Sunday, May 11, 2014

Special Pleading

One of the most frustrating things about trying to have discussions with religious people is their tendency to insist that skepticism and the rules of logic should be applied to my position but that their position is somehow exempt from the same sort of examination.

This is not just a double standard.  It is extreme intellectual dishonesty.  It is extreme bias.

The term for this type of shifting standard, where the advocate of a position unjustifably claims that his position has to be judged by a different standard or an exception to the rules is "special pleading".

In my experience with the religious the "different standard" continually shifts.  As soon as they realize that a particular standard doesn't support their position, they claim that another one applies.  Furthermore, they do this without justification, which is what makes it special pleading.  There are situations where different standards apply, but only when justified by relevant, demonstrable differences between the things being judged.

The religious will claim that their new standard is justified but usually they will not have an adequate justification for it.  Their arguments for the shift in the standard will suffer from the same fatal flaws as most of their other arguments:  They will be based on unjustified assumptions, circular reasoning or some other logical fallacy.

Although one should know the term "special pleading" and what it means, it won't usually be helpful to use it in a discussion with a religious person.  Instead, once you recognize that the argument is based on special pleading, demand that the religious person justify the use of the claimed exception to the usual rules of logic.

Most often this type of dishonest argumentation is combined with circular reasoning, such as where the religious person claims that the rules of logic don't exist because god's alleged traits make him an exception to those rules.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Top 15 Quotes by Famous Atheists

I recently found this list on listverse.  I thought it worth passing along:

1. Creationists make it sound like a ‘theory’ is something you dreamt up after being drunk all night — Isaac Asimov

2. I don’t believe in God. My god is patriotism. Teach a man to be a good citizen and you have solved the problem of life. — Andrew Carnegie

3. All thinking men are atheists. — Ernest Hemingway

4. Lighthouses are more helpful then churches. — Benjamin Franklin

5. Faith means not wanting to know what is true. — Friedrich Nietzsche

6. The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. — George Bernard Shaw

7. Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith, I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile. — Kurt Vonnegut

8. I believe in God, only I spell it Nature. — Frank Lloyd Wright

9. Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest. — Denis Diderot

10. A man is accepted into a church for what he believes and he is turned out for what he knows. — Samuel Clemens

11. The whole thing is so patently infantile, so foreign to reality, that to anyone with a friendly attitude to humanity it is painful to think that the great majority of mortals will never be able to rise above this view of life. — Sigmund Freud

12. Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful. — Edward Gibbon

13. The church says the earth is flat, but I know that it is round, for I have seen the shadow on the moon, and I have more faith in a shadow than in the church. — Ferdinand Magellan

14. Not only is there no god, but try getting a plumber on weekends. — Woody Allen

15. It’s an incredible con job when you think about it, to believe something now in exchange for something after death. Even corporations with their reward systems don’t try to make it posthumous. — Gloria Steinem