Thursday, December 23, 2010

On Thursday 9/12, a few members from the Western Sydney Freethinkers attended a screening of “Collision”, a movie that follows Christopher Hitchens (no intro needed) and Douglas Wilson (A christian pastor) through a series of public talks about the morality of Christianity. The screening was hosted by the Emu Plains Community Centre Baptist Church, with church members/christian guests making up about 85% of the audience. After the movie there was a Q & A with Ian Bryce (Australian Secular party, Sydney Atheists, Australian Sceptics) and Dr Andrew Ford (Moore Theological College).

According to our MC, both Hitchens and Wilson were shown the movie in its final cut and both agreed that it was even handed. One opinion could be that it was even handed because although Hitchens wins most of the arguments using rational arguments, Wilson (and the christian side) was portrayed in style that was meant to show how moral, patriotic and wholesome christianity is.

For example:

  • While Hitchens was shown in his study, on his own, surrounded by books and drinking whiskey, Wilson was shown at the dinner table with his family in jovial spirits while singing grace.
  • As a bible passage was being read by Wilson, the camera cut away to a shot of the American flag waving in the breeze.
  • The background music was often dark and brooding when showing montages of Hitchens in day to day activities.

Of particular note was the look of jubilation on the faces of the christian contingent whilst the scenes of children singing hymns was showing.

The movie did have some humorous moments, such as light-hearted bickering between the two speakers and boxing/wrestling music as a lead up to each speech. Irony was lost on Douglas when he utilsed the analogy of God being a jailer while your chained to a wall, used in the context of not being able to touch the jailer but the jailer can choose to touch you.We could go on to describe the movie for you so you don’t have to watch it, but essentially the arguments were

  • Religion stops progress
  • The bible has lots of immoral rules, such as how to keep slaves and to kill your enemies (every man, woman, child & beast)
  • Religion has been used by those in power to control the masses
  • Humans have evolved their own moral code that is necessary for the species to continue existing
  • The churches themselves have evolved with the progression of society, which would have been impossible with an omnipotent/omniscient god.

  • All morality is attributed to god whether you are a believer or an atheist, but poor/no morals are a result of godlessness.
  • The first world is so successful and moral because of the high percentage of christian citizens.
  • Atheists have no father figure watching over them, so they are more likely to be immoral (have a good time!).
  • Stalin was an atheist, and that is why he was evil.
  • Why would an atheist care what happened, if there is no purpose to the world?

Q&A with Ian Bryce & Dr Andrew Ford

After the movie screening we were treated to a Q&A with representatives from both sides. As previously mentioned the Atheist contingent was out numbered but was by no means out classed. From my perspective; biased as it may be; Ian did a fantastic job, precisely and clearly answering the questions thrown by the crowd, he pulled no punches and always went straight at the heart of the matter, constantly reiterating that Christianity is nothing more than superstitious nonsense.

The Q&A was when we were the most riled up, Ian was forced into the defence position from the onset, Andrew was allowed to sit back smugly answering questions with whatever nonsense he could muster and the audience ate it up.

Andrew liked to play the morality card discussing the various outreach programs and how the church helps people, although not going into specifics. But when questioned on where morality comes from the issue was shrugged off stating “That's a debate for another time”. Ian on the other hand backed it up with the observation that morals evolved over time independent of religious teaching and the religions eventually adopted it as their own.

Ian made a great point (this is paraphrasing) that religion has no real world explaining power, where as the scientific method (conclusion through experimentation) is responsible for all human advances for example; brushing your teeth, washing and general hygiene, these are things that the apparent omniscient god did not advise about, so on that scale science 1,000,000,000,000 – Religion 0.

Post Q&A discussion with Christians: An unthinking enemy


I would have to admit that I was a little bit apprehensive about attending this event, not because I felt I may have a change of mind or a religious epiphany and run off screaming “hallelujah praise Jeebus” down the street, but more so because I wasn't sure if my arguments would hold up against the believers, the people who have devoted their life to a deity and have been (by their own admission) touched by the holy spirit. Well my friends, I must sadly report that my judgements of christianity where very wrong... I gave them far too much credit.

Firstly arguing Jesus existence in a hypothetical manner by saying “if there were a man who performed all these miracles, who rose from the dead, wouldn't he deserve our praise?” well yes... The same as Spiderman should for taking down Dr Octopus.

I received an argument that because Jesus' life was written about in four separate books therefore it must be true, well I pointed out that given that logic, there must be an island out there with Dinosaurs cloned from 65 million year old blood found in a mosquito encased in amber. An addition to this was the “How come so many people believe in Jesus then, if it were just a fable, the belief system would not have endured” Well we can see well documented evidence of how a belief system/Religion/Mythical figure can rise e.g. Scientology, Mormonism, FSM (I'm aware it's a parody but give it time), Harry Kenwell... to quote a great Atheist comedian and songwriter Tim Minchin ”I don't believe just 'cos ideas are tenacious it means they're worthy”.

The constant barrage of fallacies was testing our resolve, everywhere we turned they were firing them off as though scripted... Bang!! take a personal incredulity. Whack!! have a Bandwagon and for good measure take some special pleading, a straw man and several general Non Sequitur's.

I was very surprised at how easy it was to identify the flaws in their logic, that's the good thing about a circle, there's a lot of empty space at it's centre.


The arguments presented by the Christian side were essentially the same that are always presented, but even Hitchens acknowledged in the film that it is rare in a debate that you’d hear an argument you’ve never heard before. “Irreducible complexity” is the idea that some biological structures are too complex to be subject to evolution, and it was argued as a way to dismiss the theory of evolution as a whole. It was thrown around with smug faces that didn’t wait to hear a rebuttal. But since there is no “real” evidence for evolution anyway, I guess we’re pretty silly to continue with this position of “faith”. After all, it’s preposterous that we evolved from monkeys! There seemed to be a common belief that if evolution can be discredited, then Christianity is the only logical conclusion, which is of course a false dichotomy. There was also confusion about the meaning of the word theory in a scientific context, and the argument that evolution has never been “proven”.

When discussing morality, they attempted to convince us that Hitler and Stalin were both atheists, and therefore atheism is immoral. Good thing that nothing bad has ever been done in the name of Christianity, otherwise wouldn’t that be embarrassing. In Q&A time, a Christian man asked the representatives from both the Christian and Atheist sides to list their charitable involvements, on the assumption that whether or not you believe in a god determines how charitable you are. So much for being humble.

After all was said and done, I doubt any minds were changed, and I’d bet that they will continue to use these same arguments over and over. But for all the facepalming, Christopher Hitchens definitely made the night worth it.


I chatted with two young men who decided that they would enlighten me as to how evolution was false. Their argument was simple – There aren’t enough transitional fossils, using the artists impression of “Descent of Man” as literal evidence. I tried to point out that every time a new so called transitional fossil is found, it creates 2 new gaps on each side, and that there aren’t any big leaps but minor changes over many generations to create any significant change. Their retort to that was – “why aren’t there fossils of each particular change in each species?” My reply “Fossils are very rare in relation to how many creatures have been alive throughout history, not everything gets fossilised”. Apparently that answer fits suspiciously too well, and they decided they wouldn’t pursue that point because I had too much “faith” in science/evidence/reality.

Then one guy decided it was time to bring up irreducible complexity, so I simply stated that his argument was invalid, and to try something else (I call it the “Dawkin’s Law”, in a similar vein to “Godwin’s Law”).

I also talked to one man who claimed that because there actually is a Jerusalem, Jesus must have existed, because Jerusalem is in the bible.

He then went on to say that because there are no remains of Jesus Christ, which is proof he rose from the dead and later ascended into the heavens.


Special thanks to Bob & Bronwyn.

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