There you are, minding your own business, when somebody insists on talking about religion. And by talking, I mean making grandiose statements on the subject that you find ridiculously absurd. What to do?
Of course, the possibility exists of treating this as a philosophical disagreement worthy of honest and thoughtful discussion. That’s a risky path, however, as it might enlighten you to the complexities of belief and the limitations of knowledge. Fortunately, however, there is another way, hallowed by tradition and common usage. Herewith, a set of principles designed to ensure that everyone knows how right you are about your worldview, and thus how wrong other worldviews are. And that, is the heated argument.
Rule 1: Be a Dick.
There is no tool more effective for persuading people of your righteousness than personal attacks on those that disagree. It is wise to ignore any intuition that human nature causes those being attacked to defensively attack back. Anyone who does that is clearly a horrible person.
● Always Argue the Person, Not the Point.
If someone was capable of being persuaded by logic and principles to your obviously correct proposition, he or she would already have been. Therefore, you are clearly dealing with an ignoramus suffering from gross cognitive dissonance, and the content of your discourse needs to have no purpose but to brow-beat them into accepting that truth. It’s the kindest thing to do, in the long run.
● Generalize About Those Who Disagree With You.
Sometimes mere politeness prevents you from calling attention to all of the obvious shortcomings of the stupid idiot who has chosen to air his wrong opinions in your hearing. You might be related to or married to that person through no fault of your own. The safe retreat is then to infer his or her membership in a group of people you don’t like, and then draw a connection, however tenuous, between that group, the kinds of things that group says, and the person you are arguing with. This is completely clever and no one ever picks up on it or retaliates with similar tactics.
● Make no attempt to embody the values you are arguing for.
When your value system comes under attack, any defense of them, however hypocritical to said values, is not only appropriate but necessary. Thus, Christians are under no obligation to argue with charity, and secular progressives can keep their skepticism and tolerance at the door. To do otherwise is to allow the wrong people to win.
Rule 2: Forget Socrates.
Socrates made a thorough pest of himself by simply not pretending to know what he did not know. This resulted in him being made to drink hemlock after conviction for an intellectual crime. So why would you want to emulate that putz?
● Show no humilty.
Do not convey the slightest intimation that these are arguable points, or part of a tradition of dispute that goes back centuries. If you stuff your viewpoint down someone’s throat, then you are the strong one.
● Play smarter than you are.
If you’ve heard of the book, and can reference it in a way that sounds smart, then that will fool this ignorant wrong person who is too busy being ignorant and wrong to have heard of smart books like you have.
● Do not acknowledge good points.
You must maintain perfect message discipline, or else you will be brought before the Smart People Police and prosecuted for heresy. Fifty acknowledgements of your need to educate yourself is the going punishment.
Rule 3: You Know Everything.
Living long enough to form an opinion about something is all the information you need. Because you are one of the Enlightened, you have no need to seek knowledge beyond this. Only the other group does, because they are too stupid to know how wrong they are.
● Enter Every Debate.
You are a scientist, philosopher, historian, and journalist. You understand these subjects perfectly. It is not possible that someone will know more than you, unless they already agree with you.
● A Superficial Knowledge of Rhetoric and Logic is More Than Enough.
Did you take a nap on Aristotle’s Rhetoric sometime in college? Did you know that makes you a Certified Super-Genius™, capable of correcting anyone’s analogies and non-empirical statements, so that you can then treat their whole viewpoint as disproven? Just remember, logical fallacies are good to know for when other people make them.
Rule 4: Know Your Goal.
Some might say that the purpose of an argument is to create a series of statements supporting a proposition, to build a viewpoint. These people are pussies. The purpose of an argument is not to build a viewpoint but to destroy one. If you establish a viewpoint as a logical consequence of a set of facts or pre-existing notions, then that viewpoint can be attacked, and you will be embarrassed by not possessing an infallible mind. Instead, do that to others. Because:
“If they are wrong, then you automatically become right.” – Stuff Oscar Wilde Said
And if, in the application of these principles, you discover that you aren’t quite achieving your goals, i.e. the wrong people refuse to shut up and go away, then this is a clear indication of your failure to apply these principles enough. Keep plugging away, soldier! The fate of human civilization depends on you!