More Strawmen than you think: Interview with Father Williams

19 06 2008

Bruce and Mojoey are among those (I assume there are more) who have been contacted by publishers Hachette Group and offered the chance to review their anti-atheist book Greater Than You Think, by the Vatican’s Father Thomas D. Williams. There is an interview with Williams at Zenit.com. I’ll leave Bruce and Mojoey to look at it for now, though what it reveals is that what Mojoey, who has agreed to review the book, can expect is another dishonest exercise in broad-brush-stroking about atheists, based on a beef the author has with a certain Four Horsemen whose arguments he represents as standing in synecdochically for the beliefs of all atheists.

Any book which makes grandiose claims about “debunking” the “common fallacies perpetuated by atheism” needs to be read with a huge dose of salt, and that dose of salt is as follows. Atheism is a single position on a single question: “Do you believe in a god/gods?” (The atheist answer being “No.”) Any other claim about what all atheists believe, or what atheists in general believe, or what the majority of atheists believe, is likely to be a strawman, and should be treated like the dishonest rhetoric it plainly is. Unless, of course, the individual making the claim is prepared to substantiate it with sufficient evidence. If said individual is neither willing nor able to do so, he or she is a liar and a blowhard. Those aren’t simply ad hominems, by the way: they’re descriptive statements of fact. Furthermore, if the individual wielding strawmen happens to be a Roman Catholic priest, don’t be afraid to use that against him. Commandment number 8 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church reads as follows: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” The Catechism continues: “The Lord denounces lying as the work of the devil: ‘You are of your father the devil, . . . there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.’”

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17 responses

19 06 2008
Sean the Blogonaut

Yes I wasn’t impressed by the article. Got a little angry, then got over it and thought if people can’t see through this rubbish then they deserve what they get.

19 06 2008
AV

I might tackle it myself if I can find the time, if only to remark on the chutzpah of a Vatican spokesperson purporting to lecture people on “indoctrination,” and to draw attention to Williams’ blatant revisionism regarding the history of religion vs. science.

19 06 2008
ozatheist

I lost any credence with what Williams was going to say, with this statement

“their [atheists] arguments more often than not are ideological rather than rational.”

Pot calling Kettle!

Sean, I think you should tell Williams about the winners of the Givewell Good Living Guide – Charity Awards he may also want to check out what Gates and Buffet think about his statements on donating money.

I think I’m allergic to straw, I feel itchy all over after reading that zenit interview. :)

Sean, unfortunately we have to put up with all those people who can’t see past Williams’ rubbish

24 06 2008
Mark

Actually I read Fr. Williams book it was very enjoyable.

This website verifies the stuff Atheists say and believe.

24 06 2008
James

This website verifies the stuff Atheists say and believe.

You think that just one blog can verify what all or most Atheists believe? No wonder you are credulous to Fr. Williams.

24 06 2008
Sean the Blogonaut

Mark,

Can you expand? Not sure about your point. What did you like about it?

Sean

24 06 2008
arthurvandelay

You think that just one blog can verify what all or most Atheists believe?

He capitalised “Atheists,” though, so he can’t be talking about atheists. No, he’s talking about Atheists in the same way that homophobes talk about the Homosexual Agenda, and creationists talk about Darwinists. Strawman: the argument you make when you don’t have a real argument to make.

2 07 2008
MArk

ACtually another book to recommend is “CAtholic Church Builder of Western Civiliaztion by Dr. Thomas Woods.

Why don’t you read the book and find out before you call it a strawman.

2 07 2008
AV

The strawman call is based on the content of the interview.

24 08 2008
Alan

“Blowhard” and “liar” are ad hominems, not “statements of fact.” That you conclude they are “fact” exposes a lot.

You also don’t see the irony in your bringing up “pot/kettle”?

I understand that you, as an atheist, think you have no “god.”

OK, then what is the metaphor that best describes the way you live your life? In other words, what “myth” do you think contains a “truth” about your human nature?

24 08 2008
AV

(X) I understand that you, as an atheist, think you have no “god.”

OK, then (Y) what is the metaphor that best describes the way you live your life? In other words, what “myth” do you think contains a “truth” about your human nature?

What does X have to do with Y?

And X is a strawman, which would be justification enough for us to ignore your questions. Atheism is the lack of belief that in the existence of gods (predicated on the lack of evidence that gods exist). Those who believe that no gods exist are only a subset of atheists (whether you want to call them strong atheists, or hard atheists or gnostic atheists).

24 08 2008
AV

BTW: “liar” is not an ad hominem if it describes a matter of fact. It is a matter of fact that the good Father is telling lies about atheists, in the form of strawmen. Hence, “liar” is an accurate description.

24 08 2008
Alan

You’re rather ignorant. That’s not ad hominem, of course. It’s fact demonstrated by your own writing.

24 08 2008
Alan

You don’t understand what X has to do with Y? OK, let’s make things easy for you and pretend there is no connection. Why can’t you answer Y?

I guess any question you can’t answer, you call a “strawman,” so that you can dodge the question — an obvious debating tactic for the defenseless.

“Lack of evidence”? Look around you. The fact that you don’t understand the evidence is not a basis to declare it is lacking. If the matter, energy and laws of physics all created themselves out of nothing, or were always here even prior to the Big Bang, then I guess you’re right, there’s “no evidence.” Silly boy.

I’m bored waiting for signs of intelligence on this website. That’s justification enough to ignore it. Go back to your group hug now, and reassure yourselves that you’ve formed your views based on “reason” and not “faith”.

24 08 2008
Bruce

The fact that you don’t understand the evidence…

When was this established as fact?

Go back…

I find it bizare, yet strangely how predictable, how these chip-on-the-shoulder theists come to an atheist website, sprout nonsense and non-sequitur, then tell you to “go”, when they have just declared their intention to leave. LaValette ring any bells?

With projection like this, Alan could work in a cinema and not need the equipment.

24 08 2008
AV

You’re rather ignorant. That’s not ad hominem, of course. It’s fact demonstrated by your own writing.

How? What am I “ignorant” of?

You don’t understand what X has to do with Y? OK, let’s make things easy for you and pretend there is no connection.

It seems you don’t understand what X has to do with Y either, since you haven’t explained the connection. It doesn’t really matter: I’m very quickly losing interest the question anyway.

Why can’t you answer Y?

What would be the point?

I guess any question you can’t answer, you call a “strawman,” so that you can dodge the question — an obvious debating tactic for the defenseless.

This comment is a textbook example of a strawman—misrepresenting the position of your opponent. I explained why X is a strawman, which therefore doesn’t apply to me and which I am not obliged to address. (Why don’t you find a gnostic atheist and put it to him or her?)

“Lack of evidence”? Look around you. The fact that you don’t understand the evidence is not a basis to declare it is lacking. If the matter, energy and laws of physics all created themselves out of nothing, or were always here even prior to the Big Bang, then I guess you’re right, there’s “no evidence.” Silly boy.

Argumentum ad ignorantiam: “I can’t explain x, therefore goddidit.” (Silly boy.)

I’m bored waiting for signs of intelligence on this website. That’s justification enough to ignore it. Go back to your group hug now, and reassure yourselves that you’ve formed your views based on “reason” and not “faith”.

One for the sidebar.

Bruce:
I find it bizare, yet strangely how predictable, how these chip-on-the-shoulder theists come to an atheist website, sprout nonsense and non-sequitur, then tell you to “go”, when they have just declared their intention to leave. LaValette ring any bells?

Smart people like Alan have no grasp of irony.

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