Religiosity Still ≠ Mental Illness

Sometimes it’s easier to talk than to write, so I did some talking in a video.Picture 20

People within the atheist movement have a nasty tendency to refer to the behavior of the religious as “crazy” and “delusional.” Unfortunately, some people with respectable platforms willingly and knowingly propagate this type of misinformation and vehemently refuse to use more correct (NOT ableist) terminology. My first video on this subject was not exceedingly well-articulated, so I decided to tackle the issue again.

And I also decided to go ahead and transcribe it for you, in case I’m unclear or if you just don’t like watching videos for some reason!

Me: Hello, Internet people!

I decided to finally make a video following up the one where I was talking about religious fundamentalism and mental illness, and why they’re not the same thing and why you shouldn’t treat them as the same thing.

I want to start this off with a PSA: If you don’t have a mental illness and if you aren’t a professional within the field of psychology or some very closely related field, you should not be making statements about whether or not something is crazy or whether something is delusional or whether somebody is afflicted by a mental illness. Because there’s no way for you to know that and you’re not a professional and you should not be making judgment statements based on things that you’re clearly not very well informed about.

So, in my last video, I was really talking about choice–that’s the kind of big difference, for me, between being a religious person and being a person with a mental illness–is that you choose to engage in religious activities and not in having a mental illness. I do agree somewhat with some of the comments on that: that that’s a little bit of an oversimplification of the issue.

There are parts of the world where you don’t really have a choice about whether or not you adhere to a religion because you can be put to death or put in jail for having those beliefs [or not], but in the United States pretty much the biggest ramification is: social outcast. You can lose members of your family, which is a big enough ramification for some people and a big enough consequence that they don’t do it–they don’t defect from their religion at all, they don’t name it when they have doubts. That’s a legitimate concern and it’s unfortunate, but doesn’t really take away from the fact that the internet now exists and you can have access to information aside from what you were taught.

It’s also been pointed out to me that if you’re indoctrinated as a child, you have significantly less opportunity to branch out and change the way that you think because of the fact that your psychology is so malleable when you’re a child. You can be changed enough that you’re not capable of making a choice to get away from your religion later on in life.

Some people also pointed out that being exposed to this as a child can cause you to develop mental illness (I think somebody said). Which I would grant to an extent, because like I said, when you’re a child you’re very malleable and if you’re being engaged in any kind of brainwashy-cultish sort of stuff (some religion, Christianity, sort of borders on that), it can cause you to develop a higher propensity for getting a mental illness later on in your life or having those kind of symptoms.

But that’s true of other things when you’re a child as well. If you’re abused in a secular sense, if you’re a victim of physical abuse when you’re a child, that can also increase your chances for developing depression and those kind of symptoms when you’re older. But by itself that’s not the case.. (Well you know whatever. I don’t know what I’m saying. I’ve tried to do this like 6 or 7, 8, 9 times and it keeps fucking up, so i’m just kind of saying stuff….)

Anyway! The mental illness rate among religious people is actually a little bit lower than it is among the general populace. So, those two things aren’t mutually inclusive by any means. Religious people are not mentally ill and mentally ill people aren’t religious, necessarily. Probably the reason that the rate is a little bit lower among religious populations is that there’s that community sort of benefit; that psychological benefit to having people in a like-minded group around you to provide support and to bolster your beliefs and help you when you’re starving and things like that. So, for those reasons (probably) the rate of mental illness is actually a little bit lower among Christians in the United States than it is among the general populace in the United States. So that’s something to chew on if you have a tendency to call religious people delusional.

Having a wrong idea is not delusional. and I wanted to go ahead and read from the DSM on this because the dictionary definition of “delusional” is probably a little bit more broad and can encompass some religious beliefs, but I want to just go ahead and read this bit:

[Paraphrasing]: ‘Delusions are fixed beliefs that are not amenable to change in light of conflicting evidence. They’re deemed bizarre if they’re clearly implausible and not understandable to same-culture peers and do not derive from ordinary life experiences. The distinction between a delusion and a strongly held idea is sometimes difficult to make and depends, in part, on the degree of conviction with which the belief is held despite clear or reasonable contradictory evidence regarding its veracity.’

So the reason that believing in god–especially in the United States–is not considered “delusional” is that it’s really common and it’s a very easily acceptable belief. You’re actually considered crazy if you DON’T believe in god in the United States. I’ve been called crazy for not believing in god. So, it’s more socially acceptable here and because of that fact, it can’t qualify as delusional because there are too many factors reinforcing your participation in that particular belief for it to be an outlier, such as delusions are kind of required to be.

An interesting example of this that I found in October is: a man in India sacrificed his 8-month-old child to a goddess for some reason or another, and a lot of people in the United States were calling that “crazy” and “delusional” behavior. If it’s considered socially normal (not “normal”–I’m not saying that people in India think that killing infants is normal, please don’t say that I’m saying that) but if it’s more culturally accepted by your religion, especially, that you can sacrifice an 8-month-old child and get any kind of positive benefit from it; if that’s a culturally accepted idea then it can’t qualify as delusional. Because the idea in India of what’s right and what’s wrong is different than the idea in america of what’s right and what’s wrong. And they would say I’m crazy for wearing pants, for example. (I am wearing pants.)

The cultural context is actually a pretty big factor in determining what qualifies as crazy behavior, so it’s not even strictly definitional from one place to another.

The biggest thing though–the biggest reason that you shouldn’t call religious people “delusional,” aside from the fact that you’re probably wrong: is that you’re throwing all of us under the bus; all of us who actually live with mental illness. (I have depression and anxiety to a lesser extent.) I’m not in the same category as a religious fundamentalist–or, I’m not in the same category as a person who chooses to have their child circumcised because of their religious beliefs. And it’s really not fair in any way, shape, or form to put normal (“Normal”) people with mental illness in the same category as people who make a decision to participate in a religious ritual, whether or not they were raised in it or whether they chose it as an adult–if they were “born again.”

It’s really just ableist and you’re probably not a professional, and you probably can’t speak to the issue if you’re making those kind of conflations. It’s a false equivalence: they’re not the same thing. Stop calling them the same thing if you’re not somebody who actually knows what they’re talking about. That’s pretty much all I had to add on the subject and I’ll see you guys later!

——————————————————————

Sorry that I kind of jump around while I’m talking. I have ADD and haven’t been taking the meds this week because it makes it practically impossible for me to eat a reasonable amount of food throughout the day. x.x Makes it difficult to complete a train of thought in a way that makes sense. Happy to clarify in the comments if you have questions!

Heather is here for YOU!

Since a lot of people seem to be asking about this, I think I should explain why I sometimes feature my partner Heather and her videos on our channel. Many seem to think that this is just something I grudgingly indulge out of a sense of obligation. In reality, I’ve actually had to convince her to do this. She usually doesn’t want to do videos, because she thinks they aren’t good enough.

But I want her here, because she covers an area that I’ve often neglected: the explicit discussion of feminism. And quite simply, she’s better at it. To me, it’s like watching videos by QualiaSoup or AronRa – I look at her work and I think, I wish I were that insightful. Fortunately, we live together, so why shouldn’t we work together on this?

I find it really interesting that when I have featured various feminist ideas in my videos, hardly anyone has a problem with this. I suspect it’s because I’ve rarely used the word “feminism” itself – a term with an almost magical ability to turn people’s brains off. As soon as you say you’re a feminist, out come the standard array of reflex responses: “you’re ugly”, “you’re a bitch”, “you just hate men”, “why don’t you support everyone’s rights?”, “what about the men?”, “but men and women are different!”, “women are already equal!” – the sort of thing that most of us already have the good sense not to say about LGBT rights, atheist activism, and other issues I regularly discuss.

Somehow, this topic alone has managed to enrage more people than when I’ve recommended boycotting the Salvation Army, told preteens it’s okay to be gay because there is no God, suggested that transgender people shouldn’t have to tell anyone they’re trans before sleeping with them, and drawn Muhammad and then eaten the drawing. Apparently it’s much worse to call yourself a feminist and say that gender roles are mostly arbitrary, often restrictive, and usually disadvantage women. If that’s really the worst thing you’ve ever heard on this channel, then I’m pretty proud of Heather for accomplishing something that even I couldn’t do.

And as long as this is how people react to any mention of feminism, this tells me that more coverage of feminism is exactly what we need. We need more open discussion of what feminism actually is, why feminism is a necessary movement, why the issues addressed by feminism are important, and why being a feminist is nothing to be ashamed of. If this isn’t something you want to hear about, well, that’s your loss. But as always, we do hope that some people will at least make an effort to listen and understand. We wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t think it mattered.

Anti-meth PSAs directed by Darren Aronofsky

And no, I don’t mean Requiem for a Dream. I realize anti-drug PSAs are rather played out by now, but I was impressed by the visceral power and realism of these. And if any drug deserves this kind of treatment, it’s meth – which actually makes this more plausible, rather than if they had tried to portray this as the logical endpoint of cannabis use.

Trigger warning for, you know, everything.

Thunderf00t admits to sending my private emails to Michael Payton of CFI Canada

For those who rightfully wanted further confirmation of Thunderf00t’s intrusion into the FTB private mailing list (details here), Thunderf00t himself has now helpfully provided that:

So a week or so ago a guy called Michael Payton who works for CFI Canada (Center for Inquiry) put up a tweet about finding FTB unreadable. Now it turns out ironically Michael is on FTBs side on the issue of harassment policies at conferences (well mostly), however that didn’t matter if he was going to speak ill of freethoughtblogs and this precipitated an angry torrent of twitters from at least one FTBer and another to write an entire blog post about it (promoted by PZ Myers of course), and as with all such posts on FTB he (Payton) was repeatedly branded in the comments section with pejorative terms such as misogynist and MRA (the irony being that he posted an article on skepchick ‘speaking out against hate against women‘ FACEPALM). Indeed it turned out that merely hours after this tweet, CFI Canada had been contacted with calls for his dismissal. Yes his real life job was being threatened because of one tweet about FTBs!

That was a pretty disturbing turn of events having someones job targeted so quickly after a single tweet about FTBs, and after a brief chat with Michael, and knowing that FTB were going ballistic about this on their secret backchannel with some THIRTY messages being circulated on the backchannel about his single tweet, let him know what they were saying about him (naturally no personal details were passed on). Michael did not want to know, he did not need to know that personal info.

This is some of the chatter I passed on to Michael.

Nowhere does he even attempt to justify breaking into the mailing list immediately after he was officially removed – something he did a whole month before any of us said anything about Michael Payton. At the time he did that, there were no remarks about Michael Payton for him to take umbrage at. It was just something he did for whatever inscrutable reasons he needed to convince himself that this was acceptable behavior.

Also, that “chatter” on the mailing list was my email:

Just an early warning, I’m strongly leaning towards publicly making a minor deal of this – not focusing on Payton exclusively, but just as an example of the general attitude of dismissing all of FTB despite not being familiar with hardly any of us – *unless* there’s either an actual apology to us or some kind of sufficient reason for why it would be a bad idea to draw attention to his remarks at this time, such as a relevant illness. I’m usually not one to get involved in internal disputes in the movement, but if a national leader of the SCA or American Atheists had been so openly dismissive of FTB as a whole, I imagine we wouldn’t just let that pass unnoticed. So I’d just like to know if there’s any good reason why I shouldn’t do this, even if I can’t necessarily be privy to the details of it.

Yes, I said that. And so what? I’d say it again – I did say it again – and nothing about it excuses Thunderf00t’s actions. The fact that I said such a thing is not grounds for breaching the privacy of the mailing list or forwarding this email to outside parties, because what I said was not of such a nature that the act of saying it meant immediately abandoning any expectation of privacy. Michael Payton, national executive director of CFI Canada, was making absurd overgeneralizations about Freethought Blogs on Twitter. I drew attention to this and commented on it. And before I did, I asked others if there might be more to the situation that I wasn’t aware of, in case there was any reason why posting about this would be inadvisable.

Nothing about this is even remotely out of line. But for the crime of publicly disagreeing with someone’s public statements, and talking about this with others, Thunderf00t decided that I deserved to have my private email passed along to Michael Payton himself.

So, Thunderf00t, just how far does this line of reasoning extend? Do you plan to break into everyone’s private email, just in case they might eventually plan on writing something critical about someone and you need to show this to the world? Will this then retroactively justify your unauthorized access of their information, too? Is everyone else entitled to intrude upon your privacy for the same reasons, or are you the only one who’s entitled to decide whether other people are allowed to discuss things in confidence?

At the end of the day, you committed an unambiguous and inexcusable ethical violation, and the sole defense you’ve managed to muster is that Zinnia Jones was going to say something critical of Michael Payton’s remarks. Heaven forbid. Do you know what that tells me?

It tells me you’re a pathetic, petty, flailing little whiner.

Thunderf00t’s unauthorized access and leaking of the private FTB mailing list

Recently, the Freethought Blogs staff received evidence indicating that some conversations from the private mailing list for FTB bloggers had apparently been leaked to outside parties by Thunderf00t. These conversations had taken place on the list over a month after Thunderf00t had been removed from Freethought Blogs and the private mailing list. Upon examination of the mailing list logs, it was found that Thunderf00t had seemingly been able to regain access to the list immediately after he was removed. Once this was known, he was removed again and prevented from joining. After this, he allegedly repeatedly attempted to re-join the list without success.

By the time we became aware of the breach, Thunderf00t had apparently been able to access all of the dozens of conversations that had taken place on the private list over the past month, during which time his access was believed to be revoked. This material contained the private real-life identities and personal information of a number of FTB contributors, as well as various behind-the-scenes matters that could have serious adverse effects if they became public knowledge.

The mailing list has always been intended to be private. Every message posted to the list contain this notification: “All emails sent to this list are confidential and private. Revealing information contained in any email sent to the list to anyone not on the list without permission of the author is strictly prohibited.” FTB’s bloggers use the list under the assumption that its contents will not be made public or read by unwelcome parties. If you’ve ever had a conversation in the privacy of your own home which you did not want to become public knowledge, Thunderf00t’s actions are the equivalent of eavesdropping and telling others what you’ve said. And if you can understand the risks inherent to such snooping, you can understand the risks to us – as well as the sense of violation. We’ve now been deprived of control over discussions that were not meant to go beyond a limited group of chosen, trusted individuals.

People have the right to maintain their own private discussion areas, and control who is allowed access to them. This holds true regardless of our personal stance on any other subjects, such as sexual harassment, women in the skeptical movement, the handling of Thunderf00t’s brief stay at FTB, or FTB’s various contributors. The need to hold private conversations is entirely legitimate, and respecting that privacy is a ground rule. Thunderf00t appears to have violated this egregiously, and his actions simply aren’t justifiable. If disagreement on certain topics warrants breaching the privacy of those you disagree with and publicizing their confidential information, the possibility of any kind of good-faith discussion simply vanishes.

Thunderf00t’s alleged actions in this situation are inexcusable under any reasonable standard of ethical behavior, no matter what his motivations are. The limits to the damage he’s now possibly able to do to members of this community, should he attempt to do so, are unknown. Rarely have I seen such outrageous conduct by anyone on YouTube or in the atheist and skeptic community, and he was one of the last people I would have expected to do this. To say I’m disappointed would be an understatement. It’s infuriating that anyone would dare to be so disrespectful and reckless.

Dismiss real issues in three easy steps!

On a largely unrelated video, someone left this comment:

If the general experience & belief of the Christian is outdated & invalid, then why give them validity through focusing so much of your attention upon them? Respectfully, it seems as if, in your presentation & discussions, you hope(?) to bring them to a place where they will embrace, accept, & bless alternative sexual lifestyles via reason or ridicule. It almost seems as if you want them to validate you. Is this accurate at some level within you?

I was actually impressed by how, in just a paragraph, they managed to invalidate legitimate concerns so thoroughly and in so many ways. It almost makes me think this is practically a reflex action for such people. I figure it’s worth dissecting just how they do this – it happens so quickly, it could otherwise easily pass unnoticed.

So, what did this person do?

1. Flip the script, shift responsibility: “why give them validity through focusing so much of your attention upon them?” Our refutation of wrong reasoning and wrong beliefs is instead cast as an affirmation of this, simply due to the fact that we said anything about it at all. This sets up an obvious double bind. We can either say nothing, let this wrongness pass completely unchallenged, and be perceived as not taking issue with it, or we can say something and be accused of validating the wrongness just by talking about it. Is a majority of society Christian? It’s the atheists’ fault. Is our country still widely homophobic? Must be because of gay people.

There remains no accepted way to express disagreement or criticism – anything we do will always be turned against us, because of the fundamentally ridiculous implication that those who disagree are the ones responsible for validating the wrongness, rather than the vast majority who agree with and openly validate said wrongness.

2. Otherize: “alternative sexual lifestyles”. Depicting being gay, being trans, being an atheist, or any other such “lifestyle” that’s out of the traditional mainstream as an “alternative” means implicitly treating the alternative to this – being straight, cis, religious, etc. – as some kind of default. It positions that particular “lifestyle” as something that’s inherent to us all unless we choose otherwise, as though we’re all born heterosexual and cisgender and believing in some kind of god. It gives all of this a nice little seal of approval reading Official Life Path™; anything else basically amounts to running a nightly build of some unofficial fork at your own risk.

What differences we have are used to portray us as a fundamentally different people - not merely exhibiting some small fraction of the variety that occurs across all of humanity, but dissimilar enough from others to warrant placing us into a whole new category of lifestyle.

3. Personalize and isolate: “It almost seems as if you want them to validate you. Is this accurate at some level within you?” Finally, our stance on the issue at hand is condescendingly reduced to a mere personal issue, a presumably pathological need for validation. To distract from the actual issue, they’ve instead shifted the focus to (their guesses about) our psychology and personal needs. The reality of the situation is disregarded and erased, and our position on it is treated not as a reaction to an actual problem, but just the product of some imaginary windmill-tilting quest that exists entirely in the minds of a few deluded individuals. It almost suggests that our very understanding of the situation may be wholly disconnected from reality.

But even if they insist on making this about us as individuals, that does not erase the problem itself, hard as they may try to ignore it. Just because something is personal does not mean it is only personal. We have no choice in being impacted by common prejudices on a personal level – this is necessarily a personal matter. But it is not just in our heads. Those prejudices still exist, and insofar as you care about people’s lives and well-being, you should care about how these things affect us. We would like to be able to hold our partner’s hand in public without having to watch our back, talk to people in the course of everyday life without the irrelevant minutiae of gender coming between us and everyone else, and have a fair shot at public office without being required to profess a belief in a god just to have a chance. These are real things, and just because a thing is personal does not mean it is at all minor, insignificant or unimportant.

Personal things are people’s lives. Does this not matter? Not to those who take our objections to such treatment as evidence of mental or emotional deficiency, rather than part of the completely normal, completely human desire to be accepted by others and interact with them on an equal footing without being pointlessly shunned. For anyone else, it’s an entirely legitimate and unchallenged expectation. But of course, when we, the alternative lifestyle, expect this, we’re just being needy. We’re the ones who were affected by something real, noticed it, and called it out – and somehow that means the problem is with us.

I guess that was a little too complicated

Maybe this is what I get for only spending an hour banging out my last post, but it’s received some genuinely confused reactions on YouTube – and I don’t really know whose fault that is:

Jesus Christ, man. Your post used to be slightly insane, but now you’re just lost it.

What the fuck are you even talking about?

This is a very bizarre choice of topic and an even more intellectually constipated way of talking about sex. Don’t try to *sound* like you are intelligent. Just *be* intelligent. Otherwise you just look like a pseudo-intellectual making up crap. You don’t have to construct these over long sentences in order to talk about gay sex.

ZJemp uses sneaky NLP (Neuro linguistic programming).

While speaking and using this technique, he tries to manipulative his viewers and sound interesting, making his videos seem better than they are.

I’m afraid you’ve lost me on this one. We are what we are; just as you want me to accept you for who you are, you have to accept me for who I am. We are products of out culture, and the dominant culture points the majority to PIV sex. Now it doesn’t make me a bad guy because I don’t find other forms of sex appealing-it’s a line I won’t cross. As you ask for respect for your preferences, I ask the same for mine. That’s MY choice.

Boring, you just said the same thing over and over. :/

This seems like a strawman – What exactly are people doing or thinking now that you think they should change, and which people are doing or thinking those things?

I like the video however… I think it was arrogant to claim that hetros somehow looked down on homosexual sex because it wasn’t PiV sex. I think you’re just making stuff up now.

I enjoy most of your videos a lot. You have a excellent mind and put forth some very impressive arguments. This video however seems like a complete waste of time. I’m a straight guy, and I have no interest in the mechanics of your sex life. It’s not personal, I have no interest in the mechanics of any other persons sex life either unless it’s the person I’m fucking. Then I care. Otherwise, TMI.

Are you saying you don’t fuck your girlfriend? Why would you even say that? How is that anyone’s business? WHy would you even talk about that?? I’m confused.

man, this looks and feels like a justification video for something that happened with your woman and your penis and her vagina… really sad.

(Yeah, even when people insist on trying to read into what I said in spite of the “I’m not going to get into specifics here” and “that isn’t anyone’s business”, they still manage to get it completely wrong.)

It would be easy to blame all this miscommunication on the poor listening skills and other general shortcomings of some people on YouTube, but concluding that they’re just inept individuals only gets us so far if we actually want to explain things effectively. Put all blame and responsibility aside for the moment: The fact is, somewhere, something failed to connect. Why?

Not every response provides a clue as to what was misunderstood – accusing someone of being “insane” or a “pseudo-intellectual”, being “manipulative” with “neuro linguistic programming”, or making “a justification video” doesn’t really help to clarify anything. But some are informative, even if only minimally so. Did I use too many big words? Did I fail to provide enough concrete examples of the phenomena I discussed? Did I not give people a reason to keep watching beyond the first 30 seconds, leading them to conclude that this was a personal video and they would learn nothing useful? Was I not explicit enough about criticizing people’s ideas and not people themselves? Did I not explain things in enough detail? Or was I actually too verbose? Could it be that I was just wrong?

Maybe some people really did need an expansive overview of the various items that can be applied to someone’s body for sexual purposes. Maybe they required a deeper explanation of virginity’s history as a tool for marking women as valuable or worthless, and why it’s an incoherent concept because of ambiguous ideas about what constitutes “sex” and misconceptions about what the hymen is and how it works. Maybe they needed to hear some instances of conservatives characterizing gay sex as less fulfilling and less genuine than heterosexual sex. Maybe they wanted to see some examples of how penis-in-vagina sex is the most common representation of sex in the media. Maybe they actually wanted to know more about my personal life, or maybe they didn’t want to hear about it even in passing. (Maybe I should have learned what “NLP” is so I can avoid doing it by accident.)

Obviously, we can’t please everyone. For every explanation, we have to decide on a certain level of detail and how much background knowledge we expect people to bring to the table. There shouldn’t be a need for a comprehensive review of all lower-level topics from the ground up every time before we can get to our actual point, especially in a 5-10 minute video where only so much territory can be covered. Sometimes we just have to go from Point 1 to Point 2, without stopping to rest at Points 1(a), 1(b) and 1(c). Unless the subject really warrants such a thorough explanation, this is likely to be even less effective at conveying our core points – not everyone is interested in a book-length treatise on our argument.

Yet even for what seem like fairly obvious concepts to some of us, there are essential foundations that many people truly aren’t familiar with. Sometimes, our expectation that they’ll have a basic grasp of the subject turns out to be completely and utterly mistaken. The less accurate our appraisal of their current knowledge, the harder our attempts at communication fail.

There’s one topic that so exemplifies this phenomenon, someone once described it as “the Kobayashi Maru of Reddit” – and there’s certainly no end of opportunities to try your hand at it. That topic, roughly speaking, is the existence of transgender people and the validity of their identities. It can come up almost anywhere nowadays, and the gulf between those who understand the subject, and those who don’t, is vast and often unbridgeable.

Attempts at trying to educate someone from the fundamentals all the way to the conclusion are too exhausting for most, so people on either side tend to talk past each other: the less informed hold a variety of misconceptions at the most basic level, and the more informed make their arguments based on facts and theories which their opponents are not aware of or do not recognize as legitimate.

Almost no one has the time required to bring a single person up to speed on the difference between sex and gender, the fact that gender is not always congruent with sex, the sexual differentiation of the brain and how this process can go awry, the various studies about trans people and their findings, the effectiveness of transitioning, the ineffectiveness of attempts at a “cure”, the importance of evidence in forming our beliefs about the world, the painful realities of dysphoria and transphobia, the value of being decent toward others, and everything that’s necessary to bring trans people into their personal Sphere of Individuals Who Are Treated Like Human Beings and Have Their Suffering Taken Seriously and Their Knowledge, Experiences, Identity and Self-Determination Respected.

Even fewer are willing to bet that their conversational partner is actually interested in knowing these things. Instead of caring about the truth, they might instead value some personal model of reality which reinforces certain ideas and views that they consider too important to give up. This often seems to be the case, and so genuine cases of successful persuasion are especially rare. The occasional positive outcome gives us hope – but not very much. Few of us bother trying anymore. Success may at least be possible, but failure is far too likely to justify investing ourselves in this.

So we make the decision: We’re not targeting the 101 crowd anymore. Someone else can try, but at some point, we need to move past the basics and deal with more advanced topics within a shared background of knowledge. Those who wish to join that conversation are responsible for educating themselves to the level needed to understand what we’re discussing. The cost is inaccessibility to those who lack the requisite knowledge, which may not be such a great cost when so many of them apparently don’t care anyway. The benefit is actually getting stuff done without being eternally bogged down in molasses, arguing over fundamentals with people who care more about their preferred beliefs being seen as right than changing their beliefs to reflect what really is right.

With everything I write, I have to draw that line somewhere, and it’s a delicate balance. Not everything I say will be within everyone’s grasp, and neither will it always be something completely revolutionary that you’ve never thought of before. Sometimes, ideas are complicated. Other times, certain fundamental elements need to be established before we can move forward. I can only hope that I manage to strike a balance that’s useful to everyone on some level, rather than no one on any level.