Saturday, June 29, 2013

Don't Debate, It's Impolite!

I happen to follow the Progressive Secular Humanist Examiner page on Facebook, which I would encourage any like-minded people to do so as well.  A couple days ago I saw a post from them, however, that is the kind of thing that really bugs me.  Here it is:

Fortunately the commenters realize the bullshit this post is spewing.

F that.

The thing that bothers me about it is that it explicitly states that to respond to religious nonsense is, by default, an "asshole" thing to do.  Such an assertion is just stupid.

It is in fact possible to point out, in a civil manner, the faulty reasoning of whatever is being posted.  What is wrong with that?

Some might argue that it isn't in good taste to start a debate on someone else's wall.  My response would be that 1) posting something inflammatory on someone else's wall unprovoked might be inappropriate depending on the relationship of the people involved, but 2) if someone posts something on the internet it is fair game to respond to in support, critique, or ridicule as the responder chooses.  If the poster isn't willing to engage in debate, they can choose to not post and/or block those they don't wish to engage.

Personally, I find myself feeling a responsibility to respond to rank bullshit.  One fb friend posted something a couple months ago complaining about the internet calling out the Pope when he retired for the rampant child abuse within the church.  How can one not call bullshit on that?

The real problem I have with this post is that it is essentially perpetuating a culture of not discussing our differences.  How can we change hearts and minds if we don't engage with our rhetorical and cultural opponents?

It may be futile to hope to change the beliefs of the person responding, but others viewing the conversation may be more inclined to consider the counter arguments.

The other thing that really pisses me off about this is where it says "...and lets them believe what they want."   As if providing a counter-argument is somehow impinging on anyone's ability to believe what they want!  Calling out bullshit doesn't prevent anyone from believing in bullshit.

And let's play the replacement game to demonstrate the absurdity of this post:

Jimmy isn't a bigot.  He ses a friend post their racist beliefs on Facebook.  Instead of being an asshole, he ignores it and lets them continue being racist [without letting them know bigotry isn't cool].  Good on you Jimmy.
Jimmy isn't a homophobe.  He ses a friend post their homophobic beliefs on Facebook.  Instead of being an asshole, he ignores it and lets them continue being a homophobe [without letting them know homophobia isn't cool].  Good on you Jimmy.

Let's go godwin.
Jimmy isn't a neo-nazi.  He ses a friend post their anti-semitic, homophobic, white-power beliefs on Facebook.  Instead of being an asshole, he ignores it and lets them continue being a fuckwad [without letting them know fuckwadia isn't cool].  Good on you Jimmy.
Let's be clear, without providing a counter argument, you allow stupid, hurtful or dangerous ideas go unchallenged.  And the bottom line is that you can't and won't advance your cause without expressing what you believe.  And that requires all means of communication, not just to the echo chamber, but also in response to the opposition and on their turf and to their audience.

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