If you have been looking at Gilson's blog, maybe from seeing me put it on Twitter, then you'll already realize he posted these two gems in the last few days. First, in wanting to malign the infamous Westboro Baptists, he wrote a post titled "More Evil Than Any Atheist I've Confronted." He kind of got called out for implying that atheists are evil and back-peddled the next day with "About That Headline, 'More Evil Than Any Atheist....'"
There are about a billion comments that could be made about this rather bizarre, but telling, action on his part. Here are a couple of sore thumbs that I'm not going to linger upon, which do not even touch upon the obvious commentary that could easily be made about how he fundamentally doesn't understand what it could be like to not believe in God.
- We might note that Gilson has no apparatus by which he could distinguish the Westboro Baptists as "evil," say in comparison to his own take on Christianity. How can he know? (This could go right to the Euthyphro Dilemma, in fact.) It's a lovely, textbook example of the No True Scotsman as well (might it be better renamed for what it is: the No True Christian fallacy?). Gilson, of course, calls the Westboro Baptists "anti-biblical," but that would be because they take certain parts of it far more seriously than he does.
- We could just point at the (a) utter stupidity or (b) rank dishonesty of the comment left by his intellectual heavyweight (thus making (a) less plausible) G. Rodrigues: "...the alleged implication in Tom’s wording that atheists are evil" (emphasis mine). Obviously, if atheists were not evil by implication, Tom wouldn't have used that example (despite trying to back-peddle that too).
There is indeed a such a thing as a clearly identifiable fake Christianity. I’ve heard skeptics and atheists deny it, but not from a base of knowledge. Westboro’s “Christianity” is consistently anti-biblical.And so we get directly back to the unresolved heart of the matter. How does Gilson know--how does any Christian know--that their notion of the "name of God" isn't one being twisted? That is, how do they know they're not wrong about their Christian beliefs?
I repudiate what they do. To be honest, I don’t know which of these errors God would rate as more evil, but for my part hate it worse than anything I’ve seen from the atheists, because at least the atheists aren’t twisting the name of God to support their errors. (emphasis mine)
Consider the matter from the perspective of a dedicated member of the Westboro church. These folks are just as certain that Tom Gilson is twisting the name of God to his purposes as Gilson is that they are. This, of course, is endemic to Christianity. The reason for this state of affairs is plain: they do not possess a reliable method to answer these questions (relying instead upon faith in their own or particular interpretations).
The question rears again, then: How can any Christian know she is right about her beliefs?
NB: The question applies more broadly as well, of course, to all religious believers. And how boring will it be if someone shows up in the comments and tries to pull the "atheism is a belief system like that too!" canard? Though I usually don't get so saucy with the word, dare I say infinitely?