Yeah, but what about all those Crusades and Witchburnings?

16 Dec


When ISIS perpetrated their evil in Paris, some commentators were quick to trot out past atrocities committed by so-called Christians.

Their response is a perfect example of the fallacy known as ‘Tu Quoque’.  This Latin phrase describing the attempt to deflect the debate means, ‘You too!’

Here’s a simple example:

Uncle Jim to his nephew:  Bobby, you shouldn’t smoke, it’s bad for your health.

Bobby: Yeah, well who are you to tell me that?  Look at you, addicted to 2 packs a day!

What makes Bobby’s response inappropriate is that his observation, though true, is irrelevant to the assertion: Smoking is bad for your health.

So Uncle Jim’s best move is to acknowledge the truth of his nephew’s comment and gently move the discussion back to the topic.  It could be that since Uncle Jim seems addicted to smoking he knows first hand the effect on his body.  The fact that he himself smokes has given him living proof of what research shows.  What counts, however, are the reasons he marshals to support his conclusion.

Off topic

Back to the terrorism conversation.  Whether Christians wrongly burned women at the stake or justified murder by covering it over with the guise of a religious cause is not up for discussion.  Raising those events is a ploy to shift the topic.  Logical Joes and Janes have to practice restraint and resist the temptation to enter THAT arena.  The simplest way, again, is to acknowledge the possibility of truth in what was said, but then guide the conversation partner gently back to what’s on the table.

With practice responding to parries AND staying on topic comes more naturally.



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