Daniel K. Norris, a self-appointed evangelist, has written a response within Charisma News to the announcement by Justin Vollmar, the pastor of the virtual deaf church, that he was now an atheist (I was writing about that coming out yesterday)
So why am I writing about this rebuttal? Well, it is everything I usually expect to find, in that it is laced with the usual sneering condescending tone that some believers tend to nurture. But nestled within reside not only the old familiar dishonest rebuttals, but also some truly strange guidance, so given the presence of the latter I thought that it warrants throwing a spotlight upon it.
OK, here we go …
Strange Claim: “Dawkins’ organization, along with the Freedom From Religion Foundation, are the main sponsors of a secret initiative called the Clergy Project.”
The Clergy Project … a “secret” initiative … ??? … so please do clarify Mr Norris, what kind of “secret” initiative has a public website (http://www.clergyproject.org), a press contact page, an open Facebook page, and gets written up in the media on say … Forbes … or CBC and lots of other places. Dare I suggest that the use of the term “Secret Initiative” is very dishonest.
Strange Claim: “atheists are going after weak pastors”
Weak? … er no. The terms I would use are courageous, brace, and honest. People who walk away from their entire livelihood and social circle are the complete opposite of weak, but instead are demonstrating a considerable degree of both strength and also integrity.
Dishonest Rebuttal: “Thankfully Justin’s story isn’t over. I trust and pray that one day he will have a true life-changing encounter with Jesus. It appears he has never had that experience.”
Yes indeed, here in the wild is a real example of the “No True Scotsman” fallacy. So essentially his claim is that a chap who at the age of 18 “became a born-again, washed-in-blood Christian”, attended a Baptist college, and then went on to become a full-time pastor at an Independent Fundamental Baptist church was never really a “true” Christian. Does Mr Norris actually believe this? I suspect he does, and is driven to this conclusion because he simply cannot come to terms with the thought that somebody who was once born-again, could completely change their minds and successfully shake off the delusion.
Ah but wait … the best of this madness is yet to come, because Mr Norris now proceeds to give some specific guidance and starts to list the things that he claims to have learned from his “spiritual fathers” – yes, yes, I know the word “spiritual” does not actually describe anything real or measurable, but let’s put that issue to one side and press on, because what comes first on his list is jaw-droopingly bizarre (it is the item that also motivated this post) …
Truly Bizarre Claim: “I’ve been taught to Keep a closed mind”
Well, at least he is being honest, and I guess that also explains ever so much as well. He then proceeds to babble on about being “called” by his imaginary friend and how he gathers strength by chatting to this imaginary friend in his “prayer closet”. All this tells us a great deal about the resolution that a religious delusion can ensnare the human mind with, and nothing at all about the things that are actually real.
Beliefs are rather strange things and can successful excerpt an amazingly powerful influence within the human mind, so much so that it then becomes completely closed, but this is perhaps not a surprise. Different beliefs compete, and so those that have competed successfully and also thrived will be beliefs that have been naturally selected for their ability to do exactly this over thousands of years of human history. Previous beliefs that were not as successful have faded away and been replaced by far more successful beliefs. However, it is also important to remember that success for a belief, as measured by its popularity and cultural impact, does not in any way establish it as true because reality is not something we get to vote about. If you wish to truly understand what is real, than the only the way to achieve this is via objective verifiable evidence, nothing else cuts the grade.
Mr Norris is truly sincere, of that I have no doubt, but he is also sincerely wrong, and yet it is not really his fault, he has been successfully conned by a belief playing a psychological trick on him, and once ensnared and deeply invested emotionally, it can indeed be truly challenging to ever escape … but still, be encouraged, because as demonstrated by Mr Vollmar, it is actually possible to think your way out.