Is ridicule an acceptable strategy in fighting ignorance?

The particular “ignorance” in this case is globally unresolved (although some countries, like France, Japan and Sweden are making huge progress). It’s the belief in the supernatural.

I’m on the board of the Humanist organisation and we’re split on the issue of wether ridicule is a good strategy or not. The aim of the organisation is to promote a secular humanist world view, mainly targetting religion and superstition.

More aggressive members, such as myself, think that using comedy, irony and other forms of socially acceptable ridicule is a powerful and valid strategy. Religion is culturally “un cool” and we believe that by making religious views socially unattractive it will help reduce the already low recruitment rates of different religious institutions and win arguments effectively.

More moderate (ethical?) members belive that this strategy is hurtful to the long term strategic goals of the organisations, or simply think it is morally wrong. Who has the better case?

I think it’s acceptable, but I can see circumstances where it might not be effective.

Ridiculing people, practices, or ideas that are “uncool” can indeed make them seem even less acceptable, but this doesn’t prove that the target of the ridicule may not be right, true, or valid. Ridicule is a weapon that can as easily be used in fighting for ignorance as against it.

Using ridicule can be an effective strategy in showing what is inherently ridiculous in the positions you oppose, but it’s extremely easy to fall into Strawman or Broad Brush fallacies when you do so.

I’d certainly vote against using ridicule against someone who wants to engage you in reasonable discussion or rational debate: it makes you look like a dick or a bully or someone who doesn’t really have a leg to stand on.

I’m not sure “acceptable” is a really good term here. Ridicule is unacceptable sort of by definition; the target of ridicule will almost invariably find it unacceptable while the persons doing the ridiculing think it’s fine. You are selecting a strategy that is designed to be unacceptable, and then asking us if it’s acceptable.

I think a more interesting question is whether or not it will work. It won’t.

I will heartily agree that bullying is wrong, but that’s not the sort of ridicule I am talking about. A good (actually stunning) example of what I mean would be Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

Ridicule is the only way to get people to stop taking emotional positions. They follow religions because it feels good, not because it makes sense. The only way to stamp it out is to make it feel bad. They don’t have to like me, they just have to think I’m right. And ridicule is an excellent way to do that.

You’d have to be a complete imbecile, devoid of any intellectual capacity or honesty, and lacking any debate skills at all to engage in ridicule. I laugh at the idea!

Then you do not mean ridicule.

If you would examine the subjects Steward and Colbert attack, and the means they use, you will see what is wrong with your approach.

What are you talking about? Both employ ridicule frequently.

Agreed. To the extent that ridicule works, it works for the wrong reasons. It doesn’t logically prove the correctness of a position

Uh, the OP is talking about a plan to reduce the acceptance of religion. If the people in question were terribly concerned with logical correctness, they wouldn’t get into religion in the first place, no?

Ridicule does not disprove the validity of religion. You are right that religious people don’t rely on logic; they rely on faith. If you are coming from an atheist point of view, then logic must trump, and ridicule does not fulfill that obligation.

Good example of the sort of ridicule that I agree would classify as bullying rather than comedy.

You can prove a point logically with or without comedy/ridicule, I don’t see how those to are mutually exclusive.

It is quite possible that I don’t mean ridicule, I only use the word in the sense that I understand it, english not being my first language makes it likely that I use it the wrong way. Perhaps we could just exchange it with comedy.

Stewart and Colbert is actually what I would aspire for, but since I am not a world class comedian I’m fairly sure I’m not ending up there. It is however not possible for you to know whether my approach is right or wrong, since you have almost no information to go on except one word, which I may have used poorly.

Ridicule will rarely convince its target, but if there are third parties who are not as invested in an idea/belief as the target, ridicule can be effective in convincing THEM. Generally the farther from the mainstream the idea/beliefs cited are, the more likely ridicule is to be effective, regardless of the logic or correctness of the beliefs. Ridicule of religion would be a hard line to follow here in the Deep South, for example, even though the place is RIPE for ridicule by an objective standard.

Did you channel Steve Jobs to develop this strategy?

If you want to convince people to reject religion because it’s illogical and counter to reason, use logic and reason as your tools of “conversion”. Simply convincing people it’s “in” to pooh-pooh such wacky beliefs just so you’ve got the numbers to shout down your opposition is the way God would do it, and exactly what you’re presumably supposed to be against.

Yep, you’d just be replacing one religion with another.

Ridicule isn’t so good as a simple substitute for logic and reason, but it’s a perfectly good tool to augment logic and reason. Stewart and Colbert don’t simply go “Ha ha FOX is stupid,” they go “FOX is claiming X, when in fact it’s Y. Man, that’s stupid.” It’s the mortar to reason’s bricks.

If you are dealing with sheep then yes ridicule can be effective as they certainly see no way to survive without the flock. The need to fit in is very important to humans. Hopefully it will not take long for intelligent people to see through this and it will backfire on you. Science simply does not know enough to state their is no God. Science should do just what science does best, deal with facts and let the facts speak for themselves without adding anything into the mix. But yes your methods will work, will they prevail, I certainly hope not but they may.

Using ridicule as you propose is likely to piss off your opposition, and further harden resistance to your ideas.

It can be quite effective if done right.

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