Saturday, June 13, 2015

Stupid Theist Tricks: Projection

Of all the debate tactics that theists employ, none is more frustrating and infuriating to me than their habit of trying to make others appear guilty of the very things for which they themselves bear the greatest culpability.  This is similar to a tactic used to great effect by Karl Rove in running George W. Bush's presidential campaign or 2004, now known as "swiftboating".

The Swiftboating of John Kerry

The military service of of the two candidates in the 2004 presidential race is a tale of stark contrast.  Bush had succeeded in avoiding being sent to Vietnam by landing a hard-to-get position as a pilot in the National Guard, where, according to his military records, he eventually stopped showing up for duty, and later was mysteriously granted credit for time served despite being absent without permission.  It has been widely speculated that both his assignment to the Guard, and the later award of service credit were orchestrated by a high-level government official who also goes by the name of George Bush.  Meanwhile, Kerry was a swiftboat commander in Vietnam, who received three Purple Heart medals, a Silver Star, and a Bronze Star with the Combat V device, awarded to him for valor under enemy fire.  He was a bona fide war hero.

Karl Rove understood that the most effective strategy to counter the obvious weakness of Bush's military record by comparison to Kerry's was to turn it around - to make it look like the exact opposite of the truth.  So he organized a smear campaign designed to make it appear as if Kerry was a coward, a "baby killer", and a liar who received his medals under false pretenses.  He put together a front organization called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and helped them to publicize these smears.  Bush went on to win the election.

The Christian Swiftboaters

The reversal of truth in not new to Christian apologists.  They take their own faults and weaknesses, and turn them against their opponents at every opportunity.  They hope that a non-discerning audience will not see that the truth has been turned on its head.  Here are a few examples.

Evidence-based beliefs.  Evidence is at the heart of the naturalist's worldview.  It is the greatest strength of his position.  Simply put, there is not good reason to believe that supernatural entities or events exist, based on what we objectively observe in our world.  So what do Christians do?  They invent their own evidence from nothing.  According to them, the sensus divinitatis tells them the truth about  the existence of god, and there are miracles all around us, all the time.  Don't bother explaining that these things are only their subjective interpretation of emotional feelings or natural events that have no objectively miraculous causes.  They will insist that the evidence is real and that it is the naturalist who is blind to the evidence.

Logical Absurdity.  Theistic belief is fraught with logical inconsistencies.  There have been many questions raised about the incoherency of God's perfection, omniscience, omnipotence, and omnibenevolence.  Or about the inconsistency of divine simplicity with the tripartite conception of the Christian God.  Although they have devised answers for these questions, their final solution to the problem in the face of skeptics who don't buy their explanations is to declare that atheism is incoherent and atheists are impervious to logic.

Persecution.  Christians have been subjected to persecution at various times, although the extent of that persecution tends to be greatly exaggerated.  Only during a brief period in the Roman empire was there systematic state-sponsored persecution of Christians.  In today's world, the Chinese government suppresses all kinds of dissent, including religious groups such as Christians, but this suppression is not exclusively targeted at Christians.  The middle east in recent years has seen real persecution of Christian minority populations in places where there had been little or none for centuries.  But the reality is that Christians have been the perpetrators of persecution against various minority groups much more than they have been the victims.  In America today, gay people are despised and discriminated against by Christians.  But if you listen to the perpetrators of this hatred, it is the Christians who claim they are the victims of persecution, whenever they have to comply with anti-discrimination laws.  Oh the horror.

Closed minds.  Many Christians cannot be swayed by evidence or logic that there might be some reasonable alternative to their religious beliefs.  They wouldn't consider changing their minds under any circumstances.  They are hardened by years of religious training that starts in early childhood.  They believe that their arguments refute any and all challenges to their faith, despite the question begging and the unsupported theistic assumptions.  They are taught that when faced with doubts, faith must reign supreme.  Then when someone doesn't accept the validity of their arguments, he is accused of being close-minded because he doesn't accept Christian faith.  This is true even when the opponent has already changed his belief based on evidence and arguments.

In each of these situations, Christians project their own faults and weaknesses onto their ideological opponents.  It bolsters their egos, and makes them seem superior in their own minds, as well as the minds of an uncritical audience.  The methods of Karl Rove have been employed by Christian apologetics for centuries.  And there is no sign they will ever stop.

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