No true Scotsman, redux

A while back I blogged about the witch hunts in Africa, and how they were solely the result of Christians spreading their religion to ignorant, superstitious people who don't know any better. The point can't be understated: as long as there is no objective, independent criteria for interpreting the Bible correctly, people will impose on it whatever sociocultural biases they want and then, in a gobsmacking display of circular reasoning, use this as an anchor upon which to assert the infallible truth of their made-up religion.

Some nefarious Christian types have been making the news lately. First, you have that pandemic of pedophilia spread throughout the Catholic church. Then you've got those militia loons up in Michigan who think that extensive military training will be necessary to survive the Tribulation or some such nonsense. But the award for Most Disgusting Religious Idiots goes once again to Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church, the same morons who stand on street corners with their "God Hates _______" signs, in which the blank is filled with any number of offensive epithets unbecoming of civilized human beings. This time those clowns got taken to court after demonstrating at – brace yourselves – the funeral of a young soldier killed in Iraq. Something about how they believe that dead soldiers are God's retribution for our tolerance of homosexuality. Or whatever. The father sued them, saying that it was an invasion of privacy; the church counter-sued on free speech grounds, and the original ruling was overturned, and now the father of the marine is being told to pay the church's legal fees. The judge clearly gets a Douchebag of the Year award.

Now, whenever stuff like this happens, the chorus of nice, relatively sane Christians erupts: They aren't real Christians. Well, sorry folks, yes they are. Do they represent all Christians? No, of course not. But saying they're not actually Christians is to commit the "no true Scotsman" logical fallacy. But, does it really matter if they're actually Christians if they don't represent all Christians? Yes, it does, for the same simple reason I stated in the first paragraph: The problem with Christianity is that there's no independent criteria for interpreting the Bible properly. In the absence of such objective criteria, people are free to interpret the Bible arbitrarily and, in the process, impose whatever sociocultural biases they want on to their pet interpretations. Then they convince themselves that since this book was written by God himself, they cannot possibly be wrong. Dialogue, closed. You can't reason with people hiding behind a false pretense of infallible knowledge.

So, the best we can do is to simply point out the folly of religious belief at its core and, like this clever fellow below has done, turn their wickedness against them by using it for a good cause:

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