Saturday, September 4, 2010

Taking Action

I was catching up on my blog reading this morning and two posts caught my eye.  First, John Cole at Balloon Juice posted about an encounter with a bunch of elderly Fox News watchers.  When one of them made a ridiculous claim John called him on it: 

Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore, and when he said “You can’t even pray anymore. Christians get stopped from praying, but Muslims get to pray,” I lost it.

“When was the last time someone stopped you from praying,” I asked.

He seemed startled- “Me, never. But they…”

I cut him off- “And when was the last time anyone stopped anyone you know from praying?”

“Well, I don’t personally know of anyone…”

“So who exactly is stopping people from praying?”

I’m not sure it changed anyone’s mind, but I think it’s good to call out BS when you see it.  Ignoring the crazy talk just allows it to continue to spread.  I work with some very conservative people with pretty radical ideas.  I challenge them on it whenever I can.  If nothing else, it forces them to defend their beliefs.

The second post was from Hement, the “Friendly Atheist.”  It’s similar to the Balloon Juice post, but focuses on religion.  Why shouldn’t we argue with religious people and force them to defend their beliefs?   Again, letting ridiculous claims go unchallenged is dangerous.  Hemant uses the example of child vaccinations.  Of course we have to speak out against the anti-vaccination crowd, because their beliefs are irrational and dangerous.  Why shouldn’t we also speak out against irrational religious beliefs?  Religion is used to justify discrimination against women and gays.  It also provides cover for charismatic leaders who claim that they are “doing God’s will.”   If Sarah Palin truly believes that she is doing God’s work, then any crazy thing she says or does is justified.   Read Jon Krakauer’s  “Under the Banner of Heaven” for great examples what can happen when religious fervor goes unchecked.

Anyhow, read both posts.  They are well worth your time.

1 comment:

  1. I agree that when someone is spewing bullshit, it's only right to call them on it. You can't let things like that go. But you have to be careful about it sometimes. If you bring it up to antagonize someone, you could end up making them think your a dick and, if you're not trying to change their mind, that's fine. The problem with attacking people's beliefs is that if you're hostile, they just become defensive and won't even hear your argument. On the other hand, often the objective isn't to change the mind of the person your debating, but rather of the audience. For example with the anti-vaccination crowd it's important to call them on their claims, which are very dangerous. It's just as important to speak out against religious beliefs, but you have to be careful about the way you do it. It's possible that you could do more harm than good and end up reinforcing their beliefs rather than illustrating a point.