Yes, I’m imitating Ophelia Benson. This was originally a comment left by Bjarte Foshaug on Top 10 Asshole Argument Moves. I loved it so much I thought it deserves to be a blog post.
9) To Pretend Your Fringe Version Is the Dominant Version
Apparently – after spending 10+ years of my life arguing online with people who identified as “Christians” of some flavor, believed that a supernatural intelligence had some hand in the origin of life/the universe, and that the historical Jesus of Nazareth was connected to this intelligence in some special way – I have never heard a single argument from “a real Christian” – ever.
Most of these “non-real” Christians would make arguments like: “Living organisms display an orgainzed complexity and a sense of purpose that can only be the product of design, and design implies a designer. This designer is what Christians call ‘God’.” and about 15 others. Yet when I patiently set out to answer these arguments on my old website/blog I was told by “philosophically sophisticated” Christians that every single one of them was a strawman (a bit of strategy 2 here: Say “your refutation is simplistic/doesn’t take into account nuances XYZ” without specifying what nuances XYZ are or how taking them into account invalidates the refutation) and no “real Christian” ever said such a thing. Unfortunately, I have never managed to get any of these “philosophically sophisticated” Christians to tell me what the supposedly superior arguments of the “real Christians” are…
1) Definition Fetish
No, I’m not defining god for you. Every human being above the age of 2 knows the definition of god, if you don’t, go and buy a dictionary.
Apparently every single concept of “God” I have ever encountered is also a strawman with no resemblance to what the elusive “real Christians” believe in. From what I have gathered thus far, the only things that can be consistently said about whatever it is that “real Christians” call “God” are:
1. It’s called “God”.
2. It has nothing to do with whatever it is you are arguing against, therefore everything you say can be dismissed as strawmanning.
3. It’s really vitally important that you call it “God”* (as opposed to “Ogd”, “Dog” etc…)
I think it’s pretty clear that this vagueness is a feature rather than a bug: Other believers can easily interpret a supernatural, intelligent creator of the universe into whatever sounds are coming out of your mouth, but atheists cannot find anything specific to argue meaningfully against, and any attempt to do so can easily be dismissed as strawmanning. All of “sophisticated theology” (at least the kind of theology that deals with the existence of “God”) seems to boil down to this kind of double-speak. In fact, I once defined “modern theology” as “the art of saying “It doesn’t matter what you believe in as long as you call it ‘God’” in as many words as possible.”
*Because then “theism” is right, and “atheism” is wrong, and from there it’s a free-for-all.