Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Athenae over at First Draft draws our attention to this priceless interaction between smug atheist PZ Meyers and smug Christianist blogger St. Eutycos who is upset that Atheists won't play nice and offers five ways for us to be more humble. I have an almost pathological love of arguing both science and theology with America's nuttiest christianists and this discussion is a classic. But the real story, as it were, is embedded slightly deeper down in the links--the whole interchange arose because "Communicate Jesus...Insights and Inspiration to Maximize Your Ministry"

was sincerely trying to reach out to the hitherto untouched pagans through a viral marketing, bus billboard, and tweeting campaign. Alas, the new technology can't quite make up for the old moral conundrums and even the believers find that the high concept pitch may not be easily resolved in 160 characters:

The ‘Thank you’ Jesus website is technically unstable

Unless you uploaded a ‘thank you’ message, I can’t imagine why you’d like one printed onto a t-shirt or other merchandise. However, I decided to test this functionality out, and both times I tried I got a (different) error message (e.g. ‘Length cannot be less than zero. Parameter name: length’ and ‘Check that the path is correct and that the domain is in your allowed domains for upload.’). Despite the best de-bugging, error messages are hard to avoid, but it is possible (and recommended) to create custom error messages that make more sense to visitors when they encounter them.

Reason #4 – The ‘Thank you’ Jesus concept is overly simplistic

Perhaps most disappointing is the main concept – thanking Jesus. I’m all for thanking Jesus, and encouraging people to remember that everything good comes from God. But this concept, when promoted to those who don’t know Jesus, opens itself up to big questions that lie not so deep beneath the surface, because, as one person on a blog pointed out:

“If one should thank Jesus for all the nice things in our lives, shouldn’t one also blame Jesus for all the crap things too?

After all, if some crazy flight of fancy convinces you that Jesus gave the world hot chips, then I guess he also gave the world throat cancer, poverty and Dolf Lundgren movies.”

Should we also be encouraging people to say:

* “Thank you Jesus for letting my baby girl die”? or,
* “Thank you Jesus for giving me cancer”? or,
* “Thank you Jesus that I don’t have a job and can’t afford to feed my family”?

Whilst this encourages people to thank Jesus for the good in life, it doesn’t deal with so much of the pain that people are experiencing, and what God’s role in that pain is.

* Why is there pain?
* Is Jesus only in control of the good and not the bad?
* If Jesus isn’t in control of the bad, why should I be interested in a powerless God?
* If Jesus does have control of the bad, why doesn’t he do something about it?

In short, having read this plaintive missive from the front lines of evangelism, as it were, I think the Atheists among us, smug or not, can just kind of lie back and watch the whole outreach plan fall under its own weight. With evangelical support like this we Atheists can really just not bother to go on the attack.

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