Ask an Atheist with Sam Mulvey

No True Scotsman: Embarrassing Christians are Still Christians.

Scottish piper in a kiltThe Christian Post, the website that whined about atheists who aren’t properly sad about not being Christians is at it again. Again.

This time they’re playing that oldest of all games: No True Scotsman.

This is one of the most common rationalizations religious folks toss out when one of their flock does something embarrassing or horrific. It gets its name from the following hypothetical exchange.

Man #1: No Scotsman would ever put sugar on his porridge!

Man #2: My uncle is a Scotsman, and he sugars his porridge.

Man #1: But he’s not a true Scotsman!

In short, you make a wide generalization about your own group — usually one you view as positive — and then when someone breaks that rule, you retroactively kick them out of your group. They just don’t count anymore.

And this is exactly the cheap tactic that the Christian Post is using.

About a week ago, FOX News posted a story on their Facebook page about American Atheists’ lawsuit to bar putting a Christian cross display up in the 9/11 Memorial Museum on Establishment Clause grounds. The response on Facebook was a bit scary:

There were apparently 8,000 responses to the Facebook posting of the story, most of them angry, threatening or even legally actionable. FOX was so inundated with crazed, Jesus-fueled calls for violence and divine retribution that they took the story — and all of the comments — off of their Facebook page. Yes, we’re talking about posts so rabidly angry that even the network that gave us Glenn Beck distanced themselves from the whole affair.

Because this:

…doesn’t look good.

Luckily, John P. over at One Man’s Blog, screen-captured the comments before FOX flushed them.

How does the Christian Post respond to their brothers and sisters in Christ calling for blood, deportation and even rape? By denying that the posters were even Christians in the first place!

The Post’s beef, it seems, wasn’t with the foaming mob, but “with the general assumption being that Christians were the ones to blame for the comments threatening death.”  Now let’s just ignore the obvious fact that these commenters are posting hate messages against non-believers in the United States, a country that overwhelmingly self-identifies as Christians, or that they’re doing it on the conservative FOX News Facebook page —  a network that wears its de facto Christianity so proudly that the network annually gets pissy about the so-called retail “War on Christmas” every year.

“Out of the dozen or so comments captured before Fox News apparently deleted the posting” says the Christian Post, “only one bears any hint of having been possibly written by a Christian.”

Well, yeah. If you ignore the repeated threats of Hell. Or the constant equivalency we see drawn between the Christian cross and American patriotism. Or the outright name-dropping of Jesus and God. At what point can we reasonably assume that someone is what they say they are? Even on the internet, it’s completely unreasonable to assume that all 8,000 instances of stupidity and anger are trolls pretending to be Christians.

But that’s not even the worst part. Often, when you provide evidence that the nasty, rude or hateful person is a God-fearing Christian, you’ll just see the Bible beaters move the goalposts again and demand more proof. It’s not enough, it seems, to demonstrate that the offender simply says they’re a Christian, or even for them to insult you as a Christian.

Who cares if they told you that they both loved Jesus and wished you to raped in the same sentence! Hearsay! No real Christian would ever do that.  And as soon as one does, they’re no longer a Christian. It’s a rule.

This isn’t even the worst example of No True Scotsman. After Anders Breivik, a Christian terrorist, killed nearly 80 people in a bomb attack and shooting of both a government building and a summer camp, Bill O’Reilly declared him a non-Christian.

It doesn’t matter that he self-identifies as a modern day Christian crusader in his 1,500 + page manifesto with countless references to Christianity, Jesus and his own statement that Breivik “consider[s him]self to be 100% Christian.” It doesn’t matter that he’s calling for insurgent Christians to create a Knights Templar-style organization, who’ve taken a loyalty oath to the Christian religion, and dedicated to “taking back” Europe as a de jure Christian theocracy.

Nope. Not good enough, says Bill O’Reilly.

Now, when I use the words like “Christian” or “atheist,” I like to use  inclusive definitions. Simply put, a Christian is someone who believes in the divinity of Jesus Christ. And an atheist is someone who doesn’t believe in the existence of gods.

The only way to be a “bad Christian” is to reject the idea of Christ’s divinity. The only way to be a “bad atheist” is to believe in gods.

That’s it.

Given that Christian is a descriptor that we put on everyone from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Tomás de Torquemada; and from Jesse Jackson to Jerry Falwell, we need to speak broadly if we want to be accurate. There have been Christians who’ve lived lives of altruism and charity. And there have been Christians who’ve committed genocide, murder and torture, many times with explicit Biblical support.

So, who is a true Christian? Well, they all are. As we’ve said on the show, there’s a lot of bizarre, terrible and contradictory stuff in the Bible. No one believes and obeys all of it, not even the most strident fundamentalist. Everyone cherry picks their holy book. Liberals do it. Conservatives do it. And as a consequence of such, no one is in a good position to point fingers and call someone else a false Christian because the other guy chucked out the bits that they hold sacred.

Most people in prison for violent crimes in the United States are self-identified Christians, though I suspect that very few of them are convicted of crimes motivated by religion. When we lay blame for many of the horrible things in the world in the lap of religion, we’re not simply chalking up a list of all of the Christians and atheists that have done bad things and matching up their respective sums. We’re asking a far more important question:

Was religion the prime motivator of this terrible thing?

Belief is a powerful thing. It’s the impetus for our every action. To truly believe the wrong premise to be true can be an invitation to catastrophe. Ask yourself this, if you believed — truly believed — that your downstairs neighbors were trying to kill you with microwaves, what sort of absurd responses would suddenly seem completely rational?

And if you truly believed that atheists were soulless and entirely without morality, and that their speech and actions threatened dragging others down to the pits of Hell with them, what sort of ludicrous and hateful things could you post on the internet that would seem suddenly reasonable to you?

Yeah. That sort of thing.







About the Author: Mike Gillis

Mike Gillis is co-creator, and co-host of Ask an Atheist. He hosts the Radio vs. the Martians! and Mike and Pól Save the Universe! podcasts. He also enjoys comic books, the Planet of the Apes, and the band Queen.

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Tommy R

THANK YOU. I completely agree. There are so few truths in this world, and you’ve nailed this hypocracy in the head 🙂

John Boylan

Its no suprise to hear such horrible words coming from the mouths of the religious. Obviously, there are many ways to interpret the will of ones deity. But here’s my concern…. What makes them think they could approach someone, like myself and shoot me? The only one being shot would be them! 🙂


Isn’t it Christians themselves who so often tell us that the only thing you need to do to be considered a Christian, and to guarantee yourself a place in the clouds eating Sky Cake for all eternity, is believe their mumbo-jumbo about that Jesus fella being the son of God, or God himself, or both? That it doesn’t matter if you spend your whole life helping kittens across the road or rescuing little old ladies from trees, if you don’t BELIEVE then you’re going to HELL? And conversely, it also doesn’t matter if you spend your entire life kicking puppies… Read more »


Don’t you see that being a Christian means to have taken Jesus into your heart and that a heart filled with hatred cannot really accept Jesus, because Jesus is love. Therefore these people are not really Christians… Oh, damn it! I cannot even say that with a straight face…

Bob Seidensticker

I wish I’d said that! Great stuff.

Jo Ann Mitchell

So what do we do?
In this day and age we should be able to get the ones who posted threats classified as terrorist, don’t you think?

There must be a way to make the “good” -ok, non-violent-christians accountable-even if it’s just to speak up and say they disaggree with the post.

Does the goup that protested the cross have a follow up plan that we can support?


Every time I see Cindy’s comments I read them out in a happy cheerful voice and see how many people the room with me burst out laughing.

fred jones

Religion is largely about one one-upmanship requiring no effort, it’s especially popular for “normal people” who have no special skills or talents but are sure they are a little bit better and special than everyone else.

It’s tribalism at it’s worst like football fans feeling a sense of achievement when their team wins although they had absolutely nothing to do with it, but with allot more irrational hatred.

This is why Christians and other people who blindly subscribe to a religion are renowned for being some of the biggest hypocrpts on the face of the earth.

[…] No True Scotsman: Embarrassing Christians are Still Christians. […]

Donald Roberts

I have a few words for the Christians ,your motto should read. IF YOU ARE NOT MY RELIGION I WILL KILL YOU.

Henry (from San Jose)

The ultimate irony of Christianity is that it’s success came at the expense of Christ’s message. When held up to the teachings attributed to Jesus in the New Testament, 95% or more of self-proclaimed Christians would not make the cut, and the few who do are mocked for being weird or are called socialists. And, of course, even those extra-Christ-like Christians cherry pick scripture since the books are contradictory, error-laden and filled with immoral examples and commandments. More significantly, this so called “Christian” behavior is evidenced in roughly the same proportion among adherents of every religion and life philosophy throughout… Read more »

[…] convicted of tax fraud and a professional liar. They claim to be Christians pal. Read this: No True Scotsman: Embarrassing Christians are Still Christians. | Ask an Atheist "The entire point of faith is it is not dependent on facts." – Danschance […]

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