Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Law, Lesson 2: What is the Question?

We start here with a lighthearted verse:
13 “‘If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. (Lev 20:13)
Fast-forward to the 21st century and you have the repulsive Westboro (unfortunately) Baptist Church. And their loathsome (worse than unfortunately) Calvinist pastor, Fred Phelps.

Phelps and his sheep use Lev 20:13 to justify all manner of attacks on homosexuality and anything they see deriving from our nation's tolerance thereof. This leads them to, most notoriously, protest at the funerals of fallen US soldiers. In order to justify their noxious protests they somehow connect the dots from our ignoring Lev 20:13 to the American military.

But what about Lev 20:13? It is certainly a commandment from God. And, it appears, a lasting (as opposed to a one-off) commandant intended to stand for at least some duration (how long?).  And God is not making an exception--it is not situational ethics as discussed earlier. God is not saying: do not summarily execute practicing homosexuals *unless* they are overly flamboyant and flaunt their proclivities and corner the market on nice city apartments. Furthermore, as will be relevant for later discussion, the commandment appears to be, or at least is arguably, moral in nature as opposed to civil or ceremonial. A plain reading of Lev 20:13 is: Homosexual activity is immoral to the point of being an abomination. Kill them

If the problem for us is not apparent, atheists are ready, out of the goodness of their hearts, to put the issue into stark relief. In my post Internet Atheists Facts O' Fun I enumerated some laws of internet atheist apologetics. One of these laws was The Law of Bright Darkness:
The Law of Bright Darkness: The worse the behavior of a Christian, the more honest the Christian is. For example, this comment from a reader on Ed Brayton's blog :
 If you really want to see the most honest adapation [sic] of what the bible and Christianity really stands far if you follow the most literal interpretation of the bible, go to Phelps.
What this atheist commenter is alleging is that Phelps is more honest than the rest of us. The rest of us are so-called "cafeteria Christians." We, à la carte, pick and choose from the Old Testament what verses we like and let the inconvenient verses sit untouched well beyond their expiration date. According to this commenter (who is merely representative) we should call for the death of gays, blasphemers and disobedient children--were it not that we, unlike Phelps, are too cowardly and not true to our faith. The intent of the commenter, if it is not obvious, is not to redirect our faith but to demonstrate how hateful Christianity is.

As an  aside, atheists will bristle if you say "Phelps is not a true Christian!" This will immediately earn you a charge of having committed the dreaded "No True Scotsman" logical fallacy:

Alice: All Scotsmen enjoy haggis.
Bob: My uncle is a Scotsman, and he doesn't like haggis!
Alice: Well, all true Scotsmen like haggis.

(It can be, be needn't be, a legitimate charge--but almost never is it legitimate as atheists use it. They tend to use it as misapplied rhetorical language obfuscating their true position: anyone who claims to be a Christian, is. Legitimate examples of the fallacy are, alas, easy to find in the family: I don't see how you can be a Christian and yet believe that the earth is billions of years old.)

The fact that if we say Phelps is not a Christian1  we are committing a logical fallacy while an atheist can say Phelps is a truer Christian than we are without his irony meter exploding--well it is consistent with the fact that atheists have been given a sort-of blanket immunity from the No True Scotsman charge. All this is codified in three additional laws of internet atheism:
The I-Say-Therefore-I-Am Law: Questioning the sincerity of self-identified Christians such as Fred Phelps (or the Big H—-you know, that guy with the funny little mustache) is immediately dismissed as a No True Scotsman Fallacy. The definition of a Christian is: "anyone who claims (or ever claimed--if no explicit renouncement is available) they are a Christian."
Exception to the I-Say-Therefore-I-Am Law: Anyone questioning the atheism of an inconvenient self-proclaimed atheist (such as students who gun down their classmates) is granted blanket immunity from the No True Scotsman Fallacy. It's only fair. 
The Ipso Facto No Atheist Is That Bad Law: Stalin and Mao were not atheists. They were demigods of the religions Stalinism and Maoism. We know this because mass murder on such a scale can only be committed by religionists.
Now, hilarity aside, we must ask ourselves the question: was that commenter correct? Does he have a point? Should we be calling for the death of practicing homosexuals? And if not, why not?--and why not biblically, not just "because people would not like us."

Some Christians, in fact, agree with the commenter. Most of us do not--but we may not how to make the argument scripture based rather than emotion based. One of the goals of this course will be to equip us with the tools to a) tell the commenter he is full of crap, which he is, and b) to back up that charge.

1 I for one would not say that Phelps is not a Christian. Instead I  would say this: showing no perceptible fruit, the basis upon which we who claim the title Christian are supposed to judge one another, I refuse to regard him as a Christian and instead, as instructed, consider him worse than an unbeliever. If he came to my church (other than for repentance) I would not serve him communion, and would in fact toss his Ichabod-Crane-like skinny ass out of the building.

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