Monday, 10 September 2012

Fundamentalists, Opinions, and Responsibilities

Hi guys, welcome to Orygyn!

LatumWay recently made a video called "Don't Blame Me! Blame God!". In it, he talks about the defence that a fundamentalist presents of their position when they make a controversial statement in which they argue that they are not to blame because it's what God says. I've had a perspective on this that I haven't seen expressed elsewhere so I want to chime in on this.

Many of these so-called fundamentalists will be charlatans profiting off of the sincerely held beliefs of genuine fundamentalists, so I'm not talking about these people. They are not only trying to transfer the blame to a god, but the opinion away from which they're trying to transfer the blame isn't even sincere, it's expressed for the purpose of gaining money and/or fame. These people know what they're doing and should be called on it, as LatumWay does in his video.

On the other hand, I would not favour this approach with a genuine fundamentalist, as they might not understand such a reaction. Let me explain:

Put yourself in a fundie's shoes. They belief in the existence of an all-powerful, all-knowing deity. For them, this deity is the source of morality: any moral viewpoint expressed by this deity is, to the fundamentalist, a truth. We would see it as an opinion to agree or disagree with, but, to a fundie, any alternative viewpoint is wrong. It's not that you disagree with god, it's that it's not a question of agreeing or disagreeing. It doesn't matter if there are logical problems with this viewpoint, this is what they believe.

To clarify the above paragraph, let's take the example from the video as it would be said by someone who we know genuinely believes what they are saying, and what they're saying is that "it's not OK to be gay". Because of what the fundie believes about their god, they don't view this as their own opinion, they view this as a basic truth of reality: they have no more choice to believe this than we do of believing that the Earth is round or that the Earth orbits the sun. In their mind, they are not expressing an opinion, they are imparting a truth. As such, if we were to get angry at them because of what we perceive to be their opinion, they won't understand why we are angry at them for making a statement that, to them, is not something to agree or disagree with, but is instead a truth. They would see such a reaction as "shooting the messenger".

So how should we deal with these people? Well I generally don't deal in "should"s. I'll just say that this is how I would do it:

To the fundie: "Put yourself in my shoes. I don't believe in your god. As such, I don't accept that the statement "it's not OK to be gay" is a truth. Instead I see it as an opinion, and people like me will look at you saying these things and think it is your opinion and react accordingly. Whatever you believe, this statement is very offensive to a gay person as science indicates that they were born that way, and are no more able to change that than they could change their skin colour. Also, if you're genuinely concerned about such people's souls, making such an offensive statement will only push them further away from your position. You need to understand these things."

OK, knowing my social skills, it wouldn't be that formal, clear or eloquent in a real-life scenario but you get the idea. If you take anything away from this post, the general idea is that understanding your detractors leads to more fruitful discussions.


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