douchebaggery

photo by Ken Fager

I’m sick of assholes. I’d be less colorful in my language, but I also don’t think being censored necessarily leads to a better life. Maybe I should add that to my list.

I’ve penned a few quick tips for how to stop being an idiot who makes life unpleasant for yourself and those around you. Most of this is specifically directed at the atheist/theist community. If it applies to you, you probably won’t think it does, but someone out there might be picturing your face or username right about now, so it pays to give a few of these a whirl just to say you tried. Heck, it might just help us become a better society, and wouldn’t that be just peachy?

[list type=”numlist”]

  1. Don’t be an asshole. Just in case specifics are too much for you, try this one as a catch-all.
  2. Want someone to listen to your opinions? Start by listening to theirs.
  3. Biting one-liners & zingers won’t change anyone’s views on gods or the supernatural. You need to get deeper.
  4. When you’re being a dick on the net, the only people who are hearing you are those who already agree with you. Do better.
  5. Don’t ever censor your ‘enemy.’ When we all have equal rights, the best argument should win.
  6. If you can make arguments about religion without resorting to cliches, quotes, or insults, you’re one step in the right direction.
  7. Yes, some beliefs are silly, but the people who believe them do so for serious reasons. Find out what those are, and you might discover the keys to reaching that person. You might also gain a friend.
  8. He/she may be rude, ignorant, or just an enormous bag of dicks, but you don’t need to be one in return no matter how tempting it may be.
  9. When you make a mistake, are caught in a fallacy, or otherwise fuck up, apologize and start over. It will go a long way to help communication and gain you some respect.
  10. Assume the persons with whom you debate have something to teach you. Be open to it, and they may become open to learning something from you in return.
  11. No small group or single person is representative of the whole. Making sweeping statements about others only degrades your position.
  12. You never know who is watching or listening. A seemingly insignificant point, fact, or insight you offer might help someone else in a great way.
  13. Stick to the facts. Scientific truths and reason are some of the most convincing tools for planting seeds of doubt in outsiders.
  14. Be kind and gentle. You won’t regret it, and you’ll gain much.

[/list]

I’d like to thank many of you who are my friends, confidants, and allies in this world. Without you, I’d be living a much douchier life. I might come off as a bit of a wanker sometimes, but just like many of you, I’m trying to be better. Thanks for helping!
Related Posts with Thumbnails

17 thoughts on “Godless Girl’s 14 Tips for a Less Douchey Life”

Sean · November 26, 2011 at 3:07 am

These are all great points. I’m an atheist with many devout Christian friends. They’re very dear to me, and I’d dare say the feeling is mutual. I won’t ‘convert’ everyone to my way of thinking (nor should I expect to), but keeping the dialogue alive is the most important thing to me. Douchiness and dick-baggery are excellent ways to stop a dialogue. Also, possibly my two new favorite abstract nouns.

Andrew Hall · November 26, 2011 at 6:48 am

I think #9 is tough to do (not for me, but I could be wrong on that!).

k77 · November 26, 2011 at 6:51 am

Oh sure, take all the fun out of life why don’t you?

Snarleyyow · November 26, 2011 at 8:22 am

Number 1 and 14 mean the same thing – and neither are present in your own rant.

When debating things outside of science with evangelicals – such as the afterlife or the existence of angels – how can number 13 be applied? Your often trying to explain the scientific method as a alternative to faith based perspectives. Quoting scientific facts to people who believe science is itself a secular religion / faith isn’t going to be very effective. And may fall foul of number 6.

I reckon your being number 4 and attempting number 5 with your holier than thou prescription of how everyone must think and behave.

Is this the best way to convince people of your opinion – condescension / rant? Probably not.

    Godless Girl · November 26, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    Perhaps not. I was having fun with the snarky tone in this list. I suppose it doesn’t come off as playful as I meant it.

    Andrew Hall · November 26, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    The scientific stance, per se is that one can’t say an assertion is true without evidence (real fact-based evidence). Seeing that the “angel hypothesis” doesn’t have rigorous evidence to support it, one can say that you can’t accept the assertion that angels exist.

Austin Cline · November 26, 2011 at 9:11 am

“He/she may be rude, ignorant, or just an enormous bag of dicks, but you don’t need to be one in return no matter how tempting it may be.”

You mean, like labeling them douchebag, asshole, and dick?

Everything you’re condemning, you’re doing. You’re condemning rude insults being directed at religious beliefs; you’re directing rude insults at people you think have been rude (“too rude”?).

Clearly, it’s OK to use rude insults in certain circumstances. The only question is when and in what circumstances. You think it’s OK to use them in these particular circumstances. You don’t think it’s OK to use them in other circumstances. This is entirely reasonable; the problem is, you’re trying to condemn rude insults as a whole rather than in very particular, specific situations.

And really, it’s only the latter that will have any chance of being reasonable. Everyone agrees that there are circumstances where rude insults are wrong and circumstances where they are justified, but there’s lots of disagreement of where the lines are drawn. Thus any argument against them will have to be very particular and very specific. But even when you do this, and successfully make a very sound, reasonable, argument, some will disagree – and “do so for serious reasons.” So what will you do, insult them for disagreeing with you?

And one more thing…

“Stick to the facts. Scientific truths and reason are some of the most convincing tools for planting seeds of doubt in outsiders.”

Are they? Is this a “fact”? Hey, I like scientific reasoning as much as anyone, but I haven’t seen a single scientific study demonstrating that people are more likely to change their minds after being presented with scientific facts which contradict some belief than after being presented with highly emotional arguments, story-based arguments, visual propaganda, satirical propaganda, etc. I don’t even know if it’s been studied.

I have, however, seen lots of examples of people just ignoring dry scientific facts that contradict their beliefs while personal stories and appeals to emotion begin to sway them. Consider how much progress has been made in gay rights through people coming out to friends and family – which is to say, confronting them personally with a gay person who is good and trustworthy rather than simply quoting stats that gays aren’t any worse than the average person.

Unless and until you have scientific evidence that scientific facts do a superior job at convincing people to change their minds, you can’t declare that a “fact”. It just looks like you’re taking something you personally prefer and holding it up as a model which everyone else should follow – just because you find it better, not because you have verifiable proof that it’s better.

And until you have scientific evidence that this approach produces superior results, you can’t effectively criticize those who mix in other approaches, tactics, and methods (like satire, sarcasm, rudeness, insults) alongside science. Maybe they find more success with a mix of elements than with a one-size-fits-all approach to every situation. Otherwise, you’re admitting that using insults and non-scientific arguments is justified after all. 🙂

    Godless Girl · November 26, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    I wasn’t specific in this list because, well, I didn’t consider that necessary. It was a snarky, fun list, and I suppose you didn’t read it as such. As for “trying to condemn rude insults as a whole rather than in very particular, specific situations,” isn’t it up to each person to make the best decision they can about what behavior is appropriate at the time? Far be it from me to lay down specific lines for specific situations when I can’t predict the context or purpose of every situation out there. Perhaps I didn’t follow your critique perfectly there.

    It seems a few people are misunderstanding point #13. That’s okay, as I may not have phrased it well enough to explain my thought process. Here’s what I meant:
    A friend of mine were discussing what moments and situations inspired us to start considering the atheistic point of view instead of being so entrenched in the Christian mindset. We both revealed that some of the most influential moments were when we heard a scientific argument about why “X” or “Y” was not valid. We also were tipped over into critical thinking when we heard a logical explanation/walkthrough that debunked the apologetics we were so used to. What convinced us to start doubting and considering other ideas was the simple, clear communication of reason and fact.
    No, I can’t point you to a study or a “proof” that this always works; I didn’t phrase the point claiming I did. And no, this tactic doesn’t always influence people to think differently, but is it useful and worthwhile, and it teaches, which does no one any harm.

      Austin Cline · November 26, 2011 at 7:50 pm

      “…isn’t it up to each person to make the best decision they can about what behavior is appropriate at the time?”

      Of course, but you’re making blanket condemnations above and that’s not consistent with “everyone has to make a personal decision about whether this approach is worth using in any particular situation they encounter.”

      Either you should never use insults, or you should make the best decision you can as to when insults are worth using. Your entire article is promoting the first, not the second.

      “What convinced us to start doubting and considering other ideas was the simple, clear communication of reason and fact.”

      I’m sure that lots of people can say the same. But I’m also sure that lots of people can’t. You’ve surely seen lots and lots of people be presented with cold scientific reason and facts and then… not budge. Indeed, which have you seen more of: people ignoring scientific facts or people changing their minds because of scientific facts?

      There are plenty of cases where people are moved to adopt an idea or policy based on someone else’s personal story. Do some reading on the effectiveness of storytelling as a communication and persuasion tool and the evolutionary reasons why humans respond strongly to personal stories – much more strongly than to cold, impersonal facts (and insults, by the way).

      I honestly think that if scientific research were done, it would be found that appeals to emotion and using stories are more successful at convincing people to change their minds than a list of scientific results and facts. I might be wrong, but that’s what everything I’ve read points me towards.

      “No, I can’t point you to a study or a “proof” that this always works; I didn’t phrase the point claiming I did.”

      No, you didn’t. But if it’s not a fact that that always works, then you can’t insist that people always stick to that tactic, can you? Otherwise, you’re promoting a position based not on fact, but personal anecdote and… faith. You seem to have faith in this tactic because you felt it work in your own life and have seen it work in others’ lives. Sound familiar?

      “and it teaches, which does no one any harm.”

      It only teaches if people are listening and paying attention. There is nothing inherent in “scientific facts” which necessitates “teaching.” People are quite good at ignoring facts when they are inconvenient.

      Sometimes you simply have to get their attention before facts will even enter their consciousness. Some people are best reached through positive attention-getting. Others are best reached through negative attention-getting. You probably won’t know which is which in advance, either.

      There’s no one simple recipe that will always work in every case. There are lots of situations where presenting the facts will get you nowhere. There are cases where sarcasm, satire, derision, mockery, and even insults will accomplish something, even if it’s just the psychological equivalent of throwing cold water in someone’s face.

      And that’s why I reject the blanket condemnations above. What’s more important, though, and the reason why I commented is that I think it’s hypocritical for you to be so insulting when telling people to stop being so insulting.

      If rude insults are inherently bad, then you’re contradicting yourself by using them. If they aren’t inherently bad and are justified sometimes, then you contradict the blanket condemnations. In either case, you demonstrate by your own example that even you don’t accept the position you are advocating.

ctcss · November 26, 2011 at 10:38 am

Thanks for the heartfelt and interesting list.

5 “Don’t ever censor your ‘enemy.’ When we all have equal rights, the best argument should win.”

Not censoring is a very good and valuable point. However, it would be also be a good idea for one to realize that the only way that an argument will ultimately “win” is if it reflects the absolute truth. The “best” idea that exists right now may simply be the best idea in lieu of facts that are not yet known or understood. As humans, we are all basically arguing from our admitted ignorance and limited understanding and perception of reality. Outside of protesting actions that are illegal, cruel, or uncaring, sometimes it is best to “agree to disagree” with others.

13 “Stick to the facts. Scientific truths and reason are some of the most convincing tools for planting seeds of doubt in outsiders.”

My problem with this is the ending which betrays an obvious evangelical standpoint. Wouldn’t it be more gracious, loving, and kind to say something like “Scientific truths and reason are often tools that can help another person understand a a subject matter better”, which is much more positive and helpful kind of thought.

I am of the opinion that it is better to truly care about the other person’s well being than to be seeking to somehow “attack” them or undermine them, no matter how subtly or with whatever “good intent”. As a believer myself, I have not appreciated other believer’s use of Biblical “facts” to corner me. I do not like people who use the Bible as a weapon. Likewise, I would not want to be “targeted” by anyone with an agenda against me. It’s the motive that matters. “That which is hateful to you, do not do to another.”

I much prefer point 10 “Assume the persons with whom you debate have something to teach you. Be open to it, and they may become open to learning something from you in return.” If someone can sincerely adopt this with an attitude of goodwill, they would have the makings of a good friend. And perhaps the word “debate” should be replaced with “discuss”. Do humans really need more reasons to argue? Wouldn’t it be more helpful to thoughtfully ponder life’s trickier and perplexing questions than to try “win”?

    Austin Cline · November 26, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    “My problem with this is the ending which betrays an obvious evangelical standpoint. ”

    Why do you treat that as a negative? You’re employing an evangelical standpoint right here by trying to argue for a particular point of view – i.e., a different wording for #13. If it’s OK for you to try to change someone’s mind on this point, why the negative treatment of people trying to change another person’s mind on some other point?

    “I am of the opinion that it is better to truly care about the other person’s well being than to be seeking to somehow “attack” them or undermine them, no matter how subtly or with whatever “good intent”.”

    For any minority, merely asserting their existence and equal rights, dignity, and citizenship will be treated as an attack by some in the majority. The only way to avoid attacks entirely would be to sit down, shut up, and possibly express shame at being a minority.

    And that’s not an option.

    So a blanket condemnation on “attacks” just doesn’t get us anywhere.

    “Likewise, I would not want to be “targeted” by anyone with an agenda against me.”

    An agenda against you, or an agenda against some ideology, idea, position, etc.? That’s the problem: some people take any critique, however mild, as a personal attack – even when the critique is directed an idea rather than at a person.

    Ultimately, feeling “attacked” or “targeted” is your responsibility, not the speaker’s. Non one can insult you without your permission. Your reaction to what someone says is about you, not about what they say.

    “Do humans really need more reasons to argue?”

    I don’t know, you tell me – you’re the one presenting arguments here for your points while also disparaging the idea of arguments and advocacy.

      ctcss · November 27, 2011 at 12:14 am

      As I understand things, the difference between evangelizing and simply trying to make a point is that an evangelist actually thinks they are totally correct, thus their need to spread the message. If you will note my wording, I am simply trying to ask a question as to whether or not the wording of 13 could be improved. What she wrote struck me as being in the mode of evangelism. If evangelism is distasteful to non-believers (and I certainly didn’t like it when I was evangelized by Christians who thought my understanding of Christianity was incorrect), then why should non-believers ever want to evangelize others in return?

      Having different opinions and even voicing those opinions is fine. The problem occurs when people think that their opinion is “truth” and try to deliberately undermine other people’s beliefs without being asked.

      The way Godless Girl phrased 13 struck me as being evangelical in nature. She apparently realized the confusion it caused and has since tried to address it.

k77 · November 26, 2011 at 2:07 pm

To expand on my earlier comment:

Okay, I’ll lay down and very politely ask them to wipe their feet before walking all over me.

Michelle Wolf · November 27, 2011 at 6:30 am

I loved the list and totally understood the tone and intention. I thought it had some excellent general advice we should all keep in mind, but also understood that it was not your intent to create a speech for the ages to be quoted alongside the Gettysburg Address or frankly, anything Confucius allegedly said.

OK, that said… what the hell is with some of these comments? Seriously, the amount of indignant whining leveled at a clever, fun and playful post is truly very laughable. Maybe ‘Nitpicky Ned’ should start his own blog wherein he agonizes, word by word, over someone else’s original ideas and serves as a real life example of why this list was inspired in the first place.

Bud · November 27, 2011 at 7:45 am

I enjoyed reading your list, and I don’t think the snarky and fun tones are difficult to see. Seems to me that some of your readers are being hypercritical of your list instead of appreciating the value of it. And no, it’s not the case that “everything you’re condemning, you’re doing.” That might be the most surprising comment I read. Being kind and gentle, or not being rude, a dick or an asshole doesn’t mean one can never be sarcastic, or cheeky, or even a little abrasive. The best example of this I can think of is Christopher Hitchens. He is one of the classiest guys I’ve ever seen, yet employs sarcasm, biting wit and more than his share of abrasiveness. Still, he displays such a decorum of respect and dignity whenever he speaks.

So keep it up. You’re in good company.

VAE · November 27, 2011 at 11:21 pm

I.. don’t like this much, if at all.
It’s.. exactly the way to end up for mild pushover atheists that the loud and usually ignorant will just overshout. I liked the bit about sticking to the science, either way though… we are most likely correct, so let them hear it.
Stand by your truth, correct the ignorant, and if someone’s being a quack or an utter idiot, ridicule is a good way to go.
Actually, that’s another point. This article underestimates the sheer persuading power that ridiculing opposing views has, even if those views aren’t proven false. It’s .. like conditioning.. the humorous message will come to mind first ,and make anyone who tries pushing something it addresses look ridiculous, and have to work real hard at maintaining his position.

TRA · December 10, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Great, I like this group of tips. It goes along with the idea, about beliefs/not having a religion, that the two creators of South Park, the TV show, had.

I’ll paraphrase them: If I am a religious guy, or agnostic, or atheist, or someone similar to those three, it’s not my duty to push someone out of their group, and into mine.

My view- if somebody disagrees with my views and respects them, I’ll either: 1) remember not to talk to them about my views on religion/not having a religion and still be friends with them or 2) if they can’t accept my views, I’ll just walk away from them, and not see them or contact them anymore.

One point that the South Park creators have is: Ok, I am an atheist, or an agnostic or a religious guy, and you are not. That is ok. We can still be friends, or be respectful to each other…and I can be who I am, and you can be who you are, and I don’t have to be a total d*ck to you about it.

Comments are closed.

Related Posts

personal

Relationship Funerals & The Way We Say Goodbye

One year ago today I wrote the following in response to this piece about Relationship Funerals I share it now with you. A breakup ritual could be incredibly beautiful… and painful… and healing. It’s one way Read more…

my past

Be the One to Turn On the Light

I remember reluctantly stepping out of faith into atheism feeling as if everything I cared about had been erased against my will. My community support structure was gone; my family now felt like strangers; and I had Read more…

religion

A Little “Thank You” to Atheism

Thank you, Atheism, for: Causing me to realize my ethics need to come from my own truth, and not from someone’s interpretation of a book or prophetic message. Challenging me when I was comfortable and Read more…