Guest post: The communal belief system cannot suffer the heretic

Originally a comment by Nullius in Verba on We’re not confused or misinformed, we’re not believers.

I just listened to an old TEDx talk, and an observation stuck out: “When you start to humanize your enemy, you in turn may be dehumanized by your community.” When you start to treat the enemy (i.e., gender skeptics) as humans having potentially reasonable concerns and moral perspectives (i.e., as humans rather than transphobic demons), you lose status within your own group.

It’s the same phenomenon that leads to purity spirals, witch trials, and heretics’ exiles. It’s why apostasy is the gravest sin. To admit the possibility that the enemy is merely an opponent and not The Adversary signals to the group that your loyalty is not absolute. To have a member of the community exhibit dissent would signal that dissent doesn’t compromise humanity and dignity. As a form of memetic self-defense, the communal belief system cannot suffer the heretic, and so the heretic must be made an unperson.

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