PostHeaderIcon Enlightenment vs Dark Ages

I had an exchange on a conservative oriented forum, somewhat over represented with intolerant fundamentalists, which is probably worth sharing here. It began with a fellow named Mark, posting a heroic story about a Marine vet, who lost his life in the process of saving a young lady in a private airplane crash, which they were both involved in. It ended with this remark:


I know that there are individuals out there, like “Thoughts Aloud Dave” who shudder at the mere mention of altruistic acts, as though they are manufactured by others. But it is clear that there are some people who are either born of this mettle, or are raised up with a commanding respect for life, no matter who’s life is at risk, and are willing to lay down their own lives in protecting others. Austin was one such Altruistic man, and I today commit to pray for his family, in honor of that sacrifice.


…which inspired me to reply with:



Given your indoctrination, Mark, I cannot fault you for not comprehending the virtue of selfishness. It is counterintuitive to your worldview; but it is a virtue nonetheless. Any rational human being is incapable of a selfless act. Given the data we have at any particular moment, we will always choose the course of action that we believe will provide us the greatest pleasure or the least pain. It could not be otherwise.

You depreciate the tremendous value Austin placed on his own life, to accuse him of discarding it in an act of altruism. What this hero did, was purely a selfish act. Given the circumstances extant at that time, his ego desperately needed and wanted to save that girl, and he likely would have killed anyone who tried to stop him.

The pain and risk to his own life in the moment, were nothing like the life-long emotional pain he would have suffered, had he not even tried. So give the man the respect he deserves, for his selfish act of valor. He was not committing suicide; he was trying to save the life of someone he cared about. His ego, his entire concept of his own self-worth, would have been utterly destroyed had he done otherwise. He didn’t do it for you, or society, or even for her; he did it for himself. Think about it… â—„Daveâ–º


At this point, another contributer there named Doug, who frequently also finds fault with my ungodly secular conservative / libertarian worldview, sputtered:


Any rational human being is incapable of a selfless act??? You have got to be joking. What about the secret service agents who get shot protecting the president? Is that a selfless act?


…which I easily countered with:


Come on, Doug… That is a pretty easy one. How many SS agents do you suppose love, value, or even respect the Obamunist they are protecting? They have a job to do. They train very diligently in how to do it. That training includes shielding the person they are assigned to protect, with their own bullet proof vested bodies, at the first sign of a threat. Yes, there is a risk that an assailant might kill them in the process, but that is a risk they are willing to take for the pay, perks, prestige, honor, and glory of the privileged position their egos sought in applying for the job. Once part of that elite corps, the dishonor of failing at their mission, would be too painful to endure. Pure selfishness, and thank goodness. Otherwise, one who disliked the individual they are assigned to protect, might not feel altruistic enough to sacrifice his life for a bum. â—„Daveâ–º


Not all that surprisingly, Doug replied with:


I didn’t mean guarding Obama. I have a 15 year old grandson who volunteers at the food bank twice a week. Is that a selfless act? Of course it is. I have a niece who takes in foster kids. Selfless? you bet. I have personally went without to give to others in need. Would you perform a selfless act for your own children? If you wouldn’t you are one sick human being.


I tried to bow out gracefully with:


Doug, go back and read my original remark in this thread carefully. I have had this argument dozens of times over the years, since I learned the virtue of selfishness (there are several good books on the subject), and I have yet to be given an example of a ‘selfless’ act, which I couldn’t easily explain as to why it was selfish, from the perspective of the actor. We have been programed from infancy, to believe that the word selfish is bad and the word selfless is good. To try to contemplate the opposite, is literally unthinkable for most.

I stand by my original argument; but if you cannot open your mind to the possibility that the altruistic propaganda, with which society has programed you, is possibly wrong, there is no point in discussing it further. If Robin-Hood is a heroic figure to you, rather than a thief, because his motive was said to be selfless, then I cannot get through to you, and this is a waste of both our times. â—„Daveâ–º


Doug thought he would have the last word, with a snippy:


You are right. You are wasting your time and ours. For once, I agree with you.


…which just wouldn’t do, of course:


Ours? Speak for yourself, Doug. Not all minds snap shut at the first mention of a counterintuitive idea, which challenges a cherished belief. Some of us acknowledge that learning is a lifelong process, and are intellectually curious enough to open our minds to new ideas, and quite willing to explore them on their merits. Just because it is considered a faux pas in conservative circles, to challenge the beliefs of the publicly pious, yet somehow quite acceptable to denigrate secular conservatives, doesn’t mean that everyone who silently reads these comments, are as close-minded and dogmatic as you and Mark.

Look, Mark challenged me directly in his post, which afforded me the opportunity, if not the obligation, to explain my viewpoint for new readers perhaps unfamiliar with it. It cannot be denied that I did so civilly. It was only you, who reacted with sputtering incredulity, to counter what your mindset considered an absurdity. When I nullified the lame example you chose, in attempting to dismiss my assertion out of hand, you avoided responding to my logic, posed instead a couple of more, and started to get personal.

This is precisely the tactic favored by the altruistic Left, when they wish to evade a discussion of ideas that challenge their smug worldview. If you cannot even see my ‘most pleasure – least pain’ principle at play, when one is nurturing and protecting one’s own children, then you are not thinking rationally; you are simply emoting. If trying to get through your idealogical blinders were my only motive, I would be wasting time for sure; but if I inspire even one other reader to put on his thinking cap, then my efforts are not in vain.

You might say the Enlightenment gods of reason, logic, and capitalism, also inspire their devotes to spread their “good news.” I do my share, and try to do so with an affable demeanor. You might say we are competitors for the minds wandering through here, Doug. I represent the Enlightenment, selling open-minded ideas, reason, logic, objective knowledge, empirical facts, capitalism, tolerance and the individual Liberty necessary to pursue them.

Whether you acknowledge it or not, with your mantra of ‘our God-fearing Christian nation,’ and such; you represent your fearful God, peddling close-minded dogma, mystery, magic, fear, subjective beliefs, altruism, intolerance and the rigid conformity necessary to contain them. All we can do is give it our best sales pitch; what is happening in the mind of another, is one thing that is blessedly still beyond control. The readers will choose for themselves, whether the Enlightenment or the Dark Ages strike them as most appealing. Caveat emptor! 🙂 â—„Daveâ–º


I have been accused more than once on that forum of being ‘an agent of the Devil.” Sometimes, they just inspire me to act like one. 😉 â—„Daveâ–º


8 Responses to “Enlightenment vs Dark Ages”

  • ‘an agent of the Devil.”


  • Daedalus says:

    Good Dave! Most people who profess altruism as a value have no understanding of the meaning of the word. To be “altruistic” one has to derive no benefit in thought or action from an “altruistic” deed. Helping another human in need (voluntarily) merely expresses ones general value and respect for other individuals. Of course the nature of that human makes a big difference to the rational person. If I truly understood the nature of an Adolf Hitler and he was clinging for his life on the edge of a high precipice I would tend to walk on by. I wouldn’t be altruistic enough to stamp on his fingers and quickly put him out of his misery, I would be more inclined to let him suffer a bit before his departure.

  • Troy says:

    Dave, why do you waste so much time trying to reason with folk who have already demonstrated they can’t be reasoned with? Perhaps you think there may be some value for other readers? I suppose there could be some merit in that but I lack the patience myself to deal with these boneheads. That is why I avoid the fora that cater to them. Good on you though for trying to educate them.


    • Patience isn’t my strongest virtue either, Troy, as you well know; but I continue to work at it. 🙂

      They walk among us, and they vote. More importantly, they have influence among conservatives far exceeding any sense of proportion to their small numbers, just as the minority Marxists do with the nominal Left. This goes beyond their vociferous activism, but is rooted in their expectation of respect for their public displays of piety. Nominal Christians, who themselves do not wear their religion on their sleeves, and are somewhat embarrassed by those who do, are still loath to publicly challenge them, for fear of being deemed rude or ungodly by third party witnesses.

      They deserve no such default respect, and need to be exposed for the evil altruistic statists that they are. By establishing my redneck, Constitutionalist, anti-Marxist, veteran, Patriot bona fides, including my disdain for the ACLU type atheist activists, the Fundies have a difficult time dismissing me out of hand as an “ungodly leftist.” I have earned the grudging respect of all but a couple of the diehard Piously Correct activists among the regulars there, and even they have occasionally commented that when the subject is pure politics and not morality, my remarks are well received. I have observed for myself that others who used to remain silent during bible thumping exercises, are becoming unafraid to challenge the notion of forcing others to conform to fundamentalist dogma.

      So, yes, my motive is to inform the readers, not to best the fundies. There are over 17K members registered on the site. Not all are active, of course; but there are usually a couple of dozen officially visibly logged in at any one time. My job is to plant the seeds of doubt in the minds of readers, and allow them to notice that not all skeptics are trying to inhibit their preferred lifestyle. Indeed, the recurring theme of my activity there, is to suggest that we allow the freaks in NYC to live their lives their own way, as long as they stay out of our affairs and allow us to live ours our way. I think I have had some success with that message, among the less dogmatic Christians thereabouts.

      Another motive, to be perfectly candid, is that fundie bashing can be great sport for me. With my own experiences attending an evangelical church in my youth, and having read the entire bible a few times, I truly enjoy pointing out the incongruities, absurdities, and downright evil nature of their dogma, when a righteous bible thumper won’t leave me be. It is so easy to twist their illogical tails into knots, it wouldn’t even be sporting, if they weren’t so blustery, haughty, and downright deserving of having their pious ears pinned back. And, I can assure you that any reading those exchanges, with even a modicum of ability to think for themselves, are now cultivating virile seeds of doubt, which I sewed in their minds in the process. 😉 â—„Daveâ–º

      • Troy says:

        Fine, as long as you are enjoying yourself. Just don’t let yourself get pregnant with thoughts of waking them up. (Whoops, I meant “expectant”.)

        I have long studied such people (how can I not when I live under the buckle of the “bible belt”?) and I have long since realized that they have satisfied whatever the mental need that motivates curiosity and/or openness to new and different ideas.

        For a long time, I was sure that most of them closed their minds for fear they might learn something that would bring their nonsense model of the universe crashing down around them.

        Now, I am more inclined to guess that most of them have simply satisfied their need for input, ergo, the receptors have been shut down. This being the case, one must first re-establish a sense of curiosity BEFORE there would be any chance to educate.

        Having said all this, I assure you I have no real understanding of what, if anything, actually goes on in their minds. All I know for sure is that their mental processes and my own are in no way similar.

        For instance, were scientists to make a convincing new discovery that gave undeniable evidence of nit-picking, all knowing, creator deity, I would be among the first to admit my mistake and sign on.

        But, remember that extraordinary claims still demand extraordinary evidence so I do not anticipate crow on the menu anytime soon!


        • Conversely, if science were able to prove (an impossibility) that there is no such thing as a deity, it would have no effect whatever on a mind capable of remaining convinced that Genesis explains the universe, and it happened only 6,000 years ago. When I first heard the explanation that God obviously created all those buried dinosaur fossils at the same time, for his own mysterious purposes, I about lost it. 😐

          It is not the die-hard fundies I am after, Troy. It is the nominal, less dogmatic, Christian, who is unduly influenced by them that is worth trying to save. Even the owner of the site, who is pretty devout (but used to date Ann Coulter, so he is no dummy) admits that what he likes about my posts is that they always make him think. 😀

          Actually, there is some risk involved in deprogramming the fanatically devout. Remember freethinker Sally? She flipped 180 upon escaping her church, and became a fanatic ACLU type atheist activist. I reckon fanaticism is a type of psychosis, and (currently at least) they pose a lesser threat to society as Christians, than they would as Marxists. 😉 â—„Daveâ–º

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