Stop pushing our buttons!
While replying to a couple of theists in the comments to Mano Singham's new post, Introducing the 'Unapologetic Atheist', I devised this little story which I thought I'd share with y'all here at the RRS:
Here's a little parable:
At the beginning of a class, the children were all given laptops. Many of the children belonged to a strange sect, and they loudly declared, "Whatever you do, don't press the buttons J, E, S, or U. Those are OUR buttons, and we will be terribly offended if you press them."
The few in the class who didn't belong to the sect just wanted everyone to get along. They thought, "One day, maybe they won't be so uptight, and we'll be able to use those buttons again. After all, we don't think there's anything special about those particular buttons, so we see no reason why we shouldn't press them. We'll wait until they loosen up." So, they tried very hard to do their work without pressing J, E, S, or U. It sometimes seemed like a useless burden, but the class seemed to be getting along fine, so on it went.
Occasionally, one of the kids would forget the custom and write the word 'just'. Boy what an uproar! Sometimes, one of the more mischievous kids would slip in a silent J into a word, like Tijuana, and the non-sectarians would chuckle quietly. Sometimes the mischievous kid came back from recess crying with a bloody nose.
Then a new kid joined the class, and he loudly proclaimed, "My people have special letters too. You must not press M, O, H, A, E, or D, or we will be very angry."
The non-sectarians said, "Wait a minute. This is getting ridiculous. We put up with J, E, S, and U reluctantly, although many of us felt it was too much. But now we're supposed to 'respect' these other letters too? How are we supposed to write letters home to mom, without M or O?"
The sectarians and the new kid teamed up and said, "You can't use any of our letters! That would be intolerably rude and arrogant."
So one of the non-sectarian kids said to the other non-sectarians, "You know what? These are our laptops and our keyboards. As long as we don't do anything *actually* wrong, I don't see why *they* should get to dictate which letters we can use on our own keyboards. In fact, this whole idea of special letters is pretty silly. It seems to be a way of keeping us from talking about those sects, for I'm sure you noticed that those letters are suspiciously chosen to cover any criticism of their core doctrines. I would go so far as to say that we should positively *not* respect those letters. In fact, we might even go out of our way to use them, in order to point out the absurdity of their special letters, and the doctrines they protect."
A few of the non-sectarians were aghast. What would happen if people started pressing the forbidden letters? Such conflict should be avoided. They sat back in silence to see what would happen.
But some of the non-sectarians became enthusiastic about this new project. They started writing poems and stories, not only using the forbidden letters, but also poking holes at the doctrines of the sects.
Some of the stories and poems became very popular. The reaction was predictable, the sectarians and the new kid all denounced the stories as 'rude', 'arrogant', 'militant', 'shrill', and terribly 'insulting'.
But no one had actually been insulted. Only the forbidden letters had been used, and the doctrines of the two sects had been criticized. And the critiques weren't half bad either.
Eventually, the conflict-averse non-sectarians started to write stories criticizing the letter-using kids for the same 'rude', 'arrogant', 'militant', and 'insulting' behaviour. The sectarians and the new kid quickly joined this new round of counter-argument.
But by this time, the letter-using kids had realized that the game was up. The letters were not special in any way, and no one should be shunned for using them. They said, "Instead of complaining about our usage of those letters, why don't you actually address our critiques of your doctrines?"
The sectarians, with no response to the actual critiques, simply shouted "Stop pushing our buttons!" And they cried and ran home.
I love the idea of decoding all the anti-atheist bluster into what's *really* going on, laid out plain to see, in the cry, "Stop pushing our buttons!". We're pushing their buttons. They can't stand it. They've got nowhere to stand on firm ground. All they have left is a shout and a pout.
Check out the comments in that blog post. It's a good example of how to use the word 'unapologetic'. If you stick to it, they either back off, or back themselves in a corner of hypocrisy. I love it! Patience is the key.