Re: [atheists-27] Challenge to debate

From: Dean
Sent on: Friday, September 6, 2013 9:58 AM
This brings to mind the second chapter entitled " Naming and Describing a 'god' " in A.C. Grayling's book The God Argument : one should substitute the name 'Fred' or the description 'the supreme egg'. I heartily recommend this book.


From: Don Wharton <[address removed]>
To: [address removed]
Sent: Thursday, September 5,[masked]:45 PM
Subject: Re: [atheists-27] Challenge to debate

It is the Universalist National Memorial Church at [masked]th St NW Washington, DC 20009.
 
As a member of the Unitarian complex of churches they are toward the extreme liberal end of the Christian spectrum.  I regard the term "God" to have no intrinsic meaning whatsoever.  With over 100,000 Christian denominations the actual meanings vary profoundly.  We need to treat the G word as a variable in an algebraic equation that is only defined when we undertand all of the other elements of the equation.  I cannot just argue against the clowish idiocies of Christian fundamentalism.  I will need to understand what they want their view of God to mean.
 
There are rational definitions of God.  Einstein used it to reference the not yet understood source of events in the natural universe (my perhaps crude paraphase).  It was an explicit repudiation of the traditional personal God that could answer a prayer.  There are a great many metaphorical definitions of God, some of which are analogous to what Einstein articulated.  If a variant of Christianity becomes so sophisticated and respectful of science that they are de facto atheists I will have no problems with their views.  The preacher challenging me to our debate insists that he is a theist.  My instincts is that he wants it mean something different from the Christian atheism that should be pleasing to us.  He passionately dislikes Dawkins' book, The God Delusion.  I am quite fond of this book.  My guess is that any differences that I would have with Dawkins would put me even further away from any theist position.
 
Richard Dawkins prefers to call himself an agnostic.  My view is that theists need to clearly define what they want their notion of God to mean.  Most of those meanings are associated with a zero probability of existence.  That means that we can be certain that the atheist position is correct.  However, we need to be careful that we have the theist committed to a conception that we can demonstrate to be false.  If we allow them to be fuzzy about what they mean then we need to back away from a sense of certainty in our arguments against them.  However, if they do not define the sense that they want to communicate with the God term then we are free to show it is nonsense in that no clear sense of meaning is communicated.
 
Don
 
 

From: Chad <[address removed]>
To: [address removed]
Sent: Thursday, September 5,[masked]:19 PM
Subject: Re: [atheists-27] Challenge to debate

Don,

Where is this church located?
I suspect that this preacher is debating well over his weight class. Nevertheless, like a Bronze Age drunken Roman I anxiously await the Coliseum gates to open so I can see the Christian torn apart.

Chad

Sent from my NOOK

Don Wharton <[address removed]> wrote:

That sounds like a good rumor to suck the theists in to see what will happen.  *;) winking  Don

From: Chad <[address removed]>
To: [address removed]
Sent: Thursday, September 5,[masked]:22 PM
Subject: RE: [atheists-27] Challenge to debate

You didn't hear it from me, but i heard the fix is in. The word downtown is Don's a Christian mole. Soon after the opening statements they have it worked out where the preacher will thrust the bible over his Don's head cuing Don to fall to his knees weeping for forgiveness and salvation. Furthermore, I hear from the same little birdie, Don might even start talking in tongues and flogging his own back with the microphone cord. The Christian mob really wants to make an example with the debate.


Sent from my NOOK

"David T." <[address removed]> wrote:

It will be important to have a fair moderator… I volunteer promising to be impartial…
 
From: [address removed] [mailto:[address removed]] On Behalf Of Don Wharton
Sent: Wednesday, September 04,[masked]:11 PM
To: [address removed]
Subject: Re: [atheists-27] Challenge to debate
 
I was fearing that the preacher who challenged me to a debate was backing out because I was getting no responses to the messages that I left.
However, today I got a phone call that started, “This is the voice of God. Why have you been running from me.” It was my preacher. He was thinking that he was being humorous. My thought was, “Oh boy! I've got a real nutcase here.” I almost hung up on him.
He also said that he was still enthusiastic about having the debate. Negotiations about getting it set up clearly have not been very speedy to date but we now will be getting together at the end of the month to see what we can plan. He is a Deacon at his church and he will have time to discuss what we might do with the other leaders there.
 
Don
 
From: Chad <[address removed]>
To: [address removed]
Sent: Monday, August 19,[masked]:55 AM
Subject: Re: [atheists-27] Challenge to debate
 
wish Howard Cosell was still alive to moderate this event.
chad
Sent from my NOOK

Paul <[address removed]> wrote:
Don,
If this debate happens, please record it for those of us that can't make the trip.
Sent from my Kindle Fire
 
From: Don Wharton <[address removed]>
Sent: Mon Aug 19 00:29:56 EDT 2013
To: [address removed]
Subject: Re: [atheists-27] Challenge to debate
 
Well we have an enormous enthusiasm for our possible debate.  We will certainly follow through if he follows through on his end.  I fear that he will figure out that he taking on more than he can handle and will back off. 
 
I read the transcript of the video that Martin recommended.  It is faster than viewing the video.  The last sentence:
 
 
He is quite correct.  Our respect enables not just this evil.  An entire range of evil such as the suppression of gay rights, the reproductive rights of women, etc.  I can't prove that it is the critical incremental support for our excessive "investments" in our recent wars but I strongly suspect that is also the case.
 
Don
 
 
 
From: Martin Snowden <[address removed]>
To: [address removed]
Cc: Don Wharton <[address removed]>
Sent: Sunday, August 18,[masked]:48 PM
Subject: Re: [atheists-27] Challenge to debate
 
Don,
 
I would like to come to the debate, should it happen, as I expect many here in this list would. Perhaps you could reserve sufficient seating should things progress?
 
Also, your mention of Dawkins and perceived "insults" here reminded me of a favorite lecture of his, a Ted lecture now over 11 years old, where he introduces his support of "Militant Atheism" and why he thinks it is necessary. I think Dawkins makes a fine argument here, describing why treating religion, and its adherents with "respect" is a cultural norm that should be broken, and culminating in his closing remark of the lecture: "Let's all stop being so damn respectful!
 
Interestingly this classic lecture also discusses a couple of other topics you recently raised here, namely:
·         "Religious Faith and Intelligence": Note Dawkins discusses a similar meta-analysis done years ago by Mensa
·         "Atheist vs Bright": While Dawkins does not mention "Bright" here, maybe because the lecture was older than "Bright" came under his radar, he discusses alternative names, such as "Agnostic", "Non-theist", and "Naturalist". Of these he gives argument for favoring "atheist". Of course "Freethinker" wasn't on his radar either, bah-humbug.
I don't think anyone should be rude or insulting for the sake of it, but neither should religious views be treated with the respectful kid gloves that all too often atheists wear in debate (other than the militants like Dawkins and dear-departed Hitchens of course).

Anyway, it is a classic lecture and well worth anyone here spending 30 minutes viewing it, especially if you have never seen it or just distantly remember it:

http://www.ted.com/talks/richard_dawkins_on_militant_atheism.html

Martin.
 
On 8/17/2013 1:29 PM, Don Wharton wrote:
I think the notion on their side is to publicize their church.  Frankly it would not bother me much if they were to get more members out of the event.  They are so far on the innocous side of the religious spectrum that little societal harm would come from that. 
 
There will be a number of significant real differences.  I think they want to make the point that Dawkins and similar thinkers are "insulting" them.  I will need to make it clear that confronting false truth claims is not a personal insult.  It is just part of a process of moving society toward a more moral evaluations of outcomes.  I think on their side there is a significant support for post-modernism, everyone's personal story deserving of equal respect.  The scientific method does not allocate equal respect to all truth claims.
 
Don
 
From: friend of Smokey the Bear mailto:[address removed]
To: [address removed]
Sent: Saturday, August 17,[masked]:09 AM
Subject: Re: [atheists-27] Challenge to debate
 
what will be the point of the debate?
 
On Sat, Aug 17, 2013 at 2:01 AM, Don Wharton <[address removed]> wrote:
I was attending a play in the basement of a nearby church tonight.  One of the people from the church noted that they even had non-theistic members.  I decided to talk to the person and tell him how much I appreciated their inclusion of non-theists.
 
Well it turned out that the person preached at the church and he confessed that he wanted to debate Richard Dawkins.  I confessed that I might be the closest he could find in a local DC atheist activist to represent the Dawkins perspective.  He basically threw down the debate guantlet and I graciously agreed to debate him. 
 
The church is very liberal, have many gays and gay friendly people as members.  They are clearly not the fundies that are wrecking havoc in the wider society.  I told him that our debate might be more like a love fest than any standard debate.  He did not mind.  He did say that while the church included non-theists that most of the members were theists.
 
We will see if this really happens.
 
Don
 
 




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