A distinction

Published December 5th, 2007 by Bobby Henderson

A distinction:

I appreciate what you’re saying, and I think it’s important to hear. In writing with such wry and caustic humour, you’re able to really effectively reveal the absurdity of what’s happened. There is a difference, however, between parody and ridicule. At points your sarcasm (“one third time for logical conjecture,” etc.) becomes quite harsh and implies that the religious view denies logic and reasoning wholesale.

You’re dealing with something that, more than being a “precious belief” per se, is an important part of many people’s identity. Many define themselves, not just peripherally, but primarily as “Christians.” Attacking that belief system without at least giving it some hint of respect or sensitivity is akin to mocking a person’s chosen lifestyle, personality, or preferences as not just different but illogical and wrong. You can’t in one section write ironically about the deductive demerits of believing in written scripture as a priori truth and then claim to avoid attacking the very heart of a person’s belief system and philosophical identity. You have literally brought the very basis of not only Christian teaching but religious belief in general into question, and in a fairly patronising and uncompromising way.

I’m not asking you to “present both sides” or any equally bullshit measure. But I am asking you to be empathetic. When criticising the core of a person’s self-identity (what they believe in), it’s important to be a little more humane.

Ryan



112 Responses to “A distinction”

  1. G'kar says:

    Ryan,
    Get over yourself. Have you noticed how the good men and women of religion ridicule those who believe differently than they do? If not, then you’re not paying attention. A parody of religion would not be complete if it did not address the tendency of most religions to dismiss out of hand the beliefs (or especially non belief) of others.

  2. perna de pau says:

    The religious view does indeed deny logic and reasoning wholesale.
    .
    “Attacking that belief system without at least giving it some hint of respect or sensitivity is akin to mocking a person’s chosen lifestyle, personality, or preferences as not just different but illogical and wrong.” It is, on the contrary, very logical and not at all wrong. I respect any person but do not ask me to respect beliefs or otherwise everybody should respect every belief and I am sure you would not agree with such an idiocy.
    .
    We do indeed bring the very basis of not only Christian teaching but religious belief in general into question.
    .
    Thank you for a polite and well articulated post
    .
    Ramen

  3. Black Hearted Jake says:

    Ryan
    If you, as a Christian, do as has been prescribed in your so-called holy book, try to convert people to your world view, you are disdainful of their point of view. En autre mots, you have no empathy for them.
    Don’t you see the irony in your comments ?

    Gold ?

  4. Dave says:

    Ryan – A very thoughtful and considered communication with one tiny flaw – it doesn’t matter how deeply someone believes something, if it is not true then indulging them in this delusion is rather patronising so yes we should question irrational beliefs in any way we see fit. If someone is bothered by that then maybe they are beginning to realise that these beliefs are false.

  5. pieces o'nine says:

    @ Ryan:
    First, thank you for writing a thoughtful and civil email; it invites discussion and that’s something many of us enjoy.
    .
    “You’re dealing with something that, more than being a “precious belief” per se, is an important part of many people’s identity. Many define themselves, not just peripherally, but primarily as “Christians.” Attacking that belief system without at least giving it some hint of respect or sensitivity is akin to mocking a person’s chosen lifestyle, personality, or preferences as not just different but illogical and wrong. You can’t in one section write ironically about the deductive demerits of believing in written scripture as a priori truth and then claim to avoid attacking the very heart of a person’s belief system and philosophical identity. You have literally brought the very basis of not only Christian teaching but religious belief in general into question, and in a fairly patronising and uncompromising way.”
    .
    > You have summarized this very well. People, unless something is terribly wrong in their environment, tend to follow a live-and-let-live philosophy — until their comfort zone is challenged. When that happens, those ruled by emotion strike back swiftly and without reason (part of that evolved-in-some-species, biological ‘fight or flight’ reaction taught in science classes). It would be great if everyone deferred with courtesy to each other at all times, but when a belief system is integral to processing experience, people are capable of amazing self-deception and aggression in order to protect their beliefs. (Whether those beliefs are religious or political makes no difference.)
    .
    > That said, any challenge to the proposed policies of someone who identifies very strongly with a religion in formulating those proposed policies, will be seen as an attack on the belief system, if not the individual, and often inflated as an attack upon the religion as a whole. There’s no way around that one.
    .
    > There *are* annoying and embarrassing ‘fundies’ in all camps. But in the chronic debate on whether to teach science or one arbitrarily-designated religion in U.S. science classrooms, being the most affable guy in the room is a luxury neither side can afford. Since this *is* being treated as a serious debate, serious debate tactics are called for. The winner is the one who is able to marshal the most logical and convincing arguments, backed up with facts — not emotional appeals or threats of hellfire. The winner is also skilled in ruthlessly identifying, isolating, and demolishing the opponent’s weakest positions with reason and logic. Sometimes humor helps in challenging absurd positions. Sometimes it offends.
    .
    > It is unfortunate that a religious person may feel personally ridiculed or marginalized in challenges to dogmatic teachings in this debate. But, that goes with the territory of identifying strongly with any position, *especially* one which forbids any adaption to increases in knowledge and understanding beyond that held by a hidebound elder. At the same time, those who most keenly feel the slings and arrows of outrageous opposition may be rushing to the front of the fight, with no intention of pulling their own punches. So no, I don’t really feel sorry them. And I don’t expect them to feel sorry for me, either. (And many *don’t*, based on the tone of the most hateful, threatening, barely-literate zealot mails I have read on this subject.) (Which, to be fair, doesn’t excuse ‘ignurnt’, threatening, or vicious rants from violently anti-fundies, eager to bring their own little gas cans to the flame war.)
    .
    .
    “When criticising the core of a person’s self-identity (what they believe in), it’s important to be a little more humane.”
    .
    > Yes, it is. Yet, by that standard, when fundamentalist-backed legislation — at any level — threatens the core of *my* identity (attempts to: impose gender-biased standards for hiring and wages; restrict access to ‘heretical’ knowledge; and interfer in proactive health care, just for starters) “humane” is conspicuous by its absence.
    .
    > Please continue the conversation you’ve initiated here, Ryan. Cooler heads and civil discourse all around are preferable to and more effective than insult contests.

  6. Jean Bart says:

    Another xian feeling attacked. Will those people NEVER learn to read?
    .
    Since our prophet doesn’t seem to like the medals thing, I won’t claim the gold one. Anyway, half a dozen of posts are surely awaiting moderation while I’m writing this…

  7. PastaTux says:

    Excellent distinction Ryan. We can sometimes become a little harsh but, and I am setting myself up for some harshness my self here, I view the Church of the FSM as addressing a wider issue. This specific issue about teaching ID along side evolution as a scientific theory is a symptom of a greater problem.

    The rise of radical Religious Fundamentalism, be it Islam, Christianity or even (believe it or not) Buddhism, is a real threat not just to global security but to reason itself. Being respectful of another’s right to believe what they want is one thing. Accepting that that belief entitles them to inflict those beliefs on others is another.

    Enacting laws, or interpreting and enforcing existing laws based on religious agendas and doctrine is completely unacceptable and should be ridiculed. We live in a world where teachers are put in prison (with the citizenry calling for their execution) because they allowed their class to name a teddy bear “Mohamed”. The time for Political correctness is long passed if we want to oppose those elements of our own societies that would have us do away with the separation of church and state.

    Ridicule is quite appropriate when the proposition that is it’s subject is ridiculous.

    RAmen
    (Gold?)

  8. Jean Bart says:

    Grrrr… my gold-winning message (about xians feeling exclusively attacked and needing to learn to read) has disappeared, as well as the “name and mail” information. Whatever medal (ooops, our prophet doesn’t like those shiny things showing up here too much) could be attached to THIS very message, I wonder… Go! (and probably disappear)…

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