I don’t know why I bother sometimes. I was having a recent discussion about religion and someone popped in and said that it was a complete waste of time to complain about the failures of religion because the religious will just be more motivated to cling to their beliefs anyhow. What’s the point, other than catharsis, of bothering to tell the religious how wrong their religious beliefs are.
I pointed out that you can’t change the crazies, but you can make it plain how crazy the crazies are. I think that’s a perfectly valid strategy, whether you’re talking about religion or politics or anything else. There are nutty things that nutty people believe and nothing anyone says will stop them from believing it. But establishing that these things are nutty is going to lessen the impact these insane people can have on the world at large.
In fact, I think Hitchens had it exactly right. We do no one any favors by coddling them. We do so by having high expectations and holding people accountable. This doesn’t just go for religion, it goes for any woo belief. It goes for anti-vaccers. It goes for homeopathy. It goes for “The Secret” wishful thinking garbage. Any of this stuff that is completely unjustifiable and irrational and in violation of the available evidence needs to be stomped on hard. Because in reality, it is dangerous. Maybe not every person who believes it is dangerous, but for every person listening to Jenny McCarthy’s previous anti-vaccer nonsense, you have people actively trying to harm herd immunity. For every person who vaguely questions evolution because of what the Bible says, you have real lunatics trying to harm science education in America. And for everyone who thinks that God is taking them away to a better place, you have people actively working to undermine conservation and ecological efforts because who cares, nuke the planet, it doesn’t matter anyhow. And the existence of these moderate and liberal woo-mongers just gives the real crazies a place to hide. You’ve got to nuke the site from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure.
And this is why I’m so disgusted by the accommodationists, the atheists who want to pat the religious on their precious little heads because they’re too stupid to know better and we don’t want to hurt their feelings now, do we? Yes. Yes I do. I want these people to know that I hate their beliefs. I don’t hate them, but I hate their beliefs. They should be embarrassed to believe what they do. They should know that people think they are morons. They should be afraid to open their mouths for fear that someone is going to point out the flaws in their beliefs. Maybe they’ll stop opening their mouths. Maybe they’ll stop believing it. Anything is an improvement and an improvement is what we need. That’s the whole point: to make people smarter and more rational and better able to avoid the kind of ridiculous, overly-emotional woo-beliefs that have been far too prevalent today. I don’t care if my approach makes people happy. I don’t care if it makes them hate me. I care that they change, whatever it takes. We can’t change the crazy, but we can make the crazy less able to harm the world. I’ll take what I can get.