Aggravating Atheist Double Standards
One of the things I love about atheists is their constant use of complete double standards. It’s why I can’t be an atheist: I’m way too consistent.
First some background:
Jennifer Fulwiler wrote a post about five Catholic beliefs that would make sense to atheists. The spirit in which she wrote it would be to show that Catholicism is intellectually honest, not that an atheist would actually agree that those beliefs as true. As only he can, PZ Myers wrote a response entitled “Jennifer Fulwiler: Vacant-eyed, Mindless Cluelessness Personified.” He essentially dismissed each point as supernatural nonsense, so no atheist would ever actually agree to any of them.
But that wasn’t Jennifer’s point. Her point:
I evidently did not make it clear enough that all of my examples were meant only to illustrate the intellectual consistency within Catholicism, and therefore assumed that you would be in a discussion with an atheist who would stipulate belief in God for the sake of argument. E.g. In the case of Purgatory, when I was an atheist I would have said, “All belief in the supernatural is crazy. But if you must believe in all that God and heaven mumbo jumbo, then, yeah, you need Purgatory in order not to contradict your own bizarre little belief system.” (source, emphasis added)
The first comment to that post, addressed to Jennifer, is the atheist double standard:
“intellectual consistency within Catholicism”
I would ask then if it is possible to get a blood born disease from the blood of christ when taking communion?
I read your original article, and as an atheist I did not agree with a single point (none of the teachings made “sense” to me”, and as PZ suggested, I am not convinced you had arrived at your previous atheism from an intellectual standpoint. It sounds as if you were just a theist in denial or in “thenial” – it happens all the time.
There it is: the No True Scotsman Fallacy. Basically, DKeane is saying that Jennifer wasn’t a true atheist, because true atheists would never convert to theism. She’s been a theist all along.
No, he doesn’t specifically say that a true atheist would never convert to theism, but that is the unspoken assumption underlying this brief comment. No comments asking me to specify where he says that, please. If you think there is another underlying assumption, then please argue it.
Now, here’s the double standard. If I say that (for example) Fred Phelps isn’t a Christian, I get accused of the No True Scotsman Fallacy. There’s a problem with that. I can show why, from the Bible, Fred Phelps isn’t a Christian. The No True Scotsman Fallacy requires an ad hoc redefinition of a term to exclude folks that are inconvenient to a position one holds.
Now, I wouldn’t exclude Paula White, Pat Robertson, or Joel Osteen from being Christians. However, they are also quite inconvenient to my position. Though each has examples of bad doctrine (Paula White is a Judaizer and divorced her husband for personal gain, for example), I’d like to grant them the benefit of the doubt that they mean well and are simply ignorant of the correct doctrine. Phelps receives no benefit of the doubt for me, because in addition to embracing heresies, his conduct is unbecoming.
Phelps is a hyper-Calvinist, who believes that only his church is saved. He doesn’t believe that the gospel should be preached, in defiance of Matthew 28:16-20. Of the marks of a true Christian in Romans 12:9-21, he does exactly none of them.
- Phelps curses the United States regularly, which he sees as the enemy of God (and himself, by extension).
- He doesn’t live in harmony with his own family, let alone the rest of humanity.
- His church doesn’t associate with anyone, including the lowly.
- He has repaid evil for evil, once preaching a sermon against his future daughter-in-law, calling her a slut. This is but one example of him not doing what is honorable in the sight of all.
- His protests are tantamount to trying to avenge evil for evil, rather than leaving that to the action of God.
- Show me some good that Fred Phelps has done.
Conclusion: Fred Phelps is not a Christian. He doesn’t live by any ideals that Christians hold dear, and his doctrine is seriously skewed. He meets neither the intellectual nor does he evidence any of the spiritual workings that we’d expect to see of a “true Christian.”
So, saying “Fred Phelps is no Christian” is not an ad hoc redefinition. Those marks of a true Christian have been there, in the Bible for all to read, for 2000 years; I didn’t add them just to say Phelps isn’t a Christian.
However, as inconvenient for my position as the words, doctrine, and actions of Joel Osteen, Paula White, and Pat Robertson are, I really can’t find a reason to not give their claim to Christianity the benefit of the doubt. Let’s just not judge Christianity by the crazies, okay?
As for Jennifer Fulwiler not being a “true atheist,” or being a “theist in denial,” let’s see that argued as opposed to asserted.
The same has been asserted for Anthony Flew. It was even proposed that Flew had just gone senile in his old age. After all, it’s hard to argue that Anthony Flew was always a theist in denial since he did so much to advance the cause of atheism, having participated in many debates and writing several books on the subject of atheism. Yet, atheists still try to find an ad hoc way to dismiss his conversion, just as they are trying with Jennifer, just as they try with all converts from atheism to theism.
Double standard. Special pleading. All of it.