Thursday, June 5, 2008

No true Scotsman

Oftentimes while discussing religion, the No True Scotsman fallacy is used. The fallacy is basically a circular argument where if something doesn't fit an assertion, it's dismissed as not being a valid example. For example, if I were to say that no Scotsman jumps rope, but then you pointed out that your good friend, Angus MacHaggis, jumps rope, my retort would be that Angus is not a "true Scotsman."

Christians often use this argument when trying to argue that their religion promotes morality. If you point out an evil, screwed-up thing that a Christian has done, they will respond that they're not "true Christians." In all honesty, I think that in some cases they have a point. The time when it gets really annoying is when somebody points out that he or she used to be a Christian once, but then through various circumstances, abandoned the faith. These people are told that they were never really real Christians to begin with, because once one has truly accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, then it's impossible to turn away from it.

Bullcrap, I say. Now, I'll admit, I was never "born again" and I was never fundamentalist or evangelical. I most definitely did believe in God though. I used to have the running dialogue (more of a monologue, if you want to be honest) with God in my mind. I used to believe that Jesus was there next to me during difficult times. Now I can honestly say that's all gone to me. I call upon Jesus about as much as I call on Superman (probably a little less even). That aside though, I've read enough from people who were big-time believers who later abandoned their faith. I don't see any reason to believe why they were somehow not "true" Chrisitans. It comes off as patronizing to me when Christians tell these people that they were somehow not true in their faith, as if they know these peoples' minds better.

What about atheists though? I know that I've bristled at certain Christians telling me that they were "atheists" at one time. Now, I don't doubt it that they fit the strict definition of atheist, as all one needs to be one is to not believe in any gods. Fair enough. Still, when they try and compare themselves to me, it doesn't ever seem to fit. For instance, they'll tell me that they believed in ghosts, psychics, astrology, whatever. That's not really the same as me. I came to atheism by being a skeptic, and I actually had rejected all of those things, and rejecting the idea of God was a natural next step for me.

Then I've heard things where somebody claimed that he was an atheist until he was confronted with the "proof" of Jesus' existence. What was that proof? The empty tomb? Excuse me, but whaaaaa????? Does that mean that the Millenium Falcon is proof of Wookies? That makes shit all of sense. I've also heard certain fundamentalist types say all sorts of ignorant things regarding evolution (remember, kids, evolution doesn't disprove God!) - things that anybody who knows the first thing about it wouldn't say.

So, what are these people? Were they "true atheists"? As I've said before, all that means is that you don't believe in God - so yeah, they were true atheists. Still, they weren't like I am now. Maybe I need a different word. Skeptical atheist, maybe?

As to whether there ever was somebody like me, who came to atheism through skepticism, but then became a believer in God, I'd like to hear about that. As of now, I don't know of any, but I'm willing to be proven wrong.

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