Sunday, September 20, 2015

Fishing with a Chick Tract

So there I was this last Friday afternoon, minding my own business waiting for the Green Line on my way home from work. I had just moments before disembarked from a Blue Line train, and as is my normal habit, I immediately checked the telescreen to see when the next Green Line would come. The telescreen indicated that I had an 18-minute wait. Seriously? Eighteen minutes?

So, as the sun was still high enough in the sky to matter, I sought refuge in the shade of a bus idling nearby, its driver off to the loo or wolfing down a sandwich someplace.

I glanced around and saw a motley assortment of humanity gathered round, waiting for whatever line to take them wherever. The crowd on the platform at this moment was rather light, with a few folks here and there, some coming, some going, some standing around waiting like me.

Off to my right a dozen yards or so was a young black man talking out loud, muttering bizarre words – something about urine if I recall. To my left about five yards away were two young obese women – one with a stroller and a little boy about four years of age and the other, super-obese, with cotton-candy-colored hair. They were as loud vocally as their health symptoms screamed in need of drastic change.

Off to my left were two other gentlemen, sharing the shade with me, standing a couple yards apart.

There appeared a small man, with sunglasses and a baseball cap, pressed blue jeans and a button-down shirt tucked in. He had a fanny-pack turned forward, and it was open. It held a cache of Chick tracts.

What would you know! Finally a somnambulating evangelist has come my way! He was moving in my direction and offered his tracts to the two gentlemen to my left. None were takers. How sad. I watched him as he failed to bait his hook.

As he passed the gentlemen to my left, I watched him look up over to me and then look away as he passed by me. His angels must have warned him not to approach me, for he passed right by without attempting to offer me one of his death tracts.

Without saying anything, I continued to observe him. He continued on to my right, trying to give a pair of young girls his tracts. One of them accepted it but continued on. He withdrew his line and cast it back into the sea. He then passed back to my left, offering his tracts out randomly, some accepting and others waving him off. I just stood still in full awareness.

Before you know it, he was way off in the distance, working the crowd and casting his hook wherever he could, hoping for a bite. He must have been a hundred yards away or so by now.

Only nine or so minutes had passed. I still had a wait. But the fisher of souls by this time had started making his way back towards my direction, as I had figured he would (I watch for a reason).

Finally, he comes up to me deliberately, as though something were gnawing away at his conscience, my eyes looking straight at him.

He said to me, “You’re still here. I passed you by earlier. When I looked at you, the look you gave me… seemed you wouldn’t be interested in this.”

I responded, “I didn’t say anything to you, and you passed right by me.”

He said, “Yeah, that’s right, so I prayed about it.”

When did he have time to pray about it? He was busy casting his lures.

I asked, “So what did your prayer say?”

“Nothing,” he replied. “So I’ve come back.”

“And what are you going to do?” I asked.

“Would you like a tract?” were his words (to this effect). He pulled out a Chick tract from his fanny-pack and offered it to me.

I stared right into his eyes, shaking my head very deliberately. “No. I wouldn’t.”

He was speechless, clearly disappointed, his prayers coming back void, and his lure again being wasted.

While his Chick tract was still in his hand and as he was flipping through it in his fingers, I remarked, “How appropriate. A cartoon book for a cartoon view of the world.”

The would-be fisher of men could not hide the look of despair on his face. But of course, he couldn’t let the challenge go unanswered. He replied, “You can call it what you like…”

I replied, “I call it how it is.”

Ironically, it was he who was then hooked, for he couldn’t let go. He was hoping I’d be one of those fish who took the bait and bit down on a sharp hook, but in fact it was he who couldn’t leave things be.

He began again, this time attempting to apply the holy terror device: “You know, ten out ten people die. That’s a fact.”

I agreed. “Yep. I’m gonna die one day. You’ve told me nothing I don’t already know.”

“The thing is,” he continued, “where are you gonna go when you die?”

I explained, as though it weren’t already clear, “I don’t believe in fantasies. I can imagine an afterlife, but I know I’m imagining. It’s all imaginary.”

“Call it what you will,” he said. His words were as effete as the tracts he was peddling. “But your soul is immortal. When you die, it’s not over.”

I used the presuppositionalists’ own favorite debating mantra against him, “How do you know?”

This seemed to take him aback, for all he could do was say something to the effect that “the Bible says so.”

“I don’t believe fantasies,” I stated. “I don’t believe Harry Potter is true.”

“I don’t believe Harry Potter either,” he replied, trying to recover from being disarmed at this point.

“Let me ask you,” I interjected. “Does wishing make it so?”

The man looked down at the ground, pondering, “No… well…” He stammered, searching for a satisfying answer that’s impossible for him. “It depends whose prayers…” He was fumbling.

“You see,” I replied, “I understand that wishing doesn’t make it so. I grasp this. That’s essential to thinking with an adult mind. But you think wishing can make things true.”

I had misjudged the efficacy of my anti-apologetic at this point, for he was getting visibly distressed, when in fact I had expected the other devices of the Christian devotional program to kick in and rescue his outward persona more effectively from such damning give-aways as he was, albeit entirely reluctantly, letting on. He was in fact becoming quite distraught, though it was clear to me that he was struggling to hold things together.

As though he were running out of ammunition, he asked, “Isn’t there some higher thing you live for?”

Putting my hand over my chest, I answered, “My self.”

He clearly didn’t know what to make of this, and I’m guessing he had never run into someone who gave the kind of answers I was giving him. The frown he now wore made his face look as hollow as his worldview.

As he was clearly in the depths of an internal toil of conflict, I explained, “You won’t get anywhere with me. The world is dying from religion. Religion is killing the world, and we’ve seen this for centuries. The more we turn our back on reason, the worse things get. Your religion won’t help things. It’s making it worse.”

He turned and started to walk away, saying, “I won’t waste your time any more.”

I replied, “Happy fishing.”

Just then, he started to giggle and darted back to me, almost like a puppy, saying, “You know, that’s what Jesus said. He said ‘I’ll make you fishers of men’.”

His worldview had made him too obtuse to recognize that he was dealing with someone who already knows what Christianity teaches.

“Yes, I know,” I replied.

At this time, the bus behind me started to drive off, letting the sun through behind me. Even with his sunglasses, he was having to squint from the strong rays. “See, you run from the light,” I remarked.

“That’s why I need to stand in front of you,” he said. He was quite a bit shorter than me, and wanted my body to block the sun.

“I cast a shadow over you,” I said.

“Yeah, that’s right,” he giggled.

By this point, he had grown excessively annoying, so I stated, “Go now, before I make you feel as small as you are.”

He wandered off without saying anything else.

He then walked up to a young woman who was waiting on the train platform and handed her one his tracts. As he was talking to her, she pulled away and, disturbingly, began to cry. The fisher then rushed to comfort her, but she motioned him away with her hand. She clearly wanted to be left alone.

Some days fishers have the worst luck.

by Dawson Bethrick


Ydemoc said...


That was an enjoyable read! I can remember reading some Chick Tracts when I was a kid. I would occasionally find them littering the walkway of a shopping area we used to ride our bikes to.

Had I known then what I know now, I would've taken illustrations of a blank-faced God judging people and then casting them into hell because their names were not written in a "Book of Life," as seriously as I did such cartoons as Roger Ramjet and Mr. Magoo.


Anonymous said...

Hello Dawson and friends. Nice piece. Thanks. Here in Dallas the regulations prohibit proselytizers from plying their trade on DART commuter rail platforms or bus stops, but they are allowed to offer literature to passersby. In the past three years, I've only had two brief conversations with amateur religious apologists. Neither amounted to much. I discussed the Objective view of time with a Jehovah's Witness lady who became a bit petulant with me for denying her fantasy of eternity. The other fellow objected to my reading of Matthew McCormick's "Atheism and the Case Against Christ" on a DART green line commuter train. I was enjoying the book and so merely looked at him with an incredulous stare and said 'Yes' with a tonal inflection reserved for those deserving of humoring, and he then moved to another seat.

I appreciate Dawson's blog and will read more later. Best Wishes. :)

praestans said...

I wish the christian apologist had been someone like James White or William Craig or some frothy evangelist prhaps Sye Ten or even N T Wright or he might'v directed Dawson to his organisation to talk to a more seasond fisher.

The 'how-does-one-know' line could've produced cogent ansrs (Dawson could you please direct me please where you succinctly address such presup mantras perhaps catechistically?

I daresay it would've excluded sorrowful and impolite upmanships to do with eg stature. Two fishers casting lines and not making fun of each other's tackl. Wellaway.

Unknown said...


Though, again, I do not speak for Dawson, it would seem from your repeated inquiries regarding issues that Dawson has already answered that you are either unable or unwilling to explore the past decade of his writings.

For example, using the search term “how do you know” produced 12 results. The most relevant entry would probably be the post entitled “Reason vs. Faith” from October 26th, 2013. Similarly, using the search term “William Lane Craig” produced 18 results (9 of which deal directly with various arguments by Craig), and the search term “Sye Ten” produced 15 results (at least one of which deals directly with Sye Ten's own website).

As far as your request for succinctness, my experience with Dawson's writings is that he is much more concerned with clarity than with brevity.

In any event, I would be curious what type of cogent (i.e., non-circular, reality-based) answers could be provided by a theist in response to the “how do you know” line of inquiry that did not borrow from Objectivist principles.

Brandon D Dickens

praestans said...

Thank you Brandon, as I've indicated before, I haven't found a search button on the site [is it a browser problem - I use mozilla].

I'm looking for the ansr to 'how do you know' &c; not just mere the occurrence of the phrase, of course. If there's clarity in the answer, all well n good. Forget succinctness, let me say I'm seeking congency - I'm a beginner so no obtuse objectivist discouse please.



Unknown said...


Although I use Google Chrome, I would imagine the following would also be applicable to Mozilla FireFox:

At the very top of the blog page, you should see the orange Blogger icon. Immediately to the right of that icon is a text field with a magnifying glass icon. That text field is the search box. Simply type some keywords (such as the ones I provided above) and strike Enter on your keyboard. Blogger will then return all posts within Dawson's blog that contain those keywords, usually starting with the most relevant first at the top of the page.

Also, sometime between 2010 and 2011, Dawson discovered how to create post previews, so you should be able to read the introductions to various posts created after this time in order to see if they are addressing your questions. For posts prior to this time, the search function will instead return the entire text.

And while it is perhaps a matter of taste, I have found Dawson's writings very cogent and not at all obtuse -- though most do require substantial reflection and critical thought.

Best of luck in your future investigations.

Brandon D Dickens

praestans said...

Thanks Brandon [ps is it de rigueur to use noms de plume - as yours and Dawson's seemingly are?]

I had ad block on all the while that's why there wasn't a blue bar on top.
I've found 17 matches.

In his 3/9/10 post Dawson writes

[As regards cogency] "as I am constantly reminded by my detractors, I’m a wordy son of a bitch,"

Whilst I couldn't possibly put it as he has, there does seem some idea there of what I'm on about. I took me ages to understand Kenan Malik, prhaps it'll be the same here.

Alif [real name]

samonedo said...

As though he were running out of ammunition, he asked, “Isn’t there some higher thing you live for?”Putting my hand over my chest, I answered, “My self.”

Wrong answer Equality 7-2521 hehehe

Anonymous said...

I used to think that even creationists would be embarrassed of those Chick Tracks. "Fishing" with that kind of bullshit?! Holy crap!

Anonymous said...

Alif (praestans),

It is true that a lot of Objectivists write in too much of a jargon of their own, and then again, maybe forgetting clarity altogether.

Well, the good news is that Dawson, while verbose, is not obscure. His writings are very very easy to understand, only it takes a while to read them.

Give it a try. It's worth it.

Anonymous said...

Alif (praestans),

As of me, well, I just make fun of the presuppositional bullshitters. They could not care if you have an answer or not. They just want you to fall into a semantic trap and keep you there. They're only interested in putting you in their little box of what they think you have to believe, and don't you dare thinking any differently. So, forget about answering them. Think, rather about understanding the issues yourself.

Anyway, what I do is tell them that anything they can;t do, they should not ask from me. I point to their deficiencies in what they think I should believe, and how they are the ones who actually believe such and such things. I do so laughing at them for their stupidity. I point to their stupidity time and again. I;m not interested in convincing them, since I already know that they could not care one bit. I just make sure that their dishonesty and deficiencies are evident. But I would normally advice people not to get too involved with those idiots. Just make fun of them. That's the most they deserve.

See ya.