I guess I opened a can of worms when I pointed out some bigoted comments the other day. I've had some interesting feedback and I think it is worth discussing, since I perceive this as a major problem within the blog-o-sphere and in the science/faith debates at large. I know that it's a hot button word, but let's go out on a limb here.
First, I want to make clear that what I want to address is the flaming, mocking, name-calling, hate speech, and intolerance found in many posts. Note: I am not talking about the content or rationality of the positions that they represent -- today at least :-) I apologize if some have been offended by my critiques or have misunderstood what I was intending. I suppose I could have been clearer, so hopefully this will spell it out better.
What is bigotry? A couple of definitions are:
- bigotry - stubborn, arrogant, and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one's own.
- bigot - a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion; one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial, religious, or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.
In a Wikipedia article we find, "Forms of bigotry may have a related ideology or world views." Specifically, that is what I have seen from the extremes of the naturalism/theism camps.
What are some examples? A couple well-known people that provide good examples of this are Richard Dawkins (Atheist) and Ken Ham (Young Earth Creationist). While they come from opposite ends of the spectrum on science faith issues, what they have in common is a tendency to mock, belittle, and ridicule those who disagree with them, as has been pointing out by others time and again. Even if I agreed with Ken Ham, which I generally don't, I would never be able to use any of his Answers in Genesis materials because of their ridicule, hatred, and spiteful statements against honest scientists and even fellow Christians who have different perspectives. While this has nothing with the merits of their arguments, it does reflect on their character and on the usefulness of their materials to persuade others. In general, it does nothing but hurt their causes. While they are fond of Ad Hominem attacks, it is fair for us to point out when they are using these kinds of arguments and reject them.
Some typical blog examples would be: "stupid [fill in the blank - people, beliefs, ideas, religion]", "short-sited[sic]", "ignorant", "absurd", "no better than believing in the flying spaghetti monster", "[their degrees are the] equivalent of a cracker jack box", "la-la-la I can't hear you", "religious nuts", "keep trying boys and girls of organized religion", "mentally brain-washed children", "the buybull ... control hordes of ignorant savages", "written in a largely book of fiction by avaricious, megalomaniacal old men", ... ad nauseum. Of course, context matters, but often these words are used as terms of derision and spite. People who make these kinds of comments fit the label "bigot" to a tee! They apparently have no interest in rational discourse, but would rather put someone else down to try to build themselves up. It seems pretty selfish to me -- shame on them! Do they think that if they dominate the conversation with their diatribes, that they will win people over to their viewpoints? Aren't we better than that?
Just because people disagree, that doesn't mean that we have to attack or belittle the other person. Now I suppose I'll get some posts saying that I am doing just that to them. In a sense, yes, I am calling them to task for their behavior -- not their positions. Sometimes we have to stand up and say that, "the emperor has no clothes!" and the Truth stings sometimes.
I really do appreciate hearing and trying to understand where other people are coming from. I also enjoy the interaction with others who might disagree with me or challenge my perspective. However, rational discourse requires communication. Communication is broken down by bigoted speech. In my life I try to live up to this, " [to] always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect". Have I failed at times? Yes! Like most, I can own up to that one, but that motto is how I want to walk the walk.