Dehumanizing People is Fun

Column by Paul Bonneau.

Exclusive to STR

It is clearly fun to make fun of people. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be such a popular pastime.
One can imagine why we are prone to this kind of behavior. For example, in the old days, if you wanted to slaughter another tribe and steal their women and take all their stuff, dehumanizing them first was eminently sensible. It erases all inhibitions when it’s time to get down and bloody. And guess which tribe gets to pass on its genes? The one that performed these tasks most efficiently, of course. So, there is a very good evolutionary reason why we do this sort of thing, even if most of the time these days it is funneled into “safe” channels like booing the other sports team.
But knowing why we do it (if my guess is accurate) is the first step to getting a bit of control over it, which might be a good idea when we start to suspect that it might not always work in our interests all the time, or that it might even be harnessed by our real enemies for their own interests.
“OK, what is Bonneau blathering on about now? What’s it got to do with us enlightened anarchists?”
Well, today someone made one of those posters on Facebook that said, “Religion: disconnecting people,” just one in a series of similar examples I had seen there. I commented on it, “So . . . criticizing religion connects people?” If I had a nickel for every time I heard or saw libertarians taking a whack at religion, I’d be a rich man. Hell, some, like Molyneux, spend half their time doing it (when he’s not going on about how the family is the origin of the state, that is).
Now, I really get it, how fun it is to make fun of others. Nothing like pissing on someone else to build oneself up. But is it the rational thing to do?
See, this is the heart of the libertarian criticism of religion, that it supposedly is not rational. And libertarians are nothing, if not rational, right?
Excuse me while I have a little chuckle.
How rational is it to criticize religion, to make fun of the faithful?
Look, we all want to achieve liberty some day, right? Then the first order of business is to look at our own behavior, and do the things that move us closer to freedom, and stop doing things that move us away from it. It’s irrational to do otherwise.
First, is it any of our business if some people like to think there is some big guy up in the clouds with a white beard and hair, wearing a flowing robe and sandals? No, it’s not our business. Seems to me one of the big causes for the loss of liberty is other people (e.g., bureaucrats and cops) sticking their noses in our business; yet here we are, doing the same thing.
Now, someone will whine, “It becomes my business when they force me to conform to their mores.” Oh yeah? When did that ever happen? Don’t start talking about them using government as a tool to force you. That’s like saying capitalism is inherently bad, like some Occupy folks do. Libertarians patiently explain to them that it’s not rich people or capitalism that is bad, but only those people who harness government to their ends that are bad. And therefore it’s government that’s bad, not capitalism. Well if that is so, the same argument applies to religious people: only those who harness government are bad. If you can’t make the distinction there, you’re just like those “Eat the Rich” Occupy folks.
We’re not living in Puritan Massachusetts any more; perhaps you hadn’t noticed? By the way, one of the main things that brought down that theocracy was Quaker proselytizing. Yes, a theocracy was brought down by a group every bit as religious as the Puritans themselves. Gandhi himself may have learned from their nonviolent tactics. Far from always inhibiting liberty, in the past, religion has also enhanced it. Proto-libertarian early Rhode Island was populated largely by Quakers.
Here’s another irrational aspect to making fun of the faithful: How many of them are there? According to Wikipedia, a staggering 83% of Americans identify with a religious denomination. Do we rationally pursue liberty by turning 5/6 of the population into our enemies?
The rational way to split society is between the rulers (along with some but not all of their minions) and the rest of us, the “mundanes.” That’s still hard, but at least we have numbers on our side with that split. It's madness to do it otherwise.
Now, some who ridicule religion may say they are only making a case to convince the religious to abandon error. Well, sure. I mean, how often have you been convinced to change your most firmly held convictions via ridicule? Happens all the time, right?
Maybe someone needs to read Andrew Carnegie or B. Liddell Hart. But in the meantime, I’d advise severely limiting this tactic, if used at all, to friendly personal discussions with college kids (who tend to be a little more open-minded). Not to open Internet forums and Facebook, sheesh. Talk about being irrational, using a tactic bound to fail . . . .
Next up, how does dehumanizing the faithful look? It looks bad. It looks juvenile, puerile. It looks smug and self-righteous (the very features we claim the faithful display).
When I was a teenager, I knew how the world worked. I had great confidence in my grip on reality, and great disdain for those who did not share my opinions. The older I got, the more I discovered I was simply wrong in many of those opinions, and the humbler I got. I'm sure by the day I die, I won't know anything at all. But in the meantime, I'm pretty happy that I've (for the most part) given up on smug self-righteousness. I'm a lot easier to get along with, and that's a good thing. Doesn't mean I don't have principles, but it does mean I represent those principles in a more effective fashion.
Folks, let's dehumanize those people it makes sense to dehumanize, people who deserve to be dehumanized--our actual enemies, the ruling class. Make all the fun you want of Obama or Romney or Santorum, and the rest of the lizard people running Washington, D.C. Ridicule is a great weapon. Let's point this big cannon of ours with precision, and with an eye toward our ends, rather than just shooting it into the sky for mindless amusement.

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Paul Bonneau's picture
Columns on STR: 106


Scott Lazarowitz's picture

I don't know about "dehumanizing" the government elites as they seem to dehumanize us. Many of them are just sadists and psychopaths, which are "human" characteristics, albeit very bad ones. But we do need to continue to expose them and their crimes against us, from our local neanderthal Nazi cops to our elite Supreme Court Justices such as Elena Caveman.

Jim Davies's picture

Belief in God is irrational, and belief in government is irrational. Religion and government share that same flaw: each has an irrational underlying premise.

Our #1 task is therefore to persuade folk of the importance of founding their lives on a rational premise, and I have a hard time seeing how we can say that's important in the one case without being important also in the other.

If ridicule can help accomplish that, let's use it. If some other way proves more effective, fine. But I'd not want to underestimate the power of humor.

BrianDrake's picture

"I have a hard time seeing how we can say [founding their lives on a rational premise is] important in the one case without being important also in the other. "

Though I can sympathize with this feeling, I don't think it conveys a very clear understanding of human beings. Those who do not believe in the legitimacy of the state are a minority in the world. Since you and I are in agreement that the "belief in government" is illogical (I'm trying to avoid "irrational" since I prefer Mises' definition of "rational" - choosing means to accomplish ends - which is not the same as "illogical", and is indeed something all humans are, regardless of how logical they are), would you then conclude that the vast majority of people are completely illogical?

Well when it comes to the issue of the state, yes. The vast majority are illogical.

But does that necessarily mean they are illogical in every other area of their life? Most scientists are statists, yet they demonstrate a high degree of logical thinking in their field of expertise. Most engineers are statists, yet they must make logical decisions in order for their engineering tasks to succeed. I've yet to observe the trend that 100% of mathematicians are anarchists.

It actually seems illogical itself to think that if someone is illogical in one area of their worldview, that they are necessarily illogical in all other areas.

Unfortunately, humans that I've observed just don't seem to demonstrate a perfect level of congruity. Does that mean that congruity is not attainable or not desirable? No. But I've yet to meet the person who has truly attained it.

So in contrast to you Jim, I have a hard time seeing how it follows that someone who holds an illogical belief on one topic cannot be persuaded logically in another topic.

Jim Davies's picture

Dear me, this religion thing has got everyone quite stirred up! Who'd have guessed it.

Brian, so far you're the only one to have addressed what seems to me the key question for libertarians: whether irrational thinking in one subject (the state) can be corrected without remedying that in another (God.) I doubt that it can; you think there is not much of a problem, and point to the strong rationality found among government scientists, for example. Good point.

Rational thinking has two elements: a premise and a progression (given A, therefore B etc.) A string of deductions can be brilliantly clear and logical, but if the underlying premise is unsound, the conclusion too will be incorrect. Are we agreed so far?

If so, I hope our disagreement is resolved. A statist mathematician works on premises that are perfectly sound, and draws accurate, logical and admirable conclusions. A theologian, similarly, begins from the premise that God exists, and draws elegant and logical conclusions about the meaning of scripture, the density of angels on pinheads, and so on. I don't doubt the accuracy of those conclusions nor the intellectual feat of reaching them by reason. And if one's premise is that government is necessary (Paine began there, recall) then it's possible logically to deduce what kind of government should be constructed for optimal performance.

But if the premise is wrong, the conclusion too will be wrong; and the congruity needed is that someone claiming as we do that the self-ownership axiom requires the abolition of government, has no business embracing the idea that a creator exists when that premise is (to put it mildly) wide open to dispute and refutation. That is intellectually inconsistent very damaging; it invites the response "you have your fairy tale about God, I'll keep mine about the State."

Scott, I'm still eager to know your definition of "God" and the premise from which you start, when reasoning that he (/she/it) exists.

Paul's picture

"...someone claiming as we do that the self-ownership axiom requires the abolition of government."

"We" make no such claim. Only you do. If you take that as a premise, then you end up with conclusions such as that libertarians should be welfare queens. Your premise is wrong.

Government can go on all it likes. Let the governments multiply, the more the better. All I want from them is one thing, that they leave me alone. You may say this is impossible, yet governments already leave vast numbers of people alone (e.g. the German government leaves French people alone, all governments leave their ruling classes alone, and there are other such exceptions). Not only that, but there are people who DON'T want government to leave them alone, and it would be wrong for us to force them otherwise.

It's also counterproductive to bother people, if you want them to let you alone. Making fun of peoples' religions is a great way to motivate them to harm you. It's not rational if you are trying to avoid harm.

Scott Lazarowitz's picture

Jim, how is belief in God irrational? And by God, I refer to a "Creator."

Do we lack "proof" of God or Creator? Just look at us! Look at life in and of itself as proof!

It is very rational to believe that life including animal life was created by a being or beings of superior intelligence. It is difficult for me to believe that the complexities that make up what we view as "life" (such as how our heart is structured and the way it works with arteries and the circulatory system, and how complex the optic nerve is and the way it works with the brain, and the entire reproductive process as well) could possibly have come about as a result of "random matter and particles spontaneously coming together" and forming themselves just by coincidence. Given the extreme odds against such an occurrence, you would have to believe all that as a matter of faith. And that, to me, is irrational.

Jim Davies's picture

Hi Scott. Belief that the universe was created by a God is indeed massively irrational; it conflicts with reason from A to Z. However, I say that with a particular image of what you might mean by "God", so I may be premature in offering that reply. Therefore let me ask you to define the term "God" before continuing by giving examples of what I have in mind.

PS: One other question, if I may: when forming your opinion that a creator exists, what premise(s) do you start from?

Suverans2's picture

Hi Jim,

I apologize for butting in, but...

    THE only idea man can affix to the name of God, is that of a first cause, the cause of all things. And, incomprehensibly difficult as it is for a man to conceive what a first cause is, he arrives at the belief of it, from the tenfold greater difficulty of disbelieving it. It is difficult beyond description to conceive that space can have no end; but it is more difficult to conceive an end. It is difficult beyond the power of man to conceive an eternal duration of what we call time; but it is more impossible to conceive a time when there shall be no time.
    In like manner of reasoning, everything we behold carries in itself the internal evidence that it did not make itself. Every man is an evidence to himself, that he did not make himself; neither could his father make himself, nor his grandfather, nor any of his race; neither could any tree, plant, or animal make itself; and it is the conviction arising from this evidence, that carries us on, as it were, by necessity, to the belief of a first cause eternally existing, of a nature totally different to any material existence we know of, and by the power of which all things exist; and this first cause, man calls God." ~ Excerpted from The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine

When forming your rational belief, Jim Davies, that life, in all its myriad variations, "accidentally" created itself, what premise(s) do you start from?

Allen's picture

Hello. This is my first post here at STR. I've been reading and taking in the "feel" of the site before I made any comments.

The "prime mover" argument was made by Aristotle to explain *motion*, definitely *not* "creation" and/or "the cause of all things." Aristotle explicitly argued that matter was eternal , that is, un-created (Physics 1:9). Later, Christians cherry-picked Aristotle (of course, after first denouncing all "pagan" philosophers) and attempted to color over his "prime mover" by naming it "the first cause."

Anyway, a "first cause" isn't at all rational. "Cause" is a *concept,* not a thing/object. No "cause" exists. It is a name we give *after* we perceive the "effect" (another concept) of things on other things (including ourselves). Motion is an activity of things/objects within the space between other objects.

A concept cannot "create" anything. To say that a "Creator creates" isn't saying anything at all, no more than "The first cause, causes." The notion that life requires a creator is a leap of faith, not a rational statement.

So, are you presupposing, then, the creator was not living? Or non-existent? Is the "creator" a thing or a concept?

And what do you mean by "accidental?" In using this term, are you presupposing what we call "natura/physis" (another concept) won't allow for a myriad of variations without some intelligent mind to direct the course within it?


Suverans2's picture

Welcome Allen,

Check this out, it's the number one definition from Macmillan Dictionary

    cause noun▸an event, thing, or person that makes something happen
Allen's picture

Dictionaries are helpful to some extent, but you must remember that all language is conceptual. Words are concepts and all words are defined by other words. Words can only point toward existing objects (aka "things." I usually use these terms interchangeably) or other concepts. I don't see any other choice.

If "cause" is a noun, this means it is a person, place, thing or idea. I think we can say that "idea" is a synonym for "concept." So, that leaves us with a person, place or thing; here, we are simply saying that things (including those things called "persons") exist somewhere. All things exist somewhere in relation to other things. So, in using "cause" as a noun we only have the choice between a concept (idea) or object. It is clear that "cause" has no identifiable features, no shape of its own, no body-in-place, so it cannot point us to any thing/object.

As to "cause" being an event, we need to ask ourselves what constitutes an "event." An event is clearly not a thing, but another concept denoting things in motion and the concept of time. An event has a beginning and an end, things move and change. An event is a temporal, and therefore, relational *activity* between things. It is brought into a "unity" only within the concept of time, which, in turn, is dependent upon things in motion.

"Cause," being a concept, cannot act on it's own since a concept cannot move a thing. Only things in motion can move other things, and *we* call this activity amongst things "cause". This is one reason why the "First Cause" or "Un-caused cause" argument doesn't really say anything, since it violates the very *relationship* between things a "cause' is supposed to denote for us. In other words it is saying "Something comes from nothing" and postulated an "active nothing." This is the irrational step Christianity took when they made Aristotle's concept of "Prime mover" into their "First Cause" or "Creator."

Now, I don't mean this as an attack on him, but it appears Mr. Bonneau believes this type of discussion is irrelevant to the notion of "harm" to oneself. I'm not so certain of this, particularly given the insistence of most people to reify concepts, and *act* according to the valuation inherent in such a reification. This is particularly the case in the terms of moralizing evangelical movements, be they states and/or religions intent on conversion, by hook or by crook. People act according to what and how they value things and concepts, if someone believes another lie outside of "true religion," the dehumanization has already taken place . At any rate, I remain skeptical of such any irrelevance of this fact in the matter at hand.


Jim Davies's picture

Good, Allen. There's another aspect of the "first cause" argument worth mentioning: some theists use it to "prove" that there must be one; ie, that that since everything has a cause, back at the start (they do assume there was a start) there must be a god to have been that first cause.

The irony is that there is no cause proposed from which god resulted; hence, they "prove" the existence of a first cause by proposing an entity that has no cause.

Paul urged us not to ridicule religion, but this is one of many reasons that make his good advice quite hard to take.

Suverans2's picture

G'day Jim Davies,

I am reminded of the old joke about the devil telling God that he did a terrible job of creating man, so God asked him if he thought he could do better. The devil quickly answered, "Sure". So, God told him to have at it. The devil grabs up some carbon, some water etc. and starts to start, but God stops him, and says, "Hold on their boy, use your own materials." Where did those first "materials" come from, Jim?

That aside, "ridicule" ("That species of writing which excites contempt[1]..." ), besides being a bad way to "win friends and influence people", as Paul Bonneau correctly pointed out, also, IMO, violates the N.A.P. in that it hurts individuals who have caused you no hurt...well, unless you consider beliefs that conflict with your own, "hurtful".

[1] "This word [contempt] is one of the strongest expressions of a mean opinion which the language affords." ~ Noah Webster (c.1828)

Allen's picture

"Ridicule" is very subjective, and I think it is a stretch, a huge stretch, to say that it actually hurts people. How has the one who ridicules harmed the believer or their property in any demonstrable way? It may anger the latter. It may offend them. It may not be the best choice in forming alliances, being a good neighbor, and so on. But harm? I think that is a dubious claim. Are we to curtail 'anti-religious' speech? How is that to be done without the threat of force?

Suverans2's picture

G'day Allen,

Perhaps you didn't notice the bold, all-caps, "IMO", which, I presume you know means "in my opinion". And, you are certainly entitled to yours as well, so, thank you for your opinion.

Just out of curiosity, are you saying that "ridiculing someone's belief in a First Cause" is the same as "anti-religious speech"? And, though you are certainly, once again, entitled to your own belief as to whether there is/was a First Cause, what possible positive outcome do you expect to see from spouting "anti-religious speech"?

There is an old sales idiom, "We lead with questions, we push with statements", which, IMO, can be very helpful.

Allen's picture

Paul admittedly aims his article toward non-religious people and their views toward believers within the context of anti-statist movements. Within this context, he thinks non-believers are wasting good time and energy lambasting religious beliefs. Great! I agree with him to some extent, and if you read my comments below you will see what I think of the few aggressive non-religious people I've noticed (mainly online) who lambaste the religious from out of the blue.

However, you will also read that my experience has been nearly the opposite of the way in which Paul presents his case. It has been, by far, religious people who insert their beliefs (opinions) on philosophical and news discussion forums I've encountered, the blogs of unbelievers, YouTube threads, book reviews, etc., who upon being challenged *for these stated opinions* begin wailing about being attacked and "ridiculed." That they've entered a "public" discussion *voluntarily* seems to matter not. They take no responsibility for themselves.

Basically, what you and Paul seem to miss, is that any group with a combined focus on philosophical and social issues, such as this one, is going to dredge up the presuppositions underlying the perspective of each member; their values, their methods, their standards, etc. This is what happens in the 21st Century where we don't all share the same (more or less) catholic view of the world. That catholic world is gone. In this non-catholic world, when questions arise to why, how, and what it's going to take to git 'er done, presuppositions (opinions) are going to come to the fore. That's how it works. We humans are social, we communicate.

Your stated viewpoint regarding "ridicule" and the NAP, thus matters. If you are, from the outset, harboring anti-social, authoritarian, opinions toward critiques of your spoken beliefs, we cannot have a real discussion, will get little if anything accomplished, and live a double-standard, since our communication is already lopsided to favor your opinions. You already demand that one sits down, shuts-up, and listens in silence to your opinions, or simply depart the premises, if they have a contrasting view. Any response that challenges your view would "violate the NAP," and constitute "ridicule," since you equate dissenting perspectives as violent acts toward your person. If I've "violated" the NAP then, in your own mind, you also allow yourself to take positive defensive measures against this perceived attack against you. Yet, you never answered my question pertaining to how "ridicule" positively harms you and your property, your "old sales idiom" notwithstanding.

So, I'll turn your question around on you: What possible positive outcome do you expect when you allow yourself the freedom to speak authoritatively, and with certitude, your own presuppositions and opinions, but concomitantly equate dissent as an attack ("ridicule") against your person and seek to invoke the NAP? Remember "ridicule" is a very ambiguous, subjective, term. It is based on how one *feels* toward contrasting opinions.

I respect you generally as a person, but I cannot respect your stated opinion on this. I dissent. But, the questions remain: Have I "ridiculed" you? And more importantly, have I *harmed* you?

Suverans2's picture

G'day Allen,

Since you accuse me of this, "You already demand that one sits down, shuts-up, and listens in silence to your opinions, or simply depart the premises, if they have a contrasting view"; "Any response that challenges your view would "violate the NAP," and constitute "ridicule," since you equate dissenting perspectives as violent acts toward your person," would you please quote and post, like I have just done, where I have 'said' these things. Thank you.

And, the answer to these two questions, "Have I "ridiculed" you? And more importantly, have I *harmed* you?" are, "No, and no, not in the least," which, I believe, disproves the above accusations.

Thank you for the respect, and likewise, my friend. I feel no animosity, either from you or for you. In fact, it may just be a matter of semantics, you seem to equate "ridicule" with "respectful discussion"; I do not. I equate "ridicule" with "disrespectful discussion".


Allen's picture


If you are invoking the NAP, which includes, if I'm correct, defensive measures of life and property, or at least "justifies" such measures, then you would be silencing, even indirectly, anything you feel to be ridicule since the threat of force may be used against dissent "justifiably." Again, how one evaluates "ridicule" is subjective, and more importantly, one measures one's response according to that evaluation. So, either you find ridicule as something positively harmful to your life and property or you do not. Again, it is hard for me to find in disrespectful speech a good reason for NAP, or the defensive measures it may justify.

Invoking the NAP is considering speech positively harmful to one's life and property. Speaking to a wide array of people, some who feel any dissent as disrespectful, not only renders the NAP completely unusable in the world, but makes speaking to an assortment of people a risky business, don't you think?

Suverans2's picture

G'day Allen,

First, you seemed to have missed my polite request.

    Since you accuse me of this, "You already demand that one sits down, shuts-up, and listens in silence to your opinions, or simply depart the premises, if they have a contrasting view"; "Any response that challenges your view would "violate the NAP," and constitute "ridicule," since you equate dissenting perspectives as violent acts toward your person," would you please quote and post, like I have just done, where I have 'said' these things. Thank you.

I believe that those are both FALSE accusations. I cannot recall EVER IN MY LIFE making the "demand that one sits down, shuts-up, and listens in silence to [my] opinions, or simply depart the premises, if they have a contrasting view". Nor do I remember EVER IN MY LIFE "[equating] dissenting perspectives as violent acts toward [my] person".

Speaking of the "violent acts", the word "aggression", like the word "ridicule", has several definitions. Here is one for your perusal.

    aggression ...3. Hostile or destructive behavior or actions. ~ American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language

With that definition in mind, one more question for you to ponder. Would you deem it "aggressive" behavior if a man ogled your twelve-year old daughter and made lewd remarks about her every time you and she walked by him? Though that act, in and of itself, is not "violent", do you think it might incite[1] violence? I would say that that act too violates the N.A.P. What say ye?

[1] incite verb▸to encourage people to be making them angry or excited ~ Macmillan Dictionary

Allen's picture

Good morning, Suverans2-

You didn't come right out and say those things, but that's no good reason to ignore the very probable consequence of what you *did* say. In invoking your opinion of how you view the use of the NAP as being applicable to speech, you have equated speech you don't like with physical violence. The NAP, if I'm not mistaken, can be used to justify positive*physical force* in one's defense of life and property. In the act of disrespectful speech you see aggressive physical force, that can be met with defensive physical force. Am I unsound in my reasoning here? If so, how so?

We could go on all day with endless variations on hypothetical scenarios. This is what usually happens in conversations such as this. Living is indeed complicated. But, I'll humor with your politically-correct innocent little girl vs. evil lusty man scenario.

First, I'd do everything I could to remove her from this situation. Given that you and I seem to share the desire for a private-property, market-oriented society, such encounters would in all probability be less frequent than they are in the tax-funded "public" places we have presently.

If, in current circumstances, he touches my daughter or makes a positive move for her in public, I'd put myself in harm's way to keep that from happening. If he enters my house in pursuit of my daughter, he'd get a bullet. Period.

Need we go on?

Suverans2's picture

Nope, no need to go on. "You didn't come right out and say those things", nor did I, IMO, even infer such. End of discussion. Thank you for your time.

Allen's picture

That's too bad, but understandable.

That people like Rothbard, Rockwell, etc., made a life's work of rationally putting the pieces together out of what people did say, even while those latter people neither realized the consequences of their own words nor were capable of verbalizing those conclusions, is really remarkable, isn't it?

It contributed a great deal to the work ahead of us...


Suverans2's picture

G'day Allen,

I thought this, “That's too bad, but understandable,” deserving of a reply.

Yes, it is understandable, for at least a couple of reasons.

It is understandable why I might choose not to continue conversing with you, because you FALSELY accuse me by saying, "You already demand that one sits down, shuts-up, and listens in silence to your opinions, or simply depart the premises, if they have a contrasting view", and "Any response that challenges your view would "violate the NAP," and constitute "ridicule," since you equate dissenting perspectives as violent acts toward your person," both of which are not only outright lies, but to even try to make the leap from the truth to those lies, (from what I wrote), is totally irrational, I.M.O. And then, to top it off, you weren't even polite enough to sincerely apologize for jumping to the WRONG conclusion about me, and instead, chose to try to defend your FALSE accusations. So be it.

It is understandable why I might choose not to continue conversing with you, because when you were asked simple yes-or-no questions like these...

Would you deem it "aggressive" behavior if a man ogled your twelve-year old daughter and made lewd remarks about her every time you and she walked by him? [Yes, or no?]

Though that act, in and of itself, is not "violent", do you think it might incite violence?[Yes, or no?] chose to skirt around them by answering how you would handle the situation, (and you even danced around that pretty gingerly, I.M.O.), but I didn't ask you that, did I, Allen? Yes or no, (with a long-winded explanation, of course), will be acceptable.

If English is your second language, these misunderstandings will be more understandable.

Need we go on?

Allen's picture

Hello Suverans2-

Odd. Before I'd made these purported accusations, you said I "seem[ed] to equate "ridicule" with "respectful discussion" even though I had already explicitly said the contrary, and have maintained my opinion throughout this conversation. In a show of complete disregard for what I actually said, you desired to interpret me as saying the very opposite! However, I simply let it go up to now. It's becoming increasingly obvious that we value language, and our even our own opinions, on very different grounds.

Once again, I view ridicule as a poor choice for communication and try not to practice it myself. I'm in agreement with you, Paul, and others on this point, and haven't contested it.

Things changed, though, when you invoked the NAP as justifiable in the case of ridicule. Unless I'm mistaken, most libertarian-anarchists agree that the NAP can justify defensive violence against aggressive violence. I can only conclude, then, that you equate speech with violent physical action. It also follows, that you equate your subjective feelings and values with your body (life) and property, and would be willing to use physical force in order to "defend" those feeling and values. Being verbally "disrespected" is made equivalent to being mugged or having your home broken into. I cannot agree with this equation.

Our feelings and values are subjective and cannot be same as life and property. They are hugely variable from person to person, and even within the same person over a lifetime. Invocation of the NAP on the basis of such variability would not only render the NAP meaningless and unworkable, but would constitute control over speech in favor of one particular valuation. In other words: "Say nothing that 'offends' me because I can justify putting a bullet in you by calling it 'defense.'" With feelings and values there are no lines in the sand or bodies to harm and, like I said, are variable and subject to sometimes erratic changes.

As to your "simple" yes-or-no questions: They were *without context,* and thus so general, so unreal, as to be unanswerable in any honest fashion. You are asking for an "absolute" answer that *cannot* exist, since any situation of a man ogling my daughter would happen somewhere, somehow, not in a void involving only the man, me, and my daughter. Simply put, the questions as you posed them are absurd.

Here's an illustration: Is the word "nigger" disrespectful? Yes or no? It's a yes-or-no- question. It's simple, right? Come on, yes or no.

It is clear that black Americans think the term "nigger" is sometimes derogatory, sometimes not. It varies. *It depends on context!* It differs, for example, if a white American says the word or if another black American says it. Some blacks hate the term no matter who says it. Others don't care. It's how the term is evaluated, who says it, who hears it, where, when. It's not a question deserving of a universal answer applicable everywhere at all times.

I think you've read far more into my posts emotionally, than I've actually put there. I've not accused you of anything, but have only gone by what you've written and asked you 1) if my understanding and subsequent conclusions were sound, and 2) for clarification of your position. You've declined both invitations. The ball is in your court, you can choose to play or not...That's up to you.



Paul's picture

"However, you will also read that my experience has been nearly the opposite of the way in which Paul presents his case. It has been, by far, religious people who insert their beliefs (opinions) on philosophical and news discussion forums I've encountered, the blogs of unbelievers, YouTube threads, book reviews, etc., who upon being challenged *for these stated opinions* begin wailing about being attacked and "ridiculed." That they've entered a "public" discussion *voluntarily* seems to matter not. They take no responsibility for themselves. "

OK Allen, I get it that you are irritated by this boorish behavior. I used to be irritated beyond belief over it. But after getting steamed up about it for years if not decades, I started to use my brain instead:

1) Is this not generallizing? Do all religious people do this, or just a few? A few having done so, does that justify roundhouse attacks on all religious people?

2) Are all these venues only for nonbelievers? Believers center their lives on their (Gg)od. So are they supposed to trim their way of thinking and speaking in such venues to suit nonbelievers? Can't they just be themselves?

3) Does it really harm you to hear someone say, "God loves us?" Yeah, it raises your blood pressure, but what is the source of that? This simple, harmless statement, which is merely an opinion? Or is it something in your own mind? (E.g. intolerance). How hard is is, really, to let such statements roll off you like water off a duck's back? It turns out not to be so hard at all. Try it.

The argument seems to be, "they are boors, so I'm going to be a boor". When you start working for your ends, rather than reacting emotionally, you begin to see that the best thing you can do with boorish behavior is to let it stand on its own. It, combined with your keeping your own temper, will drive people away from the boor.

I am particularly arguing about unprovoked attacks as I mentioned on facebook. Everyone understands that people get emotional and that flamewars happen. Observers are less forgiving of completely unprovoked attacks. They are not impressive. They are counter-productive to the goal of liberty.

Allen's picture

Hello Paul-

First off, I'm not irritated. My comments were only what I've observed. A critique ≠ anger, irritation. That you were angry when you critiqued believers also ≠ anger on my part. It simply isn't a given that I must be angry to form a critique of anything. But, let me consider your points.

1. Both you and Suverans2 seem to believe that because I don't wholly condemn ridicule, "disrespectful speech," and put it on par with a physical attack, that I must therefore embrace ridicule as a wholly acceptable form of communication. Where you come up with this dichotomy, I have no idea.

Turning my attention to your depreciation of "generalizations": According to your standards, I'd have to come into contact with all religious believers in order *not* to generalize in some manner. This is an impossible expectation. It's like asking you to check under every rock in all deserts to find scorpions, so as to make the generalization: "Scorpions live under desert rocks." and demanding you make no generalization unless you've checked under every rock in every desert!

Is this unreasonable? : to form a * heuristic* from experience in dealing with religious people online, or in person, who willingly enter into discussions. The key word here is "willingly." Does this "justify roundhouse attacks," sure, to the person who feels inclined toward doing such! "Justification" is simply rationalizing behavior. It does *not* mean that I think such attacks are therefore good communication.

2. I explicitly said that the venues in question were, in various degrees, "public." Here in the 21st Century where we have no catholic worldview, discussions will inevitably occur where conclusions and presuppositions those participating will come to the fore. This means that religious people who *willingly* put their views out and engaging others will come into contact with those who don't share their worldview, and are just as passionate about their opinions. If they expect no one to respond, then why put it out there in the first place, *particularly if they are responding to the comments of non-believers*? If they desire to put their comments out there, of course they can just "be themselves," but can they realistically expect others not to respond to those comments, and if they do, to be nice about it? No, they cannot. They can, after all, not respond at all to those who've responded to their initial comments. They are responsible for themselves, their actions.

3. No. It doesn't harm me at all to hear another say "God loves us." I hear it all the time, my neighbors are devout. I don't flame them at all. As to other believers, I can't say I'm all that fond of being considered guilty just for living, and even more guilty, lacking even, for not accepting a view of "sin." And I don't care to be shouted down as eternally damned, debauched, without a "moral compass," and other such goodis. But, none of this really angers me.

But, all this is beside the point. I've already agreed with you that ridicule is rarely, if ever, conducive for communication. I've not had any problem with this as *a heuristic.*

Again, "disrespectful speech" is hardly based on any criteria which will please everyone. As I've said before, some religious people find *any* variation from their view insulting to them personally, yet they *willingly* enter into discussion with non-believers, either in terms of their particular sect, or non-believers in general.

And while I see your position as potential helpful advice, I don't think it's reasonable to *expect* the results you desire much less demand them, unless you own a site yourself. Even less do I think the NAP is applicable in any way, shape, or form, in terms of speech. People, non-believers and believers alike, are hugely variable, as to their emotional strength, intelligence, and desires in life. It seems to me, Oonly a totally insular (if not ill) person could deny that this.

As Michel de Montaigne put it: "No quality embraces us purely and universally." We vary and we're of multiple qualities, not simply either angry or nice; believer or unbeliever,...You're going to get varying responses in the world which cannot be legislated away and any attempt to do so will be hugely arbitrary.

Tony Pivetta's picture

Maybe we're talking a cycle of boorishness here. To be sure, even during the High Middle Ages, with the Catholic worldview reputedly at its apex, the village atheist (yes, every village had one, legends parading as historical accounts of the Crusades and Inquisition notwithstanding) was inevitably the village boor as well. No doubt he defended his boorishness as a necessary counteractive to the prevailing superstitions of his day.

But something happened between the Siege of Vienna and French Revolution: the village atheist became ascendant. He gained political power. Alas, he proved himself no more apt (far less, in my view) than his Christian predecessors to wield it in socially desirable ways. Fred Reed, as usual, has an interesting take on the development:

"I find myself wondering why the ruling classes of America are so grindingly antagonistic to religion. I understand having no interest in religion. I do not understand the animosity.

"One might say, 'The world’s religions are so many, so internally inconsistent and contradictory of each other, and so dependent on assertions which seem to me not to be factual, that I cannot believe any of them.' The position is neither unreasonable nor rabid. One holding it might go about his affairs, leaving others to believe as they chose. He might respect the faith of others without sharing it, might regard religions as harmless and colorful folklore, might indeed regard them as socially beneficent.

"In the Unites [sic] States, though, we see something very different: an aggressive hostility to religion, a desire to extirpate it and, though no one quite says this, to punish its practitioners. A curious witch-hunt continues in which people seem to look for any trace of religion so that they can root it out. I would call it vengeful, except that I do not know for what it might be revenge.

[. . .]

"A common reading is that the sciences have become a sort of secular religion, with the Big Bang replacing Genesis, and evolution as a sort of deanthropomorphized god chivying humanity onward and upward. There is a large element of this, yes. The self-righteous intolerance directed by disciples of evolution against religion assuredly resembles the intolerance of religion against heresy. Does this explain the anger of the rooters-out? Is it partly that believers in America tend to be Southern or Catholic, both of which are regarded as politically inappropriate conditions?

[. . .]

"Yet note the decline of even non-religious contemplation of such matters as meaning and purpose, right and wrong, ultimate good, and so on. It is not that people behave worse without faith, but that they cannot explain why they do not. The use of the sciences as a substitute for belief in God or gods has produced a religion that cannot ask the questions central to religion. It has also made discussion of such questions a cause for eliminating the offender from the guest list for the next cocktail party.

"But this does not answer the question of why the hostile stalking of religion that pervades the ranks of the educated and influential in the United States. In almost all times and places, disbelief and secularism have existed, yes. Few educated Romans actually believed in Jupiter the Lightning Chucker. There have been Cathars and Wiccans and Manicheans and innumerable agnostics. Yet, so far as I know, only communism and Americanism (is that the word, perhaps?) have tried to eradicate religion.

"Mexico has separation of church and state, and yet a bus driver can display a crucifix without upsetting anyone. I do not know how many Thais are believing Buddhists. Certainly Buddhist symbols are visible everywhere, and it doesn’t seem to have engendered disaster. Why the angry rejection in the US? I will get email telling me that it is a Jewish plot, like everything else, but in fact it is the default attitude of the educated. Why? Who cares?"

Allen's picture

Many self-proclaimed non-believers are, in my opinion, too emotionally attached to the methods and theories of science, as well as reason in general. Conversations do become heated between these non-believers and believers, just as they have *amongst believers themselves* historically speaking. Discussions revolving around the Big Bang and evolution are certainly flash-points on both "sides" of these debates. In view of reason, there are so-called non-believers, like Stephan Molyneux, who still believe in "absolute truth."

The Big Bang is an imperfect *conceptual model* (and a model utilizing language I myself question). Evolution is a scientific theory. It explains as a body of knowledge and evidence. It is not synonymous with "progress" (and I know of few people who actually make this equation). "Absolute truth" is nothing other than God-in-drag, so believers actually have nothing to fear from the likes of Molyneux's brand of "atheism."

What isn't being taken into account, and one probable source of the rabid anger against religion in America, is the fact that fear is very often used to spread religious belief. I'm not speaking of charges of "sinner" and "eternal damnation" in the context of adult conversation, but the practice of scaring the crap out of little kids with notions of eternal violence. This comes across to many as a boorish manner in which to force conformity. I agree with this assessment, though there's largely nothing I can do about the children of others.

Another thing that frustrates people is the incoherent claim of being a limited, fallible being while also being privy to the absolute truth. One never knows where a believer stands when they speak forth and the hermeneutical gymnastics will be at play. I've found this makes it very difficult, sometimes impossible, to converse with believers.

It even gets worse when believers have no idea what differentiates a scientific theory with a mere speculation. Using statements like "Evolution is just a theory" in a manner that equates the theory with idle speculation can really gum-up a conversation. This is particularly the case when a believer makes no effort to inform themselves and further understand the aims of science, yet will continue to make authoritative statements regarding science.

Once again, and for the nth time, I'm *not* saying any of this "justifies" the boorish behavior of non-believers, only that it's understandable in view of the multiplicity of people and the differences between them. Believers don't stand in front of a uniform mass of unbelievers who are either simply boorish or polite in mixed company any more than they themselves are either boorish or polite.

Another thing: "religion" is a vague concept. Comparing Buddhism with Christianity is like comparing the proverbial apples and oranges. Apples and oranges can fit together in a concept called "fruit," but it doesn't mean they are, therefore, identical cases. Most sects of Buddhism (even religions themselves contain non-identical cases within them) are not evangelical in the manner of most Christian sects. Many couldn't care less about conversion, and many are more or less "atheistic," more like philosophical schools of thought.

Jim Davies's picture

If you don't mind, S2, since i was the one first to pose the question (to Scott) about premises - along with one about the definition of "God" - I'll await his reply before possibly naming mine.

Suverans2's picture

I will presume, JD, that you are referring to this question, "Where did those first "materials" come from, Jim?" If so, I anxiously await your answer, because I certainly don't know. ;)

tzo's picture

Okay, this just came out. I think it kind of gets across how I feel about all this, but I may change my mind by tomorrow. :>

We humans seem to have this strong need to have answers. Many times, just having any answer is satisfactory and better than going without.

Here's a fact: No one is ever going to be able to explain how the universe got here and what happens to a human being after he dies. No answers, sorry.

Science is the ability to predict the future in a controlled environment based on the body of accumulated knowledge. It is assumed correct until it is proven wrong. Science is nothing more than our best guess as to how things work based on what we know. Since we never can know everything, there is always a chance we are incorrect. Science is not infallible by any measure.

So now on to rationality. What do we know, and what can we infer from what we know? Well, the universe is here. Where did it come from? Science has a few theories, but what can we really know about what happened a few billion years ago? I mean know for sure. Just about zero.

Yes, I know there are many famous theories that account for the creation of the universe right on down to the first nanoseconds after the big bang. I would contend that this is more of an "I have an answer, which makes me feel much better than not having an answer" answer.

How far removed from faith—that thing that people who believe in an intelligent creator are criticized for by rationalists—is the assertion that we know with great certainty what happened a few billion years ago to create the universe? Now right here science is beginning to look a bit like yet another synonym for faith.

There seems to be no rational reason to believe that there is something after death, as the consciousness of each of us seems to be tied directly to the body, and so when the body dies, the "me" part dissolves as well. Now imagine this state of nothingness, and the brain cannot handle it. The concept of us being here for a fleeting instant and then being nothing for eternity does not compute. If you say it does, you haven't really meditated on eternity and nothingness.

So there you are: At this point any answer feels a whole lot better than that uncomfortable mystery that you don't want to get too close to, too often.

On the flipside, eternal life seems pretty terrifying as well. Maybe terrifying isn't the right word, because eternal life just does not really process well in the human brain. Now maybe it's just my defective brain that can't deal with it, but I suspect it is a common design limitation we all share.

So there seems to be no "reasonable" answers to these big questions. Based on my observations (I have less than 50 years in a universe that is a few billion years old and my observations are worth what, exactly?) I would tend to not believe in Creators and such supernatural stuff because I haven't directly experienced them as I have, say, a car. Or maybe I have, and that's what life is.

There will never be an answer, and all possibilities are open. I agree that organized religion is like organized government, and is generally a man-made con game wherein some profess to know what everyone else doesn't. Rationality says that no one can know about certain things, and so if someone professes to be an expert in the unknowable and surrounds himself with rules and privilege, you can bet it's a scam.

But to ridicule people because they feel there is some sort of intelligent creator or that there may be life after death has little to do with rationality, IMO. It actually seems rather presumptuous, now that I have reached the end of this little rant.

Suverans2's picture

Good word, "presumptuous".

presumptuous adjective▸showing too much confidence and not enough respect ~ Macmillan Dictionary

Jim Davies's picture

Tzo, I was surprised by "Here's a fact: No one is ever going to be able to explain how the universe got here and what happens to a human being after he dies. No answers, sorry."

We cannot at present, obviously (though Christians will emphatically disagree.) But, never, ever? Sure?

It becomes ever harder, for me, to follow the reasoning of cosmologists and I'll not be surprised if, fifty years hence, some of them do some serious back-tracking. But if we use centuries as a time scale, isn't it fair to say that we've already come an amazingly long way, in understanding how the universe developed? Sure, it may be that there are some mysteries incapable of being unraveled, but I'm unable to join you in suggesting these will _never_ yield to rational enquiry. The precedent to the contrary is powerful, and many predictions as confident as yours have been eventually proven dead wrong.

tzo's picture

Well, if I'm going to allow for all possibilities, including intelligent creators, then I guess I have to accept the possibility of concrete answers to these questions, but I don't really see how.

Science and the scientific method are dependent upon observation and repeatability. Will science ever create its own universes? Perhaps. That still doesn't account for this one, however. Deductive arguments are valid or invalid, sound or unsound. They are not true or false.

When someone someday claims to have the answer to how the universe came to be or what happens after death, my statement will be "Prove it." I cannot comprehend (again, perhaps that's my shortcoming) how I may be presented with evidence for my senses to evaluate that would allow me to say "You are correct. There is no other possible answer."

Anyway, I only have a few years left on this spinning place, and am quite willing to call the chances of me ever having concrete answers to these questions as being zero, and that doesn't bother me at all.

From that position, I question how anyone can firmly believe in the "supernatural" or firmly disbelieve in it. Both require faith. I choose to not have faith in either direction, but I completely understand those who do, and they just may be correct.

For all the rationality we try to impose on the world, it seems the deeper you dig toward the fundamental aspects of being, the more irrational things become. The one thing we can hypothesize from this is that the universe has a great sense of humor.

Allen's picture

"From that position, I question how anyone can firmly believe in the "supernatural" or firmly disbelieve in it. Both require faith. I choose to not have faith in either direction, but I completely understand those who do, and they just may be correct."

Perhaps it depends upon what one means by "nature." The term has a fuzzy history of usage which depends upon the perspective and context of usage, and the values of those using it. It's hardly points toward anything "self-evident."

Are we speaking of nature as being similar to, or even synonymous with, other concepts such as "existence," "reality," "the universe?"

Are we speaking of "matter" as opposed to "spirit," or one of the derivative dichotomies such as "the true world/appearance," "essence/contingency" "Being/becoming," "The Absolute/relative" etc.,?

Are we only speaking of the non-human "environment," as in "man versus nature?"

This isn't a definitive list by any means, only illustrative of the elasticity of "nature" is as a concept.

All of these have underlying presuppositions, though I'd say the first has less precisely because of its vague generality, and it's probably the one I'd prefer over the others.

Paul's picture

Actually, I did not want to get into a discussion over whether (Gg)od exists or not. My article was directed at those who already don't think so.

"Belief in God is irrational, and belief in government is irrational. Religion and government share that same flaw: each has an irrational underlying premise."

And that is entirely irrelevant. I don't care if people believe things that aren't so. I'm sure I have some of those myself. I only care if they harm me. People who are religious do not harm me per se. There is no profit in making the effort convincing them they are wrong.

People who "believe the government religion" do harm me. There is profit in turning them into nonbelievers. However even then, you want to find the most effective way to do it. Look in Dale Carnegie's book "How to Win Friends & Influence People". The man wrote the Bible, so to speak, on effective human interaction. Nowhere in that book will you find him advocating ridicule.

Bottom line, leave religious people alone, except for believers in the government religion; and with those use your most persuasive tactics. Try not to multiply your enemies for no good reason. When the revolution comes, we will need all the support we can find.

Suverans2's picture

Great reply.

Tony Pivetta's picture

The marketplace of ideas includes a wide range of philosophical, religious, moral, social, cultural, political and economic issues. These have to do with war, taxes, "price-fixing," abortion, divorce, recreational drug use, gay marriage, euthanasia, seventh-day Sabbath observance, gambling, pre-marital dancing and artificial insemination, among others. A religious leader has as much right as anyone to inject his views into the marketplace. From a libertarian perspective, it makes no difference what kind of extraordinary claims the pope, e.g., makes for the *moral* authority of his office. It makes no difference that some "consumers" of the marketplace of ideas believe that Christ is the Son of God, that He instituted the office of the papacy, or that those who reject the authority of that office are flirting with the fires of hell. Indeed, those very issues – belief in Christ, the office of the papacy and the existence of hell – themselves make up part of the marketplace of ideas.

Religious belief exists apart from the state. In the case of Christianity, religious belief took root and spread in the face of active and violent opposition by the state. There’s no reason to believe that people living in a religiously-neutral stateless society would be any less prone to religious belief than people living in an anti-religious statist society. In a hypothetical anarchic state-of-nature society, people would continue to espouse "good" and "bad" beliefs, religious or otherwise. People would debate the merits of those beliefs. Faithful Catholics would continue to refrain from practicing artificial insemination and contraception and remarrying after divorce. Jehovah’s Witnesses would continue to reject blood transfusions. Orthodox Jews would still abstain from ham sandwiches.

Since people disagree about good and bad beliefs, they will disagree about what constitutes irrationality. Catholics may well argue that those who reject the Catholic moral code incur the wages of irrationality, either in this world (e.g., undisciplined individuals, broken families, less tightly knit communities) or in the world to come (Judgment and damnation). The JWs and Orthodox Jews will probably do the same. Secularists are free to disabuse religionists of their beliefs, just as religionists are free to disabuse secularists of theirs. But they’re free to do that in most statist societies today. They’re certainly free to do that in our own.

Libertarians have their hands full simply convincing their fellow citizens that the vaunted democratic state is a criminal enterprise writ large. They should stick to addressing, and redressing, the physical losses associated with that enterprise. Merely raising the issue of belief losses is to risk associating libertarianism with that weird panoply of attitudes and behaviors the great Murray Rothbard tagged and excoriated as "modal libertarianism." Yes, people who hew to religious or culturally conservative mores incur belief losses – in the eyes of their liberal secularist counterparts. Yes, conservative religionists might in fact be happier if they smoked pot or cheated on their wives (or if they availed themselves of artificial insemination, accepted blood transfusions or partook of the occasional ham sandwich). Maybe these people have all been brainwashed.

On the other hand, maybe the liberal secularists have been brainwashed. Maybe they’re the ones incurring belief losses. Maybe they’d be happier leading sober, faithful lives yoked to a benighted and medieval religion. Who’s to say? For the libertarian, what does it matter?

Irb's picture

The only reason I got an account on STR, after reading for 5 or more years, was to give props to Mr. Bonneau for what I see as a very good piece. As a Christian Anarchist (Capitalist) I get a funny look from fellow Christians--though not all--because I have no belief in government (save self-government).

The difference between Mr. Davies irrational belief in government (agreed) and an irrational belief in God (disagreed) is God isn't forcing us to kill, steal and destroy. We should deal with the clear and present danger of government.

To make a comparison to Mr. Bonneau's argument: If I, an Anarchist, were also a racist and made fun of anyone who wasn't white; and I also tried to win persons to Anarchism, how much weight could I throw? How serious would other people take me? Hey, I once was that person.

I believe that not just "religious" persons is appropriate but many different persons can be considered when trying to "sell" Anarchism. I, personally, find it tough to talk to the whining left. Every other word out of their mouth is "feel". "I feel these people should be taken care of because they...." I don't "feel" in apolitical conversation, I "think". But I cant just make fun of them. It will run them off.

Mr. Bonneau, Kudos.

Paul's picture

Thanks, and welcome aboard.

AtlasAikido's picture

I remember recently how thankful a young man was when I responded that he might want to read the following--I pulled up the article on my laptop at a cafe bar--when he questioned me about what appeared to him to be a contradiction regarding the issue of "time" and atheism:

The "First Cause" article

•Objectivist Newsletter-Vol 1, No 5, May 1962, page 19
•Having trouble grasping the phrase "Existence Exists"? Grappling with the "God" problem? HERE is the article that fixed those problems for me--it might just be the one for you.

The young man remarked that he had been "surounded all his life" by those who had NO idea of such thinking and that he felt wonderfully freed and relieved of those who were UNaware, UNconvinced or UNable to reason such thru. And that he was now clear about how "time" and other factors played against such things as belief in gods.

Good for him. I concur. He also remarked that the way I came at this issue was such that I actually addressed his questions and concerns as opposed to the "dehumanizing-people-is-fun" that he was accustomed to ALL his life from those who see themselves as blessed and unquestioned authorities of faith (belief without the need of reason)...

Allen's picture

One thing about this article, and the following thread, is that there seems to be some presumption that non-religious people simply antagonize believers without reason, rather than 1) doing what believers do (say, on the Internet) and post their thoughts, critiques, arguments, etc., on and of believers and their faith in response to such beliefs ; 2) engage in discussion as freely with believers as the believers themselves do. Time and again, I've seen believers comment on YouTube, in news forums, on web-sites and blogs of non-believers, engaging all on their own, with admitted non-believers, getting upset, angry, offended, and many, all the while, acting as if they've been attacked somehow. To them, to critique religion is to angrily attack it; to attack it is to personally harm.

I'm not saying that there aren't a-hole non-believers out there, nor am I saying that none go out and aggressively engage believers in public, but the difference I've noticed is the siege mentality most believers exhibit in practice, regardless of what Colossians 4:5-6 may say to the matter, in context of Christianity. The notion of being attacked seems part and parcel of this religiosity, be it the Devil, heresy, "cultural Marxism," moral relativism," "paganism," witches, plurality, other religions, reason, science, sometimes politics, sometimes using politics to stymie such "attacks," and so on and so on. This notion of being under attack has been the case for centuries, even when Christianity was the state religion (ex: *Imperium Romanum Sacrum*)!

My point is, that if believers are going to go out into the world, or online, and proselytize, they will be met with opposition, criticism, and denial of their claims. To demand, or even desire, the cessation of such opposition and criticism, seems to me a matter of great irresponsibility on their part. I have no problem with Christian neighbors and allies. I do have a problem when they desire a monologue supporting their faith and wail as if in pain upon disagreement. It's, well, simply un-neighborly.

Suverans2's picture

G'day Allen,

Speaking only for myself, I am not is disagreement with what you have written here, I am only saying that it is my opinion that "ridicule" is a "mean", thus "hurtful", way to communicate. And, that goes for both sides* of this discussion.

* So-called agnostics seldom trouble either side, probably because they rationally say, "I don't have proof positive, either way". Only a fool would argue with that, IMO.

Allen's picture


OK. I understand your opinion that ridicule is mean and hurtful in some way. That's been clear to me all along. It is whether such is harming you or your property in any significant way which can be realistically considered a violation of the NAP That is where my question lies.

I fully realize ridiculing people isn't the best way to communicate with others, particularly at the outset of a discussion, but I cannot see how, if we are going to take the NAP with more than a grain of salt, ridicule violates the said principle. This isn't simply a matter of talking mean or being nice in some "objective" manner, but feelings. It seems to me the NAP should have something more than feelings to make it worthwhile, don't you? And if we are going to achieve anything at all, should we not have some mutual understanding of where the NAP is applicable and where it is not?

This may sound strange, but I don't put much stock in "proof." I think "proof" is highly over-rated. It's largely supportive of concepts and values we already hold. It is the use of objects (or reified concepts) to demonstrate how nifty our opinions are, most often, nothing more. This is evident in the very history of the word's usage. *

Earlier, for example, Scott Lazarowitz enunciated his belief that the complexity of life demonstrates for him the need for an intelligent, creative being. He didn't say "proof" anywhere in his post, but it is clear that for him this complexity just cannot come into being without some guiding force and positing such is "irrational" and requires faith. I strongly disagree in both the argument he proposes, including its presuppositions, and his conclusion, even while I agree that life is complex. That life is complex doesn't equate the need for a creator. Nor does the denial of this assertion necessarily require faith.



Paul's picture

Just because something (arguably) does not violate NAP, is not the same thing as saying that indulging in it is a productive use of your time.

Ridicule is not an effective communication tool. It's only good for dehumanizing.

One makes MUCH better progress when one does not surrender to one's emotions and respond with a slap. Keep the end goal in mind. If that is liberty (it is for me), then you should try to stay out of the mud.

Allen's picture

Good morning, Paul-

You are only saying, here, that you believe someone else is wasting their time, and you don't like it. OK. And? Should we have a prohibition on ridicule so we can save ranters from themselves? It'll be for their own good.

What's more, it seems presupposed that positive physical force is being placed upon the target of a rant, that our theoretical believer is constrained somehow against their will, and can neither walk away nor cease reading the rant. What gives? Is it an article of faith that religious believers are helpless and in need of special protection? Are we to imagine believers little more than timid woodland creatures in contrast to the lions, tigers and bears who inhabit the camp of non-belief? Will this latter comment constitute "ridicule" even when I intend it to humorously illustrate my point?

Yes, *in my opinion* blatant ridicule is distasteful far more often than it's not, even when it's understandable. But, "disrespectful speech" is a subjective matter. It is dependent upon one's emotional sensitivity. Responding to such speech depends upon one's emotional strength, intelligence, and capacity to change the situation. This is clearly variable from individual to individual. There is no need to invoke fuzzy concepts such as "dehumanization" to make this seem more highfalutin than it is.

When someone screams and yells at me, and I don't like it, I do all I can to walk away. If they move to harm my life and property, things change drastically, and defensive action becomes necessary. If someone comes across as disrespectful in writing/online, and it's not clear they are being disrespectful, then I do what I can to see if my perception was correct. If I find it was correct, I simply ignore or cease reading the other party. How difficult is this?

Suverans2's picture

G'day once more Allen,

You wrote: "I think "proof[1]" is highly over-rated."

Do you think that you would still feel that way if you were FALSELY accused of murder?

[1] proof early 13c., preove "evidence to establish the fact of (something)," from O.Fr. prueve (early 13c.), from L.L. proba "a proof," a back-formation from L. probare "to prove" ~ Online Etymology Dictionary [Emphasis added]

Allen's picture


"Proof" in terms of a murder trial that of metaphysical postulations are two very different arenas, are they not?

At any rate, my murder trial would still depend upon how others *value* the objects and concepts presented at the trial, would it not? If I'm falsely accused, and have no evidence (that is, objects to value) on my behalf, whereas my accusers may, then I'm probably royally screwed no matter my actual innocence or my feelings on the matter.

By the way, your OED entry wonderfully illustrates my comments regarding how "proof" is supportive of opinions. It's interesting how you chose "proof" which is a later development and usage of the term "prove" where you can find the origin of both terms. This is the case even when this origin is clearly linked in the very OED entry you provided (as "proof" of your position?) and myself above. You've gone a long way to demonstrate how things/objects are used only to justify the values one already holds in terms of "proof" and "proving."


Samarami's picture

I'm glad I became "libertarian" (to the angst of some of my family and others I love dearly). I can see more clearly than ever previously. You see, "libertarian" simply means one who practices liberty (not necessarily one who believes everyone else should practice liberty, or even believes everyone should have the "right" to practice liberty).

I can see now that even here on this august forum there are many who want to believe this or that -- particularly having to do with "religion" or "state". And I'll agree wholeheartedly that religion and state have walked hand-in-glove throughout history committing the most egregious crimes against humanity imaginable. At the same time I'm aware of priests and nuns who would put all of us here to shame in their willingness to sacrifice themselves and their well-being for others when the need has presented itself.

Thomas DiLorenzo had a good blog post over on Lew Rockwell this morning bringing the incestuous religion/government relationship into current prospective. But even the plebe of libertarians should understand that belief in G-d (or non belief for that matter) and "religion" are two separate issues, not to be confused.

If an individual wants to espouse the idea that belief in a g-d is "irrational", be my guest. If an individual wants not to so believe, I'll not argue. Just so I understand that's what he wants to believe. I can respect his opinion while inwardly feeling he has no idea what he's talking about.

I think a lot of that is going on here in this thread. So I'm going trucking.

But before I go, I want to salute you, Paul, on an excellent topic. I seldom rate these essays "10", but I did this one. Those of us claiming to be "libertarians" should take heed to your premise, IMHO (which ain't very humble).


AtlasAikido's picture

Re: "At the same time I'm aware of priests and nuns who would put all of us here to shame in their willingness to sacrifice themselves and their well-being for others when the need has presented itself".

Hi Sam,

Pleading "shame" "sacrifice" and "selflessness" of self--and then others--as the moral good is the platform of collectivism and religion and the worship of authority that sociopaths use to control, placate and feed on the philosophically ignorant. Precisely what some have good reason to point out as unprofitable and unproductive i.e. "irrational".

"Shaming" and "sacrificing" as a quasi moral standard of "humble" selflessness are NOT the equivalent to a fully integrated non-contradictory philosophy of living on earth such as Ayn Rand's "Philosophy Who Needs It?", "The Virtue of Selfishness" and objectivism nor as the source of progress via peaceful *self-interested trade* in the remnant free market (division of labor society) as pointed out at, and the author of "Laissez Faire Capitalism" Thomas DiLorenzo.

As to the so-called virtue of "need"? I believe the principle of "Helping those who can't help themselves" which is a paraphrase of Karl Marx' famous dictum: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." is harmful even in a voluntary organization:
"From the Mailbag"
by Harry Browne

Best Regards, and I concur with the rest of your post,