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I'm intrigued by a local sign-holder who was improperly labeled "atheist" for carrying a sign that asserted that there was no after-life for a person's consciousness. The person expressed a belief in God, but not belief in the immortality of the soul. Is there a short, crisp way of saying: "You are incorrectly characterizing disparate ideas as monolithic"?

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    I believe the edits to the question I originally asked were well-intended, but this is no longer the question for which I was seeking an answer. Nov 20, 2012 at 1:09
  • That happens all the time. If needed, you may roll-back an edit.
    – Kris
    Nov 20, 2012 at 5:24
  • Pending clarification by the OP, and also in light of this comment thread on this page, I am closing this in its current form as "not clear what is being asked".
    – RegDwigнt
    Nov 20, 2012 at 9:45
  • The main change I made was to change "falsely" to "improperly" in the title. It read: 'Is there an expression that sums up "falsely conflating two ideas that are really separate issues?"' while the question asks about things that indeed have been conflated, ie it is not false that they have been conflated. I also changed 'characterizing a "package" of ideas' to 'characterizing disparate ideas'. I disagree that the essence of the question has changed, but if you have better ways to word the question, please edit the question yourself, and/or roll back my edit. Nov 20, 2012 at 19:34

6 Answers 6

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Mixing apples and oranges

1.(idiomatic) To mix two totally different things. Related terms: (like) compar(ing) apples and oranges

Source: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/mix_apples_and_oranges

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  • That's the idea. "Grapes, not a watermelon," might hit pretty close to my intent. Thanks. Nov 19, 2012 at 19:43
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    ?? Grapes? Watermelon? is that a set example where you come from? I've never heard it before, I've always heard 'comparing apples and oranges'.
    – Mitch
    Nov 20, 2012 at 2:03
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Concluding that someone doesn't believe in God just because they don't believe in the immortality of the soul is a non sequitur.

Non sequitur (Latin for "it does not follow"), in formal logic, is an argument in which its conclusion does not follow from its premises. In a non sequitur, the conclusion could be either true or false, but the argument is fallacious because there is a disconnection between the premise and the conclusion.

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There's always the somewhat pedestrian lump.

to deal with, handle, consider, etc., in the lump or mass: to lump unrelated matters indiscriminately. (Dictionary.com)

Depending on how it's used, it can carry the connotation of inappropriate aggregation. In the example case, I'd say your name-caller is lumping the sign-holder in with (or together with) atheists.

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The two things, theism and immortality of the soul, are orthogonal to one another.

Sense of orthogonal being used:

  • adj. not pertinent to the matter under consideration (WordNet); able to be treated separately (Wiktionary) (via Wordnik)
  • Mutually independent or well separated; also used loosely to mean “irrelevant to” (Jargon File) (via Dictionary.com)

The literal meaning of orthogonal is “at right angles”; the broader meaning used above is metaphorical and has become fairly common especially in computer science circles.

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  • As much as I appreciate the suggestions I'm receiving from this site's learned participants, I was hoping that there was a way of getting to the heart of the fallacy without having to "go latin". Thanks again, but I was hoping for a gentler tool. Nov 20, 2012 at 0:48
  • @TomBrewster: You don't have to go Latin — "orthogonal" is Greek!
    – jwodder
    Nov 20, 2012 at 3:18
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    @Tom: orthogonal, non sequitur, misnomer, amalgamate and orange are all English words. Four of them have Latin roots, but so do the words appreciate, suggestions, receiving, participant, fallacy, gentler you just happily used, all in a single short comment. And anyway, if you don't want to "go Latin" you should clearly state that in the question body. Otherwise people will keep posting words that are of no use to you.
    – RegDwigнt
    Nov 20, 2012 at 9:43
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While the expression Apples and Oranges is the perfect way to say what you intend to, it is also a little informal. Formally, you could use Amalgamate to suggest the unification of two completely different ideas or entities.

Eg: 1. What you are saying is just apples and oranges dear. OR Ever heard apples and oranges, eh?

2. I think you have incorrectly amalgamated two different concepts!

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I'd go with misnomer. Dictionary.com defines it as:

noun

  1. a misapplied or inappropriate name or designation.
  2. an error in naming a person or thing.

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