Archive for June, 2012

Review of Scott Cunningham’s Wicca – Chapter 2 – The Deities

It’s been far to long since I ended up putting this book down. I got caught up in the fight between theism and anti-theism and was pulled from the original mission of this blog in general, which was taking a skeptical approach towards religious texts related to different world views. This was meant to highlight the great and not so great aspects of religion and how it is said to apply to our day to day lives.

So I decided it was time to revisit this book and actually give it the benefit of a thorough read and review. I am happy to be back on this path after a long period of self discovery as well as some promotion of this blog. We are becoming more popular by the day it seems, with a weekly podcast, quick casts on a 2 day a week basis, and even some debates raging all around the blogosphere. We have stretched our arms into some of the most recent scientific discovers as well as going as far as to compare polytheism to monotheism.

Oddly enough though, this did do one thing that I had not intended on doing. It revealed my primary choice of belief to the world well before I had intended it to be revealed. In my opinion this was somewhat a negative because it can be considered that I may shine a bias light on the texts related to my belief system. I am here to tell you that what this really means is that I will most likely scrutinize my own belief systems more so than others, due to the fact that I do not want anyone to understand my beliefs in a relative or nonsensical way.

I hope those that have been reading this understand that my intention is to bring all faiths to an understanding rather than show why one faith is better than another, my hope is that anyone who uses religion as a guiding light within their lives have chosen one that is truly right for them and has not just followed the masses because they are afraid of criticism from the community that they reside in.

With that, lets get into some of the highlights and interesting points of Chapter 2 of this Scott Cunningham’s book.

“Every deity that has received worship upon this planet exists with the archetypal God and Goddess. The complex pantheons of deities that arose in many parts of the world are simply aspects of the two. Every goddess is resident within the concept of the Goddess; every god in the God.”

So what I am understanding Scott is saying is that Wicca allows for a conceptualization of any god or goddess as a representation of “The God and Goddess” of the Wiccan religion. He seems to be stating that ultimately there are only two types supreme beings and those two have been split up and represented as pantheons by many cultures throughout history.

Let’s see what else he has to say…

“The Old Ones didn’t die when the ancient pagan religions fell to Christianity in Europe. Most of the rites vanished, but they weren’t the only effective ones. Wicca is alive and well and the deities respond to our calls and invocations.”

So what I am reading here is that Scott claims Wicca believes any God or Goddess can be attributed to Wicca. It seems he is saying that despite the large surge of Christianity in Europe, those legends and lore stayed with us through word of mouth and story telling passed down through lineage.

“They have been given so many names they have been called the Nameless Ones. In appearance they look exactly as we wish them to, for they’re all the deities that ever were. The Goddess and God are all-powerful because they are the creators of all manifest and unmanifest existence. We can contact and communicate with them because a part of us is in them and they are within us.”

Now this is a piece I have a bit of an uncertainty of, mainly in the commenting of “…creators of all manifest and unmanifest existence.” As I have recently had revealed to me is the concept that existence must be a precursor to everything. Meaning they in fact cannot be the “…creators of all manifest and unmanifest existence.” due to the fact that this means their existence self-refutes that claim, you cannot exist yet be the creator of all existence. My belief is that these superior beings that we worship as a God and Goddess are a bi-product of the existence of the universe, they are the representation of self and nature throughout this world and the universe beyond. This does not mean they created but instead are the rulers of this natural existence.

“Religion based entirely on feminine energy, however, is as unbalanced and unnatural as one totally masculine in focus. The ideal is a perfect balance of the two. The Goddess and God are equal, complementary.”

This seems to relate not only to “Holy Book” fearing religions but also certain forms of Wicca that have chosen to deify the Goddess while casting out the God from their rituals and worship. If you look at nature, there is almost always a masculine and feminine energy present within all of creation, this in itself is said to be representative of the Goddess and God. This does not mean “man and woman” but rather plainly masculine and feminine.

“The Goddess is the universal mother. She is the source of fertility, endless wisdom, and loving caresses. As the Wicca know her, she is often of three aspects: the maiden, the mother, and the crone, symbolized in the waxing, full, and waning moon. She is at once the unploughed field, the full harvest, and the dormant, frost-covered earth. She gives birth to abundance. But as life is her gift, she lends it with the promise of death. This is not darkness and oblivion, but rest from the toils of physical existence. It is human existence between incarnations.”

This is a very detailed description of the Goddess of Wicca, what I find interesting is the description of her as the Maiden, Mother and Crone, this seems very similar to the Christian Father, Son and Holy Ghost. So the question comes to my mind, who exactly had this belief first? There is historical representation of Germanic and Celtic druid sects of all women who worshiped their Goddess (as Mother Nature) which seems eerily similar to the Wiccan definition of the Goddess.

“The Goddess has been depicted as a huntress running with her hounds; a celestial deity striding across the sky with stardust falling from her heels; the eternal Mother heavy with child; the weaver of our lives and deaths; a crone walking by waning moonlight seeking out the weak and forlorn, and as many other beings. But no matter how we envision her, she is omnipresent, changeless, eternal.”

Much of this seems to relate to the concept that the Goddess and God come to us as we choose to envision them, but also these passages show the inherent relation between the Goddess and the Moon. Many, if not most, Wiccans seem to attribute the Goddess to the Moon, I’ll be honest this is one that while I enjoy the concept of, I have left for others to reflect on. That’s not to say I don’t perform my personal rituals towards the Goddess in relation with the Moon, there is just to much shared energy between the Moon and the Earth, but personally I see the Goddess as representation of the fertile bed of the Earth, always renewing and changing while casting her shadow upon the Moon to show us which phase she is in.

“The God has been revered for eons. He is neither the stern, all-powerful deity of Christianity and Judaism, nor is he simply the consort of the Goddess. God or Goddess, they are equal, one.

We see the God in the sun, brilliantly shining overhead during the day, rising and setting in the endless cycle that governs our lives. Without the sun we could not exist; therefore it has been revered as the source of all life, the warmth that bursts the dormant seeds into life and hastens the greening of the earth after the cold snows of winter.”

This is a brilliant definition of the God, though it seems a little lackluster to me all in all. There was a lot put to the Goddess, but so far it seems more like Scott is trying to cover up the concept that the God is just a sperm donor for all of life as we know it. Let’s see what else he has to say about the God before I go to much further in my review.

“As the horned God he is sometimes seen wearing horns on his head, symbolizing his connection with these beasts.”

This has long been considered where the “Horned Devil” has originated. This is the concept formed of the Greek Satyr’s such as Pan and Dionysus, the God is considered to often enjoy revelry as a Satyr.

“With the Goddess, he also celebrates and rules sex. The Wicca don’t avoid sex or speak of it in hushed words. It’s a part of nature and is accepted as such. Since it brings pleasure, shifts our awareness away from the everyday world, and perpetuates our species, it is thought to be sacred. The God lustily imbues us with the urge that ensures our species’ biological future.”

What I am taking from this is that while several faiths, such as Christianity, consider sexual relation for purposes other than procreation is a “sin”, Wicca does not feel the same, instead the teachings of Wicca accept the idea of sexuality and consider it a natural part of existence, not to mention that it advocates lust as long as it is not to a degree of harming one of the participants. The God is the representation of lust, much like men in current society seem to be the ones burdened with the yoke of lusty affairs. Again, this is not a negative to Wicca, instead it should be celebrated, as long as no-one involved is harmed.

Of old, the God was the Sky Father, and the Goddess, the Earth Mother. The God of the sky, of rain and lightning, descended upon and united with the Goddess, spreading seed upon the land, celebrating her fertility.

One of the most well known Mythological figures for this statement would be Uranus and Gaia from Greek Mythology. These were the “first gods”, though they were in fact said to be created by Chaos. Uranus and Gaia were the creators of all things, they created the Titans, Cyclops, Humans, and all life in the Greek Mythology. Though referencing that they came from “Chaos” seems to be a similar story to The Big Bang Theory where everything came from nothing. This seems to me that the early religions may have a better understanding of how the Universe was created than we give them credit for.

Today the deities of Wicca are still firmly associated with fertility, but every aspect of human existence can be linked with the Goddess and God. They can be called upon to help us sort through the vicissitudes of our existences and bring joy into our often spiritually bereft lives.

This doesn’t mean that when problems occur we should leave them in the hands of the Goddess. This is a stalling maneuver, an avoidance of dealing with the bumps on the road of life. As Wiccans, however, we can call on the Goddess and God to clear our minds and to help us help ourselves. Magic is an excellent means of accomplishing this. After attuning with the Goddess and God, Wiccans ask their assistance during the magical rite that usually follows.

My take on what Scott is relaying here is that while we associate our God and Goddess’ to the same forms of guidance as the ancient God’s and Goddess’ we do not rely on them to take care of our problems, instead we ask them for guidance on certain matters. Also he talks about how we don’t leave our problems in the hands of the Goddess to solve, this is far different than the Christian philosophy of God being the one to shoulder all of the spiritual and metaphysical burden. Wiccans instead solve their own issues and ask for assistance only when we cannot use critical thinking and logical thought processes to take care of the situation.

The power is in the hands of every practitioner, not specialized priests or priestesses who perform these feats for the masses. This is what makes Wicca a truly satisfying way of life. We have direct links with the deities. No intermediaries are needed; no priests or confessors or shamans. We are the shamans.

This line spoke volumes to me, it reminds us that we are the ones who must answer for our actions and also we must take charge in our lives rather than appealing to another human for forgiveness or interpretation of a situation that they only have 2nd hand knowledge of. We do not rely on a clergy member to invoke the beings of higher power but instead we are able to do this at our own accord. No lines, no waiting for availability, just a direct line to guidance. The down side is, it leaves it to us to interpret our own experiences and guidance, meaning that if we are new to the Wiccan way we may be wrong. But, this is where another aspect of Wicca comes in, it is an experiential religion, meaning that we are able to share our experience and ask others that may have had a similar experience for their input, but in the end it is for us to interpret for our own personal situation.

If you wish to explore the concepts of the Goddess and God, read books on mythology from any country in the world. Read the myths but look for their underlying themes. The more you read, the more information you’ll have at your fingertips; eventually it will merge into a nonstructured but extremely complex knowledge bank concerning the deities. In other words, you’ll begin to know them.

As I mentioned previously, we can look towards the ancient mythologies as reference materials for the way cultures understood deities. The main difference between those texts and the standard Wiccan philosophy is that they had many Gods and Goddesses, but Wicca has solidified the concept that each of these Gods and/or Goddesses were aspects of the God and Goddess represented in Wicca. It is mentioned quite a bit by Wiccan’s that when we invoke the God or Goddess they will appear in a way in which we can best relate and understand dependent either upon our concept of the God or Goddess or in a way which best relates to the situation. For instance if I chose to invoke the Goddess for Wisdom, she may appear to me in the form of Athena from Greek Mythology due to the fact that Athena’s prime representation was that of Wisdom, yet if I am having marital issues she may appear to me in the form of Hera for counseling. Also what he references here is the fact that the more you know the more power you have pertaining to invocation and understanding of how the deities have represented themselves throughout history when dealing with humanity.

This is one of the secrets of Wicca – deity dwells within.

As a nature based religion Wicca believes that the deities are not only within the world around us but also a part of us. We are a piece of the universe and the universe is a piece of us, meaning that anything that resides within the universe is also a part of us. Including the God and Goddess.

The Goddess and God are real, viable entities, possessing the force that created the universe. Attuning with them changes us forever. It also sparks new hope for our planet and for our continued existence upon it.

Here is a piece that I actually disagree with Scott over. Perhaps the universe we exist in may be a creation of the God and Goddess, but I don’t believe Scott was meaning to state that the God and Goddess are residents of a multiverse when he wrote this, obviously I cannot guarantee this was his concept of the residency of the God and Goddess. While I do subscribe to the concept of a multiverse and even an omniverse, I believe that the God and Goddess of this universe was created along side the universe rather than being the creators of the universe. I also believe that the only reason we call them a God and Goddess is due to the fact we have no better description for such beings, if they even require such a description.

If this rite is too formalized for you, change it or write your own. This is the basic thrust of this book: do it your way, not my way simply because I’ve set it down on paper. I can never fit my feet into someone else’s footprints on the sand. There’s no one true right and only way in Wicca; that thinking belongs to monotheistic religions that have largely become political and business institutions.

Scott truly highlights one of the main tenants of Wicca which is freedom and liberty. We are free to tailor our beliefs to our methods of acceptance. Though I must admit eventually Wicca will no longer be Wicca if it becomes “to tailored”, it will eventually either evolve into another preexisting religion or a religious alternative that is exclusive to yourself. Wicca is quickly becoming a term similar to Pagan, its real meaning is becoming to transparent and broad that the term Wicca is becoming an umbrella instead of a true description.

Discovering the deities of Wicca is a never-ending experience. They constantly reveal themselves. As the shamans say, “Be attentive.” All nature is singing to us of her secrets. The Goddess constantly draws aside her veil; the God lights us up with inspiration and illumination. We simply don’t notice.

This is another reference to the fact that Wicca is an experiential religion that you must actually be an active participant to understand and receive guidance. Not everyone, even in Wicca, requires the guidance of the God or Goddess, but by being aware of the signs around them they can understand the path that they are walking without invocation the deities.

There are some who say that we (and anyone else who won’t follow their rituals or embrace their theology) are worshiping Satan. Not that we know it, of course; Satan is too tricky for that, according to these experts.

Such people can’t believe that any religion but their own can be meaningful, fulfilling, and true to its adherent. So if we worship the God and Goddess, they say, we’re denying all good and are worshiping Satan, the embodiment of all negativity and evil.

Wiccans aren’t so close-minded. Perhaps it’s the greatest of all human vanities to assume that one’s religion is the only way to deity. Such beliefs have caused incalculable bloodshed and the rise of the hideous concept of holy wars.

The basis of this misconception seems to be the concept of a pristine, pure, positive being – God. If this deity is the sum of all good, worshippers believe that there must be an equally negative one as well. Thus, Satan.

The Wicca don’t accept such ideas. We acknowledge the dark aspects of the Goddess and the God as well as the bright. All nature is composed of opposites, and this polarity is also resident within ourselves. Thus darkest human traits as well as the brightest are locked within our unconsciousness. It is only our ability to rise above destructive urges, to channel such energies into positive thoughts and actions, that separates us from mass-murderers and sociopaths.

This is a reference to such religions as Christianity where they believe they have the one and only way to clarity and/or perfection, and if you don’t subscribe to their concepts you have no option, but to unwittingly worship their entity of evil. Instead Wiccans accept that we all have both good and “evil” in us, and the God and Goddess are not immune to this duality of nature. For instance, the wolf is a vicious hunter, often taking down the weak for food, but this same creature is one of the most social creatures in the world, it builds a small community that is sustained by the packs local food sources, they are also vicious protectors of their pack mates, they will come at a moments notice to aid another pack member if they are in trouble.

Any and all religions are real, the genuine article, to their practitioners. There can never be one religion, prophet, or savior that will satisfy all six billion humans. Each of us must find our ideal way to attune with deity. For some, it’s Wicca.

Wiccan’s and most Polytheist/Pagans do not believe that any single religion is incorrect. We believe that each person must find their own path and in that search and understanding we find what is right for us. Due to the fact that we are all different parts of the same universe we all have a role to play and within that role we have a belief that is proper for our view of the world and the life that we must live.

Wiccans emphasize the bright aspects of the deities because this gives us purpose to grow and evolve to the highest realm of existence. When death, destruction, hurt, pain and anger appear in our lives (as they must), we can turn to the Goddess and God and know that this is a part of them too. We needn’t blame a devil on these natural aspects of life and call upon a pure-white god to fend them off.

This piece is very similar to the “we don’t follow their god so they believe we worship their devil” portion from above. Wiccan’s and most nature based religions understand that death, destruction and sorrow are all parts of the life cycle of nature. These experiences help us grow and understand ourselves, as well as remind us that we are not immune to hardship but instead should welcome these as a potential for clarity and understanding of our lives. This also gives us a great point to attune with the God and Goddess because they too experience loss and sorrow, but instead of relying on us to bring their morality up they can help us better understand how to grow and develop through this loss.

And that was Chapter 2, I hope you all enjoyed this and are looking forward to Chapter 3. I should get it out in a much better timed fashion than the space between Chapter 1 and Chapter 2. As you notice, my ending of Chapter 2’s review ends on a much different note than my Chapter 1. Chapter 1 I feel shows this books age and lack of understanding that has developed over the last 10+ years. Everyone must remember this book was originally published in 1988 and Scott Cunningham passed onto his next life in 1993, so there cannot be any rewrites of his work or updating his views as his understanding evolves through the years.

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Evolution of Skepticism – Interviewing Andie from Ramblings of the Wandering Wiccan

http://www.facebook.com/andijam420 – Andie’s facebook

http://www.facebook.com/RamblingWIccan – Ramblings of a Wandering Wiccan

http://pagan-place.com/profile/ANdieM – Andie’s Pagan Place Profile

Recommended Books:

http://amzn.to/L8SpWn – Witch Crafting: A Spiritual Guide to Making Magic

http://amzn.to/JJVsTM – Simple Wicca (Simple Wisdom (Conari))

http://amzn.to/LxyGQL – Animal-Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small

http://amzn.to/JUdPu5 – The Element Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells: The Ultimate Reference Book for the Magical Arts

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An open letter to non-crazy Christians

This is a guest post/warning from someone I hold in high regard. His name is Jim Gardner and he writes the blog How good is that? he also co-hosts the Fundamentally-Flawed podcast. This letter comes on the heels of an issue that has stemmed between him and a very popular Christian Apologist by the name of Sye Ten Bruggencate. This issue may at first glance seem like an issue of Christian vs. Atheist, but in fact this boils down to an attempt by Sye to make money off of modified sound bites that he was expressly told he had no permission to use. I encourage you to read it and if you have ever considered buying any product pushed by Sye or Eric Hovind, I encourage you to reconsider and find a more honest person.

So without further adieu here’s Jim’s letter:

I wrote this as a forum posting for Justin Brierley’s Premier Christian Radio discussion forum, but there is a waiting time for membership approval, so I’m making it available here as well. Please pass it on. I realise it’s quite long winded, but it’s important we set the record straight regards an important matter and I’d like to think that this is something which those of us who are both non-religious and those who are not on the extremes of Christianity can help each other raise awareness of, in the interest of clarity and an open exchange of information.

I welcome your feedback in the comments section below, but can I also ask that if you are a member of http://www.premiercommunity.org.uk/forum/ that you post replies there as well, so as many people as possible can read and respond. Thanks!

——–

Hello! I wanted to start by saying that I admire Justin’s evenhandedness on the podcast, and his willingness to engage with people who fundamentally disagree with him on issues which are clearly very important to him. I hope, as I learn more about other Christian contributors here, that he is not alone in this regard, and that we can have a civil and polite debate on a range of topics. Some internet forums, open to debate between atheists and the religious, tend to fall apart pretty quickly, but I hope to discover that this one stands in-line with the general theme of the radio show, and treats all points of view with respect, and intellectual honesty.

With that said, I hope what I’m about to say doesn’t cause any unnecessary ructions, because I would like to issue something of a warning about a scam which myself and some friends of mine, who produce the Fundamentally Flawed podcast together, have unearthed recently, which we worry might affect some Christians who aren’t aware of the backstory, which I’ll attempt to flesh-out here, as best I can.

The main reason I want to make it absolutely clear, before going any further, that my being non-religious has nothing whatsoever to do with my genuine concerns, is that the scam does involve some of the religious terminology used in Christian apologetics, which it is necessary for me to use in my analysis of the scam, and in order to explain the problem. This might be seen by some as rude, or disrespectful, given that I am an atheist and proud of it. But this is not my intention. I simply want to help honestly motivated, ordinary people who just so happen to be Christian, avoid being ripped off — and my views on Christianity, as a whole, are neither here nor there — at least for the time being.

Being that it is my main worry, that the vast majority of honest Christians might be victim to this scam, there is a lot of misinformation being put “out there” on my true position with regard certain types of apologetics, which the people who are responsible for this scam would dearly love for the wider Christian community to think me and my friends are “running scared from”, presumably out of some sort of worry that their argument (or lack thereof) might hold a degree of intellectual merit which we are incapable of exceeding to. To be clear, it doesn’t, and we aren’t. But with your kind indulgence, I would like to explain exactly why this is the case, as well as explain some of the possible reasons as to why some of these individuals are bearing false witness about us.

Chief among the possible explanations for this campaign of misinformation, is that the particular brand of presuppositional apologetics we believe people are being duped into accepting, rises and falls on a provable falsehood, which they would prefer ordinary Christians like you didn’t know about — least of all in the words of a “dirty atheist”.

I would like to think that the fact we refuse to go away quietly, having uncovered this scam, has begun to have an affect on the profit margins of those who propagate this lie. What’s rather more likely to be true, is that we have begun to affect the tone of emails which these scammers are starting to receive from other Christians — which might also go some way towards explaining the amount of lies and historical revisionism, which some of you might have seen in the blog-o-sphere and beyond, in relation to our involvement in this story, which these people are largely responsible for producing.

To clarify this once again, I can assure you, it is not the case that we disrespect, or “hate” anyone with genuine religious convictions. We are simply concerned that these people appear to be targeting emotionally vulnerable people in their recruiting program, and are clearly drawing them into a distinctly un-Christian type of cult, for which only other Christians can help their fellow believers avoid — hence this bipartisan appeal.

So, cut to the chase:

Several month ago now, when our little podcast was still finding its feet, we received an offer from a certain Eric Hovind, to debate him in a joint broadcast between our podcast and his ‘Creation Today’ radio show — which is a part of his multimillion dollar, tax free ‘ministry’, based in Pensacola, Florida. Some of you might be familiar with Eric’s father Kent Hovind, who was convicted on several counts of tax evasion in 2007, after leading a ministry which encouraged adherents of the predominantly rightwing homeschooling community to teach anti-science and young earth creationism to children, under the brand-name of ‘Dr. Dino’. It would later transpire that “Dr.” Hovind’s credentials as a dinosaur expert were purchased from a diploma mill, after the Wikileaks website published a copy of his doctoral dissertation, which was written in the first person, contained numerous spelling mistakes, and listed zero evidence-based citations.

Tentatively we agreed to debate Eric on the explicit understanding that none of our comments would be used out of context, or edited in such a way that we appeared to say something which we hadn’t said. This was stipulated after several bad experiences with Christian radio hosts far less honest than Justin, in the past, who had literally removed large sections of audio, from appearances I had made on their shows, so as to doctor what I had said to make is seem as if I was rather less well informed than I am on certain arguments.

It’s at this point I should clarify that for the first 17 years of my life, I was a born-again Christian, whose journey towards atheism began one day in church, when the sermon was given on Jesus throwing the money lenders from the temple, before the collection plate was passed around. I would later learn that this money was used to launder Mafia drug money through the Vatican bank. But I digress.

We were aware that Eric had attempted to distance himself from some of the things his father became infamous for preaching, and fully intended to take him on face value. But we were also aware that if we hadn’t made the stipulation that we would not mute anyone’s microphone, or edit their comments in post-production, he might seek to profit from our comments in a way which ran counter to our beliefs about open information, and a free exchange of ideas. In that vein, we also made it clear that we would be giving away a free complete audio recording of the debate, via our website, and did not seek to make any money from it in any other way, such as by placing Google adverts or other co-branding on our website. Eric seemed happy to go along with this at the time, as an off-air pre-show recording we have of him, which we did not (yet) publish, fully confirms.

When it came time to record the podcast, Eric introduced us to a friend of his named Sye ten Bruggencate. It turned out that Sye knew rather more about me than I knew about him, and that he had previously posted comments to numerous religious articles on my website. At the time I didn’t immediately connect his name to the same Sye who had used my blog, and it wasn’t until what unfolded next that I began to recall the particular type of aggressive tactics which he had used, when posting blog comments under the username SyeTenB.

The conversation quickly took a very bizarre turn, when Sye started asking a series of questions for which there were no right or wrong, affirmative or negative answers, while insisting that, in-fact, we must answer them with definite ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ replies. This was made doubly confusing when he also refused to acknowledge that, for this very reason, he was just as incapable of answering his own questions as we were, if these black or white criteria were imposed upon him as strictly as he insisted they were upon us.

Even stranger still, Sye seemed to believe that this constituted some kind of strength to his position, when to any dispassionate observer it was clear the opposite was true, and that all he had succeeded in doing was to confirm many of the “crazy Christian” stereotypes, which so many of the well intentioned religious have fought so hard to dispel over the years — which we have always fully acknowledged, and welcomed.

It’s was at this point in the recording, when their true modus operandi became apparent. Far from having any legitimate interest in knowing what we, as atheists, felt about “life, the universe and everything”, it became clear that all they were actually interested in doing, was capturing as much audio as they could, so as to do to others what they would not have done to themselves.

They began pressing us even further on meaningless psychobabble, such as “is it possible that everything you think you know could be wrong?”, and “how do you know that?”, whenever we made any statement which requires longer to explain than the 10 second window which was opened to us, before one or the other would close it again by interrupting us with the next line of their pre-rehearsed script — which seldom bore any relationship to what we had just said.

To these specific questions, I lost count of how many times I explained why answering ‘yes’ wouldn’t encompass my true position, anymore than answering ‘no’, but Sye pressed on regardless, seemingly oblivious to the fact that if I were to ask him the self-same questions he was asking me, his answering either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ would paint no truer picture of his faith-based position, than it would of my evidence-based worldview — another of those awful “in-speak” phrases which Sye seems to believe means “assumption without evidence” when spoken by others, but “unquestionably true” when spoken by him.

Sye’s one and only response to this, was to repeatedly assert that his position is valid, regardless of his ability to adhere to his own arbitrary rules of engagement, because, as is it claimed, he has had it privately revealed to him that the bible is word-for-word true in a way which cannot be objectively demonstrated, but which he knows for certain to be unquestionably valid. When he was reminded that this “claim to know” is extrinsic and unfalsifiable, we were told that in our basic unwillingness to lower our standards of proof, merely to encompass his fundamentally self-contradictory worldview, that we risked being tortured in the fires of hell for all eternity. So much for peace, love and forgiveness.

No-one, dear friends, expects the Spanish Inquisition — least of all in what was fast becoming a distinctly one-sided conversation, in which he seemed to feel entitled to throw out every appeal to authority fallacy in the book, while we were mysteriously limited to his distorted view of what atheists (all of them, mind you) do and don’t “believe”. But the deception, and dark hilarity, didn’t end there.

Once the recording was published, we began to take feedback from our listeners, and discovered that the essential core of the method they had been using, was first proposed by Cornelius Van Til in his “doctrine of the ontological Trinity” — which was almost immediately rejected as meaningless by contemporary theologians and philosophers of the time, as being no more that a conclusion drawn from its own proposition. This was later clarified by the first Vienna Circle of Logical Positivists, in the early 1920′s, and the father of scientific falsification Karl Popper, who asserted that all metaphysical truth-claims are “essentially meaningless”, when they contradict the validity of that which is immediately observable — or, ‘The Logic of Scientific Discovery’ to you and me.

Because of this syllogism at the heart of what is known as the Transcendental Argument for the existence of God, it is a method of apologetics which has been largely abandoned by theologians of all persuasions for many decades — save for a very narrow band of Americanised evangelicals, renowned the world over for their particularly belligerent insistence that TAG is a rather more substantial argument than it actually is. If we had known this prior to “debating” Sye and Eric, the conversation might have turned out differently. But because we were completely unprepared to encounter someone so ready, willing and able to stoop to new lows in an already strong field of intellectual dishonesty, we had no choice but to notch it up as a “win” for them, and a much needed visit to the library for us.

What we would uncover, in that learning process, is that a band of anti-science activists, who are loosely affiliated with everything from supermodel-endorsed anti-vaccination, which has resulted in a ten-fold increase in cases of measles, mumps and rubella in some of the most developed nations in the world, to a type of global warming denial which is largely backed by the same oil and gas giants who fund the Republican party, are attempting to revive this type of presuppositional Christian apologetics, as part of their “war on atheism”.

But don’t let the ‘A’ word fool you. This is an all-out, politically motivated attack on rationalism, science, intellectual honesty, and everything which most ordinary people, Christian and non-Christian alike, would consider to be basic common sense. Moreover, Christians who see the problem with this type of non-reasoning, are just as much of a target for misinformation and ad hominem attack, as we non-religious are all too used to experiencing on a daily basis.

We had, in other words, inadvertently found ourselves on the receiving end of an elaborate set-up, architected by two of a small but vocal minority in American evangelicalism, who specialise in producing misinformation and propaganda against anyone who just so happens to hold themselves to higher standard of proof than belief for belief’s sake.

A few weeks after this first encounter, my podcast co-host Alex Botten, invited Sye back onto the show, to talk about what we had learned about the TAG argument in the intervening time. What followed was a piece by piece dismantling of Sye’s entire position. He simply couldn’t account for any of the things he had previously attempted to bully us into believing he could in-fact account for. At one point, in response to the fact that TAG is syllogistic and logically fallacious — precisely because it assumes the existence of Yahweh according to the same criteria which could be used to postulate the existence of myriad other gods (the existence of which Sye is as atheistic towards as we are towards Yahweh) — Sye simply began babbling even more incoherently than he had before.

The pace with which he went from being absolutely certain that he can “prove God exists”, to churning out every logical and informal fallacy in the book, was astounding. Here, before our very ears, was the man who runs a website called proofthatgodexists.org, falling apart like a Taiwanese Rolex on Boxing Day; literally tripping over his own tongue, and in relation to some of the most basic problems inherent to the very nature of his own truth-claim. He simply had nothing left. The mask had been removed.

This clearly irked Sye — for what happened next stands as clear an example as any I can think of, as to why legitimately motivated Christians such as you, the sexually attractive and might I say rather dashing reader, should be as cautious of, as we on the opposite benches had to find out the hard way, for ourselves.

We began to hear rumours that Sye and Hovind intended to break our agreement not to commercially exploit the audio recordings, of our conversations, and that they were planning to release a DVD of our “debate”. Sadly, we found out too late that there was a precedent for this, as they had also done a similar thing to another blogger / podcaster, who would later become a friend of mine, named Paul Baird.

When asked directly about this, both Sye and Eric simply remained silent. Days passed and no emails or twitter messages were replied to, or even acknowledged. This, against the backdrop of the story of what happened to Paul Baird, began to paint a very disconcerting picture, which we then had no choice but to respond to, in the absence of any contact from Sye and Eric, to either confirm or deny that these rumours were true.

Paul had found that a debate he recorded with Sye was being sold on Sye’s website for $19.95 a pop, and was disappointed to find that Sye had told Justin Brierley, who made this recording, that Paul had given his full permission for it to be made available as a commercial publication. In reality, Paul had made no such concession — he simply hadn’t been asked, and so Sye simply lied when Justin asked him if Paul had given his permission for the recording to be used.

Then an edit of our conversation with Eric and Sye appeared on YouTube. Bearing in mind that we had specifically said our comments were not to be edited or used out of context, alarm bells began to ring that Sye and Hovind might be planning on doing to us what they had done to Paul Baird. There’s some considerable disagreement at this point, as to why Eric posted this edited video to YouTube — with Eric claiming that it was simply to demonstrate that Alex Botten had said something which he later contradicted, despite that Alex was later able to show that Eric had indeed used these comments out of context.

Eric, in a later Skype conversation, was told in no uncertain terms, that if he planned on releasing any further edited recordings, featuring our comments out-of-context, we would take legal action. To date, and to the best of our knowledge, Hovind has not released any recordings which breach our verbal agreement to this affect.

Fast-forward several weeks. Sye had been told in a series of email exchanges that he would be welcome back onto the podcast, as and when he felt ready to explain the basic contradiction inherent to his own position — i.e., that he claims to have proof that Yahweh exists, while refusing to accept that this is either a fundamental contradiction of his insistence that he holds a faith-based position, or he simply doesn’t understand the basic definition of words like ‘evidence’ and ‘proof’.

Sye’s explanation for this basic contradiction, is to insist that he holds both positions in a way which is “virtuously circular” — an unintentionally amusing punchline to a bad joke first mooted by Greg Bahnsen, an influential Calvinist philosopher, and apologist, who wasn’t unaware of the logical inconsistency in claiming to hold two completely contradictory positions on Yahweh’s basic existence at the same time.

Sye now appeared ready to confront this problem head-on. From the very moment Sye’s Skype call to record his third appearance on the podcast began, he was reminded that we did not give our permission for any of the audio to be used in a commercial setting, or used in any other way, including in YouTube video clips which might accrue a share of Google’s Ad Revenue, or as part of any third party religious ministry. He was then asked directly if he was finally ready to present evidence of Yahweh’s basic existence — to which he replied, “I already have”.

Aware that this was more of the same “cart before the horse, abracadabra, proof of the bible is in the bible” playground nonsense which, remember, we had already told Sye we would not stand for, he was once again invited to present his claimed proof that Yahweh exists. Now, faced with the fact that he did not have our permission to commercially exploit the recording for his own financial gain, and that he had finally been held down to a very specific question with regard to his own basic truth-claim, he simply ran away — literally quitting Skype in a hissy fit, befitting a spoiled child.

Crown Rights Media

No-one has ever said that Christian organisations shouldn’t be entitled to produce media which presents their case for God. Indeed, some of the high production values in editing, computer animation and sound design, which many of these productions employ, is a clear indication that there is a great deal of money to be made from releasing these type of instructional videos and lecture series presentations.

What we do take great objection to, is when these videos are promoted on the back of comments which the producers have been specifically told they do not have permission to use for commercial purposes. So when a promotional video, for an upcoming DVD from Crown Rights Media appeared on YouTube, and posted to Sye ten Bruggencate’s channel, featured an edited portion of the very same recording in which he was specifically told he did not have our permission to use our comments for commercial purposes, you can imagine that we were distinctly unimpressed.

Sye appears to believe, that a recording in which he was held down to a very specific question relating to his own worldview, which he refused to answer and stormed off the recording session when pressed, somehow represents us “running scared” from his particularly nasty brand of pseudo-apologetics. Such is the down is up, up is down, through the looking glass nature of Sye’s entire worldview, one can only presume that by that same internal logic, a recording of us refusing to answer any of his questions, and storming off in a fit of anti-Christian hate speech, would constitute a “win” for the Richard Dawkins brigade — who think that “atheism” is best served by being as offensive towards people who don’t deserve it as possible.

This, dear reader, is not the type of non-believer we represent. Yes, we crack the occasional joke about priests and altar boys, and yes we make clear our disgust at the crystal danglers and homeopaths, but the “something out there” openminded religious, who don’t think that religious belief starts and stops at believing in things which are not true, and insisting that other people believe in this kind of nonsense too, simply aren’t on our radar — indeed we regularly complain about that narrow-minded type of atheist, who behave with disrespect towards the religious in this way, and knacker-up the whole deal for the rest of us.

Since being asked, repeatedly, to remove media which he does not have the right to use, from YouTube, Sye ten Bruggencate has consistently lied to Crown Rights, and their supporters, about the nature of our involvement in the promotional video which he produced against our specific permission to do so — to the point that, at one stage, he even appeared to deny that he had edited out the parts of the albeit very brief conversation, in which he was specifically told he could not edit our comments, or use them on YouTube, or use them in promotion of a commercial product.

Then, when the full unedited recording of him being told exactly this, was posted to Crown Rights Facebook page, a certain Marcus Pittman, of Crown Rights, removed the 70 plus-long comment thread which followed this unambiguous evidence that Sye ten Bruggencate had simply lied, exactly as he had with Paul Baird and the host of Premier Christian Radio’s ‘Unbelievable’, Justin Brierley — saying, as a justification for this clear attempt to silence the facts, that I was “being annoying”.

Think about it. “Annoying” for proving that someone is lying to your face, but “virtuously circular” for claiming to have proof that Yahweh exists, while refusing to present any evidence of it.

These people, dear readers, are not your friends. They are not even your fellow Christian. They are scam artists, who for $20 a go, promise you everything and tell you nothing. Do not be deceived. Please do not do make the same mistake we did, and have anything at all to do with these provable liars. They will rip you off, they will lie to you, and they will lie about you if you have the simple temerity to question their motives. Please, be warned. They are far more of a threat to your image, true beliefs, and motives, than anything the vast majority of atheists like me would, or could seek to impose upon you.

Thank you for your time. Jim.

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