It all started on the ExposingReligion page on Facebook. This idiot, whose name I’ve forgotten and whose text I’ve not found, claimed that religion kills. I pointed out that religion, a social construct, can’t kill.
He and two other morons vicously attacked me, using not one bit of evidence to back up their claims and all the fallacy and ad hominems you can shake a cross at. When I pointed out their poor reasoning and how it was poor, they ignored me and lobbed more insults.
I was ashamed. Not for what I had said, but that these were atheists saying these things. Atheists! People who normally pride themselves on logical reasoning and evidence. Yet all that seemed to matter to them was attacking religion solely for the sake of it.
Less than two weeks later, BionicDance posted a video in which she said this:
“Know what caused 9/11? Religion!”
I took her to task in “…On Atheist Fallacy” (linked at the right). She claimed I was trying to make a semantic argument. So did Captain Pants (Jacob Kramer?) of Support Atheism when I tried to have my article published there. Here’s what I had to say to him about that.
A couple of days ago, I got the following comment on the above article after my call-in to Atheist Experience. I’d forgotten that, temporarily, comments were allowed under the article.
“Head about you on the atheist experience, checked out your website, read this incredibly frustrating pseudo-sceptical debate with BD, now I’m leaving the site because you think it’s prodcutive to waste time playing semantics aguing a point re 911 that is demonstrably false. It is established beyond all doubt that al qaeda has islamic motivations.
“Yes, it’s good to challenge the beliefs and claims of everyone, but this was just completely inappropriate and unproductive.”
Here’s my response:
“Thanks for dropping by. Funny you say ‘pseudo-skeptical.’ Since I was skeptical of BionicDance’s claims, that seems to be, well, skeptical, not ‘pseudo.’ I’m not sure what you mean by ‘leaving’ the site. It’s not a destination like Disneyland. It’s just a site. Funny, too, that you call my article ‘playing semantics’ and ‘demonstrably false.’ Can you prove that there is a direct, absolute causal relationship between Islam and the 9/11 attacks? No? Didn’t think so. That’s because despite religious motivations being present, one can’t prove a direct causal relationship. So much for ‘demonstrably false.’ I doubt whether you actually paid attention to my article as I never, I repeat NEVER said that there are no religious motivations to al Qaeda. What I said was that there is no causal relationship from those motivations to the 9/11 attacks without also considering political, social, and economic factors, among others. Notice that I cited Sweden, one of the more secular nations in the world, which al Qaeda did not attack and which bin Laden specifically cited as not being a target. Given that Sweden is a secular country and given the asserted religious motivations of al Qaeda, it would stand to reason that al Qaeda would be interested in pursuing jidad against ALL offending nations, not just the big, militaristic, wealthy ones who arguably impose their imperialist agendas on the rest of the fucking world. Yet Sweden remains unscathed. So much for religion being the primary motivating factor behind al Qaeda’s actions.
“How was my article inappropriate or unproductive? Simply asserting such doesn’t prove such.
“Look, Don’t, I’m happy to have an honest discussion about this issue seeing as there obviously is some grey area here. If you’re willing to do that, I invite you to come on back and discuss it with me like an adult. If, however, all you wanted to do was act like a pissy child and toss in your pithy rejoinder (like certain RoboticBallets I could mention), then, by all means, don’t let the proverbial door hit you in the ass.”
Both comments and a pingback have been removed from the article because I didn’t like how they looked and never intended comments to be allowed on the article in the first place.
As a linguist, I understand there are such things as connotation, tone, and other subtleties among words of seemingly similar or identical definitions. It’s in fact a linguistic law that if word A and word B mean exactly the same thing, then one of them falls out of use. Thus, if two words exist that SEEM to mean exactly the same thing, there is most likely some connotative or tonal difference between the two that necessitates each existence. To be completely fair, here are the definitions of “semantics”, “motivation”, and “cause”, respectively, per Dictionary.com.
[si-man-tiks] Show IPA
–noun ( used with a singular verb )
the study of meaning.
the study of linguistic development by classifying and examining changes in meaning and form.
Also called significs. the branch of semiotics dealing with the relations between signs and what they denote.
the meaning, or an interpretation of the meaning, of a word, sign, sentence, etc.: Let’s not argue about semantics.
[moh-tuh-vey-shuhn] Show IPA
the act or an instance of motivating.
the state or condition of being motivated.
something that motivates; inducement; incentive.
[kawz] Show IPA
noun, verb, caused, caus·ing.
a person or thing that acts, happens, or exists in such a way that some specific thing happens as a result; the producer of an effect: You have been the cause of much anxiety. what was the cause of the accident?
the reason or motive for some human action: The good news was a cause for rejoicing.
good or sufficient reason: to complain without cause; to be dismissed for cause.
It seems that definition 2 of “cause” closely enough matches the definitions of “motivation” to suggest that, at least in that sense, the two are synonyms. In that respect, I agree with BionicDance, Captain Pants, and Don’t. I admitted such in my article. If we call religion “motivation” and we call “motivation” “cause”, then we can say that religion “caused” 9/11. But no one was discussing “cause” per definition 2 above as purely a “motivation.” We were discussing “cause” as X MAKING Y HAPPEN, which, per the above definitions, is NOT what “motivation” means.
For a real-world example, since we don’t convict criminals based on their motivations, as that would be thought-crime, it’s pretty fucking obvious that MOTIVATION and CAUSE, specifically as I discussed them in “…On Atheist Fallacy”, semantically similar definitely are NOT.
I’ve since thought about my response to Don’t and I rescind my offer. If Don’t is gonna be stupid enough to disagree with and completely ignore one piece of material in order to support his anti-religious agenda, and dismiss the other material on the site, such as my articles and others’ de-conversion stories, not to mention doing so from the cowardly, cry-baby sleeping bag of on-line anonymity, all just because of his disagreement, well, Don’t, do us all a favor and go fuck yourself with a rusty razor. In a dirty bathroom. In Calcutta. (No offense to Calcutta!)
I get that it’s easy to hate Islam. I really do. But, just as Matt Dillahunty pointed out my own causal claims in an article I wrote, did I throw a hissy like BionicDance did here?
Of course not. I separated my emotional connection to the issue and dealt rationally with what Matt was saying. And I told him so.
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. As atheists, we must apply logic and evidence to all issues, not just the ones that are easy or convenient or fun. I’m talking to you, nameless Facebook idiots, you BionicDance, you Captain Pants, and you Don’t. The point of ethics is that we must apply them even when, especially when, we don’t want to.