Wednesday, October 15, 2014
The "No True Scotsman" Fallacy & Christianity
PERSON A: No Scotsman puts sugar in his porridge.
PERSON B: Well, I'm a Scotsman and I put sugar in my porridge.
PERSON A: Well, no true Scotsman puts sugar in his porridge.
That's a simple rendition of The "No True Scotsman" Fallacy. The fallacy is establishing an absolute and reinforcing that absolute despite being confronted with evidence to the contrary. That's a simple definition. Now that we have it defined, let's dig in.
I previously touched on this fallacy is a few other articles but now's the time to deal with it. "No True Scotsman" can't be applied to Christianity and for the most part Atheists are infuriated by this. Whenever Atheists attempt to pull out The KKK, Adolf Hitler, The Salem Witch Trials, The Spanish Inquisition and more recently Andres Berhing Breivik as examples of Christian Terrorists, Christians everywhere stand up and say "They weren't Christians.", leaving the Atheist to rolls their eyes and say "Whatever." and consider it EXTREMELY annoying that Christians won't admit that their religion causes just as much violence and oppression as any other religion. However, Atheists never stop and wonder why we're saying "They weren't Christians.". I'll tell you what though, it's not to sweep those atrocities under the rug. Any Christian will tell you how horrible The KKK is, what a bastard Hitler was, the countless lives lost in The Salem Witch Trials, the sheer horror of The Spanish Inquisition (which I studied by the way...don't ask why) and the horrific slaughter in Norway at the hands of a steroid abusing nutcase, and we'll shun and shame all of those, but we won't take the blame for it. Why?
Well, before I address why, let's put this in another light just so you can get some perspective. There are a (unfortunate) group of people who are Vegetarians. The primary tenet of being a Vegetarian is to not eat meat, simple, right? Right. Now I have a friend who called herself a Vegetarian and while we were out to lunch she ordered a fish sandwich. I raised an eyebrow and said "Wait, aren't you a Vegetarian?", she said "I am.", by the puzzled look on my face she could tell that I was questioning her status as a Vegetarian and she replied "What?". I said, "But you're eating fish, if you're eating fish, then you're not a Vegetarian, you're a Pescatarian.". She thanked me, because she never heard that word before and we enjoyed our lunch. Now, she said she was a Vegetarian but was about to violate the one and only tenet of being a Vegetarian, not consuming meat. No Vegetarian eats meat. That's an absolute because the very definition of being a Vegetarian is the non consumption of meat. So if a person who claims Vegetarianism eats fish, they forfeited their ability to claim Vegetarianism and has become a Pescetarian by default. Following me so far? Trust me, I'm going somewhere with this.
Anyway, the point I'm making is that once a basic tenet of any ideology you hold is violated, you can no longer claim to hold that ideology anymore, OR you could claim that ideology and realize that you've mislabeled yourself (as the case with my friend in the previous paragraph). Either way, once that tenet is violated, any and all adherence you had to that ideology is null and void. If I saw a man who said he was a Vegetarian digging into some baby back ribs, it wouldn't matter how rarely he eats meat, be it once a day, once a month, once a year, doesn't matter, he can't claim to be a Vegetarian, not to the definition of the word, and not to the satisfaction of other Vegetarians who are actually being vegetarian. Now, if I pointed at this guy and said "See, he's eating meat and he's a Vegetarian!", Vegetarians would very logically point out, "Clearly, he's not, because he's eating meat.". And they'd be right.
So now to bring this back to our original topic, Christianity and how this applies. No true Christian would do what The KKK, Hitler, The Salem Witch Trials, The Spanish Inquisition and Anders Breivik did. "Well, easy for you to say Ugo, you don't speak for all Christians." You're 100% right about that and Thank God I don't! But the person who does speak for all Christians is Jesus and He had quite a bit to say on this topic of how Christians are supposed to act. In a nutshell, Christianity (and all religions really) can be defined by saying "This is the example, do what the example does.". Christians are called to behave and do as Jesus did. That by it's self excludes The KKK as I don't recall Jesus extolling the virtues of White Europeans and belittling Africans, or calling for their deaths, and that definitely excludes Hitler because Jesus was a Jewish man and I may not be a noted historian but I have it on good word that Hitler wasn't a fan of The Jews.
Well, The Crusades and The Spanish Inquisition did their acts in the name of Christianity. Well, anyone can do anything in someone else's name, doesn't mean that person cosigns their behavior. The Spanish Inquisition and The Salem Witch Trials were both fueled by the hunting and killing of witches! And of course, The Bible was used as the primary justification for burning people alive. Specifically, this text;
"you shall not suffer a witch to live." - Ex 22:18
Well, there it is as plain as day, The Spanish Inquisition and The Salem Witch Trials were absolutely right, The Bible did cosign their burning of people alive...or does it? Any close examination of the text would reveal that this law was given specifically to Israel (the nation). At the time, Israel was under a theocracy (which they wanted and agreed to, by the way) and therefore Israel agreed to follow God's law in exchange for being allowed to remain in the promised land (check this article out for more background). Long story short, the Israelites were instructed to put to death witches within their own land, because witchcraft would be a violation of God's law and would cause Israel to be expelled from the promised land. Now, no one forced the witches to remain in Israel to be killed and every witch among them knew the deal. If they wanted to stay in Israel, they'd have to stop doing witchcraft and I imagine a lot of the witches fled Israel for the surrounding nations.The Israelites didn't go to the other nations with sabers ready to go witch hunting, if the witches left, they left, but if they stayed, they understood, they couldn't practice witchcraft.
So how does all of this tie back into The Spanish Inquisition and The Salem Witch Trials? Well, IT DOESN'T! The punishment against witchcraft was ONLY meant for The Nation Of Israel, NOT EVERYWHERE ELSE! Israel was under a theocracy! Europe and America was not, are not and shouldn't be! God still doesn't approve of witchcraft, but He no longer calls for them to be put to death because there isn't a Nation Of Israel that risks becoming corrupted by it. Christians are vast and wide now and are living in other countries with their own governments and such and we're no longer bound by the ceremonial and cultural laws and punishments of The Old Testaments (except the moral ones, we're still bound by those, no bestility, incest, homosexuality, ect. ect. except you're no longer put to death if you violate those). It was The Spanish Inquisition and Salem's misguided interpretation of The Bible that led them to commit such horrible acts.
AH-HA! Now you have found the deadly loophole my Atheist Friend. "How can you say they weren't true Christians when that's just your interpretation? They could say the same thing about you not being a true Christian!". You're absolutely right, they could, they'd be wrong, but they could. There is a such thing a "limit of interpretation" and context, both play a HUGE role in understanding ANYTHING. The "Limit Of Interpretation" goes like this. There are Vegetarians, as mentioned before Vegetarians DO NOT EAT MEAT! However, Vegetarians do drink milk and eat cheese, animal related products but they're not meat. Then there are Vegans! Vegans are Vegetarians taken up a notch. Vegans don't consume ANY animal related product AT ALL! Vegans don't eat cheese or drink milk and are careful to read the packages of certain foods so that it doesn't contain any animal product in it. Vegetarians and Vegans have the same understanding but a different interpretation on how to execute that understanding. Both of them have the goal of not eating meat but one has a different way of doing it than the other.
The Context is not eating meat. Well not eating meat can mean not eating anything that was previously alive or not eating anything made from anything previously alive or currently living (in the case of cows). While a Vegetarian will turn away a nice juicy steak in exchange for a salad decorated with cheese, the Vegans is reading the label of the dressing making sure that no meat related thing is in it. Because the Vegan doesn't want to risk violating their status as a Vegan by eating meat or meat related things. Getting back on task, the limit of interpretation for The Bible is understanding to what was said, to who and why and the context will explain all of that. The Bible isn't this supremely complicated book that people make it out to be, and more often than not MANY of the verses are self-explanatory if you'd only read a few verses before and a few verses afterwards to get the entire story.
Anybody can crack open a Bible, point to a verse and somehow make it apply to themselves and their present situation (that's unfortunately what a lot of Pastors do these day...but that's another topic), but anyone who's literate to a 6th grade level could crack it open themselves and see what's really going on. A bit of a tangent but a necessary one, back on topic. Christians are not commanded by God to kill people of different faiths, we are given the right to defend our family, ourselves and our home, but those are universal issues that God understands and therefore doesn't have to give His thumbs up, because defending yourself (be it from a mugger, or at war with an invading country or terrorist attacks) is God approved. After all Israel went to war MANY times and fought off invading nations and not once did God reprimand them for doing so.
However, God never called for Christians to kill anyone because of their faith. God discouraged marriages between Christians and Non-Christians (which is logical). But God never gave a command to kill those who don't believe Him. Furthermore, God never established the concept of killing in His name. "Killing in the name of God" is a man-made concept and it's only found ONCE in The Bible and here's what it says;
"16 “These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling. 2 They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. 3 These things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me. 4 But these things I have spoken to you, so that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them. These things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you." - John 16:1-4
Would you look at that, Jesus even warned Christians that people who claimed to be killing as a service to God would show up, and what does Jesus say about those people?
"3 These things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me."
Interesting, so even Jesus is saying "they're not Christians.", because if they were, they'd follow His example and Jesus didn't kill anybody in God's name and therefore His followers aren't expected to kill in His name. There's a reason why God said "Thou shalt not use my name in vain", because He knew that people would use His name to justify their actions. Thankfully, God gave us an example of the kind of actions He approves of in Jesus, so the masses wouldn't be duped by some guy who's trying to get laid and women all the while using God's name to do it (looking at you, Muhammad, and you, Joseph Smith) And unlike me, Jesus DOES speak for all Christians, so I'm gonna listen to Jesus when He tells me that those who kill thinking they're offering a service to God isn't a Christian. So when Christians tell you that all those so-called "Christian Terrorists" aren't true Christians, that's not open to interpretation, that's straight from the mouth of Jesus, and the very words Christian Terrorists makes about as much sense as a meat eating Vegetarian. No true Christian kills in God's name. Peace in Christ, ya'll.
...get it? Because he wasn't a true Scotsman...eh, what do you know about funny?