Where Do They Get Their ‘Facts’ From?

By Tom Gilson Published on January 25, 2018

I make a point of reading writers I disagree with. I do it to keep my mind open to the world around me, to discover my own errors of perspective, and to understand other people better. Listening is a good thing.

But sometimes it’s hard. That’s what The Humanist’s communications manager Amy Couch says, anyway. She’s complaining about evangelicals in “flyover” country: “We can certainly listen to them — they are happy to explain and defend their political positions — but there will be no joint conversation or agreeing to disagree.” She’s not speaking this in a corner: note her leadership position in a major atheistic organization. But despite her communications credentials, she doesn’t realize how obvious it is that she doesn’t listen at all. Not even a little bit.

Where Do They Get Their “Facts” From?

It’s not always this bad. I’ve had plenty of friendly conversations with liberal atheists, and I’ve learned from them. But it’s hard to carry on a real discussion with someone who says “The second most printed book in the world, following closely behind these two religious texts [the Bible and the Koran], is Pinocchio.” The Guinness Book of World Records estimates up to 5 billion copies of the Bible have been distributed. The best estimate I could find for Pinocchio was 35 million. It’s Wikipedia, so it may not be accurate, but here’s the thing: If Pinocchio’s distribution numbers were anywhere near the Bible’s — or even J.K. Rowling’s — it wouldn’t be hard to find it on the web.

Which leads me to wonder where Amy Crouch gets her “facts” from. Maybe it’s the same place she heard, “There is no separation of church and state for evangelical Christians.” That one’s floating around the internet, too. Apparently there was “no separation of church and state” for Roger Williams, the Baptist who founded Rhode Island to welcome all religion. None for William Penn, either.  

Where does Couch think religious freedom came from in the first place? Doesn’t she know it’s a Christian-birthed idea?

Help! Christians Are Attacking the Establishment Clause!

Of course Christians and atheists disagree on what this “separation” really involves. Couch seriously seems to think it means that a state governor (Asa Hutchinson, in Arkansas) is “adamantly acting against the Establishment Clause” if he posts Bible verses on social media.

Now, I’m no expert in case law, but as I read the Establishment Clause, it applies to Congress, not to governors. And I do remember there’s no religious test for public office. A governor can be a Christian. He can do Christian things in his free time. He can even be a Christian while on the job, though we know there are constraints on his expression there, based on the wisdom of leading a diverse state. 

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But Couch will have nothing that even smells of that. She caught someone quoting the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) on the governor’s web page, and concludes from it that Christians want to impose Church on everyone against their will. I’d call that thin evidence, if it were evidence of anything at all, besides her own lack of listening. 

The Great Commission Isn’t About Overthrowing Governments

That biblical passage reads,

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

I spent 34 years as a staff member and leader of a very large world mission agency, Cru. I ended my career there working as a national-level strategist Those three verses were at the very heart of our mission and vision. You would not believe how often we referred to them. Yet not once, in dozens of conferences around the country and around the world, or in thousands of pages of strategy and reporting, did I hear anyone use that passage in a political context.

And if there are any churches out there using the Great Commission in a theocratic context, they’re a tiny, tiny minority.

Still she concludes that for Christians, “The Bible IS the law, and all the laws ‘of man’ should be based on the divine law. It’s one of the most infamous and infuriating logical fallacies they employ.”

Yes, Someone’s Definitely Falling Short on Logic, Reason and Listening

She certainly does have problems with our logic. Couch writes, “The inability to even consider logical arguments, or just differing opinions, is the biggest obstacle for reasonable discourse with many of the flyover voters.” And I’d bet she’d say she doesn’t believe in stereotyping.

I’d bet, too, she hasn’t read the book I edited a while ago showing failures in atheist reason, along with the strength of good Christian thinking. There’s something to be said for listening to opposing views, after all.

But I doubt she’s really tried to listen. If she had, she’d be done worrying about Christians trying to overthrow the Constitution. That’s not to deny that we will use constitutional means in seeking political ends. Voting is okay, after all — right? So are rallies. And TV and YouTube ads. And articles such as you’ll find at The Stream. That’s all completely constitutional; in fact, it’s completely American.

“There is not an easy road to enlightening the flyover voters,” says Couch in her closing paragraph. “It’s not as simple as orchestrating constructive dialogues with them so they understand reason.” Translated: “It’s not easy to beat the irrationality out of these dolts.” But of course also, between the lines: “But please remember, I’m a liberal and I really don’t believe in stereotyping!”

Embarrassingly Short on Facts

She continues: “It’s not that they don’t care; it’s that they believe they are right, and right by divine edict.” Well, yes, of course I believe God has authority, and that He has revealed His truth so we can understand it. And I also believe as an American I have the constitutional right to work through democratic processes to support biblical morality in law.

But it isn’t just that I believe I’m right. She believes she’s right, too. But here in this article, in multiple ways, she’s wrong. Embarrassingly wrong. Wrong by the sheer weight of easily discoverable facts.

Still I don’t mind listening to her —  just as she wishes we “flyover voters” would do. But it’s one thing to understand where someone’s coming from. It’s another thing to think she’s right, when the evidence so clearly says otherwise. 

It isn’t only Amy Couch. She speaks for an organization. I’ve  heard other humanists, and other atheists besides, repeat similar errors. And I still wonder where they get their “facts” from.

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