Tuesday, June 2, 2020

White people you have much work to do!: Your work has only just begun if you want to see an end to racism

So, here it is, after some thought this is my take on the racial tensions in US now and the way forward as I see it if we as a world are to deal with racism.

I realized in writing this that my voice on race in many ways is a pretty unique one. I live in Calgary where although the community is racially diverse, for a number of my white friends I am probably  one of very few black (afro) friends they have. However, in spite of that uniqueness, I have spent very little time talking to them about issues relating to race. It’s generally not the most palatable of topics to digest over coffee or when having a beer. But it really is something critical and now in the present climate feels to me like the best time for us to have this conversation.

So, what I am writing below I have decided to mainly be a message to you my white friends wherever you are in the world. I won’t call it ‘Dear White People’ that’s far too cliché, but it is mainly addressed to you and I hope you stick with it and read through this extended piece of writing to the end.

A disclaimer before I even set out, when I refer to ‘white people’ or ‘black people’ I am of course generalizing. I don’t mean ALL white people or ALL black people. I shouldn’t have to say that but I can already predict the reactions of ‘You don’t mean me!”Also, I have in mind white people who are open and genuinely see themselves as allies to black people and indeed to most social causes, not the ones who are open with their racism and xenophobia. Hopefully all of those latter type of white people have been removed from my friends list by now, but I guess you never know.

So here goes:
The murder of George Floyd coming after so many incidents of blacks being murdered at the hands of police just sends us back into the 'Here we go again' mode. But this time it seems just a little bit different and I have a flicker of hope that things might actually change this time. Never have I seen so many white people like yourselves jumping on to various social media, sharing memes, articles, making firm statements about how you’re standing with your black brothers and sisters in solid commitment to rid the world of this scourge called racism. As a black person it’s overwhelming and heartwarming but I can’t help asking myself the question ‘How long it will last?’ But for this moment at least it’s the ‘in thing’ to stand with the black community and victims of racial violence. For now, at least, ‘Black Lives Matter’ matters. But how long will it be before some newer shinier social justice object comes along for you the ‘woke’ white person to get behind and leave our plight along with George Floyd and Ahmad Arbery as merely part of yesterday’s news? I don’t know, but honestly I have seen enough over the last few days to be hopeful that this will not all pass over in a hurry.

I do hope this is a true awakening for the ‘woke’ and not merely a false dawn. But whatever it is, it does provide us black people a collective moment to speak from a pulpit that we don’t often have, and I am happy to make use of it.
The response to the violence and killing have not generally been too different from the norm. They just have a bit more resonance this time.
" The system much change"
" Black people's lives need to really MATTER"
" A man should not be judges by his skin colour"
" Racist police officers must be weeded out of the force and be accountable for their actions"

But on the other side of the coin there is the chorus of those who claim to be down with our cause but it comes across as more judgmental
" You guys are hurting the cause by looting and rioting?
" Your extreme response only hurts your cause?"
" I support your cause but not your use of violence!"

Those latter responses, those are the ones that I find exhausting. It’s not that the argument of whether to use force in protest or not isn’t a useful one. It’s that some of you spend far more time arguing with the mode of protest you think we should be using or not using, than you do talking or writing about the actual conditions, discrimination and racism that led to the protest being necessary in the first place. Some of you will claim in a sanctimonious manner that you care about both sides of the equation, what we’re protesting as well as how we protest. But no, sorry I don’t buy it, I see that as just a facade. When it comes to determining where your priorities lie, the question I always ask is “Where is your louder voice?”

If you write a post or article starting by firmly stating you are outraged by the death of George Floyd in the first sentence, but then spend the next three paragraphs talking about how riots and the use of excessive force aren’t going to solve anything or do anything to help black people, then I know exactly where your priorities are and what matters more to you.
But apart from that part of it, what really upsets me in times like this, is that many of you in the white community think it’s your responsibility to tell us black people what is the best way we should be protesting. My simple message to you if you think you want to do this is I don’t want to hear you, I don’t care what you have to say, I don’t care what you think.
It may seem harsh, it may seem exclusionary, but this is how it needs to be. Maybe, if you think about it the other way around it will make sense. I came up from Barbados 12 years ago to live in Calgary. At that time Alberta was very much a foreign land, I had to learn the ways of the province, the people the culture, the governance structure the way things were done here. In that first year or so I did a lot of listening, trying to understand why people did the things that they did, the customs of the land.

The view from the outside never the same
Occasionally, people would ask me what I thought of Calgary or Alberta being an outsider. I would sometimes give my view, they would listen, if what I said was interesting, they would nod or smile, but they weren’t looking for advice from me on how to run their province. And I wouldn’t dream of being so presumptious to think that I a new comer to the land knew better than them how they should be doing things. And I did not consider it to be a shunning or a silencing that people weren’t taking on board my suggestions seriously. I wouldn’t be consistently asking Albertans to prove to me why the systems they have here are better than the ones I am proposing based on my Barbados model. No, you know what’s best for you, I will try my best to adapt and comply unless of course I come across something that specifically affects my ability to live here, like racism for instance. But other than that, I listen and I learn. And that’s the way I daresay most immigrants that find themselves in a new place are. After I had spent a bit more time in Calgary, I spoke up a little more and made a few more comments on things, but nothing I put forward was made particularly forcefully. Even now after 12 years, I still see myself to a large extent being in a position of learning.
But when it comes to white people dealing with marginalize groups, the terms of engagement are quite different. Unlike me, that has at least now had a few years under my belt of lived experience in Calgary, you have not one day, not one single day of experience of what it’s like to navigate this world while having black skin. All of the hundreds, thousands, millions of you combined have a total of ZERO days experience, while in the case of me, one solitary black man I have clocked up 48 years.
Yet when it comes to discussing black issues you expect to be given time on the floor to put forward your thoughts on the relevant race issues. And not just time, often you want equal time or even more time than I have in order to put your views forward. In fact, in extreme cases even if you are the only white person in the group, you want more time than all of the black people present combined to put forward your view, which comes from a point of ignorance. Let me say this, you may have black friends, black grand-children, you might even be married to a black person for 50 years. You still don’t really know what is like, you simply have not had the lived experience.

Getting the white stamp of approval
Yes, in spite of your clear lack of experience with living our issues, there is a general expectation from you white people that we listen to you. You feel as if there is a need for us to get your white ‘stamp of approval’ for what is purely an ‘in house’ issue for us. You don’t only want us to sit and listen to your suggestions politely either, you expect us to give them serious consideration, and implement them too, unless we can make our case to YOUR level of satisfaction that our ideas are better. Many of you are happy to turn the whole thing into a debate, where we are the defendants and you get to evaluate the strength or paucity of the evidence we produce. If we don’t meet our burden of proof in trying to convince you that what we’re trying to do for ourselves is the best thing for us, you’ll say we are being stubborn and refusing to listen to well thought out arguments, don’t value sound logic and reasoning, and are only about using raw emotion to make decisions.
But why? Why do we need to get your stamp of approval for what are essentially OUR issues? I’ll answer my own question, it’s pretty simple really, it’s because you are the ones with the power, your white privilege gives you that. You have been socialized into that mindset, and so have we. The expectation that we are going to turn to you for guidance, in pretty much every situation, is not entirely your fault. It’s part of the institutionalized system that’s in place and you white people just like we black people were socialized into it from birth . You look at yourself as the standard, the mainstream, the gold star to which marginalized groups hope to reach someday. You see yourself as the gatekeeper, letting us know the kind of behaviour you will tolerate or not tolerate from us, if we hope to be given the honour one day of sitting at the table with you.
So, when we protest, many of you feel the need to ’tone police’ us which usually comes disguised as just giving us ‘helpful’ suggestions on what kind of behaviour might be most beneficial to our cause. However, it’s really less about what will really help us and more about what will inconvenience you to the least extent. And the thing is, since we black people have also been socialized to look at you as the authorities over us, we have often historically, played into your expectations, thanking you for your guidance and in many cases doing exactly what you suggest we should do. Many times we have been rewarded for our obedience and compliance. With the power you have, you bestow benefits to us accordingly. So rewards come to us if we are able to do what we want in a way that allows you to not have to change much about yourself. Bonus points go to us if while doing that we are doing we make you look like the ‘saviours’ that pulled us out of the dark, dire situation we existed in previously. We know you like that, it’s always good when you can casually let your other white friends know that you have the street cred to prove that you are a little more ‘woke’ and racially aware that the average person of your colour.
We know the things you like and we know you have the power, so over the years many of us have learnt how to play the game in a way that ensures that you keep winning. We have been the ones that have had to do the shifting and bending of our tactics in all kind of contortions, to meet your standard. Because, and I can’t say this enough, whether you are aware of it or not, you have the power. We know that however good or noble our cause is, however much what we are pushing for will empower us and give us what we need, if you don’t accept it, if it doesn’t fit with your needs and your wants it won’t ever get off the ground.

Stable society not always a fair society
For years, decades and centuries this has been very much the natural order. In a way it’s a perfect synergistic relationship. Both you whites and we non-whites have in many ways accepted our relative positions as just ‘the way it is’ in society. Sure, there have been uprisings, revolts and occasional riots, but generally speaking the stability of society and the status quo has remained. But stable society does not mean a fair society and that I think is what you as white people often miss. You assume because we go to work every day, smile with you, are fine having you as friends, girlfriends, boyfriends, wives and husbands, happily go for a beer on the weekend and have your kids and our kids meet for regular play dates, that all is well. We seem happy, we’re well adjusted, we aren’t going off on tirades about racial injustices every day, we will willingly give you a hug without hesitation ( at least when there’s no COVID-19) so we must be fine. Right? Surely even if racism is a problem and there is some inequality, it can’t be that BIG of a deal because we black people almost never broach the subject with you.
But there’s your blind spot, that is far from the truth. We do have a problem, often quite a big problem, but if we speak out we know we’ll have to face the consequences and they won’t be good. Many of us have learnt that the hard way. So, we share these issues we face when we get together with other black people, we just don’t bring them up in your presence. However, thankfully perhaps like the volcano with small increases in pressure over time, that stability of society and the power you enjoyed at the top of that pyramid for so many centuries is showing some very real signs of ripping apart. They may indeed be a new ‘order’ not that far away
In many ways, I think you as white people are happy to see this change in the ‘order’ as well. Because honestly, I know many of you sincerely want equality for us too, at least in a basic sense. You’re at least aware that you have some level of privilege and want to see others in society that have a different skin colour from you get some of the same opportunities you have had. You have a definite level of magnanimity and that’s wonderful. You want to see the end of at least of more explicit and violent forms of racism in groups like the KKK, the white supremacists that shoot up churches and mosques, the MAGA hat wearing Trump sycophants and yes the corrupt police that kill the black people seemingly almost at will down in the US.
And of course, we as black people yearn to see the eradication of these ideologies and toxic groups as well. So, from that perspective we have similar goals and walk in lock step. But then behind that comes the divergence. For many of you that are white, you only see racism when these major acts occur, for the rest of the time it can go under your radar. You don’t see racism day to day and it’s not totally your fault. In many ways you can’t see it, because we as blacks do a lot to hide it from you. We deliberately do that for the reasons mentioned above. We know that making you uncomfortable can have particular negative consequences, not for you, but for us.
But slowly but surely over the years we have been finding our voices, it’s come and gone with various civil rights movements but now we finally think we are ready to ‘speak our truth to power’ in unison. We recognize that maybe we can finally push for equality and not have the fear of your backlash from your perch of privilege. Still, that’s much easier said than done. Because in our push for equality, we actually at least within a certain context want to be leading you . That’s what our push toward anti-racism is all about. Yes, the structure for this to happen is going to be one where blacks broadly speaking take the lead and whites follow. And this is the sticking point, because for both of our groups we are being forced to take on roles which from the perspective of the old paradigm of society stability, are out of our respective comfort zones.

Role reversal 
In this model we let you know what we need you to do for us and you try to the best of your ability to give us the things that we ask for. Not a master/ slave relationship but more of a model where we are the managers and you are the ones working on the production floor operationalizing the overall plans and strategies that we have set. Why does it have to be that way? Because you are the ones and the only ones that truly have the power to be on the ‘operation floor’ doing the hands- on work to end racial oppression. While we as those on the receiving end of it for so long, are best placed to know how best it can be addressed. We don’t have all the answers on strategy either, but we have the best knowledge available. You are the perpetrators rather consciously or subconsciously of the racist ideas that subjugate us. We do not have the power to force you to think about us the way we would like you to think about us. That’s work you have to do, nothing we can do to relieve you of that burden, you have to do that heavy lifting.
We also need you to realize that addressing racism starts with you. I know this is another tough one for you. Most of you white people look at racism as something that other white people do. You are fine and often strong in decrying acts of racism performed by whites in society, so long as you can be assured that you yourself are pure and free from racism yourself. This may come as a surprise to you, but many of you that I have interacted with on a regular or semi regular basis have at some time or other done or said something to me that was racist. Did I bring it up at the time? No. Why? Because I knew if I did, it would very likely get in the way of a friendship. I value my friendships with you a lot so I never want to risk making you feel uncomfortable. I knew that whatever you said was made out of ignorance not malice, so I never judged you for it and never for a moment held it against you. But I knew if I brought it up you would take it as a slight on your character, or at least I feared that.
Society has taught us that pretty much the worst thing we can do to you a white person is call you a racist or suggest that you may have done something at some point that was racist. It’s a bit unfortunate, because I don’t think that as a white person you have anything to be ashamed of if you do something that is racist. It’s a natural consequence of being born into a world where you are a part of the dominant white culture. Had I been born into that, I would be doing the same as you. But our fear of calling you out for doing something racist, robs us of an opportunity to help you do better. Perhaps if you were more open in acknowledging the fact you have a potential to act in ways that are racist, we would feel more comfortable to help you if you do, without fearing for our own negative repercussions. Yes, society has taught us that it's Ok for us to live with our discomforts so long as we ensure that you don’t experience any. Again it all goes back to our socialization.

Dealing with racism starts with YOU
So as white people you need to look inward, the racist is not some evil cop over there in the US in Minneapolis. Racism really does start with you. If you work on yourself, you’re making an amazing difference in fighting off racism in the world. Change your way of thinking, and you can influence others to change theirs, and eventually societal attitudes will change. If societies attitudes change, the attitudes of white cops emerging in the system will change too, so will those of the “Karens” in the parks, it will eventually permeate right through.
So, How do you change and look at yourself? You will need to start by listening to us and not dismissing or trivializing our words when we talk about the things that cause us pain. We have pain of several generations, no just pain from a bullet to the chest or a knee to the neck and spinal cord, but in other attitudes that leave deep psychological scars that cause far more long term damage. Ideas that paint us as more likely to be criminals than you are, more likely to be athletes and musicians that managers or CEOs of tech companies. Ingrained ideas that Africans tend to be corrupt or that Caribbean people are all about sun, sea, sand and steel pan along with bikini clad women lying on a beach. These are all stereotypes that are there. Again, not your fault or ours it’s just the way society has presented and promoted certain groups of people.
Do we as black people also have some responsibility of changing the way we look at ourselves? Of course we do. And we’re doing it. We also need to get used to being in the driver’s seat if the change in roles I am talking about is to work. But for that we also need your co-operation. You need to be willing to allow us to lead you. Not constantly push back against us on the grounds that it’s just not fair to silence white people like this or absurdly cry out about ‘reverse racism’.
The other thing to bear in mind is that when we talk about us leading and you following, we don’t mean in every aspect of life, we just mean in this one critical area of ENDING RACISM. It may seem counter intuitive to say we need to discriminate in order to address the issue of discrimination, but that’s actually what we need. If we aim towards neutrality and ‘colour blindness’ in society today, all we are going to do is reinforce the inequalities and status quos that already exist. If we want change we need to change.
So that’s it, in a somewhat large nutshell. But it all really comes down mainly to one word. LISTEN. you just need to listen. And when I say listen, I mean listen to learn, not listen to try to find the fallacy or fault in our way of thinking just to once again take back the mic and give us your ‘better’ idea. Trust us, we’ll make some mistakes in leading us all through this fight, but overall we’ll be Ok. Because as black people we’re not looking to eliminate you or erase you white people from relevance, just as we know that you aren’t trying to do that to we who are black.
If we all play our parts in the new ‘order’, in due time, the inequality gap will start to shrink, we’ll start to flatten the curve of racial ineqaliity just as we have been able to do in our fight against the coronavirus. Racism is a pandemic today as vicious as any other but we can beat it. If we commit to it, and don’t let our masks cover our eyes in the process, maybe just maybe, we could be on the way to finally making Martin Luther King’s dream something close to a reality

Saturday, August 5, 2017

'When an atheist says': Response to Christian viral video

Been so much going on recently, and I haven't given an update for so long. Blog and podcast have been silent of late. But I am still here, yes, I promise you'll be hearing more from caribatheist soon.

I am still concerned about the grip that religion has on our society, the widespread negative assumptions that people still make about atheists and just the general lack of critical thinking that abounds.

Maybe, it's my imagination but recently there seems to be an increase in videos circulating from Christian websites through facebook and social media trying to show that the arguments made by atheists are not as rational as we purport them to be. There's the old 'atheist professor' one which has been recycled many times and was the basis for the successful "God's not Dead"  movie,

And then there's this one here, that came my way today. It's been going around with the instruction 'tag an atheist'. So for sure it is expected to make us think about stuff and change our ways. Well, here is my response below. Feel free to share this and to take a leaf out of their book, I ask you to "tag a Christian"

Make sure you watch the video before going through my response. I assess the video through 12 points it brings up. What would your response have been?

1.     Attitude of the atheist- He comes across as rude and arrogant, not even letting the Christian finish his sentences. Rainer and Norbert both pointed this out. I don't know any atheist who would attack someone off the bat for simply reading a bible verse on a smart phone. There could be a lot of good reasons for reading the bible and why not use technology to do it? So, the portrayal here is an atheist caricature. For religious people that have never interacted with atheists, this can make them feel that atheists generally are bullies and unapproachable. Not hard to see that many believers would have a negative view of the atheist character being portrayed here, even though the actual arguments he is presenting are sound. This technique, uses a logical fallacy known as 'poisoning the well'. 

2.     Other religions point to facts too- Many other believers in other religions and unproven phenomena, (including some mentioned in the video) also point to 'facts' as the reason for their belief. Christianity is not different from other belief systems in that respect. 

3.     Scholars that say Jesus existed- Whether this is true or not is irrelevant to the argument on resurrection. It's also an ‘appeal to authority’ fallacy. The actual arguments matter here. The way to approach this is to read what arguments the scholars are making and then examine whether the conclusion they draw is supported by the arguments they have made. 

4.     Disciples were convinced that he rose from the dead- two things are problematic here. Firstly, the Christian here is assuming that the biblical account of the disciples is correct. No evidence has been provided in the video for the reliability of the bible, and many of the claims in the bible are not supported by other contemporaneous writings. Given the extraordinary nature of the claim it is even more important than usual that the source of the writing is trustworthy. That would need to be demonstrated and that is missing from here. Secondly, the 'fact' the disciples were convinced is not strong evidence of the fact that the thing happened. Most of us have been convinced at one time or another that something was true and then found it to be false. It's a part of being human.

5.     Skeptics became Christians- This is a trivial observation. There are many skeptics that have become Christians, but there have been also many Christians that have become skeptics. There have also been many people who converted to other religions from Christianity and from other religions to Christianity for all sorts of reasons. To just take one or two accounts that happen to be recorded in the bible as evidence, and ignore all the other evidence is fallacious. Again, the more important thing here is the reasons for the change rather than simply the fact that someone changed his mind. Many people in history have changed their minds for bad reasons. And I know that sometimes families have some feuds and divides, but it still can’t be seen as remarkable that you were able to convince your brother James. J

6.     The tomb was empty- I have never understood how this counts as evidence. Once again it must be reiterated that this 'fact' is just what is reported in the bible. That notwithstanding, an empty tomb could have occurred for almost an infinite number of reasons. One clear one is that a mistake could have been made by the people in remembering where the tomb was that had Jesus. Someone changed the plan at the last minute and didn't communicate it? It’s not like they would have thought that 2000 years later people would be building a whole religion on this piece of logistics. When physical resurrection of a dead body is the hypothesis under consideration, ANY other explanation that we have experience of in the natural world wins in the plausibility race.

7.     Disciples died for it- This is again not a piece of evidence that can be used to make an argument. It's basically a restatement of the idea that the disciples were convinced. (I discussed this earlier). There are many reasons that people might die for something that isn't true. 9-11 has often been used as an example. If dying for your beliefs is an important factor to be considered, that would point to the truth of Islam in today's world.

8.     500 witnesses saw Jesus resurrected- again that is just what was reported in the gospel text. There are not 500 independent accounts that we can investigate.

9.     ‘Science has proven that miracles don't happen’- this is another straw man. I have never known an atheist to make this argument. The Christian in the video is right, science has never and indeed cannot disprove miracles. But that is irrelevant. Science also cannot disprove all of the other mythological beings presented at the beginning of the video. What we have here is a shifting of the burden of proof, which is another logical fallacy. Just because we can't rule out a miracle doesn't mean we should accept it as a reasonable explanation. We still need reasons to believe. 'You can't prove that it didn't happen' is not a reasonable argument. If something lies outside the boundaries of investigation, then what basis do we have for accepting that it exists or likely exists? 

10.  'Why have I never heard this stuff before?'- Are you kidding me? Lol. If I had $1 for every time someone has presented one of these arguments to me, I'd be a millionaire by now. This explains a lot though. So many Christians still believe that the reason we don't believe is because we haven't sat down and really listened to or considered their arguments. In reality it's the opposite that is true. Many Christians have never bothered to take the time to listen to and analyze what people who disagree with them have to say. Instead they will say that what they believe are 'well established historical facts' But any basic internet search will show you that there are numerous websites and volumes of publications by various scholars ( and not just atheists) out there, contesting the truth of these ‘facts’ with well grounded, rational arguments.

11.  It's scary to believe- This one is also mind boggling. What would be scary about finding out that Jesus rose from the dead 2000 years ago? Indeed, if we were to verify that this event happened that would be a 'game changer' as said in the video. Who wouldn't want to know and understand the details of that resurrection if it were true? I certainly would and so would all the atheists that I know. 

12.  It's a game changer and therefore hard to think of objectively- This is delicious irony. Adding the ‘game changer’ statement is what actually removes the objectivity, and that’s what the Christian is doing here, not the atheist. In considering whether something is true or false, all that matters is the evidence to support it. The implications or consequences if the claim is true are irrelevant. To bring those issues into the argument biases the argument and therefore takes away the objectivity. So, my advice to the Christian here would be to forget about all those things that make the belief desirable and concentrate on the evidence that supports it as truth.  That is of course assuming that finding truth is his overall objective. 


Saturday, December 31, 2016

When religious thinking paves your way: Ten ways in which Trump used the arguments we get from Christians to become a god in his own right

Well it's almost the end of 2016. It's safe to say that it's one that we'll never forget. Many are calling it the worst year ever. I don't quite subscribe to that. Undeniably 2016 had it's lows but so have other years before and we'll have lows in years to come too. People have pointed to the death of a number of famous entertainers. Starting with David Bowie and Prince who succumbed early in the year. Since then there appears to have been a steady procession and then a recent spate of deaths again to end the year. I am not sure whether indeed the number of celebrity deaths in this year are significantly higher than any other year. I just feel as if people decided sometime ago that 2016 was horrible and every unfortunate death is met with a "Damn you, 2016!"

I can't remember any other year being held up to such a standard. Perhaps we hope that if we just put all the bad stuff and wrap it up neatly into a 2016 holiday package, we can make ourselves believe that we will have a smooth 2017 with none of the current negativity.

One thing that it's hard for me to deny is that this year has been bizarre. Last week I actually met for the first time ever a believer in a flat earth!  I feel as though my conversation with that guy defined my feeling about 2016. Up can be down, hot can be cold, black can be white, and a circle can be a straight line,  you just need the right person behind it to carry the message and it's all good.

Of course there is one person who was at the cusp of all this, leading the way in the post truth world. None other than the President Elect of the USA, Donald J Trump.

This year I have had the benefit of travelling to a few places in the world and everywhere I have been there has been a similar level of incredulity surrounding Donald  Trump's rise. How could a person so clearly egotistical, misogynistic, bigoted and generally ignorant of  world issues, be in the running to be nominee for a party in the world's most powerful and influential country? How could that person BE the nominee of a major party in the country? How could he actually BE president of that country? At every level that Trump conquered in his journey, the degree of bewilderment just got more and more pronounced.

I am still trying to wrap my mind around it all, but the more I think about it, what has happened is that the world in general has got a taste of the bewilderment that many of us atheists experience when we encounter believers of different stripes within the Christian faith, or indeed any faith.

I'll concentrate on the Christians in my writing here as these are the kind of believers  that I talk with on the most regular basis. I and many other non-believers have often asked them how they  can endorse a book that so clearly demeans women and  foreigners, supports slavery and actually directs the rape of children and slaughter of entire communities. Incredibly to those of us on the atheist side, people of faith find arguments to justify it, still referring to this book as "The Good Book". The book that they are willing to stake their lives on. The book whose author trumps everything and everyone. So, it's not just that they give the book a pass, they turn things upside down and make the book with all the worse things in it, into the standard for GOOD! They swear on it! It is indeed their gospel truth.

I, and I daresay the majority of my fellow atheists in the world of activists,  have sought to push against religions and faith for this reason. It seems clear to us that religion is one of the main devices, if not the only device under which this inversion of morality can occur on a mass scale. We have made this argument again and again about how belief in religious dogma can be dangerous. Over and over again we have been told that we are a bit extreme in blaming religion for everything. We are accused of falsely assuming that a little belief in a book that gives people hope and purpose in life can actually harm somebody. Many people have assured us that the people of faith know and understand that the way of thinking they use in church shouldn't be and cannot be applied to other aspects of life, where the ability to reason is the one and only thing that matters.

So even the world's most fundamentalist believer can be a brilliant scientist, an insightful economist or and A+ scholar when needed. He can make informed and rational decisions about which is the best route to take to get home, what is the best part of town to live in, or who is the best candidate to vote for. This I considered a reasonable counter argument to my position, one that at least gave me pause. There are indeed lots of good examples of people who have not allowed their irrational religious faith cups to runneth over into other critical aspects of life, and to the extent that these people are able to get the psychological and emotional benefits from those beliefs, they appear to be winning the game. They appear to be able to effectively  cherry pick what they want for  their faith life without damaging their overall reasoning capabilities. In an odd way I sometimes admire these people.  The way that they are able to  self delude, so that the faith support that is so much available from religious institutions all around us,  can be used by them to get through the dark days and nights. We as atheists are well aware that as soon as we accept that we don't believe, we lose any opportunity to get benefit from those beliefs that we consider logically unjustifiable.

But this year has made me look again at the argument that suggests that it is difficult for irrational beliefs encouraged by religious groups to spill over to other areas. Indeed, 2016 provided a text book case on  how religious thinking can overflow from that shallow faith box and be capitalized on by a person skilled in the art of the con. We always knew it could happen. We have seen totalitarianism backed up by various forms of dogma throughout history. However,  for many of us living in North America and the Caribbean, who have had experiences of relatively stable democratic governments, it was incredible to see the USA succumbing to uncritical thinking in such a dramatic way.  I guess it's just a reminder that anyone, any country, any population in the world can get taken in. None of us can be complacent. We can't assume that we'll always be rational, we can't assume that the people around us that we see every day will always be rational. All of us are vulnerable to personal biases and fallacious arguments.

That's one of the reasons why I love to be part of the skeptic community. It's not that skeptics can't become trapped in superstitious thinking or irrational beliefs. It's just that I think that when you make it part of your life to actively try to minimize personal biases and flawed reasoning that can hurt you,  you are just a little more likely to actually recognize the con when it comes. You might still fall for it, but at a minimum you are a bit better equipped to handle it and maybe find a way out.

In contrast, religious organizations encourage you to put that reasoning aside and go with your subjective feelings which are highly influenced by your personal upbringing and the individuals and leaders that you have put your trust in from the time you were small.

For Christians, this means the church, the bible and Jesus in the main. The faithful are taught to hold on and defend those beliefs come what may. And we atheists see this in action often if we care to enter into debates or discussions with them.  It's my view that they became so used to using flawed reasoning in defence of their belief that it was not difficult for someone like Donald Trump to gain legitimacy by using those same techniques.

Below I will show you ten ways in which Donald Trump borrowed from arguments commonly used by Christians to defend their beliefs to atheists. I'll give you first the common argument for God we get from Christianity and then show how Trump used it to get the same immunity from responsibility or blame for actions that the gods typically get from their followers.

1.  'Nobody is perfect. He who is without sin cast the first stone'

How Christians use it 

This is a classic technique used by religious people when they want to deflect from the 'sins' committed by someone from within their ranks. More often that not it is to defend some pastor who has been caught doing the very thing he preaches not to do.  Might be a Jimmy Swaggart found in a hotel with a prostitute, or Pastor Eddie Long found having sex with a young boy in the choir. Here the idea there are trying to put forward is that nobody is perfect and everybody falls short. Of course what other people do is irrelevant to their argument. But the aim here is to try to make you feel guilty for trying to hold them to a standard. It's a form of gas-lighting where the implication is that the fault is with YOU in trying to hold THEM to impossible standards. It makes the person being accused sound humble as they admit that they are less than ideal. Of course condemning these people for their practises is not an attempt to hold them to an impossible standard, it's just to hold them to a standard they have set for others. But conveniently many of the believers do not see it that way.

How Trump used it

Trump went straight for this argument after the Access Hollywood tape showed that he had made some demeaning and insulting comments about women. He immediately said the he had never claimed to be a 'perfect person'.  Trying to make it seem that people were expecting perfection from him. Of course that was never the case. We just wanted to hold him accountable for his action. But his response implied that it was the accusers that were being unreasonable, not him. His only crime 'was not being perfect'. This victim blaming is exactly the same used by Christians in arguing that ' he who is without sin cast the first stone'.

2. ' You are not worthy to judge my faith without having a personal experience with the faith'

This is another one we hear a lot as atheists. Many Christians believe that their personal experience with god and in faith, means that they have the insider knowledge and that gives them the leg up on we who have had no such experience. They might make the argument that you can't expect to argue about the effectiveness of a drug if you have never studied medicine or pharmacy. Of course this is a bad analogy. We know medicine and drugs exist and we have a well established scientific protocol to investigate and evaluate them. In the case of  religion vs atheism, it's the existence of God that is under investigation. You can't start by claiming the existence of the thing for which you are trying to  give evidence. Flawed argument it may be, but by using this technique, you can dismiss anyone who disagrees with you as being an unreliable witness. You are effectively saying that the only people that can give an opinion on the existence of your god and the veracity of your religion, are those who already believe. It's circular, but it can work for people who already believe and don't think through the argument carefully.

How Trump used it

Trump and his supporters used this by just saying that a lot of the people who were saying bad things about Trump, didn't really know him. They couldn't really judge him unless they were in the inner circle and new the 'real' Donald Trump. Those trustworthy people were those like his family his children and his close advisors like Kelly Ann Conway. Those folk had never experienced all the horrible things Trump was accused of. Those were the people whose opinions really mattered, not the angry non believers on the outside. Yes, the only people worthy of judging Trump were the ones who already believed in Trump. Very simple way to 'poison the well' and dismiss the opposers through what is a variant of an 'ad hominem' attack.

3. ' Atheism is a religion too!'

How Christians use it

This is another tactic the religious like to use, and it can be extremely effective! Very often we atheists get caught up in definitions for 'religion' and in the end it becomes an argument of semantics and no substantive point is really made on either side.

The reason that religious people like to make this argument has become clear to me over the years. It's an attempt to put your position and theirs on an equal footing, when in reality there is a huge difference. They are the ones making the claim, the atheist is not making an equal counter claim of 'no god'. The theists are the ones that are making the supernatural claim and need to provide the evidence.

By claiming atheism is a religion, theists aim to argue that both atheism and Christianity are equally unfounded. Both relying on 'faith' to prop them up. As such, it makes sense to choose the worldview that provides more benefit and gives more hope. At worst they can make the 'undecideds' out there believe that atheism vs Christianity is an 'eeny-meeny' decision and once it comes down to a toss up like that, there is always a fair chance that the coin will land their way.

How Trump used it

This was an important technique for Trump to use. Similarly to the people arguing on the side of religious faith, he had little in the way of facts to offer. So he just had to argue in the debates with Hilary Clinton, that Clinton also was arguing from a non factual basis.

He had to emphasize that SHE was being dishonest and had no factual  basis for what she was claiming. And just like many of us who  are atheists, Clinton got caught up in trying to defend why the position she was given was indeed based in fact. Arguing strongly that there was science and evidence to back up what she was saying. But Trump had none of it,  he still maintained that she was  arguing dishonestly, putting forward her own faith position that her followers would obviously swallow uncritically. The more time Clinton spent defending her 'facts',  the less time time there was  to address the weakness or gaps in Trumps version of the truth.

Often the debate came down to

 "You're lying"
" No you're the one that's lying"
"You're a puppet"
"No you're the puppet"

as a back and forth.

No different than  the

 "Atheism is a religion"
" No atheism is not a religion!"
" It takes more faith to be an atheist!"
" No atheism is not a faith"

that I have heard so many times in the atheism vs theism debates.

In the minds of people watching, these kind of exchanges can seem like childish " Yes you are!" " No I am not!" shouting matches.  They tend to bring down the credibility of both participants in the eyes of  observers. So it feels like it's a draw with both players being equally bad. If you are in a debate where you are weaker and you can make your supporters think that you at least held the other one to a draw, it's an equivalent of a victory. Spectators will always go for the one they like  better in a case like that. If you can make that be you, you're home free. I have seen it  happen in many a debate of creationism vs evolution. Trump played the game exactly that same way,  he may have lost in the scientific battle,  but he won the rhetorical game and that was all that mattered in the end.

4. 'Why do you keep ridiculing my faith?'

How Christians use it

This is a big one and is honestly one of the most difficult ones to deal with when a Christian brings it up. It's hard to counter, because to a large extent it is true, we do tend to ridicule faith quite a bit within the atheist community even when we try to do it in a respectable way. Of course we always explain that  it's the belief we ridicule and not the believers themselves. But it's a hard sell, especially if the Christian herself holds the beliefs in question extremely deeply.

Often this accusation of ridiculing is followed up with the idea that we think they are stupid. Again this is a tough one to hear. Generally speaking I don't believe that believers are stupid at all. There are many I know who I would rate as being more informed and more rational than me in many areas. It's just that they have not quite given the degree of skepticism necessary to this one cherished belief. But it's still not always to easy to convince them that you are not insulting them personally.

Once you get to that point, it's hard to go forward with the argument because the believer feels a bit insulted and will tend to dig in to their beliefs, even if they at some level recognize the points you are making. I know for myself that when I get to this point I usually back off the argument in order to not offend further. I tend not to push ahead with arguments when I feel the interlocutor is being severely effected emotionally. So they can go away feeling like a winner, not because they made a good argument but because they successfully disarmed me from effectively making mine.

How Trump used it

Trump used this much better than I gave him credit for initially. We can all point to a number of laughably ridiculous ideas that Trump had from the start.  Building a wall across the US Mexican border? How could you help but laugh at an idea like that. It's as implausible as Jonah in the belly of a fish or Noah and his floating boat. Hard to hear any of these ideas as a faith  'outsider' and not snicker or downright fall over laughing.

Not allowing any Muslims in to the country? How could you administer something like that? Go after families of terrorists to torture them for the 'sins' of their sons or fathers? How could any of that be taken seriously? But getting us to laugh was a great weapon that Trump had. Late night shows also played they part by ridiculing the ridiculous. The more we laughed, the more his supporters thought we were laughing at them and their leader. They felt insulted and dug in their support even deeper.

In the end there were attempts to let them know that our problem was with Trump not with those who had been the unfortunate (not stupid) victims taken in by Trump. But it was too late, they felt insulted and ridiculed and we felt the backlash at the polls.

5. ' Why do you always pick out the bad parts of the bible, why ignore all the good?

How Christians use it

This is again a deflecting technique. It's not surprising that atheists in critiquing the bible point to the absurdities and atrocities and the contradictions that go throughout the bible, rather than the good advice and the stories that emphasize peace and love. We do this because so many Christians make the argument that the book is authored or inspired by God. It would stand to reason that a book with divine authorship would be flawless, ALL good. Why would a divine being allow bad advice or ludicrous ideas to be circulated in his name?

Yet, I can think of many times that Christians when made to face embarrassing parts of their holy book, simply point to another verse that offers an entirely different idea. So once they can point to Jesus' command to ' love thy neighbour as thyself ' the book is all good and worthy as an object of worship.  It doesn't  matter how many times other passages in the book sound like the rantings of a barbaric cult.

For those of us looking from the outside the only thing these 'good' passages do is highlight the contradictions throughout the bible. They do nothing to nullify earlier passages. But for those within the faith already, they can hold on to these 'good' passages that are clearly understood and then live with the fact that they just don't quite have the level of understanding to explain those horror passages.

How Trump used it

There is an old saying that  ' even a broken clock is right twice a day'.  The idea being that no matter how inaccurate or dysfunctional something is it can be correct sometimes, just as a matter of chance.

Trump is a master at saying anything and everything. Comments coming out of him often fly as fast  and erratic as an AR 15 machine gun. The contradictions are often sprayed left. right and centre.  Even today as I write this, Trump tweeted that Obama was putting every obstacle in place to stop the transition but at a later press conference also TODAY,  Trump said he had phone call with Obama   that was  'very nice'  and the  transition was going ahead smoothly.

This kind of juxtaposition is no less jarring than what we find so often in the 'good book'. From one who has 'not come to bring peace but a sword' but yet is 'peace' himself. One who wants you to leave your family to follow him but also love your family and build around them. One who created evil and yet comes to destroy it. A god who is somehow all merciful and yet all just. It's enough to make you dizzy, but the great thing is, that whatever the situation, whatever the idea or philosophy you want to promote, there is something somewhere within that bible to support it.

Trump now can do the same thing.  Anything he does that you don't agree with? No problem, you just have to find one instance of something opposite that he has said in the past and that is the nullifier. So 20 women can come forward and say he molested them but all you need is one to come forward and say, he always treated her respectfully and that seals the issue. And just like the bible,  Trump words carry much more weight than action. So when he emphatically states ' no one respects women more than ME!" that all but ends the debate. No different that when a Christian gives us the 'love thy neighbour' quote, drops the mic and walks out.

6. ' God is good all the time and all the time God is good!" (or some other meaningless catch phrase)

How Christians use it

Yes, you know it and you've heard it. Things that are said that sound good because there is a rhyme or a nice alliteration, But when you break them down even the most ardent followers can't explain what it means. God is good! What does that really mean? Does it mean that good is defined by what God does? If so it's a tautology, like saying God is god or good is good. If good has a definition independent from God, how can you be sure that God will always be good? How could you assess that unless you had the ability to observe everything that God ever did and knew everything that God would ever do in the future? What human being could do that?  Clearly it's just a statement where the hope is that repetition will make it true. I have yet to have a Christian explain to me how they arrived at that ' God is good all the time' knowledge and whether the good comes before the God or the God comes before the good. But it doesn't matter.

There are other similar phrases like ' Christianity is not a religion it's a relationship" This is another vacuous statement. It's done to imply that Christianity is somehow different from other faiths, that there is some relationship that makes their faith unique. But when you try to break it down, it is puzzling. Whether there is a relationship or not, surely Christianity is a religion. There is a still a set of core beliefs that one has to believe as a matter of faith. Denominations may differ on some details, but there is still some dogma to be accepted.  Religion and relationship are not mutually exclusive. And what is the relationship they speak of? How is that defined? How can you assess that when you can't even give evidence to satisfy anyone outside of the faith that the entity even exists? The words are empty, but is sounds good to the believer. It is a cool catch phrase, that they can repeat when people challenge them. That is enough to keep many believers confident in maintaining their  positions.

How Trump used it

As a former TV reality show star, Trump knows all about using the catchy phrases to get the attention of viewers and maintain it. The 'sound good', emotionally satisfying phrases that don't actually have to have any real meaning.

The big one he went to from early was 'Make America great again!" From the time he made that statement people were asking what that meant. Was America great in the past? If so when did it stop being great? What factors removed the greatness? What were examples of the things that would need to be restored to make America great again? What measures could you employ to determine the point at which America could justifiably be considered great again?  We never got an answer to any of these questions, but his supporters didn't care. They went out to the rallies and bought the hats in their millions. Everyone wants to be great and to make something great. Just like everyone wants the assurance of worshipping a good god.

The other catchphrase that Trump came with was "Drain the Swamp!" again it sounded exciting and aggressive but we also had no clear idea what he really meant by that. What exactly was that swamp? How was he draining it? What was being replaced? How could we know when this process was complete? Was the drain a drain of people, policies, ideas? What were they talking about?

That's the beauty of the catch phrase, meaning is always secondary. It  just has to be something simple and memorable that people can sing together in chorus and feel good about. It works in church and it certainly worked in Trump's congregations all across the US.

7. ' Doesn't matter what evidence I give you, you'll never believe in God, you have an anti God worldview from the start'

How Christians use it

This is another way in which the religious attempt to disarm the atheists in discussion and debate. The idea here is to make it seem that the disbelief is not based on reason or evaluation of the evidence. It's based on a presupposition of. non existence of the supernatural. If that were true, of course it would mean that no evidence would be sufficient to convince us. But what evidence do they have to make this assessment of us? Most of the time we give them at least some evidence that if available would make us have a second look at what we believe. A few instances of human limbs growing back or people suddenly walking out of graves would certainly help to tip the scales towards belief in the supernatural. But many Christians dismiss all that talk from us and simply conclude that we would stubbornly resist any possible evidence, because we just MUST believe that there is no God there.

By convincing themselves that all we are doing is conveniently choosing a 'non god' worldview, they feel justified in choosing a worldview of their own and putting a god in it. It's similar to the claim that 'atheism is a religion' discussed earlier. The more they can discredit the legitimacy of our analysis the more they can feel justified in sticking to their own unfalsifiable beliefs.

How Trump used it

Trump and his supporters use this technique a lot too. Any view against Trump is just because you are biased against him from the start. They argue that there is nothing that Trump could do that would make us change our view of him. We just start from the presupposition " Trump = bad". There is some truth in the fact that this is how many people see him. But it's not just because we believe that apriori. It's just that this is the evidence that Trump keeps presenting us again and again and again.

We would be happy to change our views if given evidence to the contrary, it's just that we never get it. So it just seems reasonable to conclude that we likely will never get it. But that's not how his supporters see it. They still consider those against them to be brainwashed by somebody. The media, the regressive left, the academic elites. Somebody out there is deceiving us in a similar manner to how the devil has been doing since Eve was tempted in that magical garden.

Meanwhile, those in the Trump camp continue to essentially do what they were accusing the other side of doing, dismissing those on the other side no matter what. For many on Trump side, Hilary Clinton was synonymous with the devil. That was their chosen worldview. She was 'Crooked Hilary' by definition. One of the easiest way to emphasize a presupposition is by creating  a label for a person. A definition to be applied before the discussion even starts. Trump was a master at this, whether it was "Crooked Hilary" "Lying Ted' " Little Marco" or " Low Energy Jeb".

So, just like the religious people, all Trump did was accuse the opposition of doing exactly what was his own trade. It put those on the other side on the defensive and they just weren't able to counter it. How can you accuse everyone else of bias and deceit while you engage in it blatantly? Religions have been doing it for years. Trump just jumped on that bandwagon.

8. "They're still many questions that science can't answer'.

How Christians use it

This is an effective tactic often used in debate, helping to distract from the lack of evidence for the religious idea being presented. It's an argument from ignorance but it is amazing how many people I have met for whom this argument helped them become more open to belief in the supernatural.

For sure, there are lots of mysteries of the universe that science has yet to provide satisfying answers. Foremost among these are the details of how the universe that we live in got started and how life, conscious living organisms, first came to be on this planet. However, in spite of these gaps in the knowledge, the amount that we have learnt through the application of the scientific method is nothing short of remarkable. Indeed all the things that we feel justified to call 'facts'  about the universe have been revealed to us through coming up with hypotheses, testing these hypotheses through observations or other available evidence and drawing inferences. That is the scientific method in a nutshell and without it I could not be typing on a computer and you couldn't receive the ideas coming out of  my head, thousands of miles away on the other side of the world.

Still, in spite of the undeniable success of this method, people consider that it's not enough on it's own. There must be something more, some other way outside of this mainstream method that we need to tap into, to gain the other elusive knowledge floating somewhere out there in the ether. For many people this other way is through their God and their religion. A mysterious method for connecting directly with the universe that some kind of prayer, meditation or obscure form of telepathy  can unlock.

Unlike the scientific method, these other areas have not contributed to human knowledge. It's not to say that engaging in forms of spiritual reflexion are a waste of time, it's just that when it comes to knowledge about reality itself, they don't take us closer. This can be clearly shown by the fact that any time that people attempt to justify these methods, they attempt to get some verification through science. So far no mechanism they have suggested has led to any knowledge that gives results that are consistently reliable.

It really is like going in to a room realizing that the hand stand there is shaky and  concluding that it's therefore better to throw it out and hang your hat on an invisible hat stand instead.

How Trump used it

Well Trump of course jumped all over this idea that our religious friends often raise with us. Again it was highly effective given his own lack of knowledge and understanding of the subjects he was dealing with. Once the debate could focus on the weaknesses of his opposition, he never had to give any arguments or evidence of what he was proposing. Instead of hitting at the weakness of  'science' as religious people generally do, Trump's opponent was 'the establishment' Arguing against how the established systems, the established personnel, the establish institutions had failed to provide the benefits to the country and the world that they had been put there to do. This is undeniably true. It's just like the scientific method discussed earlier. Many of the social and political institutions in the US and further afield fall short of what they should be doing. There is corruption and human greed and desire to manipulate that get in the way many times. But still the benefits such as they are, have also been served by these same institutions. It would stand to reason that where such institutions and systems fall down, the way to fix is to see where the weaknesses are and attempt to make them stronger or more effective. Foe those that have no longer the ability to provide benefits, we can get rid of those altogether, but we always need to have something that that we can replace it with. A new idea or theory that has at least an equal level off legitimacy to to take its place. That's how changes and modifications are made in the scientific world and it is how you would expect to changes in the socio political world to be made as well.

But Trump rode on the argument that the religious fundamentalists and creationists often use. The entrenched theory isn't working as well it should so you need something new. Something totally different 'an outsider'. The argument is since those in there aren't able to fix all the problems, you need someone with no experience, no track record, no evidence to support his ability to fix any of the issues at hand, to do the job. The idea that what we need to fix a  political situation is a person whose main claim to the top position is ' he's not a politician' is in essence no different from religious people suggesting that the way to fill the gaps that science has been incapable of filling is by embracing total 'non-science' with 'an outsider' theory like creationism.

Yes, Trump tapped into that ever growing idea that facts, evidence and science are secondary to just raw passion, aggression and talk about what you can do. You're on a plane about to crash, forget the guy with five years of flight school that barely failed his final flight exam yesterday, leave it in the hands of the mouthy 10 year old who once when to the airport with his dad and saw a couple planes land and take off from the tarmac.

9 ' You can't take the bible literally

How Christians use it

This is the favourite of the liberal Christian and it was one of my go to arguments as well when I was on the Christian side. These kind of arguments make religions far more palatable for people who tend to have a more intellectual approach when looking at faith.

There is no doubt that the bible has a considerable amount of poetry and artistry in putting forth its messages. Parables and allegories would have been a large part of the culture and tradition from which the scriptures that eventually came to make up the bible emerged. However, that not withstanding, there are times when the scriptures give clear instructions for genocide and rape. In such situations it's hard to argue that these are examples of the bible using an analogy or being poetic. Furthermore, even if it weren't literal what deeper positive lesson for life could be obtained from such stories? So you should go out and figuratively kill all the Amalekites, metaphorically take all the women and concubines for yourself?

Of course what we get from believers when passages like this come up, is that we are taking the bible 'out of context'.  Really? But in what context, place or time in the history of mankind could rape, slavery, misogyny, xenophobia and blood sacrifice be a good thing? Still haven't got an answer, but it is amazing how effective the 'out of context free'  card is played by the religious and how effective it is in sweeping away the obvious horrors of the bible that would be  declared as abhorrent had they appeared as passages in any other book on the planet.

How Trump used it

Well it's his supporters and apologists that mainly used this tactic. Trump himself just reaped the benefits. Trump went about making statements with his typical bravado and brashness in the lead up to the election.

Declaring that he will build a wall to keep the Mexicans out, speaking about the problems  with immigrants from that country, suggesting that they send their worst people, rapists among many other things. He spoke about a complete ban on muslims entering the country until they could figure out 'what was going on'. He spoke about going after families of terrorists and torturing them for information because 'they have to know something'. This is just the tip of the iceberg, he made many many more statements that had us  scratching our heads. They were extreme and absurd ideas in lots of cases but his base seemed to love them and he kept going up in the polls.

At the same time those on the opposing side sat in a bit of shock wondering how anyone could believe that these actions were either plausible or desirable. As Trump has now moved to President Elect, inevitably he had to back track, and that's when the apologists have come to his rescue, suggesting that the problem is that many people take Trump too literally. They tell us that we must remember that Trump is a past TV reality show host and is accustomed  to using provocative behaviour and language to boost ratings and keep audiences coming back. Hyperbole and stretching the facts for a cheap laugh or online zinger are part of his everyday trade. We as pundits were naive to think that what Trump brought in his campaign would be anything like the serious presidential leader that we would see after January 20th 2017.

Seriously? This is the sort of nationalization we get when Christians tell us we should just forget the God of the Old Testament, because things were different back then. The droves of supporters that went to his rallies weren't backing him because they thought he was speaking in parables. They didn't jump on his bandwagon because he was going to build  a metaphorical wall to keep out Mexicans. They loved him because he was a straight talker and didn't try to sugar coat what he was saying, He was direct, that's what they liked, they said that over and over again. Now the argument is you can't take hm literally? How can you reconcile those two positions? Well clearly his supporters can, in the same way that supporters of the bible can too!

Many Christians will point to the fantastical claims of the bible as reasons to follow Christ. Who else has a saviour that walked on water, fed 5000 from two loaves, was dead and came back to life three days later? These 'facts' for many Christians is the reason they serve Jesus, because he has done things that prove that he is no ordinary man. But then when you challenge them about the veracity of these claims, there are another set of believers that come behind to say these are parables meant to convey a deeper non literal meaning. But if that's the case why is the bible special, different from any other book that uses stories or parables to give deeper meanings? Would Christianity have the millions of followers if it was just presented as a good self help book for living, with a few decent stories to make it a tad more interesting to read? Let's not fool ourselves, the appeal of the religion comes from the widespread idea that God and Jesus did do the things the bible says. That's what initially draws in the people even if they later drop some of those more bizarre stories with talking snakes and donkeys and a human living in a fish for almost a week.

It's the same with Trump. His following came because of his extreme fantastical statements. The 'crazy' things he said he would do are what made him popular among his people. Whether you are a bible or Trump believer you can't have it both ways. You either have to admit that you are for them because of the extremes that others find controversial or you have to go with the idea that the extremes don't move you, in which case you have to make the argument as to why your  Mr. Trump or holy bible is any different from others out there that are basically doing the same thing and believing in the same ideals.

Well at least that is what should happen. In reality both bible believers and Trump supporters  have found a way to have their cake and eat it too,  So this is what we get,

The bible is the clear, infallible and undeniable word of god, the unequivocal manual for everyone's life........except you can't take it literally


Donald Trump is the clear speaking, strong , emphatic. shooting from the hip, unequivocal truth teller, the firm kind of leader that the world  needs.................except we can't take what he says literally.

10. ' There are mysteries of God that we will never understand, we just have to have faith'.

How Christians use it

This is usually the last argument we get when we are discussing the issue of God's existence with a believer. That's why I have included it as the final one here. It's the last argument you get because usually by this time all the other defences have been shown to be inadequate. This one is often seen as their final trump card. God, they say, is above man's understanding. His ways are higher than ours. Whatever we can't understand is our shortcoming, there are some mysteries of God we just have to accept even though they may make no sense to us humans. So our inability to understand is always a fault in our comprehension, it can never be a fault in God's communication. For some unknown reason there are just some secrets that God has to keep to himself, no matter how much it may benefit us to have them.

So they win, because there is no way that we atheists can prove that this secret knowledge of the divine that would explain all the contradictions and absurdities doesn't exist.

How Trump used it

Well, as a former  host of ' The Apprentice' , Trump is well aware of how to market the idea of mystery.  He knows how to use the smoke and mirrors and uncertain plot directions to make sure you're back in front of the TV screen same time next week to watch the next episode. He knows he can never divulge it all, even on one of his debates he laughably made the comment that he would leave the country in suspense about whether he would accept the election results or not.

He used the idea of suspense all through his campaign. How would he deal with ISIS? Of course he had a plan. a great plan, the greatest plan ever, after all he knows more about ISIS than the generals do. And what is the plan? You guessed it, it's a mystery. 'Why would I divulge my plan I don't want my opponents to know what I will do before it happens'. That was Trump's master statement. Once it's a secret you don't have to give out anything.

You just have to keep saying "Believe me!" "Believe me!" "BELIEVE ME!"  which is the exact equivalent of the Christian phrase " You just got to have faith!"

Yes that's how it works. First you set up the mystery, then you claim that only you have the ability to understand it,  and then you implore to everyone else that they need to have faith in you. After that it's plain sailing.

And that's how Trump did it. how he confounded us all and sailed smoothly into the White House. There is a verse in the bible that speaks of the foolishness of God being used to confound the wise. We have no better example of this than with Donald Trump in November 2016.

So, to any Christians reading this. If you have ever used any of the arguments above in an attempt to defend the existence of your God or the truth of your particular religion, I  regret to tell you, but Trump has taken his strategy directly from your playbook. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying the rise of Trump is the fault of Christians, I am just showing that the ideas which are required to argue for a faith, any faith can easily be used to argue for a totalitarian leader or dictator. It's just a matter of changing the object to whom the faith is directed  from God 'X" to God "Y".

So Trump effectively made himself into the 'Y" to substitute for the "X" in the equation,. Among his subjects he is the one, the anointed. Like the God of many of the religions he has full powers, he can do whatever he wants and he knows it.

He has no accountability to anyone or anything.  He can bring you into his world and he can take you out. He himself supersedes reason. Many Christians are taught that truth is not a statement it is a person. That person is the big J man, Jesus. Well for the next four years, it's the big Donald J that will be that big 'T'  Truth for those that have come to worship and bow down.

All I can say is 'God help us!' but that would mean praying to the same Trump who is already there with all powers of command, the one who is already successfully getting us to do whatever he wants us to do, all for his benefit. Yes, The  'saviour' Donald  who expects us to continually give him praise for doing things according to his own will for his own purposes. So  in reality there is not much difference between Trump and  any of the other gods. His actions are pretty much business-as-usual operation for any deity,

But, in defence of the new Trump god, is he really asking for anything more that the other Gods that have walked the earth and heavens before him? I don't think so. The only difference is that those other gods ( at least most of them) have been thankfully imaginary. But the Donald!  I wish we could wish him away like the monster under the bed, but sorry kids and adults too,  DJT is very, very real.