They were ignoring Reason and basing all of their opinions on three thousand year old fairy-tales

Wednesday, March 30th, 2022

The rise of the Internet broadened our intellectual horizons, Scott Alexander argues:

We got access to a whole new world of people with totally different standards, norms, and ideologies opposed to our own. When the Internet was small and confined to an optimistic group of technophile intellectuals, this spawned Early Internet Argument Culture, where we tried to iron out our differences through Reason. We hoped that the new world the Web revealed to us could be managed in the same friendly way we managed differences with our crazy uncle or the next-door neighbor.

As friendly debate started feeling more and more inadequate, and as newer and less nerdy people started taking over the Internet, this dream receded. In its place, we were left with an intolerable truth: a lot of people seem really horrible, and refuse to stop being horrible even when we ask them nicely. They seem to believe awful things. They seem to act in awful ways. When we tell them the obviously correct reasons they should be more like us, they refuse to listen to them, and instead spout insane moon gibberish about how they are right and we are wrong.

I can only describe this experience from my own side of the aisle, which was the progressive side. We watched the US population elect George W Bush and act like this was a remotely reasonable thing to do. We saw people destroying the environment, leaving the poor to starve, and denying gay people their right to live as normal members of society. We saw people endorsing weird ideas and conspiracy theories, from homeopathy and creationism to the Clintons murdering their enemies. We were always vaguely aware from reading the newspapers that some of these people existed. But now we were seeing and conversing with them every day.


And so we asked ourselves: what the hell is wrong with these people?

And New Atheism had an answer: religion.

That was it. It was beautiful, it was simple, it was perfect. We were the “reality-based community”. They were ignoring Reason and basing all of their opinions on three thousand year old fairy-tales because people told them they would burn in Hell forever if they didn’t. There was nothing confusing or unsettling at all about the situation, and we did not need to question any of our own beliefs. It was just that some people had been brainwashed by their church/mosque/synagogue to believe transparently wrong things, so they did. Sin began with the apple tree in Eden; conservatism began with the Bible in Jerusalem. Language separates us from the apes; not being blinded by religion separates us from the Republicans.

This was a socially momentous proposal. The Democratic Party is centuries old, but the Blue Tribe — the Democratic Party as a social phenomenon with strong demographic and ideological implications — can be said to have started in 2004.


  1. Harry Jones says:

    Not sure if this is a parody, or true absence of self awareness.

  2. Freddo says:

    He is just self aware enough to admit that both atheism and social justice are largely virtue signalling afflictions.

  3. Altitude Zero says:

    Scott Alexander is infuriating, because he often walks right up to the truth, and stops just short, because he knows exactly how far he can go and still not get read out of “polite society”. Maddening. Also, the “Blue Tribe” most certainly did not begin in 2004. It’s identity may have further gelled and intensified then, but anyone who lived through the Eighties can vouch for the fact that Left-wing Democrat craziness was alive and well back then. Remember when Reagan created AIDS, and was going to have gays put in concentration camps? I do…

  4. Contaminate NEET says:

    “brainwashed by their church/mosque/synagogue”

    Sure Scott. You were real concerned about all those backward brainwashed Muslims and Jews. I believe you.

  5. Slovenian Guest says:

    Such really is the attitude, the attitude that the other side is defective in some way. Take things like gay marriage, for example; if you don’t support that, you must have an irrational fear (phobia), or there must be something otherwise wrong with you, because if you were of sound mind, like us, you would of course support it! You don’t like open borders? Racist! You don’t believe in climate change? Science denier! It then also creates a dilemma for them: why even debate homophobic racist science deniers? Probably Trump supporters too!

    Hence the left is not really engaged in debate with the right as much as they are psycho-pathologizing them.

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