Time for an SFL lesson in logic!
Of all the logical fallacies that plague fundamentalist reasoning, perhaps none is so common as the syllogistic fallacy of the false premise. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, consider this common argument against “worldly music”:
Major Premise: God hates worldliness
Minor Premise: All music with a beat is worldly
Conclusion: God hates music with a beat.
This seems like an airtight case until you realize that the middle statement in this construction is demonstrably impossible to prove from Scripture. I mean it’s not even one of those things that’s rationally debatable like Calvinism or Infant Baptism or whether those chicks in Genesis got freaky with the angelic host. Moral judgments on music beats is just not there. At all.
And don’t get hung up on the fact that this example uses music; almost every standard of behavior that is deemed “worldly” or “sensuous” or “immodest” or “Communist” uses the same basic false minor premise. But whatever it is, fundamentalists basically just assume that the middle statement is bound to be true because they’ve heard it repeated loudly and often enough that they’ve lost the capability to be truly critical of it. The sun rises in the east. Gravity makes stuff heavy. And music with a beat is of the devil. It’s as certain as death and tithing.
Given that you’ll never be able to convince a fundamentalist that their minor premise is anything less than gospel truth, arguing about it is almost pointless. If (as in the original example) you ask a fundy to prove that music with a beat is worldly, they’ll triumphantly produce reams of verses that contain the word “worldly” (but never actually demonstrate that they relate to a specific style of music) and claim the authority of Scripture. They may also produce secondary proof such as sermon notes from a popular fundy music pastor, quotes from some ancient rock star, and a few pseudo-scientific audio studies performed by unnamed Uzbekistan scientists in 1958. Or perhaps that a garage band band named “Unnamed Uzbekistan Scientists” in 1993? Either way, it doesn’t end there…
If random verses and other supporting “evidence” is not enough to prove their point the fundamentalist will then simply resort ad hominem, saying that if you don’t agree with them it shows a hardened neck, a stiff and uncircumcised heart, and an understanding that is darkened by rebellion and blinded by your participation in the Harry Cullen Role Playing Internet Blog Chat Forums. They may also decide to suddenly insult your sister. Even if you don’t have one.
It is a frightening thing to watch a person create a god in their own image who embodies their own personal opinions and preferences and then defend that god with a passion that only the One True God deserves.