False Dichotomy

When I was in Academy, I first heard Pascal’s Wager, in chapel, presented by Dr. Bob, Sr. I thought it was brilliant, and I thought he invented it.  (Give me a break. I was about 14 at the time.)

For those who don’t know, Pascal’s Wager is  the assertion that it’s better to be a Christian and ultimately be wrong, than to risk rejecting Christ and finding out you’re wrong and going to hell forever.

I was in the throes of deconverting when I found out that Dr. Bob, Sr. didn’t invent it, and that Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) did. And the ink wasn’t dry on the page before it was refuted.

Among the very valid arguments refuting Pascal’s Wager are these:
1. What if “God” is really a trickster god (like the Inuit Raven) and all this is an elaborate hoax?

2. What if “God” is really Allah, and we’re all going to Muslim hell? Or maybe Hindus have it right.

3. What if “God” really does want company with sentient beings, but he is trying to pull out those who think for themselves?  Could it be in that case that I am better off than any Christian because I am a freethinker?

You get the idea.

Another very common false “trichotomy” is C. S. Lewis’ “Liar, Lunatic, or Lord” assertion. Surely we’ve all heard that one:  Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic or he is lord.

The first time I heard that one, I thought it was brilliant too. (I bought into all this crap for way too long, I know. )

However, in all my years in the atheist world, I have never found anyone who believes any one of the three “choices,” including myself. There are a zillion other possibilities.  Maybe Jesus was simply an itinerant rabbi who never said a word attributed to him in the New Testament (a real possibility, by the way).  Or maybe, in another real possibility, he’s entirely fictional.

In both these cases, if you follow the two links, they go to Wikipedia articles about them which while not definitive, certainly provide enough information to start you looking.

When I decided I could no longer stay closeted as an atheist, and needed to come out, I thought that the right thing to do was to tell the pastor of our church about it first. I was the choir director and knew I would be resigning and it simply wasn’t fair to spring that on him without some notice. So I called him and asked if I could see him.  He and his wife came over one Sunday afternoon.

I was very nervous. I was afraid that he’d have way more knowledge than I did and that he’d give me all sorts of very good arguments why I was wrong and it would just be awful and I would look stupid.

He listened to my story, and then he was silent for a few minutes. I waited anxiously. And then he gave it his best shot:

Pascal’s Wager.

That was it. I could hardly believe it. I remember sitting there just dumbfounded. That was the best he could do? I said, “Yes. That’s called ‘Pascal’s Wager.’  Blaise Pascal. 1600’s.”  And then I started listing the reasons why it won’t work, something similar to what I did above.  And he looked kind of befuddled. I knew he didn’t have a clue what I was talking about.

We parted amicably.

But all that isn’t Atheism 101. It’s some background for this:

There is not a single true sentence in that entire paragraph, by the way. A screen name on a blog is not the same thing as a fake identity. I actually know who nearly every screen name is here, so there aren’t any “fakes.”  Dan doesn’t know, but nobody gives a damn about him.

And when I joined the original Survivor’s group, I did not have to be approved. I simply clicked on “join” and I was a member. It was like that up until after the Jack Sparrows incident. That and a few others prompted Nancy and Leah to start approving membership requests, in part because after Camille and Cathy left the group, there was a mysterious increase in the number of fakes who tried to join.

Third, Camille did leave and then tried to come back. By then, they were approving membership requests and didn’t let her back in. Furthermore, being on the outside has never, ever stopped Camille from trying to take over something or destroy it, as we’ve seen clearly.

And Dan, there was no chair. And there was no admission to Marshall Pickens. (Get the name right.) That was the lie that Camille started. Clinging to a lie after it’s been shown to be false is something you seem to do quite a bit.

But the biggy is highlighted. We’ll call it The Dick of Prickdom’s False Dichotomy. He’s saying that Cathy Harris is either:

1. a poor survivor who has been so horribly treated all her life that she would make a fine character in a Dickens novel,


2. she is nutty as a fruitcake.

I wonder how Cathy likes that, especially since Cathy knows Cathy is lying about stuff and has been doing so for years.

You see, lying is not a mental illness. I know people who lie all the time. Just lie. About everything you can think of. And they are not mentally ill. They function quite well, have good relationships, earn a living, raise happy children, and really are quite decent people—except that you can’t believe much of their blather.

People lie for all sorts of reasons, but usually they see some personal gain in doing so. Sometimes it’s monetary. More often, I suspect, especially with the types who tell wild stories, it involves emotional gain. They want to be the life of the party. They want to be the center of attention, or to be popular, or to be in control. They want pity.

But they know they are lying.

While lying can be a part of mental illness, it certainly is not necessarily. Mentally ill people are often delusional (meaning that they believe the lies they tell are true), but perfectly sane people lie and do so often and sometimes chronically.

I believe Cathy Harris knows perfectly well that she is lying.  I don’t think for one second that she is mentally ill or deluded in any way. I think she’s a scam artist and Dan Keller is simply one of her victims.

Another thing is that Dan says he’s “fine with either scenario.” So he’s “fine” with Cathy being so mentally ill that she is completely delusional and totally not getting any sort of treatment for said delusional behavior. I find that amazing.  He was really wanting Leah to get treatment for that totally imaginary mental problem that he kept accusing her of having, but he’s “fine” with Cathy going untreated.

He’s really big on calling out people about their supposed mental health issues even when it’s completely fabricated, but “fine” with Cathy Harris being grossly delusional.

He calls that “standing up” for her.

I call it pitiful.