Extreme Examples Aren’t Helpful

You say Westboro, I say bin Laden
You say Crusaders, I say Joe Stalin
Westboro! bin Laden!
Crusaders! Joe Stalin!
Let’s call the whole thing off!

Well, that was weird …

Have you noticed how many arguments between people of different religious groups, or between religious and non-religious people end up reduced to extreme name-calling? And by extreme name-calling, I mean trying to associate the other side with the absolute worst possible examples from human history you can think of.  The thought process seems to be:

You know who else believed like you? [Insert shocking person or group here]! That’s who! 

You know who else would have pointed out any grammatical errors in this post in the comment section? That’s right …

The worst part of this sort of argumentation is that the examples usually are extreme … and we know it! It’s one of the most dishonest ways people argue on the internet.

Take excerpts from our awkward little lyric at the beginning of the post, for example.  Does anyone out there really think that Phelps and Westboro Baptist … *cough* … “Church” represent normal Christian thought and action? Does anyone really think that they are typical of Christianity’s legacy around the globe? What about Joseph Stalin? Does anyone out there really think that all atheists are merely genocidal maniacs who don’t yet have the power to expose themselves for what they really are? Does anyone really want to draw a logical chain for us between not believing in God and killing 30 million people?

Reducing belief in a supernatural beings to protesting homosexual funerals, blowing up buildings, or burning the books of other religious groups is silly.  Similarly, saying that people who don’t believe in a a supernatural being de facto don’t have morals or ethics, or don’t care about their fellow human beings is just as silly.

PICTURED:  Christopher Hitchens, best known for beating up little old ladies and stealing their purses because there was no god to stop him.

A mature discussion of competing ideas requires taking the ideas seriously.  That doesn’t mean agreeing with them, nor does it even mean conceding that they might be true.  I don’t live my life as if God might not exist, and don’t expect you to live your life as if He might if you don’t believe in Him.
What taking ideas seriously does mean is not reducing them to caricatures, not attacking them ad hominem (e.g. coming up with a list of total jerk-wads who might have believed similar things), AND respecting those who hold competing ideas enough to actually find out what they believe, rather than assuming they believe what that crazy nut job extreme example believes/believed.  
Osama bin Laden believed the world was round, too.  Need I say more?

Oh, and if you don’t agree with me about this, well, you know exactly who you’re being like …
(More articles at www.ThinkingThroughChristianity.com)