Monday, December 26, 2005

25 Kislew 5766/26 December 2005: Hanukkah, day 1/Boxing Day/Kawanzaa


Hanukkah celebrates primarily a victory of Judaism over assimilation into the Greek paganism prevalent in area during the Second Temple Period. Today, we are faced with the ironic attempt of many to assimilate Hanukkah into Christmas in the form of a “holiday season” and by adding features of Christmas (giving presents, home decoration, decorated trees, and even variations on Santa Claus) to Hanukkah. Since this syncretism is based on severe religious fallacies, I have decided that the weird things for Hanukkah will be sections from a growing list of religious fallacies I have started collecting. I suspect the entire list will eventually evolve into a book.

WARNING: This work makes no pretenses of being ecumenical, “politically correct”, or (in some cases) polite. Many of these fallacies reflect things that people do but no one says aloud because they would sound stupid doing so. If you recognize one of your own beliefs listed here, please protest only if you can back up why said belief is not fallacious with a rational argument.

NOTE: I have not written out yet why anything on my list is a fallacy, that being on my “to-do” list. If you want explanation of any fallacy sooner than “whenever”, please ask.

In compiling this list, I have discovered so far two meta-rules of religious fallacies:

Meta-rule of infinite diversity in infinite combinations: There is no proposition so imbecilic that absolutely no one will believe it, as it is written, “A simpleton will believe anything” (Proverbs 14:15).

Meta-rule of balanced stupidity: For many fallacies there is an equally stupid and opposite fallacy (ESAOF).

And now on to today’s section:

General religious epistemology:
“A proposition about reality can be true for one person and false for another.”
“A religion of which a critical tenet has been disproved can still be true.”
“Beliefs known to be invented and without rational justification can be assumed to be true.”
“Believing is the same thing as knowing.” AKA “Speculation is as reliable as evidence-based fact.”
“Blind faith is a virtue.”
“Contradictory propositions can be true.”
“Critical thinking should not be applied to religion.”
“What is commonly accepted/popular is obviously correct.” AKA “One billion people can’t be wrong.” • ESAOF: “What is commonly rejected/unpopular is obviously correct.”
“Whatever the authorities say is true is true.” • ESAOF: “Whatever the authorities say is false is true.”

“All religions are equally true.” (Bahá’ís, popular American misconception)
“All religions are the same.” AKA “It doesn’t matter which religion one believes in or practices.” AKA “Different religions are just different ways of worshipping the same god.” (Popular American misconception)
“All religions have the same values.”
“I belong to all religions.”
“It is OK to mix and match things from different religions without justification.”

“A law or select group of laws taken in isolation faithfully reflect that religion’s position on a relevant issue.” (People commenting on Judaism badly.)
“Inconvenient texts can be simply ignored.” (Idiot vegetarian)
“It is reasonable to cite part of a verse while ignoring the rest of it.” (Idiot vegetarian)
“It is reasonable to ignore the context of a verse.”
“Literal interpretation of scripture/tradition is a virtue.” (Creationists) • ESAOF: “Allegorical/metaphorical interpretation of scripture/tradition is a virtue.”
“Rules of one’s religion can be changed or dropped arbitrarily.” (Reform Judaism)
“Scholarship, especially intellectually honest scholarship, is unimportant for good religion.”
“Texts can be interpreted any way one wishes to.” (Idiot vegetarian)
“Texts can be interpreted correctly while ignoring the historical contexts in which they were composed or received.”
“The Hebrew Bible/New Testament/Qur’an/etc. can be honestly used to support any position.”
“Translations are as good as the original text.” (Christians who hold by the King James Bible only)

Enjoy, and happy Hanukkah.
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