October 3, 2011

Empathy For Believers Does Not Exclude Mockery

South Park Eric CartmanIn a recent post, I wrote about how our ability to empathize with Christians could be an important tool in reaching them. Based on some of the reactions I have received to this post, I want to clarify that this was not a "don't be a dick" plea. I do think that it is important for atheists to understand where Christians are coming from and connect emotionally with the confusion and fear that often drives their belief system. However, this does not mean that I'd place the belief system above a good mocking.

I was once a Christian, and many of the people I care about today still cling to Christianity. I do not want to simply disown them. And one of the ways I can relate to them positively is by empathizing with their struggles. I can see them as people who are not yet ready to jettison the religious delusion in which they were indoctrinated.

At the same time, religious belief systems deserve mockery. It is precisely because the rest of society treats them with kid gloves that we should feel perfectly free to mock them. Why? Because treating them with kid gloves has not accomplished much of anything. Mockery, at least in certain circumstances, can be quite effective. Empathizing with someone does not mean that absurd beliefs should not be mocked.