Tag Archives: Dysphemism

More vitriol; Baby Jesus, dictatorship, and Christmas…

You may have already heard about the news story that leads to my blog post, you can find an article on it here: Anti-religion Sign Joins Nativity Scene…. Now, there’s a whole blog post just from that article, but I have to get to my main discussion point here; Dan Barker on Fox and Friends this morning trying to make some kind of point about us Christians “stealing” the winter solstice from “them,” and drawing a bizarre connection between having a creche (nativity scene) of the baby Jesus with Hell…and dictatorship.

Apparently Dan Barker is another proselytizer for the “new atheism.”  This was my introduction to him, and I’ve found quite a bit about him online of course.

First, December 25th is indeed the time set aside in the church’s liturgical calendar to remember or commemorate Christ’s birth.  Pretty much every Christian I know readily acknowledges that Christ wasn’t literally born on the 25th of December.  So, this Dan Barker (spokesperson, and co-president for “freedom from religion”) goes of on this odd notion that Christians “stole” the winter solstice from them, meaning the atheists…hunh.

Does Dan Barker not realize that the celebration of the winter solstice was not humanistic, that it had religious, sacred, and/or spiritual overtones, even when it wasn’t Christian?  How about the fact of the celebration of Hanukkah, the festival of lights, also falls at this time of year?

Besides those obvious facts, how in the world is adding in a day to celebrate Christ (and St. Nick for that matter) “stealing” anything?  There was no logical argument given, it just came across as a child stamping his foot over some perceived slight.

Then he starts talking about the baby Jesus, and winds up trying to throw in a bit about Hell (it seems that’s what he thinks about when looking at a nativity scene), and how that baby Jesus became a dictator.  Now, I fully realize this is the same Dan Barker that can’t even admit that Jesus was a real, honest to goodness person that did in fact exist.  The idea of the “Jesus myth” (where someone claims Jesus of Nazareth never existed in any form) is so illogical as to defy description.  There are a majority of scholars from all backgrounds that readily admit the existence of Jesus, even if they do not believe He’s the Son of God.  So, I should be prepared for illogical tangents, but the one about baby Jesus becoming a dictator was a red herring I didn’t really expect…especially since Barker supposedly doesn’t even believe Jesus ever really existed.

Of course in our society it is quite clear when someone refers to someone else as a dictator, especially in a context like this, that they are employing a dysphemism.  It is an attempt to sway listeners’ emotions in a negative fashion…and this is what Dan Barker attempted to to do by linking the term “dictator” to Jesus (baby Jesus at that).  The later comments by viewers of Fox News, and additional thoughts by the anchors reveal that Barker’s attempt at emotional manipulation (unsurprisingly) backfired.

Who can seriously listen to someone who directly tries to smear Jesus in His infant state by tossing around words like “dictator,” and pouting about Christmas?  It struck me as a good thing he was broadcast on-air with all of this rhetoric, since it should show people how illogical, and emotional those like Dan Barker really are.  Yes, we again have an example of a “new atheist” blatantly resenting Jesus whilst at the same time trying to maintain that He doesn’t exist in the first place…funny that.

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Critical Thinking; Euphemisms vs. Dysphemisms…

It’s been a while since I gave a miniature logic lesson, so today I thought I’d talk about Euphemisms and Dysphemisms.  Rhetorical devices, and rhetoric in general, are often employed to try to “slant” the hearer’s or reader’s perspective on something.  Remember, rhetoric employs psychological or emotionally persuasive language, without giving an actual reason for a conclusion.

Euphemisms and Dysphemisms are two rhetorical devices that are quite common.  A Euphemism is a “positive” spin; it takes a word, phrase, or concept and makes it sound either neutral or more positive.  For example, we spin “death” and “died” more positive or neutral by phrases like, “bought the farm,” or “he’s pushing up daisies.”  Car dealerships no longer sell “used cars” they sell “pre-owned vehicles.”

On a more serious note, you can see it in politics, and political situations.  I once saw a news cast about a band of militia in some country where there was an uprising, within about fifteen minutes, three different people were interviewed; to one person the militia was referred to as a group of “freedom fighters.”  The next person interviewed referred to them as “guerrillas” and the final person referred to them as “terrorists.”  Three different words evoking different emotional and psychological reactions within the hearer.

That brings me to dysphemisms; they are the “negative” slant.  So in the above example, the “freedom fighter” phrase would be a euphemism, and the “terrorist” phrase would be a dysphemism, just as an example.  Notice that the phrased could be considered accurate as long as the idea or word in question truly meets the definition of those words; for example, there is a time and a place to truly label someone a terrorist, as long as the definition is truly met.

Also, just because they are rhetorical devices doesn’t mean you can dismiss whatever argument that they are used in out of hand; it is just important to note that people do use terms to sway hearers’/readers’ emotions as that is a part of being a critical thinker.

How does this apply to the Christian, or Christian Apologist’s POV?  There are a lot of dysphemisms that non-believers employ…oftentimes just to insult, or try to get a rise out of Christians.  One of the more popular ones in this day and age amongst atheists online, for whatever reason, is labeling Christianity a “death cult.”  How is this a dysphemism?  Because it employs emotionally and psychologically charged language, and has no evidence to back it up, and in fact, the evidence clearly contradicts the label.

Be on the lookout for these two rhetorical devices, and even look up some more examples so that you can more easily spot when someone is attempting to sway you with words…and remember that words do indeed have power to get people to react.  This is something that politicians have known for a long long time; we will surely get treated to many examples of euphemisms/dysphemisms in the upcoming presidential election coverage; especially at the conventions.

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Filed under Logic, Religion and Politics