This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

The Thin Skin Rule of religious folk

When it comes to criticism, the religious are expected to have a very thin skin. Politicians, for example, can tear into each others' political theories without the expectation that any one of the combatants will be offended. Even if one of the politicians is offended (Man is a sensitive animal), s/he cannot be expected to use that offense as a defense of their position; s/he has to use sound argument to defend herself/himself. It is given, in fact, that the politician is to defend attacks on their position by using better argument, not by crying "I'm offended; therefore stop attacking my political beliefs."

Not so for the religious. If an atheist or secularist criticizes a religious person, the atheist/secularist is expected to tread carefully least s/he offend the religious person. In such a case, it is given that the religious person has a thin skin and is easily hurt by criticism that is based on argument (ad hominems are of course a different matter altogether).

It does not matter that the atheist or secularist did not intend to hurt the religionist's feelings; it does not matter that the hurt caused is accidental; it does not matter that the critic was careless as to whether s/he hurt the religious person. The critic's intents or lack thereof does not matter at all. What matters is that religious person is offended. The religious person is therefore presumed to have a thin skin++. The burden is on the critic (the atheist or secularist, say) to tread carefully when walking past a religious person.

But as I said: we don't expect other people, say academics, to have thin skins. Indeed, academia is built upon the presumption that academics have thick skins; that they can take criticism of their positions without using "offense" as a get-out clause or argument. The same applies to just about every other walk of life (except perhaps regarding children -- no-one, I would guess, will disabuse a four-year-old child of their belief in Santa because, rightly, the child is presumed to have a thin skin).

Why is there a double-standard when it comes to the religious? Why doesn't the thick skin rule apply to religious folk?

++aka special pleading



Comment RSS Feed

Please sign in or register to comment