Back in my tip on Shannon Low, I quickly mentioned that The Binding of Issac was one of the moral problems that would spring up once someone deconverts, making the allegedly perfect answers to Elisha and the Two Bears not the perfect re-conversion tool that you think it is. One commenter felt the need to respond to The Binding of Issac, thinking that they had the satisfying moral defense. The last line of that defense is as follows.

Was Issac actually in any danger? I do not believe so because in either case he is not harmed (....physically.....)


Note that last word, surrounded by extended ellipses and parentheses, "physically". That was, whether intentional or not, an admission that, even if I were to accept everything else about the defense, it still wouldn't succeed (for reasons that I will go into in a future tip).
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Time Changer is a movie by the Christiano Brothers, about how we've declined in morality over the years. In the movie, a man visits the present (the 2000s at the time of the movie's making) from 1890. The purpose of the visit being that the inventor of the time machine wants our main character to see how bad things can get if people aren't Christian enough.

In an America that has moved past Segregation and has legalized interracial marriage and has given all races legal equality (at least on paper, no we're not done, but for the purposes of this movie let's remember where were as well), in an America that has given women the vote and the right to work outside the home and even high political office, the main character is aghast. People blaspheme on movies, present non-married couples kissing on television for the world to see, shops sell women clothing that does not protect men from lustful thoughts! And, among the greatest of horrors, he's not allowed to use a public school science class as an opportunity to remind children that the bible trumps evidence.

Fred Clark calls this the Narrative of Decline, the presumption that things are getting worse and telling the story of history in that light. I call it lopsided priorities. And, that view of the moral superiority of the past isn't the only place I find them.
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Back when Dr. Tiller was murdered, one of the first reactions came from Bill O'Reilly, to defend himself against the notion that rhetoric like his own contributed. O'Reilly, on his show, had repeatedly referred to Dr. Tiller as "Hitlerian". But, denied that likening someone to the person voted most likely to be killed as a baby if time travel were ever invented might make the murder of that someone seem like a legitimate option.

After a shooting in Planned Parenthood, the same arguments were made. Likening abortion to the single event in History that is most used to lend credibility to the idea of assassination could have nothing, whatsoever, to do with someone thinking that a well-publicized shooting would save lives.

Whatever your view on abortion, or gay rights, or Muslims in America, or any number of other issues over which America has had mass shootings, the effects of your actions and, yes, your rhetoric extends beyond yourself. From the position of the unconvinced, deliberately taking actions that contribute to a problem only make it more clear that the faith you hold doesn't hold the solutions you may claim.
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On May 21, Shannon Low, of The Order of Elijah (a metalcore band that once self-identified as a Christian rock band), made a Facebook post explaining and declaring that he is no longer a Christian. He no longer believes that God exists. The post is a good read. It's long on the scale of Facebook Posts, but not on the scale of good narrative*.

That said, for our purposes, we'll pay attention to the Christian response. Admittedly, some of the Christian response was good, respecting him as a person and stopping at that. The rest, however... gives me material for more tips.

In his Facebook Post, Mr. Low points to the story of Elijah and the Two Bears as one of the issues that were a part of how he got to the point he was at the writing of that post. He also writes about how he did ask others and got unsatisfying responses to his moral issues with the story.
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"Mistakes were made" is a frustrating phrase to hear. Once used without irony, and you don't need to know any other context. You know you're dealing with a special kind of cowardice and greed. The speaker wants the credibility and respect due to someone with the strength of character to acknowledge their wrongdoings and take the hard steps to correct them. Yet, the speaker doesn't actually want to acknowledge wrongdoings or make any difficult changes, even to something as simple as their attitude regarding the possibility that they could be doing wrong.

Sometimes, the worst part is that the speaker doesn't see the difference between what they did and an actual display of the strength of character for which they want that credibility and respect.
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In Tip #58, I pointed out that much of the media targeted to a conservative Christian audience today can be considered, after a fashion, pornography. A more technically accurate word might be "propaganda", but I think "pornography" still fits the goal of stimulating a sensation more than communicating any idea. In all of that discussion, though, I didn't say how you could tell the art from the porn.

I did give an example in the movie "Saved". For those who haven't seen it, "Saved" centers on a Christian teen girl who never wavers in her faith, but does mature in it and develops a circle of friends based on those who don't easily fit into her conservative, Evangelical Christian culture. As a non-Christian, I appreciate the more positive view of those who aren't the easy poster-children of the culture and as a Christian, you can appreciate the movie's view that Christianity, the faith, is greater than the culture put under the microscope.

For our purposes, the important part of "Saved" is in how it challenges its target audience.
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I frequent the blog Slacktivist*. It's a blog by someone who is, at the same time, an Evangelical Christian and, socially and politically, liberal. I enjoy it for its more thoughtful approach and for its engaging commentariat. But, for a while there was one commenter that, for our purposes and to maintain the anonymity, I will call the Declarator.

The Declarator was a conservative Christian and, any time the topic of a blog post came to something in favor of LGBT rights or in favor of a pro-choice position on abortion, one could always count on a nigh-identical post from the Declarator. "Homosexuality remains sinful." It would always be one short sentence making a declaration of the sinfulness of homosexuality or abortion. If it was a different topic, you might find a different short, declarative sentence. Any attempt to extend this into a full on conversation would only get similar declarations in response.

It's possible that you might agree with the Declarator's positions. For the purposes of this tip, the important parts are that this method of communication is ill-suited to convincing the unconvinced and why, when pressed for an answer to that question, the Declarator continues with this method.

The Declarator's claimed motivation is to convince the lurkers of (what the Declarator believes to be) the truth. Those who either frequent the blog or who come across these individual posts, but do not comment, according to the Declarator, might find these declarations persuasive. This is in the face of the evidence that these bald-faced declarations and the egotism displayed by the notion that the declarations, alone and absent any case made for their truth value, often moved people to take more strident sides against them.
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In social circles with a focus on evangelism and/or apologism for the Christian faith, you're likely to hear a number of two kinds of conversion stories. Atheists get to hear those, too, for reasons both of internet and of Christians telling us those stories. They come in the personal variety, in which the storyteller claims to have personally converted, and the third person variety in which the storyteller verifies their own success (or that of their strategy) in achieving conversions through the conversion of a usually unnamed third party.

They're also all on some level of dishonesty. I'm not saying each and every conversion story is a complete and utter, deliberate lie. But, they're certainly in there.
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In the previous tip, I referenced a defense of biblical slavery. The love-based defense operated on the notion that a slave owner that loved his slave as himself could do all that the law of the time allowed, including the beatings and commanding sex from a slave woman, and not have wronged any slave in any way, because said slave owner would not have acted to harm the slave.

A single word to cover that and similar arguments is "intent."

Intent is invoked, if not named, in other arguments. Spanking children or eschewing medicine in favor of faith-based treatment are both claimed to be not abusive if done in love, not meaning to abuse. "Complementarian" is the self-adopted name of a cultural movement that believes that husbands and wives have natural positions within a marriage, in which the man is decision maker, yet both are equals. They, too, will say that a good, Christian husband would never abuse this position or do wrong to his wife, because, in keeping with Jesus's most important law, he would love her as himself.
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Recently, I got into a discussion about the morality of slavery as it was practiced in the Old Testament. I took the position that it was immoral and that attempting to treat that as just requires treating the slaves in question as less than human. This was in the comments of a conservative Christian blog, so I got some arguments on that. The arguments I got are good examples of evangelists and apologists sacrificing important things in the name of winning.

One of the arguments was that the slavery, as it was practiced, was good on the basis of Divine Command Morality. The argument went that Divine Command was the only possible way that there could be an objectively true morality, therefore the slavery was good because it was according to the law as commanded by God. The other argument I'll focus on, here, is that God's commandment to love one another as you love yourself makes the slavery good, so long as it was practiced within the law.
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Just recently, I learned of the movie "I'm Not Ashamed". It's a Christian movie about Rachel Joy Scott, one of the victims of the Columbine Massacre. Specifically, it's about now commonly told tale of how one of the shooters asked her if she was a Christian before shooting her. (Note: The actual surviving witness to that particular shooting says that didn't happen.) If the trailer is indicative, it'll show her being uniquely virtuous in her whole school.

Numerous previous tips already apply. Research your history first, as in Tip #6. Be very careful around tragedies, as in Tip #22. Don't overestimate your virtue, as in Tip #28. Look for the signs that you might be the bad guy, as in tip #8. There are so many reasons why making this particular movie isn't a good idea.

But, let's look at one more. As you read this tip, I encourage you to remember Tip #10 "Adjust Your Relationship With Curse Words".
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Back in Tip 19*, I advised you to get used to the notion that you are, right now, wrong about many things.

In case you haven't checked it out, go look at the Crash Course Youtube Channel. One of the currently updating courses is Crash Course Philosophy. The most recent lesson was on the difference between Science and Pseudoscience**. The short of it is that science risks being wrong and pseudoscience avoids taking that risk.

This past Wednesday, I posted my answers to a list of ten questions that the website TodayChristian.net claims that I cannot "honestly and truly REALLY answer". Especially notable on that particular page is that it does not have a comments section, despite the fact that other pages do. I used the "Contact Us" link to email them my answers and they may or may not get that email, then may or may not read. Assuming they do have the access and the interest to read my answers, they can easily declare said answers not to be honestly answered, truly answered, or REALLY answered.
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A few of the early tips could be summarized in one word "listen". In addition to being in love with the sound of my own text, I also think that the specific details are important. In addition to taking an active interest in what the people who disagree with you are actually saying, you should be doing the same with what you're actually saying.

By example, a significant number of years ago, back when I was still in college, I got into a conversation on the argument from First Cause. (The argument states that the universe having a beginning means that it had to be caused by powerful, conscious being with volition.) I could go into my position on that particular argument, but for the purposes of this tip, that doesn't matter.
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It's occurred to me that there might be some reasonable objection to my use of Christian movies for examples for these tips. Their primary audiences are, after all, other Christians and usually other conservative Christians who already believe what the movies have to say at that. The notion that nonbelievers will watch these movies and become convinced is, even in intent, more fantasy than reality.

After all, in the 70s, the rapture movie, A Thief in the Night, was primarily watched in church basements on movie night. It was a part of a conversation among believers, not a part of attempting to convince non-believers. Why wouldn't more recent movies be the same?
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Here's a tip I should probably have put at the beginning of this series.

It's a classic cliche. "If I can impact even just one person, then it's all worth it." It can be a heartfelt statement of desire to positively impact. It can also be a horrible excuse, as it is often when I hear it.

On Youtube, repeated on a few channels, there's a video depicting an open letter, from Hell, of a teen that died in a car crash to the teen Christian who didn't tell him about Jesus or Hell. In the comments of one such video, I asked the likelihood of finding someone who hasn't heard any of the claims of Christianity before. The response came back quick and certain that, even if there's only one...
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In my previous tip, I mentioned the cult tactic of renaming someone. It's an effort to take control of someone else's identity. It's also something people do thinking that they're being friendly and polite. Some people will even take the refusal to accept a new name, such as a nickname based on one's name, as being standoffish or taking oneself too seriously.

If you prefer to be called Raymond or Rachel and dislike being called Ray, people don't understand. After all, they're just trying to be friendly.
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In my time having conversations with evangelists and apologists, I have been called nicknames based on my online nick in online conversations, based on my real name in face-to-face conversations, and based on my real name in online conversations in which I haven't offered my real name. You might think that last one is the creepy one but, all of these are like the others.

It's always a name other than I have indicated my approval and it's always done without so much as a "do you mind if I call you...?" to seek that approval.
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In discussing the issue of the Confederate Flag debate in South Carolina that followed the shooting, Mike Huckabee had the following to say...

"Actually, Ed, we don't need more conversations (about race), we need more conversions. Because the reconciliations that changes people is not a racial reconciliation. It's a spiritual reconciliation when people are reconciled to God. We saw it in those church members. When I love God and I know that God created other people regardless of their color as much as he made me, I don't have a problem with racism. It's solved!"

This is a part of the magical thinking involved in many a pitch given for Christianity. Last tip, I mentioned the movie Fireproof, in which a man's abusive behavior is mended and his marriage saved by his conversion to Christianity. A similar concept of movie, The War Room, has a woman in a marriage with an unfaithful and semi-emotionally-abusive husband that saves her marriage and transforms her husband with prayer.
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Those Christians who feel themselves most obligated to try to convert me tend to have a very low opinion of nonbelievers. I've seen it in person. I've seen it in the movies made by Christians and that do well in a conservative Christian demographic.

In God's Not Dead, Kevin Sorbo's atheist professor character is a bully in a relationship that he started with someone when she was a student in his class. Dean Cain's successful businessman non-believer is so selfish that he doesn't care about his dementia-suffering mother or when his girlfriend says that she has cancer. In Fireproof, Kirk Cameron's husband character is dismissive, emotionally abusive, and even physically threatening at one point to his wife. Nick, the atheist character in the previously mentioned The Encounter, nearly runs down a teenage hitchhiker in his car and, when called on it, completely lacks for any kind of remorse.

If you're any kind of non-Christian, to these movies and to the audience that makes up a sizable portion of my target audience for this series, you can have professional virtues but not moral virtues.
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Among the Christians who most feel it their duty to evangelize or practice apologetics, there seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of what humility is and how it works. In some ways, this misunderstanding is understandable. In pure text, it's easy to think of humility as nothing more than not thinking too highly of one's self. But, it's a bit more complicated than that in practice.

Many of the mistakes I've dealt with in previous posts can be reduced to a lack of humility in practice. And, merely saying "be humble" wouldn't work for people who make some obvious mistakes in their understanding of humility in the first place.
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