If the Shoe Fits…

Being a child of the 1970s (born in ’67), The Muppet Show was a sta­ple in my tele­vi­sion fare.* A while back I came across the first sea­son of that show on DVD and scooped it up. Some of it is dated, to be sure, and quite a lot of it is corny, but darn it, it’s still fun to watch.

There’s a skit in the first sea­son involv­ing some talk­ing houses; in the course of the con­ver­sa­tion — which for rea­sons I don’t fully remem­ber touched on reli­gion — one of the houses used the term “fanatic” to describe what we would today call an “evangelical”.

You know what? It’s time to bring back the word “fanatic” and begin using it pretty much every­where. Whether Islamic fundamentalist/​extremist, Hassidic, Evangelical, Southern Baptist, Jehovah’s Witness or any of the long, long list of the reli­giously insane, the term fanatic seems to fit them all.

I’m aware of the neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tions of the word; that’s why I’m propos­ing its use.

Pride in Stupidity

Part of the prob­lem I think we have with fanat­ics is they’ve turned their igno­rance and stu­pid­ity around, trans­formed them into badges of honor rather than the marks of shame they truly are. These peo­ple no longer feel a sense of embar­rass­ment in their igno­rance; they’re happy to be unin­formed about the sim­plest facts of real­ity, such as the fact of evo­lu­tion, or the fact Earth’s real age**, or the fact that humans and dinosaurs did not coex­ist (which is really stu­pid on their part — you’d think the lack of stegosauri in the Bible might have clued them in on that one).

There are pas­sages in the Bible that refer to the sun hold­ing still in the sky — yet most of these fanat­ics have not embraced ter­ra­cen­trism — and other pas­sages that refer to winds blow­ing from the four cor­ners of the Earth — yet most of the fanat­ics have not embraced a flat-​​Earth model.

Yet.

Can they? Might they? Surely not — the evi­dence against such stu­pid­ity is overwhelming.

And yet … and yet … in the year 2006, peo­ple still go online to get horo­scopes. There are peo­ple weep­ing with reli­gious fer­vor over images vaguely appar­ent in the burn marks on the bot­toms of tor­tillas. There are peo­ple who refuse to accept a mas­sive body of inescapable evi­dence of an old Earth and a defin­i­tive evo­lu­tion­ary descent; there are peo­ple who, despite a total lack of evi­dence, believe that a vir­gin birth, a res­ur­rec­tion, the exis­tence of some­thing called a soul is not only pos­si­ble, but absolutely nec­es­sary to pro­vide mean­ing to existence.

These same peo­ple are seek­ing to reverse intel­lec­tual free­dom by propos­ing the utterly asi­nine idea that a brand of cre­ation­ism be taught as a “com­pet­ing the­ory” to the fact of evolution.

These same peo­ple are seek­ing to reverse women’s free­dom by (first) rolling back abor­tion avail­abil­ity and (sec­ond) ban­ning the use of all con­tra­cep­tives by any­one, includ­ing con­sent­ing, mar­ried adults, on the emotionally-​​terroristic “argu­ment” that any birth con­trol pill causes abortion.

These same peo­ple are seek­ing to reverse social progress by insist­ing that gays and les­bians are less than them­selves, less than human, and unwor­thy of equal civil rights — and their hate-​​filled, big­oted spew is so effec­tive that it even has black min­is­ters pro­mot­ing it, and denies legally mar­ried cou­ples the rights that oth­ers have. (HT to Pam.)

These same peo­ple con­tinue to endorse Bush — they’re largely respon­si­ble for his 33% approval — believe that Bush was put in place by Jesus Christ, and don’t seem to give a damn that America’s pro­tec­tions for every­one, even accused crim­i­nals, are being destroyed.

These same peo­ple are home-​​schooling their spawn.

How much longer will it be before we’re beset by a gen­er­a­tion of minds totally unaware of the need for rig­or­ous exam­i­na­tion of an argu­ment — as opposed to accept­ing it on the basis of descent from author­ity — minds that will be highly fer­tile grounds for memetic infec­tions such as a flat Earth or ter­ra­cen­tric universe?

There is no sense of shame in fanat­ics. They insist they have a right to hold their views. I say that wher­ever their views con­flict with real­ity, they must expect to be ridiculed.

Loudly, repeat­edly and as often as necessary.

Until they are right­fully shamed into the respect­ful silence they should keep when in the pres­ence of their intel­lec­tual superiors.

There is far too much credit given to “gut feel­ings” and vague ideas of what’s “right” with­out a shred of sup­port­ing evi­dence. There is far too much tol­er­ance extended to stu­pid fanat­i­cal bab­ble. This tol­er­ance must cease.

Here, try this. Imagine you over­hear some­one blath­er­ing on about how evo­lu­tion is “only a the­ory”. Now imag­ine going up to that per­son and say­ing: You are unin­formed about the facts of the real world, and you are spread­ing lies about the fact of evo­lu­tion. You are not qual­i­fied to com­ment on this sub­ject.

Or imag­ine you hear some­one hold­ing forth about how fags don’t deserve to get mar­ried, shouldn’t adopt, etc. Imagine going up to that per­son and say­ing: You are a bigot, your views are out of touch with the ideals of an enlight­ened, just and fair soci­ety, and you should be ashamed of yourself.

Feels good, doesn’t it?

This is what we need on a national level. The igno­rant, stu­pid and big­oted need to be told that they are igno­rant, stu­pid and big­oted; they need to be chas­tised. Their pride in own­er­ship of their igno­rance, stu­pid­ity and big­otry must be taken from them.

These peo­ple are not the salt of the earth. They are the bane of civilization.

If the igno­rant, stu­pid and big­oted are allowed to con­tinue hav­ing their way, this nation is doomed.

Tolerance Can Only Go So Far

There is a sen­si­ble limit past which tol­er­ance doesn’t apply. While I’ll hap­pily grant the right of a per­son to be Muslim, to prac­tice Islam in a mosque and at home, and to instill Muslim ideals in his chil­dren, I draw the line when the reli­gion strays into fanati­cism, as in the case of Muslim cab­bies who refuse to accept fares car­ry­ing wine; or fares who are trans­gen­dered; or fares who have assis­tance dogs.

This is another form of big­otry, and it is rooted in a fanat­i­cal devo­tion to a stu­pid super­sti­tion. Allowing this sort of idiocy to con­tinue is not tol­er­ance — it is bow­ing to the tyranny of the igno­rant, rolling over for the false notion that any reli­gious belief should be respected.

What if there were a reli­gion that taught, South Park–style, that immor­tal­ity was attain­able by adults hav­ing sex with chil­dren?*** Would we be forced to accept its legit­i­macy, because it’s a reli­gion? Would we con­tinue to hold the view that we should extend tol­er­ance to these deeply-​​held reli­gious beliefs, respect­ing the practitioners?

Or would we insted vil­ify and con­demn the reli­gion as being a silly cult, its prac­ti­tion­ers at best deluded; at worst, crim­i­nals, rapists and perverts?

The dif­fer­ence, one might argue, is one of harm — after all, a Muslim who’s afraid of being con­t­a­m­i­nated by the pres­ence of an “unclean” dog in his cab is merely behav­ing fool­ishly; a man who rapes a child is sick and should be locked away and treated for seri­ous men­tal problems.

I don’t think so. The dif­fer­ence, to me, is one of degree. It’s a ques­tion of how much fool­ish­ness is too much, how far we’re will­ing to let igno­rance invade our world in the name of accept­ing oth­ers’ beliefs.

As soon as some dimwit, asi­nine super­sti­tion begins hav­ing an adverse effect on the lives of oth­ers, it’s time for that dimwit, asi­nine super­sti­tion to be quashed. Keep it at home, keep it in the tem­ple, but don’t carry it with you into the real world.

The cor­rect response to cab­bies refus­ing fares because of fanat­i­cal stu­pid­ity is to fire the morons. Not on reli­gious grounds, but on busi­ness ones: Cabbies exist to give cab rides. A cab­bie refus­ing to do so is sim­ply not doing his job. So out the door with him.

The cor­rect reponse to fanat­ics is to show them that this is the real world, and their super­sti­tions have no place here, and will not be respected — or more accu­rately, they will be respected to the degree that they are respectable.

It Starts at the Top

The most pub­lic idiot in the US today is George W. Bush. The man is stu­pid; he has no sense of true com­pas­sion for oth­ers; he does not acknowl­edge the legit­i­macy in oth­ers of their right to exist. His bul­ly­ing, thought­less traits are bol­stered by his stu­pid super­sti­tious beliefs, and those stu­pid super­sti­tious beliefs have led him to define an ill-​​conceived war in reli­gious terms.

I can’t think of more com­pelling evi­dence for indict­ment of fanati­cism in general.

Worse, though, there’s a dual sense of “He’s still the President” cou­pled to “Well, those are his beliefs and we should respect them” that seems to keep every­one who has access to this idiot from telling him, out­right, that he couldn’t pos­si­bly be more wrong if he tried.

He keeps get­ting soft­balls from the press and is treated as though he’s a lov­able Forrest Gump-​​style retard when in fact he is respon­si­ble for killing thou­sands of US troops and hun­dreds of thou­sands of Iraqi and Afghanistani civilians.

Stupid peo­ple should never, ever be placed in posi­tions of power — even if other stu­pid peo­ple think it’s a good idea. I’m not sug­gest­ing dis­en­fran­chise­ment, because it’s not nec­es­sary. There are more smart peo­ple than stu­pid ones in the US — at least right now — so all that really needs to hap­pen is for the smart peo­ple to vote in greater num­bers than the stu­pid ones.

What’s most dis­tress­ing is the sense of enti­tle­ment that these stu­pid peo­ple have. Those most pos­sessed of a sense of supe­ri­or­ity, cer­tainty and cor­rect­ness are the ones least qual­i­fied to hold that sense. Stupid peo­ple remain stu­pid — and remain empow­ered — because they essen­tially bully every­one into hav­ing their way.

Enough is enough.

Religion and Stupidity Feed Off Each Other

You don’t have to be stu­pid the believe in a sky daddy, vir­gin preg­nancy, res­ur­rec­tion or any­thing else; those sorts of silly ideas can exist in the minds of oth­er­wise fully ratio­nal and sen­si­ble people.

However, being stu­pid cer­tainly does help.

And it’s usu­ally the most vocal reli­gious prac­ti­tion­ers who are the least informed about the real world, who are the most proud of their back­ward ideas, par­tially because they believe their reli­gion demands of them a cer­tain “unworld­li­ness”. Thus it makes sense to them to reject most of the find­ings of sci­ence as being “lies” prop­a­gated by “Satan” — except, of course, for the sci­en­tific advances that help them in their cause, or the advances that make their lives eas­ier, or even save their lives. (That many of these advances are called “mir­a­cles” is more proof of stu­pid­ity on their part.)

Religion is Terrorism

What none of these peo­ple grasp is that the find­ings we have about the world are not up for ref­er­en­dum. It does not mat­ter what my opin­ion is on grav­ity; it’s a fact, it exists, and denial of it is stu­pid. The same is true of the age of this planet, of evo­lu­tion, of the vast­ness and age of the uni­verse, and all the other facts we’ve come across that so ter­rify the fanatics.

And in order to han­dle their own fear, they attempt to bully and frighten the oth­ers around them. This is noth­ing short of emo­tional ter­ror­ism, and it is rep­re­hen­si­ble. If your religion’s ratio­nale is so shitty that the only way you can drum up sup­port for it is by scar­ing peo­ple, maybe you need to find another reli­gion — or bet­ter still, just shut the hell up.

But fear is all they have, because in a fair fight of ideas based in facts, reli­gion must lose to a sec­u­lar, athe­ist, science-​​based world view every time.

It’s time to remind the fanat­ics of this truth.

Fight the real ter­ror­ists; put an end to the real ter­ror­ism in our midst. When you see or hear a fanatic behav­ing with idiocy, shame that per­son mer­ci­lessly and relent­lessly until he crawls away into the hole from which he came.

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* So were Battlestar: Galactica and Doctor Who, both of which have received sig­nif­i­cant — and I think wor­thy — facelifts

** It damn sure ain’t six thou­sand and some years.

*** Catholicism doesn’t count.