Posted by  on November 25, 2007
One of the decisions we made in building this site is not to bow to the religious flames that people heap on you when they don’t agree – whether the angry ecumenist or the angry traditionalist. For instance:
Guilt by Association: Well “those” people are tainted – they’re in the “French” school, or *they* were associated with the people publishing Fr. Seraphim Rose’s work – that’s suspect. This is a perverted religiosity that is present in any religion. . . .
Any religion attracts this sort of behavior, because religions attract all kinds of people with all kinds of behavior, and this is a fallacy in use by the world. It is not, however, acceptable Christian behavior. This is beneath any of us, but you see it often enough. We’re not catering. So yes, you can speculate that we’re “associated”, “linked”, or “have ties to” anyone from a vagante to Osama bin Laden. Good luck finding those weapons of mass destruction. We don’t play this game in the world, and it’s certainly beneath us in the Church. Guilt by association is a form of bearing false witness.
Ad Hominem: “You obviously have no love in you. You should taking care of the poor, rather than focusing on this.” An ad hominem, according to the formal definition, is a personal attack. It is to attack the person, not the ideas he’s offering. What can we say about Christians who engage in personal attacks? Not much. If they don’t get this, and why it’s inexcusable, they don’t get anything. You can’t talk to them. This site isn’t for them, and we don’t kow tow to that nonsense.
Argument from Accident: There’s always someone who has collected a repertoire of exceptions and accidents that he can pull out whenever anyone stands on an ethical or moral premise. You say that homosexuality is not natural, and someone pulls out the example of a rare animal that humps other male of its species. You say that women should cover their heads, as the apostles taught and the saints observed, and they reference two ikons without headcoverings. You say one shouldn’t do x, and they come up w. some circus trap hypothetical situation that they once encountered 30 years ago, as an exception, and use that to suggest there is no such rule. The exception proves the rule, my friends. Argument from accident is actually an argument simultaneously in favor of the rule. No one – well, no one who knows – disputes the practice of economia, but once something becomes a normal, almost universal ‘suspension’ or ‘dispensation’, it isn’t the practice of economia anymore. Economia always deals with the salvation of the individual – it’s not a 2nd line of policy-making – like legislating from the bench has become in US jurisprudence. It’s not an end-run around genuine law. We don’t play that game – someone wants to send us a list of accidents, it will not be published – we don’t waste our readers’ time.
Ad Baculum: Who’s your bishop, we’re going to hunt you down and have you silenced. Good luck! This is the last refuge of someone who doesn’t believe in allowing questions they haven’t approved of, or speech they disagree with. If my bishop catered to your whims and prejudices, I’d look for a different bishop. Fortunately, I have more confidence in him than that.
Ad Vericundium: You’ll see us cite “authorities” here, so to speak, but it isn’t because they have authority. Truth isn’t about authority. It’s not about power – as in who has the power to say that something is true and make it truth. Truth, as Professor Lewis used to say, is it’s own justification. What’s true is true even if everyone else says it isn’t. That’s what we learn, if nothing else, from the Pillar of Orthodoxy, St. Mark of Ephesus, who repudiated the patriarch and all the bishops who signed at Florence. We give citations here not as appeals to authority, but as quotations, because they’re well-articulated, demonstrate the thinking and events of a certain time, or are representative of what the Church really does believe. So if someone somewhere passes a pronouncement tomorrow (or yesterday), that says truth is no longer truth, we will not be going – “oh, ok then, well just forget all this filioque stuff – never mind”. In fact, the ascendancy of power over truth is itself a result of the filioque, and comes not from Orthodox thinking but from Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions. Look to your own, if you’re thinking of wielding this one.
Argument from Suspicion: This one is very much like guilt by association and is also a form of false witness or false accusation. It’s a particular species of ad ignorantium. One simply plants the suggestion that his opponent is guilty of something, involved in something, linked/tied/associated with something, etc. There are people out there who build dossiers on every persona or group they can, hunt them, track them, and cyberstalk them, with the goal of “exposing” their errors (by which they mean slandering, belittling, and accusing them) – and so often the “information” they’re providing as a supposed public service isn’t information, it’s innuendo – it’s planting suspicion. We, as Christians, are forbidden to take up such things. I know people who don’t read any books without consulting one or two of these supposed “experts” who feel it’s their “ministry” do this in the name of “God”. That *isn’t* God you’re listening to. And if you listen to such a person, you’ve surrendered your intellect and that, too, is unacceptable behavior for a Christian. Yes, there are people in almost any religion doing this with books, seminars, blogs, forums, and listservs (a good older book on this from a Protestant pair is Witch Hunt by Bob & Gretchen Passantino). A good online example of this kind of behavior in action is here.
There are many other religious flames. Just analyze the entire array of logical fallacies and heuristic techniques. Just because you insert Jesus’ name, or a scripture quotation, or the words “I love you but…” or “I’ll pray for you…” doesn’t make it pious. Dishonesty is still dishonesty. Force and power is still force and power. Attacks are still attacks. Deception and false accusation are still deception and false accusation. These are the same techniques that people pull out in college classes, political debates, and all the other venues where the passions reign and people will sell their ethics to achieve an end result they think is right. All the arenas in which people will kill, torture, and pillage because they think their cause is just. The Town of Ulster still burns. Rest assured, we’re not going to pretend it’s ok, just because there was a prayer at the lighting.