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Attack the Action

Entry 1190, on 2010-05-12 at 20:13:35 (Rating 3, Comments)

I was recently involved in an email conversation with a conservative, fundamentalist Christian (well against someone like that it was, somewhat inevitably, more an argument than a conversation) where I defended the sort of groups they traditionally attack. Specifically this time it was the opponents of Israel in Lebanon. My opposition basically claimed Israel had no blame at all for the conflict there and that all the blame should be placed on Lebanon.

It's ridiculous of course, because no conflict is ever 100% caused by one side. There is always blame on both sides and no group ever acts with total morality - not even Israel!

I concluded my email by saying that I despise fundamentalist Muslims but that I equally despise fundamentalists of other types, such as fundamentalist Christians. I realised after sending the email that I had more-or-less said I hated him because that's effectively what saying I despise fundies really means.

And I realised that wasn't really what I meant. I don't hate him at all and I don't hate any other fundies (of any type) I have met. I do hate the belief system they have but that's a totally different thing. It's a basic law of fair debating: attack the idea not the person. Attacking the person generally equates to an ad hominem attack and, although I think it's OK to point out a person's past history of fake beliefs or other relevant attributes, that should not be a major part of a debate. The facts are what really matter.

Actually I'll take the idea even further. Its best not to attack what people believe but what they do. If someone has silly beliefs but still acts like a moral person then they are still a good person. There are several church groups who do good charitable work. Sure they have silly beliefs but they act positively and that's more important.

Unfortunately there is often a link between silly beliefs and behaving badly. Surprisingly (perhaps) many fundamentalist Christians actually don't follow the traditional interpretation of Jesus' teaching very well. They aren't very charitable, or forgiving, or understanding. So I might dislike them for that but in some ways it's not their fault. They are trapped by their silly beliefs so again it gets back to despising the idea rather than the person.

Maybe it's too easy to find a belief system to explain anyone's bad behaviour but I've never met anyone yet who is genuinely inherently evil. Maybe I've just been lucky!

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Comment 3 (2656) by SBFL on 2010-05-15 at 08:27:28: (view earlier comments)

"Surprisingly (perhaps) many fundamentalist Christians actually don't follow the traditional interpretation of Jesus' teaching very well. They aren't very charitable, or forgiving, or understanding."
- surely the only person more judgemental and sanctimonious than a fundamentalist is a self-righteous atheist.

"So I might dislike them for that but in some ways it's not their fault."
- only slightly patronizing

"I usually try to leave any controversial comment I'm about to make sitting on the screen for a while before I click send. Often re-examining it after 5 minutes shows many flaws in the original!"
- I propose you leave it sitting there for 10 minutes from now on ;-)
(PS the last comment was just a light-hearted dig I couldn't resist)

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Comment 4 (2657) by OJB on 2010-05-16 at 15:34:35:

Surely the only person more judgemental and sanctimonious than a fundamentalist is a self-righteous atheist.
Being judgemental is OK as long as there is good reason to reach the conclusion in question. I do think there is a link between conservative Christianity and conservative politics (which is generally unforgiving and intolerant). Do you disagree?

Only slightly patronizing
Really? Only slightly? I was trying to be deliberately patronising in that case because I really do see these people as little better than pathetic children without the maturity to recognise the difference between reality and fantasy.

I propose you leave it sitting there for 10 minutes from now on ;-) (PS the last comment was just a light-hearted dig I couldn't resist)
Yes, I recognised that! I noted the subtle signs, such as the ;-) for example! Nice comment - I found that moderately amusing.

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Comment 5 (2667) by SBFL on 2010-06-10 at 09:26:40:

You would be better to give the reason and not be judgemental which is usually a subjective conclusion. Yes I disagree because you are drawing conclusions from broad groupings, particularly "conservative politics" which I don't really know what this is. I hate to simplify and group myself but if I had to I would break "politics" down to social and economic. i.e.
- social liberal or social conservative >> I am the latter
- economic liberalism or economic nationalism >> I am the former
I think it is fair to say you are the opposite to me on both these aspects (?).

Such disdain!

Good-o, but I recall you didn't on a previous occasion, hence the additional explanation. I know I won't need this next time.

"I found that moderately amusing." - okay I will try and take that as a positive comment!!

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Comment 6 (2668) by SBFL on 2010-06-10 at 09:28:01:

Hi OJB - I don't know why everything in the previous comment is in italics. I didn't use the tags in that way.

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Comment 7 (2673) by OJB on 2010-06-10 at 13:51:45:

Yes, I agree that putting people into political groupings is dangerous. I also agree with your distinction between social and economic political orientations. If such groupings did work I would also agree that I am opposite you in both, although its not that simple.

But all this aside, people can be put into broad groupings even if that process isn't perfect, and conservative Christianity does seem to be linked to conservative politics. Just look at the percentages of fundies who vote Republican in the US.

BTW, I fixed the italic problem. A previous post (2657) had an opening italic tag without a closing one.

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