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I often worry about attacking straw men. When positing my arguments against a position, I often wonder is this position I’m attacking really the best the other side has to offer? Surely there must be a more educated and reasonable version of this put forth by someone who’s actually an expert in the field. I am confronted with feelings of disappointment rather than vindication when it turns out the “less refined” argument I am debating against actually encapsulates everything their experts have to back them up.

This disappointment gripped me thoroughly as I read an article by columnist and best selling author, Reza Aslan. The article is posted here. In it, Aslan speaks out against “the new atheism” and its heroes, Harris, Hitchens, Denett, and Dawkins. One would hope that a distinguished writer like Aslan would be able to display the best that the religious and their apologists has to offer, especially as this is the exact topic with which Aslan has acquired his writing accolades. But where I hoped to find well thought out and more in depth reasoning, I found only the same weak arguments delivered with a slightly better vocabulary and smoother writing style than the unknowns I’d been debating with previously. But, as I do still want to avoid any chance of straw-manning, here is my reply to Reza Aslan, champion writer for the anti-secularists.  Sit tight, its a doozy.

Aslan starts by talking about a bus-board that reads ‘THERE’S PROBABLY NO GOD. NOW STOP WORRYING AND ENJOY YOUR LIFE’ saying that he

laughed, amused that atheists in the UK were miming propaganda techniques perfected by evangelical groups.

My objection to this comparison is two-fold. First, he is making use of a type of ad hominem known as the ‘you too’ fallacy. Theists engage in this fallacy relentlessly as they seem quite happy to rebound any criticism of religion and use it on science.  Atheists are just as stubborn in their beliefs as theists are.  Science requires as much faith as religion does.  Atheists use as much propaganda as evangelicals do.  These ‘you too’ statements are fallacious because they depend on where the objection is coming from, not on what the objection is; even if theists were correct in saying that non-theists are guilty of the same logical flaws, it doesn’t mean that theists get a free pass to engage in those flaws.

Which leads me to my second objection, that non-theists are NOT valid objects of the ‘you too’ defense, even if it weren’t fallacious. Aslan figures that a bus ad is equivalent to evangelical propaganda? One: Bus ads are universally used by organizations of a multitude of platforms from cancer research foundations to community events to the sale of cookies. It isn’t fair to suddenly consider this medium a condemnation worthy strategy the moment a secularists to uses it.

Two: Even if bus ads are propaganda, theists employ much more dastardly methods. There are no atheist camps where children are scared/scarred with threats of eternal torture if they believe in a god. There are no weekly gatherings where atheists sing repetitive songs about the non-existence of gods and how the only reason that any good in the world exists is because of this deistic absence. There are no atheists on street corners or on tv crying that if one is a believer it is impossible for that person to act in a moral fashion and further, the believer is evil and deserves some cosmic punishment, if only such a thing existed.

If you engage in a ‘you too’ fallacy, but the subject on which you use it is not, in fact, also doing it, what you have done is admitted that what you are doing is wrong as well as shown that you are unable to accept responsibility for this wrong doing and must resort to some Fruedian projection in order to cover up your own shortcomings.

I have only covered the first two introductory paragraphs and there is more intellectual dishonesty, misrepresentation, and flat out wrongness than I would allow from even wayward trolls that happen to slime across my posts. Surely this poster boy for religious apologetics can do better than this. Surely that multitude of perverse sophistry was just a mis-step, the rest of the article will be full of good solid….ohhhh fiddlesticks… Read the rest of this entry »

It amazes me how sometimes, when I criticize something in religion, the defence that theists supply are just as bad or worse than my original criticism. For instance, I have often said that the sermon on the mount promotes the idea of thought crime. Thinking hateful things is the same as murder and thinking sexy things is the same as adultery. If anything could show Christian dogma to be one of totalitarian fascism rather than of love, its the idea that you can be guilty just by thinking something.

When I point this out, I often get told that the message that I OUGHT to be getting from that passage is that, in the eyes of god, a sin is a sin. Sins are all equal under god’s divine judgment.
The first time I heard this, I did a double take. Even someone who’s had their intelligence ebbed by the retarding forces of religion should be able to see the horrible consequences of that little gem. Alas, once again, my optimism and charity were quickly deflated. That person was serious. So were the great number of believers who have told me the same thing since.

So, for them, and any who happen to think along the same lines, I would like to explain why it is so horrible. By saying a sin is a sin is a sin, and they are all morally equivalent in the eyes of god, the theist is equating the suffering a shop owner feels when someone steals a piece of gum from his store to the suffering felt by a rape victim. Indeed, if two people each steal a piece of gum, the shop owner has suffered from twice as many sins against him than the rape victim, so the shopkeeper has, by Christian math, been wronged more.

While I could go on at length why this is horrendous in the worst kind of way, I think if you can’t figure it for yourself, you are beyond any help that my postings can ever hope to give. But, to my amazement, the believers aren’t stumped by this. They say ‘oh, of course, to us humans one is much worse than the other, but I’m talking about in GOD’S eyes, not ours’.

They don’t seem to realize that their answer still doesn’t make anything better. They say that their god is perfectly good and just. If that is so, any difference between humans perception and that of their god would mean a deficiency on our part. That means, according to this abhorrent little bit Christian philosophy, rape victims are WRONG when they feel worse than the robbed shopkeeper. And our justice system is WRONG to treat the rapist more severely than it treats the gum thief. For if they were a bit more like Jesus, they would see that a sin is a sin and the right thing to do is to treat them equally.

If it’s morally reprehensible that a human take a certain view (like candy burglary is as bad as rape) then it would be just as revolting if a sky faerie took that view. So, not only does this sermon on the mount establish the ground rules for thought crime, it also, thanks to the defence posited by Christians, shows their god to be a despicable and morally bankrupt entity that belittles the suffering those who have endured the worst of crimes.

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