[extropy-chat] Putting God to Rest

Damien Broderick thespike at satx.rr.com
Tue Apr 24 17:15:33 UTC 2007

At 03:34 AM 4/24/2007 -0700, Lee wrote:

> > God created the universe 4000 years ago and then tortured himself to death
> > so he could forgive us for our sins. How can you treat such 
> moronic babbling
> > without being insulting? And why would you even want to?  Insults 
> have their
> > place in the world of ideas.
>Your statements above are simply and totally stupid, reflecting complete
>ignorance of psychology.  Moreover, they're insipid and ultimately
>meaningless, being nothing more than empty rhetoric and name-calling.

and added:

>The question *is* whether or not insulting language is to be employed, e.g.
characterizing the views of others as puerile, stupid, ignorant, etc. Again,
use of such language is completely pointless, except as an emotional salve
for those who already agree with you.


Hmm. Several different points come to mind.

For a start, it's not an in-group *salve* so much as a *glue* and 
that's always handy when a few people hold strong contrarian opinions 
in the midst of a powerful social consensus.

But is it true that psychology teaches us that ridicule is 
ineffective in changing opinions? When friends, enemies and random 
people on the street mock those wearing white after Labor Day--a 
completely arbitrary piece of nonsense--you'd better believe most 
people will swiftly come to heel, blushing and aghast at their faux 
pas. Perhaps few on this list would; perhaps most on this list would 
defiantly wear nothing but ice cream suits and white socks all year 
long just to stick it to the morons. Derision can stiffen one's 
idiosyncratic resolve. Not for most people, though, on the evidence.

More importantly, ridiculing the ridiculous is a long established 
technique of considerable effectiveness. The word "satire" comes to 
mind. On the other hand, a lot of people don't seem to comprehend 
satire, and get anxious in its presence, complaining that it's 
"mean." On the third hand this slops over into jeering mindless mobs 
beating up an individual whose crime is being "different". That being 
so, it's a technique that has to be used sparingly.

But look again at John Clark's summary of Xian beliefs (although I 
can't say I've ever heard of *anyone* who believes the world was 
created in 2000 BCE; everyone knows it was actually 4004 BCE). An 
immortal and transcendentally Cosmic God allowing himself to be 
tortured to death for our sins but then bouncing back is so utterly 
ludicrous--taken literally, rather than as a winter/spring metaphor 
or something--that it calls for a rich serving of ridicule. If not 
that, what? Must we henceforth remain sweetly demure in the face of 
*any* ridiculous assertion, lest we hurt someone's feelings or 
strengthen their resolve to beat the shit out of us? (Now there's a 
motive I can relate to, alas.)

Damien Broderick 

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