No True Christians

Posted by on January 7, 2012 in Featured, Thoughts | 43 comments

I saw a post on FaceBook today which grabbed my attention. It went like this:

“I just had a Christian tell me, that the Pope is not a Christian after I told her he covered up child molesters and rapists.”

and was followed up with:

“She also told me Hitler wasn’t a Christian and every christian that commits crimes is not a true christian.”

Those who are familiar with this argument may have seen it many times in many different forms, but it may surprise you to know that this fallacy actually has a name; The No True Scotsman Fallacy. It was first coined by the atheist philosopher Antony Flew in his book Thinking About Thinking. (It’s true that Flew in his later life converted to deism, but many claim this was because of his increasing mental infirmity, however this information is unimportant for the sakes of this article.) He wrote:

“Imagine Hamish McDonald, a Scotsman, sitting down with his Glasgow Morning Herald and seeing an article about how the “Brighton Sex Maniac Strikes Again.” Hamish is shocked and declares that ‘No Scotsman would do such a thing.’ The next day he sits down to read his Glasgow Morning Herald again and this time finds an article about an Aberdeen man whose brutal actions make the Brighton sex maniac seem almost gentlemanly. This fact shows that Hamish was wrong in his opinion but is he going to admit this? Not likely. This time he says, ‘No true Scotsman would do such a thing.'”

The obvious question here is, when a member of a group such as a religion does something that is counter to the tenets or dogma of said group, does that make them any less a member of that group? If a person professes to be a Christian, and yet does not follow the Ten Commandments from the bible to the letter, does this make them any less of a Christian? Of course the answer is “no”. People come in all colours and flavours in all walks of life, and if a person professes to be a Christian, and yet is a mass murderer, they are still Christians if they believe themselves to be so.

To deny that someone is Christian because of the decisions they make on a personal or professional level only serves as a way for the claimant to distance themselves from the person making the bad decisions. Saying, for instance, that the Pope is not a true Christian is an ad-hoc statement, because it is obvious to all that the Pope IS in fact a Christian, being a follower of one of the many Christian sub-orders.

To say that Hitler was not a true Christian may be a fallacy, because himself on many occasions invoked Christianity as a reason for doing the things he did. (It seems that in later life Hitler may have become more of a Deist than a Christian, but he never left the Roman Catholic church he was raised under.) The question is, how much of a Christian does one need to be in order to be called a “true Christian”? I would argue, any amount is enough, for doing anything in the name of Christ and his church makes your actions motivated by a Christian edict. So was Hitler a Christian? I’d say yes, and in fact he may be the most damaging Christian to the Christian cause in history. Regardless of whether he was a “true Christian” or not, I think we can all agree he was a very bad person, and that his religion (or lack thereof) was only part of his madness.

As for someone who claims that anyone who commits a crime is not a “true Christian”? Well that one is easy. Nowhere in the bible does it say that it is a sin to commit a crime. In fact, it outlines some crimes, but not all crimes one could be convicted for today. Most of the crimes outlined in the bible have to do with what, whom, when and how to worship, and only mentions in passing things like killing and coveting. What of crimes like cyber-hacking? What about dealing drugs? These are crimes too, but the bible never mentions them. This is because crimes are decided by society, not a god, and the many and varied crimes one could be found guilty of are a result of the society we live in. In any case, the Hail Mary asks for forgiveness from God, and 1 John 1:9 reads:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Given this, it doesn’t really matter what we do if we are Christians, because a sin will be forgiven as long as the person is faithful.

So what is a true Christian then? No popes, no warlords or criminals? What about priests who commit atrocities against children? What about people who eat shellfish? People who work on Sunday? Are none of them true Christians? I’m sure each person who professes to be Christian would be a bit annoyed at that judgement.

What it all boils down to is this. Either there are no “true Christians” because they break the commandments in the bible, or commit crimes (speeding is a crime too, as is jaywalking), OR everyone who claims to be a Christian is a “true Christian”. Of course the latter has to be correct for the bible says in Romans 3:23-24 (among other places):

There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

So there you have it, in a nutshell. There is no way to distinguish between a “Christian” and a “true Christian”, and in the end, it makes no difference either way, because with faith, all is forgiven anyhow.

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43 Comments

  1. A true Christian will give away all of his/her possessions and follow Christ. S/he will turn the other cheek and be slapped again and again. A true Christian will live on the street, homeless, preaching about the Kingdom of God to come. In other words, there are no true Christians, except maybe on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, CA.

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  2. It’s a lot like blaming God…you can never do it. god never does anything wrong, even tho dude killed hella peeps in the bible (way more than the competition-Satan). the Norway shooter was Christian, oh but no he’s not…he did wrong. It must be “nice” having a built in excuse for your bad behavior-it’s never your fault, it’s always satans fault. Pretty pathetic. Happy New beer Marty. Let’s totally kiill it with the atheist blogging this year…well, esp if this is our last year (Mayan). Awesome sauce,

    Kriss

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  3. Thank you, Martin! Great as ever. A very deep and thought-provoking blog, that reflects on many societal problems, and not only religious ones. You could hear such denials by many nationalities unconsciously blaming others, by announcing self righteousness. But hypocrisy of religious people is even bigger and more dangerous. The rejection of wrong doing, and, thus, saying: “Not a true Christian (could be any religion)” is more of a discrimination issue and a proclamation of the absolute Truth, that only exists in a religious “world”.

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  4. Full disclosure: I am a former Christian and now a nontheist. That is an important point to make since the same sorts of generalizations have been made about atheists. As Christ said, “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:6). Having been raised in an oppressive religious environment, I witnessed both good and bad behavior from those who claimed to be Christians. I have read about and seen terrible things done in the name of god, and ultimately those things led me to renounce my belief in any and all gods. However, if we look at the message of love and acceptance preached by Christ and set aside all teachings other than those in the Gospels, true Christians are the ones who endeavour to live peaceably, extend love, mercy and acceptance to everyone, and place the value of human beings above tyrannical and hegemonic dogma.

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  5. Back to the old cliche…..”A good person will do good deeds, an evil person will do evil deeds, but for a good person to do evil, that takes religion.”

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  6. …if a person professes to be a Christian, and yet is a mass murderer, they are still Christians if they believe themselves to be so.

    What are your grounds for this claim? I can believe myself to be an elephant, but it does not make me one. Why is Christianity different? I’m sure that “Christianity” means different things to different people, but your definition robs it of any meaning whatsoever.

    Given this, it doesn’t really matter what we do if we are Christians, because a sin will be forgiven as long as the person is faithful.

    Actually, the verse you quoted talks about God’s faithfulness, not the faithfulness of the Christian. It would be more accurate to say, “a sin will be forgiven as long as the person confesses it,” but even this would be cherry-picking a single verse without reference to context.

    Either there are no “true Christians” because they break the commandments in the bible, or commit crimes (speeding is a crime too, as is jaywalking), OR everyone who claims to be a Christian is a “true Christian”.

    False dilemma. Your first alternative is that true Christians are perfect law-keepers. Your second alternative is that anyone who claims to be a Christian is a true one. There are no grounds for making these the only two alternatives.

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    • Brett.

      Point 1: Christianity, as with any religious belief, is a position of belief. What you have offered up is a strawman, because I am not talking about a physical reality, but a reality of belief. If a person calls themselves a Christian and believes themselves to be a Christian, then by all means they ARE a Christian, at least in their mind. What other measure of belief can there be? If you believe yourself to be an elephant, unless you actually are one, then you are delusional. Elephants aside, if a person confesses sins on their deathbed, then they are a “true Christian”, if they don’t, then they’re not?

      Point 2: Yes I was cherrypicking, and out of context. Bad me.

      Point 3: Actually this is perfectly in context to the original premise of this blog piece. Read back to the top, where I am quoting the FaceBook posts. I am talking about the claim that anyone who commits a crime is not a “true Christian”. In any case, where do you see a mid-ground here? There is none, because the bible makes no sense in this context. You are a smart fellow, I can’t believe you can’t see this. The reason the bible makes no sense is that it was manufactured by men to control men. It sets out the premise that all men are evil, and no matter what you do, you will continue to be evil until you die and are judged. This is the ultimate way for any power to have control over people, first convince them that they are worthless, then tell them that if they toe the line that they are forgiven for their default position of worthlessness. Added to this, the bible makes it impossible to follow all the laws it sets out because these laws go against the nature of humanity, thereby reinforcing the position of sin and worthlessness. Of course there is the passage about “more than a hundred sparrows”, as if that makes it all okay to be browbeaten for being human. If you want to see this process happening, just take a look at North Korea and the theocracy they have created over there, based purely on the cult of personality of their leader. It’s the same thing, setting up a position that is unattainable (i.e. god-like status or perfection of forgiveness), then make promises for everything to be okay if you follow the doctrine. For someone who prides themselves on their mastery of logic, I find it funny that you can’t see this. Back to the point at hand, either a person who professes to be a Christian IS in fact a “true Christian” or there are no “true Christians” at all, if your measure is following the letter of God’s law. I think there is a difference of semantics here, whether someone is a “true Christian” or a “good Christian”, those who do everything to follow the letter of the biblical law being “good”, and those that don’t but believe still in the doctrine being “bad” but still “true Christians”. What other options are there? Are you proposing Christianity in degrees? Are you saying that someone can be 57% Christian? Where in the bible does it say that this is possible?

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      • Point 1: Your response actually illustrates some of the problems I have. “If a person calls themselves a Christian and believes themselves to be a Christian, then by all means they ARE a Christian, at least in their mind.” Why the qualification? Surely your point is that a person’s mental attitude is all that matters. I disagree on that point, of course, but even you are hedging your comments on the matter. “Elephants aside, if a person confesses sins on their deathbed, then they are a “true Christian”, if they don’t, then they’re not?” Are you asking me whether that is my definition of Christianity? If that’s the case, then the answer is “no”, but I note that it qualifies as one of many possible formulations for Christianity, in conflict with your claim that there are only two alternatives (point 3).

        Point 2: Thanks for admitting it. I wish some Christian teachers were as ready to admit their cherry-picking ways.

        Point 3: “…either a person who professes to be a Christian IS in fact a “true Christian” or there are no “true Christians” at all, if your measure is following the letter of God’s law.” Actually, if the measure is following the letter of God’s law, then it would be biblically correct to say that Jesus was the only true Christian. This slightly silly conclusion follows from the slightly silly measure of Christianity that has been adopted. The point is that Jesus isn’t a Christian: he is the Christ. I submit that Christians are those who believe that Jesus is the Christ, as per Simon Peter’s response in Matthew 16:16, and put their faith in him as the only way by which man can be reconciled with God. No true Christian can deny this, because it undermines the “Christ” part of Christianity. How can the label “Christian” be appropriate if one denies the Christ? It’s common practice for “Christian” to be used somewhat synonymously with “good person”, regardless of the “Christ” aspect, but this illustrates my point: a “good person” is not a true Christian unless they profess Jesus as Christ like Simon Peter did.

        Certain actions should follow from one’s belief that Jesus is the Christ, and one might speak loosely of being a “true Christian” based on whether those consequences do, in fact, follow, but this is not the measure of Christianity in and of itself. A charitable interpretation of the original Facebook-sourced remarks would have supposed such a loose interpretation was intended. Even if that’s not the case, however, your refutation still contains a false dilemma.

        In short, I see your dilemma as being false because there is another alternative: that Christianity is not a belief one holds about oneself, but rather a belief that one holds in relation to God and Jesus. True Christians are not required to be perfect keepers of the law (although it is an appropriate goal), but it is not sufficient to merely call oneself “Christian”. A person who professes to be a Christian — and may even behave in a manner appropriate to a Christian — is not a true Christian if they deny Christ.

        Is this such a controversial concept?

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        • I can honestly say that I have never in all of my 35 years on this planet known anyone who says, believes and claims to be a christian that does not believe Jesus is the Christ and that he is the son of their god that died for the sake of humanity. Sorry. That’s kind of an integral thing for them ya know? But hey, if you want to dodge around and continue to come to Martin’s place for the sole purpose of stirring up trouble with your dazzling powers of filosofy, go right ahead, until Martin gets tired of feeding you.

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          • Unitarianism, for example, is a movement which has its roots in the Protestant church, and contains members who identify as Christian, yet denies the divinity of Jesus and his claim to be the only way to salvation.

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          • So by YOUR definition, these people are not “true Christian”? I’m sure they would disagree with you.

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          • Wow. Learn something new. Not that I care either way. I’ve never been a christian so it doesn’t matter to me what they believe. As I said, I have never met a christian who professed this belief. It is a very different thing to “impress one’s opponent” in a “public performance” with fancy words and trite phrases that from the “moral integrity” of tone trolling. You can make claims and claim to be superior, when in fact all you are doing is trying to fancy up trolling an atheist. This sir, is what is known commonly as trolling.

            I also find it amusing that you cannot help but judge everyone here and are amused by our inferior, angry and immoral antics when you flat out refuse to answer any questions put to you when you are called out. But that’s okay, that’s just showing off your superiority isn’t it? Stupid atheists, they do not see how great I am?

            By the way, I find you quite amusing. It’s the internet. Get over yourself and try to not urinate on your gracious host’s rug.

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          • So by YOUR definition, these people are not “true Christian”? I’m sure they would disagree with you.

            Of course they would — just as I have disagreed with both the alternative definitions you provided in your dilemma. I’m not insisting that my definition is indisputably correct — I just happen to think it’s a valid and useful one. You have presented two alternatives in the form of a dilemma: “either there are no ‘true Christians’ because they break the commandments in the bible… OR everyone who claims to be a Christian is a ‘true Christian’.” Here’s a counter-dilemma: your logic is valid only if there is no third alternative, so either your logic is faulty, or you are demanding on your own authority that your two alternatives are the only valid ones. Which is it?

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          • Of course they would — just as I have disagreed with both the alternative definitions you provided in your dilemma.

            NO you have JUST AGREED with my first assertion, that every person who claims to be a true Christian, sees themselves as a true Christian. Stop mincing words Brett. Any person who claims to be a “true Christian” would be appalled if you were to tell them otherwise. But by their definition only. This only furthers the fact that either Christianity is an unobtainable state therefore NOBODY is a “true Christian” OR, anybody who claims to be a “true Christian” is one. There is no middle ground. As I asked you earlier, if there is a middle ground it is by YOUR judgement only, or the judgement of some outsider from the claimant. I have no authority, just powers of observation which you obviously disagree with. You disagree with BOTH my alternatives, and yet offer up an alternative which is very much like the second I offered. Are you simply being a contrarian because you think that I am not as logically skilled as you, or do you actually have a point?

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          • I’m going to reply at the end of the comments, rather than in this thread, because the blog is really not coping well at this depth of nesting.

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        • If a person calls themselves a Christian and believes themselves to be a Christian, then by all means they ARE a Christian, at least in their mind.” Why the qualification?

          The qualification is necessary because in the minds of many others who also call themselves Christians, certain people who don’t meet their specific qualifications are not Christians. Will you deny that Catholics are Christians, Brett? Many people do so; yet, in the Catholics’ minds, they remain Christians.

          Actually, if the measure is following the letter of God’s law, then it would be biblically correct to say that Jesus was the only true Christian. This slightly silly conclusion follows from the slightly silly measure of Christianity that has been adopted.

          Following God’s law, as a measure of Christianness, is now slightly silly. Nice to hear that from you, Brett. The measure of being a Christian is actually much better phrased by yourself in this way:

          I submit that Christians are those who believe that Jesus is the Christ…

          Exactly! Those who believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ figure of Jewish mythological prophecy, and generally refer to themselves as “Christian.” Folks; we have a winner!

          Certain actions should follow from one’s belief that Jesus is the Christ, and one might speak loosely of being a “true Christian” based on whether those consequences do, in fact, follow, but this is not the measure of Christianity in and of itself.

          Awwwww… And you were doing so well up until the point where you continued to type.

          What would those “certain actions” be, Brett? You say that they should follow. Does that mean that those actions are optional? What governing body makes the decision about which actions are appropriate and which are not? Have you, perhaps, taken this great burden upon yourself to become the final arbiter of God’s True Will™?

          In short, I see your dilemma as being false because there is another alternative: that Christianity is not a belief one holds about oneself, but rather a belief that one holds in relation to God and Jesus.

          I can tell that that particular sentence is meaningless drivel, having seen some meaningless drivel in my time. You’re also getting completely away from the question at hand, Brett. Misdirection seems to be one of your stronger skills.

          The question at hand is not, “What is Christianity?” The question is, “What is a Christian?” Some people might simply see that as a solely semantic difference, as I expect you to do, but I think that it is at the crux of this comment thread.

          True Christians are not required to be perfect keepers of the law (although it is an appropriate goal), but it is not sufficient to merely call oneself “Christian”.

          Says who? Once again, you seem to have taken up that heavy mantle of The Voice of God™. All hail Brett, the Famous Metatron!

          A person who professes to be a Christian — and may even behave in a manner appropriate to a Christian — is not a true Christian if they deny Christ.

          What does it mean to “deny Christ?” Does it concide with refusing to get him a beer when he asks for one? Does it, perhaps, entail denying that oneself is a Christian? I was baptized by a priest in a Roman Catholic church. I deny that I am a Christian. Is this what it means to “deny Christ?”

          Once again, you’re setting yourself up as the Great Heavenly Scribe™. Never mind St. Peter at the gates: Brett the Famous Celestial Scribe has the big scroll with all the names, and if you don’t have his gold star next to your name, you won’t gain entry to paradise.

          Is this such a controversial concept?

          Considering the amounts of bloodshed and strife whose roots lie in the claims of one group or another to be the only True Christians™, I would say that yes, it is a controversial concept.

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    • …if a person professes to be a Christian, and yet is a mass murderer, they are still Christians if they believe themselves to be so.

      What are your grounds for this claim? I can believe myself to be an elephant, but it does not make me one. Why is Christianity different? I’m sure that “Christianity” means different things to different people, but your definition robs it of any meaning whatsoever.

      The first word that came to my mind when I read your comment was “bullshit.” I thought you were actually brighter than that, Brett, but I suppose you’re just another liar for Jesus after all.

      The qualities of an elephant are rather well-known to modern science, and though you could profess to be one to the end of your days, a rudimentary examination of your cellular structure and DNA would certainly show otherwise. Though your post-modernist cerebral masturbation might inform you otherwise, I feel it safe to assume that you are not an elephant.

      Christianity, on the other hand, is nothing more than a concept which is an artificial construct of the human mind. You will find, for example, that the religious make-up of the United States, as reported in the ARIS from Trinity College, is based on self-identification. Whether or not you (or anyone else, for that matter) happen to agree with someone’s self-identification as a Christian is totally irrelevant.

      Anyone who self-identifies as a Christian is a Christian. Anyone who claims that a self-identified Christian is not a true Christian is probably attempting to distance themselves from a behaviour that they personally find repugnant.

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    • Hey “Famous Brett Watson”,
      If you have to call yourself famous, you’re doing it wrong.
      You’re already arguing over the history of unicorns. Do you have to pretend the world cares who you are when you step outside too?

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    • A Christian, unlike an elephant, TFBW, is not defined by his DNA or his trunk. It is defined by his/her faith. So while you cannot claim to be an elephant, a person can claim to be a Christian based on his/her faith. Your example does not stand even the simplest level of scrutiny. A Christian is a person who professes belief in Christ as God, and to other Christians, depending on the branch of Christianity, a Christian is someone who has been baptized. And yes, a mass murderer can well be baptized and a believer in Christ as God, therefore Mr. Pribble’s point is entirely valid. In Catholic school, I was taught that I could be a horrible person all my life, if in the end I believed in Christ and sincerely repented, I could still go to heaven.
      So, instead of knocking down perfectly valid arguments, why don’t you explain to us what definition of true Christian you would use?

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    • Shorter Martin: “Christians have done bad things and denying that people are Christian when they do bad things makes you look like an ass.”

      Shorter TFBW: “NUH UH! YOU’RE WRONG! THEY ARE NOT REAL CHRISTIANS! I’M A RHINO! LOOK AT ME!”

      How’s that work out in your college career Brett? Probably not so grate akshualy. Nice post Martin. Sorry for being so dumb and enjoying your writing. Keep it up. :D

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  7. As C.S. Lewis says, it’s dishonest to say that a person who violates the tenets of Christianity when claiming to be a Christian isn’t one; rather we should just call them a bad Christian.

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  8. Good Post. I did a similar thing in german. http://www.abgott.ch/misc/?p=28
    Details about my case (fired from a state school in Switzerland for not putting up a crucifix) in Englisch here: http://www.abgott.ch/misc/?p=694
    The “good/real” Christians are quick to state, that it’s only the false Christians that say I should kill myself…

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  9. Good post Martin, never mind Brett’s dishonesty. I’ve often heard this argument used in the context of religion so often that ‘No True Christian’ is perfectly appropriate as a moniker for it, though it may even fit for fringe-claim believers who become skeptics, like ex-believers in parapsychology who’ve struggled with the lack of convincing evidence for psi and changed their minds, accused of secretly being skeptics all along by those who remain believers.

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  10. It always astonishes me, reading this blog. Unfortunately, not in a good way, because most of your posts are less-informed than a 10-second glance at a poor Wikipedia article. Your articles also read as though they came straight from your mind without much consideration in editing beyond cursory copy-editing.

    Research is spending time gathering different sources and coming to a conclusion before you begin to write. If the matter is a little bit more tricky, then general introduction books give a great jump-off point for beginning to write a draft from a preliminary understanding of the topic.

    Instead of writing an article and making your conclusion as you’re writing it, why not just do the research from reliable sources other than google or blog friends and prevent yourself from having to make embarrassing and telling confessions later on when found wrong.

    The only consolation you’ll receive is when narrow-minded simpleton atheists bark out how great you are, having only skimmed the article to conclude “Christians are idiots!”. TFBW brought up points that once again point to your lack of research, which were barely even brushed off.

    You’re a nice guy, but I can’t stand your articles.

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    • Tone troll is duly noted. This is Marty’s blog. It’s not a peer-reviewed research journal. Perhaps you should GYOFB.

      The only consolation you’ll receive is when narrow-minded simpleton atheists bark out how great you are, having only skimmed the article to conclude “Christians are idiots!”. TFBW brought up points that once again point to your lack of research, which were barely even brushed off.

      Bullshit. TFBW’s points were addressed. Your bias is also duly noted.

      You’re a nice guy, but I can’t stand your articles.

      If you despise Martin’s blog so much, why spend time and effort to read and comment?

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    • Hey thanks for the compliments. If you don’t like my blog, then why come here? I’m not in the habit of approving comments that basically tell me I’m a lazy idiot. It is not the done thing. If you want to point at holes in my argument then please by all means, do so, but don’t come in here with a bullhorn and announce that either I or my readers/commenters are “simpletons”. If you do, expect to be excluded from commenting.

      As for: “embarrassing and telling confessions later on when found wrong.”? I did it with full knowledge that was what I was doing. I am neither embarrassed nor sorry for this.

      Remember, this is my blog. MY blog. It is not a democracy, it is not a public soapbox. I have ultimate control over what appears here. In future please be a little more considerate.

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    • I think I see the trouble. Mr/s “Tantamount” seems to be unclear on the notion of a blog. Perhaps you’re an older or younger person, or relatively new to technology? Here’s a handy introduction: what they call “weblogs” or “blogs” are often relatively quick essays or reactions on a single point—something from bubbling current of conversation on the news, other blogs, social media, etc.

      You seem to be looking for a “textbook” or the New Yorker. Those are great things, and they are not blogs. Some writers of textbooks or at The New Yorker ALSO write relatively fast responses on their “weblogs” or “blogs”.

      There, Mr/s “Tantamount”, is that clearer for you now?

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    • It always astonishes me when a troll saunters into the comment sections of people’s blogs and basically urinates on the carpet, so to say. I would say it is rather disingenuous to claim the moral high ground and degrade someone else’s viewpoints on the world. People do not have to agree and being a troll and carpet urinator does not instantly raise one to a higher, shall we say, “moral integrity”. That would be rather hypocritical, don’t you think? If you don’t like what Martin says and does in his own home, perhaps you should venture on to other places of entertainment? We wouldn’t want our nasty atheist germs to rub off on your precious little self or hurt your wittle feewings.

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  11. This blog points out the very real problem of religion in that it distances one from the reality of humanity sround them. There was a psychological experiment done by Yale in the 1960s called the Milgram experiments. The objective to these was to test peoples obedience to authority figures. (The concept behind it came from the atrocities carried out by nazi soldiers claiming to only have done what they were told. The idea was how could these people have tortured and murdered innocent people all because someone told them to?)

    We find that people do so quite willingly when they feel that they are personally relieved of any responsibility. Religion does this exact same thing. It allows people to violate everything moral or ethical by displacing responsibility to some other figure (…God, a doctor, a general, etc). Fairly consistently, 65% of people are willing to torture or kill each other if someone else takes the blame.

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  12. To my way of thinking, we are what we repeatedly DO, not what we merely say we are, or think we are. You can’t say you are part of a group when/if you do not practice the known behaviors of that group MOST of the time.

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    • One of the problems, I think, is that Christianity, as a group, has such vastly different ideas about what constitutes behavior appropriate for Christians.

      To a great many Protestant Christians, members of the Roman Catholic Church are not “true Christians.” Members of the Westboro Baptist Church are routinely described as not behaving like “real Christians.” Mormons are frequently regarded as being “outside” Christianity, though they will gladly tell you of their love for Christ and his works.

      Who gets to be the final arbiter? Which group has authority? A great many different groups all claim to have sole authority, and to follow the one true faith. Are they all wrong? If I hold my fingers up in the Boy Scout salute and repeat three times, “I accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior,” does it make me a Christian? What about being baptized in infancy? Does that make me a Christian? [If so, then I'm a Roman Catholic.]

      If Christians could ever come to an agreement about what it is to be a True Christian™, then there would be only a single Christian Church (as an organization), and no sectarianism would exist.

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  13. Marti is again right on the money.

    Worth double-underlining The Famous RelUnrelated’s comment “the religious make-up of the United States, as reported in the ARIS from Trinity College, is based on self-identification. Whether or not you (or anyone else, for that matter) happen to agree with someone’s self-identification as a Christian is totally irrelevant.

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  14. True Christian…

    What role does motivation play in your definition of a true Christian?

    – a politician looking for votes joins the church and calls himself a Christian. Is he a true Christian? By self identification, a Christian.

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  15. NO you have JUST AGREED with my first assertion, that every person who claims to be a true Christian, sees themselves as a true Christian.

    Oh, sorry, I didn’t realise you were requiring that “Christian” be applied subjectively and relatively. (That is what you’re saying, right? You haven’t said it explicitly, but you’ve expressed the assertion subjectively.) I thought you were offering absolute, objective definitions. I guess that makes the argument a little clearer, but it’s still not valid, as I will explain.

    This only furthers the fact that either Christianity is an unobtainable state therefore NOBODY is a “true Christian” OR, anybody who claims to be a “true Christian” is one.

    No, it means that “Christian” is a relative term. It means that when we ask “is X a Christian?”, we must also ask, “from whose perspective?” So from my perspective, for example, there are people who claim to be Christians yet do not meet the criteria, i.e. false Christians. From their perspective, no doubt, it’s a different state of affairs.

    There are no absolute truths in this case: when you start with a relative term, you end up with relative truths. If the term is not only relative but also subjective, then it’s possible for anyone to qualify as a “true X” from their own perspective, should they desire it, but the perspective qualifier is an essential part of the claim (one which you omit — your dilemma is phrased in absolute terms, and thus invalid). Even then, this is not an observation about Christianity so much as an observation about subjective, relative terms in general.

    But why should I yield to the requirement that “Christianity” be treated as a purely subjective term? It’s not treated that way in common usage, and there’s nothing in its etymology to warrant it. This is why I’m somewhat intransigent about the idea that “Christianity” must have something to do with “Christ”. Sure, it’s not a very precise term as generally used; neither is “democracy”, but that doesn’t mean we nod in deference to autocrats and tyrants when, in their public speeches, they claim to exercise democratic rule. We don’t take kindly to people playing Humpty Dumpty with their words like that.

    The main problem illustrated by “no true Scotsman” and (no true X in general, including “Christian”) is that people haven’t given up-front definitions of what they mean, and they aren’t making much progress towards that definition by means of case by case inclusion or exclusion in the category. Calling it a “fallacy” is a bit unfair to fallacies, which are at least definitely wrong. When people defend their claims using the “no true Scotsman” gambit, it resists progress towards determining what, exactly, is being claimed, and thus any determination of whether the claim is true or false.

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    • The main problem illustrated by “no true Scotsman” and (no true X in general, including “Christian”) is that people haven’t given up-front definitions of what they mean, and they aren’t making much progress towards that definition by means of case by case inclusion or exclusion in the category. Calling it a “fallacy” is a bit unfair to fallacies, which are at least definitely wrong.

      Oh, noes! We must bow down before the obvious brilliance of the philosopher in our midst. Brett is certainly much more knowledgeable in matters of philosophy than we mere mortals. We should hang our heads in shame, as we lowly atheists are surely not worthy of the attention and great wisdom that Brett is providing.

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  16. TROOOOOOLLL! IN THE DUNGEONS! Thought I’d let you know.

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  17. As much fun as I’m having taunting Brett, I think it best to simply move back to the “No True Scotsman” fallacy itself. Yes, Brett, it’s a fallacy. You don’t think so? F*ck you.

    The fallacy is in effect, a form of redefinition and circular reasoning. A statement is made. Someone counters that statement with a refuting example. The person making the original statement counters that the example provided doesn’t fit their definition of the property that the original statement and the refutation have in common. Such tactics continue, rendering the original statement unfalsifiable.

    This failure of reasoning is frequently encountered in discussions with people who make some claim to moral superiority based on their religious views.

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    • One slight edit, to the F word :)

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  18. Folks, I have fixed the indenting of the comments when replied to so it only indents to 2 levels. Hope this fixes the problem TFBW was experiencing when replying. Also going to change the font colour in these reply boxes. I can hardly see it!

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  19. OK, so the underlying fallacy of this argument is simple. A christian is not self-identified. You can call yourself black, because you hang out with black friends, but that does not make you black. You can call yourself anything you want, and most con artist do, this doesn’t make you that. Just because there are people that masquerade in the faith, does not mean they are Christians.
    Jesus said in Matthew 7 verses 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
    So christians merely mimic this behavior.

    Now, the point you are trying to make is there is hypocrisy in so many of these christians are in the public eye, and that they are disowned by a group that professes to love them.

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  20. If a Christian messes up they must confess their sins to God and ask forgiveness. A true Christian cannot willingly go on sinning (the Bible says this). The Bible also discredits your entire argument because it says several times how you must obey the law. A true Christian does not speed or jaywalk, if they do they must not keep doing it, and ask for forgiveness if they do.

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    • If a Christian messes up they must confess their sins to God and ask forgiveness. A true Christian cannot willingly go on sinning (the Bible says this). The Bible also discredits your entire argument because it says several times how you must obey the law. A true Christian does not speed or jaywalk, if they do they must not keep doing it, but ask for forgiveness if they do so by accident.

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  21. If a Christian messes up they must confess their sins to God and ask forgiveness. A true Christian cannot willingly go on sinning (the Bible says this). The Bible also discredits your entire argument because it says several times how you must obey the law. A true Christian does not speed or jaywalk, if they do they cannot keep doing it, but ask for forgiveness if they do so by accident.

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