13 July 2010

Crackers and quakes and talking snakes!

I have long held that the best way to deal with religion is by ridicule and mockery, not by efforts at debate or argument. Pat Condell speaks for me here (that video, please note, is addressed to atheists), and quite eloquently too.

Now PZ Myers has posted what I consider an important essay on just why this is so. I hope that everybody will read it -- it's a real contribution to the battle plan. As Myers sums up:

Religion has at least two weaknesses. One is that it is empirically false, and all of its specific claims are either pointless and unverifiable, or have been falsified. Another, though, that we neglect at a cost of diminished effectiveness, is that it's hilarious. It's a prime target for exposure of religious folly; it's the soft, ticklish underbelly of faith and we need more people to exploit it.

He gives a couple of examples of the two approaches to religion. One such example is the recent occasion when Iranian cleric Kazem Seddiqi declared that earthquakes are caused by women dressing "immodestly". The debater's response to this would have been to collect data about female dress habits and earthquake frequency from various parts of the world, and demonstrate that no such correlation exists (as I pointed out at the time, if Seddiqi's claim were true, Scandinavia and eastern Europe would be the most quake-prone areas of the world, while the Middle East would be the least -- which is decidedly not the case). Such an approach would have been rather ineffective at capturing the attention and imagination of people undecided about religion; it would have belabored a point which was already obvious to any sane person; and it would have dignified a staggeringly moronic claim by at least going through the motions of taking it seriously.

As for the mocker's approach, we all remember what happened:

Jen McCreight did something different: she called for a boobquake, suggesting that women dress immodestly (by Iranian cleric standards) on a specific day, and invite God to smite the planet with earthquakes…a suggestion that would only be made in confidence that Seddiqi's claim was baseless. And it was a phenomenon. Boobquake was picked up by news media around the world, got millions to pay attention, and effectively highlighted the silliness of a religious claim. It was media-savvy and human-psychology-savvy — it used humor, sex, and fun to make a serious point interesting, and led people to look at the science of earthquakes. Did it make hordes of Muslims convert to atheism? Of course not. But it did make an Islamic authority look a bit more ridiculous in the eyes of the world.

The opportunities for ridicule are as vast as the range of stupid and preposterous beliefs and claims that religion presents to the world -- that is to say, essentially limitless. A cracker can be transformed into the flesh of a supernatural being if a man in a funny collar recites certain mumbo-jumbo over it. All humans are born imbued with an evil force because long ago a talking snake persuaded a woman made from a rib to eat fruit from a magic tree. A convicted con man in rural New York state found a stack of golden plates telling the history of an ancient Israelite civilization in North America. A being capable of creating the whole universe is obsessed about the exact details of how humans have sex and whom they have it with, and about the punishment of incorrect behavior. Drawing a picture of a seventh-century Arab merchant is a greater crime than crashing an airplane into a skyscraper full of people. Is there any point at all in trying to debate claims like these? Is it even possible to rationally debate them?

(As it happens, just today I ran across this funny post about the story of Noah, by British blogger "Four Dinners". Go and read it, and ask yourself whether just pointing out the countless logical impossibilities in the Biblical tale would have been even a tenth as effective.)

Mark Twain said that laughter is the greatest weapon the human race has. Let's use it.

14 Comments:

Blogger Pamela D. Hart said...

I have long held that the best way to deal with religion is by ridicule and mockery, not by efforts at debate or argument.

Infidel: I don’t mock or ridicule anyone for their right to BE religious and I don’t want anyone to mock or ridicule me for my right to NOT be religious. The old adage applies here perfectly—to each his own.

I agree that there is rarely a way to discuss religion without some type of disagreement or argument, especially when you have extremely religious people. I think it’s best not to even broach the subject because in most cases no one is going to change anyone’s beliefs one way or the other.

13 July, 2010 14:35  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Hi Pamela -- thanks for commenting.

First, let me make it clear that I advocate ridiculing and insulting religious ideas, not persons.

You may be one of those who believe that the struggle against religion is a polite debate aimed at achieving some kind of peaceful co-existence. On the contrary, I see it as an all-out war, one which cannot end until religion is totally expunged from the face of this planet.

I don’t mock or ridicule anyone for their right to BE religious and I don’t want anyone to mock or ridicule me for my right to NOT be religious.

You're making an equivalence which is not real. Believing in the rib-woman and the talking snake is utterly ridiculous. Refusing to believe in those things is not ridiculous, but a sign of basic sanity. There is no equivalence.

All religion is stupid and ludicrous. We should say so straight out. That's my point.

13 July, 2010 16:17  
Blogger Silverfiddle said...

I agree with you Infidel that it is pointless to argue over religion. I think the quote you cite, that is empirically false, is incorrect. It cannot be proven through empirical evidence. That still doesn't mean some claim is not so.

Also, absurd comments from some religious potentate is not the same as the religious doctrine itself. Every human enterprise under the sun could be indicted if all it took was a ridiculous comment from an adherent.

Finally, I share your admiration of Pat Condell. The man is a free speech hero.

13 July, 2010 17:37  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

Heh, heh, heh, heh, heh, .... I'm a "cracker"(white male) ... who actually had several snake's as pet's, their actually very clean, and very economical to feed, and can be quite playful in their own way ... not one of them ever talked ... and I had about 30! :)

It seem's like with many folk's, you dont even have to intentionally mock religion to get some of these religious folk's angry ... I had a prayer of humor I posted a week back or so, where one blogger emailed me furious over it ... hmmmm ... imagine that.

However ... the posting was sweet!

Thanx Guy ........

13 July, 2010 18:06  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

Oh BTW Mr.Infidel ... as far as quake's, good looking women and religion ... I lived in Los Angeles .... there was alot of great looking gal's, and plenty of mild earthquake's to go along with them, with an array of street preacher's to save the evil harlot's that lined Hollywood Blvd (drag queen's included). :)

Got one fer ya Jesus fan's ....

Q: Why did Jesus stop eating M&M's?

A: Because they kept falling throguh the hole's in his hand's! :)

Q: Why did it take Jesus 3 day's to leave his tomb?

A: It took 3 day's for his nail's to dry.

And for those demonic worshiper's ....

Q: How many satanist's does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

A: Two .... One to screw it in ... and one to go on the talk show circuit to say "We dont do them kind's of thing's". :)

13 July, 2010 18:18  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

Douglas Adams wrote a great piece about this very subject.

And I wrote a poem about it too. Please forgive me for posting it here, but it does have relevance:

THE FLYING HOUSE OF LORETO

I’ve always wanted to meet one of those gray, bug-eyed aliens,
the ones that get blamed for our missing time, for the little metal

beads found stuck up our noses, the sexual probings, egg implantations.
It never happens. I make myself available to them: walk the beach

at night far from buildings, lights, anything that might scare
them away. I think they avoid me. I’m too willing to cooperate,

say yes to the cc’s of blood, the clumps of follicles, yes to the speculum,
(as long as it’s body-temperature, space-age plastic). I’m wild to have them

take specimens to Coma Bernices with my name printed in Alien on each vial.
In Loreto, Italy, they say the Virgin’s house was transported on the backs

of angels from Nazareth to the Anconan coast. Why not?
I want my aliens; they have their flying house.

13 July, 2010 18:45  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

SF: But central religious claims can be proven false by empirical evidence. Snakes do not talk. Crackers do not change into flesh. There was no Israelite civilization with horses and chariots in North America 2,000 years ago. Humans evolved from ape-like ancestors into our present form over millions of years, we were not suddenly created from dust. These things are provable facts, not just matters of opinion.

And it's the central doctrines of religion which are stupid and hilarious, not just "comments from some religious potentate". I gave several examples.

Finally, I share your admiration of Pat Condell. The man is a free speech hero.

A warrior in the struggle against stupidity.

RC: Your snakes probably knew you would eat the forbidden fruit unhesitatingly, without them needing to talk to you:-)

SK: I sometimes think that aliens are a kind of religion for people who claim not to be religious. But at least it's remotely possible that intelligent aliens might actually exist -- though they probably don't

13 July, 2010 23:20  
Blogger tnlib said...

There is nothing quite like trying to discuss religion with a fundamentalist. The eyes narrow, the face gets hard, the jaw juts out - and that's as far as any discussion goes. I'm already ten miles away.

14 July, 2010 06:32  
Anonymous Tim said...

Snakes do not talk...Ridiculous of course they do......
You never heard the Cheney's speak.;)

14 July, 2010 14:15  
Blogger Tim said...

Who said Snakes can't talk,
The Cheney's are always talking and slithering away.;)

14 July, 2010 14:43  
Blogger Silverfiddle said...

@TNLIB:

"There is nothing quite like trying to discuss religion with a fundamentalist. The eyes narrow, the face gets hard, the jaw juts out - and that's as far as any discussion goes.

Right! And climate change fundamentalists are the worst!

15 July, 2010 16:09  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

SF: Not at all up to your usual standard, I'm afraid. Fundamentalists means people who believe in the literal truth of a holy book, regardless of evidence. Anthropogenic global warming is a theory supported by the great preponderance of the available evidence. "Climate change fundamentalists" is as nonsensical a phrase as "round-earth fundamentalists".

It's also off-topic -- this post is about what are the most effective tactics for attacking religion.

15 July, 2010 17:52  
Blogger winsomedove said...

i've been living with the christians for about 20 years (deconverting, i believe) - thankful i found the ones that are humble loving servants. never had any trouble appreciating the humor in all things, including christianity - participated in boobquake... live near a faultline and work with pastors (why i am anonomous and also, nice bit of cleavage btw)... nothing...

(@RC my X was aka "cracker" in the prisons he lived in (one in texas btw), don't like him much, will forget you said that - also LOL)

15 July, 2010 18:35  
Anonymous rita said...

I prefer the debate & argument strategy when talking to religious people. I believe we have to continue to appeal to their individual intelligences.
The religious fundamentalists I grew up with have a way to deal with ridicule and mockery. They just call it persecution.
This is only one verse on the subject. There are many more.
Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Mt 5.3-12)
I'm not into reinforcing any ones persecution complexes.

I acknowledge religion is ridiculous & stupid & above all dangerous.
& I do see value & effectiveness in ridicule and mockery. It's like giving religion the finger.
"The rest of us aren't going to kowtow or be bullied by your sacred cows, your bloody Jesus, your fanatical rants, etc..."

I'm not sure I'd say it was the best way to deal with it.

I think it is evident that all of these things (logic, reason, ridicule and mockery) working together is diminishing the hold religion has on people as a whole.
My fear is that fanaticism is not affected by any of these tactics.

16 July, 2010 08:51  

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