The 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.
…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.
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.