Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Notes and references from How to Talk to Christians

The following are notes and references on a talk I gave to the Secular Student Alliance at UMBC on 2010-10-19. The talk was called "How to talk to Christians (politely) with examples regarding evolution, homosexuality, and abortion."

Terror management theory:

  • Film: Flight from Death (Hulu)
  • Article on response to messages about drunk driving: Shehryar and Hunt. A terror management perspective on the persuasiveness of fear appeals. Journal of consumer psychology (2005) vol. 15 (4) pp. 275
  • I found out about Terror Management Theory by listening to Reasonable Doubts episode "Denying death"
  • The plot of Bush's approval ratings is from Wikipedia, the data was taken from Gallup and USA Today polls

"Life is tragic simply because the earth turns and the sun inexorably rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last, last time. Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, which is the only fact we have."

-James Baldwin


  • Genesis 1-3
  • Romans 5:17
  • On the date and context of Genesis 3: Mendenhall, George E. The shady side of wisdom: the date and purpose of Genesis 3. In: A Light unto My Path Old Testament Studies in Honor of Jacob M. Myers. 1974. (You can email me for a PDF.)
  • The Problem of Pain, chapter 5 The Fall of Man, CS Lewis
  • The Literal Meaning of Genesis, St Augustine
  • Enuma Elish lines 135-146 on the slaying of Tiamat to make the sky

"Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn."

-St. Augustine, On the Literal Meaning of Genesis



  • Psalm 139:13-15
  • Exodus 21:22-25
  • Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan's essay, "Abortion: Is it Possible to be both "Pro-life" and "Pro-Choice"" or "The Question of Abortion: A Search for Answers"
  • Evidence of high incidence of early loss of pregnancy and miscarriage: Wilcox et al. Time of implantation of the conceptus and loss of pregnancy. New England Journal of Medicine (1999) vol. 340 (23) pp. 1796; Wang et al. Conception, early pregnancy loss, and time to clinical pregnancy: a population-based prospective study. Fertility and Sterility (2002) vol. 79 (3) pp. 577.

"When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man's knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer."

-The Supreme Court on Roe v Wade