25 Stupid Arguments Christians Should Avoid (Part 4)

25 Stupid Arguments Christians Should Avoid (Part 4) July 3, 2018

Let’s continue with our exploration of stupid arguments Christians really shouldn’t use (Part 1 here).

Stupid Argument #13: Pascal’s Wager.

Bet on God, and the upside is huge. Bet against God, and the downside is huge. Any questions?

The error is in imagining just two choices, Christianity and atheism. In reality, human societies have invented myriad choices, and Christianity is just one more. Christians are in the same spot they imagine for atheists. What if they bet wrong on the Hindu or Roman or Norse pantheons? Or on the Zoroastrian or Egyptian or Buddhist afterlife? Take a look at Buddhist hell in the image above—it ain’t pretty.

It also assumes that the deity will accept an ass-covering “bet on God” instead of authentic belief driven by conviction. Wouldn’t a god be smart enough to see through the insincerity?

In the gospel of John, we read, “[Peter] said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’ ” (John 21:17). Christians’ own Bible defeats Pascal’s Wager.

Finally, notice that Pascal does nothing to provide evidence for God’s existence. (More on Pascal’s wager here.)

Stupid Argument #14: You’ll be sorry!

Watch yourself, smart guy—you won’t be so cocky when you’re standing in judgment before the Creator. You’ll have an eternity in hell to repent your foolishness.

You’re really going to threaten atheists with something we don’t believe in? Why should we be any more concerned about Christian hell than you are about Buddhist hell? Let me again quote St. Christopher (Hitchens): “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”

Even if you’re right, how heavenly will heaven be? Don’t you think the ongoing torment of billions of humans in hell—whose crime was nothing more than not getting it—will bother you after a while?

Imagine a different judgment scenario. You and I are standing in judgment before God. You’re feeling pretty smug since it’s clear that you guessed right. But then God turns to you and says, “So this is how you used your brain, my greatest gift to mankind? You just check it at the door and gullibly believe whatever your religious leader tells you? You weren’t supposed to return that brain with low mileage; you were supposed to use it!”

Guess who’s going to hell this time.

Stupid Argument #15: Citing Bible quotes.

We know that there is a Judgment Day. Jesus tells us, “Everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.”

As proof that the Bible makes a particular claim, Bible quotes are fine. I use them myself. But don’t cite a Bible quote as evidence of something important. You realize I don’t consider the Bible authoritative, right?

And if the issue is the Bible’s position on a certain topic, don’t simply show me a verse that supports your position. The Bible can be made to support just about any position—witness the thousands of sects of Christianity. Instead, show me how the Bible supports that position and only that position. The context is not just the surrounding verses but the entire Bible.

For example, I’ve read many apologetics for biblical slavery that cite the Bible’s indentured servitude for fellow Israelites but ignore that it elsewhere imposes slavery for life on foreigners. Or apologetics that pick and choose verses to create just one interpretation of the afterlife or the Trinity or the Second Coming.

Stupid Argument #16: Excusing God’s excesses.

You’ve got to understand that things were different back then. God supported slavery and ordered genocide in the Old Testament simply because he was working within the culture of the times. Israelite culture had to mature in the same way that a child must mature to properly understand morality.

The apologists making these arguments are fine with modern morality and would be as horrified to see Old Testament genocide and slavery in use today as any of us. But suggest that homosexuality is natural, and suddenly their hands are tied because the Old Testament is the immutable word of God. They grant themselves license to pick and choose the bits of the Old Testament that they like and discard the crazy baggage that comes along with it. They make the Bible into a sock puppet.

As for Israel maturing gradually like a child, remember that God imposed the Ten Commandments with no grace period. Israel didn’t get the chance to mature into these rules, and breaking most of them was a capital crime on Day 1. God was not squeamish about imposing morality, and he clearly didn’t care what social customs he swept away with new rules. God didn’t demand genocide and support slavery because his hands were tied but because he was okay with them.

These are the same Christians who demand to know how an atheist can reject the Holocaust without objective morality, not realizing that they do the Nazi two-step when apologizing for their god’s slavery and genocide.

To be continued.

Pofarmer’s Law: As an online discussion
between an atheist and a theist grows longer,
the probability of the theist threatening
the atheist with hell approaches 1.
— Commenter hector jones

.

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 10/8/14.)

Photo credit: Wikimedia

 

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  • Brian Westley

    These are the same Christians who demand to know how an atheist can reject the Holocaust without objective morality,

    The “objective morality” canard is one of the most annoying — nobody says that you have to have an “objective palate” before describing your favorite food, or an “objective standard of beauty”, which is why it’s in the eye of the beholder, but, for some reason, you need to have “objective morality” before saying you think murder should be illegal.

    • Michael Neville

      Objective morality is worse than that. The Christians claim that their sadistic thug of a god, the one who kills because he can, orders genocide and sexual slavery, and condones chattel slavery is the source of morality.

      • TheBookOfDavid

        Immediately prompting the question: How can a theist reject the Holocaust without objective morality?

        • Ficino

          St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that evil is a privation of being. Everything is good, insofar as it exists; its evil is an accident.

          This is the door to the rabbit hole that Susan was describing.

        • epeeist

          Everything is good, insofar as it exists; its evil is an accident.

          How very Panglossian.

        • Ficino

          Sounds so to me! But Thomists will tell you that Voltaire simply failed to understand the Thomistic doctrine because he was riffing off Leibniz. Thomists deny that God created the best of all possible worlds.

          He who controls the definitions controls the debate.

        • Adam “Giauz” Birkholtz
      • Tommy

        To them, objective morality is authoritarianism. These are good or bad because the leader says so. Whatever the leader says is good because the leader is good and how do we know the leader is good? Because the leader says so. And on and on and on.

    • Rudy R

      I know this isn’t very philosophical, but how again did Christians come to know morality by not being influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudices. In other words, how did they determine morals based on facts, with no bias, the very definition of objectivity?

  • Milo C

    Argument #16 is a favorite of my uncle, a former Catholic priest. I’ll try to share this with him the next time we talk.

    • Susan

      a favorite of my uncle, a former Catholic priest.

      If he’s still a catholic, my guess is that he won’t refer to the Old Testament but to “natural law” which is as circular as it gets.

      Prepare to be very dizzy.

      • Tommy

        So you guess he wouldn’t refer to Judeo-Christian texts but to Deism? That’s funny.

        • Susan

          he wouldn’t refer to Judeo-Christian texts but to Deism?

          The church is above the text. The church was put on Earth as a representative of Yahwehjesus and hence, is the only one with authority to interpret the text.

          but to Deism?

          Not even. It’s a dizzying disaster of “the Good” and “the Deprivation of the Good”, which is just a way of dodging any real discussion and explaining why Teh Gayz can NOT get married. And why birth control is murder.

          That’s funny.

          If it weren’t so sad. That is, the consequences of that sort of thinking have been and continue to be horrendous.

          If a catholic wanders through and reads this, they will say I hate catholics. Which is false.

          Rather than address the issues in any sort of way.

          But, there’s nothing I can do about that.

        • I’ve seen their “logic” now too. What a sad experience. Apparently existence itself is good (with God being the most existent and thus good). Even people in Hell would rather remain there than cease to exist because of this (!). I… don’t even. How can anyone take it seriously at all?

        • Otto

          >>>”If a catholic wanders through and reads this, they will say I hate catholics.”

          Or…’you just don’t understand and are now misrepresenting Catholicism’.

  • Pascal’s wager is my father in law’s favorite argument. Before I coukd respond, my husband said, “I refuse to live in fear.” That was the end of that.

    • TheBookOfDavid

      I’d like to place my bet on Valhalla, but am getting too old for all that militant adventurism.

      • But it would certainly be exciting!

        • TheBookOfDavid

          You have a point. If I am about to lose to Pascal anyway, might as well go down swinging.

      • eric

        If I end up as an Einherjar, I’m suggesting ‘mental health/hangover’ days.

    • im-skeptical

      Pascal’s wager is like telling someone to always bet every cent you have on the least favored horse in the race, because it has the highest payoff.

      • Nice!

      • Greg G.

        It’s like betting that there will be a race with only one 2,000 year old horse entered and that it will finish the race.

  • Tim Ellison

    excellent!

  • Pascal advised people “fake it till you make it” essentially, in answer for how to believe. Of course, this does nothing to establish that the belief is true. Pascal specifically denied that this could be established by reason, yet excluded all other religions for pretty arbitrary reasons. So there is no reason to take his argument seriously.

    • Bald Humanist

      To him..it seemed like a hedge.

      • Yes, but without all options being on the table it isn’t a good bet. Plus if you think reason can decide these things, his view is worthless.

        • Bald Humanist

          I guess the only “excuse” is..he was raised in a Christian society.

          Had he been raised Hindu…he might have wagered on Shiva.

        • That’s probably true. Hindus at least are more likely to interpret others’ beliefs as just another way of viewing the same thing. Moreover, they don’t believe we get just one chance, so there is less urgency.

        • Dannorth

          Your last point is important. They just view non Hindus as souls who have not attained sufficient growth to be a low cast Hindu. All in good time.

        • In some cases probably yes. Others are more generous, viewing say certain members of other faiths as enlightened enough to attain moksha. They say some view Jesus as an avatar of Vishnu or some other god also, sent out to enlighten people. It’s an overall less exclusive religion. Buddhism too.

        • Greg G.

          A Buddhist monk told me that other religions are on a different path to Enlightenment (I am not sure that was the term he used).

        • It seems to be a common view in Eastern thought. To many Hindus “all is one”. “All ways lead to the way” Taoism claims.

  • Kit Hadley-Day

    I never got Pascal, did he think that the supreme ruler of the universe was an idiot, or just so vein that he didn’t care as long as you kissed his ass (so trump basically)

    • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

      Brownie points for sucking up to Yahweh…

  • MuttsRule

    Re: #14 (You’ll be Sorry)
    Dear Christians:
    Not only do you threaten everyone else with hell, but we’ve all noticed that you’re very enthusiastic and knowledgeable about hell, and linger on the vivid gory details. Even sects that don’t believe in hell envision some sort of violent last days with fireballs raining down on nonbelievers (when an all-powerful God obviously could just kill the wicked painlessly in their sleep were He so inclined). We still don’t believe in hell, for which you must admit there is no objective evidence, but we certainly have noted your devotion to your Christian snuff fantasy.