BionicDance and I Get into a Bitch-Slap Hissy or On Atheist Fallacy
And to think I’d just linked to her YouTube channel on my site Atheist Asshole. Heh.
As much as I’ve strived to apply logic to my arguments, specifically those against religion and its adherents, I often make mistakes. In fact, one of my friends often calls me on my reliance on the Appeal to History argument.
“America’s always dominated the conventions that define mainstream films, therefore it always will,” says I.
“That’s ignoring the fact that such dominance could change at any time for any reason,” says my friend.
He’s right of course. And it’s dumb of me to insist on my argument. The above example notwithstanding, I do my best with reasoning.
Recently, I’ve noticed a bit of a trend in the atheist community wherein atheists make poorly reasoned claims against religion, I call them on that, and they turn on me with ad hominems and other baseless claims seemingly because I’m calling them on their illogical bullshit.
It’s hypocritical and fucking annoying.
In her recent video, “PWNAGE: InventorGorrilla Gets Taken to School” by BionicDance, she makes a number of good points. This was not one of them:
“You know what caused 9/11? Religion!” she claimed.
I pointed out a flaw in her claim on her comments section.
“I love you, Bionic, but I take issue with claiming that 9/11 was caused by ‘religion.’ Religion is a social construct. It doesn’t kill anyone. And other factors, such as the hijackers’ alleged issues with American imperialism/foreign policy, had likely just as much to do with the attacks, if not more. I think it’s very important for all us atheists to be honest in all debates, even in stuff we seemingly all agree on,” I wrote.
I figured that’d be the end of it. I started with a positive, I didn’t attack her, nor did I use an ad hominem. I merely pointed out that which I felt was a baseless claim and suggested we all strive for better.
“Semantics, kiddo. Those who did 9/11 did so BECAUSE OF THEIR RELIGION. It’s the same thing,” she wrote (emphasis not added).
Let’s set aside for the moment that she used the condescending ”kiddo.” It was mildly annoying, but I figured I’d take it in the spirit in which I assumed it was intended and later fire back in a similar, light-hearted fashion.
The ALL CAPS, though. Generally speaking, ALL CAPS is used at least to emphasize one’s words, if not to imitate screaming in an on-line forum. I’m not suggesting Bionic was screaming at me, but I feel it safe to claim that her intention sided on the emotional.
I chose to use that against her.
“Everyone says that [the attackers were motivated by their religion ], and yet I’m not aware of any evidence. Is there a video or statement the hijackers made in which they specifically declared that they were about to take down the towers BECAUSE OF THEIR RELIGION? If so, I’m wrong and I drop my point. If not, then I suggest that the assertion that they did it BECAUSE OF THEIR RELIGION requires evidence the same as with any other assertion made, junior. ” I condescended.
Yes, I mocked her use of ALL CAPS. But not in any truly mean-spirited way, as evidenced by the terminal emoticon. I also freely admitted that I could be wrong. Unlike many others, I see no value in maintaining a staunch position of “I’m right” solely for its own sake. I understand that it’s socially advantageous to do so, but I’ve never been one for social advantage.
“Oh, come now. They were members of an organization whose aims are ENTIRELY religious, they shouted, ‘Allah ahu-Ackbar!!!’ (or something like that; I don’t know how to spell it) into their radios RIGHT before they crashed into the building.
“Of COURSE they fucking well did it because of their religion,” she insisted.
I assert that Bionic knew that she had no evidence to back up her claim, otherwise there was no need for the “Oh, come now.” This is ultimately a veiled Appeal to Popularity. In essence, what it means is “Everyone knows this.” She then went on to make another claim for which she cited no evidence:
An organization whose aims are entirely religious.
That’s a bold, absolute claim. I’d never make such a claim about anything because it’s very difficult to prove absolutes. So difficult, in fact, that even when suspects are convicted of murder, they receive automatic appeals. Automatic.
“I’m not aware of evidence that al Qaeda is a religious organization. As far as I know, bin Laden was quoted as saying that he ordered the attacks because of US support of Israel among other US foreign policies. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. If not…” I explained.
Admittedly, I cited no firm evidence either, but I alluded to it. She did not. At least not in her main argument. She did mention the radio cry, but the fact is that anyone can cry anything into a radio without that being a direct cause of the action taken.
Now that I’ve had time to research this, here’s bin Laden on America’s support for Israel:
“We say our terror against America is blessed terror in order to put an end to suppression, in order for the United States to stop its support to Israel.”
–Osama bin Laden
(Video statement broadcast on the Arabic-language Al-Jazeera TV station, 26 December 2001.)
And here’s bin Laden on Sweden, one of the more secular nations in the world:
“Free people do not relinquish their security. This is contrary to Bush’s claim that we hate freedom. Let him tell us why we did not strike Sweden, for example.”
–Osama bin Laden
(Videotape broadcast on al-Jazeera TV as reported by BBC, 29 October 2004.)
But, so that no one can accuse me of cherry-picking, here’s what Bionic should’ve cited:
“I’m fighting so I can die a martyr and go to heaven to meet God. Our fight now is against the Americans.”
–Osama bin Laden
(Statement in al-Quds al-Arabi, as quoted in “Bin Laden: I Didn’t Do It” CBS News, 12 September 2001)
Let’s move on.
“You’re wrong; al Quaeda is an inherently Muslim organization.
“And again, there’z their Islamic death cries. Remember?
“To think they weren’t motivated by religion is to bury your head in the sand,” she accused.
I took real issue with this one. Okay, fine. I’m wrong. But notice that she still cited no evidence at all for her claim. I’ve since looked it up and have discovered that yes, al Qaeda does seem to be nominally a Muslim organization. I say “nominally” for exactly the same reason as I questioned the whole thing in the first place.
Generally speaking, people do things out of perceived need. Armies go to war not to liberate, but because the generals behind the desks have a stake in winning. It might be land, money, or political gain. The point is that the publicly stated motivation for any kind of war, battle, or attack is hardly ever the true one. And the fact is, as skeptical atheists, we should all recognize that.
Pope Urban II was instrumental in launching the First Crusade not necessarily because he was Catholic, but more likely because he had direct ties to kings and emperors, all of whom had a stake in a commercial and military foothold in the east Mediterranean.
Fred Phelps’ group protests gay pride parades not necessarily because they are fundamentalist Christians, but more likely because they’re homophobes and merely use the Bible as justification for their homophobia. (Fun fact: The Bonner Springs branch of the NAACP gave Phelps an award for his work as a civil rights attorney, citing his “steely determination for justice during his tenure as a civil rights attorney.”)
To equate my skepticism of her assertion with burying my head in the sand is structurally no different than a Christian accusing me of being “closed minded” when I question his assertion of the divinity of Jesus.
And notice that she accused me of thinking that religion didn’t motivate the attackers. I never said that. I merely suggested that there were additional factors. She misrepresented my initial position, then attacked it (straw man).
I then attempted to break down her argument.
“You’re basically saying that
“Premise 1: Muslims declare Allah akbar
“Premise 2: a subset of Muslims hijacked planes
“Conclusion: the plane hijackers did so because they were Muslim.
“How is that not correlation-without-causation? Or any different from O’Reilly’s argument that Stalin ordered the deaths of Jews because he was an atheist?” I asked.
I was trying to be reasonable. I did not attack. I did not condescend. I attempted to draw what I felt was a reasonable comparison between Bionic’s statement and a similar one made by someone who sits on the opposite side of the theological fence.
“That is NOT my argument; you’ve skipped out SEVERAL steps.
“And right now you’re clearly arguing just to argue; I have no interest in argument for its own sake. Good day,” she finished.
It’s fair for her to deny my assessment of her argument, to suggest that I skipped steps, and then to neglect to provide them. It’s her video. It’s her comments section. She’s under no obligation to satisfy my skepticism. But to assert another baseless claim of my ”clearly” arguing for its own sake (a cop-out tactic people use to attempt to redirect the conversation away from themselves) begs the question of why is she being so defensive?
She’s the one who made the assertion that religion “caused” 9/11. I only questioned the validity of her assertion. She probably didn’t like my questioning her assertion since she shut down her end of the conversation. But I have to wonder why and I also have to ask:
How was BionicDance’s behavior any different from a religious person’s behavior in terms of asserting baseless claims, then refusing to defend them upon questioning? To be perfectly frank, at least two apologists with whom I’ve been chatting lately have not only been so kind as to not shut down the conversation upon our disagreement, but they’ve also cited evidence for their claims. I may not agree with their standard of evidence or reasoning, but they’ve cited the evidence nonetheless.
Christian apologists have done a superior job than an atheist vlogger in the very action the atheist vlogger has accused Christian apologists of renegging on.
Of course I understand that this sample doesn’t represent all Christian apologists nor all atheist vloggers, but I found it interesting as at least part of Bionic’s whole schtick seems to be ”pwning” people.
Because of Bionic’s shut-down, I knew the conversation was over, but I felt one or two last things needed to be said.
“Fair enough. I’m wrong. I guess I’ll have to find the evidence that al Qaeda is a Muslim organization. Please pardon my alleged mischaracterization of your argument. I’m not trying to argue for its own sake. I called what I saw. Correlation-without-causation. To claim that I’ve buried my head in the sand is neither evidence for your claim, nor valid criticism of my skepticism of said claim. You don’t have to agree with me. I understand you won’t reply, so I’ll leave it at that,” I concluded.
I followed up with:
“It’s fun to claim that the hijackers committed their crimes because of their religion, but without a demonstrated causal relationship, we simply can’t make that claim, sport. ”
I’ve since looked up al Qaeda. In my defense, the Wikipedia article I found admitted that it was not neutral and didn’t wholly cite valid sources. With that in mind, it seems that it is at least in name a fundamentalist, militant Muslim group whose primary aim is to expand the Muslim world as al Qaeda sees it and to eliminate those who might stand in al Qaeda’s way. Although, an interesting side note is that the root definition of “jihad” seems to be “struggle”, not “attack” or ”kill infidels” or anything of the sort. It has often been taken to mean that, but it seems those connotations are not necessarily essential to the term’s definition.
BionicDance wasn’t necessarily wrong in her religious claims regarding al Qaeda’s essence. But then I wasn’t necessarily wrong in my skepticism of her argument.
Addendum: I’ve posted several of Bionic’s videos, linked to her channel, and I plan to continue to do so.