I was never taken very seriously by anyone, even as a Christian. I’ve always had rather unpopular ideas, and I come across few people who are willing to entertain them and give me a reasonable discussion. For the most part, I’ve been left to figure out everything on my own due to major obstacles preventing me from properly connecting with other people. Since I think and talk differently, I’ve become keenly aware of the fallibility of my own mind, and that there are many things I don’t understand yet. I tend to test my ideas by presenting them to people who disagree with me, in order to get a very different perspective that may help me weed out flaws in my thinking.
But often that isn’t useful because they don’t even get what I’m saying in the first place. It’s like what I say gets filtered through a decoding process and means something different to them. I believe the filter is emotion, since I tend to explore philosophical ideas without any emotion, while people who disagree with me often react emotionally. This is particularly evident when the subject is religion.
It’s no secret that I’m critical about many aspects of religion. I see no problem with being honest about how you view a certain ideology; criticizing an idea is not the same as criticizing a person. However, some people don’t see things this way. I’ve always had issues with what I say being perceived very differently than how I meant it, but I noticed a change after leaving religion. Religious people are now much less likely to listen to me, which of course I expected. What I find interesting is that even the ones who claim to be logical and open to discussion keep taking one look at my “religious affiliation” and deciding it tells them all they need to know about me. I’m not assuming anything here; one or two strangers actually said that my belief regarding the possible existence of a deity tells them everything they need to know about me, as a way of shutting down the discussion. We weren’t even talking about religion.
I’m not perfect…as much as I try to refrain from believing something until it’s supported by sufficient evidence, I’m sure there are still some things I think are true that are not. Also, however hard I try to remain logical and fair, I occasionally get tired of personal attacks and start insulting people in return because it’s easier and sometimes is the only thing they’ll understand. These are flaws that come from being human, and I’m always double-checking myself, looking up facts to refresh my memory if I’m not certain about something, and trying to remain as emotionless and reasonable as possible in discussions over controversial subjects. Unfortunately, to emotional people my lack of emotion probably looks like anger or some other negative feeling.
A typical discussion about religion goes like this: I ask some difficult questions, or mention how I’ve observed a certain aspect of Christianity causing harm to people, or explain how something doesn’t make logical sense. Some people respond with actual arguments, but there’s usually someone who decides I’m a “bully” who is “attacking Christianity”. They accuse me of logical fallacies without providing any evidence or examples, tell me that I’m hardened against anything that doesn’t agree with my opinions, and accuse me of thinking I know the absolute truth and that I’m never wrong. They claim I have an ultimate goal of oppressing their rights and forcing everyone to live by my ideals.
All of that because I said something like “This is one of the main reasons Calvinism is one of the worst forms of Christianity. Tell people they’re helpless, and if they believe you, they’ll become helpless. It’s an emotionally abusive trap.”
Since when does expressing opinions about ideas mean that I think I’m never wrong? Or that I intend to force anyone to agree? I just want to communicate! Instead of responding with a logical argument to refute what I said, instead of explaining how Calvinism isn’t actually emotionally abusive, some people essentially say, “You’re a mean bully. You think you know the absolute truth but you don’t. I do. I also know all about your evil motives and what you’re thinking. So go away and stop sharing your opinion.”
I didn’t know so many Christians were telepathic. You’d think they are, considering how frequently they tell me what I’m thinking, what I believe, what I know, and what my intentions are. It’s as if they’ve gotten themselves mixed up with their god. Perhaps they’re so surrendered to the use of their god that they’ve become essentially talking puppets.
If I were to take a guess at what they’re thinking and their reasons for saying such things, I would suppose that they are intimidated by my logical reasoning, but smart enough to know that they can’t argue against it. So while some people are so clueless that they keep talking and end up contradicting themselves and saying dumb things, these ones instead back out of the conversation by derailing it with a personal attack on my character. My hypothesis is that, in a mind so affected by emotion, it seems reasonable to equate my criticism of ideas with an attack on the people who believe them, and respond with a direct attack on me, instead of responding to what I actually said.
I’ve seen a stark difference between how skeptics and Christians respond to critical opinions of their beliefs. While there are some reasonable Christians, and some unreasonable skeptics, even as a Christian I was frustrated by how most religious people respond to what they perceive as attacks on what they believe. If a Christian calls evolution, atheism, or some other non-religious idea stupid, ignorant, or offensive, skeptics usually respond with logic and facts, explaining clearly why they don’t think that’s an accurate assessment. If you call any aspect of Christianity stupid, ignorant, or offensive, you can expect many Christians to respond by attacking you, rather than responding with logic and facts.
This is just my experience, I’m not saying that it’s true of the whole groups in general. It may be, or it may not. I don’t know. All I know is that even when I was a Christian, I was always able to have more interesting and mutually beneficial discussions with non-Christians. I believe this is because Christianity claims to know the absolute truth, which makes it painfully ironic when someone who believes the Bible to be absolutely true condemns me for supposedly thinking I know the absolute truth.
But perhaps I’m so incapable of proper communication that I’m missing a lot of important data, and I’m wrong about a lot of things. I often explore that possibility, because I’ll always question myself. Which means I don’t think I’m right about everything, not even close. Thus if someone tries to tell me that I think everything outside of what I believe is wrong, I know they’re the one who is wrong. If someone tells me, “You are so hardened against anything that goes against your opinions that you will never be able to be a part of any solution unless it involves a totalitarian form of oppression where everyone conforms to your ideals,” I know they are wrong. One of my core ideals is allowing people the freedom to follow their own ideas and beliefs, and I’m in no way hardened against anything that disagrees with me. I have changed my mind on a lot of major issues, and I continue to change my mind whenever new evidence shows me where I’m wrong. Even after leaving religion I’ve continued to read religious authors and ponder the possibility of various religions being true.
Those arguments against me are not evidence. Telling me I’m rude or illogical does not prove that I’m rude or illogical. If you provide no evidence, it’s nothing but a sad attempt to use ad hominem arguments to shut me down. It’s a meaningless rant. It’s emotional manipulation. By responding to my criticism of Christianity with unsupported personal attacks, and by claiming to know what I think and what my motives are, these people are only providing more evidence that I’m right and sabotaging their own ideology.
One person said, “You waste so much time attacking Christianity when you at least could be focused on what you can do to make this world better.” Oh, I don’t know if you want to go there. Haven’t you heard my plans for taking over all nations and becoming the Hippie President of the World? It’s a massive conspiracy churning away behind puppet-governments around the planet, feeding money into a secret fund that will be used to establish a worldwide socialist government after a manufactured global disaster wipes everyone out. Under the new regime, all weapons will be totally banned by preventing anyone, even the government, from purposely obtaining deadly weaponry or the whatchamacallits required to create it. It shall be mandated that all natural resources shall be for all people, especially marijuana. And only lesbians shall be appointed to any government position.
You make the world better your way, I’ll do it my way. We’ll see whose way works better.