The Baha'i Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience

Relentlessly aggressive cult apologists
Author:   K. Paul Johnson   author profile
Date: 1998/09/18
Forums: talk.religion.misc
There's a particular toxic type of person who hangs out in
religious/spiritual newsgroups and lists, and I think that the
common features of this type are more important than the
particularities.  Most of my unpleasant encounters with them have
involved Theosophists, with Baha'is and Eckists in second and
third place.  But for each of my own such interactions I've witnessed
dozens more involving others, with a wide range of groups.
The chief preoccupation of this type is to use the Net to defend
a belief system against criticism.  But that in itself doesn't
make a person a RACA.  Reasoned debate about the merits and
demerits of a religion is a good thing, and many honorable
people do it.  It's the relentlessly aggressive nature of the
cult apologia-- sometimes rather *passive* aggressive-- that
marks the particular type I'm talking about.  The aggressive part
of the "defense" means that the topic of discussion is always
immediately shifted from the belief system itself to the *person*
who criticizes it.  The relentless aspect of the type is that
they place a very high priority on having the last word,
consistently take a "win/lose" approach to discussion, and will
go on and on indefinitely, exhausting their opponents who usually
have far less invested in the subject and a lower threshold for
giving up the debate as hopeless.
What is most mysterious to me about such people is that they are
relentlessly and personally aggressive to those they debate, yet
are in complete denial of this behavior.  Indeed, anyone who
points out that they are being RACA will be told that this is
imagination, there is nothing personal or aggressive about their
style of argumentation, blah, blah.  The funniest and most
mind-blowing part of it all is that they use this very denial as
part of a *further* strategy of RACA.  That is, turning
discussion of their own behavior into an attack on the mental
health of their victims, saying that you must be crazy if you
think they're behaving like hateful bastards.  Do they really believe this?
Are they fooling themselves but no one else?  Or is there a
conscious, cynical strategy here?  Who knows?  What I do know is
that they behave *as if* they were thinking this: "My chief goal
is to stifle all criticism of My True Religion by being so
unpleasant to anyone who dares criticize it that they eventually
give up and go away saying `I'll never mess with a ______
Several strange paradoxes characterize the dynamics of
interaction with such people.  One is that they manage to arrange
things, in their own minds at least, so that they "win" no matter
what.  If you give up and say "I've had it trying to talk to you,
forget it," their response is "I WIN!!  My peerless logic and
overwhelming evidence has so cowed you that you have no choice
but to give up."  But if you keep arguing with them, they win in
another way-- tying up your energy and time in a fruitless
endeavor to make some kind of breakthrough that can never ever
happen with such people.  Damned if you do walk away, damned if
you don't.  But another paradox is that their self-perceived
victories are usually defeats for the belief system they espouse,
in terms of the impression they make on outsiders.  How many
people read them and think "YUCK!  If *that's* what [Baha'is,
Eckists, Theosophists, etc.] are like, to hell with them!"
I welcome comments from anyone who has engaged in fruitless
discussion with RACAs, or better yet who has ever seen one evolve
into a decent human being capable of open, give-and-take
interchange.  Is it possible?