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.


112 Responses to “A distinction”

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  1. Mike Meier says:

    Ryan is quite right about the ridicule meted out here. No matter how absurd or offensive or hypocritical a post made here may be, it does no good to reply with ridicule and scorn and I think it reflects poorly on this project and all of its participants. If the replies offered here were such that they’d keep the person in the conversation, then it is possible that they might see the point of FSM. Maybe not agree, but they might see.
    I also agree with Ryan that when you are criticizing someone’s religion that you may be criticizing something that may be a major component in their identity. His comparison of mocking one’s religion to mocking anything else about a person is valid. A fool or an unfortunate person may be an easy target for ridicule, but that doesn’t mean we should do it. Consider their feelings, the situation, and what exactly it is you want to accomplish by speaking up, then find and appropriate and effective way to do it. That hypothetical 16 year old with an invisible friend mentioned above, mocking him will hurt him, do no one any good, and eventually he’ll show up in a shopping mall at Christmas-time and start shooting people. The guy obviously needs help, so help him, or get help for him, but don’t rub it in his face.
    To the extent that Ryan thinks we should not criticize one’s religion, or invisible friend, just because it is near and dear to them, I disagree completely. We should speak out to challenge foolish ideas, to wake people up, to correct practices that are doing harm. Many of us here have figured out how ludicrous and harmful Christianity actually is, so it then becomes our job to teach this to others. But it is counter-productive to use the opportunity to belittle everyone else. Suppose you are the first kid in math class to solve a problem. What good does it do to then stand up and call everyone else stupid because they haven’t figured it out already. More importantly, what harm does it do?

  2. storm petrel says:

    @ Ryan, apologies for the ramblingness.
    There’s a saying in Ireland ‘Better Catholic than he/she is a Christian’ (I’m sure it’s more widespread and has different variations, but that’s beside the point), meaning someone who goes to church, confession, does exactly as the priest tells them etc., but has no real regard for other human beings, someone who is more concerned with being religious than Christ-like. Many christians who come onto this site fall into this catagory, while I doubt a huge number of them as catholic, most seem more concerned with the literal translation of their book and gloating that we’re all going to burn in hell for not believing than anything else. Obviously no one here can say for certain what their real values are, but coming here, waving a bible around and telling us we’re going to hell with glee will bring nothing but ridicule, if they were to look for actual discussion, they’d get it, although there is sometimes a bit of a knee-jerk reaction because of the fire and brimstone types.
    As for the hypothesis of ID versus the theory of evolution, if the idea that everything in the world just popped out of nothing when god thought of it is the core of someones belief and how they define themselves, I pity them that they won’t ask questions, ‘God did it’ is not an acceptable alternative to ‘I don’t know yet’ in a science context until someone finds a way to measure god’s involvement, like it or not, ‘God did it’ is the basis of ID.
    Thank you for being reasonable. Reasonable people are always welcome, regardless of belief system or lack thereof. Insanity is also welcome for the entertainment value.

  3. Red DutchPasta Wench says:

    There have been (and still are) christians on this site who came for good honest discussions. Those are welcome and are treated politely. Their views.. not always as polite :) But to me there is an important distinction there.
    Just don’t expect most of us here that are not reliogious/believers to be converted or anything, that would be a total waste of time. And elicit some pretty strong responses too.

  4. Pluto says:

    “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.”
    Yes that’s right.
    “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.”
    Yes that’s right too!
    Ryan I understand that you are trying to promote a degree of tolerance. But let me remind you that they come here looking to prove us and scientific understanding wrong. You must appreciate that some are worse than others. The poorer their point or the more insulting they are (often the same people but not always) the more… caustic the reply may be. I’m sorry to say that it’s hard not to come across as patronising to those who apparently understand very little about the points they are arguing. Some of these guys make absurdly uninformed arguments so we point out the flaws. Then they try to counter argument, exposing more flaws and so on. Sometime you just have to point out they are idiots and live with it, because sometimes that is exactly what they are. If you can find a better term for those who are shown evidence but keep on rambling the same point over and over regardless of, or some times in spite of, what they have been shown then let me know.

  5. jason the amazing whiteboy says:

    Honestly i do take religious belief itself into question. i have attempted to believe when i was 9-12 years old by spending those 3 summers in catholic christian camps in Canada, but i found no satisfaction or security with “god’s and jesus’s love” that was preached. I still don’t. I don’t see how the belief in god can really help me, unless there really is a burning hell and a heaven. Even then, it would be a forced belief running off the threat of sending me to hell. Not exactly something i would enjoy believing in. In this way, i prefer pastafarianism, because it is a religion you can actually enjoy practicing.

  6. Pirates Evolve Too says:

    @ Ryan,
    Most atheists (that I know) don’t have much of a problem with the beliefs of individuals…the beliefs and actions of the institution are what really get most of us going. Unfortunately, the truly valuable philosophies taught by the many prophets of the world get swept under the carpet and traded for the more proactive (and often violent) teachings of these religious leaders. I absolutely agree that the satire FSM and others often uses can bring these beliefs and “identities” into question. That being said, I don’t think that that is always a bad thing.
    In the case of Intelligent Design and Creationism, the founding reason for Pastafarianism (Ramen), it is exactly the case you bring up in your posting: “You’re dealing with something that, more than being a ‘precious belief’ per se, is an important part of many people’s identity.” Now expand that, Ryan…ID and Creationist proponents want to give equal weight to explanations for biological processes with NO experimental evidence that has not undergone any aspect of testing with scientific rigor (i.e., as your post states, give equal weight to the illogical (faith-based) as the logical (scientifically-based)). Now to re-state your quote: You’re dealing with something that, more than being a “precious belief” per se, is an important part of the explanation for everything biological! When Christian fundamentalist thought goes so far as to attempt to teach religious mythology as science in public schools (recall that thing called the Constitution?), it is time for severe action on our part that may come across as patronizing and uncaring (and it is) because it is our place as people who know the scientific method and evidence for evolution, to defend truth against belief.
    Thank you again for you post, it has started good and thoughtful debate! Please respond back and let us know your thoughts.


  7. Momi Pink Shoes says:

    Stop trying to use big words to make yourself sound smart. You’ve failed at that already…

  8. Momi Pink Shoes says:

    @Jason – I second that!

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