Bing Bong–Someone on the internet is wrong!

I get this perverse please out of posting contentious shit on Facebook…


But look at what happened in the comments… You can click on the image to go to the post, but basically what happened is this: Two women expressed their personal preference for circumcised penis, and also conflated it with being clean because of their past cultural or religious upbringing. A bunch of people argued with them, but they doubled down, and the one even got some support from someone else, calling the guy who called her out sexist, somehow twisting the words to be about women’s choices. On a post about male genital mutilation.

So… what is whataboutism?

According to Wikipedia: Whataboutism, also known as whataboutery, is a variant of the tu quoque logical fallacy that attempts to discredit an opponent’s position by charging them with hypocrisy without directly refuting or disproving their argument.

I’m not sure I like that definition because it isn’t what I always see, but anyway… I prefer my own definition of tu quoque logical fallacies, which goes like so… A tu quoque is when you respond to an argument not with a valid criticism or argument, but by accusing the opponent of hypocrisy. This is the most childish counterargument I have ever seen, because it is equivalent to a small child pointing back at the adult and saying, “But you are also naughty!” If you’re a parent, you should recognize it right away. It is literally the go-to argument of a typical 3 to 4 year old with their childish initial grasp of logic. Its cute and clever when a toddler does it – not so much when coming from an adult.

(Off topic, but I find it fascinating that these arguments in politics typically come from those on the right in the US. Politicians and so-called conservative commentators use it all the time. Think of someone like US right wing loon Tomi Lahren – virtually every criticism of the left she spews from her hate-filled mouth is either a tu quoque or some kind of strange psychological projection.)

In my mind, whataboutism is something different to tu quoque, albeit similar. It’s when someone responds to a valid statement with something irrelevant, attempting to switch the focus, especially when the original issue involves an oppressed or marginalized group, and the counter-statement attempts to make themselves, another group, into the victim. In other words, it’s usually an oppressor playing the victim.

Generally, but not always (almost though), whataboutism is used by men when the conversation is about women. It’s often also used by white people when the conversation is about the oppression of black people. For example… men raising men’s rights when the conversation is about women or feminism… white people responding to black lives matter with all lives matter.

Getting back to the circumcision meme, this just happens to be one of those very rare times when the conversation is about men and men’s bodily autonomy. That makes me a little loathe to write this but I think it’s important. I consider myself not merely an ally of feminists, but a feminist myself. But… a conversation about men… is a conversation about men. Circumcision is male genital mutilation. Your preference as a woman for a cut cock does not make circumcision OK. Your belief that it is cleaner or more hygienic is one not based on evidence. It also doesn’t mean that a man who calls you out is being sexist. It means you’re being called out. We can all be wrong at times.

This thing where everybody wants to be right and they continue to argue and call their opponents names is very fucking annoying. Debate isn’t easy, but we need to be able to remain impartial and we need to know when the conversation isn’t about us. Don’t play the victim when you’re not one. It makes you look like an arsehole.

To clarify… I’m only reflecting on the comments that got the most responses… There are others too, for example from men who were circumcised and comment about their feeling being perfectly good during sex, though not in those words. Also whataboutism in a way… just less interesting that my focus in this post.

There is also a lot of ad hominem in the comments… people whose arguments were right, who are, in my mind, on the “right side” of this debate, who then turn to name calling and insults… The internet can be a terrible place for any kind of discussion because it often degrades to this name calling mess where everybody is wrong. That isn’t my focus for today’s post either. But that is one of the reasons I prefer trolling to debate these days. I’m more interested in throwing some contentious bait out there to see who bites than I am in trying to change some idiot’s mind.

(When we become the “arrogant atheist” stereotype) Are we not better than this?

Recently I was invited to join a “PrayerWorks” Facebook group. At first I was a little surprised. I had a look, and saw a pinned post asking for more moderators because of the number of atheists “trolling” the group. Otherwise there were the usual “inspirational” messages with typical “Amen” responses, but also loads of comments by atheists. And many posts by atheists.

Eventually I figured out what was going on… It seems to be a group run by atheists, one that has sucked theist members in, people who think they are participating in a normal Christian group. Of course that invites the usual false dilemma (If you don’t worship my god, you follow my devil – after all there is nothing else right?).

Are we not better than this?

Sure, theists join our atheist groups and proselytize there. But this is different. When they do so, they come from a place of extreme ignorance. It’s like the ignorant missionaries who go to other countries and disturb the last of the indigenous undisturbed people to teach them about Jesus, exposing the uncontacted tribes to all manner of diseases… The folks who infiltrate atheist groups think that such places are some sort of final frontier, a last bastion of heathens who have never heard of [insert religious savior here] where they can go to teach us about Jesus. They’re not “normal” Christians… They are a rare breed of brainwashed imbeciles with profound ignorance of their choosing, ignorance surpassed only by their sense of self-importance and pride which they, without any sense of irony at all, call humility.

When they infiltrate the atheist groups and find people more knowledgeable about their own religion than they are, the Dunning Kruger effect prevents them from seeing reality. In reality of course, atheists are either people who have rejected religion through careful thought and consideration (and knowledge of what religion is), or people who have been brought up irreligious and not been indoctrinated to begin with. Either way, preaching to us about Jesus isn’t going to achieve anything other than being annoying. Religion is something that the one type has already rejected, and will seem absurd to the other, as absurd as trying to convince adults that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are real and hang out with the Tooth Fairy for barbecues over weekends.

We have no such excuse.

Anyway, it’s just my opinion. I think there is a time and a place for debate, as well as a time and place for mockery. But we don’t need to go out of our way to taunt these people who are happy in their delusions, and honestly… the type of people in that group… will never see reason.

An interesting example of someone fishing for answers they want to hear (Confirmation Bias)

Recently I was confounded by this share… (Note that there were a lot of replies. I’ve included only some of them; my own require less name and picture blurring.)


Context… once again this is an “atheist versus theist” debate group. The person who made the odd statement that we should not be sad when people die (because it’s natural?) is a theist.

What’s odd here is that he disregarded every comment that explained how we are sad if people we love die because we miss them. He took offense to my comments in particular for some reason, so at least I managed to make him state his case, but it’s a case that doesn’t make sense. (You can’t see because of the way I cut and pasted parts of the conversation via Photoshop, but that long thread at the end starts with him replying to one of my comments that isn’t shown.) He is saying that death is natural and that we (atheists) have accepted that; therefore we should not be sad.

Of course that is a non sequitur. The two statements are unrelated: The premise being accepting death as natural, while the conclusion being a lack of sadness. He must know that the conclusion does not follow from the premise, yet he insists that this is the case for atheists and is not interested in any answer that contradicts this notion. So what’s really going on here? Obviously I am not psychic (and neither is anybody else by the way), but I can make an educated guess as to what his thinking is, even if he doesn’t realize it himself. No, he is not a psychopath…

What’s really going on here is an implicit (and as usual unstated) argument from morality. (Described in detail here and here.) That is, he assumes that all morals come from god – from his religion’s god in particular, which in itself refutes the argument – but he will never see that.

So he is thinking that all atheists lack morals, and empathy, and all that go along with morality, because we have rejected his god-given morality. Therefore we are incapable of feeling sadness… in other words we are all logical “robots” like Mr Spock. Or we are all psychopaths… something to that effect because his straw man of an atheist has no morals and even no humanity without god.

So his post is written only to satisfy his confirmation bias. He will disregard every comment that doesn’t confirm this odd straw man version of atheism, no matter how much sense it makes. This fascinates me because it is an example of confirmation bias taken to an extreme. My comment, and the comments of many others, explain quite clearly why we would be sad to lose loved ones, but he remains unconvinced. Nothing will change his mind. He will learn nothing from this debate. He will only be satisfied when someone writes something that he can reinterpret (that is deliberately misconstrue) to confirm his conception of what it means to be an atheist.

And that fascinates me. There is no way I or anybody else can ever get through to that person. I wonder how many others there are out there just like him?

Also of interest to me is that this is once again an example of someone telling atheists his definition of what atheists are. (Indirectly of course.) He assumes it and wants us to confirm this straw man, but essentially that’s what it comes down to: To him an atheist is a sinner, but more than that, an atheist is someone who has rejected his god-given morals, where all morals come from god, and is therefore incapable of feeling empathy, incapable of feeling sadness or loss, but rather lives by logic alone and is evil and a danger to every god-loving theist out there. And when any atheist says anything that contradicts this strange view, it should be discarded without even a moment of thought.

This theist is in many ways the polar opposite of someone like myself… I rejected all gods because I realized that there is not only a lack of evidence for them – there is plenty of evidence indicating that man created all gods… gods are a by-product of our cultures and are interesting in terms of understanding human development over history. Morals are also a by-product of human culture where a lack thereof would be a disadvantage to survival. To come to my opinions took critical thinking and a willingness to question what I had been taught. (My indoctrination.) My opinions are always fluid and I have changed them drastically over the years, responding to my improved understanding of reality, and this leaves me a perpetual student of life; my worldview is filled with wonder at nature as I grow old and have a better understanding of this amazing place in which we live and the truly astounding animals that we are. Whereas his worldview requires dogmatic belief and unyielding faith, faith that is so rigid it can not be questioned at any cost, even if he must assume that anyone who does not share that belief is inhuman. Moreover, he then “debates” people who do not share his views, but chooses not to engage with them but to present them with his assumptions about what they believe instead. (No irony here. I don’t go to Christian groups and tell them what they believe.) How pitiful it must be, to be such a person, to be incapable of even a solitary, independent, critical thought.