Sunday, May 24, 2009

Dear Margo does Good

Over at Pharyngula, Professor Myers responded to an article by advice collumnist Margo Howard. Margo was advising a distraght mother who found out that her daughter is an atheist.

PZ Myers does a pretty good job of ridiculing the absurd letter from the mother, so I won't do that here. What he didn't comment on was Margo's advice. She did a great job. I don't think I'd change a word of it, if I was in her place. Good Job!

Here's the whole thing:
Dear Margo: Our daughter started college a year ago, and we’ve noticed during her visits home that she’s not the sweet, innocent girl we sent away for higher learning. We raised her with strong Christian beliefs, but lately she’s saying that she’s joined an atheist club on campus and is questioning everything we taught her. Now my husband refuses to let her in the house and is threatening to turn her in to the FBI. I’ve tried to cure our daughter and reconcile with her, but nothing seems to work. I’ve prayed over her at night while she sleeps, enlisted friends in a phone prayer tree and even spoken to my priest about the possibility of an exorcism. I’m at my wits’ end. How can I recover my daughter and keep her from hell? — God-fearing

Dear God: Whoa, dear. While I am sympathetic to anyone’s devotion to their religion, you need to realize that your daughter is a sentient being with the right to reject your religious views if she so chooses. Your husband is pathetically misguided if he thinks he can call the FBI to report the "crime" of your daughter joining an atheists club. Ditto for the exorcism. This young woman is not possessed, demonic or doing weird things; she is merely thinking and questioning the religion she grew up with. I would encourage you to understand that all people, your daughter included, have the right to think for themselves, particularly about something as meaningful as religion. As for hell, well, she appears willing to take her chances. — Margo, contemplatively
I love that last line. What a great quote.

"As for hell, well, she appears willing to take her chances." --Margo Howard

18 comments:

The Prophetic Observer said...

That letter is about as real as http://www.landoverbapbist.org

Call the FBI on her for being an Atheist? And they call Christians gullible. :o)

Robert Madewell said...

Your probably right, PO.

However, I do work with a least one christian who thought atheism is illegal. I assured her that it's not. I don't know if she has tried to turn me in yet. I can imagine the laughter that would generate at the police station.

So, I don't think it is impossible that this letter is real. Frankly, it just plain hard to know what is real for fundies, because nothing seems too absurd. Remember Poe's Law.

The Prophetic Observer said...

Robert,

To me being an Atheist is just as extreme as believing someone can be cured of cancer by Benny Hinn waving his sports jacket at them. One is throwing up their hands and saying it is all fake, the other is saying it is all real. Without the Holy Spirit it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between the two, dueling tongues being an exception.

It is possible to be a Christian and a skeptic, simply recognizing there is much done in God's name for money, sex and fame. Plenty of phonies, but the real thing is there for people to find.

GCT said...

"To me being an Atheist is just as extreme as believing someone can be cured of cancer by Benny Hinn waving his sports jacket at them."

Yeah, I can see how not believing in superstitious nonsense is just as crazy as believing in it...oh wait, no I can't.

"It is possible to be a Christian and a skeptic..."

Only if you are skeptical about everything except Xianity.

Lorena said...

I enjoyed her answer to that lady. Not all fundy's call the FBI when their kids stray from the straight-and-narrow, but they do go bonkers.

The other letter she responded to that day I didn't enjoy. She told a woman whose in-laws hated her food to let them do the cooking, sit down, and relax. Now, that's unrealistic.

Robert Madewell said...

"It is possible to be a Christian and a skeptic ..."

I agree, but only as long as you're selective about what you're skeptical of. My grandfather was a great skeptic. He debunked a lot of hillbilly myths that was told to him as a child, but he never directed that skepticism toward his religion.

However, it is totally against a skeptical nature to say, "Goddunit! No more thought needs to be done". "Goddunit" is a non-answer that does nothing to further understanding. As a matter of fact, it stops any investigation cold.

The Prophetic Observer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Prophetic Observer said...

Robert said:

"However, it is totally against a skeptical nature to say, "Goddunit! No more thought needs to be done". "Goddunit" is a non-answer that does nothing to further understanding. As a matter of fact, it stops any investigation cold."

Do you investigate things like gravity? Do you wonder if you will wake one morning to be floating around your bedroom? Of course not. Things I attribute to the power of God I no longer need to think about, because there is no need. The reason you find this difficult Robert is you never knew for sure that God exists like I do.

There is lots of critical thinking in the Christian's toolbox, we just have this one extra tool, the supernatural. And the supernatural is not completely beyond our understanding, just beyond scientific explanation. One can choose to examine their faith, but it is not necessary.

And as far as the 'Poe's Law' thing I understand perfectly. That works both ways you know. As a Christian, bay-of-fundies.com wanders in the same absurd Poe's law territory as landoverbaptist.org might do for a non-believer. :o)

GCT said...

PO,
"Do you investigate things like gravity?"

Actually, most kids do investigate gravity in science class at school at some point. We also see its effects quite plainly and we have math and empirical evidence to back it up.

"Do you wonder if you will wake one morning to be floating around your bedroom? Of course not."

Because if that happened, we'd all be dead.

"Things I attribute to the power of God I no longer need to think about, because there is no need."

So, where is the proof and empirical evidence that you would need to make that statement?

"The reason you find this difficult Robert is you never knew for sure that God exists like I do."

You don't know for sure either, or are you claiming infallibility?

"There is lots of critical thinking in the Christian's toolbox, we just have this one extra tool, the supernatural."

Sorry, but wrong on a couple counts. It is not critical thinking to be a Xian, as it inherently relies on logical fallacy. Secondly, relying on the supernatural is what Robert referred to as "goddunit" which is not critical thinking so much as throwing up one's hands and giving up.

"And the supernatural is not completely beyond our understanding, just beyond scientific explanation."

Then, how do you come to understand it and how do you know you are right? For every thing that you think you are right about and that comes from god, others say other things and also attribute to god.

"One can choose to examine their faith, but it is not necessary."

What? Of course it is necessary. We should always examine our beliefs to make sure they actually make sense. To claim that you don't have to examine your faith and that you use critical thinking skills is contradictory.

GCT said...

"And as far as the 'Poe's Law' thing I understand perfectly. That works both ways you know. As a Christian, bay-of-fundies.com wanders in the same absurd Poe's law territory as landoverbaptist.org might do for a non-believer. :o)"

And, of course you don't get it. The issue is that beliefs out there are so varied and so insane that it's impossible to tell a parody from an actual belief (Poe's law). How this goes "both ways" is beyond me, considering "both ways" to you is to point out a site that is obviously not trying to be a parody of Xian thought and claiming it violates Poe's law?

Robert Madewell said...

"Do you investigate things like gravity?"

I do look up research on gravity. There's alot of things not understood about how gravity works, so I read a little on the subject. I must admit that a lot of it is way the hake over my head.

Now, I need to explain something. Even though gravity is not completely understood, it is still demonstrable that it exists. I can do simple little experiments that are repeatable that will demonstrate that gravity works and that it works the same every time the experiment is performed.

This is not the same as God. You admitted in an ealier post that God can not be proven to exist. The only way I have of knowing that God exist is to have faith. Having faith that something exists is contrary to critical thinking.

"Things I attribute to the power of God I no longer need to think about, because there is no need."

Exactly, you don't investigate. That is my point. How do you know that you are not being deceived?

"The reason you find this difficult Robert is you never knew for sure that God exists like I do."

As a matter of fact, I am "reasonably" sure now that he does not exist.

"And the supernatural is not completely beyond our understanding, just beyond scientific explanation."

I disagree. If the supernatural has an effect on the natural (material) then it would have an effect that can be measured and recorded. You should be able to make predictions (if I do this, this will happen) and repeatable experiments. For example, if God can heal a person who prays for healing, we should be able to demonstrate that a prayerful person is healthier than the one who does not pray. We do not see that kind of correlation, though we should if it actually works.

The Prophetic Observer said...

GCT said:

"How this goes "both ways" is beyond me,"

Yeah, as most of what I say is, no surprise there :o)

The Prophetic Observer said...

Robert said:

"What? Of course it is necessary. We should always examine our beliefs to make sure they actually make sense. To claim that you don't have to examine your faith and that you use critical thinking skills is contradictory."

Robert, when you make arguments like this I am really wondering if you are thinking clearly. The definition of the word 'faith' is belief in something you cannot prove. Trying to prove something that you by definition cannot prove doesn't make a whole lot of sense. That is why they call it a religious FAITH.

GCT said...

"Yeah, as most of what I say is, no surprise there :o)"

Because you are generally wrong.

"Robert, when you make arguments like this I am really wondering if you are thinking clearly."

First of all, I said that, and second of all I don't think you know what "thinking clearly" actually means.

"The definition of the word 'faith' is belief in something you cannot prove."

In this case, what you have faith in is something that you can not prove nor can you provide evidence for.

"Trying to prove something that you by definition cannot prove doesn't make a whole lot of sense."

Nor does believing in something for which you can not give evidence or some sort of positive inclination that it is correct. IOW, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense for you to believe in god.

"That is why they call it a religious FAITH."

And not "Religious REASON" or "Religious KNOWLEDGE."

Robert Madewell said...

PO, GCT said that not me. However, I did say something similiar.

I said, "Exactly, you don't investigate. That is my point. How do you know that you are not being deceived (if you don't examine your beliefs)?

The Prophetic Observer said...

Robert said:

"PO, GCT said that not me. However, I did say something similiar.

I said, "Exactly, you don't investigate. That is my point. How do you know that you are not being deceived (if you don't examine your beliefs)?"

My bad. GCT said it, now that makes sense.

GCT said...

PO,
That you have to rely on ad hominem arguments only shows the weakness of your position. Attacking me instead of the argument isn't going to get you anywhere. Further, it serves to show the hypocrisy of your supposed religious beliefs.

GCT said...

I think the Onion had PO in mind when they wrote this. The "ad hominem rejoinders" and "sophomoric personal attacks," are pretty descriptive.