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« Training Case Makers in Women’s Ministry with Mary Jo Sharp | Main | Abortion and Slavery: The Same Old Arguments »

January 30, 2013


Atheists lie to their children. They tell them Materialism is true, and then they tell them to live as if it is not, to buy into the Noble Lie, fully. Then they tell them the lies of the Noble Lie, such as "People Matter" , or "Truth Matters" and so on, and so on, all the while throwing Truth away with those very words. They live as if, or want to live as if, via Auto-Hypnosis, that the Fairy Tales of our Imaginations really are true.

Isn't Loftus one of those atheists who claimed to be a Christian at one time? Those types of people seem to be particularly hateful toward Christianity and Christians. It makes me wonder why that is, and what happened to them to make them so.

I wondered how he'd feel if someone did to him what he so gleefully recommends doing to others.

And actually, I see nothing wrong with using ridicule in certain situations. You can make gentle fun of a belief without trying to deliberately be cruel to those who hold it.

As a side note, I don't see "used to be a Christian" as a biblical concept. Being a Christian is not just a set of beliefs you once used to espouse and now don't. Nor is it a set of rules you once chose to follow and now don't. Being a Christian is something supernatural that God does for you once you are born again. And once you're born, you can't be unborn. People like John Loftus were never Christians to begin with. 1 John 2 talks about that.


How do you think about the example of Elijah, who used ridicule against the prophets of Baal?

While ridicule isn't appropriate in every situation, it is appropriate in some situations, at least if the Scriptures are our guide to what constitutes respecting human dignity. The prophets used it, Paul used it, and Jesus used it, which suggests that the reason that Loftus is wrong is because he's ridiculing righteousness and truth, whereas mocking folly has a long and respectable pedigree.


Teaching others to use or even condone the use of ridicule to influence or persuade others is a clear demonstration of the weakness of their atheism; truly, anything is possible as long as one believes his or her position is absolutely right. The step up to other forms of abuse is not very far away; a quantitative step. I am amazed that anyone can expouse such a position who holds they have any morality or pseudo-morality. It belies an arrogance that is evident in much of Leftism and the New Atheism. It is a dangerous position and we have seen the result of such arrogance in history - especially in the 20th century with all of the totalitarians who thought so little of those who did not share their enlightened worldview. People were murdered by these enlightened elitists.

Did Amy say that Elijah's taunting was appropriate? Did God condone Elijah's behavior? Many times scripture records inappropriate things that God's people did. I cannot think of anything recorded in scripture that would suggest that this behavior is respected (a long and respectable pedigree).

Joe, nowhere in the Bible are we taught as a strategy to marginalize people by laughing at them and ridiculing them to put social pressure on them in order to bring them over to our side. In fact, we're explicitly taught to do the opposite (one example is what I wrote about Titus, see also 1 Peter 3:15). The gospel isn't to be spread through power over people's wills via manipulation (or any other kind of power, social or physical). This is made clear. So we have to evaluate any one particular incident in light of what's explicitly taught.

Are you referring to Paul's expression of anger in Galatians 5:12? If so, I don't see that as being the same as ridicule. Likewise with his statement calling the high priest a whitewashed wall. Again, that seems to be an expression of prophetic anger--not quite the same thing as belittling someone in order to get everyone to laugh at him.

I'm not sure what you're referring to with Jesus, but my guess is that it's also a situation of prophetic condemnation, not belittling to make someone the butt of a joke in order to marginalize him.

Prophetic condemnation honors a person's humanity because it holds that person accountable to God's moral standard. Belittling and manipulating, on the other hand, does not honor a person's humanity. The difference between anger and condescension is a huge one, as I'm sure you know if you've experienced both.

That leaves Elijah. I wouldn't pretend that everyone in the Bible treated others as the gospel demands, but even assuming God wanted him to do this in this instance, and looking at it in the worst light possible, here is one exception to the explicit rule of how we're to treat others. But I would say that even in this case, his belittling is more of their false god than it is of them. And it certainly isn't done to get everyone to laugh at them and marginalize them as a means of social pressure, it's merely part of the overall event of judgment God was bringing about at that moment, not a method of persuasion.

God uses ridicule, taunts, and sarcasm sometimes in the Bible. We can dismiss that with the "Well you're not God" truth. But it's something to consider. Doug Wilson has a book dealing with these sorts of rhetorical tactics called "The Serrated Edge." I've never read it though.

I think the rhetoric of the new atheists is unproductive. But at the same time I think we are too sensitive. When I say "we" I mean people in general, not Christians in particular... though many times Christians can be even more hypersensitive than the secular culture.

The problem with new atheists is that more often then not in chatrooms and forums (and it carries over into real life too) they have nothing BUT ridicule. Mockery is a substitute for reasoned arguments for them. They think if they've made a good zinger about Thor they've proven you wrong and themselves right. This modus operandi has been helped along by folks like Stephen Colbert and John Stewart, very popular with the younger, less mature audience.

Amy -

I'd like your take on 1 Corinthians 4, particularly verses 8-10. It seems to me (reading it in the NASB) that Paul is being rather sarcastic towards the false teachers.

You just need to read a littel further.....

When we are slandered and defamed, we try to answer softly and bring comfort. We have been made and are now the rubbish and filth of the world.

I do not write this to shame you, but to warn and counsel you as my beloved children.

After all, though you should have ten thousand teachers in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the glad tidings. So I urge and implore you, be imitators of me.

I recall a father sitting with his child detailing the error of the child's perspective of his own hardships of having to take out the garbage each evening, and of how that one chore makes of him a great Man, and also detailing the father's list of daily pressures, which amount to ten thousand more as the list drags on and on, and then, looking that child in the eye and saying, "So, son, you really think you are great, I know, I get that, and, I know all your friends think you are great too. Well, what do you think of my list and of your mother's list? What does it mean to be a "Man", son?

Context, Tone, Intent, and Nuance make all the difference.

I can take some of the harshest ridicule of the Atheists towards Christians and change the setting, the context, the voice inflection, the moment of the subtle raise of the eyebrow, the intent, and the nuance and make of it an incredibly helpful, gentle, and pastoral essay, which, though it reads the same on paper, is radically different.

Atheism willingly embraces lying to one's Self and to one's children with the grand Noble Lie, and as such has no value of either Truth or of Human Dignity. Knowing "that" about Atheism on the whole, we find that there just is no context at all, no tone at all, no nuance at all which can save the printed page of their ridicule. However, knowing that Uncreated Love is the Hard-Stop of All-Appeals within the Christian worldview, there is more than enough room for various combinations and permutations of Dignity combined with Chastisement, of Love combined with Force and Persuasion, and so on, and so on between Father and Son, between Savior and Wretch, between Righteous Judge and Haughty Self-Importance.

Atheism has no room for such combinations and permutations. None at all, for its Ceiling, its Highest, its Best is but the grand Noble-Lie revealed by Dr. L. D. Rue: Link here.

scbrownlhrm - thank you for your insight.

My take:

Verses 11-13 are still sarcastic, though a milder form than the previous. Note that Paul is still pointing out how he (and others like him) are different than the false-teachers this part of 1 Corinthians 4 is directed at.

In verse 14 (I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children.) he directs his attention away from the false-teachers and towards the believers who've been duped by them.

Nate, I don't think Paul is directing that passage towards the false teachers. He's talking directly to the Corinthians who had become arrogant and were questioning his authority. He's being sarcastic about their view of themselves, yes, but sarcasm isn't ridicule. He's not being condescending. He's not standing apart from them, making them the butt of jokes in order to marginalize them. He's on their side, admonishing them (as you noted he explained). This is quite different from what Loftus is calling for.

Proverbs contains two seemingly contradictory statements to "Answer a fool per his folly" and "Do not answer a fool per his folly". When preaching in a public forum, there are times to reprove a mocker and times to let their comments fall to a wayside. I have been successful in showing someone the silliness of their position after which they backed down and calmed down to listen. Other times a different approach is required. One hint is we can use humor or mock a position if we're gentle and in the Spirit as opposed to lashing out in anger, as decisions made while emotional are typically wrong decisions.


Pragmatically (and ethically), it is much better to ridicule beliefs rather the believers.

This is a crucial distinction.

Ridicule that's personal tends to hurt more and be less effective. By all means, respect human dignity.

Loftus is right that the true audience us not the believer; it's the fence-sitter. The fence-sitter is more likely to see the difference between ridicule aimed at a belief and ridicule aimed at a believer.

Sometimes ridicule that's clearly directed at belief is taken personally. Of course, that's the believer's problem - not the satirist's. If it stings and it's not personal, what does that say? Think about it.

In some cases, the distinction simply can't be made. Case in point: men intoning in outrageous dresses, funny big hats, and gold accessories.

Now. You need to be right and have a good sense of humor to ridicule a belief effectively. Otherwise, pragmatically speaking, it fails or even backfires. So, it probably doesn't go well with Christianity.

Coercive ridicule denigrates liberty to hold a contrary view which god granted to everyone. To denigrate the gift is to denigrate the giver. To denigrate someone in order to coerce a third party to fall into lock step with the intellectual bully, is to offend god. Somehow, I don't think that's a terribly good idea.

No, no, no, Louis.

Oh so now it's 'coercive'! Come on.

Ridicule/satire is available to both sides of any issue (if the merits are balanced which in this case they are not(they are on my side)).

Ridicule, on average, can do nothing on its on. It serves to draw the attention of the inattentive.

Why is there no satire against non-belief?

CT: What are the temptations you face as you speak to pagans among us?

RZ: One is to become angry. It can be frustrating to see how society has taken the sacred out of everything. Jesus resisted the temptation of outrage and the quick fix of condemnation. He spent most of his time preparing wineskins before pouring new wine into them. Our tendency is to start pouring the wine into skins that will only burst.

CT: How can the church critique alternative beliefs to Christianity so that people will listen?

RZ: If you can make any religion look idiotic, chances are you haven’t understood that religion. You can’t take treasured beliefs from the past and mock them.

The old Indian proverb holds true. Once you’ve cut off a person’s nose, there’s no point in giving him a rose to smell. We tend to think that being kind and listening to the opposition implies that we have sacrificed the message. We need to learn how to handle critique and how to address an antagonist. Even as you wrestle with the ideas of an opponent, you must keep the dignity of the opponent intact.

That last post was quoted from RZ ie Ravi Zacharias.......

Love costs. It will cost. It does cost. It has cost. We must love. It seems we can “put words out into the world” out of Love for He Who loves us, or, out of love for those He loves – which is everyone – or, and best of all, from a place where both of those engines are driving us, so to speak. We can leave the mocking and the ridicule to those whose ethical framework finds no innate value at all in either Truth itself or Human Dignity itself, but such cannot be the case with us.

The flavor left in the mouth, or, the aroma left in the nostrils at the end of a series of sentences will speak for itself: one was just mocked, marginalized, made the butt of some joke, and, as Amy notes, made to stand apart-from. Or, the overall flavor left in mouth will be that one has stood with you, on your side, and heard you. The latter often means slowing down. It’s hard. Love costs. I’ve watched Ravi Zacharias and Hitchens and Dawkins all “go on the offensive” and there is a glaring and stunning difference in both method and tone between RZ and the two atheists. The smell left in the nostrils at the end of a series of sentences by the two atheists (I have watched many, many of their talks) is radically different than that left by RZ. And this is just as it should be: Atheism has no ground upon which to support innate human dignity and love is, in atheism, but a tool to perpetuate the self. Uncreated Love, however, pours out His-Self, and that for the Beloved Other. He is making us into that Image, His Image.

RZ: "Though the task is difficult, the opportunities are unprecedented, such as being present in the passages of life. The church still meets people at the transition points. Marriages break down. Children commit suicide and leave helpless parents. Death and suffering are everywhere."

"In India, there is a saying that you can touch your nose directly or you can touch your nose the long way around. You need to go the long way around to reach some people. From there, the intellectual questions can be addressed. The church should provide a setting in which people can express their questions."


"No, no, no, Louis.

Oh so now it's 'coercive'! Come on."

I seem to have touched a raw nerve. Sorry. :)
Not all ridicule is necessarily coercive, but it seems that when it is used to coerce the fence sitters to supporting your view in an intentional way. I think you know that it is and it would seem that your emphatic denial proves that deep down you know this to be true even if you don't like that fact because deep down you know that the tactic is wrong. Now it is just a question of how willing you are in being honest with yourself. That's the question only you can answer.

because belief in things that aren't real are funny to those who deal in reality


You used a term "funny". Can you give me a weight, color, location or any other material quality that can be scientifically quantified, of the object you call "funny"? If you cannot, then it is a thing that is not real. If it is not, then why are you exhibiting a belief in a thing that is not real and at the same time think that such a belief is funny. Do you make a habit of poking fun at your own beliefs?


Do you make a habit of poking fun at your own beliefs?

Plausible beliefs, arrived at rationally, are a bit tough to make fun of.

When I said, 'Come on', I just meant 'satire is not coercion'.

So, no nerves struck.

By the way: satire needs to make sense.

So the attempt to isolate ridicule from argument isn't really possible.


Ridicule and argument can't be seperated one from the other?

Satire, Ridicule, Argument.... each can be employed without the other, I would think....

Satire, Ridicule, Argument, each need not make any sense at all. I mean, people still believe that Material can self-sccount....and so they argure that it can, when clearly the evidence says it can't. And so on.

Now, is what I've just written sarcastic, or, is it ridicule, or, is it argument, or, is it nonsense, or, is it an expression of the data as I see it with nothing whatsoever intended other than some nuance clarification, and etc? Well, its easier to tell with the spoken word, and less easy to tell with written words. But, if it matters, it was that last thing.

Satire is best when it is true, scbrownlhrm.

Agree. As such, satire, as you say, must be an extension of argument. And can even be helpful. Ridicule, that seperation of the other to stand-apart-from, rather than to be one-of, involves not so much Data as it does Person and as such is something the Christian ought not touch. I find no such ought-not grounded within Athe-ism. Noble Lies are still lies. Equally Un-Real is Equally Un-Real. I think this is why this OP is an accurate window into two different roads.


" Do you make a habit of poking fun at your own beliefs?

Plausible beliefs, arrived at rationally, are a bit tough to make fun of."

How is what is clearly an emotional response arrived at rationally? The object "funny", which is what I was tackling in the response you decided to comment on, is not arrived at through rational means, but through emotional ones. Because of differences in temperament folks may or may not consider something to be funny. But to believe that "funny" is actually something that exists...well, there is no question about that...we all agree that to be the case. That's why we were born with a funny bone. ;) (of course I mean a sense of humor) However, that something that exists is not arrived at through rational means, but through an emotional response. So, there are things that we know exist and that are themselves not rationally based and are not materially quantifiable, yet we believe in their existence just about universally. Something to ponder.

Hm, what other forms of art are sub-Christian?


I said, 'Satire is best when it is true.'

Of course, it's at its very best when it is actually mistaken for reality.

Now let's all google:

satire mistaken


Satire, ridicule, mockery... You might define some useful distinction among them. (You haven't so far - at least not that decode.)

But the important distinction is between what is ad hominem and what is not.

Hi Louis,

What 'is clearly an emotional response'?

It seems like you are arguing for dualism there at the end - and veering off topic in the process.

So the question remains, RonH, why not use ridicule?

"It's written to marginalize them..... No one wants to be a laughingstock. No one wants to be the butt of a joke...."

I've tasted it.

I've given it.

If you want to defend it, leave me out of RonH.

There is a Better.

You are better.


"You are better".

-- Meaning: You, RonH, are better.

There was mention of human dignity in the OP.

But there is no mention of 'idea dignity'.

I'm not sure what ridicule or satire of non-belief would look like.

Can it be done?

Supposing that it can, I cannot imagine it making me feel marginalized.

Satire of non-belief is not pragmatic.

Something to ponder.


"You are better"

We've been over this. Ridiculing/satirizing a view, an idea, or a belief is not a moral issue.

By contrast, to ridicule a person - say their appearance - is mean and wrong.

The OP mentions human dignity.
Fine, but there is no 'idea dignity'.

Ridicule (of an idea) is fallacious; it's not part of a good argument. But, that doesn't make it immoral.

People sometimes feel bad when they hear their views ridiculed. That doesn't make the ridicule of their views immoral.

(So, is it ok to ridicule an idea anytime? No. Better not ridicule the your co-worker's religion at work.)

Finally, it's not hard (for me, at least) to imagine a case of self-deception that, while resistant to reason, can be overcome by intuition triggered by emotion (embarrassment, for example).

If you can ridicule my position, go ahead.

"We've been over this. Ridiculing/satirizing a view, an idea, or a belief is not a moral issue.

By contrast, to ridicule a person - say their appearance - is mean and wrong.

The OP mentions human dignity.
Fine, but there is no 'idea dignity'."

I think we completely agree.

The difference lies in the way the thing you and I are describing is actually done on the fly.

The flavor left in the mouth, or, the aroma left in the nostrils at the end of a series of sentences will speak for itself: one was just mocked, marginalized, made the butt of some joke, and, as Amy notes, made to stand apart-from. Or, the overall flavor left in mouth will be that one has stood with you, on your side, and heard you. The latter often means slowing down. It’s hard. Love costs. I’ve watched Ravi Zacharias and Hitchens and Dawkins all “go on the offensive” and there is a glaring and stunning difference in both method and tone between RZ and the two atheists. The smell left in the nostrils at the end of a series of sentences by the two atheists (I have watched many, many of their talks) is radically different than that left by RZ.

Now, I both give and take poor form, or, meanness, etc. I'm sure RZ does as well, or has, etc. The point here is the matter of overall practice in general. For the most part, the two atheist's mentioned here just verbal bullies, and it IS the person who is left marginalized in front of the audience. Person. Not idea. Now, with RZ, it is just the opposite. The person, the atheists who asks of him a tough question, is embraced, and, then, the Pain vs. Intellectual dissection is done, and, then, the Ideas are layed out to juxtapose one another. The person is left as one-of-us.

There is a difference here.

I don't agree with the way atheists (the big name folks) do this sort of stuff "for the most part" in their talks/etc.

I can't defend it.

And I won't.

They marginalize Person much more than Idea.

And that IS a moral issue.

I watched a young woman who was an atheist stand up and ask RZ a question and proceed to shred him and Christianity. RZ started his answer by telling her how precious she was and is, and, how real and how felt are her intellectual and emotional reasons for viewing the world as she does.

She is embraced. Her sanity is validated. Her emotions are accepted. Her reasons are given room to spread their wings.

Then, he begins to juxtapose ideas, while standing with her as one-of-us who wake to find ourselves in such an odd world.

She is not charged with benig delusional, idiotic, and dangerous to society.

She is loved. Even her "reasons for her beliefs" are validated.

Of course, that is in a live setting, person to person in front of other persons.

But, that same setting is just the place where our big name atheist friends seem "go on the offensive" in just the opposite manner.

These are glaring opposites.

Did the young woman shred RZ's body type?

His accent?

Or his position on some matter?

You didn't actually say.

If she did shred him personally, then you found an example of a young woman shredding RZ personally.

And we agree (as you point out) that she was wrong.

.....while standing with her as one-of-us who wake to find ourselves in such an odd world.....

Loftus does not stand-with.

He casts out.


And he does it without a "personal" comment......

Its called the art of ridicule.

"Just ideas" is a smokescreen for cruelty.

I would offer to Loftus that he is not alone here. Nor is he an insane freak. He delights in correcting error. There is a Person who is full not just of Truth, nor just of Grace, but of both Truth and Grace. The Tension between Grace and Truth, Embracing and Correcting, Valuing and Pushing is held perfectly in His Hand. He walks with us, make that With-Us, and not against us, though He ought walk against us, and we behold Him, and He is full of Grace and Truth. In perfect tension. We find ourselves in His company wholly and painfully aware of brokenness and error, of sin, and, at the same time, joyfully aware of wholeness. All-Sufficiency fills up Insufficiency.

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