As much as I love debate.. I don’t feel people like Jed ought to be given such respect.
I’ve [formally] debated him the last two years in a row. It’s gotten our group a lot of new members, at the least. Worth it in that regard, if you ask me.
Also, I respect Jed as a person. People don’t need to earn respect; it’s a virtue of being human, and I’m a humanist. Now, a person’s *beliefs* are another story. When it comes to beliefs, respect must be earned, and beliefs earn respect by virtue of being reasonable. Jed’s beliefs are not worthy of respect, but we should be careful not to confuse someone’s beliefs with his/her identity.
I don’t care how many members you got.. the price is too high, in my opinion.
I’m surprised to hear you say that, Ed. Debating Jed helped show a lot of of the Christian attendees that their own beliefs have (just as) little basis in reality, and helped some people on the fence or with doubts learn more about what the word ‘atheist’ really means. From where I sat, the whole event was nothing but a step in the right direction as far as showing Jed’s beliefs to be irrational, and to clear up misconceptions about skepticism/atheism, as well as growing our group.
I’m not confusing anything. There is nothing whatever disrespectful (in a personhood way) about not being invited to a debate. Such speakers should be subject to consideration of merit and decency and Jed has neither of those.
If a Christian is not capable of understanding Jed’s deep, deep flaws after 5 minutes of listening to him bark on youtube or college campuses, a protracted debate will not help him. The Christians who are not aware that some Christians are nutjobs are simply not worthwhile outreach targets; they are both too soft and too few.
Meanwhile, you’ve padded his resume and given him proof of his own legitimacy to the world. He uses you to sell himself as normal, and it works, too, no matter how badly he looks at the actual events, one day a year.
I respectfully disagree. Jed, in a debate setting, is very cordial–professional, even. He employs fallacious reasoning and incorrect information, but he’s very much a decent person. When he’s preaching in public, he uses an intentional strategy he calls “confrontational evangelism” to get attention. He actually wrote a book about it, called “Who Will Rise Up?” He explained to me his reasoning once: Basically, he doesn’t have a captive audience the way professors, et al do. So, if he wants people to pay attention to him, he has to be outrageous. This is why he sometimes uses the “You Deserve Hell” sign & t-shirt, etc, and calls people whores. I have spoken to him at length over dinner and can vouch for the fact that he doesn’t really think all us college students are whores – it’s just a way to get people to stop and listen to him.
Jed actually is pretty consistent biblically with his preaching, in my experience. More than a lot of street preachers, at least. I also know for a fact that several people who were only culturally Christian (but who identified as Christian when asked) are now either on the fence as atheists, or out-of-the-closet atheists, as a result of attending the second debate. And it did give me experience – at the first one, I had only been out of the closet a few months, and had never done any kind of debate before.
I tend to think of it this way: If I can help just a small number of people free themselves from religion, it’s worth it. Jed is not a young-earth creationist or anything like that. And even if he was, some of the greats like Hitch, Dennett, and Peter Singer have debated, for example, Dinesh D’souza, who IS a young-Earth creationist. Dawkins declined to debate him, and I understand his reasoning, but I’m not Dawkins, you know? 😉
I met and even had some one-on-one conversations with Jed when he visited here. I know there is a difference between his sign-waving screed and more conversational Jed. This changes nothing. Doing something disgusting then calling it a strategy doesn’t make it not disgusting- it makes you a crass, selfish opportunist indifferent to the outcome so long as you get your way (attention). Jed does indeed have a theological consistency, that is not my issue with him. His little hate-plays are beyond the limits of acceptable behavior. I think a great deal of debate, and inviting someone to the chair next to yours says a lot more than “this person gets basic human respect”, it says “this person is a legitimate, worthy speaker on behalf of his cause”. Sorry, I must respectfully maintain my disagreement that this is the case.
As a matter of pure strategy, I think there are much more fruitful avenues in terms of both Jed (you already know how we handled his visit, I’m sure) and debate. I would not compare Brother Jed to Dinesh D’Souza (although I don’t care for D’Souza and also would never invite him to debate). I don’t have evidence he is a YEC, in fact he has said the creationists are mistaken about evolution and called it “correct as far as it goes, but doesn’t explain everything”.
“If I can help just a small number of people free themselves from religion, it’s worth it.” —- How is religion hurting my personal life right now?
Was it MLK who said “No one is free while others are oppressed”? Zach, I’m on my phone, but I can give you a quick answer. The very concept of faith makes a virtue out of ignorance. As students, you and I both should be opposed to that right there. There’s also the nearly incalculable opportunity cost of the hundreds of billions of dollars and millions of manhours wasted donating to the vicious circle of churches that simply use the money to grow themselves in perpetuity, when we have REAL problems in this world that we CAN solve if we just address them. Prayer has been proved to be useless beyond placebo effect. It’s like the bumper sticker says: Two hands working do more than a thousand clasped in prayer.
Religion hurts scientific progress. Religion forces the rest of us to waste our already limited education budgets defending why we should teach science in science class, health in health class, and history in history class. Religion encourages and in fact survives by encouraging magical thinking and demonizing curiosity (quite literally!). It is antithetical to social and intellectual progress. And in the words of Christopher Hitchens, “It is not moral to lie to children. It is not moral to lie to ignorant, uneducated people, to tell them that if they believe nonsense, they can be saved.”
Your thoughts appreciated,
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Dave Muscato is Vice President of MU SASHA. He is a vegetarian, LGBTQ ally, and human- & animal-welfare activist. A junior at Mizzou majoring in economics & anthropology and minoring in philosophy & Latin, Dave posts updates to the SASHA blog every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday. His website ishttp://www.DaveMuscato.com.