A couple days ago I wrote an article offering a friendly critique of the Reasonable Doubts podcast. In particular, I worried about the practice of dividing people into basic divisions (e.g. “religious” and “non-religious”) and then suggesting that one side is more rational than the other. We all have cognitive bias, I said. We all can tend to marginalize others, label them, dismiss them. And the danger of our doing so becomes even more manifest when we focus an inordinate amount of attention on the out-group. (Needless to say, this is a perennial danger for Christians just like everybody else.)
This culminated in an extended exchange with Luke (I presume the Luke from Reasonable Doubts). In our exchange, I was keen to challenge several of Luke’s claims that struck me as very tendentious. Among them was the following claim:
“there is something about being religious that compels one to defend a certain point of view, to challenge science, to be close-minded. All these things are true to the extent one is religious. the least religious christians (e.g., unitarians or liberals) are the least susceptible to these things and the most religious (fundamentalists) are the most.”
After reading this I wanted to know how Luke defines “religious”. After all, Francis Collins (to take one of many, many possible examples) seems deeply religious by any conventional measure and he has contributed more to science than the vast majority of atheists (or Christians for that matter…). When Luke presented his criteria for religiosity I provided counter-examples to each one, counter-examples that he ignored, while adding condescending comments about how I reasoned like an undergraduate and the like.
Now I see that Dave Fletcher of Reasonable Doubts tweeted a couple days ago that I am a “shithead”. And that was before I started this exchange with Luke.
This is very unfortunate, if not a bit ironic. You see, the tendency to react to disagreement through the invocation of incendiary labelling — “He’s a pagan,” “She’s a liberal”, “He’s a shithead” — is a classic hallmark of close-mindedness … if not religiosity.