Sunday, May 25, 2008

This is Kentucky, after all...

As I've said on here before, it wouldn't be spring around here if there wasn't a big fat Christian guy with a megaphone standing on the corner of Greenwood Road and Dixie Highway (right in front of the Frisch's) shouting at cars. This year, in fact, he also has two friends with him. One holds a Bible, the other holds a plastic Ten Commandments yard sign, and they are also in the business of shouting at cars.

Now maybe I'm spoiled on the idea of arguments with, I dunno, a little bit of nuance, but I just can't wrap my mind around the idea of anyone decided to convert to a religion because a trio of red-faced yahoos at a bus stop were yelling "accept Jesus!" out across a busy intersection. Hell, maybe it works. Maybe I ought to stand out on the opposite corner with a megaphone and shout something like "Doing good for the sake of helping your fellow human beings live better lives is more moral than being good simply to avoid divine punishment and secure divine rewards!" Or maybe not. I'm not even sure I got get that all out before the traffic light changed. Hmm, maybe I should be happy that my philosophy of life can't be condensed into a handful of megaphone sound bytes.

Yesterday was an unusual day for my street-preaching friend because his usual set of accouterments had been augmented by the addition of a gigantic cross made of 2x4s. I have precisely no sense of scale, but it seemed to me like it was at least a good 8 feet high, maybe closer to ten. Weirdly, however, it was just propped up precariously against a telephone pole, just laying in wait to get bumped and fall on a passer-by. Seems like that would be a liability issue, if not in the minds of the preachin' folk then in the minds of the people that own the Frisch's. Maybe I've hit on an interesting angle for a get-rich-quick scheme...

I encountered a second set of preachers at the flea market yesterday. See, there's a large regional flea market that pops up at the fairgrounds every month or so where you can go to buy cheap socks, mysteriously low-priced electronics, and occasionally llamas. And, thanks to a proselytizing booth that has been set up there (conveniently located between a guy that sells socket wrenches and a lady that sells polished rocks), you can also get some good ol' Ray Comfort-flavored Diet Apologetics.

I bring Ray up not out of a simple desire to snipe at him, but because these folks really are just using a canned set of Ray Comfort products - "Are You A Good Person?" banners and tests, a video of Ray bushwhacking people for Jesus, tons of Ray Comfort fliers, and smattering of his books. They also give out pressed pennies (You know, like the ones you can get out of machines at theme parks.) that say...well...something. There's a limit to how much you can write on a penny, and they've exceeded it. The penny I looked at read the same way that grown-ups in Charlie Brown cartoons talk.

I collect oddball religious pamphlets, so I was milling around looking for something new (alas, nothing) when one of the booth workers came up and started talking to me. I was able to actually avoid getting a spiel by showing that I'm aware of Ray Comfort and mentioning that I've spoken to him on his blog a time or two. The guy was nice - none of the shouting and histrionics of my street corner friend - and offered me numerous pamphlets that I've already got. I asked him if they had Ray's new book about evolution (The same morbid curiosity that drives me to read Sylvia Browne books just to see how dumb they are will ultimately sell me Ray's book.), to which he replied that no, they hadn't come in yet. As I was moving to leave, he asked if I came from a Christian background. I told him that nope, I'm an atheist. The guy said he'd figured as much - why else, he asked, would I be talking to Ray on his blog?* Then he asked me what I think will happen when I die.

"I don't know," I told him. "But I'm not at all convinced that I should be placing all my bets on this."

He didn't have anything to say to that, to my surprise, and just kind of moved on to someone else. Now, I'm aware that that wasn't the strongest argument I've ever made, but that kind of goes back to my point about not being able to say everything I want to say in a short little spiel. The implication I was getting at what that Christianity has no stronger evidence in its favor that other world religions, but that discussion is rather too long for a brief chat at the flea market.

I wonder sometimes if the main reason that atheists interested in deconverting others have a difficult time of it is because most of the intellectual and philosophical bases for atheism can't be articulated with a few pithy sayings or a slogan on a t-shirt. Meanwhile, the basic tenets of evangelical Christianity can be tossed out with a minimum amount of verbosity: "God good!", "You do what God say, God give presents!", "People who aren't like you are bad!"

That being said, I think I'd rather rely on more complex arguments than ones that appeal directly to our tribal caveman impulses.

*Yeah, that line of reasoning strikes me as just a little peculiar too.

12 comments:

Garret said...

I love your Tarzan school of evangelism- "God good!", "You do what God say, God give presents!", "People who aren't like you are bad!"
Nice ;*)

JAK said...

Actually, that's pretty much Skippy's normal manner of speech...


:-P

Skippy the Skeptic said...

I couldn't get the last phrase to be very Tarzan-like and still make sense. I spent longer messing with it than I care to admit before just giving up and using normal grammar.

Garret said...

Be forwarned...went to Rays to have a peep- and lo and behold Terry Burton is moving to Kentucky, I truely am sorry.......

How about for your last sentence
"people who no love bible god are people bad!"

JAK said...

Talking of Ray, I've acquired a copy of his "Evolution: A Fairy Tale for Grownups". I'll be reviewing it piecewise over at IIDB in the E/C forum.

Ray just doesn't get as much press over there as he should. :-P

Garret said...

I love it Jak. Ray is getting gang jumped over there fiercly- its something to see!
http://raycomfortfood.blogspot.com/2008/05/rooted-in-darwinism.html

JAK said...

Garret -

I think you've got the perspective to answer this:

What is it about Ray that makes him as popular as he apparently is?

I'm not asking that sarcastically - I honestly don't understand his appeal, try as I might to do so.

Skippy the Skeptic said...

I hope it isn't because he's considered one of the best apologists around. Calling Ray one of the world's top apologists would be like calling Paulie Shore one of the world's top comedians.

JAK said...

Maybe most accessible?

Ray's fairly simple to read, and doesn't really invoke a lot of complicated philosophical arguments. To paraphrase, well, me, from IIDB, he's like the pinata you hang on the lowest branch so the little kids can get to it.

JAK said...

Garret -

I just got a chance to look in at Ray's place at the link you posted. I wish I'd done it earlier. It's just...stunning.

I was impressed that Ray was actually engaging some of the commenters, though...

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Skippy the Skeptic said...

Oh hey, Dennis is back. Whoo...