Sophistry: A Case Study

Artist's rendering of Maynard delivering a persuasive red herring.

Since our first article we have had a policy of allowing any and all kinds of ideas to be offered up to (and from) our readers in our comments, which we like to think of as a kind of laissez faire marketplace of ideas. We have not made any moves to edit anyone’s comments, and we don’t intend to (except our own, and then only for the sake of clarification–the one genuine mistake I ever had pointed out by an opponent in a debate, for example, was left as a strikeout followed by the correction). We follow (so far) a strict no-banning policy as well: you don’t have to worry about ever getting “disfellowshiped” from Armstrong Delusion (again, so far), nor will your dissent ever be censored. We don’t even moderate our comments, except for a spam filter.

Why are we so open?

Ah, this is where things get a little diabolical. You see, the reason we follow such an “open door” policy is because we love and respect our readers so much that we don’t think they need to be “protected” from stupid ideas. Instead, we think they should be given a chance to see those stupid ideas refuted in print and, like the specimens of some twisted idiocy collector, preserved for the world to benefit from.

This policy, of course, makes the organic development of an adversarial environment more or less inevitable, at least with respect to certain controversial subjects. One of those subjects, for some reason, has to do with the fact that most of the contributors to Armstrong Delusion happen to be atheists–and, get this, they aren’t ashamed of it! I know, right? How dare they!

Well, the past few days has seen a preponderance of comments from a particular anti-atheist polemicist by the name of Michael Maynard (henceforth, May-tard). This fellow (who is obviously not the brightest bulb in the box) has fallen into a rut of using invalid arguments that often sound convincing on the surface (a tactic known as sophistry). He has engaged in sophistry to such a great degree and in such classic form, in fact, that I have decided to feature him as a case study in this, the illustrious return of Friday Fallacy.

As you know, a normal installment of Friday Fallacy (when one appears) focuses on a particular logical fallacy. In this case, though, we will be covering a bit more ground in that regard. This is because an instance of sophistry typically involves the use of several different fallacies together, and our friend May-tard happens to be a typical kind of sophist. Which brings us to an explanation of what sophistry is.

Just What Do You Mean, Sophistry?

Like many words, the meaning of sophistry has evolved over time. When it was first coined by the Ancient Greeks, it merely meant something like, “the teaching of wisdom for profit,” and it quickly became a pejorative term used by critics of the sophists, such as “Plato”, who considered them to be deceptive. From this use in the dialogues of Socrates we derive the modern sense of the word, which is, essentially, “to argue deceptively”.

Most people who engage in sophistry are not aware of what they are doing. In actual fact, most people who engage in sophistry are not even aware of the concept of sophistry or what the word means (May-tard, for example, thought sophist was equivalent to lawyer). Sadly, sophistry–like Hyperspace in Star Wars–is one of those things you don’t have to understand to use.

In everyday debates (“arguments”, for you lay people), the participants are usually not trained in the skills they are called on by their circumstances to employ. As such, they don’t really know an invalid argument when they use one–or when they are “defeated” by one. But invalid arguments are often deceptively persuasive for reasons that have nothing to do with their logical validity, and thus they are attractive to those who need a persuasive argument.

These kinds of amateur “debates” usually progress in a kind of illogical haze, with each opponent attempting to outmaneuver the other by brute emotional and/or rhetorical force, until both are left bewildered, wondering just exactly what was being said and both now plagued by a nagging suspicion that they might be wrong, but without any good reason for thinking so. This illuminates both the problem with sophistry and the necessity of an education in logic: while logic delineates a clear course to valid conclusions, marked out by reasonable principles we can all agree on, sophistry confuses us and manipulates our emotions in the service of falsehoods. It could be argued that sophistry is the default debate style for the ape that dropped down from the trees and lost its fur.

A Sophist’s Bag of Tricks

Some of the most common and perfidious sophist tactics were put on display by May-tard in the recent “debate” over–well, it’s hard to tell what exactly was being debated, since it was started by a sophist. You can view it in the comments here, if you have the stomach for it (but don’t miss the article if you haven’t read it yet!). It suffices to say that May-tard has something against atheists. What this is he didn’t make clear, since, after all, his purpose was not clarity of understanding but rather the casting of aspersions. One of the best ways to do this, of course, is to…

Poison the Well.

This is done at the beginning of a debate and involves intimating to your audience just what you think of your opponent(s), hoping to engender an emotional reaction against the opposing position even before it is presented. May-tard can be seen doing this several times in his first spewing forth of vitriol, when it became clear that the gauntlet had been thrown down and a debate was about to begin. For example, here

If you take offense at every little adjective maybe you need to take up MMA or enlist in the military where they let you blow away innocent people with big bullets in really big guns(or a blunt instrument if no one is watching)

he insinuates that his target is not only easily offended but has violent tendencies and may wish to shoot innocent people and/or bludgeon them to death. Surely, anyone like that is not a reliable source for wisdom and truth. He goes on:

I think you just ain’t got a life and are looking for something that can make you look “Cool and Hip.” All the other frats were closed for rushes so you fell in here. With your on line thesaurus.

Here May-tard imagines that my atheism is derived from a desire to fit in (reminiscent of his referring to me as a “spineless pretender” a sentence earlier), based on nothing but his desire to cast aspersions and, indeed, apropos of nothing whatsoever. Remember that the purpose of poisoning the well is not to make an argument, but to make your opponent look unsavory in the eyes of your audience so that they will develop an emotional resistance to the arguments your opponents will make later on. One more example from May-tard:

Now everyone, except me, knows that shooting a big bulging bodacious belligerent bird is the true sign of one who is really in the drivers seat. I remember the quick quip, “is that your age or I.Q.?” AAAAAhhhhhaaaahahahahah…

See what he did there? He’s referring, of course, to my profile picture, which features me flipping off people like him (really the intended target was Flurry, et al.–I uploaded this the day after the original editors of A.D. were officially excommunicated from PCG). Now everyone, except me, knows that anyone who sticks up his middle finger is surely of low I.Q. and not capable of forming a logical argument. Why should you listen to anything he has to say. He’s belligerent after all! It will not be lost on anyone with a lick of common sense that belligerence has jack shit to do with intelligence–or at the very least, one should be aware that an argument should be judged on the merits of the argument itself and not on the belligerence (or even intelligence) of the one delivering it. But scruples like that just get in the way of poisoning the well, so May-tard could ignore them. Also, it seems he hasn’t yet discovered LOL. Come on, May-tard, only grandmas still type out the onomatopoeia. And then there’s this nonsense:

You obviously do believe and love the Armstrong way, at least the philosophy…the end justifies the means and obfuscate along the way.

This poison in my well begs the question: do I believe that the end justifies the means (what end and what means?) or that one should obfuscate along the way (what the hell is he referring to here–is he claiming that I engage in obfuscation? Where?)? It doesn’t matter to the sophist, though! All that matters is that I be made to look unsavory–and what better way to do this on an anti-Armstrongist blog than to identify me with Armstrongism itself?

There are several more instances of poisoning the well here, but we will move on to another dirty trick he employed, that of

Non-Sequitur.

This Latin phrase means, “does not follow,” referring to a conclusion that does not follow logically from the proposed premise. Here is an example from May-tard:

You link off of anti-Armstrong blogs and websites. Just like Gearaldean, parasitic.

To condense his “logic” here, we could rephrase this, “a blog has links; therefore it is parasitic.” Furthermore (since one fallacy wasn’t enough, he had to nest them), “a blog has links; therefore it is ‘Gearaldean’ (I can only assume this is his fancy word for Gerald Flurry-like).” Now, most blogs I know of include links (for example, May-tard’s own blog links to us at the end of this astute sociological treatise on how Armstrongism effects us kids). According to May-tard this makes them all equivalent to parasites and, as such, similar to a particular cult leader named Gerald Flurry. Am I the only one who thinks it would be difficult to find a better example of a conclusion that does not follow logically from the given premise? The purpose here, of course, is to invoke guilt by association, another logical fallacy (even if I were like Flurry it would have no bearing on the validity of any argument I was about to make–except an emotional bearing, which is exactly the kind of deceptive manipulation May-tard was after).

May-tard’s non-sequiturs abound, but let’s not dwell on them when there are so many other fallacies to expose. Like

Loaded Questions.

This seems to be May-tard’s favorite tactic. By asking all the questions he did, one might mistakenly think he was being very Socratic (not so!–he claims his Ancient Greek muse is Plato, because he likes facts…or something–which tells me May-tard doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about). In actual fact the questions he asks are embedded with presuppositions that not all parties subscribe to, which is why we don’t answer them directly. To do so would be to grant our implicit agreement to those presuppositions. Instead, we tried to explain that those presuppositions are flawed. But that was no impediment to May-tard’s continued use of them, no sir! He’s a sophist in a hurry, he is! Behold, two loaded questions for the price of one:

Are you just pissed off in general terms? Why not tell me the ten ways atheism has enriched your life, maybe I’ll join. OK eight…well then how about three..OK then, one?

No, May-tard, I’m not pissed off at all. I’m annoyed in a way you will never understand. As for the benefits of “joining” atheism, this is the presupposition: that atheism is something one joins, that it is a philosophy, a belief system, granting its members spiritual enrichment. If we answer that atheism does not do these things because it is not supposed to, the response is

Then the ways it has enriched your life is Zero?

implying, of course, that atheism is worthless, an empty and meaningless philosophy–and that atheists, by extension, are value-less people who will likely knife you in the back to get ahead. Yet if we answer that atheism provides us with spiritual sustenance of the kind May-tard apparently requires, we are then making false statements and allowing this fool to muddy the waters of the debate. See, not only are the questions loaded with false presuppositions, but they are an illogical appeal to consequences. As I explained to no effect during the debate,

Atheism is not a philosophy. It is not a club or a movement. It is not a lifestyle or a worldview or an ideology. It is merely a position on a specific claim. That’s it. It is identical in form to not believing in fairies. You don’t believe in fairies, do you? Can I join that club? What are the benefits? Sell me on a-fairy-ism, won’t you? Are you starting to get it yet?

The other point you need to have hammered into your brick-like skull is that the consequences of a claim have no bearing whatsoever on the truth of the claim in question. Let me repeat that: the consequences of a claim have no bearing whatsoever on the truth of the claim in question. We are atheists because we don’t believe theism is a true claim. That’s the fucking definition of atheism. So all this nonsense about what atheism “has to offer” is about as absurd as asking, “What will it benefit me to splork a plip?” You’re asking a question about apples that can only be applied to oranges.

Also, I’m quite aware (through my long association with the debating tactics of theists) that what you are doing is trying to discredit atheism by insinuating that it leads to a life of misery and meaninglessness. Now that we know what atheism is, we can see that this sophistic and time-dishonored tactic is logically invalid. It is known as argumentum ad consequentium, or appeal to consequences. A proper understanding of logic will tell you what I’ve already made clear: the consequences of a claim have no bearing whatsoever on the truth of the claim in question. And the truth value of theism is exactly, precisely–and exclusively–what atheism is about.

Now, go read some books if you want to know more about what kinds of philosophies atheists are most likely to go in for (you could start with humanism, as it is the most obvious one). It isn’t our job to educate you (unless you’d like to pay us the market value for such a service).

Of course, May-tard the sophist ignored this detailed explanation and went on asking his loaded question, as though he were some kind of rhetorical champion being very clever. And this brings us to the last tactic I will describe:

Ignore Your Opponent’s Strongest Arguments (or All of Them, If You Can Get Away With It)–And Recycle Your Broken Ones.

Unlike rampaging bears, a strong argument is less likely to destroy you if you ignore it than if you do the brave thing and take it head on. This is why sophists don’t make good bear fighters. That is to say, sophists are doing their job if they look like spineless cowards, which is exactly what they are.

Ignoring arguments is the best way to make them go away. No one who is sane is going to scroll back through the debate to see if you got your balls (or ovaries) ripped out without response 5,389 comments ago. So, the successful sophist just pretends like it never happened. Like May-tard did, he or she will just talk about something else for a while and, before you know it, they’ll be recycling that lame argument that already got refuted way back there…but–shhh!–who’s counting anyway? Nobody, we hope. Amirite?

The Takeaway

So, be on the lookout, fearless reader. Sophists are everywhere, blogging, trolling blogs, campaigning for political office, trying to get you to buy sump pumps, writing for The Trumpet. You never know when you will run into one of them and their specious debate tactics. But now you are a little more prepared to recognize them for what they are, thanks in large part to a small man we like to call May-tard. Thanks for playing, May-tard!

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51 thoughts on “Sophistry: A Case Study

  1. And here we go!

    I must object strenuously!

    The Artist’s rendering of Maynard delivering a persuasive red herring has a cartoon figure that looks nothing like Michael Maynard. For one thing, there’s no mustache and for another thing, no glasses. I must object!

    You’ve poisoned the well with your lack of incorrect rendering which leads us to the non sequitor — you pose one picture when it really should be another. This, in turn, brings up loaded questions about your credibility! It’s a takeaway of your ability to convince.

    There now, we’ve completely defeated your arguments. Later, when no one remembers in the Flurry of comments, we’ll use these same illogical arguments again, because people are stupid and have short memories. They want to believe bad things about you and we will prey on their discomfort with your exposing the truth with logic by pointing out that your excruciatingly accurate observations make them feel bad and, therefore, everything you say is wrong. That way, we can get them to just ignore you so they won’t wake up and come out of their stupid torpor which is wrecking their lives. See, they can be lied to and then their money can be taken.

    How dare you attack the New Age… er… New Covenant teachings which make no sense at all, have no validity in even the light of Scripture, and are indicative of a confused fog laden unfocused mind! gods will get you for that… well, probably not, because Zeus is fantasy and doesn’t exist and Allah is the Great Satan, but nevertheless, YOU’LL BE SORRY, YOU’LL SEE! You need to be audited to remove the Thetans put here by Lord Xenon… er… Xenu.

    Darn you! Even your memory is better than mine!

    [/irony]

    • Pretty funny, Douglas.

      But I have to object to your insistence that Armstrongism is somehow the source of our atheism, which you betrayed in your comment on Maynard’s little Jesus blog. There’s no support for such a wild hypothesis and it just makes you sound stupid, which I know you aren’t. Besides this, we ourselves can do a better job of explaining how we became atheists than can a bunch of armchair psychoanalysts with an Apologist axe to grind. The truth is we’re atheists for the same reason you yourself gave for why we get so many other things right: we did our homework.

      Thanks for the kind and incisive comments you made about the blog though.

      • Actually, I was not referring to any of you at this blog. I do know children who became atheists and agnostics because of Herbert Armstrong and I was referring to them, not you. I also believe that it is true that Herbert Armstrong was the chief cause of most of those who did become atheists and agnostics. At the very least, he was a catalyst to begin the process of investigation and questioning. I know very well, that your are the exception with superior intellect. Only a fool would ignore what you have to say, which was the whole point of the entire interchange. Some people are dense. I’m sorry I seem to have come off as an Apologist. I’m equal opportunity when it comes to throwing rocks. I’m not seeing much worthwhile in any of the Churches of God, even the non Armstrongist ones.

        Oh, the things I have to do get get comments by people who would normally not let them get through!

      • @ Douglas

        “Oh, the things I have to do get get comments by people who would normally not let them get through!”

        I hear you. Well, you know you’re always welcome here, even if we don’t always see eye to eye. You have the sense to give a good argument the recognition it deserves, a rare quality that I highly respect. But I’m not drunk enough to hug you, so don’t get any ideas.

  2. Great article Casey. As you probably noticed back on Druids, I went out of my way to be civil with Mike, despite the trouble being stirred up. Having read his latest blog entry, and being fairly certain that any comment I post there will not get published, I will take an opportunity to refute what he has written, here – since you’ve already linked to it anyway. What good it will or will not have, is uncertain, but I’m going to say it:

    Mike, I’ve been biting my tongue for 48 hours now. I know you haven’t asked me to, but I have. I’ve showed you the least shred of respect because I’ve known you for a very long time, since the early days in the Tampa PCG, I went to PYC with your kids, and you’ve now become an anti-armstrong blogger. As such, I did not see in you, the lemming mentality present in so many from our respective backgrounds, so I tried to show respect to you for that alone, even though, as you might say, I owe you nothing.

    Today, within the bounds of your article, I found some of the most unfair statements I’ve ever seen printed about Delusion. Quite frankly, I’m shocked and disappointed in what you wrote. Let me address each issue, quote by quote. Please do me the courtesy of responding to each of these, if you would be so kind. I’m not name-calling or engaging in what you would call “flowery rhetoric and vocabulary” (though I am quite certain Casey knows exactly what those “multi-syllabic words” he is using, as you put it, mean) So here goes:

    1) “Armstrong Delusion is a blog that I thought was examining the false teaching of Herbert W. Armstrong and other fundamentalists and false prophets so I stopped by. But I found out that was far from true. The writers, while starting out that way I am told, have become Athiests and now attack others who have any theism, or religious views. In simple terms they are GOD HATERS, nothing more, nothing less.”

    First of all, The authors of this blog were already Atheists when they began the blog. The blog was here, being run by atheists all along, before I joined their ranks. As I said, you would never have known, because they were being objective. You either misunderstood me or you “were told” a lie from someone else. As I said, again, I destroyed the objectivity of this site, not they. My bad. Secondly, we don’t “attack” anyone, we simply defend against people (so often, believers) who come here and troll the site, just as it appears you were doing. Don’t cry “semantics!” either, check our blogs for any attack on believers other than Armstrongites or those that prey upon them. You wont find any. So don’t try to cast us in a negative light as aggressors against the poor little theists of the world. I have a separate blog for that… Lastly, and least of all, your all caps “GOD HATERS” is largely reminiscent of the writing style of one HWA. I’m not one to pick at spelling and grammar issues, for fuck’s sake, I mess up a lot, but considering the object of our collective scorn, HWA, you may want to reconsider that.

    2) “I made a few comments and ended up being attacked “

    You’re not the victim here Mike, I’m sorry to tell you.You know full well what you were doing. You had to have known how it was going to end and if you say otherwise you’re only fooling yourself. I think you came looking for a fight, or for fun, but you were fully aware of where you were. From your first post onward (and I suspect, before that first post)You knew this was an atheist blog, I know you knew and you could have backed out before this ever got to a second post. You chose to stay. You did not accidentally stumble into a hornets nest (of non-believers) and then got stung, you’re like a kid with a stick who went in swinging – to use a metaphor – (not to call you childish) don’t try to play the victim card here. It’s just not honest.

    3) “When I asked him to give me ten ways athiesm has enriched his life, I got none”

    Incorrect. You may not have gotten them from Casey, but I did indeed respond with the answer of what Atheism had done to enrich my life. Atheism was my pathway to secular humanism, which I emphasized in as many words when I responded with “The atheist, generally speaking, sees this(the human condition, or evil “human nature” as you might put it) as a challenge. Not something to be accepted, but something to be overcome.” My direct response to your initial question was also an answer, no, not ten answers but one. One way Atheism had enriched my life:

    “Atheism doesn’t have to give us anything. Atheism doesn’t owe us anything.

    But if I have taken one thing from it? If I have found enrichment in it? Here it is:

    We are in control of our own lives. Not god, not destiny, not fate. We make our choices and we live by them. We owe no debt to a creator. We owe him no praise. Our slate is clean. Not because someone “died for our sins” but because there is no sin to begin with. Only right and wrong, and humans have never needed a god to figure out what that is.

    Atheism, to me, is humanity, calling the shots. Unafraid, free, in debt to nothing and to no one. Living or dying, succeeding or failing, but by our own hand.

    And that, is most enriching. “

    So you did get your answer. You just didn’t get one from Casey, well, not one that you liked. But the way you write on your blog, you would have readers believe we Atheists were simply incapable of answering your loaded question, and so we pointed you to a video instead. That’s really an excellent misrepresentation of the facts Mike. For shame sir. Furthermore, when Eric Sell got into the fray, he provided you with a full ten answers of ways Atheism had enriched his life. Casey simply found the flaw in your initial question and went after that. I, on the other hand, ignored said flaw and gave you an answer. But I suppose I was only wasting my time, probably as I am now.

    Lastly, I find it highly offensive every time I see you insinuate that Atheists are the product of armstrongism. Some of the greatest minds to walk the earth today, Chris Hitch, Steven Hawking and Richard Dawkins, to name a very few, are Atheists without ever having come into contact with Herbert W Armstrong. When I left the church, I was standing at a crossroads, as do all who leave. To my left, was religion – any religion – and to my right, was Atheism. PCG had nothing to do with it. PYC had nothing to do with it. Where are your own kids today? Are they atheists or do they still believe? Please don’t try and paint disbelief as the exclusive product of a cult mentality. It is nothing of the sort, and deep down I think you know this.

    • This nonsensical just-so story about atheism being the result of Armstrongism is apparently pretty popular in the ex-CoG blogosphere. I think we need to squash it in a separate article. I’m pretty sure the source of this useful rationalization for the lazy and ignorant is the so-called “Exit and Support Network”. This is just the kind of meta-issue the anti-Armstrongist world needs to make it a legitimate force for truth instead of an echo chamber, where nonsense gets amplified.

  3. I don’t know if it will be put up, but I did leave a comment over at “The True Doctrine of Christ Foundation” (interesting…so THAT is the True Doctrine of JC. There’s so many, I get confuzzled)…part of the comment was concerning the lack of religion we here at AD share and how it is better suited to thoroughly squashing Armstrongism than any religious argument…since there are at least 33,000 sects of Christianity and around 400CoG splinters. Obviously they all claim the same main book…and if the bible can be interpreted 33 thousand ways…then, yeah, pretty hopeless to try and prove anything with it.

    Thus the value of AD! We come from a different direction and hold up the Armstrongist claims against objective reality (instead of subjective scripture) and ask “did this claim (prophecy or whatever) actually happen? No? Then you’re a false prophet/apostle…instead of endlessly arguing about who is twisting scripture and who is the True Scotsman.

    People may not like our lack of belief, but they can’t honestly say our articles or their conclusions are wrong.

    • Eric, religious confusion forced me out of all organized religion. Now I seek.

      I personally see value in the pure teachings of Christianity that I believe are discoverable but have been twisted and massaged so much by false profits and preachers they are barely recognizable. That has driven many away…which is a good thing in many cases.

      Once Christianity became about wealth and power it was destroyed ergo HWA, Flurry. RLH, and a long list of other charlatans.

      • “Once Christianity became about wealth and power”

        It was about wealth and power long before it developed into Christianity out of the Ancient Semitic storm-god cult now known as Yahwism. Maynard doesn’t know much about his own faith, which is convenient to his maintaining it.

  4. Casey and Splintersurfer,

    This episode your refer to was the first time I visited this site and read anything as far as I can recall. I hit a link at Banned by HWA about Druids, because I had been studying the Druids and Celtic Religion. I thought I would find some serious material that would educated me that I could use. And I did, just not what I expected.

    I did not know your site was run by atheists. I know splinter and his family from the PCG days, but did not actually realize who had written the article until I saw his Pic in the comments and recognized him, now a grown man. I saw him last as a young teen in 1996.

    In your Sophistry: A Case Study piece you were very careful to extract portions of our discussion that made your argument look better than it was (we Bible readers call that proof-texting). But, Casey, realize that when your first reply came after my initial comment below and I saw an angry face behind an extended middle finger I realized what kind of person I was to deal with…you aren’t the first atheist..just the most vulgar I have ever encountered. Your initial visual insult coupled with condescending verbal insults set the tenor of the discussion.

    This was my initial comment on a prior comment about Druids drinking Honey Beer juxtaposed with Gerald Flurry’s DUI which involved beer. And I am sure you know that:

    ” From my personal knowledge of the PCG and casual observations after leaving there in 1996 after a two year stint it is becoming clear that Gerald Flurry is more capable of producing devout atheists rather than anything approximating a loving disciple of Christ.”

    ” It is funny how quickly the Flurry writer jumps on Pagans when they actually have one of the most important rituals of both religions in common…drinking beer, a lot of beer. And that is a matter of public record for the PCG.”
    Reply
    Michael 5 July 2011 at 6pm

    Then your comment:

    ” I’ll bite. My atheism is decidedly not a revolt against Armstrongism, nor in any sense a product of it. I didn’t come to atheism until I had carefully considered all the arguments for and against theism. (If you think you’ve got one I haven’t encountered, I’m ready to prove you wrong.) I think the same can be said of my fellow editors who happen to be atheists. This little passive-aggressive dig at the “devout” atheism of former believers is nothing new. Nor is it insightful. It is a bit condescending, to tell the truth. In actual fact, it is nothing but Christian apologetic bluster–there’s no substance to it at all and it is accompanied by the stench of projection. If you were trying to make a point, this worn-out, blunt instrument was a poor substitute for an argument.

    I could go on to deride this nonsense about “devout” atheists, but I’m sure you’ve heard such well-reasoned protestations before–obviously to no effect.”
    Reply
    Casey Wollberg 6 July 2011 at 3pm

    This was my second comment where I tried to explain I was not implying what you thought in the same vein, your angry face and extended middle finger on my screen;

    Casey, It seems to me your belief system, or something, has you wound pretty tight…I was adding a touch of irony, levity, humor …you know… haha? If you take offense at every little adjective maybe you need to take up MMA or enlist in the military where they let you blow away innocent people with big bullets in really big guns(or a blunt instrument if no one is watching)

    If a reference to your atheism immediately puts you on the defensive that tells me you are NOT an atheist but just a spineless pretender. I know what I am and what I believe and frankly don’t care what others think or write about my faith (or lack thereof). I think you just ain’t got a life and are looking for something that can make you look “Cool and Hip.” All the other frats were closed for rushes so you fell in here. With your on line thesaurus.

    Now everyone, except me, knows that shooting a big bulging bodacious belligerent bird is the true sign of one who is really in the drivers seat. I remember the quick quip, “is that your age or I.Q.?” AAAAAhhhhhaaaahahahahah… That is still funny, mostly because I haven’t heard it since junior high school. A long long time ago for me.

    Knock. knock…Oh never mind…

    Maybe that big fat finger in your face is blocking your view of the screen. Your journey is yours alone. It is you making fun of the same individual I find a sociopath. Maybe you need to get your prescription adjusted. You claim your atheism is not a revolt against Armstrongism. Then why the non sequitur title Blog; Armstrong Delusion? I was apparently misled to think it was all about him, his deluded theology, and those who spun off.

    Or is it that you are actually just like Gerald Flurry, a love hate relationship knowing not a sole would show up to read your blogs if it were not for your using the dead old prophets name. You link off of anti-Armstrong blogs and websites. Just like Gearaldean, parasitic. You obviously do believe and love the Armstrong way, at least the philosophy…the end justifies the means and obfuscate along the way.

    Why would an atheist get his nose out of joint over a dead old false prophet that taught a false gospel about a false god out of a mythical book to a bunch of gullible people…explain that. Especially in light of having the absolute freedom to be atheist or theist granted by the constitution of the United States of America.

    Are you just pissed off in general terms? Why not tell me the ten ways atheism has enriched your life, maybe I’ll join. OK eight…well then how about three..OK then, one?

    Wollberg Disillusion is a better title.
    Reply
    Michael 6 July 2011 at 6pm

    I will explain my initial comment which you misconstrued was;

    1) A light hearted and humorous commentary on the fraudulent PCG leader…a view both of our blogs hold.

    2) The “devout atheists” comment was made contrasting “loving Christians” that Flurry is producing. which is ZERO. My exact words were..”Flurry is more capable of producing devout atheists rather than anything approximating a loving disciple of Christ.” You misconstrued my meaning as an attack on atheists when it was actually a statement against Flurry’s theology that produces NO loving disciples of Christ.

    What kind of loving Christians, or any decent human being, would throw their own children out on the street or cut themselves off from elderly and dying parents. Whether or not your atheism was a result of being part of the PCG is debatable since you seem on the attack.

    So Casey, thank you for revealing yourself to me and the world…My innocuous and humorous comment was unintentionally used as a tool to bring to light something myself and many others would have never realized about your blog and writings.

    Like I stated earlier your obfuscation, or cover up, of the blogs true agenda by using the misleading name, Armstrong Dilution…when your true agenda is an assault on all religion is disingenuous, just like your Sophistry:A Case Study piece.

    Had I realized that I would never have come here. But the fact that I laughed harder over the past two days than I have in years…for that, I owe you! I will send you the doctors bill for stitching up my hernia. Naw, lets call it even. Thanks!

    • “In your Sophistry: A Case Study piece you were very careful to extract portions of our discussion that made your argument look better than it was (we Bible readers call that proof-texting).”

      More sophistry. Surprised? It’s easy to merely make this assertion. Backing it up, however, well that’s not the sophist’s game, is it? Pro-tip: assertions are not arguments.

      “realize that when your first reply came after my initial comment below and I saw an angry face behind an extended middle finger I realized what kind of person I was to deal with”

      No. He imagined what kind of person he was to deal with, specifically, an atheist–a category he has demonstrated a high degree of intolerance for. Thus, the charge of bigotry. By the way, another fallacy Maynard the fool offered up was the insinuation that atheists are fair game for all sorts of abuse merely because they don’t entertain idiotic beliefs. Wrong. Bigotry is bigotry, whether it is directed at believers or homosexuals or women or atheists. You don’t have to be in an ideological club to be a victim of bigotry. Why is it that theists are always assuming such special status for themselves?

      “Your initial visual insult coupled with condescending verbal insults set the tenor of the discussion.”

      Bullshit. The visual insult was not directed at him, as has been explained, though it is interesting that he interpreted it that way. Why would he do that? It is an indication of an irrational thought process when someone thinks everything is about them. It is also a mark of extreme vanity (one of the Christian’s cardinal sins). Also, if my initial calm complaint concerning Maynard’s bigotry toward atheists was supposed to set the tenor of the discussion, then it should have proceeded in a relatively dispassionate manner. Unfortunately, Maynard’s response was not so cool. It was the typical privileged theist response: to paraphrase, “How dare you question me! I’m one of God’s chosen special people! You must be a very bad person to be making an argument like that.” Of course, the argument itself was not addressed. He was too busy frothing at the mouth, incredulous that he wasn’t being given the respect due a Christian. So, who set the tenor of the discussion again? Me? I wish. But this theist, like so many in my experience, couldn’t be bothered showing the respect he demands from others.

      “This was my second comment where I tried to explain I was not implying what you thought in the same vein”

      I invite the reader to examine the comment in question. Do you see any explaining going on there? Yeah, me neither. Just incredulous pearl-clutching and panty wadding, huffing and puffing and the sophistry I described in the article. Nothing more substantial than that, and certainly no meaningful response to my complaint.

      “A light hearted and humorous commentary on the fraudulent PCG leader…a view both of our blogs hold.”

      How precious. This rock-head doesn’t realize that one man’s “light-hearted and humorous” is another persecuted minority’s bigotry. I wonder if he looks over his shoulder before telling a racist joke.

      “You misconstrued my meaning as an attack on atheists when it was actually a statement against Flurry’s theology that produces NO loving disciples of Christ.”

      And the implication of course is that this predicament is surely a shame: we want more “loving disciples of Christ” and fewer atheists (or none, if at all possible). Why, may I ask? And who would want to be associated with the Flurrys of the world? Nobody on this blog, that’s who. And yet Maynard here thought it would be okey-dokey if he just went ahead and blithely asserted such an unsupported association between atheism and Flurry, because, after all, he didn’t know we were a nest of atheists. But still he assures us this was no attack on atheists. Right, Maynard. Sure. We believe you.

      “What kind of loving Christians, or any decent human being, would throw their own children out on the street or cut themselves off from elderly and dying parents. Whether or not your atheism was a result of being part of the PCG is debatable since you seem on the attack.”

      He just can’t help himself can he? He just can’t resist making these absurd associations implying that atheists are evil. A sentence about antisocial behavior is followed immediately and without any transition by a sentence questioning the source of our atheism. He seems to be saying that because PCG engages in antisocial behavior and we “seem to be on the attack” (whatever that means), then there must be a causal relationship from PCG to our atheism. But what does atheism have to do with it? Either this guy has a problem with thought disorder or he’s a bigot.

      “My innocuous and humorous comment was unintentionally used as a tool to bring to light something myself and many others would have never realized about your blog and writings.”

      Right. In Maynard-land. But he also believes that if he drinks a little wine on a certain day and mutters some incantations, a celestial zombie will retroactively be murdered in his place so the semblance of human sacrifice will sate the blood lust of a mythological storm god called Yahweh, granting him eternal life. So, you know, take his claims with a grain of salt.

  5. I am one of the three original AD members and I have reason to call BS on your last comment Michael. We started this blog as a anti-Armstrongist blog–not an atheist blog. We actually had a long chat about “should we be openly atheistic or not?”. It was decided not to be b/c our lack of belief in gods or deities is beside the point, or irrelevant, to our discussion of how wrong HWA was. I don’t think we mention in any article that HWA or the CoGs are wrong “b/c there isn’t a god anyway, so there!” All our articles disprove Armstrongism fairly scientifically–holding up the claims to the light of objective reality and facts.

    Now, as far as the comments thread…well, that’s free reign for opinions and comments.

    To be completely clear: The blog was started, and currently stands as an anti-Armstrongist blog. It is not an atheist blog latching onto the Armstrong name just to get readers (the paracitism you mentioned in one of the other comments on the other thread). We all came out of Armstrongism and are eager to disprove it logically and rationally…thus our initial efforts to keep our atheism on the down-low b/c it isn’t an “atheist blog”–it is an anti-Armstrongism blog run by atheists.

    Huge difference.

      • I’m sorry for not being clear. I was referring to this:

        “Like I stated earlier your obfuscation, or cover up, of the blogs true agenda by using the misleading name, Armstrong Dilution…when your true agenda is an assault on all religion is disingenuous”

        To which I responded with: “To be completely clear: The blog was started, and currently stands as an anti-Armstrongist blog. It is not an atheist blog latching onto the Armstrong name just to get readers…it isn’t an “atheist blog”–it is an anti-Armstrongism blog run by atheists. Huge difference.”

        Hope I cleared up the confusion.

    • Also, the reason it can’t be kept on the down low in the comments is because any time atheism is even hinted at, the theists go wild, casting aspersions and perpetuating bigoted myths, which then have to be defended against by people who respect the facts. And so, the debates rage.

      If ex-Armstrongists weren’t so goddamn bigoted toward atheists, none of this would be an issue.

      Furthermore, with a blog that promotes a debunking of Armstrongism from the basis of science and reason, it is difficult not to make statements in which atheistic-sounding arguments are implicit.

      It isn’t as though we’re preaching atheism on the sly. We’re refuting the claims of Armstrongism–it just so happens that the same kinds of refutations are applicable to theism in general, at least the Fundamentalist version of which Armstrongism is part and parcel.

      We’re very sorry if the untruth of Armstrongism is tantamount to the untruth of your god. But we don’t make the rules of logic, we just follow them. And we’re not going to stop just because you’re scared of losing your imaginary friend in the sky (not such a bad thing, actually–don’t knock it til you’ve tried it).

      I find it unfathomable that the believers in what is essentially Armstrong’s god accuse us of holding on to some aspect of Armstrongism, which they fail to identify…because we’re atheists! It doesn’t make sense. It is such a clear case of projection that I can’t believe so many people are apparently duped by it.

      Wait a minute. Actually, I’m not surprised. I forgot what planet I live on for a second. I just came from a meetup group where everybody was actually thoughtful and intelligent, so you’ll have to excuse my momentary disorientation.

  6. Sorry Eric, I have to disagree with something you wrote over on Mikes site regarding the Old Testament: 😉

    You can excise all of the OT if you want and you’re still left with a “divine” being who makes the law to begin with, and then requires the brutal murder of his son to pay the price for others (read: humans) breaking that law. It’s inhuman is what it is. Someone is going to say “of course it’s not human, god’s not human!” but that just goes on to make my point. Anger managment? lol. Mike, didnt you just quote a scripture about befriending angry people? Guess that doesnt apply to god huh? If god was so merciful and forgiving, he would have come down here and had himself nailed to a cross.

    Instead, he supposedly comes down, rapes a virgin (violating his very own law in the first place) and then had his illegitimate child nailed to a plank of wood to pay the price. No amount of editing can save the bible, it’s not worth saving in the first place.

    • I understand your objection and would actually agree with it…I was trying to kind of bend over backwards to be accommodating. Even with only the NT there is still no evidence for any deities…but completely throwing out the OT would make the theistic case easier even though it would still be inadequate to convince most atheists.

  7. Humans are gullible. Your excellent article on Sophistry is only part of the whole picture of logical fallacies. More depth of detail can be found here (as only one place of many, but convenient, none the less):

    http://atheism.about.com/od/logicalfallacies/Logical_Fallacies_Arguments_Reasoning_and_the_Fallacy.htm

    This particular blog entry has convinced and inspired me that there needs to be a few words — quite a few words — about logic, sophistry and deception at the site I’m working on. Thanks for the head’s up.

      • Maynard would know the answer to this if his comment moderation policy wasn’t puckered up as tight as his asshole. Coward.

        “Maybe you all need a better plan in managing your comments so future discussions don’t disintegrate into to a brawl.”

        Disintegrate? No. What he’s talking about is censorship. That’s good for a blog like his, but we’re interested in getting at the truth of things instead of spreading an unsupportable ideology. And sometimes that takes a good “brawl.”

        “Casey has no respect for me”

        He should try earning it for a change, instead of strolling in here with a bloated sense of entitlement so prevalent among those who believe that they have a personal relationship with the creator of all things. Aren’t Christians supposed to be humble?

        “or you or himself…that is the essence of the issue as I see it.”

        Through his ideological lens. Note this claim of a lack of self-respect on our part is unsupported. It is merely the defeated theist licking his wounds. It demonstrates nothing more substantial than that.

        I feel sorry for him. He’s pinned down in our display case and the more he struggles and throws out red herrings, the more pitiful his exhibition becomes.

        When will they learn to concede a well-made point–or five? That would be the way to earn respect around here.

    • Yes, indeed, Douglas. We’ve been harping on the importance of logic and critical thinking since the beginning–and we’d be delighted to have someone else in this industry doing the same. There seems to be a dearth of that kind of ex-CoG blogging, for some strange reason–I have complained before that most of us seem to be too fascinated by personal interest stories and sensationalism to take a serious look at the foundations of our former beliefs themselves. After all, it is ultimately the beliefs themselves that cause most of the trouble. Looking forward to perusing your new site.

  8. Casey, I reject your feigned pity. Your insults and pseudo-intellectual spew means NOTHING to me, less than NOTHING. I live a full and enjoyable life free of hate and animus that clearly posses and CONTROLS you. You have made no points that carry any weight with me. Once you started calling names it proved you had nothing. I feel sorry for Splinter because his own attitude since a young boy has destroyed his life and then falling in with an evil influence like yours will without doubt push him over the emotional edge. I predicted a number of times throughout the years that he would end up just like this…to bad, but he made his own bed. I came back because of Splinter to see if there was any hope…there is not… so I depart.

    • No, Maynard will live on in infamy. All his displays of illogic, sophistry and bigotry will be preserved right here for posterity. And that, my dear fool, is the reason you came here.

      Jace, I leave to you the honor of defending your own top-rate thought process against this ridiculous charge of sycophancy. In fact, I order you, as one of my zombie minions, to do so!

    • Wow Mike… just wow.

      I’m sorry but your powers of prediction are about as lame as that bronze age deity you worship. Don’t play the stock market with that intuition of yours. For being destroyed, my life is going pretty well, thanks. Yeah, I’ve lost (well, cut-off) a bunch of church friends recently and my parents and I aren’t getting along but I think I’ll survive that. When my parents leave their cult, I think that relationship will improve.

      But it’s not at all… weird… that you’ve been predicting things about me “through the years”. Mike, nothing personal man, but I never gave you or your family a second thought from 1996 all the way to 2011. Odd that you would dwell on me though. I was what, 13 when you last saw me? I was a teenager. That’s typically known as a turbulent time in one’s life. Judging me at that age is like judging all bloggers by the one named Mike. Plus, you saw me one sabbath a week and we rarely ever talked. Yeah, you were really qualified to make assessments about my future. Please.

      I am however, glad you’ve made clear what your real thoughts about me are. Now all the cards are on the table and we can cut the bullshit buddy-buddy act. Jesus, I hate fake people. (well that had a touch of redundancy to it…) I won’t even take time out of my precious (and destroyed, apparently) life to address your pathetic little comments any further. Casey won’t ban you, but as far as I’m concerned, you’re nothing but a troll looking for attention. You wont get any more of mine.

      And for good reason, really. You’ve shown time and time again that you are unable or unwilling to respond to serious (and polite, so don’t even start) questions that are directed at you. You did it with Casey on the druids blog and you’ve done it here as well. You did nothing to respond to any of the questions I posed to you. Your faux concern was truly touching though, glad to see you’re worried about what Casey “Anti-christ” Wollberg will do to my life. He’s just such a bad influence. So angry all the time, so blasphemous. It would never have occurred to me to be angry until I came here. And, such nerve to use an avatar with his middle finger showing. So rude… Plus, he’s always putting some poor believer down, I hope that doesn’t rub off on me.

      No, wait. I hope it does. I hope I get to be half as good as he is at putting morons in their place. I hope I become 1/4th as good at determining the fallacies people use, the tricks of debate, and then dashing those imbeciles upon the rocks of logic. I’ve never seen a believer come onto this site that could best Wollberg in a debate. I still haven’t.

      Adios, Mike. Best of luck with your… outreach or whatever.

  9. LOL. Maynard just took down his scathing expose of Armstrong Delusion as a front for a den of evil atheists. Was the courage of his convictions shaken–or did he not wish for his couple of readers to follow the link over here and discover too much truth?

    I have to admit: my virgin experience with inter-blog controversy was a blast.

    Anyway, back to my dinner of roasted baby…

      • Oh, oh, did you? Did you? That would be so cool! It would be like a museum piece. By the way, it seems from our stats page that Maynard got a lot of traffic from us–relatively speaking, that is (nine clicks was the grand total the last time I checked), whereas he only sent two hits our way :(. That’s 4.5 to one in his favor! What was he saying about parasites again? Ah well, I’ll keep that link to his homepage up anyway. Who says atheists don’t do charity?

  10. hahahaha! Oh boy…that was epic. Too bad I missed half the fun being on Euro time. I was kind of sad, though, that he never said anything in response to my call of BS. A simple, “you know, now that you mention it, I see your point and so I’ll stop saying that stupid stuff” would have been heart warming.

    C’est la vie!

  11. Well I’ll be! My bad, man…seems he did place a “correction” about my mentioning this is just an anti-Armstrong site run by atheists instead of an atheist site latching onto the Armstrong name just for the readers.

    Thank you…I now feel all warm and fuzzy.

    • Except then he deleted the entire post. Maybe he realized that the corrections made the whole thing look as obsolete as it was to begin with. I don’t know, though: is that giving him too much credit?

  12. The more I read this blog, the more I am realising how grateful I am to have woken up to myself and rejected ALL religion.

    The thing I appreciate most about all of your writings is your ability to highlight pure logic. That coupled with your wordsmithing abilities helps me crystalise my own thoughts more clearly – where I had confusion before (in religion), I now see clearly.

    What I now see clearly, is my bias in believing these fairytales to begin with. Couple that with the laziness of my own character in failing to actually THINK and QUESTION what I was being fed by these nuts, resulted in my willing captivity.

    Thanks to Armstrongism, and the pain it brought, was the wake up call I needed. Painful journey as it was to realise everything I believed was false, the end result is freedom, relief. I, like SplinterSurfer, have experienced the same benefits since leaving all that crap behind once and for all.

    Thanks again for a brilliant article.

    (As usual, please forgive spelling etc – typing this on iPhone with fat fingers!)

    • “(As usual, please forgive spelling etc – typing this on iPhone with fat fingers!)”

      I’m new to this skill myself and my fingers feel very fat when I try doing anything on my phone. I wonder if humans will evolve to grow more tapering fingertips as a result of their reliance on such devices in the future. This would be similar to our evolution of lactose tolerance as a response to the technological development of cattle domestication. But perhaps social and intellectual media prowess is not so tightly correlated with reproductive success as is dietary diversification. At this point, at least, I don’t think it is my fat fingers that are my downfall lol.

  13. How many points of view can I have on a subject? I suppose that deserves an answer.

    The answer is 7:

    http://dnarefutesbi.com/PointsofView.aspx

    Sorry about the video… the whole thing is under construction… you know how that is….

    Although I could be wrong. With the blind point of view not being any point of view at all, it could be that I can have only six points of view.

    Anyone able to help me out here?

  14. Kirrily, you get it. I just love that. 😀

    Bias. Thats the key. That’s the grease that keeps the wheels of religion turning. That’s why religion thrives. Everyone has it, and everyone either accepts it (ignores it) and lives their lives locked in its grip or they see it for what it is, and come to very difficult terms with it.

    Until believers (of armstrongism or any religion) can see that bias, whatever it is, and overcome it, they will remain a prisoner of it.

    Like you, I am grateful for Armstrongism in that sense. It served as the catalyst for me to discover my bias. Without the problems I saw in my last splinter group (though in hindsight, they were evident in every group), I would never have risen up to question my beliefs. Change never occurs when people are happy where they are.

    Glad you’re free Kirilly, You really should join us as an author of the site. I personally think you’ve got what it takes! 😀

  15. “Couple that with the laziness of my own character in failing to actually THINK and QUESTION what I was being fed by these nuts, resulted in my willing captivity.”

    Don’t be too hard on yourself there…religions work very hard to prevent the people under its control from thinking and questioning too much. That’s the whole secret behind “not many wise men now are called”–they ask too many questions, think too much. They all say, to a greater or lesser degree “don’t worry yourself over it all. We ministers/priests/whatever know better and will tell you the True Path.” Remember what Satan’s cardinal sin was according to HWA? Intellectual Vanity.

    So, don’t beat yourself up over not thinking and questioning. For a long time, every time I thought and questioned “The Truth” I worked hard to push the “satanic” thoughts and doubts out of my head. Crazy, huh? But religion has had a lot of practice at keeping people faithfully dumb–the Catholic Church executed people in the 1400s for the “crime” of possessing or translating a bible from Latin to English…b/c can’t have the people actually knowing what’s written in there! We’ll lose our power to tell them whatever self-serving thing that comes to our minds at the time!

    Instead, just be happy you did what so many have been thus far unable to do…

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