• Refuting: ‘How To Argue With An Atheist: Tips #5 and #6: Red Herring/Strawman’

    scott-m-sullivanScott M. Sullivan’s video series on “How to argue with an atheist” is getting out of control. I have already responding to his first four tips (1,2,3,4) and his next two tips don’t really deserve their own responses so I will mash them together.

    Tip #5 is: Watch out for the red herring fallacy and tip #6 is to watch out for the strawman fallacy:

    Projection much? Sullivan claims that atheists might focus more on the evils that religious causes instead of focusing on whether or not the claims of Christianity are actually true or false. This is interesting because whenever I argue against religious claims, Christians almost always claim that belief in God healed their relative of cancer or helped them get over drug addiction. They want to tell me how their beliefs changed their lives and yet they are unable to provide any actual evidence for their claims.

    I do consider Christianity to be a threat to human happiness, human progress, and human survival on this planet, but like Scott M. Sullivan said, that is beside the point. The point is that there is still zero evidence supporting the claims of Christianity or any other religion.

    In his sixth tip, Sullivan then warns that atheists strawman the position of Christians to make the Christian position to seem silly… as if their position needs any help from us atheists. Sorry, but the Christian position doesn’t seem silly… it actually is silly!

    Sullivan thinks that atheists are using the strawman fallacy when we say something along the lines of, “Oh, you believe in God? Well that’s as silly as believing in Zeus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.” Surprise, that’s not actually an example of a strawman fallacy.

    Still, I love the word, “disanalogous.” Sullivan claims that his God is completely different than that other god (Zeus) and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Here is the difference according to Sullivan: “There is no good reason to believe that either Zeus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster exist. In other words, these things are wholly unsupported.” LMAO!!

    Do you know what else is wholly unsupported? Any other deity including the Christian deity. There remains zero evidence to support the claim that the Christian God or any other god actually exists. Zero! As in zip, zilch, nodda, not a shred, none.

    Oh, but there are “very strong philosophical arguments for the existence of God. Arguments like the First Cause Argument… the Design Argument, The Moral Argument…” Well shit, there are very strong philosophical arguments for a lot of things especially when people aren’t trained in critical thinking. Those arguments however are not very strong philosophical arguments. In fact, a quick Google and/or Wikipedia search will show that they have been refuted quite handily a long time ago.

    Plus, even if we were to accept that there were good philosophical arguments for God, Sullivan would still have to show that his deity of choice was the correct one and that other deities, such as Zeus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster were not the correct ones. Far from being “disanalogous,” Zeus and the Flying Spaghetti Monster are exactly analogous. They are merely different deities and there is no more or less evidence for either Yahweh or Zeus.

    Sullivan falls back on the Fallacy of Popularity. He claims that because “these God questions are discussed at the highest levels of academia” that there must be something to them. First, I’m not really sure if that is true. Aside from religious seminaries I don’t really think people are discussing these God questions at the highest level of academia. In philosophy, we often discuss what other philosophers in the past thought about these issues, but very rarely do we still take these arguments seriously today. Like I said, these arguments have been long refuted and no one has really come up with any original argument within the last few centuries. They certainly haven’t come up with any original or valid evidence for their claims.

    But even if philosophers at the highest levels of academia were vigorously debating these issues, that wouldn’t be evidence that the Christian God actually exists. This is simply a red herring. The fact is that there is no evidence and no good philosophical reasons in support of any deity and picking a deity other than Sullivan’s deity of choice as an analogy is perfectly valid and is not “disanalogous” and is certainly not a strawman.

    Check out the rest of this series:
    Refuting: ‘How To Argue With An Atheist: Tip #1’ – “Atheist Fundamentalist”
    Refuting: ‘How To Argue With An Atheist: Tip #2’ – “Learn Logic”
    Refuting: ‘How To Argue With An Atheist: Tip #3’ – “Scientism”
    Refuting: ‘How To Argue With An Atheist: Tip #4’ – “Definition of Faith”

    Category: AtheismChristianityfeaturedPhilosophyReligionScott M. Sullivan


    Article by: Staks Rosch

    Staks Rosch is a writer for the Skeptic Ink Network & Huffington Post, and is also a freelance writer for Publishers Weekly. Currently he serves as the head of the Philadelphia Coalition of Reason and is a stay-at-home dad.