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7 Self-Defeating Statements Used by Skeptics
What Is A Self-Defeating Statement?
A self-defeating statement is a statement that cannot be true because it fails to meet its own standard. As one Christian blogger so clearly put it,
A self-deafeating statement is like someone declaring, 'I cannot speak one word of English!'
This person is obviously wrong because he just spoke 7 words of Engish. His statement self-destructs. It blows itself up.
At first glance, many self-defeating statements appear true, and some even seem noble (for example, the statement 'it is wrong for you to judge people'), but if you think them through, their irrationality becomes obvious.
Here we explore 7 of the most common self-defeating statements so often used by skeptics.
1. "No One Can Really Know Truth About Religion"
This argument is self-defeating because it makes a 'truth' claim about religion, all the while claiming that that truth about it cannot be known. Claiming that religous truths are unknowable is itself a truthful claim about religion. To show the skeptic the flaw in his reasoning, you might ask: "And how did you come to know that truth about religion?"
Ironically, the same people who say we cannot know truth about religion will make truthful claims about religions left and right. For example, many skeptics say the Bible is flawed. This is a truth claim about Christianity. The skeptic - by his own standard - cannot say things like 'the Bible is flawed' because he is making a truth claim about the Christian religion.
2. "You Should Not Try to Change Other People's Religious Views"
This statment does not appear self-defeating at first - at least it did not appear so to me - but it is. It is also very arbitrary.
When a skeptic tells a Christian he should not try to change people's religious views, what is the skeptic doing? Think about it. The Bible commands Christians to "go out and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:18-20). God's Word commands Christians to proselytize. Changing other people's religious views is a loving and central point of living out your Christianity.
So when a skeptic tells you not to change other's religious views, what is he doing? He is trying to change your religious views!
This statement is also arbitrary. Why shouldn't you try to change other people's views on religion? Why? If someone is believeing something false (especially something spiritual), then one of the most loving things you can do is point it out to them and persuade them to embrace truth!
In addition to this, a skeptic not wanting you to proselytize is simply his arbitrary opinion on how you should act. If a skeptic is persistent on this point, you might have some fun by saying to him, "Why are you trying to force your opinions on me?"
Which leads me to the next self-defeating statement used by many....
3. "You Should Not Force Your Opinions on Others"
It is comical how often this stock phrase (or variations of it) appear in comment sections. It is most often directed at Christians, but it too, is self-defeating.
By someone demanding that you not force your opinions on someone, what are they doing? They are attempting to force that opinion on you!
Skeptic: You should not force your opinions on people.
Christian: And are you trying to force that idea on me?
This statement is often used when people are discussing anti-abortion laws. When a Christian organization or politician moves to pass laws against abortion, people will say they are forcing their opinions on others. Yet, the pro-abortion person is doing the very same thing. Their opinion is that abortion should be legal, and they are fighting to keep it legal, thus doing the very thing they accuse pro-life people of doing.
All laws to some degree are forced opinions on others! Every single one. Every law ever passed is a human being or collection of human beings forcing something on themselves and others. Every single one! Consider a law against rape. When a law against rape is passed, people who believe rape is wrong are 'forcing that opinion' on rapists or people who are tempted to rape. This goes for serious laws such as rape all the way down to laws about water rights. When a law is passed that bans restaurants from dumping old grease down drains, that is a collection of people forcing that opinion on the restaurant owners. Whether the owners agree with the law or not, they are forced to obey it or else suffer consequences. This goes for laws against rape, murder, abortion, water rights, hunting rules or even irrigation codes.
What it really boils down to is this: by demanding that you not 'force your opinions on others', your opponent is hoping you will abandon your opinions so he can enforce his. The person who says you should not force your opinions on others is doing the very thing he is upset about! His statement is self-defeating.
Here's an exchange to provide some clarity.
"I think there should be a law against abortion."
"What?? Stop trying to force your opinions on poor women."
"So your opinion is: it is wrong to outlaw abortion?"
"Tell me something, if I tried to pass an anti-abortion law, would you try to stop me?"
"I certianly would!"
"Why are you trying to force that opinion on me? Worse, why are you trying to force that opinion on a defenseless baby?"
Whether it's nonreligious activists trying to make abortion legal or a religious activists trying to make abortion illegal, both are people trying to enforce their views on society. The only question is: who's opinion are we going to enforce?
4. "It Is Wrong For You To Judge People"
This statement is really funny if you pause and think about it. If someone accuses you of doing something 'wrong', what are they doing? They are judging you!
You might say something funny like, "And is it wrong for you to judge me for judging others?"
Sometimes it can be harder to rebut this accusation because of the wording used. For example, a skeptic may not use the exact phrase 'it is wrong for you to judge people.' You may have to ask him/her a question or two before you can show them how their argument is self-defeating.
Skeptic: "You should not judge her for having an abortion."
Christian: "Why not?"
Skeptic: "Because it is wrong."
Christian: "And is it 'wrong' for you to judge me for judging her?"
Skeptic: "What? Stop playing word games."
Christian: "I'm not. You just told me it is wrong to judge. Yet, you yourself are condemning - and therefore judging me - for what I think or say about her abortion."
Note: Unfortunately, many Christians believe that it is wrong to judge people and think that the Bible says not to judge. The phrase "judge not lest ye be judged" is often parroted from Matthew 7, and the rest of the passage (which talks about rules for judging) is disregarded. God also clearly tells Christians we should be judging each other in 1. Corinthians 5:12-13. But Bible verses on judging is for another Hub.
5. "There Are No Absolutes"
When a skeptic says this, simply ask: "Are you absolutely sure about that?"
The very statement "there are no absolutes" is itself an absolute statement. Usually people will get it when you ask them if they are absolutely sure no absolutes exist.
6. "Talking About God Is Meaningless"
Skeptics sometimes use this phrase to shut down a discussion of God or religion. But this argument is self-defeating as well.
Skeptic: “I think you should stop proselytizing. Talking about God is meaningless.”
Answer: “Is your statement about God meaningless, too? Should I disregard it?”
For the skeptic to be rational and consistent, he cannot even say “talking about God is meaningless” because his statement means nothing and should therefore be ignored. If talking about God is truly meaningless, then we must include the skeptic’s statement in the mix as well; we must label the skeptic’s statement as “meaningless” if we are to believe all discussion of God is meaningless. See how this argument fails to meet its own standard?
To say talking about God is meaningless, the skeptic must include himself in the mix, thus nullifying his own statement.
As with similar arguments, skeptics rarely stick to their own standard. Watch for the skeptic to make a statement about God the very next moment. After all, I think we know, in our hearts, that discussing God or eternity is one topic that is not meaningless!
7. "No Such Thing As Objective Truth"
As a Christian, I have no problem believing in objective truth. (In fact, it’s kind of hard to be a Christian if you don’t believe in it!) To deny objective truth, as some skeptics do, is self-defeating.
Allow me to use this fictitious example to demonstrate this as clearly as I can:
Student: Professor, as a Christian, I believe in objective truth.
Professor: You are wrong. There is no such thing as objective truth.
Student: Is what you just said objectively true or subjectively true? It seems to me that you think your statement that ‘there is no such thing as objective truth’ is objectively true?
What is the professor going to say? He would have no choice but to admit his statement was only subjectively true - thus allowing his student’s statement to be true as well! See the problem?
Believing that truth is only subjective is a self-defeating, nonsensical view.
Just by showing up to class, the professor is tacitly admitting to objective truth. A professor will teach, preach, demonstrate, illustrate, and argue with his students to get them to understand what is true. Yet, the professor insists that all “truth” is personal, sophisticated fiction - this must include HIS OWN “TRUTH’’!
What is the whole point of school? To learn things that are true! The professor - by his own standard - cannot mark a student’s answer as “wrong” because it is just the professor’s arbitrary opinion; there is no objective ‘right’ answer to a test problem! Heck, let’s all just quit college right now since we aren’t really learning any “truth”! The only thing we are learning is a group of people’s fabricated opinion touted as “truth”.
Ironically, everyone who denies objective truth will EMPHATICALLY make statements about what is “true”, left and right.
I’m sure glad we don’t take this reasoning to its conclusion or apply it to our daily life. I certainly hope no doctor believes that all truth is subjective!
Patient: Doctor! I’m in pain!
Doc: Don’t be silly. The “pain” you are feeling is not really pain, but a fabricated reality of what you are feeling. Try this instead, imagine that broken bone actually feels good! All truth is subjective so just make up the truth that a broken bone feels good!
Patient: But doctor, if you don’t fix it, my arm might heal wrong and would become unusable!
Doc: That’s not really true either. You just THINK your arm will heal “wrong”. I think that in reality a three-piece arm is a GOOD thing!
Patient: But if you don’t fix it, my arm might become infected and I might die!
Doc: The reality of death is completely subjective. You might think you are going to die, but who can really say for sure? Death is just your own, subjective idea of what happens when your heart stops beating.
This is perhaps what Scripture means when it says: Fools base their thoughts on foolish assumptions, so their conclusions will be wicked madness. (Ecclesiastes 10:13-14)