I recently posted about the fact that the Friendly Atheist’s blog and Facebook feed is one ad hominem fallacy after another, giving us news story after news story about religious people doing bad things, proving…what exactly? That religion is not true? This is what is normally called an Ad Hominem fallacy – it appeals to aspects of a person’s character in an illogical attempt to disprove their views. Regardless of how someone behaves, their moral character has no bearing on the accuracy of their views about reality. The ad hominem fallacy is regularly used in popular media, because it is effective as rhetorical ploy or as a ruthless political strategy – if you can show your opponent is immoral, you don’t have to show that his views are wrong. While this may suffice for public opinion polls and partisan “hacks”, it is found wanting in the sight of Reason. Blogs like the Friendly Atheist get their steam from a social belief that only people who have excellent moral character should have any influence on society. This is all well and good. But excellent moral character has no bearing on what is true. Indeed, saying that someone has excellent moral character begs the question of which view is true, because it presupposes that it is true that certain things are moral and certain things are not. Clearly, the extent to which you regard evangelicals as immoral will depend on whether you regard their views as being true or not.
I recently came across a piece of writing by Richard Carrier, a prominent atheist activist and probably the only mythicist ( proponent of the Christ Myth Theory) you’ll be able to find who actually has a Phd in history. Carrier tells us “False beliefs lead to bad decisions. And that can be dangerous on a mass scale. Paradigmatic examples: the Catholic Church is an international rape factory; a majority of Evangelicals are perpetually pushing for war, the expansion of poverty, and the suppression of women’s autonomy; and Donald Trump is President.”
That a very small minority of Catholic priests are sexual predators does not serve as an indictment of a massive institution. It is most certainly not true that the majority of evangelicals are perpetually pushing for war. If there is truth at all to this sweeping statement it is that the majority of evangelicals in America are perpetually pushing for war. Conservative Protestants who have same theological beliefs as American evangelicals are not only found in America – they are found all over the world. But more importantly, Carrier does not draw any connection between their religious beliefs and their support for the war. Second, supporting a war in the last decade does not mean one is “perpetually pushing for war.” Thirdly, Carrier presupposes that it was wrong to support the last or the last two (American) wars.( I’m assuming he’s right that most evangelicals did support the Iraq war and other wars before it.) Evangelicals are pushing for poverty? Evangelical churches give constantly to the poor and charitable organizations like World Vision, Samaritan’s Purse, Charity: Water, Salvation Army, Mercy Ships, Compassion International and many other charities either started as or are currently explicitly Christian organizations ( most of the one’s listed are explicitly Christian). This does not count the countless smaller evangelical churches who partner with and sponsor charities. So what does Carrier mean? He may mean that evangelicals don’t want to support welfarism. The suppression of women’s autonomy is so vague a condemnation, there’s no point in arguing it. Christianity constrains the autonomy of all of it’s followers. And now we get into the whole if-you-voted-for-Trump-you’re-a-bad-person spiel. Let’s not get into whether voting for Trump is a good thing or a bad thing. The reality is that it should not matter so much and Carrier’s belief ( along with others like him) that it is highly significant show their lack of judgment. Carrier’s sound off here very clearly shows the politicization of morality that one so often finds in secular intellectualism – your moral character is determined primarily by your political opinions, not by how you behave day-in and day-out toward those around you. Opinion morality is badly disguised nihilism, because it gives a person an excuse to behave as he wants in his personal life but still think himself of noble stock because he has all the “right” political opinions ( or so he zealously believes, and woe to the poor soul who contradicts him).
Let us leave aside the slanderous and uncharitable nature of these comments and get to the heart of the issue. We can also skip over recounting all the atrocities committed by atheists, and specifically by militant secularists like Carrier. None of this is relevant to the truth of Christianity or the truth of atheism.