Are Christians Superior to Atheists? (via Twitter)
This discussion started with a simple tweet from about.com writer Austin Cline, and quickly spiraled out of control from there into a shouting match of personal insult. I’m happy to say, that none of that was from me; I really tried to keep to the issues this time (though as commenter Doc can attest, I don’t always):
So, I replied:
This is in keeping with a controversial YouTube video by Cardinal Cormack Murphy-O’Connor where he said that atheists are less than human, but I thought perhaps he might have meant atheists haven’t embraced the fullness of their humanity. Then, I received this reply:
This commits the fallacy of equivocation. The average person, reading Austin’s first tweet, would (I believe) assume that he meant Christians believe they are ontologically superior to atheists. Meaning, we think that we are better people in all respects. However, as I point out to Austin, Romans 2 precludes this idea because we were not only in the same state once, but many of us hardly lift ourselves out of that state.
We are not better than atheists, not in the least.
Austin, however, is saying I implied a term which is a synonym for “superior,” therefore I’m still saying that Christians are superior albeit in a fancier way. So I retort:
That’s qualifying the meaning of “superior” with what I believed to be Austin’s intended meaning, which is “ontological superiority.” There are other ways that could be taken, but I much doubt he meant any of them. Austin then decides to quibble over my definitional words:
Of course, I wasn’t doing any such thing, as I attempt to explain:
How does Austin respond? By trying to tell me what I meant in my own writing, while complaining that I’m doing the same thing to him. Somehow, when I do it, it is dishonest and unbecoming, but is perfectly fine when he does it.
And, of course, the jilted who have authority must resort to threatening:
So, I tried to reason with him, but that didn’t go over too well:
Does he discuss it with me?
I didn’t really expect a discussion. So I attempted to explain that he twisted my words:
But that was unsuccessful:
Austin, however, did verbal gymnastics on my original statement to get it to mean exactly what he wanted it to mean, but of course, that wasn’t my original intent. Now, if his original intent wasn’t ontological superiority, qualifying it here would end any objection that I have. But, of course, he doesn’t do that; most likely because I’m absolutely right in my assessment of his statements but he won’t admit it.
So, I said:
Now, how does he get out of it? By appealing to a technicality that doesn’t exist:
Admitting that he did change what I wrote, but that’s perfectly fine since he didn’t attribute it to me. So, if he copied it verbatim without attributing it to me, would that be okay as well?
Which is still equivocation; I never said nor implied what he is saying I did. He needs me to be saying that for his argument against me to work. So it ends on this note:
So it looks like I’m blocked from following Austin. Not really a big loss, I’d say!
But the question posed still remains, do Christians believe we’re superior to atheists? Well, no. As the bumper sticker says, “Christians aren’t better, just forgiven.” We’ve embraced a part that’s missing from us: our fallen natures need forgiveness, and our relationship with God must be restored to realize that completeness. As man and woman were once one, and so man craves the completeness from marriage, so our nature is separated by God and we all crave the restoration of that. Until the atheist embraces this, they are less complete then we are. But they are not inferior to us by any stretch of the imagination.
Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t print the personal insults that have nothing to do with the discussion, but were uttered anyway:
So, basically, Austin’s argument consisted of equivocation and ad hominem. Somehow, in all of that, I’m the intellectually and morally dishonest one. Interesting.