TAWDE: The Loch Ness Monster's Moustache (Ch 1)

Hi All (@Interested_In_Book_Studies),

I hope everybody enjoyed the first chapter as much as I did! I’m sure everyone has lots of thoughts and opinions that will give us GREAT discussion, and I’m really looking forward to learning from each of you. So, feel free to take the conversation where you think it will bring you the most enjoyment/chance to learn. Below are just some general conversation starters that you can lean on to get the juices going. If you don’t need them, don’t use them!

  1. What stood out the most to you in Ch 1 and why do you think it was impactful?
  2. Did you come across a great quote (or two or three)? What was it and why was it meaningful?
  3. How do you think you’ll begin to change your interactions with non-Christians based on the information in Ch 1?

P.S. I’ve been slammed with work the past 3 weeks (avg 14 hours/day), but I should see that end on Wednesday. I promise to have a better discussion post and to be more involved later this week when I can breathe for a moment. Looking forward to all of your insight!

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It was interesting to see the “There’s Probably No God. Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life.” turned into another example like ‘There’s probably no tooth-fairy (lochness monster), so get on with your life’.

In reference to the ‘apoplectic anger’; I was reminded of the ‘God’s not dead’ original movie; when the young student talking to the professor, got to the stage of asking after the professors outburst at he hates God; “Why are you so angry at someone that does not exist?”.

I also was interested in how enjoyment in life is just one emotion. If enjoyment is all there is to it, how do we deal with life when we don’t reach this level of enjoyment that everyone else is apparently having (especially on social media when we compare our real life to everyone else’s highlight reel).

To be fully, authentically human is to have experienced anger, boredom, compassion, delight, expectation, fear, guilt, hope, insecurity, joy, kindness, love, malice, nonchalance, obligation, peace, queasiness, relief, sensuality, thankfulness, uneasiness, vulnerability, wistfulness, yearning, and zealousness.

Bannister, Andy. The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist (p. 19). Lion Hudson. Kindle Edition.

As Dawkins famously stated;

“The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”

You’re alone in a universe that cares as little about you (and your enjoyment) as it does about the fate of the amoeba, the ant or the aardvark. There’s no hope, there’s no justice, and there’s certainly nothing inherently wrong with poverty, incidentally, so quit protesting. Life favours the winners; some get the breaks, and others get the sticky end of the stick. Still others get to make millions selling books on atheism,

Bannister, Andy. The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist (p. 20). Lion Hudson. Kindle Edition.

I also liked the exploration in Chapter 1 of motivations for writing a book; or doing anything else.

(atheist writer, the philosopher Patricia Churchland) Boiled down to the essentials, a nervous system enables the organism to succeed at four things: feeding, fleeing, fighting and reproducing … Truth, whatever that is, definitely takes the hindmost.

I did like the style of this book so far, as it’s very different to other apologetic books; although I found sometimes a little challenging and maybe a little refreshing to have to pick out the veiled humor and when it switched to back to seriousness. Maybe that’s the idea, to get the reader to stop and think about what is serious by all the embedded humor. :slight_smile: I quite like it.

I liked the thought

"is a life spent playing computer games and eating pizza as valid as one spent fighting poverty or serving the cause of justice?

Bannister, Andy. The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist (p. 28). Lion Hudson. Kindle Edition. "

if as Dawkins suggests there is no God; then life playing computer games is just as meaningful as serving the cause of justice. the universe doesn’t care what you do with your life, after all, because you are a quick blip of chance/matter/energy and then you are gone…

I guess in answer to question 3; don’t put anyone in any of our ‘boxes’; atheist, agnostic, etc. start with the thought that the person you are talking to is an individual. I was talking to a gentleman and trying to lead towards the “Morality” category and I made the mistake of taking the conversation backwards and mentioned Dawkins view of morality; this seemed to introduce doubt in the conversation. The gentleman did not bring up the opposing viewpoint; I had; so in retrospect the conversation may not have gone as well as it could have. Maybe I didn’t ask enough questions of where this other person was at; but put words in his mouth. I need to remember to ask a question; and stop talking and wait for a thought-out response by the other person. I just pray that it was enough to start him thinking about things of spiritual and eternal nature and leave the results with God.

good first chapter; I’m looking forward to the rest of the book…

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After reading the first chapter, I am excited to read more. I find it all too easy to react emotionally and not thoughtfully! I did notice that Andy’s arguments also contained knowledge of history, quotes from other philosophers, etc. For example, having the factual information regarding Stalin gave incredible validity to his response about the mustache tweet. For example, knowing the following, “But Stalin was not content with mere words; he also acted on them. In 1925, he actively encouraged the founding of the League of Militant Atheists, which for over twenty years acted out its slogan, ‘The Struggle Against Religion is a Struggle for Socialism.’”, is information that does not allow the atheist to reply with flippancy. Nor does the response that “…we can read the writings of brutal tyrants such as these and discover what they themselves said about their motivations.” Whew, those are weighty responses that require thoughtful investigation by the atheist. Also requires learning and knowledge on our part!

Bannister, Andy. The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist (p 23). Lion Hudson. 2015

Nevertheless, I’m hoping to learn to discern the fallacies and see through the marketing to be more effective in conversations…or at least have more confidence to have those conversations!!

A favorite quote…

“I stress you, second person singular, had better pull yourself together, because, if the atheist bus slogan is right and there is no God, there’s nobody out there who is ultimately going to help with any pulling. You’re alone in a universe that cares as little about you (and your enjoyment) as it does about the fate of the amoeba, the ant or the aardvark.”

Bannister, Andy. The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist (p 20). Lion Hudson. 2015

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Glad you’re all enjoying it! My hope in writing the book was that for Christian readers is it would help folks think about fresh ways to gently poke holes in some of the common atheist arguments out there — and also consider how to present important truths in easy-to-grasp ways.

My favourite part of the chapter as I wrote it was the discussion of the idea that “enjoyment” is just one measure of a human life. To reduce the whole purpose of life to just enjoyment is thoroughly reductionistic and also meaningless for those who life is messy and difficult. Dawkins really needs to get out of Oxford a bit more

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Hi all. I’m really enjoying the book. I like the humour and the easy to follow arguments. @Andy_Bannister I also like the point about enjoyment being a very narrow view of life and also the point about motivations behind writing books etc. If we are just dancing to our DNA why does Dawkins care soo much? Thank you for this resource, it’s very useful.

I did wonder what an atheist reading this would think and so I hope you don’t mind me playing ‘devil’s advocate’ - probably fairly literally!
The atheist, I imagine, would argue that there is a direct link between a belief in God and worry. Just as they would argue a direct link between the Loch Ness Monster and missing enjoyment from life.
Picture the scene. I am standing on the shores of Loch Ness, looking out at the feezing cold, dark, murky water, and every fibre of my being wants to leap in and go for a swim. I love swimming in freezing cold Lochs. I can think of nothing that would bring me more joy. But there is a problem! I am almost certain that out there lurks the Loch Ness Monster, waiting for the chance to snack on the unsuspecting doggy-paddler. With that in mind, I stand on the shore feeling a sense of enjoyment deprivation - thank you very much Loch Ness Monster! But wait, I hear a rumbling and crunching of breaks upon the road behind me. I turn and see a bright red London bus, which has travelled from a far just so I can be set free by the messsge it carries: ‘There’s probably no Loch Ness Monster. So stop worrying and enjoy a good swim!’ Hallelujah! A message of hope and freedom. I have been a fool worrying all this time. Thank you London Transport! I strip off and dive straight in, feeling liberated and satisfied.
In the same way, our atheist friend would argue that there is a link between belief in God and worry. They might say to us, ‘The born-again atheist in not the target audience for the messsge, as they are already enjoying life, and the ‘dyed-in-the-wool-faith-heads’ can’t and won’t accept it, so the message is for those who are not sure, but lie awake at night worrying that God might exist. They lie there thinking ‘I would love to commit adultery with my secretary, steal my neighbour Todd’s porche, blow up the houses of parliament and spray paint slightly rude slogans on fly-over bridges, that would be so much fun! But…but… I’m worried that God might be there and there might be consequences!’ The bus slogan is for them!’ So says our atheist friend. His message to that worrier is: There’s probably no God. So stop worrying and enjoy your life!

When we consider who exactly is targeted, the slogan makes slightly more sense. It is still a terrible argument though! Thanks to the word ‘Probably’.

I splash around merrily in the Loch, whooping and laughing, but suddenly I find I’ve lost a leg and become a tasty snack for a prehistoric behemoth. “How can this be?” I cry. “What about the bus slogan?”
“Ah,” says the driver, who has come down to the shore to film the incident on his mobile and post it on social media sites, “we only said that there was ‘probably’ no monster. We couldn’t be sure!”

Here, eat this lasagne which I accidently spilt a bottle of arsenic over - it ‘probably’ won’t kill you!
Errr - no thanks!

Step into this cage with this starving lion - he’s ‘probably’ too weak to attack.
If it’s all the same to you, I’ll give that a miss!

‘Probably’ does NOT inspire confidence. In fact, it communicates a level of doubt. I think the bus slogans were in danger of shooting themselves in the foot. Even Dawkins in an interview expressed his disappointment in the use of the word probably.

I have gone on long enough. I hope you don’t mind me playing ‘devil’s advocate’. As I said, I’m really enjoying it and finding it hugely helpful.
Blessings.

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It makes me consider the Pascalian Wager and it’s four choice/outcome sets: 1. God does exist-you believe-heaven. 2. God does exist-you don’t believe-hell. 3. God doesn’t exist-you believe he does-nothing happens. 4. God doesn’t exist-you don’t believe he does-nothing happens. Most atheists I’ve talked to have positioned themselves as having chosen the “more intelligent”, logical choice when in reality, it’s just not true. When I ask them to prove to me that God doesn’t exist, they admit they can’t and introduce the “probably”, which they condition as “an almost assured negation - 99.9999999% probability there is no God”. If they were truly dependent on logic, the choice default should be belief in God, as in 2 instances it doesn’t matter and in 2 choices, it is the most important thing in the world. With the total gain in 1 offset against the total loss in 2, it is a no-brainer, logical choice. The “probably” is an escape hatch try to position an illogical decision as a logical one and to thereby inflate the true probability of a “No God” position. Most people have only a tenuous relationship to probabilities and their calculation and seek to introduce subjective instead of objective probability into these discussions - they end up deluding themselves by having their biases shade the real situation.

At times, I have asked some of the well-educated I’ve spoken to, “Of all the knowledge it’s possible to know, how much do you personally know?”. Commonly, they will agree that they personally know less than 1% of what it is possible to know. I ask them, “How much does mankind collectively know of what can be known?”. Commonly, they will state a number less than 10% ( the highest number I’ve heard being 50%). I ask them then, “Is it possible that knowledge of God exists in the vast majority of knowledge that you don’t personally know or that mankind collectively doesn’t know?”. Common answer is, “Yes”. Next question is, “Is it illogical that knowledge of God is part of the knowledge that mankind collectively possesses but that you personally do not know?”. Common answer is, “No”. At this point, “probably” rears it’s head and they introduce issues that tend towards injustice, pain and suffering, meaninglessness or religious hate and hypocrisy. So, it tends to be much less about logical choice and much more about finding a coherent worldview tied to how they experience the world. Honestly, a lazy way can be simply to satisfice and settle for “there is no meaning” or “the only meaning is personal and what we create for ourselves”. Of course, the logic of choosing God does not prove God but The Wager should make one consider that it is illogical to not choose God from a results standpoint. A shift then to which God and a comparative assessment for determination of which God to choose would be a next logical step.

In regard to the counter argument with the Lochness Monster mentioned as the Devil’s advocate position, we all live in a reality in which we make conditioned probability choices throughout our day, every day. One glaring area that almost everyone deals with is regarding retirement - we forgo satisfaction today in hope of future satisfaction in the future. But, this is a conditioned probability gamble that may or may not pay off - we won’t know until we hit retirement. To deny that retirement is coming and to spend without laying up for later is a recipe for financial/lifestyle disaster. As such, even people whose parent’s died in their 50’s and who think they probably will as well, will commonly save for retirement instead of spending everything they make. They use logic to make a conditioned probability choice that’s in their best interest.

It’s unfortunate that too few unbelievers will apply the same degree of logical decision making to eternity that they do to retirement.

Kevin

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Hello!
I fell behind with the reading, but I had time to catch up this week, so… here goes!!

—I am throughly entertained by Bannister’s british wit and his creative chapter titles. I can’t wait to dive into the chapter so I can discover the meaning behind the strange chapter title. After all… when was the last time you ever heard “loch ness monster” and “moustache” in the same conversation, let alone the same sentence!

—I have read numerous articles on the “atheist buses” and I know a good bit about Richard Dawkins and his philosophy, but this was the first clear breakdown of the atheist message for me. The most encouraging thing about this chapter was the realization that just because the slogan or social media post “rings true” doesn’t mean that the argument is not inherently flawed.

—I appreciate Bannister’s humility and forthrightness when he states on page 28 “ if you come to this book as an atheist, my hope is simply that you will at least commit to being a thought-through atheist…” He contrasts this to Dawkin’s presumptuous book God Delusion which blames the “indoctrination” of “faith-heads” if people don’t abandon Faith after reading his book. It was interesting to learn that not all atheist support Dawkins’ atheistic apologetic arguments.

—page 25 “… it’s philosophy, wearing a false nose and rubber ears and masquerading as science.” I have recognized this as a huge problem in the modern world that science and philosophy are often mixed and presented as cold hard fact, therefore declared as a superior worldview.

—I love his conclusion on page 29 “not to be afraid of some the atheist sound bites that are frequently hurled like brickbats… if you learn to laugh at bad argument and their flaws, their mystical power evaporates…” this is my goal after reading this book: refuse to be intimidated and learn how to respond to illogical arguments in a loving way.

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