Author Topic: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?  (Read 3422 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 02, 2019, 12:07:16 PM »
I made no argument in defense of advocating physical harm, nor did am I advocating or defending any belief.

But that's the discussion we've been having all along; whether or not it's appropriate to criticize religions for advocating harm.

Arthwollipot said that criticism is problematic because some religious people consider their religion part of their identity, and you've been arguing that there's no functional difference between criticizing a religion and punishing people for their race, gender, or sexual preference.


My argument is against the claim that criticizing beliefs, especially deeply held religious ones, is separable from criticism of the individual who holds those beliefs.

I understand what your argument is, and it's wrong.

Criticizing a belief system is objectively not the same thing as personally attacking everyone who holds those beliefs. Beliefs are not people. It is entirely possible to criticize somebody's beliefs and still respect their personal dignity and civil rights.

Even if some believer feels attacked, they have no reasonable justification for feeling that way. Nobody has a right to never have their beliefs challenged. Nobody has a right to never be offended. 


I am arguing against the idea that people have a right to be offended if their race, gender or sexuality is criticized but not if their religious beliefs are.

I didn't say that religious people have no right to be offended. Of course everyone has a "right" to be offended. But just because people feel a certain way, that doesn't mean the feeling is justified. Feelings are often contrary to reality.

I may feel 100% certain that my wife is fucking the postman. That doesn't give me a right to attack the postman with a baseball bat.


Religious beliefs are no less fundamental to and inseparable from personal identity than are race and gender.

This is wrong. Religions are sets of beliefs, and beliefs are not immutable or inescapable. People quite often change their religion, or reject it outright. The same is not necessarily true of skin color, racial features, biological sex characteristics, or sexual preference.


But those who believe that homosexuality is wrong and sinful and causes actual harm to society also have to right to express their beliefs.  And those who believe that transgender does not exist have a right to express their beliefs.

Agreed. Bigots have a right to express their bigoted beliefs, in the USA at least. Other countries have anti hate speech laws.

And I propose that Humanists have not only a right, but also a social obligation to defend and protect the rights of the oppressed. That means we have a social obligation to oppose the bigoted ideas, regardless whether the bigotry is rooted or justified in some religion.

If somebody is an anti-Semite, it makes no difference to me whether they hold that belief because of a devotion to Islam or an admiration for Adolf Hitler. Both are unreasonable, and neither of them redeems antisemitism from being socially destructive. (A reasonable argument could even be made that following Hitler is more defensible than following religion, because at least there's evidence that Hitler actually existed.)


And yet the expression of those beliefs will undoubtably be felt by those who are queer as a personal attack no matter how much the religious bigot tells them that they are not attacking them personally.

Teaching that the highest imaginable authority in the universe has deemed LGBTQ people evil perverts is not a criticism of a belief system; it's an attack on the people themselves. It demonizes people for being who they are, something they have no control over. It inflicts shame and ostracism, and justifies the denial of their civil rights. Likewise, the religious oppression of women is not just a criticism of some ideology, but a set of rules that relegate women to an inferior status. That allows (and even mandates) men to abuse them with impunity. These are real world consequences, not just somebody's hurt feelings.

Gay bashing ≠ hurt feelings
Denying marriage rights ≠ hurt feelings
Denying bathroom rights ≠ hurt feelings
Denying medical services ≠ hurt feelings
Genital mutilation ≠ hurt feelings
Honor killings ≠ hurt feelings
Killing apostates ≠ hurt feelings


I'm not objecting to your expressing your opinions.  Nor am I arguing that under no circumstances can you cause offense to another through your expression.  Indeed, if your convictions of the harm done by religious ideas is strong enough, you should be willing to give offense by expressing them. But so, too, should the religious person be willing to give offense if they have a similar conviction about the harm done by homosexuality.

My point is that there's a fundamental difference between a religious person vilifying homosexuals, and a secularist criticizing the religion that vilifies homosexuals. The secularist is criticizing an ideology, whereas the religious bigot is actively promoting oppression against a marginalized group. That difference is not merely subjective. 


My only argument is that neither you nor they would be right in telling the person you are criticizing that your criticisms are not offensive.

There's that moral relativism again. You seem unwilling to recognize any distinction between criticizing bad ideas and urging injustice and harm against other human beings. From my viewpoint that's kind of beyond the pale.


As I believe I have made clear above (though it should have been clear before), I am not defending any action or even any belief.

But by equating the criticism of intangible ideas with the urging of actual harm against others, you are placing the two on equal moral footing.


That said, I am an unabashed moral relativist, for reasons that I have repeatedly explained in detail on this forum in the past. In fine, I see no basis in fact for for the position that it is possible for moral claims to be objectively true.

Well that's your problem. I've tried to explain to you the ways in which morality can be objective, but since you refuse to question your own argument (which hinges on a narrow definition of "objective"), there's not much I can do except try to explain it again.


Moral claims may be strongly held or nearly universally held; but they are incapable of proof or disproof in an argument that does not ultimately involve an appeal to the values of the arguer. They are therefore essentially and irredeemably subjective.

It's true that moral claims must involve an appeal to the values of the arguer. But if we presume that the arguer and his interlocutor are both sapient beings capable of empathy, who both find common value in health, comfort and safety, those values can form a mutually-agreeable morality upon which a moral system can be (and many historically have been) constructed. That's how human rights work; they're basic moral values enshrined in law by assent of the governed.

I'm sorry if you don't find that theory compelling, but it's a far cry better than throwing out the baby with the bathwater.


But, as I have also often said before, their subjectivity does not make them any less real or important. Indeed, some of the most important things in life are subjective. The beauty of a work of art is no less real or meaningful for its undeniable subjectivity. I myself hold strong moral convictions, ones which I will advocate strongly for and which I think if adopted by all would make the world a better place. I do not feel them any less strongly or think them any less important for the fact that I recognize their essential subjectivity.

If you can't even discern the moral difference between criticizing an indefensible ideology and baldly asserting a supernatural imperative to mutilate and kill other people, then your "moral convictions" leave something to be desired.


one of the first arguments I ever had on this forum was almost identical to this one: people arguing that their criticism of religion was not offensive on much the same grounds.

I'm not arguing that criticism of religion is not offensive. I acknowledge that whether or not it's deemed "offensive" is a matter of opinion.

I'm saying that when I criticize the destructive parts of religion, I don't care if somebody's offended, because the real, physical and social damages caused by religion are far worse than some religious person getting their sense of privilege hurt.
« Last Edit: March 03, 2019, 11:20:59 AM by John Albert »

Offline The Latinist

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #16 on: March 02, 2019, 01:51:31 PM »
I'm saying that when I criticize the destructive parts of religion, I don't care if somebody's offended, because the real, physical and social damages caused by religion are far worse than some religious person getting their sense of privilege hurt.

But that is precisely the point we have been making. Nobody is saying that problematic ideas should not be challenged. 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.  As you say, it may be a justified attack; but if that is the case you should acknowledge and even embrace that fact, rather than trying to deny it away.

You are arguing throughout this thread against a position that, as far as I can tell, nobody has taken. All of the shit you've been saying about me/us defending violence and all manner of harms is just made up out of whole cloth, so I won't respond to it. But I will repeat, once again, that the only thing I (and as far as I can see anyone else) have said is that ideas, especially religious ones, are such a fundamental part of people's identity that they cannot be attacked without the attack being personal. One's identity is one's sense of self; to attack one is to attack the other. The idea that you can say that a person's religious beliefs are wrong and harmful without it being personal--without necessarily saying that they themselves are wrong and harmful is just wrong.

Religious beliefs are no less fundamental to and inseparable from personal identity than are race and gender.

This is wrong. Religions are sets of beliefs, and beliefs are not immutable or inescapable. People quite often change their religion, or reject it outright. The same is not necessarily true of skin color, racial features, biological sex characteristics, or sexual preference.

I do not agree that immutability or inescapability are what make aspects of one's identity fundamental to one's being; none of the things which I consider most fundamental to and inseparable from my own identity are things which have been constants from my birth.  Nor do I consider only those things about a person which they cannot change worthy of respect. Indeed, many things which I feel must be protected, such as racial and gender and sexual identity, are at least in part social constructs and in many cases fluid over the course both of an individual person's life and of the history of society even on relatively short timescales.  Nor am I at all sure that sexual orientation is immutable or comfortable with the idea that protections for those of minority sexual orientations should be predicated on the basis that we were 'born that way' or that we 'can't help it'.  For that matter, I'm not at all sure that the propensity for religious belief and even for the fear of 'others' is not at least in part biological.
I would like to propose...that...it is undesirable to believe in a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true. — Bertrand Russell

Offline John Albert

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #17 on: March 02, 2019, 08:50:37 PM »
Nobody is saying that problematic ideas should not be challenged. 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.

Criticizing a belief is not personal attack on the holder of the belief. We've been criticizing each other's beliefs and ideas throughout this discussion. At no time did I consider that a personal attack on myself, and I suspect that you feel the same way. Reasonable thinkers are capable of separating ideas from people, though others may be unwilling to do so.


As you say, it may be a justified attack; but if that is the case you should acknowledge and even embrace that fact, rather than trying to deny it away.

No, I very much disagree. Criticizing an idea does not amount to a personal attack against the holders of that idea. Justified or not, ideas are not people.

That distinction between ideas and people is why the rules of reasoned discourse specify an informal logical fallacy called an "ad hominem argument." That fallacy is specially intended to distinguish attacks on people (which is bad) from criticism of ideas (which is allowable). 


You are arguing throughout this thread against a position that, as far as I can tell, nobody has taken.

Don't try to pull that gaslighting bullshit on me. Right now, you are taking the exact position I'm arguing against! 


All of the shit you've been saying about me/us defending violence and all manner of harms is just made up out of whole cloth, so I won't respond to it.


You said:

       
Religious beliefs are no less fundamental to and inseparable from personal identity than are race and gender.

...and...

                   
those who believe that homosexuality is wrong and sinful and causes actual harm to society also have to right to express their beliefs.  And those who believe that transgender does not exist have a right to express their beliefs. And yet the expression of those beliefs will undoubtably be felt by those who are queer as a personal attack no matter how much the religious bigot tells them that they are not attacking them personally.

Please clarify if I'm wrong, but I took these statements to mean that religious beliefs are just as fundamental as sex, race and gender; so criticism of religion (criticism of an idea) is an "attack" on religious people, which is essentially no different than religious leaders demonizing LGBTQ people (an attack on people).

You seem to be defending that view on the premise that people on both sides have a "right" to express their own opinions, therefore neither position is any more right or wrong than the other. Which I think is totally bonkers when you look at the actual reality of the situation.

Religious people may "feel" attacked when their beliefs are criticized. But women and LGBTQ people don't just "feel" attacked, they actually suffer real-world harm from being publicly denigrated and having their rights stripped away.

Ideas are not people, no matter how much some doofuses might want to conflate the two. It is entirely possible to criticize somebody's beliefs while still respecting their personal dignity, autonomy, and civil rights. On the other hand, denigrating somebody as an evil pervert, or demanding that she obey the orders of her husband, or politically advocating to rescind their civil rights; that is disrespecting their personal dignity, autonomy, and civil rights.

Criticizing ideas may cause imaginary harm in the mind of the believer, but hate speech results in actual, real-world harm. That reality-versus-imagination distinction is the essential point that you've been obstinately refusing to accept.


But I will repeat, once again, that the only thing I (and as far as I can see anyone else) have said is that ideas, especially religious ones, are such a fundamental part of people's identity that they cannot be attacked without the attack being personal.

And that statement is incorrect.

One does not "attack" ideas. One may criticize ideas, but that does not amount to a personal attack on individuals who hold those ideas.

Some indoctrinated believers might feel that a criticism of their religion is an attack on their person, but that is just an irrational feeling that results from being so indoctrinated that they hold those beliefs above question. As we all know, feelings are not always consistent with reality.

The real problem is not the free discourse and open criticism of ideas, but the indoctrination that causes people to react so unreasonably to criticism.


One's identity is one's sense of self; to attack one is to attack the other. The idea that you can say that a person's religious beliefs are wrong and harmful without it being personal--without necessarily saying that they themselves are wrong and harmful is just wrong.

Your moral relativism seems to have rendered you incapable (or unwilling) of determining that being the target of hatred, injustice and violence is objectively worse than having one's feelings of religious privilege challenged.

Do you not acknowledge that some harms can be imaginary and not real?

To you that may all be nebulous and subjective, but I know that actively promoting real-world harm against others is the greater wrong. I know that because I'm not a moral relativist, which means I accept that harm and beneficence can be determined objectively.


I do not agree that immutability or inescapability are what make aspects of one's identity fundamental to one's being; none of the things which I consider most fundamental to and inseparable from my own identity are things which have been constants from my birth.  Nor do I consider only those things about a person which they cannot change worthy of respect.

So what does "fundamental to one's being" even mean? 

I don't care what you or anybody else might feel about these woo-woo topics like the "soul" or "the core of [one's] being." The entire concept that a belief or idea can be "fundamental" to "being" is nothing more than a religious platitude.

I think you're going to need to support that claim with scientific evidence, because I'm finding it completely meaningless.


Indeed, many things which I feel must be protected, such as racial and gender and sexual identity, are at least in part social constructs and in many cases fluid over the course both of an individual person's life and of the history of society even on relatively short timescales.  Nor am I at all sure that sexual orientation is immutable or comfortable with the idea that protections for those of minority sexual orientations should be predicated on the basis that we were 'born that way' or that we 'can't help it'.

I'm not 100% sure whether sexual orientation is immutable either. But biological sex and physical attributes are, and every gay person I've ever asked has told me that being gay is not a choice for them.

And from my perspective, not vilifying people for personal attributes that they cannot change seems like a good place to start. This is where the crimes of religion are objectively worse than any imaginary harm somebody might feel from having their beliefs challenged.


For that matter, I'm not at all sure that the propensity for religious belief and even for the fear of 'others' is not at least in part biological.

I think that neuroscience has made it clear that all beliefs are attributed to biological processes, but that is not to say that they cannot be changed. In fact, people are changing their beliefs all the time. Even most religious people change their religious beliefs at some point in their lives.

Anyway, there's already a thread for that discussion if you want to continue.
« Last Edit: June 17, 2019, 01:44:52 AM by John Albert »

Offline The Latinist

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #18 on: March 03, 2019, 12:50:49 AM »
those who believe that homosexuality is wrong and sinful and causes actual harm to society also have to right to express their beliefs.  And those who believe that transgender does not exist have a right to express their beliefs. And yet the expression of those beliefs will undoubtably be felt by those who are queer as a personal attack no matter how much the religious bigot tells them that they are not attacking them personally.

Please clarify if I'm wrong, but I took these statements to mean that religious beliefs are just as fundamental as sex, race and gender; so when atheists criticize religion (criticism of an idea), that is an "attack" on religious people, which is essentially no different than when religious leaders demonize LGBTQ people with hate speech (which is an attack on people).

You mischaracterize my position. I did not say that "demonizing" anyone with "hate speech" was that same as criticizing any other person. I said that claiming that criticism of religious beliefs as wrong and harmful is not a criticism of believers is as misguided as claiming that criticism of homosexuality and transgender as wrong and harmful is not a criticism of queer people.

I do not agree that immutability or inescapability are what make aspects of one's identity fundamental to one's being; none of the things which I consider most fundamental to and inseparable from my own identity are things which have been constants from my birth.  Nor do I consider only those things about a person which they cannot change worthy of respect.

So what does "fundamental to one's being" even mean?

I don't care what you or anybody else might feel about these woo-woo topics like the "soul" or "the core of [one's] being." The entire concept that a belief or idea can be "fundamental" to "being" is nothing more than a religious platitude.

I think you're going to need to support that claim with scientific evidence, because I'm finding it completely meaningless.

Ah, well, there you have it. I do care about people's feelings and their sense of personal identity, even though both are subjective. And I believe that respect for people's religious identity and belief is an important part of respect for their human dignity, just as I believe that respect for their sexual, gender, and racial identities (and many others) are. 

I make no claim for the objective truth of such personal identity; indeed, one's personal identity is by definition subjective. But, as I said above, I do not value only things that are objective.

And from my perspective, not vilifying people for personal attributes that they cannot change seems like a good place to start.

The problem is when you make that not your starting point, but your ending point. Throughout this conversation you have repeatedly dismissed the value of things like beliefs and feelings on the ground that they are not immutable or objective. In doing so, you reject a large portion of what it means to be human as something unworthy of consideration or respect. I reject the reliance on immutability or involuntariness as justifications for respecting differences because it leads to just this trap in thinking.
I would like to propose...that...it is undesirable to believe in a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true. — Bertrand Russell

Offline John Albert

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #19 on: March 03, 2019, 09:23:15 AM »
You mischaracterize my position. I did not say that "demonizing" anyone with "hate speech" was that same as criticizing any other person.

That's not what I said. You're mischaracterizing my position.

I said that your argument essentially boils down to, "when atheists criticize sincere religious beliefs, that is just as bad as the religious oppression of women and LGBTQ people."

And I'm saying that's raving apeshit bonkers crazy talk.

The fundamental difference, which you seem intent on ignoring, is that the atheists aren't actually oppressing anybody. And nor are the women and LGBTQ people who are the targets of religious oppression.

Criticizing religious beliefs is not the same thing as promoting hate crimes against religious people, or petitioning the government to curtail their civil rights and take away their medical care. The atheists aren't throwing gay men off towers, tossing acid in women's faces or stoning them to death for taking a lover. Those things are being done only by religious people, in accordance with the teachings of their ancient mythology and small-minded spiritual leaders.


I said that claiming that criticism of religious beliefs as wrong and harmful is not a criticism of believers is as misguided as claiming that criticism of homosexuality and transgender as wrong and harmful is not a criticism of queer people.

Yeah, like I said that's crazy talk. Criticizing beliefs is not equivalent to actually bringing real harm to people.


Ah, well, there you have it. I do care about people's feelings and their sense of personal identity, even though both are subjective. And I believe that respect for people's religious identity and belief is an important part of respect for their human dignity, just as I believe that respect for their sexual, gender, and racial identities (and many others) are.

So where do you stand on white supremacism, in cases where it's a sincerely held belief that the believers feel to be a core part of their personal identity?

Do you deem White Christian Identity Theology just as worthy of respect? Or do you just make a special pleading for the major religions?


I make no claim for the objective truth of such personal identity; indeed, one's personal identity is by definition subjective. But, as I said above, I do not value only things that are objective.

I also value many things that are subjective, when those things are objectively worthy of value.


Quote
And from my perspective, not vilifying people for personal attributes that they cannot change seems like a good place to start.

The problem is when you make that not your starting point, but your ending point.

It's not my "ending point." That's quite the glib deepity, but it's just as meaningless as all that happy horse shit you said about beliefs being "fundamental to being."

You still haven't explained what that's even supposed to mean. I can't believe I'm reading such drivel coming from the administrator of a Web forum ostensibly dedicated to skepticism.

I'm inclined to think you're just playing Devil's Advocate to troll me. Or maybe you're just too self-righteous to admit you're wrong.


Throughout this conversation you have repeatedly dismissed the value of things like beliefs and feelings on the ground that they are not immutable or objective.

No I have not. I have only advocated for the criticism of unreasonable ideas and beliefs that cause actual real world harm.

I have assessed the objective, real world harm caused by those bad ideologies as being exceedingly more important than any imaginary harm that believers might feel from having their beliefs challenged.


In doing so, you reject a large portion of what it means to be human as something unworthy of consideration or respect.

Bullshit. I have done no such thing.

Maybe the oppression, persecution and marginalization of target groups for nonsensical, imaginary reasons is indeed "a large portion of what it means to be human."

But maybe, just maybe, we as a species will someday manage to reject those vile, benighted delusions and make a more equitable and peaceful future for our descendents. Your arguments are not encouraging, but I still have hope.
« Last Edit: March 03, 2019, 11:13:00 AM by John Albert »

Offline The Latinist

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #20 on: March 03, 2019, 09:56:20 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. 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. That does not mean that it shouldn’t be attacked, and I have never said that it did. I said only that one should acknowledge that one is, in fact making an attack that is personal in nature.

That is the only argument I have made in this thread.  All of the horrible things you have accused me of and the attempts you have made to smear me are simply lies.
I would like to propose...that...it is undesirable to believe in a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true. — Bertrand Russell

Offline John Albert

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #21 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 The Latinist

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #22 on: March 03, 2019, 01:04:45 PM »
It’s hard to cover all that is wrong in your post, but I will list the most obvious:

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.
I would like to propose...that...it is undesirable to believe in a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true. — Bertrand Russell

Offline John Albert

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #23 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.

While it's true that atheists sometimes ridicule a person's beliefs for the sole purpose of causing insult, that's not always the case. Sincere, reasonable criticism of a harmful idea is not necessarily 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's not always the critic's intention.

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 pointed and personal attack against a class of people.

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: September 18, 2019, 04:09:21 AM by John Albert »

Offline The Latinist

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #24 on: March 03, 2019, 10:13:11 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.
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Online arthwollipot

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #25 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 #26 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 #27 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 #28 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 »

Offline The Latinist

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #29 on: March 04, 2019, 12:38:31 PM »
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.

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."

Quote
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.

    To criticize their beliefs is to criticize them personally, as surely as would be criticizing another person's race or sexual identity.  As for their value being a matter of indoctrination, many believers would say the same of some of the things you consider deserving of protection.

    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).
    Quote
     

    Your arguments do not go to how personal such attacks or criticisms are, but to their harmfulness. Criticisms may be equally personal but unequally harmful, just as they may have varying degrees of justification or be similar or dissimilar in other ways.  I have been speaking only to the matter of how personal they are.

    Quote
  • 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.

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. Also, to be clear, to say the criticism is personal is not the same as saying that it is an attack. Criticism that strikes at the core of a person's identity may be very personal regardless of the intent of the critic.

Quote
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.

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. 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.

I don't really think that your π example is really on point, but let me offer an alternative extreme example that might help you to understand my point. 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.
I would like to propose...that...it is undesirable to believe in a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true. — Bertrand Russell