NO NAME-CALLING: WHY WE SHOULDN’T CALL RELIGIOUS PEOPLE “IDIOTS”
The Humanist Network News recently released an article explaining how “idiot” is name-calling. While it doesn’t actually address the interplay of neurotypical privilege and mental disability, it offers a few good points to humanists:
1. Despite your frustration, don’t call religious people idiots. Be accurate, specific and polite. Antagonism might sell airtime, but it doesn’t convince people, especially when it is inaccurate.
Truth. As soon as the I-word is tossed around casually, people’s ability to listen to the message starts shutting down. Maybe you’ve gotten your jab in, but you’ve completely overshadowed your message.
2. The way we compartmentalize our beliefs and habits implies, to me at least, that changing other people is harder than we imagine, and efforts are likely to be fruitless. If people simply aren’t using the same set of rules to consider one matter versus another, you will never convince them.
It’s the golden rule: how would I feel if Christians called me an “idiot” simply because of the fact that I don’t believe there are any gods? If I claim humanist values are more reality-based than religious values, then I ought to live like it.
3. The way in which beliefs and habits of mind from one part of our lives seem not to spill over into others has interesting implications for why people do the things they do, or specifically, why religious people make the decisions they make. Simple observation shows that members of the same faith, the same denomination, even of the same congregation, still behave differently from each other. Consider the possibility that religion doesn’t actually cause anyone to do anything—it simply justifies whatever they choose to do post hoc. If that is true, then someone with an irrational hatred of one particular group of people won’t abandon their irrational hatred simply because they abandon their irrational metaphysics; conversely, some life-changing event might erase the hatred without ever disturbing their belief in miracles.
Turn this around and apply it to the justification for calling someone an “idiot” for their beliefs. People will present all sorts of ad hoc moralizations on why it’s totally okay for them to use that word as a slur. But we who don’t use that word never need to make those sorts of justifications, and thus find ourselves in a better position to see just how irrational some of the common self-justifications really are.
So next time you want to call someone an “idiot”, stop for a second and ask yourself “does this really help strengthen my message, or is it merely to satisfy some emotional resentment I hold against this person?”