November 29, 2007

Fire-tested Argument

Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD: and the god that answers by fire—he is God."
Then the fire of the LORD fell, and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, "The LORD, –he is God, The LORD, –he is God!"

Then Elijah commanded them them, "Seize the prophets of Baal. Don't let anyone get away!" They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there.

You can raise all the intellectual challenges you want about faith and the origins of the universe, but at the end of the day, you have to worship the god who can set you on fire.

We like to think Elijah stood in front of the howling column of heavenly fire, straightened his robes, turned to the crowd and said, "Thus, my opponent's argument falls." Then, he finished the debate in the way that all debates should be finished: by having the losers slaughtered.

— David Wong, The 9 Most Badass Bible Verses, via Scott McLemee's Quick Study

Long ago in rhetoric the "Shut up about that" rule was concieved as an alternative method for effectively striking specific people and groups of people and what they might have to say from the list of those who could continue to argue the given point. Every formal argument has such a rule. Slaughtering the losers does directly ensure that their argument will go unheard in every case, and the "Shut up about that" rule in rhetoric cannot hope to be as utterly terminal as that, however much it hopes to achieve the same end, the silencing. As the volume of nattering coming from those under the injunction of the "Shut up about that" rule reaches its critical peak, the probability of their ending in the Kishon Valley increases as well, sad to say.

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