|Obviously hyperbole, but it often feels this way when debating|
theists online. I have noticed that those most vehemently
defending their religious beliefs tend to lack a mastery of grammar.
When I was taking a writing class at BYU, for my final research paper, I decided to prove that the Iraq War was justified. In doing all of my research for the paper, I came to the inevitable conclusion that it was not. There weren't any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. They didn't participate or aid in the 9/11 attacks. They weren't harboring or hiding Osama bin Laden. It truly was a war of aggression. We attacked a country that had not in any way offended us. But I would not have known this if I hadn't ever bothered to look it up, if I hadn't sought to prove that Bush was right (and since I believed Bush, by extension, to prove that I was right). I think that trying to prove someone wrong can be a very strong motivation. And so, as ever, I invite people to try to prove me wrong. Don't trust what I say. Be skeptical of it. Research and see what the evidence has to say.
On the other hand, the reason I struggle with this concept, is that I believe it is good to treat other people with kindness. And I think that hearts are softened when bridges are built, not when ridicule prevails. I don't want to be a dick. I want my friends to enjoy being around me. I want people with differing beliefs to feel welcome to be my friend. Now, I can't say whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, but I have noticed that in a way I satisfy both of these desires. On the Internet, I do not hesitate to attack people's religious beliefs, and to challenge their political ideas. I talk about it here on my blog, I make posts about it on social media, and I debate people frequently. But in person, I am very hesitant to do any of that. I speak with much more caution on any of those matters. I do not mock or ridicule. I do not challenge people when they assert their personal beliefs about gods.
Am I afraid of offending people? No, not really. In fact, if someone comes to a fuller understanding of the truth in part because I offended em, then I would be glad to have done so, and I believe that ey would thank me for it as well. Do I try to offend people? Not really. My goal is to ridicule beliefs, not people. If a person is capable of being objective and distancing emself from eir beliefs, then ey might not be offended by it. I don't expect that of people, so I am certainly not surprised when they are offended.
The main reason I don't think it's wrong to offend believers is because hurting someone's feelings is not as damaging as what religion does to society. I may offend Mormons by posting their temple ceremony online and presenting evidence that Joseph Smith was convicted for being a con-man prior to his golden plate story, but that pales in comparison with what believers do. I don't try to push my beliefs on other people using the law. I don't require that an atheist creed be posted in every courtroom, yet religious people insist that they must have their Ten Commandments there. I don't try to prohibit people from marrying the person they love. I don't try to prevent people from making choices about their own reproductive organs. Yet religious people do this all the time. They want to make (keep) it illegal for me to get married, and for women to decide what happens to their own vaginas. I don't seek to force my will on other people by passing laws which make them do what I want them to do. But religious people do that all the time--all throughout history, and on a daily basis. I may hurt people's feelings by speaking harshly, but I don't butt my nose into their lives and tell them how to live. And that's really why I feel so strongly about it. I refuse to be told how to live my life and to have people dictate to me how to live because of some fairy tale they believe in. So I will do what I can to end this nonsense. If you don't like what I say, prove me wrong. Go get your evidence and present it. I'm willing to admit that I'm wrong.