I find it interesting how often it is the case in criticism of religion that people allow the subject to get derailed onto a side issue - usually a side issue of the merits of how nice one should be.
Yesterday, I posted a claim that "Some frippen IDiots are going to get a lot of good people maimed and killed."
It's about a group of people who see political advantage into tying the nonsense that they believe into another piece of nonsense - denial of global warming. Both of them, I assert, demonstrate the same intellectual integrity as holocaust denial.
Others have launched a criticism of religion, which ends up triggering a huge international debate - about how nice atheists should be to those whose views they disagree with.
It's a real magician's trick. The magician deflects the attention of the person in the audience, with some gesture or piece of stagecraft, while his other hand does the work.
Our attention gets deflected into a debate over how nice one should be to those who hold religious believes, or the 'lameness' of calling a group of people IDiots, and there the debate over the claim that some of these IDiots are going to get a lot of good people maimed and killed.
What is it?
Is it that a decision to link one's own idiocy to another piece of idiocy that has real-world life and death, life and limb consequences isn't a subject that is worth debating? The question of whether 'namecalling' is 'lame' more socially useful than whether one is going to purse a public policy that could potentially lead to significant harm to millions - and potentially destroy whole cities?
If we must turn this into a debate about name-calling; if whether people live and die is of lesser concern than such an act, I would note that desire utilitarianism (desirism) has an honored place for name-calling.
Desire utilitarianism is concerned with evaluating desires, then promoting malleable desires that tend to fulfill other desires, while inhibiting those desires that tend to thwart other desires. We use social tools to promote some malleable desires and inhibit others. The tool we use to promote and strengthen good desires is praise, and the tool we use to inhibit and weaken bad desires is condemnation.
Namecalling is a form of condemnation. It attaches a flag to a particular type of person and then says to the world, "Do not be that type of person. Adopt an aversion to being that type of person such that you will not be inclined to behave as he does."
In this case, the type of person that I wish to condemn - and thus inhibit people from becoming - is the IDiot who makes nonsense claims about the origin of life that are so absolutely without intellectual merit that any morally responsible person - any person with desires that tend to fulfill the desires of others - would think of uttering.
Instead of name-calling, I should "engage" their arguments?
You engage the arguments of somebody who has enough moral integrity to actually engage in a meaningful discussion of the issue. When you are dealing with people who make claims that are so far beyond reason as one finds among the IDiots, you already know that you are dealing with somebody utterly lacking in intellectual integrity.
When you find somebody like that, you should recognize that you are not dealing with an issue of bad beliefs as much as with an issue of bad desires - as a lack of moral character.
Deficiencies in desire - in moral character - are not subject to reason. We can reason ABOUT them. We can use reason to determine what are and what are not defects in character. But we cannot use reason to turn an evil person into a good person, or to prevent a person from becoming evil. That job requires a different set of tools. That job requires praise and condemnation.
The commandment, "Thou shalt not condemn another human being" is equivalent to saying, "Thou shalt utterly disarm yourself in the quest of promoting those desires that tend to fulfill other desires, and inhibiting those desires that tend to thwart other desires."
Or, in other words, "Thou shalt give evil free reign to grow and prosper regardless of the harms that may come from it."
When I called these people IDiots, I meant to convey a specific idea. I meant to identify them as people who are so lacking in intellectual integrity that good people would condemn them. Good people note the degree to which these people shun political debate and sees that it is a threat to the health, wealth, well-being, and even the lives of a great many people, and good people condemn them for it.
Now, having said this, name-calling - like fining them, inprisoning them, or even executing them, is something that should not be done lightly. The accused have a right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. The burden of proof is on those who condemn - whether they condemn through legal penalties or simply through social acts such as this one. In many cases, name-calling is far worse than lame, it displays a poor moral quality itself - in the same way that imprisoning somebody for 10 years is far worse than lame.
These people are engaging in a form of behavior that threatens to kill and maim a great many people - as well as inflict other harms on them. Because they are using speech, they have a right to an immunity to violence in response to what they say. However, they do not have a right to immunity from criticism - not only a criticism of their beliefs, but a criticism for a moral character that allows them to avoid intellectually serious and responsible discussion.
To give these people immunity from condemnation as well as their rightful immunity from violence, is to morally sanction their behavior, and to be a co-contributor to the maiming and killing that comes from that type of behavior.