The exercise of power is determined by thousands of interactions between the world of the powerful and that of the powerless, all the more so because these worlds are never divided by a sharp line: everyone has a small part of himself in both - Vaclav Havel
Friday, February 29, 2008
Paul Ray's adventure as a fugitive from British law continues. Paul, aka Lionheart (aka Lyin' heart in my book), who faced and dodged arrest by the Bedfordshire police for having possibly committed an offence of stirring up racial (or religious?) hatred by means of written material, has sought refuge in the US where he's hoping to obtain political asylum.
It's clear that whether or not Paul would actually have been charged with anything following the interview (that may now never take place) would have depended to considerable extent on Paul's own account of his actions. It needs to be noted that actual convictions for offences of stirring up racial/religious hatred in this country are extremely rare. There have only been about 40 convictions in the 20 years the laws pertaining to these offences have been in place. The low conviction rate is due in part to the caveats regarding freedom of speech, in part to the fact that 'stirring up hatred' isn't something that's easy to prove in a court of law.
Paul recently published a number of recorded telephone conversations he's had with DC Ian Holden (presumably the Arresting Officer) and DS Steve Fraser (the latter's supervisor), both from Bedfordshire police, in which Paul seeks clarification of what would happen to him (upon surrendering to the police), as well as engaging in a number of increasingly unrealistic pleas for mercy. You can find Paul's recordings here.
Well, I've gone through the process of listening to Lionheart's ramblings painstakingly and several things become clear: Paul's a crashing bore who repeats himself ad nauseam with little understanding of legalese or his own situation. On a related blog post he claims:
Listen to telephone conversation 1 on this post, and you will hear the glee in the officers [sic] voice that they have a charge against me and an arrest for me: Police phone conversation
Anyone listening to these conversations can only hear one thing on the part of the officers: weariness (and not glee) at Paul's repetitive incomprehension of his own situation and the sheer unrealism of some of his semi-demands. Paul, despite a rather heroic self-image, ain't no hero at all...
Elsewhere he posits:
Given the circumstances there is no way I am going to walk down to the police station and hand myself in to the police so that they can arrest me and possibly imprison me over my blog - Political persecution!
Paul's attempt to try and blame his (back then still potential) misfortune on a perceived political witch hunt is of course risible to the nth degree but fits in well with his self-aggrandising nature, his utterly Manichean worldview and reductionist rationale. But clearly he's meaning to go on as he started by adopting the invective of political persecution.
His endless and utterly cowardly pleading with the Bedfordshire police officers breaks down along the following lines:
Paul didn't understand that in somewhat euphemistic police jargon 'interview' actually meant 'arrest and interview under caution'. By 'under caution' is meant here very simply that Paul will be read his rights (for US readers: read Miranda rights). This is standard procedure and it's there also for the protection of the arrestee. Any old fool though would understand that 'interview' and 'arrest' were always going to mean the same thing.
Demands for unconditional bail. Again, any idiot can understand that prior to the actual interview the police cannot only not give such guarantees but that the interview itself and subsequent consultation between the police and the Crown Prosecution Service would have determined whether bail was applicable and what kind of bail would apply.
A proposal to hold the interview over the phone, too ridiculous an idea to actually entertain: it's impossible to caution someone without their physical presence at the police station.
A rather last-ditch attempt at pre-emptive bartering: Paul claims (rightly or wrongly - I cannot be the judge of that) to have helped Bedfordshire police with their enquiries regarding known drug dealers in his area. Whatever the case may be, we can't let the good Samaritan who commits a crime off just because of previous good deeds, in the same way we don't let a criminal off just because he's also done good in the past. Ironically, in the unlikely event that Paul would actually have been charged with an offence and tried and convicted in a just court of law, Paul's previous alleged cooperation with the police would undoubtedly have served him well at the sentencing level. Again, Paul is either incapable or unwilling to understand or consider that.
Claims that he cannot surrender to the "prison system" (in Paul's parlance) because it's full of the same people he allegedly helped put behind bars. For this, Paul's life would be in jeopardy, or so he claims. Again, this is extremely self-serving and highly simplistic interpretation and takes no account of how the prison service actually works. And all apart from the minor little detail that a custodial sentence in Paul's case really is the very worst case scenario.
Lastly, regarding Paul's bail, since he's now shown himself rather spectacularly to be a flight risk, no judge or magistrate in their right mind will now take a chance with Lionheart, if he ever decided to show up in a British police station.
Some readers will by now believe I bear Paul ill will but that's not true. I don't for one minute believe that Paul's chances of getting a conviction, let alone a prison sentence, are high or should be high. But through his own quite delusional actions Paul has made things a damn sight worse for himself: he's actually pointed the finger of suspicion firmly at his own person. The clever thing to do would have been to show up for the interview and build a robust defence in the case of being charged.
As the real Lionheart, who spoke little English and spent most of his time in France, might have said: Quel imbecile...
Minutes before 1 am today, we were astounded to find our house shaking briefly but perceptively. It's a strange sensation: at first I thought it might be the tremor caused by a passing HGV but we live in a quiet cul-de-sac with almost no traffic and there was no accompanying roar either. The latter also excluded a nearby explosion: almost no sound. That's perhaps the eeriest aspect of an earthquake, at least if you're a safe distance away from the epicentre, that apart from a low rumble it's really quite quiet.
Going out into the street I found a few equally bemused neighbours and a couple of car alarms going off.
Turning the telly on to BBC News 24 and within minutes the news came in that an earthquake of magnitude 5.2 had hit Britain, epicentre Market Rasen (Lincolnshire). Market Rasen is only about 40 miles away from where we live, so things could have been a lot worse had the magnitude been considerably larger. Minor tremors are fairly frequent in Britain but until now I've never felt one myself. So, on the bright side, I can now cross of another thing on my list of things to do: survive an earthquake...
Barack Hussein Osama (bin-Laden): the Communist Years...
BREAKING NEWS -
DYWP - Bridlington (Fine Purveyors of World News)
Barack Hussein Osama bin-Laden (pseudonym Barack Obama), love child of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin-Laden's third niece seventeen times removed, was (or is) a Communist (or knows [or knew] a Communist - it's all the same with these people). As Honourable Fellow blogger Cookie posits quite rightly, this needs to be thoroughly and completely investigated at the highest possible level.
We can now reveal exclusively that this is not a rare case of negative campaigning in the US presidential nominations race (repeat: this is not negative campaigning...)
In fact it's All True, photos of someone looking like Barack bin-Laden in a Cuban training camp (probably taken prior to his departure to Afghanistan) are in our possession and will go to the highest bidder, to assist this investigation (please note that extra Photoshopping will cost a little more).
That makes Osama the worst possible Communist ever: a Muslim Communist! And potentially the next president of the USA, a black Muslim (terrorist?) Communist. Daaang!
Next week: How John McCain turns out to be a transvestite that had an affair with Ho Chi Mihn.
This article appeared in the Guardian on Wednesday February 20 2008 on p27 of the Comment & debate section. It was last updated at 00:05 on February 20 2008.
Now that Fidel Castro has taken the carriage clock, international affairs has all too few fixed points of continuity. Her Majesty the Queen is still in place. The King of Thailand has been on the throne since 1946. Otherwise one has to turn to the Middle East for reassurance that some things never change. Fly-by-nights like Castro may come and go, but the Israel-Palestine conflict will, it seems, always be with us.
After the one-day peace meeting in Annapolis last November, some believed that was about to change. Surely George Bush, Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas wouldn't stand in front of a quarter of the world's foreign ministers and promise to reach a peace accord by the end of 2008 only for nothing to happen.
And yet here we are, nearly a hundred days later, and Israelis and Palestinians are still having talks about talks. Negotiators have not yet even broached the substance, but are instead stuck trying to agree guiding "principles". There's a big argument over whether they should be discussing Jerusalem now or later. The pessimists who thought the two sides would at least start negotiating - only for their talks to founder later - now realise they were too hopeful.
The victims of this stasis are of course the people themselves: the Israelis of Sderot cowering in shelters from the Qassam rockets launched from Gaza; and the Palestinians, whose suffering only seems to deepen.
Last week Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian parliamentarian, independent of both Hamas and Abbas's Fatah, was in London, a laptop in his bag bearing an impossibly bleak PowerPoint presentation. In slide after slide, he showed what his people are up against.
To explode the myth of Annapolis, he showed how Palestinian freedom of movement is more restricted now than it was on the day of all those fine speeches. Now there are 561 checkpoints on the West Bank; in November there were 520. His figures showed an increase in Israeli attacks of 220% (largely, no doubt, in retaliation for those incoming Qassams). He counted 177 Palestinian deaths since Annapolis, the vast bulk in Gaza.
Yes, it was true that the confidence-building measure of prisoner releases happened: 788 Palestinians have been set free. But how much confidence could that build when 1,152 have been newly arrested since Annapolis?
On Barghouti went, showing photographs of the separation barrier that, by his estimate, is three times longer than the Berlin wall and, in parts, twice as high: eight metres of concrete. He cited the notorious case of Qalqilya, thoroughly encircled by the wall, with only an Israeli-policed gate allowing access to the outside world. He illustrates his point with a photograph of Palestinian children going to school through that gate, supervised by an Israeli soldier.
I know there will be people ready to dispute every one of those figures, along with the statistics that show Palestinians living on an annual income of $800 while Israelis earn an average $24,500. There will be others who insist that the wall, however dismal, has done its job, in that the number of suicide bombings has fallen drastically since it went up. (Barghouti rejects that, noting that he and other Palestinians can still get around the wall and the checkpoints when they try.) But the reality he describes - of poverty, of restriction, of occupation - can hardly be denied.
The question is what to do about it. The diplomatic path currently looks futile. Veteran peace negotiator Hussein Agha sees no hope until Hamas and Fatah can somehow be bound together so that Abbas can negotiate on behalf of the entire Palestinian people. Otherwise, the Palestinians have to rely on that much more fickle commodity - world opinion - hoping it can keep up the pressure for their cause. In this context, no opinion matters more than America's: the one country that can lean on Israel and make a difference.
But how to craft a Palestinian narrative that will capture and keep that attention? Barghouti likes to compare the Palestinians' plight to that of the black victims of apartheid, hoping to arouse a similar global movement to the one that demanded change in South Africa. That's surely doomed. Witness the response in much of the US commentary to Jimmy Carter's recent book Palestine Peace Not Apartheid. The argument soon shifted not to the occupation but to the treatment of Arab citizens inside Israel itself: these Palestinians have the vote, nearly a dozen members of parliament, a supreme court justice and so on - all without equivalent in apartheid South Africa. If campaigners want the focus to remain on the occupation, rather than to be thrown on to the defensive, they need to take a different tack.
In our conversation Barghouti was lukewarm on boycotts (apart from a boycott of Israel's arms industry). Perhaps he recognises that this too is a tactic which alienates potential allies - by proposing ostracism in place of engagement and stirring unhappy memories, at least among Jews, of boycotts past.
So what's left? Barghouti is a longtime advocate of non-violent resistance. He and others were struck by the worldwide impact Gazans made last month when they punched a hole through the border wall separating them from Egypt. Unarmed men and women ran through and started shopping - grabbing whatever supplies they could. That prompted a discussion that reached deep into Hamas itself: what if Palestinians made a similarly non-violent assault on the border separating Gaza from Israel?
So far the idea has come to nothing. Some fear that the risk would be too great, that there's no guarantee that even civilian protesters bursting through a military border would not end up facing gunfire. Others ask what would happen once they got across: where would they go, what would they do? To sustain such a demonstration would require a degree of organisation which no movement outside Hamas could muster - and Hamas, currently besieged, is under too much pressure to pull that off. Besides, Abbas would see any such move as a challenge to his own authority and would oppose it.
Nevertheless, non-violent encounters with Israeli authority - whether at checkpoints or even at the gates of Jewish settlements - might be the best hope Palestinians have of winning the sympathy of outsiders. Palestinians could compare their struggle to the Martin Luther King movement for civil rights, walking and marching for their freedom.
Of course there are problems with this approach, starting with the fact that Palestinians and Israelis live in separate places and lead separate lives - far more distant even than the black and white of 1960s segregated America. They cannot threaten to withdraw their labour because few Palestinians work in the Israeli economy. They have little leverage.
And yet, the power of mass non-violence would be undeniable. My own hunch is that even Israelis themselves, given enough of a respite from rocket assaults and suicide bombings, and forced to confront the realities of Palestinian life, would waver in the face of such a movement.
Perhaps there is another story Palestinians could tell, one that would win the attention of those parts of the world they need to persuade. But they need to find one soon - if their suffering is not to become one of the last, unchanging facts in a fast-changing world.
The sagette of Paul Ray, aka Lionheart, aka Lyin' Heart, has reached new comical heights. Paul, who Bedforshire police wanted to interview in relation to a possible offence of stirring up racial (or religious) hatred, has decided... (wait for it...) to seek political asylum in the United States! In the case of Lionheart it has to be clarified that seeking political asylum rather plainly means dodging arrest, or even being plain lazy (certainly intellectually): he had after all already been staying in South Carolina for some time and now, against all common sense, has decided to stay put and not show up for the scheduled police interview, set for today, 19/02/08.
Paul seems to have difficulty grasping the difference between arrest/interview on the one hand and being charged on the other hand. It would appear that Bedfordshire police want to speak to Ray on the basis of one complaint and that there may (please note emphasis) be grounds to suspect him of an offence according to either the Public Order Act of 1986 or a similar act of 2006. (article continues below ad) Get targeted traffic to your blog! Want more returning readers? Blogrush is 100% FREE, totally hands-free and automatically finds readers that are interested in your blog's content. See your blog traffic explode... No spam or abuse, no ads to run on your blog, just targeted traffic rushing to your blog. Less than 5 minutes to sign up (click). Or click logo to view a short presentation to see how it works. Why wait? Whether or not Paul would actually have been charged with anything or not remains a big IF and would have depended on prima facie evidence against him and of course the contents of the actual interview. Hundreds of Britons are arrested and interviewed each and every day, most of them are released without charge the same day. Paul of course has now maneuvered himself into a position where he actually looks guilty. After all, when convinced of one's own innocence as Paul is, why not face one's accusers? What about the somewhat conservative adage, "nothing to hide, nothing to fear", no? Maybe not...
Considering that the number of convictions obtained under the 1986 Act in 40 years of being on the statute books appears to be around 40, statistically Paul's chances of getting off are much higher than that of paying the ultimate price of a lengthy prison sentence, which he (understandably) so fears. Actually proving 'incitement to racial or religious hatred' in a court of law has been shown to be hard to do, in no small part due to the many caveats these laws contain to safeguard freedom of speech as much as possible.
As regards Lyin' Heart's application for political asylum in the United States, one can only laugh. Paul, to the US at best you're potentially a common criminal on the run from the law in another country, at worst a clowning fool who doesn't understand legalese too well. I'm not an expert (far from it) on legal matters of political asylum in the US either but I cannot believe such applications are easily approved as free-for-alls or handed out like free doughnuts, especially when the applicant in question seems nothing more than a fugitive from the law in his country of origin. Lionheart faces no threat to his life, no torture or wrongful imprisonment. No, our Lionheart faces... an interview with the police in his country of origin. Some Cœur de Lion, huh?
Undoubtedly Paul will now try and twist the arm of Lady Justice by kicking up a big stink and try and explode his US fan base. Let him at least realise that an attempt to garner popular support is a two edged sword and if Lionheart comes off his high horse he may well also fall onto that sword. So far, his Tinkerwebs support base has done nothing but a great disservice to Paulie's case. Coming from the super-bigots of the Hyper Far Right 101 Keyboard Warriors, where the stench of all kinds of racism, from Islamophobia, over homophobia, up to and including anti-Semitism, reeks up to high heaven, that's where most of Paulie's moronic supporters reside. Egging him on from the comfort of their imaginary cyber control-centres, they give Paul the illusion of being on the right side of things and having a fighting chance of beating the Law. But Dura Lex sed Lex. I hope those who ill-advised Lyin' Heart to seek political asylum in the US will realise their mistake when sooner or later this tactic will come back to bite their hero in the arse. But by then our cyber-soldiers will have moved on to another case: no shortage of hot-headed fools in this world...
One particular piece of wingnutty advice came from a certain Paul Wilson who advised Paul: "Youi [sic] should make an official complaint about the way that this has been handled by the Bedfordshire Police". Yep, Paul (Ray), not only should you become a fugitive, you should also sue the BP, attack being the best defence and all that crap...
Lastly, it has to be said that our alleged freedom fighter and last defender of Freedom of Speech, like so many of his brethren in the deep sewers of the Hyper Far Right blogosphere, has now resorted to... censorship. A comment of mine on his last post, part ridicule of Paul's decision, part well meant advice, was unceremoniously removed from Lionheart's comment section (with only Paul Wilson's ridiculous attempt at rebuttal remaining as testimony to its former existence). Again, some hero, eh?
Below's video of Christopher Hitchens debating Rabbi Shmuley Boteach on the subject "Does God Exist?" After a short introduction, both speakers were allowed 15 minutes of time and a debate then followed.
The Hitch, loathed by many, loved by many more, was once again uncompromising, logical, sharp, erudite and very well-spoken and captured the audience right from the off. His discourse was clear and very, very closely argued.
By contrast, the Rabbi started resorting to ad hominem almost the moment he opened his mouth, immediately calling Hitchens a hater. He spent considerable time elaborating on just what a loathesome ("fanatical") hater Hitchens actually is, at least in the Rabbi's opinion. This is a fairly classical theist tactic: calling atheists haters, who provide no hope and loathe what they don't believe to exist (G-d). In the case of the Rabbi, deploying ad hominem so early on was intended to turn the audience against Hitchens' arguments: 'surely from such a bad person nothing good can emanate?', ergo, 'listen to me, not him...'
But the hater thesis doesn't cut the mustard with Hitchens: he hates religion and makes no apology for that. And sadly the Rabbi seemed unable to grasp that Hitchens' hatred of religion has nothing to do whatsoever with the burning question of the occasion, "Does God Exist?"
The Rabbi's ad hominem opening shot didn't bode well for the quality of the rest of his arguments. After his initial attack then followed more of the old and tired non-arguments, constructed simply by a number of far-fetched associations. Typically Schmuley tried to link Darwin to Hitler (and drew very little applause for it - although slow clapping would have been even more appropriate). Here the Rabbi's tactic of mild smearing was similar to above: by managing to mention Darwin and Hitler in the same sentence, he hoped to create the illusion that evolution is evil, an opinion held dearly among the more moronic part of the Creationist crowd. And there was more ad hominem too, in what Hitchens later referred to as "a crazy salad of slander". Boteach quoted Crick saying some terrible things. Fair enough, but what does this have to do with the question of G-d's existence? Nothing of course, it's merely designed to put these people, and by illogical extension other scientists, in a bad light. Schoolyard stuff really...
The Rabbi then proceeded to try and prove that a theory (Evolutionary Biology - EB) that hasn't been completed yet must surely be entirely wrong. Clearly, the Rabbi doesn't understand the scientific method and how scientific paradigms evolve (no pun intended). It's sad that the Rabbi believes pointing to imperfections, even gaps in the evidentiary body of EB, somehow invalidates it, yet feels free not to present even the slightest shred of evidence for the existence of The Great Social Worker in the Heavens.
Finally, Shmuley declares himself an adherent to the most recent creationist fad: Intelligent Design.
The debate then started and got quite heated. The Rabbi vocal volume seemed to increase all the time and increasingly he came across as the fanatic he accused Hitchens of being.
Watch it or at least skip through it...
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Increasingly we hear that black people in Britain should now basically shut up or put up, because "racism no longer exists in Britain". And the deniers (I have no hesitation calling them that) have embraced another fad: blaming any claims that racism is still alive (albeit on the retreat) on "political correctness gone mad". Racists, homophobes and other xenophobes of course much preferred a past Britain "where you could speak freely" and where their attitudes and hopeless stereotypes were still very much du jour. But despite a strong and favourable change in perception of ethnic minorities, racism and assorted hatreds will never die out completely and still occasionally rear their ugly heads.
Stephen Lawrence, the victim of a heinous race-hate crime, continues to be the victim of racist abuse, even in death: it's not the first time that Stephen's memorial has been vandalised, as happened only a week after an architectural centre was opened.
Racists vandalise Stephen Lawrence memorial centre
A £10m architectural centre built as a memorial to Stephen Lawrence, who was murdered in a racist attack 15 years ago, has been vandalised just a week after it opened, Guardian.co.uk can reveal.
Eight windows each worth £15,000 and designed by the Turner prizewinning artist Chris Ofili on the front of the new building in Deptford, south-east London, were destroyed overnight.
A Metropolitan police spokeswoman confirmed the attack was being treated as a racist incident.
"A number of windows had been broken and police were informed at 5.46am today. The hate crime unit at Lewisham CID are investigating the incident," she said.
No arrests have been made and inquiries are continuing.
Attackers threw bricks at the windows from behind a 2.5m high metal fence surrounding the complex, said Karin Woodley, the chief executive of the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust.
"It is a very sad day for the trust as a whole, and for Stephen's family," said Woodley. "Stephen's mother is as distressed as all of us."
She said it was the fourth time the centre had been attacked, but this was by far the worst. She added that the centre had CCTV and 24-hour on-site security, and that security measures would be reviewed.
"I think this is awful and just shows there are still people out there who have a problem with racism and with those who value diversity," said Imran Khan, a lawyer for Stephen's mother, Doreen Lawrence.
The three-storey building, designed by the award-winning architect David Adjaye, aims to offer thousands of young people from deprived backgrounds the chance to begin careers in architecture, urban design and building.
Richard Stone, an advisor to Sir William Macpherson in the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, said he was "horrified" by the attack.
"The killers of Stephen are still at large in south-east London. They hate black people getting on in life. I feel devastated for Doreen and Neville [Stephen's father] who put so much into the building which has become a target. It just suggests there are people out there who are filled with hate."
He called for a review of the 1999 Lawrence report, which concluded that institutional racism within the Metropolitan police had hampered attempts to catch the killers, to investigate whether racism in institutions and British society was being reduced.
Last night's incident indicated racism was still entrenched in parts of British life, he said. "Racism must not be allowed to drop down the agenda."
The Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, and Doreen Lawrence attended the building's opening ceremony last week.
"I am disgusted by this racist attack," the London mayor, Ken Livingstone, said today. "This latest outrageous act of racism follows several others over the past few months on the centre.
"It also comes on the anniversary of the inquest that confirmed Stephen's death to be an unprovoked racist murder, and will be even more distressing for his mother Doreen, who has fought to establish this cultural landmark for the whole community."
He said the London Development Agency, which helped fund the centre, would offer any assistance needed.
Before the opening ceremony, Doreen Lawrence said her son, who dreamed of being an architect from the age of seven, would have been "so excited" the centre was built in his name.
Stephen , 18, was stabbed to death in an unprovoked attack by a gang at a bus stop in Eltham, south-east London, in April 1993. Many of the suspects continue to live in the area.
The case was the subject of three separate investigations, an internal Scotland Yard review and a re-examination by Kent police, as well as the 1999 Macpherson inquiry.
Last November, police confirmed they were investigating new forensic evidence in the case.
The Lawrence centre offers courses, training and mentoring in engineering, architecture and building facilities for people between 14 and 25. It is linked to several leading firms and universities.
Woodley said last week the centre was a "laboratory for looking at new ways of working with young people to improve their attainment and skills".
"Stephen was tragically denied the chance to realise his dream of becoming an architect, but we hope to offer young people who are living in poverty the opportunity to realise their aspirations," she said.
In 1999 Stephen's memorial was defiled by paint. It was attacked again the following year, despite 24-hour camera surveillance.
Contrary to what some fellow bloggers might think, I'm not much of a militant atheist (I'm really agnostic to start with). In terms of debating with theists, I've had my moments (and will have them again) but broadly speaking it's a wasteful pastime. Now, I'll fire back the occasional time when a particularly moronic Godologist questions my morality or tells me I side with mass-murderers but other than that the debate, as far as I'm concerned, is over. And "Creationists"? They're just a source of eternal amusement to me.
Below's a little gem I found the other day, giving theists some sound advice to argue the points with atheists.
Christians: Tips To Doing Battle With Evil Atheists
Some things to keep in mind:
1. Remember that they are people, just like you are. Contrary to what you may have been led to believe, they are not some lower life form we share this planet with.
2. More than likely, they are smarter than you are. This can be difficult to come to grips with, but it does appear to be true and is a claim that is actually supported by the Bible (1 Corinthians 1:18-31)
3. Statistically, they are also as moral, if not more so than you are. While it is a good thing that they generally are highly moral, it is a shame that we, who often times claim the moral high ground, seem unable, or unwilling, to match our words with our lives.
4. They will probably thump you in debate. They are much more likely to have carefully thought through their position and understand why they believe what they do. We are more likely simply to present some argument that the person we heard it from guaranteed would destroy the enemy. The problem with that is that many of them have heard the same arguments many times and are easily able to counter them.
5. Don't under-estimate their knowledge of the Bible. Many of them are more familiar with the Bible than the average Christian is. And they know all of the passages that will cause you a problem, and will not hesitate to challenge you with them.
So, as a Christian, what chance do we have when doing battle with the godless empire? Here are some suggestions that may make your stay here more rewarding.
1. Don't feel like you have to win all of the battles. You are not going to. In fact, you may not win any of them. Be satisfied with being able to clearly and logically express what you believe and why. While you may never convince another person on this group, you will have helped yourself by taking the time to understand what you believe and why, and to verbally present it. 1 Peter 3:15 says in part "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." We are challenged to give an answer, not to win a fight.
2. Be respectful, open and truthful. The remainder of 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to make our defense "with gentleness and respect". Realize that the people you are debating with really do have a lot to offer. Don't throw away the opportunity to learn from them because they do not believe in the God we hold dear. Don't make the mistake of believing that everything an atheist says is suspect.
3. Treat them the way you would like to be treated yourself. Remember what Jesus says in Matthew 7:12: "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." Jesus tells us to initiate the desired treatment, not just respond to others in the way we are treated. Most atheists here will treat you with at least the same amount of respect that you show to them.
4. Be willing to admit that there are things you don't know. Believe it or not, it will not hurt your position.
5. Remember that our walk is by faith and that we cannot prove that God exists or that the Bible is true. We might be able to make an argument to support those beliefs, but do not mistake that for proof.
6. Remember that while the Bible may be authoritative to you, like it is to me, to an atheist it is just an old book and has no more authority than the Iliad.
7. Enjoy your stay with us, learn and share, and don't get too worked up about anything.