Yes, more Hate Mail!

Okay, not so much HATE as there is irritation and discomfort, BUT THAT STILL COUNTS! At least for now while the pendulum’s swinging back in the other direction.

Your comments and perspectives count! I read them, and weigh out my future plans according to what you direct. It’s true.

21 thoughts on “Yes, more Hate Mail!

  1. Julius

    Ahhh, ‘hate mail fix’ satisfied… for now. ;)

    I especially loved your reply to Bob’s question #5: “The worldview I’m working towards is to always be ready to question my reasons. I don’t want to get trapped in a box. Especially one that’s make-believe.”

    That neatly (and inarguably) sums up how *everyone* should assemble their own worldview… Unfortunately, however, it is all too common that many religiously-indoctrinated people have been subdued at a very young age (like 4 or 5) – an age where their ability to think critically is completely undeveloped. How can they break free from that even with adult-onset reasoning skills? Such a waste.

  2. Alice Priest

    Bob, there is most definitely an increase in comfortable blasphemy going on. I remember twelve years ago at a community event in which I felt pressured to not revealing my un-faith because of the pushy people around me — now most of them could care less about religion, and some of them say they never really did at all, but did out of fear! I call this a progression toward something good, where people can say what’s really on their minds, take control of their lives, and admit when they had been duped.

  3. Demonhype

    Definitely a change, I agree–and I’m not in NYC (unfortunately) but the boon docks of Ohio. There’s still a good share of good ol’ fashioned religious hatred, but there is an obvious increase in the amount of people who don’t take immediate personal exception to an admission of atheism.

    And, of course, lots more blasphemy, mostly on the internet!

    I attribute it to something like what I heard once on the Atheist Experience podcast–they were talking about ancient Greece, where every social class in society had a distinctive official style of dress except for the slaves and the free commoners, whose official clothing style was identical. They said that several times it was brought up that the commoners and slaves should have clothing styles distinct from one another, and it kept getting shot down. The reason? If the slaves and free men didn’t dress alike, the slaves would realize just how many of them there really are, and that could lead to revolts. Keeping each slave thinking that they were a tiny ineffectual minority was the best way to keep them in their place.

    Same thing with the internet–the anonymity contributed to a lot of honesty about things that people wouldn’t be comfortable (or might get lynched for) discussing or admitting in public–including atheism. The internet made it possible for more atheists to find one another with fewer repurcussions (if any) and allowed atheists to find out exactly how numerous they really are.

    I think that’s a huge part of the changing attitude with the religious too–the non-crazy ones, anyway. Before, with nothing to contradict the traditional slander about atheism, even the nicest religious person would recoil at the confession of atheism. Now, with atheist getting bolder and the extra channels of communication opened not only between atheists but between the religious and atheistic, more religious people are starting to realize that atheists are people like anyone else. Plus, there’s the fact that the increase of atheist visibility has flushed out the uglier elements of faith into visibility as well, and I don’t think a lot of liberal and moderate believers like what they’re seeing. In the past, it was easy to side with the jesus-crazy against any atheist because, hell, they’re crazy but at least they believe in jesus. But now, with the fact of how atheists really are staring them in the face on one side (some of them family and friends) and the true ugliness of the truly devout staring them in the face on the other inescapably, I think a lot of them have had to think a few things over about how completely paramount it is to have faith and how important it is that religion never be questioned or criticized.

    Of course, there’s still a long way to go–and uphill all the way! But it has been working. I wouldn’t say that there’s no call for further blasphemy and criticism of religion, but it’s heartening to see that it has had a definite effect.

    And Bob–both I and my brother consider you to be one of the people on the front lines who led the assault, and what a fantastic job you’ve done! Congratulations!

  4. Chris

    My comment…keep up the good work!!!
    I am a Pagan rather than an atheist, and yes I know we are just as silly as the Christians but at least some of us have a sense of humor.

  5. normalbob Post author

    If I’m so front-line then why am I slowly being eliminated from Wikipedia?!?! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Normal_Bob_Smith
    Perhaps it’s because I’m not Tweeting. I am on Twitter somewhere, but I’m not using it. Can you believe someone else took “normalbobsmith” before I got it? The whole Twitter experience came crashing down onto my head when I found out.

    Thank you folks. I love the comments.

  6. jeremy

    Bob, your hate mail responses are were one of the largest factors in bringing me across that atheist line and it still gives me *so* much pleasure today reading your clear-thinking and plain-talking responses. I’ve been asking PZ to give you a shout-out for a long time – you were pushing the ridicule strategy long before the four horsemen (who I unashamedly love, too). Point and laugh; it worked on the KKK, and it’s starting to show some real progress on religion too.

  7. jeremy

    Bob, your hate mail responses were one of the largest factors in bringing me across that atheist line and it still gives me *so* much pleasure today reading your clear-thinking and plain-talking responses. I’ve been asking PZ to give you a shout-out for a long time – you were pushing the ridicule strategy long before the four horsemen (who I unashamedly love, too). Point and laugh; it worked on the KKK, and it’s starting to show some real progress on religion too.

  8. Rikk

    I didn’t discover your website until 3 years ago and what a breath of fresh air

    it was for me.

    I live in Texas and I have spent a lifetime being looked down upon and

    mistreated by so called loving christians. You help give me the support

    I need to keep standing up to these two faced,cowardly,punks!

    I don’t argue with them much,you can’t argue with an idiot,I just make it clear

    that bothering me or setting foot on my property is NOT a good idea!

    Thanks!!!!!!

  9. A_Concerned_Australian

    Dear Bob,

    Unfortunately in Australia the opposite seems to be happening. 10 years ago we lived in a secular paradise. Now we have people like Hillsong expanding their numbers at an alarming rate. Even though they tithe 10% of their flocks income, people are still joining. They even tried vote rorting Australian Idol so one of them would win, not that I really care, but it is concerning. Save us Bob, you’re our only hope.

    Keep up the good work.

    A_Concerned_Australian

    P.S – I know you have a large number of christian religious weirdos in the states. Do you have Hillsong?

  10. Hellbound Alleee

    Ah, the old “Well, logic had to come from God, so that proves God” thing.

    Francois debated Matt Slick about this, and this guy must be a fan of that a-hole. He’s been debated by lots of atheist apologists, until they decided he’s sort of a nutjob.

    Here’s the thing about logic he tried to trap you with (he really thought he “got” you with the whole strawman of “so you’re saying that sexual slavery could be moral at some time but not now?” which is a laugh because sexual slavery is a moral good in the bible):

    From http://www.strongatheism.net/library/counter_apologetics/presup_arguments_from_lewis/

    * Logic is a necessary part of reality, being a derivate of the axiom of identity. (that’s what Dude meant by A=A–alleee) Things have singular natures, and logic is a development of that singularity into a system that permits us to weed out contradictions (see ‘A Support of Secular Foundationalism’).
    * Reason is a deductive consequence of the objectivity of reality. Given that all objects, excluding mind-entities, are independent of our mind, the best methods to find knowledge are extrospective (see ‘Why Objectivity is Valid’).
    * Learning is possible because other people can communicate the knowledge they acquire through reason to us, by various means – whether direct communication, books, documentaries, and so on.
    * Truth is a property of propositions – that they are acquired by rational means.

    Thing is, if he wants to propose that “Logic Comes From God” that means that logic is subject to Will and necessarily subjective. Even if logic is an inherent property of God, it’s still coming from a Will, a Person, and therefore not inherent of any outside reality–the very definition of subjectivity.

    So he went to great lengths to accuse you of moral and logical subjectivity, where he simply pointed out the moral and logical subjectivity of personal god-belief (in case he protests and whines that he’s “not a believer” but just wants to argue–and in that case he’s either a liar or a jerk or an undergrad [ugh] or a combination of the three).

    These guys always get it backwards, don’t they? Everything they accuse Reason of, it’s always a major fault of faith.

  11. Bob

    Alleee,

    Thank you for responding. I’m still awaiting a response from Bob.

    “Logic is a part of Reality.” “Things have singular natures.” These are highly controversial claims. By making the first claim, I assume that you have an answer to Hume’s critique of induction, and therefore also find Kant’s solution to place reason as a preconditioning synthetic a priori in the mind needless. If we can abstract laws of thought from reality itself then the tradition of critical philosophy was just a big waste of time. I must admit that I am dubious as to how you can defend your position without traces of dogmaticism.

    Let me list your dogmatic claims here:
    1) “Objectivity of Reality” – this is just stated and not defended. You believe in the objectivity of reality as a first principle. I believe in God as first principle. Both are unproven by autonomous standards of reason. If Bob continues the conversation, I will contest that God is a far more explanatory first principle than claims about “bare facts” or “autonomous reason.”
    2) “Objects are external to our minds.” Of course as a theist I agree with you, but I can only come to such a conclusion from my dogmatic theistic starting point. Here is the point – if you do not supply a dogmatic starting point, then your epistemic principle is doubt (Cartesian). You must choose, and you must show how your choice is non-arbitrary.
    3) “Other people can communicate knowledge.” Unproven assertion. Its almost like you are laying out your own personal philosophical 10 Commandments. From whence do they come?
    4) “Truth is a property of propositions.” Yikes. Before you made a metaphysical claim that things have singular natures, placing your squarely in the Nominalist camp. To stick with it you’d have to say that truth is an appellation of terms. Now you oscillate towards a realist metaphysic where we predicate propositionally.

    I hold dear agreement to everyone of your assertions. The claim I will make is that I have the dogmatic foundations to support these propositions. If you want to give these claims any foundation – any organizing principle that allows them to work as a system – then you will begin to posit abstract universal entities that serve as transcendentals. You cannot account for the transcendent as an evidentalist, so they must be regarded as dogmatic claims.

    You are right on the money to point out that I believe the reality is fundamentally personal (that is that all predications must have an ultimate foundation in the expemplar ideas in the mind of God). It is the personal (theistic) universe inherent in Christian theism that I believe provides the optimal context for philosophical predication. Your universe is inherently impersonal – as far as I can tell – and you will suffer for it in your philosophy.

    Bob

  12. Julius

    StupidBob (not to be confused with NormalBob):

    1. Reality is, by definition, objective. It exists and behaves independently of how your mind (or mine) may think. It is delusional to assume otherwise.
    2. You really need to look at your ‘dogmatic starting point’ more critically before you start accusing others of having no foundation to their own ‘starting point’
    3. Yes, other people can communicate knowledge. Let me do it for you now: “You’re an idiot”. See?
    4. “you will begin to posit abstract universal entities that serve as transcendentals” – you’re kidding, right? Laughable. One of these days, you’ll get down from the fence post (I know its hard because its stuck way up there) and start to ‘posit facts that serve as reality’ based on hard evidence and science (instead of what you’ve been doing which is asserting the ancient scribblings of cavepeople as your own personal reality).

    We’ve all gotta make decisions on what’s real and unreal based on our own individual personal experience (admittedly, it may vary). You’ve apparently completely side-stepped this natural process by outsourcing your thinking to someone else.

    In addition, you hide behind confusing language to help obfuscate the reality of this world from yourself. Good luck there, buddy.

  13. Todd

    I hope this isn’t the end of hate mail. I’ve been there since the very freaking beginning. This site is one of my favorites, and if hate mail disappears I will be very sad.

  14. Bob

    Julius,

    1. “reality is objective.” This is a bare assertion. No proof, no argument, just postulating philosophical dogmas like one throwing rocks in a riot. How do you answer Kant? If it is objective, then we humans are privy to the essence and being of things. That last statement is hightly contestable. I believe in it, but I also believe my theistic starting point allows me to get beyond Kantian perspectivalism.

    2. On a personal note, I’ve delayed doctoral work in philosophy and have spent the last 3 years at a theological seminary in order to investigate my dogmatic starting point. Second, like I said in the first point, you have not given a foundation for your view on the objectivity of reality.

    3. “you’re an idiot” you say. If you look at normalbob’s hate mail, so many believers make fools of themselves by slandering Bob instead of engaging with him. They do so because they cannot defend their christianity. I’m afraid that I see the same thing happening here from the other side.

    4. I’m on no fence post. I’m an ardent disciple of Jesus Christ. My point has been that one’s philosophical starting point is determinative for how one appropriates and uses evidence for basic claims such as theism or atheism.

    “We’ve all gotta make decisions on what’s real and unreal based on our own individual personal experience..” If that is true, then you should have no issues with Christians – for most would say that they have experienced God. If worldviews are purely wrought from individual experience, then they are inherently diversified, relative, and non-universal. I know you do not actually believe that, but in order to escape such relativism you’ll have to start positing universals which you cannot account for. That’s my challenge in the first place.

  15. Julius

    You were currying for respect when you mentioned your 3 yrs in seminary, but quite frankly I’m afraid you’re only going to get my sympathy instead. Aside from self-indoctrination and acquiring a few interestingly verbose phrases here and there, do you really feel like the years spent trolling away, thumbing through the scribbles and incoherent thoughts of ancient cavemen have enhanced your current life at all? Would your inability to think outside a theological box allow you to think otherwise?

    Anyways, I haven’t touched the topic of Kant since high school (you see, I’ve been doing some real cool things with my life while you were trollin’) so I looked him up on Wikipedia… and it appears that you’ve got an unfortunate hangup on how individual human conditions can skew our perception of reality. Though there’s no guarantee that we’re all going to see the color green as green in the exact same way as everyone else, it still should not stop you from reassessing HOW you percieve green. To combat any personally unique misconceptions, ya gotta test that color again and again and stick with what stands the test of time.

    Can’t do that with religion (your diety FORBIDS you to test him!)… Always questioning your world view and not getting stuck in a box is key; as a slave to Christ, this is not an option for you and therefor you can never be honest with yourself. DID YOU HEAR ME??! No matter HOW much Kant or religious texts you peruse, you can never EVER be 100% honest with yourself as a Christian. Seriously, I pity you and am joyful that I am not burdoned by your thought system as you are (you cannot deny this).

    Going back to my first comment on this chain – don’t abandon your critical thinking and outsource it to our relatively unenlighted ancestors. They may have made great contributions to get us where we are today, but they had far less to go on – so, we [you] gotta pick up where they left off and discard the crap (religion) and keep the good stuff (progress).

  16. Bob

    Julius

    I hear you. There was once a Frenchman named Descartes in the 17th century who also didn’t want to live in a box. He exposed every proposition to methodological doubt and the only belief he found absolutely incorrigible was his own thinking: I think, he said, therefore I am. The Self thus became the last bastion of certitude upon which the whole realm of knowledge and science was to be built. The self, however, has been deconstructed in recent times – denounced as a mass of names and understandings we humans place upon it, while it (the self) is changing all the time. The self became no sure foundation. This is to say, human identity is not an uncontested neutral starting point that demands universal consent.

    I bring up this example because what a worldview needs is certitude. If you do not have certitude, about at least something, then you have no criterion to judge truth propositions. Here is the important point: I DO NOT BELIEVE YOU WILL SUPPLY AN INCORRIGIBLE TRUTH WHICH CAN STAND THE FIRES OF SELF CRITICISM. That is all important. Only if you are completely dogmatic about a claim can you get over the challenge of criticism. Philosophers do it all the time (especially the analytic type). Whether its that the intellect has the ability to abstract essences from things (Thomas Aquinas) or that common sense is a valid norm for assessing the world (Thomas Reid). These are foundational claims that are not subjected to the kind of mythological doubt that Descartes (and most modern philosophers) employ.

    Here is my point. You are in a box, you use circular reasoning. You have to. And so do I. You have chosen your box, I’ve chosen mine. Now, lets try to see how cozy it is inside each other’s boxes. Which makes the most sense of human experience? Which is self-coherent? Those are the kind of questions I think we should be asking. From your use of words like “unenlightened” and “progress,” I’m assuming you have picked some enlightenment philosophy as your current paradigm. Does it withstand methodological doubt? If it doesn’t, why do you still believe in it?

    P.S. I think it is interesting that you did what NormalBob did in his second email. The first part of his email he wrote that morality has universal standards (empathy). Then he said that all is convention wrought from the opinions of selfish people. You began your email with the strong proposition “Reality is objective,” then you ended it with “We’ve all gotta make decisions on what’s real and unreal based on our own individual personal experience.” You have to reconcile those points of view.

  17. Julius

    Reality exists, whether we accept it or not. Your perception and my perception may vary, but that doesn’t change the nature of the reality. I think we can both agree on this… what you’re missing (and why my ‘box’ is infinitely bigger than yours) is that your being a Christian doesn’t allow you to factor in your own potential human misconceptions – you’re stuck with a version of ‘certitude’ that *inherently* relies on circular logic to survive. Not a good starting point, if you ask me.

    I completely disagree with you that we both equally rely on circular logic and I’m not going to explain the application of strong evidence vs. weak evidence to make my point. You so easily drop names of philosophers and theologians and their (flawed?) views on the ‘self’ as a starting point, but you’re just getting lost in semantics. This is what I meant by your fence sitting… your whole life you’ve probably weighed in on what *others* think… Perhaps its time to think for yourself for a change. If you still don’t understand what I’m saying, here’s a hint: we are all born atheists.

    Here’s the key point where we differ: when it comes to forming a life vision, I understand that now and then I’m going to misinterpret a fact and therefor have a misconception. This misconception may go on for a long time before being corrected (if ever) but at least I’m open-minded enough to correct if I catch it – if not, oh well – that’s life. YOU on the other hand aren’t allowed to deviate from a thought system that has been handed down to you, regardless of what the evidence suggests… you’re stuck… in a box… a very small one. With only the love of an imaginary friend to keep you company (and self-indoctrinated).

    My sympathies and good luck.

  18. Ryan

    It has definitely become more common … by leaps and bounds. I remember reading your site in the early stages of hate mail. I had planned on joining you guys when you visited the Creation Museum in Kentucky, but got held up at work. I finally got to visit the Creation Museum, and it went beyond my wildest dreams. It was great entertainment. I agree that you were one of the pioneers of mockery. The movement will continue. Thanks, Bob!

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