Author Topic: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?  (Read 2582 times)

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Offline John Albert

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #15 on: March 03, 2019, 11:07:40 AM »
Again, and for the last time, I am not defending any belief or action, nor am I saying that deplorable beliefs should not be criticized or even attacked; they absolutely should.

Until this last post you hadn't even admitted that deplorable religious beliefs should be criticized. That omission was quite conspicuous.

And when you caution against criticizing bad beliefs on the flimsy premise that it somehow victimizes believers, you're tacitly providing cover for all kinds of toxic ideologies, just because the believers might be sincere. That approach is neither skeptical nor reasonable, and it's socially irresponsible.

Have you never heard the old adage, "the road to Hell is paved with good intentions"? The history books are full of horrors perpetrated in the name of sincere beliefs.


What I am saying is that whether criticisms or attacks upon those beliefs are criticisms and attacks upon the individuals who hold them depends not upon how the critic or attacker views those beliefs, but on how the believer does.

That's a really flawed approach to triaging harm. If a victim of a slap on the wrist told you that their harm was worse than that of the other guy who got his head split open with a sledgehammer, would you believe it? 

Besides, it's well known that oppressors in positions of power have a tendency to overdramatize their suffering whenever their privilege is challenged.


If a belief is a fundamental part of a person’s identity, then it cannot be attacked without that attack being personal.

That's a hasty generalization. Any perception of being attacked would depend on the disposition of the believer, and whether or not it's actually an attack would depend on the intentions of the critic.

I suppose that excessively harsh criticism of an idea could be used in bad faith to personally insult a believer, but sincere criticisms of ideas are generally not personal attacks. It all comes down to what is meant by the word, "attack." An attack requires malicious intent. If the critic didn't intend to cause harm, then it's not appropriate to call it an "attack." In that case, the feeling of being attacked would be a misunderstanding on the part of the believer.

On the other hand, it's fairly common for stubborn ideologues to reject all criticism as a personal attack, just to deflect any information that conflicts with their beliefs. It's also quite common for individuals with a martyr complex (a psychological condition that Christian ideology actively cultivates) to misconstrue something as an attack which was not intended as such.


I said only that one should acknowledge that one is, in fact making an attack that is personal in nature.

No, I'm not going to acknowledge that, because it's not necessarily true. Just because the believer feels attacked, that doesn't mean the criticism was really an attack. At any rate, part of becoming a mature adult is learning to handle challenges to our personal beliefs. We all have to deal with criticism sometimes, and religions don't deserve any more protection from criticism than any other ideology. They've enjoyed special privilege for far too long already.


That is the only argument I have made in this thread.

Remember, you also argued that criticizing religion is just as bad as when religious people vilify and persecute women and minorities. That argument is beyond the pale.


All of the horrible things you have accused me of and the attempts you have made to smear me are simply lies.

As for "all the horrible things I have accused you of," you inferred those things when you equated the criticism of religion with actual attacks on women and LGBTQ people, and then refused to admit that there's any moral imperative to criticize that persecution.
« Last Edit: March 03, 2019, 12:55:53 PM by John Albert »

Offline John Albert

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #16 on: March 03, 2019, 09:48:34 PM »
1. I have repeatedly said that ideas could and should be criticized, and I even went into detail about how I myself chose to use an image as my avatar which I knew would cause some people offense because I judged that it’s benefits outweighed its harms.

Okay, I went back and reread, and I see that now. My apologies.


2. I did not caution against criticizing beliefs; I said that criticizing some beliefs was necessarily personal.  I have in fact repeatedly endorsed such criticism provided that it is done with the understanding and acceptance that such attacks are personal.

3. I did not say that criticism of beliefs victimized believers.  Those are your words.

Sorry to split hairs, but you repeatedly characterized criticism of beliefs as an "attack." An attack is, by definition, a "victimization" of the person being attacked.

         
What people are saying as that you should not pretend that doing so is not a personal attack on the holders of those beliefs; it necessarily is.

What I am saying is that whether criticisms or attacks upon those beliefs are criticisms and attacks upon the individuals who hold them depends not upon how the critic or attacker views those beliefs, but on how the believer does. If a belief is a fundamental part of a person’s identity, then it cannot be attacked without that attack being personal.

Now I admit that some acerbic anti-religious polemics may be issued in bad faith, with the intent of causing insult. But in general, reasonable criticism of a harmful idea is usually not intended as a personal attack against the believers. Some believers may choose to characterize all criticism as an "attack" or may even feel it as a personal offense, but that may not necessarily be the case.

A mere accusation or hurt feelings does not convert a dispassionate, well-meaning criticism into an "attack." That is a most uncharitable interpretation. An attack requires aggressive intent. Lacking aggressive intent on the part of the offender, the offense is not really an "attack." Such an offense would be more appropriately categorized as an "accident" or perhaps a "misunderstanding." 


4. I did not argue that “criticizing religion is just as bad as when religious people vilify and persecute women and minorities.”  I argued that criticism of religious beliefs may be as personal as criticizing sexuality, race or gender.  You have repeatedly misconstrued these statements in a way that, as you have repeatedly been corrected, I can only assume is willfully dishonest.

You said that criticizing religious beliefs is necessarily just as personal as criticizing somebody's race or sexual identity:

         
To criticize their beliefs is to criticize them personally, as surely as would be criticizing another person's race or sexual identity.

Which is also not true. No matter how many times you keep reiterating this same ridiculous argument, criticizing a belief is not the same thing as vilifying a class of people. Beliefs are not people.

Vilifying an entire demographic as perverted evildoers, as religious people often do when speaking of the LGBTQ community; that is a much, much more pointed and personal attack that criticizing flaws in a widespread ideology or belief system. 

Given the manner and extent to which the "holy" texts and religious leaders have historically vilified LGBTQ people and mandated extreme oppression against women (and still continue to do, to this day), equating that kind of actual attack with criticizing a religious belief is a particularly odious statement.


5. The word infer does not mean what you think it does; you meant imply.

Sorry for the grammatical error.


6. I implied no such things, nor, as I have repeated again above, did I draw the equivalence you claim I did.

You argued that it's just as personal. Critiquing a belief is obviously not just as personal as attacking an actual person.


7. Again you lie when you construe anything I’ve said as suggesting that criticism of bad ideas and beliefs, much less of bad actions, is not justified.  I have only said (and repeatedly clarified) that such criticisms may be unavoidably personal in that they strike at the core of the identity of those who strongly hold those beliefs and that we should not deny that fact when we engage in such criticism even when justified because its justification does not in any way make it less personal.

OK, point taken.

You think that criticizing the oppressive teachings of religion is a sometimes justified personal attack against believers, which is also somehow functionally equivalent to personal attacks against innocent women and LGBTQ people.

I don't understand how that line of reasoning is supposed to work. But I'll try not to accuse you again, of saying that criticism of religion is not justified. 
« Last Edit: March 04, 2019, 01:13:09 AM by John Albert »

Offline arthwollipot

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #17 on: March 03, 2019, 10:21:45 PM »
You think that criticizing the oppressive teachings of religion is a sometimes justified personal attack against believers, which is also somehow functionally equivalent to personal attacks against innocent women and LGBTQ people.

You seem determined to mischaracterize everything I say.  For what seems like the thousandth time, I did not claim that criticism of religious ideas was 'functionally equivalent' to criticism of religion or that it was in any other way equivalent except that such criticisms may be equally personal. I don't know how much clearer I can be than that.

If it helps, I'm not having any trouble following you at all.
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Offline John Albert

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #18 on: March 03, 2019, 11:28:53 PM »
If it helps, I'm not having any trouble following you at all.

That's only because you realize he's been trying all along to defend your worldview. The language of that last post is so tortured that I can only guess at what he was trying to say.
« Last Edit: March 04, 2019, 04:53:48 AM by John Albert »

Offline John Albert

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #19 on: March 04, 2019, 04:53:27 AM »
You seem determined to mischaracterize everything I say.  For what seems like the thousandth time, I did not claim that criticism of religious ideas was 'functionally equivalent' to criticism of religion or that it was in any other way equivalent except that such criticisms may be equally personal. I don't know how much clearer I can be than that.

This statement is not clear to me at all. I never said you claimed that criticism of religious ideas is 'functionally equivalent' to criticism of religion. I don't know what that's supposed to mean. Are religious ideas different from the religion itself? I'm assuming it was a typo.

These are the main points of my argument, which you keep ignoring:
  • You've said that the intellectual criticism of religious beliefs is just as personal as bigotry against women and LGBTQ people.

    (click to show/hide)

    That is a blatant false equivalence. Bigotry against women and LGBTQ folks—which includes campaigning to eliminate their civil rights—is much more personal than merely criticizing the logical and moral failings of somebody's ideology. Criticizing an ideology is in no way equivalent to oppression or defamation of a people. Women and the LGBTQ community are not doctrines, beliefs or ideologies that can be critiqued; they're real people who suffer physical consequences from oppression, over and above having their feelings hurt by the public debate (though they undoubtedly suffer that too). 

  • Classifying an alleged offense as an "attack" requires not only an allegation of harm on the part of the offended party, but also malicious intent on the part of the attacker. When evaluating such a case, it's only reasonable to consider both sides of the interaction and not just to take the accuser at their word that the offender's intent was malicious.

  • While religious persecution is often used to attack minority groups, that does not mean that all criticism of religious beliefs is a de facto attack on anyone personally.


You seem determined to mischaracterize everything I say. 

Not at all. I'm just not sure I understand how you get to some of the conclusions you're asserting.

It seems as if you're unwilling to separate transitory mental constructs like ideologies and feelings from the flesh-and-blood human beings who entertain them. Consequently, you seem to regard those constructs as deserving of similar respect and moral considerations as actual people. I think that's kind of crazy and I'm glad our legal system doesn't operate according to those principles.
« Last Edit: March 04, 2019, 10:25:59 AM by John Albert »

Offline John Albert

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #20 on: March 04, 2019, 10:44:49 AM »
Maybe I can clarify my position by framing it as a stark hypothetical situation.

Suppose I'm going around telling school kids that all their math books are wrong, and "π equals exactly 3." I go on to instruct them that they should be using the integer 3 for all their calculations of π in math class. If their teachers try to tell them any different, then they have a moral obligation to push back against the status quo.

If you were to correct me on this very obvious misinformation, would I be justified in accusing you of personally attacking me for challenging my belief?
« Last Edit: March 04, 2019, 11:18:58 AM by John Albert »

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #21 on: March 04, 2019, 12:45:08 PM »
My first wife believed that fairies were real among other things.  She told me after we got divorced that she couldn't stand imaging what I must think of her because I don't believe fairies are real.  She took it as a personal insult and felt that I thought she was silly and stupid because I thought her belief was silly and stupid.  When I she told me that, I immediately saw that she was correct.  How could she not feel judged when she can tell I think her belief (and therefor her) is silly.  I did not realize at the time that criticizing her belief was criticizing her because I was looking at it only from my point of view, not from hers.  (On a side note, don't marry someone who has silly beliefs.)

Also, beliefs are generally not a choice.  I cannot suddenly choose to believe that the Christian Bible is the literal word of God.  I cannot do it.  For people who genuinely hold the belief that the Christian Bible is the literal word of God, they can't just choose to not believe it anymore.  Sure, things can happen to them that change their beliefs, or they could do some research and figure it out on their own, but while they believe it, it is not a choice.

So, someone that believes that the Christian Bible is the literal word of God can read between the lines when you say the idea is poppycock that you think they are poppycock for believing it.  They know you didn't insult them directly and may not be justified in saying that you are criticizing them personally, but they feel insulted none the less.  To them, it is as if you attacked them, even though that is not what you meant to do.

It seems as if you are only thinking about this from the point of view of the criticizer.  "I did not specifically criticize the person, so they have no right to feel criticized".  However, if you could look at it from the point of view of the person with the belief, you might understand that your criticism of their belief does in fact criticize them whether that was your intent or not.

All that said, I agree with The Latinist that obviously, criticizing beliefs is important even though someone might feel personally criticized by it.  People who sincerely believe that vaccines do more harm than good can suck it when I criticize their dumb-ass anti-vax stance.  I know I am offending them when I criticize their sincerely-held ideas.  I still value them as human beings, but they don't know that, and it is worth it because beliefs like that must be fought regardless off the offense that it causes.
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Offline John Albert

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #22 on: March 04, 2019, 01:38:46 PM »
Indeed, that should have said, "I did not claim that criticism of religious ideas was 'functionally equivalent' to criticism of race, gender or sexuality or that it was in any other way equivalent except that such criticisms may be equally personal. I don't know how much clearer I can be than that."

Okay, that's what I was thinking you meant, but I didn't want to reply on that presumption.

They're not "functionally equivalent," but you still believe they can be just as personal. I don't think I would go even that far.

If somebody has that much of a bug up their ass about other people questioning their beliefs, then the problem does not lie with the questioner.


I have spoken both of attacks and criticism, and perhaps I am remiss if I have seemed to use them interchangeably. To be clear, I recognize that not all criticisms are attacks, and I did not mean to imply otherwise.

Okay, that makes sense to me. We might even find common agreement about the circumstances under which a given criticism could be reasonably construed as a personal attack.


Also, to be clear, to say the criticism is personal is not the same as saying that it is an attack.

Agreed.

One might say, "I like that suit, but maybe try on the blue and gold tie instead." That approach would be less likely taken as a personal attack, than saying something like, "You look like a tawdry buffoon."


I do not believe that I have made any claims about 'respect' and 'moral considerations'. I believe that I have been punctilious in avoiding such claims, because they are quite irrelevant to the question of how personal a criticism is.

I didn't say you made any claims about 'respect' or 'moral considerations'. But I consider issues pertaining to people's personal dignity and avoiding insult to be a type of moral consideration. 


To be clear, I do not claim that all beliefs are equally worthy of respect, and I am not sure where you get that idea.

Okay, I did not say that either. I said that your statements appear to reckon beliefs as equally worthy of respect as the actual human beings who entertain them.

I tend to respect other people because I understand they're sapient humans just like me. But I don't extend the same respect to ideas and beliefs. Ideas and beliefs are nothing more than information, open to judgment according to considerations like factual accuracy, valid reasoning, and potential benefit to society. The idea of holding sacrosanct some unreasonable belief makes no sense to me, so whenever possible I try to influence people to disengage from those kinds of delusions.


Much of a white supremacist's personal identity is tied up in the belief that he is, because of his race, superior to others. This belief may be so all-consuming that it forms the core of his sense of self, is the basis of his self-esteem, and underpins his understanding of everything he experiences. It is, to him, so foundational that any criticism of the idea--any suggestion of racial equality, etc.--causes great metal and emotional distress as well as cognitive dissonance.  He may react with anger, rage, or even violence because the ideas you expressed are not to him mere abstractions; they cut at the core of his sense of self-worth.

To be clear: his beliefs are wrong. They are harmful. They are morally bankrupt. Your criticisms are just and justified. You don't merely have a right to make them, you have a moral obligation to make them.  That should be clear.

But your criticisms are also personal. They strike at the very core of his (admittedly morally bankrupt) sense of himself. He needs to hear them, he needs to change. But in confronting him with these ideas you should not pretend that you are simply discussing abstractions with no personal implications. To do so is fundamentally to misunderstand the nature of your interaction.

Should you care that your criticisms are personal and affect him personally? Perhaps not; that is a question of values. Certainly it should not prevent you from confronting him about his horrific ideas, and it wouldn't prevent me from doing so. But I would do so knowing full well that my attacks on his ideas were unavoidably personal; I would understand that fact and therefore understand his reactions to my criticisms and why my criticisms likely would fall on deaf ears.

I just don't see the point in denying that.

OK, I see that. But if I were to politely and dispassionately point out the errors in his wrong, harmful, and morally bankrupt beliefs, would he be justified to accuse me of a personal attack against him?

I think not. Criticizing his ideas is not a personal attack against him. He may perceive it that way, but that's a consequence of his own inability or unwillingness to be reasonable about this particular subject.

But if I, and enough of the people around him, persist in criticizing his toxic beliefs and introduce him to some friendly, accepting, and honorable nonwhite people, there's a good chance he will change his mind and disavow his racism. It happens. I have seen it happen (and participated in making it happen) to people I know.

Then again if we refrain from addressing these issues out of respect for his culture or fear of causing insult, then he will continue to harbor those toxic beliefs unchallenged and will probably indoctrinate others into his antisocial worldview. 


I don't really think that your π example is really on point, but let me offer an alternative extreme example...

Please don't worry about whether my example is "on point." Please just indulge me for a moment by answering the questions, and trust my intention to take it to a logical conclusion.

Say I'm going around teaching school kids that π equals exactly 3 and they must argue that point against any teachers who try to tell them any different.

If you were to challenge me on that, would I be justified in accusing you of personally attacking me?
« Last Edit: March 04, 2019, 01:49:58 PM by John Albert »

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #23 on: March 04, 2019, 01:49:10 PM »
Criticizing his ideas is not a personal attack against him. He may perceive it that way, but that's a consequence of his own inability or unwillingness to be reasonable about this particular subject.

Now we are getting on the same page.  To the criticizer, it is not personal, but to the criticizee, it is.  So now we get back to The Latinist's original comment that we as criticizers should not pretend that, to the criticizee, it isn't personal.
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Offline arthwollipot

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #24 on: March 04, 2019, 08:44:50 PM »
I've been in a position when I've criticised American cultural imperialism - the fact that America floods the world with its own popular culture, exporting its content wholesale and flooding overseas markets. And Americans have taken that very personally. I say "I'm not criticising you, I'm criticising your country and your country's policy". But it doesn't help.

Same thing.
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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #25 on: March 05, 2019, 01:46:16 PM »
I've been in a position when I've criticised American cultural imperialism - the fact that America floods the world with its own popular culture, exporting its content wholesale and flooding overseas markets. And Americans have taken that very personally. I say "I'm not criticising you, I'm criticising your country and your country's policy". But it doesn't help.

Same thing.

Not the subject of the thread, but that's a kinda silly criticism. If you don't want to consume American culture, you don't have to. You object to others doing that, which is not possible to take seriously, for me anyways. If there was no popular demand for American popular culture, it wouldn't be consumed abroad. It's like those who protest against cultural globalization because they want other parts of the world to be exotic museums for them to visit. Which I don't have any symoathy with at all. It's a condescending view of others to take.

I'm not sure it is only the "fault" of the US. At least here in Sweden, historically, Germany was by far the biggest cultural influence. The larger medieval Swedish cities were almost as German as they were Swedish. The reason our language is the way it is rather than like Icelandic is largely through the German influence. Lots of Germans migrated here over the centuries. I would be surprised if I don't have some German ancestors down the line.

In the 20th century this was changed. The government moved us away from German as the primary foreign language in school, and toward English, which was completed in 1946. And with that, coupled with the Anglo-American victory of WW2, that cultural influence became the dominant one.

I can't speak for other countries, but I would not be surprised if there are similar cases of the governments moving them in the Anglo-American direction.
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Offline arthwollipot

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #26 on: March 05, 2019, 06:34:17 PM »
I've been in a position when I've criticised American cultural imperialism - the fact that America floods the world with its own popular culture, exporting its content wholesale and flooding overseas markets. And Americans have taken that very personally. I say "I'm not criticising you, I'm criticising your country and your country's policy". But it doesn't help.

Same thing.

Not the subject of the thread, but that's a kinda silly criticism. If you don't want to consume American culture, you don't have to. You object to others doing that, which is not possible to take seriously, for me anyways. If there was no popular demand for American popular culture, it wouldn't be consumed abroad. It's like those who protest against cultural globalization because they want other parts of the world to be exotic museums for them to visit. Which I don't have any symoathy with at all. It's a condescending view of others to take.

I'm not sure it is only the "fault" of the US. At least here in Sweden, historically, Germany was by far the biggest cultural influence. The larger medieval Swedish cities were almost as German as they were Swedish. The reason our language is the way it is rather than like Icelandic is largely through the German influence. Lots of Germans migrated here over the centuries. I would be surprised if I don't have some German ancestors down the line.

In the 20th century this was changed. The government moved us away from German as the primary foreign language in school, and toward English, which was completed in 1946. And with that, coupled with the Anglo-American victory of WW2, that cultural influence became the dominant one.

I can't speak for other countries, but I would not be surprised if there are similar cases of the governments moving them in the Anglo-American direction.

You're right, this isn't the subject of the thread, except as a parallel example.
« Last Edit: March 05, 2019, 06:39:18 PM by arthwollipot »
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Offline John Albert

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #27 on: March 07, 2019, 01:45:36 PM »
When did I say that there was a 'problem' that lay with anyone?

You didn't say there's a problem with that. I'm saying that under certain circumstances there may be a problem.

If I express an impersonal criticism of an idea and another person feels personally attacked, that is not a transgression on my part but a misunderstanding on their part.

Like if somebody took offense at a math teacher correcting them about the value of π, their feelings of offense would be ill-founded. In that case the math teacher is not at fault for causing offense, because the teacher did not actually attack the student. It's unreasonable to claim victimhood on the basis that you're being attacked just because somebody corrects your thinking or expresses ideas that conflict with your own.


All I said was that the criticism was personal.

If you're saying that all criticisms are personal if some individual feels they're personal, that's a sweeping generalization.

Just because somebody feels personally attacked, that does not make it so. Feelings are not always consistent with objective reality.

Whether a given criticism is "personal" depends on whether the criticism is directed at somebody personally, and whether it's an "attack" would depend on whether that criticism is intended to harm or malign the target.

For example:

If I say, "Ken Ham is an unscrupulous, conniving idiot," that would be a personal attack on Ken Ham. It directly disparages his personal qualities.

If I say "Ken Ham's beliefs about biology and geoscience are inconsistent with established science," that is a fact-based criticism of Ken Ham's own personal beliefs. It is a criticism of beliefs, but it's still personal because it targets Ken Ham personally.

If I phrase it in a more disparaging way, like, "Ken Ham's beliefs about biology and geoscience are stupid," that's also a personal attack on Ken Ham.

But it I were to say, "Young Earth Creationism is contrary to all scientific evidence in the fields of biology and geoscience," that is not a personal attack on Ken Ham. That is a criticism of an established set of beliefs.

Regardless whether Ken Ham may feel a personal connection to Young Earth Creationism, that still does not mean that my criticism of the ideology of Young Earth Creationism really amounts to a personal attack on Ken Ham himself.


My statements, for what seems like the thousand-and-first time, reckon ONLY that criticisms of belief may be as personal as criticisms of other human characteristics.

That would depend on the nature of the personal characteristic being criticized, and might also depend on how the criticism is phrased. Criticisms of such fundamental characteristics as race, sex, nationality, etc., are always inherently personal. Criticisms of ideologies and cultural norms may be personal, but not necessarily.

For example:

If I say, "Caucasians are inherently racist," "Americans are belligerent," or "men use force to dominate others," those are inescapably personal criticisms. But if I say, "European Christian culture has historically dominated and oppressed other cultures through the use of violence and ideological indoctrination," that's not necessarily personal.

If I say, "Libertarians are idiots," that is undoubtedly a personal attack on people who self-identify as libertarian. But if I say, "many libertarian principles are detrimental to the establishment of a functional society," that is a criticism of an ideology, not a personal attack on any particular group or individual.


Much of a white supremacist's personal identity is tied up in the belief that he is, because of his race, superior to others. This belief may be so all-consuming that it forms the core of his sense of self, is the basis of his self-esteem, and underpins his understanding of everything he experiences. It is, to him, so foundational that any criticism of the idea--any suggestion of racial equality, etc.--causes great metal and emotional distress as well as cognitive dissonance.  He may react with anger, rage, or even violence because the ideas you expressed are not to him mere abstractions; they cut at the core of his sense of self-worth.

To be clear: his beliefs are wrong. They are harmful. They are morally bankrupt. Your criticisms are just and justified. You don't merely have a right to make them, you have a moral obligation to make them.  That should be clear.

But your criticisms are also personal. They strike at the very core of his (admittedly morally bankrupt) sense of himself. He needs to hear them, he needs to change. But in confronting him with these ideas you should not pretend that you are simply discussing abstractions with no personal implications. To do so is fundamentally to misunderstand the nature of your interaction.

If this is a situation where I'm engaged in conversation with a particular man about his personal beliefs, then yeah I agree. That is a very personal situation. Even if we're having a discussion on an Internet message board, the fact that we're engaged in discussion with one another makes it more personal than if I were just writing a piece for general publication.

If I'm writing, say, an academic paper or public blog post about the social dangers of white supremacist ideology, that's a criticism of ideas. It's not a personal attack on any particular group or individual.

 
how personal criticism is depends almost exclusively upon how that criticism is received.

I disagree there. Criticisms are interactions between individuals. As such, they involve more than just one person. So different people can have different opinions as to whether, or to what degree, a given criticism may be "personal."


I would say that the intent of the criticizer is irrelevant to the question of whether such criticism is personal.

This is incorrect. Everybody participating in the interaction, including the criticizer and any passive witnesses, are all entitled to their own opinions as to how personal a given criticism may be. I don't think it's fair or productive to default to the least charitable interpretation of a given argument.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2019, 02:34:26 PM by John Albert »

Offline John Albert

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #28 on: March 07, 2019, 02:04:06 PM »
I've been in a position when I've criticised American cultural imperialism - the fact that America floods the world with its own popular culture, exporting its content wholesale and flooding overseas markets. And Americans have taken that very personally. I say "I'm not criticising you, I'm criticising your country and your country's policy". But it doesn't help.

Same thing.

I wouldn't take that personally at all. That's a criticism of my country's culture, its industries and economic policies. It's not a personal criticism against me as some random American citizen. I would say that the people reacting that way are being quite unreasonable. 

Now if you said, "Americans are imperialists," I can see where somebody might take that as a personal insult.

The same goes with criticizing the policies of the State of Israel. Many people consider those criticisms as antisemitic, and many Jews seem to construe those criticisms as personal attacks against themselves and threats against their own personal safety. I think that's also quite unreasonable. If that were true then the politics of the State of Israel would be above criticism, lest the criticizer be unfairly smeared as an antisemite.

This difference between actual attacks and perceived attacks is a very important distinction to make, because it has very real implications for public discourse. We already have enough problems with bad ideas propagating in the Internet age. We ought to be promoting values of fair discourse and critical thinking, instead of encouraging claims to victimhood in defense of untenable ideas.
« Last Edit: March 07, 2019, 03:33:07 PM by John Albert »

Offline John Albert

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #29 on: March 08, 2019, 02:12:14 PM »
I agree with your statement that some people might perceive criticism of their religion as a personal insult, and we must take it into consideration when deciding whether the criticism is worth the potential hurt feelings.

Where I disagree, is with your claims that all criticism of religion is a personal attack on believers, and criticizing an ideology like religion is just as personal as racism or misogyny.

Ideologies are not people. Beliefs and feelings can be untrue. Beliefs and feelings are not static; they can be changed.
 
So instead of cautioning skeptics against criticizing irrational and harmful ideologies for the sake of sparing feelings, we ought to be trying to promote critical thinking and the questioning of beliefs, so that someday everybody may learn not to take such offense at having their beliefs questioned.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2019, 02:35:35 PM by John Albert »