G’day. I was letting my thoughts wander the previous afternoon, and something suddenly popped unbidden into my head, something that I hadn’t considered before, at least not in the words that follow. Below is a paraphrasing and elaboration of something I’d posted earlier yesterday on Twitter:
I’d realized that it is nonsensical to have both causally independent free will and the threat of eternal punishment to impel obedience and submission without causing real problems in the same theology.
I’m referring here to certain branches of my former religion, Christianity, which teach of human or demonic free will, uncompelled by anything, including external causation, and the idea of an alleged afterlife of endless torture as a punishment for the thoughtcrime of unbelief.
This combination just doesn’t work. That’s because the use of threats of any kind to impel belief or compliance are by their very nature coercive, no matter how polite or subtle the threat used. It’s necessarily a violation of free choice. Even if done with a kind heart and a velvet glove. Coercion is coercion, even if veiled or only implied. The very awareness of the threat, real or not, skews the will against the freedom to choose between belief and non-belief. If you believe the threat exists.
Which I do not.
The use of threats like this is known as an ad baculum fallacy, an ‘argument from the cudgel.’ It is the use of force or even its mere threat to achieve a desired outcome in the one so threatened.
Here, compliance or conversion:
“Accept the conclusions I offer or else…”
“Repent or burn!”
Mind you, like most informal arguments, ad baculum is not always and everywhere a fallacy. There are times when it is an inductively valid (or strong) argument; it is not a fallacy when the threat issued is not used as a substitute for actual reasoning. It is not a fallacy when the threat so issued is real, justified, proportional, and relevant to the desired outcome.
And that’s just it. There is no plausible justification for infinite and hideous torture for finite, petty, and arbitrary thoughtcrimes, like believing in the ‘wrong’ god (out of a potentially infinite number that could possibly be known, including those yet to be worshipped in future religions) or not believing in any gods. There’s just no sane justice, relevance, or proportionality between the ‘crime’ and the punishment. And there’s just nothing outside of sectarian dogma to even suggest that the alleged punishment even exists.
I’ll probably be castigated by apologists and wannabe apologists for being ‘unsophisticated’ in my reasoning with this, but that’s cool. That’s because most of what passes as Sophisticated Philosophy™ in apologetic circles is pretentious moonbattery dressed up in obscurantist sophistry and absurd levels of false nuance to hide its complete lack of actual content.
If the emperor really does have no clothes, then no amount of special pleading, ad hoc reasoning, or misrepresentation used to praise the subtlety of his nonexistent elegant fabrics will change that.
But I’ve vented enough for the morning, and my cat needs someone to curl up with…
- S.A. Barton | ‘skipper — A Good, Old-Fashioned, Meeting The Aliens Story
- windupmyskirt | Meet the new atheist, same as the old atheist
- Token Skeptic | Podcasts: Token Skeptic #212 and Fringe / Fest-ing about Perth
- Realm of Empress Musie | Netaji Birthday… salutes to the son of India (23.1.16)
- vikram roy’s blog | Ramayana: The Game of Life (Stolen Hope) (Review)
- Ravens N’ Pennies | Gamemaster’s Guidepost: Randomly Generated Traps
The Odd, the Cool, the Gnuz & the Science
- Can Our Minds Live Forever?
- The Importance of Logic and Critical Thinking
- Atychiphobia (Prelude) in Calculated Risks (Music)
- For Believers, Talkng to Atheists is Like Confronting Death
- The world’s greatest cat painting is coming to Portland
- The Psychology of What Makes a Great Story
- Ursula Le Guin Gives Insightful Writing Advice in Her New Online Workshop
- Rationally Speaking | The Podcast of the New York City Skeptics | Ep. 151, with Maria Konnikova
- Einstein on Grief, Time, Eternity, and the Privilege of Old Age
- PSA | Do Not Use the New Prime Number for RSA Encryption
- An Evolutionary Analysis of Anti-Evolution Legislation
- Language Could Diagnose Parkinson’s, ALS, and Schizophrenia, before Lab Tests
The Blog Stats:
- Posts Currently Published: 2502
- Total Pageviews: 167,709
- Comments Count: 2462
- This blog’s Facebook Likes: 40
- WordPress & Email Subscribers: 300
- Tumblr Fellows: 1488
- Twitter Fellows: 2302
The Fading Symphony with Tim Minchin