Author Topic: Not a matter of faith...  (Read 1133 times)

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Offline jaimehlers

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Not a matter of faith...
« on: July 14, 2011, 11:40:08 AM »
(This isn't about my religious faith or lack thereof.  I want to be perfectly up front with that)

I have been debating with myself whether or not I needed to give a 'testimonial', since I've never been a devout Christian.  I only went to church because my parents did, and I've never attended a church service since unless I had to for some reason.  I did practically nothing but read the Bible when I was there, unless I was singing as part of the service.  And I read the Bible not as a serious holy book, but as a neat story; I mostly read Genesis, Exodus, and occasionally the Gospels, and nobody ever told me I was supposed to take it seriously, so I didn't.

But then I started reading some of the old testimonials posted by believers, and I knew I had to write one.  Not about faith, but about the tendency to believe ridicule is 'okay' to use against someone.  Because, to put it bluntly, it isn't.  I know, because I had to suffer the kind off abusive public ostracization commonly called bullying when I was growing up for nearly a decade.  I know what it's like to be the 'outsider', the one everyone feels free to pick on from the safety of numbers, the one who gets in trouble because they aren't willing to just smile and take it in the teeth.

Forget the old saw, "sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me".  Public ridicule is like being flayed with knives, except the wounds are all on the inside and never really heal.  I'm sure most of the people here have heard about school shootings; they're the logical end result of someone being ridiculed past the point of sanity.

How many of the atheist members of this forum have had to deal with public ridicule from Christians on the outside?  People who felt that atheists were deviants, untrustworthy, vile examples of human beings, whatever other pejoratives you care to name?  Everyone always says, "ignore them", "grow a thicker skin", and other things like that when they talk to the target of public ridicule.  How many people actually look at how they themselves would feel if they were the target of that sort of public flaying and were told by well-meaning but misguided individuals that they should just suck it up and deal with it?

I don't know how it must have felt for the atheists who suffered that sort of thing.  I only know, based on how I felt undergoing something similar as a child growing up, that I wouldn't wish it even on someone I hated or despised.

Now, in fairness, a forum like this isn't like a school setting or a real life setting.  Nobody forces Christians to come here, and nobody forces them to stay here, day in and day out.  Nobody forces them to passively take that sort of ridicule when they're on this forum - they are perfectly free to leave and never come back.

But consider how you would feel if the tables were turned.  If you were the one who had to deal with this sort of thing when you were just trying to share your opinion with other people who challenged you to do that very thing.  Go back and look at the testimonials and the mailbag, and consider how you would feel if you were on the receiving end of those kinds of comments, from Christians or anyone else.  Or how you actually do feel, having to deal with such things outside of this forum or in real life.

I don't doubt that there'll be some people who are used to dealing with that and worse.  But I doubt even those people actually enjoy the experience, they've just grown thick enough skins that it doesn't bother them much.  I'm kind of like that, although my skin isn't especially thick even now.  And as for that, even though I tell myself it doesn't bother me to have to deal with that sort of thing, it still does, even if only deep down.  I've just learned to live with it.

I am certainly not suggesting that you should be all sweetness and light when dealing with Christians or believers of any stripe.  Honestly, people need to have their beliefs challenged regularly, and challenged firmly, or else they end up being divorced from reality - they lose sight of the fact that other people don't hold those beliefs and start to think of those people as being less real.  And it's not something that can be done with just kind words.  But there's a difference between challenging someone's beliefs and ridiculing them for holding those beliefs, or lashing out at them with thunderous anger because of frustration that they won't listen.

Offline velkyn

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Re: Not a matter of faith...
« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2011, 09:18:54 AM »
Jaime, the problem with your well reasoned post is that Christiansn will think we are ridiculing them no matter what we say.  As soon as we pose a threat to their comfortable, and willfully ignorant lives, they think we are attacking no matter what. 

Theists are indeed invited here, but really, do you think that the title of the forum isn't enough indication on what reception they'll get?  And if I put such outright lies, and arrogant baseless nonsense into the mailbag as we consistently see there, I certainly would expect, even demand, to be treated with derision and counters to my arguments.  I know how it feels to be ridiculed for no reason (being smart, being overly emotional, etc)  but we have reason enough here.

I find ridicule an effective tool, one amongst many.  When one holds up Christianity to other religions, it's no more or less ridiculous than they are.  And they are ridiculous, with the claims of talking donkeys, omniscient beings being surprised, supposed "wise" men cursing vegetation, and a series of suposedly the same story four times which contradicts itself constantly.  When you add that to their ignorance of their own bible, the invocation of the magic decoder ring and their oft-displayed ignorance of the same science they try to decry, there is often little else to do other than ridicule them sicne they are not interested in any actual learning at all.  So they just become examples.  I don't think anyone is saying "suck it up and deal with it", I think they are saying "you're wrong and this is how, now learn!"

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Offline jaimehlers

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Re: Not a matter of faith...
« Reply #2 on: July 15, 2011, 10:34:18 AM »
First off, thanks for the compliment about my post.

I don't think anyone with more than a handful of working brain cells could expect that a theist - any theist - would get a warm reception here.  I'm certainly not asking that you walk on eggshells around them, especially given the way many of them act.  But I've never found that ridicule is very effective against the armor of ignorance, especially willful ignorance.  It might - sometimes - be effective against someone who is smart but ignorant, but I can't imagine that's even a particularly large minority of believers.  But most people just see ridicule as a spiteful way for someone who has no other resorts to try to get the last word in, if they don't take it as something worse.

Anyway, I was referring more to personal ridicule.  Comparing Christianity to other religions is certainly not out of line, even if someone takes it badly.  The problem is that it's very easy to cross the line between making the point that either no religion is ridiculous or they all are, and mocking a person for not being willing to accept it.

Offline velkyn

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Re: Not a matter of faith...
« Reply #3 on: July 15, 2011, 11:46:04 AM »
that's why I try (and sometimes fail) to avoid personal attacks until someone really is demosntrably stupid, ignorant, etc.  If someone is ignorant, lying or just plain dumb, I have no problem pointing that out.  But only after trying to get through to them. 
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Offline jaimehlers

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Re: Not a matter of faith...
« Reply #4 on: July 15, 2011, 12:26:21 PM »
I would try to avoid making it into a personal attack even then.  Even if someone is demonstrably ignorant, lying, dumb, or whatever, then shoving that fact in their face after spending however long trying to talk to them rationally can look very much like it's spite or frustration that provoked it.  And even at best, it can undercut the points made earlier - it gives them the out of "see, see, you're being irrational too!"

Offline Ambassador Pony

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Re: Not a matter of faith...
« Reply #5 on: July 15, 2011, 12:46:57 PM »
They always have an out. Insularity is part and parcel of the religious mentality. The Milk Jug god can never fail to reinforce belief behaviour.

While faith is cognitively self-reinforcing, believers don't get to that point, or maintain specific belief-type behaviours, without consistant external reinforcement; regularly meeting with others who encourage the behaviour in various explicit and implicit ways.

Like a lab rat biting a food-release bar when a consistent feeding schedule is interupted, believers tend to loose their shit quickly when the pattern ceases and people actually discourage illogical reasoning and delusions. Unless their stay at the forum is long-term, a see a steady stream of positive reinforcement as inneffectual.

I often ponder what fence sitters think. How might one take complete nong theists having a strip torn off of them for all to see?
You believe evolution and there is no evidence for that. Where is the fossil record of a half man half ape. I've only ever heard about it in reading.

Offline jaimehlers

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Re: Not a matter of faith...
« Reply #6 on: July 15, 2011, 01:15:32 PM »
Well, two things as far as that goes.  First, if someone already has an out, why give them another?  The whole point is to make it more difficult for them to dodge the questions being asked of them, but giving them another out makes it easier.

And second, while I understand the necessity of negative reinforcement, something that's too negative or done too frequently can cause more problems than it solves.  I mean, someone who gets pissed off isn't going to be thinking about the other person maybe having a point and they're going to be much less likely to even consider things that person says in the future.  And as for others profiting from the example, that doesn't work well unless they're actually around or able to see it, especially on a forum like this - and most of the people who are in that position aren't in need of the example to begin with.

Offline Ambassador Pony

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Re: Not a matter of faith...
« Reply #7 on: July 15, 2011, 01:42:54 PM »
That last part. Well, I say the more examples the better. If I am taking someone to task for their disgusting behaviour, addressing their character directly and contrasting it to a superior secular/reasonable standard based on common sense, I am essentially doing an ad hominem. For a fence sitter, I see the greatest gain, even if they've seen it before, they need to see it again. Consistently they can be shown the failure and morally bankruptcy of people with a fundy _______ worldview.

It's hard to be objective in this scenario, but take a look at new member: John 3 16.

If I am a by-stander, reading this guy's disjointed mess of ignorant theology, and I still think to myself "hmmm, not sure if there is something to this", then maybe I need for someone to come along and take the piss right out of him, and highlight his failings across the board.

I (as a resident ass-hander-outer and milkshake drinker) can frame the argument, I can provide a rubric for understanding his alphabet of FAIL from A to Z, then sit back and let him hang himself as he sputters self-righteously.

I should mention that I am now convinced he's a child, so, my ratio of pity/disdain for him has altered accordingly.   
 
This is a good talk to have, and it comes up every so often, but it is a little more complex than it seems on its face.

« Last Edit: July 15, 2011, 03:32:16 PM by Ambassador Pony »
You believe evolution and there is no evidence for that. Where is the fossil record of a half man half ape. I've only ever heard about it in reading.

Offline albeto

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Re: Not a matter of faith...
« Reply #8 on: July 15, 2011, 01:50:10 PM »
And second, while I understand the necessity of negative reinforcement, something that's too negative or done too frequently can cause more problems than it solves.  I mean, someone who gets pissed off isn't going to be thinking about the other person maybe having a point and they're going to be much less likely to even consider things that person says in the future.  And as for others profiting from the example, that doesn't work well unless they're actually around or able to see it, especially on a forum like this - and most of the people who are in that position aren't in need of the example to begin with.

I'm new here but I'll share a couple observations I've had.  The first is in response to the idea of negative reinforcement.  I don't get the impression anyone here is trying to modify anyone's behavior or beliefs, just engaging in honest dialog in whatever shape it comes.  This isn't a Conversion Corner of the web here, but an ongoing series of discussions from my pov.  The idea of trying to reinforce a participant is not something I've seen here.

  The second is the idea of snarky comments.  Having discussed theology from both sides now quite long windedly and with lots of navel gazing, it doesn't take too long to recognize the "voice" of a post that is looking for an honest exchange of ideas and the "voice" of a post that functions to correct another opinion.  When the argument presented is foolish and emotionally laden (which I've seen used mostly in a condescending way), the responses are likely to reflect the expectation of a certain pattern.  That pattern is expected to take a lot of time and effort to show minute details to connect dots that most people beyond 5th grade ought to be able to connect naturally.  The time and effort is usually not worth it and so a quick, cut-to-the-chaise response gets the point across when a longer dialog tends to be derailed uselessly. 

Finally, with the predominance of the expectation that theists ought to be regarded with kids gloves revolving the topic of religion, I for one find it valuable to know there is a place where the concepts can be discussed without having to protect delicate feelings of one who doesn't like to see a negative reaction to a deeply held belief. 

Offline Eloi McQueequog

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Re: Not a matter of faith...
« Reply #9 on: July 15, 2011, 04:31:19 PM »
And second, while I understand the necessity of negative reinforcement, something that's too negative or done too frequently can cause more problems than it solves.  I mean, someone who gets pissed off isn't going to be thinking about the other person maybe having a point and they're going to be much less likely to even consider things that person says in the future.  And as for others profiting from the example, that doesn't work well unless they're actually around or able to see it, especially on a forum like this - and most of the people who are in that position aren't in need of the example to begin with.

 it doesn't take too long to recognize the "voice" of a post that is looking for an honest exchange of ideas and the "voice" of a post that functions to correct another opinion.  When the argument presented is foolish and emotionally laden (which I've seen used mostly in a condescending way), the responses are likely to reflect the expectation of a certain pattern.  That pattern is expected to take a lot of time and effort to show minute details to connect dots that most people beyond 5th grade ought to be able to connect naturally.  The time and effort is usually not worth it and so a quick, cut-to-the-chaise response gets the point across when a longer dialog tends to be derailed uselessly. 

Finally, with the predominance of the expectation that theists ought to be regarded with kids gloves revolving the topic of religion, I for one find it valuable to know there is a place where the concepts can be discussed without having to protect delicate feelings of one who doesn't like to see a negative reaction to a deeply held belief.

Thank you all for a delightful, intelligent, and polite thread.  After reading it, I feel as good about human beings as I have since 2010.  ( I got sick, which put me in a really foul mood.)

Especial thanks to Jaim and Velk for an example of two people really listening to each other.

I have a problem being simultaneously Sokratic and polite.  I like to throw stones in still waters, in babbling brooks, and at glass houses. (The walls of my own house were shattered long ago.)

I ridicule on certain occasions.  More commonly I am assumed to be ridiculing sometimes when I crack a joke.  But, I find the world ridiculous, so ridicule is a large component of my humor.

There is a substantial difference between ridiculing ideas and individuals tho.
I sometimes refrain from ridiculing a particular part of a person's statement because I admire some other part, and am therefore friendly, and do not want to risk the ridicule being taken personally.

When a person, atheist, Christian, or other, displays simple close mindedness, the ridicule sharpens.

When a person ignores or twists my statements, or attacks me, we leave politeness behind entirely.

When a person indicates they believe I should be killed for being some kind of pinko faggot, I remind myself that killing them as a prophylactic is dangerous and illegal, as well as inconvenient and unpleasant.  Since I have no real hope of changing such minds, and I can't kill them, I ridicule them to vent and amuse others.  (You should see what I wrote on the Pakistani Defense Forum's thread about how wonderful the Pak blasphemy laws are.)

Here is the link to the thread
http://www.defence.pk/forums/current-events-social-issues/116132-man-sentenced-death-blasphemy.html

Here is my first post on that thread, # 34
"This thread, and the justifications of the actions offered, make me ashamed to be a member of the human race, and tempt me to say disrespectful things about the whole pack of mad misogynistic monotheism mongering mullahs from Moses to the Mormons, but at great effort I refrain.
I repeat, you make me ashamed to be human."

If, in the future, any of you feel I have violated good manners or have launched an ad hominem attack not authorized by my own rules, please bring it to my attention.

I am now going to see what happened on that thread since I last looked in.  If I wind up shamed again at being human, I thank you again for the moments of pleasure at the prospect you have given me.
« Last Edit: July 15, 2011, 04:39:20 PM by Eloi McQueequog »
What's so funny about peace, love, and understanding?

Offline velkyn

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Re: Not a matter of faith...
« Reply #10 on: July 18, 2011, 10:37:22 AM »
I would try to avoid making it into a personal attack even then.  Even if someone is demonstrably ignorant, lying, dumb, or whatever, then shoving that fact in their face after spending however long trying to talk to them rationally can look very much like it's spite or frustration that provoked it.  And even at best, it can undercut the points made earlier - it gives them the out of "see, see, you're being irrational too!"
and they'd be lying again since I, or whoever else, isn't being irrational.  I do like to see them bear false witness too. 
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Not a matter of faith...
« Reply #11 on: July 18, 2011, 10:49:12 AM »
albeto,

if you change your goddamn creepy icon I will nominate you for rookie of the month.  excellent post.
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Offline velkyn

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Re: Not a matter of faith...
« Reply #12 on: July 18, 2011, 12:24:37 PM »
^^^^^ I keep swatting at my screen when albeto's icon comes up.   ;D
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