Sunday, 18 December 2011

Poe's Law, and lying for Jesus!

'Poe's Law' is one of those expressions that seem to have arrived in vernacular English from nowhere.  There are several variations on a theme and another altogether independent option here.  One possible application is:

"Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that SOMEONE won't mistake for the real thing."

In other words, No matter how bizzare, outrageous, or just plain idiotic a parody of a Fundamentalist may seem, there will always be someone who cannot tell that it is a parody, because they have seen similar real ideas from real religious/political Fundamentalists.

Pretty image 'ethically sourced' from here, (thank you).  Isn't it better than those horrible smileys that you try to get by struggling to find the right combination of keystrokes?  :)

A more general case of Poe's Law is

"It is impossible to tell for certain the difference between genuine stupidity and a parody of stupidity."
[You should know that intuitively from reading this blog!]

It seems that this version of 'Poe's law' was created by Nathan Poe in August 2005 at the website (deliberately not linked from here because I doubt that you will want to go there).  Apparently it was in the the section of their forum which focuses on creation vs. evolution debating.

Another version - independent from the others - is a Christian theological principle that states:

"Elements of the Gospel speak to different levels of spiritual concern in different cultures at different times."

This one was named after theologian Dr. Harry Lee Poe, a cousin of Edgar Allan Poe.  It is taught to modern evangelists as a way to better target the message of 'The Gospel' to different audiences for 'maximum salvific efficacy'.

In other words - feel free to indulge in cherry picking of verses that seem to prove what you want to prove here and now, and ignore the possibility that they really mean something else - or indeed nothing at all.  Elsewhere it is known by the expression 'lying for Jesus'.

So next time you hear someone quoting Poe's Law, ask them which version they mean.

Do they suggest a lack of sense of humour or lack of total open honesty?

Small note: And remember that expression 'maximum salvific efficacy'.  Mind you it is quite hard to forget it as it is so utterly awful!



Hilary said...

Y'know it rather strikes me that the vast majority of Christians, get on with their lives quietly and are a tremendous work for the good of society and individuals. I am pretty sure that this can equally be said for most people everywhere whether atheists, muslims, etc therefore strikes me that your blog resembles the bbc, always presenting the wacky end of what I would deem 'religiosity' (which is not by the way anything to do with being a true believer and follower of Jesus Christ) and trying to present your version of 'religion' as if it represents the majority. I think it would be fairer if you want to persist in presenting the wacky end, that you also balance your comments by the truth that such wackyness do not represent the vast majority of Christians or of the type of evangelism engaged in by the vast majority of Christians or the very reasoned and balanced theology believed and practised by the equally vast majority of Christians who think through their beliefs and faith.

For example, you cannot lump the wacky end of American militant evangelicalism and present it as if this is how Christians in the Uk all behave. There are for example I am sure many atheists who are such for many and different reasons...I have spoken to many many atheists and am interested in the different reasons for not believing...I therefore do not 'lump them all together' as one lot and I certainly do not pain them all with the same brush as the extreme end and wacky end of atheism, which is unfortunately represented by the likes of Richard is sad for the reasoned atheists that he is the public face of the new atheism.

Plasma Engineer said...

Just when I thought again that you might have a point, and that perhaps it is unfair of me to indulge in atheistic evangelisation, I read your comment on and feel reassured that it is something that I must continue to do.

Miriam English said...

I have a number of friends who are religious, and certainly, not all are nutso, but Hilary doesn't realise just how many really are truly loony... perhaps because she is a little over there herself (she believes the gradual and proven machinery of evolution is less likely than some god who magics all life into existence).

How can she possibly think that Richard Dawkins is "on the wacky end of atheism"? I notice many religious people are utterly affronted by his way of speaking frankly about religious lunacy. He actually isn't extreme. He doesn't advocate hurting anybody the way religious nuts constantly do. He is simply frank and clear about the evils propagated by the bible (condoning slavery, human sacrifice, mass murder, xenophobia, homophobia, and misogyny) something that so many religious people embarrassedly dance around, and many atheists unfortunately tend to make excuses for, not wanting to offend poor delicate religious sensibilities.

Plasma Engineer said...

Well - I guess some people think that RD's straight-forward way of pointing out the logical inconsistencies in the bible is offensive and threatening. I prefer to think that he is being intellectually honest.

However, I also respect Hilary's bravery. She understands perfectly well that her views are not shared by the majority of readers here but she is prepared to state them.

Thanks to everyone who joins the conversation.

Andy said...

Simply put, the wacky end of religion is the dangerous end. I couldn't dare less about what hardworking moral people believe, but then there is the wacky end, the end which still finds shelter under the banners of Religion. And those people deserve to be criticised, mocked, and pulled out time and time again.
And quite frankly I would be shocked if you did not join us in mocking the wacky ends of your religion, and I will join you in mocking North Korea and Soviet Russia all day long.