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General Discussions => Religion / Philosophy Talk => Topic started by: John Albert on February 22, 2019, 05:22:50 PM

Title: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert on February 22, 2019, 05:22:50 PM
Admirable, but in my experience there is very often an issue, particularly where religion is concerned, where an attack on the ideology is perceived as a personal attack on the self.

It's true that religious people often perceive challenges to their religion as personal attacks on themselves, but that's just another problem (or rather a feature) of religion itself.

And the same holds true for other forms of woo. For example, some self-professed psychics wrap their supernatural beliefs into their self-identity a similar way. Many of them truly believe they have an ability which is beneficial to others, consider it fair to receive payment for their services, and regard skepticism as a personal attack.

Does this mean we should refrain from criticizing these fraudulent and harmful beliefs?
 

Religion can be so much a part of a person's self-image and identity that it isn't as easy to "love the faithful, hate the faith" as people think it should be.

Other ideologies besides religion also form a major part of their believers' self-image and identity. Here in the US, some Republicans hold their political party as sacrosanct and even conflate those politics with their religion. Are Republicans therefore unlovable?  Does this mean we should refrain from denouncing the GOP for fear of hurt feelings?

To take it to the furthest extent, racist ideologies are especially tied into the believer's self-identity. Does that mean the same argument must apply to racists? What about racist religions like white Christian Identity and the black Nation of Yahweh?

Are we supposed to accept race-identity hate groups as valid cultural practices? Where do you draw the line?

Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: arthwollipot on February 24, 2019, 09:00:15 PM
Does this mean we should refrain from criticizing these fraudulent and harmful beliefs?

Of course not. Where on earth did you get the idea that I think we should "refrain from criticising" anything? All I'm arguing for is a more care and sensitivity. Criticism is difficult enough for a person to receive. Criticism by personal insult is rarely effective.

Are we supposed to accept race-identity hate groups as valid cultural practices? Where do you draw the line?

Again, I believe you're arguing against a position that I do not hold. Where did I say that we should accept hate groups?
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert on February 28, 2019, 03:49:57 AM
On the subject of criticizing Islam, Quetzalcoatl said:

     
I like the motto of the Edinburgh Skeptics (https://www.edinburghskeptics.co.uk/about): Respect People, Challenge Ideas

That is what I try to live by.

And you replied:

Admirable, but in my experience there is very often an issue, particularly where religion is concerned, where an attack on the ideology is perceived as a personal attack on the self. Religion can be so much a part of a person's self-image and identity that it isn't as easy to "love the faithful, hate the faith" as people think it should be.

Forgive me if I misunderstood, but to my ears the above statement sounded like a general caution against criticizing religious ideology, lest somebody's feelings get hurt.

But given that most religions do in fact promote some forms of intolerance or inequality (be it on the basis of race, sex, sexual preference, and/or gender identity), I'm more concerned with the hurt feelings and plight of the victims whose rights and equalities are being threatened. I'm far less concerned about any hurt feelings on the part of the oppressors, regardless how justified they might feel about it.

Religion is not a valid excuse for cruelty. I don't believe in giving a pass because it's enshrined in some cultural superstition. When a Christian condemns gay people to eternal Hell or a Muslim publicly shames women for extramarital sex, those ideas are no less awful in my eyes than a white nationalist disparaging minorities. An argument could be made that it's even worse, because the white supremacists are a fringe minority whereas the religions convey the evil into the mainstream culture under the myth of supernatural righteousness.


All I'm arguing for is a more care and sensitivity. Criticism is difficult enough for a person to receive. Criticism by personal insult is rarely effective.

Well I'm in complete agreement with this. It's entirely possible to criticize the tenets of a religion without demonizing or personally attacking the believers. Tact, sensitivity, even geniality are important when discussing religious beliefs with the faithful.

I'm also in 100% agreement with the motto of the Edinburgh Skeptics. I think we ought to criticize bad beliefs but not hate on people just for having them. After all, people are capable of changing their beliefs, but it serves no purpose to look the other way or pretend that the bad parts don't exist out of some misplaced respect for the 'culture.'
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: The Latinist on February 28, 2019, 03:14:31 PM
I think the point is not that religious ideas should be immune to criticism, but that one should not expect that it is possible to separate the belief from the believer, especially in the eyes of the believer. 

Consider the old "love the sinner, hate the sin' canard. It's not possible to love a person while hating something as fundamental to their being as their sexuality; they are inseparable. You can't expect a person to feel or believe or react as though you love them while you are saying that an essential part of them is evil and hated. Likewise it is not reasonable to expect a religious person not to feel personally attacked when you attack something so fundamental to their sense of self as their religion. That doesn't mean that you can't discuss flaws in religion, its negative consequences, etc., but you have to accept that denouncing those ideas is denouncing those who hold those ideas, and it will be felt and responded to as such.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: Billzbub on February 28, 2019, 03:16:08 PM
I think the point is not that religious ideas should be immune to criticism, but that one should not expect that it is possible to separate the belief from the believer, especially in the eyes of the believer. 

Consider the old "love the sinner, hate the sin' canard. It's not possible to love a person while hating something as fundamental to their being as their sexuality; they are inseparable. You can't expect a person to feel or believe or react as though you love them while you are saying that an essential part of them is evil and hated. Likewise it is not reasonable to expect a religious person not to feel personally attacked when you attack something so fundamental to their sense of self as their religion. That doesn't mean that you can't discuss flaws in religion, its negative consequences, etc., but you have to accept that denouncing those ideas is denouncing those who hold those ideas, and it will be felt and responded to as such.

Well said.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: arthwollipot on February 28, 2019, 09:02:10 PM
I think the point is not that religious ideas should be immune to criticism, but that one should not expect that it is possible to separate the belief from the believer, especially in the eyes of the believer. 

Consider the old "love the sinner, hate the sin' canard. It's not possible to love a person while hating something as fundamental to their being as their sexuality; they are inseparable. You can't expect a person to feel or believe or react as though you love them while you are saying that an essential part of them is evil and hated. Likewise it is not reasonable to expect a religious person not to feel personally attacked when you attack something so fundamental to their sense of self as their religion. That doesn't mean that you can't discuss flaws in religion, its negative consequences, etc., but you have to accept that denouncing those ideas is denouncing those who hold those ideas, and it will be felt and responded to as such.

Well said.

Yes, this quite succinctly encapsulates my own thoughts about the subject.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: Quetzalcoatl on March 01, 2019, 01:28:37 PM
but you have to accept that denouncing those ideas is denouncing those who hold those ideas, and it will be felt and responded to as such.

I don't buy into this at all. I am not "denouncing" anyone holding a particular belief if I criticize that belief.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert on March 01, 2019, 05:20:40 PM
but you have to accept that denouncing those ideas is denouncing those who hold those ideas, and it will be felt and responded to as such.

I don't buy into this at all. I am not "denouncing" anyone holding a particular belief if I criticize that belief.

I don't buy it either.

The "love the sinner, hate the sin" canard is completely irrelevant to atheists' criticism of religion. Religious belief is not equivalent to physical gender or sexual preference. As an atheist, I do not believe in sin, and I am not leveraging the institutional authority of my personal beliefs for the purpose of hurting anyone.

Criticizing a belief is not equivalent to denouncing the believer. Criticizing an ideology is objectively different from attacking someone personally or threatening their civil rights. Even if the believer might feel insulted by having their beliefs challenged, that's not my problem, but an unfortunate consequence of the believer's own indoctrination.

Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: The Latinist on March 01, 2019, 05:35:43 PM
Criticizing a belief is not equivalent to denouncing the believer. Criticizing an ideology is objectively different from attacking someone personally or threatening their civil rights. Even if the believer might feel insulted by having their beliefs challenged, that is not problem, but a consequence of their own indoctrination.

It is not objectively different, but subjectively so.  You consider it different because you value one and do not value the other; but the believer does not: for them, their beliefs are at least as fundamental to their being as are the rights and other qualities you consider sacrosanct. 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.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert on March 01, 2019, 05:46:11 PM
Criticizing a belief is not equivalent to denouncing the believer. Criticizing an ideology is objectively different from attacking someone personally or threatening their civil rights. Even if the believer might feel insulted by having their beliefs challenged, that is not problem, but a consequence of their own indoctrination.

It is not objectively different, but subjectively so.  You consider it different because you value one and do not value the other; but the believer does not: for them, their beliefs are at least as fundamental to their being as are the rights and other qualities you consider sacrosanct. 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.

Advocating for actual physical harm of others (oppressing women, physically mutilating peoples' gonads, killing homosexuals and apostates, denying civil rights, etc.) is objectively different from mere verbal criticism of somebody's beliefs.

Like I said, if somebody feels personally attacked by hearing their beliefs challenged, that's their problem. I'm not publicly vilifying anyone, infringing on their rights, or inflicting actual harm. The aspects of religion that I criticize are precisely those which infringe on the rights, equality and safety of others. And when it comes to harmful, irrational ideologies, I will always defend the rights of actual victims over the self-righteous delusions of their oppressors.

I don't waste any more time worrying about the feelings of religious bigots any more than I would spend worrying about Nazi fears of white genocide.

To be honest, I'm finding your moral relativism rather worrisome. Are you sure you want to die on this hill, defending religious people's claims of rights to harm and kill women, LGBTQ people and anyone who believes differently from them?
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: Quetzalcoatl on March 01, 2019, 06:11:25 PM
To criticize their beliefs is to criticize them personally, as surely as would be criticizing another person's race or sexual identity.

(https://img.memecdn.com/mr-bean-is-wisdom_o_1656617.jpg)

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.

(https://pics.me.me/e-a-people-have-rights-ideas-dont-have-rights-14574474.png)

In case you haven't noticed, skepticism is to a significant part about scrutinizing and criticizing ideas and beliefs that people might hold. How do you feel about that?
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: heyalison on March 02, 2019, 05:41:36 AM
I love how some white, cis guys who "don't believe in identity politics" need to bring up being a skeptic at every opportunity, and surround themselves with the gifs, videos, and hero worship of skeptic idpol whenever that identity feels threatened.  ::)
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert on March 02, 2019, 09:32:46 AM
Sort of like how some people who are supposedly against gender and race discrimination manage to shoehorn people's race and gender into the discussion at every opportunity.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert on March 02, 2019, 10:27:27 AM
It's pretty fundamental to the whole humanist outlook to treat all people with basic human respect and dignity, regardless whatever stupid, crazy, or small-minded beliefs they might hold.

But at the same time, we should also be working to discredit unreasonable beliefs, especially ideologies that specifically instruct their followers to harm others. 

And if somebody acting on their bad beliefs is causing harm to others, that's a different story. In that case we have a responsibility to intervene.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: The Latinist on March 02, 2019, 10:43:19 AM
Advocating for actual physical harm of others (oppressing women, physically mutilating peoples' gonads, killing homosexuals and apostates, denying civil rights, etc.) is objectively different from mere verbal criticism of somebody's beliefs.

I made no argument in defense of advocating physical harm, nor did am I advocating or defending any belief. 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 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.  Religious beliefs are no less fundamental to and inseparable from personal identity than are race and gender.

Quote
Like I said, if somebody feels personally attacked by hearing their beliefs challenged, that's their problem. I'm not publicly vilifying anyone, infringing on their rights, or inflicting actual harm. The aspects of religion that I criticize are precisely those which infringe on the rights, equality and safety of others. And when it comes to harmful, irrational ideologies, I will always defend the rights of actual victims over the self-righteous delusions of their oppressors.

I am not saying that you do not have a right to make such criticisms; you undoubtedly do. 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. 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.

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

Incidentally, and slightly off-topic: 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 remember vividly having it pointed out to me that some people would find my avatar (the same one I have now) offensive, though it was not. Then, as now, I argued that it is in fact offensive. Indeed, I know and accept that it is offensive and that much of any effectiveness it has is due to that offensiveness. I display it not because I do not believe that it is offensive, but because I believe that its potential benefits outweigh the offense it may give.

Quote
To be honest, I'm finding your moral relativism rather worrisome. Are you sure you want to die on this hill, defending religious people's claims of rights to harm and kill women, LGBTQ people and anyone who believes differently from them?

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. 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.  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.

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.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert 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.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: The Latinist 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.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert 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 (https://sguforums.com/index.php/topic,50869.0.html) if you want to continue.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: The Latinist 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.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert 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.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: The Latinist 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.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert 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.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: The Latinist 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.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert 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. 
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: The Latinist 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.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: arthwollipot 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.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert 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.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert 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 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.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert 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?
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: The Latinist 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.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: Billzbub 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.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert 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 offensive than saying, "You look like a tawdry buffoon in that bright red tie."


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?
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: Billzbub 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.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: The Latinist on March 04, 2019, 04:38:30 PM
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.

When did I say that there was a 'problem' that lay with anyone?  All I said was that the criticism was personal.  I didn't lay blame or say that anyone had to do anything with that knowledge other than that they should acknowledge that fact.


Quote
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.

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. They have absolutely nothing to do with worthiness of respect at all.

Quote
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.

Okay. But this is utterly irrelevant to any point I have made. I have not said that you had to respect anyone's ideas or beliefs. I have said ONLY that you should acknowledge that criticism of them may be personal.

Quote
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.

Again you are arguing against something I have never said. The ONLY think I have said is that you should recognize that your criticisms may be personal. And, yes, this may be true no matter how politely you criticize and no matter your intention; how personal criticism is depends almost exclusively upon how that criticism is received.

Quote
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?

I have not made and do not make any claim about the justification of anyone accusing anyone of anything. That you are hung up on that matter is not my problem.

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.

I would go further: I would say that the intent of the criticizer is irrelevant to the question of whether such criticism is personal.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: arthwollipot 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.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: Quetzalcoatl 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.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: arthwollipot 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.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert 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.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert 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.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: The Latinist on March 07, 2019, 08:30:41 PM
At this point, John, I think we’ve gone as far as we can. You at least seem to have stepped back from the mischaracterizations and lies of your earlier posts and are no longer arguing against points I didn’t make. There remains only a fundamental disagreement between us about what it means for an attack or criticism to be personal, a difference of opinion which, like our disagreement on the nature of subjectivity and objectivity, cannot be bridged. Indeed, I suspect that the disagreements are fundamentally connected.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert 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.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: The Latinist on March 08, 2019, 02:35:56 PM
And there you go again attributing things I have never said to me. You continue to argue against a bogeyman of your own invention rather the actual ideas I’ve expressed.  It’s enough to make me wonder if you’ve got a guilty conscience that raises up these specters before you; certainly it is not I who do.

To be clear, I have never made either of the following claims you attribute to me:

1. That “all criticism of religion therefore defaults to a personal attack on believers”
2. That “criticizing an ideology like religion” is any kind of “offense.”

I have also neither implied that beliefs cannot be untrue, nor that beliefs and feelings are static.

Finally, I have not “caution[ed] skeptics against criticizing irrational and harmful ideologies for the sake of sparing feelings.”

I do wish you’d stop making shit up to argue against when I’ve offered you a perfectly good real argument against which to do so.

Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert on March 08, 2019, 02:41:25 PM
To be clear, I have never made either of the following claims you attribute to me:

1. That “all criticism of religion therefore defaults to a personal attack on believers”
2. That “criticizing an ideology like religion” is any kind of “offense.”

Gee, I wonder where I might have gotten those ideas. Maybe from the post where you said:

         
it is not reasonable to expect a religious person not to feel personally attacked when you attack something so fundamental to their sense of self as their religion. That doesn't mean that you can't discuss flaws in religion, its negative consequences, etc., but you have to accept that denouncing those ideas is denouncing those who hold those ideas

Am I wrong to construe, "denouncing those ideas is denouncing those who hold those ideas," to mean criticism of religion defaults to a personal attack on believers?

When somebody "feels personally attacked" or "denounced," isn't that synonymous with an "offense?"


I have also neither implied that beliefs cannot be untrue, nor that beliefs and feelings are static.

I didn't accuse you of implying either statement. Those sentences were offered as an explanation for my line of reasoning.


Finally, I have not “caution[ed] skeptics against criticizing irrational and harmful ideologies for the sake of sparing feelings.”

Is, "you have to accept that denouncing those ideas is denouncing those who hold those ideas," not a caution against criticizing religion for the sake of sparing feelings?


By the way:

our disagreement on the nature of subjectivity and objectivity

I don't think we're necessarily in disagreement about the nature of subjectivity or objectivity. Not to spill our previous discussion about objective morality over into this thread, but our disagreement in that discussion stemmed from your own intractibility about the idea that an "objective moral system" could possibly mean anything other than a metaphysical set of principles that all intelligent beings in the universe must acknowledge as morally right and true. My position is that an "objective moral system" could also mean something as mundane as a code of law established by some human authority, by which all subjects under its jurisdiction are legally bound whether they like it or not.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert on March 09, 2019, 06:17:42 PM
Attention mods: the discussion in this thread has sharply veered off-topic starting with Reply #35 (https://sguforums.com/index.php/topic,50974.msg9603087.html#msg9603087).

I'm feeling that the tangent is well worth preserving in its own thread in the Religion / Philosophy Talk subforum. Perhaps a good title for the new thread might be: "Does criticism of religion amount to a personal attack on the faithful?"
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: The Latinist on March 09, 2019, 08:59:51 PM
I strongly object to this discussion being stripped of its context in that manner.  Conversations evolve, and it is not always necessary or advisable to attempt to force them into a box.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert on March 10, 2019, 11:38:42 AM
What context?
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert on March 10, 2019, 07:54:16 PM
So no answers, eh?

I'm convinced there is no good reason not to split this tangent off from the rest of the thread, and you're just throwing your weight around to spite me for pushing back against your idealism.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: The Latinist on March 11, 2019, 09:27:56 AM
Woah.  That’s rather out of nowhere.  I wasn’t aware that I labored under a deadline (or, for that matter, that I was under any obligation to provide you with answers at all). As for “throw[ing] [my] weight around,” I’m not sure what you’re talking about. I expressed my opinion, which I think has equal weight with yours except insofar as I might make a better argument.

And as for your question, I didn’t respond because I felt the answer was obvious: the context of the thread in which it was held and the posts that sparked the disagreement. It is my opinion that such things should be preserved if possible and that decisions to split of threads should be made only to facilitate discourse.  As both the original topic of the thread and this one that sprang from it appear to have been exhausted and we are therefore not interfering with any ongoing topical discussion, I see no reason to make such a split.

But fear not; in case anyone wishes to return and discuss this phantom beheading, I shall bow out of this discussion which seems to be verging on bickering, leaving the last word to you.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert on March 11, 2019, 01:00:36 PM
I wasn’t aware that I labored under a deadline (or, for that matter, that I was under any obligation to provide you with answers at all). As for “throw[ing] [my] weight around,” I’m not sure what you’re talking about.

I never said anything about any "deadline." 

You had been replying to the thread quite regularly (often within minutes) then seemed to abandon it after my last round of questions for you. Not that surprising, given that you never answer any of my questions anyway and instead opt for the uncharitable approach of disparaging me for "misrepresenting" you after the fact.

Over a day went by with no response from you, so I figured you'd abandoned the discussion. Then within a couple hours of my request to split the thread, you jumped back in just to register your "strong" objection on the basis of some specious rationale of preserving context. When I requested an explanation, you disappeared again.


I expressed my opinion, which I think has equal weight with yours except insofar as I might make a better argument.

I'm eager to see that better argument. Where have you been hiding it?


And as for your question, I didn’t respond because I felt the answer was obvious: the context of the thread in which it was held and the posts that sparked the disagreement. It is my opinion that such things should be preserved if possible and that decisions to split of threads should be made only to facilitate discourse.

OK, then why not handle it this way: split the thread off to continue the tangential discussion under a new topic, but also leave the posts intact in the original thread and make a mod note of the split?


As both the original topic of the thread and this one that sprang from it appear to have been exhausted

So you're the authority who gets to decide whether the discussion has been exhausted?


But fear not; in case anyone wishes to return and discuss this phantom beheading, I shall bow out of this discussion which seems to be verging on bickering, leaving the last word to you.

This thread has moved on from the transient subject of a fake news report, into a much broader meta-discussion on the distinction between criticizing ideology versus demonizing people.

That's the reason I'm requesting that it be split off: It's an important subject that deserves its own thread with an appropriate title.

You still never explained your rationale for preserving the "context," beyond saying "it is my opinion."

That kind of attitude is exactly what I meant by "throwing your weight around."
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: Quetzalcoatl on March 20, 2019, 01:38:00 PM
https://twitter.com/RichardDawkins/status/1108339547644010496

A contradiction in terms or not?
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: arthwollipot on March 20, 2019, 08:58:00 PM
It assumes that "religion" can exist independently from the person who holds it, which is not true. There are two major problems with this. First, people identify with their religion so strongly that an attack on their religion is perceived as an attack on their self-image. Second, it's "love the sinner, hate the sin", which is something we don't let the religious get away with.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: heyalison on March 21, 2019, 01:29:54 PM
Dawkins has been drumming up islamophobic anxiety for decades now, and is responsible for being a gateway to racist extremism for white men. I'd say what I think of him, but the language would probably get me a warning. Blood is on his hands. We'd all do well to stop idolizing this hateful old creep.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert on March 21, 2019, 04:30:37 PM
It assumes that "religion" can exist independently from the person who holds it, which is not true.

No, it doesn't necessarily assume that.

It may also be based on the assumption that religion is an ideology whereas a person is a human being; a person's ideology is not an integral part of the person, and people's ideologies can change.

Besides, heroin addiction cannot exist independently from the person who is addicted to heroin. Does that mean that pointing out the evils of heroin addiction amounts to a personal attack on drug addicts? Of course not.


First, people identify with their religion so strongly that an attack on their religion is perceived as an attack on their self-image.

That's a hasty generalization. How do you know that all religious people feel that way?

Even if some do, does that mean their feelings are warranted?

If a heroin addict feels that pointing out the dangers of drug addiction is a personal attack against him, does that really make it so? Of course it doesn't.


Second, it's "love the sinner, hate the sin", which is something we don't let the religious get away with.

No, not even close. By that rationale, any criticism of any belief or practice is synonymous with hatred.

That view is unreasonable, anti-skeptical, and socially regressive. Society does not improve by increasing the hatred toward various groups who have false or harmful ideologies. Society improves by discrediting bad ideas while promoting understanding, education, and empathy for other human beings.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert on March 21, 2019, 04:36:49 PM
Dawkins has been drumming up islamophobic anxiety for decades now, and is responsible for being a gateway to racist extremism for white men. I'd say what I think of him, but the language would probably get me a warning. Blood is on his hands. We'd all do well to stop idolizing this hateful old creep.

Your vitriol against Richard Dawkins is noted, but who said anything about him?
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: The Latinist on March 21, 2019, 05:02:32 PM
Dawkins has been drumming up islamophobic anxiety for decades now, and is responsible for being a gateway to racist extremism for white men. I'd say what I think of him, but the language would probably get me a warning. Blood is on his hands. We'd all do well to stop idolizing this hateful old creep.

Your vitriol against Richard Dawkins is noted, but who said anything about him?

Quetzalcoatl did.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert on March 21, 2019, 06:25:45 PM
Dawkins has been drumming up islamophobic anxiety for decades now, and is responsible for being a gateway to racist extremism for white men. I'd say what I think of him, but the language would probably get me a warning. Blood is on his hands. We'd all do well to stop idolizing this hateful old creep.

Your vitriol against Richard Dawkins is noted, but who said anything about him?

Quetzalcoatl did.

Oh, I see. he posted a tweet from Dawkins. That in itself can be a fraught endeavor.

Anyway, I think it's a bit of a stretch to blame Richard Dawkins for bigotry against Muslims. Atheist humanists are not the ones going out killing Muslims and bombing mosques, and I seriously doubt that the far-right Christian crusaders responsible for most of these attacks got their ideas from reading The God Delusion.

The "gateway" argument is also bunk unless you can demonstrate a chain of causality.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: arthwollipot on March 21, 2019, 09:28:26 PM
Yes, I know you disagree, John Albert. I'm not about to bang my head against your brick wall again.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: Quetzalcoatl on March 22, 2019, 08:49:55 AM
Second, it's "love the sinner, hate the sin", which is something we don't let the religious get away with.

No, not even close. By that rationale, any criticism of any belief or practice is synonymous with hating somebody.

That view is unreasonable, anti-skeptical, and socially regressive. Society does not improve by increasing the hatred toward various groups who have false or harmful ideologies. Society improves by discrediting bad ideas while promoting understanding, education, and empathy for other human beings.

Thank you for being a voice of reason here John Albert. It is by skeptical inquiry, questioning beliefs, and refinement of beliefs, that society can move forward. And that's all kinds of belief. Religious, philosophical, political, scientific, historical, etc. No area is off limits.

To me, it is utterly astonishing that two skeptics are trying to wall off particular beliefs from criticism. The world has truly gone mad.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: brilligtove on March 22, 2019, 01:15:19 PM
Caveat: I haven't the time to read the whole thread since TL raised this point, so I'm weighing in without all the context.

"Why: The Dangerous Question" was a conference track I did many times. Why is dangerous because it is a combination of how and who, even though we use it as if it means 'how' in many cases. This makes 'why' threatening in ways that 'how' is not, because it subtly raises questions of identity. If I ask an executive 'How did your project run $2 million over budget?' we can have a conversation about the factors that played into that situation. If I ask that executive 'Why did your project run $2 million over budget?' the implied 'who decided to' in the question feels like I'm questioning their judgement and ability to do their job. We're not going to be having a productive conversation after that.

That example is just scratching the surface of the reactions you get when you question someone's identity in more direct ways. As The Latinist has noted, questions about a truely held belief are experienced as questions and judgements about who you are to believe such a thing. It may be possible to separate the person from the belief. It's a lot harder to do when you are the person who holds the belief.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: The Latinist on March 22, 2019, 01:47:32 PM
I think the title given to this thread is not a fair representation of the claims that I and others have made. Indeed, I think it adopts the straw man position of John which nobody is arguing for at all. I am very upset at this misrepresentation.

This is, indeed, exactly the kind of change I feared when it was suggested that this thread be split off.  We now have an opening post which makes no sense whatever outside of the context of the thread it was made in and a title which misrepresents what was an organic transition from the previous topic as though it were some sort of debate league resolution.  I would never have posted as I did in this thread as currently constituted and titled, and I am sorely tempted to delete all of my posts in this thread because of this.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert on March 22, 2019, 03:35:42 PM
I think the title given to this thread is not a fair representation of the claims that I and others have made.

Arthwollipot has said:

         
in my experience there is very often an issue, particularly where religion is concerned, where an attack on the ideology is perceived as a personal attack on the self. Religion can be so much a part of a person's self-image and identity that it isn't as easy to "love the faithful, hate the faith" as people think it should be.


Then The Latinist took it a step further, and said:

         
it is not reasonable to expect a religious person not to feel personally attacked when you attack something so fundamental to their sense of self as their religion.

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

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.

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

So as you can see, it's not really a strawman after all.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert on March 22, 2019, 03:59:59 PM
Caveat: I haven't the time to read the whole thread since TL raised this point, so I'm weighing in without all the context.

"Why: The Dangerous Question" was a conference track I did many times. Why is dangerous because it is a combination of how and who, even though we use it as if it means 'how' in many cases. This makes 'why' threatening in ways that 'how' is not, because it subtly raises questions of identity. If I ask an executive 'How did your project run $2 million over budget?' we can have a conversation about the factors that played into that situation. If I ask that executive 'Why did your project run $2 million over budget?' the implied 'who decided to' in the question feels like I'm questioning their judgement and ability to do their job. We're not going to be having a productive conversation after that.

I certainly agree that a lot of emotional baggage may be riding on how one phrases one's judgment.

Whether it's objectively directed at a given individual or individuals, or whether it's intended to besmirch or wound, that largely depends on the wording of the criticism. "Christianity is unreasonable and immoral" is not the same as saying, "Christians are unreasonable and immoral," let alone something like, "Ken Ham's beliefs are unreasonable and immoral," or even, "Ken Ham is unreasonable and immoral." And many shades of blame can be implied or inferred through even more subtle differences in wording.

But just because somebody feels that a statement is a personal attack, that does not make it objectively so.


That example is just scratching the surface of the reactions you get when you question someone's identity in more direct ways. As The Latinist has noted, questions about a truely held belief are experienced as questions and judgements about who you are to believe such a thing. It may be possible to separate the person from the belief. It's a lot harder to do when you are the person who holds the belief.

I think it also depends on the depth of one's feelings of righteousness about the beliefs, versus their willingness to admit they might be wrong or mistaken.

Either way, criticizing an ideology or practice is not necessarily synonymous with a personal attack on its adherents. Some of them might receive such criticism as if it were a personal attack, but that does not mean it actually is directed at them personally.


Yes, I know you disagree, John Albert. I'm not about to bang my head against your brick wall again.

That's a nice compliment about the solidity of my reasoning on this subject. Before reaching my current position, I have indeed spent several decades of my life considering the truthfulness and social implications of these kinds of questions from both sides.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: daniel1948 on March 22, 2019, 04:31:00 PM
My two cents: I recognize that some religious people (not all by a long shot, maybe just a very vocal minority) perceive an attack on their religion as an attack upon themselves. This should never become an argument against denouncing religion. Maybe it calls for some sensitivity when talking to such people, but religion is the most pernicious influence in society, and humanity will never be at peace with itself until we dig it out at the roots. If the fundamentalists feel my criticisms of their religion is a personal attack on them, that's their problem. You would not ban criticism of the anti-vax movement just because anti-vaxxers feel it's an attack on them.

Most religious people, in my opinion, are not bad people. They are deluded by a cruel fantasy, and living in that fantasy are easier to manipulate into cruelty.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: brilligtove on March 22, 2019, 05:04:01 PM
I'm pressed for time today, so I'm going to focus on one point that I think is essential to the disagreement I have with your position, John.

But just because somebody feels that a statement is a personal attack, that does not make it objectively so.

What I'm claiming is that it is a characteristic of human nature that any and all challenges to a person's values are what you're describing as 'personal attacks'. There is no objective truth in this situation because all value judgements are intrinsically subjective on all sides. There is certainly a discussion to be had about intent, charity, self reflection, resilience, and more. Under all that is the reality that anything that challenges your sense of self is going to be provocative. With education, training, and practice it is possible to drastically alter your own relationship to those challenges. That's something that many skeptics spend their lives working on.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert on March 22, 2019, 06:58:10 PM
What I'm claiming is that it is a characteristic of human nature that any and all challenges to a person's values are what you're describing as 'personal attacks'.

I don't think it's human nature. I think that's a hasty generalization, because all people do not react the same way to having their values challenged.

If you're claiming it's "human nature," then let's see some evidence for it.


There is no objective truth in this situation because all value judgements are intrinsically subjective on all sides.

How do you get the idea that all value judgments are intrinsically subjective? Objective value judgments certainly exist as well. 


For example, to say "1+1≠3 is incorrect" is an objective value judgment about the mathematical solution "1+1≠3."

Moreover, "1+1≠3 is incorrect" is not a criticism or an attack on any random student who may have written "1+1=3" as the answer to a math test. It's simply an objective statement of fact. 


Likewise, if I say: "The story of Adam and Eve is not literally true."

That is a statement of fact about a particular literary work. It is objectively not a personal attack on any random creationist who claims offense.

We know that it's objectively not a personal attack, because the subject of the sentence is "The story of Adam and Eve," and not any particular individual who espouses creationist theology.

On the other hand, if I said "Ken Ham is a stupid creationist," that is objectively a personal attack on Ken Ham. Everybody can tell it's personal, because I called Ken Ham out by name as the subject of the sentence.

Do you see how it can be linguistically objective? Whether or not it's personal doesn't come down to just one person's feelings on the matter.


There is certainly a discussion to be had about intent, charity, self reflection, resilience, and more.

Indeed, that is the whole point of this thread.


Under all that is the reality that anything that challenges your sense of self is going to be provocative.

Many people find such challenges provocative. But some people are so indoctrinated or arrogant in their beliefs that they may not even find it provocative in the least, and just disregard it without a care.

But whatever kinds of reactions those challenges provoke will differ from individual to individual. That's why I say you can't put it down to "human nature."


With education, training, and practice it is possible to drastically alter your own relationship to those challenges. That's something that many skeptics spend their lives working on.

Yep, and that's the whole point of the skeptical movement: to foster critical thinking, scientific skepticism, and humanist values in all aspects of life.

Part of that process is coming to the realization that how we may feel about a particular subject does not necessarily constitute reality.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: Bill K on March 23, 2019, 03:11:45 PM
Interesting conversation, I think. I'll just watch how it / if it continues.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: Quetzalcoatl on March 23, 2019, 09:29:29 PM
Interesting conversation, I think. I'll just watch how it / if it continues.

IMO it's kinda sad that this kind of discussion is even necessary. Haven't we gotten longer along the road than this? But now that things are what they are, I'll also observe the discussion with interest. :)
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: Noisy Rhysling on March 24, 2019, 11:14:44 AM
Admirable, but in my experience there is very often an issue, particularly where religion is concerned, where an attack on the ideology is perceived as a personal attack on the self.

It's true that religious people often perceive challenges to their religion as personal attacks on themselves, but that's just another problem (or rather a feature) of religion itself.

And the same holds true for other forms of woo. For example, some self-professed psychics wrap their supernatural beliefs into their self-identity a similar way. Many of them truly believe they have an ability which is beneficial to others, consider it fair to receive payment for their services, and regard skepticism as a personal attack.

Does this mean we should refrain from criticizing these fraudulent and harmful beliefs?
 

Religion can be so much a part of a person's self-image and identity that it isn't as easy to "love the faithful, hate the faith" as people think it should be.

Other ideologies besides religion also form a major part of their believers' self-image and identity. Here in the US, some Republicans hold their political party as sacrosanct and even conflate those politics with their religion. Are Republicans therefore unlovable?  Does this mean we should refrain from denouncing the GOP for fear of hurt feelings?

To take it to the furthest extent, racist ideologies are especially tied into the believer's self-identity. Does that mean the same argument must apply to racists? What about racist religions like white Christian Identity and the black Nation of Yahweh?

Are we supposed to accept race-identity hate groups as valid cultural practices? Where do you draw the line?
I have seen believers take other ridiculous positions in order to avoid facing hard questions. (Like, "do you have any proof for a god or gods?")
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: Quetzalcoatl on March 24, 2019, 11:51:11 AM
Religion can be so much a part of a person's self-image and identity that it isn't as easy to "love the faithful, hate the faith" as people think it should be.

Other ideologies besides religion also form a major part of their believers' self-image and identity. Here in the US, some Republicans hold their political party as sacrosanct and even conflate those politics with their religion. Are Republicans therefore unlovable?  Does this mean we should refrain from denouncing the GOP for fear of hurt feelings?

To take it to the furthest extent, racist ideologies are especially tied into the believer's self-identity. Does that mean the same argument must apply to racists? What about racist religions like white Christian Identity and the black Nation of Yahweh?

Are we supposed to accept race-identity hate groups as valid cultural practices? Where do you draw the line?

You are exactly right. Religion is a subset of ideology, and any ideology, religious or otherwise, can become part of a person's self-identity. This is old news. I don't see why religion should receive special treatment.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: Quetzalcoatl on March 24, 2019, 02:05:14 PM
Dawkins has been drumming up islamophobic anxiety for decades now, and is responsible for being a gateway to racist extremism for white men. I'd say what I think of him, but the language would probably get me a warning. Blood is on his hands. We'd all do well to stop idolizing this hateful old creep.

I might be wrong here, but I think that if Dawkins is not a member of this forum (and I assume he is not), you can say whatever you want about him, as long as it does not contain threats or encouragement of illegal activities.

But please correct me if I misunderstand the rules.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert on March 24, 2019, 07:21:21 PM
Dawkins has been drumming up islamophobic anxiety for decades now, and is responsible for being a gateway to racist extremism for white men. I'd say what I think of him, but the language would probably get me a warning. Blood is on his hands. We'd all do well to stop idolizing this hateful old creep.

I might be wrong here, but I think that if Dawkins is not a member of this forum (and I assume he is not), you can say whatever you want about him, as long as it does not contain threats or encouragement of illegal activities.

But please correct me if I misunderstand the rules.

I totally get why some people don't like Dawkins.

That unfortunate public dust-up with Rebecca Watson left both of them looking bad, especially for two people who each profess to be levelheaded skeptics. But as the elder figure with the genteel upbringing, I'd have expected Dawkins to show a little class and concede that Rebecca raised some quite reasonable arguments.

But instead he's harbored a rather puerile grudge against the fourth-wave feminists, gone on to say some really tone-deaf things, and come out looking like a cad. That's garnered him some accolades from the reactionary "neckbeards" of the skeptics movement, which he doesn't seem too uncomfortable about accepting.

But at the same time, I don't understand this level of vitriol. To accuse him of having "blood on his hands" is a bit beyond the pale.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: daniel1948 on March 24, 2019, 08:22:03 PM
Religion is a subset of ideology, and any ideology, religious or otherwise, can become part of a person's self-identity. This is old news. I don't see why religion should receive special treatment.

Religion is in a class by itself because unlike other ideologies, which typically deal with what they think people ought to do, or how societies or governments should be organized, religion insists that palpable bullshit is divinely-revealed truth. The argument seems to be that if your belief is demonstrable bullshit, then it's unacceptable for anybody to call you on it.

If I say that I own the Brooklyn Bridge and I offer to sell it to you, I've committed a crime and can be put in jail. But if I say that a magic man in the sky has authorized me to grant or deny passage to Paradise after you die, and I offer to sell that to you, not only can I not be charged with a crime, but you will be excoriated for intolerance if you tell me to my face that I am a liar and a cheat and a charlatan.

It's precisely because religion is bullshit that it gets special treatment among all the other sorts of ideologies. I say that all priests and rabbis and mullahas and lamas and all the rest of them should be called what they are: liars and cheats and charlatans who belong in jail for fraud.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: Eternally Learning on March 24, 2019, 08:54:43 PM
I haven't bothered to read through this whole thread so can someone just please raise their hand if they feel we shouldn't criticize religion or even the religious?  I'm getting a strong vibe that most people who are disagreeing here don't actually disagree on anything substantial.  May or may not have been why I skipped over the massive walls of text.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: arthwollipot on March 24, 2019, 10:53:39 PM
Yeah, 'cause I really want to have this conversation again.  ::)
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: Eternally Learning on March 24, 2019, 11:16:57 PM
I feel you, I can't even bring myself to read most of it. I just suspect no one here actually believes that we shouldn't criticize religions or even religious people, as a rule, and since the whole thread seemed to be about that, I just wanted a quick check to see if I even want to bother to weigh in. Also, looked like a lot of this conversation remained in the other thread so it was a little hard to follow.

Suffice it to say though, if someone here actually thinks religion and the religious are out of bounds, then I have some things to say. If not, then I'll just go back to my baseline assumption that this thread is a frustrating mess, in which case I have no desire to rehash anything.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert on March 25, 2019, 12:58:41 AM
I haven't bothered to read through this whole thread so can someone just please raise their hand if they feel we shouldn't criticize religion or even the religious?  I'm getting a strong vibe that most people who are disagreeing here don't actually disagree on anything substantial.  May or may not have been why I skipped over the massive walls of text.

Nobody's saying we should never criticize religion per se.

This whole meta-discussion stemmed from another topic because the "criticizing religion is an attack on believers" rebuke often gets raised in discussions about the deleterious effects of religion on society.

I asked for this new thread to be split off because I feel it's important to distinguish between criticizing ideas and attacking people. Some others seem intent on blurring that line where religion is concerned.

The main defense put forth for that view seems tied up in some squishy reasoning that posits, "all opinions are subjective, so if somebody feels like you're attacking them, there's no way they can be wrong." Which seems like a problematic mode of thinking that's also well worth examining.


Suffice it to say though, if someone here actually thinks religion and the religious are out of bounds, then I have some things to say. If not, then I'll just go back to my baseline assumption that this thread is a frustrating mess, in which case I have no desire to rehash anything.

The discussion is not about whether religion is "out of bounds." It's about whether criticizing religion really amounts to an attack on people.

Feel free to participate, or not.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: Eternally Learning on March 25, 2019, 10:49:00 AM
Does that distinction matter if there are no implications for what actions are or are not acceptable?
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: daniel1948 on March 25, 2019, 11:54:38 AM
Most, in fact nearly all the religious people I know are not bad or cruel or unkind people, and in fact you wouldn't even know they're religious. They believe some bullshit, and it doesn't affect how they behave. It doesn't affect how they vote. They don't go around telling other people to change their beliefs or behavior.

So I don't criticize people for being religious. I criticize people if and when they act like assholes. But I criticize religion for being the vile and pernicious influence it is. Because even though most religious people are perfectly decent and nice people, when people become super-assholes on a large scale, religion is the reason half of the time. Eliminate religion, and you eliminate half of all the preventable suffering in the world.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert on March 25, 2019, 11:12:22 PM
Does that distinction matter if there are no implications for what actions are or are not acceptable?

Yes.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: Eternally Learning on March 26, 2019, 07:48:32 AM
Does that distinction matter if there are no implications for what actions are or are not acceptable?

Yes.

Care to fill me in on why?
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert on March 27, 2019, 01:41:46 PM
Does that distinction matter if there are no implications for what actions are or are not acceptable?

Yes.

Care to fill me in on why?

Because acceptability is beside the point. Who decides whether a given action is "acceptable" in the first place?

The larger issue is not whether something is acceptable, but how we go about determining what amounts to a transgression against another person or group.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: Eternally Learning on March 27, 2019, 02:28:19 PM
And a transgression could also be referred to as... An unacceptable action? I'm so confused right now.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert on March 27, 2019, 02:39:51 PM
And a transgression could also be referred to as...

An attack.

Like I said before, it's not just about which actions we deem unacceptable, but the process of how we evaluate whether certain actions cause real harm.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: Eternally Learning on March 27, 2019, 05:42:45 PM
And a transgression could also be referred to as...

An attack.

Like I said before, it's not just about which actions we deem unacceptable, but the process of how we evaluate whether certain actions cause real harm.

Well, an attack can be positive or negative depending on your point of view.  A transgression is defined as breaking rules or codes.  Unacceptable is a much better synonym.

This is what you originally told me the discussion was about.

The discussion is not about whether religion is "out of bounds." It's about whether criticizing religion really amounts to an attack on people.

You are taking an action, 'criticism of religion,' and discussing if it is or isn't an attack on an individual.  In other words, you are discussing whether that act is unacceptable (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/unacceptable) or in other words, a transgression (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/transgression).  Nowhere until just now did you say anything about processes of evaluation.  It seems very much that you are worried about whether people think we are attacking the religious when we criticize their religion. 

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 discussion at all because we can all carry on doing business as usual because either one of those three has been assumed in error about another person here or someone is having a very serious lapse in logic.  If you want to have a discussion about whether a subjective belief that one is being attacked is the same as actually being attacked, then fine, but it seems like there's a whole lot else wrapped up in here that has nothing to do with 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). 
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: Shibboleth on March 28, 2019, 12:37:27 PM
To the original question. For those people where their beliefs are core to their identity it can be an attack on the person or at least perceived as such. This is why I suggest always trying to avoid anathema and denunciation and just present evidence. Try to avoid sweeping generalizations. Avoid claims where there are so many confounding variables that you can't truly know if religion is a cause. etc.

Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: Eternally Learning on March 28, 2019, 03:41:20 PM
Exactly. It's like having a debate with someone where you insult them in a very specific way that you feel is 100% justified. Sure, you can feel good about how you selected your insult because it's a reasonable one, but if you're trying to change the other person's mind, that justification doesn't mean diddly squat.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: daniel1948 on March 28, 2019, 04:08:01 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.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: Quetzalcoatl on March 28, 2019, 04:25:20 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...
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: Eternally Learning on March 28, 2019, 04:37:01 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.

That's why you tailor your debate tactics to the other person and how you can expect they will react.  Not all religious people respond to contradicting evidence like that, and some are so much like you say that it makes debate pointless.  I had a very odd experience with a guy I worked with a few years ago who was an unusual combination of one of the most extreme religious worldviews I've encountered but also completely OK with having a discussion about them where you could be as critical as you like and he wouldn't go ape or get frustrated or whatever.  It was not something I'm used to experiencing, but I suspect it was because he was so supremely confident that he was right that he couldn't let himself feel threatened.  At any rate, one day after the 50th crazy conversation I'd had with the guy, I'd managed to actually debate him into a position where he actually admitted that logically, he had no response to my points because the case I'd laid out was pretty solid (seriously... I cannot stress how I've never had anyone else in my life EVER say this to me), but he went on to say that it didn't matter because he had faith that God would never actually allow him to be wrong so he knew he was right.  There's really no point in debating someone like that.

On the other-hand, I was pretty religious for a while and I credit the many discussions I had with people that didn't change my mind at the time, for helping me come to realize that I was wrong and needed to adjust my worldview.  Bottom line, you need to debate the person and not the general ideas, but you need to attack the ideas and not the person. 
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: daniel1948 on March 28, 2019, 06:18:58 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!

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.

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.

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."
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert 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 (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/unacceptable) or in other words, a transgression (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/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.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: Eternally Learning 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.

Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: Quetzalcoatl 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 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert 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.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert 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:
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: Eternally Learning 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.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert 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.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: Eternally Learning 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. 
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: Shibboleth 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.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: Eternally Learning 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.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert 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 (https://sguforums.com/index.php/topic,51067.msg9608446.html#msg9608446) in this thread, and I replied with a list of viewpoints (https://sguforums.com/index.php/topic,51067.msg9608599.html#msg9608599) 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.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert 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.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: Shibboleth 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.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert 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
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: Shibboleth 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.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert on April 04, 2019, 09:10:37 AM
An attack can also mean to fiercely criticize. Intent to harm is not necessary. I would rather not get into an argument of definitions.

Where do you get the idea that intent is not necessary for criticism?

Even if I'm just criticizing an ideology, I am surely intending to disparage that belief system. If I'm fiercely criticizing a person, does that not require an intent to disparage that person?

Still the question remains, if I "fiercely criticize" religion, what is being fiercely criticized? The ideology or the person? 
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: Shibboleth on April 04, 2019, 11:15:29 AM
An attack can also mean to fiercely criticize. Intent to harm is not necessary. I would rather not get into an argument of definitions.

Where do you get the idea that intent is not necessary for criticism?

Even if I'm just criticizing an ideology, I am surely intending to disparage that belief system. If I'm fiercely criticizing a person, does that not require an intent to disparage that person?

Still the question remains, if I "fiercely criticize" religion, what is being fiercely criticized? The ideology or the person?

That is a bit of a goalpost move. I didn't say intent. I said intent to harm.
Title: Re: Does Criticism of Religion Amount to an Attack on the Faithful?
Post by: John Albert on April 04, 2019, 04:26:46 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.

Where do you get the idea that intent is not necessary for criticism?

Even if I'm just criticizing an ideology, I am surely intending to disparage that belief system. If I'm fiercely criticizing a person, does that not require an intent to disparage that person?

Still the question remains, if I "fiercely criticize" religion, what is being fiercely criticized? The ideology or the person?

That is a bit of a goalpost move. I didn't say intent. I said intent to harm.

Are you implying that when somebody "fiercely criticizes" another person, there's no intent to cause harm? I tend to interpret the adverb "fiercely" to mean that the critic intends not only to correct, but to personally disparage or defame the target.

Either way, you said you didn't want to drag this into the realm of semantics. As far as I'm concerned there's no reason to. The difference of opinion is not rooted in semantics.

It really comes down to whether criticizing or belittling an ideology amounts to a defamation or belittlement of the believers of that ideology.

Criticizing an ideology doesn't necessarily equate to disparaging the believers of that ideology. That's because ideologies are not people; people amount to far more than whatever ideologies they may or may not endorse at any given point in time.