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Do Atheists Own The Internet?
July 26, 2013 J. P. Holding

Do Atheists Own The Internet?

Posted in Forum Post

A certain YouTube atheist, CultofDusty, has staked the claim that “atheists own the Internet.” I won’t link to his video here, because Dusty takes a George Carlin persona and has all the associated linguistic traits (and to be fair, he has in turn shown himself to be courteous in comments to me). He’s a bit of a performer, so one may perhaps excuse him for some hyperbole. However, allowing for that, his reasons given for making this statement aren’t particularly compelling:

Atheists are defeating Christians in debates on social media websites. Maybe so. I don’t hang around those at all. But they’re not winning on sites like TheologyWeb where serious discussion takes place, and social media sites aren’t exactly havens for people with a high interest in scholarship. At the same time, I’m not inclined to assume that this is any more than a case of .150 batters doing better than .125 batters. We collect screwy statements from atheists and Christians alike, and social media havens like Facebook are prime breeding grounds for silly statements from all sides — mostly Christians.

Atheist videos get more views on YouTube than Christian videos. Statistically this doesn’t mean anything by itself. There are also crackpot videos on YouTube about things like the moon landings being faked that get more views than either atheist or Christian videos. Also, this could easily be a function of there being proportionately more options for Christians in terms of their viewing selections, whereas being that there are fewer atheists, there are also fewer channels for them to choose from, which means their views tend to get clustered. Finally, what about repeat views? In any event, this is a stat that would need to be looked into more deeply before any meaning could be assigned to it (and I’d also like to verify it with more detailed research).

Still and all, I think in one sense Dusty’s right. I don’t think atheists “own” the Internet, but I do think that as a whole, they’ve been more effective and proactive in using it as a popular tool to spread their message. I also think that’s not necessarily something for them to be proud of. Dusty says that atheists are winning on the Internet because religious arguments are stupid and easy to defeat, and an open marketplace of ideas like the Internet makes that clear. I think a more likely explanation – based on my research presented in a Christian Research Journal article, “The Mesmerizing Misinformation Maelstrom,” and as affirmed by various experts in the area of technology, education, and brain research (summed up well in Carr’s excellent book, The Shallows) — is that the Internet is an environment that by its very nature discourages deep thinking and encourages quick, shallow answers to complex questions. That in turn means that Internet users can easily get the impression that they’ve done a “winning” job on some issue when they have not.

As an indication of this, Dusty says that a “five second Google search” makes it easy to find out that religious people are lying. Really? Allowing for hyperbole again, who really thinks that five seconds or even five minutes is enough to satisfy a burden of serious research? What about evaluating the sources critically? What about scholarly journals and commentaries? As I told one of his fans, even if atheists own the Internet, Christians (and theists) still own scholarly print resources like books and journals – and which of those would be better sources for accurate information?

Because of what the Internet can do to discourage deep thinking, I’d say that laying claim to “owning” the Internet is akin to boasting that one owns a garbage truck in a contest where having the most dignified vehicle is the standard. In this light, please note as well that Dusty argues for some rather fringe positions, such as one I answered in a recent video of mine, that the works of Tacitus, and so his reference to Jesus as well, are late forgeries. This is a view that serious scholars of Tacitus and Greco-Roman history would find appalling. It’s also the kind of view one gets by spending only five seconds doing research.

By the same token, atheists have certainly rushed faster to take the advantage of YouTube; but as shown in a series on the Forge blog – which offers but a sample of what can be found there – this, too, is nothing to be proud of. Many of these atheists promote radical, insensible ideas like the Christ myth, and YouTube is a place where video presentations favoring “9/11 truther” scenarios can garner as much applause as a skilled opera singer in Vienna. Of course, we might also suggest that that’s a case of better players not showing up — or falling down on the job.

So we can grant that the atheists have often done better than Christians in the Internet medium; the question then turns to why. The “whys” are likely many: Much more aggressive evangelistic zeal by atheists (Dusty himself expresses a strong desire to oppose Christians based on things like their political choices); too much concern with devotional and entertainment matters by Christians (who knows of that many atheist rock groups that sing about their atheism and nothing else?); the fact that some atheist arguments, because they tend to merely consist of denials and negations, have much less content to argue and so lend themselves much better to a rapid-fire medium; lack of education in the churches (what else?), and — this is one that hits home with me particularly — a serious deficiency in creativity.

Part of this is understandable: How does one present information about, e.g., the authorship of 2 Thessalonians in a way that is entertaining and interesting? It’s not easy, but it can be done; my own YouTube video on this featured the Apostle Paul confronting Bart Ehrman in his own classroom – and the two of them exchanging points in Dr. Seuss rhyme-verse. Creativity can be a challenge when the topics are so obscure and complex, but I take it as a challenge to be met.

Our apologetics also tend to have to be longer and more involved, because they require a deeper and more comprehensive understanding; as I say in the CRJ article, you can sum up the problem of evil just by pointing to any number of daily headlines and asking where God was, but a theodicy requires much more effort and much more understanding — two things antithetical to the Internet medium.

I also think that far too many Christians don’t have enough of a creative “edge” in what they do present. By this I don’t simply mean they are boring (though many are); I also don’t mean simply that their production values are poor (though many are). I’m also not condemning any who are doing the best they can with what they have; I think very little of “talking head” videos (no matter who makes them), but if that is all someone can do, with the resources they have at hand, so be it. I do mean, however, that there is often very little sense of risk in production; that presentation is often stiflingly conservative. Turn on camera; talk politely; turn off camera. In contrast, it appears that many YT atheists have put some extra interest in making their presentations unusual or entertaining — like Dusty, whose “schtick,” as noted, is adapting a George Carlin style persona.

Clearly Christians need to break some creative ground here. My own contribution has been the use of basic hand-drawn animation and edgy humor. Not many others are taking such steps, but some are. One of my fellow YouTube apologists, for example (under the handle “CRoadWarrior”), has taken the brilliant step of adopting the persona of a professional wrestler in his videos. This is the sort of creative risk we need to be more in tune with taking, but unfortunately, it seems that many Christians are stuck in straightforward didactic mode (which has often been said to be the case for our entertainment as well).

We may not “own” the Internet – I really don’t think anyone does — but if we’re concerned to redeem others for Christ, and present our arguments, we need to be much wiser and proactive in staking a claim in it.

Comments (6)

  1. Get over it JP Holdings…Christianity glory days are DONE! …never to return! Proof: up to 70% to 95% of the Christian youth flee Christianity by church 🙂 Ouch! …because Christianity is fiction (a book of fairytales) and the wide open internet has exposed it to the modern world!

    Heck JP Holdings, watch any professional athlete say gay marriage is morally wrong (a sin) and homosexuality is morally wrong (a sin) and within a day they take it back with a huuuggggeee apology! …and that’s a FACT 🙂 …

    Courts are trying to make Christian speech (like saying homosexuality is a sin) illegal!

    Hey JP Holdings: who gets more abortions in America? U guessed it: Christian women! In fact: Christians are huge hypocrites: saying live one way (the moral way?) but in actuality they live many times worse than the godless atheist! …look at Christian elite Dinesh D’Souza: super Christian apologist, married with kids, caught with a young blonde in his hotel room, and bam, weeks later he was forced to leave his job as president of Kings College, NYC…look at Bishop Eddie Long: did marches against gays but yet 5 young men came forth saying Bishop Long had gay sexual relationships with them…and don’t get started on Catholic pedophile Priests…etc, etc, etc …and the youth sees this and many are opting out!

    …indeed, this is obvious: Christian glory days in America is done, finished! …you want more proof JP? known fact that a high percentage of the Christian youth say that Muhammad is a way to god just like Jesus. Ouch!

    Brett Strong lives!

    JP: keep your theology website—and work on it day and night! Seriously! Heck, everyone needs something to do 🙂 Because Christianity has already lost in America and Europe–so work and promote your theology web day ad night:-) Because all that’s left is a shadow of Christianity! and that it shall remain forever! nothing will stem the tide! because your god and Jesus are fictional characters AND MORE AND MORE YOUTH ARE SEEING THAT!

    …you want more proof Christianity has lost in America & Europe?

    link source: http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/

    In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) said he believes the legalization of same-sex “marriage” may lead to those who express religious objections to homosexuality being prosecuted for hate speech.

    “If you look at other nations that have gone down the road towards gay marriage, that’s the next step of where it gets enforced,” Cruz told CBN host David Brody. “It gets enforced against Christian pastors who decline to perform gay marriages, who speak out and preach biblical truths on marriage, that has been defined elsewhere as hate speech, as inconsistent with the enlightened view of government.”

    In Canada, where gay ‘marriage’ was legalized in 2005, Christian pastors, public officials, educators and business owners have all faced heavy fines and lengthy court battles after speaking critically of the homosexual lifestyle. In one case a pastor was fined $7000 and ordered never again to speak publicly about the issue of homosexuality after he wrote a letter to the editor of a local newspaper criticizing the homosexual agenda in schools.

    Both Sweden and the United Kingdom have also prosecuted people who expressed traditional views on homosexuality, including a Christian pastor in Sweden who was sentenced to a suspended jail term for “inciting hatred” for preaching against homosexual behavior. The UK has recently seen a rash of cases in which Christian street preachers were arrested simply for preaching that homosexual conduct is sinful.

    The French government has criminalized speech against homosexuality, resulting in a member of parliament being hit with a $4,000 penalty and ordered to pay $2,000 in court fees after he said he thought homosexuality was “inferior” to heterosexuality and said the practice would be “dangerous for humanity if it was pushed to the limit.”

    1. J. P. Holding Author

      Brett, there’s only one thing that needs to be said in reply to you.

      You lied about Justin recommending you on his “Unbelievable” program.

      Brett Strong…is dead.

  2. 2nd line correction in previous post: the word church should obviously be COLLEGE ….thus reading: “up to 70% to 95% of the Christian youth flee Christianity by college 🙂 ”

    Brett Strong lives!

  3. Oh Wow JP Holdings! I knew you would eventually stick your foot in your mouth! And you just did! I’ll prove it to the world you are a liar/a deeply misled person 🙂 …Seriously! This is not a joke! & this I stake it on: I want you (JP Holdings) to show Kurt J and everyone else where I said Justin B said such a thing!

    Come JP Holdings–where is your proof!

    Check every post I made here and anywhere on the web (and I want Kurt J and everyone here to help you JP)!

    Because I have always maintained that Justin B said A CALLER said that Brett Strong would’ve been better for Oxford than the other atheist they had–and I totally agree and the compliment (about me being at Oxford to debate the Christian) was amazing 🙂

    …heck the caller even put me in the same grounds as the great Atheist James Croft who is respected in the Atheist and Christian community; so the caller putting me in the same sentence with him is really AWESOME! I would love to get the debate opportunities has ! Cool!

    So JP Holdings_-either provide the post where I supposedly said such a thing OR apologize to Brett Strong for wrongful character assignation OR forever be known here as a liar/a deeply misled person!

    Any of the above options are great for me!

    Brett Strong lives!

    …and if I happen to be mistaken about making such a quote I will be more than happy to apologize to you, Kurt, and this entire sight and to the entire web! Proof: when I found out Nick Peters & his wife were handicapped and both suffered deep depression; what did I immediately do?

    I instantly and emphatically apologized to Nick Peters directly on this site & you and Kurt J and everyone else here can testify to that…(for my ministry is not about debating handicapped people or seriously ill people or elderly people–heck, they need all the hope they can get and if they get that hope through a fiction god and Jesus then I’m all for it) and I’ve 100% kept my word for every time Nick P has tried to lure back in with a snarky comment I have always responded back in kind, this even Nick P will attest to!

    So JP Holdings ante up the post where I said Justin B wanted me at Oxford OR apologize publically to Brett Strong Or be known as a typical LIAR/a deeply misled person!

    again: either of the above works great for me! …and be sure to post this on your YouTube channel and Theology web because I’m going to take a picture of this page so the next time someone inquires about your foolish ways concerning me I will email them this page thus letting them know you are a LIAR when it comes to certain things concerning Brett Strong!

    …and Kurt J, please-please let this post stand! But if you do decide to delete this page then you must delete JP Holdings post because HE IS A LIAR IN THIS INSTANCE 100% FOR SURE!!!! AND ITS TIME THE WORLD FOUND OUT!!!!

  4. I told you long ago JP Holdings:
    the next wave is here and I am he: Bret Strong!
    The 4 horsemen are proud of me as I expose your humungous BLUNDER!

    You had it coming 🙂 & now you’ve lied on Brett Strong thus making yourself out to be a liar on the worldwide web!

    Its your own fault JP Holdings! You have no one to blame but yourself! You finally picked on the wrong guy–the Brett Man! I told you I was good! Maybe next time you’ll listen when people tell you that the Brett Man is indeed the next wave!

    1. Brettstrong

      Everyone is still waiting JP Holdings for proof 🙂

      …where Brett Strong supposedly said Justin B himself wanted Brett Strong at Oxford to debate Christians????

      Brett Strong!

      You’ve just made yourself the poster boy for idiocies ..and I mean that in the kindest ways a humanly possible 🙂 …never again will you approach with such blunderers behavior

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