POTD Tim Tebow, QB - Cultural Flash Point


Personal assessment here.  It's my opinion; I could be wrong.

I don't think the media hates Tebow's Bible verses or kneeling as much as people think the media does.  They don't take offense when David Ortiz crosses himself after a home run.  Athletes can thank God for things in postgame interviews; reporters will roll their eyes, but that's just annoyance, not resentment.

I don't even think they take Tebow's Super Bowl pro-life commercial as the biggest issue, although that certainly was more than enough to make him persona non grata for life.  Compare Curt Schilling.  The commercial was a one-time deal and not much threat for the future.

My personal suspicion is that what the media hates virulently, and fears the most, is that Tim Tebow was Christian-home schooled.  I know that sounds weird.  Think about it for awhile, let it simmer.


Robert A. Heinlein, in the 1950's, visited the Soviet Union and came back profoundly alarmed.  He preached, from then on, the need to avoid the government's control of media and education -- "the complete and utter control of information from the Cradle. to. the. Grave."

Can you see how important that question is, whether all American children are going to be forced through the K-12 system?  Where they might be given books, in first grade, entitled "Susie has two mommies"?  Or check out this "math by slave count" report from just this week.


I'm not asking which side you're on.  Can you see the implications of the battle, why the culture war is fought with such passion?

What the internet has done to the New York Times? --- > alternative schooling stands to do to the indoctrination policies of the NEA.  When Tim Tebow wore Jn. 3:16 on his eye black in the NCAA title game, Google ran 90M searches on Jn. 3:16 in a few hours.

Home-schooled Tim Tebow has a platform and a microphone now.  It would have been nice, for many people, if he hadn't gotten on to that platform.  Now that he's on it, it would be nice if he were knocked off that platform.  The last thing we need is a compelling visual that Christian home-schooling is cool.  

You probably don't care about that battle, but rest assured that the New York Times does.


Not everybody wants to debate "incorrect" ideas.  Some people want to suppress "incorrect" ideas.

Hey, is home schooling a bad thing?  Take a breath, use your indoor voice, and make your case.  Concede the other side's valuable ideas, and then coolly demonstrate that your valuable ideas weigh more heavily.

Tim Tebow is a cultural icon, a major flash point in the American culture war.  That is what is causing the disproportionate back-pressure on his NFL career.




Zedz's picture

Hey, hey. It's not often that I disagree with what you write, but on this one, I think you missed the mark by feet, not inches. The media is afraid of Tim Tebow because he's filling the arch-type of the holy warrior - in a sexy GQ kind of way. Fear of homeschooling is a symptom, not a cause. Tim Tebow rolled 12 d6 on his Pally Level 1 for Hit Points and Charisma and they all came up 6's.


A non-sports example, but a good one is the current Miss America - Teresa Scanlan - was home schooled and is just about as wonderful of a human being as you could possibly envision.   She is a local girl from near my home town who was carrying out groceries nine months before becoming Miss America and has handled herself with grace and dignity that goes far beyond her 19 years.     

Auto5guy's picture

Home schooled?
Interesting take.  Not sure I can see that as the motivating factor for so many different people from so many different walks of life.  No doubt Tebow is a touchstone.  Peoples comments about him tell us far more about them than what they are trying to say about Tebow.
In that vein and in the interest of full disclosure let me say I am a born again Christian.  I like Tebow the man and dislike his game. Give me a drop back passing machine any day.  I think Tebows success is not divine, it's entirely explainable and can be broken down fairly simply. (I might just take a stab at that in a different reply.)
So with that out of the way I do agree that we are in a massive culture war.  And like most wars there are leaders and planers, the generals so to speak. On that level, absolutley, Tebow is a threat as a home school product.  But that doesn't explain the visceral reactions you see in the small town beat reporter or the yokel with a blog.  The type of guy who would scoff at the mere idea that there even is such a thing as a culture war.  I don't even see most of the former player, analysts on the cable chanels to be "in" on the culture war.  They are more along the lines of what Lenin called the useful idiots.  In some of these people, what I've seen in the eyes and on the face when talking about Tebow I can only call rage.
You correctly pointed out that sports are filled with athletes who cross themselves before an at bat or kneel in the corner of the ring before the bell.  Those guys aren't hated because nobody really believes them.  The reporters with locker room access know better.  They hear the guys profanity laced tirade after a loss.  They hear him crowing about his "ho's".  They see the mistress slinking around out back.  They see the little baggy he's trying to hide in the back of his locker.  They know the strip joints he can be found at on the night before. Or maybe it's as little as seeing insanely selfish spending.  There's always something that can easily discount the pious behavior.  And in the internet age, EVERYONE is privy to the inside dope, the gossip and the rumors.
The religous statements and actions are written off as rituals at best and self serving at worst.  The eyes roll and life goes on without further comment.
Tebow, however, is walking the walk.  He has made it his entire identity and he can't be written off as a faker or hypocrite.  There are no drugs, no bimbos, no profane meltdowns.  Everyone knows he "blew" his signing bonus on charity.  Everybody knows he gave his playoff check to a foreign hospital.  People have to come to terms with the fact that he really is that righteous of a man. 
[edited by permission]


That take is certainly possible Zedz.  Thanks very much for saying.


Thanks for the example Bumkus.
I've known home-schooled kids who were both far behind, and far ahead, of where I was at 17, coming out of high school.  So much depends on whether the parents were kind, reasonable people, who passed on their personality traits to their kids.
I'd say that home-schooling amplifies a parent's influence on the young person.  In general you'd rather have the parent's influence, as opposed to the local high school student body's influence ... 
As Dan Jenkins put it in Semi-Tough, by age 15 it's out of anybody's hands what's going to happen to a kid, other than their juvenile delinquent friends' :- )


I greatly admire your courage in posting that...
And you achieved first for SSI here:  I did redact the last three paragraphs, with your permission (if you want them put back, I will).
The goal in this discussion is a FRIENDLY and smooth exchange of ideas between people who might have verrrrrry different ways of looking at things.  At SSI we're in experimental mode as to non-sports discussion in the first place.  The last three paragraphs are going to ensure that doesn't happen.  :- )
Not in the spirit of censorship, but in the spirit of facilitation, we'll ask your permission to reduce the statement a bit.
Thanks again for the bold way in which you stand up for your views.  ::cpoints::

Steen.'s picture

It's not that complicated. Though martyrdom is appealing to some, for sure. Tewbow's belief system is just silly superstition to many, MANY people. So his incessant thanking of god for every thing that happens his beyond obnoxious.

Auto5guy's picture

Your site, your rules.
This place is one of my favorite places on the web.  Part of the attraction is your quirky sense of humor but a bigger part is the way discussions are kept in respectful tones.  Depressingly uncommon in sports chat and almost unheard of with politics or religion.  Sorry if I put that in jeopardy.


Do you appreciate it when --- > those different from you --- > assume that your nonbelief is based on juvenile motivations?  
How precisely do you react to a believer who assumes that you do not believe because "intellectual snobbery and arrogance are appealing to some"?
The essence of TOLERANCE is to --- > respectfully exchange ideas with those who are truly different from us.  And to respect their points of view as adult, if they do not wind up agreeing.


"Superstition" is, by definition, irrational.  Christianity might be true or not true, but there is obviously a body of interesting evidence in support of it.  
To characterize it as irrational is not fair-minded.  I might suggest Antony Flew's earlier works, as opposed to those of Richard Dawkins.  Flew was effective in arguing against Christianity because Flew responded to an adult version of Christianity, as opposed to attacking a version suitable for 6-year-olds.
If you're going to argue against a proposition, it is obviously your obligation to respond to (not sneer at) the strongest possible version of it.
When you say "many, MANY people believe Christianity to be a superstition" you are leaving an invalid impression.  Only about 6% of Americans fit this description.  
About 80% of Americans believe in the *resurrected* Christ.  A much larger fraction respect Christ.
I suppose "many" people, in an absolute sense, believe that the moon landing was staged.  A 6% demographic for it would not be impressive.


"God" is a proper name, like Zeus, like Poseidon.  I once read an atheist blogger who remarked that "to leave it uncapitalized is (a) a grammatical error, and (b) a juvenile attempt to offend those whose opinions we do not value anyway."
You might be able to persuade reasonable men that Tebow is wrong.  But when you try to persuade a reasonable man that Tebow is irrational to follow Jesus, you're signing a losing debate proposition.
The world has judged Jesus to be an interesting and substantive religious teacher, worthy of fair-minded investigation.  You don't get to come along and say the world is wrong, because Steen has spoken.
It's rare that you can prove your opponents to be ridiculous.  Sometimes, if you are carefully prepared, you can prove that their views are unlikely.


Right now Tebow's popularity is running about 90% with NFL fans.  This is similar to the 88-90% figure for Americans who themselves pray (not that the one causes the other).
5%, 10% of Americans, including Steen, resent the sight of a person publicly expressing himself in this way.  The question we are left with, is whether this 5-10% is going to veto the sentiment of the 90-95%.
A certain number of people resent seeing cheerleaders in short skirts.  I wonder if 10% of the audience could veto sexy cheerleaders?
America is about freedom of self-expression.  


When talking about why the media treats Tebow the way it does now, it must be remembered that when he was in college the media absolutely adored him and slobbered all over him. He wasn't the least bit "controversial", he was simply The Greatest College Athlete Ever.
He didn't become controversial until he left college and headed for the NFL. Why was that? Why would the media coverage suddenly change? It's not like he did anything different, it's not as it was discovered that he had been home schooled. No, what happened was that there were very legitimate reasons to think he couldn't succeed in the NFL, but because of his humongous fanbase (his Denver uniform instantly became the #1 selling jersey when he was drafted) the people who were skeptical of him reactively took the most extreme opposite approach, which was to deride him and hope that he would fail.
That's what this is about fundamentally about: a backlash against the overwhelming love he recieves. If he wasn't so loved be so many people, there wouldn't nearly as much animosity for him because the critics wouldn't feel the need to push back. Or, if he was unanimously viewed as an elite prospect like Peyton Manning was, people would be much more comfortable with the adoration he recieves.
What's funny is that I've experienced some Tebow whiplash, just in reverse of other people. When he was in college I couldn't stand the attention he recieved and didn't want to hear about him and hardly wanted the Gators to succeed. But then when he started taking flack in the run up to the draft and since, I flipped around and now follow him with some interest and get tired of the overly-negative criticisms of him. So I've gone from a Tebow-h8r to a h8r-h8r. ;)

Auto5guy's picture

As I said Doc, people's comments about Tebow often tell us more about themselves than about Tebow.  :-)

longtime reader's picture

the reason he boils it down to the version suitable for a 6 year old, is because thats how many christians in the world view the religion. he is one of the leading evolutionary biologists in the world, and time after time, he has to correct a christian apologist over a simple error that said christian apologist is either completely ignorant of, or doesnt want to face. just a quick perusal of his youtube videos and you can find exactly the types of things im talking about.
when he and other atheists are constantly faced with grade school depictions of the stuff he has spent his life discovering and championing, and only by those of a religios persepective, of course he is going to give a grade school level explanation for things. and a lot of the religios dogma does sound like things a grade schooler would believe.
i dont want to start a holy war, but i think you can understand why maybe he attacks the way he does. and if you have read any of his or christopher hitchens or sam harris books, you will see he isnt only attacking religions on a grade school level. these are some of the brightest minds on the planet, in hitchens case was, as he just recently passed away. these guys arent only out there looking for easy sucker punches. these guys go toe to toe with the biggest christian debaters out there; william lane craig, john lennox, alister mcgrath.
and to address that many many people believe christianity to be a superstition, that is true. to use just the % of people in this county is quite misleading, as we are the highest % christian nation in the world. look all around europe, specifically the norwegian countries. asia is dominated by a different religion. it is true to say that the majority of the planet believes christianity to be untrue. maybe i misread his post, but you quoted him as saying "many MANY people", not many americans.

Steen.'s picture

Would you prefer I didn't tell you the sky is blue? I'm not saying that my view is so pointed, I'm saying that is the view people have of Tebow.

Steen.'s picture

How "free" would we be if the people that believe like the Tebow's do, ran the show and made the rules? I highly doubt my freedom of self expression would remain as it is now. I'm not about to veto his ability to express himself, I do think he makes himself look rediculous, though.
Two Questions: Does he kneel down when there arent cameras around? Why doesn't he thank jesus for his interceptions, too?


Are also among the brightest minds on the planet, but they don't reduce unbelieving positions to 6-year-old versions and then sneer at those.  They chase after Dawkins asking for debates, and Dawkins ducks them.
Collins, Ross, and D'Souza do not feel that they can "attack the way Dawkins does" because they personally take unbelievers to be absurd.  If they did, I would not endorse their attacks.  They have the obligation to exchange ideas at the highest level possible.
I'm sure you're aware that to say ---  > it's appropriate to attack a 6-year-old version of Christianity, because that's how Christians are --- > well, we need a word that's beyond "condescending."  That way lies war and death.  Peace is based on tolerance, which is based on respect.
It's absolutely true that there are *many* atheists who calmly engage theism on a rational level.  I'm criticizing Dawkins as a person, not atheism as such.


Steen, have you ever *heard* a Sarah Palin type speak in terms of gulags and Communist Party-style purges?
Again, how would you react if Tebow presumed to speak for unbelievers?
Suppose he said, "Put Steen and people like him in charge, and you'll get eugenics, genocide and brainwashing.  Atheistic governments like in the Soviet Union and PRC have proven this time and again."
If that debate occurred, wouldn't you prefer that you be allowed to speak for yourself?
So, if you're going to grant believers the same rights that you have yourself .... what are they saying?
Trust me.  The Christian community doesn't want to censor anybody's intellectual content.  Take this blog's policy towards censorship as an example.  Is it me, or is it more progressive authors, who believe in suppressing "incorrect" speech?
Silentpadna?  DaddyO?  Mikey Jay?  Mojician?  Do any of these guys want opposing views silenced, or do they want them debated?
You honestly don't need to fear the spiritual community's wish to silence opposition.  That's not where they're coming from.
America had Bible believers in charge from 1760 to 1960, two hundred years.  There were no gulags, and nobody asking for gulags.


Tebow *does* make himself look ridiculous to part of the crowd.  When in college, I was part of that crowd.
He makes himself look heroic to others.  
How does the demographic break down?  Right now, Tebow is the most popular athlete in the U.S.A.
A 90-10 demographic doesn't make Tebow right, of course.   But he has 90% of the crowd cheering wildly, and 10% throwing paper cups.  Do Presidents Obama or Bush get that kind of home/road split?
Would that we all made such an impression, right?  :- )
I deeply appreciate your saying that for Tebow, the appropriate "punishment" is that he gets to look ridiculous.  And the 10% have every right to criticize him.  As long as his "punishment" doesn't extend to getting his family abducted in the middle of the night -- as it would have in Stalinist Russia -- I'm cool.


Two Questions: Does he kneel down when there arent cameras around? Why doesn't he thank jesus for his interceptions, too?
1.  As you've noticed, 95% of the believers here agree with you and LR on that.  We couldn't agree more:  what if the defensive line is praying?  Spot on.
My own position is that, IF there is divine intervention, perhaps Tebow is being granted prominence for a short time here.
Your point is cheerfully conceded.  To posit that God is granting sports victories runs into all sorts of prayer-standoff paradoxes.
Although when my daughter prayed for a Seahawk win vs the 49'ers, I told her she was in good shape because there was nobody in SF praying against her ;- ) ;- )
2.  You took the trouble to hit the Shift key for Tebow's name, for Two Questions, etc.  Why not capitalize Jesus'?  
C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters characterized a hypothetical demon chuckling, "This gives us the delicious situation in which a man intends to give offense, and then becomes angry when offense is indeed taken."


Steen, LR, thanks for the discussion.  Appreciate it.
I feel like getting back to baseball here shortly :- ) and will give you the last word.  


ARod, in a sense, got a lot of this backlash.  He sold himself as more than he was, and people reacted to that.  "He who exalts himself will be humbled."
Vin Baker demanded the max NBA contract and, when he failed to perform, got a lot of hostility.  ... these two examples aren't *quite* what you're talking about, but yeah.
I can definitely see the point you're making.  The Tebow Tea-Drinkers go crazy over him, and you have the urge to whack-a-mole them.  That's actually how I kinda felt. 
Telling observation about his college press vs. his NFL press.  Not sure if it's as simple as that -- the college environment is friendlier to a lot of things -- but the point carries weight.
For you, me, and a lot of people, Tebow's beliefs are pretty much a non-issue.  For media personalities, I don't think we should underestimate their hostility to outspoken faith.  Consider Curt Schilling.
Would Tebow get exactly the same backlash, if he performed a 2-second Islamic ritual on the field?

Auto5guy's picture

Not how many people in the world are Christian. You don't have to be a Christian to not think the religion is silly superstition.
How many billion Muslims are there in the world? They dont view Christianity as a silly superstition. They call Christians people of the book. Viewing them as incompleted Muslims so to speak. They don't think of Jesus as a silly superstitious myth either. They don't accept him as the son of God but they do accept him as a prophet of high regard. In the Muslim version of Armageddon guess who is coming back with Muhammad to kick butt and take names? His name starts with J and ends in S.
Most Buddhists also don't think of Jesus as a superstition or a myth. They don't accept him but do acknowledge him as a real historical spiritual teacher. And most agree that he touched on many of the spiritual truths they hold. You reap what you sow = karma.
Steen's comment is still inaccurate when applied globally and not just to the US.

Steen.'s picture

The "martyr" was in reference to anyone complaining about the mainstream media. I don't think Timmy views himself as a martyr.


So Tebow Mania is rampant here.  I love the kid.  As a quarterback...he's growing on me, and I look forward to an offseason of him working with Elway and hopefully learning more advanced passing skills (ie, throwing to a spot and not waiting to see jersey numbers before letting go of the ball).
But as a man?  He's a great man.  When people interview him it's interesting to watch their approach.  Most of the time, they ask the most insulting questions they can think of, or at least ask questions in the most insulting way possible, trying to get a rise out of him.  They want to be the one to get a juicy quote out of a flustered Tebow who shows he too is human and subject to failures in the moment.  He just smiles.
Rick Reilly hired a lipreader to see if Tebow curses on the sidelines (all he got was a "Let's Go!").
It's not homeschooling, IMO.  It's not Christianity (though that's a part).
It's the fact that he's a better man than his critics, and is lauded for it, and they hate it.
To be fair, there are some analysts who simply judge him on his technique playing the position and simply update their estimation of him according to his technique improvements or failures. 
But the vehemence of many doesn't seem to come from a logic-based foundation, but instead from an emotional core. 
The former players didn't donate THEIR signing bonus to charity.  THEY don't spend all their free time doing charity work.  In some cases, THEY couldn't make themselves better players through sheer work ethic even though all of them had better "fundamentals" for success at their positions than Tim has. 
It rubs them the wrong way.  And it's funny, because Tebow never talks himself up.  Ever.  He doesn't bring up his charity work, other people do.  He thanks his Lord and Savior before every press conference and then gets on with it.  People ask him insultingly-phrased questions and he answers them graciously.  He gives all credit to his teammates and coaches, earnestly and sincerely.
His critics are not as gracious, as earnest or as sincere.
It's hard to know men like Tebow if you are insecure about your own faults.  Tim is not insecure about his - he constantly works to improve them, in his private life and at his job.  I don't know if he can continue to "walk the walk" every single day of his life since there are obviously people invested in discovering any potential slip up.  I like his chances more than I would most people's under those kinds of crushing expectations.
IMO, Tebow was not hated in the media in college because all the people he rubbed the wrong way were thinking "he might be a great college player but he'll get his at the next level" and so bided their time.  They'd have their revenge.
He is "getting his"...just not in the way they wanted.
If Tim is a better man than you have been, and probably a better man than you'll ever attempt to be, then all you have to hang your hat on is, "Yeah, well I am - or was - better at my job than he is at his." 
If that is not the case, then to measure up some people would have to look in the mirror and become better people.
It's easier to hate than to be made uncomfortable and know that it's because you don't measure up to his standard.
The funniest part about that is Tim doesn't measure up to his own standard - that of his Savior.  But he tries as hard as he can every day to improve his measurables in that area.  And even as a non-Christian, I can admire and applaud that.  Most Christians who preach loudly and judge others are insecure and failing miserably in their private lives (I'm looking at you, Ted Haggerty).  Tim doesn't preach or judge - he simply is.  And since he apparently is who he says he strives to be, it doesn't bother me at all.
Now throw a consistently accurate ball, Timmy, and lead my Broncos to victory.

Anonymous's picture

The Christian far-right basis their governing on their religion. Atheism was a means to an end, not the goal for the Marxist. Conversion and the rule of law based on the bible would be the goal of the 'thumpers.  And, I'll bet they'd base large parts of their "law" on the sociopathic old testament. 
Would we just murder gays outright in this Christian utopia, or try to "cure" them first? Mind you, this thinking is happening right now in a modern democracy, with a educated populous,  not 50 years ago in a largely third world country.
(You have a handful of examples to cite of abuses by a Communists, whereas history is awash with genocide by theocracy.)
Yes, we never had gulags or "re-education" in America, that is a good thing, but I think that had more to do with capitalism than any Christian charity.  Our expansion, and thirst for labor made that any reduction in the labor supply untenable.
I think you are becoming (and by extension this blog) too much the minority amongst believers Doc, the increasing disdain, if not contempt, the religious right views logic and rational thought is getting in the way of real debate on serious issues.

Steen.'s picture

Have you seen my spelling?   Remember incompetence is usually the culprit, not vindicates... writing from my phone doesn't help, either.
And, your daughter is in the secular socialist corner of the country... She won in a pitchers duel, 1-0. ; )


If that had started the discussion, it might also have ended it :- )
If you had to guess, where would you project Tebow's passing ability in three years?
And do you expect an ACL, or somesuch, to rob him of his ground game?  ... didn't seem to with Elway.

   's picture

If Tebow really believes he is being helped by supernatural extra-terrestrial powers during a game, then he is complicit in cheating.


That help is available to everybody equally :- )


(post deleted by DaddyO for practical reasons)


If steroids are available to everybody equally, (and there is no MLB rule against them ... like every year before 2004) ... then steroids weren't cheating?  :)


We have rules against the presence of steroids, which make the use of them cheating, and we have rules against the Almighty, which make His presence cheating on the same grounds.
;- )


Then it'll be fine - he just needs that time.  For me, Tim = Steve McNair (minus some DUIs and mistresses).
Steve was a mid-50 % passer for 3 years, then exploded up to 60+% and became a league MVP (and was one yard away from being a champion).  He was a strong runner, had a funny, long throwing motion, was raw as a passer out of college, etc.
He figured it out, and became one of three QBs with 30k yards passing and 3k rushing.  That's where I expect Tim to get to if given time to develop his passing game - and winning this playoff game should help solidify that chance.
Tim's had a miserable completion % this season, but part of that is because the Broncos throw fewer 10 yard-and-below passes than any other team.  If Tim threw short passes like even other run-based teams do, his completion percentage would be almost identical to McNair's in his first full season.  If you want me to show the math, feel free to stop over here and here.
Tebow, with his own completion %s on various distances and with Flacco's percentage of attempts at those distances, comes up nearly 7 percentage points.  He's not as accurate as he needs to be, but the Broncos' offense accentuates his flaws in that area.
I don't expect him to blow out a knee, no.  And if he does, I don't think it'll affect his play-style.  He's a bulldozer, not a juker - a loss of lateral explosiveness isn't going to ruin his afternoon.  Keep in mind, that playstyle makes him far more effective on QB plays than most people seem to think.
10-for-50 on the ground plus 10-of-21-for-310 in the air makes him 20 of 31 for 360 yards and 3 TDs on QB plays on Sunday, and normally it will also make the rest of the ground game more effective.
He doesn't have to be a LOT more accurate to be a good long-term QB.  Just...enough.
So, 3 years from now in my crystal ball:
58% completion rate, 3600 yards in the air, 500 on the ground, 2:1 TD:Int ratio in the air and several more scores on the ground.  Joe Flacco with a 5+ ypc added in and a devastating goal-line presence.
The Broncos will again have the #1 rushing attack in the nation, and I doubt you'd want to play that team, especially at home - Mile High sounds more like the glory days than it has in over a decade.  You heard that playoff game, right?  LOUD.
Assuming he gets the time and they keep building the team (I love you, Von Miller - keep your thumbs attached) then I won't mind this being the definition of Broncos football.  All of our championship success was predicated on a devastating running attack, an aggressive defense, receivers who were great blockers as well as good-hands route runners, and a QB with an indomitable will to win who could instill that will in his teammates as well.
If the only real change is getting a QB who runs the ball more, I won't mind at all.

longtime reader's picture

muslims call christians people of the book, or people of faith, or what have you. thats the same thing a respectful atheist or a hindu or a jew would call a christian. if you were to ask a muslim if they thought a christian was wrong about their beliefs, would the muslim not answer yes? sure some/most muslims would still have respect for a christians beliefs, like many atheists have a respect for a persons religion. that doesnt mean the muslim doesnt think that person to be delusional.
do you think a person that believes in zues is delusional? how about the sun god ra? how about the prophet joseph smith? do you think he found those golded plates because god told him where they were? of course you dont, you would characterize those beliefs as delusional and superstitious. you might not want to use that word to their face out of respect, but thats exactly what it is.
jesus as a historical figure is almost undisputed in the historical community. nobody is disputing that he lived and taught virtuous, and spiritual things. but a muslim or a buddhist would disagree with his claim that he was the son of god, put on our planet to be killed for the sake of mankind. and if you wanted to get into the strict definition of the word delusion "a false belief held with absolute conviction despite superior evidence", then wouldnt that fit too a tee what a person of a different religion would think of someone elses religion?
they might say exactly "i respect your belief, i think you believe it whole heartedly, but i think it is false , and i think evidence of my religion is stronger."
so in regards to the planet, the majority of which is not christian, i would say that yes, they would think that christianity is a delusion or superstitious. it sounds rude to say when put bluntly, but if we are using the definition of the word, i think the arguement holds up just fine.

longtime reader's picture

i mean, where i am from, my wife goes church, her mom is christian, i have had debates on end with the christians i am in contact with.  many of them simply choose to ignore the things i say and counter with things like "i just believe what i believe" or, "i know its true because its true." im not cherry picking here, ive heard it many times from many different people.
my challenge still stands, go to youtube, watch some dawkins videos where he debates people or answers questions from believers. look at his exchange with wendy wright. look at some of his documentaries where he talks to religious people.
i wish it didnt come off as condescending to characterize christian arguements as though it were grade school level, but too often it is. im not saying your knowledge or d'souzas or others is grade school level. if i have offended you personally, i didnt mean to. clearly you and many others are capable of thinking and reasoning like adult. but so many of the faith arent. if all we have to testify to this is personal experience and what weve watched, then thats what i have to go by.
and if im not mistaken, dawkins has debated some of the big names toe to toe in the arena. maybe not the names youve mentioned, but i know hitchens has taken on d'souza. im not sure about the other two, but i dont think sam harris or daniel dennett are afraid to debate anybody.
dawkins is an evolutionary biologist, and i think hes aware of his strengths and weaknesses. hes not an expert on physics, or philosphy, and he has had to take his fair share of abuse for those shortcomings. but when he argues from strictly a scientific viewpiont about evolution, he gets things thrown at him like "the banana arguement." im sure youre aware of ray comfort, if not, quickly familiarize yourself. youre in for a real treat. just youtube ray comfort banana video, and tell me that thats not a 6 year olds way of looking at the world. and that guy is offering money to dawkins to debate him. dawkins said no. so hes not just ducking the big names.
to wrap it up, im not characterizing all christian arguements as childish. there are some strong arguements that need to be taken seriously. but too often i see the practicers of the faith dont have a reasonable approach to the question. and i think dawkins is inundated with those types of questions and attacks. the 6000 year old earth question, the flat out rejection by some of evolution. the literal word for word belief in the bible and all of its stories, even when confronted by massive scientific evidence to the contrary. if you were constantly burdened by those types of questions and sneers, how do you think you would react?


A person who believes that Jeff Francoeur is better than Nick Swisher is (I believe) in error.  A person who believes that Jeff Francoeur is a poached egg is delusional.  
"Delusional" is primarily a psychiatric term.  It carries the idea that a person will not give up an idea that 99.99% of people can see is incorrect.
It is a misuse of the term "delusional" to accuse 90% of America of being "delusional," leaving our 10% as the "Brights".  This attitude toward others leads to conflict and hatred.
LR, you go beyond believing your own beliefs to be correct:  you consider those truly different from you to be fundamentally inferior to you.  This is the definition of intolerance.  You are spending all your efforts trying to position yourself to laugh at, not debate, those different from you.  That's why you're so interested in arguing about the definition of "delusional."
If you consider there to be no interesting evidence in favor of God's existence, and no interesting evidence in favor of Christ's messiahship, you have not read the literature.
I (Jeff Clarke) have no psychiatric problems.  I was an unbeliever, and I was reluctantly persuaded by the weight of the evidence.


Muslims are obviously not delusional.  The farthest I would go to say is that some allow their prejudices to override their intellect --- > to a greater extent than the average person does (because we all do it, LR).
A person who believes in Zeus or Ra is basing his belief on a far less impressive body of evidence than somebody who believes in Mohammad.  
You can differentiate between Felix' record and Ken Cloude's.  Why can't you differentiate between Mohammad's and Ra's?
Einstein didn't believe in Ra, because he wasn't delusional.  He did, however, believe that a transcendent Mind was behind the laws of physics.  The difference was in the levels of evidence.

longtime reader's picture

if a person said unequivocally, "jeff francoeur is better than nick swisher" and you showed him evidence that suggests otherwise, strong compelling evidence, and he still maintained that jeff is better, would you not consider that to be a delusional stance? im not trying to dance around the word. he would be in error, and his belief would be delusional. right?? if not, then what does it take for something to be delusional?
to give the obvious and overused example, in 1200 AD, 99.99% of the people on this planet believed that the earth was flat and that one would simply fall off the edge if he or she went far enough. we now know that to be incorrect. overwhelming mainstream belief doesnt automatically grant that belief validity.
when copernicus tried to explain that the sun was the center of the cosmos, 99.99% of people thought that was absurd, and he even had to hide his identity when proposing such a heretical claim. now these people didnt have scientific evidence to tell them that they were wrong, so they were not delusional. they werent ignoring obvious facts. they just didnt have them yet. im just trying to set a precedent for the 90% arguement.
im not saying that the evidence of some kind of creator is completely meritless, and that people are delusional for believing some of it. there are some good points to be made on both sides of the aisle. but people often go to delusional lengths to ignore or deface those counter arguements that have merit. that sir, is where the delusion comes in.
if you dont believe me, read the figures. 40% of americans reject evolution. and that is almost solely because of religios belief. a new poll just came out, stating something like 73% of us pastors reject evolution, and they are roughly split on the age of the earth, either being 6000 years old, or 4.6 billion years old. not too trivial a gap. if that is not the exact definition of delusion, then what is? we can debate what we consider to be compelling pieces of evidence, and we should do so respectfully. but when nearly half of my country figuratively and sometimes literally plugs its ears to scientific facts, what other conclusion am i to draw?
where does this come from that i am trying to position myself to laugh at others? or trying to talk down to people? im certainly not doing it to you, and i didnt do it to mojician. i enjoy a healthy debate, not trashing people or laughing at them. that serves no purpose. im sorry if trying to be literal about the definition of delusion has offended you in any way, im just trying to speak directly.
and yes, i do think that people who, for motives of fear and rejection and just sometimes flatout stupidity, reject undisputable scientific claims are in some ways inferior, but not because i think im the greatest thing since sliced bread. should we as a nation, and to a larger extent planet, tolerate those that want to think and believe things that we KNOW to be false. sure, tolerance of people that are different than yourself is necessary. but education and discussion are far more important and worthwhile endeavors than just simple tolerance. but tolerating a belief only because we dont want to be disrespectful isnt serving the greater good of our civilization. thats why these atheist types come off as inferior know it alls.
bottom line is this: if someone holds a belief, and does so because of evidence, not in spite of it, then they should have respect for such belief from everyone, including me, whether we agree with that belief or not. but when people hold beliefs in spite of evidence, they are opening themselves and their ideology up to scrutiny, as well should be the case.


Christianity is still embraced by many educated, thinking people even in modern times in essentially the same terms as it was nearly 2000 years ago. Jeff's story, that he approached the subject from an unbelieving mindset and was persuaded not by fanaticism but by evidence (I will venture a guess that evidence includes both historical and phenomenological elements), is far from unique. The same is not true of Ra or Zeus.
Interesting to hear you mention this in passing, Jeff. Even if you would rather do it on another blog, I would love to see or hear your "Who Moved The Stone?" type journey.

longtime reader's picture

if he didnt believe in ra because he wasnt delusional, then what does it say about his non belief in the christian jesus?
the whole transcendent mind belief and the specific belief in one religion being right and all the rest being wrong are two quite separate things. if you are using einstein as a beacon for christianity, then you are misleading. im not quite sure if you are.
so by saying that muslims arent delusional, you are saying that their belief is correct? or may be correct? what % chance do you think of muslims having the right religion? what of the extreme sect of islam that wants to blow itself up so that it can go to heaven with all of the virgins? is that delusional in your opinion?


The evidence for Ra's existence, and for Jeff Francoeur being a poached egg in search of a slice of toast, is such that 99.9999% of people would see that the question is a slam-dunk resolution.
Einstein saw the evidence for Christ's claims as worthy of investigation.  It's a different level of evidence.
But then again, I just explained all this.  You're being deliberately coy or obtuse.
Einstein on Jesus, interviewed by Veireck, 1929:
"To what extent are you influenced by Christianity?"
"As a child, I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene."
"Have you read Emil Ludwig's book on Jesus?
"Emil Ludwig's Jesus," replied Einstein, "is shallow. Jesus is too colossal for the pen of phrasemongers, however artful. No man can dispose of Christianity with a bon mot."
"You accept the historical existence of Jesus?"
"Unquestionably. No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life. How different, for instance, is the impression which we receive from an account of legendary heroes of antiquity like Theseus. Theseus and other heroes of his type lack the authentic vitality of Jesus."
"Ludwig Lewisohn, in one of his recent books, claims that many of the sayings of Jesus paraphrase the sayings of other prophets."
"No man," Einstein replied, "can deny the fact that Jesus existed, nor that his sayings are beautiful. Even if some them have been said before, no one has expressed them so divinely as he."
Einstein believed that Jesus was not God, but he respected those who did and considered the religion plausible.
When you compare Ra to Jesus, you're not making a good impression, LR.  The neutral observer here can differentiate between levels of evidence, and to that neutral observer you're coming off as either not very acute, or deliberately coy. 
Perhaps this line of attack is appreciated by to the 5-odd percent who think exactly as you do.  There's no value in preaching to a choir; our question is how to exchange ideas with those who have different light bulbs on than we do.


Per your definition:  "Refusing to accept the Party's conclusions in the face of their best arguments."
Of course it's not delusional to prefer Francoeur over Swisher.  It may be due to more primitive evaluation methods, or bias toward defense, or any number of things that don't imply insanity.
Of the 30 GM's, there may some who would prefer Francoeur to Swisher.  They would prefer his fielding, his age, and his projectable power.  Bill James just had a discussion of the flaws in the Royals' thinking when they decided to build around Francoeur.
You're in the habit of confusing "wrong" with "psychiatrically disturbed."  What's worse, you work diligently to classify 80-90% of the world as insane.  I wonder why a person would have this as a life interest, to see that 90% of people are diagnosed as insane?
But, of course, the Soviet Union considered belief in God to be insanity.  That led to a lot of peaceful, benevolent humanism, didn't it?
Frankly, it's not appealing to try to exchange ideas with somebody so grimly determined to laugh at those who are different from him.  
Hopefully in America, the God Delusion community will never have the authority that Mao had.  Hopefully the moderate reader, seeing LR's (and Richard Dawkins') arguments towards classifying Christians as legally insane, will be moved to take a stand against this hatred.
I'll give you the last word, LR.

longtime reader's picture

i dont have enough time to write, i have to go to work. i will get back later. but let me just say you havent addressed my points in the manner in which i presented them. you are misrepresenting my ideas, and then fighting against them. you are straw manning me to death. i will write more later, i promise.


... with the trade news breaking tonight.
Let me preface by saying that I am not a theological expert or a philosophy expert or a neuroscience expert.  I dabble.  I do consider myself a scientist, but I consider athiesm to be untennable.  I apologize for the length and rambling nature but I know I will recieve valuable commentary which will help me hone my own thoughts.
Now, I respect do Hitchens' well-read intellect, but I have never seen any of the new athiests address some of the unavoidable implications of their position.
Here's the problem with athiesm:  while it is impossible, of course to prove the existence of God, assuming the nonexistence of of something outside of the natural world leads to conclusions that the vast majority of people would find unacceptable in the extreme.  Without the notion of something outside of nature, something supernatural, there is no room for free will.
If we reject a concept like "God" then we would live in a purely naturalistic world, and we are forced to accept the fact that the universe is deterministic and materialistic.  In such a case, all phenomena (physical or mental) follow the rules of physics.  One of the most basic of which is that every effect has an antecedent cause and is determined by those causes.  A purely naturalistic world is incompatible with any concept of free will because, in a deterministic world, our thoughts, "choices", and behaviors are all determined by antecedent causes, factors in our environment, (like our upbringing).  Free will and choice would be an illusion.   The compatibilist argument offers no hope here. 
To believe in free will of any kind in a deterministic is necessarily to believe in something that is outside the laws of causality, the laws of physics.  Outside the laws of nature.  Something "magic", or extra-natural.
Because athiestic philosophers are purly naturalistic/materialistic, they are forced to radically reject any concept free will.
Without free will there can be no accountability or ethics.  Moral ideas like "In this situation, I should do X" loose any meaning, because the underlying assumption is that you could have chosen something else... which is not possible if your behavior is determined.  Hence "ethics" therefore would be an empty and meaningless term.
In a deterministic universe, does it really make sense to say one "ought" to act in a certain way?  The word "ought" also implies that one could have acted in some other way, again something that does not make sense in a deterministic universe.  The word "ought" therefore loses all meaning, as do words that refer to value of any kind, like "good" or "bad", "right" or "wrong".
Any concept of free will robust enough to generate accountability or give meaning to terms like "should" or "good" or moral code" therefore takes as an underlying assumption the existence of something that is not subject to deterministic laws, "an uncaused cause"... and therefore something outside of the natural world.  Something supernatural.
In a naturalistic universe, would one act in a way determined by the environmental inputs one experiences.  Where you grew up, the experiences, environmental inputs and moral training you received are necessarily arbitrary.  Any set of values you purport to follow are merely the result of arbitrary programming you receive growing up.  As a result it would be impossible to classify any set of ethical values as superior to any other (for the purposes of the discussion, we'll have to ignore the act that "superior" has no meaning in a deterministic universe). 
Hence, athiestic philosophers, in embracing a purly naturalistic world, are not only forced to give up any concept of free will, but they would also be forced to give up any ethical system and embrace a radical value relativism.  To my knowledge, none of them accept that.  In fact Harris and Hitchens are quite the opposite.
It gets worse.   If we do not have free will, then what are we?  Are we not, in large part, composed of our choices in life?  In a deterministic universe, because will is determined, and choices are necessarily an illusion, then the self is an illusion.  In fact, its not really clear what individuals are in such a universe... just (very) complex epiphenomena?  Does that word "individual" even have meaning?  What then, of a concept like "individual rights"?
A naturalistic/deterministic universe presents some significant intellectual problems (and to my knowledge, the "new athiests" have not addressed them):
Epistemological Issues:
The conceptualization of free will is so immediate and central to our consciousness that it can be describes as the most obvious perception in our minds.  Part of what makes us human. 
If this central perception is no more than an illusion, then on what basis should we accept any other perception as real?  Hunger, thirst, love, pain? 
If there is no free will, then who or what makes decisions?  Can we even speak that way anymore?  Is it "no one"?  If there is "no one" making decisions, then it can be accurately stated that there is no "I" nor "you".  "I" and "you" are merely epiphenomenon, emerging from a background of antecedant phemomena... in an unbroked chain of causation etending... back to the Big Bang, I guess.
If you are going to decide (leave aside the fact you can't really do that in a deterministic universe) to question something as fundamental to human experience as free will, why do you stop questioning there?
Does it not immediately follow logically that if our most basic, ultimate and seemingly real perception (that of free will) is an illusion, we must call into question all other perceptions, regardless of how real they seem?
Determinists accept other thoughts and perceptions as real and legitimate, and yet reject the thought of free will.  But there is no reason for this selectivity.  Yes, you perceive the chair, the computer, the air.  But that can not be a justification for accepting those perceptions as real.
Ontological issues:
There is significant overlap here with the epistemologic problems; however there are some distinctions.
What does it mean "to be" in a deterministic universe?  What does it mean to be a human?
Are humans to be understood only as constantly fluctuating assemblage of fleeting mental states?  As a complex system of reflexive interactions, an intricate computer program?  Merely a more complicated mosquito?
If there is no "I" or "you"... no such thing as an "individual", then what of individual rights?  Why would an individual matter, or have "worth" (a word that loses meaning in a deterministic universe... see below)?

Ethical issues:
As above, in a determinist universe, it does not make sense to use words like "should" or "ought".  In order to say that someone should have done something in a certain situation, then it follows that she could have done something else instead.  But in a deterministic universe, by definition, the person could not have done something else, because her actions, thoughts, and feelings were determined by the environment. 
Second, in a deterministic universe, values are completely arbitrary.  Any values we possess are by definition merely a result of our environmental programming. 
In that situation, subjective/value terms lose their meanings, since their meanings are defined only by values, which are the result of arbitrary programming.
I have seen Sam Harris try to describe a system of values defined "rationally", and "logically", and "scientifically" but his efforts fail because of the reasons above.  Science can only tell us what "is".  It can not tell us what "ought" to be.
Critically, one can not look to "science" to provide suggestions for societal ethics and morality.  Scientific inquiry is very powerful, but it does not give answers to questions like that.
What is "scientific" about any ethical guideline?  For example, what is scientific about "do unto others as you would have them do unto you"?  What scientific experiment could demonstrate the truth or falsity of this statement?  What  scientific experiment could demonstrate whether we should follow this proscription?  What is the scientific answer to what is "right" in a given situation?  What is the scientific answer to the question of what is "good"?
Scientific method can at best demonstrate how to implement ethical and moral principles practically.  It can not, however, tell us what those principles will be, or should be. 
Scientifically speaking, why should people have individual rights, for example?  Why, scientifically, should people be treated equally?  Especially if people are nothing more than a transient arrangement of mental (or energy) states that are mere epiphenomenon determined by the interplay of forces and particles through time in an inevitable sequence streaching to the beginning of time?


Just in 30 seconds here:  
1.  That was one of my favorite pieces ever on the subject.
2.  The worst injury for atheists is self-inflicted:  many assign themselves the burden of proof that theism is insane, as opposed to simply mistaken.   Many sincerely believe that no serious scientist would ever be a theist.  
Many have never interacted with somebody like you, Dr. G.  They call Francis Collins or Hugh Ross names, but with you they have to interact.  It's a cognitive dissonance.  And I'm blinkin' likin' it.  ;- )
3.  On a similar tack, Wikipedia lists as one of physics' greatest unsolved problems the very existence of consciousness.  Why should sentience arise because of a particular arrangement of non-sentient particles?
Much less that such a consciousness should evolve feelings of guilt or love.  (This became a major pillar in C.S. Lewis' proof of God's existence, the assertion that such feelings could not exist without Him.)

longtime reader's picture

ok, theres a lot to digest, so bear with me
first of all, your definition of delusion is untrue. you stated that "It carries the idea that a person will not give up an idea that 99.99% of people can see is incorrect." again, the % of people that agree with a conclusion has no effect whatsoever on delusional status. ive tried to give examples of this, and you have ignored them. i can go find 100 people that think im an alien, leaving you to be the 1 guy left in the room that thinks im a human. does that make you delusional? let me give you the dictionary definition of delusion again. this isnt mine, im copy/pasting it. "a false belief held with absolute conviction despite superior evidence." now using the definition of the word, lets try to figure this swisher/francouer example out.
if i asked you the question, "who throughout their career has been a better baseball player, (which is what im assuming you meant when you first used this example) nick swisher or jeff francouer" and you answered jeff francouer, i would say, "i respectfully disagree, i think you have come to a false conclusion."
i would ask you why you believed that to be true, and you rattled off a list of some observations you made from watching the two players play throughout their careers. you thought jeff had a better throwing arm, maybe was a better defender, just as much power, etc. then i would say, thats all very nice, but let me show you why i think swisher is better. i could show the gaps between the twos isop, their career walk rate, obp, slg, woba, uzr, you could throw in other fielding metrics, things of that nature. things that we can define. and i said, look here, per these calculations, which everyone in the world of baseball uses and trusts for the most part, swisher has about double the career WAR of jeff over almost the same amount of plate appearances. i would tell you, i can surely tell you who billy beane would rather have payed 400k or 3 million or 6 million per year for. i can tell you who jack z, or any competent gm or internet gm or anybody who knows how to analyze baseball players would rather have had for those 4k plate appearances.
now if you listened to all of that, and still came away thinking, i dont know, i still like jeff better, WOULD THAT NOT MAKE YOU DELUSIONAL? by the exact definition of the word? if not, what exactly is the definition of delusional? does one have to be delusional about everything to be delusional about one thing? if not, then why are we so careful with what kinds of thinking we call delusional?
and i never once used the word insanity. i said delusional, or superstitious. not the same thing. thats what i mean about the strawman. "you work diligently to classify 80-90% of the world as insane." i never once said that, if you would refer to my arguement and then argue against it, we can get this discussion back on track.
i referred to evolution as an example of delusion. thats it. and the figures i gave were 40% of americans, 75% or pastors. you either dont agree with those numbers, or you happen to be one of the 40% (which i highly doubt), or you simply ignored that section of my arguement.
i mean, if the byproduct of believing in scientific evidence and arguing on its side comes off as arrogance, i cant help that. im not coming in here to walk on egg shells, im giving my opinion. thats what discussion is about. i havent called you or any of your readers names, ive tried to be polite and state my case. and in return, you have mischaracterized my comments and railed against me and classified my stance as one of hatred. its ridiculous, really.
unless you can try to argue against or agree with the points as i have made them, i feel like this discussion is over. i understand you are a christian, which is fine. i know there are some very intelligent people that are theists, and many who are deists, and many who are atheists. if there were an obvious slam dunk answer, we wouldnt have such a divide. but you are confusing my arguements with hate speech apparently, and with ridicule. you completely skipped over the parts where i said things like...
"there are some good points to be made on both sides of the aisle", or
"if someone holds a belief, and does so because of evidence, not in spite of it, then they should have respect for such belief from everyone, including me, whether we agree with that belief or not"
does that sound hateful? or like im characterizing 90% of people as insane?


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