Atheists as Little Children

Over at his blog, it sure looks like scientist Jerry Coyne confuses a television show with reality. He has a blog entry entitled, “And a little child shall lead them. . .” and writes, “Out of the mouths of babes come, well, see for yourself in this grilling of a priest by two kids.”

Okay, let’s watch:

It looks like the professor wanted so badly for this to be real that he overlooked the possibility that ”out of the mouth of babes come” some good acting and a clever script.

I did, however, find that clip to be quite interesting, as it nicely encapsulates something I have long suspected: when it comes to the topic of God, most atheists do think like little children.

One of Jerry’s acolytes comments, “I think of Hitch when I see the boy.”

Agreed! I also think of Coyne, Harris, and Dawkins when I see the boy. Better yet, when I see Coyne, Hitch, Dawkins, and Harris, I think of the boy. For their arguments are essentially no different – why doesn’t God use his “superpowers” to zap evil out of existence?

Watching the little boy actor stump the priest with their arguments obviously titillates the inner child of the atheist. And this is because, when it comes to the topic of God, the inner child of the atheist is essentially the same as the intellectual life of the atheist. This would explain why it is so difficult to communicate with atheists about God – it is often like getting baited into arguing with a child who is stamping his feet and can only be satisfied by something he is demanding – to see superpowers in action.

If you watched the whole clip, it has a pretty clever twist near the end. The boy finally baits the priest with a situation where Jesus is supposed to “zap” something. Ah, but now the little girl has a problem with such a demonstration of superpowers!

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27 Responses to Atheists as Little Children

  1. Focussing on the poorer arguments of atheists is as lazy as atheist paying attention to the poorer arguments of Christians. Most people aren’t very bright. Check. Move on.

    The video seemed actually kind of cute to me…I just interpreted it as kids asking off topic questions because they are kids. It could be difficult to deal with in any number of situations.

  2. Honestly, after reading that, I have a suspicion why you find it difficult to communicate with atheists. Just a suggestion: Might it be that insulting them is not a very goo way of doing so?

  3. Mark Plus says:

    I seem to have a better opinion of children’s minds than you do.

    A better explanation: Children haven’t fully absorbed yet their society’s taboos and prejudices about which kinds of questions they have permission to ask. Christian belief tend to impose an artificial and highly constrained way of thinking on the human mind. In fact, the christian world view practically requires that, given its assumption that the christian god has perfect mind-reading powers and judges us by our thoughts as well as our actions.

    Before institutional christianity seized Western culture and criminalized certain kinds of thinking, for example, pagan philosophers probably asked similar questions about religionists’ claims. Compare these children’s questions with Epicurus’ famous Trilemma, for example. In a way, this clip shows that Western-style philosophy begins when the child’s mind awakens enough to notice things that he doesn’t understand or that don’t make sense to him, he starts to ask adult authority figures about them, and then he thinks further about the answers provided.

    I think you do these children a disservice with your “Shut up and believe, kid.”

  4. Focussing on the poorer arguments of atheists is as lazy as atheist paying attention to the poorer arguments of Christians. Most people aren’t very bright. Check. Move on

    I’d agree except that these people are actually hugely respected by the mainstream culture, making their views very dangerous. Just look at this little video – it comes from a TV show, and it’s not exactly an isolated example.

  5. Michael says:

    Focussing on the poorer arguments of atheists is as lazy as atheist paying attention to the poorer arguments of Christians.

    Why do you think these are “poorer arguments” when, as I noted, they capture the core arguments of the modern day atheist?
    Did you notice how Coyne wrote, “out of the mouth of babes?” What does that mean? Here it is:

    something that you say when a small child says something that surprises you because it shows an adult’s wisdom and understanding of a situation

  6. Michael says:

    Just a suggestion: Might it be that insulting them is not a very goo way of doing so?

    Can’t help it if the truth insults atheists.

  7. Spoken like a true bully.

  8. Michael says:

    Hmmm. An atheist activist posts a clip from a sitcom where a child stumps and frustrates a priest with demands for divine superpowers-in-action. The atheist activist marvels over this as “out of the mouth of babes” and his acolytes compare the child actor to Hitch.

    I agree that, when it comes to this topic, Hitch and other Gnu leaders remind me of the boy, as they do think like children. And that’s insulting and bullying????

    Check it out.

    Boy actor: Why didn’t baby Jesus zap Harold and save all the other babies?
    Adult atheist: Why didn’t God zap Hitler and prevent the Holocaust?

    Is there a significant difference in the arguments?

  9. Crude says:

    I love the bully comment, especially in the context of talking about some of the pettiest, most childish Gnus. Mike is plenty polite and civil with respectful, even-handed atheists. It’s hardly his fault that New Atheist leadership is largely made up of wannabe-bullies.

  10. ccmnxc says:

    I’m not sure how it is insulting to point out that many (not all) atheists do indeed think of God in a child-like way and act in a child-like manner when talking about Him any more than it is insulting to tell a co-worker who is in a politically induced panic that he is acting like a child and ought to knock it off. It isn’t fluffy language; it is rather terse, but sometimes, you’ve got to call a spade a spade.

  11. Kevin says:

    Gnu atheists openly encourage one another to mock believers. They constantly caricature our beliefs in the most petty and belittling manner (magic sky fairy, divine zombie, etc) and dismiss us with cavalier and thoughtless cop-outs (defining prayer as doing nothing without feeling guilty about it, defining faith as belief without evidence, equating belief in God to belief in the Tooth Fairy and Santa, etc) rather than engage us on what we actually believe. They believe that we have a mental illness because we do not believe what they do. They even go so far as to purposefully violate basic grammatical rules and refuse to capitalize God, Bible, and Christianity in order to disrespect them.

    On what planet do they deserve to be treated with respect by Christians? Short of physical violence, Gnu atheists deserve any and all scorn and contempt that come their way, as far as I’m concerned, since that is all they choose to dish out.

  12. First of all, let’s make one thing very clear: Many atheists discussing on the internet have grown up in religious families. The image of god they have is not one coming from the outside, but one from having been in Sunday school, religious classes, etc. In other words, how they imagine the Christian god is probably pretty much how a big majority of Christians imagine the Christian god. I’m not a theologian, but I had religious classes, was an altar boy, have read the bible and various books about – I’m surely not an expert, but I doubt that the majority of Christians here have a much more sophisticated view of their god than me.

    So, if you think that the idea of god many atheists have is to simple, then, so sorry, that’s because the image than many Christians have of god IS pretty simple. This is one of my favorite things about Christianity. It doesn’t exist. People say “Christianity”, as if that would somehow imply a common religion. It doesn’t. There are thousands, perhaps millions, of different “Christian” faiths, which just share a common name: The religion of simple catholic in Europa, who never though much about his childhood faith, is probably almost as far away from the religion of a theologian of some fundamentalist group in the US as Islam.

    While you can, of course, discuss some basic points with almost every Christian, discussing some special quirks of one specific theologic view that your personal version of Christianity has decided is the one real truth only makes sense if you define your view properly.

    And, I know, this always sounds unfriendly, but remember, it’s just a metaphor: You can make fairy lore as complex as you want, but it simply doesn’t change the very basic fact that fairies don’t exist. By shrouding it in more and more complex term, you can make it sound complicated, but the only reason you need to do this, is because fairies don’t exist and you have to jump through more and more hoops to explain the world while keeping the faith in fairies intact.
    If god existed, if you ask me, and yes, that is a pretty simple thought, then the religions had more than 2.000 years to find a simple way to show his existence that everyone can accept. Instead they just found more and more convoluted arguments and rhetorical tricks. You can still either believe or not (and the problem is, that a leap of faith works for EVERY religion, not just yours).

  13. Sizzle-d says:

    I see the “spoken like a true bully” commenter has a severe reading comprehension problem, really loves equating “churchian” with Christian thereby, through willful ignorance, makes a dumb claim of multiple “Christian” faiths.

    And last time i checked, “fairy lore” (?) didn’t:

    1) exist by 200 BC.
    2) involve several people who didn’t know each other writing about the same thing at different times in history.
    3) make people write about things that condemned the writers themselves.
    4) have fufilled prophecies.
    5) etc.

    P.S. “leap of faith works for EVERY religion” INCLUDING the religion of atheism.

  14. TFBW says:

    … a simple way to show his existence that everyone can accept.

    This seems to be a favourite excuse of the New Atheist crowd, and yet they can’t even agree amongst themselves what, in principle, would suffice to demonstrate God’s existence. Some (e.g. Dawkins, as of recently) think that nothing could fill that role, since some other explanation of the evidence would always be more plausible. Has it occurred to you that the lack of a universally agreeable demonstration of God’s existence might have more to do with the limits of human reasoning abilities than with God’s actual existence?

  15. ccmnxc says:

    Ok, AM, I’ll grant that many religious believers have a rather simplistic notion of God, and you know what, that’s okay as far as it goes. The difference between them and many atheists is that they are not trying to say God is a farce based upon a simplistic notion of Him. Many atheists also couldn’t give you more than a very cursory explanation of what evolution is and how it works, and again, that’s okay. However (and this has been said many times before), people wouldn’t justified in claiming evolution to be false based upon their simplistic notions of it. If they want to attack evolution, they had better be ready to address what actual evolutionary biologists and philosophers of science say about it. Likewise, if atheists want to say God doesn’t exist, dismissing Him based upon a simplistic notion is a rather bad idea as far as rational inquiry and intellectual honesty are concerned. They need to go to the theologians and philosophers who actually have a more complete understanding of what we call “God” and perhaps refrain from attacking the low-hanging fruit.

    Now for this little gem: “This is one of my favorite things about Christianity. It doesn’t exist.” So, since you claim to have grown up Christian, I assume you are familiar with the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, or both? If you want Christianity summed up in under 30 second, these are pretty good places to start. Now, do many Christians aroudn the world hold to these Creeds despite disagreements over their precise meaning and some other doctrines? Yes. You seem to be implying that Christianity must be uniform across the board for the label to make any sense, and I see no reason to accept this as being true. Truth be told, you statement strikes me as on that would fall into the category of a deepity, a la Dan Dennett.

    In your final paragraph, you say that religion has basically been forced to make increasingly convoluted arguments so as to stay afloat, which is, of course, laughable. To be honest, I’m of the mind that the arguments have gotten more simplistic. The early Church was strongly influenced by ancient Greece, and in particular, by Platonism and Aristotelianism. Both of these were rather rigorous metaphysical systems, and many of the Church Fathers and Doctors of the Church built their philosophies of God around them. To this day, I still don’t think many of them have been adequately addressed, so pardon if I laugh off your assertion that the Church has done little serious intellectual legwork in the past 2000 years (insofar as being able to prove God) and suggest that maybe, in 2000 years, we still have many arguments standing, undefeated by the contemporary atheist contingent. Of course, these arguments do require nuance and, you know, actually learning the underlying metaphysics, and if these “convoluted arguments” aren’t really your thing, might I suggest that the debate over God’s existence isn’t really for you.

  16. Ed says:

    @ccmnxc

    Your first paragraph is almost point-for-point what I’ve written elsewhere (and without reference to other sources): http://twocatholicguys.com/false-positive

  17. Michael says:

    First of all, let’s make one thing very clear: Many atheists discussing on the internet have grown up in religious families. The image of god they have is not one coming from the outside, but one from having been in Sunday school, religious classes, etc. In other words, how they imagine the Christian god is probably pretty much how a big majority of Christians imagine the Christian god.

    Sure. And like Dawkins, PZ Myers, and Coyne, most left their faith around the age of 14-16. What that means is that their thinking about God, and how He relates to the world, is stuck at that 14-16 age level, since they have not taken the concept of God seriously since they were 14-16. It’s clear to me that Dawkins and Coyne are still trying to convince themselves that their 14-16 year-old decisions, using their 14-16 year old thinking, was right.

    I’m not a theologian, but I had religious classes, was an altar boy, have read the bible and various books about – I’m surely not an expert, but I doubt that the majority of Christians here have a much more sophisticated view of their god than me.

    So do you think the “Why didn’t baby Jesus zap Herod out of existence?” argument is a good one?

  18. No, but I also don’t think that “most” atheists would ask that. Neither would “most” Christians. And that was the point. By insulting “most” atheists (for something not many do), you immediately prove unworthy of anyone’s time. Same as if I said “most” Christians behave like WBC – instead of “not many”.

  19. Michael says:

    No, but I also don’t think that “most” atheists would ask that.

    Then why didn’t Jerry Coyne, or a single one of the 45 comments that followed his posting, bring this up?

  20. So, in other words, if someone doesn’t dissociate himself from any point explicitly, he automatically endorses it, even if he didn’t mention that point at all? And 45 people laughing over a video automatically think of every point in a video as a good argument? And 45 people make “most” atheists?

    Let me ask a simple question: Are you not ashamed of yourself? Such situations are your chance to prove that you are better. Well, you failed.

  21. Kevin says:

    Keep in mind, AM, that these are the atheists whose logic states that because Muslims flew planes into the WTC, then Christians are bad. These guys simply can’t be taken seriously. And they are as fully deserving of mockery and derision as any group out there, due to their own petty hatred. They are one step above Westboro because they haven’t made it to the insane protest stage, but their pettiness is astounding.

  22. ccmnxc says:

    AM, no, it doesn’t require specific dissociation of a point. However, if you go along with the point acting like everything is just peachy, one is going to give off the impression that they agree with (or at least, don’t disagree with) the point being made. Further, nobody is saying that these 45 atheists who acted in such a way would comprise the majority of atheists. However, those on Coyne’s blog tend to be pretty representative of the *New* Atheism at large, so I would posit that many, many New Atheists simply don’t have anything beyond a child’s conception of God and thus would get something out of the video that those with more studied conceptions of God wouldn’t. Then take into account the fact that most atheists deconverted from Christianity (at least here in the U.S.), and, as I ceded earlier, many, many Christians don’t have a terribly sophisticated concept of God. I see no reason why when somebody becomes an atheist, they all of a sudden have a more accurate and adult conception of him. Oh, it might evolve a little bit over time, such as rejecting the idea that God isn’t some really powerful bearded old man in the sky. However, I’m still pretty confident that most atheists don’t have a particularly adult notion of God. Which again, is fine in itself until they try to refute this more childish conception and in the process, claim the God of Christianity is not real (as opposed to saying their own particular conception of God is not real).

  23. Michael says:

    So, in other words, if someone doesn’t dissociate himself from any point explicitly, he automatically endorses it, even if he didn’t mention that point at all?

    Nope. Not saying that.

    And 45 people laughing over a video automatically think of every point in a video as a good argument? And 45 people make “most” atheists?

    Not sure. So far, 1/45 comments did not complain about the video containing some strawman atheist argument. Are you saying we’d need to see at least 100 comments before there was a dissenter? In that case, 1/100 dissents. So what would be the problem with my choice of words?

    Let me ask a simple question: Are you not ashamed of yourself? Such situations are your chance to prove that you are better. Well, you failed.

    You are employing a standard New Atheist tactic – try to give the religious person a guilt trip for criticizing atheism/atheists.

    Two problems.

    First, your whole point assumes I am a free agent with moral responsibility. From Jerry’s Coyne atheist perspective, you can’t really blame me for not being ashamed. If I am not ashamed, it’s because you failed to elicit the correct chemical pathway in my brain. Try again.

    Second, your own blog does not show any interest in qualifiers. For example, you wrote:

    Somehow, Christians seem to think it makes sense, arguing that I cannot be sure if logic and reason are valid.

    “Christians seem to think” should be “some/many Christians seem to think.”

    And:

    Well, quote mining is a well known technique for Creationists, but obviously, we haven’t seen the strangest things yet

    “Technique for Creationists” should be “technique for some/many Creationists”

    For someone who makes it sound like all Christians and Creationists do a you characterize, you are in no position to preach.

    Why aren’t you ashamed of yourself, AM?

  24. I tried to make it clear, that “criticizing” isn’t the problem. That’s fine. Insulting is. That you don’t see the difference is the a problem. I never said that the point that some arguments are worse than others isn’t correct. Still, no reason to insult people.

    And technically no, I don’t believe in free will, so I believe that I just have the illusion that you are a free agent. But of course, that’s just a personal opinion, based on my lack of understanding how free will can possible work – not a scientific fact, more an expression of my own stupidity.

    And yes, you are correct, there much work to do on my qualifiers.

    Why? It wasn’t me who tried to imply that because 45 didn’t explicitly said that an argument wasn’t good, they automatically thought it was good. It wasn’t me who tried to tell me that 45 people were “most” atheists. And of course, I didn’t call “most” atheists children.

    But, let’s be honest. It’s likely that I did that somewhere (or stupid or whatever, I know myself too well to think that I wouldn’t do that). And yes, if’s nothing I am proud of, as it’s more an act of frustration than anything else. So, yes, it’s possible that I somewhere wrote something insulting and yes, I would be ashamed of myself for that.

  25. Michael says:

    I tried to make it clear, that “criticizing” isn’t the problem. That’s fine. Insulting is. That you don’t see the difference is the a problem. I never said that the point that some arguments are worse than others isn’t correct. Still, no reason to insult people.
    And technically no, I don’t believe in free will, so I believe that I just have the illusion that you are a free agent. But of course, that’s just a personal opinion, based on my lack of understanding how free will can possible work – not a scientific fact, more an expression of my own stupidity.

    Given the ubiquitous nature of anti-religious insults among the atheist community, I am somewhat confused as to why you think insulting people is suddenly a “problem.” Is it a problem only when atheists are on the receiving end? Imagine that.

    I have no problem, AM. According to you, all I have is brain chemistry. I need no reason to “insult people” because I have no choice in the matter. If you insist on maintaining your illusion that I am a free agent with moral responsibility, it will become clear your metaphysics is unlivable. And the simplest, more parsimonious reason for the unlivable essence of your metaphysics is that it conflicts with reality.

    And yes, you are correct, there much work to do on my qualifiers.

    We all can work on it. I am a believer in balance and reciprocation.

    Why? It wasn’t me who tried to imply that because 45 didn’t explicitly said that an argument wasn’t good, they automatically thought it was good.

    Didn’t imply any such thing. You insisted, “I also don’t think that “most” atheists would ask that.” So I asked, “Then why didn’t Jerry Coyne, or a single one of the 45 comments that followed his posting, bring this up?”

    If the majority of atheists think that boy actor’s argument is a bad argument, where are they? And you’ve never come to terms with the core argument of my posting:

    Better yet, when I see Coyne, Hitch, Dawkins, and Harris, I think of the boy. For their arguments are essentially no different – why doesn’t God use his “superpowers” to zap evil out of existence?

    It wasn’t me who tried to tell me that 45 people were “most” atheists.

    Think in terms of ratios – we have 45 samples and none of them show evidence of being displeased with the way the argument was stated. Like I mentioned, how big of a sample do you need? Ironically, the bigger the sample you need, the stronger my point.

    And of course, I didn’t call “most” atheists children.

    See? Now you are misrepresenting me. Here is what I said:

    I did, however, find that clip to be quite interesting, as it nicely encapsulates something I have long suspected: when it comes to the topic of God, most atheists do think like little children.

  26. 9lives says:

    Atomic mutant,

    Why are you trying to hold our host morally responsible if he has no free will?

  27. ccmnxc says:

    Oops, missed this earlier: “…such as rejecting the idea that God isn’t some really powerful bearded old man in the sky.”

    Should read: “…the idea that God IS some really powerful bearded old man in the sky.

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