I was paging through a Skinny Bitch book. I’d like to have better nutrition and lose some weight. I’m also not opposed to vegetarianism and veganism on culinary or philosophical grounds. So I flipped through and read a few bits.
They immediately pissed me off. I’m paraphrasing here, but they said, meat is gross and disgusting, cow’s milk is for baby cows and coffee is the dumbest thing in the world you could possibly drink.
They didn’t give me a bunch of facts about why this is so (although I’m guessing they do elsewhere in the book). They just piled on a bunch of condescending crap about the kinds of foods I grew up eating. And they fucked with coffee. No one fucks with coffee and lives to tell the tale.
It made me realize how off-putting it can be when people come across that way — self-righteous, condescending and insulting. Atheists are often accused of this and there has been much debate about “framing” and the value therein.
I’ve become a very vocal atheist. The religious notions that people talk about seem absolutely absurd to me. That serious and intelligent people believe bronze-age mythology and speak about God as if he were a certainty just befuddles the hell out of me. There is no doubt in my mind that the supernatural beliefs of all religions are false.
Yet I’m like those Skinny Bitches. I’m attacking a way of life, a family bond, a lifestyle spanning generations and I’m closing the door immediately to really challenging people’s beliefs. They stopped listening because no one likes to listen to self-righteous, condescending assholes discourteously shredding their deeply personal beliefs.
What could the Skinny Bitches have done to not turn me off to their ideas? They could acknowledge that they know my views are important to me and were developed possibly across generations. They could state the facts that make me reach the conclusions instead of ramming their conclusions down my throat. They could say that I don’t need to throw out everything I love, that I can find my own path based on their advice and experience.
I think people should say whatever they want. I’m not telling people like PZ Myers to approach the debate differently. PZ pushes a lot of people off the fence and they appreciate it afterward. That approach works well for the prepared mind.
But we can be more effective with people less sympathetic to our views if we keep them listening and engaged. We can’t do that if they think we are self-righteous assholes. That’s just a no-brainer.
Why do I want to convert people to atheism? Because I think we need all the fact-based reasoning we can get. I’m afraid of the hugely negative impact that religious thinking can and has created. There are people so far gone that they think science is the enemy! We need more people who put reason first. To do that we need to think carefully about how to lead people to the conclusions we’ve reached.
2011-06-03 » lolife