Do atheists know more about Christianity than Evangelicals?

atheism religion

The short answer is: No.

You may have noticed a bit of buzz recently about a new survey that (so the buzz is saying) shows that atheists know more about Christianity than Christians do. I’ve seen self professed atheists make this claim online before, and now their bias confirmation tendencies have kicked into overdrive with the release of a recent Pew Forum study.

Let’s do some checking (sorry infidels.org, it’s what some of us do).

First, here’s the way the study is being reported.

The Atlantic Wire introduced the public to the study with the provocative question, “Do Atheists Know More About Christianity Than Christians?”

Truthdig’s popular “Ear to the Ground” blog entry on the subject opened with a similar claim:

Well, this is awkward. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life undertook a study in which nonbelievers correctly answered more religious knowledge questions than the devout. Mormons and Jews also scored well and, like atheists, know more about Christianity than Christians.

Now, the survey isn’t perfect. For example, it requires respondents to say that Martin Luther started the Protestant reformation, which is historically false. But on the whole it’s ridiculously simple. But I want to point out two things – things that I think are being (deliberately?) omitted when atheist bloggers and discussion board users crow about this survey:

First – and importantly – there exists an inconsistency in the way atheists are defining “atheists.” I have had the repetitive experience of pointing out to atheists that technically, an atheist is a person who claims that God doesn’t exist, and therefore they are taking a stance that requires reasons to believe. The response I usually get is that the category of atheism is much broader. It includes, I am told, all those who lack religious belief altogether. But in this study, “atheists” are categorised separately from those who lack all religious beliefs. Observe:

Now this clearly distorts the numbers. If we use the narrow definition of atheism as those who have self consciously decided that God doesn’t exist and to identify as one who promotes this view, then of course it makes sense that one is interested in religion and would know about it. But if we use the very wide definition that online atheists so often ask us to accept, and if we assume (as I do) that the group comprised of those who lack specific religious belief but wouldn’t be in the active group that I just referred to is larger than the more vocal “atheist/agnostic” group, then in fact the average score of this combined group, as we can see, would be either the same or lower than, for example, the “White Evangelical Protestant” group.

This suggests that in fact, even according to what we find in this study, it has not at all been shown that atheists did better in this test than Christians.

Why is it that when wanting their group to appear more knowledgeable, vocal atheists use one definition of atheist, yet when wanting to make their view appear more widely accepted they use a different definition?

So that’s the first issue: Integrity. On its own it casts doubt avoer the claims made about “atheists” knowing more about Christianity than Christians.

The second issue is truthfulness and omission. It is claimed that atheists know more about Christianity than Evangelicals do.

[EDIT: As I said in the comments below, I initially misspoke here. I should actually have now begun talking, not about “Christians,” but about “Evangelicals,” noting that Evangelicals are usually the target of these comments by atheists. In the initial version of this blog, I targetted the claim that atheists know more than Christians, but I intended to talk about Evangelicals. I have acknowledged this mistake as an error of haste. I have corrected this here and leftthis note to make sure readers realise that the original version contained this error.]

However, anyone at all who has checked the study will immediately discover that this is false. The study neither showed nor implied any such thing. [In fact Christian groups – evangelicals in particular – performed better than narrowly defined atheists] As the Pew Forum notes:

On questions about Christianity – including a battery of questions about the Bible – Mormons (7.9 out of 12 right on average) and white evangelical Protestants (7.3 correct on average) show the highest levels of knowledge. Jews and atheists/agnostics stand out for their knowledge of other world religions, including Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism; out of 11 such questions on the survey, Jews answer 7.9 correctly (nearly three better than the national average) and atheists/agnostics answer 7.5 correctly (2.5 better than the national average).

This does not surprise me in the least. Since those who narrowly define themselves as people who know what all religious faiths are false and take some pleasure in arguing against them (if you think this isn’t fair, I suggest you start using the internet more), it stands to reason that self professed atheists would try to know something about world religions. The same would be true if you selected Christians who are missionaries in other countries or who are defenders of Christianity against other religious worldviews.

I have no issue with the study. It certainly indicates that local churches need to be doing more to teach theology. They need to ensure that their members actually understand the faith they preach, no doubt about that. But I do take issue with the truthfulness and integrity of [those who would use the study to show] things that it actually does not [namely – as the title of this blog entry says, that atheists know more about Christianity than Evangelicals] (where in fact it says the opposite).

Similar Posts:

If you liked this post, feel free to help support this project.

{ 109 comments… add one }
  • Andrew October 9, 2010, 1:42 pm

    The claims that many atheists make never ceases to amaze me!

  • Andrew October 9, 2010, 1:43 pm

    And if it’s true, why then did my Atheist ethics lecturer go down in flames when he tried to offer a few negative interpretations of scripture?

    XD

  • Richard Wilde October 9, 2010, 6:40 pm

    You might also add in closing that Christians should do more to learn about other religions like atheists do, in case they have been born into or (“)chosen(“) the wrong religion. (Scare quotes used because it is amazing how people tend to “choose” the religion they are raised with, often without even giving serious consideration to any others. The geography of religion shows that choice has little to do with it.)

    On the whole I agree with what you’re saying – it’s not surprising that people know more about their specific religion that religion on the whole (or that atheists know more about religion in general, not being bound to any). I have said so myself previously.

  • Glenn October 9, 2010, 9:55 pm

    Richard, here’s the thing – I did cover this in the blog entry but evidently I wasn’t clear enough:

    The “atheist” category in this study doesn’t represent all who don’t believe in God. Most of those people are covered by the “nothing in particular” category. Those listed as atheists will be those who self consciously identify as atheists, and take an interest in opposing all religious beliefs (and so learning about them).

    Now, there already is a category of Christian people who do this. It is comprised of people like missionaries and apologists. Those identified as “atheists” here are not mere unbelievers. They are missionaries and apologists for atheism. I have met many of them and I think the description is very apt.

    I haev no reason to think that Christian missionaries and apologists would far worse than atheists missionaries and apologists. Unfortunately, those atheists got a category of their own, whereas those Christians did not – so we can’t tell what the comparison is like.

    I wonder if you’d be so good, Richard, as to speak up the next time you hear/read an atheist declaring that there’s good evidence that atheists know more about Christianity than Christians do. That’d be sweet.

    Cheers.

  • scrubone October 9, 2010, 11:01 pm

    Yes, I was wondering how the survey could have both a “agnostic” *and* a “nothing in particular” option. That seems more than a little strange, given agnostic covers that exact category.

  • Jeremy October 9, 2010, 11:34 pm

    Thankyou for this Glenn, i have all ready seen some other discussion of this survey and it didnt bother to dig a little deeper but got straight into lambasting Christians.

  • Thrasymachus October 10, 2010, 2:27 am

    I’m not convinced all the Ath/Ags are ‘Atheist apologists and missionaries’. You can find the categorizing methodology in Appendix B. It is simply self-described ‘affiliation’. Besides the (surprising) bit that many people call themselves ‘nothing in particular’ as opposed to Atheist or Agnostic, it’s plainly not the case that all Ath/Ags are missionaries for their beliefs, regardless of what your experience on the internet may tell you. Doesn’t apply to me or my friends, for example. (Whilst we’re on the topic of hasty generalization, not all of us think Atheism is ‘lack of belief’ either). Besides, Glenn, your criticism bites its own tail. If, in fact, Ath/Ag shouldn’t include ‘nothing in particular’ (contra what some Atheists think) then, in fact the people who ‘should’ be considered Ath/Ags really do better at religious knowledge.

    It’s false that Ath/Ags do better on Christianity than all Christians. However, they do better on Christianity than *most* Christians – only Mormons and Evangelicals have them ‘beat’. Allegedly, even corrected for educational achievement (which Ath/Ags do better on anyway), they still do well, although it isn’t clear to me a) how this correction was made, and b) whether it applies to the ‘Knowledge of Christianity’ bit. The bigger worry with this study is the lack of statistical rigor: as far as I can see, there isn’t anything indicating whether the differences are significant or not. If not, then any finer dissection of the results of the study is a waste of time.

  • Matt October 10, 2010, 1:06 pm

    Thrasymachus: thanks, saves me having to type that! The only thing I’d add is that maybe Glenn should spend LESS time on the internet: not everybody in the world blogs or contributes to discussion boards about their beliefs. It’s really just us nerds. Real world’s kinda different than the interent — I’d suggest most atheists are out playing sport and having sex with lots of women, not sitting in their Mum’s basement playing (with their own) Halo.

  • Richard Wilde October 10, 2010, 1:06 pm

    Glenn, atheists aren’t missionaries. Atheists are, depending on your definition (and both are used) either people who have no belief in God or who believe there is no God. I don’t know many atheists who do anything about it. You’re thinking of what might be called ‘militant atheists’ or perhaps a better term would be ‘activist atheists’ – people who actually promote atheism (like me and very few other people I can think of). These are generally people who are anti-theists (a different category from atheism), and only a subclass of these (because, again, a lot of anti-theists aren’t activists).

  • Glenn October 10, 2010, 1:11 pm

    Richard, I get the feeling you haven’t really read this post or the comments. Read what has been said here about the fact that there are two categories in the study that would be considerd “atheists,” and read what has been said about the distinction between the two.

    I have already fully addressed this most recent comment of yours.

  • Richard Wilde October 10, 2010, 1:11 pm

    scrubone – An agonostic is someone who believes whether there is a God is a question we can’t answer (Huxley’s original definition), or someone who is undecided about it. People who are nothing in particular are probably apatheists, who may or may not be agnostics – the important point being they haven’t really thought about it much and don’t really care. So I think they are different categories – you have to do at least a small amount of thinking and study before you go calling yourself an agnostic.

  • Glenn October 10, 2010, 2:05 pm

    Strictly speaking, agnostic means “lacking knowledge” – or at least lacking a claim to knowledge. If you ask an “apatheist” whether or not God exists, you’s probably get an answer like “I don’t know,” and that’s agnosticism.

    Now, there will be agnostics who have thought about it and agnostics who haven’t, but they’re agnostic nonetheless because they don’t claim to know one way or the other.

  • Matt October 11, 2010, 12:55 pm

    Glenn, the kinds of people Richard calls ‘apatheist’ would probably answer not with ‘I don’t know,’ but with ‘I don’t care,’ wouldn’t they? Anyway, I agree there’s something suspect with Richard’s definitions: he says that an agnostic is someone who EITHER thinks the existence of God is a question we can’t answer, OR someone who is undecided about it. I’d suggest that people who haven’t really thought much about it or don’t care (‘apatheists’) haven’t come to a decision on the issue, and are thus ‘undecided.’ So apatheists are (a subset of) agnostics, on Richard’s definitions.

  • Glenn October 11, 2010, 4:54 pm

    Matt, nonetheless, if I asked them ” do you believe that there’s a God,” they would say no.

    But yes, there is something slippery involved in the definitions here. Generally, non theists (people who atheists like to call atheists) would not try to persuad eanyone that their religious beliefs are false or unjustified, whereas those who self-identified as atheist/agnostic (undoubtedly a much smaller group) would be much more likely to be active in doing just that. This accounts for the result, I think.

  • Matt October 12, 2010, 12:50 pm

    You say: “Matt, nonetheless, if I asked them ” do you believe that there’s a God,” they would say no.”

    Um, what? If they’d answer the question “Does God exist?” with “I don’t care,” why would you automatically assume that nonetheless they’d answer the question “Do you believe in God?” with “No”? Why wouldn’t they again answer with “I don’t care”? I mean, I think this is Richard’s point: that these two answers are different, and indicate a different sort of person. Problem is, on Richard’s definitions, they’re both agnostics.

    But as for you dubious empirical claims, I completely agree with Thrasymachus that your equation of the internet with the real world says more about you than what it does about the real world. The only thing I agree with you about is that Richard’s apatheists are Richard’s agnostics.

    NB: Although, I’m starting to wonder if there’s wiggle room for Richard: it might be that someone who believes in God but just doesn’t care about whether or not God exists is an ‘apatheist’ in Richard’s sense. In that case, apatheists wouldn’t necessarily be a subset of agnostics. Maybe these people aren’t even giving any thought at all as to whether or not God exists; they just simply believe it, as some kind of revealed or self-evident truth (perhaps something you are sympathetic with, Glenn). Then ‘apatheist’ would be a different category to theist/agnostic/atheist, in that it could include members from each group. I wonder. Anyway.

  • scrubone October 12, 2010, 1:13 pm

    In an interesting twist, I chanced to talk to a stranger who identified themselves as a “christian”. But they then proceeded to tell me they didn’t believe God existed.

    It would have been interesting to see how many “Christians” would agree with the Nicene creed. Sadly, even people in the top leadership of some churches don’t even meet the proper definition of the belief system (Glynn Cardy being a case in point).

  • Matt October 12, 2010, 1:47 pm

    Hi Glenn,

    Perhaps you can explain something to me. It looks to me like the second table that you reference says that, on average, Christians get 6 questions about Christianity right, where Atheists/Agnostics on average get 6.7 questions about Christianity right. The Mormons and White Evangelicals you reference are subsets of Christians, but the average Christian figure is nevertheless 6, right? Or am I reading this wrong? Because if I’m reading it right, then the study does show that “atheists (narrowly defined) know more about Christianity than Christians do,” right? In that 6.7 is higher than 6?

    Just tell me where I’m going wrong here — I’m not statistician and even the most basic of maths could well be eluding me (maths ain’t ‘self-evident’ to me like it is to some people!).

  • Matt October 12, 2010, 1:53 pm

    *6.2. Christians get 6.2 questions right, accorinding to the table (not, as I said above, 6), and atheists/agnostics get 6.7 questions right. So far as I see it. Sorry for dropping off the ‘.2’ in my question above.

  • Matt October 12, 2010, 2:22 pm

    Also, I don’t know jack-shit about the Protestant Reformation, but Wikipedia reckons your wrong when you say: “For example, it requires respondents to say that Martin Luther started the Protestant reformation, which is historically false.” I don’t care to find out whether you or Wikipedia is right, but it does raise questions for me about precisely what you mean when you say the study required participants to give false answers. I expect that what’s going on is that you consider the Protestant Reformation to be something other than what Historians refer to it as, and that’s fine I’m sure you’ve got your reaons — but if that’s the case I would register my indignation that you try to brush that under the carpet.

  • Paul from Canterbury Atheists October 12, 2010, 4:18 pm

    Pew Forum didn’t have an axe to grind and the results are hardly surprising given American Atheists are more likely to be have attended higher education than theists and are less myopic.

    I took the survey and got 28 out of 30. It was hardly taxing.

    Most Americans think N.Z is a part of England – so any subject-matter say outside Hollywood, the local football team will produce a fail by your average Yank.

    See ya.

    Paul.

  • Matt October 12, 2010, 5:07 pm

    NZ is actually part of Australia. Dumb yanks.

  • Glenn October 12, 2010, 6:25 pm

    Matt, the title of this blog is: “Do atheists know more about Christianity than Evangelicals?” And my answer was “No.”

    I misspoke when I then said (well, implied), that all Christians scored better than atheists. They did not. Evangelicals did, which is what I started out saying.

  • Glenn October 12, 2010, 6:41 pm

    Oh – I nearly forgot. Martin Luther didn’t start the Reformation. I think the problem, matt, is the reverse of what you suggest. I’m talking about the Reformation in the way that a historian might, whereas the test, it seems, is using more of a comic book version of history.

    There were a number of important predecessors to Luther. It’s probably best to say that he thrust reformation into the limelight.

  • Matt October 13, 2010, 2:32 pm

    The title of your blog is fine. Your ‘second issue’ is not:

    “The second issue is truthfulness. As you can see from the comments I quoted earlier (and you can find more results via Google with no difficulty), it is being claimed that this study shows that atheists (narrowly defined) know more about Christianity than Christians do.
    However, anyone at all who has checked the study will immediately discover that this is false.”

    No — no they will not. What they WILL find, however, is that what YOU are claiming the study shows is false. So, my question is, why doesn’t the below criticism apply to you:

    “I do take issue with the truthfulness and integrity of many who are trying to make the study show things that it actually does not (where in fact it says the opposite).”

    It’s always been clear to me that, even if atheists were reporting the conclusions of the study incorrectly (which they were not), you invalidly drew conclusions about their truthfulness and integrity from that premiss. I think this should also be clear to YOU now, given that you have committed the same misdeed that you accused these atheists of committing (that is, of reporting the conclusions of the study wrong). I further think you owe these atheists two apologies (one for saying that they got the facts wrong, and one for drawing conclusions about their integrity and truthfulness from that), but I understand that probably won’t happen.

  • Matt October 13, 2010, 2:42 pm

    NB: When you talk about ‘all’ Christians, you’re talking about the aggregate of all Christians, not every single Christian right? Because the study concludes that the GROUP ‘Christians’ knows less about Christianity than the GROUP’Atheists/agnostics’ does. I presume that in your response to me you were admitting this, but I’ve known people in my time who would try to fudge the issue by being ambiguous about the world ‘all.’ Not saying you would do this — I’m just being cautious.

  • Matt October 13, 2010, 3:29 pm

    Re: Martin Luther. Two things: Just because there was reformation before Luther doesn’t mean ‘The Reformation’ began before Luther; and, just because Luther had predecessors doesn’t mean he didn’t start ‘The Reformation.’ If ‘The Reformation’ is a name given (arbitrarily or not) to something that happened between times t and t* (as I suspect — seems to be a commonish type of thing in history; eg, the Renaissance) then to say ‘Martin Luther didn’t begin the Reformation!’ is ambiguous at best, and I don’t like that lack of honesty on such a crucial point.

  • Matt October 13, 2010, 3:32 pm

    And there’s no need to start having a go at comicbooks. Above the belt, eh?

  • Glenn October 13, 2010, 5:17 pm

    Matt, yes I realise the blog title is fine. Nobody ever questioned that. As I said, the title of the blog post sums up my point. It clearly indicates that what I mean to address is the fact that evangelicals are not more ignorant of Christianity than atheists, as some atheists claim.

    I have since explained that I misspoke when I used the word “Christians” rather than “evangelicals” in the second point. If you missed that the first time I acknowledge it, hopefully you won’t miss it this time. I don’t know why my previous comment wasn’t clear enough, but hopefully it is now clear.

    Re: Martin Luther, no. I’m not interested enough to go into a class in church history about it here, but I’m comfortable just to tell you that the Reformation did not begin with Luther, except in popularised over-simplified accounts. If you won’t take my word, that is fine. You don’t have to.

  • Matt October 13, 2010, 5:52 pm

    No, your blog title doesn’t clearly indicate what you meant to address. The fact that your blog title and the content of your blog said different things made it unclear what you meant to address.

    Also, which atheists are claiming that the study shows that evangelicals know less about christianity than atheists/agnostics? Not the ones you quote: “atheists, know more about Christianity than Christians.” So, again, not clear.

    But as to the main point, that you miss-spoke, I understand that. So, again, I ask you, doesn’t the below criticism apply to you:

    “I do take issue with the truthfulness and integrity of many who are trying to make the study show things that it actually does not (where in fact it says the opposite).”

    As for Martin Luther, yeah, I don’t take your word, but that’s fine. I’m just registering a conditional (perhaps counter-factual): if ‘The Reformation’ is kinda like the Renaissance, then I think you coulda been more honest. That’s all; a counterfactual, if you want.

  • Glenn October 13, 2010, 6:07 pm

    Matt, in fact my blog title does indicate what I meant to address. Why would you deny this? I have explained twice now that I meant to speak of Evangelicals, and not every single Christian. Do you supect me of lying when I say this? If so, why?

    The error is not in the blog title. The error is where I later said “Christians” instead of evangelicals.

    As for that quote from me – integrity means admitting when your comments need to be corrected. I have done just that, so I don’t know what more you want from me.

    Would you prefer that I go back and edit the post itself and swap the words to line up with what I have said now?

    And there’s no need to get dirty. I was absolutely honest. The Protestant Reformation started happening before Luther. I don’t see why you think I have some vested interest in misrepresenting that, but nor do I really care all that much.

  • Matt October 13, 2010, 6:35 pm

    Glenn, there’s a difference between indicating something and clearly indicating something. I deny you did the latter. Read the post.

    You say: “As for that quote from me – integrity means admitting when your comments need to be corrected.”

    That’s not what I got from your blog entry. You made conclusions about the integrity of atheists based merely on the fact that (you thought) they reported the conclusions of the survey incorrectly. If integrity is admitting when your comments need to be corrected (presumably, when someone has pointed out to you the error of your ways), then you invalidly drew conclusions about your atheist foes, as (at the time of your blog entry) you hadn’t pointed out their errors.

    I think it would be interesting if you replaced the word ‘Christians’ with the words ‘white evangelicals’ — I think then you’d see how your blog entry falls apart. After all, your atheist foes aren’t saying that atheists know more about christianity than evangelicals. Or, if they are, where are your links for that? It seems you would need to change your targets, at the very least.

    As for getting dirty, I’m not getting dirty with the Luther stuff. Sorry if it sounds curt. I’m at work and type only when I’ve got nothing else to do. Kind of busy today. Please don’t take curtness for dirt. That’s not what I’m intending. RE: Luther, I’ve tried to be explicit that I’m not levelling any charges against you — I’m just asking that IF you aren’t being as clear as you could be about crucial things like that, please be so. That could well be a big ‘IF.’

    The only point where dirtyness came into it, I felt, was when you started making claims about the integrity and truthfulness of certain atheists. I don’t think that’s fair. The reason I don’t think that’s fair is because I don’t think it’s fair of me to question YOUR integrity simply because you reported the conclusions of a survey incorrectly. By parity of reasoning, you drew unfair conclusions about the integrity of certain atheists. Given this, I think you should apologise to them. I understand you won’t, but still and besides.

  • Glenn October 13, 2010, 7:39 pm

    Matt, the title of blog entry was “do atheists know more about Christianity than evangelicals?” My first line was: “The short answer is no.”

    I do not believe anyone who tells me that the meaning of this was not immediately clear.

    Beyond my admissiont hat I said “Christians” in the second point when I really should have followed the blog title and said “evangelicals,” I don’t know what you expect me to add.

    An simple error (mixing up terms) is different from a gleeful attempt indulgence in bias confirmation. I think this is also clear to you, so I won’t labour the point. But I think if you reflect on this fact, you’ll see why my charge about integrity doesn’t implicate me in the least.

    When you say “After all, your atheist foes aren’t saying that atheists know more about christianity than evangelicals.” – I do wonder how much checking you did before typing this. I can assure you that my “atheist foes” (your term) are indeed specifying evangelical Christians in a variety of their attacks. I’ll give you just a few examples, but I know you can others.

    http://open.salon.com/blog/oesheepdog/2010/09/28/athiests_know_more_about_god_then_evangelical_christians_do
    “Atheists know more about God than Evangelical Christians Do”

    But here’s the point (and this is why my points came int he order that they did). This is the main thrust of my reply to you, and if you see the point of this one reply, you’ll see why I consider the blog to be completely fair (with the concession that in the last point I switched terms):

    The blog was structured thus:

    1) “Do atheists know more about Christianity than evangelicals?” No.

    2) There’s a buzz about this survey, with atheists reporting that atheists know more about Christianity than Christians do.

    3) But firstly there’s a visible problem with the way “atheist” is being used here, and the study resukls strongly suggest that if this were fixed up, the atheist group would not be as high as it is. Major flaw 1.

    4) Flaw 2 is that actually if we zoom into all the groups, we see that evangelicals (like me – and here I said “Christians” when I ought to have said “evangelicals”) did markedly better than narrowly defined atheists (and as noted earlier, broadly defined atheists did even worse). I could have added here that if atheists get to divide their numbers up into separate groups, then Christians do as well, and my group beats their group.

    As fair as your concerns about truthfulness and integrity go – I’m sure you have little trust in my claims from experience about the carelessness that active and vocal atheists often have due to the strong pressure of bias confirmation when it comes to studies like this. I have a little more faith in that experience (because it’s mine), and I think the hasty surface reading and leaping to conclusions that I’m talking about is precisely what has happened.

  • Glenn October 13, 2010, 8:20 pm

    In other (but closely related) news, I didn’t like the poll. It was far too simple when it came to assessing a person’s knowledge of Christianity, so I’m going to make my own poll in the near future. I will also fix the atheist categorisation problem. Keep watching! 🙂

  • Derek October 14, 2010, 3:31 pm

    Oh, now this I really want to see. Although considering how much more study you’ve put into the various topics such a quiz might cover than I have, I’m afraid to see how poorly I’d score.

    Oh! Idea! Perhaps you could turn it into one of those online quizzes, and when someone takes it and gets his score it can give book recommendations based on how well he did! It could be useful as a quick assessment tool that gives the person using it an appropriate starting point for his studies if he wants to learn more.

  • Deane October 14, 2010, 6:52 pm

    From Religion Bulletin:

    “And it’s not as though U.S. Christians are any better on their own religion: the atheists/agnostics even know more about the topic of Christianity than do Christians.”

    Correct? Despite the spurious claims in your post, this is indeed correct!

    Those self-identifying as atheists/agnostics scored 6.7 out of 12 on the Christian questions. But Christians averaged 6.2 out of 12 on Christian questions, even less than Jews on 6.3 out of 12. See: http://pewforum.org/U-S-Religious-Knowledge-Survey-Who-Knows-What-About-Religion.aspx#Christianity .

    Now, you might well point out that two of the six subgroups of Christianity scored more than the overall atheist/agnostic 6.7 (Mormons and white evangelicals). But this is comparing apples with oranges. And you might well point out that some of those refusing to affiliate themselves (in the ‘nothing in particular’ group) might be classified as ‘atheist’. But this is rather desperate speculation as to the overall break-down of a group which typically in such surveys mostly includes those of indefinable ‘spirituality’.

    Your misguided quibbles aside, when we compare the overall result for self-identifying atheist/agnostics with the overall result for Christians, the answer is exactly as stated on Religion Bulletin: “the atheists/agnostics even know more about the topic of Christianity than do Christians”.

    And although you tried to deny it (while looking at the wrong results!), The Atlantic Wire is quite correct that “Atheists Know More About Christianity Than Christians”. Furthermore, Truthdig was completely correct in its summary:

    “Mormons and Jews also scored well and, like atheists, know more about Christianity than Christians.”

    You have merely revealed your own bias in the post above, Glenn. Reality is rather different.

  • Glenn October 14, 2010, 9:38 pm

    Deane – as I have stated two or three times now, the second point was meant to be about evangelicals, not Christians.

    I am now lost in the world of failure to make things clear. If stating so many times that I really should have said “evangelicals” is not enough, then I just don’t know what is. It’s possible that by refusing to let me state my own error, ignoring my own comments and insisting that really I was just biased and didn’t mean to talk about evangelicals at all, you’re revealing your own bias, ironically. or it’s just possible that you skipped all the comments.

    Just in case anyone else skips over all the comments and misses my comments about misspeaking, I am adding addenda in brackets to the original post, clearly marked as later edits.

    So I guess, Deane, the message here is that Christians should all become evangelicals. 🙂

    [Deane: Immediately after typing this, I edited this comment while you were writing yours – sorry I didn’t realise you were online right now]

  • Deane October 14, 2010, 9:41 pm

    Even better: Christians should all become Mormons. 😛

  • Deane October 14, 2010, 9:52 pm

    Sure – make a point that all Christians should be evangelicals (or Mormons).

    But that point doesn’t contradict what The Atlantic Wire or Truthdig stated. So why did you say about their claims were “false”? You were wrong – in fact, they had it right all along!

  • Glenn October 14, 2010, 9:54 pm

    “But this is comparing apples with oranges.”

    Incorrect. I have given reasons for considering those who vocally identify as “atheists/agnostics” to be like a sub-group akin to missionaries or apologists. You haven’t given any reasons for rejecting my claims about the way these terms have been used.

    And you might well point out that some of those refusing to affiliate themselves (in the ‘nothing in particular’ group) might be classified as ‘atheist’. But this is rather desperate speculation as to the overall break-down of a group which typically in such surveys mostly includes those of indefinable ‘spirituality’.

    Go back and see what I actually said. I explained that atheists themselves use the very wide definition fo atheism when it suits them, so integrity demands that they use it here, when it would not suit them. You haven’t given a reason to reject this.

    And although you tried to deny it (while looking at the wrong results!), The Atlantic Wire is quite correct that “Atheists Know More About Christianity Than Christians”.

    Read the title of this blog entry. And I wasn’t looking at the “wrong results” (???). I merely said Christian in the second point when I meant evangelical.

    Deane, you clearly ignored my follow up comment.

  • Glenn October 14, 2010, 9:58 pm

    Deane, you didn’t even read my follow up to you – the one that you replied to! Good grief man….

    I feel childish even going back over it to explain: I said that firstly the definition of atheism being used here is spurious, casting doubt over these claims being made, and secondly I pointed out (although as I have explained, many times now, I misspoke by referring to Christians and not evangelicals) that just as atheists divide their nunmbers up in the quiz, they scored worse than evangelicals on Christianity.

    It seriously pays to read a comment made to you – especially when that comment was written for the expressed purpose of correcting the very misunderstanding that your followup comment is engaging in!

  • Deane October 14, 2010, 10:02 pm

    Your main point has been disproved Glenn: those who self-identified as ‘Christians’ knew less about Christianity than those who self-identified as ‘atheists/agnostics’.

    Your “addendum” doesn’t fix your original accusation against The Atlantic Wire or Truthdig stated. A retraction is required.

  • Glenn October 14, 2010, 10:05 pm

    Deane – What you’ve said about my “main point” is just not true. My “main point” was right there in the blog title. Read it now. What does it say? I wrote it that way on purpose because that was my main point. Does it say “Evangelicals” or does it say “Christians”? You must think I’m simply lying when I say that the blog title was intended as the main point. But why would I lie about this?

    But it obviously wasn’t the only point. Which leads me to this: How can you not understand how the categorisation of “atheism” does indeed cast doubt over the claims made in sources like the Atlantic Wire? I am physically feeling the sensation of thinking “What? I don’t… how… he acts like he doesnt see… but surely he sees this!” The way this slippery use of terms can distort the result is surely obvious to you.

  • Deane October 14, 2010, 10:25 pm

    Glenn, you are being disingenuous here. I refuse to let you avoid discussion of your own error, by suddenly trying to turn it all around and blame the commenter who pointed your error out to you. I understand that you may be reluctant to lose face on your own blog, but it is better to be honest and upfront than evasive.

    Despite your “addendums” (which I have already acknowledged), your false accusation against the Atlantic Wire and Truthdig still appears in your post! You still call them “false”! Are they? No, not at all. As I said, what is required is not some “addendum”, but a full retraction.

    Try to answer me straight, without dodging and weaving: Is your following comment about the Atlantic Wire and truthdig true or false?:

    “it is being claimed that this study shows that atheists (narrowly defined) know more about Christianity than Christians do. [EDIT: As I said in the comments below, I misspoke here. I should actually have now begun talking, not about “Christians,” but about “Evangelicals,” noting that Evangelicals are usually the target of these comments by atheists. As some have read the old version already, I decided to let it remain, with this addendum.] However, anyone at all who has checked the study will immediately discover that this is false.”

    It is obvious to me, and now you, that what Atlantic Wire and truthdig represented was precisely true: the Pew survey did indeed establish that “Christians” knew more than “atheists/agnostics”. And your “addendum” shows that you also realised this.

    However, it is also obvious to me that there is, consequently nothing “false” about the reporting of the issue. In point of fact, atheists/agnostics, as a group, knew more than Christians, as a group, about Christianity. And yet, you refuse to retract your original accusation that their claim was “false”, the central point on which your original post was based, preferring to play instead with definitions of “Christian” and “atheist”.

    Take the only respectable step, Glenn. Retract your false accusation against the Atlantic Wire and truthdig, which you now acknowledge was false, and which has prompted your “addendum”. Don’t shoot the messenger here. It’s just time for some hard medicine, and a small bit of nobility in actually admitting your mistake. Stop the dodging and weaving and desperate attempts to shift the blame. You’ve recognized the falseness of your original accusation against Atlantic Wire and truthdig – so now retract it.

  • Glenn October 14, 2010, 10:38 pm

    Deane – how on earth can you claim that I have been unwilling to discuss my own errors? Right at the outset when somebody idenitified it, I immediately and explicitly admitted it – and I have repeated that admission many times now.

    All I did in my most recent comment to you was to object to your false claim about what my “main point” was. As I said, I stated the main point right in the title.

    It is obvious to me, and now you, that what Atlantic Wire and truthdig represented was precisely true: the Pew survey did indeed establish that “Christians” knew more than “atheists/agnostics”. And your “addendum” shows that you also realised this.

    No. My addendum shows that even setting aside the first point (which casts doubt on the Atalantic wire/truthdig claim), evangelicals still did better. But setting aside the first point when making the second point does not mean that I reject the first point! Why would you think otherwise? I still maintain that my first point is correct.

    I hereby repeat and again endorse, even amplify, my claim that the statement made by the Atlantic wire and also by truthdig are not true. I say again – they made an untrue claim.

    Now, I understand that you don’t like – for some reason – my objections tot he way the definition of “atheist” is being used here. But your not liking it does not amount to a reason to not raise my first objection. And yet my first objection shows that the Atlantic Wire/Truthdig claims are false, because they claim that the study has shown something that it really hasn’t shown, and it hasn’t shown this because on the basis of the way atheists themselves categorise atheists.

    So stop this waffle about taking the “only respectable step.” There’s no need for this passive aggressive nonsense about just trying to get me to do what’s best for me. I have defended each claim at each step of the way – making a change where necessary. If you have a reason to reject my first point, then present it. But don’t make up fables about me “acknowledging” that claims using this dubious notion of “atheism” are true. I acknowledged no such thing. Satisfying though it would no doubt be for you, there’s no banana at the top of this tree for you.

    As for the second point, it nicely explains the title of the blog post: Do atheists know more about Christianity than evangelicals? No. Maybe you’d prefer that this was not the main point, the crescendo of the blog entry (and yes I stuffed it up initially by using the wrong term). But it is.

  • Deane October 14, 2010, 10:41 pm

    You seem to have convinced yourself there is no error in your post, so nothing further to say, I guess.

  • Glenn October 14, 2010, 10:46 pm

    Deane, you have not once offered a reason to reject my first point about the way the word “atheist” is used here, yet you have found moral fault with me for not surrendering it. You haven’t offered a bad reason, you’ve just offered no reasons at all. It is not fair of you to imply that I am just being arrogant and not listening to replies when you literally haven’t even given one. I have listened, even if (as I see it), you have not returned the favour.

    I am not going to change my mind just to please you, when you have not even made an attempt to give a reason for doing so. I would not expect you to do that for me either. Although I disagree with you often, I respect you too much to just ask you to bow to my authority. I would give a reason – and you should have been willing to do the same.

    EDIT: It’s also a clear falsehood to say that I admitted no error in my blog post. I admitted it at least six times. Why are you doing this? You are clearly misrepresenting my approach. I admitted an error, big and plain, and yet you won’t admit that my first reason shows what I claim it does, and nor will you give me a reason for thinking otherwise. Are you flustered by the fact that I would not bow to your iron will and just give up point one at your say so?

  • Glenn October 14, 2010, 11:28 pm

    Derek: I’m writing the quiz now, but I need to find a quiz engine out there that can categorise results by the way that people answer the “religious group” question.

    Another thought: On the poll I’d also like to add a scale right after the question about a person’s religious beliefs. The scale would indicate how important a person’s religious beliefs are: Not very important, fairly important, or very important.

  • Matt October 15, 2010, 8:23 pm

    Glenn,

    The meaning of the title of your blog is clear, but “The fact that your blog title and the content of your blog said different things made it unclear what you meant to address.” Please stop caricaturing my position: I am NOT saying that the meaning of your blog title is unclear. Why do you keep insisting that I am saying that?

    You said: “An simple error (mixing up terms) is different from a gleeful attempt indulgence in bias confirmation.”

    Of course it is. But you didn’t even mention the possibility that, just like you, atheists can (on occasion) make ‘a simple error.’ To point out that there are different explanations for reporting the results of the survey incorrectly is not addressing my point – rather, it’s restating my point! Here, let me have another go at explaining this to you. Look at the argument of your blog entry:

    ‘1) X is reporting the results of this survey wrong.

    ‘Therefore, 2) X has some deficiency with regards to his integrity and truthfulness.’

    Just as this is invalid when X is ‘Glenn Peoples,’ it’s invalid when X is ‘someone other than Glenn Peoples.’ It’s not a complicated point, but it’s an important one.

    So, you ask what I expect you to add? An acknowledgement that your blog entry drew conclusions far too quickly.

    You also said: “When you say “After all, your atheist foes aren’t saying that atheists know more about christianity than evangelicals.” – I do wonder how much checking you did before typing this.”

    Dude, the link you go on to give says nothing about Atheists knowing more about CHRISTIANITY than Evangelicals. Yeah, sure, it says that Evangelicals know surprisingly little about Christianity, but it doesn’t say they know less than atheists. Again, YOU are reporting things wrong, here: should I assume that this is because of your lack of integrity, or should I assume it was another mistake of yours?

    Besides, you’re still caricaturing! I explicitly said that you could change your targets. Here’s me: “It seems you would need to change your targets, at the very least.” But, the targets you actually have, your foes, the ones you identified and called out in your blog (The Atlantic Wire and Ear To The Ground), never said that atheists know more about Christianity than Evangelicals! But you criticised them nonetheless; and, indeed, criticised everyone who contributed to the “buzz [alleging that] a new survey … shows that atheists know more about Christianity than Christians do.” So, to give a second answer to your question ‘What do I expect you to add?’: an apology for all those who you unfairly and mistakenly criticised.

    So, in sum, my point is that your blog entry draws conclusions about certain atheists far too quickly and far too unfairly (or, if not, I see no reason to not draw the same conclusions about you), and that in my opinion this warrants an apology.

    PS: I think you should also respond to Thrasymachus at some point. Amongst other things, he offered a particularly interesting response to your ‘Major Flaw 1.’ But I’ll leave that debate to him, because we’ve got enough going on here.

  • Matt October 15, 2010, 8:38 pm

    After having skimmed the convo you’ve been having with Deane, I’d just like to quickly pre-empt a possible response: as much as I agree with Deane that atheists (‘narrowly defined’) do know more about Christianity than Christians, I’m not throwing my hat into that fight. You could well be right that Christians know more about Christianity than atheists. The conclusions you drew about integrity, though, were not about whether the study was right, but how the results of the study were REPORTED. And The Atlantic Wire and Ear to the Ground did report the results of the study accurately — whether or not those results were in fact complete bullshit.

  • Glenn October 15, 2010, 8:42 pm

    Re: comment 48: Matt, you’re attributing to me an argument that I didn’t make. ( 1′, 2).

    Re comment 49: The first point (the one about integrity) was about the way the word atheist was being used in the reports, when actually in the study that term was being used in a slippery way that readers of the media etc reports would not be aware of.

    And I think that observation about integrity is a fair one. It’s misleading to report that way under those conditions. Integrity would require a careful reporter to say “Atheists – and by that the study actually means a subset of atheists – scored better than…” and so on. That’s why it was important and relevant that Deane was just ignoring the first point. It’s also why you continue to be mistaken in believing that an apology is owed.

    I admitted my mistake, but nobody else is game!

  • Matt October 15, 2010, 11:11 pm

    Hah! That’s an interesting way out of your dilemma! Okay, that one impressed me.

    Anyway, to the issue:

    You say that the issue of integrity was about the use of the word ‘atheist.’ But the way you’ve rephrased your blog entry, that certainly doesn’t look to be the case. You say “But I do take issue with the truthfulness and integrity of [those who would use the study to show] things that it actually does not [namely – as the title of this blog entry says, that atheists know more about Christianity than Evangelicals].” It certainly looks like your accusations about integrity were based on your error, not on the ‘slippery use of the word ‘atheist.’’

    [Quick aside: Let’s say for the sake of argument that your accusations about integrity really were based on the fact that Truthdig etc weren’t up front about how the word ‘atheist’ was being used in this survey. Didn’t you recently do a blog where you reported the results of a survey about fags and islamics, and said ‘All I’m doing is reporting the conclusions! If you don’t like them for whatever reason, don’t attack me!’ Why is it okay for you to simply report the conclusions of a survey, but Truthdig has to be clear about the possible flaws in reaching those conclusions? Not a big point; just kinda curious].

    But let me also address this claim of yours that there is a slippery use of the word ‘atheist.’ As Thrasymachus said, I’m not sure you actually buy that claim – wasn’t it YOU who said that ‘atheist’ only referred to people who actively deny the existence of God? So don’t you really agree with this study’s characterisation of ‘atheism’? Also, I think we’re all a little thrown by the ‘Nothing in particular’ category. Even atheists who say “Atheism merely refers to those who lack religious belief” are probably only widening the net to include agnostics. So the fact that there is another category, apart from atheism and agnosticism, is really quite strange. I think Deane’s explanation is the most plausible: that ‘Nothing in particular’ probably refers to people who just think of themselves as ‘spiritual.’ I mean, look at the categories: if you were someone who described yourself as ‘spiritual’ but didn’t adhere to any particular religion, which box would you tick? With Deane’s explanation of ‘Nothing in particular’ in hand, all of a sudden that category starts to make sense.

    But let’s say you were right, that ‘Nothing in Particular’ refers to atheists, and that Truthdig etc has a responsibility to point that out, and that this is all you were referring to when you said Truthdig lacked integrity. Isn’t your argument still invalid? That is, couldn’t Truthdig etc still just be making a mistake? You make mistakes; why can’t they?

    Oh, and as for “I admitted my mistake, but nobody else is game!” well, you admitted one of them, sure – but still, you did equate ‘indication’ with ‘clear indication,’ and equate ‘the world’ with ‘the internet;’ and I’m pretty sure those were all massive gaffs. Okay, there’s no chance in hell you’re gonna admit it (presumably because you think I’m wrong), but I just wanted to point out we’re not all in agreement that you have higher standards than everyone else on this blog.

  • Glenn October 15, 2010, 11:54 pm

    Matt, at the end of my first point about the way the word “atheist” is being used I summed up thus: “So that’s the first issue: Integrity.”

    This sentence has always been there. I never revised it. So in fact I did always say that the slippery terminology was an integrity issue, and it’s not fair to imply that I am only later trying to say this.

    And as for the slippery terminology, I in fact explained why I have made that argument. I explained why it is relevant to include the wider “atheist” group here, and this is one key way that integrity enters the picture. The reason is this: It is because atheists so often insist that an atheist is a person who lacks religious belief. There’s a clear integrity issue when people use this definition to expand their numbers, but who shrink their numbers by changing terminology usage when it’s expedient to exclude their more ignorant members.

    This is ground that I have already covered, so the way I see it, any objection along these lines needs to take into account what I have already said, which this objection of yours, Matt, does not.

    As for your comments in square brackets – if you’re aware of some distinction between a broad and narrow definition of “Muslim” in America, then perhaps there is a parallel situation. Please let me know if you’re aware of such a distinction. But to simply report when using terms that the study itself is slippery with can be a dangerous business. I didn’t do that in the Muslim example (again, unless you can point to this distinction).

    I’m please to have impressed you (or at least to have impressed someone!). I’m not sure what you mean re: distinction vs clear distinction, however.

  • Matt October 16, 2010, 12:34 am

    Yes yes you mentioned integrity twice, but I was always talking about the second time, which was very clear from the fact that I often quoted that second time and from the fact that I often bound it up with the word ‘truthfulness’ (which only came into the blog when integrity was mentioned the second time). This second time you used the word you used an argument that I’ve argued is invalid, and you said you made no such argument. Is that where you stand?

    And yes, you did give an argument for why you think atheist should be used in this ‘wider’ sense, and you are correct that I haven’t addressed that. However, I have repeatedly pointed towards Thrasymachus’ post, where he bought this issue up. He points out how your complaint here is reflexive, and as you have not taken issue with that claim, I’ve not felt the need to re-argue for it. I have merely referenced it.

    Also, you should really address Deane’s point, which is that it’s hardly clear ‘Nothing in particular’ refers to atheists (and, really, if you think about it, it very likely does not — for reasons stated in my last post).

    You say: “As for your comments in square brackets – if you’re aware of some distinction between a broad and narrow definition of “Muslim” in America…” No no no, your response to a lot of objections (as I read them) was, ‘Hey, I’m just reporting what the survey said!’ If that was okay for you, why not for Truthdig?

    RE: Clear distinction/distinction — good point. I meant indication! Clear indication versus mere indication! Sorry.

    And yeah, you did impress me. I thought, ‘How’s he gonna try and get out of this one? Pretend to not understand what I’m talking about? Try and deflect by bringing up other issues?’ You really came up with something I not only hadn’t thought of, but could never have thought of. For a while, I actually started to think you had me! Until I read your new version of this blog entry, I really thought your explanation was possible! (Although not plausible).

  • Matt October 16, 2010, 12:39 am

    RE: Clear distinction/distinction — that was your fuckup! I did say indication, not distinction. So I’m not sure what your confusion is, here. If you say something which indicates x, but you follow that with a sentence that indicates not-x, then it’s really hard to figure out whether you mean x or not-x. Right? I mean, if I say I believe in God (and that indicates I’m a theist), but then I follow it up with ‘Having said that, I definitely don’t believe in God,’ then have I clearly indicated whether or not I am a theist? I’d say it’s decidedly unclear, even though ‘I believe in God’ indicates I am a theist.

  • Glenn October 16, 2010, 11:29 am

    Oh I meant indication, whoops. I’m not sure which comment of mine you thought was in error for not acknowledging a distinction between mere indications and clear indications. I still don’t know which comment of mine you’re finding fault with.

    “this second time you used the word you used an argument that I’ve argued is invalid, and you said you made no such argument. Is that where you stand?”

    What? I said I made no such argument? What are you talking about? I said that I did not make the argument that YOU attributed to me:

    ‘1) X is reporting the results of this survey wrong.

    ‘Therefore, 2) X has some deficiency with regards to his integrity and truthfulness.’

    And it’s true, I never made that argument. And yes, that’s where I stand. You just constructed it and attributed it to me.

    The second time I used the word “integrity” it was in my concluding paragraph, and there it referred to the very same argument where I first used it (namely, the first one). The first argunment was stated to be about integrity, and the second was about truthfulness, and the conclusion referred back to both terms. I see nothing confusing about this.

    My argument was never: They’ve made an error, therefore they are liars without integrity. My points were: Firstly there’s a lack of integrity in label swapping when it suits atheists, and secondly there’s an issue of truth in implying that atheists came out on top, because if we’re going to accept the way groups are divided up, it’s misleading to crow about the victory of atheists when evangelicals did better.

    Imagine if evanglicals came fourth, but then they went around saying “Yuss! We beat all non-evangelical groups combined, if you take their average!”

  • Matt October 16, 2010, 9:28 pm

    Okay, let’s go:

    RE: The ‘Nothing in Particular’ category

    Considering your whole argument about integrity now relies on your assumption that ‘Nothing in particular’ refers to atheists, can you please respond to mine/Deane’s argument that it does not?

    RE: Indication v clear indication. You said:

    “As I said, the title of the blog post sums up my point. It CLEARLY INDICATES [my caps] that what I mean to address is the fact that evangelicals are not more ignorant of Christianity than atheists, as some atheists claim.”

    I responded with: “No, your blog title doesn’t CLEARLY INDICATE [my caps, again] what you meant to address. The fact that your blog title and the content of your blog said different things made it unclear what you meant to address.”

    Then you said: “Matt, in fact my blog title does INDICATE [my caps] what I meant to address.”

    My point is that, yes, your title does indicate what you meant to address, but it doesn’t clearly indicate it, for the same reasons it’s not clear whether I am a theist if I say both that I believe in God and that I don’t. The discussion that you and I had in the beginning was about what your title clearly indicated, and you slyly dropped the ‘clearly’ in your responses to me — thus changing the subject.

    RE: Invalid arguments

    You now say that “there’s a lack of integrity in label swapping when it suits atheists…” But isn’t THIS just as invalid as ‘They’ve made an error, therefore they are liars without integrity’? Maybe they just made a mistake with their labels? You did.

    RE: Your (new?) second point:

    “There’s an issue of truth in implying that atheists came out on top…. Imagine if evanglicals came fourth, but then they went around saying “Yuss! We beat all non-evangelical groups combined, if you take their average!””

    Okay, I’m imagining it. Aside from the fact that this would be a different situation (as Evangelicals wouldn’t just be reporting the conclusions of the study; they’d be doing their own maths as well as actually coming up with categories to suit their motives), I wouldn’t say that such Evangelicals were reporting false conclusions. Would you? It would seem plainly wrong (in such a case) to deny that Evangelicals know more about Christianity than non-Evangelicals.

    RE: Your concluding paragraph:

    You say: “The second time I used the word “integrity” it was in my concluding paragraph, and there it referred to the very same argument where I first used it (namely, the first one).”

    So how does this square with, “But I do take issue with the truthfulness and integrity of [those who would use the study to show] things that it actually does not [namely – as the title of this blog entry says, that atheists know more about Christianity than Evangelicals].” I mean, unless you’re using the English language in a very weird way, you’re pretty clearly linking integrity with ‘those who would use the study to show things that it actually does not’ — and I’ve yet to see a single person (let alone your stated targets) ‘use the study to show that Atheists did better than Evangelicals.’ (The link you gave me recently where an atheist was meant to have said this contained no such claims. That was, I think, another instance of you failing to admit your mistakes).

    RE: Thrasymachus’ Objection:

    “Firstly there’s a lack of integrity in label swapping when it suits atheists…”

    As Thrasymachus asks, why doesn’t this apply to you? Shouldn’t you be agreeing with Truthdig etc that atheists/agnostics did better than Christians? Maybe Truthdig shouldn’t be saying such things (I highly disagree with that, but anyway); but, by the same token, shouldn’t you admit that the study does show this to be true?

    One last question. Are you slyly changing your position again without acknowledging it? You now seem to be saying that one of your two problems with atheist coverage of this survey is that atheists are IMPLYING that they did better than Evangelicals. But when I said “Your atheist foes aren’t saying that atheists know more about Christianity than evangelicals,” you countered with “I can assure you that my “atheist foes” (your term) are indeed specifying Christians in a variety of their attacks.” Looks like you were claiming that atheists are SAYING that they did better than Evangelicals, not merely implying it (in that you seemed to disagree with me when I said they WEREN’T saying it). This would be a change in position, and one you ought to acknowledge. For, if you did say these atheists made false claims and you are reneging on that, I think you owe them an apology for criticising them for something they didn’t do.

    God, I’ve still got more to say, but…this is too long as it is.

  • Glenn October 16, 2010, 10:29 pm

    RE: The ‘Nothing in Particular’ category

    Considering your whole argument about integrity now relies on your assumption that ‘Nothing in particular’ refers to atheists, can you please respond to mine/Deane’s argument that it does not?

    What argument?

    Deane has said that there will be people who consider themselves spiritual but don’t affiliate with a relion. OK. No argument and no problem there. You have reiterated that claim. OK fine.

    To think that this is some sort of take-down argument is nonsense – and you must see that. You wouldn’t claim that everyone in this group is an ill-defined theist or mystic, surely. It is an option that people were given which indicates that there’s no religion that they accept. That’s it. I have said, and still say, that given how widely some atheists like to spread their net when defining atheism, this category nets plenty of them.

    Deane didn’t offer an argument against this, and neither did you. Why are you suggesting that he did?

    RE: Indication v clear indication.

    Ah OK. Well in this case you’re flat out wrong. A title that specifies atheists and evangelicals is clear – CLEAR – that it has evangelical specifically in mind. That’s clear, and you’re wrong.

    RE: Invalid arguments

    No, this is not like saying “they made an error, therefore they lack integrity.” There’s no semantic equivalence between my claim tand this claim that you have attributed to me. I have made an allegation that involves a kinf of slipperiness. An excusable error would be something like getting a word wrong, or mistaking one number for another. This is bigger than that. It’s a conceptual error based on a questionable way of using words.

    RE: My second point (not new, just corrected, as I have noted right from the start):

    “I wouldn’t say that such Evangelicals were reporting false conclusions.” You’d surely (hopefully) say they were being dishonest – as would I. I consider it fair to condemn dishonesty as a case of not (really) telling the truth.

    RE: Concluding paragraph:

    Concluding paragraphs, in their very nature, go over multiple points made in the preceding article. That is what I did here. No weird use of english, nos pecial meansing. You’re looking very hard to find something not there.

    That being said, since I think there are honesty issues int he second point as well, I will now for the first time apply my use of “integrity” to the second point as well. See? Even when I take the step of doing that, there’s still no problem.

    RE: Thrasymachus’ Objection:

    Why doesn’t it apply to me? Have you even been following this?

    Let me break it down for you again. Atheists have two choices: They can suck it up and admit that their group is smaller, and therefore accept the multiple categories, thus doing the same for Christians by allowing multiple categories. If they do this, then Evangelicals beat atheists on Christianity and there’s no category of “Christian.”

    Or, they can accept all the broadly defined atheists into their group so that they can say that “atheists” beat “christians” on Christianity. The trouble is, if they do this then “atheists” didn’t do so well overall (which they wouldn’t want), and because broadening their group would lower their score on Christianity, they probably still wouldn’t want the broadly defined group on their side.

    So there’s nothing that I’m failing to apply to me. I’m just saying: The atheists can’t have it both ways.

    Anything else I’m missing, Matt?

  • Matt October 17, 2010, 12:10 am

    You ask, “What argument”?

    Answer: “Even atheists who say “Atheism merely refers to those who lack religious belief” are probably only widening the net to include agnostics. So the fact that there is another category, apart from atheism and agnosticism, is really quite strange. I think Deane’s explanation is the most plausible: that ‘Nothing in particular’ probably refers to people who just think of themselves as ‘spiritual.’ I mean, look at the categories: if you were someone who described yourself as ‘spiritual’ but didn’t adhere to any particular religion, which box would you tick? With Deane’s explanation of ‘Nothing in particular’ in hand, all of a sudden that category starts to make sense.”

    RE: Indication v clear indication:

    Two things:

    1) No, you are wrong that your title clearly indicates what you were meant to address, just as in my ‘I do/don’t believe in God’ analogy it’s not clear at all whether or not I’m a theist.

    2) Doesn’t even matter. You still equated indication with clear indication. That was wrong. There are surely such things as unclear indications, whether or not your blog title was an instance of this (which it obviously was).

    RE: Invalid arguments:

    You say: “An excusable error would be something like getting a word wrong, or mistaking one number for another. This is bigger than that. It’s a conceptual error based on a questionable way of using words.” That’s a new premiss. It wasn’t in your blog. (It’s also really contrived, but let’s leave that). Your argument was invalid.

    RE: Your (new) second point (I’m sticking with the word ‘new,’ as I don’t think your initial #2 had nothing to do with integrity):

    You say: “You’d surely (hopefully) say they were being dishonest…” No, of course I wouldn’t, that’s entirely unfair. But, again, that’s beside the point. Would you say that these evangelicals were reporting false conclusions? Because that is what you said about the atheists. You said they are “trying to make the study show things that it actually does not (where in fact it says the opposite).”

    RE: Concluding paragraph:

    “Concluding paragraphs, in their very nature, go over multiple points made in the preceding article. That is what I did here. No weird use of english, nos pecial meansing.” Well I hope that’s not meant to be an argument. You know that touching on multiple points and using bad English aren’t mutually exclusive, right? In support of the point that you are (at best) using exceptionally weird English, let’s do the analogy thing: If I say “I have a problem with people who drink too much,” but I fail to point out that my problem with these people has nothing to do with how much they drink, you’d think that was a particularly misleading sentence, right?

    RE: Thrasymachus’ Objection:

    Well that was a complete mess. Here’s an invalid argument:

    1) Atheists reckon ‘non-believers’ ought to be broken up into smaller categories.
    2) Therefore, atheists need to accept that Christianity ought to be broken up into smaller categories.

    Besides the fact that this is patently invalid and I see no reason an atheist who accepts 1) would have to accept 2), it’s also exceptionally unclear why ‘Christianity’ gets to be the yin to the yang of the ‘non-believers.’ Why shouldn’t the polar of ‘non-believers’ be ‘believers,’ which would include Jews and Muslims etc? Then ‘believers’ would be broken down into smaller categories (one of which could be Christianity), just as atheism is.

    Also, here’s another invalid argument:

    3) Atheists need to accept that Christianity ought to be broken up into smaller categories.
    4) Therefore, there is no category of ‘Christian.’

    If you have a look at the second table in your blog entry, you will see that not only is ‘Christianity’ broken up into smaller categories, but Christianity also remains as a category itself.

    Moreover, you say: “Or, they can accept all the broadly defined atheists into their group so that they can say that “atheists” beat “christians” on Christianity. The trouble is, if they do this then “atheists” didn’t do so well overall…” Well that’s not something you can confidently proclaim if even SOME of the ‘Nothing in Particular’ category aren’t atheists (still not sure why you think any of them are, let alone why you think Truthdig etc should proclaim that they all are, but God I’m trying not to get side-tracked).

    And the reason I don’t want to get side-tracked is because you’ve already taken us so far off the point. I asked you, “Shouldn’t you be agreeing with Truthdig etc that atheists/agnostics did better than Christians?” Now what is your answer to this? If I’m following, I think it’s that (as you are a person who thinks that atheism should be defined ‘narrowly’) you think there is no such category as ‘Christian’? It looks like maybe that’s what you’d say, but that’s getting pretty crazy, isn’t it? I know you’re saying that atheists like Truthdig need to say that there is no such category as ‘Christianity,’ but are you saying that YOU need to say that too?

    “So there’s nothing that I’m failing to apply to me. I’m just saying: The atheists can’t have it both ways.”

    And that’s because one can’t have a category of Christianity if one defines atheism in the way that you always have? Well I’ll be.

    Also, what of the second-to-last paragraph of my last response to you? You didn’t mention that, did you?

  • Glenn October 17, 2010, 1:35 am

    Matt – I have answred the first claim adequately. No particular religion clearly includes those who don’t have spiritual beliefs. To reply to your rpeated claim would just be to repeat myself.

    Re: the blog title, no. The title clearly states what the blog is about. Sorry, it does.

    re: Integrity: You’re welcome to think that people an be honest while behaving in the manner I described. This just means you and I have different standards, and you’d let people get away with more than I would.

    Re: concluding paragraph: “Well I hope that’s not meant to be an argument.” It’s as much of an argument as your claim about my concluding paragraph.

    Re: Thrasymachus’ objection:

    You have again invented and attributed to me an argument that I didn’t use. My point is that they are using double standards with no clear justification. They have apparently decided in a purely self-serving way when fine distinctions are appropriate and when they’re not. But then, you’ve already shown that you and I have different standards of what’s honest and what’s not, and this may simply be a case of that difference in action. It’s not that I think there’s no broad category of “Christian.” It’s that the atheists who would use these stats are alternately using a broad then narrow concepts when it suits them.

    It’s also not really fair to complain that I have taken us off the point when what I have said in response has been dictated by the objections that you have raised. I have merely followed your lead Matt, and if that has taken us off the point then you shouldn’t blame me.

    Your second to last paragraph earlier attempted to impute dishonesty to me by implying that I was changing my position. But my position did not change at all. I have already given you an example of atheists stating that they did better than evangelicals. What’s more, from start to finish I have not changed my arguments: 1) The claim about Christians and atheists rests on a dubious and shifting understanding of “atheism,” and 2) Actually evangelicals did better than atheists – even with this narrowed definition of atheism.

    These were my points inthe blog post, and they have remained my points all the way through. To imply that something has changed is just mistaken.

    I don’t know why we’re still doing this. Matt, I think you’ve spent so much time trying to show a flaw somewhere that you feel you can’t walk away empty handed (my biased speculation I admit). But after each objection is answered you re-word yourself and come back with another, with the same result. Why?

  • Matt October 17, 2010, 2:15 am

    “No particular religion clearly includes those who don’t have spiritual beliefs.”

    Any reason AT ALL for you to say this? Makes no sense — such people would seem to be agnostics, even on Richard Wilde’s definitions. And there’s no other category for ‘merely spiritual’ people, so why lump them together with agnostics? Besides which, as I’ve said, if even some of the people in this category aren’t atheists, then your claim that atheists did worse than Christians is unsupported. Who knows what percentage of this ‘Nothing in Particular’ group are atheist, and who knows how well this particular percentage did? This point really affects your claims, Glenn, whether or not you have some evidence that the group includes atheists (which, so far as I’ve seen, you don’t).

    “Re: the blog title, no. The title clearly states what the blog is about. Sorry, it does.”

    Oh. Right. Sorry. Any chance of you even perhaps trying to engage with the arguments I’ve brought to you? No, no, you’re right, sorry, don’t know why I asked.

    “re: Integrity: You’re welcome to think that people an be honest while behaving in the manner I described.”

    Again, not the point. I’m just saying you used an invalid argument in your blog entry. Whether I’d agree to your new premiss or not is another issue. We’ve got enough going on here. (And, if I didn’t, it wouldn’t indicate that I’d let people away with more; just with different things. But please, let’s stop getting off track).

    “Re: concluding paragraph: “Well I hope that’s not meant to be an argument.” It’s as much of an argument as your claim about my concluding paragraph.”

    Well I’ve presented an analogy. So I don’t think we are even.

    RE: Thramascus: I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Going home soon. Suffice to say, there’s a lot to untangle there.

    “It’s also not really fair to complain that I have taken us off the point when what I have said in response has been dictated by the objections that you have raised.”

    Your responses have taken us off topic by bringing in irrelevant issues to answer my objections.

    “I have already given you an example of atheists stating that they did better than evangelicals.”

    No, no you really haven’t. I’ve already pointed this out. That’s another mistake you made that you haven’t admitted to.

    “Matt, I think you’ve spent so much time trying to show a flaw somewhere that you feel you can’t walk away empty handed (my speculation I admit). But after each objection is answered you re-word yourself and come back with another, with the same result.”

    How absurd. That’s precisely what you are doing. There’s no way you can’t understand that you are wrong in every instance — you’re constantly evading issues by changing your position; and when an objection to that new position is raised you change it back again. To this point, I haven’t accused you of consciously doing this, because I don’t have a good argument for it. But it’s as self-evident as anything has ever been self-evident, and considering the ludicrous suggestions in your last paragragh I no longer feel the restraint I once did.

    I’m not getting dirty here, I’m just saying — it’s clear to me you know just how poorly you’ve done here. That’s not an insult: the fact that you make mistakes makes you no different to anyone else. It’s just how things are.

  • Matt October 17, 2010, 2:48 am

    Dammit, I gotta respond, I don’t know what’s wrong with me; I’m gonna be formulating my response in bed if I don’t write it now, so I need to respond to the Thrasymachus stuff to get some sleep!

    “You have again invented and attributed to me an argument that I didn’t use.”

    You presented the atheist with a dilemma, one horn of which was: “They can suck it up and admit that their group is smaller, and therefore accept the multiple categories, thus doing the same for Christians by allowing multiple categories.” How is the following not a rephrasing of that horn:

    “1) Atheists reckon ‘non-believers’ ought to be broken up into smaller categories.
    2) Therefore, atheists need to accept that Christianity ought to be broken up into smaller categories.”

    But, that argument is not the same as this: “My point is that they are using double standards with no clear justification.” This was your initial point – this is what I mean when I say you are taking us off track. You start with the point in this paragraph, someone throws up an objection, then all of a sudden you’re giving a different argument (to deflect from the fact that you’ve got no answer to the objection?), then someone points out an objection to your new argument and all of a sudden you’re back to your old point, as if that somehow answers the objection to your latter point! See, now we’re back to asking you the following question, which you still haven’t answered (and was the thrust of Thrasymachus’ point, way back when): “Shouldn’t you be agreeing with Truthdig etc that atheists/agnostics did better than Christians?”

    Also, there was another point I didn’t respond to before. You said: “Your second to last paragraph earlier attempted to impute dishonesty to me by implying that I was changing my position. But my position did not change at all. I have already given you an example of atheists stating that they did better than evangelicals.”

    Okay, so can I just get this on record, a clear answer: you’re not just saying that your atheist foes have IMPLIED that they did better on the survey re: Christianity than Evangelicals; you are saying they STATED it? Or SAID it? Or CLAIMED it? Because, a) I’d like to see a link that actually supports your claim here, and b) which of your points 1&2 is this?

    Okay, I really hope you haven’t responded in the interim. Maybe I can just not look? I’m gonna try that. Night Glenn!

  • Matt October 17, 2010, 2:51 am

    Oh, thank God, you didn’t reply in the interim! I couldn’t not look; I was fooling myself that I could not look! Thanks for not replying so late, and I may talk to you tomorrow (depending on how long you want to go on with this for).

    Night.

  • Glenn October 17, 2010, 2:50 pm

    “it’s clear to me you know just how poorly you’ve done here.”

    OK Matt, you can keep and cherish that feeling. nevermind the fact that every time you’ve created a new objection I’ve addressed it and maintained my original stance while you regrouped and tried again (and again and again) for that win you’re after. You keep this belief if you need to, and I’ll just keep the position I’ve defended 🙂 . Later.

  • Matt October 17, 2010, 4:56 pm

    “OK Matt, you can keep and cherish that feeling [that I, Glenn, know how poorly I’ve done here].”

    I don’t cherish it, but even a child can understand that if you say one then and then contradict it, it’s hard to figure out which of the two contradictory things you really mean. And you are not a child: you have a PhD and regularly string sentences together. I understand you want to save face by not admitting to an elementary error, but isn’t that goal more subverted by claiming you STILL fail to see such a basic error?

    “[I’ve] maintained my original stance…” Glenn, you realise that your posts haven’t been deleted, right? That one can actually see you changing your position by putting two of your sentences together (e.g., slyly changing from ‘clear indication’ to ‘indication’ being just one example of this)?

    “Every time you’ve created a new objection I’ve addressed it and maintained my original stance while you regrouped and tried again (and again and again) for that win you’re after.”

    At certain times, I have granted for the sake of argument that in some cases you have not changed your position. I’ve said that even if this were so — which it is not (for reasons gone over ad nauseum) — all you’ve done is shift the problem along slightly. You’ve said, “I never used THAT invalid argument; I used THIS invalid argument!” and I’ve pointed out that’s a bit of a shitty response. What’s wrong with that?

    But look, let’s put most of these issues away. I would think it quite a boon if you could clearly answer even just one question — I’m gonna shoot for three. My top three questions are:

    1) “[So] you’re not just saying that your atheist foes have IMPLIED that they did better on the survey re: Christianity than Evangelicals; you are saying they STATED it? Or SAID it? Or CLAIMED it?” If so, could you please provide a link. [As I’ve said – and as you ignored – the link you gave contained no such claim from an atheist…unless maybe you’re equating ‘God’ with ‘Christianity’ — which would be more than a little odd, not least because the survey asks about other monotheistic religions.]

    2) Do you have even a shred of evidence for your claim that the ‘Nothing in Particular’ category includes any atheists AT ALL
    (let alone some evidence for how well these particular atheists did on the Christianity part of the survey)? If so, could you please provide a link or a reference?

    3) “Shouldn’t you be agreeing with Truthdig etc that atheists/agnostics did better than Christians?”

    Okay, that’s enough. I know there’s no chance of you non-evasively answering any of these questions (‘Atheists are using double-standards!’ — yes, Glenn, I know you think that, because the internet told you so, but the question is whether you are too. Stay on topic!) but I thought I’d give it one more shot. Not really sure why, but there it is.

  • Glenn October 17, 2010, 5:39 pm

    “Not really sure why” – I think I answered that for you earlier.

    Matt, people can see, if they’re interested, that you’ve claimed that my position has changed, and then in turn I have reiterated my position as the same position I started with. I know that you want me to change my position. There’s a rhetorical advantage in making out that someone has tried to change their stance becaue they became uncomfortable, but in this case it is rhetorical only – a way of finding something, anything, to whip up as a way of maintaining that there really is still a point that you’ve made here.

    I know I haven’t given the answers that you wanted. That’s not to say I haven’t answered your questions, it just means that you were denied the “gotcha” that you believed you had. Each time, you found that it wasn’t there. As your attacks failed to score the hits you were hoping for, you assumed that it must be because I had moved. Actually, it’s just because you missed. If I’ve answered something a few times, I’m not going to do it again. Cheers for the chat, Matt!

  • Matt October 18, 2010, 1:53 pm

    Hi Glenn,

    “I know that you want me to change my position.”

    Well that’s complete baloney.

    “There’s a rhetorical advantage in making out that someone has tried to change their stance becaue they became uncomfortable, but in this case it is rhetorical only…”

    This would be more credible if I hadn’t clearly demonstrated with juxtaposed quotes from you that in many instances you had most definitely changed your position and in other cases had very likely changed your position. I mean, if you’d even tried to take issue with my arguments (usually from analogy), your rhetorical device of accusing me of using a rhetorical device would leave you with some measure of credibility. As it is, though, I feel a bit like I’m “throwing shit at the human.” (I like that phrase, I was hoping I could drop that in sometime).

    “If I’ve answered something a few times, I’m not going to do it again.”

    Glenn, if that was true, that would be a fair point. But it’s just plainly not. Again, I’m going to be kind and presume you’re being deliberately dishonest, as I think the more insulting scenario is that you really don’t understand that you haven’t even come close to answering these questions. I give you more credit than that.

    I mean, where could you have even possibly answered these questions? Have a look:

    1) You gave me a link to a site claiming that atheists know more about God than evangelicals. I pointed out you were equating ‘God’ with ‘Christianity,’ and you literally – LITERALLY – have said absolutely nothing about this. You haven’t even given me a non-evasive answer. You’ve said not a word in response. If I’m wrong, just point me to the post. Give me a number. Just give me a number: if it’s in post #50, for instance, just respond with a ’50.’ Okay, you’ve given me too much of your time, you don’t want to give me any more, but just a number, is that really so much?

    2) Again, a number. The whole time (including your initial blog entry) you’ve given only four links, so far as I can see. Three were to your ‘atheist foes;’ the point of these links were to show us that atheists are claiming they did better in the Christianity portion of the survey than evangelicals and/or Christians. The other link was to the Pew Forum Study, with absolutely no directions for how we navigate our way from there to your supposed evidence that ‘Nothing in Particular’ includes atheists. Neither have you given us directions towards evidence that the supposed atheist subgroup of ‘Nothing in Particular’ scored poorly (or “poorly enough to bring the atheist’s average score below that of Christianity”). If I’m wrong, give me a number. I’m not asking you to answer my questions ‘again’: just give me ’50’ or whatever it may be. As I say, I know you don’t want to give up more time, but a number — that’s negligible. That’s negligible time, to back up accusations. Be a dear.

    3) To say atheists are using double-standars is not to answer the question “Shouldn’t you be agreeing with Truthdig etc that atheists/agnostics did better than Christians?” This question requires a yes or no answer. If you can point me towards a post that is meant to answer this question, and has a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ in it’s answer (and doesn’t merely reaccuse atheists of using double-standards), and I’ll shut the hell up.

    So that’s now all I’m asking for: 3 numbers. Hell, I’ll take one. If you can produce even one number that points to a post that clearly and directly answers even one of these questions, you’ll have saved a little bit of face. But until or unless you back them up in even this most minimal of senses, drop the allegations that you’ve answered my questions already, eh?

  • Glenn October 18, 2010, 2:35 pm

    Matt – you’re still going? For reasons already alluded to, I’m not. My position remains the same as it has all along (as continually pointed out by me), and you’re free to not like it. It hasn’t changed in the least. I can see that you think your most recent questions (as opposed to the dozen or so attempts at “gotcha” that I have answered and then patiently endured the next re-group and attempt) are really important, but I don’t, sorry, and to pursue them in a way that “undoes” your errors (as I see them) would mean, in my view, sinking more time into a discussion with someone who doesn’t have the same goals in the conversation that I do. I think that I have already given you a great deal when it comes to answering a person who has decided that battle is inevitable, and I think your initial objections to my post are no more.

    I think that a large handful of successful rebuttals to your attempts at a takedown should tell you something. I am not interested in replying to further re-forumulated attempts. Yes this sounds condescending, but how much should I be expected to put up with?

    EDIT: For the record, I barely read comments 64 and 66 at all. In 65 I noted that I was declining to address 64 in depth because I had already answered you adequately (and enough times – this started back with comment 8!). Any new questions that you raised in 64 then will not be addressed, as indicated above. I am not interested in the game of just having the will to reply with new objections eternally so that when the other person gets sick of it you can say “a HA! You fully addressed the first million objections, but you didn’t answer objection one million and ONE!”

  • Matt October 18, 2010, 3:52 pm

    “I can see that you think your questions are really important, but I don’t, sorry, and to answer them would mean, in my view…”

    I’m not asking you to answer them; I’m asking you to point to posts where you have answered them. And the reason I’m doing this is because you have accused me of certain negative things based upon the allegation that you have indeed answered my questions.

    I came to this blog because I’d heard that there was a guy who defended theism (and related topics) well. I guess that’s false. Oh well, you and your mates have fun telling each other you’re right and criticising Ken. Cheers for putting in so much time though, it was fun for a bit; but now I guess I’ll leave you alone. Thanks

  • Glenn October 18, 2010, 4:42 pm

    Matt: “can see that you think your most recent questions (as opposed to the dozen or so attempts at “gotcha” that I have answered and then patiently endured the next re-group and attempt) are really important,”

    Perhaps I was expanding on this comment when you replied (although your comment had not appeared when I was finished editing…). As I noted Matt, those questions were new in comment 64. By that time I figured I had done enough to illustrate that you were just coming up with new ones each time in the hope of that elusive score. Your objections up to then had not succeeded. Every person has a limit.

    If you had a good objection you should have presented it long before then and we could have discussed it. This is as I thought – present a million objections and then complain that I didn’t address the newest one.

  • Matt October 18, 2010, 5:13 pm

    Okay, I see you added things to your last post as I was replying to it, so I will respond to those new points then leave you alone.

    “I think that I have already given you a great deal when it comes to answering a person who has decided that battle is inevitable…”

    Well that’s not me. Give me good responses and there would be no ‘battle,’ as you put it.

    “I think that a large handful of successful rebuttals to your attempts at a takedown should tell you something.”

    Successful rebuttals? What on earth could you possibly be referring to? Are you referring to when I said your conclusion about integrity was invalidly derived? Because I never abandoned that criticism (as I’ve pointed out numerous times): I hold that to be an accurate objection, as otherwise you would have used English in a very strange way (and here you completely ignored my arguments from analogy, so I see no reason to think that I’ve failed). What I DID say is that even if your response to my objection was true (this is a counterfactual, Glenn), you were still using an invalid argument (and that’s accurate — you have a very strange definition of ‘successsful’). But I never abandoned my original point and your characterisation of my actions that way is simply false.

    Or are you referring to when you gave links to articles that didn’t say what you said they said?

    Or are you referring to when you dropped the word ‘clearly’ from one of your claims and then I agreed with your new claim, but maintained that your previous claim was still false?

    Or are you referring to another one of your mountain of failures?

    “I am not interested in replying to further re-forumulated attempts.”

    I have indulged you, it’s true. When I charged you with equivocating between ‘indciation’ and ‘clear indication,’ and you respond with ‘My blog title did clearly indicate x!,’ I pointed out (by analogy) how that was false. But I didn’t need to; that was, as I said, no objection to what I was saying. You still equivocated between ‘indication’ and ‘clear indication,’ whether or not your blog title clearly indicated what you meant wanted to talk about. I shouldn’t have responded to all your irrelevant asides and side-tracks (responses which you call ‘reformulated,’ although that’s exceptionally misleading because I never abandoned my original points), but I was trying to be kind.

    “For the record, I barely read comments 64 and 66 at all.”

    Or any else, for that matter.

    “I am not interested in the game of just having the will to reply with new objections eternally so that when the other person gets sick of it you can say “a HA! You fully addressed the first million objections, but you didn’t answer objection one million and ONE!””

    If you’ll look at those questions, they are not new: they are copied and pasted from times long past.

    “In 65 I noted that I was declining to address 64 in depth because I had already answered you adequately (and enough times – this started back with comment 8!).”

    And here’s the main point — no you had not (it’s good to end on a main point. I like that); as I explained in detail in 66. If I am wrong, you can show it in three numbers (less effort than typing paragraphs, which is what you did in your last post). I even said I’d settle for one number — that would indicate some degree of comprehension. It would also back up your allegations about me in even some small degree. But you haven’t: you’ve stuck with insulting me and not backing those allegations up.

    Fun for some, and good luck to you — honestly — but it’s not my scene. See ya.

  • Matt October 18, 2010, 5:18 pm

    Glenn,

    You say:

    “As I noted Matt, those questions were new in comment 64.”

    And as I’ve said, no they were not. In two of them I’ve actually used the exact same phrasing as when I had asked them previously (indicated by the fact that I had quote marks around them). So, again, you’re wrong.

    I better keep this short so that you don’t reply while I’m replying. Honestly, thanks for the time, and thanks for the large measure of fun that I got out of responding to your blog entries the past week or so, but it’s really degenerated into something I thought it wouldn’t be. As long as you enjoy it though — hey, as you say, it’s your blog. Best of luck to you.

    Matt.

  • Glenn October 18, 2010, 5:28 pm

    OK, whatever, at least some of your new batch of questions were new in 64. The torrent of perpetual re-attempts is tough to follow. The main objection should have come to light ages ago instead of hiding it until after screeds of rebutted attempts.

    Thanks to you too, Matt.

  • Matt October 18, 2010, 5:32 pm

    Er, no they weren’t. And there were no ‘re-attempts;’ there was indulging you in asides.

    Goddamnit, I’m stoppping. Whatever you say next, I’m out. Gah, sorry for replying: I’m sure you want this to stop as much as me. You have the last word, go for it, you’ve let me have it twice, I owe you that much. Just couldn’t resist with that last post. But I’ll resist from now — I won’t even look at the blog any more. It’s yours, have your fun with it.

    Cheers again.

  • Glenn October 18, 2010, 5:34 pm

    Matt! See, you have to have another go!

  • Dave October 18, 2010, 6:03 pm

    Hmmm, it looks to me like this is Matt’s most promising response (the rest were either sidetracks or obvious failures):

    [My paraphrase]

    Glenn: The group “atheist” is being defined too narrowly. Actually it should include many in the “no religion” category.

    Matt: ANY reason to think that?

    I say this is Matt’s strongest objection because it’s the most relevant. Trouble is, Glenn’s obviously right. There IS a reason to think this, for the simple reason that atheists in fact have no religion.

    It’s not rocket science!

  • Glenn October 18, 2010, 6:24 pm

    Ssshhh, Dave! He’s trying to wean himself!

  • Dave October 18, 2010, 11:05 pm

    One more thing: I have read over it a few times, and I have no idea what Matt’s point was on this specific issue (if there really was one).

    Glenn said that the blog title indicates what his subject was – in fact he says that it clearly indicates what his subject was. Matt claims that Glenn changed his stance between the claim that the title indicates the subject and the claim that the title “clearly” indicates the subject. Huh?

    a) How the hell is Glenn supposed to have changed his view when, after being challenged with this silly claim, he again stated that he DOES think the blog title clearly indicates his subject? Why pretend that he no longer thinks the title clearly indicates the subject? Are you calling Glenn a liar, and are you a mind reader?

    b) Anyone who makes the claim that Glenn equivocates on this needs to learn what equivocation means. Matt said that Glenn equivocated here, but that’s just silly. Equivocation is where you use a phrase or word in more than one sense, without revealing the two (or more) different meanings to the reader. Glen used the word “indicates” the same way throughout, and he used the word “clearly” the same way throughout. Moreover, if you clearly indicate something, then you do in fact indicate something.

    Seriously, Matt’s rabbit trails are totally desparate! Talk about hunting desparately for a new point to make when you realise your first argument sucked!

  • Matt October 19, 2010, 12:44 pm

    Dave,

    Glenn’s right, shhh, I am trying to wean myself! But new challenger, maybe you’ll be alright (not looking promising so far, but I’ll have a go).

    Hmm, I typed that first sentence before I really read your replies. I mean, honestly Dave, you said you’ve read through all this a few times — if you aren’t going to engage with what is said, this convo will peter out very quickly. Try harder than you have been trying, Dave.

    RE: post #5. ‘No religion’ and ‘No religion in Particular’ are different phrases. If you want to conflate the two, say why. Certainly ‘No religion in Particular’ could include people with religion (just not a particular one), and that undermines Glenn’s point. But also, I see no reason to think that everyone who has ‘No religion’ wouldn’t just tick the ‘atheist’ box — so, even if ‘No religion in particular’ could include people who are atheists, there’s no reason to think that it actually DOES (as all the atheists may have ticked the ‘atheist’ box — or, if they didn’t, demonstrate that they didn’t).

    Also, why do you think that this is my most promising response? What about the fact that Glenn’s links don’t say what he claims they say? This would seem to be pretty darned important, I would imagine.

    “Glenn said that the blog title indicates what his subject was ”

    Yes

    “in fact he says that it clearly indicates what his subject was.”

    “How the hell is Glenn supposed to have changed his view when, after being challenged with this silly claim, he again stated that he DOES think the blog title clearly indicates his subject?”

    Changing it back doesn’t mean you didn’t change it in the first place. Elementary. Do you need examples, child? [I also don’t see why it is a ‘silly’ objection — I was just saying Glenn didn’t admit to all of his mistakes, and I used this as an example. Do try to follow along.]

    “Moreover, if you clearly indicate something, then you do in fact indicate something.”

    Yes, but if you’ve indicated something, you haven’t necessarily clearly indicated something.

    “Glen used the word “indicates” the same way throughout, and he used the word “clearly” the same way throughout.”

    Glenn said his blog title clearly indicated what he meant to address, I said no it did not clearly indicate it (because of the contradictory sentences that followed), and he said that yes indeedy it did indicate it. We were discussing an issue about clear indication, and Glenn all of a sudden started talking about mere indication as if he hadn’t changed the subject. So long as clear indication and indication are different (please address my analogies if you are going to disagree with this), Glenn equivocated between the two concepts.

    “Talk about hunting desparately for a new point to make when you realise your first argument sucked!”

    I’ve yet to be told what my first point was that ‘sucked.’ I have never abandoned any of my points; you people really need to understand how one can grant something ‘for the sake of argument’ and yet not grant it simpliciter.

    Seriously dude, I’m going over really old ground here — I could have copied and pasted this post here from my older posts to Glenn. I mean, reference a goddamned analogy — I don’t care if you even engage with it at this point; just bring one up to pretend like you aren’t just going to be a stubborn prick.

    That’s all.

  • Dave October 19, 2010, 1:18 pm

    Matt, a quick question before I say anything further to you. This is just to check whether you’re able to be fair minded:

    Imagine a person who has no religion – none at all, and who rejects all religious faiths. OK?

    Now here’s the question: If that person is asked whether or not they have a “particular religion,” what will they say? Yes or no?

    Looks to me like you think you’re engaging the issue by using lots of sentences and then asserting that you’ve offered a good objection, but you’re really not. Given your response to this point in your comment above, it’s important that I see what you make of this simple question and that you can be reasonable. That will tell me whether or not it’s worth continuing. Calling me a child suggests that maybe you’re not really into discussion. That’s fine too.

  • Dave October 19, 2010, 1:24 pm

    One other thing (couldn’t help it):

    “Yes, but if you’ve indicated something, you haven’t necessarily clearly indicated something.”

    That’s true. But Glenn ALREADY said that he had clearly idicated something. If he later said that he had indicated something, that’s not a backtrack at all. If I say that I have clearly shown something, and later I say “I showed it,” you’d be daft to say “GOT YOU THERE – you changed your mind.”

    That’s just really silly Matt. Sorry, but it is. Why bother making up stories about someone changing their mind when they tell you they haven’t – and there’s really no evidence? And it’s not equivocation, since all the words are being used in the same way. You’re just trying to make your non-objections sound smart when they’re really silly. I think you’re the stubborn one, chipping away again and again hoping to find something… maybe… eventually…. to object to.

    Sorry, I got carried away being annoyed by silliness. Anyway… I’ll wait to see how you answer the question in my previous comment Matt. I’ll check later to see your answer.

  • Matt October 19, 2010, 1:25 pm

    Dave,

    Thank you for your question; you are now engaging with me and I appreciate that.

    “Imagine a person who has no religion …. If that person is asked whether or not they have a “particular religion,” what will they say? Yes or no?”

    Very good question. They would say no.

    Now, here’s three questions for you:

    1) If this person is asked to tick a box ‘Atheist’ or ‘No religion in particular,’ how can you be certain that this person ticked ‘No religion in particular’?

    2) Imagine a person who believes in God but isn’t Black Hispanic, White Evangelical etc (where ‘etc’ refers to the other theist boxes on the survey). Which box are they going to tick?

    3) If the answer to #2 is ‘Nothing in Particular,’ then are you suggesting that some atheists and some theists are being lumped together in the same box; and wouldn’t that be a really strange box for this survey to have?

    Thanks for the response Dave,

    Matt.

  • Matt October 19, 2010, 1:26 pm

    Hold on a sec before you reply; I’ll just quickly reply to your #10…

  • Dave October 19, 2010, 1:43 pm

    Well, looks like you chose not to quickly add another reply, so here goes Matt.

    Matt, so let me get this straight – you basically abused Glenn for failing to (in your own mind) adequately a ddress a point when you basically agree with him?

    You say that if a person holds NO religious or spiritual beliefs, then this is compatible with them saying that they have no particular religion. So there’s nothing strange about an atheist choosing “no religion in particular”? gee, that’s kinda what Glenn said, no? You were just wasting time trying to create a fight over that?

    Your questions:

    “1) If this person is asked to tick a box ‘Atheist’ or ‘No religion in particular,’ how can you be certain that this person ticked ‘No religion in particular’? ”

    Wow. Talk about a back down! So now your new position is not that there aren’t plenty of atheists in this category (which is all that Glenn’s argument required). You new argument is that we can’t be CERTAIN that a total unbeliever would choose the “nothing in particular” option. LOL! But Glenn never said that, did he? Of course we can’t be CERTAIN that he would pick that option. But so what?

    “2) Imagine a person who believes in God but isn’t Black Hispanic, White Evangelical etc (where ‘etc’ refers to the other theist boxes on the survey). Which box are they going to tick?

    3) If the answer to #2 is ‘Nothing in Particular,’ then are you suggesting that some atheists and some theists are being lumped together in the same box; and wouldn’t that be a really strange box for this survey to have?”

    He might pick a form of theism that is closest to his own beliefs – but yes he may well pick “nothing in particular.” So? And if you find it strange that there’s an option that might turn out to include some theists and some non-theists, why blame Glenn? Did Glenn write the options?

    See Matt, as soon as you clarify yourself and try to show exactly what your objection is, it just ends up being absurd!

    You should be apologising to Glenn for alleging that he never addressed this stuff Matt. You were totally wasting his time with this bollocks.

  • Matt October 19, 2010, 1:47 pm

    “That’s true. But Glenn ALREADY said that he had clearly idicated something. If he later said that he had indicated something, that’s not a backtrack at all.”

    I agree that Glenn’s blog title indicates what he meant to address. The issue is whether or not the title clearly indicated what he meant to address. When we’re arguing about the latter, and he starts talking about the former as though the issue hadn’t changed, that’s an equivocation.

    As for whether Glenn changed his mind or not (rather than just his ‘position’ — that is to say, ‘what he is arguing for’), that’s another issue. Did I actually say he changed his mind (on this point), or just his position?

    Give me a quote of me saying he changed his mind about this, and maybe I can say more.

    Thanks,

    Matt.

    No, but it changes the issue. My position is that his blog title didn’t clearly indicate what he meant to address. His position was that it did clearly indicate what he meant to address. He then said that it his blog title did indicate what he meant to address. I agree that his blog title indicated what he meant to address.

    If the issue is whether or not his blog title clearly indicated what he meant to address, and all of a sudden Glenn starts saying that
    If we are arguing about whether or not his blog title clearly indicates what he means to address, and

    Me: X doesn’t clearly indicate what you mean to address

  • Dave October 19, 2010, 1:50 pm

    Oh Matt, don’t play dumb. Nobody cares if you used the sentence “You changed your mind.” The point is obvious: You allege that he started defending a different position. Rubbish. I explained why not.

    I can’t believe you’re proud of the way you’ve argued, pretending that you were scoring these big hits that Glenn couldn’t answer.

    What a joke.

  • Dave October 19, 2010, 1:51 pm

    PS: Matt, are you OK? Your last post actually read like it was a little bit crazy. There is just one person there, right?

  • Matt October 19, 2010, 1:57 pm

    Oh man, why you gotta be a dick again? Wasn’t a nice, normal conversation okay for you?

    “You say that if a person holds NO religious or spiritual beliefs, then this is compatible with them saying that they have no particular religion. So there’s nothing strange about an atheist choosing “no religion in particular”? gee, that’s kinda what Glenn said, no?”

    NO! Understand this: Glenn said that this category DOES include atheists! That’s why the combined score of atheists ‘broadly construed’ would be lower than the ‘atheist/agnostic’ group. If there were no atheists in the atheist/agnostic group, then that would be false. So he needs there to be ACTUAL atheists in that group; not merely possible atheists.

    “And if you find it strange that there’s an option that might turn out to include some theists and some non-theists, why blame Glenn?”

    I’m not blaming Glenn. I’m asking, is that really what you think the category refers to? Like, genuinely? There’s a category for atheists, and no category for ‘merely spiritual’ people, so why would you presume that this category partially refers to atheists? Why double-up the atheist category and leave the ‘merely spiritual’ people to share one of those categories? Seems incredibly unusual to me and I can’t see why the surveyors would make such a category — so why do you think they’d make such an odd category?

    PS: Good use of LOL

  • Matt October 19, 2010, 1:59 pm

    Re: #14. I wanted to explain myself clearly, so I tried a few different phrasings. I forgot to delete them. My mistake. That’s why it might read ‘a bit crazy.’ Everything after my sign-off (which was, obviously, ‘Matt’) is not meant to be there. I just forgot to delete it.

  • Matt October 19, 2010, 2:01 pm

    “You allege that he started defending a different position.”

    Um, he did. ‘My blog title clearly indicated what I meant to address’ and ‘My blog title indicated what I meant to address’ are different positions, in that one is stronger than the other. Indeed, I agree with one of those positions, yet not the other. What are you trying to say here: that ‘clearly indicating’ and ‘indicating’ are the same? Then engage with my analogies.

    “Oh Matt, don’t play dumb. Nobody cares if you used the sentence “You changed your mind.””

    Oh, well, I do, because then I would be making unsupported allegations about him. Maybe you don’t mind doing such things; I do.

  • Matt October 19, 2010, 2:07 pm

    “You allege that he started defending a different position. Rubbish. I explained why not.”

    All you’ve offered is that he didn’t backtrack. Be that as it may, he defended different positions. He never said ‘I no longer believe my title of my blog clearly indicated what I meant to address,’ and so if that’s what you mean when you say he didn’t backtrack, I agree with that. But he did defend different positions. He didn’t admit he was doing so, no; but he did do it. Then he changed his position back.

    So, if all you’ve got to offer is that Glenn ‘didn’t backtrack,’ then that’s no objection to me, as it is consistent with what I’m saying (and, indeed, in that sense that I described, I agree with it).

  • Dave October 19, 2010, 2:13 pm

    Good grief…

    So initially, Matt, your objection (comment 60 is an example) to Glenn was that there is no reason “AT ALL” to think that the description “nothing in particular” includes people with no spiritual beliefs.

    Then in comment 11 on this second page, your new and different position is that if a person lacks all religious beliefs, we can’t be “certain” that they would pick “nothing in particular.” That is a massive backdown – and slyly done too! I wonder if you’ll admit it?

    And now your position (comment 17 on this page) is that however likely it might be that there are non-believers in this “nothing in particular” category, since we don’t know their numbers or how many there actually are, the whole argument fails.

    I have to say, for somebody who doesn’t like people changing their position, you sure do it a lot. And your most recent version of your argument isn’t even a little bit compelling. It doesn’t matter how many there are, as long as we agree that the category includes people with no religious beliefs, which it does. You’re just trying to escape into a fudgy area by saying that we don’t know the numbes of actual nonbelievers in that category. True, but as long as the category logically includes nonbelievers that doesn’t matter. Since it does logically include them, the burden now falls to those who want to maintain that none of them are in there.

    Now of course that can’t be proven I know – but again, this is the fault of the way this category is written, which was Glenn’s original point: The language is very slippery here.

    Matt, seriously, call me a dick if it makes you feel any better, but your objections are bad, bad, badder than Leroy Brown. I doubt there’s any real point in continuing to engage your comments, so I will stop right now. You won’t pull the trick of “wear them down then claim victory when they quit” with me.

    PS: Good post Glenn! You clearly hit a very sensitive nerve with this one!

  • Glenn October 19, 2010, 2:30 pm

    Oh my….

  • Matt October 19, 2010, 2:33 pm

    Dave,

    You say: “So initially, Matt, your objection (comment 60 is an example) to Glenn was that there is no reason “AT ALL” to think that the description “nothing in particular” includes people with no spiritual beliefs.”

    No, in comment 60, I asked whether Glenn had any reason AT ALL to think that category included any atheists. Then, on this page, I asked how you could be certain that this category included some atheists. I asked both questions because Glenn’s position requires that the category includes some atheists.

    I never said there was no reason at all to think that the category included atheists, and I never said we can’t be certain that some atheists would pick the ‘nothing in particular’ category (mostly because I don’t believe that). The burden is on Glenn to show that the category ‘Nothing in particular’ includes some atheists, because his argument requires it.

    Let me show you why. If there are no atheists in the ‘Nothing in particular category,’ then the atheists’ score on the Christianity section of the survey remains 6.7. Then Glenn’s claim that atheists (broadly construed) did worse than Christians would be false — on any conception they did better.

    Or, if there are some atheists in the Nothing In Particular group, but it was the theists dragging the score down, atheists (broadly construed) may be done better 6.7! Imagine that all the atheists in that category got every question right, and it was the theists bringing the overall score of the group down. Then Glenn’s claim that atheists (broadly construed) did worse than Christians is staggeringly false!

    As for Glenn’s post hitting a nerve; no, it really didn’t. The stubbornness and dickishness of the responses of certain theists did. So well done to you, Dave!

  • Matt October 19, 2010, 2:33 pm

    “Oh my…”

    Agreed. Sorry.

  • Matt October 19, 2010, 2:42 pm

    “You won’t pull the trick of “wear them down then claim victory when they quit” with me.”

    On two other pages, I have ‘worn Glenn down till he quit,’ and I quite explicitly did not claim victory — we just agreed to disagree. I would do that with you too, if you want; but what really offends my sense of good taste is to have you pull the trick of quitting while still claiming victory. Can’t let away with that one, now, can I?

  • Dave October 19, 2010, 3:11 pm

    OMG… I’m getting Matt’s disease. One more reply:

    “Then, on this page, I asked how you could be certain that this category included some atheists.”

    Matt, this not true. Why would you say this? This isn’t even honest, especially since I actually quoted you.

    We were talking about a person who rejected all religious beliefs, and you said: “how can you be certain that this person ticked ‘No religion in particular’?”

    See that? You were asking how we can be certain that a person with no religious beliefs WOULD choose the “nothing in particular” category. You did a lot more than just ask how we knew there were any atheists at all in that category. You asked how we can be certain that an atheist would choose that category – a position nobody ever defended.

    Is this another change of argument without acknowledgement?

    As for the rest, your current position against Glenn requires that the “nothing in particular” group be dominated by theists, when the name of the category allows theists, but strongly prefers non-theists.

    And yet even in spite of these bizarre arguments and changes, you still end your post implying that Glenn’s claim is (perhaps) staggeringly false.

    AND you have the gall to call me stubborn. Just keep chipping away… stubborn as ever, unable to back away.

    Later!

  • Glenn October 19, 2010, 3:54 pm

    You brought it on yourself, Matt! 😉

  • Matt October 19, 2010, 3:54 pm

    Um, in your quote from me, the word ‘would’ (which you seem to think is really important for some reason, because you capitalise it) doesn’t appear.

    Let me explain again: I never said that can’t be certain that some atheists would pick the ‘nothing in particular’ category. You seem to say that this is my position. It was never my position, and there’s no reason for it to be. The burden is on Glenn, as I’ve said. I’ve not changed my position, and trying to disagree with that by pointing out I’ve asked questions is downright peculiar.

    “You asked how we can be certain that an atheist would choose that category – a position nobody ever defended.”

    It’s required for Glenn’s argument, as I worked through with you.

    “As for the rest, your current position against Glenn requires that the “nothing in particular” group be dominated by theists…”

    Nope. Don’t know why you said that. Reading comprehension, Dave, it’s what you need to work on.

    You say: “[The group ‘Nothing in Particular’] strongly prefers non-theists.”

    Any evidence? You still haven’t presented any reason to think the group has ANY non-theists, let alone prefers them. Beyond that, I have given a reason to think it may contain none (that is, that it would be a very odd category indeed). But anyway, I don’t have to prove that — the burden is on you.

    “you still end your post implying that Glenn’s claim is (perhaps) staggeringly false.”

    Yes, because the (supposed) atheists in the group ‘Nothing In Particular’ may have done incredibly well on the Christianity portion of the survey. Unless you’ve got some evidence otherwise?

    “AND you have the gall to call me stubborn…”

    Yeah, stubborn and thick as pigshit. I’m actually longing for the days with Glenn!

  • Matt October 19, 2010, 4:02 pm

    Hi Glenn,

    “You brought it on yourself, Matt!”

    Yeah, I know; my “Oh dear” wasn’t so much for my sake as yours. Now how can I ever believably say I’m going away? Like I say, sorry! I’m not going to look at any more of your blogs, and so long as other people don’t respond to me in one of the blog entries I’ve responded to, I really will be gone. Really. Truly. Believe me?

    You can respond to this one, as I say, and I’ll leave it alone. I don’t take that back. You deserve the last word for once, as you’ve given it to me twice (actually, including this one, three times). But man, this guy — if he’s a theist, he’s the best argument for theism I’ve ever heard!

  • Matt October 19, 2010, 4:03 pm

    *best argument for A-theism I’ve ever heard!

  • Glenn October 19, 2010, 4:04 pm

    Let’s not assume that my “oh dear” meant what you think it does Matt. 🙂

  • Dave October 19, 2010, 4:12 pm

    “You asked how we can be certain that an atheist would choose that category – a position nobody ever defended.”

    It’s required for Glenn’s argument, as I worked through with you.

    So you now accept that the “would” belongs there.

    But of course, you’re wrong. Glenn’s position did not require that an atheist choose the “nothing in particular” category. Why would he say such a dumb thing when clearly some atheists chose the atheist/agnostic category.

    And you think *I* have read comprehension issues? Good golly….

  • Matt October 19, 2010, 4:21 pm

    I never said I disagree with the word ‘would;’ I said that I never used the word. I think Glenn’s argument requires that at least one atheist DID choose that category; and that entails that his argument requires that they would choose that category (at least in one understanding of the use of the word ‘would’ — not sure what you’re driving at with this point, so maybe you’re using another understanding of the word ‘would.’ But it doesn’t matter: my position is and always has been that Glenn’s argument requires, amongst other things, that at least one atheist DID choose that category).

    “But of course, you’re wrong. Glenn’s position did not require that an atheist choose the “nothing in particular” category. Why would he say such a dumb thing when clearly some atheists chose the atheist/agnostic category.”

    What in the hell? Yeah, I think YOU have comprehension issues! Hahaha, yep, pretty danged sure of that!

    I’m saying Glenn’s position requires that at least one atheist choose the ‘Nothing In Particular’ category, and you somehow think that’s mutually exclusive with some (even lots) of atheists choosing the atheist/agnostic category?

    What in the hell is wrong with you?

    Yes, yes it’s you with reading comprehension issues. Yes yes again and again yes.

  • Matt October 19, 2010, 4:23 pm

    “Let’s not assume that my “oh dear” meant what you think it does Matt.”

    Good point. My mistake. I’m game enough to admit when I’m wrong! 🙂

  • Matt October 19, 2010, 4:25 pm

    Look, Dave, this is clearly going nowhere — can we just agree to disagree?

  • Matt October 19, 2010, 5:03 pm

    Alright, looks like Dave’s stopped — if he responds, I probably won’t be back (as I’m getting far less out of this than I did with you, Glenn). I can’t make any promises, cos he’s particularly galling, but I really will try. However, if someone else responds to me, I’m just gonna let ’em have it: the only person who’s said anything worth remembering is Thrasymachus, and he doesn’t look to be a regular. So unto you I hand back your blog, Glenn, and have fun with it. I appreciate the cordiality in our most recent back-and-forth, too Glenn. Hope there’s no hard feelings.

    Have fun.

  • Dave October 19, 2010, 6:34 pm

    “I’m saying Glenn’s position requires that at least one atheist choose the ‘Nothing In Particular’ category, and you somehow think that’s mutually exclusive with some (even lots) of atheists choosing the atheist/agnostic category?”

    Nope. Never said that. Not once. I give up trying to get you to understand though. It’s not my job to teach you to read.

  • Sandra October 19, 2010, 9:13 pm

    Glenn,

    1) You’re right that there is a real issue of slippery and hence inaccurate categories and terminology here.

    2) I think it’s also important to point out, as you do, that the study being cited to make atheists look good actually shows that evangelicals are better when it comes to Christianity. I personally find this important because – anecdotally in my case – when atheists rip on their opponents for not really understanding the Bible and Christian theology properly, their targets in argument/debate have been evangelicals!

    I have a question about 1). Obviously the category of “no religion” or “nothing in particular” is literally correct for atheists and therefore it correct for an atheist to tick that box. Anyone who denies this, I’m sorry, it’s just showing that they aren’t willing to face reality because of its implications. So when people claim that this study shows that atheists know more about Christianity than Christians, they’re passing on a claim that’s not really demonstrated, since in fact the data is incomplete and misleading. How many non believers are in that “nothing in particular” category? We don’t know – but I think common sense suggests that there will be quite a large number.

    But my question focuses on the fact that media outlets are merely passing on these claims. Can you really fault them? I got the impression that you were faulting anyone who passed on these claims, when all they were really doing is uncritically passing on unjustified claims. That’s what the media often does, right? It’s not like they’re seetting out to mislead anyone, or even misreporting the claims made by those involved in the study, right?

  • Glenn October 19, 2010, 9:49 pm

    Sandra, the key, I think, is the term “uncritically.” I realise that media outlets do uncritically pass on claims. I find fault with them for doing so, and I maintain that they bear a responsibility to be more careful and to identify any obvious sense in which a claim widely believed might actually be false.

    I happen to think that point 1) is obvious, and as such I fault any media outlet that fails to take it into account.

Leave a Comment

Remember: All comments should conform to the blog policy and you must use your real name. Comments that do not conform may be removed in whole or in part. You can review the blog policy here.

 Characters remaining