Let me start a new comment tree with this, since it's going to be lengthy. As you climb the reply tree, the branches get much more narrow.
Internet debates are notoriously ineffective at changing anyone's mind or even enabling fruitful discussions, but if I'm going to come in here and rain on people's parade by questioning the fun people are having by mocking religion--well if I'm going to cause trouble like that, then I should be accommodating.
I think we're a bit better than average, on here, unless you're talking to one of our extreme anarcho-capitalist Libertarians.
I doubt you'll change my basic stance, but you could make me add several more conditionals or something. I dunno. Let me read the rest of your response.
It makes sense to me that atheist criticism should be superior to believer criticism because we have facts on logic on our side. Of course, when a bunch of atheists get together and agree that it just seems right that we're superior in some way, I try not to give a lot of weight to those sorts of judgments. It's subjective, self-serving, and without empirical evidence. I still think it's right, but I'm too skeptical to take that feeling very seriously. It's human nature to caricature one's opponents, and we're human. Maybe when we think we're being fair, we're not being as fair as we think we are.
You always run the risk of an echo chamber, yes. It helps if you have a few obsessive-compulsives in the group to help keep people honest. I don't know if you've noticed, but I lean towards often-pointless pedantry, myself.
I don't think we engage in random bashing as much as you're implying here. When you're around a bit longer on here, you might notice that far more of the conversational threads have more to do with what cool scientific stuff we've been reading about lately, which video games we've been playing, or what the extreme religious-right is up to lately, with their latest 1st-Amendment-demolishing attempts.
That last one sometimes includes some bashing, but it's more topical.
I lean a bit more in the aggressive direction, myself, since I'm up to my hips (I was going to say something else in that general vicinity, but you get the idea) in Christian apologetics, with this YouTube series I'm currently writing. You get a good bit of variety, and I lean a bit more towards the anti-religious side. I only noticed a little while ago that you're in Seattle ... so yeah, you're going to be more towards the moderate end of things, most likely, since you're not constantly surrounded by fundies.
But let's agree that our subjective, self-serving viewpoint is actually right after all. Maybe it is! Even so, I would reverse Joseph's formulation. He said that we are "more fair." That implies that the believers are fair and we are even more fair. I'd reverse it. The believers are unfair (obviously), and we are "less unfair."
Works out the same, as far as I'm concerned. You can phrase it however you like. I in no way would state or mean to imply that atheists are completely fair in their statements about religious types. I've seen a few atheistic assholes who have no idea what they're talking about, and I generally try to slap some sense into them, when it's clear they haven't had even Logic 117 (or was that 114?; it's been too many years).
I still return to my original question. How does it look when we mock religion? Do other people say, "Wow, those atheists are less unfair than believers. They must be onto something"? Or do they see us being unfair and use that against us.
You might be surprised. I've talked to several now-atheists who were snapped out of their religious brainwashing by mockery. I don't have any numbers on what kind of percentages we're talking about, and I'm not sure how we would even get them, but it works in some cases.
Mocking someone's silly beliefs can sometimes make them examine those beliefs to see what the other people are talking about. That's mostly why I do it ... or for my own amusement, but I try to be accurate in my mockery, either way.
Joseph characterized my view as saying that no one should criticize anyone else's views. Maybe what I'm saying is that, as human beings prone to in-group biases, we should be extremely careful about how we criticize religion. I'm a partisan, I'm pro-atheist, and I want us to be better than the believers. Maybe we're already better than they are, but I'd like us to go further. Caricaturing outsiders is ancient, tribal, lowest-common-denominator human behavior. Am I crazy to expect better from us?
I don't particularly disagree with what you say in this paragraph. I think my primary objection is your characterization of what is actually going on.
I'm almost always very precise in my criticisms. It's generally open-season on the bigoted, anti-gay, anti-education fundies, but I take a more moderate tone, any time I'm talking about the fuzzier cafeteria-Christians. My problem with the latter group is mostly on less emotional, philosophical grounds.
If generalizing about all criticism of religion is too vague, here's another way I look at it. Naturally, some of our criticism of religion is less fair and some more fair (possibly even totally fair, in some instances). If some of our criticisms are more unfair than others, then we should have the insight to notice that and to call out the least fair criticisms. Let's have higher standards.
Which I do, yes. I usually do a pretty good job of laying on the context, I think. Where someone is being very vague and blasting religion in general for the behavior of 20% or 30% of them, I'll generally come in with the details that that person left out.
Thanks for the amiable reply, Joseph.
No worries. My entire initial objection was mostly to the metaphors you drew, I think. When you get Christians bashing Muslims or Muslims bashing Jews, you get far more hyperbolic language and vague ad hominems, characterizing the outies as some soft of subhuman something-or-other.
Generally, with atheists going after the religious, it's an assault on their beliefs. Most of the personal abuse I see is only something along the lines of "What's wrong with you that you can't see how illogical/damaging/immoral this crap is?"
I think that's a perfectly valid approach to try to get people to self-examine a little.
Jonathan, in a recent post you wrote "It makes sense to me that atheist criticism should be superior to believer criticism ...."
You perhaps haven't seen the bumper-sticker remark "Don't should on yourself."
I saw it and read it two ways: "Don't tell yourself you should do what a religion long told you to do" and the more concise "Don't shit on yourself."
Religions use guilt and shame to effect change, and your saying atheist criticism should satisfy a need you have selfishly ignores the needs of others.
You're wanting commentary you are not now finding here. Don't use the methods of religion.
Teach it. Describe its superiority. Tell us the benefits it has given you.
Don't should on yourself or on others.
Jonathan was using "should" as a synonym for "would".
Jonathan told you so, Luara, or do you use the two words interchangeably?
In the context he was using it, "should" means "would". It's an English usage.
Don't would on yourself?
Thanks for taking the conversation to the next level, Tom. It sounds like you've found something that we can all agree on: let's not replicate the bad habits of religions. Let's not use guilt and shame to effect change, as you say.
Am I the only person who noticed the atrocious English in this forum? After I got over the gross misuse of particles however I do agree. Religion is somewhat of an infectious disease. I wouldn't call it a virus though because virus's can't be cured. However it's likely bacterial and education is the most effective antibiotic.
The virus analogy is because the "religion virus" commandeers the host's psychology to replicate itself. Viruses aren't independently alive, bacteria are.
There are antiviral drugs :)