Arguing Ad Absurdum Ad Nauseum

I have spent the last two days preaching understanding and finding common ground. This episode of Creation Today is so mind bogglingly frustrating, I had to write about it. I just really, really had to.

First, they are decontextualizing a statement by Bill Maher painting all religion as bad, extending that argument ad absurdum, then “refute” it by supplying further absurd arguments. Luckily for me, they managed to tie everything I have been talking about for the last few days together all in one nice little package of ignoring ALL OF MY ADVICE FOR GETTING ALONG. Fine, Bill dropped the gloves, you decided to punch everyone because of him, so I am picking up my own gloves and punching back.

You will have to watch the video for Bill Maher’s exact statement, but it comes down to the foillowing: Religion is a negative force, as it has caused major wars, supported honor raping, honor killings, suicide bombings, protection of pedophiles, etc.

Now, everything Bill Maher said is, technically, historically correct; religion has been used to justify all of the above in the past. To be fair to Mr Maher, he did catch things that are identified primarily with Islam, and also identified things primarily associated with institutionalized Christianity (essentially, The Catholics).

He is an asshole, so I can hardly be mad at their response. Let’s see what they have to *RAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGEEEEEEEE*. Oh, sorry, I blacked out for a second there.

What?! That’s their response?! For those of you that cannot watch the video due to being at work, I will speak about it while exercising my willpower to prevent myself from blacking out from the sheer disingenuity of their argument!

“Bill Maher is saying all religions are bad, because some of them have done these things. Therefore, we have to ban cars because they cause accidents, we have to ban bats because people can use them to kill someone, we have to ban paper to protect the people from paper cuts!”

Bill Maher left himself open to ten thousand arguments, and this WAS NOT ONE OF THEM. Cars are regulated, licensed, sold only to people who have proven some level of responsibility. If someone is running at me with a bat, I am going to defend myself. If you are afraid of papercuts, you generally (doubly so in the information age) do not have to handle paper.

Your argument is so vacuous and pointless I think every time I think about it, my mind goes completely blank. It is making this post very difficult to write, and people keep commenting that I look like I am just staring blankly into space.

You could easily counter Maher’s argument by putting it in context, for example — in first world America, Christianity is hardly ever used to justify killing! (Bigotry, though… Well, it justifies that plenty.) Instead, you reply to his absurd argument with an absurd argument, and you have left me so many openings to hit you, there are so many holes in your defense, I am standing here, confused, wondering where to attack first!

Let’s go with religion justifying slavery, as I know you hold very tightly to the Bible. The original Hebrew word ‘eved’ is often translated as ‘slave’, and best know that the holding of slaves is a Biblical INSTITUTION. The counter argument received, to show that Christianity does not support slavery, is that slave really just means “worker” or “servant”, so really, it doesn’t mean “owning slaves,” it just means “having employees.” It was all just a silly misunderstanding! Tee hee!

NO! Screw you! I went and looked it up! I went and studied a brief bit of Hebrew, just so I could talk to you about this! So sit the eff down and read!

Eved means more of an indentured servant, as opposed to ‘sakhir’, which is used to denote a hired worker. What are the rights afforded to someone who is an ‘eved’ then? Well, first, they get no wages. Nothing. You keep them alive for the purposes of work, and they get what you give them. Further, the owner retains “patria potestas” (Originally in Roman Law, but still effective in the Bible) over him; this denotes ownership in terms of property law. You choose what your slave does, who he marries, whether he lives or dies, how to punish him. Oh, don’t get me wrong, you COULD certainly pay your slaves. They COULD be your workers. The Bible does not sanction minimum wage, living standards, work hours — that is all secular law. So is this starting to sound familiar?

They aren’t SLAVES! They are just workers we don’t have to pay, that we can beat, and that we legally “own”. TOTALLY DIFFERENT THING!

Further, as per Exodus chapter 21, a father may sell his daughter into slavery. He may sell his daughter to someone, that she would work for him without pay, and so he can marry her to another of his slaves. BUT THIS IS TOTALLY DIFFERENT FROM HOW WE KNOW SLAVERY TODAY, GUYS! Also, the Bible explicitly states, further, in Exodus 23:12 that any child of a slave becomes the property of the head of house, and will work for him, and will receive no pay, and functions specifically as property. BUT TOTALLY A DIFFERENT THING, THAT IS NOT SLAVERY, GUYS! REALLY!

One last bit of Bible for you, then, before we move along. Deuteronomy 15:15 “Thou shalt remember that thou were slaves in Egypt.”

Oh, you were just workers in Egypt, not slaves! No problem, then. Hell, why’d you even run away? Being ‘eved’ isn’t so bad, that’s what I’ve been told by apologists. But no, your God himself compared what you do with your property with what Egypt did to their slaves; remember that. The only thing I have been able to find that truly tempers your power over your slaves is that a master may punish his slave as he wishes, but leave no permanent wound. Well, there you go; you can take the child beater’s logic towards the humans that you own. Cheers.

I think I have illustrated the above well enough. So you are good, Bible believing Christians, and you just “word play” away the parts that you don’t like. The Bible certainly does sanction and set down rules for the ownership of human beings. You can word play that “well, we COULD pay them…” as much as you want, but that doesn’t change the fact that your own book says it’s cool guys, go to town! (Except for Jewish men. You can’t make slaves of Jewish men! Jewish women, though…)

Alright, let’s move onto Islam, as it is preached in Qur’anic literalism. (I still love you, Reza Azlan, don’t be mad at me! I know you choose to think of Religion as imagery and metaphors, and I respect that and respect you! This is Qur’anic literalism, which I hope you will understand if you ever read this!) In the Qur’an it frequently references themes such as this, found in Chapter 9, verse 5: “Fight and kill the unbelievers wherever you find them, take them captive, harass them, lie in wait and ambush them using every stratagem of war.”

You can claim that is imagery, or not in the theme of the Qur’an, or out of context. I don’t know, I am used to Christian Apologetics, I am not used to debating the tenets of Islam, but to an outsider, it is easy to see from whence the extremists in your Religion take their inspiration. And please believe me, I know they are extremists, but they are still using clear words from their Prophet, and following his commandments as best they know how. This is not a function of the message, this is a function of the understanding of the message.

I am prepared to accept that Religion is a net good force, but I am also going to ask you to admit that there are pieces in the two most widely accepted doctrines (Christianity and Islam) that leave themselves open for interpretation by those seeking to do harm to the world. So the question is what do we do about it? Please read that last sentence again, by the way. Notice how I said “we”.

We all have to work on extremism together, because it affects all of us — but it helps no one (NO ONE) to say “Well, the extremists are misinterpreting our [Name of Holy Book].” Saying that makes no difference. Saying religion is a positive force on the whole does not make the extremism go away. “Look, I am a good person for literally 99% of the day, but you know, I just hit my wife once or twice every week.” That is what it sounds like to someone on the outside of you religion when you say “We are mostly a force for good!” Look, I want to help you with the small percentage of people who have taken your Book in a way that disagrees with you. I am willing to help you with educating people, insiders and those outside. I will help people who do not know the Bible understand the good points it makes, and I ask people intimately familiar with the Qur’an to do the same.

Woah, I got sidetracked there. Where was I? Right, vacuous replies.

Technical definitions! Atheists will often say that it is impossible to ‘know’ anything, using the technical definition of the word. To know, as it is used in technical writers, implies 100% certainty, which is (as a scientific construct) impossible, or nearly impossibly to achieve. To say “I am a caucasian male, I ‘know’ that,” leaves open the door that perhaps I am in a coma, and this is a dream. Maybe I have brain damage, and my perception is wildly skewed. To be fair, I am *reasonably certain* I am a caucasian male, but even then, reasonably certain has scientific connotations (technically, I am certain I am male, p<.01). I have not done a strictly statistical analysis, but this is more illustrative than literal.

The reply of Eric Hovind in this argument? “Well, you said you can’t know anything. I win, because my God told me what is written in the Bible is true, and I know he is true, so bam! I win. Q.E.D.” To use the argument that “My God told me that the Bible is literally true,” without any further justification is just… Well, the worst I can say is that it is not playing fair. Atheists are trying to play by the rules of formal debate, in this specific instance; define the word (and they have laid out definition for what is to ‘know’), and Eric Hovind (as well as so many other of the religious persuasion) ignore that definition.

You know what? Atheists don’t even have a limb to stand on, aside from “We are sticking to our guns because it is fair.” Christians are not formally debating, and you are being silly by sticking to formal debate rules. In fact, formal debate rules allow for you to use your opposition’s own definition. “My God said this is true,” is a valid proposition for what is “to know”, therefore you can counter with “My reason dictates,” and we all move along. To stop a debate from moving forward because two sides are having literally the MOST BORING pissing match ever (a pissing match OF WORDS) is just — stupid. On both sides’ part.

So Eric, stop being a prat. And ignore Bill Maher, most respectable atheists are comfortable ignoring him. I think that’s really the point I wanted to make here.

On “Reasoned” Bigotry

Bill Maher. Now there’s a guy. Always has a can of bigotry to throw around.

Now, let’s be fair; he is a comedian, and most of what he does is to get a reaction — but that definition is the exact same definition one can apply to a bully. I actually couldn’t watch the full length of his… Well, it is called a “documentary” on paper, but his movie Religulous. It is less a “documentary” and more “making religious people feel awkward and confused.” It has been years since last I even tried to watch it, so I cannot quote it, but my heart went out to the religious people he was speaking with. There is the reasonable approach to getting people with dated beliefs to join the 21st century inclusive society, and then there is… that.

Now, he is paid to be over the top, in the same way that Bill O’Reily is. (Is it something about the name Bill? Most Bills I have known have been a little over the top, and hold very aggressive views. #WhatsInAName) As I mentioned just yesterday, though, this is lowering the level of discourse.

So what brought all of this up? Well, Media Matters released a video of Bill Maher speaking at some length about the problems with Islam. The woman hating, the bigotry, the racism, etc. Reza Azlan, one of my personal heroes, is interviewed regarding what Maher said, and he takes his interviewers to task. Reza Azlan, despite GREAT opposition, tries to raise the level of the debate. “Women are treated poorly in Saudi Arabia, therefore all Muslims treat women poorly.” Azlan’s response carries his characteristic level-headedness; “You can’t paint a religion based on one country when the population of the religion is 1.5 billion.” He provides counter arguments, he provides examples, he provides wonderful replies to his increasingly flustered interviewers, because that is who he is.

I am not so level headed as Mr Azlan, and I am sure you’ll understand from having read my blog. My reply, the very first thing I thought when I heard these interviewers, and when I heard Maher’s speech, was “Well, there are known pedophiles in the Catholic Priesthood. Does that mean all Catholics are pedophiles? There are known racists among the Baptist Churches. Does that mean all Baptists are racists?” No, you’re being silly. I will admit I am not well versed in gender politics as it relates to Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe, but if a man who has written books on the subject tells me “The majority of Muslim countries have a large amount of gender equity,” and then proceeds to give me empirical examples (that I am free to verify), maybe I will check my opinion and rethink.

That blade does cut both ways, though. Bill Maher is an asshole, but I’d like to think that painting all nontheists with a brush based on his template is just silly. What’s really funny is that I think Maher does more damage to reason and rationality than he does help, especially because in atheist circles he is often well liked. Up until a few years ago, I would have said he was universally liked. You know what hurts more than anything, though? Atheists in public positions actually have to denounce Maher’s often bigoted opinions, because they DO get painted with the same brush.

So hey, let’s stop being assholes to each other first, then after that we can start to come together and decide what we all believe in, and we can stop calling each other bigoted racist faggy pedophilic necrophiles.

If you are, in fact, a bigoted racist faggy pedophilic necrophile, I am sorry to say this, but you’re kind of like… Messed up. You should go get that looked at.