Arguing With Catholics

Andreas Bengtertl;dr Version
Twitter. Argument. Catholics. Unmarried. Sex. Pregnant. Abortion. Hypocrite. Morons.

Arguments! Just … just … just don’t, okay!

Full Version
We’ve all done it at some time; we’ve all tried to have a rational argument with someone who doesn’t understand what the word "rational" means. You can’t win this argument, no matter how impossibly right you are and how unbelievably wrong they are because their answer is to repeat already-disproved points or counter with irrelevant points.

At some level you wonder whether they’re smarter than you’re giving them credit for and are employing a cunning tactic to make you back down.

But they’re not; they really are that stupid.

Yesterday, on Twitter I made a comment to a fellow Person Who Uses Twitter, regarding the girl from Portsmouth planning to carry to term her two-headed baby because she’s a devout Catholic and won’t abort this "gift" even though it has no chance of living any semblance of a normal life whatsoever. I found – and find – the reason for not aborting – that being "a devout Catholic" – rather at odds with her happiness at trying to have a baby outside wedlock for seven years, something I would have thought would also be, perhaps, not really in line with Catholicism and devoutness. I’m sure devoutness is a real word.

My comment was:

‘Devout Catholic’ Lisa won’t abort doomed ‘gift from God’. Unmarried devout Catholic. Who’s had sex outside wedlock. Hypocrite.

This then started an argument with several Catholics which, bizarrely, was an argument actually about English words and their definitions as opposed to any simple mocking of their ridiculous beliefs.

There are four main ways someone could have seen that comment:

  • 1. A follower of my Twitter stream and the person to whom it was addressed could see it,
  • 2. Someone who happened to be viewing the public timeline at the time of posting could have seen it,
  • 3. Someone could have randomly clicked on followers and happened upon the status by luck,
  • 4. Someone could have searched Twitter, probably for the word ‘Catholic’.

The lattermost is the most likely reason for what happened about four hours later.

patrickmadrid No, ‘Catholic Lisa’ is not a hypocrite. She’s acting ethically by doing the right thing and not aborting her unborn baby.

Ah! A person butting in on a conversation and using the old "you’re wrong and here’s why, using a non sequitur" opening gambit. A challenge! So, according to Patrick, Lisa was not a hyprocrite because she was acting "ethically". This argument is logically equivalent to saying "No, Sidney Poitier is not black. He’s wearing a tie." I replied as politely as possible:

neonbubble I think you need to look up the word ‘hypocrite’. She’s one by picking which parts of religion to follow and which to ignore.

Now, what I’ve done here is point out that perhaps Patrick doesn’t really understand the word in question and then clarify my correct reasoning for using the word correctly. That’s nice of me, explaining and educating like that. Patrick’s "ethics", you see, are irrelevant. This is about the word "hypocrite" as it applies to Lisa.

patrickmadrid I know what the word means. Like the old saying: 2 wrongs don’t make a right. She made 1 mistake & decided not to make another.

I had hopes at this point that this would be nipped in the bud. After all, the evidence of this comment tells me Patrick thinks he knows what "hypocrite" means and he’s also referencing the "two wrongs don’t make a right" saying, indicating he’s aware that Lisa had decided not to continue doing the "wrongs" and had chosen to switch to doing a "right".

neonbubble We’re agreed she’s a hypocrite then. And 1 more ‘wrong’ after 7 years of ‘wrongs’ wouldn’t really make much difference.

I thought the whole definition of "hypocrite" was behind us; we both clearly knew that Lisa was a hypocrite for hiding behind her religion when it suited her (the abortion) but conveniently forgetting about it when she wanted sex and a baby out of wedlock for seven years. Alas! I forgot I was both arguing on the internet and arguing with someone with strong religious beliefs negating their capacity to comprehend logic, definitions, long words, or the possibility of independent thought; it’s a losing combination but I was caught up in the moment.

patrickmadrid Nope. We’re not agreed. She’s no hypocrite & did the right thing by not aborting her child. Your attempt to spin it won’t work.

Spin? Where? Oh, of course! Someone who believes in an invisible outerspace fairy creating the universe probably won’t have much trouble imagining "spin". Doing the right thing now doesn’t make someone not a hypocrite; in fact, for someone to do the right thing now means they clearly weren’t before and that means they must be a hypocrite if they purport to be a staunch follower of a set of rules governing these particular rights and wrongs. My head was starting to throb a little here.

neonbubble She chose to do SOME of what was ‘right’. The abortion bit. The unwed sex bit, for 7 years, nope. Hypocrite. Tell me: it’s fine for devout Catholics to have unwed sex and get pregnant, yes or no?

Having followed Jeremy Paxman’s interviews for many years I wasn’t expecting to hear either of those options returned but I was mildly surprised at the first two sentences of the reply.

patrickmadrid Fine? Of course not. But if someone sins, as she did, then repents and goes on to do what’s right, that’s not hypocritical. Being hypocritical is saying one thing and doing the opposite. She didn’t do that. She chose to do what was right.

For someone who’d claimed to know what "hypocrite" meant, adding in the caveat "you’re not a hypocrite if you repent" threw a spanner in the works. I frantically scoured several dictionaries for this amazing, Catholic-only definition loophole. I also kept an eye out for other wink-wink definitions such as: "shoe (noun): footwear; if you say a rosary though then it’s also an edible fruit". Sadly, none were found.

neonbubble Repenting doesn’t make what you did not happen. Said one thing ‘catholic’. Did another. Sex. Hypocrite.

Coherent arguments and Twitter are not well-suited but I think we get the gist here.

neonbubble There is no special Catholic hypocrite definition. We all have the same one. She qualifies.

patrickmadrid Sorry. You’re wrong. I don’t think you understand what ‘hypocrite’ means. It’s when you say one thing and do the opposite. You can try to spin this all you want, but your reasoning falls flat. Sorry. It’s pretty obvious.

Commence forehead-slapping … now! As I would later tell Gia: "They don’t understand much of anything as far as I can tell. Like talking to a wall, but with less hope of a breakthrough".

The "argument" of "you’re wrong, you’re spinning, I don’t understand your reasoning, it’s all obvious" contains just one portion of truth mixed in with three parts of statements with no basis in fact: "I don’t understand your reasoning". Of course he doesn’t; he’s religious. The ability to reason has left the building. Please leave all brains at the door on your way in.

neonbubble Let’s see: 1. we agree on the definition of ‘hypocrite’. 2. I explain why she is one based on that definition. 3. You use the word ‘spin’ a few times but don’t counter with an actual argument. It’s like arguing with a religious person … oh, wait.

You’ll note that I was starting to get tetchy here; angry at myself for not simply blocking him. By this point another Catholic had come on the attack splitting my conversations but the arguments were all pretty much the same only with marginally less imbecility so they’ll be left out for now for clarity.

patrickmadrid Hmm. Not sure how I can speak more plainly. I’ve explained what a hypocrite is. You reject the definition and want to spin. Ok.

After I’d reconstituted my head which had just exploded over the walls at this outrageous crap …

neonbubble You are living in a fantasy world or you’re simply lying. Show me the rejection. Show me the spin.

Look back through the conversation. Did I reject the definition of a hypocrite? Nope. Did I spin (whatever that is in his mind)? Not as far as I can tell. By this time I had started to suspect that Patrick was sponsored by the word "spin" and got paid every time he used it in a tweet. Double when out of context. In my mind he was a very rich person by now. After asking to see the rejection and the spin I expected, well, to see them, so …

patrickmadrid This is almost fun. Seriously, I’m waiting for you to actually respond to my points. I’ll add in the next comment

Whaaa??!!?! Spot the points to respond to from Patrick and win a prize! I’d noticed a pattern now. Early on I’d queried whether Patrick knew what "hypocrite" meant; later he’d queried the same thing of me. Then, when I’d asked him to show me things – the rejection and spin – he’d replied by stating he was waiting for me to respond. I surmised that Patrick was easily confused and had started to think he was me in the conversation; certainly a better position for him to be in but, nonetheless, confusing to all involved. We can’t all be me, no matter how much we all want to. You can have too much of a good thing after all.

patrickmadrid Simultaneously saying 1 thing and doing the opposite is what constitutes hypocrisy. She didn’t do that. How can it be clearer?

Hmmm. Saying "I’m a ‘devout Catholic’ and doing sex outside marriage for seven years trying to get pregnant. She definitely did that. Yes, he’s right, it is clear. She’s a hypocrite; he’s an idiot. Crystal.

neonbubble 1. She said she was ‘devout Catholic’ and wouldn’t abort because she was a ‘devout Catholic’. 2. She said she was a ‘devout Catholic’ yet for 7 years while devout had sex and got pregnant. That’s hypocrisy.

I hoped it got through to him because my head was starting to pulse again.

patrickmadrid I agree with you that if she claimed to be a devout Catholic and was secretly fornicating, yes, that’s hypocritical.

A miracle! An agreement! Also: odd use of the term "secretly fornicating" that gave me a deeper insight than I’d have liked.

patrickmadrid …but her decision not to abort wasn’t hypocritical. Doing the right thing on that point is *consistent* with being ‘devout.’

A lightbulb went on in my head about now; when arguing about hypocrites he was ignoring the sex part and only looking at the abortion part. In his mind – and logically, amazingly for him, correct – not aborting was consistent with her religion and not hypocritical. I couldn’t argue with this. I hadn’t been arguing with this. I’d been arguing that the two things – not aborting, yet also having unwed sex – were inconsistent with one another and the Catholic faith and made anyone who claimed to be devout in the religion wrong and hypocritical. I never said that not aborting was hypocritical; far from it, in fact. I said she was a hypocrite. Massive. Fucking. Difference. Requires a grasp of English. You can see this quite clearly in my very first comment; it mentions all the parts: abortion, umarried sex, Catholic, and hypocrite. They’re all there. I don’t tend to imagine things; I know some people do. Every Sunday, for instance.

neonbubble Hypocrisy *needs* two or more conflicting decisions or points. You can’t just pick one and say ‘well, that one’s consistent’. As I said, and as you agreed with her ‘secret fornicating’, she is a hypocrite. Period.

This was the crux of the argument. If you take one word out of context and use that to counter everything else said then you’re a tit. Take this fictitious argument:

A: Jenny Smith has had a sex change, changed her name to John, and is now a man.
B: Jenny is a female name. Jenny is a woman.
A: No, a man. A man called John. Had the sex change.
B: You said ‘Jenny’ and ‘man’. Jenny is not a man’s name.
A: Read the rest of it you tosser.
B: Stop spinning and answer my points.

Despite educating Patrick that you can’t pick just one aspect of a person’s life, ignoring all others, and declare them non-hypocritical because of it, he – like all good arguers – tried to change the rules of the game halfway through.

patrickmadrid Her fornication isn’t the issue. Rather, it’s that by rejecting abortion she was *consistent* with her claim to be devout.

A nice try. Tantamount to saying: "Well, you’ve gone and proven that point we’ve been arguing about all along very well but, you see, unbeknownst to you we’ve been on double secret argument for the past ten minutes and we’ve really been talking about this! Haha! Now who looks mental?" I decided to use evidence in my riposte as opposed to flights of fiction.

neonbubble No. The issue is this, backed up by looking through the tweets timeline. 1. I tell a contact that this girl is a hypocrite. 2. Later, you find the tweet and send a reply to me telling me I’m wrong which I’m not (she *is* a hypocrite). Now, you want to change the rules of the argument and claim that this is all just about the abortion. Well played, and very, very typical.

patrickmadrid No, not at all. I’ve been consistent all along. My original comment is that she wasn’t ‘hypocritical’ by rejecting abortion. But I do appreciate the fact that you at least had the conviction to respond to my comments. That’s a plus.

Look at how I didn’t even rise to the condescending last sentence there. Aren’t I good? He clearly states: "my original comment is that she wasn’t ‘hypocritical’ by rejecting abortion". Oh, if only there was a way to check that. Oh, there is. Let’s look back and … "No, ‘Catholic Lisa’ is not a hypocrite. She’s acting ethically by doing the right thing and not aborting her unborn baby".

If you remember – if not, then scroll up you lazy bastard – this is a non sequitur. Patrick says she’s not a hypocrite; then he says she’s acting ethically by not aborting. Acting ethically by not aborting has nothing to do with being a hypocrite. You can act ethically and be a hypocrite because you’ve also acted unethically elsewhere. We know this to be true. Lisa’s a good example. What Patrick’s saying, of course, is that he’s only ever been saying all along that not aborting means she’s not a hypocrite. What it actually means, however, is that Patrick really, really didn’t understand the initial comment after all. As suspected. She’s a hypocrite because sometimes she follows her religion and sometimes she doesn’t. You cannot pick the one time she does follow it and hold that up as proof that she’s not a hypocrite. That one act may not be hypocritical but she still is.

patrickmadrid Sorry, but what prompted my orginal comment to you was your erroneous claim that she was a ‘hypocrite’ for rejecting abortion.

This was Patrick’s last comment to me; at this point I’d given up the will to live, taken my own life, and then thought better of it so come back in a new and improved form with go-faster stripes and everything. I checked back to see if I’d said that Lisa was a hypocrite for rejecting abortion, saw that I’d done no such thing, realised that someone was having visions again, and did what I should have done a lot earlier: let him have the last word – I think it was important to him for some reason – and ignore him.

Final Thoughts

  • There was confusion on both sides. A bit like talking to a child about flowers and how pretty they are and how they smell nice and it’s good that bees help them grow and then suddenly realising when the child’s mother calls you from hospital where she’s being treated for anaphylactic shock that flowers is the name the child gives to a woman’s breasts.
  • Never argue on the internet because it’s impossible to punch sense into people. We have email. Where’s eThump?
  • Never argue with religious people because they’re physically incapable of reciprocating in the true sense of the word.
  • Arguing in bursts of 140 character or fewer on Twitter is bloody awkward and gives you a headache.
  • Why do religious people argue anyway? Their religion is based on absolutely, positively not having a shred of proof of what they believe in … yet they try to argue for it … which would require some evidence or form of proof … which they don’t, can’t, and will never have … but they try to rationalise something irrational anyway … which is impossible … like their religion, so that sort of makes sense for them … believing in the unbelievable, but not believing in the physically demonstrable or theoretically testable … perhaps they’re not real people at all … oh, my head hurts again.
  • There were other Catholics commenting too. There was a limit to my multitasking capabilities though. I’m a man. Evolved to lose concentration easily.
  • One of Patrick’s friends has decided to follow me on Twitter as a result of this. Life’s full of disappointments.
  • Sorry, Gia.
  • I’ve bought you a little puppy! It shits itself, some of its organs are on the outside, and it’s in severe pain all the time. Rather than euthanise it painlessly I’ve saved it for you so you can care for it – it’s expensive, by the way – and then watch as it loses its sight slowly, goes gangrenous, and rots to death while still crying. I hear God has given you a little gift too! What a guy!
  • On the off chance that anyone actually reads this far – I’m sorry, it’s long and there are words and stuff, but well done you – and wants to fire off any abusive comment please remember to actually read this site’s disclaimer first. Summarised version: my site, I can be rude and abusive; you can’t. Well, you can, but it won’t do you any good and will simply demonstrate just how stupid you are. I know that won’t necessarily stop anyone determined to post but we live in hope, if not enlightened times.

Author: Mark

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  1. Kudos to you for even giving it a shot. Trying to talk sense to a Catholic is like trying to teach table manners to a bear. it can be done, but why bother? They’re gonna eat like a bear, regardless. I know, I used to be one. (Bear or Catholic? You guess.)

    I’m impressed. Can I have your two-headed baby?


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  2. Thankyou netta; I too used to be a Catholic. Then I reached 8 years of age and had a five minute think about it.

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  3. I’m a Catholic and a former seminarian yet I will agree with you. Lisa is selfish and thinks only of herrself. She would rather have her child suffer and traumatized. Catholics may even say that the poor child is a creation of the devil. This is what I hate about us Catholics, we are a bunch of holier than thou hypocrites. I’m glad that I am one of those blessed with an open mind.

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  4. Lapsed Catholics (I am one) are a dangerous breed to practising Catholics. Not only can we resort to the very large armoury of evidence for the non-existence of God (i.e. evolution, cosmology, paradoxes, etc.) we can also use our ‘insight’ of their religion to tear down their mistakenly held beliefs.

    For example, my Mum (a devout Catholic) stated that infants who die unbaptized are stuck in Limbo. ‘Ah’, I said, ‘you obviously haven’t heard your own church’s pronouncement in 2007 that this is all tosh.’ Mum replied, ‘would you think your mother would lie to you?’

    Well done for the above post – it’s nice to know other people have to deal with this sort of brickwall-hitting…

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  5. You can’t leave a comment here.

    "Too Short"?

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  6. Okay NOW I’m frustrated. I wrote like a whole page and it’s gone.

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  7. Sorry Mark … Dunno if that was your site or mine, but I ain’t doing all that again. 🙂

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  8. Seriously …. your site won’t let me "comment" unless it’s like a one-liner … and then it gives a "this comment too SHORT" error.

    That sucks. This was interesting ….

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  9. I have way too much experience with this kind of nonsense from time spent on Gather. (I once had a fellow explain the horrors of immigration would lead to China either defeating us militarily or buying us out to get our fresh water. Then, of course, he explained how we never landed on the moon.) Sometimes, if I’m bored, I can tease them with only a little guilt. But, if I get involved, it’s going to lead to a migraine guaranteed. One cannot teach a pig to sing.

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  10. I thought you did rather well with the 140 limit, it was like twit tennis.

    You won of course, with both hands tied behind your back.

    Not sure what you were playing tennis with though….

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  11. Mark, I enjoyed this post. Too bad I do not spend a lot of time on twitter, well maybe not. I would have exploded with the impotence of unessential anger.

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  12. Thanks all for the comments.

    LOBO: if I had to guess – and I do because I don’t know – then I’d guess that there was a weird (technical term) character in whatever you were trying to post. I’ve seen that throw off the string length function before. I’ve altered the check it does now but without having a copy of what you were trying to post I can’t test it.

    Chris: I can now see God’s dick in many mouths. Thanks.

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  13. This was a hoot. Like you say, never argue with the internet.

    I’m Catholic by the way, and am openminded, which makes it all a bit difficult. I thought your point about not being able to argue with religious people was fair and well put.

    (See? We’re not all raving loonies who want to impose our whacked-out beliefs on everyone else. That’s just the loonies.)

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  14. I was raised in a mormon family and saw this allll the time. If an unwed female got pregnant and decided to have the baby, she was doing the right thing. Especially if the father of the baby "made right" by marrying her. However, if they got divorced a short time later, they were bad again.

    I finally realised that the religion was just a long trail of build-ups and knock-downs. Turning down church assignments meant you were selfish, even if it was literally driving you crazy (as happened in my case). Taking on so much you couldn’t do it all meant you were good – just trying to do so many good things that the lord wanted OTHER people to do your crap for you.

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