I need to preface this post by saying that if you are a person particularly wounded by blasphemy, you might want to avoid everything that follows. Also, if you dislike long winded analyses, you also might want to skip this post. Rest assured that I will not be the one blaspheming (though I will be the long-winded one), but know that my guest and subject of this post’s attentions is a prime producer in the blasphemy market and takes particular pride in his product (as I in my alliterations).
Amos Yee is what many in the new atheist community are considering a martyr for atheism and free speech. That is the main reason I wanted to compose this post analyzing one of his videos: to give you a sense of the ideas of the kind of person many new atheists are willing to applaud as a martyr. He was imprisoned by the Singapore government and still remains in judgement for making videos purposefully and wildly disrespectful to Christians and Muslims.
Now, I do not believe that such actions by the Singapore government were just. I do not believe that Amos should have been imprisoned for his taste for blasphemy. However, this is not necessarily to say that I support his personal philosophy of free speech, since he believes that the call for public violence is not punishable in the caller but only in the actors who follow the call. But, if he wants to make videos ripping, throwing, and performing lewd motions with the Bible or a cross while harping about God’s nonexistence and his cruelty simultaneously without regard for the laws of non-contradiction or a sense of irony, I’m fine with that. But, if it is his right to publicly distribute his blasphemies, he shouldn’t mind if I engage with them and analyze them for their merits.
The Amos video this post responds to is, pardon the profanity, “Responding To The Common Bullshit of christians.” As you can see, almost all of the words, including the obscenity, are capitalized except the word “christians,” which – yes – is indicative of how this video will proceed. Again, if you don’t like blasphemy I definitely do not recommend you watch the video. But if you want the full timbre with which all of this is delivered and want to check me on my quoting, I have provided minute markers before each excerpt with which to navigate the video. These are important, as I will not be going in order necessarily or addressing all of his points, but simply hitting the big ones in the order that strikes my fancy.
13:41 — “I guarantee that never in your (expletive) life will you ever hear a Christian be able to logically explain how the context of that verse invalidates what the verse says. And, if you can ever mention one instance of that happening, I will personally chop off my (expletive) because I know it doesn’t exist, just like their (expletive) God.”
Fortunately for Amos and his continued attachment to his appendages, what he says here is actually correct. But, let me be clear: it’s correct because the sentence is so poorly constructed that it actually doesn’t say what I think Amos was trying to say. Amos uses the phrase, “to logically explain how the context of that verse invalidates what the verse says.” His delivery of this is very emotionally driven, but actually think about what he said. “That verse” is not actually in direct reference to any verse in particular, so we will assume here that Amos means any and all Biblical verses. If you ever found a sentence in the English language where the context surrounding that sentence invalidated what the sentence in question actually says, even if that sentence is sensical on its own, the whole kit and caboodle would be utter nonsense. If you have a syllogism in which the second statement (the minor premise) neither follows the major premise that precedes it nor leads to the conclusion that follows it, then the whole syllogism is unsound as an exercise in formal logic:
Everyday, the sky is blue.
Today’s sky is green.
Today is just like any other day.
Of course no Christian will be able to “logically” explain how a verse’s context invalidates what it says because such an occasion would be “logically” nonsensical. The text itself would crumble in incoherence, which is certainly not the case if Amos can draw enough sense from the text in order to disagree with it or any of the other atrocious things he may do with it.
What Amos was likely trying to say was, “you will never find a verse whose context does not support what the verse in question actually says.” Hilariously enough, Amos is presenting the exact position of Christians and logicians everywhere. Christians believe this in the affirmative and so study the historical-grammatical context of scripture in order to understand the holistic sense of the message. The only difference is that, while Amos says this, he means it in the negative and bemoans any Christian who actually wants to take him up on the context because he has already written it off as irrelevant and considers himself unarguably correct. He challenges you to use the context and then mocks you when you try to do so. Truly excellent form.
14:46 –“You can never cherry-pick a verse from the Bible; they are written as definitive commands in the Bible. So, bottom line, whenever a Christian ever mentions that you are cherry-picking these verses, it is just another way to make you feel vulnerable and divert attention from their complete lack of a substantial argument. It’s similar to the, ‘you are just too young to understand. Wait until you are older,’ retort.”
So, here we get Amos belief that all atheists are justified in extracting and using scripture as they will because, according to Amos, it isn’t possible to cherry-pick the Bible because everything is a command. Not only does this show a failure to understand how the Bible operates from book to book, from subject to subject, and not only in the messages being presented but also in how they are relayed, but we also have this beautiful tidbit from 12 minutes earlier in the video:
2:48-3:02 –“[Christians], instead, cherry-pick any verses about compassion in the Bible, completely ignoring the verses that contradict them and then claim that they are followers of the Bible.”
That’s right, folks. It is an impossibility to cherry-pick from the Bible, but only if you’re not a Christian. Amos even goes so far as to say that Christians aren’t Christians because they cherry-pick, which, again, is an impossibility according to Amos. But, because I do not want to appear condescending to Amos, as though I were dismissing him and saying as he despises, “you are just too young to understand” or “wait until you are older,” I would like to address the context of some of the verses Amos raises as problematic elsewhere in the video, even though some of you, if Christians, might have already heard and understand the holes of Amos’s arguments.
8:28- — “This verse (Matthew 6:19) tells everyone to throw away all of their money. But then Christians say…’that simply means do not prioritize the accumulation of wealth and be corrupted by greed’. No, (expletive), it means take all the money in your bank account and throw it to the dogs and tell other people to do so too, other wise God will not be happy and will stone you. Or this completely (expletive) sexist comment (Ephesians 5:22) that tells all wives to submit to their husbands because males are better.”
Alright this is a two-parter. With regard to Matthew 6:19, the context and syntax actually is important, despite Amos’s mockery. First off, the words used in verse 19 are “lay up” or “store up.” These are words connoting excess. This verse comes after 6:1-4, in which rules for giving are outlined, none of which say anything about giving everything you own away to the needy and sitting naked in the wilderness, content that, though you will slowly die of starvation/exposure/disease,wild animal attacks, you have done what Jesus commanded. The very idea of such is ludicrous since, because this is considered a command for everyone by Amos’s own determining, it would yield nothing but an infinite process of people frantically passing everything they own back and forth to each other so as to possess nothing and therefore obey God. The very idea of meeting the needs of another and showing generosity as God calls for it necessitates the possession of means with which to do so and, presumably, from which you are sustaining yourself to do so.
With regard to Ephesians 5:22, we can again see how in complaining that no amount of contextual finagling can justify what the verse says, Amos clearly hasn’t read the context with regard to the epistle itself or its context within he greater biblical narrative. Also, its not like he’s proposing some newfound difficulty in scripture that Christians have gone for millennia without confronting, which shows that he is so convinced that he is right that he hasn’t even tried researching the historical and contemporary responses of theologians to this verse. But to save him some time, he could look at the context that he hates so very much. If he did, he would see that it all comes back to Christ and his relation to all of scripture, namely that we should be (5:21) submitting to another out of reverence to Christ.” Wives are called to submit to their husbands “as to the Lord,” meaning that they are called to submit to their husbands in so far as they [the husbands] are submitting themselves to the model of Jesus Christ, whom we see definitively called upon as the object of imitation for men everywhere:
“Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her […]. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. […] Let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” (Eph. 5:22-33)
To emphasize just how aware of this verse Christians are, I actually feel like I am beating a dead horse by explaining in this way (though there is certainly much more that could be said) because, in my church at least, we have confronted, wrestled with, and reconciled this verse to the inherent dignity of men and women. But, I’m sure that Amos would have several other objections to my explanation if he ever read this, which of course would lead to further argument likely to be as unfruitful as I am beginning to feel this post is (yet still I persevere).
10:50 — “you do not need to follow exactly the verses of the Old Testament. […] Here in Matthew 5:17 of the New Testament, Jesus explicitly says to not stop following the verses in the Old Testament simply because they are in the Old Testament. Basically God wants you to follow everything in this (expletive) book *throws Bible against the wall*.
Alright, this one could also be a long one because there is much that could be said, but none of it requires us to digress from scripture. The thought begun in verse 17 continues on through verse 20 and finishes thusly:
“Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
This is further echoed and explained when the truth of salvation through Christ is proclaimed through Paul in Galations 3:10-14:
“For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.“ But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.“ Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us…so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.”
The funny thing is that Amos has taken on the role of a Pharisee, demanding that we perfectly follow all of God’s decrees or else ever fail to be Christians. But in both the Matthew passage that he misapplies and the Galatians passage that answers him, this Pharisaism is declaimed as an impossible method by which man can be saved on his own strength because it demands a perfect and continuous adherence that man cannot possibly provide. It’s hilarious because Amos thinks that he is making an argument against Christianity, while really he is making the same exact case that Paul and Jesus made, that there is therefore a necessity of a Christ, the Christ, from which the Christian faith earns its name. Amos is in all earnestness asking us, “What’s the number for 911?” Umm…Amos…it’s in the name.
4:15-6:15 — Amos says that the subject of the Trinity brought up during a conversation with a Christian woman regarding her Christian faith was,
“a miscellaneous detail, completely unrelated to the argument to catch the person off guard. And of course they can never explain how that little detail of the Bible that you didn’t know about invalidates your point. It shows you lack information; it doesn’t show you lack an argument.”
Amos is correct that a lack of complete information does not mean that you lack an argument. However, it is funny to think that the guy who was just riding Christians for not applying the Bible in its entirety to one’s personal understanding and practical use, is now complaining that one of the most historically researched and biblically defended beliefs about the nature of God is somehow irrelevant to the Bible, the book about God.
18:51-19:41 — “When anyone associates themselves as a Christian, they are responsible for causing the suffering of millions, hostility toward homosexuals, preventing people from finding effective solutions to gain a sustainable happiness […]. This international retardation hinders logical thinking and prevents intellectual pursuits like art, science, exploration, that allow us to better understand the world and evolve as a human species.”
Whfffff…okay so, by the same logic, atheists are responsible for all of these same things under the greatest dictators of the 20th century. We could specify even further and say that atheists meet all of these same standards if we limit our 20th century dictators to only Pol Pot and the Khmer Rogue Regime. Even if Amos pleaded, as most atheists do, that atheism is too general in belief and application to associate all of its members with merciless tyrants (a few bad eggs), the implication is that he is saying it is possible to do so with the Christian faith. The fact is, if he were to truly believe that, he couldn’t defend it. He would argue that you can because his source of all ills is the Bible itself and the divisions that people have over its interpretation only speak to how potentially evil the book is. But that is where his argument falls flat. For, if there is a correct and righteous interpretation of what the Bible says, the Christian actually has grounds from which to say that the transgressing Christian is in the wrong. On the other hand, no atheist is capable of passing judgement on another atheist’s interpretation or application of their worldview because there is no definitive text or statute of appeals by which the atheist can say to his neighbor, “No, you are doing this incorrectly. You are wrong here.” The atheist can only appeal to Nietzsche (or philosophers like him) and his will to power, with an argument that appeals to numbers or force but not moral righteousness.
Add on top of the invertability of this argument the fact that Amos, as many new atheists seem to be, seems to be completely ignorant of just how much of his day to day is affected by values and freedoms grounded in the Christian faith, even in Singapore. He seems to be completely ignorant of Christianity’s involvement in and contributions to philosophy, science, exploration, linguistics, art, music, architecture, government, and so on and so forth. Never mind the fact that secularism cannot even arrive at humanism unless it disregards some of the tenants of scientism, materialism, and utilitarianism and embraces, however inadvertently, the inherent value of humanity espoused by the Judaeo-Christian faith or at least some other minor faith that had comparably less influence in Western culture.
20:53-21:05 — “Their beliefs are disgusting, their stupidity is wretched and harmful to our society, they should be laughed at and mocked (aside: nonviolently of course). They should be made aware of how stupid they are and feel absolutely guilty….”
This last statement is part of Amos’s conclusion and continues the spirit of the whole video. I think that the best response to this has already been made by Ravi Zacharias when he respond to similar statements made by Richard Dawkins. Please enjoy his eloquence and try to forgive me for dragging you through this encounter with Amos Yee, assuming you made it far enough to read this. But, please, do yourself a service and do not be like Amos. Do not be so dogmatic that your logic fails. Keep an open dialogue of ideas and arguments. And if you are an atheist, I also encourage you to not be like Amos. Be a better atheist.