The Last Straw

Jay Smith 2

manicstreetpreacher exposes the dishonesty, double-standards and hypocrisy of Christian “scholar”/ evangelical/ demagogue, Jay Smith, in light of his public speaking appearances.  And takes a swipe at few former adversaries in the process.

That’s it!!!!!  I’ve had enough and I just can’t TAKE IT ANY MORE!!!!! The Saturday, 30 May 2009 edition of Unbelievable? on Premier Christian Radio here was the fourth time I’ve heard Jay Smith speak and I can remain silent no longer.  I HAVE to expose this man’s distortion, hypocrisy and double standards.

The previous three encounters were him giving a joint lecture with Andy Bannister (who I twice debated on Unbelievable? back in September ‘08), “The Historical Jesus –v- The Historical Mohammed” on the Bethinking website here, “Does Islam Oppress Women?” on Premier’s Unbelievable? here and an Unbelievable? special programme, “Up The Ladder In Hyde Park” here.

For those of you have not had yet had the pleasure, Smith is an American Christian apologist living in London and affiliated to London School Theology who is on a mission to convert all Muslims to Jesus.  His method?  Well, for starters, there’s going down to Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park with a ladder, a soap box and his cronies in tow and screaming what is perilously close to flat-out abuse and bigotry about why there are no prominent Muslim scientists.  And then there’s doing pseudo-academic lectures at his institution in which he applies wholly different standards of investigation and evidence than to he applies to his own religion.

In a nutshell, my argument is that Smith displays an extraordinary partition in his brain.  In respect of Islam, he is most definitely an atheist.  He judges the Qur’an at face value.  When it says all non-believers will roast in Fire/ Hell/ Gehenna forever, that is precisely what it means.  No allegories, no metaphors, no “scholarly” sophist interpretation.

When it comes to his own religion Christianity, however, he displays an inordinate level of irrationality.  I know a psychologist who takes more than a passing interest in human religious behaviour.  I forwarded him the above links to Jay’s appearances.  He says he could write a PhD dissertation on what he’s heard.

Historicity of the sacred texts

Listening to Andy Bannister’s tedious segment on the historical Jesus on the bethinking lecture and debating him on the historicity of the Gospels on Unbelievable? myself here has helped to persuade me that theology and biblical scholarship are really not academic subjects at all.  Rather like pondering the shape and colour of fairies’ wings, if you don’t accept the very existence of the first proposition – God or fairies – there’s no point carrying on; you are quite literally talking about the appearance and qualities of nothing.

Bannister’s nonsense about the “context” (surely his favourite word in the English language) of First Century Palestine, Jesus conforming to Second and Third Temple Judaism and the ignition of a “resurrection-shaped bomb” (?!) is exposed as precisely that next to Smith’s confident presentation of hard archaeological and scientific evidence which shows Islam as the man-made fabrication, plagiarised from the two preceding monotheisms.

I stress that I have not taken the time to research and verify Smith’s claims for myself; however, they are certainly the kinds of methods that I use in discrediting the claims of religion.

Scripture and morality

On the most recent Unbelievable? debate on Biblical inerrancy here, Smith stated that whilst he accepted the “problems” with the God of the Old Testament and the inherent barbarity of some of its passages, he said that the text must be judged as a whole rather than sceptics focusing on one area.  In addition, we ought not to impose our 21st century viewpoints on what was happening in 1,400BC to understand fully what God was doing at that time.

Oh really?  Perhaps our eminent “scholar” should take another listen to his lecture on Mohammed here, in particular c. the 75 minute mark where he discusses the following revelation regarding the Prophet’s family values:

Narrated ‘Ursa:

The Prophet wrote the (marriage contract) with ‘Aisha while she was six years old and consummated his marriage with her while she was nine years old and she remained with him for nine years (i.e. till his death).

– Hadith collection of Imam al-Bukhari

Smith states that whilst that would not be considered paedophilia at the time, this isn’t a model for mankind today.  Rather like Abraham almost making a human sacrifice of his son Isaac?  (Genesis 22) Or Moses ordering the slaughter the Midianite boys and the enslavement of the girls? (Numbers 31:13 – 18)

There is absolute no circular, unintelligible padding about “context” or “scholarship” or “the early Islamic movement”.  It is a flat-out admonition of the text at its face value of exactly the type I as an atheist of all religions would make.

Similarly when he debated Mohamed Ali of the Islam Channel, he made similar face-value condemnations of the Qur’an’s treatment of women regarding how a woman inherits one third of what a man receives (4:11), how a man may beat his wife if he becomes angry with her (4:34) and how a man’s testimony is worth half of a man’s (2:282).

Whilst I didn’t necessarily disagree with what he was saying, there was no engagement with scholar discourses of the kind he surely would demand of an atheist when debating Christianity!  In fact, I could have done that debate.  All I needed to have done was print off What The Qur’an Says About Women’s Rights from The Skeptics Annotated Bible and take that into the studio!

This is makes me all the more incensed, since Smith’s partner in intellectual crime, Andy Bannister, criticised me in our second Unbelievable? debate, here, for using the SAB due to its lack of references to the “scholars”.

Well, I like to return the favour to both of them and remind everyone what the Bible has to say about women: The Skeptics Annotated Bible: What The Bible Says About Women’s Rights.

After listening to these two travesties, the words “pot” and “kettle” spring to mind.   In fact, they are a disgrace.  There, I’ve said it.  I am tempted to say that Smith behaves like a schoolboy who’s found his father’s gun.  However, I think discovery of aforementioned patriarch’s pornography collection is probably a more realistic description.

Epilogue

I suppose you’re thinking now I have sent off a vitriolic email to Justin Brierley (one of the few theists I have met who is unbiased, impartial, welcomes having his faith challenged and frankly, if he’ll leave my comments about the Catholic Church making itself a soft target and that religious war is a fight over who has the best imaginary friend in the show unedited here, he deserves a place in heaven if I turn out to be wrong) challenging Smith to a live debate?

Well, you’d be wrong.  I have no argument with people like Smith.  There is a growing list of apologists with whom I will never share a platform.

Andy Bannister and Rabbi Y Y Rubinstein, who I have debated myself, distorted my arguments, made petty ad hominems against my sources and even fabricated arguments and evidence for the sake of keeping their own flock happy.   I have written pieces of my encounters with both of them respectively here and here.

I did receive replies from the two of them, but little of substance that actually tackled my arguments.  Andrew, I’m still waiting for that lost Roman census that required the population to trek back to the home town of a distant relative…

David Robertson, whose pamphlet-style reply to Richard Dawkins, The Dawkins Letters: Challenging Atheist Myths was a pathetic cocktail of empty arguments and the kind of smug moral superiority that only Christians can pull off. I first heard Robertson debate The Atheist Blogger, Adrian Hayter, on Unbelievable? here and here, and his disgraceful tactics, particularly in relation to Darwin’s views on eugenics and the “Hitler and Stalin were both atheists!” card, made my blood boil.  The frontispiece of Robertson’s book quotes some bile-laden replies from atheists on the RichardDawkins.net forum and I can well understand why he provokes such fierce reactions.

In my initial burst of anger after listening to the shows, I challenged Robertson to a live debate here.  However, on further consideration, I withdraw this challenge.  It would be pointless exercise.

The debate format is not well suited to discover the truth at the best of times and not just because of time constraints.  As well as arguing a position, speakers also have a crowd to please; and the theist more than the atheist.  My intended audience is simply those who are there to listen to the arguments and have an open mind.  I’m not even out to impress my fellow secular-humanists.  I have never deliberately misrepresented facts or made a straw man of my opponents’ positions.  When I have made mistakes, I have gratefully accepted the subsequent rebukes and corrections of my audience.

I am concerned with one thing: The Truth.  The religious apologists on the other hand have to keep their flock happy, not to mention Invisible Big Brother in the sky who just might send them and their family into Room 101 for all eternity after they depart this life if they slip up and let an atheist argument hit the bull’s-eye.  With stakes that high, what’s a few sacrifices to the alter of intellectual honesty?

It is very difficult to debate someone who can produce “arguments” and “evidence” out of thin air.  Public speaking is stressful enough; thinking on your feet in a verbal confrontation a million times more.  Even if your opponent is honest and straight-arrowed, you will still encounter new arguments that you won’t be able to refute on the spot.  I haven’t done a debate yet where I haven’t had to conduct substantial research post-debate.  It is frustrating enough to have that feeling of “If only I’d known that at the time!”   It is uttering infuriating to discover that your opponents argument was a made up load of tripe all along, voiced for the purpose of discrediting you and your sources in front of their followers, whilst preserving the reputation of their own religion.

Richard Dawkins has coined a special term for it: Lying for Jesus.  These are the tactics that the above mentioned apologists employ, and I want nothing more to do with them.

Jay Smith is the latest addition to this list of hack apologists who I would not touch with a bargepole.  There’s no point debating people like this.  Let them spout their specious trash to their flocks.   I have better things to do than argue with a brick wall, much less hit my head against one.

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8 Responses to “The Last Straw”

  1. manicstreetpreacher Says:

    COVERING EMAIL TO JUSTIN BRIERLEY TO FORWARD TO JAY SMITH

    COPIED TO ANDY BANNISTER, RABBI Y Y RUBINSTEIN AND DAVID ROBERTSON

    Dear Justin

    I hope this email finds you well. The manicstreetpreacher is back with a vengeance and after hearing the show from a week last Saturday’s with Jay Smith, he links below a piece on the “scholar” from the Colonies that he has just posted on his blog:

    https://edthemanicstreetpreacher.wordpress.com/2009/06/06/the-last-straw/

    I shall be very grateful if you will please forward this to him (and to save you reading it in detail, no, I DON’T want to come on the show and debate him!).

    The piece mentions a few old adversaries, so I thought it was only fair copy in them in as well. All comments welcome. Be as abusive as you like; I’ve never refused anything on my blog yet. :o)

    Andy: I’m still waiting for that lost Roman Census in Luke:

    Roman censuses cared little for remote genealogies, let alone false ones: they were based on ownership of property of the living, not the dead. As the Gospel has already stated at the time of the Annunciation (Luke 1:26), Joseph and Mary were people from Nazareth in Galilee, the home town which later rejected its prophet, Jesus. A Roman census would not have taken Joseph to Bethlehem where he and Mary owned nothing and were therefore assumed to have needed to lodge as visitors in an inn…

    The scale of the Gospel’s error is now clear. The first census did occur under Quirinius, but it belonged in AD 6 when Herod the Great was long dead; it was a local census in Roman Judea and there was no decree for Caesar Augustus to all the world; in AD 6 Joseph of Nazareth would not have registered in Bethlehem and was exempt from Judea’s registration; his wife had no legal need to leave home. Luke’s story is historically impossible and internally incoherent. It clashes with his own date for the Annunciation (which he places under Herod) and with Matthew’s long story of the Nativity which also presupposes Herod the Great as king. It is, therefore, false.

    – Robin Lane Fox, The Unauthorized Version: Truth and Fiction in The Bible, (1991) (London: Penguin, 2006) p. 31

    Rabbi Y: my piece references Genesis 22, where Abraham very nearly cooks his son, Isaac, and Numbers 31, where Moses commits genocide against the Midionites, but I’m sure they’re just yet more mistranslations on the part of those KJV hacks. Rather like this YouTube interpretation of that Sunday school classic, Jephthah’s daughter (Judges 11):

    “Reverend” Robertson: I’ve now read your book and watched your YouTube videos on Dawkins. Just hammering out the final treatment to go on my blog. Will send you the link as soon as. I just need to pop down to Liverpool Central Library to research what Ian Kershaw really says about Hitler’s anti-Christian remarks recorded in Table Talk. Sorry to be so untrusting, but I’m sure you can understand after your quote-mining of Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time was so neatly exposed by Paula Kirby:

    Robertson dwells on the subject of the sheer improbability of life having arisen in the universe — indeed, of the universe being suitable for life at all. But as with the list of religious scientists, I again got the impression that this was designed to create the impression that Dawkins had tried to dodge this issue in TGD — which, of course, he hadn’t. This suspicion of devious behaviour on Robertson’s part is in no way reduced by his quotation from Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, on the following page: “It would be very difficult to explain why the universe should have begun in just this way, except as the act of a God who intended to create beings like us.”

    Wow. What a compelling quote. If even Stephen Hawking thinks the universe is evidence of a creator God, then who are we — who, even, is Richard Dawkins — to demur? Surely this clinches the argument for anyone with any sense, or any humility, at all? But wait. What’s this? Familiar as I am with the way David Robertson twists words and distorts meaning on this website, I couldn’t feel entirely confident that Hawking had been faithfully represented here so tracked down the quote in A Brief History of Time for myself. It’s certainly there, as quoted. However, it’s followed by a lengthy argument to the effect that the universe didn’t, in fact, begin in the “just this way” referred to in the quote, and that he believes a “no boundary” model to be more accurate — i.e. that the universe had no beginning at all. In fact, Hawking’s whole chapter culminates in the words: “So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator. But if the universe is really completely self-contained [as he himself has just argued], having no boundary or no edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. What place, then, for a creator?”

    Now, maybe David Robertson was a little unfortunate here. A Brief History of Time has the dubious distinction of having been hailed as the least read bestseller of all time, so he may well have felt safe in distorting Hawking’s opinions as expressed in it. Still, such behaviour is a bit hard to reconcile with the Ninth Commandment, is it not?

    Yours as ever

    manicstreetpreacher

  2. Edmund Standing Says:

    Ed, you’ll like this: ‘the Biblical Studies establishment purposefully changes meaning, conducts egregious omissions and insertions, and distorts things to serve the purpose of maintaining the Bible as meaningful and relevant in todays modern culture’.

    Listen to the show here:

    http://infidelguy.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=247751

    Great stuff!

  3. David Robertson Says:

    Ed et al,

    Fascinating….this made my day! Thanks for providing me with yet more evidence of the irrationality of fundamentalist atheism! I guess when you restrict your reading and research to youtube, Robin Lane Fox and atheist blogs this is what happens.. My own favourite below is the comments cited from Paula Kirby – according to you I claimed that Stephen Hawking stated that God created the universe – and I did so believing that people are so ignorant that they would not be able to read Hawking for themselves. So I committed the cardinal sin of ‘lying for Jesus’ etc. It is an amusing scenario, only to be believed by a peculiar kind of fundamentalist atheist conspiracy theorist.

    If you actually applied the use of reason and a proper understanding of the English language (and also the basic principle of reading in context – and thus reading my response to Paula) you should have been able to work out the following:

    1) I did not claim that Stephen Hawking was a creationist. I claimed that Hawking stated that it would be very difficult to explain the universe without God. Which he did. The fact that Hawking then goes on to try and explain a universe without God is why A Brief History of Time is such a difficult book to read and ‘the most unread book in history’.

    2) Therefore I did not lie. In fact on the Dawkins website I am continually accused of lying for Jesus. Because our fundie friends claim they they are rational empiricists who only work on evidence, I have continually asked them for evidence of this lying. A lie written down should be easy to evidence. I am still waiting for this evidence to be produced. The bottom line is that fundamentalist atheism is an irrational emotive force, which like all fundamentalism, cannot look at any thing outside its own box, and just resorts to name calling and self congratulation.

    3) I did make one mistake. I assumed that people would have the intelligence to realise what I was saying about Hawking. Obviously I was in some cases mistaken. Apologies….

    All the best

    Know the Truth and the Truth will make you Free…

    David

  4. manicstreetpreacher Says:

    Dear David

    Thank you so much for your reply. I have approved your comment on my blog in all its unedited glory. (Thank you for at least posting on the right thread, which is more than some people can manage, mentioning no names, Y Y!)

    As a treat for being such a predictable boy and firing yet MORE ad homs at my reading list without actually dealing with the substance of my arguments, here is a sneaky-peaky at my review of your book, YouTube vids and Unbelievable? debates:

    Robertson simply asserts that the Bible is inerrant and truth can only be found in Jesus Christ without mentioning Matthew 10:34 (“I am not come to bring peace but a sword”) or Matthew 16 (where JC promises his Second Coming within the lifetime of his listeners!). In Letter 9 – The Myth of the Immoral Bible, he recognises that passages such as Jephthah’s daughter (Judges 11) represent “problems” in the Bible, but says not a word in attempting to solve said problems (unless you include “weasel” terms such as “context” and “literally”, which frankly, I’ve had enough of hearing)…

    There are also tedious ad hominems against bibliography as a means of avoiding answering Dawkins’ actual arguments. In replying to Dawkins’ objections to the reliability of the Gospels, Robertson snidely contends that using Robin Lane Fox, A N Wilson and Free Inquiry magazine for advice on biblical scholarship is “a bit like me suggesting that those who want to find out about evolution should only go to the Answers in Genesis website!”

    Well, “Reverend”, if these people are such talentless hacks, you should have no problem refuting every single one of the fallacious claims they make, should you? Again, however, Robertson stops there, so I’ll only have to guess at the water-tight historicity of the New Testament he hints at and be stuck with Dawkins’ opinion that the whole farrago is made up pile of baloney; self-contradictory and laughably unhistorical.

    Continuing in this vein, Robertson cannot boast enough about his reading list enough. In the final letter, he states that he read over a hundred books and articles in writing his book and gives several glowing recommendations. Apparently Marilynn Robinson’s Gilead (2004) is the greatest novel of the last century and Niall Ferguson’s The War of the World is all the reassurance you need that there ever was a Failed Atheist [sic] 20th Century.

    Indeed, in his one reply to my tongue-lashings on the Premier Christian web forum following his debates with Adrian Hayter, he categorically stated that he would refuse to consider any argument lifted from atheist websites. Be that as it may, “Reverend”, but I think the very title of this next website should give you pause for thought as to whether a loving, intervening, miracle working God really does exist:

    http://www.whywontgodhealamputees.com

    I’m sorry, it has to say something. In fact, it has to say a great deal, that children can and do pick holes in this stuff.

    I have provisionally entitled my review “I have no argument with this man”, although given that it has already topped 5,000 words (including endnotes), and I have yet to check what Niall Ferguson and Ian Kershaw actually do say in their books! Such volume would imply that I DO have an argument with you. Either I’ll have to trim it down or come up with another title. Any suggestions?

    Thank you for your drawing to my attention your response to Paula Kirby’s article. Can you please confirm that it is to be found at the link below?

    http://www.christianfocus.com/item/show/1079/-

    If there’s anything else, I shall be very grateful if you will please forward me the URL or the original text and I promise that I will consider it before publishing my review. You mentioned that you had responded to Kirby review on RichardDawkins.net, although I’m going to have a hard time finding it, because there are about a squillion replies to her article, superb piece that it was. Or was it thrown into the abyss when WeeFlea was barred from the web forum?

    Having said that, I think perhaps you’ve incriminated yourself enough; your response re: Stephen Hawking had me in stitches!

    The fact that Hawking then goes on to try and explain a universe without God is why A Brief History of Time is such a difficult book to read and ‘the most unread book in history.’

    Riiiiiiight, so Stephen Hawking doesn’t actually think that the universe was created by a God after all, it’s just that his scientific explanation rather difficult to get to grips with and since he’s mentioned God, we won’t bother with the true explanation and just leave things at that. I can’t wait to seeing your re-writing of Einstein’s theory of general relatively and quantum theory: “It’s far too complicated for a lay-person to understand, therefore let’s say that God did it and pretend that Hawking is in agreement!”

    Priceless!!!! Talk about digging yourself in deeper. That DEFINITELY going in my review!

    Your work seems to be “distorted” and “misinterpreted” rather a lot. Perhaps you ought to have had it proofed by your opponents and critics, instead of the bunch of simpering “yes” men and women you thank in the intro to your book, and then you might not be branded a liar quite so often.

    In this vein, I’d recommend you watch Dawkins’ speech to the American Atheist Conference 2009 in which he exposes apologists’ tactics of quoting-mining atheist scientists:

    http://richarddawkins.net/article,3752,Richard-Dawkins-at-American-Atheists-09,Richard-Dawkins

    Pay particular attention to where he says that in The Blind Watchmaker he wrote that the explosion of fossils in the Cambrian period is so amazing, “It is as though the fossils were planet there without any evolutionary history.” However, this was a piece of rhetorical overture intended to whet the reader’s appetite for what was to follow. Sadly, it has been mined by apologists like you, wishing to misrepresent Dawkins as doubting evolution.

    Know the truth? I don’t know it all but I know enough to know that it ain’t gonna come from you, “Reverend”, or your book or your false prophet.

    Atb

    manicstreetpreacher

  5. Steven Carr Says:

    ROBERTSON
    The fact that Hawking then goes on to try and explain a universe without God is why A Brief History of Time is such a difficult book to read and ‘the most unread book in history’.

    CARR
    Yes. It is much easier to read a book which only consists of the three words ‘God did it’

    But Hawking is a scientist, and these scientists want to know how things work, and are not happy with ‘Something magicked it all by using magic’.

    A bit like the way a policeman would like to know the real cause of a murder and is not happy with the answer ‘The victim died of a voodoo curse’…

    Or like the way Robertson would not be happy for his bank to tell him that all the money in his bank account has now disappeared because ‘the pixies got it.’

    Robertson, like all other Christians, is a total naturalist when it comes to everyday life. If he is ill, he goes to the doctor, rather than turn to Jesus…..

  6. manicstreetpreacher Says:

    Matters actually became a little more civilised as Robertson kept coming back at me and in his next email revealed that his favourite band were none other than the Manic Street Preachers.

    See the full correspondence between us:

    https://edthemanicstreetpreacher.wordpress.com/2009/08/26/emails-david-robertson/

    My review of Robertson’s book, The Dawkins Letters, and public speaking:

    https://edthemanicstreetpreacher.wordpress.com/2009/08/26/david-robertson-before/

    As well as our debates on Unbelievable? with former atheist online debate and Christian convert, Richard Morgan:

    https://edthemanicstreetpreacher.wordpress.com/2009/09/11/premier-debates-robertson-morgan/

    An afterthought piece will go up as soon as debates have aired.

  7. So Far: David Robertson « manicstreetpreacher Says:

    […] https://edthemanicstreetpreacher.wordpress.com/2009/06/06/the-last-straw/ […]

  8. David Aaronovitch debunks the evidential standard for pseudo-history (and perhaps that for biblical scholarship) | manicstreetpreacher Says:

    […] I debated on Premier Christian Radio’s debate show Unbelievable? in 2008, Unbelievable? stalwart Jay Smith and Richard Bauckham who appeared on the show in 2009 debating atheist scholar, James […]

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