It’s Straw Men All the Way Down

I’ve decided, whether this leads to unjustified promotion or not (they will get at LEAST 2 clicks from my blog if I link them!), I will include the reference at the top of each entry.

I will clarify that a Straw Man argument is the fallacy of misrepresenting the argument of the person with whom you disagree. Atheists throw this around when speaking about religious people, and religious people throw this around when speaking about atheists. In the linked video, though, I think they take the meta game up (down?) one more level; if you are going to dedicate an entire episode to straw man arguments, you should avoid making them. Or maybe I am the crazy one; maybe saying “Can you believe these jerks with their unfair straw man arguments? Well, here is us using straw man arguments against them!” is what normal people consider a prudent option.

I know I have made several straw man arguments; I do not do so intentionally. As I grow and mature, I realize that when approaching the same place from two totally differing directions, two people will not make the same assumptions. Don’t get hung up on assumptions; we minimize it, but as humans, we make them. As I continue to write, and to think, I make a strong personal effort towards seeing where the opposing party is coming from. This is not easy, and that is why so many people do not even try.

The episode itself like to take a popular artistic image with some added dialog. Jesus is knocking on the door of a (presumed) non-believer, with the following conversation superimposed:

Jesus knocks on the door.
Other: “What do you want?”
Jesus: “To save you!”
Other: “From what?”
Jesus: “From what I’ll do to you if you don’t let me save you.”

Obviously, this is making fun of the nearly universal doctrine that if you do not believe in our omnipresent, loving God, you will be sent to hell (by, one assumes, that same God). From the outside, it is easy for (almost) anyone to understand what the atheist/commoner sees here. You must believe in God, or you go to Hell. This is a core doctrine.

From a Christian standpoint, the issue is not nearly so simple. First, obviously, to them it is a sin (in fact breaching one of the cardinal Three Commandments) to deny God, or worship other gods. Many outside of the Christian faith are not aware of the first three commandments, mind, or don’t understand that these are held to a somewhat higher standard than the following seven. So by disrespecting God, you are deserving of judgment by God. It is a narrow cable you balance upon, though, for only God has the right to judge. As per Matthew 7:1-3, judge not lest ye be judged. You will be judged by the same criteria that you have judged others by.

Since we are judging by the first three commandments, I believe it is fair for me to hold you accountable, Eric Hovind, and you, Ken Ham, for your Ark Encounter, Genesis movie, and especially (I would like to emphasize this as much as I am able) the Creation Museum . The second commandment is as follows: You shall not create for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.

This is a very interesting cross-religion study, by the by. In Islam, this is a core doctrine; if you go to an Islamic School or Academy in the west, you will see the art and architecture is very abstract. This is an illustration of the fact that those in Islam take the ten commandments very, very seriously, whereas even the most wary Christian makes (admittedly minor) breaches of the commandments nearly daily. The Creation Museum, Ark Encounter, and The Genesis Movie are all dangerously popular, and to some garner more respect even than God, Himself. Mr Ham, and those like you, I would recommend caution, for your God is a jealous God. You may revere him above all else, but for more casual Christians… Have you led them astray?

Ah, sorry, I found myself distracted. Where was I? Right, Matthew 7:1-3. I believe, if I believed that God Himself handed down these words, He intended them to be a blacksmith of sorts, tempering the argument of both sides. The Christian fundamentalists who often (and explicitly, in the linked video) say that judging those who have done wrong is not only just but justified is tempered, and the atheists who target them, tempered the same.

It may seem like I am judging, and am thus opening myself to my own argument. I am, certainly, to a degree, though I will admit that I often find myself in serious violation of the ten commandments, and am not worried about it overmuch. In this case, though, I will leave myself open to some level of backlash to prove a point. The argument is, too often, not about substance, it is about throwing decontextualized quotations at each other, and hoping that somehow they will make a difference. I know what I am saying here probably won’t make a difference, but I would like to at least try to elevate the discourse. In the linked video, a meme-style image was used to attack Christian belief, and they responded in kind. To the playground-politics-minded among you, I will say that this adds up to a slap fight, but one in which the potential collateral damage is large. To the more worldly among my users, permit me a quote from a personal hero: “An eye for an eye will only leave the world blind.”

For the religious among my readers, please think about your own words, and how they follow the precepts of your personal deity, be he God, Jesus, or the pantheon of Hindu gods and goddesses. I won’t even be upset if the Christians among you ignore the Old Testament rules, and stick more closely to following the Golden Rule. It’s cool.

To the non-theist readers, please respect the other side as much as you would respect someone else who is on your side. We are all humans, we all love and live and seek the approval of our peers. You will no more win the theistic to your side with derisive arguments than they will win you to their side with the same.

One thought on “It’s Straw Men All the Way Down

  1. To the non-theist readers, please respect the other side as much as you would respect someone else who is on your side. We are all humans, we all love and live and seek the approval of our peers. You will no more win the theistic to your side with derisive arguments than they will win you to their side with the same.

    So true. And the online religious discussions are unfortunately filled with disrespect. Theists included. Luckily, every once in a while there are some bright spots though.


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