Every belief or issue has its extremists. Whether you’re talking about climate science, politics, faith, healing, sport, gun control, or activities as simple as driving, there are dogmatic, unmovable groups and individuals who will not alter their views, even when faced with rock-solid evidence to the contrary.
These people are set in their ways. Reason ricochets from their armour of firmly held beliefs, argument only emboldens their counter-attacks, and logical fallacies are their weapons of choice. To a proponent of reasoned debate, these people are a lost cause. Arguing with them is futile, and the only reason to do so is the potential to influence their audience, who may be influenced by a well reasoned argument if they’re not so heavily invested in the belief system themselves.
In politics these people are the a party’s “primary” supporters. Major parties can count on their vote, term after term, because their core beliefs are so hard to shake. With few exceptions, mostly in times of severe hardship such as war, economic depression or plague, these are the true believers, who’s voting behaviours were either inherited from parents, or ‘encouraged’ by influential figures in the workplace or tertiary education.
Regardless of the subject, we have all seen passion, conviction, and anger from true believers – whether in support of their favoured party, sporting team, “right to hunt”, “right to life”, or whatever, and although confrontational, at least these views are typically limited to one subject or issue. These true believers may be perfectly reasonable on issues outside of their particular sacred cow or blind spot, and typically a rational person can either mark them off as a lost cause and move on, or patiently chisel away at the edges of their belief system for the benefit of others who may be watching or listening.
But religious extremists are another matter entirely. These are not your run-of-the-mill church-goers, or average self-identified “Christian”, “Muslim”, “Jew” or so-on, many of whom are not identified by their religion or faith, but rather identify with the value system, traditions and social aspect of “belonging”, the vast majority of whom are our colleagues, neighbors and friends.
The dangerous ones are those who seek to force their views on others, pushing literal “value” interpretations from their particular book of faith upon society through political activism at all levels, from local organisations like school committees, all the way up to Federal Political Parties. The current election campaign has featured several examples of this, such as Family First’s Wendy Francis’ Twitter comment, comparing the legalisation of gay marriage to “legalising child abuse”, effectively promoting bigotry and hatred towards gays and lesbians, and the related support message from John Groves, Victorian State President for ‘One Nation’, who expressed his enjoyment of ‘poofter bashing from time too [sic] time”.
Social media also gives a platform for spreading hate by the average person on the street, such as I witnessed this-morning on Twitter when the below tweet (which I have cropped down to hide the Tweeter’s full ID due to her young age), appeared, informing Atheists that “society hates you”, and this apparently from a 13 year old, whom you would have to assume is sprouting the venom of a parent or some such influencing figure.
Recently the NSW Department of Education bowed to pressure from ‘religious leaders’ to shelve plans for an ethics class, as an alternative to religious instruction classes for non-religious students, instead of the customary alternative of self-guided reading or cleaning the playground. Whilst the proposed ethics classes would have dealt with many of the same issues, religious leaders and extremist religious parents objected on the grounds that attendance for the traditional religious classes would suffer given the alternative.
In Queensland, a push to introduce ‘Creationism’ as an alternative ‘theory’ given equal footing as evolution in science classes gained international attention, once again pushed by religious extremists who just aren’t satisfied with their own observance of faith, but would rather push it on children who’d be forced to learn and be examined on this absurd theory which has no basis in science whatsoever, requiring massive doses of special-pleading to fit the multiple lines of evidence which support the commonly accepted scientific view.
This morning I listened to the latest “Skeptic Zone” podcast episode 94, featuring an interview with US Astronomer and science communicator Phil Plait, who reacted with awe that Australia should have an Atheist head of Government. Phil stated that such an admission would see a politician “tarred and feathered” in the US, where apparently a lack of belief in the Christian God, or at least one of the popular gods, is the moral equivalent to eating babies.
I’d like to think that Australia is different, but it seems we’re not that different. Here parties such as Family First and One Nation have relished our Prime Minister’s godless status, suggesting we cannot trust someone who doesn’t believe in God, because such a person can have no morals. There are signs of hate and intolerance creeping into our lives, and I for one find this deeply disturbing.
If my friend wants to believe that the Earth has a special energy force which effects their lives, I don’t have a problem with that. If a neighbor goes to Church every Sunday because that’s a part of their faith, I respect that, and I won’t push my views on them. But, if someone starts telling me society hates me, and I should just go away, I will take issue with them. They have a right to their views, which aren’t disprovable, as indeed do I. So I say to that person, society hates bigots! Australian Society is all about diverse views, different cultures, and acceptance. When you start attacking one set of views, you’re on a slippery slope that ends with segregation, and that’s NOT what this country is about.