Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Perfect Example

On this most recent Thanksgiving a lunatic Christian troll came across some of my blog posts and left some very typical comments.  A couple of the comments were just very straightforward attempts at lies, to which I gave quick and easy replies.

One of the comments, though, was such a typical example of "befuddle them with bullshit" argumentation so often employed by the religious that I just shook my head.  After a while though, I decided it was best to take this bull(shit) by the horns--in no small part because this is exactly the sort of reply one might get from the religious in response to some of the points I have made here in my blog.

The comment was:
"Religion in which God is worshiped and not the self = narcissism disorder lol? What a bad atheist argument. No, that's humanistic atheism. Oh and, the high scholars of the DSM removed narcissism disorder as a mental disorder, guess why?

Atheism truly is a destructive lie that makes you morally backwards. So is the mindset of a narcissist."
First, note that this is a good example of the type of "so full of mistakes, I don't know where to start refuting it" religious argument.  Often in such case, the first thing to do is simply state this fact in order to give yourself a little time to begin processing the cascade of misdirection, mischaracterization, and mistakes of logic.

Now, let's take this nonsense one piece at a time.

The very first thing the commenter did was to confuse two different definitions of narcissism.  There is the classical term "narcissism" describing someone in love with himself as was Narcissus of greek mythology.  On the other hand there is clinical narcissism of modern psychology describing someone who presents a false, inflated self to the world in order to bolster his or her damaged ego.  These two things may sometimes overlap, but they are not the same.

It was, of course, the false self-image of clinical narcissism that my posts on narcissism were about.  I made that abundantly clear.  The false self-image that narcissists present to the world (and to themselves) encompasses religion as narcissism.  The false self-image of the religious narcissist includes the delusion that the religious narcissist is in possession of ultimate knowledge and is a friend and confidant of the most powerful being in the universe.

When one encounters this sort of argument, it is often difficult to determine whether the religious person is deliberately trying to be dishonest or is simply stupid--or some combination of the two.  I think it is usually a combination of the two--in a sense.

I find that usually the best explanation of the phenomenon is that the person is so driven by his emotional need to refute and belittle the "evil atheist" that he or she doesn't really take the time to make sure he or she is correct.  Trying to both refute and belittle one's opponent at the same time usually results in this sort of strawman argument where the religious person confuses the different meanings of the terms being used in an attempt to make fun of the non-believer.

As I mentioned before, this is their mistaken version of the reductio ad absurdum argument.  Reductio ad absurdum refers to an argument pointing out an inherent contradiction in the argument being refuted.  It does not consist of making fun of the argument being refuted.

Next, we have the assertion that "humanistic atheism" is narcissism.  This is another strawman argument, in which the religious person misrepresents what humanism and atheism are.  Humanism is a philosophy that holds that the best way for humanity to know itself and better itself is to study itself and learn the truth about itself and that such study will lead to true and proper ethics.  Or, as defined by the website of the American Humanist Association:

"Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity."
It is hardly narcissism for people to conclude that they need to know themselves and rely only on facts when determining what is real.  And, atheism, of course, is simply a lack of belief in a god or gods.  More than anything else, humanism stands for the proposition that humans can seek to better themselves without the guidance or threats of a god.  It is a response to those who maintain that this is impossible because they think humans are irredeemably evil without a god.

Finally, we have a blatant lie.  Narcissistic Personality Disorder has not been removed as a diagnosis from the DSM.  Recent headlines suggest that it might be at some time in the future because the American Psychiatric Association is considering a proposal to re-write the DSM.  The proposal does not, however, truly remove Narcissistic Personality Disorder, rather it proposes a more amorphous category, which would include Narcissistic Personality Disorder as well as others considered to be separate disorders currently, as a more flexible diagnosis.

Not only is it a lie to say that this has already happened, it is also a lie to imply--as does the troll's comment--that this change is in any way related to religion, atheism, or my assertions that religion should be considered a form of or symptom of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.   Instead, the proposal grew out of clinical experience in which it was seen that patients were often diagnosed with more than one of the current categories of personality disorder.  Excessive numbers of co-diagnoses indicated that the present categories overlapped too often to be considered truly separate in all cases.

The troll apparently googled the name of the disorder and came across an article such as this confused one in The New York Times from more than a year ago.  The third paragraph of the article makes the mistake of saying that this change "has" occurred, implying that it is a done deal, but also says that DSM-5 will not be published until 2013, which, of course, means that the change has not actually occurred yet.

Further down in the article (much further than the troll actually read, apparently) it becomes clear that the proposed changes are actually quite controversial in the community of mental health professionals.  It is not clear whether these proposed changes will, in fact, be adopted.  The troll, however, was not seeking the truth.  He was seeking a cudgel he could use to attack the "evil atheist".  He skimmed just enough of the article he found to deceive himself into thinking that he could make an argument based on it.

The great Giordano Bruno captured the essence of such hideous fools perfectly when he wrote:

"For they dispute not in order to find or even to seek Truth, but for victory, and to appear the more learned and strenuous upholders of a contrary opinion."

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