questionmark   Recently on John Zande’s blog I had the opportunity to participate obliquely in a conversation with a religious believer.  David, from all appearances, clutches his religious ideals tightly and furtively resists all attempts of being reasoned with and of course, reasoned at.

As David rambled on it became clear that he just was not getting it.  My attempt to clarify the argument for David went like this:

“David: You immediately dismiss anything supernatural which means you aren’t interested in truth.

JZ: Again, do you accept that Dionysus turned water into wine?

David: No, as I have already stated, but once again that is a misdirection of what we are actually discussing.

A point that could be taken here is that David, you claim not to believe in the magic that Dionysus allegedly performed. Here, you are actually in agreement with the atheistic proposition that people with magical powers don’t exist.

The next step though is applying the logical extension of the argument – that people with magical powers don’t exist – to your claims.

Which leads to this:

Why believe in christian magic, but not Greek magic?

You are being hypocritical when you say the other people’s magic doesn’t exist, but “clearly” your particular magic does.”

David didn’t reply.  How could he without resorting to circular reasoning of one flavour or another?  JZ and other people followed David back to his own electronic squirrelly-lair of a blog and were promptly banned while attempting to reason through pronouncements similar to the mongrel-droppings he left on JZ’s blog.

This post seems like it is all about David, but really what I want to talk about is his behaviour in the face of simple arguments that obviously call his system of beliefs into question.  Clearly, having your most cherished beliefs called into question provokes a defensive reaction – I can relate to that when I peer outside of my carefully curated collection of blogs that I follow with regards to my views on socialism (gasp) and feminism (double gasp).

Espousing views on the benefits of social democratic rule and the quaint(?) idea that women are people too invokes a bevy of negative responses, jadedly cynical ‘skepticism’, and plain old vanilla rejection of my arguments/ideas.  Nothing (sadly) new about this state of affairs.

It is tiring having to introduce dudes (especially ‘liberal’ dudes) to the basic arguments of feminist theory and critique – especially when they exhibit the same sort of stonewall-ish reactions that David does to new information that challenges their world view (Feminism isn’t about hating men??  Unpossible!).  When a valid counterpoint is made though I try to adapt to the new knowledge and rework my positions to accommodate this new more correct version of reality or at least acknowledge the validity of the point (I’m not always successful, my biases run true and deep.).   I realize that I am not an authority on any particular topic and thus my arguments are not immutably true by default; and thus when it comes to arguing I try to stick to arguments that can be reasonably supported with facts.

Being aware of my fallibility affects how I argue and how I perceive the arguments of others.  I don’t see a lot of this sort of introspection when it comes to those, like David, who espouse and attempt to defend religious belief.  To have a zone in my argumentation where I’m automatically correct because “GOD” – seems like a huge red flag when comes to one’s epistemology and world-view.

I’ve had the benefit of not being inculcated with religious tomfoolery – but at the same time I think I lack understanding of what it is like to be a true believer and how one goes about cracking that particular sort of nut.  How does one approach people whose first instinct is to clutch their tendentious ideas and then tenaciously defend said ideals with a streak of intransigence tempered with ignorance, that would make most people just throw up their hands?

We’ve all been there and seems to me that the only answer is time.  Either they are ready to listen or the are really not ready to listen.  Not following this prescription just wastes everyone’s time.