Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Ratio Christi and Militant Christian Apologetics: Introduction

I love it when I get a chance to be a militant atheist. Really, I do. There are very few real-life situations where I can express my lack of faith proudly and in such a way that other people will learn from it. I encountered such a scenario over this past summer when two Christian apologists from California came to the east coast to talk with people about their religious beliefs. I was able to challenge them on their beliefs and display a few instances where they were just being ridiculous, like thinking a child born somewhere else in the world, never exposed to Christianity, would be sent to Hell if they died and didn't believe.

Parry! Thrust! Pray! Trust! I'm so fucking clever.
Don't get me wrong. I wasn't a dick. I went out of my way to be respectful to them because they were collecting data, and in an area where over 80% of the population is Christian, what were their chances of talking to two brothers - one a staunch atheist, the other a deist - about their belief? It was an unlucky situation for them, and so I gave them the easiest time I could. It was actually very enjoyable.

But the difference from that situation and a typical one is that these two guys weren't trying to push their faith on us. They were trying to have a discussion and collect data. When that happens, I'm fine; but the moment they decide they're going to start pushing their beliefs on me is the moment I start pushing back. I'm defensive, but still militant.

Such was a situation that came upon me today. It was a day of involvement, where various clubs and organizations set up tables in the main campus building to attract students and find new membership. I don't like these days because it's almost always the case that every other student happens to vanish into nonexistence the moment I walk into the hallway, and so I'm always alone (or with my girlfriend) and having to walk down the center of the hall as the people from the tables turn into criers for one (or two), or just stare at us like creeps. Ew.

Today was different, though. Some guy happened to be standing out past the tables, and so was close enough to me to hand me a card with information about the club. I didn't want to just be rude, so I took it and thanked him. He just stared at me, menacingly. Ewww.

I looked at the card and laughed to myself. "Oh god," I thought, "here we go." It was a card from a global Christian apologetics movement. Ewwwww!

To the left, you'll see either side of the very nice card I received. On the bottom half is an introduction, along with the date and location of their meeting. Unfortunately that's tomorrow, dead smack overlapping my second class of the day, and so I won't be able to make it. Shame. I would've loved to be able to write a post about the actual arguments they make, but instead I'll have to comment on the bad job they did trying to sell their thoughts to me.

For those of you who can't read their introduction, I'll transcribe it here:

"Ratio Christi (Latin for "The Reason of Christ") is a global movement that equips university students and faculty to give historical, philosophical, and scientific reasons for following Jesus Christ. RC student clubs meet regularly to bring together faith and reason in order to establish the intellectual voice of Christ in the University. We defend the truth of God, the Bible, and the Resurrection, while sharing Christ's message and love to skeptics. The Christian faith is rational and true - not blind!"

The intro is flawed for a lot of reasons. First of all, it claims to give "scientific reasons" for following Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, for an organization that is attempting to bridge faith and reason and has a lot of grounds in philosophy, this is a major breach of the is-ought gap. Assuming we could scientifically verify that Jesus Christ existed, that he was the son of God, and that the God of the Christian Bible exists and is the all-powerful, all-intelligent being that he is made out to be, it would still not give us any reason to follow him or his son. Quite frankly, even if God did exist, I wouldn't follow or worship any of the shit he brings to the table, because he's an asshole.

Thus their premise falls short immediately. They can't give any scientific reasons for following Christ because you cannot provide a scientific argument for the worship of something. This is purely an epistemological issue concerning belief and adherence to doctrine, not science. Science only seeks to explain things - it makes positive propositions, not normative ones.

At the end, it states in partially highlighted script: "The Christian faith is rational and true - not blind!" By definition, it has to be blind, because "faith" is trust in something without evidence (or is at least understood to be. Some definitions liken it to belief). The purpose of calling it the "Christian faith" is, once again, supposed to be an epistemological claim, not a scientific one. It's belief without evidence, but instead, some other type of warrant.

So color me unimpressed by their sales pitch, but I wanted to learn more about these guys. What type of apologists are they? Why do they try to draw a line between "blind faith" and regular faith? I guessed they were militant because of their description, but then I saw their tagline on the front of the card, "Taking back the mind of the university for Christ."

"Well, they already lost me," as my girlfriend put it.

If you liked it then you shoulda put a crown on it.
So now that I've gotten the chance to look at their website (this ordeal took place a few hours ago), I've learned a bit more about their mission. They're fundamentalists. A few key notes of their beliefs:

- "According to the Bible, we view marriage as a conjugal and covenantal union of one man and one woman, ordained by God from the creation of humanity, and historically understood by believers and non-believers alike, to be the most basic institution in society."

- "We specifically deny “theistic evolution,” yet realize that this is a position that must be vigorously debated in order to show the weaknesses in both the scientific and theological evidence for macro-evolution."

- "We believe that there is a personal devil who can exert vast power but only as far as God permits him to do so; that he shall ultimately be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone and shall be tormented day and night forever. Other, both good and evil, supernatural beings exist."

That last part really gets me. God allows Satan to corrupt human beings and exert his evil powers onto humanity. How benevolent. I don't know what they mean by "other supernatural beings," but I suppose angels and unicorns (no, seriously, look it up) are among them. That they don't believe in evolution is even more laughable. You're never going to take over universities by trying to disprove evolution. The biology department will rip your asshole out and crown you with it, then write "INRB" above your head (Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Bardus, or "Here Lies Jesus, King Stupid" in really shitty Latin most likely). The same goes for opposing homosexuality. A quick note on evolution again, though, they've immediately done what every other apologist group promoting young earth creationism (YEC) does, and that's draw a functional line between macro- and micro-evolution. Presumably by stating their disbelief in macro-evolution, they are stating their belief in micro-evolution.

This is what's great about this part: an introductory level biology textbook could tell them why making such a dichotomy is fallacious. A quote from biologist Douglas J. Futuyama explains why this is the case (straight off of Wikipedia too!):
"One of the most important tenets of the theory forged during the Evolutionary Synthesis of the 1930s and 1940s was that "macroevolutionary" differences among organisms - those that distinguish higher taxa - arise from the accumulation of the same kinds of genetic differences that are found within species. Opponents of this point of view believed that "macroevolution" is qualitatively different from "microevolution" within species, and is based on a totally different kind of genetic and developmental patterning... Genetic studies of species differences have decisively disproved [this] claim. Differences between species in morphology, behavior, and the processes that underlie reproductive isolation all have the same genetic properties as variation within species: they occupy consistent chromosomal positions, they may be polygenic or based on few genes, they may display additive, dominant, or epistatic effects, and they can in some instances be traced to specifiable differences in proteins or DNA nucleotide sequences. The degree of reproductive isolation between populations, whether prezygotic or postzygotic, varies from little or none to complete. Thus, reproductive isolation, like the divergence of any other character, evolves in most cases by the gradual substitution of alleles in populations."
The only difference between macro- and micro-evolution is that of time, as many skeptics and scientifically literate individuals will tell you. There is no qualitative or functional difference between the two. Evolution is evolution, and evidence for one is evidence for the other. I know this is obvious to most of the people reading this, but I'm using these guys as a foil for typical creationist arguments. Don't give it much attention.

So what else did I find about them? Well from their page on apologetics and why they feel it's important, I found this (included in such a way that shows their disdain):
  • 72.9% of professors at elite universities say that “The Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts recorded by men” 
  • 84.1% of professors disagree with the statement “The theory of intelligent design IS a serious scientific alternative to the Darwin theory of evolution”
  • “. . .it is clear that on the whole, and measured in various ways, professors are less religious than the general U.S. population” . (p.9)
They see it as an issue that the vast majority of professors disagree that intelligent design (ID) is a serious scientific alternative to Darwinian evolutionary theory; but if they had any basic understanding of scientific theory, they would know why. ID is fundamentally flawed due to the fact that it's inherently a "god of the gaps" argument. It can't be proven that a divine being is what set evolution in motion, especially since we don't even solidly know what the cause of evolution was. It also can't be invalidated until we find the real reason; but by that point, a backup plan will already be set in place, thus invoking infinite regress.

Creationism is very scientific, just "like us!" I crack myself up.
It pains me to see this going around. The whole "we're scientific too!" thing is just so contrived, it nearly makes me sick. I'm one of those "freedom of speech should only extend to those things which aren't patently false" kind of guys. If what you're saying is very provably not true, then you shouldn't be allowed to say it, especially to specifically convince people of its truth in an academic setting. It's disingenuous. Among their faculty are only three people with a postgraduate degree in any type of biological science, and two of them have little-to-nothing to do with evolutionary science. They also have two people with bachelors degrees in biology, but hey, you can fail one test on fundamentals of evolution and still pass. Point being, they have very few resources directly related to evolutionary science. Most of their experts are in apologetics, philosophy, and (get this) law. I guess if you're going to try to push something that's glaringly untrue, you'll need a few good arguers in there.

That's really all I have left to say on this matter. Like I said, I really wish I could attend their meeting to see what actual arguments they bring up - since then I could actually be talking about something of substance - but alas my work is more important than theirs. Yes, I just said that.

Thank you all for reading, and I'll see you next time!

Update (1/29/2015): I got to go to the meeting after all! I'll be writing a post about my experience in the next couple of days. Keep your eyes peeled. I'll link to that post here when it's finished. I promise it'll be more substantive than the post above.


  1. Why do you take so much joy in trying to break someone's faith? What was the purpose of writing this post other than to make yourself feel good? Do you like bullying people of faith?

    1. Lol because of this:

      Specifically, this part:

      "Q: How did this relationship with the atheist students come about?

      Mann: I saw a sidewalk chalk advertisement for an open discussion debate called “Good Without God” by the Atheists United (AU) club. Erik and I had seen some of their debates on YouTube and thought they used bad arguments. So we got prepared and went.

      Hinsdale: It was supposed to be three hours but lasted six. Although a freshman, Jonathan had already studied apologetics for two years. They did so well defending the faith to the atheists bringing up tough questions that three of the atheist club officers ended up arguing with each other. They were so befuddled they accused Jonathan of being a fake, a spy!

      Mann: Two officers quit the club on the spot!"

      So they take pride in causing atheist infighting and causing officers of an atheist organization to quit. They take joy and pride in home wrecking. It's only fair that I should be allowed to do the same. It's not bullying, it's retaliation against militant theism coming to my college campus and trying to "take [its] mind for Christ." As I said, if these are their tactics, then they're going to have a shitty time.

  2. groups like this are silly. its interesting how you break down the fallacy of this religious group but the existence of groups like this cant be helped so you shouldnt get to bent out of shape over it. organized religion is bull. I myself dont believe in god and my beliefs are constantly changing with the more research i do but my beliefs are some what a combination of the holographic universe or simulation theory plus just plain spirituality. as far as religions the only ones that I somewhat agree with are buddhism and yoga of the hindu. I only can believe something with evidence backing it such as these scientific theories and personal experience through my spiritual practice. I think once most of the old ass generation of humans die out in like 100 years christianity will be extinct almost. Not sure about The Muslim religion though. that might be around longer than christianity. interesting read though..I wish you well

  3. I agree completely. While I do consider myself a Christian, I by no means endorse this kind of militant theism and think very negatively about organizations such as Ratio Christi. I think that people should be free to believe what they want. I have also wrote about it significantly here, which has sparked several side discussions on Christian forums and on Reddit:


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