Recently, Duck Dynasty Star Phil Robertson made what he must have thought were logically air-tight and scathing remarks against atheists at a Florida Prayer Breakfast, the audio of which was later broadcast via the conservative radio program TruNews.
Here is a quote of Robertson's statements;
“I’ll make a bet with you,” Robertson said. “Two guys break into an atheist’s home. He has a little atheist wife and two little atheist daughters. Two guys break into his home and tie him up in a chair and gag him. And then they take his two daughters in front of him and rape both of them and then shoot them and they take his wife and then decapitate her head off in front of him. And then they can look at him and say, ‘Isn’t it great that I don’t have to worry about being judged? Isn’t it great that there’s nothing wrong with this? There’s no right or wrong, now is it dude?’”
Robertson kept going: “Then you take a sharp knife and take his manhood and hold it in front of him and say, ‘Wouldn’t it be something if this [sic] was something wrong with this? But you’re the one who says there is no God, there’s no right, there’s no wrong, so we’re just having fun. We’re sick in the head, have a nice day. If it happened to them, they probably would say, ‘something about this just ain’t right.”
There are several fundamental flaws with Robertson's argument. Firstly, it's a classic "straw man" argument, meaning that the characters in his story are figments of his imagination, only do whatever he imagines them to do according to his own belief system, and are not grounded in any reality or factual experience. In other words, it doesn't really accomplish anything other than illustrating his already-established beliefs, nor is it convincingly persuasive.
An atheist could equally imagine a similar straw man scenario pointed against believers; as in an example of a sexually frustrated priest who molests young boys, or, alternately, a humanitarian atheist who donates to charity or gives their time towards helping the homeless. My point is, anecdotal examples are just that, as anybody can cherry pick made-up examples that only support their beliefs while excluding the beliefs of others.
Secondly, comparing his statement to a plethora of established logical fallacies reveals the flaws in this argument;
- Robertson's statement is an ad hominem attack, attacking the arguer instead of addressing the argument, as in implying that atheists are somehow "sick in the head"
- He appeals to emotions, namely fear.
- There are sexists undertones in the use of language, such as "little atheist wife" and "little atheist daughters" intended, right off the bat, to belittle women and atheists in general.
- The entire statement is a bit of slippery slope argument, implying that if you are not a christian that, inevitably, bad things are bound to happen.
- Robertson concludes his argument with the appeal to tradition, implying that something is true simply because it has long been thought true by a majority.
Finally, he regurgitates talking points that have been exhaustively addressed by a long line of philosophers going all the way back to Aristotle, namely the notion that one cannot have morals without religion versus the notion that morals can exist independently of religion, the latter view of which is held by the estimated 13% of the world's population that have peaceably embraced atheism. My guess is Ayn Rand, Bertrand Russell, or just about any other philosopher of modern times would have a field day with this one.
Hear the audio here;
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Yeah, I'd be surprised if anyone hadn't heard about it already. That said, I don't really care what Phil says, he was an idiot and a buffoon long before he even thought about saying this.
Sounds like Phil borrowed part of his story from Lot and his daughters.