Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Shaming Process

I’ve been observing and taking part in on-line arguments regarding the existence of God for three years now. These interactions should be evaluated primarily by the value of their content, but I’ve also noticed a trend in their civility. Atheists, on average, are more douchy than theists. I don’t like admitting that the stereotype of the angry atheist is more often fulfilled than not, but I can’t deny it...and neither can I condemn it.

Unlike most theists, atheists don’t have an obligation to a doctrine of charity. We can be mean without being hypocritical, but should we?

My answer used to be a resounding “no.” Now, while I maintain the personal choice of “playing nice,” I can’t slight others for getting their hands dirty. Reason is only one way to affect hearts and minds, shame is another.  Bullying can work to deter others from adopting the subject of the abuse--which should be the erroneous belief and not the believer. I try to change minds, but I’ve seen that some people simply cannot see where their arguments fail. People like William Lane Craig profit off selling fallacious arguments to the sheep (their word, not mine) so indoctrinated that they will accept anything that vaguely resembles a justification for the belief in magic they so want to maintain. The vast majority of those I debate aren’t sources of the problem. They are just the parrots for those who propagate misinformation and champion uncritical thought. Even though most his work is simply a tactful rewording of long refuted philosophy, Craig isn’t a parrot. He actually comes up with this shit--making him one of two things (channeling comedian Adam Carolla here) stupid or a liar. Either way, he earns the shaming some choose to give, and, by proxy, the parrots do too.

I wish someone embarrassed me about my ridiculous beliefs when I was a Christian. In retrospect, that would have been a great service.

All I ask is that the belief, or at least the link to the belief, is what is shamed. Calling someone an idiot for believing in a talking snake is warranted. Calling someone inherently an idiot is not.


  1. Based solely on my own experience, I have to agree that Atheists are more likely to be rude, aggressive or abusive in online discussions. This behavior is directed at other Atheists almost as much as it against religious people. The sad truth is that I've had much better experiences on liberal religious sites than on Atheist sites. I have little patience for the "superior Atheist" attitude, which is frequently garnished with hypocrisy (like, "You should respect my credentials, but if you mention your credentials then I'll call it a fallacy and accuse you of evading the topic."). Like most people, Atheists like to privilege their own opinions as the null hypothesis, placing the burden of proof on anyone who disagrees. I've been in too many discussions with Atheists who say "I demand evidence!" but then refuse to listen to the evidence.

    1. That's because theists have no evidence to present. Theists present empty claims and blind faith as evidence and when it's pointed out that it's invalid evidence, they can't come up with anything better. The burden of proof is on the person making the positive claim in all cases. It doesn't matter what you're talking about, be it gods or Bigfoot or ghosts or honest politicians. The person who claims they exist has to prove it. Atheists have no burden of proof, we don't make positive claims. I actually find liberal theists worse in most cases because they won't even attempt to defend their beliefs, they just don't care.

    2. I think you missed my point. I'm talking about Atheists' common habit of assuming they have a null position in broad discussions beyond the basic "do you believe in god" issue. On just about every topic --- be it politics, science, philosophy, religion, history, you name it --- Atheists have a tendency to think they have arrived at the rational, educated position, and others are worthy of ridicule. It's extremely difficult to have a rational conversation with people who presume that all others are irrational. Again, this is based solely on my experience, but in more than 10 years of online activity, I've consistently found Atheist forums to be dominated by belligerent pea-brains who think they own science. The liberal Christians may be intellectually apathetic and wishywashy, but at least they engage charitably with people they don't know.

    3. Sorry, I haven't seen that. Oh sure, there are plenty of asshole atheists out there, there are plenty of asshole EVERYONE out there, but at least most atheists I run into can produce evidence and rational reasons why they're convinced they are right, whereas the religious only have blind faith and wishful thinking to back up their claims. You're upset at atheists for being educated when you ought to be mad at theists for taking such absurd positions to begin with. Accomodationism is not something to be proud of. If you actually care what's really true in the real world, the only position one can rationally go with is that there is no evidence for the existence of gods, period. Theists are simply wrong until they can present actual, objective evidence. That's not going to change and if you think I'm somehow mean because I go with reality, knock yourself out.

    4. @ Fair Coin Toss:
      I agree with you. The rhetorical ethics and flimsy rationality of many blogging atheists is very surprising.

  2. I find the biggest problem is it is often difficult to tell between the ignorant (I will gladly share the information) and the liars (I shame them). Unfortunately, I think most atheists (like me) sometimes just cant help getting upset when we hear the same stupid arguments everyday.

    1. And usually from the same people that you talked to yesterday and proved, conclusively, with evidence, that the nonsense they were babbling was completely and totally false, yet here they are today repeating the same old tired and entirely disproven nonsense over again.

    2. It's as if some people's brains reboot every morning with the failures of yesterday wiped from their minds.

    3. @ Christian,

      I agree, those same stupid arguments over and over can be nauseatingly irritating.

      Hell, in medicine, I hear the same stupid thinking and stupid questions over and over: “Doctor, Am I contagious”? And though I want to laugh or cry at such ignorance, I try to stay compassionate and helpful. But damn it, some days it is just tough!

  3. Plenty of mean atheists out there, but I don't share your view that there are more atheist ones than theist ones - online or otherwise. Theists have been dehumanizing people for hundreds of years. They frequently say we're going to hell; a place of torment for all time and they feel that punishment is justified. I disagree with them but would never think such a fate justified.

    I do agree that some atheists come off as being smug or angry. I'm sure many a theist has thought that about me. It's hard to tell online, since they can't hear my voice or see my facial expression.

    However, I've been told that I'm being disrespectful when trying to disagree in the most respectful way possible. I think the mere act of disagreeing is seen as angry by some.

  4. An atheist friend used to be a frequent guest on a local talk show hosted by a religious man. He was soft-spoken & respectful of callers. Despite the host warning viewers not to argue the Bible because Joe knew it better than most Christians, callers just couldn't help themselves. When Joe quoted chapter & verse in his easy manner, showing how the Bible contradicted what the caller had just quoted, it left many callers speechless. But occasionally, when a caller had no arguments left, s/he would start yelling that he was the reason for the downfall of the country, or the world, and he was going to hell, or wished a horrible disease on him because he was too stupid to see God's truth. Well, who looked stupid then?

    I've never understood why someone thinks an argument can be won with insults.

    I think it's been scientifically proven that it is nearly impossible to change long-held beliefs. If you try to dissuade someone from such a belief, no matter what facts you have or how reasonable your argument, s/he will dig in his/her heels to believe it even more. I think if you try to persuade with a snarky or superior attitude, the other person stops listening.

    Think of a time when you changed your mind about something. You may have information you didn't have before or you saw it from a different point of view. But even then, I would think any argument would have planted a small seed that needed time to grow. If you were curious, you might read about the subject or look for other points of view. Eventually, you might change your mind ---or not.

    If, the issue were about religion, you may have talked to family members, a minister, or even a religious friend or therapist, and might be persuaded to dismiss your doubts.

    Many religious people see benefits in their religions. Churches give a sense of belonging. They give one the perception of having power over one's own fate. (If I pray enough, am pious enough, believe enough, good things will happen.) They remove the fear of death with promises of an afterlife. They give people the satisfaction of "doing good" for others. Christianity gives one the benefit of thinking if one screws up, one will be forgiven. They offer the appearance of being honest ---thus many local business owners want to be seen as religious, even if they aren't. Churches offer tradition and rituals that some find comforting. Several people have told me that after they left their religion, they felt an enormous emptiness because they missed some or all of these things. There is a great emotional loss in leaving a religious community, or even worse, being rejected by family members.

    We can point out benefits to being non-religious, but I think they are less tangible.

    After more than a half century of doubt. I can't believe I would ever change my mind. So I understand when religious people are sure they will never change theirs, either.

    I've had a couple of friends who seem to change religions about as often as they rotate their tires. I always think they are looking for something outside of themselves that they need to find within.

    Most of the atheists I know have independent personalities. They don't need a religious community to back them up. Some religious people will never be able to be like that. Insulting them will only make them feel less worthy and they will run toward, not away from, their religion where like-minded people will accept them.

    Telling someone they are an idiot for believing is not only rude, it is disrespectful, it just proves to religious people that nonbelievers are no good. Atheists are already the most hated group of people in the nation. Why not speak respectfully and without name-calling?

  5. Take this however you will, but I can't be bullied into leaving my faith. In fact, were you to place a gun to my head and tell me that unless I verbally recanted, or signed some confession, or whatnot, you would pull the trigger, I'd just tell you to go ahead and pull the trigger. I'm one of those stubborn guys who, if you tell him he can't do something, then (unless I already think I can't or immediately see that I can't), will just become determined to do that very thing, just to show you up. lol Point being: shaming, bullying, and the like won't deliver the goods. I'd have someone kill me before becoming apostate, if the sheer motivation for being apostate was saving my own life. No, it would have to take a disproof of Christianity or God's existence, and that's not been forthcoming.

    1. In the bible it says pray and you will receive (always). Tonight pray for a Ferrari, blue with pink seats. Awake tomorrow and it has to be there in your driveway.....or god does not exist.

      That or the bible is false. And if the Bible is false how do you know anything about your god?