I 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
- Person W belong to Group Z
- All people belonging to Group Z use Tool #1 in some way to support some action of theirs.
- Group X, a subset of Group Z, performs Action A
- I despise Action A and I do not respect Group X.
- 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.
- Thus, since Group X uses Tool #1 to do Action A, Person W is also culpable of Action A.
- 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.