Christian Culpability

burning focusI realize the following post is very dry, but it is intended for the philosophically inclined who wish to discuss ethics.

Atheists rightly criticize Christians of many wrong doings.  But should Atheists criticize Christians as a whole based on the action of some Christians.   I think not. I feel some Atheists commit the Scope of Criticism Fallacy occasionally in criticizing all Christians in such a way.  I am sure I have been guilty of this too and try to avoid it.  Such broad sweeping generalization are very tempting.  And though I am a big critique of much of Christianity, I think there is a fundamental problem with criticizing all individual Christians in an unfocused way.

Below is the syllogism I see these unfocused Atheists using.  I use variables so that you can substitute other groups to perhaps better expose the fallacy.  I may not have chosen the best examples.  If you have a better examples or suggestions to tighten my illustration, or can enlighten my mistakes,  please let me know.

The Scope of Criticism Fallacy

  1. Person W belong to Group Z
  2. All people belonging to Group Z use Tool #1 in some way to support some action of theirs.
  3. Group X, a subset of Group Z, performs Action A
  4. I despise Action A and I do not respect Group X.
  5. By merely belonging to Z, though you may use Tool #1 differently than Group X, I feel that the mere acknowledgment that you too value Tool #1 as do Group X, you further empower Tool #1.
  6. Thus, since Group X uses Tool #1 to do Action A,  Person W is also culpable of Action A.
  7. Thus Person W does not deserve my respect.

Atheist misuse of the Fallacy

  • Tool #1 = Bible
  • Group Z = Christians
  • Group X = Fundamentalists
  • Person W = A certain incredibly liberal Christian
  • Action A = Persecuting Homosexuals

Now try the following substitution to illustrate the fallacy.

Fundamentalist misuse of the Fallacy

  • Tool #1 = On the Origin of Species
  • Group Z = Darwinists
  • Group X = Social Darwinists
  • Person W = a certain non-Social Darwinist Evolutionist
  • Action A = Sterilizing Homosexuals

If someone who is better at logic than I am, could go help me name the fallacies in this argument, I would appreciate it.  Here is a good site for fallacy taxonomy.

Note:  I started this conversation on the excellent site “Right to Think” by Yunshui.

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38 Comments

Filed under Critical Thinking, Ethics, Philosophy & Religion

38 responses to “Christian Culpability

  1. Still pushing this after ignoring what I’ve said about this “fallacy”? Ok, I’ll rehash and expand here.

    First a new variable, Group Zb = All Group Z members not part of Group X.

    IF Group X performs/promotes Action A (which is despicable)
    and/or
    IF Group X misuses Tool #1
    THEN Group Zb should openly denounce Group X, Action A, and misuse of Tool #1

    Let’s call this the Law of Denouncement

    Now consider this:

    Group X performs/promotes Action A (which is despicable)
    and/or
    Group X misuses Tool #1
    Group Zb remains silent about Group X’s actions
    and/or
    Group Zb does nothing to disassociate themselves from Group X
    and/or
    Group Zb includes Group X in calculations for total members of Group Z
    and/or
    Group Zb partakes of any benefit gained by Group X as a member of Group Z
    THEN Group Zb is guilty of the Law of Denouncement and therefore do not deserve respect; furthermore, as a result of their failure to uphold the law; furthermore, their failure makes distinguishing between the groups impossible.

    If your Person W fails to follow the Law of Denouncement, then he/she deserves no respect.

    Yunshui’s objection is more profound because he would claim that Person W and the rest of Group Zb (and any faith based group) lack the means to object to Group X since if the impetus for Group X’s actions is faith, then one can’t object to it on faith alone. Doing so not only is meaningless since how does one evaluate the correctness of one’s faith, but it also validates faith, which ultimately lends credibility to Group X’s actions since they’re motivated by faith.

  2. Pseudonym

    PhillyChief, what do you think of the following hypothetical?

    Suppose for the sake of argument that I think that pornography is despicable. It is wrong for me to partake the legal precedents in the area of freedom of speech set by Larry Flynt unless I also do something to denounce/separate myself from/whatever him?

    It seems to me that the real issue here is that you have a problem with “faith”. So big a problem, in fact, that it needs to be singled out for special treatment.

    The problem with this is that “faith” means different things to different people. The word that the New Testament uses just means “trust” or “loyalty”. Richard Dawkins uses the different definition “beliefs held in the absence of evidence”. Most Christians use a vague definition that’s a combination of the two.

    Let me illustrate why I have a problem with this. Consider this instantiation of the template:

    Tool #1 = Millitary force
    Group Z = Citizen of “coalition of the willing” nations
    Group X = Neoconservatives
    Person W = A certain non-neoconservative citizen of a coalition nation
    Action A = Invading Iraq

    Is it valid for, say, the government of China to point out that the real problem here is your Western notions of “freedom” and “democracy” that are at fault and need singling out for special condemnation? No, don’t tell me that these aren’t relevant. After all, “freedom” and “democracy” are precisely the words that neoconservatives used when selling their invasion.

  3. Hi Sabio, thanks for the link.

    Sorry to say it, but I (surprise, surprise!) don’t think your analogy works. For one thing, it doesn’t actually address the issue of epistemology, which is at the heart of this debate. You over-simplify the argument by making Tool 1 a physical body of knowledge, when it’s actually the of said knowledge which is in dispute. Furthermore, with Premises 4 & 5 you’ve rendered the whole thing in subjective terms, which is precisely the problem we encounter when trying to discuss morality from a faith-based perspective.

    Because faith-based resoning is entirely subjective, one can make it say anything one wants, hence the Fred Phelps vs. Rowan Williams issue. Reality-based reasoning (for want of a better descriptor) is objective, hence it infers validity from real-world evidence. Your Social Darwinist may well obtain his worldview from Origin of Species, but Person W can then very easily show, by reference to evidence, that the Social Darwinist has made a deductive error. This is not possible in the case of faith, since person W has nothing more substantial then his or her own personal belief to cite as criticism.

    In a weak case, then, one can show that one faith-based epistemology is unable to criticise another effectively – Christians believe in Jesus, Muslims believe in Allah; neither is in any position to provide evidence beyond “I believe I’m right and you’re wrong.” A reality-based system is able to refer to events outside of its own process to infer validity – the non-social Darwinist can point to evidence of natural selection as an unguided and goal-less process to demonstrate that Social Darwinism is not supported by Origin.

    Come back to me when you’re able to demonstrate that faith-based reasoning is as objective as it’s reality-based counterpart, and I’ll reconsider. Until then, though, I reckon your fallacy is fallacious…

  4. I would suggest the following to those who object to Sabio’s thesis: (1) as ‘pseudonym’ suggests, they dichotomise subjective faith and objective reason/evidence because of an underlying prejudice against ‘faith’-based systems of thought; (2) as a result they overestimate the supposed objectivity of their own reasoning, and of their own evidence, neglecting the presuppositions which underlie that reasoning and their interpretation of the ‘evidence’. For instance, Yunshui has this notion of ‘reality-based systems’ which he/she opposes to ‘faith-based systems’; the former are objective (hence ‘reality’), the latter are subjective. He/she then asks, at the end, for evidence that “faith-based reasoning is as objective as it’s reality-based counterpart”. My objection would be that his/her “reality-based” reasoning is not as objective as he/she thinks, for the following reasons:
    1) Such an objective mode of thought is simply nonsense; a Cartesian fallacy based on a faulty anthropology. I’d appeal here to the stream of thought running through Nietzsche, Marx, Freud, Heidegger, The Frankfurt School etc. which states broadly that (a) such objectivity / neutrality is impossible for embodied humans who are embedded in a particular socio-historical context, and (b) claims to this kind of objectivity are often a cover for darker ulterior motives and drives, that is, to gain a certain superiority over those with whom we disagree. To quote Adorno, “This kind of neutrality is more metaphysical than metaphysics”, despite claims to the contrary.
    2) Dominant modes of ethical discourse in the West which claim objectivity, are as tradition-bound as those of a religious nature. Macintyre would be relevant here, for me, or more recently Jeffrey Stout in his book _Democracy & Tradition_. Both Yunshui and PhillyChief seem to follow Rawls in supposing that ethical discourse in a pluralistic context must bracket out religious issues; that is, it must be properly secularized. The likes of Macintyre and Stout have argued that this is deeply naive, in that it assumes that non-religious modes of ethical discourse are, well, really non-religious; that is, objective and not tradition-bound. In reality, even atheistic, highly secularized modes of ethical discourse have their roots in certain theologies of the 15th to 18th Centuries, with a genealogy going back to liberal theology and then Deism. As such they maintain certain theological presuppositions underneath the surface (Heidegger also pointed something like this out, re. onto-theology) which are largely ignored under the rubric of neutral, rational objectivity. In forgetting these presuppositions, many quasi-positivist scientists or scientistic atheists lack any kind of critical self-awareness.

    What I’m getting at (and I’m aware I’ve mostly dropped some names, so this may not seem convincing), is that what is really needed to move this kind of ethical discussion forward is a recognition of the subjective nature of all kinds of ethical discourse, whether explicitly religious or otherwise. The question then is how to reach any kind of ethical consensus in this pluralistic context, with many groups coming from many different perspectives.

    Also, I actually think Sabio has actually shown more ‘neutrality’ than Yunshui or PhillyChief because he implicitly recognises that atheists often make generalised, reductionist claims about Christians, which are not really very rational (Christians obviously do this the other way too). As an atheist, he has therefore been properly self-critical and seeks to move the discussion forward from there. In contrast, Yunshui and PhillyChief have merely played the old ‘objectivity’ card, which has effectively short-circuited the argument.

  5. It seems to me that the real issue here is that you have a problem with “faith”.

    I do, but I never mentioned it and if you’ll actually read my objection to Sabio, you’ll see that it had no role in that objection. Perhaps you got confused when I took the liberty of trying to present what I saw was Yunshui’s objection? THAT object is due to faith. Mine was not, and it should hold whether you substitute the fundamentalist or atheist values for the variables.

    The rest of your bit about semantics actually reinforces my objection. If your group believes “kipsy” means one thing but a subgroup thinks it means another and advances their meaning, then shouldn’t you openly disagree with them and distance yourself so that people don’t mistake you and your group of one thing when you actually believe another?

    Btw, your supposition wasn’t appropriate since there’s no ‘Flyntism’ to belong to, therefore you’re not a member and the law doesn’t apply, and his free speech victory was not something isolated to ‘Flyntians’ but for everyone.

    Simon,

    (1) See above
    (2) Next time build a basket with all that straw instead of a straw man.

    If you’re going to attack objectivity, then by all means do so. Categorizing objectivity as “their own reasoning, and of their own evidence” is merely slapping the label of objectivity onto subjectivity, which of course makes it very easy to argue that objectivity is subjective. That’s the appeal of straw man arguments.

    Let’s look at the issue of climate change. Now it’s reasonable to have a debate over the issue when both sides are pouring over a body of knowledge such as past records of Earth’s climate. What’s not reasonable is a debate where at least one party disregards any reference to such a body of knowledge because they believe everything is fine/notfine due to (insert unfalsifiable belief). THAT is the heart of Yunshui’s objection.

    Now getting back to the actual point of the post instead of dealing with your lengthy straw trail, I’d say the fault of “generalised, reductionist claims about Christians” rests largely on Christians due to their failure to follow the Law of Denouncement.

    As an atheist, he has therefore been properly self-critical and seeks to move the discussion forward from there.

    Perhaps you can find in your extensive library the atheist handbook on which you’re basing your value judgement and share it with us so that we might have an objective basis for evaluating such a judgement. And remember, straw always short circuits arguments.

  6. PhillyChief, my point was broad: claims to objectivity are self-deceptive. That’s it, and that’s not specific enough to be a straw man. I’m not attacking ‘atheism’, merely a certain kind of atheism, and given that you can get an essentially similar kind of religious belief, it’s really not about atheism at all, but about a certain kind of claim about knowledge / a certain epistemology, associated with claims to objectivity / neutrality in thought. Producing for you my atheist handbook would therefore be quite irrelevant.

    Small point though, you said: “What’s not reasonable is a debate where at least one party disregards any reference to such a body of knowledge because they believe everything is fine/notfine due to (insert unfalsifiable belief). THAT is the heart of Yunshui’s objection.”

    I agree with your point entirely, funnily enough, but your implying all theists reject evolutionary theory (Y’s example) or must do on the basis of their beliefs, in exchange for something else, such as a naive Intelligent Design kind of creationism. I disagree. Evolution should pose no real difficulty to belief in God, even orthodox Christian belief. That is my opinion at least. This is substantiated, as you probably expect, from my “extensive library” (though there is no mention of it in my “atheist handbook”). Indeed, a number of more recent entries in my “extensive library” suggest evolutionary theory may in fact be a more orthodox Christian notion that something like ID.

    Your point is useful though, and ties in with my point here: “The question then is how to reach any kind of ethical consensus in this pluralistic context, with many groups coming from many different perspectives.” It may well be for this to be possible competing groups have to first find some loose ethical framework which they loosely agree on (like your ‘body of knowledge’ above), before being able to enter into dialogue. Though again, in a pluralist context, whether this is possible is another matter. But it won’t help when the competing groups each characterise or antagonise the others.

  7. Simon:

    My word, what a lot of long words and prestigious names you’ve got there! You must be incredibly bright to have momorised the arguments of so many great thinkers, including a couple that I actually had to go and look up! If only I were as clever as you I might be able to summon a long list of philosophers who agree with me, and use lots of excerpts from the Penguin Dictionary of Philosophical terms, but since I haven’t studied philosophy since A-Level (and that seems a long, long time ago now), I guess I’ll just have to concede defeat in the face of your unanswerable salvo of pretentious name-dropping.

    Oh, and what Philly said.

  8. Sorry if I upset up you with my references, Yunshui. I prefer it when I’m debating with someone if they tell me where they are getting their views from, given we all get them from somewhere. That then helps whoever it is I’m discussing with to understand where I’m coming from, and this can make it easier for them to argue against me or find common ground with me. Evidently you do not like this standard academic practice, however, and seem to find it somehow offensive, or pretentious, or something, as if I specifically did it to upset you. I can assure you I did not, so you can put your toys back in the pram.

  9. PhillyChief, my point was broad

    Then it’s not a point, is it? It’s a big, broad, blunt surface like a table on which you can build and stand a nice straw man.

    I have no idea where you’re getting any of the rest though. I never said you were attacking atheism and I said nothing about evolution (implicit or implied) or how theists must respond to it.

    The reference to an atheist handbook was because your value judgement of Sabio “as an atheist” is nonsensical since there’s no criteria for what an atheist should or shouldn’t be. To be an atheist only means you have a particular position on gods, and that’s it. To judge Sabio’s neutrality as an atheist is as silly as judging him as someone with a name that starts with “S”.

    Back to your big, broad club of a point, it’s thoroughly useless in this discussion. The potential for personal bias or error undermining one’s potential for absolute objectivity is worth bringing up why? To kill objecting to faith based objections by suggesting the alternative is flawed, too? And does it in any way relate back to the original post? I don’t see how it does.

  10. Philly,
    I never said you were attacking atheism and I said nothing about evolution (implicit or implied) or how theists must respond to it.

    Re. the atheism thing: fair enough, I guess I misunderstood your point. Re. evolution: you referred back to Yunshui’s point which was about Darwinism – that was the connection, though it was a tangential comment.

    Then it’s not a point, is it? It’s a big, broad, blunt surface like a table on which you can build and stand a nice straw man.

    My original comment was general: it referred to an overarching critique of reason that has been going on for over a century, which I felt undermined your and Yunshui’s objections to Sabio’s post (see below). If referring to an overarching critique of reason is not broad I don’t know what is. It is still a point though.

    The reference to an atheist handbook was because your value judgement of Sabio “as an atheist” is nonsensical since there’s no criteria for what an atheist should or shouldn’t be.

    Do you live in a cave? The stuff about objectivity, ‘reality-based claims’ vs. faith-based claims is a standard atheist position, typical of Dawkins / Hitchens et al, who are the most militant and vocal atheists around for bloody ages, and it goes hand-in-hand with the kind of thing you and Y were going on about, which in turn goes hand-in-hand with a concern brackets out religious or faith-based dialogue from the public sphere on the basis that such debate is not ‘reality-based’. I admit I kind of put you and Y in that Dawkins kind of box, because of the similarities in your arguments. If I misrepresented you I apologise. However, my point about Sabio was that he was not claiming to be neutral, yet was exhibiting a greater neutrality than you or Y (who claimed neutrality/objectivity) by being deliberately self-critical in his original post, whereas you guys seem blind to the very possibility that you may not have the neutrality/objectivity you claim to have. If you actually don’t think you are all that objective then let me know, as my point will become irrelevant, but I think you think you are being objective, which for me is your **basic problem**… the basic problem which I was trying to get at in the first place with my ‘broad point’.

    Back to your big, broad club of a point, it’s thoroughly useless in this discussion. The potential for personal bias or error undermining one’s potential for absolute objectivity is worth bringing up why? To kill objecting to faith based objections by suggesting the alternative is flawed, too?

    This is getting annoying. When someone is claiming objectivity as a trump card in a discussion (in your and Y’s case, as a trump card over faith-based claims) then it is of course worth undermining, because it nullifies your point and your objection to Sabio’s post. Indeed, undermining such claims to objectivity is what loads of philosophers, including those I mentioned in my first comment, have been doing for over a century. It is not about suggesting an alternative. It is about recognising that there is no easy faith/reason dichotomy, no pure unadulterated reason which gives immediate access to ‘reality’ (even science cannot do this). Rather the truth is more complex. Even the most rational of people have elements of faith (or rationally unsupported presuppositions) in their framework of beliefs; even the most rational of people are influences by there basic prejudices in the judgements they make. This is not a problem (indeed it is human) until people start claiming objectivity, because then those claims to objectivity need to be unmasked for what they are: a cover and a deception. The point is to recognise the subjectivity of each and every position, and proceed from that more difficult, yet more truthful and honest, starting point. That is the only basis for fruitful ethical discourse in a pluralist context.

    And does it in any way relate back to the original post? I don’t see how it does.

    Finally, my comment was disagreeing with you and Y, who were disagreeing with Sabio’s original post. So I was attempting to, in some way, defend Sabio’s original point, or at least undermine your attempts to defeat it.

    Given this doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere, and we seem to be completely talking past each other, I shall duck out of this discussion. But Sabio, I quite liked the original post.

  11. Apologies for the poor grammar in that last comment. OK, ducking out now…

  12. My original comment was general: it referred to an overarching critique of reason that has been going on for over a century, which I felt undermined your and Yunshui’s objections to Sabio’s post

    Yet as I’ve said more than once now, reason and objectivity were not points of my objection to Sabio’s post. If you have time to write so damn much, then you have time to read the little I wrote earlier, and if you have read it, keep reading it until comprehension is achieved.

    The stuff about objectivity, ‘reality-based claims’ vs. faith-based claims is a standard atheist position…

    That’s something a rationalist who is also an atheist would claim as a position, but again, there’s nothing about atheism which necessitates that or anything else. The top “new atheists” are all white men. Does that mean there’s a white male requirement to be an atheist? Is Neil deGrasse Tyson somehow less of an atheist then?

    Lastly, as a bonus, I’ll actually address your attempt to undermine Yunshui’s objection since you’re so determined to tie it to me. The faith based objection to another faith based position is complete subjective nonsense. It’s comparable to two children arguing chocolate vs vanilla. No scratch that, it’s not even up to that level because at least there’s some frame of reference to go by whereas faith has none. No point of reference from which to make a value judgement. Your attempt to undermine objectivity fails for even at it’s worst, it would be far better than a system which has no reference point. Furthermore, your objections largely rely on a single person making an evaluation, whereas a key point to an objective decision is gathering corroborating evidence to counter potential individual error and bias. You, who is so concerned with citing dead philosophers as reference points for your views, should already get this so quit clowning around.

  13. Philly Chief:

    I see some issues with your “Law of Denouncement”

    First, the complicit group (by YOUR standards), may not:
    a) denounce/disassociate in the verbiage you desire
    b) denounce/disassociate in with the vigor you desire

    Second, though you feel the groups may not be distinguishable, the groups themselves may feel a clear distinction amongst themselves.

    Thus when you say,

    If your Person W fails to follow the Law of Denouncement, then he/she deserves no respect.

    You will only convince those beating their chests and shaking their headdresses with you. Your use of the phrase, “no respect” is keep to both your tone of conversation and your thinking. It is this tone and emphasis that is the core of my disagreement with you.

    I all your conversations, on my site and athers, I always have a feeling you are attempting to win a battle instead of gain understanding.

    One tool that may help you avoid this (though I doubt you have any interest in reaching understanding with those you totally disrespect) is to try to list, perhaps in bullet fashion, what you agree on with the other person. And try to be simple and quickly. Then in a similar manner say what you disagree on. But the agreed points would be most important. You’ll note that Simon did this with you often. This is a civil technique you could learn from. Though, not surprisingly, I have heard you scream your obscenities at civility too.

    In the above case, I agree, and I would think Simon would agree it is important to denounce the actions of those who share your name when you disagree strongly with some of their actions.

    As an illustration of what I started this reply with: I am a registered Republican and I do denounce Republican often, but I guarantee you I do not denounce them strongly enough for my Democrat friends.

  14. @ Yunshui

    For me, the heart of this debate is not “respect” and “civility” and “focus of criticism”.

    Do we agree that it is important to attack ideas but we should be careful to separate them from attacking a person. If so, when and how. What moral system did you use to decide that?

    On your site, you said,

    Since I, and other atheists, see faith as a groundless source for moral validity, we can argue against it.

    Yet you do not offer up what moral system you use which is better than what you call their “faith-based morality”.

    BTW, there are many Christian ethic books out there and though they all value the bible, they take different philosophical positions — from utilitarians, to situational ethics — and come to very different conclusions.

    Simon has tried to communicate the subjectivity that is inevitable in any moral system. Please tell us what moral system or philosophy you use to make moral choices concerning:
    Abortion
    War
    loyalty and perseverance in relationships
    whether to bear children
    how much money to share with the poor
    and many other such issues.

    I will be surprised if your moral system did not contain subjectivity.
    I agree with Simon, that subjectivity (trust/intuition/faith) and reason are not the clear cut mutually exclusive phenomena you and PC imply.

    In my field, medicine, I see people who try to imply that research is objective but the beauty of real research is that it ironically shows us that research is not objective, that it take much effort to take the taint of subjectivity out of research — and that we still have no sure-fire way to do that, though we are continually developing new checks. Nonetheless, we could not live if we only acted on that which we know for certain. I imagine you would not disagree with this paragraph. I am trying to see what we have in common, and be clear and brief on what we disagree on.

  15. Do you need bullet points of likes and dislikes to determine a respect level for Osama bin Laden? Is choosing not to respect him based solely on his involvement in the 9/11 attack a failure of civility by your standards, and a failure of understanding?

    Have you made bullet points of common ground with me before rushing to judgement over my thinking or conversational style? How much time have you spent understanding me?

    I think your civility is anything but. Although you won’t use obscenities, you’re still judgmental, condescending, and attack that which you disagree without any apparent attempt to actually understand it or consider you might be mistaken, and Simon appears to be cut from the same cloth. Just because you drape it all in polite language doesn’t conceal it, and in fact, I’d say the effort to try and conceal it is far worse, and far less civil.

  16. Yes, back in the 9/11 days, I had conversations with individuals that were debating what actions to take against the perpetrators of 9/11 and I used agree – disagree lists to have the conversations. That approach infuriated some and was well received by others. You have shown us which camp you lie in. I wish the Bush administration had done some more clear delineation on the complexity of people’s motivations with such lists.

    I think that small tweeks in your style may indeed get people to want to listen to you more. I have heard you chastise people on several sites and posts for not listening to you. I think this is easily fixable. Sorry my suggestions are not of interest to you.

    I thought I answered some of your Denouncement issues but you did not reply to these.

  17. Pseudonym

    I recently saw the debate between Sam Harris and Chris Hedges (a pretty even match, I thought), and something that Hedges pointed out seems relevant here.

    PhillyChief’s point (and yes, I did confuse your take on it with that of yunshui; sorry about that) is really not about faith, but tribalism. In one respect, tribalism is bad. In another respect, too little tribalism runs the risk of one group being confused with a closely related but distinct group.

    One thing that I’ve commented about before is that many Christians have a long memory and know where conflict with Christians who differ can lead. There is a real taboo amongst the mainline and liberal groups against public conflict for precisely this reason. (It also goes against the hippie Jesus image that many of them want to portray, but that’s another issue.)

    It seems to me that they probably can’t win no matter what they do. If they do carry out their disagreements in the public sphere, people will say that Christians just argue amongst themselves. If they don’t, people will say that they’re “providing cover for” the loonies.

  18. Wow there seems to be a little tension here. I haven’t read all the comments, so I won’t get involved. Instead I’ll try to start a new debate.

    I believe that one should be careful when picking one’s target. Not all Christians believe the same thing. However, I think one can still argue with them on fairly generalist grounds. For instance, by far the majority of Christians believe that God is Just, and that therefore his judgments must be so. As a consequence, if all of us non-believers go to Hell, as it is suggested in the Bible, the typical Christian must believe that we deserve to go to Hell (God being Just and not liable to make mistakes about these kind of things).

    Once you break it down, then, the majority of Christians believe that a non-believer deserves to suffer for eternity in Hell, not for being a bad person, note, but for not believing the same things that they do (i.e. in God). This is a tremendously heavy claim and it must be defended. I am yet to find an adequate defence.

  19. As a consequence, if all of us non-believers go to Hell, as it is suggested in the Bible,

    But you see, Edward, lots of Christians don’t believe that non-believers go to Hell. So your focus is too broad. You generalization is doing exactly what I am asking folks to be careful of. Generalizations are dangerous.

  20. @Sabio – So is there a relevant question you can ask a Christian to answer that involves all Christians and common beliefs within Christianity? There has to be something you can ask of a believer that doesn’t get dismissed as not part of their belief system.

  21. No

    If you are hungry for such a thing, it merely shows your polemic attitude and not a desire for dialogue.

    You can assume for a while but then you should not be surprised when proven wrong. If you only approach Christians to prove them wrong merely because they are Christians, your quest may be frustratedly useless.

  22. Ok, fair enough. I didn’t realize that merely trying to ask an all-encompassing general question of a belief system could be considered that way.

    So let me ask you this, Sabio, and please understand I mean absolutely no offense by asking it – why do you have this blog?

  23. Fair question.
    This blog (like religion) has evolved to serve many purposes — changing day by day, fluxing and morphing. But let me introspect — these include but are not limited to: writing, exploring the ideas of others, exploring my own ideas, testing my own ideas, work on drawings, trying to get visitors and conversation (community, friends, distractions), record parts of my life and thinking for my kids to read in the future, influence others, learn ….
    Those are some.
    I started out blogging to experiment with blogging — and I am still doing that too.

  24. Oh yes, I forgot: to share my mistakes and silliness

  25. You sound like someone who has written much legalese. 🙂

    So what do you hope to achieve when you say you want to influence others?

  26. I knew you would focus on “influence others” from that whole list. Your focus shows part of the problem — ignoring all the rest. Language is invariably influence. Language is manipulations.

  27. That’s simply because that list, like you say, is just like religion. I mean no disrespect, but the church would say exactly the same thing. If the purpose is to explore ideas and share conversation that’s one thing; it’s different when you try to influence others. I just asked what your motive was.

    I love it when people can think for themselves and if that’s what you’re trying to promote I’m all for it.

  28. Wow, this is an old.

    Basically, if you head out in search of arguing/fighting with any indulger (drugs, alcohol, faith, et al), you’re essentially engaging in your own personal indulgence. I don’t care to pass judgment on that like Sabio likes to. To each their own, provided the indulgence doesn’t hurt anyone (ie – driving drunk, voting against equal rights due to religious dogma, etc). Also in contrast to Sabio, I don’t see mockery of an indulgence or the person so indulging as hurting anyone. That’s a common mistake in today’s liberalism, thinking the indulgence and the indulger deserve respect but no, only the right to indulge responsibly does.

    Sabio also feels that mockery can’t influence anyone. That’s bullshit. It may not convince everyone. That I agree with, but neither will polite deference. Different strokes for different folks.

    As to why would one want to influence others, that varies as well. It could be a personal, egotistical indulgence of wanting to exert your will. It could be an altruistic caring for the well-being of others (ie – believing another’s indulgence is harmful to them, despite whether it may harm anyone else, may be impetus enough). It could also be in reaction to the negative effect on oneself and perhaps others as a result of that indulgence.

    Motives vary, as due methods. No singular right answer, but the one thing we all can agree on is faith indulgence is a negative, harmful indulgence and the largest manifestation of faith indulgence, as well as the largest promoter and nurturer of faith indulgence is religion.

  29. @ zqtx:
    Did you see my posts on:
    1. Modular God
    2. Definition of Religion
    3. Religion does not exist

    @ Philly Chief:
    Yes it is old.
    I actually do think mockery can influence people — sometimes it actually gets them to change, sometimes just to harden their positions.
    I agree with you that lots of methods work in different ways. I am glad for the many voices.

    I think the word “faith” is often misused by Atheists — for without it, we could not survive. Did you see the special on “The Edge” a few years ago where scientists wrote in about “What I believe but can not prove.”?

  30. I was under the impression that one of the major premises of Christianity is the fact that salvation can only come through Jesus/God. Certainly all of the Christians I have talked to share that belief (and its consequence that if you don’t then you go to Hell) and talk as if it is generally accepted.

    However I have not talked with all the Christians that there are, so it might well be the case that some of them have chosen to interpret that part of the bible in other ways.

  31. Also yes generalisations are dangerous, but they are entirely unavoidable. You have not seen every cannonball, but it would be ridiculous for you not to make the generalisation that cannonballs are heavier than feathers.

  32. @ Edward Fraser
    Some Christians believe that Jesus:
    (a) was a metaphor for how we need to seek a redeemed life – they don’t even believe in a resurrection.
    (b) died for all of humanity but a person doesn’t have to know it, believe it or be sympathetic to it — they are all saved for he died for all.
    (c) died before the world began and saved it in advance.

    Lots of variety out there — all calling themselves Christians.
    And perhaps more important than that are these three points:
    (1) Many Christians don’t think deeply about their religion and don’t really even value their own beliefs. They are “religious” for non-belief reasons.
    (2) Many Christians are a jumbled contradictions of beliefs and don’t know it. But this is fed by #1.
    (3) Atheists hold things based on faith, trust and even hold many contradictory beliefs. We are all a mess.

    Sure, making a generalization about generalizations would be an ironic contradiction. Generalizations serve us well often. The point is to learn to control our generalizations and not let them control us.

    Hope that made sense.
    Thanx again for all the visits today.

  33. I think we may be talking past each other. I did not say that all Christians believed x, I said that by the far the majority did. In the face of your comment I bow to your knowledge, I have not encountered any Christians that believe a, b, or c but I imagine they do exist. However, I still maintain that whilst of course not all Christians hold x, enough of them do to be getting on with, which is what I meant in the first place.

    The scope of my discussion would of course not include the those that believe a, b or c. However, they would include those that believe 1 & 2. I feel strongly that a person, be they Christian, Atheist or other should push their beliefs to their very limits. It is not enough for me that people say, I believe in God, without thinking it through. Of course they are perfectly entitled to step out of the philosophical arena. If they have felt God but can’t explain Him then who am I to argue? Tension arises when people try to defend God as a philosophical concept.

    You are right that this problem is not unique to the Christian. It is up to all of us to have a certain amount of intellectual honesty. What is unique to the Christian (at least the Christian who believe’s x – my target audience) is the severity of the consequences of their beliefs.

  34. And no problem re. my continued presence & comments. It’s refreshing to find a real debate.

  35. @ Edward Fraser
    When I talk to people about languages, medicine, physics or other subjects I know a bit about, I can quickly get them to points that expose that they think they know more than they actually do. I can expose that they have contradictory thoughts, counter-evidential beliefs and more. That believers do that in religion is no surprise. We all do it. If someone who knew a great deal more about a subject than me (and there are thousand such subjects), my contradictions, confusion and such would be quickly exposed too. Such is the nature of mind.

    But pushed, and most of us try to defend what is precious to us — even if it is not something we truly hold for intellectual reasons. We will overextend ourselves. It is hard to be honest when a lot is at stake — our own minds will lie to us, so it is not intentional dishonesty.

    If you feel like it, stop in at my post on “Dissecting God“. It is a post of a similar nature.

  36. Yes. I think we may have been having a discussion on said post.

  37. PS: I enjoyed your ‘about me’ section, in particular the explanation of your philosophical positions measured in %.

  38. We all do it, agreed. But I feel that there is a sense, perhaps you don’t share it, that when another’s belief set includes the belief that a morally good person deserves to burn in Hell for eternity, they should be able to account for that belief.

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