“Hate the Belief, not the Believer…”


I saw something recently on Facebook, an unattributed quote saying:

Mascot of the Australian Skeptics.

Mascot of the Australian Skeptics. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“If you can hate the sin but not the sinner, I can hate the belief but not the believer.”

It brought up thoughts of how one should properly approach personally dealing with those who believe certain claims of the paranormal, religion, partisan politics, or pseudoscience.

The internet tends to attract the most extreme commentary on whatever controversial subject is discussed on almost any venue, and this goes for some popular blogs of both believers and skeptics, with the lion’s share of the irrationality going to those who see little value in reason and evidence and none at all in civility when it comes to dealing with dissent.

Mind you, I’m usually pretty content to leave beliefs to those who hold them, unless holding a belief is overtly dangerous in and of itself, like a belief in Breatharianism, demonic possession, or witches.

You can’t convince true believers by logic and evidence because their minds are already made up — attacking the belief is seen as an attack on the believer. So closely do many people invest in their belief-structures as a part of themselves, their very being, that they just dig in their heels and believe even harder.

Often, they imagine themselves hated and persecuted by their critics, but this is mistaken.

Most psi-research skeptics, for example, while interested in investigating claims of parapsychology, don’t invest a lot of emotion, time, money, or effort in not wanting there to be real psi-abilities, and most don’t dislike believers, not in the toxic ways I’ve seen some believers hate skeptics.

I personally don’t dislike believers. I’ve a few in my personal life, including an ex girlfriend. I’ve known and still do know theists, conspiracy theorists, political partisans, and New Age and paranormal believers, with my only disagreement being with their beliefs.

As a former believer (both paranormal and theistic) I’ve gotten used to dissociating myself from the claims I accept, adopting new ones with better data when the old are shown mistaken. I see little use in identifying with a belief and reacting as though wounded when that belief is criticized, much less hating the critic.

Some people are far too easily offended.

English: Ben Radford lectures at CFI West

English: Ben Radford lectures at CFI West (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is unwise to invest too heavily in a belief system, or crave undue certainty, since it’s so easy to show these false or fallacious, or the result of an error in thought or perception. Less is at stake for me where the paranormal is concerned. I don’t place a lot of importance in something that’s not part of my reality equation.

I’m more concerned with the process by which we arrive at beliefs rather than the content or subject matter of beliefs, how we arrive at them and make them “truths,” only seeing them on a shaky foundation when we take a step back and look at them as objectively as we may.

Of course, I can’t use logic, evidence, or objectivity to convince anyone who doesn’t already accept the worth of logic, evidence, or objectivity, but that’s okay. I’ll argue only with those willing to argue, not those who brook no disagreement.

Many may put great stock in their particular truth-claims, sometimes too much, but I can respect them if not the belief itself. My big concern is not the minutia of the belief, but the dangers of fuzzy thinking that leads to erroneous belief, often resulting in loss of health, wealth, freedom of choice and quality of life, since our life decisions are based upon the soundness of our thinking.

As one who’s been there and done that I know that a healthy mind is best open with wonder and receptive to reality, not closed by dogma, and that a mind too small for doubt is a very small mind indeed, all too easily a target for bamboozles and charlatanry of all sorts.

About Troy Loy

I seek to learn through this site and others how to better my ability as a person and my skill at using my reason and understanding to best effect. I do fractal artwork as a hobby, and I'm working to develop it to professional levels, though I've a bit to go till I reach that degree of skill! This is a crazy world we're in, but maybe I can do a little, if only that, to make it a bit more sane than it otherwise would be.

Posted on Monday, 0:00, November 26, 2012, in Skepticism & Skeptics and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. You are right.. though this leaves no idea of where to fight. Hate the theology not the believer leaves you still with the arguments the profess. They take in personal .. at best. There is nothing but to call them out.

    Like this

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