Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Internet "debate" and its effect on the economy

None, far as I can tell. But I'll keep you posted.

I've been engaging in fun Internet "debate" of a "religious" nature. Here's how it works: Followers of Richard Dawkins and Imagine play skeptic to various "claims" of theism, treating all such "claims" as assertions about the physical world and the workings thereof. In doing so, they're stepping outside of the lines of conventional debate by 1) allowing themselves to state their opponents' positions--and in advance, no less, and 2) confusing faith statements with scientific claims. Writing the other guy's lines and mischaracterizing his positions are, the last time I checked, debate no-no's. I mean, really big ones.

Otherwise, the people in question are masterful arguers.

Actually, there's a third thing they do. Namely, if I take issue with any of the words they've penned for me--for instance, if I protest, "Um, that's not my position"--they get annoyed and cite poll results that apparently prove that such and such a position is, in fact, mine. In other words, they're sorry, but that's what I think. They probably think I'm crazy for not even knowing my own positions. Meanwhile, I'm not allowed to script their lines for them. (How fair is that??)

So, anyway, I've spent the last couple of years being told what I believe and how irrational I am for believing it (whether I believe it or not), and I've almost forgotten what I do believe. Maybe that's the plan. Clever rascals, those one-sided debaters.

Anyway, I asked Bev why I keep on "debating" these people, and she responded, "Because you have fun doing it." As usual, she's right.

Things got a little hairy tonight, with an especially aggressive opponent insisting that I'm against gays and in favor of stoning and enslaving people. I responded that I think nothing of the kind, and that I'm a liberal Democrat--something he obviously isn't, given his habit of demonizing me for not sharing his views. I'm sure he'll appreciate that observation. (So far, he hasn't signed on to thank me.)

I've determined that the whole faith-bashing trend began in the mass entertainment sphere--rock bands, comedians, filmmakers, etc. Now, of course, we all know that nobody gets his or her values from the entertainment blasted into our ears 24/7, but you can't deny the influence of same. (Actually, people can, and do. Still, they shouldn't.) Anyway, what's cool for rock and movies and stand-up routines is cool for intellectuals. How that works, I have no idea, but it does.

As faith-bashing became the new thing to do on the media-hip left, folks like James Randi and Sam Harris took note of this trend and decided to turn up the volume on scapegoating religion for our culture's lack of scientific literacy. They joined the ritual, and best-selling volumes ensued, and suddenly modern comics were given an instant-laugh alternative to swearing profusely--mocking faith. And all they had to do was recycle George Carlin recycling Lenny Bruce. Work, like originality, being for losers.

My favorite characteristics of the bashing-for-cred crowd? The way they insist they're not characterizing all people of faith as fundies while characterizing all people of faith as fundies. How they insist that they're not claiming we all think alike while claiming that we all think alike. How they denounce the Christian Bible as an insane, totally irrational document while citing it as an authority (something they have to do, for reasons that have never been clear to me). How they ridicule the idea of God as a super being suitable for photographing and framing while restricting themselves to that very comic-book concept of God, thus making fun of their own view of God (while refusing to deal with more advanced claims for the Big Guy).

Ah, to be a best-selling skeptic of theism. I'd get to script my opponents' "claims" and, simultaneously, shoot them down in whatever form I choose to present them, making sure to insult my opponents every other sentence for the benefit of all the intellectually insecure readers who wish they were me. Then I'd refuse to debate my critics, insisting that I've heard it all and that there's no requirement to deal with nonsense, anyway, beyond labeling it as such.

The perfect scam. Disgusting isn't the word. However, the fallout is fun! But I'm not sure if it's helping the economy or not. Probably isn't.