joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)

"My response is that if you think something like this is a minor difference of opinion – that we can differ on this point, and yet our beliefs can still be 99% similar – then you haven’t understood me at all."

This is the basic disconnect between liberals willing to ban, block, or otherwise cut out someone for a "difference of opinion" and conservatives who get offended at the idea that having a "difference if opinion" is a blockable offense.

It's not that we agree on 99% of everything except this one thing. It's that the *weight* of this one thing is way more than 1%, and that the foundations of thought and philosophy that lead us down our respective roads to our "difference of opinion" are actually radically different, to enable us to have reached this "difference of opinion" in the first place.

If you think we agree on a lot except this one little thing like human rights and equality, then you really don't understand me at all.

From the comments of my FB feed, where I originally posted this link, someone suggested that it was sort of like a meme of Michael Shermer saying "In the past 10,000 years, humans have devised roughly 100,000 religions based on roughly 2,500 gods.  So the only difference between myself and the believers is that I am sceptical of 2,500 gods whereas they are sceptical of 2,499 gods.  We are only one god away from total agreement."

So I responded, "Kinda, yeah. Atheists feel that one-god-difference is a big difference, big enough to create a movement out of it. I feel that human rights is a big difference, big enough to make a fuss over it."  We have "singular" differences of opinion big enough to cause huge rifts all the time.  Because it's not a simple arithmetic problem where the difference is 1.  It's a variable algebra problem, where the difference is 1x, and the value of x can be small or it can be so huge as to approach infinitesimal, and where x is influenced by the value of other variables in the equation.  X doesn't live alone, isolated from the other integers.  As someone else said somewhere, it's not like a difference of opinion on whether or not pistachio ice cream is a tasty dessert.  Sometimes it's a difference of "opinion" on whether or not other people are even human beings.  Skeptics and atheists disagree with believers over "1%" all the time, and we often feel it's important enough to argue about, block, try to change their minds, or write scathing screeds on the internet about constantly.

It's just when straight white cis-male atheists & skeptics are on the receiving end of the weight of one of their value judgements being questioned that suddenly they're all "why can't we just get along?  It's just a single difference of opinion when we agree on everything else!"

As it happens, I think this dismissive, minimizing attitude is exactly the problem. When it comes to sexism in the atheist community, the biggest problem isn’t the relatively small (but noisy and persistent) mob of screeching trolls and harassers. The biggest problem is the much larger bloc of people who don’t engage in such behavior themselves, but are willing to tolerate it, and who think that whether a person is sexist should form at most a very small part of your opinion of them. It’s the people who believe that if a celebrity author or scientist is effective at promoting atheism, that’s all we ought to care about, not anything else they say or do. (You may notice the analogy with the way that moderate religion can protect and enable dangerous fundamentalism.)
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September 2017

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