Updated: Aug 21
I have this friend. She’s a good fifteen years younger than me, and we lived pretty close to each other when I was in Vancouver. That was almost 4 years ago, so she was in her early twenties at the time. I remember one year, as her birthday approached, she kept bubbling on about wanting to go out to celebrate.
“Let’s go to a bar and get drunk!” She giggled.
I could recall a time when I would have been that excited about the prospect of a long night full of Jägerbombs and China White shooters. I no longer felt that way.
“Sure, it’s your birthday. Whatever you want.” I replied, supportively, concealing my inner grimace.
The problem became worse when the big day arrived and we pulled up to a club. Not a bar. Not a pub. A club. I stood, a short, white, middle-aged mom who has a bedtime, in the middle of the dance floor. Hundreds of – let’s call them kids, ’cause that’s what they were – kids gyrated around me to some Spanish ditty no one knew the words to except the one: Gasolina! The bass was pounding so loud, I am near positive it changed the rhythm of my heartbeat. Boom, boom, boom, “Gasolina!” I could smell who hadn’t worn deodorant that evening, and I’m pretty sure I tasted a go-go dancer’s sweat. I’d just parted with $10 for a watered-down Bud Light (which was the only beer they had on tap) and I must have had a scowl on my face because my friend noticed my discomfort.
“Are you okay?” She mouthed at me… I think.
“This is not a bar.” I looked at her, stoic and blinking with the strobe light, my fingers in my ears.
“What?” She screamed, which I could only assume from the effort she put into mouthing the word.
“This is not a bar!” I screamed back. She didn’t hear it. She dragged me to where our other friends were dancing and I mom-danced my way through the night, swearing to myself that this is the last time I go out with kids.
Words have meanings. A bar is a dimly lit sit-down joint that serves a multitude of beers on tap and has shitty nachos and mozzarella sticks on the menu. There are usually booths and some televisions showing the latest sporting match and you can often find a pool table or a dartboard around somewhere. There’s the Keno corner where the local gambling addicts get drunk waiting to win it big and there’s an abundance of dark wood and brass. There are certainly no strobe lights, no one is grinding my ass and no one is pumping their fist in the air shouting, “Gasolina!”. At a bar, I do not have to sniff anyone’s armpits nor do I have to burn a single calorie save for the dunny breaks. A bar is clearly for civilized people, while a club is more suited to gorillas in heat. Rich gorillas in heat. Words… words have fucking meanings.
Words have meanings we all agree on so that we can understand what each other is talking about. If you change your definition of certain words, they lose meaning to everyone else. For instance, if your definition of “toddler” is “dog” and your definition of “clobber” is walk, you can understand where the confusion might come into play when you say you’re going to go clobber a toddler. You could see how your new definitions could potentially end up in a police situation, possibly with you in handcuffs and getting to know the back of a police car intimately while your loved ones watch on in utter confusion.
We must share our definitions of words or we’re simply not discussing the same thing. So, today, I thought I would clear up some of the words religious apologists misuse the most. We’re going to have far clearer discussions on the topics of religion if we can all use the same definitions. Here are 7 words I’ve noticed many theists misuse constantly:
You knew this one was coming. As outspoken atheists, we hear the same old mantra every day:
Evolution is just a theory! This phrase is more played out than Donald Trump’s presidency. Here we see the theist using the colloquial version of “theory” when the topic at hand demands the use of the scientific form of “theory”. To a theist, a theory is a guess and nothing more. However, when discussing theories in science, we’re not using that version of the word. Instead, theory means:
A scientific theory is an explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can, in accordance with the scientific method, be repeatedly tested, using a predefined protocol of observations and experiments. Established scientific theories have withstood rigorous scrutiny and are a comprehensive form of scientific knowledge. – Wikipedia
So, when you use the colloquial version of theory in place of the scientific definition of the word, you make quite clear that you’ve not got the slightest clue what evolution is and what evidence exists for it.
Until you do, probs best not chat about it, lest you embarrass yourself further.
Perfect, contrary to the Ass’s assertion here, has but one definition. There is no room here for subjective interpretations of the word. Sure, when we’re looking for the perfect mate or the perfect pair of shoes, the criteria required for those things to be deemed perfect is certainly subjective, but no one is claiming the shoes or the mate themselves are perfect objectively speaking. When someone asserts that the Bible is the perfect word of god, they are claiming that it is so objectively.
A piece of writing that is objectively perfect would not need revisions, nor could it be interpreted incorrectly. It wouldn’t have any contradictions or problems within the text itself. You would not be able to debate the meaning of its contents and the introduction of a newer installment would render the first imperfect.
Perfection means as good as is possible. If it’s the word of an omniscient, omnipotent god, what is possible has no limit. By definition, an omnipotent god has the ability to create a text that is clear, understood by all and undebatable. He has the power to record his word in such a way that there is only one possible interpretation, no matter who is reading it. An omniscient god would foresee all the updates/revisions necessary for the rest of time, and of course, write the first installment of the text with all the unfolding of time in mind. If something in God’s word were to become obsolete with the passage of time, his word is imperfect.
The Bible, we know beyond any doubt, is not perfect. It does not objectively meet the definition of perfect. Theists need to stop referring to it as such.
No, your wet dream about the virgin Mary is not proof of god. The image of Jesus appearing on your burnt toast is not proof of god. Hearing voices, perceiving answered prayers or statues crying tears of blood are not proof of god. Proof is evidence that is enough to prove a proposition is true. Empirical evidence is required to prove something is fact – that means it can undergo repetition. It must be demonstrable, falsifiable an objective. Predictions must come true no matter who is investigating. Proof is not something you feel or believe in. Proof is objective, outside of yourself and apparent to anyone with an inquisitive enough mind.
4. Free will
Imagine you’re heading out to the newest restaurant in town tonight. It’s getting rave reviews and everyone is going on and on about how different it is. “It’s unlike any dining experience you’ve ever had before!” they say. You’re finally going to experience it yourself but as you walk in, you’re taken aback… above every seat is a bucket of pig shit.
“What’s with the unusual decor?” You ask your server, nervously glancing at the dangling refuse above you.
“Here.” He hands you your menu. It’s several pages long and you thumb through it as the server continues. “Have your choice of anything on the menu, but please note that if you order anything other than the prairie oysters, your bucket of pig shit will overturn dumping porcine dung all over you and everyone around you.”
Another patron at the table next to you leans in, points to the menu and says, “Isn’t this great? There are so many choices!”.
This is precisely what is meant by free will when a theist says it. No, you don’t have to order prairie oysters to avoid wearing bacon turds, but you do have to worship god to avoid eternal torture. The thing about Chez Porky is that you can go home and shower and live the rest of your life without piggy poop in your hair. It’s impermanent; it’ll pass; it ends. If you choose not to worship god, your torture in a lake of fire goes on for all eternity. There is no escaping it, ever. This is not a choice any more than prairie oysters at the shit barn is.
God has rules on how to own and treat your slaves. He has rules outlined pretty clearly about how to pay your way out of punishment for rape. He has slaughtered the entire population of the earth: men, women and babies for the bad behaviour of a few. He watches every assault, every murder, every terminally ill child on earth and does nothing. Asserting that god is the ultimate source of morality is like saying Kraft Dinner is the height of culinary artistry. Unless moral means “more completely depraved than Hitler himself”, theists are using the word wrong.
Faith is belief without evidence. Atheism is the answer “no” to “do you believe in god?” I need no faith in the fact that I do not believe in god. I am the primary source of this information, which counts as good evidence. I know I don’t believe in god. No faith required.
There is a huge spectrum, almost all-encompassing, of what a theist might mean when they say “atheist”. To theists, “atheist” can mean someone who asserts there is no god. It can mean someone who knows and believes in a god but is too angry at him to worship him. It could also be someone who believes in a god but doesn’t like his rules and so chooses to live outside of them. “Atheist” could be someone with faith in that which cannot be proven; it can mean science worshipper, nihilist or satanist. “Atheist”, to the theist, might mean evil, lacking a moral backbone or communist. Very rarely does a believer mean “someone who lacks a belief in a god” when they say “atheist." It’s strange, to say the least, that to a theist “atheist” can mean pretty much anything under the sun, except for the one definition atheists use. It’s almost as if they have to make up new meanings for the word in order to be able to pick apart our position. It’s almost as if they can’t argue with “I don’t believe you, please prove it.”
But alas, “atheist” as us atheists tend to use it ourselves, is simply lacking a belief in a god. It makes no claims, has no morality, no specific worldview. But what the fuck do we know, right? We don’t have the almighty, all-knowing creator of the universe whispering us to sleep each night, right? We’re obviously in the wrong, and we’re all Hitler-worshipping, goat-sacrificing baby-eaters who’ve waged war with Jeebus.
Theists and atheists use different meanings for so many of the most common words that come up in conversation between us. It’s no wonder civil conversation is a rarity when discussing religious beliefs and lack thereof. We’re pretty much speaking entirely different languages.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve just remembered I’m owed a trip to the bar.
What words have you noticed the religious misusing? Let me know in the comments!