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Put this in the context of people attacking the Westboro Baptist Church.You see the attacker win a big victory over “religion”, broadly defined.If you convert someone from the first kind of person to the second kind of person, you’ve gone most of the way to making them an atheist.More important, if you convert a culture from thinking in the first type of way to thinking in the second type of way, then religious people will be unpopular and anyone trying to make a religious argument will have to spend the first five minutes of their speech explaining how they’re not Fred Phelps, honest, and no, they don’t picket any funerals.But one still feels like the atheist is making things just a little too easy on himself.Maybe the problem is that the atheist is indirectly suggesting that Westboro Baptist Church is typical of religion? Then suppose the atheist posts on Tumblr: “I hate religious people who are rabidly certain that the world was created in seven days or that all their enemies will burn in Hell, and try to justify it through ‘faith’. Remember, people think in terms of categories with central and noncentral members – a sparrow is a central bird, an ostrich a noncentral one. There was an argument on Tumblr which, like so many arguments on Tumblr, was terrible. Alice said something along the lines of “I hate people who frivolously diagnose themselves with autism without knowing anything about the disorder. The straw man is a terrible argument nobody really holds, which was only invented so your side had something easy to defeat.They should stop thinking they’re ‘so speshul’ and go see a competent doctor.” Beth answered something along the lines of “I diagnosed myself with autism, but only after a lot of careful research. I think what you’re saying is overly strict and hurtful to many people with autism.” Alice then proceeded to tell Beth she disagreed, in that special way only Tumblr users can. The weak man is a terrible argument that only a few unrepresentative people hold, which was only brought to prominence so your side had something easy to defeat.
The guy whose central examples of religion are Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama is probably going to have a different perception of religion than the guy whose central examples are Torquemada and Fred Phelps.And I think: well, maybe if people see atheists defeating a terrible argument for religion enough, atheists don’t have to defeat any of the others.People have already been inoculated against religion.An atheist attacking creationism becomes a deadly threat for the average Christian, even if that Christian does not herself believe in creationism.Likewise, when a religious person attacks atheists who are moral relativists, or communists, or murderers, then all atheists have to band together to stop it somehow or they will have successfully poisoned people against atheism. This is starting to sound a lot like something I wrote on my old blog about superweapons.