Bad Arguments for Atheism: “No True Scotsman” and Anders Behring Breivik


Pointing Fingers:
After Anders Breivik went on one of the most deadly killing sprees in history with 76 confirmed murders, many started pointing fingers – especially at “christian fundamentalists“. Although Breivik was obviously not a “fundamentalist” in the theological sense, this doesn’t negate the claim that he considered himself Christian. Many Christians spoke out at this and said that Anders wasn’t a “true Christian”. However, many an atheist replied and claimed that Anders ought to be called a “true christian” and anyone that says he isn’t is committing the fallacy of No true Scotsman.

The Fallacy:
A simple version of the fallacy goes like this:
Joey: “All Americans like pizza.”
Timmy: “I don’t like pizza.”
Joey: ” Yes, but all true Americans like pizza.”

We can easily see the fallacy here. Joey starts out by saying that all Americans (somebody who comes from the United States) like pizza. Timmy is an American, but doesn’t like pizza. So what does Joey do? He refines the definition of Americans (somebody that hails from the United States) to “Americans” (somebody that hails from the United States and likes pizza) and then implies that Timmy isn’t an American based on the failure to meet up to his new definition. It’s a form of ad hoc reasoning and is highly unreasonable, even though all true Americans do like pizza.

The Atheist’s Argument:
Now, let’s look at the argument atheists and the like are making:
Smith: “All Christians follow the example of Christ.”
Johnson: “Anders Behring Breivik is a Christian.”
Smith: “Yes, but all true Christians follow the teachings of Jesus.”
Johnson: “Hey! You’re being illogical there!”

Debunking The Alleged Fallacy:
Where’s the fallacy? How is Smith being illogical? Let’s look: Smith said Christians (a person that follows Jesus’ teachings) follow the example of Christ. Johnson claims that Anders is a Christian. Smith replies by implying that Anders Breivik wasn’t a Christian and then gives the same definition that he gave earlier (Christians are people that follow Jesus’ teachings). Where’s the ad hoc reasoning? There isn’t any! Smith never refines his definition of Christian and is therefore not committing any fallacy.

A Different Fallacy Is Found:
When atheists (like Johnson in the example) say that Anders is a Christian, they’re completely assuming that he met up to the standards of being a Christian ( or a “fundamentalist Christian” for that matter).  They’re just begging the question.

Johnson: “How do you know Anders Behring Breivik is a Christian?”
Smith: “Because he said he was.”

But you see, being a Christian isn’t the same as saying you’re a Christian. Christianity isn’t a spectator’s sport – it’s full contact. This is what separates Christianity from most philosophies and religions: it’s faith coupled with works.  Without faith, you’re spiritually dead. Without works, you’re spiritually dead. They go hand in hand together.

In Conclusion:
As we saw above, nobody is committing a fallacy in saying that Anders wasn’t a true Christian. The fallacy just isn’t there. However, a fallacy is found in saying that Anders was a Christian just because he said he was. Christianity is more than just saying

.

Advertisements

, , , , , , , , ,

  1. #1 by NotAScientist on July 28, 2011 - 3:55 am

    “However, a fallacy is found in saying that Anders was a Christian just because he said he was. Christianity is more than just saying”

    It is.

    But there are also thousands of different groups of people who call themselves Christians. The largest group are ones who also call themselves Catholics. Who should I listen to?

    I don’t particular care, of course. Anders wasn’t your kind of Christian. But he considered himself a Christian. So what? It doesn’t mean that you’re going to act like he does.

  2. #2 by studentsforchristianity on July 28, 2011 - 4:45 am

    Doesn’t that assume that there isn’t a correct answer?

    • #3 by studentsforchristianity on July 29, 2011 - 11:53 pm

      It does not follow that since there are “thousands of different groups” that the true teachings of Christ is impossible to come by.

  3. #4 by Wrenn Simms on July 28, 2011 - 6:25 am

    You are totally avoiding the understanding that most people who are using this argument – that Anders was not a true Christian – are not stopping at that. They are actually defining why – usually by saying that a True Christian would not kill. So your article stops in the middle of the discussion, so you can have your ambiguous answer, and claim that they aren’t wrong in saying he isn’t one.

    • #5 by studentsforchristianity on July 28, 2011 - 6:50 am

      “They are actually defining why – usually by saying that a True Christian would not kill. So your article stops in the middle of the discussion, so you can have your ambiguous answer, and claim that they aren’t wrong in saying he isn’t one.”

      I’m pretty sure I’m not stopping “in the middle of the discussion”. Why? Because when I say that Anders didn’t follow the teachings of Christ, I’m implying the only obvious and relevant discrepancy between him and Christ: murder. Ambiguous? I think not.

Comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: