Wednesday, November 10, 2010

God belief is stupid: Confrontation works!

I'm a dick but I think that being a dick has value.  Many argue that confronting the beliefs of others only makes them retreat to their side and never results in a change of their beliefs.  I've said (and will continue to say) that different things work for different people and we need to take a number of different approaches.

To the people, however, who suggest that the likes of "The Four Horsemen" are not changing people's minds, check out this story:

The claim that the only people that Dawkins (Hitchens, Dennett and Harris) convince are the "fence sitters" is a bit silly when you consider that "Adam (one of the ministers in the story) said his initial doubts about God came as he read the work of the so-called New Atheists -- popular authors like the prominent scientist Richard Dawkins. He said the research was intended to help him defend his faith."

Though I disagree with the claims that people like Dawkins are "strident" and "shrill", I will say that they are not apologetic and they have no problems with pointing out absurd positions.  I think that is a valuable approach.

Now, there is a difference between saying someone is stupid and saying that some one's beliefs are stupid.  There is also a difference between tolerance and respect - and Penn Jillette says it well:
“There’s a big difference between tolerance and respect. Tolerance is you saying something crazy and me smiling and saying ‘that’s nice.’ Respect is when you say something crazy and I say ‘you’re out of your f---ing mind.’ Direct confrontation, direct conversation is real respect. And it’s amazing how many people get that.” The Toronto Star, "Penn Jillette and the gospel of disbelief"
So, yes, the beliefs that the earth is less than 10,000 years old, that dinosaurs lived alongside humans and that we don't share common ancestors with all living species are stupid beliefs.


NathanColquhoun said...

I think for the most part you have done a good job at confronting people on illogical and harmful belief systems. I am learning, as I confront many people as well, that in many cases relationships are more important than me letting them know they are out of their f*cking mind. For instance, with family.

So I'd add to your post a bit by saying that sometimes respect is just smiling and saying that's nice when you want to keep the relationship in tact and recognizing that their is an entire story and set of circumstances that brought that person to believe that crazy thing and that by telling them that they are out of their mind can do more harm than good because it only attacks a belief which is very personally tied to an individual and not an entire system that causes people to have those beliefs in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Nathan, I agree, it's usually better to be non-confrontational with family members. I've learned to be more reserved at family gatherings, but am always ready, and eager, to jump in if religion (or any other "irrational belief") comes up.

RealityinSarnia said...

So Nathan, when are you going to through away your irrational beliefs? Have you ever investigated the other side? Those who have usually become one of us and become very vocal against religion. There must be a reason that those priests/ministers/pastors that lose their faith after discovering reality become soooooo vocal against religion.

NathanColquhoun said...

Reality in Sarnia, its impossible to investigate 'the other side' when none of them will meet with me. Again, coffee? Name the time and place.

I say the same to you, you have yet to make one valid argument in all your comments toward me. Your arguments are insults and broad brush stroke assumptions about your dislike for what you assume is logical. Have you actually engaged in a positive argument with someone that you disagreed with? Or do you just lump them into the same category as "irrational" because you can't understand them.

sarniaskeptic said...

Surely you don't believe I have suggested to people that they need to be confrontational all the time - I haven't done that (yet).

I would argue (as I quickly did in this blog entry) that claims that confrontation NEVER works are false.

However, when it comes to family, I think it is equally (or more) important that they be aware that people might (do) think they're crazy. I love and respect my family enough to help save them from future embarrassment.

If the need to confront them appears because of some superbly wild "belief", I would suggest that it is possible that you've simply waited too long. People don't become fervent supporters of woo-woo overnight.

I came to value skepticism as a result of someone close to me saying "Ummm, you realize that what you're suggesting is silly and has been disproven" (paraphrased - they weren't quite that nice). If they hadn't done that, I could have continued down a path to a point where someone would have had to say "You're talking about some pretty crazy shit and need help."

Your family deserves your input - and it doesn't need to be confrontational in the sense of simply stirring negative emotions. It could be as simple as "Really? What makes you believe that?" or "Well, as I understand it..." or "I'm trying to rationalize that myself, I just can't understand why this occurs or how to account for this."