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by Tom Gilson
It’s totally predictable, whenever I blog on certain topics: the argumentum ad fragenblitzen. The term comes from the German Fragen, for “questions,” and Blitzen, for “lightning,” with an intentional allusion to Blitzkrieg. It happens whenever I write about homosexual activism, gay marriage, and Intelligent Design, and frequently when I write on other topics as well.
The argumentum ad fragenblitzen takes advantage of two general facts, which apply to virtually any debate:
(1) It takes a lot longer to answer a question than to ask it, and
(2) If someone doesn’t answer a question, then they’re open to the charge that they’re running away from it because they have no answer.
When it’s used intentionally it’s really slick. It can really tie a debate opponent up in knots, if they let themselves be fooled by it.
I don’t think it’s used intentionally most of the time, though, at least not on this blog. I think it’s usually reflexive and habitual instead. The commenter thinks, “The blog post is about homosexuality and religious freedom, so I’ll put forth my favorite homosexuality and religious freedom question”—without noticing that the post isn’t about their favorite question, it’s about something else.
Fragenblitzen in action
That’s what I see going on right now on the blog post I wrote about Frank Bruni’s NY Times op-ed. I said his article amounted to a call for state-imposed boundaries around religious doctrines. In response I’ve been asked about:
- Whether I understand what “require” means.
- Whether business owners should be allowed to refuse to serve interracial weddings.
- How to weigh harms involved in the exercise of liberty.
- Whether religious freedom means a free pass to break the laws of the land.
- Religiously-motivated segregation laws, with a whole bunch of subquestions.
Notice how little this has to do with state-imposed boundaries around religious doctrines.
Besides that, I’ve been told that I was saying,
- I disagree (on this issue at least) that there should be some balance applied to the use of religious freedom.
- Again, I’m “incredibly confused about what ‘require’ means.”
- I “seem to point out that government should place no barriers on how people should or should not express their religious convictions even in the public sphere.”
I didn’t say any of those things, nor did I imply them.
So while I brought up one limited point of infringement on religious freedom, I’m being held responsible to explain at least three things I never said, and to answer five rather extensive and involved questions that have limited connection to what I brought up…
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