Tom Gilson

The God Argument: “Humanist” Distortions Ahead?

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Grayling's God Argument

Series: Grayling's God Argument

It only takes a moment, reading A .C. Grayling’s new book, The God Argument: The Case Against Religion and For Humanism, to discover that his “humanism” revolves around distortions.

Whereas the consolations of religion are mainly personal, the burdens are social and political as well as personal.

He goes quickly on from there to complaining about religions’ attempts to have influence in the public square. Its consolations apparently must be kept mainly personal.

But this is either astonishingly ignorant or intentionally deceptive, at least with respect to Christianity. I’ll read further before I decide whether I can tell which it is.

And read further I certainly will. This is not a book review; it’s a first impression. (I would suggest that it’s an impression that Grayling intended to impart.)

Still I can’t wait to find out how The God Argument is going to treat the social history of religion, where Christians have led the way in matters of justice, compassion, education, linguistics, exploration, the arts (he did make a not toward that early on; it’s a safe topic), science, care for strangers and foreigners, and much more. Christianity is intensely personal, and it’s intensely social. Or what does he think Jesus taught?

Now, lest I be falsely charged with claiming more than I have, I did not say Christians have always led the way in these things, or have been the only ones to lead the way. That’s a different thing to claim. All we need recognize are the myriad places where Christians have led the way: that’s sufficient to overturn what Grayling is saying here.

But perhaps I’m rushing to judgment. I’m only a couple minutes into it. But continuing, I find that Grayling thinks “critical examination of religion’s claims places it in the same class as astrology and magic.” Apparently he is ignorant of Christianity’s considerable differences from both.

And then he’s back to where he started: “In regard to the good things attributed to religion — its consolation and inspiration — ” As if those were the only good things attributed to religion.

Error, distortion, ignorance: are these “humanism”? Is this the way the book is going to continue? It’s certainly off to a bad start.

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56 thoughts on “The God Argument: “Humanist” Distortions Ahead?

  1. I keep looking for them [i.e., the persons I address in posts like these] to respond to the conscience written on their hearts (Gen. 2). I keep looking for them to see some dissatisfaction with themselves and their position, and to ask themselves if there’s a better way, a way out.

    I would edit your comment (and I know you would too) to say, “Of course we sin. We know there’s something wrong with ourselves, we know we need a way out, we know that Jesus Christ came both to show us the way — how to live — and the way out — how to be rescued from our own deep error.

    For the atheists’ error is not just confined to atheism; it is the human condition, the way we all are before Christ’s life and truth enliven and correct us. It is the way we are prone to be even afterward, if we rely on our own resources and not Christ’s.

    I call on atheists to do better because I expect it will find a place of resonance in their hearts, and that this resonance will clash with something else within them; but that for some, they will recognize that the discord is resolved not by silencing the new sound within them but by following it toward what is true and right.

    I have a strong disbelief in humans and a strong belief. My disbelief is based in our essential separatedness from God, the condition in which we all begin, which makes us so prone to error and evil. My belief is based in the obvious value God placed on us: to create us all in his image, and to die for us all (Romans 5:6). We are capable of much evil and much good. There is this great tension there. We all suffer it. I hope to highlight that tension, until someone else, someone new, also finds peace the only place it can be found, in Christ.

  2. “He goes quickly on from there to complaining about religions’ attempts to have influence in the public square. Its consolations apparently must be kept mainly personal.”

    This is one of the most pernicious “big lies” of secularism. People can’t use their religious understandings to influence the public square. That would be an inappropriate mixing of religion and the state or introduce a religious “bias”. No, instead we should only have those without religious influence since they bring a “neutral” orientation to their opinions. As if those uninfluenced by religious understanding are any more “neutral” than those who are. In fact, the only thing the lack of religious orientation makes them more of is more likely to view the public sphere as a place to exercse their will to power over anyone they can. The examples are too numerous to count.

  3. Holopupenko, just (another) reminder (again), with this as backdrop. Atheists have (why must I say it?) contributed more to society than “wanton, formal genocide.”

    I am going to delete that comment now; I regret that I took so long. It is a clear violation of the discussion policies and of common humanity.

  4. BillT:

    Social policy is ordered to truth or else ordered by power. You are right in this. Atheism offers no truth, so what else does it have to work with?

  5. Thanks Tom. The reality is everyone is influenced by whatever is the basis of their worldview. One position is no more biased or neutral than any other. Everyone has a point of view that is informed by something. It’s the something that should be what is important. Claiming a religious perspective should be kept from the public square is the opposite of the truth as you pointed out.

  6. Just read the latest edition of “First Things” magazine this AM – it’s packed with wonderful arguments that very effectively address (at a very deep level)and dismantle the absurdly superficial arguments of books like this one. I recommend “First Things” to anyone genuinely seeking understanding.

  7. Grayling was in discussion with Peter S. Williams on the most recent edition of Unbelievable? I’ll have a listen to it tonight.


    I’ve thumbed through [i]The Good Book[/i] (it seemed thoroughly boring and irrelevant) and heard him speak a couple of times and he is liable to misunderstand/ misrepresent Christianity. For example, he seems to think that because the Bible mention Lot it approves of his actions.

    I wonder can he be a bit more rigorous (and dare I suggest honest) in his thinking this time around.

  8. Hi Tom:

    I’d be interested to know whether you can name one–just one–positive contribution made by atheism that originated from that particular worldview.

    I’m not talking about atheists jumping on the band wagon of the Christian basis for, say, the anti-slavery movement or human rights or things of that nature. I’m not talking about this or that atheist scientist making a scientific discovery, because no scientific discovery is animated by atheism as a world view. I’m not talking about the clear atheism-inspired genocides of the last century… which indeed was their negative contribution to humanity and the point of my “contribution” statement.

    I’m asking for you to identify one POSITIVE contribution to humankind that originates in and is based upon atheism.

    I’m asking for one positive contribution that is enshrined in and held up as laudable in the hall of fame of human achievements.

    I’m asking for you to point to a positive (true, good, beautiful) idea that is per se attributable to atheism that you are proud to hold yourself.

    Just one, please.

  9. Holopupenko,

    What you said, and what I deleted, was that atheists had made no positive contribution.

    What you’re asking about now is atheism.

    There’s a very crucial distinction there.

    Atheists carry the image of God in spite of their beliefs that deny it. I would never accept the statement that they cannot or never have made a positive contribution. You wouldn’t either, as you have just confirmed.

    Maybe you were careless in distinguishing atheists from atheism. One, the ism, is bankrupt. Actually, many atheists would say that it’s nonexistent except as a negation! The other, the humans who are atheistic, are the usual human mix of good and bad. They can (obviously!) contribute, and many, many have (obviously!) contributed.

    This is, again, in spite of their beliefs. They can’t eliminate their humanness, no matter how much they stand against the Source.

  10. Agreed… I was careless. (I would nuance that a bit… but not now.) Apologies.

    But I’m still looking for that ONE positive contribution. Got one?

    Regarding the “can’t eliminate their humanness,” wanna bet? We ALL degrade our humanness through sin… some degrade more than others. ALL sin leads to death, some are happily on the fast track. “Eliminate”… as an completely, agreed. Damage to the point where NOTHING apart from Grace can save? You betcha. What I mean by severe enough damage: if one intentionally degrades one’s humanity/personhood through sin, what goes along with that is one’s reason–that core thing that distinguishes us from all lower ontological types. To eliminate reason is to eliminate ones humanity.

  11. We are all, or were all, damaged so greatly that nothing but grace can save.

    To eliminate reason is impossible.

    To confuse it, confound it, argue against its very basis, deny its reality — all of these are very possible. But they all employ reason. They all express humanness.

  12. Tom: I guess I wasn’t clear enough (again), but I do agree with you…

    … but I’m STILL looking for at least ONE positive contribution of atheism to humanity. Just one.

  13. Do you think any of the atheists who spout their nonsense here will be able to come up with just ONE example?

    (cue: crickets and light breeze through early-Spring leaves…)

  14. I just finished listening to A.C. Graying debate Peter S. Williams on the “Unbelievable?” podcast, which covered some of the topics discussed in Grayling’s book.

    Here are some first impressions:

    Grayling to his credit was a gentleman.

    The discussion centered on three arguments for the existence of God:

    1. The design argument from fine tuning.
    2. The cosmological argument.
    3. The moral argument.

    Though “non-traditional” this is the order in which the arguments were discussed.

    In their debate about fine-tuning, I thought Grayling committed a category error by confusing chance with contingency (they are not the same). Unfortunately Williams didn’t seem to notice this and therefore let Grayling off the hook.

    Grayling was much weaker IMO when it came to the cosmological argument. For example, he raised the objection that Theists need to explain God, which demonstrates that he, like most atheists, still doesn’t grasp the concept of God that everyone else learns in Theology 101. (Actually I learned it in philosophy 101, where my professor described God as an “ontologically self-contained being”.) Grayling then tried to argue that many of the questions raised by theologians are just meaningless. However, I think he really failed to land any punches here because the example he gave were so poor.

    Finally, with the moral argument he ended with the old atheist standby argument: The Euthyphro dilemma. He actually ended up flailing around here trying to explain the point of the dilemma, which didn’t really help his cause.

    My problem with Grayling, as with most atheist “apologists”, is that they don’t really engage to arguments because they apparently don’t even try to understand the arguments. If you really want to convince somebody you need to at least have a basic understanding of what they are trying to argue. Instead what we get is the same old, same old: pretense> posturing and then> pontification– lots and lots of pontification.

  15. Holopupenko at 16,

    Yours is an interesting question. I’ll try my best to answer you directly so you can hear something besides crickets and wind.

    However, I can’t answer you directly unless I understand your meaning better. So, first, can we agree that the “contribution” of atheism is a separate matter from its being true?

    Second, it will help to know the sense in which you mean atheism. For example, do you mean the New Atheism specifically? Can a contribution be considered “atheist” if it is a contribution that does not derive from the religious domain? For example, the medical innovations of Hippocrates were non-religious, secular or atheist, if you will, in the sense that he developed a system that observed the way the body worked to gin knowledge about the body and health. A religious view, in contrast, viewed disease as a divine retribution. So, to sum up the second issue, what counts as an atheist contribution?

    The third issue that would help to answer your question is your definition of atheism. Do you take atheism as a set of positive beliefs, or as the absence of belief, or as a relative (as in, “I’m an atheist with respect to the Norse Gods.”)?

    As I said, if you can help me with these questions, I will try to answer your question.

  16. The “interesting” question is @9 — not @16 (except in a latent sense), and is very clear: i.e., has atheism AS AN ANIMATING PRINCIPLE (i.e., which IT OWNS) ever contributed anything undeniably positive to human kind? Answer it… but reread @9 before you do.

  17. We are told (over and over) that a lack of belief in God or gods is all that there is to atheism – nothing more. I don’t know of anything that, by necessity of logic, follows from this.

    So I’m inclined to say the answer to Holo’s question is “there isn’t anything”, but perhaps Larry can think of something.

  18. “There are no morals in politics; there is only expedience. A scoundrel may be of use to us just because he is a scoundrel.” (V.I. Lenin)

    I just reread Larry’s questions @18 and realized just how evasive they are, which betrays Larry’s character as a person—and I say this in total seriousness. He’s not looking for clarification—except on his own terms: he’s looking to avoid the implications of supporting what is AT BEST a vacuous world view. In fact, it is a deadly world view for it enables NOT the objectively true, the good, and the beautiful to fill the vacuum, but opens space for evil.

    “Communism begins where atheism begins…” (Karl Marx)

    That is the “contribution” of atheism: it attempts to destroy objective frames of reference (which, by definition, limit… like the whole SSM debate which, from their side, attempts to eliminate any conception of human nature) so that ANY bad idea, any vice, and evil is seen on par with the true, the good, the beautiful… and hence leaves individuals to invent their own reality, which leads to division and strife… and eventually atrocities. It is demonic chaos. It is parasitic upon the good, the true, and the beautiful when it serves their own purposes. It is a leveling that, at the end of the day, even negatively impacts human striving, the possibility for heroes to arise, negates greatness because it’s “unfair”, decries magnanimous characters, etc. Atheism is the disordered notion that leads to heroless worlds—the kind of levelling down banal world that Mr. Incredible fights against in that movie: the real fight wasn’t against Syndrome—it was against a society that hated heros… a society in which Che Guevare t-shirts are seen as “normal.”

    “Atheism is the natural and inseparable part of Communism.” (attributed to Vladimir I. Lenin)

    Can someone please name one person that has died with praises for atheism on their lips?

    “Hatred is an element of the struggle, a relentless hatred of the enemy transforming him into an effective, violent and selective, cold blooded killing machine. A people without hatred cannot vanquish a brutal enemy.” (Che Guevare)

    Of course the pat answer from atheists is that these poor misunderstood atheists didn’t kill because they were atheists but because they were communists—intentionally ignoring the fact that atheism ANIMATES communism and other repugnant ideas. So, they argue, the murderous rampages of the Khemer Rouge, Stalin, Lenin, Che Guevare, etc. etc., are, well, “incidental”—intentionally ignoring the fact that all these enablers of mass murder shared one, common, underlying and animating worldview: atheism. Isn’t it interesting that, by promulgating such evasive nonsense, atheists profess to show their adeptness at reading people’s hearts and minds. Christians fail many, many times, but they don’t abandon that which animates them to the good. The atheist, on the other hand, asserts—and then acts upon—that there is no good.

    The greater the number or representatives of the reactionary clergy and reactionary bourgeoisie we succeed in executing the better,” [Lenin] wrote to his assistants, and he wanted to be kept informed on how many clergy had been killed each day. In a 1918 directive demanding more executions, Lenin insisted that they be carried out in a way that would strike terror among the populace (quoted above): “Do it in such a way that for hundreds of versts around the people will see, tremble, know, shout.” A 1922 letter to the Politburo sets forth Lenin’s view of the campaign against the church: “For us this moment is not only exceptionally favorable but generally the only moment when we can, with ninety-nine out of a hundred chances of total success, smash the enemy and secure for ourselves and indispensable position for many decades to come. It is precisely now and only now, when in the starving regions people are eating human flesh, and hundreds if not thousands of corpses are littering the roads, that we can (and therefore must) carry out the confiscation of church valuable with the most savage and merciless energy, not stopping [short of] crushing any resistance… We must, come what may, carry out the confiscation of church valuable in the most decisive and rapid manner, so as to secure for ourselves a fund of several hundred million gold rubles… ” (The Unknown Lenin, Richard Pipes)

    Have you folks ever read Milton’s Paradise Lost (“Evil, be thou my good!”) As with Satan, Raskolnikov in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment views himself as a superior type—one of the privileged few (‘these teeming masses exist to do our bidding’) who are not bound by the rules (‘everyone else cowers in fear of the authorities, but I’m not afraid: I’ll take what I WANT (to echo G. Rodrigues’ point)). And, so, Raskolnikov admits with no regret—in fact, with zeal: “It was I killed the old pawnbroker woman and her sister Lisaveta with an axe and robbed them.” Vice has become good, the dragon is “misunderstood” (which is why the movie Shrek is, while superficially funny, ultimately empty in moral content and vile in its leveling/dumbing downness), and the intentional sinner makes it impossible for him or herself to recognize good.

    “The World has never before known a godlessness as organized, militarized and tenaciously malevolent as that preached by Marxism. Within the philosophical system of Marx and Lenin and at the heart of their psychology, HATRED OF GOD is the principle driving force, more fundamental than all their political and economic pretensions. Militant atheism is not merely incidental or marginal to Communist policy; it is not a side effect, but the central pivot. To achieve its diabolical ends, Communism needs to control a population devoid of religious and national feeling, and this entails a destruction of faith and nationhood. Communists proclaim both of these objectives openly, and just as openly put them into practice.” (Alexander Solzhenitsyn)

    Even the crickets have fallen silent in the face of the deadly nonsense of atheism…

  19. Holopupenko at 22:

    I asked the questions so I would be prepared to answer you in the way you want. After reading your comment at #9, the short answer to your question is, in my opinion, the current intellectual and social climate in which religion generally, and specific religions, can be critically scrutinized in the public square.

    Atheism owns the modern repeated and strong call for pointing to specific evidence for specific beliefs. Atheism owns a forceful emphasis on science, and on the truth that religion is not a “way of knowing” anything. Atheism owns a more prominent community mindset today, something really unprecedented.

    Indeed, this very website testifies to the growth of atheism and the need to try to stem the departure of young and old from the pews.

    My personal view, however, is that atheism has actually contributed most everything within the modern domain of knowledge. Naturalistic thinking and knowledge, which pre-dates Christianity, by the way, is atheistic. It’s hard to think of a lasting gain in knowledge of the natural world–from medicine to astronomy to biology and no on–that isn’t the byproduct of a view in which nature is responsible and not gods.

    I understand my answer will be unacceptable to you. I suppose I could point to such people as Darwin and Bertrand Russell and Carl Sagan and Robert Ingersoll as bright lights of atheism and freethought. I hear the scoffs. That’s fine. Atheism is not a replacement for religion, and atheism’s truth is independent from your and my subjective opinions of “contribution.” The question we must come back to is why the evidence for your religious claims is stronger than the evidence for someone else’s. Ask that question to enough different people, listen to their answers, compare notes, and soon enough you will be an atheist.

    Best to you, my friend. Keep asking.

  20. The question we must come back to is why the evidence for your religious claims is stronger than the evidence for someone else’s. Ask that question to enough different people, listen to their answers, compare notes, and soon enough you will be an atheist.

    I’ve done that but I ended up with Christianity.

    Is that the contribution?

  21. I love it… when some atheist commits atrocities, “atheism animates”… when some atheist gives to charity, it’s “piggybacking on Christianity”…


    It hurts me none to say atheism doesn’t inspire much, animate much, or do much of anything, except maybe narrow the set of worldviews that one may hold, (rationally, with respect to atheism). An atheist may be a communist… he may be a humanist… he just can’t be a theist.

    So Holo’s question makes about as much sense as does “what the color red sounds like?” Red isn’t a sound, and atheism isn’t a worldview.

    It also hurts me none to say Christianity has inspired many people to do wonderful things… I only wish its adherents would be more honest and open about the bad as well… Holo, for example always seems to forget about the Christianity-animated antisemitism that made the Holocaust possible and Hitler the God-fearing Christian, when laboring on those evil ole’ atheists..

  22. d,

    You had a point there. Almost. But then you blew it wide open when you called Hitler “the God-fearing Christian.”

    And then you revealed again that you know nothing of what you are talking about. That was of course intended to be offensive, but I won’t dwell there. Instead I’ll point out how ignorant it is.

    Admittedly Hitler used words from time to time that sounded Christian in their content. (He also made a lot of strongly anti-Christian statements, and he persecuted Christians who wouldn’t toe his line.)

    But still, it’s as if you thought the Bible was about people going around claiming to be something, and that claiming it made it true. Have you read the Bible? Do you know how much of Jesus’ time on earth he spent saying exactly the opposite of that? Did you know that Christians are not identified by words but by deeds (as far as they can be identified, that is)?

  23. See our old friend Wikipedia on this. Or the Jewish Virtual Library, on the three million Christians killed in the Holocaust.

    So please do the world a favor — and help your atheist friends quit embarrassing themselves — by doing your best to halt this silly absurdity about Hitler being a Christian.

  24. d,

    Christianity-animated antisemitism

    That makes about as much sense as…well, it’s just plain stupid nonsense. Next I suppose you’ll be telling us there is such a thing as Christianity-animated atheism. You’re embarrassing yourself, d.

  25. That is to say, it’s irrelevant to whether Hitler was a Christian. It’s not irrelevant to whether more people in our day might be snookered into believing he might have been. Apparently it’s even influenced you. What a shame.

  26. Here’s how it works, SteveK:

    If Hitler once or twice claimed to be a Christian, then he is, and if so, then it is his Christianity that animated his anti-Semitism.

    If Stalin claimed over and over and over again to be an atheist, and if he repeatedly proclaimed atheism a state priority and the official policy of his secret police, educational system, and so on, then he was an atheist but his atheism didn’t animate any of it.

    That’s the way it works for d, anyway.

  27. Holopupenko @13:

    Is it your contention the truth of a belief can be determined by counting the number of positive contributions to humanity that result from the belief?

    I’m STILL looking for at least ONE positive contribution to humanity based on people’s disbelief in fairies. Just one.

  28. From the atheist blog, “The Straight Dope”…

    “Jehuda Bauer, Professor of Holocaust Studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, describes the real “god” of Hitler and the Nazis in his article, “The Trauma of the Holocaust: Some Historical Perspectives,” by saying: “”They wanted to go back to a pagan world, beautiful, naturalistic, where natural hierarchies based on the supremacy of the strong would be established, because strong equaled good, powerful equaled civilized. The world did have a kind of God, the merciless God of nature, the brutal God of races, the oppressive God of hierarchies.” In other words, definitely non-Christian.

    Historian Paul Johnson wrote that Hitler hated Christianity with a passion, adding that shortly after assuming power in 1933, Hitler told Hermann Rauschnig that he intended “to stamp out Christianity root and branch.”

  29. Tom, @32:

    Hitler didn’t claim “once or twice” he was a Christian: he claimed it over and over and he wrote it over and over. Tom, you don’t get to say Hitler wasn’t a Christian: Hitler never described himself as anything else, and he declaimed atheism more than once.

    Stalin, Mao and the Khmer Rouge, among others, absolutely claimed atheism, and every atheist needs to admit that.

    It’s as pointless for Christians to say Hitler wasn’t a “real” Christian as for atheists to say Stalin’s atheism was a “religion of the state”, or “communism is a religion”.

    The body counts are huge on both sides.

    As far as I can tell, people do evil things, and neither religion nor atheism has a good track record of preventing people from doing those evil things.

  30. Keith, have you read the New Testament? Do you know what Jesus said about people who claimed to be following God but weren’t?

    By Jesus’ standards, and by the Bible’s standards, Hitler was not a real Christian. And you, Keith, in your ignorance of what the Bible says about it, don’t get to say he was.

    Hitler never described himself as anything else? Really, now. I guess when he said he intended to stamp out Christianity root and branch, he forgot to append the explanation, “Oh, by the way, I’m not actually a Christian.”

  31. Tom @37:

    No, that’s not my contention. My fault, and I can see how you got there.

    My point was to separate atheism’s utility from whether or not it’s true. Holopupenko keeps hammering away on the utility of atheism, with the subtext that anything so awful can’t be true. It’s simply not relevant whether atheism has utility or not. Atheism could be the worst thing for humanity since Eve bit the apple, and it could still be true.

  32. Atheism could be the worst thing for humanity, and still be true, if there is no such thing as that which is good for humanity.

    That’s an introductory phrase to an extended argument that goes something like this in bare bones form.

    1. If atheism is true, then humanity is exclusively the product of “blind watchmaker” processes that know nothing of good or bad.

    2. If humanity is exclusively the product of processes that know nothing of good or bad, then there is no external and/or transcendent standard of good or bad by which any X’s effect on humanity can be measured.

    3. Thus no X can be good or bad for humanity with reference to any external and/or transcendent standard.

    That’s the easy part. Now for the hard one.

    4. Evolution’s “blind watchmaker” processes cannot invent, produce, support, or instill any physiology or behavior except for (a) that which supports successful reproduction within populations, and (b) that which appears serendipitously, by chance, along with (a) — spandrels, for example.

    5. There is no other cause operating on humans that could produce, support, or instill any physiology or behavior but “blind watchmaker” evolution (causation is closed).

    6. Therefore what is true about human physiology and behavior must be completely explainable in terms of “blind watchmaker” evolution.

    7. Therefore (4 and 6) what is true about human physiology and behavior must be completely explainable in terms of what supports successful reproduction, or chance effects.

    8. Evolution cannot pronounce human reproduction good.

    9. Therefore (7 and 8) humans cannot accurately and truly pronounce human reproduction or anything else good for humanity.

    10. There is no transcendent or external good, and there is no true or accurate humanly-defined good for humanity.

    11. There is no good for humanity.

    This is a bare-bones argument, as I said, but it does give you the skeleton version.

  33. Tom @39:

    As far as “claimed to follow God but weren’t”, my reply would be Alex, I’ll take ‘No True Scotsman’ for $1000.00!!

    History is littered with people who, by that definition, weren’t “Christian”, including Aquinas, Augustine and Luther.

    I don’t say Hitler was a Christian. Hitler himself said it and wrote it repeatedly.

    It’s perfectly reasonable to argue Hitler was lying and using religion for his own political purposes; absent that possibility, we can take Hitler at his clear word.

    I repeat: I know of not a single quote where Hitler describes himself as anything other than a theist, and a Christian. He rails against the church and Christianity, but never describes himself as anything else.

    If you’ve got such a quote, well, bring it!

  34. Keith:

    Suppose Hitler said he was a Scotsman. Would there be a way to know whether it was true or not?

    Suppose Hitler said he was a Christian. Would there be a way to know whether it was true or not?

    The “No True Scotsman” fallacy gets applied sometimes where people really are identifiably not Scotsmen. It’s a fallacious application of a fallacy.

    Read the New Testament, please.

  35. William Brown @36:

    Good grief, The Straight Dope is not an atheist blog. the blog doesn’t focus on religion at all.

    The Straight Dope article Was Hitler a Christian? seems pretty even-handed to me, and argues both sides of this particular discussion.

  36. It may not be an atheist blog. It is also not particularly Christian-friendly. Its bias runs more the other direction. None of which would affect whether Hitler said those things, of course.

  37. Tom @44:

    I’ve read the New Testament more times than I can count, my friend. It was kind of a requirement for me, growing up.

    We can agree if Hitler was a Scotsman because we have a shared definition of “Scotsman”.

    We have no shared definition of “Christian”.

    If Pope Innocent III can incite genocide and still be a Christian, I see no reason why Hitler can’t.

  38. Okay. Hitler was a Christian, if you insist. He was a Christian (on that basis) in a manner that is completely and irreconcilably different from, opposed to, and contrary to the Christianity I espouse. He was a Christian in a sense that does absolute violence to the meaning of the word as it is used in the Bible. But the Bible’s definition doesn’t matter; all that matters is whether someone else somewhere is identified as a Christian while acting poorly.

    I don’t know whether Innocent III was a Christian or not, Keith. I seriously doubt it, according to the biblical definition of the term, but I don’t know.

    What I do know is that Hitler was a Christian only in some unbiblical definition of the term — some definition that is tendentious, and if it weren’t tendentious, then the best it could possibly be is irrelevant.

  39. Here’s what you people need to understand.

    Christianity cannot animate an anti-Christian life

    You cannot follow Christ by NOT following him. Many of you want to say that Hitler was a Christian. I don’t agree at all, but if you want to say that here or anywhere else you MUST also say that he lived a very anti-Christian life. Holocausts are not part of living a Christian life.

    If you’ll put those two statements together then maybe we can move on to more interesting things.

  40. He was a Christian (on that basis) in a manner that is completely and irreconcilably different from, opposed to, and contrary to the Christianity I espouse.


  41. “Theism” per se isn’t a good thing, either, though – ask the Aztec citizens.

    Specific theisms might be good or bad, but ‘religion in general’ isn’t inherently good or pernicious. Even monotheism isn’t inherently good or bad – as I’m sure many here would contrast, say, Islam and Christianity.

    So atheism wouldn’t be good or bad, either. Some forms of atheism can certainly be bad – e.g. communism, particular “Marxism-Leninism”. No dispute there.

    But – and here’s something Holopupenko doesn’t seem to notice – not all atheism is communism, any more than all monotheism is Islam. I’ll point to Jonas Salk’s ‘biophilosophy’. (You know, Salk – the guy who invented the polio vaccine and refused to patent it so it could be as cheap and freely-available as possible.)

  42. Keith @ 42:

    “As far as “claimed to follow God but weren’t”, my reply would be Alex, I’ll take ‘No True Scotsman’ for $1000.00!!”

    Cool. So I suppose that if I claimed to be a liberal whilst actively working towards a fascist coup and the establishment of a totalitarian dictatorship, it would be fallacious to point out that I wouldn’t actually be a liberal, right?

  43. I’ve also been worried about what the New Atheists are calling “public”. There seems to be an equivocation, in which the stipulation that religion not be in the “public” square (which meant official government statements), is being used to ban religion in “public” (that is, on the news or in anywhere else outside one’s house and church).

    Of course, I think it’s a fairly dubious claim that there’s a case to be made for the former. But, even granting that, the latter doesn’t automatically get thrown in.

  44. in which the stipulation that religion not be in the “public” square (which meant official government statements),

    Actually, the phrase ‘public square’ is used almost exclusively by people who want to include religious references in government locations and operations.

    is being used to ban religion in “public” (that is, on the news or in anywhere else outside one’s house and church).

    Who specifcally says you can’t mention religion “on the news”?

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