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

← The Thin Skin Rule of religious folk

The Thin Skin Rule of religious folk - Comments

Cook@Tahiti's Avatar Comment 1 by Cook@Tahiti

By dismissing a religious person's beliefs, you're saying:

(1) They're childish, superstitious, weak and stupid for believing in the invisible & supernatural

(2) When they die, they'll remain dead and be eaten by worms

(3) All their dead loved ones are worm-food and they'll never be re-united

(4) Good people can suffer and bad people can lead long, happy, lives (i.e. no justice)

(5) All the time spent in church or praying is a waste of the one life they're ever going to have

Sun, 18 Mar 2012 13:15:57 UTC | #928281

Bobwundaye's Avatar Comment 2 by Bobwundaye

Comment 1

By dismissing an atheists person's facts, you're saying:

(1) They're rational, only believe in facts and what can be proved. That their refusal to believe in something that can not be demonstrated to exist is evidence of their intellectual inferiority.

(2) When they die, they'll burn in hell.

(3) All their dead loved ones who aren't of Religion X, are burning in hell. The others are so happy in heaven that they've forgotten about the one's in hell.

(4) God lets very bad people prosper, while ignoring the devout. He allows, even promotes and fosters suffering (cf Job) to get people to like him better.

(5) All the time spent enjoying life is meaningless, a search to fill a void that only God can fill.

Frankly, I think atheists have way more right to feel offended at being dismissed.

The point is, when people disagree, there will be some offense. Deal with it.

Sun, 18 Mar 2012 15:16:44 UTC | #928332

StephenH's Avatar Comment 3 by StephenH

Look at the Movie or Book critics.

Some movies / books are torn to pieces by reviewers

Having a thin skin is not an option in these other areas

Otherwise the author of a book, could read some strongly critical reviews, throw in the towel, and never write another book

I think that when people lose the ability to laugh at themselves, any sense of humour goes down the drain, and they choose to feel gravely offended instead (Jesus & Mo cartoons)

I think society is going down a slippery slope

Sun, 18 Mar 2012 16:47:47 UTC | #928366

aroundtown's Avatar Comment 4 by aroundtown

It is not that you are dismissing their beliefs, you are dismissing them entirely. These folks believe they are the children of the great primate in the sky and when you suggest they are an evolved creature that originated from a worm most likely they can blow a gasket. It is not simply arguments for or against an idea for them, it is an argument against their very being as they see it.

Sun, 18 Mar 2012 17:13:16 UTC | #928376

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 5 by Jos Gibbons

Why do we have to be nice to the religious in this way? Simple: it's part of a compromise. Given that until very recently in history they killed, tortured or imprisoning us for disagreeing with them, letting us think as we do but making our speaking our minds impolitic if nonpunishable is progress. Once the "religion can't legally set you on fire" era is much older, things should shift again.

Sun, 18 Mar 2012 17:46:19 UTC | #928389

steveb0503's Avatar Comment 6 by steveb0503

I too find this a troubling issue - while on the one hand, I don't particularly want to offend people for not sharing my beliefs (or lack thereof), but it unfortunately comes with the package and regardless of whether or not we feel they are justified in taking offense - we must, in the interest of social grace, be mindful of the fact that they do.

I agree with the fact that it's not fair, but who ever said life was fair?

The only thing you can do is convey your lack of intention to cause offense by simply disagreeing with their cherished beliefs and hope they are willing to proceed with the dialog. If they insist on claiming offense, then you simply tell them that it is their choice to do so and make it clear that any further offense perceived by them is on them and you may then proceed guilt-free - but you should never feel obligated to "back down" as they cannot reasonably demand that you follow their rules and must therefore cease and desist.

Sun, 18 Mar 2012 21:45:15 UTC | #928464

road_runner321's Avatar Comment 7 by road_runner321

The double-standard exists for itself; it's hardwired into the belief system so that it may survive the attacks of critics who think offense is a suitable defense. And not only spoken criticism -- an unbeliever's entire existence is ostensibly an insult to a true believer, simply for walking around thinking contrary to dogma.

It is up to us to make the thick-skin rule apply to everyone.

When an irrational person claims only that they are offended, we say, "That is not a valid argument. It offers no counter to any of my points. You have yet to say anything of relevance." It's an appeal to emotion, not to logic.

Here's a witty yet relevant point: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHMoDt3nSHs, about 3:25

Sun, 18 Mar 2012 23:25:03 UTC | #928492

78rpm's Avatar Comment 8 by 78rpm

How often I have heard "You have to respect a person's religion." But lately I reply WHY THE HELL?

Mon, 19 Mar 2012 00:25:28 UTC | #928506

bigcat's Avatar Comment 9 by bigcat

Respect for people's opinions is a myth.

We should respect the person (a fellow human being), and respect their right to hold any opinion they choose, but since when are we obliged to respect what is actually being said?

For example: Adam and Eve were real people, astrology is a real science, and Part 3 is the best film in the Godfather Trilogy (all arguments I've had with people).

None of these are viewpoints I have "respect" for (as they are all, especially the last one, quite clearly ridiculous!) but I do of course respect the other person's right to hold them, and to defend them.

As Comment 7 points out, religions have a built-in defense against criticism, written into their particular set of rules a and regulations. They call it blasphemy, and threaten the blasphemer with the most extreme punishments. Clearly the intention is to deter followers from even thinking about disagreeing. Taking "offense" is just another variation on this.

I think there's a confusion here between the ideas that everyone has a value, but everything does not.

Mon, 19 Mar 2012 08:14:02 UTC | #928561

bigcat's Avatar Comment 10 by bigcat

I should add that an idea or opinion should earn respect (like a good scientific theory) by debate and questioning.

Taking offense at something actually removes it from this process. It's interesting how it's always the weakest ideas that are "defended" in this way. The very existence of god has a very weak argument in support of it, so must have top security defences - threats of torture and death for instance - to protect it from scrutiny.

A good idea, like evolution, doesn't need to resort to this kind of thing.

I know we all know this stuff, but I think it's worth bringing it up with people who use the "offended" strategy - pointing out that they are effectively removing their idea from debate and criticism, taking their ball home, in a very childish way!

Mon, 19 Mar 2012 11:18:59 UTC | #928586

davedotcom's Avatar Comment 11 by davedotcom

By criticising or providing evidence against a person's religion you also eat away a person's hope.

For example, my wife and my mother both believe in god, even though I'm read the one who's read the bible and (when a believer) did bible studies. My wife lost a son due to hydropsy fetalis and recently my father passed away. My wife and mother live in hope that they will one day see their lost loved ones again.

By providing evidence against that you chip away at what might be one of the few things keeping them going - hope.

Perhaps that's a bad example and off topic a little, but it's at least one reason why some of the religious are thin skinned.

Then again there are those who are thin skinned because by taking religion away, you would remove their source of easy income!

Mon, 19 Mar 2012 13:07:09 UTC | #928610

DocWebster's Avatar Comment 12 by DocWebster

They are offended because they've forgotten that they weren't always "Christians". They used to be all different faiths that looked with suspicion at all other faiths. Now they are all us and they only have the muslims and the atheists to be against so they can trot out the holy indignation and feel the "Christian nation" behind them. If it was still the sixties there would be a ton of Pentecostals and Lutherans and who knows what else laughing their asses off at the Catholics right now, and Catholics would be tearing them down for birth control usage and forgetting how to worship Jesus properly. The easiest way to back all of them off is just to remind them how different they are from each other and start the snark Olympics again.

Mon, 19 Mar 2012 19:12:33 UTC | #928705

potteryshard's Avatar Comment 13 by potteryshard

I've heard it argued that the religious don't just seem to be thin-skinned... They are instead demonstrably thin-skinned as it can readily be seen that their brains are leaking out.

Joking aside, I don't find it surprising that religious folk become offended when their beliefs are challenged. One adopts faith not as a result of reason, but in defiance of reason, presumably to be able to show off some inflated sense of worthiness and rigtheousness. I think that the religious, at some hidden level are aware of the silliness and improbability of that belief.

Threatening to let the air out of the glorious balloon they have been waving threatens to reveal that instead they have been pumping up a used condom. Any hint of exposure is bound to be embarrassing and distasteful.

Mon, 19 Mar 2012 20:49:41 UTC | #928730

RDfan's Avatar Comment 14 by RDfan

I was talking to a religious man the other day. Now, this is no ordinary Christian. For this guy, all things are done or occur for the Glory of God. This is the type who gets up every day and thanks God for waking him out of his sleep. He prays before, during and after just about every act he performs on a daily basis. I hadn't seen him for a while so it was good to meet him -- randomly, as it happened.

After he thanked God for allowing (the happy accident of) us to meet, he invited me to dinner so that we could catch up. All through dinner he was thanking God every so often. As he spoke, I suddenly felt really sorry for him. I mean, there he was so convinced that this random meeting between two nondescript people on a random planet in a lonely corner of some galaxy was being listened in on by some celestial being. We've clashed over religion in the past but on this occasion I could not bring myself to question his belief. He is really old and belief is the one thing, it seems to me, that is keeping him going. It would have been cruel, I felt, to kick that one crutch (belief) away from an emotionally, metaphysically and physically infirm man.

Did I fall for the Thin Skin Rule of Religious Folk? Yes. Would I have been so diffident if we were talking politics or history or science or some other topic? No, probably not. And that's the rub for me: even atheists like myself sometimes let the religious off because, deep down, we think them to be so thin skinned as to not be able to survive an attack on their silly beliefs.

Tue, 20 Mar 2012 13:20:26 UTC | #928927

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 15 by Alan4discussion

Comment 9 by bigcat - Respect for people's opinions is a myth.

Very much so! There was never respect in theocracies and there still isn't in some of them.

Comment 10 by bigcat - I should add that an idea or opinion should earn respect (like a good scientific theory) by debate and questioning.

In a meritocracy respect has to be earned. All opinions are not equal! When objectively tested some are wrong! People who are used to taking practical decisions in the real world know this. Those who just bandy words usually do not!

The identification & implementation of expert scientific opinions, makes the difference between technological achievement of objectives, and abject failure or catastrophic disaster areas.

Taking offense at something actually removes it from this process. It's interesting how it's always the weakest ideas that are "defended" in this way.

Offence, is the defence of those who have no credible case to present, - but wish to cling to their unevidenced irrational beliefs.

Tue, 20 Mar 2012 14:49:26 UTC | #928962

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 16 by Alan4discussion

Comment 14 by RDfan

He is really old and belief is the one thing, it seems to me, that is keeping him going. It would have been cruel, I felt, to kick that one crutch (belief) away from an emotionally, metaphysically and physically infirm man.

There are times when irrationality is of little consequence apart from to the irrational person themselves. Compassion becomes more important. You would not withdraw the "happy" pain-killers from a terminally ill patient in the interests of rationality, or take away the crutches from someone dependent on them. There is truth in the saying, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks"! Long-lost or non-existent rationality is not going to be recovered in extreme old age.

Tue, 20 Mar 2012 14:59:57 UTC | #928964