Skepticism Needed

Given the popularity of fake hate crimes, I think skepticism should be the default position when it comes to such reports being used to advance someone’s socio-political agenda. A good example of this is The Friendly Atheist blog, where activist Hemant Mehta has previously made it clear that he thinks atheist journalists should be looking for stories that put religion in a bad light. A couple of days ago, he helped to popularize a supposed hate crime where someone threw a rock through atheist Anthony Erb’s car window. Someone wrote “God is good” on the rock, meaning we must have an example of some religious person victimizing someone else merely for being an atheist.
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Of course, Mehta and his fans lapped up the whole story without the tiniest shred of skepticism. Confirmation bias works that way. But it would seem to me that there good reasons to be skeptical.


First off, the whole incident reminds me of a Poe. If you’ll remember, a common Poe tactic is to write a nasty, mean-spirited letter and then sign it with something like “God loves you.” Poes have a hard time resisting over the top irony. If the rock had said something like “FU Atheist,” it would be more believable. But it takes an unusual amount of cluelessness to think your “God is Good” message would be received when it was used to commit vandalism.
Second, how did the deranged religious rock thrower know this car belonged to an atheist? There was a sticker in the back window.

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The problem is that I doubt there are very many people who would recognize that fancy A symbol as meaning “Atheism.” Most people would not know the meaning of that sticker. In fact, more would probably think it was a symbol for Star Trek than atheism.

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So we’re supposed to believe that someone so clueless as to think throwing a “God is Good” rock through a window is a great way to evangelize is also someone who is savvy enough to recognize an obscure atheism symbol.
Third, Erb never reported this to the police. That’s seems awfully strange to me. Even if he didn’t think it was enough of a deal to report to the police, he should consider it his civic duty. For if there is a deranged religious rock thrower out there, what’s to stop the vandal from attacking another atheist’s car? And what if next time a small child is in the back seat? Erb should have reported this, especially given the likelihood that the rock would have finger prints on it. Then again, if it’s a fake hate crime, Erb would get in some serious trouble if he reported it to the police.
Finally, there is the rock. Maybe it’s just me, but the round rock held in Erb’s hand does not look like the rock that broke that window. Look at the bottom of the hole. Notice the two linear edge’s converging on a point. Does that look like something the round rock would make? In fact, if you look through the hole, you’ll see a rock that does look like the culprit. And I think we can be pretty confident that that rock is not the same rock as Erb is holding in his hand.
So a healthy, skeptical approach to life prevents us from accepting this latest atheist-as-victim story at face value. What actually happened? Who knows?

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This entry was posted in Fake Hate, New Atheism, skepticism, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to Skepticism Needed

  1. apollyon911 says:

    Very good analysis. This tactic is often used by the Left including homosexuals (who scrawl fake ‘hate crime slogans’ themselves and then take photos of it as proof of society’s hatred (and thus gain sympathy and push the next stage of their agenda). Problem is, people are waking up.

  2. Regual Llegna says:

    The crystal seems to have protection, there is an impact under the hole in the image that looks like an impact, the shape of the hole suggests a heavy object at that point that sectioned a part of the glass (protection included), which was removed before taking the picture?, a hammer or other tool of short reach and with short handle that caused more damage when removing, perhaps?

    I say this is for collecting PC points/victimhood points (SJWs arguments) to suggest that exist a rampant persecution and oppression of atheists and non-religious prople by religious groups, which does not really exist in the first world westerns countries, to make an argument based on feelings, fear, and instil shame against society to make policies of privilege (special laws, norms and protections) for the atheistic “minority” (Did they not have a argument that say that they have a secular/non-religious “super” mayority because secular people make the laws, and thus have the control of what is punitive in western society and that secularism and non-religion was on the rise?). as i commented before in this blog: New Atheists are a group interested primarily in activism for social justice for the privilege of atheists, something that works in part to distinguish themselves from an oppressive majority (religious majority) in any other case they are Seen as an oppressor group, an enabling group of oppressors or an apathetic group towards justice.
    New Atheist are in their core a SJWs movement about religious oppresion. AND NOTHING ELSE.

    ————————————————————————————————————————————
    Opinion 1: You’re right that the logo with the letter “A” looks a lot like the icon of the iconic Star Trek series, I even believed in seeing the image that was a letter “P”.

    Opinion 2: That stone in the image seems to me totally a potato (the tuber), you can even see that there seems oxidation in the letters that are written on it and see the inside of that “rock” and that seems to be a oxidation mark of a cut.

  3. Derek Smith says:

    That looks like a potato to me, too. Surely, a rock wouldn’t break like that after hitting a car windshield.

  4. Scott Edwards says:

    I agree that the story should be treated with skepticism. Your next task is to apply the same level of skepticism you’ve shown here to considerably more implausible stories that were written 2000 years ago.

  5. Kevin says:

    Would the stories be considerably more implausible if you believed there was a god? If so, why?

  6. Scott Edwards says:

    My friend miraculously walked on water this morning. You would treat that claim skeptically, right? But if one believes in a god, one shouldn’t treat it skeptically?

  7. TFBW says:

    Don’t let the troll change the topic.

  8. Kevin says:

    Scott,

    Your snark is amusing, but you didn’t answer the question, for very obvious reasons. But TFBW is correct, and deflection does not defend the nonsense Mehta peddles on a daily basis.

  9. Scott Edwards says:

    “Kevin”, your question is silly on a couple levels. First, you’re asking if one assumes a proposition instead of being skeptical of it, would that change whether one is skeptical of it? Of course it would. Second, even if one believes in a god, that hardly lends any credence to the claim that my friend was walking on water this morning. When such a story is 2000 years old, that makes it less plausible, not more plausible.

    But by all means, let’s talk about the hypocrisy of other people, not one’s own. That is squarely out of bounds — just off-topic trolling, obviously.

  10. FZM says:

    My friend miraculously walked on water this morning. You would treat that claim skeptically, right?

    A high level of scepticism could be justified if no claim was actually being made in the first place i.e. no one is actually claiming that they witnessed their friend walking on water, it’s just a hypothesis or thought experiment along the lines of ‘what if someone claimed to have witnessed….’

  11. Regual Llegna says:

    ““Kevin”, your question is silly on a couple levels. First, you’re asking if one assumes a proposition instead of being skeptical of it, would that change whether one is skeptical of it? Of course it would. Second, even if one believes in a god, that hardly lends any credence to the claim that my friend was walking on water this morning. When such a story is 2000 years old, that makes it less plausible, not more plausible.
    But by all means, let’s talk about the hypocrisy of other people, not one’s own. That is squarely out of bounds — just off-topic trolling, obviously.”

    PC points for a theory of persecution and advancing the agenda of socio-political and behavioral changes were definitely not the purpose of why those stories exist. We know that, including yourself.

  12. Dhay says:

    Kevin > Would the stories be considerably more implausible if you believed there was a god? If so, why?

    I detect you might well have read the latest Verbose Stoic post, entitled “Philipse on the Immunization of Theism”.

    https://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/2017/07/14/philipse-on-the-immunization-of-theism/

  13. Regual Llegna says:

    “My friend miraculously walked on water this morning. You would treat that claim skeptically, right? But if one believes in a god, one shouldn’t treat it skeptically?”

    Skepticall: Ok, why you friend miraculously walked on water this morning, what are his reasons to walk on water?
    “But if one believes in a god, one shouldn’t treat it skeptically?” What is the god in which you believe, after all god (specially if you use lowercase) is only a title about power.

    Why you Because you comment on this blog? did you read the About page? It is clear that you do not comment here to educate others so why is you opinion important ?
    Why we should believe that a eternal minority (gnu atheists) are even worthy of be the representatives of “skepticism” for humanity if they don’t have a cohesive if they do not even have a cohesive idea for society and depend on not being associated with the majority (religious people) to advance their status in the lower classes and groups of society?

    The most important answers in human life are WHYs? those make the most of the meaning and help to make the delimitation of the problem/question in hand.

  14. Regual Llegna says:

    The HOWs questions will never make you views of life more acceptable specially for other people. If you support the ideology of scientism them the HOWs are only quetions with the purpose of making scientific comparisons in the future, nothing more, under that ideology if you can not copy it don’t exist. Like the “Nothing exists if you do not observe it” Theory a “Quantum” theory a theory that in his own logic cannot be observed/tested beyong doing mathematics (comparative knowledge).

  15. TFBW says:

    @Scott Edwards: If you want to challenge folks on appropriate levels of scepticism with regards to belief in God, take the Three Easy Questions challenge. If you can get through that, you are worthy of special attention, and I’m sure it will be lavished on you accordingly. If not, your attempts at “tu quoque” here will properly be seen as petty.

  16. Regual Llegna says:

    “What would you count as “actual, credible, real world evidence for God?”
    Human limitations (my personal hypothesis: UPFT).

    “Why would that dramatic, miraculous, sensational event count as evidence for God?”
    It does not matter because God is a natural entity. Only takes precedence to its creation.

    Is the God of the Gaps reasoning a valid way of determining the existence of God?
    No, God of the Gaps reasoning don’t answer meaning or reason of WHYs.

  17. Kevin says:

    Scott,

    The question isn’t silly at all, though it’s clear you don’t understand the point I was making. However, rather than flesh that point out and talk about how utterly ridiculous your friend walking on water scenario holds up as a comparison to Jesus, the three questions TFBW referenced will suffice. I look forward to your answers.

  18. Scott Edwards says:

    Question 1 begins with the wrong premise that all atheists make the same argument that this Steve Greene person does. I’ve never demanded “actual, credible, real world evidence” of God. I would just ask for reasons for believing. Some reasons don’t involve evidence at all. If you live in Saudi Arabia then avoiding execution would be a damn good reason for believing in God. There are many other pragmatic reasons for believing. So Question 1 is attempting to throw what’s been said back at me, yet I’ve never said that.

    I would also say Question 1 contains a category error. Many believers I know wouldn’t consider God to be a thing in the world that produces evidence. God is more of an outlook, a way of being, an internal impetus. I were to believe in God, that would be the kind of God I would believe in. And if I were to give reasons for believing in that God, they wouldn’t entail physical evidence. Questions 2 and 3 aren’t applicable given my deconstruction of Question 1.

    Stepping back, even supposing that Questions 1,2, and 3 outline a valid argument (which is a lot to suppose), it is still an unsound argument. It begins, “If [some miraculous event] happens, then that would be evidence of God”, with the entire argument premised on that miracle happening. But we have no good reason to believe that it will happen (and probably good reason to believe that it won’t), making the argument unsound.

  19. TFBW says:

    @Scott Edwards: “If you live in Saudi Arabia then avoiding execution would be a damn good reason for believing in God.” I see that your idea of a “damn good reason” can be completely detached from whether the proposition in question is true or false, so I guess we parted ways at question #1. There are no “good reasons” of this sort to believe that Jesus walked on water, and I make no apology for that. Furthermore, if that is the general calibre of your scepticism, I have no interest in it.

  20. Regual Llegna says:

    TFBW says:
    “… There are no “good reasons” of this sort to believe that Jesus walked on water, and I make no apology for that. Furthermore, if that is the general calibre of your scepticism, I have no interest in it.”

    Because his scepticism is rotted, because is essentially simply convenience. The only way he will believe in “walking on water” will be if he personanly want to walk on water, there is no meaning only convenience.
    Why not gnu atheist not uphold philosophy the same way they do with science, the one that contain the ideologies and ideals for do “science”. The mayority of atheist are not atheist because of reason but because of convenience, social convenience, for them the religiosity of the mayority is a form of shame and they like that way, because then they can use religiosity as a form of social coercion against dissidents in their world view in anything that does not have to do with theism, you know like the idea of existentialism and other ideas. Most figurehead and known gnu atheists don’t theach they brand of atheism outside the western countries, you know “educate” the least educated, because they simply can not educate those who, in their wolrd view, need it the most and if they do that they will lose, progressively, their source of wealth of their activism: Whatever they say that religion is.

  21. Michael says:

    I agree that the story should be treated with skepticism.

    Yet there is no evidence you ever treated it with skepticism. Look, Mehta didn’t treat it with skepticism. He lapped it up and then got up on his soapbox:

    I hope he contacts the police, though, because this is arguably a hate crime. Someone wrecked his car purely because of his (non-)religious beliefs. If you’re an atheist in Phoenix hearing about this, wouldn’t your first reaction be to take down any noticeable symbols or bumper stickers from your car? That’s precisely what you shouldn’t have to do.

    Maybe the most disturbing thing about this whole story is how it had to be premeditated. Someone wrote that message on the rock before doing this. Vandalism is bad enough when it’s random. Whoever did this, however, targeted Anthony because of his atheism.

    And the vast majority of atheists who have commented on this over at his blog and Erb’s FB page have not applied any skepticism. Instead, they have wallowed in anti-Christian rhetoric.

    So what makes you so different?

    Your next task is to apply the same level of skepticism you’ve shown here to considerably more implausible stories that were written 2000 years ago.

    That’s off topic. Let’s stay on topic. Meaning, your next task is to offer a hypothesis that would explain why Hemant Mehta did not apply any skepticism to the story.

  22. Regual Llegna says:

    A gnu atheist will never tell you what he can imagine that is inconvenient in atheism. For them atheism is ideological/intellectual perfection and a platform of innocent which does not take absolute positions cough”lack of belief lie”cough, for that the shame of the SJWs use against them bothers them so easily (the same shame they love to use against religious people).
    .

  23. Dhay says:

    Hemant Mehta’s promotion of critical thinking skills didn’t last long, did it.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2017/07/10/when-propagandists-promote-critical-thinking/

  24. FZM says:

    Dhay,

    I detect you might well have read the latest Verbose Stoic post, entitled “Philipse on the Immunization of Theism”.

    That’s an interesting posting from the Verbose Stoic.

    I’ve thought in the past that demanding empirical scientific evidence for the existence of God invites the application of Hume’s famous argument that believing that a miracle has happened can’t be justified and that miracles can’t be the justification for believing in God or revealed religion.
    Hume’s argument seems to depend a lot on the regularity or frequency with which an event occurs; a miracle can only qualify as a miracle if it goes contrary to a vast amount of previous experience, if an event is contrary to a vast amount of previous experience there is a very strong reason to
    believe it didn’t happen and the testimony about it is flawed.

    Then appealing to regularly occurring, predictable ‘miracles’ seems ruled out by the fact that they won’t qualify as miracles at all; the regular and predictable occurence of an observed phenomena usually means it will be labelled as ‘natural’ and caused by some previously unrecognised law(s) of nature. (Regularity of occurence of an event or phenomena seems to be a key criteria for classifying it as natural and part of nature in the first place.)

  25. SteveK says:

    If the hand in the photo is Anthony’s, he sure has feminine looking hands. Just sayin’

  26. Scott Edwards says:

    > Yet there is no evidence you ever treated it with skepticism.

    But I just told you it should be treated with skepticism.

    > So what makes you so different?

    Trick question? I suppose the answer you’re looking for is that I said it should be treated with skepticism.

    > your next task is to offer a hypothesis that would explain why Hemant Mehta did not apply any skepticism to the story.

    It’s the same reason you haven’t applied skepticism to particular 2000-year-old stories.

  27. Kevin says:

    So if the lesson is that self-identified skeptics are no different than Christians when it comes to applying skepticism, then I’m satisfied with that conclusion.

  28. Scott Edwards says:

    All human beings have their own biases, so from that perspective we are all the same. The difference is whether skepticism is enshrined as a fundamental value or not. For religionists, it is not. Indeed it’s the task of religionists not to question, e.g.,

    Canon 1. If anyone denies that in the sacrament of the most Holy Eucharist are contained truly, really and substantially the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ, but says that He is in it only as in a sign, or figure or force, let him be anathema.

  29. Kevin says:

    It says a lot that those who have skepticism enshrined as a fundamental value aren’t any better at using it. Perhaps they only say they value it.

    The Council of Trent is hardly a characteristic of being a Christian.

  30. TFBW says:

    Unable to defend the actual hypocrisy of sceptics, Scott Edwards prefers to throw accusations back at parties he imagines to be representative of those pointing out the hypocrisy. It’s an adequate sort of tactic in a culture war, I suppose, but betrays a significant lack of interest in rational discourse, which just goes to further prove the original point — that these self-identifying critical thinkers actually suck at it, by and large.

  31. Michael says:

    But I just told you it should be treated with skepticism.

    Spoken like the back seat driver.

    It’s the same reason you haven’t applied skepticism to particular 2000-year-old stories.

    I haven’t?

    That you have this need to keep changing the topic speaks to the strength of the points I made.

  32. Kevin says:

    Michael: “I haven’t?”

    Isn’t assuming one’s beliefs to be true without evidence what all skeptics do regarding Christians? Scott is just blending with his peers on the Hostile Atheist blog.

  33. FZM says:

    Kevin,

    The Council of Trent is hardly a characteristic of being a Christian.

    I don’t think the example does anything to confirm the point it is supposed to be supporting anyway. There is no demand to believe anything without justification or understanding in what’s quoted.

    If trying to use it to demonstrate that Catholic teaching at the time of Trent taught that beliefs should not be questioned or should be held without justification fails, trying to use it to show that all religion (?) teaches the same thing …scepticism is needed on that point.

  34. pennywit says:

    If you doubt the story, verification is simple. Contact the atheist in question and ask him about it.

  35. TFBW says:

    @pennywit: What would that tell us that we haven’t already been told? He’s already the primary source of information.

  36. pennywit says:

    Actually, he’s not. The primary source of information is Hemant Mehta, and (if we’re being skeptical) there is no way to be certain that Hemant Mehta is relaying the truth.

    Furthermore:

    1) If you speak to Erb directly (by phone or email), unfiltered by Mehta, then you can assess his veracity for yourself.

    2) You can request primary documentation from him (for example, insurance claims submitted, photographs of the incident, etc., etc.)

    3) You can obtain from him information on others that can corroborate the incident, and follow up with them.

    4) You can directly ask Erb questions that Mehta may not have asked him.

  37. TFBW says:

    @pennywit: “If you speak to Erb directly (by phone or email), unfiltered by Mehta, then you can assess his veracity for yourself.” If I speak to Erb directly, I can assess Mehta’s accuracy in reporting it. I don’t think it would improve my chances of determining whether Erb is truthful, though — I’m not superhumanly skilled in detecting lies.

    “You can request primary documentation from him (for example, insurance claims submitted, photographs of the incident, etc., etc.)” Isn’t the photographic evidence that we already have provided by him — the primary source, as I said?

    The idea sounds unproductive, not to mention a waste of time and a ridiculous imposition on him — why would he care what I think? It would be nice to know the unvarnished facts of this matter, but the world will continue to turn if I never find out.

  38. pennywit says:

    Here’s the thing … if you want to resolve your doubt, you have the option of going to the original person (Erb) and talking to him and assessing for yourself whether you think he’s being deceptive. If you don’t take that option, then you’re pretty much calling him a liar by implication.

  39. TFBW says:

    If I thought there were a way to resolve the issue beyond reasonable doubt by talking to him, then I would. I’ve already explained why I don’t think it would help.

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