We Are Fighting For Change, Not Exclusion

A stranger on the internet starts a conversation with you. Pretty soon, it is pretty clear that the person is spitting out creationist nonsense on the internet. Maybe something like this happens in real life. What do you do?

A typical response to this situation involves treating creationists as a trolls, as non-humans, as entities incapable of any kind of thought, much less rational thought. The temptation is almost irresistible. After all, how could an educated, functioning member of society believe such complete bullshit? Nothing, nothing will ever change their mind. They can never be one of us.

But reality is much different than what we assume. I have talked to creationists, in real life and online. I have talked to them as if they were people–people capable of thinking, learning new things, and weighing evidence. And yes, people have changed their minds.

That’s because no person is a creationist without a reason. It may not be a good reason, but good reasons aren’t always available to us. Not everyone has taken a solid course in biology. Not everyone comes from a culture or a community that values science. Not everyone has had that great teacher, or that inspirational freethinking philosopher in their life. And many, many people are socially and intellectually pressured by religion into false beliefs from childhood, through no fault of their own. All of this does not make creationists less human.

Likewise, no person is a racist, sexist, bigot, supremacist, dogmatist, or zealot without some reason. Not good reasons, not excusable reasons, but reasons nonetheless. And they’re all still human, dammit.

So our enemies, if I can them that, aren’t just trolls. They aren’t just the other. They’re people. And they often don’t have the tools or the knowledge to adequately hold rational, moral positions on many important issues.

So we fight. We scream. We keep fighting some more. And we do it because we don’t just want things to change. We want people to change, and we recognize that they can change.

The goal of this movement is not to draw dividing lines. We may have to draw dividing lines, but lines are not ends in themselves. We have to start recognizing people, and yes, it’s so hard. I fail at this all the time, getting frustrated at people on Facebook and discussion forums, and resorting to a dismissive, you-will-never-change, I-want-to-kick-you-to-another-planet kind of attitude. Yes, sometimes I hate showing empathy for people who I feel don’t deserve it.

The rewards in the long-run, however, can be inspiring.

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Posted on September 9, 2012, in Humanism and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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