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.
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.
* 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.