I have made no secret in the past of my disdain for ridicule and deliberate offence in arguments concerning religion, homosexuality, politics, or any other subject matter. I find the practice of ridiculing other viewpoints, no matter how misinformed, to be deplorable. Debate and discussion on these topics are worthy of having, and when somebody comes in with the tactless approach of ridiculing those on the other side, the discussion shuts down. This is not to say that harsh criticisms are inappropriate, they certainly have their place; but when you deliberately insult your opponent, you give them every reason to dismiss you as a joke. At that point, it doesn’t matter if you are right or not. It matters only that you have lost your respectability and, with it, the entire argument. The whole point of debate is to reach an understanding between two differing viewpoints, and in that pursuit, arguments informed by rage serve no good purpose. Cooler heads prevail … always.
If you have ever gone to one of the many popular websites dedicated to Atheism, you have seen many pictures, memes, and comments all trying to out-do one another as the most offensive. Not all Atheists engage in this behaviour, but online atheist forums, at least in my experience, attract the most vicious people; who cower behind their keyboards and attack with anonymity (this happens on Christian forums as well, but not to the same extent). Now, I understand the anger. Christianity has caused a lot of problems that we have every right to be angry about. Those problems, however, are not going to be resolved with long, barely legible tirades written all in CAPS. A lot of the anger and rage on these forums consist of memorized and regurgitated statements made by people who don’t really understand what they are ranting against. As a result, they come across as unintelligent, over-emotional, and lacking credibility. Even when the person is knowledgeable, engaging in ridicule negates any appearance of authority. When did the idea that ridicule would change minds take hold among intelligent people?
For the most part, anger aside, I agree with the general premises upon which anti-religion arguments are based. I am particularly fond of the eloquent arguments put forward by Richard Dawkins. Dawkins, however, has encouraged people to ridicule the religious community over the last couple of years. This is completely unacceptable, especially for a public figure who claims to value reason above all else. A reasonable person understands that remaining calm and avoiding deliberate insult is the best way to engage with people. A reasonable person knows that rational arguments, presented tactfully, will spark thought in the minds of their opponents. A reasonable person understands that resorting to ridicule is cowardly and intellectually dishonest. Richard Dawkins is not above accountability here, and neither are we. I have had enough of fighting for social equality and seeing progress, only to then watch some hothead lose his/her mind and set the movement back. We are all responsible for social equality, the things we say online matter. To everybody who reads what we post, we represent whatever ideals we’re espousing. Just as people representing religion have characterized it in a very bad light, we are negating our own cause when we go against our own values of reason, honesty, and equality. It has to stop.
The criticism at this point will undoubtedly be that I am being unfair. After all, don’t religious people do it too? What about the harm created by their doctrine, the protests where they shout obscenities at people, and the countless historical wrongs committed? That’s a valid criticism, and I’ll respond with another question. What progress do you see them making? The harmful doctrine, the protests, and the historical wrongs are making people cringe and turn away. Society’s growing aversion to religion is proving my point. I don’t want that to happen in reverse. What happens when society develops an aversion to LGBTQ rights because too many people are fighting ignorance with ignorance? Atheism has a really bad name in North America right now, in large part due to the insistence of some prominent atheists on seeking to offend and name-call rather than appropriately discuss. Feminism is hated among much of our population, not because it’s bad, but because it’s misunderstood thanks to those who gave it a bad name over the past few decades. How many more examples do we need? How many more positive ideas have to be thrown under the proverbial bus by our arrogance? Why do we allow anger to interfere with reason?
If you feel the need to offend, I feel sorry for you. There is no good reason to put people down, and if that makes you feel better about yourself, you obviously have other issues to deal with. We all get angry at injustice, and we all feel rage over wrongs committed in the name of religion; or whatever else. The time we feel that rage is not the time to be running to our computers. That is the time to step back and allow it all to settle. The people responsible for your anger will still be there after you calm down, and they will be much more receptive to your criticisms when you are able to make a calm and reasoned argument against them. Cooler heads prevail … always.