The Not Quite Adventures of a Professional Archaeologist and Aspiring Curmudgeon

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Frustration and Acceptance With Irrationality

Do you ever have the urge to point someone towards reality, but realize that it is pointless?

I was in the grocery store yesterday. In the dairy aisle I noticed a fellow, probably in his late teens or early twenties, wearing a red shirt with the words “Arrest Me” in large print, and then something written below in small print. I couldn’t make out what it said, and I couldn’t get close enough to read it without appearing to be the rather nosy person that I am.

A few minutes later, I was at the front, buying my groceries, and the fellow got into line behind me. I turned around, and saw that the complete text of his shirt was “Arrest Me – I prayed in school today.” Ahhh, yes. I hadn’t seen one of these shirts for a little while, but I had seen them before.

There is a small, but very vocal, minority of Christians who believe that the rest of the world is quite literally out to get them. They believe that everything that doesn’t go exactly their way is a form of persecution rather than just a sign that our society is owned by everyone, that everyone has equal rights and privileges, and not just their particular sect. In this particular case, these folks have taken the fact that public schools, as government institutions, are not allowed to force students to pray, and have extrapolated from this that students praying on their own is illegal.

Of course, this is nonsense. While there have been a few isolated incidents of over-zealous administrators wrongly punishing students for religious expression, these events have been newsworthy because of their rarity. If they were as common as some would have you believe then there would be no point in putting them on the news.

And perhaps this guy in the grocery store would have accepted that had it been pointed out to him. However, I have learned through long experience that when someone takes a position that is so at odds with reality, it’s typically completely pointless to try to talk them out of it. As the saying goes – you can’t reason someone out of a position that they didn’t reason themselves into. This annoys me, the truth of the matter is so fucking obvious to anyone who bothers to actually look rather than just play the “I’m so persecuted” card that I find it difficult to accept that people don’t see it.

The same is true for young-Earth creationists, the anti-medicine brigade, hardened political partisans, and anyone else who holds hard and fast to a particular questionable set of propositions. And yet, people don’t see that reality doesn't line up with their particular presuppositions, most of these people can’t be made to see it, and I have to get used to that fact regardless of how much it may irk me.

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