A Christian blogger I occasionally have a run in with, recently wrote on his blog that
“Freethinker”, “rationalist” and other atheistic buzzwords are emotionally loaded, with a built-in insult. That is, they are the rational ones by virtue of being atheists. This Genetic Fallacy conveniently ignores the fact that many of the world’s greatest thinkers and scientists have been Bible-believing Christians.
It would be remiss if I didn’t point out that this isn’t entirely correct.
Freethinker is a term derived from the 17th century ideological Freethought movement that stressed that opinions should be formed on the basis of science, logic, and reason, and should not be influenced by authority, tradition, or other dogmas.
Whether our Christian detractor is willing to admit it, we can plainly see that there is a historical basis for one might prescribe to Freethinking values.
Also, being a Freethinker didn’t mean you couldn’t have religious beliefs. Thomas Paine was a deist and a Freethinker.
So was John Adams and probably Jefferson. (Although I contend that Jefferson was probably an Agnostic, if not secret Atheist.)
Robert G. Ingersoll, the Great Agnostic, was certainly an atheistic Freethinker.
So there are two types of Freethinker from the historical perspective.
Also, it’s important to note that the genetic fallacy is only a fallacy when it’s not true.
But sometimes it is true. Hence it is not always fallacious to claim believers aren’t rational due to the rational impediments of faith or, perhaps equally, culture.
It is also an incorrect assumption to assume that atheists believe they are more rational than anyone else. They may, in fact, be pointing out cases of irrationality in believers while full well acknowledging they are not perfectly rational beings themselves.
But not having the impediment of religious superstition and the strange effects of things like dogmatically sponsored confirmations biases, or ridiculous appeals to authority, I would bet that Atheists are generally more rational much of the time. Not always, but certainly more often than religious believers who believe in things like the Holy Spirit, power of prayer, miracles, and so forth.
What really bothers me, however, is when a self righteous Christian sets out to correct all the atheists on what it is atheists believe. I find that hilarious.
Whereas, if I tell a Christian that their beliefs are probably incorrect, it is not because I presume to know what it means to be a Christian, after all, I was a devout Christian for three decades. I know what it means to be a Christian. Twice baptized. Born again. And saved!
Furthermore, Christians have a Holy Book and doctrinal beliefs which we can balance their claims against. If they are failing to grasp their own theological positions, then it is not wrong for me to point this out using appeals to reason and logic. These are methodologies, all part of critical thinking, and not merely emotionally charged equivocations, as the author seems to think.
Finally, if a Christian truly knew what an Atheist believed, then they wouldn’t actually be critical of what atheists believed, since Atheism isn’t a belief system but the rejection of one.
Anything else an atheist may believe can be better stated as that which the individual commonly believes alongside their atheistic position–what that something else may be, however, requires one to engage with the atheist and actually treat them like a human being, and talk with them, instead of simply announcing that whatever it is they might believe, they are obviously wrong, for no other reason than their atheism. That is a Genetic fallacy. FYI.