Laughing at fundamentalists? Lessons from John Loftus and Keith Parsons
The title of John Loftus’ article says it all: “Professor Keith Parsons Advocates Ridicule.” Well, okay it doesn’t exactly say it all. You have to read the article to find that Loftus agrees with Parsons. Fundamentalists should be ridiculed. However, Loftus adds “Keep in mind we don’t advocate this as the only response.” Why even bother adding that? That’s like saying “Illegal immigrants should be beaten. But keep in mind we don’t advocate this as the only response.” Gee, isn’t that thoughtful.
So we ought to laugh at and ridicule fundamentalists. But then what is a fundamentalist, exactly? In a delightful philosophical reflection on the way the term functions in common parlance, Alvin Plantinga concludes:
“The full meaning of the term, therefore (in this use), can be given by something like ‘stupid sumbitch whose theological opinions are considerably to the right of mine.’” (Warranted Christian Belief, 245)
Okay, so now you know, whenever you find somebody who has more conservative theological (or political or economic or social or…) views than you, you have as one of your options laughter, mockery, ridicule.
But why? What benefit is it to laugh at people and mock them? The conclusion of the Parsons’ quote provides the reason:
“As a sign admonished on The Simpsons, put the fun back in fundamentalism. Laugh it to death.”
I guess the idea is that if you really strive to ostracize certain people, to stigmatize them socially, to instigate hatred and disdain of them, then other people will not want to be a part of their numbers and their groups will shrink.
One might hope for his sake that Keith Parsons is right about that. Because I can readily think of another possibility, namely that those you laugh at learn nothing of your high falutin’ nuance, but they do learn a new level of rage and hatred as they retrench into larger, radicalized groups of the similarly marginalized and dispossessed.
To be blunt, not only is this Parsons/Loftus advice reprehensible and inhumane, but it is completely stupid and dangerous. The only way forward in the open society is to treat others as you would like to be treated, with kindness, dignity and respect. And that applies even to those stupid sumbitches whose theological opinions are considerably to the right of yours.