Fri | Apr 28, 2017

Booklist Boyne the god of babble

Published:Sunday | April 19, 2015 | 4:00 AMGordon Robinson

Guess who wrote this:

"I am encouraged to engage Dr Patrick White in a debate on atheism because of his respectful, courteous and measured response to my recent piece on morality. We don't have to be rude and abrasive when we disagree, and Dr White's article in The Gleaner last Monday, 'Morality doesn't prove God exists', demonstrates that."

Three guesses and the first two don't count! You in the front row; yes, you, the non-reader, especially of newspapers. What's that you answered? Ding, ding, ding! You're correct. That was Booklist Boyne himself ('Debating God at Easter', April 5) dismissing rudeness and abrasiveness in his usually rude and abrasive way. For monolingual readers who don't understand foreign languages like Boynespeak, allow me to translate that passage into English. It means:

"To be debated by me is among the highest of ambitions. In order to achieve this lofty goal, it's not enough for you to have a view with which I disagree. As hard as it is to achieve that because I rarely express my own views, you must also present your view in a manner that is polite, ingratiating and accommodating. The sole arbiter of what is a polite or rude expression of opinion/disagreement is me. If I don't deem your presentation polite, I will not accept your non-invitation to debate. It's purely coincidental whether I'm unable to debate the topic successfully; it's all because you were, in my sole discretion, rude to me."

The translation stands up to scientific observational testing as Booklist continued merrily, in Boynespeak:

"Of course, I know that Dr White's addressing me as 'the Reverend Ian Boyne,' rather than as a journalist, is intended as a put-down, but that is excusable!"

See what I mean? "Excusable"? Good grief. This not only confirms my translation as accurate but adds the remarkable rider that some rude and/or abrasive argument can be "excused" by the Almighty Booklist himself. By these self-serving, narcissistic methods, Booklist picks the fights he thinks he can win. He even defines the fight to his liking. He's an expert at erecting straw men and then bringing them down. Personally, I find his debating skills limited to non-existent. If there was no high-sounding previous author for him to quote extensively, he wouldn't be able to make a single point. His favourite debating technique seems to be along the following lines: High-brow, pompous-sounding author C. Crab once wrote, "Blah, blah, blah." Therefore, you are wrong!

Booklist, nobody of any intellectual depth, multidimensional experience or ability to think laterally has any interest in debating you. I certainly don't. My task is to educate my readers (both of them) how to spot illusion whether it be political, religious or intellectual, and I continue to use daily or weekly examples of same whenever I consider them useful for my purpose. So, please (pretty please) continue to categorise me in the 'ra ra' category, thus saving me the column space required to clear up whatever muddled thinking you might apply to what you would otherwise misinterpret as a 'debate'.

In that infamous April 5 column, Booklist Boyne's lack of debating skill was on full show as, while pretending to be debating Dr Patrick White, he set up celebrated atheist authors Michael Shermer and Steve Stewart-Williams with extensive quotes before trying, in his convoluted way, to debunk these authors. Then he wandered off on a tirade against atheists who, he says, place human rights above animal rights. How do they do this, according to Booklist Boyne?

"... if you don't believe in God or some supernatural reality outside of nature, you have no basis for protesting human-rights abuses or being against genocide and slavery, while remaining silent on the slaughter of millions of chickens, cows and sheep."

I wonder if Booklist reads his own twisted illogic. So, if one does believe in God, one is permitted to "[protest] human-rights abuses or [be] against genocide and slavery, while remaining silent on the slaughter of millions of chickens, cows and sheep"? Jeez, Louise!

Those who didn't read Patrick White's letter may get the wrong idea. Dr White didn't write about animal rights vs human rights. That's Booklist's straw man. Dr White made a simple proposition, which was that the existence of morality doesn't prove the existence of God. In support, Dr White made some equally simple points:

1. Morality existed before the Ten Commandments. Humans have been living in social groups with ethical standards forever;

2. The Bible contradicts much of modern morality (e.g., it condones worse, advocates mass slaughter and collective punishment)

In reply, Booklist begins with defining the debate as "a debate on atheism"; then rants and raves about animal rights; then (drum roll, please):

"... He fails to make a naturalistic case for ethics. At least he fails to ground that ethics objectively. I agree that as humans we can pragmatically develop a system of ethics in our own interest ... ."

So, after all the obfuscation, misdirection, collateral abuse to third parties and religious vitriol, Booklist has accepted Dr White's premise. Morality is something that can be developed by man and is not, by itself, proof of God's existence.

When will Booklist learn? He continues to put down the theories of others using arguments rife with non-sequiturs, non-relevant material; and nonsense. Look here, Booklist, a "debate" between Christianity and atheism is itself an illusion. What's to debate? Both are religions. Atheism is the belief that God doesn't exist. Christianity is the belief that Jesus was the son of God.

Booklist, get it into your head you'll NEVER convince an atheist to believe in what he/she doesn't believe any more than an atheist could ever convince you not to believe in Christ. It's a stupid, ignorant waste of column space to try, although it may attract sponsors to contribute cash to promote public media spectacles. Goodman's Law?

Booklist, by all means, profess your Christianity to the skies and try to educate your thousands of readers to its tremendous value. That's all you can do. If you want to embark upon converting anybody, you won't succeed if you begin by telling them their beliefs are rubbish.

Where'd weird Booklist get this argument that slaughtering animals/eating animal flesh mean atheists have no regard for animal rights? That has to be the most inane of many absurd arguments put forward by him over the years as "debate". It's right up there with his characterisation of Peter Bunting as a "game-changer".

Over centuries, Christians have slaughtered more humans that all other religions put together. Many Christians still believe in, and apply the death penalty to, humans in "appropriate" cases. Does this mean Christians have no regard for human rights?

For Booklist's information, soldiers who kill other soldiers in war have the most highly developed respect for human life and honour each other in ways from which Christians (who persistently undermine each other and threaten others, including Christians, with fire and brimstone) could learn many lessons. Hunters who bring down wild animals for food honour their 'kills' by ensuring that each and every part of the dead animal is used to support human life. No part of the animal is wasted.

Christians, on the other hand, have been known to throw their fellow man to be eaten by lions or slaughtered in gladiatorial contests for entertainment and to sexually abuse minors. But, according to you, a belief structure called 'atheism' holds human rights above animal rights while, of course, perfect Christianity does not. The truth is. all religions respect human and animal rights. This silly concept of priorities by measurement is one only Booklist seems to crave.

This perpetual battle among religions is boring and counterproductive. Rather than asking if God exists, we should be asking ourselves "What is God"? Is God a who, Booklist? If yes, what does He look like and where does He exist? Heaven? Where's that?

Like a toothache, God can't be touched or seen and has no human characteristics. He/She just is. Atheists see their 'God' in nature. Christians see God in church. Maybe if the Christian Church stopped treating God like a grey-bearded old man sitting behind a desk in the sky threatening us if we are "bad" and started seeking a spiritual answer to the question "What is God?" , it might discover there's not so much to debate between Christians and atheists after all.

Peace and love.

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.