17 November, 2008

Progress Report: Look, It May Not be Much, but It's Progress


Less than a thousand words, yes, I know. With Aunty Flow here and a ton of ridiculous nonsense to take the Smack-o-Matic to, we're lucky it's over three hundred, all right?

You may be wondering, "But Dana, where did that lovely peacemaking attitude go?"

It's still here. It's just that you can't make peace by letting the awful stuff slide. There's limits. Even Roger Clyne has a song that punches religious frothers in the gut, all right? "God Gave me a Gun." Go look up the lyrics: you'll be amazed at how brutal a Peacemaker can be. Tolerating intolerance was never in the job description.

So I'm still within tradition, damn it. Besides, it's that time o' the month, and Happy's been bludgeoned into insensibility by Grumpy and left down a mineshaft.

With that in mind, savage my pathetic prose. Here are a few of the silly Christian tactics I'm ripping in Chapter Six, just under Fatwah Envy and The Hitler and Stalin Hustle:

Bible, Prove Thyself. Here's a chance to have some fun. If you really want to get up an atheist's nose, proclaim the Bible is literally true and then "prove" that claim by quoting the Bible. It's one of the best ways to get an atheist to breathe fire without hardly trying.

What it won't do is prove your point.

You're rolling two logical fallacies into one: the fallacy of circular reasoning and the false authority fallacy. Circular reasoning attempts to prove a statement by rephrasing the statement in stronger terms, which proves nothing at all. The statement is in dispute - so when you try to use that statement to prove itself, you're doing nothing to resolve the dispute. We're disputing the fact that the Bible is literally true: therefore, the Bible can't be used to prove its own truth. And you may see it as an authoritative source, the very word of God, but we don't. That makes it impossible to use the Bible's authority to prove the Bible.

But Christians try this, over and over and over again. They repeat themselves, as if we're just being dense and will eventually "get it." It proves only one thing: not that the Bible is literally true, but that the person claiming it has so little evidence they can't even come up with a valid argument for their claim. Using this "logic" is the fastest way to show us you're someone we can't take seriously.

The Straw Man. Here's another way to really get up an atheist's nose: build yourself a man of straw and knock him down. Let me show you how this works:

You say, "God created heaven and earth."

I say, "It's ridiculous to believe that some magic man knocked all of this mess out in six twenty-four hour days."

Do you see the straw man? You may not be a Young Earth Creationist - you may have just merely meant to say that you believe God got everything started with the Big Bang and is responsible for evolution, but I've set you up as a Biblical literalist who's dead easy to blow apart. Christians do this to atheists all the time, creating some hypothetical unbeliever who's much easier to defeat than a living, breathing, freethinking atheist. Real people are lot more nuanced than a straw man, so don't think you've won by destroying one.

Ad hominem attacks. That means "argument against the man," and it does just that: attacks the person with the idea rather than the idea itself. "Atheists are evil, immoral people because Christopher Hitchens is a jerk" would be an ad hominem attack. All it proves is that Christopher Hitchens is an atheist you don't like. It says nothing about atheists or atheism in general.

Let me put it to you this way. I'm not going to say, "Fred is a bad man. Fred is a Christian. Therefore, Christianity is bad." If I want to prove that Christianity is bad, I'm going to have to come up with a lot more than Fred. I wouldn't expect you to take me seriously if Fred was the only reason I could give for Christianity being bad. So don't expect me to take you seriously if Christopher Hitchens's status as a legendary jerk is the best evidence you can muster that atheism in general is awful and we should all believe in God. Trust me, I've got plenty of atheists I can throw at you to defeat that one, just like you've got plenty of saintly Christians to trump my Fred.

I'm sure I've fucked up something somewhere. Feel free to be brutal.

And if you've thought of any more annoying arguments Christians make when they're debating with us, please get them into comments. Thankee kindly, my darlings.

I thought I heard a footstep... Ono, it's Sleepy! No, Sleepy, don't do it, not in the face AAARRRGGGHHH!!!



Cujo359 said...

the false authority fallacy

I don't remember having heard this called a "false authority" fallacy. Generally, it's either been called appeal to authority or argument from authority. You, or whoever you are quoting, are an authority, this type of argument claims, so no other evidence is necessary.

Wikipedia, the authority on all things, says so. Therefore I must be right, and you'll need to do an edit later...

Cujo359 said...

Using this "logic" is the fastest way to show us you're someone we can't take seriously.

This is probably the best illustration of the difference between us and them. They believe this stuff, therefore, it's enough to prove them right. We don't believe it, because we see no independent validation. They can't understand that. Of course, there are Christians who are smart enough to understand this, but I'm seldom arguing with them.

Anonymous said...

There's the weird corner of Christian thought called presuppositionalism, which is quite the ridiculous can of worms:

If you ever do run into one of these characters, the discussion usually runs a bit like that scene in Austin Powers when Dr. Evil keeps intstantly cutting his son off with "Zip it!" and other ways of saying "shut up." They tend to refuse to listen to any argument *at all* until the non-believer can meet their demand to explain how knowledge is possible without the Christian God. It's very weird, though not all that common.

Switching topics, I've had Christians say things like, "what about all the archaeology that corroborates the Bible? Of course the archaeology doesn't corroborate the Bible, unless say, the 2 million people the Bible had wandering around the desert for 40 years were some how able to do so without leaving behind so much as a coprolite. It is a bit inconvenient that Tyre exists to this day, contrary to Biblical pronouncement. The mere fact that cities the Bible mentions actually did, or still exist is easily dispensed with by a quip I picked up from somewhere: Does the fact that London exists mean that Sherlock Holmes was a real person?