March 11

How to Disengage from Antiapologetics, Part III

Not the right way.
Not the right way. Source: Morgefile

So far, we’ve covered why you should stop debating, and how to stop. Now, we will cover how to stay away from the debate.

First things first. I am not saying you should not have an opinion. I’m not even saying you should not publicly state your opinion. What I am saying is that you should not get embroiled in lengthy debates where the only result is that everyone is stressed out an no one gets their point across.

What are some things you should do instead?

The best thing to do, of course, is to channel your feelings into something constructive. Instead of fighting about who is right online, how about you state your case in a non-combative way? Remember when I mentioned that the fence sitters were not watching? Do you know where they are?

Reading blogs and opinion pieces. Doing research.

Rather than try in vain to change the mind of a thoroughly entrenched fundamentalist, present your case without having to battle the opposing view. Start a blog, write a book, draw a comic, whatever method you prefer. You will reach more people and be more convincing if you are not going toe to toe with your opposition. the debates serve only to legitimize the other position. Why don’t people normally debate those that believe in Big Foot? Because there is no point.

Don’t legitimize the position of those you disagree with! Besides, getting into debates means you are more likely to respond in anger, and out of emotion rather than logic and thought. Isn’t rationality what we are going for? Why fight in the arena of emotion?

Or, better still, act rather than speak. how often have you seen theists attack atheists saying there are no atheist hospitals or orphanages? Be the change you want to see! Do good for the sake of good!

Finally, you could spend your life doing something completely unrelated. There is no mandate to save anyone.

To sum up, channel your energy into more productive, more successful ways of getting your message across. Or do something different. Just get away from the self defeating meme propagation.

March 10

How to Disengage from Antiapologetics, Part II

Adding a stop sign.
Adding a stop sign. Source: Morguefile

Now that you have admitted that your antiapologetic behavior is really nothing more than ego stroking, it is time to discuss ways to stop doing it. It is a waste of your time. It is playing chess with a pigeon, it is teaching a pig to sing.

Colorful metaphors aside, you need to stop.

You need to realize that it is an addiction. That’s the first thing. Don’t worry, we’re not going to advocate a twelve step program. It’s much simpler than that.

Five Dos:

  1. Tell the next person you want to respond to, “You know, I never really thought of it that way. I need to think about this.” or something else along those lines.
    Why this is a good idea: Although you are not telling them they are right, you are handing them a victory of sorts, one they were not expecting. This means they are less likely to want to continue the discussion, which will help you disengage.
  2. Do whatever you need to in order to not be reminded of the conversation. Facebook has a way to turn off notifications for many posts (although I am still trying to figure out how to do it with the newer hierarchical comment system). If you cannot turn off notifications, you will need to have the willpower to not click and read any other comments in the thread.
    Why this is a good idea: Out of sight, out of mind. Constant reminders of the fun you had debating will suck you back in.
  3. Take a break from whatever media source you were arguing on. Some will be easy, like if the source was a website you do not frequent. Facebook and Youtube may be more difficult. Even if it is only a few hours, breaking the mental cycle is a good thing. However, I recommend doing something engaging that does not just “make time pass”. If you are merely waiting to get back on Facebook, you are defeating yourself.
    Why this is a good idea: You are breaking a pattern. The more broken it is, the harder it will be to slip back into it.
  4. If you really want to kick the habit, unjoin debate groups and block any debaters you have had issues with in the past. Clean the slate.
    Why this is a good idea: You don’t hold weight loss meetings in the middle of a supermarket, do you?
  5. Finally, tell your debating palls that you are either taking a break or not doing it anymore, whichever you are comfortable with.
    Why this is a good idea: If they respect you, they should respect that. If not, screw up. Unfriend them and move on.

Five Don’ts:

  1. Don’t leave on a flounce. No grand exit, no potshots on the way out. You are not a dying swan. No one is going to give you an academy award for your performance. Say goodbye and leave, at the most.
  2. Don’t return. Don’t go back to a group you have left. Stick to what you said, stick by your word. By saying goodbye, you said you were leaving. Stay gone. Don’t be one of those people.
  3. Don’t replace one argument with another. Don’t push away from the computer and get into a fight with your spouse or your roommate.
  4. Don’t think ill of the people you are arguing with. They are as devoted to their position as you are to yours. Whether or not it is based in facts and reality or emotion and the Bible, it means something to them. It comforts them.
  5. Finally, don’t debate in absentia. If your debating buddies want to chat you up about their debates, let them, but don’t fan their flames.

In Part III, I will discuss how to keep from returning to the debate.

March 10

How to Disengage from Antiapologetics, Part I

Broken Way
Broken Way. Source: Morguefile

Sometimes, you find that the lure of antiapologetics is too great, and you find yourself in a long, protracted, and pointless battle with young earth creationists, anti-gay marriage bigots, anti-choicers, or some other equally entrenched group.

The first thing you have to realize is that you are not going to ‘win’ this battle. Neither are they, admittedly, but there is no ‘win’ state.

People rarely change their mind, and, when they do so, it is from one position to a position close to where they were. It is exceedingly rare that someone will radically shift position, going from young earth creationism to old earth supporter of science. It’s one of the things to be highly suspect of in politics, and why “flip flop” is a bad thing, usually.

In other words, you are not getting through to them.

“But I am doing it for the fence sitters who are watching!” you say, indignantly.

They aren’t. Stop saying it. Unless you are Matt Dillahunty or some other well known Internet personality, they aren’t. You are most likely in a back alley battle of wits and links, which means only your side and theirs is watching.

So, you now know there is a problem. I’ll bet you have stayed up until all hours of the night in debate, links from the NCSE, Rationalwiki, and a variety of sources flying from your comments. Hopefully, you have refrained from too many insults. If not, well, then it really is time to quit. You’re trying to catch flies with vinegar.

But, how did a find upstanding skeptic like you get sucked in to this? You want to be right. It really is that simple. You think you are “fighting the good fight”, doing what you think is right.

Let me guess. You used to be a theist, didn’t you?

You got rid of the beliefs, but the underlying behaviors and desires are still there. No shame, my friend, no shame. It’s okay, we’re not going to ostrich size you or anything (yes, that was a pun).

But you have realized that something is wrong, and that is a good first step. In Part II, we talk about the actual moment of disengagement.

Buy, why should we disengage? Watch this.

March 9

The return of Christian Violence

Repent or Die
Repent or Die

My recent lapse and return to antiapologetics has had some rather stunning results.

While debating marriage equality, I found Christians who actively support slavery. I found one who excused slavery in the Old Testament by claiming that the slaves were not human.

While debating the story of Noah, I found Christians who advocated killing gay people. I found others who claimed that the US was a Christian nation and all other faiths existed here at the sufferance of Christians.

Recently, a pastor was fired for preaching compassion and love.

What the bleeding Hell is going on?

I think there are some factors that can account for this, at least for online interactions.

  • First, I think the Internet is acting to strip away many of the moderate Christians. Many are really looking into Christianity and finding the flaws and inconsistencies in it, and either leaving religion for apatheism or atheism. Many that are left are strongly Christian, and will defend it strongly.
  • Second, the moderate Christians that are left are not prone to examine their faith, and so do not participate at the front lines of causes that could cause them to question it. ‘Soft’ anti-choice sentiment, for example, can lead voting decisions, but, unless the person is active in the movement, they will not come up against those that question their views.
  • Third, the Internet fosters an air of anonymity that leads people to act in a way that is greatly exaggerated from the way they would in person. In addition, quick access to supporting information from like minds and opinions, as well as the rise of quote mines such as ICR, AiG, CARM, and Conservapedia.
  • Finally, it has allowed loud, aggressive Christians to gather in groups. In days past, these are the kind of wide eyed crazies that would have stood on street corners with sandwich boards declaring the end was nigh. Today, they can form entire churches and cults, convincing the slightly less crazy Christians to follow them.

These factors lead to large numbers of aggressive Christians appearing. But, there is one other factor that is in play, that I did not include in the list. Radical Islam has taught Radical Christians that society at large is finally willing to accept violence as a means again. September 11th didn’t just open the door to radical Islam like ISIS, but radical Christians like the WBC.

However, what it has also given rise to is a reactionary response that has led to the empowerment of causes that in previous years no one thought had enough traction to get anywhere.

I am the father of a transgendered teenager. My eldest was interested in joining the military, and, although I think the rigid discipline and regimented attitudes are exactly the opposite of their personality, one concern was how the military would deal with the transgendered status. We have an acquaintance who served in the military who is transgendered, but had to pretend to be their birth gender to make it through, so we asked a few months back if they thought the military might be ready to handy transgender by the time my eldest was of age to join.

They didn’t think so. A month later, this happened.

Thirty seven states allow for marriage equality for same sex couples. Ten years ago, that was a pipe dream.

The reaction from moderates to extreme, and public, religious zealotry has been to swing away from it and become more liberal. Perhaps their rage is fueling positive change in society, much to their dismay. In turn, it is probably fanning the fires of their rage. It is probably the same kind of pattern that was seen in the 1960s with civil rights.

March 7

The Lure of Antiapologetics

The lure of chasing fish.
The lure of chasing fish. Image from Morguefile.

As an atheist, even one who feels like they have graduated from the angry phase of noob atheism, there is a certain attraction for the behavior I call Antiapologetics. Not exactly counterapologetics, which can be part of it, but the active state of challenging apologetics, especially among Young Earth Creation types, science deniers, and social conservatives.

On one hand, it is a rush to delve into debate with soft targets like these. Of course, they will never change their minds. Too much of who they are is invested in it. Even if they did, you are unlikely to ever find out about it.

On the other, it portrays atheists as intolerant blowhards, trolls, stalkers, or, worse, intellectuals. It seems not to be the kind of activity that does anything positive. So, why do atheists do it?

Newer atheists (not ‘New Atheists’) tend to have pent up frustration, anger, and resentment towards religion for wasting their time and money for so long. The temptation to rush in, guns blazing, defending the Atheist Way is a strong one. But, over time, as the atheist matures, they realize the startling truth that there is no “atheist way”. Atheism is a single answer to a single question. It confers no additional meaning. It is not a club, not a group. There is no secret handshake or code of ethics. Of course, if theists taught the truth about atheists, fresh atheists would know this. But, it isn’t exactly in the general theist best interest to be accurate in their portrayal of the people the consider to be an enemy.

So, then, where does this drive come from?

Well, we’re humans. We like to be right. It helps reinforce our worldviews when we confirm ourselves as correct. We, as humans, do a lot of things to accomplish this. Whether it is being part of a fandom, being a fan of a specific sports team, or merely hanging out with friends, we work best when we have positive re-enforcement. Become an atheist is a completely new thing, as there is no inherent structure for re-enforcement from our peers. Atheist churches and study groups have sprung up to try and provide this structure, which, of course, some theists attack. What they do not realize is that when people are marginalized and isolated, they tend to get stuck in negative cyclical thinking. I would be completely unsurprised if Craig Hicks, the atheist who shot and killed the three Muslim students, was isolated from others.

To return to the main topic, antiapologetics tends to appear in fresh atheists who are still in the early stages of atheism. The good news is that the core of the practice is research and knowledge, which naturally leads the fresh atheist towards maturity. It also drops the rates of recidivism. Few, if any, mature atheists become religious once they are atheists.

Take, for example, the case of Ryan Bell.

Now, in his case, his path was slightly different than most atheists. A minister who decided to test his own faith and found it lacking. I applauded his attempt even before he, in the end, rejected his faith in favor of atheism, but my point is that atheists who stick to reason and skepticism and do not fall prey to emotional appeals or other logical fallacies find atheism not a difficult position to maintain.

One of the points I was trying to discuss with this piece is that, sometimes, an atheist has to put their foot down and end their antiapologetics. Even so, it is a difficult road.

Recently, Jeff Dee, one of the hosts of The Atheist Experience, a well known atheist television show out of Austin, responded to a anti-atheist post on a Facebook group. As he is someone I follow online, it popped up on my timeline, and I was drawn into the debate as well. Even though I have tried desperately to stay out of online debates, the siren song of these debates keeps bringing me back in.

I’ve had to resist debating with family and friends. I even unfollowed my own mother on Facebook after a kerfuffle earlier this year.

To sum up, humans like to win. We like to be right. That’s the point of apologetics, counterapologetics, and antiapologetics. Sometimes, the only way to win a game is to not play.