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Some beliefs are so dangerous that it may be ethical to kill people for believing them. – Sam Harris.
This is a dangerous quote from Mr.Harris because it muddles the line between action and intent. How can there be any sort of dialogue when one faction can be singled out for death for nothing that they have done, but their beliefs.
Consider how easy it would be for opponents of US policy to follow this same doctrine – would they too be taking ethical action?
Harris, in this context, is not adding clarity to the complex problem of the interaction of secular and religious ideals.
Late to the party as usual, this mash-up of Sam Harris laying the smack down on christianity is too good not to post.
A fine discussion on what science can contribute to morality and moral structures.
It is troublesome to have the faith compare your views to theirs, when clearly they are not in the same category. Sam Harris addresses this and the often quoted “evil three” of Atheism Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot. He does a fine job in dismantling these clunky canards.
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 »