible states and visa versa. It also touches upon a presumption that is a very common misconception in atheist circles. They seem to think that Christians learn what the Bible states at an early age, before they have had a chance to develop reasoning skills. From this early age they never dream of questioning any of it and never bother thinking about anything else. When any issue is raised they simply say, “The Bible says…” and that is the beginning and the end of it. This argument may indeed be indicative of some yet, it is far too generic and generalized to be of any real value particularly when you consider that the atheist proposing it likely rejected God as a child and has not developed their knowledge of theology or critical thinking (at least in that regard) since.
Moreover, Christians are known, or should be known, as people to constantly test and question the Bible. They research it and struggle with it just as the Bereans are praised for doing (Acts 17:11). Yet, the bottom line seems to be that if you found that a book on mathematics that stated 2+2=4 you may set that book aside and seek our own answers. However, you may discover that 2+2=4 and then come to realize that the answer was there in the book all along. We may then come to rely on this book for the answers. We may even constantly seek within and without the book and constantly find that the reasonable answer we found without was the same as that which we found within. This is what many Christians practice when they come to notice that that which makes sense in the realm of logic is the same that the Bible has stated all along. That the universe had a beginning and consists of time, space and matter and that the Earth is spherical and hangs on nothing or the First Law of Thermodynamics serve as examples of biblical statements that have been subsequently discovered.
It is interesting to note that both some atheists and some scientists put forth a front of being tenacious seekers of truth. They certainly are often just that. However, an interesting thing occurs with regards to the questions of how and why the Big Bang occurred and what caused it. You have never seen people so pleased to not have to consider, explain or even discuss an important and interesting philosophical, theological and cosmological issue (see Cosmology Part I, Part II).
Let us now point out a case of redirection. Jason Gastrich makes a statement and James Randi redirects the conversation by incorrectly restating Jason Gastrich’s comment. See if you can catch it:
James Randi: I want to live this time, now, and do the best I can ah, with, with what I’ve been given.
Jason Gastrich: …Christians too that are trying hard to change the world today. Trying to make advancements in science and, and—
James Randi: And why is that?
Jason Gastrich: For the love of people, for the love of God I suppose.
James Randi: Oh, “for the love of God,” yes. So we got the old fear thing again. If you don’t do this, boy, you’re gonna go to hell. And you know what hell is like? Ooh, that’s very hot, very nasty. It’s almost like Florida in the summer.
Notice that Jason Gastrich states that Christians do these things “for the love of God,” but James Randi states “the old fear thing again.” Jason Gastrich said love but since that did not play into James Randi’s preconceived prejudice, the atheist’s talking points, he redirects the comment. We thus move from Christians doing good because they love people and because they love God to Christians doing good because they are repressed by a vindictive, oppressive deity who has them deathly afraid of hell. Keep in mind that atheists complain about God allowing evil and then complain about what God does about evil.
Before we continue commenting on this issue we will point out another of James Randi’s comments:
Do something kind that, that doesn’t necessarily reflect on whether or not you’re gonna go to heaven and live forever in streets of gold and with a halo around your head.
Understand that another of atheism’s presumptive and misconceived straw men is to claim that Christians only do good deeds for fear of God, for fear of punishment, for fear of hell and not because they are good and decent people. Atheism is Dead has covered that in The Red Light of Punishment. Succinctly stated, there are two fallacies in one: the atheist presupposes to know that which they do not know—that they know other people’s thoughts and motivations—and mistakenly apply a works based salvation theology to Christianity which does not hold to such a theology.
In this specific case James Randi offers fallacious, non-Biblical, concept of damnation. Hell is not, as James Randi appears to claim, a place to where people are condemned for lack of good deeds. Hell is a place that was created for the devil and his angels and to which people choose to go when they choose to come before God having chosen to reject His offer of salvation.