Author Topic: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?  (Read 3362 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 #90 on: March 30, 2019, 08:53:43 AM »
Well, an attack can be positive or negative depending on your point of view.

I thought I made it clear that I'm referring to the allegations that criticizing religion amounts to a personal attack on (innocent) believers. An unprovoked attack on an innocent person should always be deemed negative.


A transgression is defined as breaking rules or codes.  Unacceptable is a much better synonym.

Transgression can also mean an offense against another person, like an attack for example.


In other words, you are discussing whether that act is unacceptable or in other words, a transgression.

You seem to be hanging unnecessarily on the word "transgression" and trying to equate it with "unacceptable" in an attempt to prove that acceptability is central to my point. I am telling you flat out, right now, that acceptability (among some undefined group) is not my main concern.

Since it seems to be causing no end of confusion, please forget I ever used the word "transgression" and let's just drop this acceptability argument. 


You are taking an action, 'criticism of religion,' and discussing if it is or isn't an attack on an individual.

Yes, and I'm also questioning the methods by which one might determine whether some negative statement about a given belief actually amounts to an "attack" on a person or social group who holds that belief.


Nowhere until just now did you say anything about processes of evaluation.

So what? I'm saying it now.


It seems very much that you are worried about whether people think we are attacking the religious when we criticize their religion.

Why do you keep trying to insinuate that I'm obsessed about what others think of me?

Some people's opinions I care about, others I don't.

Please drop this line of inquiry. It's irrelevant. This discussion is not about me, personally.


If 1. An attack is a transgression against religious individuals (based on those individuals' subject feelings and experiences); 2. Criticism of their religion amounts to an attack, and; 3. Transgressions against individuals should be avoided, then the implication of the combination of those views would have to be that criticizing religion is a transgression against individuals and therefore out of bounds.  Thus my initial question, asking if anyone actually believes that to be the case.  If no one actually believes that then I don't get the point of the ... blah blah blah

Okay, but as I keep saying, I did not intend this discussion to be about whether criticism of religion should be out of bounds. You obviously don't believe religion ought to be out of bounds, and don't believe anybody else thinks it ought to be out of bounds, so why do you keep harping on it?


For my part on the subjective part, it really only matters as a matter of strategy whether the other person thinks they are being attacked when we criticize religious ideas because it's pretty important to me (and I'd hope any skeptic) that ideas never be off the table to be criticized.  If we are trying to achieve something with the religious person who may feel attacked, we would be smart to use our powers of empathy and reasoning to determine if a defensive reaction might occur and if that reaction might get in the way of our objective(s).

Yes, strategy and context always ought to be considered.

If we're trying to convince the general public that atheist skeptics are moral and compassionate people, it wouldn't be wise to go on public record browbeating some hapless religious person about how unreasonable their faith may be. But on the other hand, objective criticism of bad ideologies is essential to our long-term intellectual and social progress.


Bottom line, you need to debate the person and not the general ideas, but you need to attack the ideas and not the person.

I agree 100%.

So I take this as an affirmation that you understand as I do, that criticism of ideas do not necessarily amount to an attack on the person who believes in those ideas.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2019, 09:14:02 AM by John Albert »

Offline Eternally Learning

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #91 on: March 30, 2019, 09:51:37 AM »
I'm not trying to put words into your mouth or accuse you of anything.  I'm trying to sort out how the words you are actually saying apparently don't mean what I'm reading them to mean.  For instance, you started this whole "unacceptable" vs "transgression" thing when you objected to my use of the word unacceptable and started equating "attack" with "transgression."  I couldn't care less what word you choose to use, but when I'm reading something different than what you intend, I'm going to try and first resolve the source of that misconception and maybe explain why I'm misreading you. 

All misconceptions aside though, I'm honestly just trying to figure out what your main point of contention is so I can see if I'm interested in even weighing in.  You say that you're not concerned about the question of whether criticism of religion is out of bounds and I take you at your word, but you've given me next to nothing with regards to what you're saying you're concerned about, which is the methods we use to determine if something is or isn't an attack on an individual so far as criticizing their religion itself goes.  So far as I can tell, no one here argues that we shouldn't criticize religion as a general rule and I haven't seen anyone really argue about WHAT we should do about it when a religious person might be primed to think a criticism is an attack.  The question of whether something is or is not an actual attack against an individual and how we determine that seems entirely irrelevant to the question of how such knowledge should impact our strategy and actions because if THEY feel attacked and we don't want them to as a matter of strategy, then it makes no functional difference if they are 100% irrational about it.  It only matters if we have reason to anticipate that reaction.  So again, back to my original question of you specifically:

Does that distinction matter if there are no implications for what actions are or are not acceptable?

In other words, what does it matter if we call something an actual attack or an righteous action perceived as an attack if the distinction has no bearing on what actions we choose to take?  The only possible bearing I can see it having is in how we deal with discussions among ourselves and in trying to convince other atheists not to do things that we have every reason to anticipate will be perceived as an attack because then we get to tell each other "stop attacking the religious" instead of "stop doing things they will perceive as an attack."

To wrap all this up, I want to reiterate in as clear a manner as possible because you seem to be thinking that I'M attacking YOU or some viewpoint you hold or by trying to make you look like you're arguing for something you're not; I am not trying to debate you on anything at this point.  I am simply trying to understand why I can't seem to get a handle on what you are actually arguing for and have, to this point, not tried at all to engage you on the substance of whatever your position is and have instead been trying to test what I'm understanding to gauge if I'm understanding you correctly.  Let's just do it this way, now that I think on it some more; Why don't you describe to me the viewpoint(s) that you have been disagreeing with in this thread in non-general terms?  In other words, don't just say "we're discussing proper methods to X" but say what methods you are disagreeing with.  We can leave the "why" alone for now since I may agree with you.

« Last Edit: March 30, 2019, 09:56:24 AM by Eternally Learning »

Offline Quetzalcoatl

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #92 on: March 30, 2019, 12:25:38 PM »
But evidence is useless when arguing religion because religion specifically and categorically asserts that it is "above" evidence. It claims to be "outside of nature" and not subject to the laws of nature.

Does religion really claim such a thing? Traditional Catholicism regards Thomas Aquinas' arguments as proofs that God exists. The Quran is full of arguments from design that God exists. And so on...

Mark Twain famously said (in the mouth of Huckleberry Finn) that faith is believing what you know ain't so. A more charitable version, which I believe the Catholic Church subscribes to, is that faith is belief in the absence of evidence, and including in the face of contradictory evidence. And the greater the contradictory evidence, the "better" and more pure your faith is!

I think the piety of believing despite evidence to the contrary is more associated with certain fundamentalist Protestant sects. Again, Thomas Aquinas's arguments, by Catholic theology, is considered to be rational reasons to believe in God, if I'm not mistaken.

Arguments from design are not logical proofs. They are simply exclamations of wonder. No person with even a halfway grasp of logic would regard any of the arguments for God as proofs.

I think so, you might think so, but historically, the argument from design was considered a very important piece of evidence for the existence of God. That's the whole point of the watchmaker analogy, for example.

As an aside, a friend of mine once asserted that she could prove that God exists. For a long time she refused to tell me her "irrefutable" proof because she "didn't want to argue about it." When I finally got her to tell me her proof, it turned out to be the Drake equation, but with numbers that made it seem extremely unlikely for life to have arrived "by itself." Her argument was not a logical proof because she had no evidence for any of the variables other than the accepted figure for the number of stars in the universe. And even the number of planets has been drastically revised since then. This would have been circa 1993.

That's not really the argument from design, I think. Sounds more like the fine-tuning argument.

All adherents to all the western monotheistic religions insist that God exists outside of space, time, and the laws of physics, so that the only "evidence" they will accept is the confirming "evidence" of anecdotal accounts of miracles, including the "miracles" in the Bible, which they assume must be accurate accounts. And if one "miracle" is exposed as a hoax, they have plenty more they are convinced are real. If your prayer gets a positive result, it's proof of God. If it gets no result, it just means that God's answer was "No."

Sure, but historically, and I think to a large extent still today, they considered belief in God to be supported by sound arguments, not merely blind faith.
"I’m a member of no party. I have no ideology. I’m a rationalist. I do what I can in the international struggle between science and reason and the barbarism, superstition and stupidity that’s all around us." - Christopher Hitchens

Offline John Albert

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #93 on: March 31, 2019, 11:31:06 AM »
I'm not trying to put words into your mouth or accuse you of anything.

Well that's a relief. 


I'm trying to sort out how the words you are actually saying apparently don't mean what I'm reading them to mean.

A good start would be to take my words at face value instead of trying to "read" in some ulterior motive. 

For example, when I said:

     
I am telling you flat out, right now, that acceptability (among some undefined group) is not my main concern.

You should take that to mean that acceptability is not my main concern.

And when I said:

     
Please drop this line of inquiry. It's irrelevant. This discussion is not about me, personally.

You should take that as a cue to drop that line of inquiry because it's irrelevant to this discussion.


For instance, you started this whole "unacceptable" vs "transgression" thing when you objected to my use of the word unacceptable and started equating "attack" with "transgression."

Here's another prime opportunity for you to read the words I've actually written.

Like when I said:

     
please forget I ever used the word "transgression" and let's just drop this acceptability argument.

I meant that you should forget I ever used the word "transgression," and discontinue your argument about acceptability.


I couldn't care less what word you choose to use

That's apparently untrue, because you keep on harping on the word "transgression," even though I asked you to just forget I ever said it.


All misconceptions aside though, I'm honestly just trying to figure out what your main point of contention is so I can see if I'm interested in even weighing in.

At the moment, my main point of contention is that you keep projecting false motives onto me.


You say that you're not concerned about the question of whether criticism of religion is out of bounds and I take you at your word

If that's really true, then why do you keep insinuating otherwise?


but you've given me next to nothing with regards to what you're saying you're concerned about

I've told you precisely what I'm concerned about, to wit:

     
the methods we use to determine if something is or isn't an attack on an individual

There it is. You said it yourself.

That's what I'm concerned about.


To wrap all this up, I want to reiterate in as clear a manner as possible because you seem to be thinking that I'M attacking YOU

I don't think you're attacking me, but I get the feeling you're acting deliberately obtuse as some kind of joke.


All misconceptions aside though, I'm honestly just trying to figure out what your main point of contention is so I can see if I'm interested in even weighing in.

Feel free to participate in this discussion, or not. But this is the last time I'm going to address these concerns.
« Last Edit: March 31, 2019, 03:04:25 PM by John Albert »

Offline John Albert

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #94 on: March 31, 2019, 03:18:19 PM »
Let's just do it this way, now that I think on it some more; Why don't you describe to me the viewpoint(s) that you have been disagreeing with in this thread in non-general terms?  In other words, don't just say "we're discussing proper methods to X" but say what methods you are disagreeing with.  We can leave the "why" alone for now since I may agree with you.

The only views I have disagreed with thus far, are the following:
  • Because some believers may feel personally attacked when they hear their religion criticized, that means criticizing a religion is invariably an attack on believers.

  • Because some believers may feel that religion is fundamental to their sense of identity, criticizing religion is just as personal as criticizing other individual attributes such as race, gender, and sexual orientation.

  • If a person claims to feel attacked upon hearing some statement that they disagree with, that means they actually have been attacked

Offline Eternally Learning

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #95 on: April 01, 2019, 12:02:09 AM »
Feel free to participate in this discussion, or not. But this is the last time I'm going to address these concerns.

Honestly, at this point I'm done.  You either have some sort of massive reading comprehension problem or are intentionally being one of the most difficult and unpleasant people I've ever had the displeasure to try and have a conversation with on this forum.  In either case, I'm too frustrated to even try any more.

Offline John Albert

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #96 on: April 01, 2019, 12:55:07 AM »
Honestly, at this point I'm done.

OK, fine with me.


You either have some sort of massive reading comprehension problem

I have a reading comprehension problem? Are you being facetious?

You came into this thread with a preconceived notion that the discussion was all about whether criticizing religion is acceptable. I responded multiple times that I'm unconcerned whether criticism of religion is deemed unacceptable, and most people in this community don't care either.

That critique had originally been put forth by another poster, and was nothing but a strawman argument right from the start. Nobody had ever argued that criticism of religion is unacceptable.


or are intentionally being one of the most difficult and unpleasant people I've ever had the displeasure to try and have a conversation with on this forum.

If I've been "difficult and unpleasant" it's because I'm just reacting to your persistent attempts to dictate my own opinions to me. My patience with dishonest arguments only stretches so far.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2019, 05:54:04 AM by John Albert »

Offline Eternally Learning

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #97 on: April 01, 2019, 02:46:38 AM »
I'm not getting into it with you.  The only reason I said anything at all was because I hoped (and still do) that if you are just honestly not understanding what I've been saying this whole time, it might have some outside chance of sparking a little self-reflection.  The only reason I'm writing this now is to just add that I'm pretty sure others have said very similar things to you, multiple times, and in multiple different contexts on this forum, and to suggest that maybe you take a step back and look at the criticisms you've received from various users over your time here (and I suspect elsewhere as well) and ask yourself if there are any common threads in those complaints.  If that proves to be the case, then I would also suggest that those common threads might have more to do with you and less to do with all of those different people being the same exact kind of jerks or out to get you.  At any rate, that's all I plan to say on the matter as I have no doubt a debate would prove both frustrating and fruitless for us both. 

Offline Shibboleth

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #98 on: April 01, 2019, 01:15:34 PM »
There are many people that I have seen on this message board that were Christian and are now not and the thing that convinced them was good presentation of scientific evidence or lack there of.
common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.

Offline Eternally Learning

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #99 on: April 01, 2019, 01:23:03 PM »
Very true. I think part of the problem is that people can sometimes get frustrated without receiving immediate positive feedback from arguments made and overlook that change of ideas that fundamental to a person's worldview usually require large amounts of introspection and soul-searching. The arguments they debated against, or maybe even dismissed out of hand, can play a not-insignificant part in that. I've come to believe that our goal should not be to convince anyone to change their minds, but to hopefully trigger sincere introspection. That may entail many of the same actions and conversations, but definitely has an impact on tone, patience, empathy, and understanding.

Offline John Albert

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #100 on: April 02, 2019, 03:31:22 AM »
I'm not getting into it with you.  The only reason I said anything at all was because I hoped (and still do) that if you are just honestly not understanding what I've been saying this whole time, it might have some outside chance of sparking a little self-reflection.  The only reason I'm writing this now is to just add that I'm pretty sure others have said very similar things to you... [blah blah blah]

Stop trying to make this about me. My motives for starting this thread are totally irrelevant to the conversation.

You asked about my main point of contention in this thread, and I replied with a list of viewpoints that I have been disputing.

So why did you completely ignore that post? It appears yet another indication that you're not really interested in my opinions on the topic, but just want to mess with me personally.

If you have something personal to say to me, then the appropriate mode of communication would be a personal message.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2019, 04:00:32 AM by John Albert »

Offline John Albert

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #101 on: April 02, 2019, 03:44:45 AM »
There are many people that I have seen on this message board that were Christian and are now not and the thing that convinced them was good presentation of scientific evidence or lack there of.

So then would it be fair to characterize the good presentation of scientific evidence as a personal attack on those individuals?

Prior to their deconversion, they may have felt the resulting cognitive dissonance as a personal attack from the messengers of the scientific information. Would they have been correct?

Now after having deconverted, they're fundamentally still the same people. The only difference is that their mind has been changed about the subject of religion. So is it reasonable to conclude that they were really attacked?


My answers to these questions would be "no," they have not been attacked. They've simply been presented with information that conflicted with their beliefs.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2019, 05:44:57 AM by John Albert »

Offline Shibboleth

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #102 on: April 02, 2019, 12:57:51 PM »
I think the statement, "People in glass houses don't throw stones." comes into play here. What and what is not a personal attack is subjective. I am a very self-deprecating person so I am unlikely to take something as a personal attack. Some other people are far more likely to take something personally. The question I think at the heart of all this is when it is appropriate to talk to someone about their beliefs and how. If you are spouting racist remarks I don't care how personal you take it, I think it is appropriate to tell someone to shut up and that their beliefs are crap. On the other hand, if I am at a funeral for someone's child, no matter how comfortable I feel they are with polmic, I don't believe it is an appropriate time to critique their views on the afterlife.
common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.

Offline John Albert

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #103 on: April 03, 2019, 09:57:49 AM »
I think the statement, "People in glass houses don't throw stones." comes into play here.

First of all, the adage goes, "People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones." Or if you prefer, "People in glass houses, don't throw stones."

It's an admonition not to attack others, because somebody else could just as easily cause the same damage to you.

I don't understand the relevance here. Belief systems are not glass houses. 


What and what is not a personal attack is subjective.

I don't think it's completely subjective.

An "attack" requires intent to cause harm on the part of the attacker. Otherwise, it's not an attack, but at worst an accident.

But some people tend to characterize certain events as "personal attacks" even they were clearly not intended as such. Just because somebody feels or interprets something as a personal attack, that doesn't mean they're right. Feelings and interpretations are often wrong.


The question I think at the heart of all this is when it is appropriate to talk to someone about their beliefs and how.

I agree that this is an important question from a perspective of political strategy. It would be completely inappropriate to walk into a church on Sunday morning and disrupt worship services to argue apologetics with the preacher. While that behavior would certainly be inconsiderate and offensive, it doesn't prove that every criticism of religion is a personal attack against the believers.


If you are spouting racist remarks I don't care how personal you take it, I think it is appropriate to tell someone to shut up and that their beliefs are crap.

Of course that's appropriate. You'd get no objection from me on that one.

Regardless whether somebody's spouting hate speech, criticizing racist beliefs is no more of an attack than any other ideological critique.


On the other hand, if I am at a funeral for someone's child, no matter how comfortable I feel they are with polmic, I don't believe it is an appropriate time to critique their views on the afterlife.

Of course, that's a matter of context. It also might be an inopportune time to point out that the kid had a juvenile criminal record, only pulled a "D" average and failed the tryouts for junior varsity.

The fact that there's a time and place for certain conversations doesn't mean that all criticisms are attacks per se
« Last Edit: April 03, 2019, 12:58:12 PM by John Albert »

Offline Shibboleth

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Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
« Reply #104 on: April 03, 2019, 04:14:39 PM »
An attack can also mean to fiercely criticize. Intent to harm is not necessary. I would rather not get into an argument of definitions.
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