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Ask the Patriarch 14
Coping with Fundamentalists

from: D Dillon

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I am a free thinking agnostic who is known for 'mad and lunatic raving.' These rants are generally brought on by a religious fundamentalist (usually Christian) trying to impose his / her beliefs on either myself or another unwilling listener.

Do you have any advice on coping with the anger these kind of people generate in me? I know I should be more apathetic :), but they infuriate me so much by being close minded!!! Help!

the Patriarch replies:

There are several strategies which work some of the time. There is nothing wrong with combining them if they don't work alone.

  1. Instead of getting angry, get amused. While it may be difficult to laugh at the specific views of fundamentalists (some of those views are downright frightening,) it is possible to find the individuals promoting the views amusing. If you can achieve this, the next level is to let them know you find them ridiculous.[1] You don't have to say anything, just a knowing smirk and barely suppressed chuckles whenever they speak on religious matters. This way they are the ones who will get angry, which you will find even more hilarious - and your blood pressure will remain under control.
  2. On the Clergy Resource Site (referred to in our Message 2 of 2 to you) you will find a trifold brochure. Download it, print copies, and press them into the hands of fundies who bother you, saying "You must read this!" Do this enough, and the word will get out that you are a crazed zealot, better to be avoided by true believers.
  3. I have found the following works with the Mormons when they pay their annual visit to try to convert me - "Don't bother with the details of your particular beliefs. First, prove that there is a supreme deity - and only when I'm convinced there is one will I worry about which cult's embellishments are worthwhile." And they go away. It seems proof of god is an issue not covered in missionary school - it's left as a default assumption.


  1. On reviewing this advice years later, I am not comfortable with it. It is the ideas that need to be seen as ridiculous, not the poor unfortunates who have somehow come to believe them. If we are to maintain the high ground, it is important to attack (or mock) the ideas, not the individuals. Of course it can a fine line, and many believers will take mockery of their ideas as personal attacks. That is their problem. (Footnote 19 March 2009)