The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

A sorry excuse for apologetics

apologist [əˈpɒlədʒɪst] (noun)
A person who offers a defence by argument.

CASE (noun)
The Centre for Apologetic Scholarship and Education, a Christian apologetics organisation.

Trevor Cairney [pɒmpəs hɪpəkrɪt] (noun)
A person who willfully ignores the previous two definitions. Which is weird because he is the Director of CASE.

First, a little history

I first stumbled across Trevor Cairney’s blog in May 2009. I can no longer remember why or how, but I found myself reading this post about “the disappearance of mutual respect” between men and women, a post apparently prompted by the then-current Matthew Johns group sex scandal.

I simply pointed out that:

Leaving aside issues of consent and mutual respect, a Christian persepective on the events in question will always be flawed, since it presupposes that group sex is inherently wrong. This is, of course, absurd.

There is nothing inherently wrong with group sex between rational, consenting adults.

Despite a few wacky pronouncements (“God gave woman to man to live in relationship to him” and “to be confined and constrained can be quite liberating”), Trevor gave a rather in-depth, informative response (to his credit).

So far so good.

Things carried on in this way for a while, and some of the discussions we had were even interesting. Like the ones on the god of science, matters of life and death, the continuing quest for belief, faith and politics (interesting, but frustrating), and the story of Abraham and Isaac.

But then an odd thing happened. Trevor had a meltdown.

The great dummy spit
In this review of Terry Eagleton’s book, Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate, Trevor had this to say:

But Eagleton’s major focus and motivation for writing this book has been to challenge the simplistic separation of faith and reason. Both New Atheists and liberal nationalists he claims have failed to understand this relationship. Dawkins he points out assumes that his own belief is reflective of reason, while he sees Christians being guilty of blind faith. Rather, he suggests New Atheists hold a faith position of their own.

In response, I submitted two links. The first, a link to this video, where Dawkins highlights how stupid it would be if science worked like religion:

The second link was to a newspaper article highlighting a particularly nasty incident of religiously inspired violence.

Trevor’s response, which he e-mailed rather than posting on his blog, was… well… strange:

What’s your point Tim?

The first clip from Dawkins simply demonstrates that he has no arguments at all. He refuses to engage beyond the superficial. He simply characterizes Christians as unintelligent; I’d expect more sophisticated arguments from a Year 10 debating group.

The second newspaper clipping is irrelevant to the post in question.

Should I look through papers for clippings of violent crimes committed by people of no faith. Are you aware that the majority of people in prisons are atheists? Of course, this is a silly anti intellectual argument of the kind Dawkins uses all the time, but no more silly an example of poor logic and argument than you sending me the article that you have.

I assume that your point is that religion leads to all manner of terrible crimes. How would you explain Nazi extermination of millions of Jews, genocide in Cambodia, the slaughter of millions in communist regimes like Russia and China where religion was banned? I could go on but I won’t.



Ahh… so that’s why you didn’t post your response on your blog. Hyper-sensitive dummy spits and wildly illogical generalisations sound sooo much better via e-mail. It’s also probably best not to let your readers see what you’re really like.

Anyway, one statement in particular stood out – was I “aware that the majority of people in prisons are atheists?”.

I had to admit that, no, I was not aware of that. But being a curious fellow, I was eager to find out how exactly Trevor became aware of it. So I asked him.

    Where have you seen that the majority of people in prison are atheists? Can you provide some links?
    (no response)
    I would be very interested in any such evidence. Could you provide some links?
    That wasn’t my point. I was simply trying to say the argument being made was as silly as me trying to use the argument that many regimes and nations that ban faith and people who reject God are capable of terrible things.
    You asked if I was aware that the majority of prison inmates are atheists, indicating that you had information that this was the case. Can you direct me to that information?
    Let’s not waste our time Tim. You and I both know that it’s impossible to tell, as most inmates would hardly be likely to answer honestly.

Right. Well… this is awkward. For you. Especially since there actually proportionally more Christians in prisons than atheists.

No more Mr Nice Trevor Cairney
For a while, Trevor published some comments, but blocked anything that didn’t begin with “Dear Trevor, you are so good looking”.

Now, however, he blocks everything. He’s also blocked me on Twitter, and asked me not to e-mail him anymore. All because, in response to a post on the wonders of theology, I sent him this:

    “Theology is the effort to explain the unknowable in terms of the not worth knowing.”
    – H. L. Mencken

    “Theology is never any help; it is searching in a dark cellar at midnight for a black cat that isn’t there. Theologians can persuade themselves of anything.”
    – Robert A. Heinlein quotes

    “What has ‘theology’ ever said that is of the smallest use to anybody? When has ‘theology’ ever said anything that is demonstrably true and is not obvious? What makes you think that ‘theology’ is a subject at all?”
    – Richard Dawkins

    “The study of theology, as it stands in the Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on no principles; it proceeds by no authority; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing; and it admits of no conclusion”
    – Thomas Paine

True to form, Trevor had a hissy fit (again, via e-mail):

Wow, you’ve hit a new all time low for anti intellectual argument. For one who prides himself on presenting evidence, it’s remarkable how you’re prepared to use slogans and arguments as your only form of attack, especially given that you spend so much time attacking Christians for lack of evidence.

Your second comment is perhaps the most remarkable. You offer 4 quotes that present no evidence (and include obvious falsehoods) while criticising people who believe in God as being deluded and stupid. If this is the best atheists can do there is no doubt that Christianity is under no threat from fundamentalist new atheists. I’m surprised you cannot see the errors in the Thomas Paine quote? And as for the evidence he offers? There isn’t any.


Especially when your stated aim is to “[defend] the Christian faith, [engage] with other world views and [attract] ‘thinking’ people to the message of the Christian faith”.

Having a thinking person at the helm might be a start.

Category: Bad, Christianity, Hypocrisy, Religion


2 Responses

  1. D says:

    Don’t try and teach a pig to sing.

    It wastes your time.

    And it annoys the pig.

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