Pharyngula

I patiently explained all that was wrong with Be Scofield’s characterization of atheists; now he has written back and said
I am wrong, wrong, wrong. I’m just going to focus on his first weird point, because the whole thing is disposable, but I feel like making a token effort anyway.

A good part of his argument was an analogy run amuck. He tried to argue that criticizing liberal religion for extremist religious actions must mean I don’t like liberal politics (that is, I must be an anarchist!) or I am a hypocrite. I explained yesterday that this wasn’t the case, I have no problem with the liberal part of “liberal religion”, so his comparison is way off. As I said then:

Liberal and Moderate Religion Justifies Religious Extremism. Scofield has completely missed the point. Liberal religion isn’t blamed for promoting illiberalism, it’s guilty of promoting religion. Nobody is arguing that the antithesis is responsible for the thesis, but that liberal religion and extremist religion hold something in common: the abdication of reason in favor of faith. They are both philosophies that undermine critical thinking. And without that safeguard of demanding reasonable evidence for propositions, they’re left vulnerable to bad ideas.

Now he has apparently failed to comprehend my explanation, because his new article, which sounds rather angry (I thought he was supposed to deplore that?), takes that very same rhetorical game and turns it up to 11, as if amplifying the flaws in his logic might somehow convince me to overlook them.

Liberal and extremist forms of government also share many of the same harmful common foundations: the use of propaganda, social control, loss of self identity for the country (nationalism), stifling of critical thinking, faith in leaders, manipulation…etc.

Wait, what? In order to force his analogy to work, he has to claim that the foundation of liberal government is propaganda, social control, nationalism, an absence of critical thinking, and faith in the leadership? I’d consider those the opposite of liberal government, and I think he’s confused a liberal democracy with fascism.

At this point, I think we’re done. Scofield has resorted to making absurd claims about the nature of liberal democracy the premise of his comparison, so there’s not really any point in arguing further with him. For the sake of completeness, though, so I don’t get accused of taking him out of context, here’s the remainder of his paragraph.

When these are taken to the extremes the results are horrific. For militant anarchists the answer is clear: ALL government is the problem because moderate government is an “open invitation to extremism.” They BOTH share the same problem – government and the things that go along with it. Unless Myers also believes the same is true for government then he is already able to make the meaningful distinctions that I’m asking him to make about religion. Whatever the reasons that Myers might give for seeing gradations and variations in government without denouncing it entirely, (despite the presence of shared harmful and irrational elements in both its liberal and extremist forms that can lead to very dangerous outcomes) I am asking him to make the same types of distinctions in regards to religion. If he can do it in relation to government he can do it in relation to religion. Otherwise he needs to explain why religion should be singled out to be denounced entirely when many of the same extremely irrational and problematic conditions (faith in the state/leaders and stifling of free/critical thinking) have existed in government. Why doesn’t tolerant and democratic government receive the same blame that liberal religion does when they both share harmful elements of their extremist counterparts? If a shared common foundation of things that stifle critical thinking is the reasoning for denouncing an entire category then it must apply to government.

See? If we just assume tyranny and oppression are the basis of the ideal liberal government, and that this is the identical relationship faith has to liberal religion, then Scofield gets to pretend that I ought to be making exactly the same criticisms of liberal government that I do of liberal religion.

Got it? I can now see exactly where Scofield is coming from, and it is a very warped place inhabited by someone who is not very bright.