Understanding Why New Atheists Use Ridicule

As we have seen, ridicule and mockery of the religious are key components of the New Atheist Movement. According to John Loftus, “It’s not just the so-called “new atheists” like Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher, and PZ Myers who advocate ridicule. I do too (see below). So does Richard Carrier, as does Stephen Law.” The ridicule not only come from the writings of the New Atheists, but they also engage in such tactics with their memes and their YouTube videos.

As they have told us, the mockery and ridicule is part of a socio-political plan, meaning that it is propaganda. Wiki defines propaganda as follows:

Propaganda is information that is not impartial and used primarily to influence an audience and further an agenda, often by presenting facts selectively (perhaps lying by omission) to encourage a particular synthesis, or using loaded messages to produce an emotional rather than a rational response to the information presented.

Clearly, the ridicule/mockery is “used primarily to influence an audience and further an agenda” and to “produce an emotional rather than a rational response.” Thus, a movement that postures as if it champions reason is actually relying on propaganda, demonstrating the so-called committment to reason is a sham.

Yet there is another aspect to the ridicule/mockery – it represents aggression. In their research paper, Leslie M. Janes and James M. Olson survey some of the psychological theories about the use of ridicule. New Atheist propaganda would qualify as an example of disparagement humor, whch is defined “as humorous material in which one party is victimized, belittled, humiliated, or suffers some misfortune or act of aggression (Zillmann, 1983). Most disparagement humor targets groups or members of groups (e.g., women, ethnic groups, lawyers) rather than individuals.”

One theory that attempts to explain the use of disparagement humor is Superiority theory. Janes and Olson quote Thomas Hobbes:

Many centuries later, Thomas Hobbes, who is often considered the “father” of modern humor theory, hypothesized that amusement and laughter are the result of the glory we feel when we favorably compare ourselves with less fortunate others (Hobbes, 1651/1968). Hobbes noted “It is no wonder therefore that men take heinously to be laughed at or derided, that is, triumphed over”

Seen in this light, New Atheist mocking also functions to prop up the New Atheist ego. To mock the religious allows the New Atheists to feel they have “triumphed over” the religious without having to engage in any serious intellectual dialog. And as we have seen, New Atheist leaders are not seriously interested in dialog:

What about the many of us who feel that the best thing for science—and humanity as a whole—is not respectful dialogue with evangelical Christians, but the eradication of evangelical Christianity? The sooner that religion goes away, the sooner these ills will abate. “Dialoguing” with evangelical Christians (and granted, not all of them hold the beliefs I’ve just mentioned) only enables superstition—a superstition that, one would think, would be resolutely opposed by a scientific organization like the AAAS. – Jerry Coyne

Janes and Olson then cite a researcher who thinks disparagement humor is aggression:

Charles Gruner (1997) is a modern advocate of the superiority theory of humor. He proposes that all humor, no matter how seemingly innocuous, contains hostility and aggression. This perspective would seem at odds with the existence of humor that appears nonaggressive. For example, puns and limericks often use clever wordplay to amuse. Or humor can be used to poke fun at oneself, or to comment on the absurdities of life. Yet Gruner maintains that aggression toward others and triumphing over them is an essential aspect of humor, at least implicitly: “Successful humor…must include winning” (1997, p. 9).

The aggressive aspect of ridicule/mocking can’t reasonably be denied when we combine the superiority theory with disposition theory, as Janes and Olson explain:

we are entertained by the misfortunes of others, but also stipulates that our relationship to the target of the humor affects the degree of our enjoyment of the humor. Specifically, we are more entertained by the disparagement of targets we dislike or members of an out-group, as opposed to targets we like or members of our in-group (e.g., La Fave, 1972; Wicker, Baron, & Willis, 1980). For example, in an early experiment on humor, Wolff, Smith, and Murray (1934) presented anti-Jewish jokes to both Jewish and non-Jewish participants. Perhaps not surprisingly, they found that the non-Jewish participants enjoyed the jokes more than the Jewish participants.

This clearly applies to the New Atheists, who specifically target the religious (the out-group) for all their mocking. We can appreciated the aggresive dimension to this by simply considering whether racial or ethnic jokes are aggresive? Why is it socially unacceptable to tell racial or ethnic jokes? Because we recognize the jokes are attacks on groups of people and thus represent acts of aggression toward those groups.

Finally, the New Atheist propaganda is trying to tap into what is known as Social Identity theory:

Social identity theory assumes that people want to maintain a positive identity, including a positive social identity. One way to achieve a positive social identity is by judging one‟s own groups to be superior to other groups. In fact, researchers have found that individuals will try to create a positive social identity by treating members of in-groups more favorably than members of out-groups (e.g., Tajfel, 1970). Clearly, a motivation to perceive one‟s in-groups as superior to out-groups can be served by disparaging humor about those out-groups. Thus, social identity theory provides a motivational account of why people enjoy disparagement humor (Bourhis, R.Y., Nicholas, J.G., Howard, G., & Henri, T. 1977; Ferguson & Ford, 2008). For example, evidence that members of ethnic groups find humor about other ethnic groups funnier than humor about their own ethnic group (e.g., La Fave, 1972; Wicker et al., 1980; Wolff et al., 1934) may reflect perceivers‟ desires to create or maintain a positive social identity.”

Janes and Olson then did some experiments, where one of the results confirms that the New Atheist propaganda would be effective:

Our research documents two, contrasting effects of ridicule. First, observing ridicule of others has inhibiting effects—it motivates people to be “wary” in their behavior. The thought of being the target of ridicule oneself is aversive enough to inhibit people from standing out (e.g., they conform to the perceived opinions of others)……Our research shows that those who merely observe others being ridiculed are affected by it—even when they are in no danger of being the target of ridicule themselves. Witnessing another person being ridiculed leads observers to avoid behavior that might stand out; they choose, instead, to “play it safe”.

The fact that New Atheism is saturated with disparagement humor gives us four useful insights about the New Atheists

1. There seems to be a need to “feel superior” among the Gnus and the disparagement humor serves those needs. For not only do the Gnus get the sense of “tiumph” with their mocking, they are trying to send a message to the “fence sitters” (as Dawkins calls them) that the New Atheists are the “cool kids” on the block. All of this, of course, suggests that despite all the posturing and chest-thumping, New Atheists are nursing some level of insecurity.

2. It explains why they so commonly rely on straw man arguments. Anyone who has ever interacted with the Gnus knows that the straw man argument is the meat-and-pototoes of New Atheism. The straw men play vital roles in the Gnu movement, for not only does triumphing over a straw man feed the sense of superiority, but straw men are oh so much more easier to mock and ridicule.

3. It helps to confirm a thesis I have proposed for some time now – the New Atheists are closed minded about religion and the existence of God. Once you have reached the point where you are part of a movement that aggressively ridicules theism and religion, it is simply not reasonable to think you any longer have an open mind about such issues. For it is the closed-minded that allows one to boldly go on the attack. Furthermore, the disparagement humor helps to reinforce the closed-mind. The sense of superiority one gets from mocking religion is a way of reassuring oneself their anti-religious and anti-God mindset is correct. The more you mock, the more superior you feel, especially when surrounded by a community who appreciated your mocking. And the more superior you feel, the more permanent the closed mind. Consider how John Loftus rationalizes the use of disparagement humor:

we have earned the right to use it because we have produced the arguments. That is, because we know Christianity is a delusion, and since deluded people cannot usually be argued out of their faith because they were never argued into it in the first place, the use of persuasion techniques like ridicule are rationally justifiable. So satire, ridicule and mockery are weapons that should be in our arsenal in this important cultural war of ideas.

When you think you KNOW Christianity is a delusion, your mind is closed. Locked, bolted, and nailed shut. Since the issue is settled, once and for, the closed mind engages in the next logical step – the “culture war.”

4. It provides further evidence that the New Atheists are modern day examples of militant atheists. Atheists tend to mock the notion they are militant because they don’t go out and blow things up or shoot people which would be highly counterproductive for their movement). But that’s just the Gnus leaning on their straw men again. You don’t have to be physically aggressive to be militant. Verbal aggression, backed up with a constant stream of aggresive disparagement humor, as part of their “arsenal in this important cultural war of ideas,” is more than sufficient to merit the label of being “militant.”

Summary: New Atheists routinely engage in disparagement humor as part of their propagandistic war on religion. When their behavior is considered in the light of psychology, we learn some interesting facts about the New Atheists: a) they feel the need to be superior; b) their reliance on straw man arguments makes perfect sense; c) they come to the table from a position of militant, closed-mindedness, interested not in understanding, but only triumph. This is the group that tries to sell itself as the champions of reason and science.

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78 Responses to Understanding Why New Atheists Use Ridicule

  1. mechanar says:

    you should really write a book at some point.

  2. Red Beard says:

    The agression theory of humor, should probably be considered a subset of “logical incongruity” theory of humor as hinted at by Aristotle, and discussed in detail by Kant & contemporaries. The idea is that laughter is an emotive response to a break in logic. For example, when telling the story of a little bird my dad always gets the listeners to laugh when he uses a deep voice for the little baby bird. My experience is that those using agression humor are often venting their own feelings of inferiority. This particular behavior maybe critical to maintaining sanity when vilifying someone with a superior attribute — athletic, academic, ethical, financial, etc.

  3. Excellent post!

    Atheist use ridicule as rhetorical tear gas.

    When the room is cleared, all who remain are atheists.

  4. Laughing at someone else’s religion is bigotry, even when the atheist is the one laughing.

  5. Kaleidocyte says:

    What? How is it bigotry?

  6. Kale,
    If you were gay and advocated gay marriage, and I laughed at you, would that not be bigotry on my part?

  7. Kaleidocyte says:

    It might depend on why you’re laughing at me. Certainly, trying to deny me certain rights simply because I am gay would be bigoted.

  8. Michael says:

    I think Hitchens got it right: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3sFg8-1qTw

    Hitchens was closed-minded.

  9. Kaleidocyte says:

    In what way was Hitchens close-minded?

  10. TFBW says:

    It seems to me that there’s one important aspect of “disparagement humour” not mentioned in the above analysis: sadism.

    Once you’ve adopted an us-and-them conflict mindset about a situation, such as Jerry Coyne’s “eradication of evangelical Christianity,” to which Dawkins refers in approving tones, it becomes counter-productive to view this enemy as properly human. This is another reason why the straw man is so prominent in New Atheist propaganda: it becomes the ugly, stupid, contemptible proxy for one’s ideological opponents. One feels quite justified in venting one’s aggression and hatred against this straw man: it is designed to be a magnet for such righteous rage.

    Once your target is primed as being worthy of hatred, ridicule makes the dark transition from superiority to sadism. It becomes not simply the stroking of one’s own ego, promoting one’s feeling of superiority over the enemy, but the sadistic pleasure of seeing one’s enemies suffering. This is the kind of attitude that Dawkins promotes when he says, “we need to go further: go beyond humorous ridicule, sharpen our barbs to a point where they really hurt.”

    We all have a certain tendency to take pleasure in the misfortune of others: we use the German word schadenfreude to describe this. The difference between that and sadism is that schadenfreude recognises its own corruption: it is a guilty pleasure. By the time you get to sadism, you have bypassed that important safety-valve, empathy: the recognition that it is wrong to wish harm upon others. The pleasure of sadism, unchecked by empathy, mutually reinforces other vices, such as hatred and the lust for power.

    Contra Dawkins, the primary effect of sadistic mockery (i.e. barbs that really hurt) won’t be to sway the “fence-sitters” in his favour: some may be swayed by fear, but they might also see the hate for what it is, thanks to the sadistic aspect, and make a principled decision to oppose New Atheism rather than join it. To focus on the fence-sitters, however, is to miss what I believe will be the primary effect, being the effect on the people engaging in the mockery. To promote sadistic mockery is to promote the erosion of empathy among those who are encouraged to mock. That way lies brutality.

    The only step beyond sadism through hurtful words is actual physical violence, a la Craig Hicks, so Dawkins is playing with fire in his promotion of sadistic mockery, whether he recognises it or not. Note that Craig Hicks’ triple-homicide need not be classified as an act of explicit religious hate in order to qualify as a legitimate example here: it’s only necessary that Hicks’ capacity for empathy towards Muslims (as conspicuous members of a religion) was eroded by hateful propaganda — particularly, his willing participation in that propaganda, rather than simple exposure to it. To be fair, it sounds like Hicks was already fairly lacking in empathy generally, but that just means he didn’t have as far to go to reach the point of physical violence.

    One last note. Dawkins is also well known for his righteous rage against the doctrine of Hell — specifically, the traditional “eternal fire and brimstone torture chamber” version of that doctrine — I doubt he’s aware that other variations exist. He thinks that the psychological torment of instilling this belief in a child is worse than “mild” sexual abuse. I wonder where he thinks his own intentionally hurtful barbs should rank, relative to sexual abuse, “mild” or otherwise. Of course, he’s not targeting children: on the contrary, he’s been on another of his “save the children from religious parents” propaganda campaigns of late. Rather, he’s targeting the kind of adult who engages in the indoctrination of innocent children, so no need to hold back, I guess.

    I leave it to the reader’s imagination to determine what level of “mild” sexual assault would be less painful than one of Dawkins’ specially sharpened barbs, assuming his capacity to inflict emotional pain is as good as he seems to think it is.

  11. Kale,
    If I laughed at you because you were gay, or because you advocated gay marriage or both, I would be a bigot.

  12. Kaleidocyte says:

    Do you happen to have examples of “sadistic mockery” in mind?

  13. Kaleidocyte says:

    Perhaps you would be. But what is the comparison to religion? Do you think religion is beyond scrutiny, even if that scrutiny takes the form of satire?

  14. Kale,

    Not perhaps, but most definitely.

    Likewise, the atheist who laughs at someone else’s religion is most definitely a bigot.

  15. TFBW says:

    Kaleidocyte said:

    Do you happen to have examples of “sadistic mockery” in mind?

    Not really. I’m working on the basis of Dawkins’ exhortation to his followers that they should “go beyond humorous ridicule, sharpen our barbs to a point where they really hurt,” rather than working from actual examples. With actual examples, the intent to hurt would generally need to be inferred, whereas this way it’s explicitly stated.

  16. TFBW,

    The intentional infliction of pain would be sadism if the atheist gains pleasure from his deed.

    I have seen no example of atheist ridicule not committed with great delight by the atheist.

    Also, inflicting pain on people because of their ideas is the essence of oppression and persecution.

    Consequently, what Dawkins advocates proves that atheism is retrograde savagery not the modern discussion of ideas in the pursuit of truth.

  17. Kaleidocyte says:

    Why are they bigoted? To say that we cannot laugh at religion is to say that religion is exempt from scrutiny. It’s not. You have the right to believe and worship as you desire, but you are not entitled to have your beliefs respected simply because you attach the word “religious” in front of them.

  18. GM says:

    Kale,
    I’d love scrutiny. Scrutinize all day. But what I see out of the new atheist camp isn’t scrutiny. It’s knuckle-dragging, shrill, uninformed brow-beating about things they don’t understand, and are unwilling to try to understand even on an academic level, and the categorizing all religious practitioners as mentally deficient child abusers.

    And they do it because it makes them feel good.

  19. Kaleidocyte says:

    Then your experience differs to mine, GM. I have seen people – theists and atheist alike – sling mud at each other, with no fruitful conversation to be had. But I tend to steer clear of such “discussions”. Importantly, I think there is still a place for satire in a civil discourse. We don’t need to gently tiptoe around sacred cows.

  20. Dhay says:

    Victor Stenger repeatedly claimed, “Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings”.

    I don’t see why that specious nonsense should be exempt from scrutiny via laughter. Stenger was not entitled to have his beliefs respected simply because he attached the word “atheist” in front of them.

    So let’s add some more humour to that quote, in keeping with the humourous style the original was couched in: “Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings. Atheism flies you into a rage with your Muslim neighbours”.

  21. Kaleidocyte says:

    Dhay, I never suggested that an atheist’s claims are exempt from scrutiny simply because they are an atheist.

  22. GM says:

    Satire is good in two situations. Well, one and a half.

    1. You have social currency with the target of the satire in such as it will actually HELP the civil discourse. They will appreciate the point and humor and it will be productive.

    Richard Dawkins has zero social currency with the billions of religious people in the world. It MIGHT do him some good to become theologically literate and actually try to criticize what I believe. Because he’s never come close. But that’s hard, so he sets up a twitter account and takes pot shots like a 12 year old.

    2. (the half) When a locus of political and legal power has isolated itself from dissent to the point where the population must be made aware of and challenge it’s false pretenses of authority or face perpetual material oppression.

    “Religion” is just too broad to be a locus of authority. This nonsense that all religions teach the same thing is exclusively parroted by ignorant people who can’t be bothered to learn about the world around them. If there is a “religious” person behaving in a way that offends you, or that you don’t understand, or that is actually morally evil, your job as the critic is to learn as much as you can about what they are doing, why they are doing it, and the social, cultural and idealogical context of those actions if you plan on launching any kind of effective critique. Instead, new atheists have decided to throw acid onto an entire category of thought without any nuance or curiosity.

    No one here is asking that you tip-toe around sacred cows. At the same time, if you go to India and knock over an actual sacred cow, because who is STUPID ENOUGH TO CONSIDER A COW SACRED LOLOL don’t be terribly surprised if people think you’re a punk and stop listening to you.

  23. Kaleidocyte says:

    Dawkins can only respond to the points he is presented with. That’s all any of us can do. Your complaint seems to be that he isn’t responding specifically to the theological points you find agreeable. If you aren’t engaged in a conversation with him, why would he engage you on your points? This is always the complaint of so-called “sophisticated theologians.” Apparently they are so much more “sophisticated” than the “rabble” Dawkins regularly responds to. Well, if that’s how you feel, then your problem is just as much with other theists as it is with atheists.

    Regarding your second point, I don’t know anyone personally who would claim that religion is a monolithic thing. If I’m not mistaken, not even Dawkins says this; he considers some religions far worse than others. Once again, it appears that your experience differs to mine. I wouldn’t be surprised to find such a claim being made in the comments section of religiously themed YouTube videos, but as I said, I usually steer clear of such discussions.

  24. GM says:

    Oh please. The guy made a movie called The Root of All Evil. Subject: capital-r Religion. He seems to be vaguely aware that there’s some kind of chronologically-arranged difference between the teachings of Christianity and Islam, but I don’t think he could tell me WHY people have committed atrocities under the banner of either religion.

    As far as sophisticated theology goes, well, you’re setting the bar far higher than I am. I don’t expect Dawkins to be able to exegete Romans 9 or talk about the relationship between Kierkegaard’s Repetitions and the book of Job. But I expect at least SOME kind of functional, adult commentary IF he’s going to publish a critique and SELL IT FOR MONEY. Instead, we get this:

    “To be fair, much of the Bible is not systematically evil but just plain weird, as you would expect of a chaotically cobbled-together anthology of disjointed documents, composed, revised, translated, distorted and ‘improved’ by hundreds of anonymous authors, editors and copyists, unknown to us and mostly unknown to each other, spanning nine centuries”

    IT’S WEIRD! DROP THE GAVEL!

    Fascinating work professor. I feel like I’ve been transported to the Ancient Near East and could walk among the people as one of their own.

  25. Kaleidocyte says:

    Perhaps if you had read on, rather than performing a contextomy, you would have found some of the adult commentary you are interested in. His point wasn’t simply that the Bible is weird, but that many people consider this book an infallible guide to living despite its strangeness. In that chapter at least, that’s his primary concern. A similar theme runs through The Root of an Evil. His concern is one that I share. The Bible is widely viewed as the “good” book, yet even a cursory glance through it would suggest that is far from the best moral guidebook.

  26. Michael says:

    In what way was Hitchens close-minded?

    Did you read my blog entry?

  27. Kaleidocyte says:

    Yes. So in what way was Hitchens close-minded?

  28. GM says:

    I’m not really sure why I should take a cursory glance at the Bible seriously. Even a cover-to-cover read without some kind of cultural commentary would be very suspect. To be sure, Christians have allowed a certain type of jargon to cover for a shallow understanding of The Bible. I could ask someone “What is the Bible” and they may just reply “The Word of God” and have no other actual info to go on. That needs to be remedied. There’s also plenty of room for debate about the Bible within Christianity.

    To say “The Bible is an infallible guide to living” needs to be massively qualified among other aspects of the Bible, of which Dawkins appears to have no concept of. While I think it’s true, I know there’s a difference between narrative content and paradigms of normative ethics within the Bible as a lesson to live by. That’s not that hard to figure out, but it takes some work. So, it’s hard for me to take Dawkins seriously when he reads the Bible with as much understanding as the most uneducated fundamentalist he can find.

  29. Michael says:

    Yes.

    That’s odd. I don’t see any evidence of this.

    So in what way was Hitchens close-minded?

    Er….it was explained in the blog entry you claimed to have read.

  30. Kaleidocyte says:

    Hitchens is close-minded because he has, on occasion, ridiculed certain religious beliefs? I don’t see how that follows. If it does, however, consider what that means for religionists also.

  31. Kaleidocyte says:

    GM, as I noted earlier, Dawkins can only respond to the points he is presented with. There are many people who you might consider “uneducated fundamentalists” who argue that the Bible, read literally, is the inerrant inspired Word of God. Do you expect Dawkins to ignore these people, even as they leverage this belief as the justification for all sorts of ill-considered policy decisions? If you had read on, rather than quoting out of context, you would have seen Dawkins allude to conversations he has had with religious people who adopt a much more nuanced perspective on scripture. It’s as not as if he is oblivious to the existence of people like yourself. I would think, given that you apparently find these “uneducated fundamentalists” somewhat contemptible in their interpretation of a text you find holy, you would actually be joining with Dawkins in lampooning some of their more ridiculous claims.

  32. Michael says:

    Hitchens is close-minded because he has, on occasion, ridiculed certain religious beliefs? I don’t see how that follows. If it does, however, consider what that means for religionists also.

    You claimed to have read my blog entry, yet there is no evidence to support this claim. Do you expect me to accept your claim on faith?

  33. GM says:

    But that’s so myopic. I either coddle fundamentalists or I lampoon them with Dawkins? No. That’s an absurd choice. I don’t find THEM contemptible, I find them misguided and in need of help. I think the nature of discourse today has put everyone on edge and ready to fight to the death over minor disagreements because no one trusts each other. You NEED to build social bonds with the misguided and intellectually marginalized, otherwise you create ghettos of paranoid self-fullfilling prophecies. The point of this whole thread is, Dawkins is inserting himself into arenas of which he’s wholly incapable of interacting on any meaningful level. He can only mock what he doesn’t understand, and give a passive-aggressive pass to people he deems worthy. It doesn’t work that way.

    In other words, no matter how alarming the fundamentalist issue is on its own, Dawkins is making it worse.

  34. Michael says:

    It seems to me that there’s one important aspect of “disparagement humour” not mentioned in the above analysis: sadism.

    Very nice analysis.

  35. Michael says:

    But that’s so myopic. I either coddle fundamentalists or I lampoon them with Dawkins? No. That’s an absurd choice. I don’t find THEM contemptible, I find them misguided and in need of help.

    Indeed. What’s more, if you lampoon them with Dawkins, Dawkins is the type who would use that opportunity to stick a knife in your back. Remember that the Gnus think “moderates” are a more insidious strain of the religious because they think moderates make religion more respectable.

  36. Michael says:

    Regarding your second point, I don’t know anyone personally who would claim that religion is a monolithic thing. If I’m not mistaken, not even Dawkins says this; he considers some religions far worse than others.

    But they are all faith-heads, right?

  37. Michael says:

    Why are they bigoted? To say that we cannot laugh at religion is to say that religion is exempt from scrutiny. It’s not.

    You can scrutinize without mocking. We’re just pointing out that when the atheist employs mocking as part of their anti-religious efforts, they are giving us a window into their mind – what we see is symptoms of bigotry.

    You have the right to believe and worship as you desire, but you are not entitled to have your beliefs respected simply because you attach the word “religious” in front of them.

    Sure. But when lack of respect morphs into a campaign of mockery, it was bigotry that helped facilitate that transition.

  38. Kaleidocyte says:

    No, Michael, I don’t expect you to take it on faith, but since it makes little difference to me in either case, what more do you want me to say? I’m not convinced Hitchens is close-minded simply because he has, on occasion, ridiculed people’s sincerely held religious beliefs. Is GM also close-minded for calling fundamentalists “uneducated”? If you think that mere ridicule, parody or satire is a sign of close-mindedness, then this poses a problem for religionists also. Not only do the religious poke fun at atheists all the time, but they ridicule people of other religions also. Are all of them likewise close-minded? Can none of us say anything without being accused of close-mindedness?

    I see it this way: the tone of the conversation will always depend on those who are conversing. If I happen to be interacting with someone whose beliefs are just beyond the pale ridiculous, and who has no qualms about slinging mud at me, even if I can bear it with equanimity, I might ridicule their ideas. Am I being closed-minded in doing that? Or am I responding to someone else’s closed-mindedness?

    By contrast, if I am interacting with someone who is genuinely interested in talking through these matters, and who isn’t prone to vicious goading, it might spoil a good conversation to just ridicule their ideas without reason, so I’ll try to avoid it. They respond in kind, enabling a good conversation to take place among people who otherwise disagree.

    Perhaps I’m not being clear here, because I do think that mockery could be sensitive to closed-mindedness, but not *specific* to it. It’s not a diagnostic feature one should rely on for determining whether someone is closed-minded or not.

  39. Kaleidocyte says:

    Michael, I’m disturbed by your suggestion that mockery is, in addition to being a sign of closed-mindedness, also a sign of bigotry. It could be sensitive to bigotry, yes, but need not be not specific to it. If you think anyone who mocks, ridicules, parodies or satirises is a “bigot,” then who among us is not a “bigot” by that definition? The Daily Show and the Colbert Report are bastions of “bigotry” by that definition. Your newspaper, particularly the cartoon section, is filled with more outlandish “bigotry”.

  40. Michael says:

    No, Michael, I don’t expect you to take it on faith, but since it makes little difference to me in either case, what more do you want me to say?

    Okay, I won’t accept it on faith and there is no evidence you read my blog entry. I forced to conclude you were lying when you claimed to have read it.

    I’m not convinced Hitchens is close-minded simply because he has, on occasion, ridiculed people’s sincerely held religious beliefs.

    If you had read my blog entry, you would have noticed this is not about an individual who occasionally uses mockery. Hitchens was a leader in the New Atheist Movement, one of the four horsemen. He is still idolized by many in the movement, who affectionately refer to him as “Hitch.” We’re talking about a movement that uses disparagement humor as a propagandisitc weapon in its culture war. It it irrational to believe that an activist part of such a movement, using such techniques, is open minded about religion. Aggression and open-mindedness do not go hand-in-hand.

  41. Michael says:

    Michael, I’m disturbed by your suggestion that mockery is, in addition to being a sign of closed-mindedness, also a sign of bigotry.

    When you are part of a movement that embraces mockery as a weapon in its culture war, it is such a sign. If a member of the KKK makes racial jokes, are those jokes further evidence the KKK is bigoted?

  42. Kaleidocyte says:

    I am well aware of Hitch’s status. I’m just not convinced by your suggestion that his use of ridicule convicts him of being a closed-minded bigot. You are using such a broad criterion for defining what signifies closed-mindedness that anyone, not just Hitch, could be construed as closed-minded for even the most innocuous of “jabs” at someone who disagrees with them. Have you ever ridiculed a stern and unfair teacher? How about the KKK? You alluded to them earlier. If you mock the racist beliefs of the KKK, are you a closed-minded bigot?

  43. Kaleidocyte says:

    By the way, what makes the KKK bigoted is not their use of mockery per se, but their racist beliefs. Their beliefs would be bigoted regardless of whether they made reprehensible racial jokes or not. Refraining from those jokes would not make the KKK any less bigoted.

  44. Michael says:

    I am well aware of Hitch’s status. I’m just not convinced by your suggestion that his use of ridicule convicts him of being a closed-minded bigot. You are using such a broad criterion for defining what signifies closed-mindedness that anyone, not just Hitch, could be construed as closed-minded for even the most innocuous of “jabs” at someone who disagrees with them.

    Where would atheists be without the crutch of their straw men?

    Pay attention – ” this is not about an individual who occasionally uses mockery. Hitchens was a leader in the New Atheist Movement, one of the four horsemen. He is still idolized by many in the movement, who affectionately refer to him as “Hitch.” We’re talking about a movement that uses disparagement humor as a propagandisitc weapon in its culture war. It it irrational to believe that an activist part of such a movement, using such techniques, is open minded about religion. Aggression and open-mindedness do not go hand-in-hand.”

  45. Michael says:

    By the way, what makes the KKK bigoted is not their use of mockery per se, but their racist beliefs. Their beliefs would be bigoted regardless of whether they made reprehensible racial jokes or not. Refraining from those jokes would not make the KKK any less bigoted.

    You are trying to tap dance around the question. Just answer it – “If a member of the KKK makes racial jokes, are those jokes further evidence the KKK is bigoted?”

    Let me give you another question. You are at a party and see a man talking to others who is making racial jokes. Does this lead you to suspect he is a bigot?

  46. GRA says:

    I “laugh” at people who advocate gay “marriage.” I mean, it’s SAME-SEX “marriage.”

  47. Kevin says:

    I think the main focus has been lost here. Why do the New Atheists use ridicule?

    On the one hand, they applaud themselves as being motivated by reason and science. On the other hand, they are clearly motivated by anti-religious sentiment, New Atheists are fairly easily differentiated from “regular” atheists by their unapologetic anti-theistic beliefs.

    So, what is the cause of their ridicule?

    It’s not the use of reason, because simply put, New Atheists generally suck abysmally at using reason. Their whole approach to caricaturing “religion”, as if “religion” is actually any more useful a term than “ideas”, is in of itself a fallacy. Once you break their arguments down into their more general statements, it doesn’t get much better. They are characterized by fallacies and juvenile overtones. But the kicker is, they are okay with using fallacies and juvenile behavior so long as it is directed at “religion”, because the goal isn’t the promotion of using reason – that would blow their own arguments and tactics out of the water, assuming they even have enough of a grasp of reason to recognize that fact. We can fairly easily conclude that, in their minds, reason can be discarded so long as it is in the name of attacking religious belief – which often takes the form of attacking the person.

    It’s not the use of science, because the only remotely relevant connection between science and the use of ridicule would be sociological or psychological studies on the link between being mocked and changing or hiding one’s beliefs. The only science that New Atheists as a whole are remotely familiar with are those that can be used to attack various forms of religious belief. Any study that indicates positive aspects of religious belief on personal health or behavior is dismissed. Fringe beliefs about the historicity of Jesus the man, like those espoused by Richard Carrier, are actively promoted, despite the overwhelming consensus of trained historians and archaeologists on the matter. So-called religious “moderates” who reject no mainstream scientific theories – or even actively promote them, like Francis Collins does – are also derided because they do not hold to a godless worldview, and atheists who ally with them to actually promote science are blasted as “accommodationists”. We can fairly easily conclude that, in their minds, science is only useful so long as it is being used to attack religious beliefs – which often takes the form of attacking the person.

    So, if it’s not reason or science, the only thing left is hatred of god-belief. And it doesn’t take much digging to find what the most prominent New Atheists – and by extension, their fans – think of religious people – “faith-heads”, deluded, irrational, unreasonable, anti-science, anti-progress, insane, child abusers, DSM-IV worthy, more harmful than rapists, and the list goes on. This isn’t the atheist version of “love the sinner, hate the sin”. New Atheists are anti-theistic bigots who absolutely cannot tolerate the notion that reasonable people can reasonably hold beliefs they don’t like, and so they attack and mock and ridicule, ignoring both reason and science while doing so, in order to achieve their goals.

  48. Kaleidocyte says:

    Michael, you evaded my question: if you mock the racist beliefs of the KKK, are you a closed-minded bigot? I didn’t “tap dance” around yours, but answered it: what makes the KKK bigoted is not their use of mockery per se, but their racist beliefs. Their beliefs would be bigoted regardless of whether they made reprehensible racial jokes or not. Let me answer your follow-up question with a question: suppose you are at a party and you overhear a man expressing his views on the “deficiencies of non-white races.” He speaks in a calm somber tone, making no racial jokes whatsoever. Is this man any less bigoted because he has refrained from racial jokes while airing his racist views?

  49. Kaleidocyte says:

    Kevin, (1) the fact is that there are many theists who insist that we are somehow intellectually obligated to share their theological commitments and that we are being unreasonable for not doing so. (2) There are also many theists who use their beliefs as justification for exercising authority over others. The so-called “new atheist movement” is a response to this. I say “so-called” because many of the allies of this movement include secular-minded religious people. Yet we don’t call these people “new” Christians, “new” Jews, or “new” Muslims, and so on. It seems that I’m only ever called a “new” atheist whenever I respond to the above two issues.

  50. GM says:

    See, this happens every time. Mockery gets called out for what it is, and an atheist shows up and cuts his belly open in defense of it. It’s bizarre. We’re talking about behavior that we scold school-children for. I SHOULD expect “Hey, you know, sometimes we all get a little carried away, let’s agree to try to do better from now on.” but then we get these fumbling defenses of crappy behavior because, I think, mocking religious people IS the attractive part of the New Atheism. It’s the locus of epistemological payoff.

  51. GM says:

    Also Kale, as far as mocking white supremacy, Martin Luther King had very specific ideas about NOT using shame and mockery to change people’s prejudices. But maybe he was just too much of a faith-head. If Dawkins and Harris were serious about eradicating religion (and nice try two-stepping around what those guys have to say about religious moderates) they might actually take the time to learn about how social movements work, how prejudices and beliefs are altered over time and, you know, exhibit something that looks like a moral imagination.

  52. Kevin says:

    Kale,

    I didn’t invent the term “New Atheist”. Some agnostic did, can’t remember the name. I do find it to be a useful term to differentiate the reasonable atheists who simply don’t believe from the ideologues like Harris, Dawkins, and Coyne. I’m also content using “anti-theists” if you prefer.

  53. Kaleidocyte says:

    GM, I am only defending people against the unwarranted accusation that their occasional use of mockery automatically convicts them of closed-minded bigotry. I don’t think you can mount a high horse on this topic given that you earlier labelled fundamentalists “uneducated.” I suppose it’s only counts as ridicule when atheists do it?

  54. Kaleidocyte says:

    Kevin, as far as I can tell, the only difference between the “reasonable atheists” you are fond of and the “new atheists” you consider ideologues is that new atheists tend to be more vocal critics of religion and its role in society. That’s hardly a huge difference. When I’m quiet about religion, I’m simply an atheist. Yet when I speak out against religious interference in government, for example, I’m a “new atheist” or an “ideologue,” or worse still, a “closed-minded bigot.” Funnily enough, I’m often joined by religious people in loudly repudiating theocratic impulses, yet no one calls them “new” Christians, “new” Muslims, or “new” Jews; no one calls them “ideologies,” except for fundamentalists perhaps; no one calls them “closed-minded bigots.” Quite the opposite in fact, they are lauded as enlightened.

  55. GM says:

    Uneducated isn’t a slur, it’s a matter of fact whether or not someone is educated in a certain field, or if they are improperly educated. I am not a scientist, I have very little scientific training. So if I started writing science books, it would only follow that someone should point out that I am, as a matter of fact, uneducated. Likewise, if a set of religious believers are spouting unorthodox nonsense about a religious text, it’s usually because they have been misled and have not had access to proper instruction/information about that text. And are thus uneducated.

    Now, I have a choice once I recognize that. I can say, “I should build and maintain friendships with these people, because when the time is right, I might be helpful in clearing some of these things up.”

    OR I can accuse them of having brain viruses and compare them to child abusers and liken them to something worse than rape, and tell OTHERS to make fun of them whenever possible, to hurt their feelings and shame them out of society.

    Which of those two options sounds like the adult thing to do?

  56. Kaleidocyte says:

    GM, your analogy presupposes some things about religion that might not be warranted. If you start writing science book without an appropriate understanding of the concepts you are writing about, other scientists will critique your work and show you what you’ve gotten wrong by drawing on the relevant research. If you accept their critique you can learn something from the exchange and become more educated on the matters about which you are writing.

    If you critique someone’s interpretation of the Bible, calling it “uneducated,” does the same thing happen? It might; you could convince someone that their interpretation is flawed and yours is superior. Alternatively, the person whose views you consider “uneducated” because they do not align with yours might respond in kind, claiming that *your* interpretation is uneducated, or worse still, heretical. What you see as “unorthodox nonsense” is what they take for doctrine, and what you consider essential to Christianity they take as heresy. Now which of you is going to convince the other and how? You are both in agreement about one thing: the other guy is “uneducated.”

  57. GM says:

    Now you’re muddying the waters. A fundamentalist is a very specific thing with a very specific approach. I’m not talking about anyone that I disagree with in general, so I’m not going to bother with your red herring.

  58. GM says:

    Also, you didn’t answer my question about which choice is the more adult approach to someone who is, in fact, uneducated and misguided.

  59. Kaleidocyte says:

    Muddying the waters? I think they were already muddied before I waded in. You call a fundamentalist “uneducated” because, well, obviously your interpretation of scripture is superior, and he responds likewise, adding “heretic” for good measure. This doesn’t seem like a red herring to me, but a very plausible scenario that I’ve seen play out on multiple occasions. You both see the other as “uneducated.” Since you apparently know what the adult approach to this situation is, you tell me.

  60. GM says:

    Define fundamentalist.

  61. Michael says:

    Kale,

    I was just about to respond to your latest reply to me when I read this:

    GM, I am only defending people against the unwarranted accusation that their occasional use of mockery automatically convicts them of closed-minded bigotry.

    You are either so enslaved to your straw men you cannot see the real arguments on the table (and don’t care what they are) or you are Lying to Defeat Religion.

    On 3/1, I clearly told you,

    Pay attention – ” this is not about an individual who occasionally uses mockery…..We’re talking about a movement that uses disparagement humor as a propagandisitc weapon in its culture war. It it irrational to believe that an activist part of such a movement, using such techniques, is open minded about religion. Aggression and open-mindedness do not go hand-in-hand.”

    You now need to back up your accusation by quoting me where I make “the unwarranted accusation that their occasional use of mockery automatically convicts them of closed-minded bigotry.”

  62. Kaleidocyte says:

    Michael, as I already told you, I don’t agree with that conclusion, for reasons I have already outlined: principally, mockery could be sensitive to closed-mindedness, but not specific to it. It therefore doesn’t serve as a good diagnostic marker of closed-mindedness. I laid bare my reasons for thinking this in my comments on March 1, 2015 at 10:58 am and 11:03 am, with related follow-up questions on 11:25 am and 11:28 am – questions that you have yet to answer.

  63. Michael says:

    Of course you are not going to agree with any conclusion. That’s not the issue. The issue is the actual arguments on the table. One more time – You now need to back up your accusation by quoting me where I make “the unwarranted accusation that their occasional use of mockery automatically convicts them of closed-minded bigotry.”

  64. Kaleidocyte says:

    So you are not in fact saying that:

    > “We’re just pointing out that when the atheist employs mocking as part of their anti-religious efforts, they are giving us a window into their mind – what we see is symptoms of bigotry.”

    And:

    > “When you are part of a movement that embraces mockery as a weapon in its culture war, it is such a sign [of bigotry].”

    You have a funny way of *not* saying that, but then again, it’s possible that I’ve misinterpreted your views. Some clarification could come in the form of answers to the questions I posed to you on on 11:25 am and 11:28 am.

  65. Kevin says:

    Kale, the difference between an atheist and an anti-theistic idealogue is one is not religious, the other thinks religion is worse than rape and that faith should be classified as a mental illness and that religion is the greatest evil ever, despite a total lack of evidence to back any of it up.

    If you’re the latter, then sorry for ya.

  66. Michael says:

    So you are not in fact saying that:
    > “We’re just pointing out that when the atheist employs mocking as part of their anti-religious efforts, they are giving us a window into their mind – what we see is symptoms of bigotry.”

    This is not equivalent to accusing that the “occasional use of mockery automatically convicts [someone] of closed-minded bigotry.” Pay attention to the descriptor, “as part of their anti-religious efforts.” Mockery as part of an anti-religious effort is not the same as “occasional use of mockery.” A symptom of bigotry is not the same as an automatic conviction. You have clearly taken my solid claim and turned it into a straw man claim.

    And:
    > “When you are part of a movement that embraces mockery as a weapon in its culture war, it is such a sign [of bigotry].”

    This is not equivalent to accusing that the “occasional use of mockery automatically convicts [someone] of closed-minded bigotry.” Being part of a movement that embraces (and advocates) mockery as a weapon in its culture war is not the same as the “occasional use of mockery.” A sign of bigotry is not the same as an automatic conviction. You have clearly taken my solid claim and turned it into a straw man claim.

    You have a funny way of *not* saying that, but then again, it’s possible that I’ve misinterpreted your views.

    Yes, you have misinterpreted my views and continue to do so even after I have corrected you.

    Some clarification could come in the form of answers to the questions I posed to you on on 11:25 am and 11:28 am.

    Okay.

    I am well aware of Hitch’s status. I’m just not convinced by your suggestion that his use of ridicule convicts him of being a closed-minded bigot. You are using such a broad criterion for defining what signifies closed-mindedness that anyone, not just Hitch, could be construed as closed-minded for even the most innocuous of “jabs” at someone who disagrees with them. Have you ever ridiculed a stern and unfair teacher?

    To create your straw men, you have to take things out of their overall context. In this case, notice how you transition from “Hitch” to students mocking a “stern and unfair teacher” as if they are analogous. They are not. Hitch was an Activist. The students are just being kids reacting to a stern and unfair teacher. Hitch was the leader in a Movement defined by its hostility toward an out-group. The students are just students mad about their teacher. Hitch not only mocked, but advocated and encouraged that the outgroup should be mocked. The students are just being kids reacting to a stern and unfair teacher. Given the immense differences, it is irrational to defend “Hitch” by trying to make him sound like he was a teenager making fun of his teacher.

    Let’s make the students in your student example a little more like Hitch, shall we? Imagine a set of students who not only mock their teacher, Mr. Jones, “because he is unfair,” but begin a sustained campaign of mockery and form an “anti-Jones” movement that encourages other students to mock the teacher and portray him as a force for evil. Students who refuse to mock Mr. Jones are ridiculed as “accomodationists” who are unwilling to engage in the “war” against Mr. Jones’s unfairness. At that point, one would have to be crazy to believe the students are open-minded about Mr. Jones being fair?

    One more time. I am NOT talking about innocuous of “jabs.” That is your straw man version. This is about a) an anti-religious movement that b) commonly uses and advocates mockery as c) part of its propaganda in d) its culture war. If you cannot detect the difference between the two, your views cannot be taken seriously by those of us who value reason and critical thinking.

    Michael, you evaded my question: if you mock the racist beliefs of the KKK, are you a closed-minded bigot?

    No, you would not be “a closed-minded bigot.” However, it would indicate you are closed-minded about the beliefs of the KKK. I myself am happy to admit I am closed-minded about KKK beliefs. Are you open to the idea that the white race is superior?

    I didn’t “tap dance” around yours, but answered it: what makes the KKK bigoted is not their use of mockery per se, but their racist beliefs. Their beliefs would be bigoted regardless of whether they made reprehensible racial jokes or not.

    Yes, you did tap dance, as your answer is the type a slippery politician would offer – one the skips around the question by talking about something else. I asked, ‘If a member of the KKK makes racial jokes, are those jokes further evidence the KKK is bigoted.” To answer the question, you need to begin with a “yes” or a “no.” Is it further evidence? I still don’t know what you think. Yes, one can be bigoted regardless of whether they make reprehensible racial jokes or not. But that is a Red Herring. The issue is whether the racial jokes count as evidence of bigotry. That question clearly makes you uncomfortable.

    Let me answer your follow-up question with a question:

    In other words, you now want to evade yet another question. Try answering it: You are at a party and see a man talking to others who is making racial jokes. Does this lead you to suspect he is a bigot?

    Now, let me answer your question.

    suppose you are at a party and you overhear a man expressing his views on the “deficiencies of non-white races.” He speaks in a calm somber tone, making no racial jokes whatsoever. Is this man any less bigoted because he has refrained from racial jokes while airing his racist views?

    Of course not. In fact, just because people like Harris and Dawkins can speak in a calm somber tone when they express their views on the “deficiencies of religious people,” this does not mean they are any less bigoted because they have refrained from anti-religious mocking while airing their anti-religious views.

    But’s that not the issue. The issue here is whether the racial jokes count as evidence of bigotry. Obviously, they do.

    In the end, while you have flailed away at your straw man, and evaded my question, you have left the actual arguments I made in the blog entry…..untouched. And that’s because the actual arguments I made in the blog entry are rock solid.

    Of course, I could add much more. There is plenty of other evidence that indicates the New Atheists are closed-minded. And if I was to ask you to provide evidence the New Atheists were open-minded about religion, you would be stumped.

  67. Kaleidocyte says:

    Michael, I see nothing wrong with the analogy except that religion is often far worse than a stern and unfair teacher, and often earns far greater mockery as a result. This is where your Mr Jones analogy goes awry. If Mr Jones demanded constant praise from his students and belittled those who didn’t acknowledge him as the Greatest Teacher in the World, as well as claiming that his female students were of lesser worth than his male students, or something else reprehensible like that, then an anti-Jones movement would not be an unjustified response on behalf of the students. Would you call the students “closed-minded bigots” for that? Mr Jones is no victim here. He has done more than enough to earn himself an anti-Jones movement. Even so, Mr Jones has his apologists.

    I already answered your question very clearly. Let me repeat it again, in abbreviated form: sensitive, not specific. The KKK isn’t bigoted *because* they use mockery, but because they are racist. They would still be bigoted even if they instituted a strict “no jokes” policy for all members. If I encountered a man making racist jokes at a party, I would suspect that he is a bigot, not because he was making jokes, but because his jokes were unambiguously racist. If I later encountered a man making fun of the racist, should I conclude that he is also a bigot because of his use of mockery? Do you see that mockery itself is not what diagnoses bigotry? Mockery can be a *response* to bigotry. Bigots can be the subject *of mockery*. I have repeated this several times now, and yet you continue to pretend that I haven’t answered your question. It bears repeating then: mockery is not a good diagnostic marker for closed-mindedness and bigotry. People can mock for various reasons, not all of them intrinsically bigoted. If you don’t understand this then you don’t understand my position.

    Back to Mr Jones. Is it wrong for students for form an anti-Jones movement in response to Mr Jones’ narcissism and bigotry? What about Mr Jones’ apologists, those who think he is the Greatest Teacher in the World. Are they more open-minded, or are they just making excuses for him? “Mr Jones didn’t really mean that.” “But Mr Jones has done a lot of good for the world.” “Sure, he has done some nasty things in the past, but Mr Jones isn’t like that anymore.” “You wouldn’t know right from wrong if it wasn’t for Mr Jones!”

  68. Kaleidocyte says:

    Kevin, a total lack of evidence that religion can be harmful? Are you serious?

  69. GM says:

    It’s weird how Mr. Jones sounds and awful lot like Professor Dawkins here.

  70. Kevin says:

    Kevin, a total lack of evidence that religion can be harmful? Are you serious?

    Not once did I say it can’t be harmful. What I did actually say was “the other thinks religion is worse than rape and that faith should be classified as a mental illness and that religion is the greatest evil ever, despite a total lack of evidence to back any of it up.”

    There is zero evidence that “religion” is worse than rape (because “religion” is as meaningless as “beliefs”), there is zero evidence that faith is a mental illness, and there is zero evidence that religion is the greatest evil ever. So yes, I stand by what I said. The only problem is that isn’t what you addressed.

  71. Michael says:

    Michael, I see nothing wrong with the analogy

    So you don’t see a difference between an activist who helps lead a movement that uses mockery as part of its propaganda to attack an out-group and some students making fun of one of their teachers. That’s your problem. Those of us who value reason and critical reason do see a difference.

    This is where your Mr Jones analogy goes awry.

    You are confused. It was your analogy. You are the one who insists that labeling Hitchens, an anti-religious activist, as closed-minded is equivalent to labeling a student who makes fun of his teacher. Your analogy failed.

    If Mr Jones demanded constant praise from his students and belittled those who didn’t acknowledge him as the Greatest Teacher in the World, as well as claiming that his female students were of lesser worth than his male students

    …then I don’t think many of the students would be open-minded to such claims. You are strengthening my point.

    I already answered your question very clearly.

    Wrong. Your “answer” insists that someone need not tell a racial joke to be a bigot. But that answered a different question. The question was not whether someone who doesn’t tell racial jokes can be a bigot. The question was whether such joke-telling would count as evidence of bigotry. It was a yes-or-no question that you have never answered. I know that you have not answered it because I still can’t figure out if you would count such joke-telling as evidence of bigotry.

    It bears repeating then: mockery is not a good diagnostic marker for closed-mindedness and bigotry.

    You keep ignoring the fact that the New Atheist mockery exists within a context – a context of activism that advocates the use of mockery as part of its anti-religious propaganda. The idea that open-mindedness can co-exist with such mockery is not only wishful thinking on your part, but laughably absurd.

    Now, mockery by itself does not prove closed-mindedness. But once you take a scientific approach, and recognize mockery as a form of aggression, it becomes clear mockery is indeed a symptom of closed-mindedness. Mockery is the verbal expression of a slap in the face. As such, it is a clue that leads us to suspect the mocker is closed-minded about the subject of his mockery. We expect closed-minded people to mock the subject they are closed-minded about because they are lashing out against it. Open-minded people don’t typically mock ideas and behaviors they are open-minded about. If you are open-minded about something, you are unlikely to feel the need to be aggressive against that thing.

    Anyway, this analysis appears to be beyond your intellectual grasp, so I think I am wasting my time here.

    Back to Mr Jones. Is it wrong for students for form…..

    Oh, please. I have no desire to follow your tippity-tap routine into the weeds. The bottom line here is that the arguments I laid out in the blog entry are rock solid. You have not refuted any of them. You have not damaged any of them. They remain untouched.

  72. Michael says:

    It’s weird how Mr. Jones sounds and awful lot like Professor Dawkins here.

    LOL!

  73. Michael says:

    Not once did I say it can’t be harmful. What I did actually say was “the other thinks religion is worse than rape and that faith should be classified as a mental illness and that religion is the greatest evil ever, despite a total lack of evidence to back any of it up.”

    You are correct. Okay, so we now have a pattern of behavior from Kaleidocyte – one of morphing his opponent’s position into a straw man position. Enough of that.

  74. Jack says:

    This article is ridiculous. If you’re a 20+ year old person who still believes in Santa, there’s something wrong. It’s no different with god, an imaginary construction to control and dictate your lives under the guise of “good,” when in fact religion is incredibly toxic and oppressive.

  75. Kevin says:

    This article is ridiculous.

    No it isn’t. Unless, of course, you can point out exactly how?

    If you’re a 20+ year old person who still believes in Santa, there’s something wrong.

    Agreed.

    It’s no different with god

    *facepalm* God is capitalized. That’s the only thing that’s common between belief in God and belief in Santa. If you seriously don’t know the difference between believing in God and believing in Santa, then the most positive spin I can put on that is you clearly haven’t read a single piece from a well-respected Christian thinker. If you have, well…

    an imaginary construction to control and dictate your lives under the guise of “good,”

    Evidence?

    when in fact religion is incredibly toxic and oppressive.

    It can be. Left-wing political ideology can be, too, but I don’t see atheists arguing that we should get rid of liberalism. Regardless, “religion is” blows your statement out of the water as any sort of fact. Even ignoring that “religion” is almost completely useless as a descriptive term, I am a Christian and my belief in God has utterly enhanced my life in pretty much every way, and has been extremely liberating. The majority of Christians I personally know, and every single Christian thinker of which I’m aware, agrees with me. So you are completely incorrect.

  76. TFBW says:

    Jack said:

    If you’re a 20+ year old person who still believes in Santa, there’s something wrong. It’s no different with god …

    Really? You’re saying that belief in God is no different than belief in Santa? Empirically speaking, that doesn’t wash. I know of no significant belief in Santa among adults. Can you cite any? On the other hand, belief in some sort of God is relatively common. That alone suggests some sort of significant difference. Why shouldn’t I lightly dismiss your remarks as patently counter-factual wishful thinking?

  77. Michael says:

    Looks like Jack ran away.

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