15 November, 2008

Progress Report


I've added a new chapter: When Atheists and Christians Collide. When Christians get into a scuffle with atheists, they've got so many tattered trump cards they try to play that I figured I'd make a spirited attempt to list them out and let everybody know it's been done, debunked, and please come up with something new.

So far, I've got Fatwah Envy and The Hitler and Stalin Hustle. I probably don't have to explain those, but just in case... Fatwah Envy is that charming habit they have of whining, "You'd never say that about Islam because you're afraid they'll kill you!" Of course, that ignores all the times we've turned Islam over our knees and given it a sound spanking. The Hitler and Stalin Hustle is that great favorite wherein they say that Hitler and Stalin were atheists who killed millions, so therefore atheism is eeevvviiiiillll. Yadda yadda blah blah whatthefuckever.

I'm going to hit several others, which I haven't named yet: that terribly annoying "you can't say anything against Christianity until you've read all the theologians," using the Bible to prove the Bible, straw man arguments and ad hominem attacks, that sort o' thing. If you've noticed particularly annoying Christian arguments against us, as I'm sure you have, please do mention them in comments.

None of that particular section is ready for public consumption, but of course you shall have your excerpt. Here's an early part of that chapter, before I get into the silly things Christians do to try to win arguments with us:


I wish we could be. Unfortunately, we're always going to offend somebody. There mere fact of our existence is intolerable to some religious people. They refuse to engage in any kind of constructive discussion with us, because they believe we're the epitome of evil. There's nothing we can do that won't offend people like that.

There's also the "give an inch, take a mile" problem.

I've seen far too many discussions in which the slightest concession on the part of an atheist is pounced on by believers as evidence that atheists are wrong and they are right. You may have found yourself doing this, if you've ever talked to an atheist before. Many believers are so desperate to convert us to their faith that they'll misconstrue any conciliatory thing we say.

If we say that the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" is a good one that all people would do well to try to follow, a Christian will too often take this as evidence that Christianity is morally superior to all other faiths, that the Ten Commandments should be displayed in every classroom and courtroom in the land, and that the atheist has just lost the argument. They don't hear us saying that prohibitions on killing have been part of every human society in some form. They believe that if the commandment were taken away, if it's not a religious prohibition, people will kill indiscriminately, when that's just not true.

When we say that people of all faiths and lack thereof should be treated with respect, too many Christians use that to demand respect from us for their beliefs while showing absolutely none for ours.

I could fill the rest of this book, and several volumes more, with examples, but those should suffice. We atheists often have to be forceful to the point of offense so that our views are manifestly clear.

Sometimes, we even have to get downright rude, like you might have to with a used-car salesman who won't hear a word you say. Rudeness, while not pretty, does have its place. It can shock people into silence long enough sometimes to get them to listen to you.

We're going to end up shouting at each other. It's inevitable. It's what we do when we've stopped shouting that's important. If we end up laughing at each other's outrageous antics and start building a better understanding together in the wake of them, that will be a wonderful thing.

I'm sure I'm going to be able to say that better when I revise it, but I just want to get across the point that religion is so automatically accepted as a positive good that we can't really be polite and conciliatory when we're fighting its abuses and assumptions. Any improvements you could suggest would be lovely.

And with that, the cat is informing me it's bedtime. Tonight's the Peacemaker's concert, so if things go a bit quiet round here, you'll know the reason why. I've been working me arse off. Time to play before the final push to 50,000.

Or so I tell myself. Really, it's because the Peacemakers are the closest thing I have to a religion, and I wouldn't miss them for worlds.


stevec said...

Appeal to consequences (a logical fallacy) is a favorite:

Examples: "without belief in god, there is no reason to be ethical." (Most atheists would rightly respond "yes there is, blah blah blah...", but there's another response: Suppose it were true that without belief in god there really was no reason to be ethical. This is an argument of the form "If X is true, then Y happens. I don't like Y. Therefore I can't believe X", where X = "there's no god", and Y = "there's no reason to be ethical."

Another example: "Without god, life is meaningless." (Ignoring for the moment that "the meaning of life" is a slippery concept, so what? Maybe there really is no meaning of life as the theist has thought of such a thing. Whining that this meaning of life they've though they had would disappear doesn't make god any more existent.

Anonymous said...

The most annoying one for me is when they advance arguments about an unknowable, deist-type god, in order to tempt an atheist into saying, "yes, that sort of god could exist" but before you can pronounce the words "but if we can never know anything about them what difference does it make" they suddenly make a logical jump to "therefore the god of the Bible exists". I'm afraid I don't have a catchy title though - the magician's switch perhaps?

Blake Stacey said...

that terribly annoying "you can't say anything against Christianity until you've read all the theologians,"

Sometimes termed the Courtier's Reply.