Whom Should We Mock?

I’ve got another guest post up at Daylight Atheism today about when, if ever, it’s worth it for atheists to take a mocking, contemptuous tone when trying to deconvert Christians.  This essay was sparked by the many dissents to my last post at Daylight Atheism urging people to tone down the contempt for Harold Camping.

Whom Should We Mock?

John Loftus and PZ Myers take an extremely confrontational, contemptuous tone towards Christians, and they’ve caught a lot of flack, both from accommodationists like Chris Mooney and more hard-line atheists. I’m skeptical about the efficacy of these tactics, but I’d love to hear from commenters like TommyP in more detail about how mockery and contempt helped them give up their old beliefs. Even if ridicule is helpful, and worth the danger of alienation and unwarranted pride, we should be careful of adopting condescension as a default approach if we truly want to convince people. Before you unleash your disdain, think about these factors.

Consider your audience
Assuming that mockery can work as a shock tactic, it still won’t do any good if you write a blog for a primarily atheist audience or if you’re joking around with non-believing friends. If your criticism isn’t accessible to the people you’re ostensibly trying to help, it’s hard to defend jeremiads as tactical rather than self-congratulatory. And I don’t think the Christian trolls who frequent atheist blogs promising hell are likely to be reachable enough to justify any rancor as public-spirited.

[Read the rest at Daylight Atheism]

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  • Anonymous

    I don't understand this need for either atheists or Christians to continually pick at each other. Sure, I get that the more obnoxious forms of Christian "witness" (which usually devolve to threats) are, well, obnoxious, but so are the sneering comments from the more obnoxious atheists. Why not leave each other alone? No one ever shamed or harangued anyone into conversion or "deconversion". Aren't the loons on either end of the continuum merely flip sides of the same coin? Don't they ultimately share more via their hatred, bigotry, sneering attitudes, mockery, meanness, pettiness, etc., than they have differences via their respective worldviews?Anyone who demeans, belittles, threatens, harangues, mocks, etc., is a complete douche AFAIC, no matter what their worldview and how much I may or may not agree with it. To even consider mockery as a reasonable (albeit limited) tactic makes me think you (or your mommy and daddy) just wasted a shitload of money on Yale. Seriously. This kind of stuff is so mentally retarded it is actually an insult to the genuinely mentally retarded. Just sayin'.

  • Anonymous

    "No one ever shamed or harangued anyone into conversion or "deconversion"."I don't believe that at all.

  • I can say in my experience mocking actually kept me in my faith longer. I was raised Mormon and before becoming an atheist, and still today to hear people make fun of Mormons gets my heckles up. I do remember at one point as I was questioning my faith reading a vicious, mocking screed against religion and wondering why I would want to 'go over' to that side if it was full of bitter, mean, people. I, of course, learned otherwise, but I also urge caution with the mocking, it can work against us as much as it can for us.