May 19, 2024

Oh THAT guy?! Nevermind, not in our town.

A couple months ago, I got an invitation to participate in what would have been my first ever face-to-face moderated debate before a live audience.  I didn’t get all the details, so I’m speculating a bit. I think the idea started with a high school debate team wanting to pit theism vs atheism, and someone decided to tap me. Rather than pressing me for pointers, they decided to have me come on down and do it myself. That’s how I think this got started.

Well if I’m coming to their school to debate my position, they can’t have a student debate me; they’d have to get another adult. I was told they’d selected a minister who wanted the topic to be “the source of morality”.  Matt Dillahunty told me once that no matter what the topics of his debates are advertised to be, they always turn into that one. My wife told me not to do it because that subject is where theists always feel at their strongest. I didn’t care, didn’t matter. I was all over it. I was already salivating. I accepted the challenge as-stated, and the more I thought about it, the more I was fired up and anxious to jump into it.

The thing is, this high school was located in a little town in rural east Texas, triangulated between Dallas, Houston, and Shreveport Louisiana, equidistant from anywhere big enough to show up on my map. I’ve never been that way, but I’ve heard reports that there are churches out there who teach that dinosaurs never existed, and to rely on prayers rather than medicine. Whenever I told other Texans where this debate was going to be, they said encouraging things like, “Dude, you’re gonna get yourself shot“.  Just think about the scene in Easyriders where Jack Nicholson got clubbed to death in his sleep. It’s pretty close to there.

The next report I got was that there were three ministers competing to be the one to take me on. I was flattered. By then they had decided the debate couldn’t be during school hours anymore; it had to be an after school event, because so many parents wanted to be involved, and a lot of other citizens too. There was reportedly so much interest, they might even have to move the venue to an off-site location like one of the larger churches. I was told the local media might be there too. I was glad to hear it, and determined to give ’em a good show.

A week or so later, the story changed. Once my three ministers looked me up online, they all backed out immediately. They said they needed to get a professional apologist. I was tickled at that. A few days later, I heard they found one. But then he checked out one of my videos, and he backed out too.

So we had the venue secured and the date was already set, but suddenly there was no one willing to debate me even on their topic of choice. Would I win by default? Where is the fun in that?

Eventually they did find someone, and I have to say, I was impressed by their choice, even a little intimidated. I was of course going to have all this recorded for my YouTube channel, and I expected to debate some bombastic evangelical idiot with a thick hick accent and colloquialisms denoting both his ignorance and bigotry. Just imagine every stupid lying bastard who was famous in the GOP last year, and any of them would have fit my bill. But that’s not who they found. They couldn’t get any of the locals to debate me, so they brought in an import. They found a 70 year-old international missionary with an eloquent English accent. He was gorgeous. No doubt he would show up with an elegant ascot to off-set his thick waves of silvery hair. Compared to him, I would be the one with the red-neck Texas accent, dang it. How would that look? A sophisticated aristocratic gentleman against a seemingly satanic southern rocker. That wouldn’t play well for me down in Mayberry.

I’ve always said that it does not matter who they pit against me, and that is still true, but what little I saw of this guy make me think he was about the best choice they could have made. I’m convinced he still couldn’t win even with an audience already in his pocket, and his demise wouldn’t have been pretty, but at least they didn’t pick someone who would have been too easy.

Today I wrote to the organizers of this event because it’s only a couple weeks away, and I haven’t seen any promotions yet. The response was another surprise. The debate is off. I don’t know why, but the high school that was so ready to roll initially have since withdrawn, reportedly afraid of political backlash. How? I have no idea. The church that was once available is now restricted. Now all the churches in town have refused to host this debate, if they responded at all. The reason that was explained to me was that this town isn’t interested in being involved in any event that promotes or permits looking at multiple sides of any issue relevant to religion. So in a sense it seems that the town shut down that debate. And it’s too bad, because I was really looking forward to this.

36 thoughts on “Oh THAT guy?! Nevermind, not in our town.

  1. Ahhh, the good old argument from “You haven’t got any proof, and we wouldn’t listen to it even if you did”.


    Good thing is that this debacle of salivating followed by running in terror might knock a few chinks into the armour of some in that town.

  2. Well, damn. That would have been interesting. I’d love to see you in a debate. See if you can do as well as Matt.

  3. I am a little torn regarding this. On one hand you have won the debate before it began (which is a tremendous compliment) however no one in the community will hear well reasoned positions opposing their own view. I guess honesty and education has never truly been at the heart of religion.

  4. For what it’s worth… yes, east Texas really is that bad, right down to dinosaurs being fakes planted by Satan. I would’ve liked to see this debate go down.

  5. Ooh ooh… I’ll bet it was Lufkin, TX, or thereabouts.

    I spent my high school years in Tyler, a little north of the area I suspect you speak of. Sunday school taught me that dinosaur and other fossils were hidden in the ground by Yahweh as part of a process known as Creation with the Appearance of Age. The reason? To test our faith, and provide us with oil. They were a little unclear as to how fossilized skeletons became oil in less than 6000 years.

    In other news, sedimentary rocks were created by the Great Flood, which happened when god punched the ice shield surrounding the planet, exposing us to UV radiation and shortening our lifespans by a factor of 10. This all tied in to continental drift somehow, I forget.

    I would have driven to see you do this debate, out of nostalgia if nothing else.

  6. Can’t they ever come up with a more interesting topic than the source of morality? That is so repetitive.

    1. Well, they do come up with other topics, at least in name. They just often end up turning them into arguments about the source of morality, in practice. Christian debaters usually suck at staying on topic, in a debate, particularly when they’re holding the debate in a church full of Christians. They’ll pander and evangelize, instead of debating, then claim victory because the ignorant flock voted for them in huge numbers, despite not addressing the debate topic.

      I’m reminded of the debate, Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort vs The Rational Response Squad. From a technical, debating perspective, Kirk and Ray lost on technical grounds probably 50 times. The fact that their arguments were a complete mess and unconvincing, on top of that, just made it worse.

  7. Reasons I am happy about this:

    1. I won’t have to worry about running interference in the town as an Aron Ra impersonator.

    2. Everyone has bailed out on this on the other side.

    3. This is technically still a victory. Think about it: every backwoods red-neck in that town must have slowly poured through the videos that seems to destroy everyone of their champions without even entering the arena. How many new atheists did this actually make? 1? 5? 20? It’s all speculation, but especially at the high school, I imagine this either freed some minds or began the uncoupling process there in.

  8. Not surprising. A large Pilgrim’s Pride chicken raising/slaughtering site is located in East Texas (Titus and Camp Counties). Seems only right that’s where you’d also find Chickens for Jeebus.

  9. I am shocked – shocked! – to find intellectual bankruptcy and moral cowardice among Christians.

  10. Once again Bigfoot kicked delusional xtian ass and did it from hundreds of miles away!!!!

    Talk about real omni-power!!! Their cheeses is so small, after all he only appears on toast, that he can’y boost the strength of his Sheeple to face one little ol’atheist, a 1000 to 1 odds is still not good enough!!!

    I’ve watched your videos and I can understand their fear, and its not because of the long hair!

  11. I must learn of this town. I need to avoid it, or else arm myself thoroughly before passing through the area.

  12. Did this story read a little like a dream to anyone else? It’s a debate at high school. You’re talking to another student. Oh wait, he’s suddenly the pastor! No, now he’s three pastors and we’re at church. Oh wait, you seem to have met a reserved English gentleman telling you that he is really sorry, but the debate can’t proceed. But now you’re back at the high school, and no one’s there, and the doors are locked and you’re gonna be late for something…

    Also, pretty damn hilarious that they all backed out based on your Youtube oeuvre. At least they did their homework! I’d like to think that a few minds in that town are now thinking furiously about your points and re-evaluating their worldview, but I think it’s far more likely that enough handkerchief clutching regarding “the children” occurred for the organizers to simply give it up.

  13. Well that escalated quickly and then sizzled out. Quite well described a big fat dud for a case of dynamite.

  14. He was willing to bring the fight to them, but they backed down.

    That’s what you call Shock and Ra.

          1. Wait, no, edit…ah, dangit. I mean, I meant to do that.

            Ra-llahu akbar!

  15. My debate on “the source of morality” would be one sentence:

    If the only thing stopping you from robbing me or killing me is your fear of God’s wrath, then you are a pretty lousy human being.

  16. As I see it the source of morality is this. Morality comes not from our parents, religion, teachers or even evolution (social or otherwise). Instead our morality comes at first from our own observances in our youth. When we see another saddened by the loss of an item or by sustaining an injury, or we our selves suffer the same, we then learn the result of the action perpetrated as well as to empathize with others who suffer the same. I think that through our experiences we form our first morality. By conversing with children I have found that this is very often if not nearly always true. As we age our morality is then reshaped to some degree by the society that surrounds each of us. How much our morality drifts from our childhood is a product of who we are both genetically and by our experiences.

  17. Heh. So the town isn’t willing to debate anything involving religion?

    Here’s what you do. Apply for a building permit to build a mosque.

    1. That’s one of the problems with smalltown Christians. They aren’t master debaters.They really need to loosen up before they have a stroke and blow their tops.

  18. Lufkin and Jefferson are good guesses. I would also guess Nacogdoches or Palestine. Having grown up in a tiny tiny tiny east Texas town, I’m not the least little bit surprised they backed out. I am surprised they ever thought they might try it, to begin with. Times must be a changin.

    Also, I would have totally went to show suppport. Evil support!

  19. Heh, I think they realize you can rattle off, from memory, more facts about church history and biology than the books in the local library. Gotta keep ’em ignorant.

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