I often read complaints that atheists tend to be a bit lazy in their arguments, relying on name-calling and silly references to make their point. This is, unfortunately, true in many cases. One shouldn’t assume that an atheist is any smarter, any better informed, or have thought in any more depth about their arguments as anyone else. Nope, most of the time everyone just recycles the arguments they’ve heard that make most sense to them. If you look carefully, there are often interesting arguments on all sides.
So here’s a very initial attempt to collect some atheist throwaways and express the significant argument under the hood.
The Flying Spaghetti Monster – The Flying Spaghetti Monster is an argument about rationalization. Take a particular theological belief and find an adherent who can rationalise their belief. You will find that they have various detailed arguments to support their belief. But if you look closely those same kinds of arguments would support other beliefs. Maybe just minor modifications of the same, but often leading to more and more remote positions. In fact, because almost all rationalization is post-hoc, you can apply the very same arguments to a farcical theology, such as the flying spaghetti monster (or the invisible pink unicorn, if you prefer your parody divinities to be female). There is no part of the doctrine of the Flying Spaghetti Monster that can’t be defended by robust rationalization. And this should clue us into the fact that rationalization itself is suspicious. Christianity may be a warranted belief (according to Plantinga, for example), but that merely means there are post-hoc rationalizations for holding it. In the very same terms (using the same arguments, in fact) faith in the FSM is also warranted. Which tells you all you need to know about the validity of ‘warrant’ in the pursuit of theological knowledge.
Woo – Woo-woo is a term of uncertain origin. It represents the opposite problem to FSM: a lack of reasoning and rationality. A belief that is woo is inherently unreasonable or unreasoned. This can range from a simple logical fallacy, through to the introduction of a whole bunch of dependent but undetectable properties of the universe. So if someone justifies the existence of auras by telling you that they’re caused by angels, then you’re talking big-style woo. As a piece of rhetoric, it should be taken as saying: your story is getting far-fetched and needs grounding in something we can all sense. Unfortunately, one person’s reasonable is another’s woo, and so woo gets used as a general term of disapproval (I’ve been called a woo, for example, for not thinking that all religious people are crazed idiots with genocidal tendencies).
Conspiracy Theory / Conspiracy Theorist – This is an argument from the historical inability of people to keep important things secret. Many arguments rely on the fact that a crucial piece of evidence has been intentionally hidden. The evidence we all know should be there, but isn’t. So the advocate of the position posits that the lack of evidence is evidence of a conspiracy: further reinforcing their world-view. This is the right time to call Conspiracy Theory. Conspiracy theories are a double edged sword. The same conspiracy theory argument that suggests 911 wasn’t an inside job could also be used to suggest that Jesus’s early disciples weren’t pretending the resurrection happened. At some point conspiracy theory arguments become arguments from the majority viewpoint, and that is dangerous ground. Remember the adage: just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get me!
Please suggest some more… I’m stuck after these three.