The No True Scotsman and Christians’ Version of Atheism – Regarding Christian Deconversion
I have been thinking about doing a post – or series of posts – about deconversion from Christianity.
I do not identify as an atheist, but am somewhere between being a Christian and being agnostic (or possibly a deist).
I see Christians routinely mishandle how they discuss or talk to people who have left the Christian faith (or who may be considering leaving it).
One of the most common – and annoying and disrespectful – approaches they use when talking to or about someone who has left the faith is to say the person was never a “real” Christian to begin with.
This may or may not be accompanied by the No True Scotsman Fallacy, where an ex-Christian or a doubter may point to all the hypocrisy or abuse committed by self-professing believers, and the Christian will retort by saying “thus and so was not a “real” Christian,” or, “so and so who is now an atheist was never a ‘real’ Christian'”
Here is a blog post, hosted on an atheist or agnostic blog, about this (there are maybe one or two points in this essay I am not in complete agreement with, but most of this is spot on):
by Captain Cassidy
…Everyone, Meet the Scotsman. He’s Very True.
The No True Scotsman is a logical fallacy. Technically, it’s an ad hoc reinterpretation of a situation to prevent contradictions and refutations of one’s position. As that link reveals, it’s also a circular argument.
Christians adore it. Within their own culture, it’s a devastating way to quickly negate a fellow Christian. They also use it to dismiss and invalidate ex-Christians.
…In philosophical terms, you can imagine this disqualification happening like this:
Premise 1: All examples of X have quality Y.
Premise 2: Wait, wait, back the truck up a sec. Here’s an X that totally doesn’t have quality Y.
Conclusion: Oh, well, X isn’t a TRUE X, because all TRUE Xs have quality Y. That’s a false X. P1 is safe.
… Ultimately, they [Christians] love the fallacy because it makes their various positions impossible to falsify.
… Christians use the No True Scotsman in a few key ways. I present them in no particular order:
First, they use it to distance themselves from embarrassing tribemates.
The moment news breaks about a Christian committing a ghastly crime, or doing something that’s mortifying to the individual Christian judging the situation, you can count on them to whip out the No True Scotsman.
Oh, well, that person’s not a TRUE CHRISTIAN™, sniffs Judgey Christian McJudgeypants.
Second, they use it to disqualify ex-Christians and other dissenters.
If an ex-Christian is saying something the Christian judge doesn’t like, they weren’t really Christians at all. They thought they were, but they weren’t.
Once the Christian has cast their judgment, they can pursue any combination of these three options.
They can simply dismiss and ignore the person they just judged.
This is the most common fallout of using the Scotsman. This person is now in the “not allowed to claim membership in the tribe” box, and can’t leave it without significant groveling and humbling of themselves. (That’s Christianese; it means to say sorry, but to do it in a really undignified way.)
You’ll see this happen most often when toxic Christians encounter ex-Christians.
…But they fling Scotsmen at us in error. They’re trying to tell us that we simply weren’t Christians, when we know that we were.
The Christianity we’re talking about is the same Christianity that most Christians believe. We use the same definition for ourselves that they use for themselves.
Our definition didn’t change with deconversion–only whether or not we fit that definition anymore. We grew out of the definition, while the definition stayed where it was.
… Christians rush to negate us in various ways because that’s all they’ve got.
They can’t respond to our actual objections, so they try to silence us instead.
They’d love it if people let them set the tone for who is–and is not–allowed to use the label of Christian. And they’d love it even more if ex-Christians felt so reticent about criticism and negation that we stopped saying we were very fervent Christians.
…If Christians can be very fervent and yet do deeply-disturbing things, like murder people and commit other acts of gross immorality, that sure doesn’t speak very highly of Christianity as an ideology.
You can read more of that page here
Someone left a comment under that blog post on Patheos which reads:
by Brianna LaPoint
The no true scotsman fallacy is The number one reason I deconverted. I wonder if others are in that same boat. But whatever the case, when a christian says not to judge, then judges another christian, i think theyre trying to pull a fast one.