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Religion derail
February 23, 2010 2:41 PM   Subscribe

Must every thread about religion turn into an exercise in how religion is inherently a force for evil?

It's derailing this thread as we speak. I'm coming at it as an atheist, so I can sympathize with people who are suspect of religion in general, but I'm of the opinion that it's started to be one of those behaviors that people on this site reflexively engage in, without concern for other members, or whether it forwards the discussion, or whether it needs to happen at all, and it often seems so reductive, in that one piece of misbehavior by one religious person, if supported by their interpretation of scripture, justfied denigrating and dismissing all religion.

Anyway, since this conversation was tossing that one thread off the rails, it seems like it might be better moved here.
posted by Astro Zombie to Etiquette/Policy at 2:41 PM (1024 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

It's especially confusing from my perspective as an agnostic young man still trying to figure all this shit out.
posted by Think_Long at 2:46 PM on February 23, 2010


I'm not entirely sure that's what's happening there. Nearly everyone who classifies the Pearls as batshit insane child abusers are also pointing out that they are not representative of Christianity as a whole.
posted by zarq at 2:47 PM on February 23, 2010


This is not to say I don't think there is a place for the discussion of how much religion might be a force for good or evil in the universe. But when an FPP is about a specific fringe religious group, and includes an example of a Christian speaking out against it, I don't know that that specific thread is the best place for having that discussion, especially when it starts from the assumption that this act is inherently evidence of all religion's natural and immutable oppressiveness.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:48 PM on February 23, 2010


One of the happy quirks of the ever-young religious flamewar on MetaFilter is that each thread is half-filled with people saying 'Jeez, guys, I'm religious and I agree with you that [bad people] are bad people' and the other half of the thread is filled with people saying 'Since no religious people speak out against [bad people] I am free to lump all religious people together.'
posted by shakespeherian at 2:49 PM on February 23, 2010 [62 favorites]


Personally, I do not feel religion to be inherently evil.

I do sort of like what Kant had to say about it, but he was a Christian anyway. :)
posted by kalessin at 2:49 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Were there a lot of deletions in the thread? I seem to remember a lot more disparaging comments than there are now.
posted by Think_Long at 2:50 PM on February 23, 2010


I do sort of like what Kant had to say about it, but he was a Christian anyway. :)

Goodness, even in summary Kant had a lot to say about it.
posted by Think_Long at 2:50 PM on February 23, 2010


Flog it and move on.
posted by qvantamon at 2:51 PM on February 23, 2010 [22 favorites]


I'm not sure why this is hard for people to grasp, but I was raised without religion so it comes sort of naturally to me to see the difference between "these Christian homeschoolers did some terrible things" and "this gigantic religion is, to a person, culpable for what happened, including every member of that religion"

I want people to make an effort to not make the same shitty derails they always do. Overgeneralizing about religion is no more appropriate than overgeneralizing about nationality, race, sexual orientation, or gender. I'm aware that someone's religious preferences are a choice and not something you're born with, but as a corollary these sorts of broad brush indictments are just as shitty when people use them against people of a certain nationality or US state citizenship. We should do less of the "Fuck Texans/Christians/Americans" than we currently do on this site.

That said, did anyone think that thread would go well? I find it totally upsetting personally and I'm sure many other people do as well. Very upsetting topics, no matter how important, go more poorly when people use graphic language about child abuse/rape/torture to make their point. Always. Whether it's useful to the greater good, I don't really know, but I know it's not useful to the greater good of MetaFilter.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:51 PM on February 23, 2010 [39 favorites]


Oh dear...
posted by Artw at 2:51 PM on February 23, 2010


Thanks, AZ.

I personally think what it all seems to come down to is how willing you are to accept a higher authority, which obviously correlates with some religion, but not all. If you accept a higher moral authority than your own conscience and feelings, and the HMA tells you to commit an atrocity, you're in danger of doing so. You're also in danger of believing in your own Higher Authority over anyone the Ultimate Higher Authority tells you is below you in the pecking order.

The Bible is chock full of things like this, from Abraham being prepared to slay his own son onwards.
posted by unSane at 2:52 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Nearly everyone who classifies the Pearls as batshit insane child abusers are also pointing out that they are not representative of Christianity as a whole.

Well, let me point to specific axamples of what I am talking about, to be clearer:

yay religion

I didn't really need another reason to hate religion and want to see it eradicated, but hey - I'll add all this to the list anyway.


It won't go away until religion** goes away. (See Denmark, Sweden, etc.)

Christianity is a tub of bathwater we've been told we should not throw out because of the valuable baby in it ..
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:52 PM on February 23, 2010


Must every thread about religion turn into an exercise in how religion is inherently a force for evil?

AskMefi Magic 8 Ball says "reply hazy, try again."

I'm an agnostic pantheist with atheistic leanings, and I too get wicked tired of the "all religion is the source of evil."
posted by rtha at 2:52 PM on February 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


And I haven't deleted anything from that thread and I don't think anyone else has either.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:53 PM on February 23, 2010


People who did good or bad things because they were religious would probably still do good or bad things if there were no religion. The difference is that the people doing good things would be able to justify their actions by their own merits, but the people doing bad things wouldn't be able to take shelter in unchallengeable dogma.
posted by 0xFCAF at 2:55 PM on February 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


For an individual, religion can be harmless and provide a sense of wellbeing and community. However, elevating scripture as necessarily literally true, or as necessarily morally righteous, by nature of its divine inspiration, is an evil. It is not the root of all evil: the root of this religious evil as well as the root of secular evil is a lack of critical thinking.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 2:57 PM on February 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


Well, since there is a Metatalk Thread, I will address Astro Zombie here.

Comparing a discussion about Christianity to a discussion about black issues is highly misguided. Christianity is the dominant religious and moral force in this country (if not on this message board). So yes, I feel entirely justified in making a cultural criticism along the lines of "Dominant Christian theologies in this country preach the submission of the Family to the Father, in both the home and on the political and economic spheres. So it is not surprising that Pearl's horrendous doctrine of child abuse finds a home in these communities". I am not doing the equivalent of accusing all Black people of the crimes of one Black person, because that would assume that Christians are a minority population who are often persecuted and discriminated against. It is quite the opposite, let me assure you as someone who used to think that Christians were persecuted.
posted by muddgirl at 2:59 PM on February 23, 2010 [14 favorites]


I was the one who said 'yay religion'.

In a world where the US president went to war believing in Gog and Magog, where US policy in the mideast is shaped by fundamentalists worrying about the end times, where one US policitical party is essentially a religious grouping, where American guns have cryptic biblical references on the scopes, where a war against Mulsims can be referred to as a 'crusade', and where the 'enemy' is defined almost entirely by its own religious conviction, I do not think it is a stretch to be skeptical about the overall utility of religion.

On the day when the dominant discourse amongst self-identified Christians is 'how to treat other people better' as opposed to shooting them, converting them, or barring them from civil rights, I will accordingly modify my opinions.

Yay, religion.
posted by unSane at 3:00 PM on February 23, 2010 [80 favorites]


I personally think what it all seems to come down to is how willing you are to accept a higher authority, which obviously correlates with some religion, but not all. If you accept a higher moral authority than your own conscience and feelings, and the HMA tells you to commit an atrocity, you're in danger of doing so. You're also in danger of believing in your own Higher Authority over anyone the Ultimate Higher Authority tells you is below you in the pecking order.

The Bible is chock full of things like this, from Abraham being prepared to slay his own son onwards.


As it happens, pretty much every nation and civil jurisdiction on earth at least attempts to establish a a Higher Authority, and they tend to have great success in persuading those subject to it to not only obey it out of fear, but also to look to it as a source and validation of sociological and ethical norms.
posted by Salamandrous at 3:00 PM on February 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


Overgeneralizing about religion is no more appropriate than overgeneralizing about nationality, race, sexual orientation, or gender.

This needs to be repeated a whole bunch of times. Maybe it should go in the FAQ.
posted by neroli at 3:01 PM on February 23, 2010 [10 favorites]


Moving it to here...

But if, say, another Irishman heads out and does somethign crazy, and claims they did it for dear old Hibernia, I'm not going to feel that I should be obligated to speak out.

I respectfully disagree. I think that failing to speak out is tantamount to agreement with the action.


Holy hell. Seriously? Do I have to take care to always point out how much I hate the CCP, or else I'm implicitly supporting them because I'm ethnically Chinese? Do I have to actively speak out against Ted Kaczynski because I studied math? How long do I have to do these things before I can be safely said to not be complicit?
posted by kmz at 3:02 PM on February 23, 2010 [12 favorites]


But as a related view... if every crime story on MeFi that was about a white person turned into a derail about "blah blah fuck whitey amirite?" it still wouldn't be okay. It's the gross generalizations that aren't appropriate, it's just easier to see them as gross generalizations if they're pointing to a smaller historically oppressed population.

Having a big fight against All Christians because some terrible people did some terrible things in the name of their god isn't really conducive to discussion.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:03 PM on February 23, 2010


I wasn't making that comparison, mudgirl, except to illustrate a larger point about collective responsibility. I do not think it is merely minority voices that should be held as being exempt from being collectively responsible, but that there shouldn't be an assumption of collective responsibility except where there is benefit.

So, for instance, I am willing to be collectively considered to be responsible for, say, racism, because as a white person I benefit. But I am not willing to be held as being collectively responsible for, say, the guy downstairs from me robbing a bank, even though he might be white, like me, or Irish, like me, or Jewish, like me, or have my name, or anything that might connect him with me in some superficial way.

I think the case made against Christianity as a whole needs to keep this in perspective. I would not demand that Edward Said answer for the Taliban, and I do not ask that the Society of Friends answer for fundamentalist child abusers.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:03 PM on February 23, 2010 [17 favorites]


As it happens, pretty much every nation and civil jurisdiction on earth at least attempts to establish a a Higher Authority, and they tend to have great success in persuading those subject to it to not only obey it out of fear, but also to look to it as a source and validation of sociological and ethical norms.


Indeed, but in democracies at least we have a discussion about those things and can change them. The law does not have a moral force. Something can be legal and wrong, or illegal and right. The problem arises when we abdicate our own conscience in favour of a higher moral authority. That is pretty much the definition of religion, as opposed to spirituality or belief.
posted by unSane at 3:06 PM on February 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


I would not demand that Edward Said answer for the Taliban

Pedantry: Said was Christian.
posted by neroli at 3:06 PM on February 23, 2010


That topic seemed like a natural for that kind of response, since the abusive parenting advice came from a "ministry."

As I said in the thread, horrible people can use religion to justify their horror, but they can use other forms of authority, false and true, to do so as well.

In this country, there are a lot of people who use "Christianity" as a cover for all sorts of evil, bigotry, and hate, which would certainly explain people's knee jerk response to blame "Christianity." But that isn't what Christianity is and not all Christians espouse those beliefs or behave that way.

The misanthrope in me explains it thus: 90% of people are assholes. It doesn't have anything to do with your race, sex, religion, nationality, race, sexual orientation, profession, or favorite sports team. They could be black, white, Filipino, or Martian; they could be from Burbank, Bruges, Belarus, or Burkina Faso. 90% assholes. And sometimes they use their race, sex religion, nationality, sexual orientation, profession, or favorite sports team to foist their assholery upon others, but that is because they are assholes, not the other thing. However, this also means that 10% are really great, wonderful people, again, without regard to race, sex, religion,sexual orientation, profession, or favorite sports team, and because of their scarcity, it would be foolhardy to shut them out.

If that seems a bit too negative or positive, you can arrange the percentages to suit your particular faith in humanity at the moment. But it works for me.
posted by louche mustachio at 3:07 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


From the thread:

Lumping in right-wing cultists with, oh, say the Episcopalians or Quakers is offensive, ignorant and disrespectful to those who exercise their freedom of conviction.

muddgirl's response:

We're not the ones doing the lumping and we're not responsible for policing the definition of Religion. Since, you know, lots of us don't believe in God anyway.

This fight has to be fought from the inside.

You know this sounds really familiar. I wonder why.

Oh yeah, because if there hadn't been the previous quote, I would have thought she was a Anne Coulter type talking about terrorists and peaceful Muslims.

Bigotry sounds familiar, no matter what the target.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:07 PM on February 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


Jessamyn, I recognized that this was a touchy topic, and I thought about it for several days before posting. In the end, I felt that sunlight was the best disinfectant-- the more these teachings are exposed, the more people know to beware of and condemn them.

I am very sorry my post upset you. You're right to be; it's a terrible thing that happened. Could I have set the post up better? Either way, I don't believe I used graphic language to describe what happened.
posted by cereselle at 3:08 PM on February 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


The difference is that the people doing good things would be able to justify their actions by their own merits, but the people doing bad things wouldn't be able to take shelter in unchallengeable dogma.

Have you missed the last 150 years of American political discourse? Religious dogma is not the only dogma, and there are easy to find echo chambers for whatever willful ignorance one wants to maintain.

As an atheist, I don't have a problem with religious dogma as long as its adherents can justify why their core principles are more important than any other moral calculation. In a way, dogma is just the explicit setting of the assumptions that are the basis of your moral framework. Being rather parsimonious moral relativist, my dogma is merely "do the least harm to others and self", but it is still dogma.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:08 PM on February 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


Comparing a discussion about Christianity to a discussion about black issues is highly misguided. Christianity is the dominant religious and moral force in this country (if not on this message board).

It didn't stay a discussion about Christianity though. It very quickly became a discussion about Religion and religions.

yay religion
I didn't really need another reason to hate religion
There is no poison more virulent, more toxic to the human mind than religion
Just more evidence that religion should be eliminated from the face of the earth. Not any one particular religion, all of them.
Nothing positive to say about religion. None of them. Ever.

Ironically it seems pretty representative of American, um, Christian-centrism, to assume that members of all other religions, including much smaller and less powerful ones than Christianity, would automatically read those references to "religion" as not including them.

That still doesn't make racial analogies a good go to rhetorical tool - that's a whole different discussion. Your point is good and necessary, but I'm not sure that it's 100% on point in this particular context.
posted by Salamandrous at 3:08 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh yes. I did not mean to imply he was a Muslim; merely that he was an Arab. And, of course, Said did speak out against oppression he saw in the Arab world.

And he did so for a very good reason: It's always right to speak out against oppression. But I would not have considered him to be in some way implicated in that oppression except where he benefited.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:09 PM on February 23, 2010


Having a big fight against All Christians because some terrible people did some terrible things in the name of their god isn't really conducive to discussion.
posted by jessamyn

This is true, most Christians find this kind of abuse as repugnant as you or I do. It's wrong to alienate allies because of one's person antipathy toward thier personal faith when you can find common ground around the very subject in question. Pick your battles people.
posted by nola at 3:10 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Having a big fight against All Christians because some terrible people did some terrible things in the name of their god isn't really conducive to discussion.

I don't know, most of the comments in regard here (including 3 of the 4 that AZ quoted) seemed to be about the construct of religion and how it makes itself known, rather than picking on Christians for any particular reason. It seems not much different than being exasperated by capitalism when faced with certain injustices - it's certainly not any particular group of capitalists that have caused such trouble, and more likely only a few at the extremes.
posted by setanor at 3:10 PM on February 23, 2010


I am willing to be collectively considered to be responsible for, say, racism, because as a white person I benefit. But I am not willing to be held as being collectively responsible for, say, the guy downstairs from me robbing a bank, even though he might be white, like me, or Irish, like me, or Jewish, like me, or have my name, or anything that might connect him with me in some superficial way.

We're not talking about a Christian robbing a bank.

We're talking about the natural conclusion to the common conservative religious cry for Traditional Family Values.

If we want to talk about equivalents, let's talk about, say, George Wallace. As a White woman, I don't benefit much from George Wallace's racism, but I can't deny that it came out of the same framework of racism that contains my own Whiteness.
posted by muddgirl at 3:10 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


e.g. militia movement, PETA, dittoheads

The other issue we have here is that one can't attack unreasoning fundamentalist Christianity without someone thinking Christianity as a whole is under assault.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:13 PM on February 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


Fucking Mefites! Fuckin' shit up all the time! Fuck them

because none of them spoused me
posted by waraw at 3:15 PM on February 23, 2010


jessamyn: "Overgeneralizing about religion is no more appropriate than overgeneralizing about nationality, race, sexual orientation, or gender."

So what can we feel OK overgeneralizing about?

Less glibly, I understand that people hold a religion in a different way than they do non-religious opinions, and are more likely to take personal offense from criticism, but religion is something that we like to pretend we can freely choose these days (a concept supported implicitly by the Christian zeal for conversion), and if we accept that a) something can be an influence for good or bad on individual behavior and society on a whole and b) that thing could be chosen among various alternatives, then I think it follows that we should be free to tear into any religion, or religion as a concept, critically speaking.

I don't think that insulting the people is OK. Argument ad hominem is rarely helpful, and one of the things I like about MetaFilter is the general lack of tolerance for ad hominem. But given that religious organizations make it an explicit goal to influence policy, law, and social and ethical norms, I, as a stakeholder in my country and human society, presume I have the right to talk shit about religion.
posted by idiopath at 3:16 PM on February 23, 2010 [15 favorites]


Well, let me point to specific axamples of what I am talking about, to be clearer:

So, should people not be allowed to say they think that religion is inherently a force for evil?

If so, why should we allow people to say they think religion is inherently a force for good?

I don't doubt that there are people who could do better at "forwarding the discussion" on both sides of this argument... but if you're drawing the line according to the content of the opinion rather than the way it's expressed, I think that's bunk. Several of the comments you pointed out were well-spoken and relatively restrained, and none of them would have been out-of-place in a thread about nearly any other human institution. And this is a human institution -- not a race, not a gender.

I think it's pretty unreasonable to suggest that religion in general (or Christianity in particular) should be something we can only discuss one way.
posted by vorfeed at 3:16 PM on February 23, 2010 [17 favorites]


Nothing personal cereselle, and I get where you're coming from. I guess I look at these posts and wonder what people are going to talk about besides "oh my god those people are horrible" and then the obvious "fuck Christianity AMIRITE" follow-up. This is not to say that any post on those topics is verboten, but that taking a touchy topic and then describing the abuse of children [maybe graphic was the wrong word, but you can link to descriptions of abuse or you can put them above the fold] is pretty much guaranteed to set people off.

I'm with you that it's an important topic, but I'm sort of wondering how you thought that thread would go? Not everything that makes you go "oh my god that's horrible" makes a good post for MetaFilter. I'm not saying anything in particular about your post, but I think people get used to similar posts on other sites without maybe thinking "gee these sorts of threads always go horribly here..."

And honestly describing the abuse and murder of children probably gives any post a 95% probability of winding up in MetaTalk.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:17 PM on February 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


Indeed, but in democracies at least we have a discussion about those things and can change them. The law does not have a moral force. Something can be legal and wrong, or illegal and right. The problem arises when we abdicate our own conscience in favour of a higher moral authority. That is pretty much the definition of religion, as opposed to spirituality or belief.

This statement doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Every religion that I know enough to speak about has some mechanism for changing rules, and also a concept of breaking rules for the sake of a larger principle. For example, Judaism does have this principle built in, AND Christianity more or less started out by considering it not good enough and taking it to a higher extreme.

There's plenty of room to argue about the actual mechanisms, how 'democratic' they are, and so on, but democracy itself doesn't have such a great track record on actually giving everybody input on political and legislative decision making.

Every legal system that I know of sees itself as having a moral force, even if its appeal to authority isn't based on God, it's still based on something Bigger than the average little guy. Civil disobedience is effective *because* it challenges the morality of the law, and it would be meaningless if law made no claim to embodying or manifesting some kind of morality.

That is pretty much the definition of religion, as opposed to spirituality or belief.

A lot of people make themselves crazy trying to define religion, and a major problem with that pursuit is that the definitions they come up with tend to be strongly correlated with however the dominant religion that surrounds them defines itself. The diversity of both current and historical religions does not support your attempt here.
posted by Salamandrous at 3:18 PM on February 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


And this is a human institution -- not a race, not a gender.

Important.

...given that religious organizations make it an explicit goal to influence policy, law, and social and ethical norms, I, as a stakeholder in my country and human society, presume I have the right to talk shit about religion.

Important.
posted by setanor at 3:18 PM on February 23, 2010 [20 favorites]


kmz: Did Kaczynski commit his crimes in the name of math? Does the CCP commit atrocities in the name of Chinese ethnicity?

AZ: If your hypothetical bank robber was robbing a bank in order to advance the cause of Irish Jews named Astro Zombie, then yes, I think you would be responsible for saying "This man does not speak for the whole of the Irish Jewish Astro Zombie community, and I decry his actions."

The Pearls are explicitly saying "Being a Christian means beating your children." They are putting out these ideas in the name of Christianity. If Christians don't want this to be the face of Christianity, they need to speak out. Many do.
posted by cereselle at 3:19 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


The comparison between religion and race is a canard. One is born into ones race; one chooses ones religion (or lack thereof) and can therefore be held accountable for the choice.

It's obvious I have a problem with religion; that does not mean that I think all religious people are bad or stupid. I just think they are wrong and that the overall consequence of this wrongness, globally speaking, is bad.

No doubt many good things flow from religion, and perhaps from your religion, but I still think that if you believe in God/s you are wrong, and that belief in God/s is at the root of a massive amount of suffering in the world.

That does not make me a bigot, or you oppressed.
posted by unSane at 3:19 PM on February 23, 2010 [19 favorites]


If Christians don't want this to be the face of Christianity, they need to speak out. Many do.

But every Christian on MetaFilter does not need to testify that they condemn what the Pearls did. And they should be able to be on the site without people accusing them of siding with child abusers and murderers.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:21 PM on February 23, 2010 [27 favorites]


The reason religious beliefs need protection from ridicule is that they are ridiculous.
posted by applemeat at 3:22 PM on February 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


Religion isn't the problem, it rarely is. It's the zealous adherence to a set of principles while blindly ignoring the hypocrisies inherent in, and the damage caused by one's actions.

It's the thing that allows Westboro Baptist church to exist in spite of the teachings of the book they purport to follow. Or people to beat their children under the auspices of being a ministry.

Ironically, that same problem; that zeal and blind ignorance of one's actions isn't limited to religious folk, it can be just as easily wielded by the atheist with a grudge and an axe to grind. And the sooner us atheists recognize how quickly our condemnations stop being productive and start pushing us into the realm of ugly-zealot, the better.
posted by quin at 3:22 PM on February 23, 2010 [10 favorites]


Every legal system that I know of sees itself as having a moral force, even if its appeal to authority isn't based on God, it's still based on something Bigger than the average little guy. Civil disobedience is effective *because* it challenges the morality of the law, and it would be meaningless if law made no claim to embodying or manifesting some kind of morality.

This is just not true. Hopefully the law reflects morality, but it does not encapsulate it. They are two different things. Law is a political and social construct. Morality is a metaphysical concept.
posted by unSane at 3:23 PM on February 23, 2010


Overgeneralizing about religion is no more appropriate than overgeneralizing about nationality, race, sexual orientation, or gender.

This needs to be repeated a whole bunch of times. Maybe it should go in the FAQ.



This isn't wrong exactly, but it is, perhaps, imprecise. For many religion is a choice (for most in western societies). I think it wouldn't be necessarily inappropriate to suggest, therefore, that religious people are likely to be more credulous in some regards. We are defined by our choices, to some extent. Religious belief, in the west, at least, should be grouped with political belief, rather than race, gender, etc., shouldn't it?
posted by tigrefacile at 3:25 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


atheist with a grudge and an axe to grind

The job of the Atheist is to butt out and let religion run the course? Sure, let me know where I can get tickets for a trip to the Bernal sphere and you won't hear a peep.
posted by setanor at 3:26 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


My (Christian) husband* and I have had conversations about how inhospitable mefi is to Christians. I guess I didn't notice it as much until he joined, but there is definitely a knee jerk reaction every time religion is mentioned. I wonder how many people just leave the site instead of feeling forced to say "I'm not one of THOSE Christians" at every turn.

*who is not one of those Christians
posted by desjardins at 3:28 PM on February 23, 2010 [11 favorites]


isn't this less about beliefs, and more about the constant expression of same?
posted by waraw at 3:29 PM on February 23, 2010


I think it's reasonable to look to large groups to confirm they don't condone certain things when people try to use the group's authority as a reason or justification for what they're doing.

Without meaning to trivialise it, I suppose it's a bit like expecting the water board to confirm that they don't go door to door when burglars are using that as an excuse to get into people's homes. I'm not suggesting any individual person should have that responsibility, or anything about the thread in particular. Just that as a general rule it's good to have the lack of connection explicitly stated by the group.
posted by lucidium at 3:30 PM on February 23, 2010


But every Christian on MetaFilter does not need to testify that they condemn what the Pearls did. And they should be able to be on the site without people accusing them of siding with child abusers and murderers.

Agreed. But it would certainly be nice if the Christian voices were louder in their condemnation of the Pearls than they were in the condemnation of people speaking out against religion.
posted by unSane at 3:30 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


My (Christian) husband* and I have had conversations about how inhospitable mefi is to Christians.

As opposed to where?
posted by unSane at 3:31 PM on February 23, 2010


In my disgust at the perpetrators of this crime and those who encouraged them I made a, in hindsight, unfair comment on cimbrog's flameout in that thread. I realize now that what s/he was getting at was that his or her religion coming under regular fire here has made Metafilter an unwelcoming place to them and that is not a good thing.
posted by IanMorr at 3:33 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


But every Christian on MetaFilter does not need to testify that they condemn what the Pearls did. And they should be able to be on the site without people accusing them of siding with child abusers and murderers.

Honestly... I'm torn here. I mean, I imagine that any right-thinking person would WANT to condemn this. I'm not saying MeFi should compel this, I'm just saying-- how can you NOT condemn atrocities done in your name, or the name of your God? Unless you skip the thread entirely, which is of course anyone's right.

On the other hand, I agree with you in the case of comments that say "No matter what Christians say, their belief in God will inevitably lead to this kind of tragedy." I would hope that commenters would be good enough not to attack people who have already condemned and distanced themselves from these actions.
posted by cereselle at 3:34 PM on February 23, 2010


How about we compromise here:

"Violence, especially against children, is wrong, and has no place in a peaceful, just society."
posted by Salvor Hardin at 3:34 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


No doubt many good things flow from religion, and perhaps from your religion, but I still think that if you believe in God/s you are wrong, and that belief in God/s is at the root of a massive amount of suffering in the world.

this is kind of the hand-waiving dismissal that the most vocal atheist mefites default to, and it's unfortunate. the problem with it is that nobody (in the general sense. I acknowledge that mefi probably has a rabidly religious person or two around who actively despises atheists) on this site ever condemns atheists or agnostics like myself for their beliefs w/r/t God. And it's troubling when the vocal atheists immediately adopt the position of "what I believe isn't the problem," because no one is saying it is. what people are talking about is a type of behavior. and that behavior is making sweeping accusations about religion or religious people.

when jessamyn, as an example, says that broadly tarring religious people is a problem, "well, religion is a choice, so I'm free to make it into my personal object of hate" is not addressing what she - or anyone else - is saying. it's not about what you hate, or distrust, or see as a cause of massive suffering. it's about what you say to people on this site. and you don't need to consider comparisons to racism or whatever to recognize that. you just have to stop yourself, when you're about to detail all the reasons why it's ok to hate religion, and instead think outside of your own feelings for a second. if you think about the many fine mefites who are religious who would be offended by what you'd like to say about religion, you may find that you'd rather find a more tolerant and fair way to express your feelings. if, instead, you decide that it's ok to offend them because of how wrong they are for being religious in the first place, then that right there is the problem.

I swear this is true. the problem people have, here, is the basic lack of consideration for decent mefites who can and will within perfect reason be offended by not only such broad-brush attacks on their beliefs but by the implication that holding their beliefs makes them a valid target. it's not ok.
posted by shmegegge at 3:34 PM on February 23, 2010 [47 favorites]


there is definitely a knee jerk reaction every time religion is mentioned.

Perhaps, only because we keep getting hit by the mallet.
posted by setanor at 3:34 PM on February 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


But it would certainly be nice if the Christian voices were louder in their condemnation of the Pearls than they were in the condemnation of people speaking out against religion.

At least several of us decrying the generalizations aren't Christian or even religious at all.

Does the CCP commit atrocities in the name of Chinese ethnicity?

They certainly do a lot of shit under the guise of some kind of Chinese national pride.
posted by kmz at 3:34 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


My (Christian) husband* and I have had conversations about how inhospitable mefi is to Christians.

My husband and I have had conversations about how inhospitable the entire Western world is to non-Christains.
posted by applemeat at 3:35 PM on February 23, 2010 [37 favorites]


But it would certainly be nice if the Christian voices were louder in their condemnation of the Pearls than they were in the condemnation of people speaking out against religion.

see above.
posted by shmegegge at 3:35 PM on February 23, 2010


Neither race nor gender are biologically determined in quite the way you are talking about. Both are social categories.

Also, many communities define religious identity according to the identity of the parents, you are born into some religions.

Not Protestant Christianity generally, which I'm aware is what you mean by "religion", probably.

Anyway, i'm not sure making someone take responsibility for the religious identity is as useful as holding them responsible for their actions regardless of the justification.
posted by ServSci at 3:37 PM on February 23, 2010


desjardins: "feeling forced to say "I'm not one of THOSE Christians" at every turn"

I am not one of THOSE men. I am not one of THOSE Portland hipsters. I am not one of THOSE atheists. I am not one of THOSE bicyclists. I am not one of THOSE Linux users. I am not one of THOSE adults who makes music.

To name a few groups which I am pretty much a member of that I have been implicitly or explicitly criticized on MeFi for being a member of, either as a member of the collective group or specifically directed at me after having outed myself. And I have felt a need to say well yeah some of those other folks are pretty bad but we are not all like that.

And this is OK. We make choices or belong to groups. We argue about the good and bad things about those groups. Many of the criticisms are valid, as long as they are not used as simple insults to the whole group (particularly regarding Portland hipsters and men - yeah a bunch of us really suck in pretty predictable collective ways but I am not one of THOSE, really, I promise).
posted by idiopath at 3:37 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


But it would certainly be nice if the Christian voices were louder in their condemnation of the Pearls than they were in the condemnation of people speaking out against religion.

Every single self-identified Christian in that thread condemned Pearl. I started this thread and I'm an atheist.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:38 PM on February 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


if you think about the many fine mefites who are religious who would be offended by what you'd like to say about religion, you may find that you'd rather find a more tolerant and fair way to express your feelings. if, instead, you decide that it's ok to offend them because of how wrong they are for being religious in the first place, then that right there is the problem.

Can you point out what I have said that is intolerant or unfair?
posted by unSane at 3:41 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


how can you NOT condemn atrocities done in your name

For starters, I would have a complicated notion of "what is done in my name" I'm aware the US Government does a lot of shitty things, things that I am against. However, I do not feel that it's a necessary part of interacting on MetaFilter that I condemn these atrocities before I participate in a discussion about them. Partly this is because I think it's obvious that I am, for example, against torture, through my actions and statements here and elsewhere. Partly because I think this has aspects of loyalty oaths that I think are creepy and uncool.

I'm sure there are some people who would like to fight with me about my feelings on torture because I voted for this administration [or didn't leave the US under the last administration] and I don't really feel that, in a general thread about a more general topic, I should have to submit my bona fides about my fitness of character. We've had this discussion with people who choose to take this route about, say, people who live in Texas or the US and it's not cool there either.

Telling people that they need to participate in a particular way on MetaFilter [i.e. condem the evil things these people did if you are a member of their religion otherwise we get to group you in with them] because of your preconceptions about their personal beliefs is not okay. You don't know what people believe.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:42 PM on February 23, 2010 [26 favorites]


From the blue:

Religion is a red herring here. Abuse and violence occur everywhere, cross-culturally, diachronically. It's a human impulse and dysfunction, it is not caused by religious thinking, merely justified by it, in the same way that people justify other horrible things they already want to do by appeals to religious authority. It's very tempting to blame this on religion because doing so makes it seem that it can be easily extirpated -- get rid of religion, and it's gone. The truth is not so simple or easy.

Yes.

How many terrible things were done by the US in the name of democracy/capitalism/fighting the Commie menace? How many terrible things are done today in the name of democracy/capitalism/fighting the Terrist menace?

It doesn't have to be belief in God. It's a belief in any abstraction that is deemed of more importance than human life and decency.
posted by cereselle at 3:42 PM on February 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


Every single self-identified Christian in that thread condemned Pearl. I started this thread and I'm an atheist.

And having done that, they all piled in here.
posted by unSane at 3:42 PM on February 23, 2010


I have a lot of bad feelings towards religion. But really, focusing on religion when confronted with atrocities like what happened to that little girl, is essentially attacking the shield that the Pearls hide behind. In a way, by assaulting the concept of religion in general is allowing the Pearls to smugly hide behind their God, secure in the belief that they are righteous. It's pointless to rail against the evils of religion in response to this, because it distracts from the point, which is that beating children is a terrible, terrible thing.

In the words of Taylor Mali,

So don’t waste my time and your curses on verses
about what you are against, despise, and abhor.
Tell me what inspires you, what fulfills and fires you,
put your precious pen to paper and tell me what you’re for!


So here's what I'm for:

A society where violence is an inconceivable aberration, where people are free to be and think and do as they please as long as they don't infringe on the persons or freedoms of others, and a society where trust is a habit, rather than a rarity.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 3:46 PM on February 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


Can you point out what I have said that is intolerant or unfair?

come on. the problems with your comments have already been pointed out. don't act all mystified, now. but fine, here are some examples of unfair comments.

the yay religion comment.

comments like "On the day when the dominant discourse amongst self-identified Christians is 'how to treat other people better' as opposed to shooting them, converting them, or barring them from civil rights, I will accordingly modify my opinions."

comments like "But it would certainly be nice if the Christian voices were louder in their condemnation of the Pearls than they were in the condemnation of people speaking out against religion."

and before the whole "there's nothing about those comments that is unfair because religions are evil and here's why," thing gets off the ground again, bear in mind that it's not really up to you to decide what other people are allowed to be upset or offended by. the point is to listen to other people when they explain to you why they're upset and try to understand. the point is NOT to keep coming up with reasons why they shouldn't be in the first place.
posted by shmegegge at 3:48 PM on February 23, 2010


the point is to listen to other people when they explain to you why they're upset and try to understand.

Who listens to the atheist?
posted by setanor at 3:50 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


At least several of us decrying the generalizations aren't Christian or even religious at all.

Seriously, I'm a long time atheist one of the many reasons for my deconversion from Christianity was the way many fellow Christains behaved toward "outsiders" they could be so proud of their intolerance. Little did I know they grow that produce everywhere man.
posted by nola at 3:50 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


if I offend you, very well, I offend you. I expect we'll all live.
posted by unSane at 3:51 PM on February 23, 2010


Who listens to the atheist?

on this site? who doesn't?
posted by shmegegge at 3:52 PM on February 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


How many terrible things were done by the US in the name of democracy/capitalism/fighting the Commie menace? How many terrible things are done today in the name of democracy/capitalism/fighting the Terrist menace?

And yet no one claims that we must all "respect" democracy, capitalism, or fighting the Commie/Terrist menace by refraining from criticism. No one claims that we must "find a more tolerant and fair way to express your feelings", lest we offend the democrats, capitalists, anti-communists, or anti-terrorists.

I'm offended by a hell of a lot of things on this site; the idea that some ideas are OK to express and others aren't is one of them.

On preview: if "it's not really up to you to decide what other people are allowed to be upset or offended by", then why is it up to you to decide that other people aren't allowed to be upset or offended by religion?
posted by vorfeed at 3:54 PM on February 23, 2010 [9 favorites]


if I offend you, very well, I offend you.

I can't tell if the "you" in this is me or a general you. but to be clear, I'm agnostic. I just think the blanket condemnations of religion are unfair, and that people have given some pretty decent reasons for trying to be more sensitive about it.
posted by shmegegge at 3:54 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


But it would certainly be nice if the Christian voices were louder in their condemnation of the Pearls than they were in the condemnation of people speaking out against religion.

This is precisely the same sort of justification used by every anti-Muslim bigot on every right-wing message board. People are murdered in the name of Islam, so we should treat them all as murderers. Our hatred is righteous and justified. If those so-called "innocent" Muslims were really against this behavior, they would be speaking out.

Of course, they do, all the time, everywhere, but it's never enough for the bigots. Because that's not really what they want to hear. Their minds are made up.
posted by neroli at 3:59 PM on February 23, 2010 [9 favorites]


No one claims that we must "find a more tolerant and fair way to express your feelings", lest we offend the democrats, capitalists, anti-communists, or anti-terrorists.

Yeah we do actually. If someone comes out against everyone who buys anything and accuses them of supporting the evil that is capitalism and basically won't shut up about how they're right, even though the thread is about some sort of ipod thing, you can bet we'll tell them to take it to Metatalk. It just comes up a lot less frequently. Here are a few other topics we expect people to be tolerant and reasonable about

- democracy and the two party system
- UFOs
- bedbugs
- parenting styles
- coffee preparation tips
- Brooklyn
- free weights vs exercise machines
- pubic hair
- France
- skinny and fat people
- medium sized people
- cat people and dog people
- ferrets
- facial hair
- the post office

etc. I'm not sure if I'm making myself clear. If you appear fanatical enough about a topic that you appear to not be able to discuss that topic with your fellow MeFites because it makes you holler "J'accuse!" at them at every turn and you will not accede to agreeing to disagree or changing the subject, then yes, we'll tell you to knock it off. I've been able to make my anti-capitalist sentiments very clear in several threads without people feeling personally attacked. You can be offended at whatever you want, but the meta-discussion about your grievances should take place in MetaTalk.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:00 PM on February 23, 2010 [12 favorites]


There is only one side throwing the word 'bigot' around here.
posted by unSane at 4:04 PM on February 23, 2010


Being right is never enough, you have to be better than just right. Fundimentalists of every stripe know they're "right" and with that knowledge they justify being assholes to everyone else. Knowing you're "right" doesn't make you immune from being humble.

If eveyone who knew they where "right" would also practice a little humility I think the world would be a better place. I need to learn that lesson as much as anyone though so what the hell do I know.
posted by nola at 4:06 PM on February 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


And yet no one claims that we must all "respect" democracy, capitalism, or fighting the Commie/Terrist menace by refraining from criticism.

People keep throwing out this strawman, in this thread and previous ones like it. No one is saying 'You are not allowed to criticize religion.' Stop pretending that.

What is being said is that taking the terrible actions of some people and using them as an excuse to insult members of this community on the basis that they share some degree of ideological belief is rude, and it is being a bad member of the community.

Also:

It is not only Christians who are complaining about this rudeness; it is not only religious people who are complaining about this rudeness. As has been pointed out numerous times, atheists and agnostics are also complaining about this rudeness: Astro Zombie is an atheist and he started this thread. Please stop saying that the only complaints are from persecution-complex-y hegemonic white Christian males and that atheists are tired of being shat on by the hegemony because that is completely irrelevant to how this community ought to function.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:08 PM on February 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


Maybe we need to choose a typographic symbol to mean "religion sucks, and religious people suck, and all that." In the same way that "." conveys a moment of silence and respect. Because even as a vehemently outspoken atheist, I'm tired of it all too.

I suggest the hash (#). So instead of blah blah blah religion is dumb, I'll just say:

#
posted by ErikaB at 4:09 PM on February 23, 2010


Did Kaczynski commit his crimes in the name of math?

I dunno, but that is an awesome idea for a villain.
posted by unSane at 4:10 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


People keep throwing out this strawman [...]

[...] Please stop saying that the only complaints are from persecution-complex-y hegemonic white Christian males and that atheists are tired of being shat on by the hegemony because that is completely irrelevant to how this community ought to function.


oh my aching sides
posted by unSane at 4:12 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sorry, but I will never be reasonable about bedbugs. Miserable little fuckers should be wiped from the face of the Earth.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:13 PM on February 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


oh my aching sides

I'm sorry, would you like a belly rub?
posted by shakespeherian at 4:15 PM on February 23, 2010


Why thank you. And a hug?
posted by unSane at 4:16 PM on February 23, 2010


I'm aware the US Government does a lot of shitty things, things that I am against. However, I do not feel that it's a necessary part of interacting on MetaFilter that I condemn these atrocities before I participate in a discussion about them.

I guess I'm having a hard time thinking of some kind of comment that you (or I) would make in a thread on American atrocities that wouldn't be condemnatory in some way. I mean, if you believe that kind of thing shouldn't be done, you won't be talking it up, right? Condemning something doesn't mean making a formal statement, necessarily. I mean, this:

They apparently have no idea what "corporal punishment" or "hitting" mean. As in, literally no idea. That's impressive.

is condemnatory. Louche Mustachio disapproves.

Telling people that they need to participate in a particular way on MetaFilter [i.e. condem the evil things these people did if you are a member of their religion otherwise we get to group you in with them] because of your preconceptions about their personal beliefs is not okay. You don't know what people believe.

I'm not telling anyone that they have to do anything. I have no power to dictate what is or isn't appropriate for people to say or do.

I think what I mean by "Christians should denounce this" is unclear. It's not 'should' as in "you must say this oath each time so we know you're good enough to post on MeFi." It's that this:

Pearls: To be Christian means beating children.
Non-Christians: Wow, Christianity sucks.
Christians: *silence*

is less effective at combating the Christianity Sucks message than this:

Pearls: To be Christian means beating children.
Non-Christians: Wow, Christianity sucks.
Christians: No, these people are wrong. They are advocating unChristian behavior.

I think what you're saying is that non-Christian MeFites should not immediately jump to the conclusion "Wow, Christianity sucks." I don't know how to fix that.

The more I say, the less sure I am that I'm making any sense. Also, I need to leave for a meeting, so I am out until tomorrow. Not avoiding, just gotta go.
posted by cereselle at 4:17 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


how can you NOT condemn atrocities done in your name, or the name of your God?

Does this mean that because I played D&D in high school I have to loudly condemn the body odor of the schizophrenic who claims that Githyanki put mind control chips in his head? Because that's often about the level of relevance in these discussions. Especially since everyone who needs to put out a positive spin when they done bad (see parole board / death row / bilked retirees), loudly embraces the Christianity to which they were earlier indifferent. It's exhausting just keeping track of the hypocritical douche bags who are using Christianity as a shield; I can't imagine the effort it would take to condemn all of them in a timely fashion.

Of course, It's a different thing entirely if the action is mainstream within the context of the group.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:17 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here are a few other topics we expect people to be tolerant and reasonable about

Woohoo, recruiters weren't on the list! My hate fest lives on.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:18 PM on February 23, 2010


cereselle: I recognized that this was a touchy topic, and I thought about it for several days before posting. In the end, I felt that sunlight was the best disinfectant-- the more these teachings are exposed, the more people know to beware of and condemn them.

Did you really think there's a danger that MeFites might fall prey to the Pearls' teachings? That we/they/you might be hesitant to condemn the practice of beating a child with plumbing supply hose? (love the mundane specificity) In this particular sense, things are pretty sunny here already, thanks.

What result were you hoping for? How did you imagine the discussion would play out? I'm honestly not sure what you think was gained from making it a FPP.
posted by dogrose at 4:21 PM on February 23, 2010


Woohoo, recruiters weren't on the list! My hate fest lives on.

Nor were real estate agents!

Which makes perfect sense, because everybody would surely agree 100% that they are the absolute detritus of society.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:23 PM on February 23, 2010


Christians: No, these people are wrong. They are advocating unChristian behavior.

From what I could tell by that thread, this is exactly what happened.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:25 PM on February 23, 2010


I guess I'm having a hard time thinking of some kind of comment that you (or I) would make in a thread on American atrocities that wouldn't be condemnatory in some way.

"Gee I wonder what the legal implications are for calling this sort of thing torture?" is a perfectly non-condeming statement I could make. If it were followed up with someone saying that since I didn't condemn torture I must ... be for it? Or that because I live in America I am in favor of my government's treatment of political prisoners? I'd tell that person to fuck right off and stop putting words in my mouth because it's offensive and fighty to tell someone that they believe in or wish for something that they don't. This goes doubly so when the thing you are claiming they support is abhorrent and vile.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:25 PM on February 23, 2010


Pearls: To be Christian means beating children.
Non-Christians: Wow, Christianity sucks.
Christians: *silence*


Shouldn't that be:

Pearls: To be Christian means beating children
All Reasonably Thoughtful People: You are crazy.

No Christian versus Non-Christian necessary.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:26 PM on February 23, 2010 [22 favorites]


Maybe we need to choose a typographic symbol to mean "religion sucks, and religious people suck, and all that." In the same way that "." conveys a moment of silence and respect. Because even as a vehemently outspoken atheist, I'm tired of it all too.

I suggest the hash (#). So instead of blah blah blah religion is dumb, I'll just say:

#


Me too.
posted by unSane at 4:26 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Religion is like working out on a treadmill. It can be good for you. But you're not really running anywhere.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:27 PM on February 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


then why is it up to you to decide that other people aren't allowed to be upset or offended by religion?

again, to repeat the very point I made in my first comment: no one is saying you can't be upset or offended by religion. what people are asking for is some basic consideration for the community, and to find a way to communicate feelings about religion that aren't unfair to metafilter's religious members.
posted by shmegegge at 4:27 PM on February 23, 2010


I'm honestly not sure what you think was gained from making it a FPP.

Seriously? An evidently widely-read fundamentalist Christian parenting site advocates behavior which results more or less directly in the death of a child? You think this wasn't worth a post?
posted by unSane at 4:29 PM on February 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


This thing about how folks who don't want to be identified with the horrible should speak out (ostensibly to put a better face on to try to deflect stereotyping) is a very slippery slope and can easily lead to loyalty tests and other ugliness that I'd prefer not to see MetaFilter get into.

I don't want to say "Can't we all just get along?" because I know we simply cannot, but I do think that it's reasonable to ask everyone who participates in MetaFilter conversations to at least try to assume good intent and to maybe avoid stereotyping about any group if possible.

You know, even the majority, who as we all know are bastards.
posted by kalessin at 4:29 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Human societies are capable of a particular kind of moral flexibility, which goes to work when communities turn to authoritarian behaviors. It usually begins with oppressing women or persecuting minorities, it might work up to some kind of arbitrary police state, and sometimes it results in genocide. Religion is not always at the heart of this, but it can and does have a very specific role to play as a means of conservative social control. When this happens, religious groups should be made answerable, and civilized societies need to recognize this, or we will be back in the Dark Ages very soon.

At No Greater Joy, religious doctrine is running amok in the worst possible way. This so-called ministry is doing something so obviously evil and wrong, which they should have been called to account for long ago, and which they are getting away with, because people are so confused about what's right when it comes to the Church. I see this happening more and more, among Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus etc ... and it's only getting easier for the guilty to protect themselves, when nobody will to stand up and cry foul for fear of offending someone's religious beliefs.

And Metafilter, of all places, is defending religion. Did we learn nothing from the Spanish Inquisition? I don't know what to say.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 4:38 PM on February 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


Yes, I wasn't at all saying that any religious person who didn't speak out against this stuff was for it. That seems idiotic. It just seemed to me -- and maybe I was wrong -- that people were more offended that religion was being blamed for this, than that these fruitcakes had used religion as a justification.

I mean, to use the America analogy, I would have felt the same way if a thread about (say) Abu Ghraib had led to a MetaTalk thread about how unfair it was to the majority of Americans to complain that America was the root cause of the problem.
posted by unSane at 4:39 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


*sigh* The hell with my meeting.

What result were you hoping for? How did you imagine the discussion would play out? I'm honestly not sure what you think was gained from making it a FPP.

As Jessamyn pointed out above, I have no idea what people believe. There are many MeFites who are Christian, but who have never heard of the Pearls or their "ministry." From the last link of my FPP:
I can't tell you how this has shocked and devastated us. We loved this family. We love them still. The first thing we did when we learned of all this, before we had any idea who did what, and still held out hope that it was all some kind of mistake, was to write them letters. [...] We then began simply waiting, praying for the best outcome for all involved, and hoping some light would be shed on how such a thing could have happened - and wishing none of it was real.

[...]

As the days have gone by, more and more information has been uncovered about our friends. It turns out they were following the methods of Michael and Debi Pearl's "ministry" of systematic child "training". My husband and I have spent hours upon hours since this discovery poring over Pearl literature, disgusted. Horrified. I wanted understanding of what could have led to this tragedy, and I got it. The Pearl Method was the missing link. It made “sense” of what made no sense before. From what I've read, and even from some hindsight reflections of what I knew of this family, it appears they were following Pearl teachings very carefully - in doctrine and in practice.
This blogger is an intelligent, thoughtful Christian woman. Had she known that this philosophy existed, she might have been able to intervene and avoid this tragedy. There may be MeFite Christians who will be in a similar position someday.
posted by cereselle at 4:40 PM on February 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


Born-again Christian until my early 20s**, and I just don't see any other way around it: Any religion that puts the afterlife at a higher priority than life will always be evil in the aggregate.

I'd call myself a Christian Atheist now, but that just confuses people.
posted by LordSludge at 4:41 PM on February 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


Seriously? An evidently widely-read fundamentalist Christian parenting site advocates behavior which results more or less directly in the death of a child? You think this wasn't worth a post?

I don't. Because on MeFi, it's just an opportunity for people to vent bile, not an opportunity for reasoned discussion.
posted by mpbx at 4:43 PM on February 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


And Metafilter, of all places, is defending religion. Did we learn nothing from the Spanish Inquisition? I don't know what to say.

I think people who are saying the Pearls were nuts and they're using religion as a shield to protect, defend, and support their nuttiness are on point. I'm not defending religion. I am non-religious and personally fairly anti-religious. However, I'm also decent at my personal preferences not affecting my ability to get along with other people on an internet message board. If you think this is a slippery slope to the Spanish Inquisition, we do not have an awful lot of common ground for starting to have a conversation about this.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:46 PM on February 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


Basically the thing is that you don't read about horrific abuses atheists inflict upon their children who defend said abuses with, "there is no God so I free to beat and kill my children if I wish."

But Christians who beat their children say, "spare the rod, spoil the child." Muslims execute their daughters for dubious offenses involving "honor." Scientologists use brainwashing techniques on their children. Whether or not there is a scriptural justification is beside the point. They do this as a central pillar of their faith. Thinking that they are ordered to by their god is just as insane as David Berkowitz thinking that a demon dog told him to commit murder.

Why is Berkowitz "crazier" than any of the rest of them?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 4:47 PM on February 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


Defending the right to be religious without being called crazy, stupid, wackjob, nutsowhatevers is not the same as defending No Greater Joy. I recognize that there's probably a lot of catharsis in that thread - people are upset, and it feels better when they can call religious peoplecrazy, stupid, wackjob, nutsowhatevers. But what I don't like is the subtle idea I'm seeing that somehow it's important to call religious people crazy, stupid, wackjob, nutsowhatevers. It's not. Nothing is gained by being disrespectful, by stooping to a lower level, whatever. All it does is alienate religious people who would want to work with you for ethical principles. I don't want to sound like I'm preaching from some high horse, because I do struggle with this stuff, but...

FFS, those poor children. Hurt, sick, dead - and Metafilter's great reaction is "Oh lol Xians are dumb and I hope all of them die in a fire." We are better than that. Smarter, more respectful, less inclined to stereotype, etc.
posted by bunnycup at 4:47 PM on February 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


We are better than that. Smarter, more respectful, less inclined to stereotype, etc.

Citations please.
posted by mpbx at 4:49 PM on February 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


mpbx, don't let the fact that there's noise distract you from the large volume of signal in the thread. For all that two or three people on either side want to get fighty about it, there are many more people with insightful contributions, and many, many more than that reading and learning something they would not otherwise have known.

I want to say that to Jessamyn, too, because you seemed to come down on cereselle pretty hard for making the post at all: even if difficult issues cause moderation headaches, there is a greater good to be gained from the awareness the FPP gives to societal problems. The Metafilter community is far, far larger than those few who post responses.
posted by darksasami at 4:53 PM on February 23, 2010


I have strong opinions on how people decide to make posts on difficult topics and I am skeptical of the greater good argument, personally. I'd like people to think critically about what specifically they think would or should happen as a result of their posts and then think about whether that is, in fact, what happened.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:56 PM on February 23, 2010


applemeat: My husband and I have had conversations about how inhospitable the entire Western world is to non-Christains.

I'm not going to argue this point with you, but Meta is where we talk about MetaFilter and our hospitality or lack thereof to other members. We can and have changed the tone of the site through various conversations about racism, sexism etc. I don't think anyone's under the delusion that we can change the rest of the Western world in Meta.
posted by desjardins at 4:57 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


to find a way to communicate feelings about religion that aren't unfair to metafilter's religious members.

Specifically, I'd like a pony, and that pony is "please quit throwing us pantheists, pagans, and other adherents of disorganized religion into this hate-on for American, rightist, fundamentalist Christianity, it's really friggin' vexing."
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 4:57 PM on February 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Oh lol Xians are dumb and I hope all of them die in a fire."

Please don't use quotation marks when you're not even in the vicinity of anything anyone ever said in that thread.
posted by setanor at 4:58 PM on February 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


bunnycup, you think we're LOL-ing?? We're frustrated, to be sure, but that's a far cry from HAHAHAHA LOOKITDA MORANS!
posted by LordSludge at 5:01 PM on February 23, 2010


Jesus told me to get drunk and ignore you idiots.
posted by jonmc at 5:02 PM on February 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


On the day when the dominant discourse amongst self-identified Christians is 'how to treat other people better' as opposed to shooting them, converting them, or barring them from civil rights, I will accordingly modify my opinions.

Maybe you should do this already, because 'how to treat other people better' is actually the core of Christian morality. You know, the thing about "Love God with all your heart, mind and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself." These can be interpreted as two different ways of saying the same thing.

Shooting people, converting people (to anything) against their will, or barring people from their civil rights is evil, but for Christians doing so in the name of Christianity, or God, is evil and blasphemous.
posted by nangar at 5:06 PM on February 23, 2010


People keep throwing out this strawman, in this thread and previous ones like it. No one is saying 'You are not allowed to criticize religion.' Stop pretending that. What is being said is that taking the terrible actions of some people and using them as an excuse to insult members of this community on the basis that they share some degree of ideological belief is rude, and it is being a bad member of the community.

no one is saying you can't be upset or offended by religion. what people are asking for is some basic consideration for the community, and to find a way to communicate feelings about religion that aren't unfair to metafilter's religious members.

Astro Zombie called out several comments seemingly because they were anti-religion, not because they broke the guidelines or personally insulted members of this community. If either of these comments had been made in a similar thread about capitalism or the government or whatever, nobody would have blinked. And if a relatively general, polite, and well-phrased anti-religion statement like the baby-and-bathwater comment is worthy of a callout, then "find a way to communicate feelings about religion that aren't unfair to metafilter's religious members" does begin to look more like "you are not allowed to criticize religion".

Merely saying that religion is worthless and/or bad is no more "unfair" or "rude" to religious people than saying that religion is worthy and good is "unfair" or "rude" to anti-religious people. Our members disagree on plenty of polarized topics like this, particularly politics, yet no one starts callouts because statements of political position are "rude" and "unfair" to Democrats or Republicans, nor do we tell one side of the issue to "find a way to communicate feelings about politics that aren't unfair to metafilter's Nader-voting members".

To my mind, the special pleading here is what's rude and unfair. If the baby comment is out of line, then it seems there are certain beliefs about religion that can never be expressed, not matter how generally; how's that "fair"?
posted by vorfeed at 5:11 PM on February 23, 2010 [21 favorites]


Jesus told me to get drunk and ignore you idiots.

Bowling again?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:17 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I really don't look at religious threads because they always turn out like this.
posted by hellojed at 5:18 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Considering the FPP, it's no wonder that the following thread was charged more emotionally than intellectually.

The following thread was pretty much what one should expect for such a horrific story. (Not that thread shitting or religion bashing is ever OK.)

FWIW, I read very little of that thread of comments because it left me paralyzed with fear and disgust.

What a horrible fucking story.
posted by snsranch at 5:20 PM on February 23, 2010


But given that religious organizations make it an explicit goal to influence policy, law, and social and ethical norms, I, as a stakeholder in my country and human society, presume I have the right to talk shit about religion.

I absolutely agree that you have that right. And I don't even have a problem with you or anyone else doing it. But be careful with your logic re: religious organizations making it an explicit goal to influence policy, law, and social and ethical norms. Because race, gender, and sexual orientation-based organizations do that, too.

Your right to talk shit about religion doesn't stem from religious groups' right to engage in political discourse. Your right exists no matter what religious groups do. In the U.S., you have the right to talk shit about anyone and any organization, no matter whether your talk is correct, respectful, hateful, incorrect, idiotic, inarticulate, or extremely well-researched and supported.

The question is not whether you have the right to talk shit. The question is whether the community standard of the MetaFilter community should accept a storm of the same old shit talk everytime there's a thread where someone mentions a religious person doing something bad. There's a certain tone for which MetaFilter is notable. And that tone often goes out the window when certain topics are mentioned. But maybe that's just the nature of this community.
posted by The World Famous at 5:23 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


> Overgeneralizing about religion is no more appropriate than overgeneralizing about nationality, race, sexual orientation, or gender.

Thanks for saying this, jessamyn.
posted by generalist at 5:23 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


If the baby comment is out of line, then it seems there are certain beliefs about religion that can never be expressed, not matter how generally; how's that "fair"?

The Baby/Bathwater comment is pithy and clever, but when you look at it closely, it's just a gussied up generalization devoid of actual content or merit. If the author had gone on to elaborate on their belief, perhaps it would have value, but as is, it's drive-by snark.
posted by mpbx at 5:25 PM on February 23, 2010


cereselle, that's disingenuous. The woman you're quoting would never, under any circumstances, have followed the Pearls regardless of their or her faith. She makes that very clear.

Your post wasn't any kind of public service announcement: "Hey, MeFites, in case you're on the fence about whipping your infant or child with a plumbing supply line— this is where that can lead! Don't do it!"

So what was the point? It was rubbernecking, taking a gander at a god-bothering pileup.

Okay. It is what it is. Please stop pretending that it's anything else.
posted by dogrose at 5:26 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


And Metafilter, of all places, is defending religion.

If that's your conclusion from this and countless other posts across the whole family of sites, then all I can conclude is you're not reading Metafilter. This place is run by an atheist and moderated by atheists and filled with atheists. It's just about the frikkin' Knights of Columbus for English-speaking atheism.

But end of the day, the anti-religious anger doesn't make for good conversation; in fact, countless other threads have shown it to be pretty toxic to reasoned debate. And the fact it shoots up in just about any thread even tangentially related to religion shows that it's more a weed than a helpful plant.

Metafilter isn't about purity tests, nor should it ever be. If this place isn't atheist and anti-religious enough for you, it's a big Internet, and you have many forums and boards to choose from. But there are religious people on Metafilter, just as there are lesbians, breast feeders, cat people, Republicans, Scots, and Yankees fans. Treat people with some respect and civility, even if you think they're batshitinsane.
posted by dw at 5:28 PM on February 23, 2010 [11 favorites]


Shouldn't that be:

Pearls: To be Christian means beating children
All Reasonably Thoughtful People: You are crazy.

No Christian versus Non-Christian necessary.

In a better world, yes. Unfortunately, Christianity has been increasingly defined in the past 30-40 years as authoritarian, intolerant, and punitive, by the self-identified Christians who hold the loudspeakers. James Dobson, for example, was a key adviser to both Reagan and Bush 2. Among his beliefs are that tolerance and diversity are covers for the homosexual agenda, parents should physically discipline infants, and that an Obama presidency would result in terrorists being given access to US state secrets, mandated gay marriage in all churches, nuclear attack upon Israel, and euthanasia for the elderly. Dobson's Focus on the Family ministry reaches an estimated 220 million people daily.

When the loudest voices of Christianity proudly proclaim these ideals, it is not surprising that non-Christians consider Christianity as a less-than-good influence on people.
posted by cereselle at 5:29 PM on February 23, 2010 [14 favorites]


Seriously, I would support an outright ban on anything religion related, pro or con. MetaFilter Can't Do Religion, and given these sorts of Why Are You Oppressing Me threads seem to pop up about once a month to a flood of comments that rehash the same crap over and over again, maybe it's just time to draw a circle around it and banhammer anyone who steps inside, whether it's pro or con religion.
posted by dw at 5:32 PM on February 23, 2010


vorfeed, context.

It's one thing to express opinions about religion in general in a thread about religion in general. It's another thing to express the same opinion about religion in a thread about an atrocity committed by a fringe sector of a particular religious denomination of a specific religious faith.

Let's use an example.

Person 1 is a libertarian. One day, there's a thread about healthcare. He makes a comment about how he thinks socialism is an antiquated idea. One day neo-Bolsheviks storm the White House and kill the entire Obama family. Person 2 goes in and posts how he thinks socialism is an antiquated idea.

[of course, this is just a hypothetical, we all know Obama is in league with the Bolsheviks]

Do you see how one case is different than the other? Do you see how they're exposing the same opinion, but the underlying implication on the second one is different than the first one? Do you see the offensive overgeneralization in the second one? If you don't like the comment on the second one, does it mean that you don't want anyone to express negative opinions about socialism?
posted by qvantamon at 5:32 PM on February 23, 2010


it is not surprising that non-Christians consider Christianity as a less-than-good influence on people.

I am not a Christian and I do not think that Christianity is a bad influence on people.
posted by Commander Rachek at 5:32 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


James Dobson, for example

Jamed Dobson was also a Ph.D in Psychology. Should psychologists also be held responsible for his views?
posted by mpbx at 5:34 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


bunnycup, you think we're LOL-ing?? We're frustrated, to be sure, but that's a far cry from HAHAHAHA LOOKITDA MORANS!

Yes, you're right. There is no LOLing going on in that thread, but that doesn't change my feelings about it. That the "All Christians are crazy" and "religion is a force for evil" approach is dead-serious kind of makes me feel what I said I felt even more. FFS, some kids have been horribly tortured but by all means lets talk about what's wrong with everyone, not just those who had anything to do with it.

Please don't use quotation marks when you're not even in the vicinity of anything anyone ever said in that thread.

Other than the "lol" which was admittedly badly judged, there have certainly been calls for death, crazy-calling, whackjob-calling, etc. So please do go ahead and change my quotes to the appropriate punctuation for paraphrasing while retaining original tone, thanks.

People who are religious are rude to those who aren't, and vice versa. But everyone seems to think it's the other side's job to stop first.
posted by bunnycup at 5:34 PM on February 23, 2010


I've seen various religions have a positive impact on people, I've seen them have a negative imapct, most often I've seen them have a mixed impact. I could say the same about most political ideologies, and severeal forms of self-helpism. Just saying.
posted by jonmc at 5:34 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Pearls are idiots and exactly the type of people who have seemed to have used a Biblical allowance for parental discipline of children as an excuse to abuse and kill theirs. It's obscene and disgusting and I cannot fathom any interpretation of Jesus' words which would condone this type of behavior. In nearly every religion or culture, you will find people like the Pearls, but in this case, this FPP, it just happened to be self-proclaimed Christians in America.

Feel free to let me know if that wasn't as good a condemnation. ;)
posted by Atreides at 5:39 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


BrotherCaine: The other issue we have here is that one can't attack unreasoning fundamentalist Christianity without someone thinking Christianity as a whole is under assault.

It's not that hard to avoid really. It depends on wording. If you say something like "[I] hate religion and want to see it eradicated" or "Just more evidence that religion should be eliminated from the face of the earth. Not any one particular religion, all of them," it's likely to be taken as referring to religion, or religious people, in general (or Christians, if you substitute "Christianity" for "religion"). Whereas if you say something about "fundamentalist Christians blah, blah, blah," that's more likely to be taken as referring to fundamentalist Christians in particular.
posted by nangar at 5:40 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe you should do this already, because 'how to treat other people better' is actually the core of Christian morality. You know, the thing about "Love God with all your heart, mind and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself." These can be interpreted as two different ways of saying the same thing.

I'm well aware of this. Unfortunately a large amount of mainstream Christian discourse revolves around being saved, how to bring blessings on yourself, hating teh gay and so on.

Proposition 8. By their fruits shall ye know them.
posted by unSane at 5:41 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Will you people stop putting things in quotes that you made up to make yourselves feel persecuted? Please?
posted by unSane at 5:42 PM on February 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


unSane: ... belief in God/s is at the root of a massive amount of suffering in the world.”

For what it's worth, there are several good, strong atheist cases to be made that belief in God is in fact not at the root of a massive amount of suffering in the world. And they've been made quite a few times. For example, by Karl Marx, as much an atheist as anybody, who appears to have believed that class, and in present circumstances particularly the capital that underlies it, has been at the root of all the suffering in the world, and that religion is just a petty distraction. This explanation makes a fuckload more sense to me, honestly; to really believe that religion makes people evil seems distinctly simple-minded. What's more, look back at the really awful and tragic things that have happened in history and you can almost always find a more immediate cause in class or capital; religion is almost always just an excuse. People like money and family a whole lot more than they like abstract ideas like God.
posted by koeselitz at 5:50 PM on February 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


Yeah... you know what political philosophy is based on practical materialism? Marxism-Leninism!

Great Purge. By their fruits shall ye know them.

See? Discourse level: ELEVATED!
posted by qvantamon at 5:50 PM on February 23, 2010


Unfortunately a large amount of mainstream Christian discourse revolves around being saved, how to bring blessings on yourself, hating teh gay and so on.

I'm not sure "a large amount of mainstream Christian discourse revolves around . . . hating teh gay." Some, sure. But not a "large amount," particularly when you're comparing it to salvation and blessings as themes.
posted by The World Famous at 5:51 PM on February 23, 2010

When the loudest voices of Christianity proudly proclaim these ideals, it is not surprising that non-Christians consider Christianity as a less-than-good influence on people.
You are talking about the wider world when you say this.

This debate, the one we're having right here right now, isn't about Christianity and non-Christianity in the wider world. It's a debate about how Christianity and non-Christianity are treated on MetaFilter.

There is very little any of us can do about the situation in the wider world. The nice thing is that there's a hell of a lot we can do about our corner of it, which is MetaFilter. A good starting point, an excellent starting point, would be if people in general assumed good faith on the part of other MetaFilter members. As in, innocent until proven guilty.

As in, recognizing that any given MetaFilter member (with some notable exceptions, and we don't need to get into that derail here) is highly unlikely to be a fundamentalist zealot who, for instance, believes in the kind of drastically insane shit the Pearls espouse.

In fact, in my five years here, I feel comfortable generalizing about the Christians on MetaFilter thus:I think it would benefit everyone if both the religious and the non-religious on MetaFilter could avoid conflating the stereotypes and media circuses of the outside world with how we treat each other here.

Frankly, from where I'm sitting, if you hold up how MetaFilter tends to behave towards Christian MeFites, it's nothing to be proud of. In general, MetaFilter, for some reason, tends to treat even long-time Christian MeFites like they're James Dobson, when almost every single one of the self-identified Christians on this site are in fact the polar opposite of that caricature.
posted by scrump at 5:52 PM on February 23, 2010 [46 favorites]


cereselle: Do you really believe there are any followers of James Dobson and his ilk on this site? Come on, they wouldn't last 10 seconds here because they would find very few people who agree with them. Why do you feel the need to shout down people who aren't even here? If you see anyone - Christian or not - espousing homophobia or the like on mefi, then you should call them out. It doesn't make sense to preemptively call anyone out because they MIGHT align with that type of thinking.
posted by desjardins at 5:52 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Astro Zombie called out several comments seemingly because they were anti-religion, not because they broke the guidelines or personally insulted members of this community. If either of these comments had been made in a similar thread about capitalism or the government or whatever, nobody would have blinked.

There's something decidedly less personal about the (generally) passive nature of living under an economic or governmental system—barring a willingness and ability to move somewhere else in the world, living under capitalism or communism or being governed by a democracy or a dictatorship are pretty much just facts of life. There's a corresponding lack of sharpness to generalized attacks on, what, People Who Live In Capitalist Economies or Citizens Of Democratic Governments.

Like religion or not (and personally I fall to the "not" side but don't have a lot of anger about it), it's something that is important to a lot of people, something that they may very personally identify with and something which often provides a moral and philosophical touchstone in their lives. It's personal stuff, and important to a whole lot of people who are overwhelmingly not awful crazy abusive jerks going out and directly hurting other people.

If someone wants to slag Christians, or religious people in general, for something shitty done by a Christian or a religious person, they sure as shit ought to keep in mind that they're (a) going after a lot of people (b) who might be right there in the room (c) for shit those people probably had no hand in and likely dislike just as much.

What Jessamyn said about overgeneralization is the key here: the line between criticizing specific loathsome behavior and criticizing a generalized group for being party to that loathsome behavior by association is a big one, and an important one, and one that gets crossed pretty casually around here especially with regards to religion.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:52 PM on February 23, 2010 [13 favorites]


I've actually started deleting a few comments in that thread, for what it's worth.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:52 PM on February 23, 2010


it is not surprising that non-Christians consider Christianity as a less-than-good influence on people.

I am not a Christian and I have specifically seen Christianity be a good influence on multiple people, like my husband, who volunteered at a summer camp for underprivileged kids, or my parents, who donate a good portion of their income to charity, or a friend who is trying to alleviate poverty in her home country in Africa. This last person is really fundamentalist and we disagree on absolutely everything religious, but there's no way I can deny she's doing a heck of a lot more good than I am in the world.
posted by desjardins at 5:57 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've seen plenty of slagging of religion. I've seen little slagging of religious people. I've seen a lot of confusion of the two. The distinction seems important.
posted by unSane at 6:00 PM on February 23, 2010 [7 favorites]

I've seen little slagging of religious people.
That depends on whether you consider argumentation of the following form "slagging" or not (I do):MetaFilter, in general, has a real problem with taking a single sample of an extreme, radical sect of a religion and assuming that every single member of that religious family espouses the same belief.
posted by scrump at 6:06 PM on February 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


Also, though this has little to do with the topic at hand, it's interesting to note how few true atheists there are. Leo Strauss pointed out that Spinoza was in a way a more honest and actual atheist than most professed atheists who have ever met in that he had moved beyond any connection to religion to a curious sort of indifference. Most atheists will swear all day that they're indifferent to religion, but they don't meet the standard of Spinoza, a man who was so apparently indifferent to religion that he, an atheist, was willing to suggest that a state religion would be a good idea.
posted by koeselitz at 6:06 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]



Here are a few other topics we expect people to be tolerant and reasonable about:
- democracy and the two party system
- UFOs
- bedbugs
- parenting styles
- coffee preparation tips
- Brooklyn
- free weights vs exercise machines
- pubic hair
- France
- skinny and fat people
- medium sized people
- cat people and dog people
- ferrets
- facial hair
- the post office


What, no homeopathy? No fair! I demand equal respect for my delusional belief system!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:08 PM on February 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


a man who was so apparently indifferent to religion that he, an atheist, was willing to suggest that a state religion would be a good idea.

I'm not understanding this. Not like I feel like I have to meet Spinoza's standards but how is being indifferent to religion somehow in line with being okay with state religion? Is it just that you're okay with whatever other people want because it's their lives not yours?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:10 PM on February 23, 2010


Chiming in here as a non religious person who read through that thread and felt like the anti-religious tone was a bit over the top and offensive. I understand exactly how a self-identified christian could say "screw it, I'm out of here" reading that discussion. And none of the semantic/logical maneuvering going on over the subject is really jumping out at me as worthy of reconsidering my initial assessment of the discussion.

I have a friend who's had an article linked as an fpp. The subject was christianity, and she is a devout, proud and happy christian. I dropped her a line to tell her there was a discussion about her piece. Because she's my friend, and care about her feelings, I had to frame it with so many disclaimers about how this site deals with religion, that I truly began to wonder about my own place in a community that I knew had to apologize for so much. And even though the discussion went well, and my friend enjoyed the attention, I became less active on this site after that.

We all have a right to voice our opinions here. However, when those opinions reach the level of being automatic and unchallenged, the line between "this is how some people feel about religion", and "This is how the community feels about religion" gets real blurry.

As a member of this community who abhors intolerance, i feel completely justified in calling it just that. Intolerance. The anti-religion sentiment on this site is a disproportionately loud, and a little too artless, and comes across as being "accepted". I'm not saying that it is accepted, but it comes across that way and I think this detracts from the site as a whole.
posted by billyfleetwood at 6:10 PM on February 23, 2010 [11 favorites]


Dude don't start in with the athiests.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:11 PM on February 23, 2010


There are days when I feel very unwelcome here. I'm not even Christian. But some of the sentiments being expressed here make the urge to disable my account nearly impossible to ignore. They really do


Setanor: Who listens to the atheist?

Here? Everyone. Atheist viewpoints are generally addressed with respect, as long as they don't attack religion indiscriminately and without nuance. Everyone makes their case, and we generally agree to disagree.

However, when they manifest as comments like this recent one, in which all Christians are painted as child abusers or worse, then the commenter is rightfully treated as a troll. As they would be if they were referring to atheists in such a manner.
posted by zarq at 6:13 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think it is okay to be anti-religion.

"Overgeneralizing about religion is no more appropriate than overgeneralizing about nationality, race, sexual orientation, or gender."

Please don't get my sexual orientation or race mixed up with American religion, which is largely a matter of choice. I get what you're saying but there is no reason to lump them together except to imply that religiosity is not a matter of choice when it generally is.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:14 PM on February 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


What, no homeopathy? No fair! I demand equal respect for my delusional belief system!

Man, you're getting even better stuff. We have so little respect for homeopathy that it's like a 30c dillution of respect or something. It's almost a respect overdose.
posted by qvantamon at 6:14 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Homeopathy thread's over here, PmcD.

Come over & defend your beliefs or be forever stigmatised with the white feather of cowardice!
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:14 PM on February 23, 2010


Religion is stupid. Anyone who believes in X is therefore stupid.

There are two clauses here. The second is usually inferred by the theists.
posted by unSane at 6:14 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is it just that you're okay with whatever other people want because it's their lives not yours?

You're either with us or against us, jess.
posted by nola at 6:16 PM on February 23, 2010


Please don't get my sexual orientation or race mixed up with American religion, which is largely a matter of choice.

In my next sentence, I explained that I am well aware of the difference. I lump them together because intolerance of all of them is something that we'd like to see less of here and I think people are a little more clear why LOL GAYZ jokes are not okay while LOLXIANS sometimes seem deserved or justified. I don't think the choice distinction is a useful dividing line for people to use in determining why some people deserve ridicule and others don't. I'd like to see less ridicule.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:17 PM on February 23, 2010


The woman you're quoting would never, under any circumstances, have followed the Pearls regardless of their or her faith. She makes that very clear.

Dogrose, you are missing my point. Of course she wouldn't have. But, had she been aware that that was the path this family was heading down, she could have said something. She could have had a discussion with the parents about the book. She could have been a rational voice. As it was, she says "They were deceived, and were also ensconced in a little sub-community which encouraged them that what they were doing was the best thing, and even the most godly thing."

She ends with "I hope you will remember us in prayer as well, for wisdom and opportunity to help in any way we can...if there's any way we can..." Had she known of the existence of this child training program, she would have done what she could to help.

Your post wasn't any kind of public service announcement: "Hey, MeFites, in case you're on the fence about whipping your infant or child with a plumbing supply line— this is where that can lead! Don't do it!"

No, it was "Hey, MeFites, here is a child abuse protocol that is being marketed to Christians, and has resulted in tragedy. Be aware that this exists." In the same vein as many other MeFi posts about terrible things-- or were those just "Hey, MeFites, in case you're on the fence about getting your ex-girlfriend raped/raping prisoners/sending your child to an abusive school/isolating prisoners/making your children swim the English Channel/torturing prisoners/punishing children with electric shocks/prostituting your child/running a Scientology slave labor camp/honor killings-- this is where that can lead! Don't do it!"

Okay. It is what it is. Please stop pretending that it's anything else.

You are wrong about my motivations for posting.
posted by cereselle at 6:19 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh look, gun control thread!
posted by Artw at 6:19 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


There are two clauses here. The second is usually inferred by the theists.

I was unaware that Richard Dawkins was a theist.
posted by zarq at 6:19 PM on February 23, 2010


I'm glad that the horror of the day was these people and not the rapist pediatrician, or we'd all be taking homeopathic measles cures. I know so many nice pediatricians.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 6:20 PM on February 23, 2010


"Must every thread about religion turn into an exercise in how religion is inherently a force for evil?"

No, I would think it should be pretty self-evident.
posted by Eideteker at 6:21 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've been an Anglican and a born-again Christian. I've spoken in tongues. I've studied the Bible. I've made a friggin' TV series about the political history of the Church of England. I've written a screenplay and a novel in which the hero is a priest. I've probably met more ministers than 95% of the people here, and some of them were among the most heroic human beings I've ever met. But overall I consider religion (by which I mean organized, hierarchical metaphysical belief systems as opposed to vaguer faith, or spirituality, or indeed large swathes of Anglicanism) a drag on the development of humanity, and a net force for Bad. If that makes me intolerant, or if those opinions are not expressible on MetaFilter because they offend the Faithful, perhaps Jessamyn or Cortex would kindly boot me.
posted by unSane at 6:23 PM on February 23, 2010 [10 favorites]


I was unaware that Richard Dawkins was a theist.

I was unaware he was on MetaFilter.
posted by unSane at 6:23 PM on February 23, 2010


I've seen plenty of slagging of religion. I've seen little slagging of religious people. I've seen a lot of confusion of the two. The distinction seems important.

When people engage in the slagging of religion without taking any care to distinguish between how they feel about some abstract target (e.g. Christianity in aggregate) and how they feel about the great big pile of heterogeneous individuals that are by definition part of that aggregate, the intent itself gets fuzzy fast. It's too easy to let the idea of implicitly excluding present company from general condemnations stand as some sort of given that makes it okay to be lazy about kind of thoughtful distinction in how complaints are framed and stated.

I know there are a lot of people who are genuinely angry about some of the products of religious organizations and movements—and my general middle-going attitude toward religion in general aside, I share some of that anger on some of the specifics—but it feels, a lot of the time, like there's some sort of assumed justification based on that anger and dislike around here for both the lazy failures to be precise and the sometimes overt and explicitly target dismissals and condemnations of religious groups and their individual members as a whole. It's really dispiriting to encounter. It's one of my least favorite things that happens here.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:25 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Next time I hear someone cry out "boyzone" I'm going to claim that it isn't, because you can't judge us all on the basis of a few. Uh-huh, uh-huh.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:26 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I enjoy a heated discussion, but rarely do you see such separation with reality by so many who would consider themselves realists (for agnostic/atheistic thinking).

Ok, settled for sake of argument –all religion is evil.
So I mean, what next, we should outlaw all religious expression?
Yeah, that shouldn’t cause too many problems, moral and legal quandaries and violent social upheaval.

“I don't think anyone's under the delusion that we can change the rest of the Western world in Meta.”

You’d think so, but here we are.

Apparently many people are under the delusion that people are always whatever it is they say they are no matter the breadth between the principles they espouse and their actions.
And that which applies to certain members of a class apply to all members of a class when it comes to morality.
Having been on the dirty end of the “all troops are evil no matter what their personal actions” stick, I can say some folks are indeed under the impression some = all and it has some practical effect on reality to type it out.
I’d suspect applemeat’s retort was geared more towards that concept (that is, using a broader brush to illustrate saying ‘x’ is inhospitable to ‘y’ is overgeneralizing)
But it’s still a refusal to separate the act from whatever label.

I’m always surprised that there are such cogent arguments (here) that carefully separate criminals, terrorists, or general idiots (of whatever stripe), from a broader set of values (be it Islam, or Westboro Baptist Church, or what have you) and places it squarely on the sect or organization or whatever network, and yet consistently flubs this.

“James Dobson, for example”

I’ll see James Dobson and raise George Tiller. He was a Christian. In fact, he was shot at his own church while he was serving as an usher. So Roeder killed him – because he was a Christian too?

It’s easy to tell people they are being attacked and denounce whomever you wish by demonizing whatever label they self apply regardless of any convolutions in reality. Same schtick the GOP did with “liberal” for example. (Goering “I will decide who is a Jew”)

There’s plenty to say for means of propaganda. I’m not going to say Roeder wasn’t encouraged. And I would hold those folks in part responsible.

But I wouldn’t hold every ‘Christian’ in the world responsible. And I wouldn’t allow any pretense to legitimacy to the extremists by not making the distinction.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:26 PM on February 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


I was unaware he was on MetaFilter.

You're smart enough to understand my point without being coy. The "inference" you're referring to is stated outright here and in the world at large by atheists who feel the need to vilify all religions and their followers, but especially Christianity.
posted by zarq at 6:28 PM on February 23, 2010


I lump them together because intolerance of all of them is something that we'd like to see less of here and I think people are a little more clear why LOL GAYZ jokes are not okay while LOLXIANS sometimes seem deserved or justified.

We're clear about it because GLBTQ folks and our allies have worked for decades to counter hateful and violent bigotry directed against us. It is not in any way analogous to incidental intolerance of Christians or the Christian religion.

If you think that intolerance of Christianity is something you'd like to see less of here, then fine, you can talk about it without dragging real-life oppression into the discussion. It is very minimizing.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:29 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's really dispiriting to encounter. It's one of my least favorite things that happens here.

Mine too.
posted by zarq at 6:30 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


For fuck's sake, fff.
posted by rtha at 6:36 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


It is not in any way analogous to incidental intolerance of Christians or the Christian religion.

I would make the argument that in the context of "how we'd like to see people act towards other people on MetaFilter" analogies can be drawn. I take your point, in any case.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:40 PM on February 23, 2010


But overall I consider religion (...) a drag on the development of humanity, and a net force for Bad. If that makes me intolerant, or if those opinions are not expressible on MetaFilter because they offend the Faithful

Again, context. If there's a general discussion about religion, go ahead, make your opinion known. But if you go in a thread about crazy fringe religious people who murder their kids and comment that "religion is a force for bad", there is a contextual implication that "religion [in general] is as bad as that fringe religious cult and makes people murder their kids". Do you really not see that the same phrase has different implications in different contexts?
posted by qvantamon at 6:41 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


When people engage in the slagging of religion capitalism without taking any care to distinguish between how they feel about some abstract target (e.g. Christianity capitalism in aggregate) and how they feel about the great big pile of heterogeneous individuals that are by definition part of that aggregate, the intent itself gets fuzzy fast. It's too easy to let the idea of implicitly excluding present company from general condemnations stand as some sort of given that makes it okay to be lazy about kind of thoughtful distinction in how complaints are framed and stated.

So is it just religion we have to tippy toe around?
posted by unSane at 6:42 PM on February 23, 2010


there is a contextual implication that "religion [in general] is as bad as that fringe religious cult and makes people murder their kids".

No, there isn't.
posted by unSane at 6:44 PM on February 23, 2010


So it's settled then – all religion is bad, right? Now I must be off to kick the shit out of the heliolatric neandertal I've time-napped for this express purpose.
posted by Mister_A at 6:45 PM on February 23, 2010


So, the answer is you don't. Fine then.
posted by qvantamon at 6:48 PM on February 23, 2010


Infer/imply. Big difference.
posted by unSane at 6:50 PM on February 23, 2010



But every Christian on MetaFilter does not need to testify that they condemn what the Pearls did. And they should be able to be on the site without people accusing them of siding with child abusers and murderers.


I just had lunch the other week with a retired minister who helped integrate his small town by successfully fighting for fair housing (back when people were getting firebombed for exactly that), so I'm getting a big kick out of this thread. I also had the privilege, the other day, of informing a community organizer (Muslim, Oxford PhD) who made a snide offhand comment about the lack of Christian response to slavery that in fact, it had been largely Christian churches and folk who organized and ran the underground railroad. I can just about promise you that, whether or not they wear their faith publicly, there is a good chance that the backbone of people giving money and time and talent to social services in your town are religiously motivated--little old church ladies are the angels of soup kitchens and food pantries everywhere (those $25 checks add up).

Domestic violence--justified by ancient religious texts, and playing out publicly in horrible, heart-wrenching news stories --is a horrible, terrible thing. It's also not the most appropriate FPP since "ain't it horrible" isn't much of a discussion, or what MetaFilter is for--and then the stereotyping and the broadbrushing and the "OMG YOUR TINY MINORITY EXTREMISTS MEAN YOU'RE A RELIGION OF HATE AND IGNORANCE" begins. When we all know where these threads start to go, do you think we can we knock off posting them (and LOLXTIANS) during the most solemn, sacred time of the year for the demographic in question?
posted by availablelight at 6:50 PM on February 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


Commander Rachek: I am not a Christian and I do not think that Christianity is a bad influence on people.

Point taken. I should have qualified. "Many non-Christians think..." etc.

mpbx: Jamed Dobson was also a Ph.D in Psychology. Should psychologists also be held responsible for his views?

If he were a key White House adviser on psychology and mental health issues, and a major mainstream voice in the psychology community, and those who disagreed with him were not vocal about it, then it would not be surprising if non-psychologists believed Dobson spoke for the psychology community, yes.

Scrump: The nice thing is that there's a hell of a lot we can do about our corner of it, which is MetaFilter. A good starting point, an excellent starting point, would be if people in general assumed good faith on the part of other MetaFilter members. As in, innocent until proven guilty.

Great! I agree. How do you suggest we go about it? One way is to have this discussion in MeTa. Another, which has been suggested, is to refrain from posting on religious subjects.

desjardins: Do you really believe there are any followers of James Dobson and his ilk on this site? Come on, they wouldn't last 10 seconds here because they would find very few people who agree with them. Why do you feel the need to shout down people who aren't even here? If you see anyone - Christian or not - espousing homophobia or the like on mefi, then you should call them out. It doesn't make sense to preemptively call anyone out because they MIGHT align with that type of thinking.

Either I am being remarkably unclear, or people are deliberately misunderstanding me.

I brought up James Dobson as an example of a mainstream Christian voice that espouses beliefs many MeFites find repugnant. I then said that it was not surprising that [many] non-Christians see him as speaking for Christianity as a whole, and therefore dislike Christianity. I never said that followers of Dobson or the Pearls hang out on MeFi, and that I was here to show them the error of their ways.

Although, as jessamyn pointed out, I don't know what people believe. Given that I grew up in a church that routinely held Dobson seminars, and that I remain close to many members of that church, I know that good, decent, mainstream people can read and accept these ideas.

As for shouting down, please reread my posts. I have been calm. I have accepted others' fair points, and where I disagree, I simply state my disagreement. If you find an instance of me shouting someone down, please point it out to me.

I have agreed with and respected your views on other threads, desjardins. Please do me the favor of not mischaracterizing mine.
posted by cereselle at 6:51 PM on February 23, 2010


do you think we can we knock off posting them (and LOLXTIANS) during the most solemn, sacred time of the year for the demographic in question?

Or you could just give up the internet for Lent, you know.
posted by unSane at 6:52 PM on February 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


So is it just religion we have to tippy toe around?

Religion (among other things) is more personal for a whole lot of reasons than is something like the economic or governmental framework someone happens to live under, something I addressed not very far upthread.

Those more personal things sure as shit deserve a little more thoughtfulness than impersonal stuff like economic models. Religion, and religious people as a whole, get treated dismissively and hamhandedly around here in particular in a way that's frustrating to behold, but it's certainly not the only thing where there's a mismatch between how well we treat one another and how well we ought to be.

The fact is that people on this site have, over time, developed greater sensitivity as a community regarding stuff like casual sexism, for example. It's progress that was nice to see made, and I'm proud of the community's collective ability to make incremental progress there. It doesn't mean anybody has to "tippy toe" around sex and gender issues, it just means they're doing better jobs of not accidentally or intentionally being insensitive, exclusive jerks about those topics. Would that we could say the same for religion, or politically conservative ideologies, or any of a laundry list (that jessamyn partially captured upthread) of varyingly fringe topics that are not popularly perceived around here.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:52 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


one chooses ones religion (or lack thereof)

I dunno. It seems like, if you believe that an all-powerful, all-knowing being exists, completely undectectable by the senses, science, or anything empirical, and that this being wants you to do X and not Y and will offer you great rewards after you die if you do X, but horrible punishment after you die if you do Y... well, I fail to see how such a person could NOT be religious.

Conversely, if you do not hold such a belief, I fail to see how you COULD be religious.

Is belief in such things a choice? Maybe for those (and I'm sure there are some) who don't actually 'believe in God' yet follow religious teachings for social or selfish reasons, then yes, I suppose such a person could choose to stop believing in God. More accurately, they could choose to stop acting as if they hold a belief in God. Yet for someone who truly believes the above--who has faith--I hold that it would be impossible to be irreligious.

For those, like me, who do not hold a belief in God, it is tempting to assume that all religious people must be mere impostors, who profess a belief in God for selfish reasons, while not actually believing it. I mean, there's clearly no God, right? It would be as if someone told me that I have 8 fingers on each hand--they must be speaking and acting disingenuously.

But think about it--think of all the effort humans have put into religion, broadly defined, since time immemorial. Can you really believe that it was all the work of impostors? I can't. I think a lot of people, especially on this site, hold broad views about religious people without really trying to understand where they are coming from: to many of them, God's existence and their religious truth is self-evident. My general rule is to start from the assumption that religious people's beliefs are sincere, and only conclude otherwise if I have some sort of evidence that leads me there. I really think, if nothing else, it's just a better way to relate to the world: you get to glimpse whole perspectives you never would have considered before, actions others take that used to seem baffling and frustrating now at least make some sort of sense, and besides, when clearly evil things are done, there's no really point to saying, "SEE: EVIL!!!" when instead you could be trying to understand it.

...

And I know, since this has happened to me on this site before, that a bunch of people will scan the above, and say, "ahh, he defends religious people, therefore he defends these child murderers! I don't have to consider what he says!" I say to you, if you're too dense enough to even understand your own motives for such quick rage (which you must be if you repeatedly engage in it), then you're too dense to understand anyone else's irrationalities either, so this comment really isn't for you.
posted by notswedish at 6:55 PM on February 23, 2010 [9 favorites]


I think unSane, is that from most conversations like these that you participate it, you tend to flip back and forth from arguing against religion as a general theory to slamming Christianity specifically. It would seem that your past probably influences this type of posting, which can come off as considerably hostile to Christians more so than simply anyone who has faith in any religion (note your recent comment targeting theists - where not all religions necessarily focus on gods).

It's nothing new for myself, here on MeFi. If anything, identifying myself as a Christian on Metafilter in the face of such comments has strengthened my own identity with my faith and encouraged me to be a better follower of Jesus Christ.
posted by Atreides at 6:56 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry. I had no idea religious people were such delicate flowers. Funny thing is, when I was a religious person, I welcomed any debate of religion because I was confident of my beliefs and welcomed a chance to share and defend them.

Which, strangely, we have seen almost none of in this thread.
posted by unSane at 6:57 PM on February 23, 2010


get treated dismissively and hamhandedly around here in particular in a way that's frustrating to behold

Those are the times, among others that are not necessarily religion-related, when MetaFilter feels a bit like a late-night bitching session in a freshman year college dorm room. If you just imagine the people doing the frustratingly hamhanded dismissiveness as represented by various archetypes of a freshman year college dorm, it makes it all much more bearable and even sort of comical.
posted by The World Famous at 6:59 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


mpbx: Jamed Dobson was also a Ph.D in Psychology. Should psychologists also be held responsible for his views?

If he were a key White House adviser on psychology and mental health issues, and a major mainstream voice in the psychology community, and those who disagreed with him were not vocal about it, then it would not be surprising if non-psychologists believed Dobson spoke for the psychology community, yes.


And it bears mentioning that the implication of psychologists -- including the influential Marty Seligman -- in US government torture programs over the past few years did taint psychologists generally. There was some soul-searching in the field about this.

Do I like to bring this up a lot? Yes. But it's relevant.
posted by grobstein at 6:59 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


As an atheist, I get annoyed when other atheists make broad generalizations about religions. Because then religious people who make broad generalizations about atheists will conclude that I make broad generalizations about religious people because I'm also an atheist.
posted by qvantamon at 7:04 PM on February 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


Atreidies, my terminology is probably sloppy. I have nothing particular against Christianity. I'm just more familiar with its idiosyncracies.
posted by unSane at 7:06 PM on February 23, 2010


FTFM, to avoid the religion =/= religious people dead horse:

As an atheist, I get annoyed when other atheists make broad generalizations about religions. Because then religious people who make broad generalizations about atheists atheism will conclude that I make broad generalizations about religious people because I'm also an atheist.
posted by qvantamon at 7:07 PM on February 23, 2010


I some times get the impression that religion claims all that is good in the world, and never any of the bad.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:10 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


billyfleetwood: "Because she's my friend, and care about her feelings, I had to frame it with so many disclaimers about how this site deals with religion, that I truly began to wonder about my own place in a community that I knew had to apologize for so much."

This is precisely how I felt when my husband made a post on Christianity. I inwardly cringed at how it might go and spent a bit of time pre-apologizing for mefi, even though he'd already met a bunch of the Chicago crowd before joining. Actually, it went pretty well, but the content of the FPP wasn't inflammatory or negative towards Christians, so the anti-religious folks really had nothing to hang their hat on. Most of the discord in the thread was between self-identified Christians.
posted by desjardins at 7:12 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


So what was the point? It was rubbernecking, taking a gander at a god-bothering pileup.

I disagree that the FPP was pointless.

I'd never heard of an enthusiasm for corporal punishment among fundamentalist Christians -- to the extent that 500,000 copies have been sold of a parenting guide that advocates this sort of treatment for babies. Literally babies.

And then, I realized that what with the homeschooling, and having their own in-group pediatricians, and the fact that their pastors will just send them back to their parents if they complain, these children come in contact with basically no mandatory reporters. Their suffering is invisible to us. It's like a nation within a nation, exempt from the laws prohibiting child abuse.

I actually agree that abusers will be abusers, and that these parents had an enthusiasm for causing suffering that surely predated and transcended their adherence to the Pearls' methods. But the normalization of their methods means that the abuse is more easily hidden, more likely to be minimized by their immediate surrounding culture.

Please note, I'm not saying this FPP was important because it exposes the evils of Christianity generally. I don't agree with people who made those sweeping generalizations. I just think it is an important topic -- that it's not just one isolated incident, but that the abuse is enabled and abetted by a significant subculture.

As a result of reading and thinking about the links, I have come to the conclusion that I really would like to see some more intervention into the lives of children who are homeschooled, maybe that one of the requirements associated with the practice would be accepting annual home visits from a social worker, where they talk to the children individually. (And keep an eye out for lengths of plumbing hose.)
posted by palliser at 7:12 PM on February 23, 2010 [16 favorites]


unSane: "Funny thing is, when I was a religious person, I welcomed any debate of religion because I was confident of my beliefs and welcomed a chance to share and defend them. "

But we're not debating the merits of specific beliefs here. "Your beliefs are ridiculous" and "religion sucks, and religious people suck, and all that" is not a debate. (I'm aware you didn't post either of those comments, but you did favorite the first and post "me too" to the second.)
posted by desjardins at 7:16 PM on February 23, 2010


I'm sorry. I had no idea religious people were such delicate flowers. Funny thing is, when I was a religious person, I welcomed any debate of religion because I was confident of my beliefs and welcomed a chance to share and defend them.

Which, strangely, we have seen almost none of in this thread.


Are you inviting debate? I've seen no evidence in this thread that you're interested in anything other than proclaiming your point of view while dismissing mild requests for respect and tolerance from other MeFites. If you're really looking for debate, more nuanced arguments would probably be in order.

Speaking purely for myself here: I don't have a need to justify my beliefs to you. I don't have any reason to defend them, explain them or any desire to make you understand them. Nor do I care to convert you or anyone else to my faith. I fail to understand why anyone should expect me to do so.
posted by zarq at 7:25 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jeez, the favorite cops are out now?

And yes, when I was a Christian, I would debate anyone at any time. There are a thousand ways to respond to comments like mine (and even my favorites) which stress, for example, that Christianity is a religion based on love; that Jesus said 'suffer the children to come unto me'; that point out the myriad ways in which the dogmas of these nutcases contradict the new covenant, and so on and so forth. But instead we just get whining about how mean the atheists are.

When I can write a better apologia for religion than the religious, you better worry.
posted by unSane at 7:26 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Infer/imply. Big difference.

So you concede my point, then?
posted by zarq at 7:28 PM on February 23, 2010


I think I just gave up the will to live.
posted by unSane at 7:30 PM on February 23, 2010


When the loudest voices of Christianity proudly proclaim these ideals, it is not surprising that non-Christians consider Christianity as a less-than-good influence on people.

I then said that it was not surprising that [many] non-Christians see him as speaking for Christianity as a whole, and therefore dislike Christianity.


As an utterly irreligious person, I'm getting a little irritated with these blanket statements about non-Christians. I'm quite capable of realizing that James Dobson only speaks for the people that James Dobson speaks for, and that's it. Where I live, most of the people I see going to church on Sunday are black, hispanic, and Korean. It would be idiotic of me to assume that some fundy white guy represents these people. As far as disliking an entire religion based on one creepy dude, that's like disliking America because George Bush is a warmongering nitwit, etcetera. Sure, people do it. But it's stupid, because as an American, George Bush did not represent my views.

I won't even get into non-Christians of other belief systems. This Christian vs non-Christian thing is a very fundamentalist way of viewing the world. I don't subscribe to it at all.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:31 PM on February 23, 2010


But we're not debating the merits of specific beliefs here. "Your beliefs are ridiculous" and "religion sucks, and religious people suck, and all that" is not a debate. (I'm aware you didn't post either of those comments, but you did favorite the first and post "me too" to the second.)

desjardins, are you shitting me?

How many times does this have to be said: People favorite comments and posts for myriad reasons that may have NOTHING to do with agreeing with the sentiments being expressed. Combing through unSane's favorites looking for evidence to support your position because you can't find anything he's actually said in the thread to counter is pretty pathetic.
posted by zarq at 7:32 PM on February 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


You know, the blog linked to in the original post has a forum and there's a lot of really thoughtful, interesting discussion on it, from a range of Christians, ex-Christians, Quiverfulls, ex-Quiverfulls, atheists and agnostics and all of the overlap in between.

I found this quite interesting:
I prefer Jesus-follower to Christian. The C-word is packed with so much unwanted assumptions and political baggage that I don't really want to label myself thusly.
Considering how clearly those assumptions are illuminated on the Blue, I think that's a very wise position to take.

It bothers me when I see other atheists and agnostics using stories like the Shatz's to point with glee at another failure of Christianity. The problem is not Christianity; the problem is people who beat their children. Are there structures in some fundamentalist sects that support child abuse? Yes. But people of faith hardly have the exclusive on that.

Sometimes the intolerance of the mob around here is very difficult to distinguish from the pointing, judgement and calls to damnation outside an abortion clinic. Seriously.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:34 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry. I had no idea religious people were such delicate flowers. Funny thing is, when I was a religious person, I welcomed any debate of religion because I was confident of my beliefs and welcomed a chance to share and defend them.

Which, strangely, we have seen almost none of in this thread.


this is just so intensely dishonest that it's ridiculous. how on earth you can even pretend to be engaging in a debate immediately after making a snide "delicate flowers" snark is beyond me. nothing about your participation in this thread or the other one has been in good faith, or in the spirit of honest debate. you've already acknowledged that you don't care if the way you talk about religion is offensive, and now you're actually making snide remarks about religious people directly, all while pretending to be open to debate. it's absurd.
posted by shmegegge at 7:36 PM on February 23, 2010 [13 favorites]


Speaking purely for myself here: I don't have a need to justify my beliefs to you.

Of course you don't. And by the same token I don't have a need to worry about how you will feel if I express my opinions about belief in general.
posted by unSane at 7:37 PM on February 23, 2010


I say 'delicate flowers' in response to Cortex who said that religious beliefs were so personal that we had to tread more carefully than when talking about things like, say, politics.

Schmegegge, are you really accusing me of arguing in bad faith? Why would I do that?
posted by unSane at 7:42 PM on February 23, 2010


My (Christian) husband* and I have had conversations about how inhospitable mefi is to Christians. I guess I didn't notice it as much until he joined, but there is definitely a knee jerk reaction every time religion is mentioned. I wonder how many people just leave the site instead of feeling forced to say "I'm not one of THOSE Christians" at every turn.

*who is not one of those Christians



I'm the husband/luckiest man alive...

What I found interesting was that when I posted about a movement that was about taking a different approach to being a Christian it was not the reactions from the folks that didn't believe that bothered me at all and I got allot of support form both those who believed and didn't believe. What surprised me was the response I got from some the religious folks. I had allot less space for that and the way the thread went. I really found my self attacking the history of my own faith. I really took some of the remarks from the religious folks personally. The debate, though heated at times forced me to get a better understanding of what I believed and the how and the why of the approach I was taking.

The one thing I have noticed on Mefi since the short time I have been on is that there is allot of pigeon holing that happens. People tend to make gross assumptions based on labels and the preconceived ideas, this seems to be where things run a muck. This is nothing unique about this, this is how we all function. I do see many times on the site that people seem willing to ask questions that seem to want to get past this sort of thing and that can be beautiful.

I guess the question that everyone needs to ask them self is how willing are they to get past these straw men concepts and really start dealing with people as unique human beings, that generally have more in common than less. I see that happening here more than most places and less than others. I love being on the site and always learn allot from it.
posted by empty vessel at 7:45 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


So far we have atheists like me accused directly of the following:

1. Bigotry
2. Bad faith
3. 'Intolerance [...] very difficult to distinguish from the pointing, judgement and calls to damnation outside an abortion clinic.'
4. Implying that all religious people wish to murder their children

Hm.
posted by unSane at 7:45 PM on February 23, 2010


So far we have atheists like me accused directly of the following:

Actually, I think we have you accused, not "atheists like [you]." Or maybe I'm misreading the accusations.
posted by The World Famous at 7:46 PM on February 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


I thought only the bad faith one was aimed explicitly at me but I'll take my licks.
posted by unSane at 7:47 PM on February 23, 2010


I'm an agnostic pantheist with atheistic leanings, and I too get wicked tired of the "all religion is the source of evil."

Devout agnostic seconding this.
posted by desuetude at 7:48 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anyways, plenty of GRAR here to go round.
posted by unSane at 7:49 PM on February 23, 2010


a man who was so apparently indifferent to religion that he, an atheist, was willing to suggest that a state religion would be a good idea.

I'm not understanding this. Not like I feel like I have to meet Spinoza's standards but how is being indifferent to religion somehow in line with being okay with state religion? Is it just that you're okay with whatever other people want because it's their lives not yours?

I don't know what he meant by this, but is it a complete coincidence that the rich countries that hung on to a state religion are the most indifferent about religious beliefs? Like Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Britain?
posted by Dumsnill at 7:49 PM on February 23, 2010


Anyways, plenty of GRAR here to go round.

Seriously.
posted by The World Famous at 7:50 PM on February 23, 2010


For the record, my previous post in this thread was not directed at any particular individual. I am perfectly capable of posting a call-out on a particular poster's words; that was not what I was doing. Rather, I was replying to the general tenor of comments in the original thread.

And I am an atheist, unless I'm stuck in an elevator, at which point I become and agnostic.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:51 PM on February 23, 2010


Of course you don't.

Yet you're complaining that religious Mefites aren't doing so in this thread. This seems odd to me.

And by the same token I don't have a need to worry about how you will feel if I express my opinions about belief in general.

We disagree on this point, in that I don't think your expressed opinions solely target "belief in general." I agree with qvantamon's statement that the context in which your comments have been made conflates belief with believers.

Be that as it may, your last comment... "I'm sorry. I had no idea religious people were such delicate flowers. Funny thing is, when I was a religious person, I welcomed any debate of religion because I was confident of my beliefs and welcomed a chance to share and defend them.

Which, strangely, we have seen almost none of in this thread."


... targets believers and their specific faiths, not belief in general.
posted by zarq at 7:51 PM on February 23, 2010


Well, since we're taking a poll, I'm an atheist/agnostic who is no more bothered by the characterizations of Christianity than I am by the characterizations of Capitalism. I know religion is a sensitive subject for lots of Mefites, but capitalism is a sensitive subject for a lot of people who benefit from capitalism. Race is a sensitive subject for a lot of people who benefit from racism.

I mean, if you're honestly, like, giving all your money to the poor and following Jesus and hopefully waiting for the second coming, then more power to you. But if you're contributing to a discriminatory cultural majority, I (as a cultural minority or ally) have the responsibility to speak out for those who can't or won't.
posted by muddgirl at 7:55 PM on February 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


“Funny thing is, when I was a religious person, I welcomed any debate of religion because I was confident of my beliefs and welcomed a chance to share and defend them.”

So what’s really changed?
If you’re right. Y’know, this time and the other side really is wrong as opposed to being wrong before.
Religion is to blame. Ok. So? Some people are arguing for the eradication of religion. You have not been loud in your condemnation of this argument and some of your comments seem sympathetic. So generally, let’s place you on that side of the discussion.
Me, I’d like to see this kind child abuse outlawed regardless of religious practice or not. It’s an act, and a harmful one, not speech.
What I’m saying is - what is the difference between your position then – a willingness to engage and allow other ideas - and your position now?

Because I agree with your assertion that religion has been at the root of a number of lousy things. But I don’t see how being wrong as long as it is not connected to action is more harmful than limiting –any- reasonable freedom of expression.

Much as I’d like to smiley the members of the Westboro Baptist Church for what they do at funerals, I recognize their (and everyone’s) right to free speech. I’m even uncomfortable with what marginal limitations have been placed on their right to protest in light of avoiding incitement and a breech of peace.

But should they not exist? In an ideal world there's no Phelps. I see no way how to do that other than causing far greater harm.
Far be it for me to criticize spouting off now and then (pot/kettle) and I have no beef with the FPP, but I don’t see much merit in the mere assertion that religion is bad other than this gainsaying the community seems to go through on certain hot button issues.

And if we welcome debate concerning religion then you’re essentially allowing for its existence regardless of whether it’s bad or wrong.

Therefore the only real concern is how to stop the Pearls from beating their kids and whatever abstractions they buy into don’t really matter.
(Of course, if one favors eradicating religion I’d argue free speech and the absolute enormity of the task make that at best problematic).
posted by Smedleyman at 7:56 PM on February 23, 2010


We're not talking about a Christian robbing a bank.

We're talking about the natural conclusion to the common conservative religious cry for Traditional Family Values...


Because I said so.

It's obvious I have a problem with religion; that does not mean that I think all religious people are bad or stupid. I just think they are wrong and that the overall consequence of this wrongness, globally speaking, is bad.

No doubt many good things flow from religion, and perhaps from your religion, but I still think that if you believe in God/s you are wrong, and that belief in God/s is at the root of a massive amount of suffering in the world...


Yup--One sheet fits all.

Boy, there is nothing like reading some sweeping generalizations dividing the world into the war between good and evil. Especially when it comes across like the bizarro world version of dogmatic white Christian fundamentalism. Them bad, Us good. Therefor, them torture, us interrogate enhancedly. And so forth and so on.

You know, one can be quite the unbeliever and yet have a very subtle understanding of what the words God or religion can stand for. But, languagehat aside, I rarely see self described athiests here showing that much acquaintance with the history of religion or religous thought or religious experience. The resulting, ahem, conversations remind me of nothing so much as going to my brother's funeral and, as a result, finding myself stuck in a series of rooms for a series of days, having to listen to hardcore FOX viewing wingnuts rant and rave about Muslims and Arabs and the Democrat Party. The subtleties of thought on display are of a kindred level of sophistication. But at least here, I can roll my eyes in peace.

What ever one could say of religous dogma or religious institutions, there remains religious experience--experience so transcendent as to be fit no better by a word than the word divine. For those who have had the merest brush with such experience to hear it denied, denigrated, described as mental illness or glandlar imbalance by those who have not counts as much to the former as the opinions those born blind upon the contents of art galleries or the congenital deaf on Bach. But the experience itself is most decidedly not the source of all that is evil. That I can safely say. And a concept of a world without the numinous, without mysterium tremendum or mysterium fascinans is a most impoverished concept indeed. That I can safely say as well.
posted by y2karl at 7:59 PM on February 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


I say 'delicate flowers' in response to Cortex who said that religious beliefs were so personal that we had to tread more carefully than when talking about things like, say, politics.

Religious beliefs as one among many other things that are personal enough that, yes, it makes sense to be a little more sensitive about how you approach criticism of them in mixed company compared with e.g. the system of capitalism. I'd actually put political beliefs somewhat in that territory as well—note, personal political beliefs, not whether-you-live-in-a-capitalist-society.

At that, it's all on a spectrum, and just being decent to people about disagreements in general (and conceiving in the first place that there may be some unanticipated disagreement or difference in beliefs among the people you're sharing space with and talking to) is a really valuable thing. Fundamentally what we're talking about here is a kind of casual, recurring failure on some folks' parts on this site to attend to and try and actually engage in that kind of common decency on some topics.

For example, dressing up requests to be more thoughtful about how you go about engaging the subject of your dislike for a religious organization or whatever as something akin to protecting "delicate flowers". Which is just a bullshitty way to frame the whole thing.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:01 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't know what he meant by this, but is it a complete coincidence that the rich countries that hung on to a state religion are the most indifferent about religious beliefs? Like Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Britain?

That said, I very much want my country to abolish its ridiculous state religion for good. But I fear that the intense religious competition that will follow will make things worse.
posted by Dumsnill at 8:03 PM on February 23, 2010


billyfleetwood: "anti-religion sentiment on this site is a disproportionately loud, and a little too artless, and comes across as being "accepted""

Anti-conservative sentiment is even louder, and is even more accepted.

People who wear tinfoil hats and fear government mind control beams are brought up solely as targets as ridicule.

Men who have fake tans, frosted highlights in their hair, and a preoccupation with casual sex are invariably treated with mockery and derision.

I am going to go out on a limb and speculate that anti-nazi sentiment is pretty much universal. I have seen Nazism criticized here many times, in both articulate and inarticulate ways, and have never seen it defended.

Echoing vorfeed regarding special pleading: all kinds of ideology and worldviews get criticized here, sometimes in articulate and challenging ways, sometimes in lulzy dismissals. Why should religion be in some special category that unlike every other opinion or social identification we have is above criticism?

If you can accept the idea that being religious is a choice and a commitment of an individual, and not something you are simply born into, then you should be able to see a criticism of religion, or a specific criticism of your religion, not as an insult but as an argument.

If anyone here were arguing from the point of view that their religion was a thing they inherited from their parents and therefore not a choice they had but a property of themselves, then I would give a little more credence to talking about this criticism as a form of bigotry.

I do understand that there is a tradition of religious tolerance in the US and agree that people should not be punished or coerced over issues of belief. But I don't see why this should extend to characterizing criticism of religion in general, or even one's own personal religion, as bigotry.
posted by idiopath at 8:06 PM on February 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


Atheism is only possible through the defense of freedom of conviction, the ability to accept or reject faith on its own merits, as a personal choice.

Religion bashing is just evangelical claptrap gussied up in Ayn Rand drag - it's anti-intellectual dogma trying to drape itself with a cloak of rationality. I have as little time for it as I do for any other creed advocating forced conversion or who feels it has to make their mark by demonizing, and fighting, the "other." It has its roots in monotheistic absolutism... generally, if you reject the notion of a god, you should start to examine the power and social structures left over, and make sure you don't keep marching to religion's beat out of reflex.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:06 PM on February 23, 2010 [14 favorites]


Smedleyman, I do not believe that the (in my view mistaken) belief in God is without bad consequences. It certainly had bad consequences for me and people who were around me, as well as a few good consequences.

I know of many instances in which it had very good effects. Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bishop George Bell. Archbishop William Temple, largely responsible for the foundation of the British welfare state through his book Christianity and Social Order. Wilberforce and the repeal of slavery. Edwardian slum priests. And a million other who remain unsung.

BUT I personally can't look around the world and conclude anything but that it's a destructive force overall.

And that's quite beside the point that I personally find the notion of a God to be not well-formed.

So, yes, I changed my mind. On the basis of thought and evidence and logic and history and personal experience. Maybe when I get to be an old codger I'll change it back again. But I can only speak from where I am.
posted by unSane at 8:11 PM on February 23, 2010


y2karl: Because I said so.

I won't do your research for you. Suffice to say that there is a very deep and very wide body of criticism in this field, of which I am academically acquainted with, but personally have experienced the effects first hand. I can do the Googling tomorrow when I'm not watching the Olympics, or you can feel free to do it yourself right now.

For some reason, people tend to assume that atheists are, like, incapable of absorbing the lessons and messages of religious organizations, despite the fact that we're raised in the same damn culture, and often in the same damn religions. Odd...
posted by muddgirl at 8:12 PM on February 23, 2010


I am tempted to join the Tea Party just so that people are asked to respect my sensibilities and tiptoe around any Tea Party posts that come up.

Too bad they don't take immigrants.
posted by dirty lies at 8:21 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I tried several times to make a distinction between religion and spirituality, which seems to be what y2karl is referring to as 'religious experience'. You can look up the dictionary definition yourself but 'religion' refers to a specific set of beliefs rather than a numinous spirtual/emotional experience.
posted by unSane at 8:22 PM on February 23, 2010


I dunno. It seems like, if you believe that an all-powerful, all-knowing being exists, completely undectectable by the senses, science, or anything empirical, and that this being wants you to do X and not Y and will offer you great rewards after you die if you do X, but horrible punishment after you die if you do Y... well, I fail to see how such a person could NOT be religious.

Conversely, if you do not hold such a belief, I fail to see how you COULD be religious.


I'm religious, and I don't believe in any of that.
posted by KathrynT at 8:22 PM on February 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


As far as I'm concerned, the "it's personal/it's a matter of context" argument does little more than frame the debate in favor of religion from the start.

Religion is sacred to people, so they care about it more than things like politics, so therefore you can't insult it the way you can with politics -- the first two statements are entirely true, but this argument is also analogous to simply saying "religion is sacred, so therefore you can't insult it". Which is a highly convenient position to be arguing from, isn't it? Again, so much for "fair".

There are plenty of things that are very, very important to me which often come in for a pasting on this site, yet "it's personal" doesn't keep people from freely insulting my beliefs. The implication that atheism and/or anti-religious sentiment is less serious or personal than religion is another conversational Catch-22; if one's beliefs about religion are too personal for discussion, why is it that one side of the argument still gets to talk about it?
posted by vorfeed at 8:24 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


dirty lies: "I am tempted to join the Tea Party just so that people are asked to respect my sensibilities and tiptoe around any Tea Party posts that come up.

Too bad they don't take immigrants
"

If you espoused any racist/homophobic/sexist remarks, they'd be called out and you know it.
posted by desjardins at 8:32 PM on February 23, 2010


I really don't know how to say this nicely so . . . I'm gonna just shut up and go to bed.
posted by nola at 8:33 PM on February 23, 2010


unSane, it's the sloppiness in any area that always causes problems. Appreciate owning up to that. As for your last response, I think it's great that you understand your position today may not be what it is down the road. It reflects an open mindedness that some anti-Christian MeFites do not share.
posted by Atreides at 8:33 PM on February 23, 2010


idiopath- we probably shouldn't be so casually dismissive of people, regardless of what category we're talking about (those born-again or merely highlighted of hair). It drives people away from the community, and discourages people that might otherwise have joined.

Why does this matter? Because there are plenty of religious people (or people that ended up on the wrong side of whatever fashion divide exists between the tanned/not tanned factions, whatever) that still have things to teach us, even if (or especially as) those things are not specifically religious in nature. By coincidence, some qualities that we value and would want to be exposed to more of are bundled, in some of the same human beings, with qualities that we dislike.

For example, I have no interest in Christianity; I cannot foresee deriving any benefit from it, ever, at any time of my life. But it would be really cool to be in the same community with Donald Knuth. That guy is fucking awesome. His Christianity is part and parcel of him; as far as I can tell he takes it seriously. I've also got a bunch of Christian friends that are really fun, creative, smart people, and they certainly wouldn't find this place welcoming. If we exclude Christians on a de facto basis by making them uncomfortable all the time, we lose people that have good things to bring to the table, because almost every demographic group of any kind has members with good things to bring to the table.
posted by Jpfed at 8:33 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


“Smedleyman, I do not believe that the (in my view mistaken) belief in God is without bad consequences. It certainly had bad consequences for me and people who were around me, as well as a few good consequences.”
You’ve completely ignored my question and any of the basic argument outlined that had zero to do with God, the comparative merits of religion which I ceded from the outset, Edwardian slum priests, or any other such bullshit.

IF you believe in free discourse THEN you believe people should be able to speak freely. Or you don’t. IF you do THEN the only problem is getting people like the Pearls to stop beating their kids. Regardless of any broad debate as to whether it’s good, bad or whatever. Unless you don’t think people should speak freely and you think religion should be outlawed – to which my argument was notational at best because it’s such a damn silly idea.

I can be unclear sometimes but it was straight line reasoning.

I’ve always agreed with sentiments like Slap*Happy’s and this is really pointless.
Still, my own fault, I know better.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:38 PM on February 23, 2010


The implication that atheism and/or anti-religious sentiment is less serious or personal than religion is another conversational Catch-22; if one's beliefs about religion are too personal for discussion, why is it that one side of the argument still gets to talk about it?

Being an atheist is no less important than being a Christian, Sikh or Wiccan, and you absolutely get to talk about what you believe: You believe there isn't a god, and you don't believe in the authority of a church or other organized body who's purpose is to worship a god. This is a very, very important conviction, and deserves respect and consideration.

What you don't get to do is blast apart someone for coming to a different conclusion... the same way the Mighty Hammer of Ire would rightfully descend on any Southern Baptist calling out a Jew as a hellbound Christ-denier, a Sufi as a towel-head terrorist, or a Hindu as an uneducated heathen. This hypothetical fundie's not discussing religion, they're being a dick. It is definitely possible to discuss religion as an atheist and not be a dick, so maybe more people should give it a try?
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:40 PM on February 23, 2010 [11 favorites]


I'd actually put political beliefs somewhat in that territory as well—note, personal political beliefs, not whether-you-live-in-a-capitalist-society.

On the day that we get a callout thread because someone suggested right-wing political views might be a net Bad, globally speaking, I'll take that comment seriously. Otherwise, it seems, you know, bullshitty.
posted by unSane at 8:47 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Smedleyman, sorry, I obviously didn't and still don't understand the point you are making.
posted by unSane at 8:48 PM on February 23, 2010


I have no interest in Christianity; I cannot foresee deriving any benefit from it, ever, at any time of my life.

If you accept Catholicism as a form of Christianity (some don't), you're going to miss out on some fantastic architecture.

I put the Church behind me when I was a kid, but I never really lost my love for those high arched ceilings and stained glass windows.

It probably doesn't help that I used to live a wonderfully scenic 20 minute motorcycle ride from this photogenic place.
posted by quin at 8:49 PM on February 23, 2010


It's like a nation within a nation, exempt from the laws prohibiting child abuse.

You better believe it. Beating children to death with rubber hoses, and worse. Well, more torturous, at any rate. And they hide, they all hide behind a facade of… well, now, I hate to go there. People get pissy about it.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:50 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have never suggested limiting freedom of expression. At all. Go nuts.
posted by unSane at 8:50 PM on February 23, 2010


Why should religion be in some special category that unlike every other opinion or social identification we have is above criticism?

It shouldn't be. I was trying to make the argument that there's a line between the debate and criticism we all have a right to, and an overall environment that says "you might not be welcome here"

There's a difference between "faith can sometimes lead you astray" and "I guess If you believe in some imaginary dude in the sky, you'll believe anything". It could be a difference of style, intent, or even respect. Either way, these choices have a bearing on the overall environment and tone of the site.

I didn't use the word bigotry. I used the word intolerant. I would also use the words dismissive, and/or mocking.

I wish we did conservatism better. If a member of the Jersey Shore cast showed up here, i would expect criticism and snark, I would be disappointed if it turned to intolerance or dismissal. Same goes for any other group or person, no matter if their status was one of choice, lifestyle or birth.

No one is special, in that we all deserve respect.
posted by billyfleetwood at 8:55 PM on February 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


On the day that we get a callout thread because someone suggested right-wing political views might be a net Bad, globally speaking, I'll take that comment seriously.

I swear at least one of the konolia MeTas was a referendum on her conservative political beliefs. And we've had a few conservatives called out too, though usually because they were being dicks. The mods can fill in the details, but it's happened.
posted by dw at 8:58 PM on February 23, 2010


Schmegegge, are you really accusing me of arguing in bad faith? Why would I do that?

yes, and I don't know. your reasons are your own, I guess, but that is what you're doing when you jump into a thread swinging, declare that you don't care if you offend the people you're talking about then snidely dismiss the personal nature of their belief. you're not engaging in honest debate. you're just taking pot shots and refusing to listen to anyone else.
posted by shmegegge at 9:07 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


As I said earlier, I certainly think there is plenty of opportunity to discuss the net value of religion. I just don't think every single thread on that topic needs to be such a discussion, especially when such a discussion actually distracts from the actual subject. In this case, there is no evidence that religion as a whole argues for beating children, or that Christianity as a whole favors it, so using the acts of a few lunatics as an indictment of religion as a whole doesn't seem to serve any function that spleen venting.

As a whole, I think going into a thread to wipe contempt all over it, no matter how deserved you think that contempt is, is bad for discussion and bad for MetaFilter.

And I'll say that: I've never regretting being an atheist, but I often regret that other people are, because I do wind up needing to apologize for blinkered ignorance and expression of hostility and hatred, and they are coming from my side of the fence, where reason is suppose to live.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:31 PM on February 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


This one is fairly close. It went to MetaTalk with a discussion about dragging in a generalizing "conservatives, huh, all batshitinsane amirite?" argument into the crazy holocaust-museum shooter thread.

Technically it doesn't meet the criteria because the MetaTalk was not opened by the caller-out... the callouts actually happened still on the blue, then the replies to the callouts, and then someone just opened a MeTa thread to move the whole derail out of the thread. But yeah, it was a MeTa thread calling out sweeping generalizations about conservatives in a thread about an individual instance of fringe conservative craziness.

I was there. Got the lame t-shirt.
posted by qvantamon at 9:32 PM on February 23, 2010


unSane, forgive me if I'm misreading, but it really is coming across in this thread that your position is that you should be allowed to be a dick.

Why do you want to be a dick?
posted by shakespeherian at 9:36 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, it seems to me that people came in here determined to be offended by taking arguments against religion in general as personal arguments against them. The only snide comment I made was in response to Cortex saying that religious folk (among others) needed special treatment.

I've tried to be responsive -- others can judge how successfully or not. I've conceded several points. I don't know what else I could do to satisfy you.
posted by unSane at 9:37 PM on February 23, 2010


It's not that religious people need special treatment. It's that the grey area between acceptably opinionated discourse and "being a dick" is a lot narrower where certain topics are concerned than it is with others.
posted by The World Famous at 9:40 PM on February 23, 2010


Can someone tell me why it's OK for Shakespeherian to post things like that? I mean, that's about a hundred times more offensive than anything I've said in here.
posted by unSane at 9:41 PM on February 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


Well, it seems to me that people came in here determined to be offended by taking arguments against religion in general as personal arguments against them.

Honestly, unSane, I don't know that I've seen any arguments against religion from you. I've seen plenty of 'religion is dumb' and 'I don't like religion' and 'blah blah persecution complex,' [NOT ACTUAL QUOTES!!!1!] but nothing that actually advances an argument. Maybe I missed it? It's a pretty long thread.

But the thing is, and I'm sure you already know this because you used to be religious, saying something like 'Religion is dumb' in front of a bunch of people that you already know ahead of time are religious is making it personal. I really don't care about the semantics and distinctions between criticizing a belief system and criticizing the adherents of that belief system.

And if you didn't know it already, which I find incredibly hard to imagine, you sure as shit know it now-- you're pissing people off, and you keep defending your right to piss people off. Which you have, by all means, go hog-wild, free expression, yadda yadda. But you are being a dick, and I don't think at this point you can credibly claim to be doing so innocently.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:47 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


The implication that atheism and/or anti-religious sentiment is less serious or personal than religion is another conversational Catch-22; if one's beliefs about religion are too personal for discussion, why is it that one side of the argument still gets to talk about it?

What are you talking about? There's no assertion from our end that atheism or anti-religious feelings are less serious or personal than theistic or religious beliefs. There's certainly nothing remotely resembling an anti-atheist dynamic on this site; about the worst an atheist around here can reasonably expect is grousing, generally by other not-very or not-remotely religious people, about some of the obnoxious shit some atheists say in conversations about religion.

Nor is the idea that religious beliefs are too personal for discussion.

The idea is that disliking someone's religious beliefs, as with disliking someone's political beliefs or someone's attitude toward astrology or medicine or marriage or any other thing, is not an excuse to be a jerk. That being too broadly dismissive or lazily general in condemnations of a belief or preference and by implication or by explication of the people who subscribe to it makes this place worse.

The general atmosphere of hostility generated by that kind of crappy failure to show some civility and consideration is anathema to what is otherwise a community I'm generally pretty damn proud of. Religion just happens to be one of the areas in which this otherwise pretty thoughtful crowd manages to stumble on that front particularly a lot.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:49 PM on February 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


I've never regretting being an atheist, but I often regret that other people are, because I do wind up needing to apologize for blinkered ignorance and expression of hostility and hatred, and they are coming from my side of the fence, where reason is suppose to live.

I often regret the atheismness (atheanity?) of atheists who refuse to think about religious thought at any higher level than the personal, particularly when they get really smug about that refusal.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:50 PM on February 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


about the worst an atheist around here can reasonably expect is grousing, generally by other not-very or not-remotely religious people, about some of the obnoxious shit some atheists say in conversations about religion.

I've seen a few times, by koselitz and others, the implications that atheists are missing part of our humanity or are less capable of experiencing life due to our being atheists. I think open dehumanization goes pretty far beyond grousing.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:51 PM on February 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


Well, it seems to me that people came in here determined to be offended by taking arguments against religion in general as personal arguments against them.

Person after person after person posted in this thread to say that while they were atheists or agnostics themselves, they didn't feel that a rude, dismissive, axe-grindy, lazily-generalized anti-religious attitude was a benefit for the site. Repeat: atheists or agnostics themselves. This was specifically pointed out to you.

But you're just not listening. To you, this is a still--still, after all that--a debate between atheists and sensitive Christians claiming victim status.

I think the Christians you're arguing with are in your head, or in your past.
posted by neroli at 9:51 PM on February 23, 2010 [9 favorites]


Atheism is only possible through the defense of freedom of conviction, the ability to accept or reject faith on its own merits, as a personal choice.

You seem to have taken a position rightfully respected from the abortion debate and transplanted it whole into another context. It's a rough fit.

There is no absolute "right" or "wrong" to abortion. That is a human valuation.

There most certainly either is or is not a God. The evidence is, shall I say, less than convincing. At least for the particular God in question. The problem is, given enough time, I can come up with a million alternate "what ifs" that have as much going for each of them. My atheism (tyvm) takes a position on God, Santa Claus, and talking pigs that have little to do with personal choice. I mean let's face it -- the central virtue of those three things is that you can't disprove them. If you're forced to call that a win, you need better beliefs.

The idea is that disliking someone's religious beliefs, as with disliking someone's political beliefs or someone's attitude toward astrology or medicine or marriage or any other thing, is not an excuse to be a jerk.

That's a tall order, cortex. I mean, it's jerky to compare God to Santa Claus, isn't it? It's also an apt comparison.

All that being said, the fpp had little to do with Christianity, except how it was used by these particular sadists as an appeal to other sadists. Everything else is pretty poor guilt by association.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:55 PM on February 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Cortex and jessamyn have also both voiced their general personal distaste for religion, and they are both saying that the activity under discussion is not good for the site. I don't get the 'personal arguments against them' thing at all.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:55 PM on February 23, 2010


Given the role of religious thought and religious institutions over thousands of years of human history, as far as I can see you're on a hiding to nothing making a bald statement along the lines of it being always a net negative. It's been such a vast variety of things at different times and in different locales and has been so intimately intertwined with such a variety of other factors that a statement at such a broad level is essentially meaningless. Further, I'd imagine if you keep your critique more focussed you're less likely to offend people unintentionally when they get stung by your scatter-shot.
posted by Abiezer at 9:56 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


WWJD?
posted by ericb at 9:58 PM on February 23, 2010


WWJD?

After reading this thread? Finish off the growler and strum his ukulele. at least that's what I wanna do
posted by hellojed at 10:07 PM on February 23, 2010


WWJD?

He'd probably be making plans to nuke the site from orbit, at this point.

I'm gonna get flamed for that, aren't I?
posted by zarq at 10:09 PM on February 23, 2010


ATHEIST FIGHT!!!1!!! Where's my popcorn?
posted by Crabby Appleton at 10:10 PM on February 23, 2010


Well, you know, I just reread through this whole thread and my final thoughts.

I haven't advanced my reasons for disbelief in God in this thread but you can find them elsewhere in my history if you're interested, which I'm sure no-one is.

Suffice to say they are largely logical rather than emotional.

If saying that I think religion is a net bad, despite the many good things it may have produced, and the many good things your particular variety may have produced, makes me a dick, then very well, I'm a dick. If you infer from that that I think you are a bad person, that is your inference and not my implication. I do not know you and have no idea what kind of a person you are.

If, by your lights and on the evidence of my posts in this thread, I'm a dick, then so be it.

As to whether I have the right to be a dick, that's not for me to decide. The mods can delete my account if they wish and they will hear no complaint from me. I certainly wouldn't want to belong to a community that found it necessary.
posted by unSane at 10:12 PM on February 23, 2010


OK, can we just wrap this up? The pendulum is swinging back farther than I can register. I'm sure the many atheist Metafilter members who are not one of the two or three major participants of this conversation really love statements like:

I rarely see self described athiests here showing that much acquaintance with the history of religion or religous thought or religious experience. The resulting, ahem, conversations remind me of nothing so much as going to my brother's funeral and, as a result, finding myself stuck in a series of rooms for a series of days, having to listen to hardcore FOX viewing wingnuts rant and rave about Muslims and Arabs and the Democrat Party.

one sheet indeed...
posted by setanor at 10:17 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


If saying that I think religion is a net bad, despite the many good things it may have produced, and the many good things your particular variety may have produced, makes me a dick, then very well, I'm a dick.

That specifically isn't what I said. I said: saying something like 'Religion is dumb' in front of a bunch of people that you already know ahead of time are religious is making it personal.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:18 PM on February 23, 2010


As to whether I have the right to be a dick, that's not for me to decide. The mods can delete my account if they wish and they will hear no complaint from me. I certainly wouldn't want to belong to a community that found it necessary.

I'd be shocked if they did so. I'd also strongly object and try to change their minds if they did.
posted by zarq at 10:23 PM on February 23, 2010


Can you stop putting quotes around things that aren't quotes? I didn't say that or anything like it. It's fucking lazy, thought it suits your argument. Please stop.
posted by unSane at 10:23 PM on February 23, 2010


You mean the things that I immediately followed with [NOT ACTUAL QUOTES!!!1!]?
posted by shakespeherian at 10:26 PM on February 23, 2010


The mods can delete my account if they wish and they will hear no complaint from me.

None of us has so much as sneezed in the direction of the idea of that. It'd be some kind of Bizarro Metafilter.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:26 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


It'd be some kind of Bizarro Metafilter.

Is that the one where Mathowie has a beard?
posted by hellojed at 10:28 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


There most certainly either is or is not a God. The evidence is, shall I say, less than convincing. At least for the particular God in question.

That's just, like, your opinion, man.

My atheism (tyvm) takes a position on God, Santa Claus, and talking pigs that have little to do with personal choice. I mean let's face it -- the central virtue of those three things is that you can't disprove them.

Actually, Santa Claus is pretty easily disproved, given that you can draw a direct line to Santa Claus' creation in modern civilization and the purposes for it. If the creation of the myth of the existence of deity in general was something that verifiable recorded history could demonstrate, along with some demonstration that it was created not out of genuine belief but as a marketing ploy, there would likely be even fewer believers in deity than there are in Santa Claus.

As far as the talking pig goes, it sort of depends on what you're referring to. If you're talking about some specific alleged talking pig, then yeah, that's very easily disproved. If you're talking about the notion of talking pigs generally, then it sort of depends on the specific details of the alleged belief. It's really not a great analogy to God, unless you assume from the outset that the point you're trying to make is correct. And we all know that if an argument depends in part on its own conclusion being correct, it's not a great argument.

If you're forced to call that a win, you need better beliefs.

The thing is, I don't think I've ever seen anyone on MetaFilter call the fact that the existence of God cannot be disproved a "win." I certainly don't.

I mean, it's jerky to compare God to Santa Claus, isn't it? It's also an apt comparison.

Well, first, it's not jerky per se to compare God to Santa Claus. It all depends on what point you're trying to make and how you make it. Second, whether or not it's an apt comparison also depends on the point you're trying to make. If the point of the comparison is that they both are reputed to have impressive facial hair, then yes, it's an apt comparison. If it's part of some argument about whether or not God exists (or even about whether or not it's rational for an individual to believe in God), then it's not a great comparison, frankly. Unless you've been smoking grass in some kid's dorm room for the last few hours and going off on all the new great stuff you've been figuring out now that you're in a freshman-level philosophy class, in which case it's an apt comparison.

Discussions of theology and its merits or lack thereof by intelligent atheists go a hell of a lot deeper than "God is like Santa Claus or talking pigs, amirite?!?" And it would be nice if MetaFilter discourse took the more intelligent road.

Here's a helpful rule of thumb: When you're making what you think is a good argument about theology, the existence of deity, etc., take a step back and ask yourself whether it still holds together if you remove the assumption that your conclusion is correct. Most arguments on both sides of the religious versus atheist debate fail that test.
posted by The World Famous at 10:32 PM on February 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


I've been absolutely floored by this thread. Never thought I'd see the day that so many Mefites stepped up to bat for Christians/religion in general. It speaks volumes about the tolerance of the community that, despite the original thread, this metatalk discussion has overwhelmingly come down on the side of "Hey, not all Christians are like that". It means a lot, to me at least.

Like others, in the past I've been too ashamed to refer some of my Christian friends and family to Metafilter, a supposedly progressive and tolerant website. And, as someone with a complex relationship with the Christian faith, I have absolutely felt unwelcome on mefi before, and usually just skip over any religious threads. But maybe this is the beginning of a sea change here - like the one kicked off by productive boyzone discussions in the past.

So, a quick thanks to everyone who participated here and especially to the mods for their input and patience!
posted by lohmannn at 10:37 PM on February 23, 2010 [12 favorites]


Actually, Santa Claus is pretty easily disproved, given that you can draw a direct line to Santa Claus' creation in modern civilization and the purposes for it.

You call that "disproved"? Silly, TWF. It's just a test. It wouldn't be faith otherwise.

If you're talking about some specific alleged talking pig, then yeah, that's very easily disproved.

How would you go about doing even that?

For someone talking of dorm rooms and pot-level thinking, you're not standing up to much here. I mean, I graded intro philosophy, and you're not rising above a C so far.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:38 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


unSane, your posting history (including what I remember of your comments in the last Dawkins thread that I participated in,) is the only thing which kept me from calling you a troll initially, after your "yay religion" comment.
posted by zarq at 10:41 PM on February 23, 2010


I really don't care about the semantics and distinctions between criticizing a belief system and criticizing the adherents of that belief system.

This is over the top. You really see no difference between criticizing, say, the Catholic church and criticizing all Catholics?

What happens when a Catholic criticizes the Catholic church? Is that "making it personal" and being disrespectful or a dick or whatever you're implying about people who criticize belief systems? Where do you draw the line? Can reform Jews criticize Orthodox Judaism? Does that make them jerks who are trying to "make it personal"?

It seems to me that you're saying that religious people the only people who can criticize their belief system, or perhaps that religious people shouldn't criticize their belief system, or that no one should criticize belief systems at all if there might be any religious people in the room.

When Christians dominate the national discussion about religion already--and Christian leaders and ideas have real impact on lawmaking, among other things--why would you want non-Christians to refrain from criticizing Christianity? Why should a less powerful group be restricted from criticizing a more powerful group?
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:41 PM on February 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


For someone talking of dorm rooms and pot-level thinking, you're not standing up to much here. I mean, I graded intro philosophy, and you're not rising above a C so far.

Man, if the stuff I'm saying looks like a college philosophy class to you, you've got some real problems. And that's my point.
posted by The World Famous at 10:50 PM on February 23, 2010


It seems to me that you're saying that religious people the only people who can criticize their belief system

You're taking what I said entirely out of context. I was, as said in that very comment that you quoted, specifically talking about 'religion is dumb'-type comments. I am decidedly not saying that no one can criticize Christianity or religion. But the who-me attitude that some have trotted out in this thread, the notion that saying religion is dumb and just like believing in Santa Claus and etc. is only speaking of religion in general and not the religious, is disingenuous. Saying 'belief system X is dumb' in front of members of your community who adhere to belief system X does not strengthen that community. And doing so after this has been pointed out to you is being a dick.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:52 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


An intro philosophy class, are you kidding? You'd fit right in.

You're seeming to want to impose some very real-world limits on what is, effectively, magic, TWF. My magical talking pig, or Santa, or flying linguini monster (I prefer the consistency, thank you), doesn't have to play by those rules, and I think you know that.

Now harm -- the whole "net good/bad" question -- is a fundamentally different one, and not something I'm attempting to address.

I'm extremely doubtful that people advocating respect for religious belief accord the same degree of respect to non-religious belief equally lacking in evidence.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:52 PM on February 23, 2010


It's especially confusing from my perspective as an agnostic young man still trying to figure all this shit out.

It all pretty much falls together, once the bombs start exploding around you in the corpse filled trench.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:53 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Or would you like to hear some Leibniz? Would that feel more colleg-y to you?

Less veneer and more substance, please.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:54 PM on February 23, 2010


Discussions of theology and its merits or lack thereof by intelligent atheists go a hell of a lot deeper than "God is like Santa Claus or talking pigs, amirite?!?"

Only out of courtesy and completeness.
posted by fleacircus at 10:55 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Never thought I'd see the day that so many Mefites stepped up to bat for Christians/religion in general.

I would suggest that you have not been paying particularly close attention to Metafilter. In my experience, MeFi is very pro-religion and will defend pretty much any religious expression that isn't immediately, universally reviled. I'm sure that if you're used to the greater cultural context, in which atheism is an extreme minority position and there is massive opprobrium attached to expressions of it, Metafilter seems like some kind of crazy Christian-hating place, but this is nearly identical to the phenomenon in which people refer to "far-left Democrats".
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:57 PM on February 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


Religion isn't the problem, it rarely is. It's the zealous adherence to a set of principles while blindly ignoring the hypocrisies inherent in, and the damage caused by one's actions.

I agree.

As a self-defined agnostic who is on the record for "not necessarily believing everything I say", let me please say that just once I would like to find myself in a MetaFilter religious CONTROVERSY where I'm not defending various besieged Christian perspectives and, in fact, inspired to rail against enthusiastically against them.

Just once.

There is a certain kind of "tyranny of the majority" bullying that sometimes goes on here which, regardless of its intellectual/ethical/philosophical/scientific/rational justifications sucks, BECAUSE BULLYING FUCKING SUCKS. It's violence, even if it's just words tossed around via electronic means. If the intention is to hurt, it's violence.

A society where violence is an inconceivable aberration, where people are free to be and think and do as they please as long as they don't infringe on the persons or freedoms of others, and a society where trust is a habit, rather than a rarity.

This.

First time I've done that by the way. "This" that is.
posted by philip-random at 10:58 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


An intro philosophy class, are you kidding? You'd fit right in.

I'm not sure what you mean by that.

You're seeming to want to impose some very real-world limits on what is, effectively, magic, TWF.

To what are you referring?

My magical talking pig, or Santa, or flying linguini monster (I prefer the consistency, thank you), doesn't have to play by those rules, and I think you know that.

What rules?
posted by The World Famous at 11:00 PM on February 23, 2010


take a step back and ask yourself whether it still holds together if you remove the assumption that your conclusion is correct.

No, because the argument is about: i) a lack of evidence, and ii) an infinite number of alternative possiblities.

So let's assume there is a God, and He's just like the Good Book says. Evidence: still zero. Alternate possibilities? Still limitless. You're basically taking the position here of the fellow who makes a crackpot guess on insufficient evidence or deficient reasoning and turns out to be right. The result does not render the path there any less fallacious. Nor will we have a chance for that kind of hindsight, so far as I know.

Really, you should put the pen down before you lose the D you've got.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:00 PM on February 23, 2010


and... F.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:01 PM on February 23, 2010


Dude, name something you can disprove, other than math. On the other hand, go kick a stone or something. I'm done.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:03 PM on February 23, 2010


Saying 'belief system X is dumb' in front of members of your community who adhere to belief system X does not strengthen that community.

You specifically said that you do not see the distinction between criticizing a belief system and criticizing its believers. The logical conclusion of what you're saying is that anything that could be construed as criticism of a belief system weakens this community because there are believers here. I think that Christians (and religious people in general) should be able to handle criticism without feeling oppressed.

Of course people can criticize Christianity in a rude and simplistic way. I get that. I get that it is uncool. But criticizing belief systems or religion in general is okay with me, no matter who is in the room. I don't necessarily agree with those criticisms but there is no need for them to be muted or automatically labeled as harmful because the subject is too personal.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:07 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


(And by do not see the distinction, I should correct that to you do not seem to think that distinction is meaningful)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:10 PM on February 23, 2010


You specifically said that you do not see the distinction between criticizing a belief system and criticizing its believers.

No I didn't. I said I don't care about the difference that unSane was attempting to argue for, because it's irrelevant.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:10 PM on February 23, 2010


Durn: it would be nice if you didn't pull that "intro to philosophy" shtick.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 11:12 PM on February 23, 2010


You're basically taking the position here of the fellow who makes a crackpot guess on insufficient evidence or deficient reasoning and turns out to be right.

I'm not arguing that your position about the existence of God is incorrect. My only position here is that the arguments that you, personally, have advanced are sophmoric and lower the level of discourse. To the extent that your insulting tone is indicative of you feeling that I have somehow insulted you, I apologize.

Assuming that your comments to me regarding your credentials as someone educated in philosophy are accurate, you should know very well that the arguments you're making are unsophisticated and are, for the most part, predictably annoying to anyone intelligent (or unintelligent) who happens to disagree with them. Are you trying to be a jerk? Or are you just trying to get in a fight? Because either way, it doesn't suit MetaFilter.

Dude, name something you can disprove, other than math.

That statement convinces me that you're not lying about your extensive involvement in freshman philosophy classes.
posted by The World Famous at 11:13 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's the paragraph I wrote, in full:

But the thing is, and I'm sure you already know this because you used to be religious, saying something like 'Religion is dumb' in front of a bunch of people that you already know ahead of time are religious is making it personal. I really don't care about the semantics and distinctions between criticizing a belief system and criticizing the adherents of that belief system.

I suppose you could construe this to mean that I don't think anyone should criticize religion at all ever, but since I have already said that that isn't what I think, I'm not sure why you're insisting that it's the only meaning for what I wrote. I'm sorry if there was a misunderstanding, but I would like you to appreciate what I was actually intending to say as I have articulated it rather than the stupidest possible thing it can be interpreted to mean.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:13 PM on February 23, 2010


it's not a great comparison, frankly. Unless you've been smoking grass in some kid's dorm room for the last few hours and going off on all the new great stuff you've been figuring out now that you're in a freshman-level philosophy class, in which case it's an apt comparison.

Care to re-attribute, Monday?

That statement convinces me that you're not lying about your extensive involvement in freshman philosophy classes.

This has been your tone since comment one. Don't blame me for riding on your schtick, Famous.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:15 PM on February 23, 2010


And seriously, if you want to hold forth on Berkeley (the "stone" reference -- whoosh), or any other thinker, go for it. But if you can't reduce your ideas to simple ones you can defend, you're no better off than the Bible-quoters who demand equal skill in recitation in order to hold a conversation about their beliefs.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:17 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


My only position here is that the arguments that you, personally, have advanced are sophmoric and lower the level of discourse.

FINE. Hume's Fork. Agree? Disagree? With the logic or his conclusions?

Personally, l don't think he gets away with it. In which case, you, the pig, Santa, and all of it doesn't exist.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:19 PM on February 23, 2010


Anyway, it is much too late for this on a work night. I won't apologize for observing that one belief falls into the same category as another. I didn't put it there.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:24 PM on February 23, 2010


This has been your tone since comment one. Don't blame me for riding on your schtick, Famous.

Sorry. I didn't realize you were riding my schtick. Tell you what: Get off my schtick, I'll put it away, and we can get a drink sometime?
posted by The World Famous at 11:26 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Done.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:27 PM on February 23, 2010


What's brown and schticky? MetaTalk.
posted by Abiezer at 11:44 PM on February 23, 2010


I just don't think every single thread on that topic needs to be such a discussion, especially when such a discussion actually distracts from the actual subject. In this case, there is no evidence that religion as a whole argues for beating children, or that Christianity as a whole favors it, so using the acts of a few lunatics as an indictment of religion as a whole doesn't seem to serve any function that spleen venting.

What bothered me about the story (besides the outcome) was how religion could so effectively be used as cover for the successful publication and dissemination of a set of dangerous beliefs that likely would not have been tolerated without its faith-based buffer; so it is not as if religion was a side topic here--it was central. You can bet than anytime someone has criticized the Pearls' child-discipline policies as abusive, they have reframed it as an assault on their religious beliefs. I think an important question to ask is how many people took their word for the harmlessness of their teachings simply because they were Christians (the same way, for instance, churches have called for the release of child traffickers in Haiti). Say what you want about whether they were disingenuous about it, but the fact is that they and their message (and pocketbooks) benefited by the respectful latitude many give to anything with a religious overtone. The same assumption underlies the the claim here that religion is personal and thus should not be subject to the kind of scrutiny we give to any other topic around here. You can't define religion as sacred and personal when religious groups have persisted in waving their beliefs in our faces all the time. Religion has too great an influence on the lives of non-believers for you to expect us not to call it out from our perspective, particularly when the culture has been soaking in such beliefs for so long that many take them for granted as universal truths.
posted by troybob at 11:51 PM on February 23, 2010 [16 favorites]


I want people to make an effort to not make the same shitty derails they always do.

But how else are the untalented, uninteresting, unintelligent, and unamusing supposed to garner cash and prizes faves and contacts?

My (Christian) husband* and I have had conversations about how inhospitable mefi is to Christians.

>As opposed to where?
>My husband and I have had conversations about how inhospitable the entire Western world is to non-Christains.
>we keep getting hit by the mallet
>Who listens to the atheist?
>if you're contributing to a discriminatory cultural majority, I (as a cultural minority or ally) have the responsibility to speak out for those who can't or won't.


Hey, it's that thing again, I love that thing! While MeFi is obviously part of the larger world, it's bullshit to pretend that this community - or at least the part that actively participates - shares the social mores of the [Your country here]. It's even bullshittier and a gutless cop-out to boot to use those external conventions to justify behavior that is damaging to this community. At best it's noise-making coals-to-Newcastle choir-preaching posturing, at worst it's people acting like belligerent bullies and self-righteous pricks because they're empowered and possess the privileged position in MetaFilter's community culture.

if those opinions are not expressible on MetaFilter because they offend the Faithful, perhaps Jessamyn or Cortex would kindly boot me... The mods can delete my account if they wish and they will hear no complaint from me.

Ooo, someone has his martyr hat on! For a person who shits his pants whenever someone misuses quotation marks, you seem pretty comfortable ascribing impulses and behaviors to people who have given no indication of such. At the risk of speaking for them*, I think you're giving yourself way too much credit and really overestimating how much of an intellectual or ideological threat you're posing to them and MeFi in general. You're this week's loudmouth with a hair up his ass.

*Out of consideration to your trousers I refrained from using summary marks.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:04 AM on February 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


Wow, God is like a mishmash of folkstories turned into a singular character used to market soft drink? Fucking awesome.

The thing that really fucking shits me about that discussion is that somehow Christian person from wherever should have done so much more than people who were actually interacting with the family. And any reason those people couldn't do anything (i.e. the secrecy, the lies, that whole thing) doesn't apply to Christians as a whole.

I think there is something to be said about the way a patriarchal religion engenders a level of hierarchy which can lend itself to abuses of authority. I think there are numerous christians and denominations that recognise that and work against it. I also think there's a lot to be said about the turning a blind eye tendency - they're just fundie hicks right? Who really cares? They're a weird mob so we won't talk to 'em or care because their kids are all weird too. So they get further and further isolated and that's held up as proof by a bullying authority and then a kid dies and all of a sudden it's "we don't know what happened! They were always so nice!".
posted by geek anachronism at 12:53 AM on February 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


If that's your conclusion from this and countless other posts across the whole family of sites, then all I can conclude is you're not reading Metafilter.

If you read one of my few FPP's, you'll see it was actually pro-religion. And yes, it was almost derailed, and I humbly thank the moderators for stepping in and preventing that.

I've been reading this site for much longer than I've posting, and I'm one of the atheist brigade. I have many religious friends, I can see how their lives are enriched by their faith, and I respect that. But equally, I expect them to see past their religion when, for example, women are buried alive for talking to men, or children are shot to death in the Gaza strip.

I was over-dramatic invoking the Spanish Inquisition for which I apologize, but it was late at night here in Europe, where we remember our violent and bloody history. Genocide in the Balkans is a real and living memory for people of my own generation, and it wasn't so long ago that Theo Van Gogh was stabbed to death just down the road from where I live.

So I can see why we need to tread carefully here, but now more than ever it's important to be selectively critical, particularly when religion turns this dangerous and horrifying. This doesn't mean we need to be personally disrespectful, but we cannot afford to be silent for fear of giving offense.

I can see that there are people of faith in this thread who would agree.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 1:49 AM on February 24, 2010 [9 favorites]


Religion is a force for evil.
posted by telstar at 2:00 AM on February 24, 2010


The problem with the way some MeFi atheists handle religion is that it's a lot like how you get some guys who take any conversation about race and try to turn it into a discussion of class, or how some MeFi Mac fans use any conversation vaguely related to Microsoft to turn it into a conversation about how obviously if you weren't all sheeple you'd have a Mac anyway. It's not a question of right or wrong; it's a question of being a douche or not being a douche.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:17 AM on February 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


Get off my schtick, I'll put it away, and we can get a drink sometime?

Hey! Hey!
You! You!
Get offa my schtick!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:10 AM on February 24, 2010


Or, as we used to say, "schtick it to the man!"
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:10 AM on February 24, 2010


Dude(tte)s, the mods are just asking you to back off and try to be nicer to each other. Bullies should, you know, think about stopping bullying, and the rest of us should, you know, try to get along better, be more respectful and maybe nicer.

We could all stand to assume more good intent and extend the brown and sticky branch of peace a little more often.

That stuff.
posted by kalessin at 5:27 AM on February 24, 2010


Having a big fight against All Christians because some terrible people did some terrible things in the name of their god isn't really conducive to discussion.

Some people seem to get away with doing precisely this a whole fuckova lot, though.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:27 AM on February 24, 2010


It's pretty funny to imagine Durn Bronzefist as the TA (poor paper-graders!) in an intro phil class, because I keep picturing a dwarf. Like Thorin Oakenshield.
posted by HopperFan at 5:51 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Some people seem to get away with doing precisely this a whole fuckova lot, though.

What's "getting away with" it? This right here is them being called out on it. Is there something more you'd like to see done?
posted by palliser at 6:00 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the key thing is to try to be nice to each other. We're all people, we all have inherent worth as human beings. Whatever one thinks about an issue, it's always good to try to be compassionate in your rhetoric. That doesn't mean one can't say what one means, but there is always more than one way to say it, and some ways are nicer than others. I think one should now have some tea because one is sounding very English for some reason.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:03 AM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


The problem, really, is dogmatic fundamentalist evangelical atheists. Not much different than any other flavor of dogmatic fundamentalist that are all in-your-face and pushy about it, but too damn proud of themselves to realize they've become that which they profess to hate.
posted by Goofyy at 6:10 AM on February 24, 2010


The same assumption underlies the the claim here that religion is personal and thus should not be subject to the kind of scrutiny we give to any other topic around here.

People keep saying that they're being asked not to criticize religion, but that's not my understanding of what's being asked at all. By all means, criticize people who beat and kill their children, or kill their daughters for honor, or treat women like chattel, or whatever. The problem is when someone takes an action by one believer or subset of believers and then implies that all religion everywhere is bad ('yay religion') or states that all of Christianity should be thrown out with the bathwater.

There's plenty about religion to criticize, but it's just obnoxious and offensive to act like every religious person is an idiot or every Christian is James Dobson.
posted by Mavri at 6:10 AM on February 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


The World Famous, I know you and Durn finished out your argument, and I think Durn was being a little (rather, a lot) snipy towards you, but my reaction towards your first post in that argument was a little incredulous, too. I took Comparative Religion, and the first thing they tell you is that God is exactly what you said, i.e. a pastiche of folk tales with some brilliant marketing around it.

Christianity did not begin with the Bible. It, like all the other modern religions, gained prominence in the world only after long periods of polytheism; Hinduism, which predates it considerably, is polytheistic. God evolved, and fractured, and even today two Christians who profess belief in the same God are thinking of two different Gods, hence the many divisions of Christianity. The idea of the Abrahamic religions is that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all basically start at the same place, and end in different places.

When you take Comp Religion, the first thing they do is force this down your throat. They also tell you right off the bat that God is this amalgam of many beliefs, that there is no real source of religious authority, and — in many standard textbooks — there's a very strongly hinted bias in favor of the "We invented God to soothe ourselves" theory of religion. It's true: The more you look at religion, and study it in-depth, the more ridiculous the idea of God sounds. Kind of like how, as a kid, the more you look at Santa Claus, the more you realize it's ridiculous to believe in him. Then one night you wake up early in the morning and Mom and Dad are putting down the presents, and you're like, "Okay! No Santa Claus."

When I was bar mitzvahed, I had a long conversation with my rabbi. Essentially I was panicking, because in the process of studying the religion I'd pretty quickly come to this realization that the only proof we had of God was a book written by old people. As a child I was fascinated by Greek, Egyptian, Norse mythologies; I know those stories as well as some people know the parables of the Bible. But I'd recognized that they were stories, and, beautiful and moral as they were, they didn't translate to my having to sacrifice animals to Poseidon when founding a city.

So I talked to my rabbi, and she told me that essentially believing in God is not central to religion. Religion is about the community of people that forms around God; there's a surprising amount of people in every religious group that goes for the people, not the afterlife. My grandfather admitted this to me a month ago; he was almost nervous saying it out loud. But that's common in religion.

Eliade's The Sacred and the Profane, which is a marvelous-if-boring discussion of what constitutes religion, says that the difference between sacred thought and profane thought is that in the sacred, people's collective experiences combine to make essentially holy places, where thanks to a collective experience that repeats over time, emotions and perceptions change somewhat. It's a neat argument because by that, nearly anything can become sacred. My hometown library has that effect on me; the theater I starred in my first show at; the room I'm sitting in typing this now. They're my profane shrines. Now, Eliade argues that it's better to have a sacred place where an entire community can share in this collected experience, but he never once says that the community must be a God-believing community.

I think religion, like nationalism, is a method of creating a network of familiarity. It's kind of like having a McDonald's in every town in the world, but less immediately fattening. You're in a strange place, bam! There's a place you can go buy shitty food. You're in a strange land, bam! Here are people who celebrate your traditions, who ostensibly share your culture. Before industrialism, before the world got connected, that was a very valuable, comforting thing to have.

Now? Perhaps not so much. Religious communities still exist, but they're not essential. I think some of the older practitioners I've argued with are missing a certain perspective; modern social networks and their flexibility and power, are somewhat beyond them. Because certainly the Internet fills, for me, that small niche where religion would otherwise exist. I'm not saying I worship it, but when I'm going to a strange place, I look for people I know online from the area. When I need to learn, or to comfort myself, frequently the Internet is where I go.

In Eliade's terms, MetaFilter and MetaTalk are sacred places. We share the same experiences in them. We are in some sense the biblical figures of this small, localized religion; we are the rabbis in the Talmud. I've read MetaFilter for years, and poring over the larger MetaTalk threads there's certainly a sense that certain members are renowned in certain subjects, and lead certain discussions. And, through these discussions, a certain morality exists.

Here's a fun question: Is it okay to dismiss people based on their preference of web site? When somebody says they frequent Digg, can we use that as bias against them? Even though Digg users are all different? When that kid on Justin.tv killed himself, did we respond by saying "yay justin.tv"? Because online communities certainly function in certain similar ways. But there we're a little more cognizant of the fact that belonging to a community doesn't make you one of Them.

That's what this conversation draws down to, for me. I don't believe in God, and I don't like the belief in Him, for all the reasons stated here: Appealing to higher authority is foolish and dangerous and a little contemptuous, I think, of our individual abilities to conclude things for ourselves. But not every religious person is part of the same global community. They don't all practice the same way. Like I said at the start, Protestants are different from Catholics; and more, Protestants from New York City are different from Protestants in London. In each of those cities there are certainly a number of different groups of Protestants, each of which act differently. Just like the old Emo Philips joke. Blasting against all people of a religion ignores the fact that there is no one true Christianity. It's like blasting me for being an American, or even a Philadelphia, or even a Spruce Street Philadelphian, or even for being a resident in my current building. There might be commonalities, but we are not one united people.

So that's what the mods are saying. Let's criticize religion without criticizing the individual members, especially when I think many members here believe in MetaFilter more than they believe in God. Let's remember none of us are heretics like those fucking Diggers.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:13 AM on February 24, 2010 [22 favorites]


You can discuss anything you like. All the mods are saying is remember your manners.

Metafilter is kinda bad at that. OTOH I can name you other forums that discuss these topics in detail but without the grar. It's doable. You just have to decide to.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:30 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Religion is a force for evil.

Yes, but only because people assume God is ultimately running the show here on planet earth, so they witness his "wrath" everyday and figure that's the way to be, like him. One would think that the randomness and apparent mystery of his "wrath" would confuse most people to silence, but that's where it gets weird. The confusion does exactly that, then allows those with personality disorders to speak for this apparently random God. Humans have tried almost everything since the Pharaohs to limit the inherent poverty this introduces to the culture, such as separating them from the political order, but it doesn't work well when the saner religious folk see this as a special opportunity to promote the idea that this random God is really merciful and completely rational, because it only makes sense that way. This is basically an attempt to hoodwink the brutal and ignorant religious domain with humanism, often pretending to the assumptions about God running the show. I don't think it helps, because all of those schools we build to educate people outside of religious tradition could easily be taken over by the same if we pretend too much.
posted by Brian B. at 6:49 AM on February 24, 2010


There's plenty about religion to criticize, but it's just obnoxious and offensive to act like every religious person is an idiot or every Christian is James Dobson.

And it's deeply worrying when otherwise decent and right-thinking religious people go on the defensive when their faith in general comes under criticism, because someone they had nothing to do with commits an atrocity in the name of their chosen deity.

Nothing wrong with expecting good manners in discussion, but did anybody call for the faithful to account for themselves a bit better? Seriously, I'd like to see more rational discussion come from the other side, but I suppose that's too much to hope for.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 7:05 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I had a comment in that thread that was moderately well taken, the one where I thought that the point of this method was to break the children and make them into slaves.

I crafted that comment very carefully, with the phrase "Their parents' God", because there are lot of people out there who are decent, caring Christans who recoil in horror at the Pearls and their "wisdom". I didn't want to do the LOLXTIANS thing, because it fails to address the real problem! And that problem is that there are some people out there who are totally bugfuck crazy-go-nuts.

If you read the linked blog post from the woman who knew the family, this leapt out at me:
He insisted that Christians could achieve total sanctification (a state of sinless living) in this lifetime. We heartily disagree. We actually believe that is an un-Biblical and unhealthy teaching which can lead to any number of problems - in particular legalism and perfectionism.
It is my opinion that his belief in total santification did, in fact, lead to 'legalism and perfectionism', and that lead to the use of the Pearl system to punish, terribly punish, for any deviance from his percieved path of perfectionism.

There is a strain of Christianity, one that is sadly loud in our country, that this is part of. It's part of the larger Dominionist movement. But it is not the only way, and people like Laurie M. and Tulipgirl and the Christians on MeFi are part of the other ways, and they're doing something more than speaking out, something more important than speaking out: they're showing by example how to live that faith, and my pagan self thanks them for being what they want to see in the world.

"Religion" is not the problem; it is the mask people hang on their own bigotries and hatreds.

And I'm going to quote my friend fairytale of los angeles:

"Specifically, I'd like a pony, and that pony is "please quit throwing us pantheists, pagans, and other adherents of disorganized religion into this hate-on for American, rightist, fundamentalist Christianity, it's really friggin' vexing.""
posted by mephron at 7:07 AM on February 24, 2010


I need to clarify something.

""Religion" is not the problem; it is the mask people hang on their own bigotries and hatreds."

That really should be:

""Religion" is not the problem; it is the mask these poor crazy people hang on their own bigotries and hatreds."

I apologize for my misstatement.
posted by mephron at 7:09 AM on February 24, 2010


or how some MeFi Mac fans use any conversation vaguely related to Microsoft to turn it into a conversation about how obviously if you weren't all sheeple you'd have a Mac anyway. It's not a question of right or wrong; it's a question of being a douche or not being a douche.
posted by kittens for breakfast


Ha. Is that what you're reading? It seems to me that every time there's a Mac thread mac users are accused of using macs only because we're slaves to Apple marketing and appearances and worship at the alter of Jobs.

And that's one of the problems in any of these debates. Our perspective blinds us to the entire picture.

Metafilter is kinda bad at that. OTOH I can name you other forums that discuss these topics in detail but without the grar. It's doable. You just have to decide to.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies


If you can't name the forums then your point isn't worth the words you typed. I'm guessing the reason you don't point out these alleged 'forums' is because they're a joke and the discussion banal. Most forums don't discuss these topics with manners, they talk about them with no semblance of intelligence.
posted by Dennis Murphy at 7:10 AM on February 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm a pangolin and even I get tired of this shit. Could it be that many people here are new to atheism or that this is their own place to spout about it, so this is where they let fly with the Fuck Religion proclamations?
posted by pracowity at 7:11 AM on February 24, 2010


Religion is a force for evil.

If you believe that, your understanding of history is limited. It has been a force for evil. It has also been a force for social justice. A tremendous force. The same religion that produced Pearl produced Martin Luther King.

It's statements like yours that make me feel like a lot of atheists are like I was when I first became a vegetarian and couldn't stand to see anybody eat meat, because it was self-evidentally an evil, and so I would preach vegetarianism every chance I got. My God, was I obnoxious. I was 16, so that might have something to do with it.

Whenever I have participated in activism for social good, I've been surrounded by Christians. Many of whom were fighting the good fight long before I came along, and continued fighting long after I left, and through their churches had a system of organizing and support that was stronger than anything I could put together. And if there is one thing I know, it's that you don't spit in a friend's eye because they believe something silly. I mean, I know a lot of people who drink vodka martinis, and that's an obscenity. And, when the moment is right, I'll mention the fact. But I don't bring it up every single time the subject of cocktails comes up, I don't try and stop people from drinking it, and I try not to alienate my friends just because they are rather jejune in their taste in mixed drinks.

People have a right to believe stupid stuff, and it's uncivil to call them on it every step of the way, unless their strange beliefs are adversely affecting you or the world. The Christians I have known were forced for good in the world, and I'm fine with people doing good for weird reasons. Plenty of people have done evil for perfectly reasonable reasons.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:12 AM on February 24, 2010 [20 favorites]


And it's deeply worrying when otherwise decent and right-thinking religious people go on the defensive when their faith in general comes under criticism, because someone they had nothing to do with commits an atrocity in the name of their chosen deity.

It's deeply unsurprising, basically. Why would a non-crazy person of faith not defend that faith in general from broadsides prompted by the actions of some specific crazy person?

This is not an idea confined to religion in the least—no one likes being smeared by affiliation, or seeing something they care about or believe in smeared itself by affiliation. It's a fundamentally unpleasant experience. It can make people—decent, right-thinking people of all stripes—feel defensive, feel the need to defend themselves and the things they believe in. "No, that awful that happened does not mean that I and the thing I care about are terrible to the core" is not a deeply worrying response in general, it's a pretty common one.

It can be done poorly and in excess, and I've on plenty of occasions seen (or been) someone failing to find a good balance between defending what they care about and keeping the stridency or tone of their defense in proportion to the prompt. It can be done badly, just like anything else, and any given episode may itself be the subject of wholly valid criticism. But the reaction itself is a very normal human one.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:14 AM on February 24, 2010


Religious beliefs as one among many other things that are personal enough that, yes, it makes sense to be a little more sensitive about how you approach criticism of them in mixed company compared with e.g. the system of capitalism.

Yes, like for example, it happens often that when someone calls out racism, homophobia, or sexism, there's a huge volley of comments saying things like, 'well, you may have a point, but don't put it on all men/whites/straights',' and then of course, 'stop being oversensitive and start giving people people the benefit of the doubt.' Personally I get somewhat impatient with that, but as a community and for the sake of the community, it does seem like a good move to try to be careful in our speech.

Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Britain?

I don't know that all of these are such great places for religious minorities as seems to have bee implied, although they do seem to be great places for Atheist Christians.

"Atheist Christians" - the theist milieu in which they grew up and to which they were educated and which they have separated themselves from is Christian.

I do think that if you studied atheists from a variety of backgrounds, you would find important differences in their views on various issues, including how to discuss various religions and religious groups and even what counts as a religion, religious group, or religious belief.
posted by Salamandrous at 7:14 AM on February 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


The problem with religion discussions doesn't seem to be atheism. It's more like anti-theism and the perpetual Metafilter problem of a small number of people having their particular hobby horse and riding it to the detriment of other people's enjoyment of/participation in discussion.

As a Texan, I was really annoyed by the LOLTEXANS stuff that got dragged to MeTa recently. Even though I'm technically an atheist, in that I don't believe in God, I find myself much more in sympathy with the religious folks who get tired of having to defend themselves from the charge of supporting the beliefs and practices of every crackpot who comes along claiming cover for his crazies in the name of Jaysus (or Mohammed or Buddha or whatever). Casual contempt expressed against religious people and broad-brush condemnation of all religious institutions is one of the reasons I don't like to identify as an atheist. It's not a problem exclusive to Metafilter by any means, but I'd love to see less of it here.
posted by immlass at 7:43 AM on February 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


Salamandrous, thanks for a thoughtful comment that said a lot of what I wanted to say.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:50 AM on February 24, 2010


The World Famous, I know you and Durn finished out your argument, and I think Durn was being a little (rather, a lot) snipy towards you, but my reaction towards your first post in that argument was a little incredulous, too. I took Comparative Religion, and the first thing they tell you is that God is exactly what you said, i.e. a pastiche of folk tales with some brilliant marketing around it.

I think that's how a lot of people come to it -- not to the idea that a particular vision of God is ridiculous per se, but that it isn't superior to any other version out there, and they all have their sacred texts and followers (well, some of them long gone).

I didn't abandon my disagreement with TWF because of the schtick. When I said "I'm done" it was because there was a clear failure to come to grips with the opening moves of that conversation. I stated my position on this fairly clearly (and without snark, because none was being directed at me) here (and surrounding comments). If you know what I mean in saying that a particular conception of God is on par with a pantheon of Smurfs or omnipotent superintelligent french fries or yes, Santa, is not a reductio ad absurdum argument, then we have somewhere to go. If you're having trouble with "proved" and "disproved", I'm more inclined to throw up my hands if there's no paycheque attached. TWF just happened to choose as his instrument of derision a little corner of the world I once knew, a bunch of years ago. The snark is optional.

This "sophomoric/lower the discourse" stuff is argument poison, though, and I'll tell you why. i) The great thing (and there are many awful things) about being in that undergrad philosophy world is the excitement with which students realize that the arguments of the Masters are the arguments they themselves have been having all along. These aren't, for the most part, complicated ideas (well, not at that stage) and they certainly aren't new. So if your bar for a great argument is one you've never heard before, you're going to be disappointed (it's also another iteration of the obnoxious and irrelevant "bingo card" talk here on the blue/grey). ii) I get the definite sense from this criticism that if I sprinkle enough Hegel quotes, the material becomes untouchable, except for a few people willing to engage on that level, and everyone else watches, hands-off (I've seen this happen enough times on the blue). Which sucks and is completely unnecessary. Because you don't need to know that I agree with something that Aquinas said. That's just wanking. You just need the idea.

So back to the basics, yes, a blunt reminder that God = Thor = Santa = Tommy Westphall's imagination, in terms of explanatory value and evidence behind it, is a useful thing apart from anyone's use of it to offend sensibilities. Because people have a knee-jerk reaction placing their central belief next to something they readily see as "absurd"; the problem is, if they feel offense at the comparison, they reveal an attitude toward beliefs without any evidentiary foundation which, were it not for being mired in their particular culture of belief, they would probably apply to their own beliefs as well. Again, I didn't put those sacred beliefs and those absurd ideas on a shelf together. That's where they live. If that bothers you, you have some thinking to do.

Now again, that's all apart from the whole "net good/evil" business being bandied about, and also, I think, nothing at all to do with the focus of the fpp which I will state again, is (or ended up) sadism. Cloaked in what it barely matters.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:53 AM on February 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


What's "getting away with" it? This right here is them being called out on it. Is there something more you'd like to see done?

Cutting the egregiously dickish comments. That's really all I want -- it happens for every other kind of egregiously dickish comment, so it's not about religion -- it's about being egregiously dickish.

Not ALL irreligious comments, mind you - only the egregiously dickish ones. Like this one.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:00 AM on February 24, 2010


Ha. Is that what you're reading? It seems to me that every time there's a Mac thread mac users are accused of using macs only because we're slaves to Apple marketing and appearances and worship at the alter of Jobs.

man, shit gets flung in every direction possible in those threads. even the noble linux user catches his share of guff. only one type of person is free of ire in threads like that: the amiga user. these hardened frontiersmen are greeted in many ways: awe, shock, consternation... you might see someone lower their eyes in order not to be noticed, or you might catch some terror stricken soul outright fleeing to the opposite side of the street. but one thing you'll never see when an amiga user walks into town is you'll never see any one stand in his way.
posted by shmegegge at 8:04 AM on February 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


Can we talk about the time I upgraded the RAM on my 500 with a sidecar expansion and suddenly F/A-18 Interceptor had background music?
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:06 AM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


but one thing you'll never see when an amiga user walks into town is you'll never see any one stand in his way.

That's because behind him is a hand truck, and someone pushing him along, because he's mummified.

(I kid, really! I wanted an Amiga, but I could never get one. So I have envy.)
posted by mephron at 8:07 AM on February 24, 2010


The comparison between religion and race is a canard.

It misses the entire point, in fact. The reason it was so important to widely acknowledge that race is not something we should judge each other by is because race doesn't say who you are as a person. Saying "race x is inferior" isn't wrong because it's mean, it's wrong because it's incorrect. Your race doesn't say what kind of person you are, and it doesn't say what you believe. Your beliefs do say what you believe, which along with your actions, is the appropriate standard to judge someone by. One's beliefs, including religious ones, are exactly the sort of thing anti-racism would have us evaluate each other by. What else is "the content of [our] character"?
posted by spaltavian at 8:08 AM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


I do think that if you studied atheists from a variety of backgrounds, you would find important differences in their views on various issues, including how to discuss various religions and religious groups and even what counts as a religion, religious group, or religious belief.

Fascinating. I bet you're right.
posted by zarq at 8:11 AM on February 24, 2010


Your beliefs do say what you believe, which along with your actions, is the appropriate standard to judge someone by.

This is true. The trouble I am having is that people judge others merely for having beliefs, without finding out what they are. If you start from the assumption that all religion is necessarily evil, you're not really going to be entering discussions about religion without anything to offer but a blanket dismissal, and you're not judging people on the individual merits of their own beliefs, but instead covering them with the dismissal blanket and heaping contempt on them.

Anyway, I tend to judge people based on their actions, and, I don't care how reasonable or unreasonable somebody's belief system is, if it produces kindness and tolerance, I'm fine with that person, and if it produces contempt and dickishness, I'm probably going to speak up.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:14 AM on February 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


Anyway, I tend to judge people based on their actions, and, I don't care how reasonable or unreasonable somebody's belief system is, if it produces kindness and tolerance, I'm fine with that person, and if it produces contempt and dickishness, I'm probably going to speak up.

Is this a bad time to mention that I'm in favor of gunning down zombies with my boomstick without so much as a "howdy"?

This sweet baby was made in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
posted by zarq at 8:17 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you start from the assumption that all religion is necessarily evil...

Some people may have said that. I didn't.
posted by unSane at 8:22 AM on February 24, 2010


I can see why we need to tread carefully here, but now more than ever it's important to be selectively critical, particularly when religion turns this dangerous and horrifying. This doesn't mean we need to be personally disrespectful, but we cannot afford to be silent for fear of giving offense.

I think you and I are in total agreement then.

And EmpressCallipygos, that comment was replied to enough and linked to enough [just now again!] that leaving it puts a big hole in a longish discussion. Enough people discounted it in the thread and told the guy off [and it's in MeTa where the rules are looser] that it's sort of cemented in. We remove almost all egregiously dickish comments, sometimes we let them stand as a "This is totally not okay, do not do this moving forward" marker in MeTa.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:24 AM on February 24, 2010


Your race doesn't say what kind of person you are, and it doesn't say what you believe. Your beliefs do say what you believe, which along with your actions, is the appropriate standard to judge someone by. One's beliefs, including religious ones, are exactly the sort of thing anti-racism would have us evaluate each other by. What else is "the content of [our] character"?

Your point gets made often in discussions surrounding profiling (in the context of "modern" (read: Islamic) terrorism). The problem is that there is no one reason for, and consequence of, religious membership. People belong because of family, because of community, or because they agree with some principles (or good works) of their church without agreeing with or believing in all of it. And if we judge people by behaviour, well, as we note regularly on the blue, a lot of behaviour is not in line with, if not completely at odds with, the precepts of people's religious beliefs ("Christians not acting like Christians"). When hard pressed to say what merely belonging to a particular religion permits you to "say" about a given individual... I can't come up with much.

Now, if your belief is that you should beat infants with a rubber hose, yeah, I'm pretty ok with judging you on the basis of that. But judging other Christians, because you self-identify as and take inspiration/cover from that belief system? Yeah, not so much.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:25 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Whenever I have participated in activism for social good, I've been surrounded by Christians.

And this has ever been the case, way back to that fateful day on the beaches of Capernaum.

Speaking as a Christian who has pretty much given his life over to the church, I have only one piece of advice to offer my atheist friends, and that is that they continue to fight against the church with every breath in their body. The Christian Church has acted reprehensibly, as a demonic device bent on destroying communities and attacking the marginalized throughout the centuries. Someday it should be dismantled. A conservative Christian pastor and a close personal friend once confided in me that he secretly believed, "The best thing that could happen to the church in America is if someone took all our buildings away." The church, and, I would hasten to add, the God of Peace, has always worked in the margins. From Abraham to Elijah to the later prophets, on through Jesus and the apostles - those working God's will on Earth have always, always, always been in the margins. From tiny Israel, beset by warring empires, to Nero using Christians to light the streets of Rome, to the small, fervent, tense gay churches that gather in the rural Southern United States today. Quakers marching against nuclear weapons... Catholic workers fighting the forces of capitalism. It's always been a fight from within the margins. And I would add that if you are, in fact, a believer, and you find yourself in a room with thousands of like-minded folks, celebrating New York Times best-selling soft-light theologians - in other words, if you find yourself in the majority, in the mainstream, you should feel very, very nervous. You should scramble out into the margins as fast as your legs will carry you.
And if you are an atheist, you should be aware that starting with Constantine, the enemies of justice and freedom have used the church as a powerful weapon against the marginalized. In seminary, my anarchist friends called this the "crapastolic succession" - from Constantine to Bush and, yes, to Barrack Obama today. The empire will always use the church as a weapon against the poor. Against the marginalized. The bible is like the anvil, the clergy is the hammer wielded by the empire, and the hot iron is the poor. I think, in some horrible sense, that this is perhaps how the beloved community is to be realized. But in atheism there is a real unmasking of the powers that be.
However it's not enough to just shun religion. Atheists need to get in the trenches. I'm not saying they aren't there - just that they aren't there in large enough numbers. They need to be in the soup kitchens, the protest marches, working alongside the poor and oppressed in the name of justice. It's getting better - people are less fearful to identify as atheists today - I think a recent poll said that self-identified "non-religious" people in the U.S. has doubled since 1996.
I have so much to say about this but I feel like I'm rambling. The church is the seedbed for descent and action against the enemy. The church is the favorite weapon of the enemy in its single-minded mission to destroy the world. It's both. And it's almost always a force for evil, accept in those small, rare moments when it is the catalyst for unveiling the Kindom of God.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:29 AM on February 24, 2010 [52 favorites]


no one likes being smeared by affiliation, or seeing something they care about or believe in smeared itself by affiliation.

Which is why, when that thing that you care about so much is under threat, internally or externally, you should be able to talk about it freely. But far too often, religious people of all persuasions take offense at reasonable criticism and withdraw from the discussion, because it's easier to imagine persecution than engage in rational discourse about the relative merits of particular patterns of behavior. This applies equally to the occupation of the Gaza strip (I'm against it) the wearing of headscarves (I'm for it) or the use of high-end consumer electronics (I'm a Mac).

Holy wars persist because the participants are never willing to discuss them critically. No doubt we should exercise a bit of courtesy, but we certainly should not engage in censorship either.

And God does not exist. There, I said it.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 8:29 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Some people may have said that. I didn't.

Until you have something to contribute beyond "I'm gonna speak out against religion whenever the hell I want, and if that makes me a dick, so be it, and to hell with anything else," you've placed yourself firmly in the camp of people who do not come to MetaFilter to have discussions to me, at least not as far as their personal hobby horses go. You may believe you have been arguing in good faith, but it's amazing how many of your responses in this thread have been to claims that nobody has actually made and demands that nobody has demanded, and there hasn't been an ounce of "Well, yes, I see the importance of civility" from you.

So forgive me if I am not terrible interested in going into point-by-point discussions with you. I prefer to have discussions with people who actually want to discuss.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:31 AM on February 24, 2010


So back to the basics, yes, a blunt reminder that God = Thor = Santa = Tommy Westphall's imagination, in terms of explanatory value and evidence behind it, is a useful thing apart from anyone's use of it to offend sensibilities. Because people have a knee-jerk reaction placing their central belief next to something they readily see as "absurd"; the problem is, if they feel offense at the comparison, they reveal an attitude toward beliefs without any evidentiary foundation which, were it not for being mired in their particular culture of belief, they would probably apply to their own beliefs as well. Again, I didn't put those sacred beliefs and those absurd ideas on a shelf together. That's where they live. If that bothers you, you have some thinking to do.

So your tactic is to self-righteously preach the errors of people's beliefs to them? You sound like a missionary. They try to encourage people to think and see the light, you see. And if you don't see why you should accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior and their argument bothers you, well, I suppose you have some thinking to do.

How sad.
posted by zarq at 8:32 AM on February 24, 2010


No doubt we should exercise a bit of courtesy, but we certainly should not engage in censorship either.

Has there actually been a demand for this in this thread? I may have missed it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:33 AM on February 24, 2010


AZ, why do you feel compelled to put words in quotes that I didn't say? This has happened over and over and over again in this thread. It's a miserable debating trick.
posted by unSane at 8:37 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


You might want to familiarize yourself with how quotes work. You seem to be under the mistaken assumption that their only function is an exact quote. It's not a trick, it's just English usage.

But if you want the actual quote, it is as follows: "If saying that I think religion is a net bad, despite the many good things it may have produced, and the many good things your particular variety may have produced, makes me a dick, then very well, I'm a dick."
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:42 AM on February 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


Jesus Christ, unSane, it's called a paraphrase, and people do it in every thread on MetaFilter every day.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:46 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Holy wars persist because the participants are never willing to discuss them critically. No doubt we should exercise a bit of courtesy, but we certainly should not engage in censorship either.

But this is Metafilter, not the grand stage of the world. Holy wars aren't being fought here in any meaningful sense, and people here can and do often discuss their beliefs critically and civilly. There are several mefites who despite the obnoxious way religion is often treated in general have managed to stick around and be excellent ambassadors to their faiths. I wish there were more. I have friends who steadfastly refuse to wade into religious discussion on mefi because they can't imagine any reason they'd want to expose themselves to the lopsided aggro the subject produces.

We can't fix the world from mefi, and we shouldn't use mefi as a proxy by which to seek out justice or vengeance or whatever against the shitty religious people that exist out in the great wide world. I feel like that's what gets missed sometimes here: that civility between people on this site, focusing on what actually is said here by members of this community, is important and is often damaged by folks wanting to have an argument with some abstract personage or organization that is not here.

And God does not exist. There, I said it.

I agree with you, personally. I'm just not sure why anyone should care that either of us feels that way, in particular. My atheism is hardly a secret, but it's also not something I feel the need to blast at others. I dislike that behavior from believers and non-believers alike. On Metafilter, in particular, the folks doing it tend to be non-believers, and it contributes to a culture here that is in aggregate unnecessarily hostile to believers in general. I think that sucks.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:49 AM on February 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


Perhaps I should have italicized rather than used quotation marks. Representing paraphrases in text can be tricky.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:51 AM on February 24, 2010


The comparison between religion and race is a canard.
>It misses the entire point, in fact.


Sheesh, to say that Jessamyn was pushing a direct one-to-one comparison of the two is pretty dishonest, but fine: A better direct comparison would be religion and level of education. IIRC, there was a member who made a habit of making blanket statements and derisive generalizations about people whose academic achievement was less than satisfactory. Despite their screedy bullshit being popular with a small subset of users, it was recognized as being inappropriate and detrimental.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:51 AM on February 24, 2010


UnSane, you ought to win some kind of prize for managing to alienate all the people that started out supporting you. Once you made your argument, you should have started being gracious and civil, not reminding everybody calling atheists assholes that some atheists are in fact assholes.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:52 AM on February 24, 2010


Thoughts here over skimming the 300+ comments:

On the notion that MeFi is hostile towards Christians in general: I note that in some areas, in other areas, it is definitely not the case (Thank you to those that responded by the way).

In those areas upon which there is hostility: in the ~9 months since I posted that question, and the ~5 months I have been at the University of Michigan, I have been thinking about that last summer, and comparing it to the college life (I am enjoying btw in its wonderful liberal glory) here. In general, I am seeking the Golden Mean between the two that Aristotle spoke of (he spoke of the mean, not the mean between Atheism and some faith).

For those of us that seek that mean, your (the hostile side) viewpoint is important, but the soul-gutting that sometimes takes place (those comments that may take a second thought) needs to be curbed as alluded to in the above commentary.

Thanks!
posted by JoeXIII007 at 8:54 AM on February 24, 2010


If a group of church members decided to break away from your church and set up camp in Guyana, would you feel the need to correct them? Would you try to convince them that they shouldn't be drinking the Flavor-Aid? If unsuccessful at putting some sense into their heads, would you disown and disclaim them?

The Pearls claim to belong to the Christian religion. Should I take them at their word?
posted by five fresh fish at 8:56 AM on February 24, 2010


The Pearls claim to belong to the Christian religion. Should I take them at their word?

Green Day claims to be a punk band. Should you take them at their word? It depends on who you ask.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:57 AM on February 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Perhaps I should have italicized rather than used quotation marks. Representing paraphrases in text can be tricky.

Personally, I would assume an intalicized comment to be more likely a direct quote than something in quote marks. When I paraphrase or make up a quote for attempted comedic purposes, I put them in single quotes.

'You're right, Alvy,' Astro Zombie said. 'And you're superhandsome, too!'

"God does not exist. There, I said it."

Took a lot of guts to say that here. Bravo. [Slow clap]
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:58 AM on February 24, 2010


The Pearls claim to belong to the Christian religion. Should I take them at their word?

What if they're not from my church, but from a church I have nothing to do with, who happens to claim to be from the same general religion as me? How far does this collective culpability go? And does it stretch so far that anything done in the name of any religion becomes cause for blanket dismissal of religion in any thread on the topic, regardless of whether it forwards the discussion, or alienates members who have never demonstrated sympathy for misbehavior, or is in other ways unrelated to the subject at hand?
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:01 AM on February 24, 2010


The most active and committed person I know who daily struggles for peace, social justice, and real world change for the better for all people of all faiths (or lack therein) is a minister. He is my best friend and I am a-religious.

I am not making accusations in any fashion, but I would kind of like to know how active people, who strongly condem religion, are in hands-on social responsibility. I would wager that even with him being a Christian my friend has affected more lives positively (in a here-and-now concrete way) then the majority of posters in this thread (myself included). On some fundamental level that is why religious institutions till find converts. In Latin America the most long term committed active organizations advocating for the poor are churches.

Frankly, if one has the mindset that all religion is bad, counterproductive and can not be self-critical then honestly you have a limited range of experience. Again, I am not religious, I see many of the flaws that people speak of and agree with the majority of the criticisms leveled against organized religion. I could not belong to a church.

As to why it may seem people (religious and not) are more engaged in this discussion rather than in condemning the Perls, is that the Pearls' case is easy. 99.9% of everyone reading this site, no matter what their religious affiliation condemns this, there is consensus. There is anything but consensus on the religion bashing issue, so it gets hashed out.

This is tl;dr already so enough from me.
posted by edgeways at 9:07 AM on February 24, 2010


Being right and being strident don't go hand in hand, though they occur together so often it's easy to assume they do.
posted by Pragmatica at 9:11 AM on February 24, 2010


cortex: forgive me, but I feel like I'm being willfully misunderstood here.

The point I'm trying to make is that in a great deal of public discourse, criticism of religion and the politics thereof is off limits, because it's seen to be impolite. To be critical (not obnoxious, just critical) of someone else's beliefs is considered rude, or bad form, or whatever, and people are bound to take offense. Meanwhile, as this thread's parent on the blue shows us, religious organizations are involved in all sorts of evil practices, which persist for years because people close ranks and fail to speak out.

So I guess I'm having trouble with the etiquette at work here. I really think we need to get away from this idea that we can't say impolite things about religion, because more or less whatever we say, it's going to push buttons for somebody, and we're back where we started.

I understand that you guys want to keep things clean here, and why. But for me, this is the thin end of a large and very dangerous wedge.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 9:19 AM on February 24, 2010 [11 favorites]


Meanwhile, as this thread's parent on the blue shows us, religious organizations are involved in all sorts of evil practices, which persist for years because people close ranks and fail to speak out.

This, uh, has very little to do with the conversation at hand, though. No one is preventing any evil by telling MetaFilter that they are an atheist and anyone who isn't is the sux0r/sheepx0r.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:38 AM on February 24, 2010


Meanwhile, as this thread's parent on the blue shows us, religious organizations are involved in all sorts of evil practices, which persist for years because people close ranks and fail to speak out.

This is a good example of the crux of the issue, I think. I'm not a believer, though if I were I might find that the paint from the above brush was getting on me. If I were to substitute 'atheist' for 'religious' in the above, would you be offended? Never mind whether it's factually correct or not (because neither version is completely correct - would you be offended?
posted by Pragmatica at 9:39 AM on February 24, 2010


cortex: forgive me, but I feel like I'm being willfully misunderstood here.

I don't know. You seem to think that a call for civility is a call for censorship, and asking that we be clear and precise with criticisms, rather than generalized, and that we make our criticisms in a way where it's clear we're not just launching LULZy "superhero in the sky" attacks on religion in general, but instead address specific details about specific religions, is tantamount to demanding that we not discuss it at all.

It is, however, possible that I am accidentally misunderstanding you. But I'd posit that it is also possible you are misunderstanding the requests made my mods and others in this thread.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:40 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Going way back up the thread for this, because I think it gets to the core of the problem.

when I was a religious person, I welcomed any debate of religion because I was confident of my beliefs and welcomed a chance to share and defend them.

Which, strangely, we have seen almost none of in this thread.


I am Catholic. I can not think of any way that I can "share and defend" my beliefs here that wouldn't be rightly denounced and probably deleted for proselytizing. I'd flag it myself if someone else did it. We can discuss the history of the Catholic Church and I can defend myself from being guilty of the Inquisition through association. We can discuss the social views of the Catholic Church and I can defend myself from accusations that I personally am trying to restrict anyone's rights. We might even be able to discuss specific aspects of theology (transubstantiation, the nature of the Trinity), and I could correct any misrepresentations of doctrine. But my faith in God? My specific beliefs about the nature of God? I can't defend that within the limitations here.

There is no real debate of religion on Metafilter (and I'm fine with that) because the restrictions on proselytizing only apply to one side. Atheists can repeatedly say "God does not exist" and "if you believe in God/s you are wrong" and explain why they believe that. I would not be allowed to stick around here for long if I kept listing my reasons for believing that God does exist and that Jesus is . . . (I actually don't feel comfortable even describing my beliefs about Jesus, because it sounds too much like witnessing). Please don't misconstrue me - I am not complaining about not being allowed to spread my faith here. I like that Metafilter is (mostly) kept in the realm of the intellectual and not the spiritual.

Faith is deeply personal. An attack on faith is a personal attack. Making personal attacks against people who can not defend themselves is bullying.
posted by Dojie at 9:41 AM on February 24, 2010 [9 favorites]


Yes, my mods.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:41 AM on February 24, 2010


"I really think we need to get away from this idea that we can't say impolite things about religion, because more or less whatever we say, it's going to push buttons for somebody, and we're back where we started....But for me, this is the thin end of a large and very dangerous wedge."

From time to time, I see people put forth the proposition that the requirement they express criticism with civility is akin to censoring their critique entirely, and that such censorship (as they see it) is going to have broad and ill-defined-but-serious real world effects. I've not seen any convincing evidence that it is true.

I also don't think the idea that we should not even bother with being civil, because people will get pissed off anyway, holds much water. As Mefites, I think we are all expected to keep the level of discourse civil. I think civil discourse breeds better, more useful and more accurate discussion than no-holds-barred yell-a-thons.
posted by bunnycup at 9:47 AM on February 24, 2010


The Pearls claim to belong to the Christian religion. Should I take them at their word?

The Christians claim to be the true inheritors of the Jewish covenant - should you take them at their word?

The Muslims claim to be the true inheritors of Judaism and Christianity - should you take them at their word?

Messianic Jews and Jews for Jesus claim to be Jewish - should you take them at their word?

Reform children of a non-Jewish mother and a Jewish father claim to be Jewish - should you take them at their word?

Lubavitch Jews who believe their Rebbe was the messiah who died and is coming back claim to be Jewish - do you take them at their word?

Some women who call themselves priests in contradiction to Vatican policy claim to be Catholic - do you take them at their word?

You make it sound so obvious, but it's not. Identity in general is complicated. Religious identity is complicated. The intersection of personal religious identity, formal and informal religious norms, and 'objective' religious classification schemes is even more complicated.

Should I as a self identified Jew disclaim the actions of the Pearl's because they identify as Christians who identify themselves as the true Jews?

Is the issue of religious self-identification really the crux (hmm) of your position here? I don't think so. If *anything* you *may* be talking about religious sociological/anthropological identification. Maybe?
posted by Salamandrous at 9:48 AM on February 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


So I guess I'm having trouble with the etiquette at work here.

The etiquette is that if you want to interrogate a specific person about their beliefs, you should do that over email and not turn it into a public bullying/shaming spectacle. You should be decent to other people in this community and you should maintain some level of civility when interacting in general [i.e. comments saying the Pearls should be murdered in graphic ways, not okay for MeFi].

People seem to have trouble with being critical of something and not turning that into something that specific people in the community need to answer for despite the fact that they have very little to do with whatever the general topic is. Again, bullying and browbeating are not okay here, whether it's because you're a Christian or a vegetarian or in the army or live in Texas.

Just this morning I've seen people totally distorting the viewpoints of others in the ongoing thread on the blue basically exaggerating for effect ["the Pearls bear no responsibility?" " There were a lot of people against the idea [of more laws against child abuse], and extremely angry at anyone who supported it. I wonder why they haven't shown up on this discussion."] which is actively harmful to the community and its ability to cohere, talk about issues and not implode under its own anger and frustration. People have been sharing some of their own experiences being abused by zealous parents. It's been an interesting thread.

The larger world issues are serious, terrible, and worthy of inspection and discussion. In this community we expect people to be decent generally, and decent specifically around touchy issues which includes a host of topics as I listed upthread, sort of jokingly but trying to make the general point. We'll be the first person to tell people [religious or otherwise] if we think they're in the too-easily-offended camp and asking for something they can't get here. We've done it and will continue to do it.

This is not a special pass for religion, this is a "you need to be decent about all topics up to and including religion" statement of general policy. We'd like there to be less prostletyzing by everyone and more honest discussion of topics and ideas. In the absence of specifics, I don't really totally understand what your continued objection is.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:48 AM on February 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


I've definately been on the yelly side of a yell-a-thon, and have never found it to be an effective mechanism for communicating.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:49 AM on February 24, 2010


I've definately been on the yelly side of a yell-a-thon, and have never found it to be an effective mechanism for communicating.

The only thing to do then is to go make yourself a nice big Peanut Butter and Yelly sandwich.
posted by setanor at 9:50 AM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Elizabeth the Thirteenth, I don't see the quest for civility as silencing or as potentially dangerous. I see it as a possible journey to a better place where we can speak critically about our beliefs without having to feel ever-defensive about it.

I am working toward that with respect to racism discussions, for instance, as are a lot of folks, I think. (And if you are not aware, I come to that frission from a non-standard vector.)

Maybe it's easier for me, raised athiest/objectivist/Chinese Buddhist/Taoist but later in life joining the Unitarians and really firmly embracing the Chinese traditions I was raised with and were in my family for generations (Chinese - even the strongly US-assimilated kind that my family is - seem to have a really strong sense of historical irony about religion), but I find it wholly possible to be critical and provide very penetrating critical arguments about religious dogma and other theological foundations without being disrespectful.

I don't find that disrespect gets us anywhere except into flamewar territory where folks are so wrought up in defending themselves that no progress toward social bridge-building gets done. Disrespect is, I think, only useful when one is utilizing it in a public shaming context, where the odds for your viewpoint are overwhelming and you can get away with being disrespectful so that the rest of the majority will follow your lead against your target.

In this context, though, where there is clearly dissent to disrespect for the class of theists that are the target in this converesation, I don't thinkt hat the disrespect you want to express is really going to generate the effect you want.
posted by kalessin at 9:59 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I never thought the argument over whether religion is good or evil was significant in this discussion. My thing (stated much better by others) is that religious rationalization too often provides a safe haven for the illogical. Do or say something completely crazy, as do the Pearls, and you're going to have people call you out on it, but you're also going to have people who defend it only because it has a layer of Christianity slathered upon it, and you're going to have people who will hesitate to criticize it because they are trying to be respectful of religion. In this story it is relevant because the Pearls were able to sell thousands of books about how to assault children without leaving visual evidence. Whether they are genuinely religious or are typical of mainstream christianity is irrelevant; I don't think such books and advice would have gotten anywhere without their religious force field. I've got nothing against people with religious beliefs, many of whom do great things; but I think religion as it is practiced sets up a template in which certain ideas are immune from logical scrutiny, that they don't require a standard of proof, even when those ideas are ridiculous, even when those ideas are imposed on others, even when those ideas are used to influence public policy; and I think it conditions people to assume certain things as true, absent evidence, because they feel it in their hearts. People who think like this also vote, sit on juries, hire and fire people, and in many other ways affect people who do not think this way; many people who think like this also hold their religious beliefs above the laws and democratic ideals that are supposed to form the common basis or social contract between all of us, which is rather unfair for those non-believers who are trying to play fair.

I think one of the problems with religious discussion on Metafilter is that it is a community that in no other realm of debate would accept this kind of logical black hole. Logic and religion cannot play together, because religion, at its leisure, grants itself exception from certain aspects of logic. So we have to expect that it is going to be messy. But I also think the offense many people take to criticism of religion, sometimes as if one has drowned their puppy, is part of religion's defense mechanism, a passive-aggressive, emotional attempt to excuse itself from scrutiny by suggesting that an attack on one's religion is like an attack on one's person. As an atheist, I resent that the subject of religion has to be part of my conversation in any way; I resent the label itself because it still defines me in terms of a system I don't buy into, as if one would, for instance, label himself apedophliic. But I'm not going to hesitate to talk about or criticize something that seems to easily and successfully subvert rational debate in its apparent aims to stake a universal claim on what is right and wrong and influence the laws and customs that I'm expected to follow.
posted by troybob at 10:10 AM on February 24, 2010 [10 favorites]


Do or say something completely crazy, as do the Pearls, and you're going to have people call you out on it, but you're also going to have people who defend it only because it has a layer of Christianity slathered upon it

Did you see a single person, on MetaFilter, do that?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:15 AM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Do or say something completely crazy, as do the Pearls, [...] you're also going to have people who defend it only because it has a layer of Christianity slathered upon it.

Please link to the exact comment where you saw this happen.

But take off the "LOLCHRISTIANS" blinkers before you do, please.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:22 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


If I were to substitute 'atheist' for 'religious' in the above, would you be offended? Never mind whether it's factually correct or not (because neither version is completely correct - would you be offended?

Not particularly, no. What offends me is when religious people imply that science and atheism are just another belief system, and that an evidence-based view of the universe is somehow the same as a collection of superstitions. But I'm digressing.

It seems by now as if we are all talking to cross purposes. I didn't set out to provoke here, and I guess the only conclusion I can draw from this is that moderating Metafilter is a challenging job. Many thanks to jessamyn and cortex for their considered responses.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 10:24 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


how some MeFi Mac fans use any conversation vaguely related to Microsoft to turn it into a conversation about how obviously if you weren't all sheeple you'd have a Mac anyway

No one does this. It is dishonest to write this as if it was true.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:24 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Did you see a single person, on MetaFilter, do that?

No, but I'm not saying these books were successfully promoted or accepted on Metafilter, either. I'm trying to clarify the nature of the general argument, as I see it, in the world that exists outside these pages. My only observation specific to Metafilter was the degree to which religious criticism is personalized, and why I think that is the case.
posted by troybob at 10:25 AM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


In fact, my comment did not relate to Metafilter at all until its second paragraph; I was establishing the basis for argument that I think is being incorrectly reduced to 'religion is evil'.
posted by troybob at 10:28 AM on February 24, 2010


I resent the label [atheism] itself because it still defines me in terms of a system I don't buy into, as if one would, for instance, label himself apedophliic

real nice
posted by mpbx at 10:28 AM on February 24, 2010


To be critical (not obnoxious, just critical) of someone else's beliefs is considered rude, or bad form, or whatever, and people are bound to take offense.

I think it is really just the obnoxious part that's a problem. Any time you disagree with someone about something you're being critical of their beliefs. That's OK, and just normal debate.

It's a problem when you insult other MeFites who belong to a particular group (or class or geographical region) regardless of what they claim their beliefs actually are and tell them over and over again that they're stupid and evil, hoping that eventually they'll get the message and go away.

(I'm using you in the generic sense. I'm not not claiming that you personally have done this, though it's obvious you're defending people who have.)
posted by nangar at 10:38 AM on February 24, 2010


What offends me is when religious people imply that science and atheism are just another belief system, and that an evidence-based view of the universe is somehow the same as a collection of superstitions.

I'm an avowed secular humanist who agrees with your perspective on the universe 100%, but I think that sometimes people like us should be a little more circumspect about the strength of our own views.

For instance, I fully believe in evolution, however, I'm not a biologist. I believe in the big bang, but I'm not an astrophysicist. I believe that the Earth is millions of years old, but I'm not a geologist. I have done no first-hand experiments that would provide me with personal empirical evidence that I could use to support these views, I've merely read the works of people who have, people who I trust.

Ultimately, does this not come down to belief or faith? I have decided that the people who espouse these views are credible and subsequently take their views as truth because the evidence they present satisfies me. There's a parallelism between the dissemination of religious and scientific knowledge that is uncomfortable to contemplate, but to not acknowledge it is to delude oneself. I don't for a second believe that the Bible is in the same realm as On The Origin of Species, but I can fathom why someone might feel the reverse.
posted by mpbx at 10:40 AM on February 24, 2010 [8 favorites]


Not particularly, no. What offends me is when religious people imply that science and atheism are just another belief system, and that an evidence-based view of the universe is somehow the same as a collection of superstitions. But I'm digressing.

I guess the better question is whether you would feel comfortable participating in a community where it seems the predominant opinion is that your unstated beliefs about something you care about is bad for the world and that, no matter how good a person you are or how otherwise smart you may be, you're an idiot for having your unstated beliefs and you're contributing to the detriment of humanity.
posted by The World Famous at 10:44 AM on February 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


Ultimately, does this not come down to belief or faith?

What you are "believing in" is falsifiable. Religious belief is not falsifiable, it's not even wrong (though most supernatural claims that leech out of belief are falsifiable).
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:48 AM on February 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


But any falsification would have to be done by someone more skilled than me in any of those fields, and I'd still have to take their word for it.

We secular empiricists think we have an evidence-based worldview, and maybe we do, but religious people think they do too.
posted by mpbx at 10:54 AM on February 24, 2010


I resent the label [atheism] itself because it still defines me in terms of a system I don't buy into, as if one would, for instance, label himself apedophliic

real nice


I'm not sure whether to read this as sarcastic, but it made me feel the need to clarify I wasn't trying to create an association with religion and pedophilia; it was just the first example to come to mind.

Actually, it was better expressed by David Foster Wallace: "Defining yourself in opposition to something is still being anaclitic on that thing."
posted by troybob at 10:56 AM on February 24, 2010


but religious people think they do too

Honest religious people can falsify (test) scientific "beliefs".

An honest scientist cannot falsify or test religious beliefs.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:57 AM on February 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think it is really just the obnoxious part that's a problem. Any time you disagree with someone about something you're being critical of their beliefs. That's OK, and just normal debate.

If the desire is to be civil, the key when taking issue with someone's argument, is to do just that: to focus on the argument (the ideas), not the person delivering the ideas. In other words:

- I think you're a fucking idiot for believing the universe was invented by some old man in the sky in seven days (not civil)

- I think it's a fucking idiotic idea that the universe was invented in seven days by an old man in the sky (not so bad)
posted by philip-random at 10:58 AM on February 24, 2010


the line between criticizing specific loathsome behavior and criticizing a generalized group for being party to that loathsome behavior by association the scripture of its group is not a big one

I actually do hold all Christians partly responsible for the Pearls. Just my opinion.

We secular empiricists think we have an evidence-based worldview, and maybe we do, but religious people think they do too.

Secular empiricists change their worldviews based on new evidence.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:58 AM on February 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


How can an honest religious person test the big bang? Hang out at CERN?
posted by mpbx at 10:58 AM on February 24, 2010


What you are "believing in" is falsifiable.

Or, as is more often the case, you believe that it is falsifiable, based on your belief in the accuracy of the representations of others.
posted by The World Famous at 11:00 AM on February 24, 2010


How can an honest religious person test the big bang? Hang out at CERN?

An honest religious person can take a series of mathematics and physics classes, working his or her way up to particle physics.

The nature of this training is such that he or she can falsify/test the "beliefs" along the way, if there are any doubts.

Religious belief brooks no testing.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:02 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Many people in here seem to be violating Rule #65 of internet discussion: Do not respond to anyone who plops a single controversial and stereotypical statement into a conversation...it's perfectly OK to ignore people who have no interest in rational discourse.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:02 AM on February 24, 2010


...and im outta here! l@ter suckkas! *escape pod*
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:03 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think one of the problems with religious discussion on Metafilter is that it is a community that in no other realm of debate would accept this kind of logical black hole. Logic and religion cannot play together, because religion, at its leisure, grants itself exception from certain aspects of logic. So we have to expect that it is going to be messy.

I disagree. I think it only gets messy when non-religious people take personal offense at religious people's illogic (or the other way around, but that happens a lot less frequently around these parts). You seem to think that atheists stand upon a pedestal of perfect rationality. Giving a vehement reasoned argument is one thing, but when someone starts starts making angry, vicious, mean-spirited generalizations (often accompanied by factual errors), I start to wonder whether they are as coolly detached and logical as they claim to be.

What you are "believing in" is falsifiable. Religious belief is not falsifiable,

Neither is the axiom of choice. Mathematicians use it all the time, and yet they are apparently not subject to your scorn over their irrational beliefs.
posted by Commander Rachek at 11:03 AM on February 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


There are actually a lot of things I take on faith. As I understand it, if you drink soda continuously over the course of the day, it's bad for your teeth, because you're constantly activating the acids and whatnot in your spit that causes tooth decay. But I'm not the scientists who did the studies, I have not read the studies, and I am trusting what dental professionals have to say here.

We all live in our own demon haunted worlds. I try to put my faith in people who use a process that I trust -- the scientific process -- but holy Christ am I not a scientist. I also try to keep an open mind, so that my assumptions and beliefs about the world can be revised as new shit comes to light, and I don't throw my faith behind anything that I can't find what I consider to be reputable evidence for. It's the most I can do, because I cannot be an expert about everything. I can't do the math that explains gravity, so I put my faith in those who can.

I do try to keep in mind that there are certainly some things I believe that are ridiculous or idiotic. I enjoy Ted Mikels films, although they are terrible. I believe that there is merit in excellence, although nothing I have seen in this world has confirmed that doing something well will be rewarded in any way. I trust democracy, I believe in enlightened self-interest, and I think brown mustard is better tasting than yellow. I also think country music is cool.

Until these beliefs infringe on other people, I'd prefer not to be constantly called out on them. I have a right to be an idiot.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:05 AM on February 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


How can an honest religious person test the big bang? Hang out at CERN?

By learning some physics and understanding what predictions the theory makes that can be tested, and following the literature. Unless you think that all physicists are conspiring to falsify their results just to prove that the big bang happened, it's a pretty reliable way of testing a scientific theory. There are also a whole bunch of clever and basically honest people who are already doing this work for you. The great benefit of science is that, if you are willing to take the time, you can examine their results and see if they stand up.

Theories make predictions: 'if the big bang happened, there should be yay much dark matter'. That's testable, in principle.
posted by unSane at 11:07 AM on February 24, 2010


I also think country music is cool.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Now you're just trolling.
posted by Pragmatica at 11:08 AM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


An honest religious person can take a series of mathematics and physics classes, working his or her way up to particle physics.

ok, I'm asking this seriously: how would this be different than enrolling in bible college and learning about how seashells on mountaintops prove noah's flood occurred?
posted by mpbx at 11:08 AM on February 24, 2010


- I think you're a fucking idiot for believing the universe was invented by some old man in the sky in seven days (not civil)

- I think it's a fucking idiotic idea that the universe was invented in seven days by an old man in the sky (not so bad)


Or even leaving out the 'fucking idiotic' and 'man in the sky' language in favor of anything that sounds more considered and persuasive. And almost anything would.
posted by bunnycup at 11:09 AM on February 24, 2010


I place bass in an x-rated Hillbilly band. I assure you, I am not trolling.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:09 AM on February 24, 2010


it is a community that in no other realm of debate would accept this kind of logical black hole

Come on now.
posted by The World Famous at 11:09 AM on February 24, 2010


(did I miss hamburger?)
posted by bunnycup at 11:09 AM on February 24, 2010


Neither is the axiom of choice. Mathematicians use it all the time, and yet they are apparently not subject to your scorn over their irrational beliefs.

Not all mathematicians accept it without question or further research. Some mathematicians might be comfortable only going so far as to say or to catalog what can be proved true or false with AC.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:10 AM on February 24, 2010


Theories make predictions: 'if the big bang happened, there should be yay much dark matter

oh so you believe in invisible stuff in the sky too ;)
posted by mpbx at 11:10 AM on February 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


I place bass in an x-rated Hillbilly band. I assure you, I am not trolling.

Sounds fishy to me.
posted by Pragmatica at 11:10 AM on February 24, 2010


Neither is the axiom of choice

Mathematicians also study axioms which are incompatible with the AC.
posted by unSane at 11:10 AM on February 24, 2010


You seem to think that atheists stand upon a pedestal of perfect rationality.

No, just that they tend not to employ supernatural ways to circumvent it.
posted by troybob at 11:13 AM on February 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


ok, I'm asking this seriously: how would this be different than enrolling in bible college and learning about how seashells on mountaintops prove noah's flood occurred?

While most religious individuals would start axiomatically with "noah's flood", though there is no evidence for it, such a preposition can be tested (shells on mountaintops imply supernatural flood) and its various components to be found to be true or false by people who are purely rational and empirical.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:15 AM on February 24, 2010


Not all mathematicians accept it without question or further research. Some mathematicians might be comfortable only going so far as to say or to catalog what can be proved true or false with AC.

I am well aware of that. However, plenty of other mathematicians do not choose to make the issue their central area of research, and use it (or things derived from it) willy-nilly to prove all sorts of stuff. Do you criticize them for this?
posted by Commander Rachek at 11:16 AM on February 24, 2010


An honest religious person can take a series of mathematics and physics classes, working his or her way up to particle physics.

I think this is, again, the 'you really just aren't smart enough' argument.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:17 AM on February 24, 2010


I don't know. You seem to think that a call for civility is a call for censorship, and asking that we be clear and precise with criticisms, rather than generalized, and that we make our criticisms in a way where it's clear we're not just launching LULZy "superhero in the sky" attacks on religion in general, but instead address specific details about specific religions, is tantamount to demanding that we not discuss it at all.

Yes, that is demanding we not discuss certain criticisms of religion at all, as I pointed out several times above.

What you're doing here is asserting that there is no generalization one can make about the nature of "religion in general", or even "Christianity in general". Thus, any generalization one might draw is off-limits to discussion. Many people do not agree with you on that, yet you want to simply assert it and end the discussion. As I've mentioned before, it is very convenient to say that you can't make any general statements about the nature of Christianity and/or religion, while you can about capitalism, monarchy, democracy, libertarianism, war, slavery, abolitionism, prohibition, or any number of other complex human institutions.

I see a ton of "if you think religion is a force for evil, you're ignorant/stupid/your understanding of history is limited/you have no real experience with religion/you have no real experience with life itself" comments above -- funny how that doesn't count as an offensive generalization -- but I see very little reason to believe that religion is any different from political structures, or economic structures, or familial structures, or cultural habits, all of which we often describe as forces for evil. I see a lot of claims in the original thread that violence is a force for evil, for example -- how on Earth is that a valid statement if the equivalent statement about religion is "too generalized" and "ignorant of history"?

Besides, both of the called-out comments I linked to were about specific religions, and one of them was even about specific details about specific religions. If that's your criteria for an allowable comment, why'd you call out this one, which went out of its way to make a specific critique and then further specify which religions its critique applies to?

As I said above, I think it's obvious that your problem is with anti-religious ideas themselves, not about "generalizations" or "dickishness" or "civility". The double-standards and, yes, generalizations in your argument would be stunning... if they weren't the same old saws that are always trotted out to shame anti-religious people for their beliefs.
posted by vorfeed at 11:19 AM on February 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


Do you criticize them for this?

If, in the course of a mathematician's research, he or she reaches a conclusion that requires denying an axiom, yet dogmatically holds on to the truth of that axiom despite that apparent contradiction, then I would find this behavior irrational and issue criticism.

However, I suspect not many mathematicians actually fall into this category that you propose.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:20 AM on February 24, 2010


Well I believe in the big bang but never made it past Physics AP. Does this make me deficient in that my beliefs are not based on a full exposure to the evidence or full understanding of the underlying research?
posted by mpbx at 11:21 AM on February 24, 2010


Do you criticize them for this?

No, because the results are explicitly dependent on the AC as an axiom and everyone knows it is controversial. The AC is not a defining axiom of logic or mathematics.
posted by unSane at 11:23 AM on February 24, 2010


Yes, that is demanding we not discuss certain criticisms of religion at all, as I pointed out several times above.

I am absolutely okay with banning the phrase "superhero in the sky." It's lazy and mean-spirited, and neither make for good conversation.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:24 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think this is, again, the 'you really just aren't smart enough' argument.

This is personalizing the argument to make an emotional plea for your case.

Without getting emotional about it, it suffices to say that two or more sufficiently smart, honest people can test their prepositions about reality and (statistically speaking) will likely come up with the same answer to their questions about nature.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:25 AM on February 24, 2010


I am absolutely okay with banning...

And there we have it.
posted by unSane at 11:25 AM on February 24, 2010


it is a community that in no other realm of debate would accept this kind of logical black hole

>>>Come on now.

Pejorative "black hole" word choice aside, I think troybob has a valid point. Factual accuracy is a Metafilter hallmark and Mefites are eviscerated daily for unsupported assertions. Perhaps the perceived or real Metafilter bias against religion is a feature, not a bug.
posted by applemeat at 11:25 AM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


“Why should a less powerful group be restricted from criticizing a more powerful group?”

And why not all the time? In every post about everything. That would make everyone happy forever!
“Smedleyman, sorry, I obviously didn't and still don't understand the point you are making.”

Ok. Maybe it’s a hard concept to get. You were taking a lot of other comments and I suspect your used to variations on a theme instead of a change in context. That’s not meant to be a slight, that can happen to anyone in that situation and maybe I’m being impatient.
Again – you believed then, and now, in speaking freely about religion. Back then you were pro-Christianity, now you are against.

So, I ask – is the only change, the change in your position? Because if you still believe now in open discourse, as you did before, then you’re not in favor of abolishing religion. However bad it may be.
When you were in favor of religion were you in favor of abolishing atheistic thought/speech? It doesn’t sound like it.
What I’m saying is, your point before you changed was that religion was good. Your point now is that it’s bad.
In terms of your framework – there’s no change. Only a shift in value.

Which, again, religon good/bad, I’m not disputing either way.
But I think it’s a moot point for purposes of preventing this kind of abuse.
And, I’m arguing, so do you. At least by your statement that you “welcomed any debate of religion because I was confident of my beliefs and welcomed a chance to share and defend them.”
Unless you’re asserting some kind of exclusivity in sharing and defending your ideas, which I doubt
Arguing (as some others have) religion should be eradicated, or saying it is responsible for the actions of the Pearls implies something should be done about it.

Again, without regard to whether religion is actually bad or good.
If one argues religion is bad, but religious speech shouldn't be outlawed while this kind of physical abuse should be then – given the context is physical abuse – there’s little to be gained from contesting that point either way.
The act and the thought might be related (or not) but we can’t punish the thought.

And criticism is fine, but, as has been argued, a more specific criticism is probably more appropriate. Not only to more closely identify the people who practice this behavior, but to deny them legitimacy and the ability to blend into a larger group.
Unless one wants to grind axes about religion in general. Which again, is probably more appropriate in a more generally topical religious thread.

So – to belabor the point – all the idiots saying all muslims are terrorists after 9/11 were doing more harm than good. Bringing it back further, it would add to the lack of focus to assert all religious people are terrorists despite the fact that, yes, religion had a role in that.

But it was a very specific set of beliefs those terrorists ascribed to. And to generally paint all muslims does a disservice to the cause of justice. Because you want to punish a very specific group of people for a very specific act.
Any general criticism or debate as to Islam’s validity notwithstanding.

I’d like to see a law made. I’d like to see the Pearls and people who act as they do arrested.
I can’t arrest them for being religious any more than I can arrest random muslims for being terrorists. And indeed that did happen in the U.S. And that was a travesty. And it’s no accident that I’m conflating the two because the same kind of emotionalism and irrationality and overgeneralizing led to those actions.
I’m not asserting anything like that will happen here. But I am pointing out there is a practical reality to consider.
And if one is disregarding that reality, than essentially one is just scrappin’

Not that I have a huge problem with that either, but let’s be honest - whether religion is great or lousy if we’re asserting that it inevitably leads to physical child abuse something has to be done about that otherwise it’s just provocation for the sake of provocation to say 'religion is bad'.
A few people are delivering bon mots, but for the most part there seems to be an argument to be put forth, but no one wants to cut the foreplay and get to it.
(Oh, socially, it has too much influence, blah blah blah - yeah? And?)

I suspect because the argument leads to attacking free speech. So it gets mired in mere variations on the theme of how bad religion is and provokes others (deliberately or not) into arguing that it isn’t bad.
But again, that doesn’t matter as far as preventing physical beatings go, unless one is arguing how to go about that.
As far as that goes I would rather see a law punishing the act than one punishing a given mode of thinking.
And I think a criticism in the failure of the law to address that, and motivation to speak to law makers might be more productive than ranting about how nasty the Inquisition was hundreds of years ago.
And I think most people on either side of the religion good/bad position would agree with that, folks directly arguing for abolishing religion aside.

Lot said there. But I don’t want to get didactic and have points ‘A.’ ‘B.’ and ‘C.

“I have never suggested limiting freedom of expression. At all.”

Again - then what are you suggesting? What’s the point of arguing all religion in the context of some idiots doing violence in the name of one specific brand of it?
It’s a net bad? Ok. It’s undeniably bad here.
Bad other places? Ok.
All places? Ok, fine. So?
The Pearls and no one else would ever have beaten their kids without this malign force? Really?

Let me put it another way – if you’re arguing religion in general may have some responsibility in this there’s no way to deny that.
But a direct act is not the same as oblique responsibility.

It was wrong for America to invade Iraq. America is, generally, responsible for that. But is America some sort of nebulous force that causes these things? No.
There is such a thing as command responsibility.
Actual people decided to invade Iraq by lying to congress, fabricating intelligence (as well as torturing, etc) and are directly responsible for their illegal actions. Essentially the Bush administration and anyone who directly aided them by knowing it was a war crime and still giving orders to proceed.

Here too – the Pearls, and people like them, are not only advocating whipping kids but are acting on it and manifestly aiding others in doing so. They are directly responsible and responsible for encouraging others.
There’s no argument being advanced beyond ‘religion is bad’. And the fact that there's no argument beyond that is the only real beef most people have had as far as I can tell.

Someone could be a major league asshole (and not saying anyone is or isn't, but I certainly have been at certain times) but as long as they're advancing an argument or has a relevant comment I don’t really have a problem with anyone being a dick.
As it happens you’re taking the time to defend your position (whatever issues there are with the relevance of the position in the first place and the manner in which you do it aside) which I think is much more courteous than most of the people who have laid other things down.
I simply think this particular instance isn’t/wasn’t worth making a mountain out of. Doesn’t matter that it was ‘Christians’ or whomever. Just as wrong to say ‘muslims’ when something blows up.

And indeed, many people in this community have consistently pointed out when someone is white or non-muslim or whatever runs against that stereotype when an act spectacular violence happens.
I might quibble on some sematics, but domestic terrorism has been much more damaging in the U.S. (naturally sort of follows really) and I think that saying “hey, that white guy did terrorism – why isn’t he being called a terrorist” is a valid response to and criticism of that social stereotype.

There is the recognition that not all Muslims are terrorists and vice versa - whatever criticism there may be of it or religion in general, so why doesn't the same hold here?

Again, bearing in mind it's people who actually do things and laying blame on 'religion' or 'America' is a cop out and doesn't recognize that people are responsible for their specific actions, not the overarching mass activity of whatever group they happen to belong to. And, importantly, vice versa, so they can't hide behind the legitimacy of that group if their own actions are inhumane (just following orders, patriotism, God told me to, etc).
posted by Smedleyman at 11:27 AM on February 24, 2010


And there we have it.

Tell me, please, what good is brought into this world by wiping contempt all over a person you disagree with by bypassing conversation in favor of idiotic bumper sticker slogans?
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:28 AM on February 24, 2010


I am absolutely okay with banning the phrase "superhero in the sky."

Usually if people are getting to the point where they're using that sort of language, they're headed for deletion anyhow.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:28 AM on February 24, 2010


Actually, most of the mathematicians I know do not study the axiom of choice. They study other things which are very, very often based, either implicitly or explicitly, on the axiom of choice.

Also, I'm not sure what you mean by "being forced to deny an axiom." The point of axioms is that you assume them to be true or false from the get-go. There is no universal or worldly truth to them. You can find an inconsistency in your system, but that's not the same as proving the axiom wrong; it just means the system isn't consistent.
posted by Commander Rachek at 11:29 AM on February 24, 2010


Does this make me deficient in that my beliefs are not based on a full exposure to the evidence or full understanding of the underlying research?

They are not beliefs, but if you were to continue to hold the Big Bang as the correct explanation, even if a new and better explanation, one buttressed by new evidence, were to come about, then I would find your rational faculties to be deficient.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:30 AM on February 24, 2010


This has turned into a rather interesting discussion of math.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:30 AM on February 24, 2010


“I am absolutely okay with banning the phrase "superhero in the sky." “
Gonna have to disagree for all the same principles I outlined before (with similar exceptions - it is lazy and mean spirited, but picking phrases/thoughts to ban opens the same can of worms).
posted by Smedleyman at 11:32 AM on February 24, 2010


You can find an inconsistency in your system, but that's not the same as proving the axiom wrong; it just means the system isn't consistent.

If you know that much about logic and mathematics, then you understand that no mathematician would ever behave in the way that you initially proposed.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:32 AM on February 24, 2010


There's no community consensus here on religion as a bad or a good thing. I'm an atheist, but I'm not omnipotent, and I have no idea whether any given religious person being freed of their beliefs would increase their happiness, or the sum total of human happiness. I might even be happier and make those around me happier if I was a born-again Christian, who knows? If I could push a button and remove a religion from the face of the earth, would it be a net gain or loss? God only knows, but I wouldn't be arrogant enough to push the button.

If you've already decided that these questions don't even bear discussion, and that the right thing to do is to oppose religion in all its forms, whenever the subject comes up, as loudly as possible, then our beliefs don't coincide, only one specific lack of belief.

I guess that makes me atheist, but agnostic about religion? In any case, if I DID want to decrease the ranks of the religious, claiming that the religious people are all wrong and bear collective responsibility for what religious people do would be a pretty daft tactic.

I think there's a respectful and interesting discussion to be had about the concept of belief itself, and about the impact of religion in general and specific religions on humankind, but that FPP isn't really about those things, those comments wouldn't be appropriate in a sensible discussion about those things, they're doubly inappropriate here, and would be better off on a forum where your contentious main plank (belief is bad) is generally agreed upon.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 11:32 AM on February 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


No, because the results are explicitly dependent on the AC as an axiom and everyone knows it is controversial.

The religious people I know are very open about that fact that their worldview is based on certain assumptions (e.g. God exists, the Bible is God's word, Jesus rose from the dead, etc.), and they are acutely aware that these views are controversial. However, you insist upon holding them to a different, impossible standard from the rest of us. What's more, you feel the need to be aggressive and dickish about it, which, as I recall, is the problem this thread was supposed to address.
posted by Commander Rachek at 11:34 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am absolutely okay with banning the phrase "superhero in the sky." It's lazy and mean-spirited, and neither make for good conversation.

Whereas lazy one-liners like the above, totally ignoring other people's points in order to burn an unrelated "superhero lol" strawman, and telling everyone who holds a certain belief that "your understanding of history is limited" are not at all lazy or mean-spirited, and make for great conversation!

On preview: bypassing conversation in favor of idiotic bumper sticker slogans? Are you kidding me? You just responded to a huge post of mine by bypassing conversation with an idiotic bumper sticker slogan (quoted above). So much for this being about "civility" and "dickishness". Again, the double-standard is really appalling -- if you really want others to engage in good conversation, it would help if you were willing to do so yourself.

And there we have it, indeed!
posted by vorfeed at 11:35 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm off to study seashells on mountaintops prove noah's a historical flood occurred
posted by dabitch at 11:35 AM on February 24, 2010


If you know that much about logic and mathematics, then you understand that no mathematician would ever behave in the way that you initially proposed.

I think you've read something into my comment that I did not intend. Could you clarify what behavior I was proposing?
posted by Commander Rachek at 11:35 AM on February 24, 2010


That's a pretty long bumper.
posted by applemeat at 11:40 AM on February 24, 2010


An honest religious person can take a series of mathematics and physics classes, working his or her way up to particle physics.

I think this is, again, the 'you really just aren't smart enough' argument.


I think the argument is more that the religious person has as much capacity and option as anyone else to explore the scientific basis of something, to refute it on a demonstrably factual basis, or to propose alternative theories suggested by the information that in turn are subject to scientific scrutiny. From what I understand, religious belief comes down to either taking someone else's word for something, gaining knowledge through some kind of transcendental experience, or the personal interpretation of what are generally considered vague texts. Considering that even believers do not agree with one another about what it means, there is no way a non-believer has the capacity or option to explore or discuss them on a rational level.

But then also, the 'you just aren't smart enough' argument has been employed to criticize atheists who have not obtained degrees in theology in order to prove the basis for their non-belief, so I don't think it works either way.
posted by troybob at 11:41 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Whereas lazy one-liners like the above, totally ignoring other people's points in order to burn an unrelated "superhero lol" strawman, and telling everyone who holds a certain belief that "your understanding of history is limited" are not at all lazy or mean-spirited, and make for great conversation!

I don't understand your point. Firstly, people who make the case that religion is a universal evil do have a limited understanding of history, and there are multiple instances of religious people doing good in history -- directly inspired and informed by their religion. I demonstrated with one example, but I could produce more, if you like.

I do appreciate that you have identified "religion is evil" as a belief, however. It's often presented as fact. It's a belief that is unsupportable by evidence.

And all I have asked for is civility in discussion. The people who do not think it is possible to have a civil discussion about religion, and that the request itself is tantamount to silencing them, are probably not going to make a thread on the topic go well, and that was the subject of this FPP.

As to "superhero in the sky" being some sort of strawman, well phrases like that have, in the past, made frequent appearances in threads about religion.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:41 AM on February 24, 2010


From what I understand, religious belief comes down to either taking someone else's word for something, gaining knowledge through some kind of transcendental experience, or the personal interpretation of what are generally considered vague texts. Considering that even believers do not agree with one another about what it means

do you really not see the similarities to science here?
posted by mpbx at 11:43 AM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


This dopey noise thread was worth it for Baby_Balrog's comment. Speaking as someone with innate Asshole tendencies, I want to check myself from time to time in the interest of making this site sustainable. I am convinced that there are ways for me--and all of you intelligent people--to express ourselves thoroughly and honestly without resort to the corrosive effects of GRAR. Think of it as a challenge, like an intention to learn how to ride a unicycle, or to crochet.

I still always think of GWAR when I see that usage. Ah, well.
posted by everichon at 11:44 AM on February 24, 2010


I think you've read something into my comment that I did not intend. Could you clarify what behavior I was proposing?

I am clarifying, for myself, your comment here:

However, plenty of other mathematicians do not choose to make the issue their central area of research, and use it (or things derived from it) willy-nilly to prove all sorts of stuff.

I would be very surprised to learn that a professional mathematician was not already familiar with ideas like the axiom of choice (AC) or Gödel's incompleteness theorem.

If I assume your premise, that most ("plenty") mathematicians use AC "willy-nilly" without question, reflection or thought, I would be surprised if a professional mathematician who, in the course of doing research would reach a contradictory conclusion and yet still hold the AC inviolate for the entire body of mathematical discovery.

That would seem to require a deadened sense of curiosity and a lack of career maturity and integrity that I simply doubt is applicable to most professional mathematicians.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:45 AM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


vorfeed, I don't think it's an honest assessment of anyone's statements in this thread that there are certain criticisms of religion that are entirely unallowed. I believe what I and several others have said at least a handful of times is that the means and context by which those criticisms are delivered are under discussion as negatively impacting MetaFilter's community. And, again, I just don't think 'religion is dumb'-type comments count as criticism-- they're lazy, lulzy, and, given the well-known presence of various religiously-affiliated members of the site, needlessly antagonistic. The problem is not with non-specific criticisms of religion because one isn't allowed to make generalizations about religion; the problem is with non-specific criticisms of religion because most of the time these are over-broad swipes at a touchy subject that don't do anything for the conversation.

I don't believe it's true that anyone in this thread has advocated shutting down any form of substantive conversation regarding religion-- but I think that might be the issue. Religion is a very personal and touchy subject for most people (including the non-religious) and as such it makes sense to strain for decency and substance when discussing it in mixed company.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:46 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's true of mathemagicians.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:46 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the argument is more that the religious person has as much capacity and option as anyone else to explore the scientific basis of something, to refute it on a demonstrably factual basis, or to propose alternative theories suggested by the information that in turn are subject to scientific scrutiny.

This is an excellent point. Most scientific discoveries that are currently refuted by theologians can be verified with nothing more than a middle-school-level understanding of the empirical scientific method and basic experimental procedures. This is within reach of the majority of people in an industrial-age society.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:49 AM on February 24, 2010


Choosing not to explicitly study the AC is not the same as using it without question, reflection or thought. By "willy-nilly" I just meant "a lot" or "all the time". And what's more, lots and lots of mathematicians do take it for granted, in some sense, during the course of their research, for the same reason many of them take it for granted that a rational number plus an irrational number is irrational; that's a fact that in most contexts you are allowed to invoke without proving it first. Someone studying convex optimization does not have to explicitly prove basic facts about arithmetic and algebra to show their point; as long as they define everything properly, these things are taken for granted by their audience. This is why we have citations.

Anyway, I have to go take my Christian Origins midterm. Play nice while I'm gone.
posted by Commander Rachek at 11:59 AM on February 24, 2010


One of the great lessons I've learned in my 37+ years on this planet is even if you believe you're right, even if you know you're right, it's not always the time to say you're right, and it's never the time to act self-righteous, pompous, or dickish because you're right.

Would that others here learn that same lesson and not take 37 years to understand what that lesson means.
posted by dw at 12:03 PM on February 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Most scientific discoveries that are currently refuted by theologians

To be fair, I don't think there are very many theologians refuting scientific discoveries. James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Tim LaHaye, and all of their fans hardly constitute theologians, and neither do most pastors, ministers, priests, rabbis, imams, etc.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:05 PM on February 24, 2010


for the same reason many of them take it for granted

Intellectual laziness does not equate with, imply, or even require religious or religious-style beliefs, in pursuing the truth of what one works on.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:08 PM on February 24, 2010


It is incorrect to use quotation marks for paraphrased speech.(wikipedia)

"However, another convention when quoting text in the body of a paragraph or sentence—for example, in an essay—is to recognize double quotation marks as marking an exact quotation, and single quotation marks as marking a paraphrased quotation or a quotation where grammar, pronouns, or plurality have been changed in order to fit the sentence containing the quotation" (emphasis mine)
posted by Manjusri at 12:09 PM on February 24, 2010


This is an excellent point. Most scientific discoveries that are currently refuted by theologians can be verified with nothing more than a middle-school-level understanding of the empirical scientific method and basic experimental procedures.

....and that is precisely why the vast and overwhelming majority of theologians actually do not comment upon scientific discoveries in the first place. Because theology is theology and science is science, and only a handful confuse the two.

So why are you bringing theologians into this discussion?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:10 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


No one does this. It is dishonest to write this as if it was true.

hey did somebody in here order a hamburger
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:11 PM on February 24, 2010


To be fair, I don't think there are very many theologians refuting scientific discoveries

Please feel free to replace "theologian" with whichever word is required to connote someone in the modern day who props up religious beliefs as truths on a bedrock of unfalsifiable, supernatural events.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:11 PM on February 24, 2010


I believe the word is 'kooks.'
posted by shakespeherian at 12:14 PM on February 24, 2010


And with Blazecock Pileon's re-entry into the discussion, everything which makes believers uncomfortable with the general tone of MeFi is instantiated. Those wondering what that is need simply take notes.

Seriously, dude, did you read any of the three-hundred-plus-comment discussion that transpired between your postings? You sound like a pissed-off college freshman who stumbled upon the early twentieth-century logical positivists for the first time last week. I've got no interest in such self-defeating old hat, and I can't see why you do.

I'm not even going to bother trying to talk with you, as it's obvious we have nothing to say to each other. Which given the content of this thread is really too bad.
posted by valkyryn at 12:14 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


To be more clear: I don't know anyone who bases their religious beliefs on events of any kind.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:16 PM on February 24, 2010


Please feel free to replace "theologian" with whichever word is required to connote someone in the modern day who props up religious beliefs as truths on a bedrock of unfalsifiable, supernatural events.

Okay -- then what you want to say is "Most scientific discoveries that are currently refuted by religious extremists can be verified with nothing more than a middle-school-level understanding of the empirical scientific method and basic experimental procedures."

Which the majority of theists agree with. It strikes me that the non-theists give the fundamentalists far more credit than theists do, which has always puzzled me. We KNOW they're wackjobs, so that's why we ignore them. Why are YOU taking them seriously?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:18 PM on February 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


"
Perhaps I should have italicized rather than used quotation marks. Representing paraphrases in text can be tricky."


Perhaps you should have directly quoted rather than paraphrased. Most of the "paraphrasing" I see happening in arguments is actually distortion of the original poster's point in order to argue with a strawman rather than the actual viewpoints of the person being addressed.
posted by Manjusri at 12:19 PM on February 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


To be more clear: I don't know anyone who bases their religious beliefs on events of any kind.

Noah's flood? Resurrection or reincarnation of various deities over the years, as recorded in religious texts? Are these not events?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:20 PM on February 24, 2010


Good advice. I shall do so in the future.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:20 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why are YOU taking them seriously?

For one, these individuals educate children, control school boards and get textbooks published with religious gobbledygook.

If the progress of the human species is worth anything, I think that's worth taking seriously.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:23 PM on February 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: "We KNOW they're wackjobs, so that's why we ignore them. Why are YOU taking them seriously?"

It is foolish to simply ignore them, because they have a strong influence on law and government policy, in particular where it regards the funding of certain branches of science with which they disagree, reproductive rights, the rights of social groups that they disapprove of (including but not limited to women, homosexuals, and those who have sex before marriage), the rights of parents and prisoners that do not follow their particular faith, and the science curriculum in public schools.
posted by idiopath at 12:26 PM on February 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


Noah's flood? Resurrection or reincarnation of various deities over the years, as recorded in religious texts? Are these not events?

Um, yes, but I don't know anyone whose metaphysical worldview is based entirely or in part on Noah's flood. Maybe I'm simply misunderstanding you, but it really sounds like you're of the opinion that judeochristian belief is derived from a set of historical events from which we have no choice but to derive theological implications.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:28 PM on February 24, 2010


>Why are YOU taking them seriously?

For one, these individuals educate children, control school boards and get textbooks published with religious gobbledygook.


It is possible to combat the actions of these few WITHOUT making the leap to assuming that the majority SHARES their views, however. I don't know how many times people in this and other threads have tried to convince people that NOT ALL CHRISTIANS BELIEVE THE EXACT SAME THING 100% IN LOCKSTEP, but -- they're not making that up. Not all Christians believe the exact same thing 100% in lockstep. And THEY are just as pissed off about the extremists as you. So all they're saying is, "dude, can you just make sure you're going after the right target rather than trying to hit ME as well, here?"

Because, seriously, not all Christians believe the exact same thing 100% in lockstep. And people have said this in here, in this thread, in other threads, and on Metafilter countless times. If they say it in big sparkly font with the dancing banana on top, they would -- maybe it would finally stick that way.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:31 PM on February 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


If the progress of the human species is worth anything, I think that's worth taking seriously.

Okay, this thread was going pretty well, finally, and now it looks like people would like to willfully distort each other's statements and generally talk past each other and get shouty.

Seeya later. Help yourself to a hug on your way out.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:32 PM on February 24, 2010


It is foolish to simply ignore them, because they have a strong influence on law and government policy....

Well, I agree. Which is why I didn't advocate ignoring them in the first place, either (go back and read my comment and check, if you don't believe me).

However, what I AM advocating is not automatically knee-jerk assuming that all other Christians AGREE with them. Instead, how about automatically assuming that most other Christians ALSO think they're wackjobs. Because that's more accurate.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:34 PM on February 24, 2010


it really sounds like you're of the opinion that judeochristian belief is derived from a set of historical events from which we have no choice but to derive theological implications

Walking on water? Healing the blind and curing lepers? Turning water into wine? How many more events would you like?

If we're discussing Christian belief systems, all these are just a handful of the miracles supposedly worked by Jesus Christ. Miracles are a major component that defined the interaction of Christ with his followers and are what evolved into Christianity. By definition.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:35 PM on February 24, 2010


Okay, this thread was going pretty well, finally, and now it looks like people would like to willfully distort each other's statements and generally talk past each other and get shouty.

No one has distorted your statements, talked past you or gotten "shouty" with you.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:40 PM on February 24, 2010


Wow, I guess everyone here needs a Peanut Butter and Yelly sandwich.
posted by setanor at 12:44 PM on February 24, 2010


NOT ALL CHRISTIANS BELIEVE THE EXACT SAME THING 100% IN LOCKSTEP

Case in point, my more or less "liberal" half-Catholic upbringing where I never heard a denouncement of the theory of Evolution. Rather it was explained to me that the book of Genesis' creation story was just that, a "story" presented to help us understand how God used Evolution to create the world ...

First came the oceans - Then the land - The the animals - and so on.
posted by philip-random at 12:49 PM on February 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


I was raised as an objectivist empiricist (along with some Chinese religious practice built in), but what I learned about empiricism is that at some point there is faith involved. In sciences and in mathematics, we make leaps of faith but we generally call them either "postulates" or "metasystems" or in a pinch "lower level" systems.

For example, within the system of basic arithmetic, the postulate that "1 + 1 = 2" is unprovable. It is a leap of faith. It is true that if you get into deeper systems of mathematical logic and the proofs and underpinnings of "1 + 1 = 2" in other symbolic logic lower level systems, you can prove that "1 + 1 = 2", but those lower level systems have (philosophically) equivalent postulates that cannot be proven within those systems (so you have to go lower).

At some point, you get down to angels dancing on the head of a pin.

In another parallel I can draw between science, mathematics, etc., and other faiths, one of the things that the sciences rely on with respect to coming to findings is a methodology called statistics. In statistics, scientists and other experimenters have a tool that they can use to filter and refine noisy experimental results to single, authoritative-sounding numbers (with uncertainties that many of us either usually either unaware of or unwilling to or unable to decode to the intended indicator of fuzziness or uncertainty).

It's worth noting that unethical experimentalists or publishers are often able to use statistics rhetorically to "find" results that are not actually there. And honestly, uncareful experimenters with no real agenda can also "find" or "prove" things that shouldn't really be proven.

That science, mathematics, physics, are very self-consistent and that the results of those articles of faith can often be reproduced, consistently and repeatedly does, I think, distinguish them from many of the less systematic religions and other faiths in the world. I also think that among the total set of scientists and experimenters, a rather high percentage (compared to philosophers and theologists in most other faiths) seem to feel that they should not unduly allow their personal feelings to influence their scientific findings. And I think that on the whole, this also tends to differentiate the objectivist empiricists from other faiths.

But I do tend to think that sometimes, especially when we get into the really whiffy and high altitude fields of unwarranted social interpretations and applications of the findings of the sciences into fields for which they were not intended, that the sciences are not and cannot be entirely immune from the criticisms we level at other faiths about just how factual, solid and unassailable science is from the viewpoint of Truth compared to other faiths.
posted by kalessin at 12:57 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


>NOT ALL CHRISTIANS BELIEVE THE EXACT SAME THING 100% IN LOCKSTEP

Case in point, my more or less "liberal" half-Catholic upbringing where I never heard a denouncement of the theory of Evolution. Rather it was explained to me that the book of Genesis' creation story was just that, a "story" presented to help us understand how God used Evolution to create the world ...


My all-Catholic upbringing did the same thing. The deacon of my church came to our Confirmation class and said precisely this. "If we were rewriting the Bible today," he said, "it'd probably go, 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth -- we think He started with something we call The Big Bang'..."

But even better, Pope JP stated in 1996 that believing in evolution was theologically okay -- because "the conclusions reached by scientific disciplines cannot be in contradiction with divine Revelation." He also said, "questions of "moral conscience, freedom, or … of aesthetic and religious experience, fall within the competence of philosophical analysis and reflection, while theology brings out [their] ultimate meaning according to the Creator's plans."

So that's THE POPE saying that Creationism is bullshit.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:57 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


No one has distorted your statements, talked past you or gotten "shouty" with you.

I am not the only person in this thread.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:01 PM on February 24, 2010


Because, seriously, not all Christians believe the exact same thing 100% in lockstep. And people have said this in here, in this thread, in other threads, and on Metafilter countless times. If they say it in big sparkly font with the dancing banana on top, they would -- maybe it would finally stick that way.

Doubtful.

I think this community is better at handling contentious topics than many others online, in no small part to mod influence. But when it comes to certain subjects here, there will always be entrenched extremists on both sides. They frame things in terms of absolutes, they employ personal attacks by ridiculing or diminishing their opponents, they view their enemies as monolithic, they make sweeping generalizations, etc., etc. It's always easier to vilify an opponent than attempt to understand them.
posted by zarq at 1:17 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's a lot of proselytizing going on. Whether these arguments are sound (to you) is not in question. You have perfectly valid reasons to believe what you believe - no-one is arguing that you are wrong and evil to be an atheist, or that there is a problem with atheism.

The problem people have is that some are trying to cram their own belief system down someone else's throat with a "My way or the Highway!" zeal. That is neither welcome nor appreciated, and will always be off-topic when discussing the religious beliefs of others.

What's more, it shows that these self-described atheists are acting more like evangelical Christian missionaries, with evangelical Christian absolutism of the worst sort, even though they claim to despise religion. This just indicates that while they may not believe in a supernatural god, they believe in the authority of religion. If they did not, someone choosing to believe in an invisible sky superhero wouldn't be making them so angry or combative... but instead, religionists are viewed as apostates that must be castigated for their sin.

If you find yourself doing this, you're a poor atheist, and a worse religionist. Maybe you should take some time to examine and reconcile your own belief systems before going after someone else's?
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:18 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't understand your point. Firstly, people who make the case that religion is a universal evil do have a limited understanding of history

I like how you slipped "universal" in there, even though that word was not in your previous posts, nor in the post you were replying to. Convenient, because "religion is a universal evil" can be disproved by finding just one single counter-example... but "religion is a force for evil" cannot be. The latter is pretty clearly a generalization, not a universal statement. It's a statement about the general nature of religion, just as "violence is a force for evil" is a statement about the general nature of violence, not a universal statement which can be refuted through the use of a single cherry-picked example of "good" violence (like, say, shooting Hitler).

We don't treat any other human institution as off-limits to generalization in this way. We don't call people "dickish" when they say "capitalism is a force for evil", "war is a force for evil", "feudalism is a force for evil", etc. In those cases, we're more than willing to discuss our various interpretations of the general tendency of those human institutions... yet in the sole case of religion, suddenly it's "oh, but you can't generalize because history is complicated". This is a huge double-standard, and flies in the face of the very concept of history as we study it.

I do appreciate that you have identified "religion is evil" as a belief, however. It's often presented as fact. It's a belief that is unsupportable by evidence

So's "religion is good". Yet one of these beliefs is "dickish", and the other is not; one is "too personal" to be refuted, and the other is not; one may be freely discussed, and the other gets you a call-out because even mentioning it is "rude" and "making it personal". Again, double-standards.

I've got no problem with telling people not to be dickish when they are actually being dickish. The "human sacrifice" comment in the adoption thread: yeah, that was really dickish. It would have been out of line no matter the subject, simply because of its tone and blatantly off-topic nature. But the two comments I linked to above (as well as the "religion is a force for evil" comment) are different; you seem to have called them out because they were anti-religious. The way those comments were expressed was not particularly dickish and would have been considered A-OK in discussion on any number of other subjects... one of them even meets your own so-called standards for religious discussion.

As I said in my first post in this thread, and several times since: if you're drawing the line according to the content of the opinion rather than the way it's expressed, I think that's bunk. There's my point for you.
posted by vorfeed at 1:33 PM on February 24, 2010 [13 favorites]


Slap*Happy, you hit the nail right on the head: Missionaries for Atheism!
posted by redfisch at 1:34 PM on February 24, 2010


Slap*Happy: "these self-described atheists are acting more like evangelical Christian missionaries, with evangelical Christian absolutism of the worst sort, even though they claim to despise religion."

Atheism is not a spite for Christian evangelicalism. It is the conviction that there are no gods. Christian evangelicalism is out of fashion in liberal circles because it is pushy and judgmental. It could be objectionable to some atheists for those reasons. For me, it is primarily objectionable because it is wrong. The pushiness is pretty unimportant compared to the simple fact that they are wrong, and in a way that has dangerous consequences.

Religion is not the habit of thinking you are right and trying to convince others that you are right. Many religions, not to mention various non-religious metaphysical systems of belief, do not seek convererts.

If what you are saying is that you hate loudmouthed atheists for the same reason you hate loudmouthed Christians, I concur. And I hate loudmouthed antiracists for the same reason I hate loudmouthed racists, and I hate loudmouthed socialists for the same reason I hate loudmouthed fascists. This does not make the two positions equally right, and it does not even make them equally acceptable.
posted by idiopath at 1:50 PM on February 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


If this had been a thread about some really interesting parenting initiative put forward by a Christian group and I had said 'Yay! Religion!' and followed it up with posts about how despite a few missteps, religion was a net force for good in the world, would that have been OK?
posted by unSane at 2:36 PM on February 24, 2010


It'd certainly be a lot more benign, in that context, yeah. On the other hand, if that was your immediate response to a post about some systematic badness some religious organization had been getting up to, it'd be sort of obnoxious. Or if it was your response to a post about a flash game about squirrels, it'd be a weird non-sequitur.

This works for subjects other than religion as well. The context and how you choose to approach a subject in that context has a lot more to do with whether or not it's obnoxious or problematic behavior than just the bare semantic content of an argument.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:40 PM on February 24, 2010


We don't play that "If your aunt had a moustache" game here really but there's a big difference between snarky ironic comments and sincerely meant "good for them" comments.

As it is, your comment wasn't removed it was just called out for seeming like an early threadshit which involves not just wording but also timing.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:43 PM on February 24, 2010


Well, I'm certainly getting the picture.
posted by unSane at 2:46 PM on February 24, 2010


Apropos of nothing immediately above, I just find the God as described some by people who avowedly don't believe in God to be a strawman God. Whatever the word God means to me is not that God. Not that the existence of a single God, all seeing lord of the universe or blind watchmaker or what have you, matters that much to me. If there were an all seeing lord of the universe, the concerns of a few billion entities on one planet orbiting one star would be on the same scale as the concerns of one bacterial colony on one grain of sand on one beach on that plane.

And if God is more like a committee or congress of smaller selves taking turns looking through the binoculars and yelling into the microphone as human consciousness seems to be, maybe there might be a local union rep demiurgical God in charge of this planet. But he or she would compare to Him, Her or It as that colony of bacteria does to the local rep diety. So I don't worry about it that much. I find it hard to believe that ours is the only world where conscious intelligent beings ask all the imponderable questions, and, moreover, if there are others out there, I fail to see what could possibly make us so special as to be God's darlings. So, I don't worry too much about God's existence, figuring I am about as important to him or her as he or she is to me. Which is not all that much.

The same sort of goes for gods in the plural, except that I find a plethora of gods and goddesses more pleasing than one god. I am all for more polytheism and mutual respect among separate believers. Saints I can believe in, too, Fortean events as well and miracles involving either or both and others, too. At least from time to time. I just don't think there necessarily has to be a diety involved. I do think there is an aspect of the divine in what humans can experience, a dimension ineffable and inexplicable. One can split hairs and call it spirituality but I call it religious experience because religions grow around such personal experiences as pearls grow around a grain of sand. You can have the experience without the institution but not the institution without the experience.

But I have gotten so sick of seeing the God = Santa = Flying Spagetti Monster strawman God of the Athiests being trotted out time after time. OK, I get it. The Flying Spaghetti Monster and Santa don't exist and the unbelievers in the Flying Spaghetti Monster are so much cooler and smarter than the saps who believe in that strawman God.

Except there is no one, among all the believers in any sort of Higher Power who I personally know, not one, who believe in that strawman god. What the word God stands for varies so much from person but in every case the concept is way more complex and subtle than that guy in the sky. Maybe the people who were at my brother's funeral believed in that athiest sockpuppet strawman cliche of a God but then I never got that they truly believed in anything so much as they sought to rubber stamp their collective dark side, all the hate and fear and demonization of their scapegoats du jour with what seemed to be the highest possible authority. And you don't need God for that. This I know.

As for the Pearls, well, I personally know people who were beaten and terrorized as children by a God as a concept hating self described athiest. So I know that when it comes to being a wife and child beating sadistic monster, whether one believes in God or not is irrelevant. Truth be told, no one is exempt from being capable of great evil, secular empiricists included. But then I have seen with my own eyes the purple welts that came from being beaten with an athiest held belt. You don't need religion to do violence and evil to children. This has been my experience. But I never thought that one athiest represented all athiests or that it meant that atheism is a great evil in the world. I just don't need to tilt at that windmill of my own device. But your mileage may vary.
posted by y2karl at 3:01 PM on February 24, 2010 [11 favorites]


Isn't this how schisms begin? Maybe it's time. I get enough god jammed down my throat everywhere else I go.
posted by nevercalm at 3:17 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's "atheist" god damn it.
posted by Aquaman at 3:23 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Isn't this how schisms begin?

Possibly. The schism of the "don't be a jerk in our community" people separating from the "but I'm right and they're wrong so I have no choice but to be a jerk" people would be a nice schism - but only if the "don't be a jerk" people stay on MeFi.

I get enough god jammed down my throat everywhere else I go.

Seriously? Where are you going?
posted by The World Famous at 3:25 PM on February 24, 2010


Seriously? Where are you going?

God sex club.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:32 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


The schism of the "don't be a jerk in our community" people separating from the "but I'm right and they're wrong so I have no choice but to be a jerk" people would be a nice schism - but only if the "don't be a jerk" people stay on MeFi.

"In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."
posted by unSane at 3:34 PM on February 24, 2010


“I just don't think 'religion is dumb'-type comments count as criticism..”

I’d have to agree. The broader the topic generally, the more specific and detailed genuine criticism has to be.
And the further you get away from it, the easier it is to lose coherence as to what it is being criticized and how that relates.

So (to take something with some distance in time), Big Mick Murray and Belfast Jimmy were wrong for planting bombs in (BIrmingham) pubs and killing innocent people. That’s easy. Terrorism is wrong. Easy. The IRA was wrong for allowing that act of terrorism (they’ve even disavowed the act, and said if their members did it, it would have been a violation of operational procedure and they would have court marshaled… although nothing came of their internal investigation). Also easy. The IRA is wrong. Ok, the Provos or the RIRA, or all of them? Irish resistance is wrong. Ok, wait republicanism is wrong? Or is it nationalism that’s wrong, or the entire philosophy of independence from England? Is that then a pro-unionist stance or just criticism of violence that kills innocent people? Ireland is wrong. Ok, it’s a small country, but that’s a vast convoluted topic that would require substantial explanation and definition and doesn’t even begin to touch on the role religion has played in the friction between Ireland and the U.K. or past social history. Meanwhile, the actual, verifiable evil act gets buried in convolution as various points are contested.

Want to say it? Go right ahead. But don’t pretend it’s valid criticism merely because it meets resistance or is in turn criticized as shallow.

Exploring why something is the way it is with a critical eye is always going to get more play than simply asserting it’s bad and can lead to an even more scathing indictment.

Plenty of grounds upon which to criticize any number of churches on actions which contribute to abuse. Offhand the catholic church’s anti-abortion policy has led to many unwanted pregnancies which certainly affects their later development.
But religion doesn’t cause child abuse any more than poverty does. Poverty might be a risk factor, but abuse isn’t limited to any one thing, it crosses all ethnic, gender, social and economic borders.
And victims sometimes are unable to develop healthy ways of disciplining their kids so they may repeat the behaviors they learned as children. Or they might have marital problems or financial problems or be addicted to drugs or alcohol and that limits their responses in a crisis and sometimes pressures can build or combine over years and explode.
One in five families are affected and some people have mentioned they have hit their kids and felt remorse and a great deal of physical contact occurs under extreme stress.
So there are often two victims: the child and the parent. And rather than blaming the parent it can help to provide support and compassion and there are self-help groups like parents anonymous or telephone hotlines…
But I’m sorry – y’all want to argue in the abstract about whether religion is bad. Not how to do actually anything to prevent child abuse regardless of the cause.

“To be more clear: I don't know anyone who bases their religious beliefs on events of any kind.”
My religious beliefs are based on Kirk Hammet’s guitar solo on “One.”

“It is possible to combat the actions of these few WITHOUT making the leap to assuming that the majority SHARES their views, however.”

Apparently making sweeping generalizations on the web counts as combating those actions. Discussion of how to pass a no spanking law and criticism of possible resistance from specific religious groups, well that’s just crazy talk.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:36 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


If what you are saying is that you hate loudmouthed atheists for the same reason you hate loudmouthed Christians, I concur. And I hate loudmouthed antiracists for the same reason I hate loudmouthed racists, and I hate loudmouthed socialists for the same reason I hate loudmouthed fascists. This does not make the two positions equally right, and it does not even make them equally acceptable.

So you think that being a Christian is equivalent to being a racist? I mean, you really think that, in real life? Like, every Christian is as bad as every KKK member, and you -- O! heroic you! -- are just as good as every person who ever marched for integration because you posted some snarky thing on a subsite of MetaFilter? Should I call the fire department so they can send up a ladder for you, or do you think you can get down off that horse all by yourself?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:38 PM on February 24, 2010


There's no way in hell you misunderstood that as badly as you're claiming to have, kittens.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:42 PM on February 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


You don't need religion to do violence and evil to children.

I don't know that this was a serious argument in the thread. My thing was that the Pearls needed religion to sell the idea that doing harm to children is okay and even necessary. Is there any non-religious banner they could have flown over it that would have made it palatable to any parent?
posted by troybob at 3:44 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


There's no way in hell you misunderstood that as badly as you're claiming to have, kittens.

I understood it perfectly well -- it's a loaded, bullshit argument, and you'd be the first to say so if it pertained to another subject.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:46 PM on February 24, 2010


"In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."

Hey, don't bring religion into this.
posted by The World Famous at 3:50 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


kittens for breakfast: "So you think that being a Christian is equivalent to being a racist? I mean, you really think that, in real life? "

No.
posted by idiopath at 3:54 PM on February 24, 2010


There's no way in hell you misunderstood that as badly as you're claiming to have, kittens.

I understood it perfectly well...


Actually, no. You took a parallel argument and treated it as a direct comparison. What I can't figure out is why you selected 'racist' as opposed to the 'antiracist' as the ostensibly invoked companion of Christianity.
posted by troybob at 3:55 PM on February 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


You don't need religion to do violence and evil to children.

I don't know that this was a serious argument in the thread. My thing was that the Pearls needed religion to sell the idea that doing harm to children is okay and even necessary. Is there any non-religious banner they could have flown over it that would have made it palatable to any parent?


Probably not.

But the thing is -- if they had instead claimed that they were drawing their theories of parenting from the work of Dr. Benjamin Spock, we wouldn't have had people coming in claiming that the entire discipline of pediatrics in toto was evil. Or, even that all people who owned a copy of Baby And Child Care were deluded.

....Yet because the Pearls based their argument on religion, we do get those arguments.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:58 PM on February 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Actually, no. You took a parallel argument and treated it as a direct comparison.

I took a Glenn Beck-style argument and treated it with more respect than it deserved.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:00 PM on February 24, 2010


"In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."

The ends justify the means? C'mon.
Uh, you do realize Harry Lime was the bad guy?
And that the Swiss confederacy knocked the crap out of the Habsburgs and dominated Europe from about 1300 to 1500 and it was only until the French introduced artillery and cavalry tactics at the battle of Marignano that the Swiss were even considered beatable.
And they actually had to fight a hundred years of bloody internal strife for their neutrality. I might consider it a bit of obscure history but the Treaty of Westphalia is a running gag.
...and would be surprisingly apt posted here in response...
*checks avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/westphal*... buuut I have things to do.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:01 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I certainly don't agree with it, kittens, but I don't think he's saying all those things are equivalent.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:03 PM on February 24, 2010


But the thing is -- if they had instead claimed that they were drawing their theories of parenting from the work of Dr. Benjamin Spock, we wouldn't have had people coming in claiming that the entire discipline of pediatrics in toto was evil. Or, even that all people who owned a copy of Baby And Child Care were deluded.

....Yet because the Pearls based their argument on religion, we do get those arguments.


That is because the work of Dr. Benjamin Spock is clearly and demonstrably not consistent with their theories, so such a claim would not have held up for five minutes. Religion gets to claim beliefs that rely on faith and mystery, and so there is no way to rationally challenge any interpretation of it.
posted by troybob at 4:07 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Smedleyman, I'm late to this, but if you're saying that all I've done is change from 'hurrah' to 'boo' as far as religion is concerned, and that it's all just hot air because I don't advocate any kind of practical, political action such as banning religious groups, restricting freedom of speech or whatever (not that you are advocating those things), well, maybe so. In fact the transition has been a lot less smooth, including long periods of not caring, not being sure, not wanting to talk about it, wavering and so on.

The reason I do talk about it -- and the reaction in this thread shows just how popular that makes me -- is that I think it's important and other people evidently think it's important. For every theological sophisticate who has read Aquinas and Schopenhauer and John Robinson and Terry Eagleton and all their friends and relations, there are a thousand people who do believe in an omnipotent, immortal, unchanging, prayer-answering, heaven-running, anthropomorphic, Abrahamic deity -- however named.

Looking around, I see a world descending into atavism, where ignorance is treated as virtue and scientific results are treated as debating points, as if evolution and global warming could be decided by a popular vote. I don't want to be part of that world, and I don't want my kids to grow up in that world, and I think the religious zealots are given a free break because we are so damned worried about insulting them.

To Christians who regard themselves as non-naive, I would ask -- whose ideology represents a greater threat to the kind of world you would like to live in? Richard Dawkins, or Jerry Falwell? By privileging religious belief above other forms of self-identification, we are protecting some of the most extreme and hateful members of society.

What about Scientology? Do we extend them the same courtesies? If not, why not? Because they're not a 'real' religion? What about Mormonism? What about Seventh Day Adventism? What about Jehovah's Witnesses? What about Raelians? What about David Icke? Whose sensitivies must we respect, and who can we freely make fun of? Where is the line to be drawn, and why, and whose decision is it?
posted by unSane at 4:08 PM on February 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


But I have gotten so sick of seeing the God = Santa = Flying Spagetti Monster strawman God of the Athiests being trotted out time after time. OK, I get it. The Flying Spaghetti Monster and Santa don't exist and the unbelievers in the Flying Spaghetti Monster are so much cooler and smarter than the saps who believe in that strawman God.

For goodness sake. Your criticism reveals that you have utterly failed to understand that tired, cliched argument, which is why it is trotted out again and again. It doesn't matter if it's god or God, if he wears a funny hat, or is a whole pantheon of gods and titans or has multiple aspects like Trimurti. Nor is the argument/criticism confined to theism. Pantheism? Pandeism? Polydeism? They're all in the same boat.

The argument is about lack of (any) evidence, and the infinite number of alternative possibilities. You've just had a little rant about straw men -- with a straw man. Hope it felt good.

I'm not sure what it is about the MeFi community that "I've heard that before" comes across as a complete answer to anything.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:09 PM on February 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


The ends justify the means? C'mon.


I was just pointing out that a MeFi purged of argumentative dicks would be a fucking boring place.
posted by unSane at 4:10 PM on February 24, 2010


And Liechtenstein! Don't forget Liechtenstein! Those bastards had it comi....what? Oh. Oh dear. Uh, nevermind.
posted by zarq at 4:11 PM on February 24, 2010


I was just pointing out that a MeFi purged of argumentative dicks would be a fucking boring place.

I disagree. Some of us enjoy civil discussion.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:14 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


To Christians who regard themselves as non-naive, I would ask -- whose ideology represents a greater threat to the kind of world you would like to live in? Richard Dawkins, or Jerry Falwell?

Neither. However, the EXTREMISM with which they advance their ideologies makes them BOTH a threat, to my mind.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:16 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, your strawman can beat up my strawman. Whooee! I am so refutorized. Hope that felt good.
posted by y2karl at 4:16 PM on February 24, 2010


I'm not sure what it is about the MeFi community that "I've heard that before" comes across as a complete answer to anything.

I don't think it does. Has someone argued "I've heard that before" as a complete answer or argument to something?
posted by The World Famous at 4:16 PM on February 24, 2010


Really, that you had so little interest in understanding an argument that you stopped at thinking it was particular to an old white man with a long beard seated on a cloud is staggering, and akin to those who don't even bother to understand natural selection and adaptation before mischaracterizing evolution and calling it a day. Christ on a pogo stick.

TWF: If I had a half day, I might be able to track down all the "bingo card" references on MeFi. Well maybe a full day. Those usually come with the implication "oh no this again -- we've had this conversation before" -- and is almost always used to pre-empt debate over points that are still in contention. Did you not think it strange there appeared to be so many bingo enthusiasts on MeFi?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:19 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


TWF: If I had a half day, I might be able to track down all the "bingo card" references on MeFi.

Just one would suffice. You're complaining about something I haven't noticed here. I'm just curious.

Those usually come with the implication "oh no this again -- we've had this conversation before" -- and is almost always used to pre-empt debate over points that are still in contention.

You write that as if there's some procedure for ultimate resolution of argumentative points on MetaFilter. But, to the extent that there's anything resembling debate here being resolved, it's basically down to the history and culture of the site; institutional knowledge of what arguments have been trod so thin that the community is weary of them.

Did you not think it strange there appeared to be so many bingo enthusiasts on MeFi?

What does this even mean?
posted by The World Famous at 4:23 PM on February 24, 2010


From what I understand, religious belief comes down to either taking someone else's word for something, gaining knowledge through some kind of transcendental experience, or the personal interpretation of what are generally considered vague texts. Considering that even believers do not agree with one another about what it means

do you really not see the similarities to science here?


A lot of confusion here, but to keep it short - it's not really about the assertions and beliefs, it is about methodology. You ask /paraphrasing/"isn't my acceptance of the big bang just a belief"/paraphrasing/ - and the answer is that your worldview is not contingent upon the particulars of the big bang (or any other theory), in fact, the theory may be wrong for all you know. You do not "take on faith" what a physicist says - your acquiescence to a scientific world view is not based on faith in any particular fact, but in the methodology - the scientific method. You may have to become a physicist to know all the ins and outs of the big bang theory. But you need not be a scientist to examine the scientific method. And that's what distinguishes the foundations of your worldview from a religious one. You have a method - open to all, freely examined by any sentient being - that if followed correctly, will lead to valid conclusions, even if you are not an expert in a given field. A religious person does not have such a methodology. So: it's all about the methodology.

And the silly worry about /para/religious people being stupid/para/ - it's so obviously false, that it's surprising anyone needs to address this. All you need is a 5th grade eduction to see - there are countless numbers of very intelligent religious people - scientists, scholars, intellectuals. So why erect this straw man?

Intelligent people can have disordered thinking, and even mental illnesses. They are still not "stupid" (and I don't believe that being religious makes someone mentally ill, though perhaps some would claim that religious thinking is disordered).

Attacks against religious members of MF are out of line - obviously. But how is this news? If you launch an ad hominem attack against a member, that's out of bounds - regardless of whether it was on the grounds of religion or any other grounds. Why is this even controversial? And conversely, attacking a belief or worldview - is fair play, and you don't get to say /para/well, don't attack religion X, because I'm of religion X/para/. The problem is when some people conflate the two. If someone attacks my liberalism, or my atheism or any of my views - I'm fine with it, as long as there is an interesting argument involved. The other aspect of this is that here on MF we look for a higher bar - lazy arguments for/against whatever view are to be deprecated in the interest of making this a great place (which is not the same as making everyone "feel good"). Sadly, sometimes atheists make lazy, substandard arguments, and I'm against those on the grounds of boredom rather than not hurting religious feelings.
posted by VikingSword at 4:24 PM on February 24, 2010 [8 favorites]


I'm pretty late to this thread, but to be general about the whole affair, it seems to me that a lot of people believe that they're achieving something by not standing down when they think they're right, in any and every forum they participate in. I think MetaFilter would be a more interesting and probably more productive space if that belief were temporarily suspended here, and all of these arguments were entered into under the assumption that the other party holds the correct view. Your task then would be to dig yourself out of the hole of being wrong, and of course you'd do it civilly because by default you agree with the other party, and shouting would amount to digging deeper. When everyone is bound to ceding no territory in their arguments, we get exactly the sort of war of attrition on display here. There's also very little opportunity to actually understand the mindset of the people you disagree with.

I'm not saying that all opinions are equally valid and free from scrutiny, but this place would be more interesting if we assumed as much in our arguments here. Being right on the internet has precisely zero bearing on the world or one's character.
posted by invitapriore at 4:25 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


I took Comparative Religion, and the first thing they tell you is that God is exactly what you said, i.e. a pastiche of folk tales with some brilliant marketing around it.

One thing I'd like to make clear is that the social scientific study of religions does not actually address the existence of any deity. The answers arrived at in the sociology of religion, anthropology of religion, psychology of religion (or whatever discipline) of religion are reductions in the sense that they follow the interests and goals of those fields.

A responsible instructor would make these methodological reductions clear. An analysis of the development of particular human representations of the divine over time does not argue for or against the existence of God. It is an analysis of social facts, a story about human society, not about God.

Obviously, someone interested could do a study of the precise sociological impact of some brand of Christianity on the Pearls family organization and ideas about authority... or could do an analysis of the religious rhetoric used to support socially transgressive acts when they represent their own behaviour to outsiders... or ... there are a lot of ways I could see religious studies helping people understand the horrible things these people did. But I don't think comparative religion can make much of a contribution to the "God: real or not?" debate.

Also, the moral outrage of non-adherents is rarely, as far as I know, a problem for those within many religious communities except in terms of PR. Knowing that most people are aware of that, i wonder if there isn't some larger argument going on in the whole "atheists vs. religious people" sphere aboout morality that is making people feel the need to jump on examples of moral failure... not to convince the religious people in question but to score points in a larger debate about which side is more or less capable of being horrible.

I appreciate the closely mirrored rhetoric of "religion is inherently evil/ atheists are incapable of ethics" so I'm just curious about that. If anyone has an opinion...
posted by ServSci at 4:26 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I see a lot of people making themselves right by making the other person wrong with extreme relish and rhetorical flourish.
posted by y2karl at 4:26 PM on February 24, 2010


It's like talking to a Randroid at a party sometimes: "UNDERSTAND THAT YOU ARE WRONG!"
posted by y2karl at 4:28 PM on February 24, 2010


Egads, man. I don't think we can have a conversation, perhaps about anything. You're either playing intentionally obtuse or we're just on very different wavelengths.

What, may I ask, was the point of characterizing my earlier point as "sophomoric"? Let's start there, if we must. What did you mean by that, exactly? Because the only implications I can derive, especially when added to the "dorm room and pot" line is:
i) not fancy enough sounding words for you
ii) no name dropping of philosophers -- jeez, this guy must not know what he's talking about
iii) an argument you've heard before -- which means... anything?
iv) an argument long refuted. If this is it, kind of better to actually refute it than apply lazy characterization as flawed, no?

Seriously, if you want to have a discussion about criticizing form over substance, your earlier characterization seems like a good place to start.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:28 PM on February 24, 2010


That was to TWF, incidentally. Must be off but will return in a bit.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:29 PM on February 24, 2010


To Christians who regard themselves as non-naive, I would ask -- whose ideology represents a greater threat to the kind of world you would like to live in? Richard Dawkins, or Jerry Falwell? By privileging religious belief above other forms of self-identification, we are protecting some of the most extreme and hateful members of society.

I'm not Christian. While I respect the hell out of Richard Dawkins, I also think he's a bit of an ass. At the same time, I can't stand Falwell. So I wouldn't subscribe wholeheartedly to either of their ideologies, because I find their tendencies to dip into self-righteous absolutism tiring. They're extremists. Not good examples.

Honestly, I'd rather live in a world dominated by the likes of Francis Collins than either of them. Someone capable of understanding that religion as a whole does not have to be purged from humanity in the name of progress, or stand in the way of it either.
posted by zarq at 4:32 PM on February 24, 2010


In other words, what invitapriore said. We would rather speak that be heard.
posted by y2karl at 4:32 PM on February 24, 2010


The reason I do talk about it -- and the reaction in this thread shows just how popular that makes me -- is that I think it's important and other people evidently think it's important.

I have a rule about participating in Metafilter. If I have to say the same thing three times in a thread, the argument isn't productive and I should remove the thread from Recent Activity. Apart from the threat to my blood pressure, I'm not changing minds or communicating my ideas effectively. Even if people are wrong on the internet about subjects that are hugely important, it doesn't mean I should repeat myself louder and more passionately. That's threadshitting, and I expect it would eventually earn me some deletions and some talking-to, which I would deserve.

If you (for any value of you) are having to repeat yourself in any thread that touches on religion because people don't understand your message of how bad and threatening (some forms of) religion is/are, maybe you're not the right person to deliver that message to Metafilter and should consider standing down or re-evaluating your strategy.

(This is 2x in this thread. We'll see if I get to 3x.)
posted by immlass at 4:33 PM on February 24, 2010


That is, we would rather speak than be heard.
posted by y2karl at 4:33 PM on February 24, 2010


Despite it being a sin on Metafilter, Richard Dawkins is an atheist. But he is no extremist, at least as far as the term applies to violent hatemongers who actually live and breathe and conduct their extremist affairs in the harsh reality of the real world.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:36 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


The reason I do talk about it -- and the reaction in this thread shows just how popular that makes me -- is that I think it's important and other people evidently think it's important. For every theological sophisticate who has read Aquinas and Schopenhauer and John Robinson and Terry Eagleton and all their friends and relations, there are a thousand people who do believe in an omnipotent, immortal, unchanging, prayer-answering, heaven-running, anthropomorphic, Abrahamic deity -- however named.

You seem to be saying that belief renders one automatically not a theological sophisticate. That's an interesting thought. Is it what you mean?

Looking around, I see a world descending into atavism, where ignorance is treated as virtue and scientific results are treated as debating points, as if evolution and global warming could be decided by a popular vote. I don't want to be part of that world, and I don't want my kids to grow up in that world, and I think the religious zealots are given a free break because we are so damned worried about insulting them.

I see signs of that world, but the world is a big place and I don't see this becoming a majority philosophy. If anything, I see an increasingly fractured worldview emerging. It's possible that the loudest and stupidest of us may grow to outnumber the rest, which would be bad news. It's also possible this may not happen. People have predicted this plunge into the abyss for quite some time. We have always, by some reckoning, lived in a cultural wasteland. I find the forces of ignorance deeply distressing, but I do not think they are any more likely to hold sway over the earth now than they ever have been.

That said, to the degree that the expression of scientific fact is conflated with causing offense to the religiously-minded, I think we absolutely have to kill any notions of sentimentality when it comes to hurt feelings, et cetera. Sparing people's feelings is one thing; sparing people the truth is another. We should not pretend that creationism (as expressed by biblical literalists) has the remotest credence. By the same token, we should not pretend that sickening views on race, gender equality or sexual preference hold the slightest water just because some interpretations of the bible say as much; while it's difficult to definitively prove these sentiments wrong, we as a society have decided they are loathsome, which I believe they are, and we should in no way cater to people who hold antisocial views of their fellows.

However, none of this need contradict belief. If someone believes that God created the earth ten thousand years ago and people and dinosaurs lived there at the same time, that person is demonstrably wrong in all but one respect. To a person who believes, that's the most important respect, and the one you will never talk them out of. What's important? That they accept the actual age of the planet and date of humanity's appearance on it, or that God had nothing to do with its creation? You are vastly more likely to convince them of the provable part of that equation than the part that can't be verified one way or another, and to me, the provable part is the only part that matters. It should be for you as well.

To Christians who regard themselves as non-naive, I would ask -- whose ideology represents a greater threat to the kind of world you would like to live in? Richard Dawkins, or Jerry Falwell? By privileging religious belief above other forms of self-identification, we are protecting some of the most extreme and hateful members of society.

I don't know that we do that, but I do think we need to take a much harder stance on people who would use their religion as a shield for their intolerance and idiocy.

What about Scientology? Do we extend them the same courtesies? If not, why not? Because they're not a 'real' religion? What about Mormonism? What about Seventh Day Adventism? What about Jehovah's Witnesses? What about Raelians? What about David Icke? Whose sensitivies must we respect, and who can we freely make fun of? Where is the line to be drawn, and why, and whose decision is it?

I personally think the important part is behavior, not belief. But when it comes to vile behavior, the proper response is not mockery, but condemnation.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:40 PM on February 24, 2010


What, may I ask, was the point of characterizing my earlier point as "sophomoric"?

I don't understand why you're back to that again. Is that in answer to my question just now, or are you just bringing it back up to fight? At any rate, the point of describing your earlier statement as sophmoric was just to point out that it was sophmoric, which makes it tiresome, which leads people to be annoyed when they see it cropping up in threads where people decide they need to rail against religion for no particularly good reason. That's all. I understand that you don't think it's sophmoric, and that you think you can explain all the reasons why it's not sophmoric. But I disagree with you. And that's perfectly fine with me. I'm not trying to convince you that your point is sophmoric or even that it's incorrect. You and I disagree.

Because the only implications I can derive, especially when added to the "dorm room and pot" line is:
i) not fancy enough sounding words for you
ii) no name dropping of philosophers -- jeez, this guy must not know what he's talking about
iii) an argument you've heard before -- which means... anything?
iv) an argument long refuted. If this is it, kind of better to actually refute it than apply lazy characterization as flawed, no?


No, it was none of those.
posted by The World Famous at 4:41 PM on February 24, 2010


Blazecock, I discussed my position on Dawkins at length in this previous MeTa thread, then rehashed it again further down. He's prone to absolutist statements that smack of extremism to me. Feel free to disagree.
posted by zarq at 4:42 PM on February 24, 2010


Also, in case that was directed at me, I certainly don't see atheism as being "a sin on MetaFilter." The vast majority of atheists here express themselves quite eloquently, without bashing religion indiscriminately. I respect them highly for that, especially considering the garbage they have to deal with from religious folks in the world at large. I've learned quite a bit about my own, adapting personal perceptions of faith and my religion from them, as well as how they feel they're viewed by Christians and followers of other faiths.
posted by zarq at 4:47 PM on February 24, 2010


Sorry about my last comment. What I meant was

Religion is inherently a force for evil.
posted by telstar at 4:48 PM on February 24, 2010


The mods have been very clear about their policy and their expectations about how religious discussions are to be conducted on Metafilter.

If you don't think you can abide by those guidelines, then maybe this isn't the website for you.
posted by mpbx at 4:50 PM on February 24, 2010


Feel free to disagree.

I do disagree; for one, the thread that you cite points to another in which Richard Dawkins is compared with Louis Farrakhan. You were not the one who made this comparison, but that it was done at all points to the ridiculous lengths that people will go to, in order to paint Dawkins as an extremist.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:52 PM on February 24, 2010


You're right, I didn't make the comparison. Am I now being held responsible for things everyone else posts on Metafilter? BP, if you can't address what I've actually said about Dawkins, please don't go trolling for alternative arguments that way. It's disingenuous.
posted by zarq at 4:56 PM on February 24, 2010


He's prone to absolutist statements that smack of extremism to me. Feel free to disagree.

The language used by the religious and the moderates to describe him tends to be the same language used to describe abortion clinic bombers. To be a militant religious person, you have to blow shit up or kidnap people. To be a militant atheist, you need only be impolite.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:56 PM on February 24, 2010 [22 favorites]


Am I now being held responsible for things everyone else posts on Metafilter?

No, but with respect, if you are going to claim Dawkins is an extremist, I will provide counterexamples of ridiculous rhetoric where he is associated with people who are actual extremists, to demonstrate why this kind of language is wrong and should be criticized in no uncertain terms.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:59 PM on February 24, 2010


In any case, PG encapsulates the double standard quite neatly, zarq. I meant no offense to you, though I disagree very, very strongly with your choice of words.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:02 PM on February 24, 2010


Knowing that most people are aware of that, i wonder if there isn't some larger argument going on in the whole "atheists vs. religious people" sphere aboout morality that is making people feel the need to jump on examples of moral failure... not to convince the religious people in question but to score points in a larger debate about which side is more or less capable of being horrible.

I was thinking about that earlier today, wondering if it was a manifestation of this whole phenomenom of victimhood as the default for morally superiority. The world is sinking into atavism, the world is going to hell, they outnumber us so we have to make a stand. But then the world has always been going to hell and it has always been the fault of those people over there.

Personally, I am not entirely sure the world is going to hell or sinking into atavism. Millennials, according to the polls I have seen recently, are more likely to be believers than the generations before them but much less likely to join a church. And they don't harbor any animus towards gays. In fact, a reader at Talking Points Memo made this point about the one guy who went on a rant about gay Republicans at the recent CPAC conference--he got roundly booed from the floor. That would have been unthinkable during the last administration. Somewhere in the past few years, there seems to have been a sea change in attitudes. The culture wars will not be won by the fundamentalists here anymore than they will in Iran--those coming up just see everything differently. I tend to think of the whole tea party phenomenom as a last gasp. It may mean trouble in the short term but they are the losers in the long term. And they know it.
posted by y2karl at 5:04 PM on February 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


If you don't think you can abide by those guidelines, then maybe this isn't the website for you.

Or maybe it isn't the website for you.
posted by unSane at 5:10 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pope Guilty: The language used by the religious and the moderates to describe him tends to be the same language used to describe abortion clinic bombers. To be a militant religious person, you have to blow shit up or kidnap people. To be a militant atheist, you need only be impolite.

We don't disagree on this. It's sort of a strange tangent from what I'm trying to say, though.

Perhaps I'm not explaining myself well. Let me clarify. I defined "extremist" earlier in this thread, using this page. I thought the definition I linked to was thorough, not empty fundamentalist rhetoric.

Dawkins doesn't fit every definition on that list, but he does fit a number of them. (3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 17...) Because of this, I do feel comfortable referring to him as an extremist.

PG, I'm certainly not comparing him to the likes of fundamentalist scum like Scott Roeder. But can we agree that the word can refer to certain behaviors without being restricted to psychotic lunatics?
posted by zarq at 5:16 PM on February 24, 2010


I don't think it works that way.
posted by mpbx at 5:16 PM on February 24, 2010


“I was just pointing out that a MeFi purged of argumentative dicks would be a fucking boring place”
Couldn’t disagree more. I’ve always operated under the assumption that an understanding can be reached even if an agreement cannot. Yet, it pissed me off so much I offered to let someone kill me to prove a point. And I was serious as a heart attack. But I’d much rather learn and gain insight and reach an understanding. Can even agree to disagree. If you’re leaning more towards the idea that the world is more interesting with diversity of opinion rather than just fightynessmanship, I agree.

“I'm late to this, but if you're saying that all I've done is change from 'hurrah' to 'boo' as far as religion is concerned…”
That’s one point. And I think that’s a good thing because your underlying premise is in favor of free speech.

“and that it's all just hot air... well, maybe so.”
Ok. Only real point I’m making.
I don’t dispute it’s important to talk about. Multiple arguments advanced here. But I’m pretty narrowly on the side saying it’s there’s a loss of signal the further out one goes into the abstract. That’s on any topic. I argue the same point regarding terrorism and religion or terrorism and nationalism or terrorism and ice cream. Overgeneralization leads to loss of focus and ultimately restricts practical solutions. I had to learn that the hard way as well.

As it happens I think Dawkins reasoning is far more cogent than Falwells. But I still reject the presentation of that dichotomy as it regards this issue. For the same reason I’d reject whether Christianity or Islam lends itself more to a terrorist mindset. Not because I favor one or the other. Or religion in general (substitute secular nationalist of any flavor on either side if you like). But rather that it limits a greater exploration of the subject (and action).

I’m happy to apply that standard of criticism to any group. I think your position that Scientology should be taken on its merits if, say, Lutheranism is taken on its own is valid. But again, my argument, and some other folks’ position, is pretty much disputing the signal-noise thing.

That said, ok, I consider that point of contention settled as far as I’m concerned. In part because you’re defending multiple fronts and it’d be unfair get into it further but mostly because belaboring it past that point would be pretty much defeating my own position.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:17 PM on February 24, 2010


You seem to be saying that belief renders one automatically not a theological sophisticate.

No, I'm saying that belief in an omnipotent, immortal, unchanging, prayer-answering, heaven-running, anthropomorphic, Abrahamic deity is not theologically sophisticated. If you don't know why this is, I suggest you read the authors I mentioned, starting with John Robinson.
posted by unSane at 5:19 PM on February 24, 2010


Fair enough. That sounded enough like a skyman-style laundry list of negatives that it didn't occur to me there was any intentional nuance to it.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:23 PM on February 24, 2010


"17. USE OF SUPERNATURAL RATIONALE FOR BELIEFS AND ACTIONS."

Oops. Heh. Obviously not #17 on that list for Dawkins. :)

When I make mistakes, I make 'em with the throttle thrown wide open, don't I?
posted by zarq at 5:24 PM on February 24, 2010


BP, I didn't preview. But my question does apply to you too.

Further reflection... I admit it's reasonable to feel that the term is irreparably tainted by association with true crazies. Considering my perspective, what word do you think would be a better description of Dawkins?
posted by zarq at 5:26 PM on February 24, 2010


omnipotent, prayer-answering, heaven-running, anthropomorphic.....

Sounds suspiciously like Team Mod.



Uh oh. What if they start demanding sacrifices?
posted by zarq at 5:31 PM on February 24, 2010


Uh oh. What if they start demanding sacrifices?

I'll corner the giant donut market and make a killing!
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:34 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'll corner the giant donut market and make a killing!

A killing, you say?
posted by The World Famous at 5:36 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you’re leaning more towards the idea that the world is more interesting with diversity of opinion rather than just fightynessmanship, I agree.

It's very weird, Smedleyman. You remind me very strongly of someone I used to know, who is now dead, and who I liked very much. I know that's a strange thing to say, but it's such a strong resemblance, it's hard to get past. But anyway...

It's a bit of both. I've run mailing lists for years and *by far* the most interesting and productive people on the lists were the argumentative dicks. They often arrived in a blaze of vitriol, picked a fight, were ruthlessly beaten up by the locals, and then settled in to await the next hardon who turned up. It got to be such a routine we all knew the script and would take turns to engage the newcomer. The reason they were productive was because they were passionate and argumentative and had thought about things we cared about, and usually came from a place we didn't. These people often became (and remain) extremely good friends of mine and I have always found that when I met them in meatspace we got on like a house on fire, no matter how much we had insulted each other in cyberspace. The traditional greeting is "Fuck you!" "No, fuck YOU!".

I grew up in a house where you were allowed to have a raging, blazing row, and it would be forgotten the next day. It took me a long while to realize that other people didn't do that.

One of the reasons I advance strongly worded positions is because I want people to push back against them, undermine them, insult them. I think that way we do learn something. I would much rather have a fight with a passionate advocate with an opposing point of view than a polite, head-nodding, pipe-smoking discussion with someone who was trying very hard to see my point of view.

For example, Blazecock and I came to virtual blows a whiles back over I can't even remember what, but the result of it was not that I thought he was a dick, but that I wanted to meet him and buy him the beverage of his choice.

So, yes, it's about diversity of opinion. But its also about passion.
posted by unSane at 5:36 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


When you campaign for a minority to be respected by the majority, it should be in itself a reminder to reciprocate when you're in the majority. On MeFi atheists/agnostics make up the majority, but shouting down people, parading strawmen and being intellectually dishonest —as sometimes happens in "religion threads"— won't somehow reverse Christianity's dominant status in the culture and is an affront to the rationality that ought to characterise atheism/agnosticism. On the other hand, it may possibly discourage Christian Mefites, who mostly seem to be sensible folks like Baby_Balrog.

tl;dr: Let's not be jerks.
posted by ersatz at 5:44 PM on February 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


So, yes, it's about diversity of opinion. But its also about passion.

You know, I love having obscenity-laden shoutfests with my friends. It's pretty much always been the case that the enjoyment we get out of arguments correlates with their volume. Sometimes a smaller cadre of us will hang out with other groups, though, and it's then that I realize that that approach doesn't go over so well elsewhere. Other folks tend to shut down and it gets real awkward. It's become pretty clear to me that you get a lot more mileage as a shouty contentious asshole (I mean that as affectionately as possible, I promise) if you adapt to the style of those people who like quiet, measured discussions better, rather than attempting to get them arguing your way. It's really not that hard, overall happiness is optimized, and moreover you start to find out that passion doesn't always come in a red-faced, ear-busting package.

It's pretty clear that that style of argument has a generally negative effect on the discussions here. I really think the people who are into that style of argument would be doing the community a favor by toning it down. I also think they could do so at minimal cost to themselves.
posted by invitapriore at 5:51 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


On MeFi atheists/agnostics make up the majority

Do you believe this?
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:58 PM on February 24, 2010


Would you do me the favor of going back over this thread and looking at my posts, then look at the responses to them, and decide who has been shouty?
posted by unSane at 5:58 PM on February 24, 2010


Do you believe this?

I believe it absolutely.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:02 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Would you do me the favor of going back over this thread and looking at my posts, then look at the responses to them, and decide who has been shouty?

Sorry, I wasn't accusing you of being shouty here. It was just my shorthand to refer to those kinds of people, like me and, I'm guessing, like you, that do enjoy having heated and contentious arguments about things.
posted by invitapriore at 6:12 PM on February 24, 2010


Do you believe this?

I believe it absolutely.


Finally, we can speak of belief in the absence of proof.

I don't believe it!
posted by VikingSword at 6:20 PM on February 24, 2010


I believe it, too.

But my belief is based on personally-gathered anecdata.
posted by The World Famous at 6:23 PM on February 24, 2010


I want to believe.
posted by Babblesort at 6:28 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I want to believe.

That's the first step in developing faith, bro.
posted by The World Famous at 6:28 PM on February 24, 2010


I believe it, too.

But doesn't that depend on the definition of "it"? Is "it" it?
posted by VikingSword at 6:31 PM on February 24, 2010


But doesn't that depend on the definition of "it"? Is "it" it?

I believe everything that could be described as "it," without condition.
posted by The World Famous at 6:38 PM on February 24, 2010


Do you believe this?

I think Metafilter's atheists and agnostics seem to be a lot more vocal here than those who are religious. I don't know if that necessarily means they're more prevalent.

Personally, I like it this way. I appreciate having my own biases challenged and my assumptions tweaked every once in a while, from a group of intelligent people who are (usually) more interested in rational, reasoned discussions than shutting down all debate on a topic. Even when I don't necessarily feel welcome here, I do enjoy seeing various arguments and positions get fleshed out throughout a thread, and making my own small (hopefully non-stupid) contributions to them.

The original post that spawned this MeTa could have easily turned into a vicious, anti-Christian, anti-religion witch-hunting flame war. It's nice to see that even an emotionally-charged topic can be debated without multiple flameouts and shouting.
posted by zarq at 6:44 PM on February 24, 2010


On MeFi atheists/agnostics make up the majority

Do you believe this?

I believe it absolutely.


If so, the fact that this (550+ comment) MeTa discussion is even taking place here I think demonstrates that minority religious views (in this case, Christianity) are afforded considerably more merit and consideration on Metafilter than religious minorities and atheists would ever realistically expect to receive IRL.
posted by applemeat at 6:47 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


If so, the fact that this (550+ comment) MeTa discussion is even taking place here I think demonstrates that minority religious views (in this case, Christianity) are afforded considerably more merit and consideration on Metafilter than religious minorities and atheists would ever realistically expect to receive IRL.

Nah. It just demonstrates that it's a popular topic.
posted by The World Famous at 6:50 PM on February 24, 2010


So is it agreed yet? Grar bad, schmoop good?
posted by idiopath at 6:58 PM on February 24, 2010


OK, unSane, you're a jerk. You make no apologies about it. You think people who aren't jerks are weak. You've managed on-line forums where you've encouraged people to be jerks.

I'm glad MetaFilter isn't one of the on-line forums you've managed.

I joined MetaFilter after reading the Schroedinger's Rapist thread. I was amazed that that discussion actually happened. It made me think. I was convinced that this site was doing something right other forums weren't.

It wouldn't have happened if you were in charge, but fortunately you weren't.

I understand that you enjoy yelling at people, but that's not conducive to talking or thinking about anything.
posted by nangar at 7:05 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can you point out where I was yelling at people? In this thread? Please? It should be easy as I'm a jerk.
posted by unSane at 7:09 PM on February 24, 2010


shouting down people, parading strawmen and being intellectually dishonest
Oh, so now it's OK to discriminate against my fondly cherished cultural practices, is it? Bastards.
posted by Abiezer at 7:10 PM on February 24, 2010


in this thread I have learned that it is ok for other people to call me a jerk, douche, dick and bigot, but expressing a general opinion that religion is a net minus to the human race (while conceding repeatedly that religion has had many good effects, and your personal religious views may be an exception) is not acceptable.
posted by unSane at 7:14 PM on February 24, 2010


maybe the mods could explain why this is so
posted by unSane at 7:15 PM on February 24, 2010

It's a bit of both. I've run mailing lists for years and *by far* the most interesting and productive people on the lists were the argumentative dicks.
That's there. This is here.

At least most of the time, we try not to do that sort of argumentative-dick thing here, and, in fact, "don't be an argumentative dick" is as close to an ironclad moderator rule as anything you'll find at MetaFilter.

I don't know how to put it more clearly: the baseline for behavior on MetaFilter is civility to each other, and any time one of us steps outside that line, we do so at considerable peril, as the moderators have repeatedly made clear. Motives are irrelevant. Justification is irrelevant. "Rightness" or "wrongness" are irrelevant. What is relevant is whether you are behaving respectfully towards your fellow MeFites.

By any measure, the anti-religious brigade on MetaFilter fails that litmus test by orders of magnitude more often than the self-identified Christians here.
posted by scrump at 7:19 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

maybe the mods could explain why this is so
You have posted in this thread 63 times. What started as a general discussion about a thread on religion has now become The unSane Show, and that tells me more than anything the moderators could.

This thread is not about you. Stop treating it like it is.
posted by scrump at 7:23 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


So I've been more uncivil than the people who called me dick, douche, bigot or jerk? Can you link to those comments please?
posted by unSane at 7:24 PM on February 24, 2010


Hmm. Maybe I should explain why I, an atheist, am so firmly on the side of religious tolerance. Not gonna name the living, but the dead get the reverence they deserve:

When I was a kid, I was a Christian, I was a Christian's Christian. I loved going to church. I loved sunday school since as long as I've had memories. Old Ambrose Miller, during the Children's Service, lead us in a rendition of "Heads, Shouders Knees and Toes", every week. He did this because he loved us, he truly loved children, and even though he was wattly and liver-spotted and had a voice like a crocodile's bellow, we loved him back. At Grown-Up church, Rev. Stenning was the most genuinely happy man I've ever met, smart as a whip, mellow as an afternoon breeze, he preached love and joy at every sermon. If there is a polar opposite to the No Greater Joy fuckwits, a perfect and oppostite power that opposes that kind of evil, it isn't an angry atheist. It's a chubby, bent old man, liverspotted, trembling, belting out "Eyes and ears and mouth and nose, knees and toes, knees and toes! Jesus loves you as you are, and so do I!" every sunday of his adult life, and meant it.

Of course, I became an altar attendant. Of course I got my God And Country medal in Boy Scouts before Second Class. Of course I wanted to go to the Jewish service Friday night at Scout Camp. I didn't go seeking conversion, and the scouts and Rabbi at the service were absolutely not about converting anyone. I wanted to understand, and they wanted to help. I still don't understand, but I do know that they were wonderful, generous with their attention and open with their worship while a stranger was in their midst.

This is when the "Christian" scoutmasters started giving my Dad and Ed Judge(Scoutmaster and finest man who ever lived, period, the end) all kinds of crap over my "disrespectful" behavior. Ed Judge reminded them that I was an altar attendant, member of my Church's youth group, and that he had been a deacon at his church for longer than they had been alive, and that everyone should put in the effort to understand their fellow Scouts, regardless of race, creed or color, so STFU.

Next year, I volunteered to be an altar-boy at the Catholic service when it was revealed the usual scout was sent home sick. I had the experience, I had more religious medals than anyone else at camp, so I was the natural pick. My fellow troopmembers gave me a crash course in Mass and Catholicism. It is a beautiful, elaborate faith, ancient and rich in history, at once proud of its heritage, and humble in its place in the modern world (New England Catholics, YMMV.)

Once the word got out that I was an Episcopalian, all hell broke loose. Ten times more virulent than the fallout from the year before.

It was then that I learned, of all the freedoms we have as Americans, the freedom to worship as we like was waaaaay at the top of the list. As I grew older and further from the church, and examined how I felt and why I felt that way about God, I became first an agnostic, and now an atheist. I am fully cognizant that this is a decision I made, and that it was my right as a human being to make.

Here's the hell of it, the minister who married my wife and I at the church of my childhood? She knew we weren't of her flock. She was gracious and warm and very, very wise in counseling us in the months before the ceremony, helping my wife and I understand the change in life we were facing.

If you have a problem with Ed Judge, if you have a problem with the woman who married me to the love of my life, who's advice kept us together, if you have a problem with the Catholic members of my troop, if you have a problem with the Jewish scouts at my camp, if you have a problem with Ambrose Miller singing religious songs to kids, then you have a problem with this avowed atheist. I don't believe in god, but I do believe in them.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:26 PM on February 24, 2010 [40 favorites]


Wow. Never thought this discussion would happen.
posted by agregoli at 7:27 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


You'll all end up in heaven, you glorious bastards.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 7:27 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


The thread is 566 comments long. I have 11% of the comments. I agree that's a lot but according to Jessamyn mine was the comment that was called out. I don't think it's unreasonable for me to respond. If it is, I'll shut up.
posted by unSane at 7:28 PM on February 24, 2010


Presumably the insults directed at you are based on specific interaction with you-as-Internet-user. While rude they have some basis in direct experience.
Your general opinion on religion is a position on a vast and complex topic; so far as I'm concerned, your perfectly entitled to hold that view, but it's clearly of a different order evidentially and rhetorically.
If you take a strong position it does you no favours to cry foul when you get a bit of push-back or even a few brick-bats, and that's actually something you claimed to welcome in one of your comments above.
Of course, the secret real reason is that Baby Jesus hates gobshites and we all have it in for because we blindly follow the dictates of our doctrinaire magical thinking.
posted by Abiezer at 7:30 PM on February 24, 2010


Slap*Happy, and I say this advisedly, Goddammit.

something in my eye
posted by scrump at 7:34 PM on February 24, 2010


Can you point out where I was yelling at people? In this thread? Please? It should be easy as I'm a jerk.

It's impossible to yell at people on the internet, or physically hit them, or spit on them. But all your comments on this thread have been fighty, as close as you can get without physical proximity. I took your statement "I grew up in a house where you were allowed to have a raging, blazing row" as implying some yelling. I didn't, and in my experience people who talk like you frequently follow up with physical violence.
posted by nangar at 7:50 PM on February 24, 2010


You didn't read my posts, did you?
posted by unSane at 7:51 PM on February 24, 2010


unSane said,
I've run mailing lists for years and *by far* the most interesting and productive people on the lists were the argumentative dicks. They often arrived in a blaze of vitriol, picked a fight, were ruthlessly beaten up by the locals, and then settled in to await the next hardon who turned up. It got to be such a routine we all knew the script and would take turns to engage the newcomer.
This is basically how most of the internet functions, including mailing lists and message boards. I'm on Metafilter precisely to avoid the scripted bickering.
posted by yaymukund at 7:52 PM on February 24, 2010


The scripted bickering was a very small part of the interaction. It happened once every six months.
posted by unSane at 7:54 PM on February 24, 2010


in my experience people who talk like you frequently follow up with physical violence.

Oh, FFS.
posted by unSane at 8:01 PM on February 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


You didn't read my posts, did you?

I read all of them.
posted by nangar at 8:02 PM on February 24, 2010


I'm flattered. Which ones seemed fighty/yelly/likely to be followed up with physical violence to you?
posted by unSane at 8:05 PM on February 24, 2010

The scripted bickering was a very small part of the interaction. It happened once every six months.
Let me say this loudly, so it's clear:
SO. WHAT.
This is not there. This is MetaFilter. It doesn't matter a tinker's damn what the norms are elsewhere, what you did or anyone else did when they ran this or that place over there. We are talking about what we do here, and bringing up how things were on some other unrelated site is more or less an appeal to authority, because those other sites had their own sets of norms, their own sets of values, and (and this is important), not all online communities are the same.

We have established several things in this thread, even if it doesn't seem like it, simply by dint of the moderators weighing in:So, you see, it doesn't really matter what you've experienced elsewhere in terms of how debate occurred. It doesn't really even matter how you personally like to debate, or how productive or interesting you consider that style of debate.

Your preferred style of interaction, as you have repeatedly made clear here, is one that does not sit well with either the moderators or the community norms. Either you are going to have to change how you interact with people here, because the community norms are most certainly not going to change towards your position, or you're going to find yourself encountering more and more pushback against your style of argumentation.

That's the long and the short of it. Whether or not you can gracefully accept that is up to you.
posted by scrump at 8:06 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


And, frankly, nangar, you're not helping.
posted by scrump at 8:07 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I read this thread off-and-on all day at work, and found myself constantly torn, wanting to agree with almost everyone at certain points. I didn't make it to every comment, and I certainly don't expect anyone to make it to mine, especially this late in the game. But this thread has stirred something up in me and has become important to me, and I at least want to add my own take.

First, I don't think this has been an unproductive or useless thread at all. Sorry mods, I know these sorts of things make life more difficult for you, and Metafilter isn't necessarily the best place to collectively work out our collective cultural angst, but goddamn, this sort of debate and relatively civil airing of bottled-up emotion is, I think, a very healthy thing in the big picture of things.

Secondly, I made a kind-of-disparaging-of-religion remark in the original thread, and I've had some time to think about that comment in light of this thread, and I think I've reached a conclusion I might not have otherwise.

I think the problem isn't so much religion as such as it is a certain aspect of certain ideologies (religious or atheistic). I think some ideologies contain a "back door" or loophole through which its adherents can justify literally any action. Two examples: 1) the fate of someone's soul is infinitely more important than the quality of someone's earthly life; 2) the world a revolution is creating is infinitely more important than justice now.

These loopholes can and often do attract people who are looking (consciously or unconsciously) for just such a justification to authorize their violent, exploitative, tyrannical desires. When it's just a handful of crazies, it's not a big deal. But sometimes, that handful grows, and reaches a reaches a critical mass where it incorporates a politically/culturally significant part of a population. It's a scary phenomenon, because history shows just this sort of thing happening over and over again. One could even posit the phenomenon as a sort of driving-force of history.

Radical fundamentalist Christianity in the United States strikes me as an example of such a phenomenon reaching critical mass, and this horrifying story just helps confirm my suspicion/fear. So the question I would put to mainstream Christians -- whom I really don't even think belong to the same religion, even though both are called "Christianity" -- is, how do you address and respond to that dangerous loophole of an eternal afterlife spent in heaven or hell? It's the same question I put to my marxist friends -- if you haven't addressed the exploitative danger inherent in the notion of the dictatorship of the proletariat, please leave me way the fuck out of your so-called revolution.

I realize that many Christian denominations probably have their own responses to this dilemma, but I don't think it's wrong to point out that I personally consider this a sort of Achilles heel of Christian theology as such, and one that keeps me from finding some sort of reconciliation between my own pantheistic agnosticism (with both Christian and atheistic leanings), and an actually existing major branch of Christianity that I'm aware of (or, for that matter, any branch of an actually existing revolutionary ideology).

And I guess I do feel that mainstream Christians have a responsibility to at least mull this question over. Not necessary to find an answer for it, but at least start to grapple with it as a serious problem with potentially disastrous social and political ramifications. Maybe they already are, and I'm just not aware of it.

In fact, I think that all of us who self-consciously either choose or merely inhabit any given ideology share that responsibility of self-examination, because the phenomenon of ideology seems to be woven inextricably into the very fabric of human cognition.
posted by treepour at 8:20 PM on February 24, 2010 [9 favorites]


nangar: "I read all of them."

Inspired by your example, I just went back and reread Unsane's contributions here. Not once, not one single time, did he insult another individual, for being religious, or for any other reason.

scrump: "# At MetaFilter, the baseline is civility and respect for each other.
# Aggressive, argumentative, "fighty" language is not welcomed here.
# If you are acting in a way that the moderators believe to be aggressive, argumentative or "fighty", you will probably be asked to change your behavior.
"

Sure, we like things civil here, that is why I like mefi too. The funny thing is, as far as I can tell. people are being told to be civil who are already being civil.

Disparaging an idea is not the same as disparaging individuals who believe the idea or disparaging an individual couched in your disdain for an idea they profess. Unsane may have been insulting to religion in this thread, but I did not see him deriding people for being religious, and I did not see him delivering blanket insults to religious people.

I am not going to go down the path of defending fightiness, but I will say that if people limited themselves around here to being only and exactly as fighty as Unsane has been in this thread, MeFi would be a more civil place than it is now. There were a number of personal insults in this thread, and funny enough they were not coming from Unsane, but rather directed against him (I say this with the caveat that if he said a bunch of shit that got deleted for being so rude, I will have to take what I said back - but deletions are pretty rare in MeTa).
posted by idiopath at 8:24 PM on February 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


Look, I totally get (although I might not have made it obvious) that civility is privileged here.

I apologize if I snarked.

I am not using mailing lists I have run as a model for discourse on MetaFilter.

I do value passion over bonhomie.

I have tried (with one lapse - the 'delicate flowers' comment') not to make generalisations about religion but only to comment on its net, overall, effect.

I have *completely* refrained from ad hominem attacks.

I am bemused by the fact -- given that civility is privileged here -- that it is ok for people to insult me personally, but not ok for me to discuss my problems with organized religion.

I have tried to be responsive to those who have addressed me personally. I am sorry if those responses did not satisfy you.

I'm sure there are people who wish I would shut up or go away. I will do those things if I'm told to by the mods, as it's their house we're partying in.

For the record, I have asked Jess to weigh in on the issue of whether the insults against me are OK, given what I have said in general about religion.
posted by unSane at 8:26 PM on February 24, 2010


By responding to every possible comment, you make the thread about you, about how you are being misrepresented and victimized, and in the process, sharing all sorts interesting facts, at least to you, about you. I have to agree that, on points, people are misunderstanding and misrepresenting much of what you said but all the same, you have lost perspective. You have become tiresome and people have gotten irritated. You just can't stop talking about how unfairly you are being treated. Or, in short, you can't stop talking about yourself. You seem to see it as being about your honor. I see it about you becoming Blazecock Pileon Jr--you seem to feel compelled to respond to every comment. And most of you comments are about how you are the victim of everyone else's malice--not about your thoughts on religion. It's about your thoughts about you far more than the topic at hand. That is the sure way to make yourself remembered around here. But not remembered in any way you would care to be remembered. It's a sort of performance art. Like listening to someone singing I Gotta Be Me at the Karaoke bar thirty times in a row. They might have the voice of Caruso but all the same--it gets old sung twice and the folks didn't come to hear the same person sing the same song over.
posted by y2karl at 8:31 PM on February 24, 2010


and over and over....
posted by y2karl at 8:33 PM on February 24, 2010


To Christians who regard themselves as non-naive, I would ask -- whose ideology represents a greater threat to the kind of world you would like to live in? Richard Dawkins, or Jerry Falwell?

Paraphrasing a Christian friend here.

Falwell (in his prime; he's well past it now) was a frightening figure and enormously frightening to anyone who took their belief in Christ seriously, so deeply did he discredit it with his smug malevolence.

Dawkins' smugness, on the other hand, is just annoying.
posted by philip-random at 8:38 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


For the record, I have asked Jess to weigh in on the issue of whether the insults against me are OK, given what I have said in general about religion.

For the record, there's OK and there's not-great-but-not-deletable. Should people have called you a dick? Maybe not. Do we delete comments like that in MeTa? Pretty rarely. If someone was doing it in MeFi, we'd delete it. The only thing we'd like you to personally do is maybe be a little more thoughtful about early throwaway comments in touchy threads, but it's not like "you have to do this" just "hey we'd prefer it, it makes our jobs easier."
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:41 PM on February 24, 2010


Thanks.
posted by unSane at 8:49 PM on February 24, 2010


Having only been on the site for a while one of the things I love about MeFi is the diversity of topics and perspectives. I would hate to loose that diversity by applying the let's not bring up religion rule here. Save that one for the dinner table on the holidays. Everyone here knows how to be respectful. What ever satisfaction someone might get from being anything but is saying more about themselves than anything else. I have heard it said, "Who your being is so loud I can't hear what you are saying"


"Be excellent to each other!'

- Bill and Ted
posted by empty vessel at 8:55 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I see it about you becoming Blazecock Pileon Jr--you seem to feel compelled to respond to every comment.

This unprovoked ad hom says a lot about you, too, brother.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:56 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe of interest to some, Announcing HuffPost Religion: Believers and Non-Believers Welcome
posted by various at 9:00 PM on February 24, 2010


And, frankly, nangar, you're not helping.

Yes. You're right. I'm getting fighty too.
posted by nangar at 9:01 PM on February 24, 2010


I do value passion over bonhomie.

I propose a compromise: Passionate bonhomie.
posted by The World Famous at 9:02 PM on February 24, 2010


ooh la la. I could get behind that. If you know what I mean.
posted by unSane at 9:02 PM on February 24, 2010


"In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."

"when Italy was enjoying the Borgias, Switzerland was enjoying a reputation as-to quote Douglas Miller's "The Swiss at War"-"the most powerful and feared military force in Europe." Switzerland was about as neutral in those days as had been Mongolia under Genghis Khan."
-John McPhee, La Place de la Concorde Suisse
posted by ActingTheGoat at 9:08 PM on February 24, 2010


I am bemused by the fact -- given that civility is privileged here -- that it is ok for people to insult me personally, but not ok for me to discuss my problems with organized religion.

we're almost 600 comments into this discussion, and you're still repeating that it's not ok for you to discuss organized religion. Despite many clear, well thought out, and respectful comments to the effect that it's not what you say, but how (and sometimes when) you say it.

It's the conversational equivalent of holding your finger an inch from your little brother's face in the backseat of the car, and then claiming innocence when your Mom tells you to quit poking your brother because "i'm not touching him".
posted by billyfleetwood at 9:19 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


I get that 'yay religion' got people's backs up. What were the others?
posted by unSane at 9:22 PM on February 24, 2010


Further reflection... I admit it's reasonable to feel that the term is irreparably tainted by association with true crazies. Considering my perspective, what word do you think would be a better description of Dawkins?

I don't know. But I do know that calling him an extremist is factually wrong and an inappropriate use of strong language.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:29 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Let's address Dawkins' arguments, if we're going there. Calling him an extremist achieves precisely nothing. Dawkins has a very particular and easily addressible critique of the Abrahamic God. Have at it.
posted by unSane at 9:45 PM on February 24, 2010


[BP + unSane: it's like some kind of psychotic dream team from an alternate universe]
posted by unSane at 9:47 PM on February 24, 2010


unSane, for the record, I have attempted not to insult you personally in this thread, but to focus on your behavior (or at least my perception of it). At least in my understanding of it, saying 'You're being a dick' is very different from 'You're a dick.'
posted by shakespeherian at 9:54 PM on February 24, 2010


I like that distinction, shakespeherian, and I might not have picked up on it unless you had pointed it out.
posted by unSane at 9:58 PM on February 24, 2010


(I am certainly capable of being a dick)
posted by unSane at 9:59 PM on February 24, 2010


what word do you think would be a better description of Dawkins?

Provocateur?
posted by philip-random at 10:17 PM on February 24, 2010


By responding to every possible comment, you make the thread about you

This thread was started in part as a response to something unSane said. I think that when somebody starts up a callout or pseduocallout or whatever, it is perfectly reasonable for the individuals being addressed to respond. The alternative, that unSane should not respond to people addressing him, is completely inane.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:23 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


[comment removed - nothing personal folks but we sort of need to keep people's pasts in their past]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:43 PM on February 24, 2010


Well, as far as I am concerned, the short version of it is I was out of line and I'm sorry. Which I just came back to add. So there it is.
posted by y2karl at 10:50 PM on February 24, 2010


Y'all are still at it? Even God is tired of this conversation by now.
posted by runningwithscissors at 10:52 PM on February 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


On my ride home last night, NPR was talking about a report that shows that people tend to take the facts they receive—in this case, regarding climate change—and fit them into a world view they already hold, so that the facts reinforce whatever belief they started out with.

Now these threads are more data that I can slot into that belief, already held and now reinforced.
posted by klangklangston at 11:17 PM on February 24, 2010


Oh, and Durn Bronzefist: The reason why your arguments got called sophomoric is because they're both facile and evidence a naive view of faith. Yes, yes, pretty much everyone in the last couple hundred years with deeply felt faith has had to confront whether they believe that faith is materially true, like Santa Claus. Pretty much everyone who has had a philosophy 101 course (and yeah, it did come across as dick waving, your response to The World Famous) has had to confront the reality that God is not materially true—Hell, that's a central pillar of Hobbes' Leviathan, that the "age of miracles is over," necessitating human sovereignty, and Hobbes was still back in early days of the Enlightenment. We all fucking know this already, and getting a lecture about Hume's fork is the sort of shit that only impresses TAs. But that you can't grasp the central contradiction of faith—that proof obviates and annihilates faith—is what makes your continued insistence on the Santa Claus comparison both bullshit and blinkered.

When religion speaks to the material, not the moral or metaphysical, it is as Blazecock reminds, not even wrong. Similarly, the sophomoric comparison to Santa Claus is not even wrong, and shows you either ignorant or stupid with regard to theology. That's true no matter who makes that analogy, and is one of the reasons why it's so fucking tiresome to see it again and again, where anyone who has even a moderately academically-examined faith has to decide whether it's worth the time and effort to deal with someone who presumes to grade their responses without even rising to the level of being wrong.
posted by klangklangston at 11:30 PM on February 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


The alternative, that unSane should not respond to people addressing him, is completely inane.

I love the MeTas where the called-out do not appear for precisely that reason.

For the record, I have asked Jess to weigh in on the issue of whether the insults against me are OK, given what I have said in general about religion.


You spend a goodly part of 70+ comments arguing why you're justified in acting like a dick on the Blue and now you're wondering why some people don't seem all that interested in extending you courtesy in MeTa? To paraphrase some guy, "...if I offend you, very well, I offend you*. I expect we'll all live."

*I know, I know, you're simply bemused.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:32 PM on February 24, 2010


A bit late, and a bit off topic, but I'd like to briefly address a point made by Blazecock Pileon here about professional mathematicians. I'm nearing the completion of a PhD in mathematics, which I get a stipend for, so hopefully I count; if not, I work closely with a whole load of people who definitely do.

If a professional mathematician is an analyst or a number theorist, then yes, they're probably familiar with the axiom of choice, and maybe Gödel's incompleteness theorem. But theorems as fundamental as this don't have much to do (in a practical sense) with the actual day-to-day work of mathematicians. Most (say) applied maths folk have no more than an educated layman's grasp of these ideas, because it has no direct bearing on their work - and in fact, working from something as basic as the AC to, say, numerical solution of PDEs would be a) incredibly time-consuming and b) completely pointless; just as if, every time you wanted to nip down the shops you needed to build your own car, starting with iron ore, sand and crude oil.

I hope I haven't given the impression that professional mathematicians as a class are intellectually incurious, but hopefully I've been able to clarify what "popular mathematics" ideas like the AC and Gödel's theorems mean in the context of professional mathematics as it is practised.
posted by Dim Siawns at 11:37 PM on February 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


unSane, you've said

I personally think what it all seems to come down to is how willing you are to accept a higher authority, which obviously correlates with some religion, but not all. If you accept a higher moral authority than your own conscience and feelings, and the HMA tells you to commit an atrocity, you're in danger of doing so. You're also in danger of believing in your own Higher Authority over anyone the Ultimate Higher Authority tells you is below you in the pecking order.

and

The problem arises when we abdicate our own conscience in favour of a higher moral authority. That is pretty much the definition of religion, as opposed to spirituality or belief.

That seems pretty relevant to the original FPP. Could you elaborate a bit?

Please note that defining religion as abdication of moral responsibility, as opposed to spirituality or belief, is problematic.
posted by nangar at 11:42 PM on February 24, 2010


I feel the same way about the movement encouraging non-religious people to be more open and tolerant towards religious people as I do about the seeming obsession with bipartisanship in US congress of recent times: pointless, counterproductive, and a step in the wrong direction.
posted by tehloki at 1:57 AM on February 25, 2010


"The alternative, that unSane should not respond to people addressing him, is completely inane."

The alternative to 76 is not necessarily 0.
posted by vapidave at 3:21 AM on February 25, 2010


Could you elaborate a bit?

I don't know what more I could say, really. I'm not attempting to define religion in terms of an abdication of morality at all. Atheists are just as capable of doing it (eg the followers of Pol Pot) and plenty of religions are not morally dogmatic (eg Buddhism).

I guess what I am saying (and I'm writing a screenplay about this, which I think is why it's on my mind) is that absolute moral codes contain within them the potential to lead people to perform atrocities of the kind described in the FPP. This is really the flip of the traditional Christian-right assumption that moral relativism is the slippery slope that leads to Nazism. To me, the horror of Nazism was that it elevated a certain kind of Volkish morality over the innate humanity of the individual German. Followed to its extremes, these precepts led to the door of the gas chamber.

In my view, human beings are, in the main, fairly well adjusted social animals who have developed a set of taboos about killing and maiming their own species, have a natural tendency to feel empathy for individuals within their own social village. (Look up 'mirror neurons' for a [possibly apocryphal] physiological explanation). Though there are obviously exceptions to this -- young 'warrior' males and sociopaths, to take two obvious ones -- overall we are a successfully social species.

When we override these situational responses in favor of an abstract, absolute morality of some kind which privileges some abstract higher good over our own internal evaluation and emotional response the results may be very good or very bad. But when they are bad, they can be very very bad, and lead to a justification of a kind of atavism, which horrifies and scares me.

The concept of a 'just war' for example, endlessly debated and rehearsed by Christian scholars in the best of faith, permitted the horrors of WWI. The then Bishop of London, for example, a jovial former slum priest called Arthur Winnington-Ingram, became one of the key cheerleaders for the war, leading massive recruiting rallies in Trafalgar Square and calling for the mass killing of Germans, young and old.

The doctrine of original sin bears directly on this. If we regard human beings as intrinsically fallen, to the extent that their own internal sense of morality must be over-ridden with an external code of some sort, the savage irony is that at the extreme we potentially enable atrocities in the name of the said morality of exactly the kind seen in the FPP.
posted by unSane at 4:08 AM on February 25, 2010 [8 favorites]


I think what atheists often miss about many religious people is that there are a lot of rational people in religion who not only do not take the dogma, myths and legends attending their religion(s) literally, but who go a step further and consume the dogma, myths and legends as lesson-filled metaphor and allegory for our time.

Coupled with a sense of irony, satire, humor, silliness and often a disrespect for central religious authority or leadership, a lot of religious people are closer kin to the atheists (especially the really thinky, thoughtful kinds we can get here on MetaFilter) than they are to the whacked out fundamentalists who seem to be our hobby horses here when talking about the evils of religion, faith and spirituality.

In case folks have not been paying attention to my personal continuity with respect to faith, I was raised objectivist empiricist and atheist. Simultaneously, I was exposed (very non-dogmatically) to the interesting traditional Chinese blend of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism by my Chinese family. I haven't said, but will, that I also joined the non-religious society of Friends as a child. Later, in adult life, I joined the Unitarian Universalists as, essentially, an agnostic. Even later still, personal encounters with non-empiricist disciplines, teaching and experiences from Traditional Chinese Medicine seem to have turned me also into a Taoist. I tend to think of Taoists as sort of like empirical Gnostics, but in a system of medicine that is not compatible with Western Science/Medicine. I sense a rather cooperative but still fairly antagonistic relationship between Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Western sort. I personally benefit (I hope) from both simultaneously, but my further interest largely lies with TCM.

Anyhow, as you might imagine, I am pretty thoughtful about how I choose to follow my faith-related spiritual pursuits. And as I am thoughtful, so are my friends. I'm not sure if I know any pure atheists. I might, but mostly I know very spiritual people who are also very intelligent and very personally responsible and responsive to new criticisms or ideas that seem to indicate they may not be being responsible or responsive enough about any particular issue.

I know Episcopalians, Unitarians, Pagans, Jews, Christians, Catholics, Taoists, Buddhists, Muslims, Baptists, Witches, Hoodoo practitioners, Voodoo practitioners, and probably more faiths that I'm not aware of. And I have a lot of friends who are probably atheist or at least agnostic. But what we have in common is a pretty good grounding in comparative religion, a lot of interest in learning more and a personal stake in figuring out a way to work together toward a common good. Some of us have it as a profession, others, a hobby. And we all get along because we keep it civil. And probably also because we like and trust each other and tend to assume good intent. We can have discussions about religion and spirituality without needing moderators to keep it clean.

One of the things we pretty much don't do is accuse each other of having faiths that command violence or faiths that command endless feuds or faiths that justify the horrors we humans perpetrate upon each other. We also generally don't cite bullshit dogmatic reasons for doing shitty things to each other, doctrine or no.

I consider that kind of thing trolling. It's like saying to an atheist that because of their state's outdated and moralistic anti-sodomy laws, they should inform on their gay (or straight, oral-sex-having or anal-sex-having) neighbors to the local police. There are things that I think decent, sane, rational, intelligent consumers of any outside moral, legal or ethical force don't do to each other.

I think atheists (here on MetaFilter as well as elsewhere) would do well to consider that there are a lot of folks within religious communities who'd probably love to be good allies with them. There can be a mutual respect, perhaps an agreement to disagree or at least an agreement to let bygones be bygones or maybe an armistice on the conversion attempts (to, from religion or to, from atheism, I don't care). Atheists and the religious or more spiritually inclined can do a lot of good together in creating social change.

Getting hung up on the evils of faith, spirituality or religion itself and refusing to move forward into more profitable arenas of social change strikes me as short-sighted and possibly self-destructive.
posted by kalessin at 4:46 AM on February 25, 2010 [9 favorites]


The concept of a 'just war' for example, endlessly debated and rehearsed by Christian scholars in the best of faith, permitted the horrors of WWI.

Blaming religion for WWI is pretty trite. It's probably pretty low on a list of what led to the Great War behind nationalism, monarchism, ethnic strife, and economic circumstances.

In any case, not all religions were in favor of the war.

"A man with renowned diplomatic talents, Pope Benedict XV found his abilities - and unique position as a religious emissary of peace - ignored by the belligerent powers.

Having unsuccessfully pushed the idea of a general Christmas truce in 1914 as an end to what he termed "the suicide of Europe" (initially accepted by the Germans but dismissed by the Allies), circumstances in Italy - where his regular intervention was resented as potentially weakening national fighting resolve - further diluted his influence from 1915 onwards."
posted by mpbx at 4:47 AM on February 25, 2010


The doctrine of original sin bears directly on this. If we regard human beings as intrinsically fallen, to the extent that their own internal sense of morality must be over-ridden with an external code of some sort, the savage irony is that at the extreme we potentially enable atrocities in the name of the said morality of exactly the kind seen in the FPP.

Well, see, correctly applied, their fallen nature is supposed to be overridden with that clear internal sense of morality (called, say, conscience). Is there an algorithm that tells how to do that? Well, no, but there are a lot of heuristics. E.g. "Thou shalt not kill." Seems clear enough, but people seem to have trouble with it.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:55 AM on February 25, 2010


Blaming religion for WWI is pretty trite.

It would be, if that's what I'd done. I said it 'permitted' them. That is absolutely true in the sense that the Church, in WWI, gave explicit cover to the government by proclaiming it a just war. In England at the time it would have been completely politically impossible for the country to go to war if the Archbishop of Canterbury, Randall Davidson, had come out against it.
posted by unSane at 5:15 AM on February 25, 2010


I'm all for heuristics. But unbreakable moral codes are the problem. "Thou shalt not kill" becomes problematic when dealing with Hitler, for example.
posted by unSane at 5:16 AM on February 25, 2010


That is absolutely true in the sense that the Church, in WWI, gave explicit cover to the government by proclaiming it a just war. In England at the time it would have been completely politically impossible for the country to go to war if the Archbishop of Canterbury, Randall Davidson, had come out against it.
This strikes me as a perfect example of the kind of question-begging involved in this whole way you see the question, a view that apparently considers religion qua religion rather than against the whole complex social fabric in which it was embedded. Because of course, in the high Imperial England of the time you wouldn't have had an Archbishop who was opposed to war - that was the political impossibility. There's a deal to be argued about why that was so, but it's certainly not merely a matter of religion.
posted by Abiezer at 5:23 AM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, we are getting into no true Scotsman territory now. If the Archbishop of Canterbury -- the head of the Anglican communion -- can't be cited as an example of religious influence, who can?
posted by unSane at 5:25 AM on February 25, 2010


I'm saying it's neither here nor there; you're not seeing the wood for the trees in the British establishment of the time. That the institution was a religious one is only part of what made it important (and certainly a significant part) - you have to see the of the social and political complex of which it was just one part.
posted by Abiezer at 5:28 AM on February 25, 2010


I'm all for heuristics. But unbreakable moral codes are the problem.

Glad to hear it, but you ignored what that was an example of.

If the Archbishop of Canterbury -- the head of the Anglican communion -- can't be cited as an example of religious influence, who can?

This is a good example of what Kierkegaard meant when he distinguished between Christiandom and Christianity. In brief, he said Christianity can be best understood when approached with passion and inwardness, which is essentially subjectivity. Looking for an objective "example of religious influence," even if that example is Kierkegaard himself, is like insisting on finding an "unbreakable moral code."
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:51 AM on February 25, 2010


Well, we are getting into no true Scotsman territory now. If the Archbishop of Canterbury -- the head of the Anglican communion -- can't be cited as an example of religious influence, who can?

So religious influences that back up your statements like the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury are valid, but religious influences that don't, like the Catholic Pope, don't.

You're trying to paint all religious people and sects with the same brush. It doesn't work that way. Why should a Catholic be responsible for something the Archbishop of Canterbury said? It's as absurd as saying an Italian is responsible for something the British Government did.
posted by mpbx at 5:58 AM on February 25, 2010


If we regard human beings as intrinsically fallen, to the extent that their own internal sense of morality must be over-ridden with an external code of some sort, the savage irony is that at the extreme we potentially enable atrocities in the name of the said morality of exactly the kind seen in the FPP.

External codes don't work. Biblically speaking the only reason for the written code to begin with is to prove that external codes don't fix a fallen human heart. Internal change (in New Testament terminology, being "born again") is the only thing that will work.

To go back to the very beginning of what started this discussion here, the Pearls apparently subscribe to some notion of being able to reach sinless perfection here on earth, (which I don't agree with because it's not a biblical idea) but also their system along with at least one other I could name (but won't ) does seem to believe that the way to raise a Christian child is to drown them in principles and nitpick them to death instead of teaching them how to follow Christ and be changed by Him. All the atrocities that can be laid at the feet of organized religion, in my opinion, can be traced to that misunderstanding.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:20 AM on February 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


To go back to the very beginning of what started this discussion here, the Pearls apparently subscribe to some notion of being able to reach sinless perfection here on earth, (which I don't agree with because it's not a biblical idea) but also their system along with at least one other I could name (but won't ) does seem to believe that the way to raise a Christian child is to drown them in principles and nitpick them to death instead of teaching them how to follow Christ and be changed by Him. All the atrocities that can be laid at the feet of organized religion, in my opinion, can be traced to that misunderstanding.

Glad we cleared that up.
posted by Brian B. at 7:11 AM on February 25, 2010


I think what atheists often miss about many religious people is that there are a lot of rational people in religion who not only do not take the dogma, myths and legends attending their religion(s) literally, but who go a step further and consume the dogma, myths and legends as lesson-filled metaphor and allegory for our time.

Coupled with a sense of irony, satire, humor, silliness and often a disrespect for central religious authority or leadership, a lot of religious people are closer kin to the atheists (especially the really thinky, thoughtful kinds we can get here on MetaFilter) than they are to the whacked out fundamentalists who seem to be our hobby horses here when talking about the evils of religion, faith and spirituality.


Reposting this just because it bears repeating.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:12 AM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I guess what I am saying [...] is that absolute moral codes contain within them the potential to lead people to perform atrocities of the kind described in the FPP.

Thank you for that comment, unSane. For as much as you've irritated me in this MeTa, this, this is the kind of discourse that elevates Metafilter leagues above pretty much anything else on the internet. It's smart, it's educated, and it's almost irrelevant that I don't agree with a lot of what you're saying, because what you're saying has enough meat in it to merit discussion.

So, well done.
posted by shiu mai baby at 7:20 AM on February 25, 2010


Provocateur?

Perhaps. I'd argue that's far too mild a definition, though. The term has become synonymous with performance artists who deliberately and calculatedly offend to make their points. Dawkins is not a performance artist and his intention is not to shock and offend people. He's abrasive. He's dismissive. He's prone to demonizing religion and the religious in appalling terms. But as far as I can tell, he truly believes what he's preaching: that religion is evil (all religions, but especially the Abrahamic ones,) and feels its his mission in life to educate the world about its dangers.
posted by zarq at 7:24 AM on February 25, 2010


Agreeing with shiu Mai about your comments, unSane -- although I'm going to go on to respond to them all.

I guess what I am saying (and I'm writing a screenplay about this, which I think is why it's on my mind) is that absolute moral codes contain within them the potential to lead people to perform atrocities of the kind described in the FPP.

A fair point -- but what I am saying is, even though these "absolute moral codes" can be exploited in such a way by some people, I would posit that the fact that the people who DO exploit them in such a way are in the minority is more the responsibility about the people THEMSELVES than it is about the CODES themselves. Most people adapt the more absolute elements of their chosen moral code somewhat, to square more with the very innate social-animal traits that you've noticed that we all hold, and it is only a handful who go all out into this absolutism.

To me, this is a sign that this absolutism is more a function of something within the people themselves, rather than something injected into them BY that code. In other words - the Pearls would have done what they did no matter what, and if their religion hadn't been the framework they hung their behavior on, they just would have found something else to point to and say, "this is why we're doing this."

When we override these situational responses in favor of an abstract, absolute morality of some kind which privileges some abstract higher good over our own internal evaluation and emotional response the results may be very good or very bad. But when they are bad, they can be very very bad, and lead to a justification of a kind of atavism, which horrifies and scares me.

However, the vast majority of people do not do this, which tells me that when you have someone who does do this, it says more about what the person him/herself is bringing TO the code than it does the code itself.

I see it like a hammer. A hammer is basically a conveniently-obtained heavy tool used to hit things real hard. Inherantly, it has the potential for someone to use it to perform a bad act -- hitting someone in the head. However -- most people use that hammer to perform more neutral or positive acts -- hammering in nails. But -- the hammer itself is inherantly a neutral object. When someone uses a hammer to bash another person's head in, it's not as if the perpetrator was just a mild-mannered nobody but suddenly saw a hammer and said, "Ah! this gives me the idea to bash someone's head in!" No -- the perpetrator was already nuts enough to bash someone's head in THEMSELVES and the hammer was just sitting there. Most other people know that "hitting people in the heads is bad" and so they know "therefore, I will not use this hammer to that purpose, even though I could potentially do so."

So the people who do bash in heads with hammers already were thinking "I want to bash in someone's head with something! Ah, here is a hammer!" Thus, the reason they bashed someone's head in was the fault of their own innate psyche, and NOT the hammer. If they hadn't found a hammer, they would have used a lamp. Or heavy statue. Or rock.

I see the Pearls the same way. They exploited a moral code to a bad end, but that was more because of what they brought to the table themselves than it was because of the code itself.

Because, honestly, if what you say is true, that it was the purview of the code itself, we would have far, far more Pearls out there.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:48 AM on February 25, 2010


I don't know. But I do know that calling him an extremist is factually wrong and an inappropriate use of strong language.

BP, I'm about to ask you something that I truly hope you will not find offensive. So I want to preface it by saying that I'm asking this question and making this comparison in good faith and with a great deal of respect for you and your opinion on this subject:

How would you characterize those who preach that gay people should not be parents because they are child abusers?

As far as I'm concerned, they're hatemongering extremists.

On more than one occasion, Dawkins has characterized parents who raise their children within a religious framework as likely doing more damage to them than pedophile, child molesting priests.
"I am sure her experience is far from unique. And what if we assume a less altruistic child, worried about her own eternity rather than a friend's? Odious as the physical abuse of children by priests undoubtedly is, I suspect that it may do them less lasting damage than the mental abuse of bringing them up Catholic in the first place.

'What shall we tell the children?' is a superb polemic on how religions abuse the minds of children, by the distinguished psychologist Nicholas Humphrey. It was originally delivered as a lecture in aid of Amnesty International, and has now been reissued as a chapter of his book, The Mind Made Flesh, just published by Oxford University Press. It is also available on the worldwide web and I strongly recommend it. Humphrey argues that, in the same way as Amnesty works tirelessly to free political prisoners the world over, we should work to free the children of the world from the religions which, with parental approval, damage minds too young to understand what is happening to them. He is right, and the same lesson should inform our discussions of the current pedophile brouhaha. Priestly groping of child bodies is disgusting. But it may be less harmful in the long run than priestly subversion of child minds."
I have a great deal of respect for Dawkins. Sincerely. The man has a brilliant, incisive mind and I've enjoyed reading much his work.

But in this instance I truly think he's an extremist. The only difference is, Dawkins isn't advocating withholding civil rights from the religious faithful.
posted by zarq at 8:06 AM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Belief in external codes is what is meant by the sin of idolatry.
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:22 AM on February 25, 2010


Let's address Dawkins' arguments, if we're going there. Calling him an extremist achieves precisely nothing. Dawkins has a very particular and easily addressible critique of the Abrahamic God. Have at it.

Dawkins has been debated repeatedly in MeTa. You know this, because you have participated in at least one of those threads.

Please don't appoint yourself MeTa cheerleader, inciting debate from the sidelines with unsubstantiated and uncited quips. If you have something of depth to say, then do so. If you have new points to make which haven't already been made in this or in other MeTa or MeFi threads, then by all means, back them up and start a discussion. I'm sure someone will pick up the flag for you. But if "have at it" is the best you can do, then please troll elsewhere.
posted by zarq at 8:24 AM on February 25, 2010


The only difference is, Dawkins isn't advocating withholding civil rights from the religious faithful.

Yeah, that does kind of make a huge difference. Rhetoric without political power can be easily ignored and I would guarantee you that if America's religious conservatives backed the fuck out of politics they would no longer feel "under attack."
posted by applemeat at 8:26 AM on February 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


I wonder how some American Christians on this thread would feel if an large American demographic were actively working to annul your marriage.
posted by applemeat at 8:34 AM on February 25, 2010


Isn't that exactly what's happening?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:36 AM on February 25, 2010


Yeah, that does kind of make a huge difference. Rhetoric without political power can be easily ignored and I would guarantee you that if America's religious conservatives backed the fuck out of politics they would no longer feel "under attack."

Sure they would. The reason they got into politics is because they felt their way of life was being threatened by the presence of non-conservatives.

And no, rhetoric without political power isn't easily ignored. Religious rhetoric often drives politics in ways that have nothing to do with buying elections. Let's disregard the monetary contributions of the Mormons and other religious groups, like Focus on the Family to the Proposition 8 campaign for a moment. How many religious leaders did nothing more than preach to their faithful that voting "Yes" to Proposition 8 was a moral imperative? Do you really believe that they had no effect?

We dismiss their power to influence the voting public at our peril.
posted by zarq at 8:40 AM on February 25, 2010


Isn't that exactly what's happening?

I've never understood this argument. Giving gay people the civil right to marry doesn't annul a Christian marriage. Churches will no doubt continue to refuse to marry gay people. It's not as if Churches will suddenly be forced to marry them, or start canceling hetero marriages out of spite.

Of course, if Churches lose their tax exempt status for promoting gender discrimination, c'est la vie. That's the price they'll have to pay.
posted by zarq at 8:53 AM on February 25, 2010


I wonder how some American Christians on this thread would feel if an large American demographic were actively working to annul your marriage.

Hi. I'm an American Christian on this thread. I'm not gay, but that doesn't mean I care any less about civil rights. It pisses me off that there are people actively working to annul the marriages of my friends, my coworkers, and people that I've never met. It also pisses me off that some of the people doing this claim to be doing it for religious reasons, because that can make some people (on both sides of the marriage equality argument) assume that I must agree with those people. But I think this thread has demonstrated several times over that one's religious affiliation does not have a one-to-one correspondence to one's political affiliation, and further that the overbroad label for one's religious affiliation does not have a one-to-one correspondence to one's actual religious beliefs.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:57 AM on February 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


I also think it's weird to think that there's no such thing as an American Christian who is gay.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:58 AM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wonder how some American Christians on this thread would feel if an large American demographic were actively working to annul your marriage.

Isn't that exactly what's happening?

I've never understood this argument. Giving gay people the civil right to marry doesn't annul a Christian marriage.


I think the point is that not all Christians are heterosexual.
posted by Dojie at 8:58 AM on February 25, 2010


I've never understood this argument.

I think I got applemeat's implications backwards and was thinking about gay Christians. I likewise agree that if religious conservatives stopped trying to wedge their agenda into politics at a state or national level a lot more people in the US would have a less-toxic impression of organized religion.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:00 AM on February 25, 2010


Belief in external codes is what is meant by the sin of idolatry.

You mean it's not worshiping idols instead of God, as it has been described in the Bible and understood for millenia?
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:07 AM on February 25, 2010


How many religious leaders did nothing more than preach to their faithful that voting "Yes" to Proposition 8 was a moral imperative? Do you really believe that they had no effect?

But votes equal political power! A relatively large demographic, say, conservative Christians in 2010 America, wields more power than does the far smaller demographic of self-identified American atheists and agnostics. For any Christian Americans to say, in 2010, that they are oppressed by atheists and agnostics is, I think, absurd for similar reason that I feel it is likewise unpersuasive to call Richard Dawkins an extremist. In other words, Dawkins's rhetoric might arguably match the passion and scale of Dobson's. But without the votes, the money, the power, Dawkins's screeds are ultimately just words.

But I think this thread has demonstrated several times over that one's religious affiliation does not have a one-to-one correspondence to one's political affiliation

I totally agree with you and that's why I said "some Christians..."
posted by applemeat at 9:11 AM on February 25, 2010


I think I got applemeat's implications backwards and was thinking about gay Christians.

Oh. I see.

I likewise agree that if religious conservatives stopped trying to wedge their agenda into politics at a state or national level a lot more people in the US would have a less-toxic impression of organized religion.

I agree. I wish the government would be more active about putting a stop to it.
posted by zarq at 9:11 AM on February 25, 2010


zarq: "Dawkins has characterized parents who raise their children within a religious framework as likely doing more damage to them than pedophile, child molesting priests. "

There is an important difference between that and the common claim made by religious persons that gay men abuse children:

He is calling the actual accepted and documented practices of this group of people abusive. He is not claiming that each and every religious person is molesting their children, but rather making a claim about something these people explicitly and openly do, which is bring up a child with specific views about untestable and unobservable phenomena that are meant to influence behavior.

This statement was made in the context of his child being given religious instruction at school without his permission and against his will.
posted by idiopath at 9:13 AM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


In other words, Dawkins's rhetoric might arguably match the passion and scale of Dobson's. But without the votes, the money, the power, Dawkins's screeds are ultimately just words.

Leaving aside for the moment that Dawkins isn't even an American or directly trying to change American politics, your argument is that it's okay for someone to spout anti-religious rhetoric, if they don't currently have enough followers to change the political landscape?

Do you not see the flaw in that reasoning?
posted by zarq at 9:15 AM on February 25, 2010


I'm neither approving nor disapproving his rhetoric. What I am saying is that unpopular views are more safely ignored than popular ones.
posted by applemeat at 9:24 AM on February 25, 2010


I wonder how some American Christians on this thread would feel if an large American demographic were actively working to annul your marriage.

This American Christian belongs to a church which maintains a paid staff position solely to work within the legal system to bring about marriage equality. This American Christian feels sick about it, not just because many of her friends are subjected to the nauseating injustice of having their marriages subject to popular vote every couple of years, but because she suffers under no illusion that her own marriage wouldn't be on the chopping block if these bigoted fuckwads got their way.

That's how THIS American Christian on this thread feels. I can't speak for any others.
posted by KathrynT at 9:35 AM on February 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


He is calling the actual accepted and documented practices of this group of people abusive. He is not claiming that each and every religious person is molesting their children....

No, just the ones that raise their children in a religious framework. As I explicitly said, above. Did you even read my comment?

...but rather making a claim about something these people explicitly and openly do, which is bring up a child with specific views about untestable and unobservable phenomena that are meant to influence behavior.

This is not in question. I contend that demonizing parents as child abusers for doing so is an extremist viewpoint.

This statement was made in the context of his child being given religious instruction at school without his permission and against his will.

The statement's been made multiple times by him and not just in the article I linked to. But in that specific article, it was clearly a general statement and not applied to such a specific situation as you contend. I quote two entire paragraphs in order to give as much context as possible.
posted by zarq at 9:41 AM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm neither approving nor disapproving his rhetoric. What I am saying is that unpopular views are more safely ignored than popular ones.

Unpopular views often become popular. You're creating a double standard based on the shifting vagaries of public opinion?
posted by zarq at 9:43 AM on February 25, 2010


Talking about Dawkins here ...

But as far as I can tell, he truly believes what he's preaching: that religion is evil (all religions, but especially the Abrahamic ones,) and feels its his mission in life to educate the world about its dangers.

I'd love this statement if religion was scratched out and ideology (which could, of course, include certain organized religious extremes) slugged in it's place:

that ideology is evil (all ideologies) and feels it's his mission in life to educate the world about their dangers.

Add a few tweaks to Alia's recent comment and you've got the two of them more or less in full agreement:

but also their IDEOLOGY .... does seem to believe that the way to raise a child is to drown them in principles and nitpick them to death instead of teaching them how to [recognize and] follow [principled ideas] and be changed by [them]. All the atrocities that can be laid at the feet of organized IDEOLOGY, in my opinion, can be traced to that misunderstanding.
posted by philip-random at 10:09 AM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


But I think this thread has demonstrated several times over that one's religious affiliation does not have a one-to-one correspondence to one's political affiliation, and further that the overbroad label for one's religious affiliation does not have a one-to-one correspondence to one's actual religious beliefs.

I have this problem with Catholic friends of mine who, when asked to explain how they stand as far as the Catholic church actively fighting gay marriage, will explain that they do not agree with that aspect of the church, and they clearly expect to be praised for their brave stance. Except that their commitment to the church invests it with the power it has, and their money supports its efforts, and as far as I know, there is no mechanism by which their disagreement with church policy is taken into any consideration by the organization or can change it. But considering that they choose to accept this arrangement and go along with it, I do not buy their attempt to minimize their own responsibility for it. Given the option of joining a group that does and teaches good things but that also has stated goals that are discriminatory and anti-democratic, one can choose not to join or to find another group; but if you decide for yourself that the bad aspects are sufficiently irrelevant, you don't get to disavow association with and support of them.

So while one might argue against a one-to-one correspondence, there is still correspondence.
posted by troybob at 10:11 AM on February 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Unless he's said it in an article or something I haven't read, Dawkins does not claim that raising a child is molestation. He claims that the psychological and intellectual damage done to a child by raising them in a religious context is of similar magnitude. The "Dawkins says teaching your kids religion is molestation!" bit is sensationalistic and misstates his position with the deliberate intention of transforming his position into something self-evidently over the top. We can debate whether the damage done by a religious upbringing is in fact similar in magnitude to that caused by child abuse, or even whether a religious upbringing is damaging at all, but if we are to discuss his positions we ought to discuss them as they are, and not as the spittle-flecked, shrieking inanities that his critics would like them to be.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:16 AM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is fascinating to watch. In about the past 40 comments or so, we have two different members identifying themselves as Christians, specifically condemning things that other posters have laid at the feet of organized religion, and providing a direct rebuttal to the stereotypes of Christians.

And, yet, here we are, roaring along on yet another endless argument about I Think You Are Wrong, Let Me Show You My Argument Again In Case You Didn't Get It The First Hundred Times. About organized religion.

Astro Zombie asked a simple question: must every topic on religion devolve into a fight about whether religion is bad?

It would be nice if this thread could conclusively prove that the answer is no. Starting by acknowledging that the Christians present on MetaFilter pretty much directly refute the horrible things being done in their name by political Christianity would be a good start.
posted by scrump at 10:21 AM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


troybob, I'm not Catholic. I belong to the Episcopal Cathedral of Chicago; most Sundays the sermon is delivered by a woman; the very first people I met at this church were a very friendly gay couple who gushed about how much they love coming to church here, and about how wonderful the community was and etc all the nice things that welcoming strangers say about their church to newcomers. The cathedral doesn't have a marquee, but most of the Episcopal churches in Chicago do, and they almost invariably feature a rainbow sticker. My money and attention and service and participation go to a wonderful organization, and I do not abdicate responsibility for a single thing that my church does of which I am aware.

My point above is that the overbroad label ('Christian' or 'Muslim' or 'Hindu' or 'Jew') for one's religious affiliation does not have a one-to-one correspondence to one's actual religious beliefs, and I stand by that statement.

As for your Catholic friends, I agree that they are, in part, participating in and contributing to an institution with which they partially disagree, but isn't that true for almost everyone? I sometimes buy clothing from stores that run sweatshops; my workplace makes donations to Republicans. There are more reasons to be a member of the Catholic church beyond simple agreement with their political stances, and I'm okay with leaving it up to individuals to prioritize their own lives w/r/t which institutions they are affiliated with.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:27 AM on February 25, 2010


Unless he's said it in an article or something I haven't read, Dawkins does not claim that raising a child is molestation.

This is the article that, I believe (and I could be wrong) people are referring to when they reference Dawkins' inference or statement that raising a child in a religion is child abuse. While he closely ties his argument to physical and sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, he pretty clearly states, especially toward the end of the article, that raising children in an atmosphere that teaches them religious doctrines constitutes not only mental abuse, but that the only thing keeping him from thinking that it should be legally actionable is his moronic position against "retrospective litigation" (as opposed to what? Prospective litigation for torts not yet committed?).
posted by The World Famous at 10:28 AM on February 25, 2010


Practically speaking, of centuries of horrible things had been done in my name and continue to be done in my name, I would change my name.
posted by troybob at 10:28 AM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


You know, guys, if you'd just agree with me that I'm an okay person, we could stop fighting.

(politics is only one of many issues that people who have a problem with Christianity have)
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:29 AM on February 25, 2010


I'd love this statement if religion was scratched out and ideology ... slugged in it's place

I gotta call false equivalency on this one. I know of no non-religious ideology that promises eternal bliss as its reward for obedience. That's more valuable than all the money on Earth times a billion. And if you fail, the punishment is more horrible than anyone has ever been tortured in the history of the world... forever.

That's a whole lotta motivation for people to do some otherwise very ethically questionable things. It's teeth that non-religious "ideology" just doesn't have.
posted by LordSludge at 10:32 AM on February 25, 2010


Practically speaking, of centuries of horrible things had been done in my name and continue to be done in my name, I would change my name.

Then why do you live in America? he snarked.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:32 AM on February 25, 2010


I know of no non-religious ideology that promises eternal bliss as its reward for obedience.

That's nowhere close to a universal religious belief, either - even among Christians.
posted by The World Famous at 10:34 AM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


There are more reasons to be a member of the Catholic church beyond simple agreement with their political stances

This is a statement which is only made possible by distinguishing between political and moral positions. The Catholic Church is a religious institution, one which claims to represent the highest moral character. To join the Catholic Church- to give them money and population- while disagreeing with its morals is absurd. Is the fellowship so fulfilling that one can ignore the fact that one has joined a belief-based organization while disagreeing with it? Are the services and homilies so beautiful? We all associate ourselves, with varying degrees of willingness, with people and organizations we disagree with, often because our beliefs are not the cause of those associations. But church membership is an association based on belief. To compare them is to either raise one's workplace to the level of one's church or to lower one's church to the level of one's workplace, neither of which are results that I think the religious would be happy to accept.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:36 AM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Practically speaking, of centuries of horrible things had been done in my name and continue to be done in my name, I would change my name.

No one is pure. You live in America.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:37 AM on February 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


scrump: "It would be nice if this thread could conclusively prove that the answer is no."

Sorry, but my objection is not to Christianity, or even just religion, it is an objection to metaphysical systems of belief, and no number of examples of good friendly Christians are going to change my mind about that.
posted by idiopath at 10:40 AM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


No one is pure. You live in America.

It's crazy expensive and difficult to emigrate and no nation is pure.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:40 AM on February 25, 2010


Unless he's said it in an article or something I haven't read, Dawkins does not claim that raising a child is molestation.

Correct. He calls it child abuse. I pasted and responded to a comment from idiopath without correcting him. I should have.

We can debate whether the damage done by a religious upbringing is in fact similar in magnitude to that caused by child abuse, or even whether a religious upbringing is damaging at all, but if we are to discuss his positions we ought to discuss them as they are, and not as the spittle-flecked, shrieking inanities that his critics would like them to be.

Agreed.
posted by zarq at 10:41 AM on February 25, 2010


it is an objection to metaphysical systems of belief, and no number of examples of good friendly Christians are going to change my mind about that.

OK, so what's your objection? Do metaphysical systems of belief pick your pocket, or break your leg?
posted by KathrynT at 10:42 AM on February 25, 2010


Practically speaking, of centuries of horrible things had been done in my name and continue to be done in my name, I would change my name.

But no current plans to renounce your American citizenship, I'm guessing?
posted by shiu mai baby at 10:45 AM on February 25, 2010


In my view, human beings are, in the main, fairly well adjusted social animals who have developed a set of taboos about killing and maiming their own species, have a natural tendency to feel empathy for individuals within their own social village. (Look up 'mirror neurons' for a [possibly apocryphal] physiological explanation). Though there are obviously exceptions to this -- young 'warrior' males and sociopaths, to take two obvious ones -- overall we are a successfully social species.

within their own social village--but the folks over the hill are another matter. Those we can kill, torture and eat. Which seems to have been the rule rather than the exception throughout history and pre-history until only very recently and even then only sporadically.

A natural tendency to feel empathy is essential to being a successful torturer--we are so good at inflicting pain because we can feel other's pain. And from the evidence--killer apes and killer dolphins, for example--empathy is innate to mammals. And as for social villages, the common state between slash and burn pre-industrial bands or villages is war. We are incredibly cruel by nature. To others, to scapegoats. Look at all the accounts of French missionaries captured by the Iroquois and Mohawks. Look at the Yanomami. We have always given ourselves license to kill and torture the others. To talk about humans as being fairly well adjusted social animals is as airy fairy as to imagine some matriarchial eden before the rise of the patriarchy. From the evidence, we have been killing strangers since before we had fire.

You brought up Pol Pot--well, the Khmer Rouge, Stalin and Mao have been the elephants in this discussion's room. And what religion did they use to justify their atrocities ? I have no problem with our being fallen. We are cruel by nature. Except, on occasion, to our friends, relatives and fellow villagers. But the people over the hill--that's another story. Sure, we have used religion to justify our malice, but then--Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot, not to mention the French Revolution--we are quite perfectly capable of torturing and killing in the name of empirical reason. Because torturing and killing is in our nature.

Rene Girard put the root of violence in mimetic desire. We always end up wanting what another wants, and the roots of that come from being able to see through the other's eyes and to feel their desires as our own. Accordingly, the intra-group tensions and impulses towards violence that arise are focused on and released through killing the scapegoat. If there is no outsider to scapegoat, one is picked from within the group. Until Christianity made sacrifice symbolic, according to Girard, religion was celebrated in acts of killing. Animals in the main but the concept of killing captives was never that far away--human sacrifice was abhorred by the ancient Greeks yet they managed to do so quite easily when at war.

Developing a set of taboos about killing our own species is a fairly recent development, more often honored in the breach than the observance. And that development came as a result of the evolution of religions for the greater part of history. The God of the Old Testament is not the God of the New Testament. Nor is that God the same as the God of rabbinical tradition. Do unto others and you would have them do unto you is a far way from God commanding the slaughter of cities. Which is why the Gnostics were all about making the distinction between the demiurge and the alien God.

One can go on about absolute moral codes but--Pol Pot, Stalin and Mao--you don't need a god or a church to have such or to justify murder in mass or one by one. What we suffer from is not the tyranny of religion but rather the tyranny of malice. And malice comes a lot earlier than religion. If we are to survive as a species, it will be because we overcome our natural propensities for greed, selfishness, self-delusion and malice. I have no problem with regarding human nature as fallen and see no need for a God to be involved. We were born to self-destruct. And we shall see in our own lifetimes, mostly likely whether we will overcome that fate.
posted by y2karl at 10:47 AM on February 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Is the fellowship so fulfilling that one can ignore the fact that one has joined a belief-based organization while disagreeing with it?

I think this is a decent question, and again, I am not Catholic, so that should tell you something about my feelings regarding it. However, I think there's a very long, involved conversation to be had about the merits and demerits of disagreement with one's church, and where you decide which various lines exist and what things are dealbreakers or not. I don't think this is something that can be answered in a single MetaFilter comment. However, in an attempt to gesture towards what I hope might be something of a reply, I'd like to remind you that not all communities feature an endless variety of churches-- some towns, you either go to the Assemblies of God place or the Catholic place or you stay home, and for some people staying home isn't a viable option. I myself was a member of a church for a long time that had pretty shitty views on women, but I ignored it because, yes, the fellowship was very fulfilling and nourishing, and the rest of the church's ideology was miles ahead anything else I'd ever encountered at the time. And leaving a church is a very big decision, one which I didn't make lightly, and one which took a lot of time and energy to build up to-- a church is more than just your place of worship. It's also where dozens of genuinely wonderful people are every week, and where, after looking for a long time, you find that you are able to have a very personal kind of spiritual experience in a way that you long for.

It's very easy to say to yourself, week after week, 'I love this church, and I wish they didn't think X.' It's very hard to say 'Because they think X, I am going to DTMFA.' I'm not comfortable condemning someone for not yet going through that long and painful process.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:48 AM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's crazy expensive and difficult to emigrate...

And talk is so, so cheap.

... no nation is pure.

Nor ideology, whether it be secular or otherwise, once put into practice.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:48 AM on February 25, 2010


OK, so what's your objection? Do metaphysical systems of belief pick your pocket, or break your leg?

What a remarkably shallow statement.

The idea that religious belief is a wholly personal thing which in and of itself affects nobody but the believer is an intensely facile one, and it's a shame to see it as integrated into the liberal worldview as it is.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:49 AM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


The idea that religious belief is a wholly personal thing which in and of itself affects nobody but the believer is an intensely facile one, and it's a shame to see it as integrated into the liberal worldview as it is.

I note you did not answer my question. OK, you object to any transrational or non-empirical belief, not just for yourself, but for ANYONE. Why?
posted by KathrynT at 10:51 AM on February 25, 2010


It's crazy expensive and difficult to emigrate and no nation is pure.

Exactly, so I'm a little bit more comfortable if we don't say "You belong to this church so you obviously are okay with what's being done in your name" the same way we don't say "You have your money with Bank of America so you are obviously okay with what's being done in your name" or "You watch cable tv so you are obviously okay with what's being done in your name" or "You drive a car so you are obviously okay with what's being done in your name" or "You decided to have children so you are obviously okay with what's being done in your name" or "You went to college so you are obviously okay with what's being done in your name" or "You voted so you are obviously okay with what's being done in your name" or "You eat meat so you are obviously okay with what's being done in your name"

I'm one of those really annoying people who believes that most personal choices are at some level political so I can see the arguments behind making every single one of these statements. That said, deciding there is only one axis along which to judge people, and that it's okay to judge people using this axis in every situation in which it comes up, makes for really shitty MeFi discussions. If every AskMe about meat turned into a GO VEGAN derail, or every vegan discussion turned into a GO PALEO derail or every banking thread turned into a "put money in your mattress, don't encourage them" lecture or every car thread turned into a CARS KILL thread or every bicycle thread turned into a "a cyclist cut me off once, fuck all cyclists" we wouldn't put up with it. Everyone has to make choices and people don't agree with the choices that other people make.

Often the people they disagree with are not even using MetaFilter, people have to tell stories about their gay republican friends and what the fuck is wrong with THEM anyhow. It's easier to judge people when they're your two-dimensional representations of them. It's much more difficult when, like almost all MeFites who have spoken up in this thread and others like them, people's choices are complicated, they're balanced off of a huge set of other choices and you don't know them. I've made my peace with living in the US despite its obvious and not so obvious shortcomings. I'd like it if other people could, if not respect that decision, at least trust that I made it with some degree of self-awareness. Or if not, maybe they could shut up or submit themselves to the exact same microscope so we can see in what way we can measure them and find them wanting.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:53 AM on February 25, 2010 [26 favorites]


Unless he's said it in an article or something I haven't read, Dawkins does not claim that raising a child is molestation. He claims that the psychological and intellectual damage done to a child by raising them in a religious context is of similar magnitude.

So....he doesn't claim it IS molestation, but he claims it's LIKE molestation.

Lemme ask -- if I said that something you did made you LIKE a serial killer, would you be comfortable with that simply because I didn't say you WERE a serial killer?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:54 AM on February 25, 2010


Pol Pot, Stalin and Mao--you don't need a god or a church to have such or to justify murder in mass or one by one

I've run that line here before, the usual response is: 'Well, in those cases the elevation of the figurehead/state/policy is so extreme that it may as well be a supernaturally-based system of belief, duh!'
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:55 AM on February 25, 2010


Sorry, but my objection is not to Christianity, or even just religion, it is an objection to metaphysical systems of belief, and no number of examples of good friendly Christians are going to change my mind about that.

So, if you had a genuinely metaphysical experience, would that perhaps open yrrr mind? That's what happened to me. Two to be specific. One unimaginably horrific, the other pretty much completely opposite.

Just as the Christianity I was raised with failed me beforehand, Atheism's never quite cut it for me ever since.

Everything You Know Is Wrong.

Words to live by.
posted by philip-random at 10:57 AM on February 25, 2010


Unpopular views often become popular. You're creating a double standard based on the shifting vagaries of public opinion?

I think you're overestimating American voters--say, the Californians who enacted Prop 8 in 2008-- as if these voters IN GENERAL cast their ballots with as much thought and nuance as you do. If I offered you your choice of either a crisp $5 bill or a crisp $100 bill would you need time ponder your selection?
posted by applemeat at 11:03 AM on February 25, 2010


"On more than one occasion, Dawkins has characterized parents who raise their children within a religious framework as likely doing more damage to them than pedophile, child molesting priests."

As someone who, like Dawkins, was molested as a child and raised within a religious framework I both agree with this statement and found it incredibly empowering when I first read it in context. The insight that the trauma caused by the molestation itself (not talking about associated violence here if any) is trivial compared to the confusion and guilt imposed by trying to comprehend this event within a religious framework prompted me to reexamine long-submerged feelings about this event and assisted in my ongoing quest to rid myself of the last vestiges of prejudice imposed by this upbringing.

I've always been puzzled at the Dawkin's is an ass type comments and they affect me in much the same way as I understand religious folks to be affected by the throwaway religion-bashing. I feel that the implication is that I am an ass because I generally agree with what I have read of his work and find it valuable. I do not have such a reaction to attacks on Dawkin's ideas because I believe that all knowledge should be subject to challenge in the pursuit of truth and personal insult is not necessarily implied.
posted by Manjusri at 11:08 AM on February 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


The idea that religious belief is a wholly personal thing which in and of itself affects nobody but the believer is an intensely facile one, and it's a shame to see it as integrated into the liberal worldview as it is.

Explain to me please, how my religious beliefs affect anyone but me.

With the exception of my son's circumcision, I do not think my beliefs have ever infringed on anyone.
posted by zarq at 11:09 AM on February 25, 2010


You had to go and say the c word.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:12 AM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Michael: Get rid of the Seaward.
Lucille: I'll leave when I'm good and ready.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:16 AM on February 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


No one is pure. You live in America.

My statement was way too general, but in terms of religion it is a false comparison. I don't have an option to live in no country and live as a politically autonomous, unaffiliated individual. I respect the personal practice of spirituality and don't question or criticize whatever form it may take. But no practice of spirituality requires membership in an organization. It is a choice to align oneself with a larger religious organization, and once affiliated you cannot conveniently and selectively divorce yourself from the association. A lot of the argument I see here want to have it both ways, to assert the affiliation with a larger belief system up to the point where that association is justifiably criticized, at which point the criticism morphs into a personal assault on one's spirituality.
posted by troybob at 11:20 AM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Explain to me please, how my religious beliefs affect anyone but me.


Your beliefs (religious or otherwise) affect pretty much everyone you meet in any given day, though usually in some tiny, subtle way. Such is the nature of being a social being, isn't it? The key, as this thread seems to attest, is not to be a dick about it.
posted by philip-random at 11:24 AM on February 25, 2010


You had to go and say the c word.

Screw that. I gave the only example I can think of in which my beliefs definitely infringed on someone else. He made a definitive statement and I'd like to see him back it up.

I don't vote according to my religious beliefs. I don't lobby my political representatives based on them. I don't proselytize, or assume my religious beliefs should be adopted by anyone. My children will be given a thorough, rounded religious education, and also taught in depth about atheism and agnosticism so that when they grow up they can make informed choices for themselves, without having them imposed by me or my wife. They will learn to respect others, and not just show superficial tolerance. My kids were given secondary, hebrew names in the tradition of my people, but they can easily choose not to do anything with them, or change them as they see fit.

I don't tithe money to my synagogue, although I do pay membership dues. My synagogue does not lobby politically.

I have worked in homeless shelters, hospitals, soup kitchens and done other, extensive volunteer work with various religious groups, but do not subscribe to their newsletters, so to speak.

My opinions on various issues and the way in which I treat and interact with others may or may not agree with the teachings of my religion, but they aren't guided by them.

Yet somehow according to PG, I'm infringing on other people. I'd like to hear how he thinks I'm doing so.
posted by zarq at 11:27 AM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


A lot of the argument I see here want to have it both ways, to assert the affiliation with a larger belief system up to the point where that association is justifiably criticized, at which point the criticism morphs into a personal assault on one's spirituality.

Please see my partial response to this idea right up here.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:27 AM on February 25, 2010


So religious influences that back up your statements like the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury are valid, but religious influences that don't, like the Catholic Pope, don't.

I was giving an example of how moral precepts arrived at by nice people of good faith, such as the notion of a 'just war', can lead to atrocity. I was not trying to blame religion for WWI and the fact that other religious leaders had a different view is irrelevant.

I would add that you are on a pretty slippery slope with the Pope (the Pope slope?) considering the attitude the Vatican took to European fascism twenty years later.
posted by unSane at 11:28 AM on February 25, 2010


My opinions on various issues and the way in which I treat and interact with others may or may not agree with the teachings of my religion, but they aren't guided by them.

I'm curious -- are you really saying that your religious beliefs have no effect at all on your behaviour?

PG use the word 'affect', not 'infringe'. Clearly your religious beliefs affect other people -- what you write in this thread has an effect, however small.
posted by unSane at 11:31 AM on February 25, 2010


Your beliefs (religious or otherwise) affect pretty much everyone you meet in any given day, though usually in some tiny, subtle way.

No. Don't change his meaning. The statement he made was not that a person's beliefs ("religious or otherwise") affect others. It was that their religious beliefs do.

He said: The idea that religious belief is a wholly personal thing which in and of itself affects nobody but the believer is an intensely facile one, and it's a shame to see it as integrated into the liberal worldview as it is.

Let's be clear about this, please.
posted by zarq at 11:32 AM on February 25, 2010


I've always been puzzled at the Dawkin's is an ass type comments and they affect me in much the same way as I understand religious folks to be affected by the throwaway religion-bashing.

Really? Because there are a lot of people in my own religion who I recognize are total asses, and it doesn't offend me in the least if someone calls them out on it. Isn't there a difference between saying that someone is an ass and saying that every worldview that is even remotely similar to theirs is a net harm to the world, no matter how good that person might be?

I mean, I disagree with Dawkins as to his conclusion that God does not exist. But I agree with a ton of what he says and writes, and I think his work is useful and, sometimes, interesting. And I think he's an ass - and that he would be an ass regardless of whether or not I agree with any part of his work or his conclusions. Whether he's an ass or not says nothing about you or the merits of your own approach to the universe or your beliefs regarding reality. All it says is that Dawkins, personally, tends to act like an ass.

By the same token, though, I am not terribly offended at the assertion that religion in general has been a force for great evil in the world. In fact, the only difference that I'm aware of between me and Dawkins on that front is that, while he dismisses all religion, I dismiss all but one. And if Dawkins called me an ass, I'd probably see his point.
posted by The World Famous at 11:32 AM on February 25, 2010


I'm curious -- are you really saying that your religious beliefs have no effect at all on your behaviour?

I'm saying I'd like to see him back his assertion up with some facts.
posted by zarq at 11:33 AM on February 25, 2010


I note you did not answer my question. OK, you object to any transrational or non-empirical belief, not just for yourself, but for ANYONE. Why?

Because there is no such thing as a belief in and of itself. Our beliefs inform and determine us; they shape our perceptions and our actions. Nobody believes a thing and has that be where it stops; a person who believes something acts upon it in some way.

Beliefs which refuse reason cause us to believe things to be other than as they are- they damage the believer by impeding his or her ability to interact with reality.

And if we were solitary animals, that would be bad enough, and those who spread a/anti/ir-rational and non-empirical beliefs would be harmful enough to the world.

But we are social creatures, organizing ourselves in societies, and (in democratic societies, anyway) collaborating on how to organize ourselves. Your beliefs affect everyone you interact with because they are the foundation of how you interact with them.

An account of beliefs which holds them to be solely within the realm of the personal and the private, walled off form the greater context of the person they are held by and the society in which that person exists and acts in, is in my opinion a simplistic and facile one- appealing to particular political and philosophical positions, certainly, but not, I think, defensible.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:36 AM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


What about my belief that William Baziotes is the greatest painter of the 1st half of the 20th century? That belief has nothing to do with reason, but I don't think it's necessarily impeding my ability to interact with reality.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:40 AM on February 25, 2010


That belief has nothing to do with reason, but I don't think it's necessarily impeding my ability to interact with reality.

If it's causing you to spend any time looking at Baziotes' paintings that could otherwise have been used to look at a painting by a better painter, it's impeding your ability to interact with reality.
posted by The World Famous at 11:43 AM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Beliefs which refuse reason cause us to believe things to be other than as they are- they damage the believer by impeding his or her ability to interact with reality.

This is the crux of your argument, I think, and the place at which we most bluntly disagree. I do not believe that religious or metaphysical beliefs "refuse reason" or otherwise impede my ability to interact with reality. If you think they do, then I see absolutely why you'd feel that way; when people value faith over reason, I get pretty pissed off too.

The interesting thing about this, to me, is that I was raised by an agnostic Quaker and a very outspoken atheist. I was raised with an active contempt for religion, and both my parents are research scientists. I came to spirituality in my teens, and to Christianity specifically as an adult, and what made that happen is that I found a church that specifically teaches that reason is not subordinate to faith. Without that essential and explicit value, I would not be going to church at all.
posted by KathrynT at 11:48 AM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


If it's causing you to spend any time looking at Baziotes' paintings that could otherwise have been used to look at a painting by a better painter, it's impeding your ability to interact with reality.

Is there a better painter? Am I provably wrong to think Baziotes is #1? Not all things that cannot be explained with reason are unreasonable; reason is not the only metric for determining the worth or validity of a thing.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:53 AM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


So, to be clear, if I had to choose between Dobson and Dawkins? Dawkins all the way. He may be a dick, but he's not WRONG, I just think he's not RIGHT about everything. Dobson, on the other hand, is not only a dick and also wrong, but incredibly powerful and destructive.
posted by KathrynT at 11:53 AM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


To clarify my previous comment: my agreement is with Dawkins quote from the God Delusion (that I'm having trouble locating now) not with zarq's paraphrase which I don't think precisely captures the original meaning and strikes me as more inflammatory.
posted by Manjusri at 11:54 AM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't think aesthetics are related to reason. For them to be so would require an objective standard or guideline, and the absence of any evidence for such a thing causes efforts to base aesthetics on reason are as doomed as they were when Ayn Rand was trying to justify reifying her aesthetic preferences as objectively, rationally true.

I do not believe that religious or metaphysical beliefs "refuse reason" or otherwise impede my ability to interact with reality.

In which case I have no idea why they are religious beliefs. What metaphysical beliefs do you hold that have some kind of empirical basis? Or do you define "reason" as encompassing nonempirical sources of knowledge?
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:56 AM on February 25, 2010


You mean it's not worshiping idols instead of God, as it has been described in the Bible and understood for millenia?


Yes, that's idolatry too. As would be meeting the Buddha on the road and not killing him.
posted by Obscure Reference at 11:57 AM on February 25, 2010


Is there a better painter? Am I provably wrong to think Baziotes is #1? Not all things that cannot be explained with reason are unreasonable; reason is not the only metric for determining the worth or validity of a thing.

That's why I said "if."
posted by The World Famous at 11:57 AM on February 25, 2010


Clearly your religious beliefs affect other people -- what you write in this thread has an effect, however small.

Please go through the comments I've made in this thread and explain to me what religious beliefs I have displayed, mentioned or discussed that have had an affect on other people in this thread.
posted by zarq at 11:57 AM on February 25, 2010


Baziotes? Now YOU'RE trolling.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:01 PM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't think aesthetics are related to reason. For them to be so would require an objective standard or guideline, and the absence of any evidence for such a thing causes efforts to base aesthetics on reason are as doomed as they were when Ayn Rand was trying to justify reifying her aesthetic preferences as objectively, rationally true.... What metaphysical beliefs do you hold that have some kind of empirical basis?

Well, this is exactly my point. It is my belief (ha-HA!) that metaphysics, like aesthetics, do not fall strictly under the auspices of logic and reason. To say, simultaneously, that it's cool for me to like Baziotes because aesthetics can't be measured while simultaneously saying that metaphysical beliefs are harmful because they can't tested empirically seems double-minded.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:01 PM on February 25, 2010


Baziotes? Now YOU'RE trolling.

I will fight you, sir.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:04 PM on February 25, 2010


To clarify my previous comment: my agreement is with Dawkins quote from the God Delusion (that I'm having trouble locating now) not with zarq's paraphrase which I don't think precisely captures the original meaning and strikes me as more inflammatory.

Original meaning? Paraphrase? I quoted Dawkins own words directly in this comment:
"I am sure her experience is far from unique. And what if we assume a less altruistic child, worried about her own eternity rather than a friend's? Odious as the physical abuse of children by priests undoubtedly is, I suspect that it may do them less lasting damage than the mental abuse of bringing them up Catholic in the first place.

'What shall we tell the children?' is a superb polemic on how religions abuse the minds of children, by the distinguished psychologist Nicholas Humphrey. It was originally delivered as a lecture in aid of Amnesty International, and has now been reissued as a chapter of his book, The Mind Made Flesh, just published by Oxford University Press. It is also available on the worldwide web and I strongly recommend it. Humphrey argues that, in the same way as Amnesty works tirelessly to free political prisoners the world over, we should work to free the children of the world from the religions which, with parental approval, damage minds too young to understand what is happening to them. He is right, and the same lesson should inform our discussions of the current pedophile brouhaha. Priestly groping of child bodies is disgusting. But it may be less harmful in the long run than priestly subversion of child minds."
*tap* *tap*

Is this thing on?
posted by zarq at 12:04 PM on February 25, 2010


Please go through the comments I've made in this thread and explain to me what religious beliefs I have displayed, mentioned or discussed that have had an affect on other people in this thread.

Forget it, zarq. It's PG. He's ducking my questions too.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:06 PM on February 25, 2010


Heh. Actually that one was to unSane, who has been quite good about responding to people in this thread.

But it's a good point to remember, thanks. :)
posted by zarq at 12:10 PM on February 25, 2010


zarq: It's okay to spout anti-religious rhetoric, if they don't currently have enough followers to change the political landscape?

Why is "anti-religious rhetoric" a problem at all? "Religion is illogical and stupid and harmful" does not equal "Ban Christians from foundational institutions of society".
posted by spaltavian at 12:11 PM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hi spaltavian, welcome to the thread!
posted by shakespeherian at 12:15 PM on February 25, 2010


Why is "anti-religious rhetoric" a problem at all? "Religion is illogical and stupid and harmful" does not equal "Ban Christians from foundational institutions of society".

....What do you mean "why is 'anti-religious rhetoric' a problem"? It's a problem for the same reason that anti-ANYTHING rhetoric is a problem -- at the very, very least, it's divisive. Or just mean.

To continue your analogy: it is true that "Religion is illogical and stupid and harmful" does not equal "Ban Christians from foundational institutions of society". HOWEVER: it is ALSO true that "the Pearls say they beat their kids because the Bible told them to" does not equal "all Christians therefore beat their kids". Nor does "the Pearls say they beat their kids because the Bible told them to" necessarilly equal "religion is illogical and stupid and harmful". All "the Pearls said they beat their kids because the Bible told them to" means is "the Pearls are profoundly messed-up and blamed their messed-up-ness on their religion."

This entire post is about how the FPP discussion would have been better served focusing on anti-ABUSE rhetoric instead of delving into anti-religious rhetoric.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:19 PM on February 25, 2010


Why is "anti-religious rhetoric" a problem at all?

I don't see why intolerance should ever be considered acceptable, just because it's currently unpopular.

"Religion is illogical and stupid and harmful" does not equal "Ban Christians from foundational institutions of society".

Yet.

I hasten to add that I'm not one of those folks that think that Christians are in any way being oppressed or marginalized by American society, just because they aren't being allowed to turn the US into a dominionist theocracy. I am firmly in favor of the separation of Church and state, no matter what religion that "Church" may be.

But how much of a leap is it, really, to conclude that if "Religion is illogical and stupid and harmful," that its followers shouldn't be allowed to have too much influence? Several people in this thread, myself included, have expressed a wish that religious institutions would not have the power over secular affairs that they already do.

Also, it's kind of weak to make sweeping generalizations about institutions that have also been tremendous forces for good in this world. But we've already covered that at length upthread.
posted by zarq at 12:24 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Baziotes? Now YOU'RE trolling.

I will fight you, sir.


John Malkovich will be appearing as AstroZombie while the role of shakespeherian will be played by Keanu Reeves.
posted by y2karl at 12:24 PM on February 25, 2010


I'm torn between Keanu from Bill & Ted and Keanu from The Matrix. Because ultimately, which one really kicked more ass?
posted by shakespeherian at 12:26 PM on February 25, 2010


anti-ANYTHING rhetoric is a problem

What?

Rhetoric is the use of language to persuade.

Is anti-Nazi rhetoric a problem?

Is anti-racist rhetoric a problem?

Is trying to persuade people that Miley Cyrus is not the best singer in the world a problem?

Is anti-Rhetoric rhetoric a problem? Because that's what you're doing, you know.

I think you are confusing 'rhetoric' with 'inflammatory rhetoric' or 'hollow rhetoric' or something.
posted by unSane at 12:26 PM on February 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


It is my belief (ha-HA!) that metaphysics, like aesthetics, do not fall strictly under the auspices of logic and reason. To say, simultaneously, that it's cool for me to like Baziotes because aesthetics can't be measured while simultaneously saying that metaphysical beliefs are harmful because they can't tested empirically seems double-minded.

Metaphysical beliefs make claims about the nature of reality. Aesthetic opinions are statements of preference. I think these are not comparable.


Forget it, zarq. It's PG. He's ducking my questions too.

zarq is talking to unSane. I try to ignore your posts about religion, with varying success.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:30 PM on February 25, 2010


I'm torn between Keanu from Bill & Ted and Keanu from The Matrix. Because ultimately, which one really kicked more ass?

Point Break. Duh.
posted by The World Famous at 12:30 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Aesthetic opinions are statements of preference.

While this is sometimes true, it's certainly not the entire truth. Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy and is pretty closely tied to metaphysics. You can find a summary of this argument here.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:35 PM on February 25, 2010


But how much of a leap is it, really, to conclude that if "Religion is illogical and stupid and harmful," that its followers shouldn't be allowed to have too much influence? Several people in this thread, myself included, have expressed a wish that religious institutions would not have the power over secular affairs that they already do.

I agree that religious instutions should have less of an influence on secular affairs, but that's not because I believe religion is illogical and stupid and harmful. It's because I believe that religion and politics should have a clear bright line between them -- because politics deals with the collective, while religion is so intensely personal. The two cover two very different facets of human experience. And the mistake in letting one influence the other overly much isn't because one is lesser than the other -- it's because they are too DIFFERENT to influence each other overly much.

I see religion and science the same way, personally -- different perspectives about the same thing. But ideally, ones that complement each other.

Let me try an illustration here: it's snowing in New York right now. There are three different perspectives through which I can relate to that snow.

1. Science can explain what is making it snow, and the science of meteorology can also predict for how long it will snow, and whether I'll need boots when I go out tonight or whether it may have started shifting into rain by then.

2. Religion speaks to that part of me that is still, even after 40 years, a little awestruck at the fact that snow happens. Yeah, the scientific reason it happens is because of X-Y-Z, but dammit, isn't it neat that X-Y-Z happening is so beautiful?

3. Politics deals with how to allocate public resources so my streets get plowed OF this snow. It sets up the budget for the snow plows and salt spreaders out on the streets now, it allows me to speak at public fora to advocate for better representation for my Brooklyn neighborhood, and it gives me license to seek a solution if the subways crap out because of snow (again).

Those are three very different responses to snow, handled by three very different entities. It would make no sense for me to go to the town hall to seek answers for "what makes it snow," just as it would make no sense for me to rely on the local Hatian Baptist Ministry down the block to get my neighborhood plowed. Because plowing the streets is NOT religion's JOB. Just as explaining the science behind snow is NOT the town hall's JOB.

But the fact that the local Baptist church cannot plow the streets does not make the local Baptist church inept. It only makes it unsuited for that specific task -- a task which IS better suited to a different entity, which already is in place.

THAT is why I advocate the separation of church and state -- the two are meant to complement each other, not REPLACE each other.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:37 PM on February 25, 2010 [9 favorites]


All "the Pearls said they beat their kids because the Bible told them to" means is "the Pearls are profoundly messed-up and blamed their messed-up-ness on their religion."

This entire post is about how the FPP discussion would have been better served focusing on anti-ABUSE rhetoric instead of delving into anti-religious rhetoric.


But I can't agree with this.

The Pearls advocated beating children and were followed by the Schatzes, who were the ones who killed one child and hospitalized the other, using the Pearls' very particular method. The Pearls had a doctrinal basis for their ideas on child-rearing, which from what I understand were: children are born wayward -- prime repositories of sinfulness on earth; parents are representatives of God's authority for their children. I'm not an expert or anything, but to me, this does not sound totally divorced from any potential interpretation of the Bible. There are certainly elements there that are shared by other religious groups, which the Pearls then put to spectacularly bad ends.

And then there's the fact that the veneer of religion makes others more likely to heed what they're saying, and makes further others less likely to expose the parents who are following the Pearls.

I mean, 500,000 copies is a pretty large number in book sales. I think when you're talking about numbers like that, it's hard to say that a shared religious outlook is doing none of the work here and should be ignored by commenters.
posted by palliser at 12:37 PM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Is anti-Nazi rhetoric a problem?

It is if you come into any thread about Germans and start complaining about Nazis. We've actually seen this a little bit, and also around Israel/Palestine topics where someone will post, like, a link to an Israeli museum with something neat [hypothetical example] and someone will hop into the thread and start talking about how shitty things are in Gaza. Now, things are pretty shitty in Gaza, and to some people really there is no Israel that is not related to the Israel/Palestine conflict. This gets further confused in the case of the Pearls where their religion is an explicit part of why they did what they did but as with all things, it's a lot more complicated than that. So to turn it into "another horrific tale brought to you by ... religion!" is as facile as "Oh, this insane German guy met a guy on the Internet and killed and ate him ... well, you know what Germany is like!"
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:37 PM on February 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


I try to ignore your posts about religion, with varying success.

Ignoring questions you don't know how to answer doesn't work on the SATs either.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:38 PM on February 25, 2010


Ignoring questions you don't know how to answer doesn't work on the SATs either.

Actually you lose more points for a wrong answer than for leaving a question blank.

I don't think there's any reason to apply that to the conversation at hand, I just like being a pedant.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:40 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


500,000 copies is a pretty large number in book sales. I think when you're talking about numbers like that, it's hard to say that a shared religious outlook is doing none of the work here and should be ignored by commenters.

It's still a very, very broad jump from this situation to "ha! See? More proof that RELIGION IS EVIL!" is my point.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:41 PM on February 25, 2010


Ignoring questions you don't know how to answer doesn't work on the SATs either.

This sort of statement is why I try not to engage you.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:44 PM on February 25, 2010


"[...]well, the Khmer Rouge, Stalin and Mao have been the elephants in this discussion's room. And what religion did they use to justify their atrocities ? I have no problem with our being fallen. We are cruel by nature. Except, on occasion, to our friends, relatives and fellow villagers. But the people over the hill--that's another story. Sure, we have used religion to justify our malice, but then--Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot, not to mention the French Revolution--we are quite perfectly capable of torturing and killing in the name of empirical reason. Because torturing and killing is in our nature.[...]"

And who exactly would claim that you need religion to commit mass atrocities, or that the only mass atrocities committed were animated by religion? Again, a 5th grader knows that's not true. That said, any system that's based on unsupported beliefs is inherently dangerous. Merely getting rid of such modes of thinking, would represent progress. I think if religion disappeared tomorrow, the world would be a better place, but it's absurd to imagine that for example mass atrocities could never happen again. Getting rid of cancer is not going to prevent death by heart attack. But that's not an argument for not getting rid of cancer, or for keeping cancer around, or for welcoming cancer. Getting rid of cancer would still represent progress. Though I'm all for getting rid of heart attacks as well, and we don't need to wait to be done with one before we tackle the other. I say we tackle them all, because they are all enemies of mankind.
posted by VikingSword at 12:46 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


zarq is talking to unSane.

I also asked a very specific question of you, which you have yet to answer adequately. Or was your abstract argument supposed to be the specific example(s) I was asking for?

I try to ignore your posts about religion, with varying success.

You know, it's funny how two people can have different impressions of a person. I've always found Empress to be singularly insightful and open-minded with regard to religious topics. She asks questions when she doesn't think she understands something that another MeFite has said, has a low tolerance level for bigotry and racism, has a good sense of humor, generally expresses herself eloquently, intelligently and in good faith, and doesn't avoid questions when they're put to her.

Although I suppose if she frustrates you, it's probably best for all concerned that you don't engage her.
posted by zarq at 12:46 PM on February 25, 2010


Also, she's a fellow theater person. As a theater person myself, I can say with some authority that working in theater is another example of living a life based on a completely unsupportable act of faith. And I think it's beautiful.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:51 PM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think if religion disappeared tomorrow, the world would be a better place, but it's absurd to imagine that for example mass atrocities could never happen again.

Maybe, then, it's the getting rid of mass atrocities that would make the world a better place, rather than the getting rid of religion. Because if religion still existed, but mass atrocities didn't, then....what is the harm of religion, again?

Of course suggesting that you swap out "mass atrocities" for "homophobic thinking" or "anti-intellectualism" or whatsoever ill anyone wishes to blame on religion, if you like.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:52 PM on February 25, 2010


That said, any system that's based on unsupported beliefs is inherently dangerous.

Like fiat currency.

Merely getting rid of such modes of thinking, would represent progress.

I'm not sure returning to the gold standard is such a wise idea....


Just trying to lighten the mood. Carry on.
posted by zarq at 12:52 PM on February 25, 2010


"Original meaning? Paraphrase? "

Thanks for pointing out your source, I missed it the first time through. As I suspected, your paraphrase that I quoted directly in my comment was more inflammatory than the original meaning.

"*tap* *tap*Is this thing on?"

The problem isn't your mic, it's your headphones.
posted by Manjusri at 12:54 PM on February 25, 2010


It's still a very, very broad jump from this situation to "ha! See? More proof that RELIGION IS EVIL!" is my point.

I can agree with that, but I think you were unfairly lumping together a bunch of different kinds of comments with your statement that the Pearls were just messed-up people, and everyone should have been focusing on how bad abusing children is rather than trying to pick apart the role religion played here.
posted by palliser at 12:54 PM on February 25, 2010


Zarq and AZ, thank you (I'd tell you you may be making me a little embarrassed, but I turned 40 today and I can take all the good wishes I can get).

However, PG has a point in that I do get a little childish when speaking with him. In my defense, I rarely get childish with someone unless speaking to them rationally hasn't worked, but -- that still isn't an excuse to do it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:55 PM on February 25, 2010


And fair enough, palliser -- I do tend to skew VERY conservative when it comes to how much religion does influence people as a whole, but that's precisely because for all the people whom it does influence to this point, I know far more for whom it doesn't. But you're right that it may be more of a continuum. ....Kind of like the Kinsey scale, if you think about it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:58 PM on February 25, 2010


I also asked a very specific question of you, which you have yet to answer adequately.

I apologize; I've clearly missed it. What was that question?

You know, it's funny how two people can have different impressions of a person.

My opinion of her very clearly differs. We've had the same argument repeatedly and unproductively, generating a lot of heat and little light, and I'd rather have fewer arguments on Metafilter.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:01 PM on February 25, 2010


Maybe, then, it's the getting rid of mass atrocities that would make the world a better place[...]

and since one of the causes of mass atrocities is religion, getting rid of religion is making progress in getting rid of mass atrocities. Just as curing cancer would get rid of one cause of early deaths.

[...Because if religion still existed, but mass atrocities didn't, then....what is the harm of religion, again?[..]

But that's like saying, if cancer exists, but doesn't result in death, what's the harm of cancer? Cancer can turn malignant at any moment. That's the danger. An irrational belief system is inherently dangerous - it may be benign today, but turn deadly tomorrow... it's irrational - that's the price you pay for abandoning reason. Disordered thinking is inherently dangerous, like a disordered cell (cancer!) is inherently dangerous - it represents lethal danger.

Of course, disordered thinking is not limited to religion, but getting rid of... etc.
posted by VikingSword at 1:05 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


“Not once, not one single time, did he insult another individual, for being religious, or for any other reason.”

One can be combative without being directly insulting. Indeed, unSane has argued explicitly in favor of passionate provocative dissonance. That kind of dissonance can be called trolling. One can troll without –being- a troll.

That said, I don’t think he’s trolling. I think it shows more courtesy to address questions than it does to just blow them off. I think he’s in earnest and is expressing a genuine opinion. But in the case of that kind of provocation and in the case of the resulting exponential digression from the topic, I - (and others, whatever merit or not is in anyone’s wording – and given his provocation and continued digression on religion is deliberate, my sympathies for insult in response are marginal - and ‘dick’ has been a fairly longstanding term for that kind of antagonism here, least as far as I’ve seen) - simply think he’s wrong.

More for the constant reiteration and expansion – over and over – than whatever the subject matter of the digression. I’d go further and say if someone is insulting –obviously that person is losing their reasoning faculties. Ever been pissed? Yep, happened to me too. So the one doing the deliberate antagonizing tends to be, it’s been my experience here, the one on the hook for it. Piss a even a good dog off long enough, he’ll bite you. Now – he shouldn’t, but it doesn’t make the dog wrong.
(far later comments in the thread excepted of course, far more productive, and I think the differences are clear)

“You remind me very strongly of someone I used to know, who is now dead…”
Not strange. I was dead once for a few minutes. Did wonders for my outlook.

“One of the reasons I advance strongly worded positions is because I want people to push back against them, undermine them, insult them.”
The problem there is when it’s misplaced. As I think it was in the thread. Passion is important, but that provocation, even when productive, leads to digression.

We have the same issues when there’s a thread concerning police misconduct. Sometimes there’s a lucid, passionate discussion. Mostly it’s people saying variations on “all cops are evil.” I don’t see the use of that because it’s too far from whatever the specific action was. Even if that’s true – what is there to be done? Hell, especially if it’s true?
On the other hand a discussion of the systemic problems in law enforcement, personnel problems, etc. what they are and how to remedy those is far more helpful no matter how acrimonious the basic criticism.
If one points that out, there’s always a few wits who like to say you’re defending the police. As though there’s an entire other system of law enforcement just sitting there unused and folks ignore it because they love authoritarianism and police corruption so much.
And if you say “here’s how you can get involved” the answer (from those quarters) is typically ‘that won’t work.’ Well what will work? - Usually nothing comes back.

Because their beef isn’t really about anything. They’re just spouting off.
But they’re distracting and pissing off people who actually are trying to understand what is going on. The problem is not that they’re going off about cops, but that they’re engaging others who are trying to cohere the ideas.

For example, two comments from here in succession:
“we're almost 600 comments into this discussion, and you're still repeating that it's not ok for you to discuss organized religion. Despite many clear, well thought out, and respectful comments to the effect that it's not what you say, but how (and sometimes when) you say it.” -billyfleetwood
“I get that 'yay religion' got people's backs up. What were the others?” - unSane

So the choice of what one wants folks to push back on can be lead by one’s own myopia and blindness (willful or otherwise) not an earnest inquiry into or genuine criticism of the subject matter.

And their passion in pushing back can lead to distortion as well no matter how reasonably you comport yourself. And it would still be your fault. Seems more like a coercive act if done deliberately anyway.

Essentially – very few people want you to come piss them off just so they think out loud for you.

I’m not much of an ass kisser myself. But I do have to go with the mods on wanting to keep a lid on it here.
Not to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings (as the mods seem to intimate in some respects) at least as far as I’m concerned, I’ll take the truth handed to me if it requires a boot in the winkies, but because the topic can, and usually does, spin off on vacation and devolve. And that’s not why anyone picks an FPP topic instead of just posting “FUCK YOU” and opening up a thread for discussion.

If we’re going to broaden the subject and say how important it is to address the spread of ignorance and violence lead by religion, whipping a child is romper room by comparison. I’ve seen where intractable disagreement and breakdown of law and civil society can lead and how righteousness can be used as cover for it. Captivity, deprivation of food and property, smashing or poisoning water wells, systematic rape, genocide. Some of us had enough internal morality to think maybe that was wrong and we had the passion and commitment to die or kill to stop it. We were very good. Think that stopped genocides from continuing to occur?

Consensual validation of certain mores to maintain clarity in discourse might seem restrictive and less passionate, but unless there’s absolutely no other option, I’ll take the polite, head-nodding, pipe-smoking discussion in the wood paneled room, thanks. Seen what can happen going the other way.

What bugs me more than any metaphysics or any code of morality at all is that they all seem to completely fail in the face of the ability of people to delude themselves about anything. That relates to rationalizing about not reporting child abuse, or hitting a kid because you can't think of anything else to do. I mean, more Americans have died in car accidents than have ever died in combat in all the wars ever fought by the U.S.
But cars aren’t treated like a moral dilemma (except perhaps as regards global warming). Those things forcing circumstances without thinking are pretty dangerous. And typically systemic, not ideological (even though perhaps based in a given outlook).
It's a kind of nihilism because there doesn't seem to be any real meaning attached to it at all (war, religion, etc. on the other hand...). Hey, gotta get to work, so we'll accept 10K more teenagers dying in the last 10 years than in the entire Vietnam war.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:05 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


and since one of the causes of mass atrocities is religion, getting rid of religion is making progress in getting rid of mass atrocities.

I'm afraid I don't see the proof of this. I see a lot of people using it as an EXCUSE, but I don't see this as being the same thing as a CAUSE.

Actually, let me ask you something -- there are some cases where atrocities were blamed on heavy metal music. There are also cases where crimes have been blamed on video games. Do you also, therefore, believe that getting rid of heavy metal music and video games ALSO is making progress in getting rid of atrocities?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:12 PM on February 25, 2010


I'm in favor of getting rid of at least three Molly Hatchet albums. They were terrible. "Silent Reign of Heroes" in particular.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:15 PM on February 25, 2010


It's sort of embarrassing how often I have to stop while I am making a joke to do some research. I actually know almost nothing about Molly Hatchet.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:16 PM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Frank Frazetta did album covers for Molly Hatchet.

Keanu Reeves and John Malkovich actually fought a duel in Dangerous Liaisons, which y2karl probably already knew.

posted by cgc373 at 1:19 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


EmpressCallipygos: Why is "anti-religious rhetoric" a problem at all? "Religion is illogical and stupid and harmful" does not equal "Ban Christians from foundational institutions of society".

....What do you mean "why is 'anti-religious rhetoric' a problem"? It's a problem for the same reason that anti-ANYTHING rhetoric is a problem -- at the very, very least, it's divisive. Or just mean.


What? Time to shut down think tanks, debate teams, philosophy departments and quash all forms of political discourse, everyone.

I'll also ask you to request that the mods delete your post that disagrees with me. It's divisive and mean.

To continue your analogy: it is true that "Religion is illogical and stupid and harmful" does not equal "Ban Christians from foundational institutions of society". HOWEVER: it is ALSO true that "the Pearls say they beat their kids because the Bible told them to" does not equal "all Christians therefore beat their kids". Nor does "the Pearls say they beat their kids because the Bible told them to" necessarilly equal "religion is illogical and stupid and harmful". All "the Pearls said they beat their kids because the Bible told them to" means is "the Pearls are profoundly messed-up and blamed their messed-up-ness on their religion."

This entire post is about how the FPP discussion would have been better served focusing on anti-ABUSE rhetoric instead of delving into anti-religious rhetoric.


No one said the that waht the Pearls do is indicative of all religious people. The point that others were making seems to be that it is an example, albeit an extreme one, of what irrational, blindly but passionately held beliefs that are opaque to reason can lead people to do. Faith isn't always so malignant, but it depends on belief without recourse to logic or evidence, making it hard to approach through discourse when it leads to this application of "the rod".
posted by spaltavian at 1:21 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


In which case I have no idea why they are religious beliefs. What metaphysical beliefs do you hold that have some kind of empirical basis? Or do you define "reason" as encompassing nonempirical sources of knowledge?

Neither. It is my contention that there are areas of the human experience for which empiricism is not the most appropriate framework for understanding. Like aesthetics, or love, or profundity, or grief. Or compassion, or empathy, or -- hell, all kinds of things. I don't believe that metaphysics "makes statements about reality" in any arena in which empiricism is useful.
posted by KathrynT at 1:22 PM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


No one said the that waht the Pearls do is indicative of all religious people. The point that others were making seems to be that it is an example, albeit an extreme one, of what irrational, blindly but passionately held beliefs that are opaque to reason can lead people to do.

....Can you explain the difference between these two positions?

Because to me, "blind irrational belief systems make people do this" sounds REALLY close to "therefore, the people who ascribe to these belief systems WILL do this".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:25 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'll also ask you to request that the mods delete your post that disagrees with me. It's divisive and mean.

Please learn the difference between MeTa and MeFi and don't drag us into any of this, thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:26 PM on February 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


and since one of the causes of mass atrocities is religion, getting rid of religion is making progress in getting rid of mass atrocities.

Since one of the causes of punching is fists, cutting off everyone's hands is making progress in getting rid of punching.
posted by The World Famous at 1:27 PM on February 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


This would bring a whole new meaning to 'Let's go clubbing.'
posted by shakespeherian at 1:29 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Did we solve religion yet? I think we're REALLY close this time. Maybe a few thousand more comments in the thread and I think we can finally nail this sucker down.
posted by empath at 1:30 PM on February 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


jessamyn I'll also ask you to request that the mods delete your post that disagrees with me. It's divisive and mean.

Please learn the difference between MeTa and MeFi and don't drag us into any of this,


Please read a post before you jump down my throat about it. I didn't drag any mods in anything. I can't see how anyone could miss what I did there if they bothered to read the whole post.

Maybe you should explain the difference between MeTa and MeFi to me, really slowly, because I am an idiot.
posted by spaltavian at 1:31 PM on February 25, 2010


This is yet another example of someone using quotation marks to paraphrase, and in the paraphrase changing the meaning of the original post.

What he actually said was "can lead people to do" (my emphasis) not "make people do this". You completely changed the meaning of his words. This has happened over and over again in this thread and on every occasion it has been to distort what one of the non-God faction said so that it appeared to be more general and persecutory of the other side.

This is a dishonest and manipulative debating tactic. If you're going to quote, quote. Otherwise people reading the thread will assume the other person actually said what you put in quotes, and judge the original poster likewise.
posted by unSane at 1:32 PM on February 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Did we solve religion yet? I think we're REALLY close this time. Maybe a few thousand more comments in the thread and I think we can finally nail this sucker down.

As much as I agree about the whole contentious-issues-on-MeTa-are-the-9th-circle-of-hell thing, the original idea, at least, wasn't to end the debate but to stop people from bringing it up all the damn time.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:33 PM on February 25, 2010


Jessamyn: I think spaltavian was attempting to take my point to a ridiculous length in an attempt to disprove it.

spaltavian -- ....Jessamyn is a mod. Just....FYI.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:33 PM on February 25, 2010


(referring to this post, sorry.)
posted by unSane at 1:34 PM on February 25, 2010


Keanu Reeves and John Malkovich actually fought a duel in Dangerous Liaisons, which y2karl probably already knew.

Exactly. Or else AstroZombie would be crawling through the hole in the wall behind the cabinet and we'd all be AstroZombie AstroZombie AstroZombie AstroZombie AstroZombie AstroZombie infinitum and we surely don't want to go there.
posted by y2karl at 1:34 PM on February 25, 2010


I thought it was clear that spaltavain was joking and did not actually suggest that a comment be deleted.
posted by applemeat at 1:35 PM on February 25, 2010


I got an account in 2006 and I have been reading the site since 2002. I know the difference between MeFi and MeTa and I know who Jessamyn. Can everyone attack me, rather than my knowledge of the site? Thanks.
posted by spaltavian at 1:37 PM on February 25, 2010


Maybe you should explain the difference between MeTa and MeFi to me, really slowly, because I am an idiot.

We don't delete comments in MeTa as a general rule. The place is lightly moderated. MeFi is a larger place with slightly more restrictive guidelines so if people have issue with things that happen in MeFi, the guidelines are more open to being adjusted. While it's reasonable to have someone contact the mods about something in MeFi that offended or upset them [usually we don't do anything, but we'd at least take a look] that same sort of thing in MeTa is usually just grandstanding and wastes everyone's time.

So I'm pretty sure I understood the point you were making, but in case anyone wasn't clear on it, I just wanted to make sure people get it. There are a lot of people who flag stuff in MeTa that we're not going to do anything about [because we almost never remove stuff in MeTa, because that's the way it was created] and sometimes it's good to remind people of that. We have also seen, in this thread specifically, people saying "why is what he said here okay but what I said in MeFi not okay?" and so maybe it seemed like a good time to remind folks.

I assure you, I've read every post in this thread, yours included. My general sense of humor may definitely be impeded though.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:38 PM on February 25, 2010


This is a dishonest and manipulative debating tactic.

unSane, I'm someone who has done this in this thread (one time I even followed it with a big ol' [NOT ACTUAL QUOTES!!!1!], which you still seemed to think was me trying to deceive people about what you'd said) and, on my part at least, it certainly isn't an attempt to be manipulative or dishonest. I've done this in a lot of threads about a lot of topics, and I've never once seen anyone get upset about it before you. I think people prefacing paraphrases with the word 'like' is a clear enough indication that it's a paraphrase. Perhaps I am wrong about this, but please stop protesting its usage as though it is a deliberate and insidious tactic to manipulate and deceive, because from what I can tell, that isn't true of a single instance in this thread.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:38 PM on February 25, 2010


Zarq and AZ, thank you (I'd tell you you may be making me a little embarrassed, but I turned 40 today and I can take all the good wishes I can get).

Hey, cool! Congratulations and Happy Birthday! :)
posted by zarq at 1:39 PM on February 25, 2010


What he actually said was "can lead people to do" (my emphasis) not "make people do this".

Well, sure, but adding "can" pretty much makes the assertion meaningless. The label on a pretzel jar "can" lead someone to start a new Manson Family and go on a murdering rampage. My car "can" drive off a cliff. MetaFilter "can" lead people to have a dumb argument about when it may or may not be ok to be a jerk. Aspirin "can" kill you.
posted by The World Famous at 1:39 PM on February 25, 2010


PG, forget it. I withdraw the question.

Honestly, I'm tired of arguing the point.
posted by zarq at 1:40 PM on February 25, 2010


[...]Because to me, "blind irrational belief systems make people do this" sounds REALLY close to "therefore, the people who ascribe to these belief systems WILL do this"[...].

Again, the price you pay for irrationality - living with lethal danger. Not that they WILL - but that they MIGHT. Like a disordered cell - a cancer. It may be benign today, but at any moment turn malignant. When somebody is not amenable to reason, they are like an unguided missile. You hope that it strikes at your enemies, but it may spin toward you (actually, a more apt and real-life military example was the use of poison gas in WWI - the wind turned and the Germans got a taste of their own! gas).

Oh, and you need proof that religion was used to commit atrocities? You're comparing it to heavy metal music influence? The breath of human history is testimony enough, seems to me. Or are you going for an incredibly artless dodge of hoping to save religion's malign influence by splitting "true religion" from "religion is used to"? Even if we agreed that not a single historical leader who used religion as a basis for atrocities was religiously sincere (ha!), we'd still be faced with the impact of the religion that animated the mass of followers to actually execute the atrocity. I'm not aware of any heavy metal jonestown, but then again, I don't go to heavy metal concerts, so I wouldn't know. I do shudder at the regular Dungeons and Dragons massacres, in your other example.
posted by VikingSword at 1:41 PM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


jessamyn: Maybe you should explain the difference between MeTa and MeFi to me, really slowly, because I am an idiot.

We don't delete comments in MeTa as a general rule. The place is lightly moderated...


Jessamyn, with no hard feelings or mean spirit what so ever, I must ask: Are you Amelia Bedelia? Because, seriously, I loved those books when I was a kid.
posted by spaltavian at 1:43 PM on February 25, 2010


Yes! Very happy birthday, EmpressCallipygos! We're the same age. Cheers!
posted by applemeat at 1:43 PM on February 25, 2010


VikingSword, with all due respect, have you even glanced at the rest of this thread? The points you are making have been discussed many, many times already right here.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:53 PM on February 25, 2010


So jessamyn/mods, it seems that those that want to have this debate seem intent on doing so. Even this "please play nice" request has been driven into the same. What's the game plan in the future? I'm not seeing anything answer from this thread. Should we expect a parallel MetaTalk post to pop up and hash everything out again anytime a religion thread pops up? It's not optimal, but it seems to ensure that the debaters would get their discussion, while the original thread avoids the larger discussion.
posted by FuManchu at 1:57 PM on February 25, 2010


EmpressCallipygos: Because to me, "blind irrational belief systems make people do this" sounds REALLY close to "therefore, the people who ascribe to these belief systems WILL do this

Well, that's really strange then, because those are all different words that say different things. Irrational belief can do people to do many things, not just child abuse. It might make someone deny global warming. It might have made someone vote for George W. Bush. It might make someone discriminate on the basis of race. It might even make someone give to charity or forgive a trespass. What I said earlier is that when irrational belief leads someone to torture their child, or insist that all those eggheads made up global warming so they can make millons while you watch a polar bear marry your daughter, it becomes very hard to open a discourse with them on the subject.

That is a real issue in modern debate. While policy objectives are often ideological in nature (and therefore dependent on arbitrary values), polic implementation is dependent upon objectivity and an emprical basis of measurement. When people outright reject the empirical, policy debates tend to screw towards "Keep your government hands off my medicare" or "We'll be greeted as liberators".
posted by spaltavian at 1:57 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why is "anti-religious rhetoric" a problem at all?
I don't see why intolerance should ever be considered acceptable, just because it's currently unpopular.


600+ comments in, and someone finally admitted that this is about stifling anti-religious expression, not about "dickishness", "civility", or "how and when you say it". Congratulations!

As I said above, we allow "intolerant" opinions on any number of human institutions here. Why should we be allowed to share (for example) anti-capitalism or anti-war opinions, and even pro-religion opinions, but not anti-religion opinions? How is that not open "intolerance" toward our anti-religious members?

Again, the double-standard here is appalling. The whole "do you want to ban the open expression of Christianity, then? Do you?!?" thing is absolutely hilarious, given that it's the other side that's actually using words like "I don't see why [anti-religious rhetoric] should ever be considered acceptable".
posted by vorfeed at 1:58 PM on February 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


Are you Amelia Bedelia?

Eh, I can be overly literal sometimes and this thread is 96000+ words long. I do what I can.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:59 PM on February 25, 2010


Again, the double-standard here is appalling. The whole "do you want to ban the open expression of Christianity, then? Do you?!?" thing is absolutely hilarious, given that it's the other side that's actually using words like "I don't see why [anti-religious rhetoric] should ever be considered acceptable".

vorfeed, it seems to me you're the one who keeps saying things like 'Do you want to ban the open expression of anti-religious sentiments, then? Do you?!?'
posted by shakespeherian at 2:01 PM on February 25, 2010


When somebody is not amenable to reason, they are like an unguided missile. You hope that it strikes at your enemies, but it may spin toward you (actually, a more apt and real-life military example was the use of poison gas in WWI - the wind turned and the Germans got a taste of their own! gas).

You do a hundred completely irrational things every day, starting with getting out of bed in the morning. Everybody has to have a reason for living, and none of them are entirely based on reason.
posted by empath at 2:07 PM on February 25, 2010 [8 favorites]


VikingSword, with all due respect, have you even glanced at the rest of this thread? The points you are making have been discussed many, many times already right here.

Admittedly, I have not read every post here, but I don't understand this meta callout. I really don't, and I said as much. I mean, if somebody has been attacked based on their religion, that's totally over the line - like any other ad hom, any personal attack based on anything. Delete such comments, give the perp a timeout or whatever - I mean, this is in the TOS here. We don't need a meta callout for that, do we? On the other hand, if this is pleading that we don't criticize religion or a belief system, any belief system (say, atheism), then it's a reprehensible call out.
posted by VikingSword at 2:07 PM on February 25, 2010


Even if we agreed that not a single historical leader who used religion as a basis for atrocities was religiously sincere (ha!), we'd still be faced with the impact of the religion that animated the mass of followers to actually execute the atrocity.

What religion did the Khmer Rouge, Chairman Mao and Stalin use to motivate people?
posted by empath at 2:08 PM on February 25, 2010


You do a hundred completely irrational things every day, starting with getting out of bed in the morning. Everybody has to have a reason for living, and none of them are entirely based on reason.

You are confused. You are confusing rationality with motivation. Getting out of bed can be entirely rational - and indeed, with rare exceptions, it is entirely rational. I think you are struggling with "motivation" and see it as opposed to rationality - but alas, that's flawed as well. I don't want to recap conceptual analysis 101 here, but there are books on that which will clear up such confusions for you.
posted by VikingSword at 2:10 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, if this is pleading that we don't criticize religion or a belief system, any belief system (say, atheism), then it's a reprehensible call out.

I agree; fortunately, that is not the topic of this callout. The topic of this callout is:
Must every thread about religion turn into an exercise in how religion is inherently a force for evil?

It's derailing this thread as we speak. I'm coming at it as an atheist, so I can sympathize with people who are suspect of religion in general, but I'm of the opinion that it's started to be one of those behaviors that people on this site reflexively engage in, without concern for other members, or whether it forwards the discussion, or whether it needs to happen at all, and it often seems so reductive, in that one piece of misbehavior by one religious person, if supported by their interpretation of scripture, justfied denigrating and dismissing all religion.
Which seems fairly self-explanatory to me. If more explanation is indeed needed, there are almost 800 comments in this thread, many of them from religious members, many others from non-religious members, and some from non-religious moderators, explaining exactly what the problematic behavior is and why it is problematic.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:11 PM on February 25, 2010


What religion did the Khmer Rouge, Chairman Mao and Stalin use to motivate people?

A point made by y2karl. Which I addressed.
posted by VikingSword at 2:11 PM on February 25, 2010


Admittedly, I have not read every post here, but I don't understand this meta callout. I really don't, and I said as much.

Might I suggest just going back and reading my original post, then? I'm not calling for the banning of criticism of religion, or never discussing it. I'm just fucking sick of every single discussion of religion being an open invitation for thoughtless scorn, which it sometimes seems to be.

There are some discussions of religion where it is not at all necessary to rehash the "is religion a net good or evil" discussion, where it contributes nothing to the actual subject of the post, where it actually distracts from the subject of the post, and where the critics, rather than sounding like they are on hand for dialogue, are instead on hand merely to screech about how religious believers are a blight on our land and responsible for untold evil, merely by virtue of believing something that strikes them as unsupportable and silly.

Well, maybe they are. I'm an atheist, so I'm sympathetic to this viewpoint. But I also think it makes for bad conversation unless the subject of the thread leads logically into such a discussion, and it often comes off as uneccesarily mean-spirited.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:12 PM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


zarq: Why is "anti-religious rhetoric" a problem at all?

I don't see why intolerance should ever be considered acceptable, just because it's currently unpopular.

Religions are sets of values assertions about reality. They don't get special protection. They are open for debate, and free to be embraced or rejected as much as any philosophical or political belief like Communism, Conservatism, etc. My personal rejection of Neo-Conservatism is not "intolerance" towards Dick Cheney.
posted by spaltavian at 2:14 PM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Religions are sets of values assertions about reality. They don't get special protection.

Calling for basic civility is not calling for special protection.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:15 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Happy B, Empress C!

If we could get some vague agreement on levels of civility with regards to other people's beliefs, it would be nice if some theologically-inclined participant could do a balanced FPP on some of the stuff in here. I'd really like to know what research has been done on the positive and negative effects of "irrational" beliefs (I want to phrase this less negatively but can't think of anything). By my reckoning, if religion was a general benign influence with occasional catastrophic failure modes, it would be worth preventing those situations rather than preventing religion - we don't ban bridges even if their most high-profile moments are collapses. By the same token, if religion makes most people happier and suppresses a small minority, that's defensible, even if I wouldn't defend it. Or maybe the function religion served in the past is now no longer needed, or provided by something else. Or it serves as a tabula rasa enabling good and bad people to justify their natural inclinations. Or maybe it was a short con that developed into a long con, and has always served as a form of kleptocracy.

I guess it will have to wait a decent time for the GRAR from this thread to wear off, but there must be someone in the world without an agenda who is interested in these things. And maybe they have some stuff on the web.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 2:15 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


What's the game plan in the future? I'm not seeing anything answer from this thread.

Same as the gameplan is currently: people are going to be people, and we as mods will deal with the really overtly over-the-line stuff with deletions where needed and try to exert some amount of community-positive influence on how the less overt stuff plays out. We can't force anyone not be baseline jerkish in how they approach a given topic, and we aren't about to remake the face of the site in the interest of making that possible.

If I thought there was a clear and simple answer that would solve the problem of lazy exclusionary rhetoric without fundamentally changing how this place works in the process, I'd be shouting it from the rooftops.

As it, I think there is a clear and simple answer that could solve the problem if people in general were to buy into it, and it's what I said in this thread probably half a dozen times one way or the other before I got too sick of the whole thing to keep trying:

Elect to be decent to one another, even about things that make you angry or upset. Choose to be civil and thoughtful here on Metafilter when engaging topics (whether critically or defensively or whatever) that you know people are likely to have personal stakes in. Treat your fellow mefites, vocal and silent, current and future, with a fundamental degree of respect that does not hang on any conditional agreement with or approval over their personal religious or political or etc. preferences.

I wish it wasn't apparently such a tall order.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:16 PM on February 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


I have to say, I don't understand the confusion. Who the heck thinks this is about silencing criticism of religion? Nobody has asked for it, nobody has demanded it. The request is: Criticize where appropriate, and with respect.

That's not such a huge goddamn equest to make, and if you're incapable of doing it, you're bad for atheism.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:17 PM on February 25, 2010


An equest, of course, is a request made via email.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:18 PM on February 25, 2010


What bugs me more than any metaphysics or any code of morality at all is that they all seem to completely fail in the face of the ability of people to delude themselves about anything.

That's what I'm talking about. That's what I have been talking about. Human beings intent on scapegoating, tormenting, maiming and killing other human beings will use any excuse to justify their malice. Empirical reason ? No problemo.

But that, that's not what I meant by Empirical Reason! It's more subtle than that! That's not true empirical reason!

Hey, tough luck, buddy, if someone tortures someone in the name of empirical reason and you don't denounce it from the rooftops, you're an enabler.

That line of argument reminds me of all the chickenhawk wannabes who used to call anyone against the invasion of Iraq objectively pro-Saddam.

Malice came first. But we would rather cling to our scapegoats as if they were our sockmonkeys, teddybears and security blankets than face how malice is like threaded through it all. It's always those people over there who are responsible. They have all the power. Us--we're innocent victims. We're fighting for our lives.
posted by y2karl at 2:19 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I said: I don't see why intolerance should ever be considered acceptable, just because it's currently unpopular.

vorfeed: 600+ comments in, and someone finally admitted that this is about stifling anti-religious expression, not about "dickishness", "civility", or "how and when you say it". Congratulations!

vorfeed, I swear to G-d, you make me feel like shaking my fucking monitor.

THIS IS NOT ABOUT CENSORSHIP.

IT HAS NEVER BEEN ABOUT CENSORSHIP.

IT'S ABOUT ASKING ONE GROUP OF PEOPLE TO BE POLITE TO ANOTHER GROUP.

IT'S ABOUT ASKING ONE GROUP OF PEOPLE HERE TO NOT INAPPROPRIATELY TURN A FUCKING TRAGEDY INTO A BULLSHIT REFERENDUM CONDEMNING ALL RELIGION AND ITS FOLLOWERS.

A little girl was beaten to death, but hey rather than examine the situation in an appropriate perspective, it's more important for some users here to score ego points for themselves by making comments like "Yay, Religion!" and then accuse people of being "delicate flowers" when they feel obligated to defend themselves explain that the heinous, inhumane, murderous acts of a bunch of crazy assholes should not represent them or their beliefs. I especially liked the calls for loyalty oaths, by the way. Very fucking Nazi-esque.


Fuck it. It's like talking to a goddamn wall.
posted by zarq at 2:21 PM on February 25, 2010 [11 favorites]


I especially liked the calls for loyalty oaths, by the way. Very fucking Nazi-esque.

Your behavior in this thread has been classy as hell.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:28 PM on February 25, 2010


PG, perhaps this discussion shouldn't be about personalities. I know you've been hit with some comments directed at you specifically, so it's not like you haven't taken your lumps too, and that also struck me as not being condusive to having a conversation.

It's boiled down to, like, five of us at the end here anyway. I say we just break out some booze and watch Dr. Who.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:32 PM on February 25, 2010


Religions are sets of values assertions about reality. They don't get special protection.

Calling for basic civility is not calling for special protection.


I agree, Astro Zombie . Somewhere in 85 million posts in this thread, the topic drifted a bit. I was responding to the post I quoted, not your original call out.
posted by spaltavian at 2:40 PM on February 25, 2010


It's boiled down to, like, five of us at the end here anyway. I say we just break out some booze and watch Dr. Who.

I have Gentleman Jack.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:44 PM on February 25, 2010


It's over! Finally over!

Until the next time, that is. Because the tree of liberty needs to... etc. :)
posted by VikingSword at 2:44 PM on February 25, 2010


You know I've never seen Dr. Who? I keep meaning to get around to it someday, but the sheer mass of material that's built up over the years is intimidating.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:50 PM on February 25, 2010


It's boiled down to, like, five of us at the end here anyway. I say we just break out some booze and watch Dr. Who.

I knew I was still reading this fucking thread for some reason.
posted by shmegegge at 2:50 PM on February 25, 2010


I haven't seen Dr. Who either. Actually, that's not true-- I saw one episode, once, late at night, when I was flipping through the channels for some reason (which I hardly ever do, because I'm one of those 'Is this something I'd need a teevee etc' people) but it had already started and so I had no idea what I was watching, or why it was on teevee, since it seemed just sort of bizarre and low-production, and then at the end the credits rolled and was all like 'Dr Who' and I was all like 'Wait really?'

So I'm willing to give it another try, is what I'm saying, but bear in mind I'm starting out unimpressed.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:52 PM on February 25, 2010


The Internet should come with a warning reading,
This service is provided to increase your understanding.
Billions of people who believe different things from you are here.
Understand them. Do not force them to think like you.
You are staring at a screen. Breathe.
I guess it boils down to "don't be a dick". Oh well.
posted by shii at 2:57 PM on February 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


I hereby make a pronouncement:

From now on, I promise before all of you present, the mods, and whatever Deity may or may not exist, that instead of accusing someone for making a willfully obtuse or intellectually dishonest statement in these fora, I will simply respond by saying "Okay."

Oh, and you need proof that religion was used to commit atrocities? You're comparing it to heavy metal music influence? The breath of human history is testimony enough, seems to me. Or are you going for an incredibly artless dodge of hoping to save religion's malign influence by splitting "true religion" from "religion is used to"? Even if we agreed that not a single historical leader who used religion as a basis for atrocities was religiously sincere (ha!), we'd still be faced with the impact of the religion that animated the mass of followers to actually execute the atrocity. I'm not aware of any heavy metal jonestown, but then again, I don't go to heavy metal concerts, so I wouldn't know. I do shudder at the regular Dungeons and Dragons massacres, in your other example.

Okay.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:02 PM on February 25, 2010


The thing with Dr. Who is that it was* terrible, low-budget stuff. The effects were laughably bad, the sets and costumes made the best of nominal resources and that wasn't all that good, and the pacing was often horrible. But it was also kind of great in its own way.

I often can't manage to sit through more than a third or a half of an oldschool episode at a time, and so I've taken to just sort of sampling them, watching this one or that one to see how things were going production-wise that year or to see if another doctor I'm less familiar with manages to keep up with the awesomeness that is Tom Baker (spoiler: they do not, Tom Baker totally kicks ass).

There's far too much of it, and the individual episodes in aggregate not nearly compelling enough, for me to want to watch the whole show run start to finish. And I say this as someone who just ordered the box set of Babylon 5 finally, and I readily acknowledge that some of this is situational and some of it sheer preference in any case since I'm sure there's people whose opinions on the matter are the inverse of my own.

But for all the things I can find to complain about it, it's a great show. It's a great weird legacy, is part of the thing. The show's ongoing existence and it's willful tackling of the problem of actor continuity over time through the regeneration gimmick is arguably more important than the often-mediocre episodes of the show themselves.

* There's a distinction to make here between the old and the new series. I don't know how much better the new show's budget is in inflated dollars, but convincing (weeeeell, more or less...) effects are a hell of a lot more affordable these days, and the new show while far from perfect is certainly much more compelling and briskly produced as action/adventure entertainment than the legacy episodes ever were.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:06 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Aww, EC, that was such an honest, straightforward and aboveboard statement, that I too am compelled to make a pledge. My pledge: I will not argue with some people, because there is no value to shooting fish in a barrel - it's confusing to the fish, unrewarding to the shooter and boring for the spectators. Happy swimming EC!
posted by VikingSword at 3:10 PM on February 25, 2010


We'll watch some Dr. Who and then a few episodes of Magnum. How's that? A little something for everybody.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:10 PM on February 25, 2010


To really understand Dr Who you have to be six years old and watching it from behind the back of the sofa because the Cybermen and Daleks made you shit your pants in terror.
posted by unSane at 3:11 PM on February 25, 2010


Calling for basic civility is not calling for special protection.

Yes, it is, if the "basic civility" in question only applies to one side of one issue. As I've said again and again, it's blatantly obvious that your standard of no-generalizations-allowed "civility" does not apply to the other side of the issue, nor to either side of similar issues, nor to you yourself, nor to many of the pro-religion comments here. If this is about civility rather than "silencing criticism of religion", why'd you call-out anti-religious comments which were well within the Mefi civil standard? Are we to have a 700-comment callout tomorrow if someone posts similar comments about war, or capitalism, or democracy, or declawed cat-ism... or, say, Richard Dawkins? If not, this isn't about "civility". It's about criticizing religion.

On preview: Mr. THIS IS NOT ABOUT CENSORSHIP, you just said "I don't see why intolerance should ever be considered acceptable." You said this with regards to "anti-religious rhetoric". "I don't see why the expression of your belief should ever be considered acceptable" is much closer to censorship than it is to "asking one group to be polite to another", and I suspect you know that.

You want me to be "polite" to you. You want "tolerance". Yet you yourself are not polite to me, nor tolerant toward my beliefs, to the point where you're trying to shame me for them. This is precisely why I'm not willing to roll over on this issue: because to do so would make me complicit in your insistence that it's shameful to be anti-religion. It would make me complicit in the idea that anti-religious expression, in and of itself, is "uncivil" and "should never be considered acceptable".

If you're allowed to tell me my beliefs are wrong and harmful, I'm allowed to tell you that yours are wrong and harmful. That's how conversation goes. You want to have one without the other, and frankly, that ain't "tolerance". Quite the opposite.
posted by vorfeed at 3:11 PM on February 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


yay Magnum
posted by unSane at 3:13 PM on February 25, 2010


I say we just break out some booze and watch Dr. Who.

I'm in. But we should start with the Eccleston stuff, he really helped to breathe life back into the franchise.

I have Gentleman Jack.

I'll bring the Jim Beam Rye. Surprisingly good, that.
posted by quin at 3:17 PM on February 25, 2010


Yes, it is, if the "basic civility" in question only applies to one side of one issue. As I've said again and again, it's blatantly obvious that your standard of no-generalizations-allowed "civility" does not apply to the other side of the issue, nor to either side of similar issues, nor to you yourself, nor to many of the pro-religion comments here.

I'm not really of the opinion that we're interpreting any of this the same way. Go ahead and respond to religion as you think is appropriate. If it's uncivil, I imagine somebody will point it out. If you see uncivililty toward atheism, feel free to likewise point it out.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:18 PM on February 25, 2010


I propose we watch an episode of Dr. Who with the sound turned down and Magnum P. I. audio on instead.

To really understand Dr Who you have to be six years old and watching it from behind the back of the sofa because the Cybermen and Daleks made you shit your pants in terror.

At the last Portland meetup we were talking about the child-scarring nature of that show. I do kind of wish I could watch it through the credulous eyes of my younger self, because I still retain vague frightening memories of scenes that, were I to watch them again now, I would almost certainly find disappointing.

I remember the end of an episode involving, I think, the bad guys being maybe crushed to death by out-of-control acceleration on a ship they were on or something? Anyway, them up against a wall and not being able to get off it and a sense that things were going very very badly for them courtesy of Mr. Applied Physics. Cheery imagery.

I regret not catching any Dalek or Cybermen episodes as a kid, because I probably wouldn't find them quite so profoundly silly these days. The new show has made a good go of getting a compelling drama of creepiness and philosophical struggle and whatnot going on with the Daleks it has trotted out, but even that only goes so far and the Cybermen are just, seriously, gimme a fuckin' break.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:18 PM on February 25, 2010


Magnum P. I. audio on instead

You have got to be kidding me. That voice?? No, not in a million years. Worst matched voice/face ever.
posted by VikingSword at 3:21 PM on February 25, 2010


And I say this as someone who just ordered the box set of Babylon 5...

Have you no shame, sir ? Have you no shame ?

But at least I trust that we can agree that after The Hidden, Claudia Christian's sci fi acting career had nowhere to go but down.
posted by y2karl at 3:23 PM on February 25, 2010


Kyle MacLachlan and Michael Nouri may have hit their peak with that film as well.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:27 PM on February 25, 2010


You shut your mouth. Twin Peaks was 1990.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:28 PM on February 25, 2010


This reminds me of the time I drove from Alaska to Florida with just one Molly Hatchet tune stuck on replay. That was awesome. Can’t remember what song it was though.

Anyone think a dalek armed only with a knife could take on a cyberman? (Assume no element of surprise)
posted by Smedleyman at 3:31 PM on February 25, 2010


Weirdly, I am going from Florida to Alaska next week....
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:32 PM on February 25, 2010


You shut your mouth. Twin Peaks was 1990.

And, yes, he was great in that, but I maintain he was better in The Hidden.

David Duchovney has never been better than on Twin Peaks, though.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:34 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I always thought I was the only person mortally terrified of Dr. Who.

Vorfeed, I attempted to skim the comments you've made in this thread but I can't say I've read them exhaustively, nor have I gone back to the other thread. I think one of the problems with this conversation, is that the people who have stuck around in this MeTa to discuss this issue in good faith are probably already doing all that is being asked. I can only speak for myself, but all I'd like to see is good faith, civil discussion. I for one am not suggesting no criticism can be leveled, or that all values are equally acceptable. I just am personally working hard toward (but sometimes failing at) giving all individuals on MeFi civil and polite treatment regardless of my evaluation of their underlying belief. Not to never criticize, but to do so with civility.

So I can't say what you've said and done outside of this thread, and I don't necessarily agree with all (or perhaps even most) of what you've expressed. But you seem to me to have primarily done it in good faith, without a huge level of grar, and with a degree of respect (even if critical). Personally, that's all I want to see happen, though it certainly is as much of a challenge for me as it is for anyone.
posted by bunnycup at 3:36 PM on February 25, 2010


David Duchovney has never been better than on Twin Peaks, though.

You misspelled "Bowie."
posted by shmegegge at 3:43 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


And, yes, he was great in that, but I maintain he was better in The Hidden.

Certainly we can agree that he played an FBI man from another planet in both.
posted by y2karl at 3:46 PM on February 25, 2010


I regret not catching any Dalek or Cybermen episodes as a kid

You shouldn't. I saw them when I was 10 (Tom Baker will always be My Dr. Who) and I'm still scared of them.
posted by rtha at 3:47 PM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


It would be a better question if you armed the Cyberman, because completely unarmed, a Dalak would still mop the floor with any lesser being.

All while speaking REALLY URGENTLY!! REALLY URGENTLY!! They always tend to repeat things they find important for some reason.
posted by quin at 3:48 PM on February 25, 2010


Kyle MacLachlan and Michael Nouri may have hit their peak with that film as well.

I think that is true for the dog as well. That was an Oscar caliber performance.
posted by y2karl at 3:49 PM on February 25, 2010


Making a child watch Doctor Who is akin to abuse! Or going to church! Or something!
posted by shiu mai baby at 3:49 PM on February 25, 2010


For a dog, that is--I mean, if Lassie got one, that dog deserved one, too.
posted by y2karl at 3:51 PM on February 25, 2010


Watching old Dr. Who now is a lot like going to church when I was a kid. Sort of felt obliged too, but the pacing was awful and the text wasn't much better and the whole thing didn't seem very believable in any case and eventually I'm just falling asleep in the pew on the couch.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:53 PM on February 25, 2010


it's so weird hearing about post-childhood dr who experiences. my first experience with it was in college, and the low production value was totally not a problem since the writing was so fucking good. maybe it's 'cause I was introduced to Tom Baker first? that's probably why.
posted by shmegegge at 3:58 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


As an adult, I am as scared of Tom Baker as I was of the Daleks when I was a kid.

Have you read THE BOY WHO KICKED PIGS? It's fucking demented.
posted by unSane at 4:04 PM on February 25, 2010


Dr Who (new to me at the time) weekend late night TV marathons got me through the worst of the 1980s. And JEss Chrst is Lord.
posted by philip-random at 4:11 PM on February 25, 2010


Plus every once in a while the old guy in the scarf would say something funny.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:14 PM on February 25, 2010


Jelly baby?
posted by Think_Long at 4:21 PM on February 25, 2010


"Weirdly, I am going from Florida to Alaska next week...."

Even more oddly, I drove in reverse gear the whole time. Crick in my neck for a week. Rolled the odometer back to negative 1,400 miles though. Got more money on the trade in than I bought the car for.

Ok, if the cyberman had an ennui field I mean. EXTERMINATE! EXaw the hell with it...What are we doing out here anyway? Throwing orders around to ourselves, killing everyone… why bother? They're just going to go and reproduce again... *puts on jim-jams – eats weetabix *

posted by Smedleyman at 4:40 PM on February 25, 2010


Just wanted to note that zarq's account is disabled now and that sucks.
posted by Babblesort at 4:41 PM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Fuck, really? Zarq, I hope this is only a self-imposed time out, and that you'll come back soon.

Fuck.
posted by shiu mai baby at 4:49 PM on February 25, 2010


Thanks for pointing that out Babblesort, I hadn't known. I really hope zarq comes back. This thread had been staying in my recent activity and I was watching his activity, and remembering how he saved us all last week with the Fashion Week stories and...well. Zarq, if you read this, I really hope you come back.
posted by bunnycup at 4:50 PM on February 25, 2010


Aw, man, zarq. I hate when MeTa threads lead to people leaving, and I really hate it that it was zarq.
posted by immlass at 5:00 PM on February 25, 2010


Yeah, that does suck. zarq was one of my favorite MeFites.
posted by nangar at 5:05 PM on February 25, 2010


Seems to me that most MeTa threads these days lead to someone leaving.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:34 PM on February 25, 2010


hope you come back, zarq.
posted by shmegegge at 5:49 PM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Look, anyone here who takes what Jesus says personally KNOWS that they are gonna catch grief at one level or another. So, yes, pop in another episode of Dr Who and let the haters carry on. It's part of the deal, and in this case just words on a screen, so, again, carry on.

(I LOVE Tom Baker. He reminds me just a tad of Mr. Green Jeans from Captain Kangaroo.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:50 PM on February 25, 2010


Zark, come back when you're ready. We'll leave the light on for ya.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:51 PM on February 25, 2010


... anyone here who takes what Jesus says personally ...

zarq's Jewish, St. Alia.
posted by nangar at 6:16 PM on February 25, 2010


Well, at least they have that in common.
posted by y2karl at 6:38 PM on February 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


The Jesus comment wasn't written with zarq specifically in mind...however i came thisclose to promising him bacon if he came back, so good thing I thought better of it. ;-)
(Altho I do know Jews who eat bacon, fwiw.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:52 PM on February 25, 2010


St. Alia, there have been many ideas and opinions covered in this thread and while AZ's main point seems to be "Must every thread about religion turn into an exercise in how religion is inherently a force for evil? " and I think it's a good question.

I'll just add to it this, we are all adults here and at the end of the day none of us really knows everything, and none of us can speak to questions about the unknown with certitude. No one has to be humble irl, but in this forum it serves everyone to keep in mind that they don't know everything and to tell people that believe or think differently than they do that they're wrong when none of us can say so for certain is arrogant. We're all adults (as far as I know) lets just treat things we can't prove or disprove like things not worth beating each other over the head with.

People like myself that don't believe in god can just read a thread about religion and think "you know what I'm guessing that people that believe in god are adults and have a right to think what ever they want without me being all up in their business." People who believe in god can think "Well I bet that atheists have heard about Jesus, and since they're adults I'm guessing I should mind my own back porch, unless someone asks me for my opinion."

That is all I really have to say about this. When nobody is asking for an opinion on god/religion nobody needs to start running their mouth about it, cause nobody is coming off their cross over it e-v-e-r. So why even start with this shit, when everyone knows the outcome? It's like Cubs vs White Sox, you're never gonna get a Cubs fan to say "You know what? You're right the White Sox are a better ball team." That doesn't mean we can't talk about other stuff, and enjoy things for what they are. Come on people, you know this.
posted by nola at 6:53 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


fwiw grapefruitmoon also disabled her account earlier this week. In that case it seems she was frustrated by people getting into a debate about the Dalai Lama's views on homosexuality. I just checked her profile and it is still disabled. That one sucks too. I don't want to get into a debate with anyone about the relative merits of why they might have left. Just wanted to take note of it and say that it sucks that they're gone.
posted by Babblesort at 7:02 PM on February 25, 2010


Crap! I was wondering who would end up closing their account as a result of this MeTa. It really sucks that it was zarq. I hope it's only temporary.
posted by Dojie at 7:03 PM on February 25, 2010


damn, zarq, why you want to do a thing
posted by palliser at 7:04 PM on February 25, 2010


grapefruitmoon also disabled her account

Double-crap!
posted by Dojie at 7:05 PM on February 25, 2010


Damn Babblesort, I am going to start my expecting-bad-news twitch when I see your name.
posted by bunnycup at 7:07 PM on February 25, 2010


Nola, I don't disagree with you at all. It's simply that I never ever expect to find that certain people will be willing to just let others have their own opinions without going all agent orange over it here. It's a question for me personally of managing my expectations re this site. If I stay here (and I certainly plan to) I have to be willing to tolerate the grar, because if I expect the grar to go away, and it doesn't, it makes it harder to tolerate. As it is, I have incredibly low expectations.

It's a shame-a darn shame-but there it is. Meanwhile it sickens me that we are losing good folks because of stuff like this. That's not cool.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:16 PM on February 25, 2010


grapefruitmoon, I really hope you come back too.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:18 PM on February 25, 2010


Sometimes when things get too heated up you just need an unbreakable cool off period. Here's hoping.
posted by charred husk at 7:24 PM on February 25, 2010


I am sad to see zarq gone as well. Very sad indeed.
posted by y2karl at 7:27 PM on February 25, 2010


Of course, it all depends on how odious the opinion is and how stupidly the person spews that opinion. One might note, for instance, that Pater Altheis (or however he spells it) is a well-respected religionist in these parts, as are a few others.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:53 PM on February 25, 2010


I feel like the undertaker around here, it seems the only times I look at a thread on MeTa someone is ragequitting.
My 2 cents about a day late and a dollar short follow.
Well anyways, speaking as a VERY anti-religious dude, I think limiting discussion based on whether or not we feel comfortable with the subjects/viewpoints expressed is weak and, ultimately, damaging. My great uncle died in Dachau and I'll still sit down for a chat with a self-proclaimed Nazi. Yes, that means I disagree with all of the anti-hate speech laws both in the US and EU (but at least the EU isn't where I live, so whatever).
That being said, I come down firmly on the side of open discussion, be it rude or otherwise. If you don't like what I have to say, feel free to bitterly defeat me in mortal textual jousting or just bloody ignore me if you choose to. Dickishness? If that is a problem for you, either dick back at me or, again, ignore me.
Yes, I understand that this discussion is about the general flavor of MeFi and how we ought to treat one another, but fwiw I find trying to shut down a conversation by bringing up terrible movies to be way more offensive than anything a religious person could say to me which is actually on topic.
/lurkon
posted by eparchos at 8:00 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


grapefruitmoon also disabled her account earlier this week. In that case it seems she was frustrated by people getting into a debate about the Dalai Lama's views on homosexuality.

She should have reflected upon how enemies give you an opportunity to practice compassion. As such, they ease your karmic debt at the same time as increasing theirs, so in fact they do you a great service at a cost to themselves, so you should be doubly-thankful for such rare & fortunate jewels.

Makes perfect sense, when you also reflect that they were your mothers in previous lives, so how could they not assist you?
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:02 PM on February 25, 2010


I don't know my Russian history so well, but there's a case to make for a religious underpinning to the cult of personality at the height of the Maoist era (one example here; similar arguments are advanced in Norman Cohn's Pursuit of the Millennium as I recall). It would be trite to base an entire critique of 20th century statist communism on that aspect alone of course but the basic point is the corollary of what I was saying above about looking at religion as embedded in a social and historical context - the history of these regimes was no more simply one of atheism in action than that of mediaeval Europe is simply the dark rule of the Church.
posted by Abiezer at 8:13 PM on February 25, 2010


Oh, I liked grapefruitmoon. I find this turn of events objectionable. I'm not sure who pissed her off, but if you're that person/people and you're reading this, will you please quit instead? I'm sure you're less fun, and, well, yeah just go goodbye.

The Doctor Who/Magnum sweet spot, of course, occurs when Magnum goes to England and hangs out with Peter Davison for two episodes. True story.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:25 PM on February 25, 2010


LOOK WHAT YOU ALL DID!

zarq, grapefruitmoon, if you're smart you've left this thread never to return.

But, BUT, please return to Metafilter, as you make the place better.
posted by graventy at 9:01 PM on February 25, 2010


I think limiting discussion based on whether or not we feel comfortable with the subjects/viewpoints expressed is weak and, ultimately, damaging... Yes, I understand that this discussion is about the general flavor of MeFi and how we ought to treat one another, but fwiw I find trying to shut down a conversation by bringing up terrible movies to be way more offensive than anything a religious person could say to me which is actually on topic.

There is a time and place for everything and that time is not always here and now. Not everybody wants to joust 24/7. When a contentious thread is winding down and people are getting jokey, it could be that they have tired of all the disagreement over something that people will never agree upon and are trying to lighten the mood. If you think that's weak, feel free to take a victory lap. But the word community is not unrelated to the word common. Sometimes people want agreement on something silly, just to have something in common, just to give everyone a little space to lighten up. I am sorry if that offends you. I think that tone deafness is far more damaging myself.
posted by y2karl at 9:03 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I agree with y2karl and I would like to add that a nearly 900 comment thread on MeTa clearly met some unmet need. Sure there was plenty of GRAR and I got called a dick but I also learned a great deal about a bunch of other MeFites and had some of my lazier preconceptions challenged.

I know that some people think the whole 'religion: good or bad overall?' thing is a pointless waste of time but the length of this thread suggests to me that there is a hunger to talk about subjects like this (and about how that argument should be conducted, since this is MeTa). MetaFilter occasionally provides a forum to do this, and when a post like the FPP under discussion crops up, it is not surprising that it is opportunistically seized on.

I know that the whole point of this thread is that using the FPP as a springboard for that discussion was an inappropriate derail, and that was really not my intention with the 'yay religion' comment, which was honestly just my first reaction... it never occurred to me that it was a threadshit perhaps because I didn't realize how it would look sitting there at the top of the thread.

What I'm trying clumsily to say is that it seems to me that threads like this are important and I was glad to be part of it even if my reputation as a dick is now firmly cemented in the minds of many MeFites.
posted by unSane at 9:17 PM on February 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


Well, here's a hilarious: Christ just communicated with me by email. Seriously. Get this:
Official Emergency Message
Government of Abraham

de Isa al-Masih de Allah

Jesus Christ Re-arrives!!
The purpose of this message is to explain Jesus Christ of God Yahweh and The Holy Spirit are now here on Earth. Mankind was given two-thousand years to prepare for this moment and now it's your turn to explain what you and your people prepared. Jesus Christ and The Holy Spirit have done Their Part; Jesus Christ and The Holy Spirit are here.

If you or your church prepared for Us, email Us at isa@allahisa.com or jesus@3jesus.com or emergency@3emergency.com with whatever you prepared.

If your church did not prepare for Us despite having more than two-thousand years to prepare, contact your superiors to see if they prepared for Us.


Your Move
OUR RULES:

1. Our Press must be authorized.
2. No impromtu meetings nor impromtu interactions with Jesus.
3. No photos, etc.
4. Questions in "yes or no" format only.



Disclaimer
This Message is an Official Message for the Government of Abraham founded in part by Jesus Christ of Yahweh. Any interference with This Message, The Originator, His Respondents, His Adherents, Our Mechanisms, etc. are subject to no appellate authority.
To stop receiving these emails please unsubscribe.
Government of Abraham P.O. Box 701 San Mateo, CA 94401 USA +1(650) 520-2317 www.twsj.tel
Fuckin' Eh! I knew being an atheist would pay off! Own the podium!
posted by five fresh fish at 9:18 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hey, though, I got one question: why's the dude a full decade late? We got a schedule to keep, you know?
posted by five fresh fish at 9:20 PM on February 25, 2010


I'm so fucked.
posted by unSane at 9:20 PM on February 25, 2010


4. Questions in "yes or no" format only.

Do you get sent to hell if you ask Jesus if he's stopped beating his wife?
posted by qvantamon at 9:25 PM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Here are my questions:

1. Axiom of Choice? Yes or no?

2. P = NP? Yes or no?

3. Is the second Go-Between's album really, really good?*


*this is a trick question designed to flush out impostors, since any omniscient deity who answers in the negative is clearly a fake.
posted by unSane at 9:30 PM on February 25, 2010


>grapefruitmoon also disabled her account earlier this week. In that case it seems she was frustrated by people getting into a debate about the Dalai Lama's views on homosexuality.

She should have reflected upon how enemies give you an opportunity to practice compassion. As such, they ease your karmic debt at the same time as increasing theirs, so in fact they do you a great service at a cost to themselves, so you should be doubly-thankful for such rare & fortunate jewels.


Okay.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:32 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Okay.

As a habit, this is not a great one. Happy birthday.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:36 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess what I am saying (and I'm writing a screenplay about this

No. You're procrastinating.
posted by cjets at 9:43 PM on February 25, 2010


Actually I'm waiting for notes.
posted by unSane at 9:45 PM on February 25, 2010


eparchos, I'm not sure how running people with different viewpoints off the site contributes to "open debate."

UbuRoivas: She should have reflected upon how enemies give you an opportunity to practice compassion.
.....
posted by nangar at 9:54 PM on February 25, 2010


Other than "Okay" or series of dots, UbuRoivas, I liked grapefruitmoon and I don't appreciate your gloating sarcasm.

I guess that gets us closer to a pure MetaFilter where no one has irrational thoughts and no one ever disagrees.
posted by nangar at 10:08 PM on February 25, 2010


If your church did not prepare for Us despite having more than two-thousand years to prepare, contact your superiors to see if they prepared for Us.

Don't worry, We've already got this one covered.

We can state with confidence there will be no apocalypse, rapture or second coming on Our watch.
posted by the Cabal at 10:11 PM on February 25, 2010


"eparchos, I'm not sure how running people with different viewpoints off the site contributes to "open debate.""

Who ran whom off? pardon?
posted by eparchos at 10:14 PM on February 25, 2010


Read the thread. I assumed you had.
posted by nangar at 10:18 PM on February 25, 2010


For fuck's sake, nobody got "ran off". Someone got angry enough that he took his ball and went home. He is welcome to come back, and nobody asked him to leave and nobody is asking him not to come back, so don't make this some kind of martyr thing.
posted by idiopath at 10:27 PM on February 25, 2010 [10 favorites]


I'm sad grapefruitmoon is gone.
posted by shmegegge at 10:29 PM on February 25, 2010


"Read the thread. I assumed you had."

Pretty impressive of me, since I didn't say anything until well after he'd left. *activates time reversal cube*
posted by eparchos at 10:39 PM on February 25, 2010


You do a hundred completely irrational things every day, starting with getting out of bed in the morning.

I dunno, not wanting to pee the bed doesn't seem like such a wacky idea to me.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:22 PM on February 25, 2010


Other than "Okay" or series of dots, UbuRoivas, I liked grapefruitmoon and I don't appreciate your gloating sarcasm.

Ah, but I was neither gloating nor being sarcastic.

Merely pointing out the contradiction in her flaming out & leaving while (presumably) defending the Dalai Lama. Have you ever known him to get angry & upset like that? If anything fails the WWHHtDLD test, it would be that.

But since grapefruitmoon isn't around to defend herself, I'm happy to let this one drop.

And I am also hoping that it's only a temporary self-exile, because she's good value.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:25 PM on February 25, 2010


I dunno, not wanting to pee the bed doesn't seem like such a wacky idea to me.

Don't knock it 'til you've tried it.
posted by graventy at 11:27 PM on February 25, 2010


You do a hundred completely irrational things every day, starting with getting out of bed in the morning.

That there is an unconscious aspect to the mind and thought has been demonstrated by a number of experiments in the laboratory and to most individuals who have ever driven home dead tired, a bit or more under the influence or lost in thought and arrived at destination with no memory or idea of how they got there. Or blurted out the worst possible thing at the worst possible time. And in large groups, we can become most irrational and be overwhelmed by strong emotion, as anyone who has gone to the right concert can testify. A deep state of hypnosis, too, can be induced far faster and with far more ease in the context of a group onstage than one on one. And that the human capacity for thoughtlessness far outstrips our capacity for thoughtfulness can be hardly denied. Every day we see ample evidence of this fact. But, as for thoughtlessness, mote-log-eye, we can only see it with ease in another, never ourselves. If we are to survive in any way worth the surviving, I think, we are all going to develop our compassion. I would like to think that there are better angels of our nature, but if there are, they seem to be a very endangered species, and getting more so every day.
posted by y2karl at 12:18 AM on February 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


I would like to think that there are better angels of our nature, but if there are, they seem to be a very endangered species, and getting more so every day.

People have been saying that since the beginning of time. In my view we're exactly as venal/angelic as we've ever been. Cain slew Abel and nothing's much changed since then.
posted by unSane at 5:08 AM on February 26, 2010


Okay, so noted. With vorfeed around, the answer is "Yes."
posted by kalessin at 5:55 AM on February 26, 2010


grapefruitmoon asked me to tell y'all she'll be back in a week or two, but if you have her email and feel inclined, shoot her a note.
posted by desjardins at 5:55 AM on February 26, 2010


oh, and here's her email (posted with her permission - remove between asterisks)

sonja.engdahl*NO-SPAM*@me.com
posted by desjardins at 5:59 AM on February 26, 2010


This was exactly why I said I didn't want to debate the merits of their going, just to note the fact of it. Neither of them flamed out. Neither of them said much of anything that would indicate they were on their way out.

If they'd flamed out I wouldn't have said anything about it because I don't see it as my place to support or condemn them for it. We never know what all is going on in the minds and lives of others here so it is fruitless and maybe a little tacky to speculate. I only mentioned them because I thought people would want to know they had stepped out and there was no obvious flameout to trigger that realization. I'm glad to hear that grapefruitmoon will be back. I hope the same is true of zarq.
posted by Babblesort at 6:31 AM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ah, but I was neither gloating nor being sarcastic. Merely pointing out the contradiction in her flaming out & leaving while (presumably) defending the Dalai Lama.

Well, that's why the Dalai Lama is the Dalai Lama and grapefruitmoon is grapefruitmoon. We human beings are all different. Some of us behave differently than others. We have different priorities and different codes.

And ideally, those differences are supposed to complement each other. Sometimes not acting like the person you're trying to defend may be precisely what the situation calls for -- I know that I am unlikely to speak up in my own defense in person, for various reasons, but sometimes not speaking up in my own defense works to my detriment. So, when one of my friends is in a position to speak up, it would be a BAD thing if they stopped themselves because "oh, EC wouldn't do this". Instead, they act like themselves and step up and tell my attacker "hey, go stuff it, EC's okay."

You many not have intended to be "gloaty" or "sarcastic," but it was certainly coming across thus.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:46 AM on February 26, 2010


My comment about "running people off the site" was a really shitty and unfair thing to say in response to eparchos' comment, especially after a member had just left.

I can't take it back, but I apologize. That I was angry at the time does not make it OK.
posted by nangar at 7:15 AM on February 26, 2010


A little girl was beaten to death, but hey rather than examine the situation in an appropriate perspective, it's more important for some users here to score ego points for themselves by making comments like "Yay, Religion!" and then accuse people of being "delicate flowers" when they feel obligated to defend themselves explain that the heinous, inhumane, murderous acts of a bunch of crazy assholes should not represent them or their beliefs.

A little girl was beaten to death at least partly because of her parents' religion.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:39 PM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


A little girl was beaten to death at least partly because of her parents' religion.

A little girl was beaten to death because her parents were sheep who latched onto religion as an excuse to beat their little girl to death. Not all religious people are sheep. Not all religious people are incapable of independent thought.

In fact, "religious people" is itself a misnomer, because there are those who believe wholeheartedly in a religion to the extent that it dominates their lives in a negative way (whom I would call fanatics), those that use their belief to do positive things in the world, those who don't really believe what they say they do anyway (hypocrites), those who judge others who don't believe what they do and get off on the judgment part, and those for whom their belief is a shadowy thing, always in the background but never really firmed up in their minds or their lives to cast any particular influence at all.

So it's a good idea not to judge anyone who says they are religious, because you do not know which category they belong in, and there are far more that I probably didn't think to include as well.

I guess I'm just saying that being judgmental, whether for the sake of religion or the sake of anti-religion, is counter-productive. I'm personally trying to cool it on the judgment thing, because I realize no one really wins at teh internets, and sometimes I get too heated myself.
posted by misha at 2:06 PM on February 26, 2010


To agree and build on what misha said, I don't think anyone disagrees that the Pearl's books use (wrongly construed) Biblical phrases with persuasive intent, or that this family was motivated to continue their violent and abusive actions because they believed that a perceived Biblical directive made their conduct acceptable or necessary. I certainly am not disputing that. However, I do object to two things. First, the use of those facts to draw conclusions about other religious people or religion in general, without knowing whether those religious people (or the flavor of religion being discussed) share the belief system endorsed by the Pearls. Second, the use of such generalized conclusions to justify speaking without basic civility and politeness to other Mefites. In my opinion, which others might or might not share, stuff like 'religion sucks' and 'yay religion' and 'the man in the sky' and 'religion is a force for evil' and 'whackjob' so forth represent phrases that for different reasons lack civility and politeness. On the other hand, thoughtful and good-faith critiques of religion and its effects are appropriate. I am not suggesting we treat MeFi like the Sunday dinner table and forbid discussions of sex, politics or religion - just that when discussing these or any other subject, we use civility.

Again, because I keep expecting someone to call me on this, yes, I struggle with this too. These words are aspirational for myself, as much as anyone. I think when a story as sad and terrible as this one happens, people have a lot of high emotion and catharsis happens. I accept that.
posted by bunnycup at 2:19 PM on February 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


And it's deeply worrying when otherwise decent and right-thinking religious people go on the defensive when their faith in general comes under criticism, because someone they had nothing to do with commits an atrocity in the name of their chosen deity.

Both faith and charity get a lot of coverage, and each can easily be converted into an accusation. I'd like to hear more about hope, but that's the domain of the Holy Spirit. Odd man out against the father and the son. You can decide for yourself which elements of religion you want to learn from.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:22 PM on February 26, 2010


A little girl was beaten to death because her parents were sheep who latched onto religion as an excuse to beat their little girl to death. Not all religious people are sheep. Not all religious people are incapable of independent thought.

I agree with the last two sentences. I disagree completely with the first (although it's all speculation). I very much doubt the Schatzes became Christians to excuse their child abuse. That's seems silly. I would bet dollars to donuts both parents were raised as Christians.

there are those who believe wholeheartedly in a religion to the extent that it dominates their lives in a negative way (whom I would call fanatics)

Those people would be the Schatzes.

First, the use of those facts to draw conclusions about other religious people or religion in general ...

Let's not beat around the bush. We're not talking about "religion in general" here. We're talking about Christianity, particularly one nasty strain of it.

I don't think "religion is bad" or even "Christianity is bad." There are obviously lots of great parts of Christianity (like most of the whole Jesus thing). However, I believe that there are persistent aspects of Christianity's interpretation of the Bible (Old Testament, I guess) that lead people to some horrible behavior, and that those aspects are perhaps very dangerous when matched with the wrong people, i.e. the Schatzes.

I also think anyone should have the freedom to say "Christianity is bad" or "religion is stupid" without having to worry about offending anyone. I don't think it should be any different than making fun of clogging, or Care Bears, or Star Trek slash fiction.

I.e. if some Christians think all the non-Christians are going to burn in Hell for eternity, they can't get mad when some non-Christians call them stupid and evil.

It's interesting to me that most of the evangelical Christians speaking out against the Pearls are those who weren't raised Christian but found Christianity later in life. Just a half thought based on 3 bloggers, but curious to me so far.
posted by mrgrimm at 4:24 PM on February 26, 2010


A little girl was beaten to death because her parents were sheep who latched onto religion as an excuse to beat their little girl to death.

Maybe. But I've been aware of the Pearls for years, and have read loads by women practicing those methods (and loads by tearful, repentant women who are churning with regret for having practiced it in the past) and I think that statement is a little glib. Read the website for yourself - the Pearls didn't say beat your kids - it'll be horrible in this world but you'll all go to heaven. They said parent this way for a happy, harmonious family life now and for strong, well adjusted adults in the future. There's a difference. Obviously I think that approach to parenting is disgusting and criminal - but a lot of times it's more tragic than evil. It would have been interesting to talk about, but Metafilter isn't a community that can talk about these things.
posted by moxiedoll at 5:01 PM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can't believe I read the whole thing.

I also can't believe I was begged to come back. So, here I am. Back. Geez, if I had thought I'd get fan mail, I would have taken a break a long time ago! (Actually, no, probably not.)

To address UbuRovias' point about the irony of flaming out over the DL: that's actually why I took a break. To not get angry and bent about what people were saying about someone who is important to me. Out of compassion for myself, I walked away from the site because - and yeah, it's weird that it was that particular issue that was the breaking point for me, but whatever - I was finding myself becoming actually angry at words on a screen. And I'm not an angry person. And the DL doesn't need me to get defensive on his behalf. So, I let it go and the only way I knew to hold myself to that was just to disable my account and leave for a bit. It was never meant to be permanent, and if closing my account seems drastic - it's just it was the only way I could actually do it as opposed to the stunty "I'm leaving!" "No I'm not!" kind of thing. See, I have blurtus outus disorder. I can't think something and NOT say it. There's no brain/mouth/keyboard barrier.

So, yeah, kinda ironic, but at the same time I left so that I wouldn't get all bent about it. And now I've chilled out. (Obviously, it was not that this one thread made me berserk, it was more that this was the culmination of my feeling kind of exhausted with the inherent snarky/"fighty" nature of MetaFilter - which, yeah, is just my deal and not any kind of thing that can be "solved.")

And believe me, this was the right week for me to take off. I've been sick and epically cranky about it. Doing better now and much more able to learn compassion from my fellow MeFites.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:02 PM on February 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Let's not beat around the bush. We're not talking about "religion in general" here. We're talking about Christianity, particularly one nasty strain of it.

You may not be; many others were. Many generalizations about what this case says about religion in general were drawn. I have followed this and the thread on the blue actively and saw quite a few comments about religion in general. I apologize if it seemed my statements were directed at you personally, but I'm surprised if you feel they were because I took care to avoid an accusational or personal tone.

I also think anyone should have the freedom to say "Christianity is bad" or "religion is stupid" without having to worry about offending anyone. I don't think it should be any different than making fun of clogging, or Care Bears, or Star Trek slash fiction.

You absolutely have the freedom to do it. Get a blog, make a big placard and stand outside some churches, write a strongly worded letter to your local newspaper. Skywrite your message across America. Write a book, even! But here on Metafilter there are community guidelines, and they dictate more or less that we act civilly. I don't pretend to be quoting the guidelines exactly and I am not by any stretch of imagination either a mod or cabal-member. I welcome discussions about religion, personally, but in my humble non-mod understanding they've got to be done civilly. There's not a shadow of doubt as to whether or not Mefi is a "No holds barred, say what you want" community.

Now the question is what kinds of behavior are outside the realm of civility. That's obviously not an easy question to answer.

On preview, welcome back grapefruitmoon. It was so nice to see your name show up posting.
posted by bunnycup at 5:18 PM on February 26, 2010


Welcome back, grapefruitmoon.
posted by VikingSword at 5:19 PM on February 26, 2010


Let's not beat around the bush. We're not talking about "religion in general" here. We're talking about Christianity, particularly one nasty strain of it.

Okay, so then can you explain why, if this post was just about one particular nasty strain of Christianity in the specific, why others were chiming in with retorts about ALL of Christianity IN GENERAL or all of RELIGION in GENERAL? Can you explain how we can encourage people to confine their ire to the particular nasty strain of Christianity that I think ALL of us here object to, without also slamming every OTHER strain of Christianity, and religion in its entirety in the process?

Because, really, that's all we're saying -- that you're absolutely right, the post IS only talking about one particularly nasty strain of Christianity. And therefore, lumping all OTHER religions INTO that criticism is unfair.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:28 PM on February 26, 2010


Okay, so then can you explain why, if this post was just about one particular nasty strain of Christianity in the specific, why others were chiming in with retorts about ALL of Christianity IN GENERAL or all of RELIGION in GENERAL?

I can't put words in other people's mouths. I'm also not great at analogies (that anyone else can understand) and I'm about to run out the door, but ... to me, it's sort of like someone in the Killer Whale thread saying "see this is why you shouldn't capture and imprison killer whales" and someone following up with "see this is why all zoos are wrong."

There IS a connection between the Pearls' Christianity and ALL Christianity. There IS a connection between the Pearls' Christianity and all RELIGION in GENERAL. It might not be a big connection, but there is a connection. We can't really even really form an opinion about that connection until ... we discuss it. My2c.

To make another analogy, it's like someone saying "PETA is stupid" and then someone follows up saying "vegetarians are stupid." As a vegetarian and PETA supporter myself, I would disagree with both statements, but they're both sort of relevant to the conversation.
posted by mrgrimm at 6:02 PM on February 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


mrgrimm, there isn't a problem with saying "Christianity is bad," "religion is stupid," or "religion is inherently evil," even if some people disagree those statements, especially if you're willing to explain why you think so and engage in some kind of rational debate if someone who disagrees with you challenges you on them.

There's a problem when threads that focus on outrage at a particular group of people degenerate into personal insults against members of the site who can be connected with that group somehow, whether it's members that admit to having some kind of religious beliefs, if the target is a religious group, or people who happen to live in the same state. I understand that the need to find scapegoats is strong, but that doesn't make it OK.

There's a problem when people claim that anyone who disagrees with them is by definition stupid or evil and any rational debate with them is therefore impossible.
posted by nangar at 6:36 PM on February 26, 2010


I.e. if some Christians think all the non-Christians are going to burn in Hell for eternity, they can't get mad when some non-Christians call them stupid and evil.

If a Christian were to post on MetaFilter that "all the non-Christians are going to burn in Hell for eternity" they would have to manufacture more flags to supply all the people (myself included) that would hit that little exclamation point. At the very least, that comment would be deleted. If someone made a habit of it, there would be a banning in their near future. Seriously, have you ever seen anyone say something like that on MetaFilter and get away with it?

If a non-Christian were to post on MetaFilter that Christians are "stupid and evil," you'd better believe I would flag that. Because it's incredibly rude and hateful. But it's not terribly likely to get deleted and it's even less likely to get anyone banned.

If Christians on MetaFilter don't behave themselves toward non-Christians, they get battle-axed. Several non-Christians think it's outrageous that someone asks them to please, if it's not too much trouble, think about maybe not being complete over the top assholes toward Christians (and other religious folks). No one is asking to turn this place into Church Camp. We're just asking that people show some respect and consideration for each other regardless of their disagreements about religion.
posted by Dojie at 6:38 PM on February 26, 2010


But it's not terribly likely to get deleted and it's even less likely to get anyone banned.

That's not how this place operates.

If Christians on MetaFilter don't behave themselves toward non-Christians, they get battle-axed.

That's not how this place operates.

I appreciate that people have pretty strong opinions on some of this stuff, but there are true facts about how moderation works here, and these are not them.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:14 PM on February 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


jessamyn - maybe I need to try again, because I don't think I'm wrong about this, so I may have expressed myself poorly.

This whole thread is about people being bothered by lots of comments along the lines of 'Christians are stupid and evil.' Many many of those comments not been deleted, and as far as I can tell no-one has been banned over it. That's an observation, not a complaint. But those comments do bother me a lot. If a comment were as extreme and blatantly insulting as 'Christians are stupid and evil' I would FIAMO, but I would not be surprised to see it still there when I look at the thread again.

But there just are not people on MetaFilter saying sincere (non-hamburgered) things along the line of the "non-Christians are going to burn in Hell for eternity." If a comment gets anywhere near that line, it's going to release a shitstorm (and has in the past). I can not believe that someone who habitually came in here spouting hellfire and damnation toward other members of the site wouldn't be nuked from orbit. I would certainly hope they would.

I was not implying some sort of anti-Christian bias from the moderation. I've been reading MeFi for a long time and I have absolutely zero complaints about the moderation. The sentence you quoted should probably have read "If Christians on Metafilter misbehaved [in the manner that mrgrimm suggests] they should get battle-axed. I stand by that.
posted by Dojie at 7:55 PM on February 26, 2010


To make another analogy, it's like someone saying "PETA is stupid" and then someone follows up saying "vegetarians are stupid." As a vegetarian and PETA supporter myself, I would disagree with both statements, but they're both sort of relevant to the conversation.

Actually, what's going on is more like:

Person A: Here's a story about a PETA group slashing all the tires on cars parked at a McDonald's the other day.

Person B: Man, those wacky vegetarians! They're always doing things like that!

Please explain to me how Person B's comments are relevent to this SPECIFIC conversation.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:15 PM on February 26, 2010


lots of comments along the lines of 'Christians are stupid and evil.'

There have been no such posts in this thread that I am aware of.
posted by unSane at 8:16 PM on February 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


>lots of comments along the lines of 'Christians are stupid and evil.'

There have been no such posts in this thread that I am aware of.


....As others have pointed out to you elsewhere in this thread, people do paraphrase time to time.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:37 PM on February 26, 2010


There haven't been any posts even close to that. If you think there have, link to them, and we can judge how accurate the paraphrase is.
posted by unSane at 8:40 PM on February 26, 2010


This whole thread is about people being bothered by lots of comments along the lines of 'Christians are stupid and evil.'

Huh. I saw comments that I read as saying "religion is bad," and the baby-with-the-bathwater comment was definitely an attack on Christianity, but I don't think that every time you see a critique of religion in general or even Christianity in general, you can substitute "Christians are stupid and evil." Maybe in the minds of these critics, the practitioners of religion are attached to the way they grew up, or they don't think about the institution at large because they get something good out of their small corner of the institution, or both of the above or something else entirely. Not really fair to boil it down to "these people are stupid and evil."
posted by palliser at 8:44 PM on February 26, 2010


In other (fewer words):
if some Christians think all the non-Christians are going to burn in Hell for eternity, they can't get mad when some non-Christians call them stupid and evil.


So then a good compromise would be that mefite Christians won't tell anyone they're going to Hell, and non-Christians won't call them stupid or evil. Sounds like a plan. Let's do that.

on preview - "stupid and evil" is not a paraphrase. It's a direct quote. And the bothersome comments are primarily from the linked FPP and many others before it, not this one. Which is why the callout was not 'Must this MeTa callout turn into an exercise in how religion is inherently a force for evil?' - note: no quotes on that

posted by Dojie at 8:45 PM on February 26, 2010


One other thing is that the drive-by snark -- which I think has already been regretted, so sorry for bringing it up again -- tends to seem closer to "these people are dumb" than a more thought-out but equally generalized critique, like, say, "an emphasis on the afterlife makes people discount suffering in this life." I think the off-hand dismissal just smacks of prejudice, which is one good reason among many to avoid it, even if you can make a distinction between criticizing the institution and condemning the practitioners.
posted by palliser at 8:53 PM on February 26, 2010


So then a good compromise would be that mefite Christians won't tell anyone they're going to Hell, and non-Christians won't call them stupid or evil. Sounds like a plan. Let's do that.

That's precisely what this thread has been about all along, and I have no idea why anyone would be fighting that concept. Especially since I don't recall any Mefite Christians telling other Mefites they were going to hell in the first place, so it sounds like they already were already participating in that compromise.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:57 PM on February 26, 2010


if some Christians think all the non-Christians are going to burn in Hell for eternity, they can't get mad when some non-Christians call them stupid and evil.

That is not even close to a sentence which calls Christians stupid and evil.
posted by unSane at 9:02 PM on February 26, 2010


I'm going to respond here to unSane's last comment in the FPP, because the comment really addresses the subject of the MeTa to some extent, and I felt a further response in the blue would be OT/derail/whatever. So I'm trying to bring it here.

(unSane, in the FPP) Okay, look, here is exactly why I froth at the mouth about religion sometimes. You are here equating an falsifiable evidence-based scientific belief with an unfalsifiable metaphysical belief. While they are both beliefs, and potentially held in good faith, they are not equivalent.

unSane, please stop frothing.

No one is equating anything - as I already said: "We both agree that the docs are probably right and the Pearls definitely wrong, but the point isn't one of qualitative rightness - it's about humanity's willingness to submit to an authority, any authority." What's at issue (at least, as I raised it in my comments you are responding to) is the power of a belief - whether wrong, right, falsifiable or not - to persuade. Look, I realize you are drinking, I realize these threads together span more than 1,000 comments and I certainly don't expect you to have read and attributed all of mine, but I am talking about the immediate three comments in the direct subtopic of mine that you responded to. I'm certainly not crying, nor offended by your language, but you've professed through this thread that there is no problem, no antagonism against religion, but here you are frothing and taking out metaphorical shotguns.

Not only am I 'not trying to defend the Pearls,' as you concede while implying that I nevertheless unintentionally am doing so, my comments specifically condemned them (there and elsewhere)! I don't know what to do other than to point you back to the things I already wrote and hope that before you "froth at the mouth" you actually read them this time:

"My only point is to say that secular "sciences" or authority is no less able to convince people to take wrong actions and no less subject to being misused for "evil" purposes. Of course these things (the Pearls and pediatricians who followed then-current medical science) might not be the same."

This is as good an example as any of why I have a problem - here you are "frothing", reaching for a "metaphorical shotgun", condemning, whatever, but you haven't even read the words you're reacting to or, if you have, your interpretations directly contradict the written words. I wonder if it's indicative of not so much a considered response, but sort of a gut reaction of 'must show religion bad!' or something. I don't know, and it's not really any of my business.

I am probably overthinking this by 110%.
posted by bunnycup at 9:31 PM on February 26, 2010


(unSane, I should restate: I realize you are drinking, and not feeling well, and that you reasonably pointed out you may have misinterpreted. I probably could have eliminated about 400 of those words and just said "I think you may have misunderstood.")
posted by bunnycup at 9:34 PM on February 26, 2010


Especially since I don't recall any Mefite Christians telling other Mefites they were going to hell in the first place, so it sounds like they already were already participating in that compromise.

It's been done, at least once. It was pretty hotly remarked on and condemned at the time, but it has remained, as I expect the anti-religious comments in the original thread will.
posted by graventy at 9:48 PM on February 26, 2010


if some Christians think all the non-Christians are going to burn in Hell for eternity, they can't get mad when some non-Christians call them stupid and evil.

That is not even close to a sentence which calls Christians stupid and evil.


No. It's a sentence which attempts to justify calling Christians stupid and evil.

If you still honestly don't believe that statements are frequently made on MeFi which are insulting to religious people, you are (a) only reading posts about cats; (b) using some bizarre GreaseMonkey script that replaces all the contentious content with puppies and sunshine; or (c) . . . actually I can't imagine how you still don't believe that it happens when person after person after person has said the same damn thing and I don't have any interest in arguing about it.

And if your objection is that no one has been able to point to a statement which directly says, [QUOTATION MARKS INDICATING A HYPOTHETICAL QUOTE - NOT AN ACTUAL QUOTE] "Religious people are stupid and evil and I hate them and I want them to die, especially the ones who are reading this right now, yes, you, Dojie, I am hereby insulting you for being stupid and evil because of your religion," give us some fucking credit that interpreting a statement that belief in God is idiotic to mean that people who believe in God are idiots is not a sign of thin skin so much as a sign of decent reading comprehension skills.
posted by Dojie at 9:53 PM on February 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


'Lack of Christian faith condemns one to an eternity in hell.'

'I don't appreciate being told I'm going to hell.'

'It seems to me that people came in here determined to be offended by taking arguments against atheism in general as personal arguments against them.'
posted by shakespeherian at 10:03 PM on February 26, 2010


I am, in real life, ecstatic that grapefruitmoon is back. Now if zarq would come back all will be right with the world.
posted by pecknpah at 10:08 PM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


If a non-Christian were to post on MetaFilter that Christians are "stupid and evil," you'd better believe I would flag that. Because it's incredibly rude and hateful. But it's not terribly likely to get deleted and it's even less likely to get anyone banned.

Yes, it just sucks to have by far the most power in society. To be by far the majority. To get to have your religion define the moral crimes, to define what constitutes an illegal agreement between two consenting adults. I just can't imagine how awful it is for you, to have mean words spoken about the actions your majority approves.

But beyond that, the fact of life is that those in power are always subjected to rude and hateful speech. You can not possibly imagine that it could be any other way.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:33 PM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Even more amusing is that you're bitter about the hard words, when your power in this society is predicated on things you can't even prove. You expect to have de facto moral authority in a nation of diverse beliefs, and not be called out on it? That's delusional thinking, that is.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:39 PM on February 26, 2010


I can imagine where an individual who is worthy of rude and hateful speech is subjected to it. Collective punishment is unethical and barbaric.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:40 PM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


We do well to call out specific instances of it, then. I'm all for calling out the Pearls as a particularly vulgar, sociopathic religious organization/network. I say screw freedom of religion: child sexual and physical abuse can not be tolerated. Everyone in the Pearl religious network should be investigated in depth for the protection of their children.

Dollars to donuts that the idea of calling out this specific religious network would be met with a high degree of resistance from self-described "Christian" churches, as well as the old-school churches.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:47 PM on February 26, 2010


We do well to call out specific instances of it, then. I'm all for calling out the Pearls as a particularly vulgar, sociopathic religious organization/network.

This is almost universally agreed upon.

I say screw freedom of religion: child sexual and physical abuse can not be tolerated. Everyone in the Pearl religious network should be investigated in depth for the protection of their children.

Anyone who's bothered to put in an ounce of though to the notion of human rights knows that your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of someone else's nose. Your rights do not supersede the rights of others, especially children. (Unless you're an Objectivist, but that's another flamewar for another time.)

Dollars to donuts that the idea of calling out this specific religious network would be met with a high degree of resistance from self-described "Christian" churches, as well as the old-school churches.

Christian churches are not responsible to address every lunatic conspiracy theory that comes flying across their bow... which is what that is. You clearly have no idea what the various Christian sects believe, or how they believe it. Arguing from ignorance is unseemly. You're gonna have to find some recently published papers in theology that support the Pearl's lunacy from the various mainstream Christian sects for me to even start to believe you know what you're talking about.

Maybe religious threads on Metafilter aren't good places to air black-helicopters type bullshit?
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:19 PM on February 26, 2010


Yes, it just sucks to have by far the most power in society. To be by far the majority. To get to have your religion define the moral crimes, to define what constitutes an illegal agreement between two consenting adults. I just can't imagine how awful it is for you, to have mean words spoken about the actions your majority approves.

But beyond that, the fact of life is that those in power are always subjected to rude and hateful speech. You can not possibly imagine that it could be any other way.


If you want to wave anti-Christian signs in the real world, go right ahead. If you want to buy an infomercial on tv to broadcast your hatred for the Church, have at it. If you want to hate me way deep down in your heart solely because of my faith, you're free to do so. But if you're rude and hateful here, on MetaFilter, expect people to object.

This is not society. I don't have crap for power here. Neither does any group of which I'm a part. It's a website where I spend my free time away from real life. If I'm continually insulted because of a category I fit in, I'll find something else to do. It certainly wouldn't be the first place I've seen where hostility toward an entire group of people made me not want to be around. But since I really like it here, I would prefer that the nastiness go away instead.

Nobody in this thread has complained about mean words about actions. The problem is jerkish behavior toward people. You want to say mean things about specific actions, knock yourself out. But don't say mean things about me or the people I love.
posted by Dojie at 11:24 PM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Eh, well I'm going to bow out of this thread as it's now circling back to where it began.

Dojie, you said:

This whole thread is about people being bothered by lots of comments along the lines of 'Christians are stupid and evil.'

When I asked for a single example, you eventually said this:

And if your objection is that no one has been able to point to a statement which directly says, [QUOTATION MARKS INDICATING A HYPOTHETICAL QUOTE - NOT AN ACTUAL QUOTE] "Religious people are stupid and evil and I hate them and I want them to die, especially the ones who are reading this right now, yes, you, Dojie, I am hereby insulting you for being stupid and evil because of your religion," give us some fucking credit that interpreting a statement that belief in God is idiotic to mean that people who believe in God are idiots is not a sign of thin skin so much as a sign of decent reading comprehension skills.

Now I personally do not think that people who believe God are idiots. That is easily falsifiable. I do however think they are wrong. But you are on a very slippery slope here by saying that:

"X is idiotic"

implies

"People who believe X are idiots"

and is therefore rude and uncivil and should not be part of the discourse here.

Is this only the case for X=Religion, or X=Christianity.

What about X being any of the following:

Scientology
Notions of racial purity
Belief in UFOs
Mormonism
Creationism
Vulgar Marxism
Randism
Raelianism
Belief in the healing power of crystals
Believing that whipping your kids makes them grow up right
Homeopathy
Chiropractic
Thinking that the mullet is an *awesome* look

Are you really saying that insulting any of these (for example saying 'Scientology is a crackpot religion') should not be part of the conversation here because members of the Super Adventure Club who may be reading could conclude you think they are crackpots?

If not, and some beliefs may be mocked while others may not -- who draws the line?

Anyway, l feel like I've already been through station once, so this will be my last post in this thread. Thank you to everyone for one of the more interesting discussions I can remember.
posted by unSane at 4:03 AM on February 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


Dollars to donuts that the idea of calling out this specific religious network would be met with a high degree of resistance from self-described "Christian" churches, as well as the old-school churches.

However, the idea of calling out this specific religious network is being ENCOURAGED by the self-described Christians here on MeFi. So why not do it?

I think I know where you're going with this ("if the Pearls and the Phelps et. al. are truly abhorent to more moderate Christians, why don't more moderate Christians in real life speak out about them"), and I agree this should happen. However -- I also feel like lumping moderate Christians in WITH the Pearls and the PHelps et. al. in discussions like this actually DISCOURAGES moderate Christians from doing that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:50 AM on February 27, 2010


This is Benji. He is the friend of a personal friend of mine.

Benji will probably never know what metafilter is. If he did he couldn't care less if people railed on people who believe in God here. He knows what persecution is. He's had over three years of it, and has suffered horribly.

Let's get some perspective.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:10 AM on February 27, 2010


I'd like to think that this isn't a place where variants on "worse things have happened so shut up" doesn't really fly.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:38 AM on February 27, 2010


Well, I also wanted to say-but hoped it wouldn't be necessary to say-that being a Christian in some places is to be a very persecuted minority, and it would be nice if people could just be nice to each other period.

Most of the folks here are nice to each other. A few have axes to grind and blind spots as to how their grindiness adds to the sum total of rudeness in the world. When I get annoyed or irritated or sad I just remember Kevin's friend Benji.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:04 AM on February 27, 2010


This thread has made my head explode.
posted by bunnycup at 7:19 AM on February 27, 2010


Unless and until Benji becomes a member of this site, I'm not clear how his troubles are at all relevant to the discussion at hand.
posted by shiu mai baby at 7:34 AM on February 27, 2010


I thought you people had settled the issue and agreed to go watch some Dr. Who episodes or something?
posted by Atreides at 7:37 AM on February 27, 2010


And so we stride merrily down the path toward Woo.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:00 AM on February 27, 2010


This situation is simple. Some people on this site like to make provocative, sweepingly broad statements about/against religion(s) that tend to lead to derails and occasional fights and callouts. Other people, some of whom are religious and others of whom are not, find this habit offensive, upsetting, or just plain tiresome.

Jessamyn and cortex have been around in this thread and their presence and comments (and the number of previous MeTas on this subject) suggest that while the mods apparently wish they'd see less of this kind of thing, it doesn't rise to a banning offense on its face. On the other hand, the fact that there are a bunch of MeTas and that we know that zarq and grapefuitmoon disabled their accounts over such threads--and I'm glad to see grapefruitmoon's disabling was a short break--suggests that slagging on religion is driving some people off. (And that's just the ones we know about. Obviously nobody knows what the lurkers are doing either way.)

So basically the options are: the people who are flaming on religion can go on as they are and we continue to have derails and this same fight with minor variations on a regular basis; or the folks who don't think so much of religion can chill and cut back on the telling everyone about it in every thread and the folks who are religious can chill and try not to take it personally when loud atheists hate on religion, and maybe we can have more interesting threads that don't get derailed and fewer callouts. I'm rooting for the second option, of course, but I'm not hopeful.

And I'm weighing in on this not because I feel like religion is a net good (verdict: not proven and almost certainly not provable) or because I'm religious and offended (I'm a nonbeliever and technically fit under the definition of atheist, and I have huge beefs with organized religion's impact on my life) but because I don't enjoy the fightiness and the derails. I wish we could talk about religion on Metafilter without it derailing because a small number of people can't let go of being Right on an Important Topic. We're 900+ comments in and we're right back where we started. That's depressing. I don't expect us to all get along, but I do wish we could try.
posted by immlass at 8:04 AM on February 27, 2010 [6 favorites]


St. Alia, "a friend of a friend of mine is persecuted" is about as relevant to the question of how people are treating each other on this site as is any of the "but Christians have a lot of influence in US politics!" stuff, which is to say not a whole hell of a lot at all.

People here, on this site, should be better to each other than they necessarily are. That's not conditional on the approval or not of how much aggregate power an ideology or political party or whatever has out in the larger world, and it's not conditional on whether or not someone's persecuted somewhere else. Trying to base arguments or emotional pleas for or against on either basis is just annoying.

Yes, it just sucks to have by far the most power in society. To be by far the majority. To get to have your religion define the moral crimes, to define what constitutes an illegal agreement between two consenting adults. I just can't imagine how awful it is for you, to have mean words spoken about the actions your majority approves.

five fresh fish, see above.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:25 AM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, cortex, it's relevant in so much as metafilter is a microcosm. When people go hating on someone else because their beliefs differ, the eventual result can be and too many times is what someone like Benji experiences. Our internal attitudes are the seeds.

If we here wish to have Metafilter as a place where ideas and thoughts can be shared and discussed in peace, then it behooves us to think about what is really happening when that derails. A person can be convinced down to their very molecules that They Are Right and the rest of the world is wrong (and I can include myself in that, along with some posters here that are my polar opposite) and yet we have the ability-and I daresay the obligation-to treat others with respect and courtesy anyway.

It doesn't really matter who feels persecuted, or to what extent. Just like someone who steals a pencil is just as much a thief as someone who steals ten million dollars-it is all simply a matter of degree.

"Remembering Benji" is a good way for me to keep my cool, but perhaps it might be a way for others to look into their own hearts and realize that being a persecutor does not depend on one's ideology, or the rightness or wrongness of their cause. If your stated goal is to eradicate someone's presence with which you do not agree, then what does that make one?

Again let me make it plain that the majority of posters on this site regardness of creed, lack of creed, political viewpoint or breakfast preference, are polite and courteous to each other here. To them, I say thank you for making Metafilter a better place.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:37 AM on February 27, 2010


Well, cortex, it's relevant in so much as metafilter is a microcosm.

which is to say, not at all.
posted by shmegegge at 8:49 AM on February 27, 2010


"Remembering Benji" is a good way for me to keep my cool

Which is fine. If it helps you keep your cool, more power to you and I encourage that. Just try to keep in mind the difference between remembering Benji and flaunting Benji, because this feels more like the latter and it's every bit as obnoxious in that sense as someone flaunting the shit they so deeply dislike about Christianity or religion or whatever as some justification for their own bad behavior.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:54 AM on February 27, 2010


On the other hand, the fact that there are a bunch of MeTas and that we know that zarq and grapefuitmoon disabled their accounts over such threads..

It's impossible to know with certainty why someone's disabled their account unless they tell us, which to my understanding zarq has not (maybe I'm wrong). And of course people leave for a variety of DRAMATIC [e.g. the passive aggressive "I'll show 'em!"] and NONDRAMATIC ["Yeah, maybe I could use a Metafilter vacation" or "that Bar exam won't study itself"] reasons. In any event, I hope Metafilter's policies remain based on the needs of its active user base and the free exchange of ideas rather than react to the passive aggressive-stunts of a very few.
posted by applemeat at 8:55 AM on February 27, 2010


And what if we here wish to have Metafilter as a place wehre rational ideas and thoughts can be shared and discussed?

As for welcoming all ideologies, as you suggest, is that to say you're perfectly comfortable having White Power Bill show up here, sharing his odious opinions on race relations?

This is Metafilter. Woo-spewing has never and, imo, should never be welcome here. It does not contribute usefully toward rational discussion.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:01 AM on February 27, 2010


I hope Metafilter's policies remain based on the needs of its active user base and the free exchange of ideas rather than react to the passive aggressive-stunts of a very few.

I don't know if you're directing this at me or not, but to clarify: I went on a break because I needed to. Not because I thought that MetaFilter needed to change, but because I needed some time away from it to chill out. It was not a stunt. I didn't "mean" anything by it and I'm not expecting a "reaction." That I got one at all is totally unintended and kind of shocking.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:06 AM on February 27, 2010


And what if we here wish to have Metafilter as a place wehre rational ideas and thoughts can be shared and discussed?

How is it NOT? How does someone making a post about a specific wing of Christianity, and how do the mods wishing really hard that people could confine their comments in that thread TO that specific wing of Christianity, make the WHOLE ENTIRE DAMN REST OF METAFILTER not a place where rational ideas and thoughts can be shared and discussed?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:09 AM on February 27, 2010


FFF, we are well aware of how you feel about God. We get it. You do not get to dictate whether or not believers in God get to participate in Metafilter. You are not a mod, you do not own the site, you are simply a member, just like the rest of us.

Go right ahead and believe what you like. But you do not have the right to make others' experience here miserable, and you do not have the right to compare Christians to "white power Bill." Altho, if someone like that showed up here, as anathema as that would be to me personally, I could deal with it. Because people have the right to be stupid, and they have the right to be wrong.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:10 AM on February 27, 2010


And more to the point -- how does asking you to not slag on Christianity make this a place where you can't discuss it?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:11 AM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I went on a break because I needed to.

Yes, you've explained that here, and on other threads, and if you read my comment again you should find your situation addressed under that "Yeah, maybe I could use a Metafilter vacation" nondramatic slot.
posted by applemeat at 9:16 AM on February 27, 2010


And what if we here wish to have Metafilter as a place wehre rational ideas and thoughts can be shared and discussed?

That's Metafilter right now. It takes an incredible amount of effort to turn "don't be crappy to other people just because you dislike what they believe" into "no rationality allowed". It's ridiculous.

As for welcoming all ideologies, as you suggest, is that to say you're perfectly comfortable having White Power Bill show up here, sharing his odious opinions on race relations?

I think White Power Bill would have a pretty hard go of it. I think just how hard a go of it he'd have would depend on whether the odiousness of his opinions were taken by implication or based on him actually saying odious shit. I think in any case that an extreme counterfactual about Klan members parading through the site isn't very useful when talking about just not being, as a group, lazily and habitually shitty to religious folks in general.

We're not talking about welcoming all ideologies, in any case. There's no Roll Out The Red Carpet thing here, or an expectation that someone saying something odious on the site is supposed to be received gladly. Again, the distance between that and merely not being pointlessly shitty to large groups of people is great.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:21 AM on February 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


"Remembering Benji" is a good way for me to keep my cool, but perhaps it might be a way for others to look into their own hearts and realize that being a persecutor does not depend on one's ideology, or the rightness or wrongness of their cause. If your stated goal is to eradicate someone's presence with which you do not agree, then what does that make one?

I have to admit though, St. Alia, my knee-jerk response to your post about Benji was the impulse to post a picture of my friend David -- who is not allowed to get married in THIS country, simply because the person David wants to marry is another man.

My point being: while there are indeed places in the world where Christians are persecutED, there are also places in the world where Christians are, arguably, the persecutORS. The same is true, though, of just about every group in the world and throughout history -- some places they were the Big Man On Campus, and other places they were the People Who Got Kicked Around. So while an appeal to "let's not forget what real persecution is" is a good point, without bearing that other half of the coin in mind, it's going to backfire on you.

And that is why MY OWN position is: it ain't the ideology that causes us to be shits to each other. It's human weakness. So that's why I confine my discussions about human failings to the failings themselves and tread very carefully when I look at how the ideology influenced it -- because for every person who is influenced negatively by any ideology, there are scores more who aren't, and those scores more deserve respect too -- whether I understand why they get what they get out of it or not.

And insofar as "but they're advocating an ideology that restricts your freedom" goes -- in a democracy, there are tools to combat that ideology. When Congress starts seriously advocating the top-to-bottom restructuring of the government to institute a theological system, THEN I'll worry. Until then, I see general voter apathy as a bigger problem than what church those voters go to, if any.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:25 AM on February 27, 2010


The same is true, though, of just about every group in the world and throughout history --

I wasn't disagreeing with you at all. The human propensity to persecute that which is Other is what I was addressing.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:28 AM on February 27, 2010


I hope Metafilter's policies remain based on the needs of its active user base and the free exchange of ideas rather than react to the passive aggressive-stunts of a very few.

As an active member, I would prefer people aggressive stunt-posting not be a factor in the departures (or break-taking, as the case may be) of active members whose contributions I value. Telling people to turn down the volume on their need to be Right on Metafilter is not stifling the free exchange of ideas.

If it's so important for people to talk about the badness of religion, maybe they should make a post on the topic to talk about it instead of regularly shitting in threads where religion comes up.
posted by immlass at 9:40 AM on February 27, 2010


Even researchers are getting in on the "atheists & liberals are different from religious and conservative people" game:

"Political, religious and sexual behaviors may be reflections of intelligence, a new study finds."

All I can say, is these researchers are clearly not Metafilter members - they have no notion of our TOS, their study could never be made into an FPP, and they'd be lucky not to be banned - for sure a huge META would result.

So much drama, so little science.
posted by VikingSword at 9:43 AM on February 27, 2010


FFF, we are well aware of how you feel about God.

St. Alia's statement is really two statements:

1) There is a God.
2) We know how FFF feels about it.

It's interesting to see how centuries of religious belief have switched the onus of proof--proving a negative-- onto those who don't believe there's any god to feel about one way or the other. Because we humans think in the language that we use, this is a fundamental (not intended) testament (nor that) to the extraordinary power differential wielded and probably taken for granted by believers (or should I say, non-disbelievers?)
posted by applemeat at 9:46 AM on February 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


When Congress starts seriously advocating the top-to-bottom restructuring of the government to institute a theological system, THEN I'll worry.

You cool with Utah's new laws?

instead of regularly shitting in threads where religion comes up.

When is it ever appropriate to bring religion up in a thread? Excepting a few outlier cases where religion is at the very core of the issue — like the religiously-inspired murder of a child, a twisted idea that beating the living shit out of her would save her soul to God — I can't see where religion should ever enter into our conversations. It offers no rational perspective on topics.

Cortex: I was specifically addressing the loopy idea that was proposed: that we should be welcoming any and all opinions, viewpoints, and ideas. I reject that idea: there are people whose ideas are so odious that they can not be tolerated.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:49 AM on February 27, 2010


As for welcoming all ideologies, as you suggest, is that to say you're perfectly comfortable having White Power Bill show up here, sharing his odious opinions on race relations?

And if White Power Bill came into Metafilter spewing his odious opinions and then other mefites started saying things like "Yeah, white people suck! Look at this White Power Bill asshole! White people are all racists and want to lynch nonwhite people!" this would be rational how, exactly? Because "Christianity sucks!" is not a rational statement when directed at people like the Pearls.
posted by rtha at 9:49 AM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


FFF, again, Metafilter does not exist so that YOUR ideas of odiousness rule.

Most of us are quite content to let Matt, Cortex, Jessamyn, et al. to be the gatekeepers. They do a pretty good job of keeping most of us reasonably content. Since it's Matt's website, obviously HIS decision of what is and is not odious is going to be the guide.

Not yours, and not mine.

I can live with that.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:03 AM on February 27, 2010


And now I'm off to see one of my oldest and closest friends get ordained as a UCC minister. Her journey as been a long one, and I'm happy to see that her years of thought and study and discernment and and contemplation are bringing her to this day, which I'm not sure she thought she'd ever come to.
posted by rtha at 10:23 AM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


they have no notion of our TOS

Joke's on you, we don't have a terms of service!! Though if the researchers were linking to their own stuff, I'd ban them before they could say "empirical evidence"
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:04 AM on February 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


VikingSword, I don't see any reason that link couldn't be made into an FPP, or why it would automatically result in a MeTa call out, or lead to anybody getting banned. There have been posts about differences between liberals and conservatives before.

At worst it might be seen as a bit weak: "Ground-breaking research proves that liberals are somewhat more educated on average than conservatives. Who would have ever thought that?" It wouldn't be the first time somebody has posted something that's not exactly earth-shattering.

This isn't working well as an illustration of how you're being oppressed by the existence of religious people on the site.
posted by nangar at 11:06 AM on February 27, 2010


Although seriously, in the wake of this epic MeTa thread it would be a little tone deaf to be making that post right now.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:09 AM on February 27, 2010


VikingSword, I don't see any reason that link couldn't be made into an FPP, or why it would automatically result in a MeTa call out, or lead to anybody getting banned. There have been posts about differences between liberals and conservatives before.

Comedy gold. See:

Mod: Although seriously, in the wake of this epic MeTa thread it would be a little tone deaf to be making that post right now.

Love it.

There's what is said officially, and what's reality. Reality is that such an FPP would get nixed so fast your head would spin. Of course, a lame explanation would be given as reason, because it would conflict with the official position. I've seen it. Personally I don't mind - pull any FPP, it's a private site after all. What I find slightly depressing is when an explanation is provided that is necessarily going to be wanting. Just pull it and be done with it, no if buts or maybes.

And there may not be an officially named TOS, but it's there in the rules we all agree to: no personal attacks, no self-linking etc.

Oh, and I don't feel victimized by religious people (on this site), in fact I like and respect several self-professed Christians on this site, people who I think are outstanding in any walk of life. I do think it's BS to say as many have (and not only religious people), that posting "religion is bad" should not be allowed. Why? That's like saying "capitalism is bad" - no different. Derailing is a different matter - throwing in "religion is bad" where it doesn't belong would be objectionable, just as any kind of derailing.
posted by VikingSword at 11:32 AM on February 27, 2010


Reality is that such an FPP would get nixed so fast your head would spin.

If it was done badly, yes. If it was done well, no. If you believe otherwise, you are living out a persecution fantasy. I don't know how to be any clearer than that.

What Jessamyn is saying is that directly on the heels of a great big contentious discussion in which you have lately been actively taking part and taking one of the more hardline positions, going to the front page with a potentially fight-starting topic leaning toward your side of the argument is one of those "not doing it well" things. It threatens to come off as a sort of stunt post, and giving it a little space to breathe first would be a good way to mitigate that impression.

And not to impugn the quality of the research—I haven't looked at the link yet and am curious to see what's there, too—but posts about science news in the form of mainstream jouralistic science reporting tend not to be great in part because mainstream science reporting tends to suck sensationalistic ass. It's not science's fault, it's journalism's fault, but any post about research results is going to start out on much, much better footing if it can be built around actual academic content and commentary as far as the research, since the chances of getting a measured account of what's actually been found rather than a lazy or even intentional distortion for headline-grabbing purposes become much better.

This is a general comment about science reporting, not one about the specific story. Again, I haven't looked, maybe that's a really kickass cnn link by someone who knows their shit and that goes into good detail.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:39 AM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


There is a difference between posting "religion is bad" and posting "people who believe in God are not rational and should not be posting here."

If someone thinks faith is ridiculous it's their right to believe that, and in a discussion on the topic should be allowed to post their opinion. Where I draw the line myself is when that person thinks someone else should not be allowed to have a differing opinion. Again, most people here do not fit that category.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:39 AM on February 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Love it.

Really? Because I am not really feeling the love. Timing and context both matter an awful lot here, especially on touchy topics.

There's a big difference between a Terms of Service [which we don't have, but are working on] and guidelines which allow us the flexibility to take community input and things like timing and context into account.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:43 AM on February 27, 2010


St. Alia of the Bunnies: "There is a difference between posting "religion is bad" and posting "people who believe in God are not rational and should not be posting here.""

Yes, that is exactly my stance as well.

I think the main (maybe even only) salient disagreement remaining in the thread is where the line between fair criticism and offensiveness sits - and St. Alia's stance pretty accurately describes my view of where that line is (it could even have been quoted from one of my previous posts in this thread).

Obviously we have folks on both sides of the larger disagreement on both sides of the disagreement regarding where the criticism/offensiveness line stands.

Maybe it will be possible to work out some consensus and compromise regarding what we all feel is acceptable, and what differentiates a personal insult from a general criticism.

To make a more concrete example, I have some huge chips on my shoulder regarding metaphysics, religion, Christianity, social conservatism and economic conservatism. And I think (hope?) St. Alia can tell that no matter how vehement any of these opinions may be, they are not personal insults directed against her, and that I don't think she should feel unwelcome on MeFi, or that MeFi would be a better place without her here. I actually think that having a larger range of opinions present here, and more maturity in our criticism and ability to graciously receive criticism are some of the best things that could happen here.
posted by idiopath at 12:12 PM on February 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


There's a big difference between a Terms of Service [which we don't have, but are working on] and guidelines which allow us the flexibility to take community input and things like timing and context into account.

jessamyn, I think we need to pull up our standards a bit. The above is just not strong enough. I mean, having guidelines is having a TOS (though not officially named "TOS"), even if in addition mods employ things like timing and context in making their FPP decisions.

And cortex: I'm surprised and dismayed that you'd say I have taken a hardline position and participated in contentious debate - sorry, I didn't even post once in the original FPP, and here in the META, I've posted a handful of times on topic, all quite low key, and explicitly defending religious people against spurious charges of "stupidity", and taking pains to say positive things about religious members of MF, so I feel your attack is totally without grounds.

Also, I have no desire either now or later to make an FPP based on that link.
posted by VikingSword at 12:13 PM on February 27, 2010


I've posted a handful of times on topic, all quite low key, and explicitly defending religious people against spurious charges of "stupidity", and taking pains to say positive things about religious members of MF, so I feel your attack is totally without grounds.

Weren't you just advocating upthread for the elimination of all religion due to all the atrocities committed in the name of religion?

Uh. Are some of your best friends black as well?
posted by dw at 12:46 PM on February 27, 2010


I keep parsing META as PETA, which is filling my head with evangelicals of an entirely different stripe.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:47 PM on February 27, 2010


It takes an incredible amount of effort to turn "don't be crappy to other people just because you dislike what they believe" into "no rationality allowed".

I disagree, it seems to me all too easy. You just take a non-personal insult and 'paraphrase' it into a personal insult, and then protest about being insulted. By "you" I'm obviously not referring to the mods or everyone in this thread. But this is what we atheists are pushing back on.

"Can you explain how we can encourage people to confine their ire to the particular nasty strain of Christianity that I think ALL of us here object to, without also slamming every OTHER strain of Christianity, and religion in its entirety in the process?"

This is a great question. I don't have a definitive answer to this, and indeed part of the reason I'm following this thread is for insight into how I can express my opposition to some forms of religion without the collateral damage. I've read enough of your posts Empress, to realize that your form of christianity is almost indistinguishable from my atheism. This is true, really, of anyone who believes in a transcendent god, and the implications of that.

I think most atheists are as frustrated with the terminology that makes us nominal enemies, and puts you on the same side as the Pierce's when in reality there is a vast gulf between them and us. But realize that this confusing terminology is imposed on us by religion, not the other way around. The term atheist was coined originally to refer disparagingly to people like you and me, who don't strictly accept the dogma.

I understand that there are many valid reasons for you to identify as religious, I tried this myself for many years but it didn't work for me. But by doing so you lend some support, however miniscule, to the whole show. It is very much the same sort of thing as my culpability in the actions of the U.S. that derives from my identification as an American citizen and payment of my taxes. It is a small thing, but with broad implications in society that make me unwilling to remain silent about it, even faced with the possibility that someone will 'paraphrase' my words into a personal insult and make themselves and others feel unwelcome as a result.

Really, its the main reason I identify as an atheist at all. To make clear my opposition to the less than savory aspects of religion, and that though I cherish the wisdom that can be gained from myth I have no stomach for the cruelty of dogma.
posted by Manjusri at 1:19 PM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I disagree, it seems to me all too easy. You just take a non-personal insult and 'paraphrase' it into a personal insult, and then protest about being insulted. By "you" I'm obviously not referring to the mods or everyone in this thread.

But we're talking about this site and the people on it, not about some hypothetical other place where some sort of speech-prohibitive general policy is going to be enforced based on facile restatements. In practice, in reality, on the site we're actually engaged in and discussing, the idea that "don't be crappy" is anywhere close to "rationality is forbidden" is ridiculous.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:27 PM on February 27, 2010


jessamyn, I think we need to pull up our standards a bit. The above is just not strong enough.

I'm afraid it's how it works here. If you're arguing that we need to do things differently, feel free to explain how because I'm not understanding you. Terms of Service is a phrase that means something pretty specific and legal and maybe that's not what you meant originally, but for Team Mod it's a very specific item. Guidelines are flexible, malleable and non-legal. Terms of service implies a contract between the site and you. A contract that both of us are legally bound by. You could make the argument that the guidelines serve this purpose in the absence of a TOS, but I'm not sure that's actually strictly true.

But this is what we atheists are pushing back on.

Please push back on real MeFi examples of this, not some general larger arena where you think this debate is also taking place.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:41 PM on February 27, 2010


I was trying to avoid singling out specific people, but I am talking about this site and this thread specifically. I can go cut and paste examples if you really want, but I'm talking about people taking statements they disagree with, and interpreting them the worst possible way and posting those interpretations in order to argue with them.
posted by Manjusri at 1:51 PM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Uh. Are some of your best friends black as well?

And people posting stuff like this, is why I'm going to bow out of this discussion.
posted by VikingSword at 1:52 PM on February 27, 2010


I was trying to avoid singling out specific people, but I am talking about this site and this thread specifically. I can go cut and paste examples if you really want, but I'm talking about people taking statements they disagree with, and interpreting them the worst possible way and posting those interpretations in order to argue with them.

Actually that happens to theists AND atheists on this site. I don't want to single anyone out either (besides they know who they are) but there have been enough crankypants here on the filter that want to shut down opinions they disagree with. That is what we object to.

It does not do me harm if someone is an atheist. And if someone has an axe to grind about religion per se, that does me no harm either. In many cases you would be surprised to know that I'd agree with the objection. (I hate "religion" but that is a topic for another day.) Again, what I detest here is the propensity of a very vocal and very tiny minority of users to want to shut down anyone who they perceive as even thinking something they disagree with.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:06 PM on February 27, 2010


And cortex: I'm surprised and dismayed that you'd say I have taken a hardline position and participated in contentious debate - sorry, I didn't even post once in the original FPP, and here in the META, I've posted a handful of times on topic, all quite low key, and explicitly defending religious people against spurious charges of "stupidity", and taking pains to say positive things about religious members of MF, so I feel your attack is totally without grounds.

You have been one of the most hardline here, to my eyes. A lot of what you have written can be read as very condenscending and self-congratulatory--for example:

My pledge: I will not argue with some people, because there is no value to shooting fish in a barrel - it's confusing to the fish, unrewarding to the shooter and boring for the spectators.

You may think you were being gracious in writing that but it can quite easily be read as backhanded aggressive-aggressive belittling. But then I see "I am the Winnar!" posturing so. Appearing to name oneself the winner about to take a victory lap resembles not persuasion so much as it does spiking a ball in someone's face in a game of volleyball. It comes across as spiteful. Explaining why one is the winner is like explaining a joke when no one was laughing--it's a deflected admission of failure. If one had presented a persuasive argument, one would have persuaded someone.
posted by y2karl at 2:08 PM on February 27, 2010


Manjuri, some of my comments in this thread might have been ones you were referring to (if they weren't I've made a few that would qualify).

I have taken immlass's comment to heart

... and the folks who are religious can chill and try not to take it personally when loud atheists hate on religion.

and similar comments made earlier.

It is sometimes difficult not to take comments personally when they start with "I hate ..." But I understand that people have real reasons for hating religion. (I share some of them, but not the hate.) It is worthwhile to give other people some benefit of the doubt and try to understand their anger, and not just draw the worst possible conclusions.

I could have said that better, but that is something I've gotten out of this thread.
posted by nangar at 2:41 PM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Actually that happens to theists AND atheists on this site"

True it happens all the time in religious and non-religious threads and it sucks and obfuscates whenever anyone does it. Anyway my good friend (who happens to be christian) just showed up to hang, so I'm off for a while. If anyone really wants me to dig up examples of what I'm talking about I'll try to oblige later.
posted by Manjusri at 2:43 PM on February 27, 2010


As for welcoming all ideologies, as you suggest, is that to say you're perfectly comfortable having White Power Bill show up here, sharing his odious opinions on race relations?

White Power Bill did show up
, sort of, and got the hook because expressing his odious opinions was disruptive and a net negative for the community. It's about behavior, not beliefs (And no, I'm not saying someone can plunk down a fin and say whatever vile bunk they want, so long as they do so politely.)
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 5:01 PM on February 27, 2010


Not yours, and not mine.
I can live with that.


Bitchin', because I'm living with it, too. And expressing my opinions about it.

Is there a reason you keep scolding me?
FFF, we are well aware of how you feel about God. We get it. You do not get to dictate whether or not believers in God get to participate in Metafilter. You are not a mod, you do not own the site, you are simply a member, just like the rest of us.
The hell, mom? Bite my ass.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:04 PM on February 27, 2010


Well dude, you are one of the most annoying members of the atheist brigade.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 7:15 PM on February 27, 2010


Yes. It is very zen. Shame, really, that religion gets brought up at all.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:20 PM on February 27, 2010


Is there a reason you keep scolding me?

Could it be because you are being so full tilt, flat out spiteful and malicious in this thread ?
posted by y2karl at 7:30 PM on February 27, 2010


I've read enough of your posts Empress, to realize that your form of christianity is almost indistinguishable from my atheism.

I'm actually NOT Christian, just for the record. Raised Catholic, and still theist, yes. But not currently Christian.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:23 PM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Posting a bizarre and strangely serendipitous spam email? Did you post the wrong link?
posted by five fresh fish at 8:21 AM on February 28, 2010


Before I clicked the link, I presumed St. Alia was talking about this Benji. I assure you that Benji (or whatever Benji that Benji has, Doctor Who-style, regenerated into) doesn't care about any of this at all, and would think we were all insane for spending hours glowering and typing into a glowing box-shaped thing when we could be outside happily chasing woodchucks or something.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:09 AM on February 28, 2010


True religion is viewed as a type of sacrifice, because truly religious people are called to become qualified martyrs or victims of the world in some form or another, and they are promised their reward at the expense of all others in the next life for it. People take this calling differently, however. A truly religious person frames it as discrimination against their absolute true belief. They provoke out this discrimination as their trial and path to martyrdom, something never to be avoided if they want to overcome the salvation burden of knowing the truth. Outsiders may see the calling as a delusional misreading, or as a childish ego trip, and view it as something to be corrected or otherwise chided towards correct behavior. Others yet see it as a handicap and show a sense of indifference or pity towards the victim in a condescending way, which they might see as showing a positive type of generosity towards true believer. However one views it, the common ground here is that there is a game being played in every way possible and somebody is going to lose.
posted by Brian B. at 9:13 AM on February 28, 2010


True religion is viewed as a type of sacrifice, because truly religious people are called to become qualified martyrs or victims of the world in some form or another, and they are promised their reward at the expense of all others in the next life for it.

I feel pretty safe in saying that this is a completely untrue statement when applied to all of the truly religious people I encountered at the ordination I attended and participated in yesterday (I am not a Christian). My friend was ordained as a UCC minister.

Or is this just a "no true Scotsman" argument, wherein you can say that a person who does not believe this is not, in fact, "truly religious"?
posted by rtha at 10:12 AM on February 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Or is this just a "no true Scotsman" argument, wherein you can say that a person who does not believe this is not, in fact, "truly religious"?

Do they claim, or not, that they live the one true religion? If not, they aren't "truly religious." But if they regard themselves as truly religious in a low key sort of way, not like those toothless snake handlers, then they are merely a higher functioning, more subtle zealot.
posted by Brian B. at 10:32 AM on February 28, 2010


Brian B., I'm not sure your characterization of "true religion" is that useful in the context of this discussion, is the thing; there are lots and lots of religious believers out there who do not see religious exclusivity as a central part of their spiritual life, and those more moderate folks are very much a part of the general religious crowd we've been taking about for the last going-on-a-thousand comments.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:46 AM on February 28, 2010


God is Dead. Long Live God.

My mom (a lifelong so-called Liberal Catholic) recently related to me an anecdote about a conversation she had with a Baptist fundamentalist many years ago. She asked the woman how their mutual beliefs in Christ were really any different. The woman pointed at a wooden decoy duck and said, "That's your faith. Mine is a real duck."

Ever since then, when referring to a True Believer of any kind (including political) my mom's choice of words is, "Now that's a real duck."
posted by philip-random at 10:54 AM on February 28, 2010 [6 favorites]


I need to start carrying a duck decoy around with me.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:04 AM on February 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Brian B., I'm not sure your characterization of "true religion" is that useful in the context of this discussion, is the thing; there are lots and lots of religious believers out there who do not see religious exclusivity as a central part of their spiritual life, and those more moderate folks are very much a part of the general religious crowd we've been taking about for the last going-on-a-thousand comments.

I see most people talking past each other on this one, like they have been for a thousand years, but you think it's going somewhere, so you're the optimistic one.
posted by Brian B. at 11:58 AM on February 28, 2010


Do they claim, or not, that they live the one true religion? If not, they aren't "truly religious." But if they regard themselves as truly religious in a low key sort of way, not like those toothless snake handlers, then they are merely a higher functioning, more subtle zealot.

Apart from the fact that you are tilting at a windmill of your own device there, one cannot say that you not lacking in subtlety.
posted by y2karl at 12:35 PM on February 28, 2010


A lot of things have been said here, a lot of words have been used, but I think cortex and I would agree on this:

All we really need to do is treat each other respectfully HERE and discuss-even slam- ideas without slamming people. All the rest is smoke, fog and mirrors.

If you wouldn't want it said to YOU don't say it to someone else. Is that so incredibly difficult?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:20 PM on February 28, 2010


I need to start carrying a duck decoy around with me.

My take away there was I need to start carrying a real duck.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 2:23 PM on February 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


"but I'm talking about people taking statements they disagree with, and interpreting them the worst possible way and posting those interpretations in order to argue with them."

You mean like implying that any restraint in the forms of criticism of religion available is tantamount to eliminating criticism of religion?

Or how about this? It's fine for you to hold that your stance as atheist is a statement of identity against your complicity in religion, due to any number of reasons (as hominem though they may seem to me), but realize that this is the same as being a publicly religious person, creating implicit argument through identity. Much as the Santa Claus/FSM argument annoys the theistic, the equally annoying analogy of Atheism as religion (including proselytizing) afflicts the atheist.

The thing is, they're both stereotypes built around a grain of truth—there are plenty of religious who simply accept the Bible and faith as codified magic; there are plenty of atheists that proselytize with the same facile and smug language of superiority—but they're stereotypes and shallow ones at that.

Part of being on Metafilter is being able to critically make that distinction, to realize that you talking about your atheism as an identity meant to represent rejections publicly is not intended as proselytizing for atheism but rather as a demonstration of your subjective reasoning on this larger issue of debate and conduct. In order to be consistent, you have to also grant that subjective ability to others and realize that criticizing it in this instance is unfair and detrimental to larger debate, even when you disagree with them. And because we're here, the assumption that others have already questioned their faith—likely, much more skillfully than you could—should be implicit.

Similarly, those religious here have generally criticized religion much more vigorously and thoroughly than the atheists, even though we could both name theists with poorly-examined faith and atheists who have good theological backgrounds here.

You mentioned above that your atheism is nearly congruent with the Empress's theism; I'd wager that my theism is also pretty damn close. If you hold that labeling yourself as atheist is necessary to avoid tacitly endorsing religion, you must either hold that both Empress and I tacitly endorse religion or that the matter is one on which reasonable people may differ.

Given my history—and Empress's too, though I'm obviously less familiar—I'd think it hard to make an argument that I endorse religion in any meaningful way. I choose to believe that means we agree that reasonable people may differ. My faith is largely my own business, built on subjective experience, and I explicitly argue against it being support for public policies in general, though I do tend to believe that others should have the freedom to make their own determinations.

Now, you could choose to read this as a personal attack on your beliefs—that I think that your argument that public declaration of atheism as necessary to avoid supporting evils of religion places you in direct conflict, since I could not and would not make such a claim, and tend to believe myself right in the conflict as I do not endorse religion in general and rather defy you to show that I do; I deny you the right to assign such meaning in my life. And if you truly don't believe that reasonable people may differ on that question, then yes, we are in conflict and the amount that you should feel attacked is the amount that your identity is bound up in your atheism, for I would seek to negate your identity as positive argument, simply by living and disagreeing.

Once you realize that other people can have other beliefs without threatening your identity, or come to different conclusions about what is consistent or desirable within their own lives, you no longer have to worry about criticisms of, say, religion, being taken legitimately as criticisms of people, because you won't be criticizing people and you won't have to feel that your identity is predicated on conflict with theirs even when those identities are, with regard to this aspect, nearly entirely the same.

Which is all a tl;dr way to say that the vast majority of criticisms that get trotted out here are tired and old, generally irrelevant to anyone in the audience, and only get trotted out because they've got the same utility of prayer—they feel good in the mouth and don't change anything.
posted by klangklangston at 2:54 PM on February 28, 2010 [8 favorites]


Oh, and as an aside regarding the utility of arguing here:

I got approached by some dufus on Friday, saying he opposes gay marriage for two reasons: he's a libertarian and because he has Mormon family that got death threats.

He was, and I mention this only for a sense of scene, unfortunately stereotypical as a libertarian. He was about 25, too fat for his powder blue polo shirt, had a balding yet greasy pate, chipmunk cheeks and a wispy proto-moustache above his tiny pursed lips. He started out by stating that, like Ayn Rand, he merely considered homosexuality repugnant yet permissible, in a high, reedy voice. But that because his Mormon step-sister, age three, had be threatened by homosexual terrorists and none of the homosexual community had spoken out against the violence that came after Prop 8, he considered it against his interests to seek legalization for same sex marriage.

It was a hoot, Metafilter. He based his libertarianism on some bizarro interpretation of Natural Rights being predicated upon reproduction, thought that gays were a "domestic Al Qaeda," which nearly got him punched by my boss, and said he refused to consider any philosophy based on utility.

I'm not sure how much I changed his mind, but I will say that Metafilter has certainly made me faster and more articulate at shooting down specious arguments in the real world. But the anti-Christianity stuff has never helped me out in the real world, because the type of Christians that need to hear it won't listen, and the Christians that don't need it have already heard it.
posted by klangklangston at 3:22 PM on February 28, 2010


I was once approached by a Campus Crusade for Christ proselytizer who wanted to have a discussion. He asked me, wasn't it amazing that Jesus Christ, as revealed in the Gospels, fulfilled all the prophecies of the Old Testament?

I asked him if he thought it was amazing that all kinds of prophecies were fulfilled in Left Behind, but he didn't see the relevance.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:46 PM on February 28, 2010


(The Left Behind series is bad fiction and worse theology. Ptui!)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:02 PM on February 28, 2010


[returning for a drive-by anecdote]

I was once watching TV with a friend of mine who had been into black metal and but who had recently converted to Christianity. I had just deconverted and he regarded me as an apostate destined for Hell. Anyway, he was notorious for finding any excuse to proseletyse. An ad break came on (this was England, about 1985), to which the tagline was "Persil. Washes whiter".

At which point he turned to us, and said, very solemnly:

"Ah. But not as white as the Blood of the Lamb".
posted by unSane at 4:36 PM on February 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


You have to admit, that's pretty fucking metal.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:20 PM on February 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Another quote from the same guy. We were discussing reincarnation and salvation and this guy was pretty definite by this poing that I was persona non grata with the Big Guy Up There.

So my friend Jane says, trying to break an awkward moment, "You mean unSane's coming back as an ant".

Christian Metal Guy turned to stare at me and said in the kind of low, hoarse whisper ordinarily reserved for horror movie trailers

"He's not coming back at all."
posted by unSane at 5:35 PM on February 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


Okay Christian Metal Guy needs a teevee show STAT.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:44 PM on February 28, 2010


My father is a lot like a less humorous version of unSane's Metal Jesus dude. You absolutely never know what it's going to be with him. My partner and I had lunch with him one day and as we were parting ways, 'moonMan said "Take care!"

My father's response: "Oh, I don't do that. The Bible tells me to cast all my cares upon Jesus."

100% DEAD SERIOUS.

I'm sure I can think of funnier examples of Jesus hijacking a perfectly reasonable social interaction, but that's the most egregious one that stands out as "WTF?!"
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:53 PM on February 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, I've got one. I took an art theory class in undergrad that had us each try our hand at a few different mediums. We were tasked once with building a monument to something that hadn't actually happened, so I got some red, blue, green, and black Sculpey, and made a black cube with swirls of red, blue, and green descending into it, declaring it to be the end of the universe as the visible light swirled down into nothing.

A couple of months later, my grandfather was visiting, and saw it at my folks' house- my folks had it since they wanted everything I made in that class. He asked about it, and they explained it. "Or," he said, "it could stand for the Trinity."
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:01 PM on February 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


My father's response: "Oh, I don't do that. The Bible tells me to cast all my cares upon Jesus."

Sadly, I have heard it TAUGHT that you aren't supposed to tell someone to "take care" for that very reason. So I'm not at all surprised your dad would say something like that.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:09 PM on February 28, 2010


Yeah I knew a woman once who claimed that she couldn't ever get cancer, because the Bible says 'By His stripes we are healed.' What, I wondered, about the many believers who have died of cancer? 'They didn't have enough faith.' Thanks lady I can't imagine that will ever come back to bite you in the ass.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:07 PM on February 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I know God heals people-i have seen and experienced it- but I also had a friend-a very godly friend who had literally thousands praying for his healing-die of cancer. If that woman had even tried to imply to me he didn't have enough faith....sometimes it's our time to die, period, and God is the final arbiter of that. As much as I believe God heals, I also believe that He is the boss...I have run into too many people who have the mistaken impression they can tell Him what to do. Well, we can ASK Him, sure. But ain't nobody telling the Almighty what He can and can't do.

I miss my friend every day. But I know he's not here because it was his time and not because he didn't have faith or we didn't have faith.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:16 PM on February 28, 2010


Ooh! Me next!

The scene: Wednesday night youth group, circa 1991.

We were all hanging out, waiting for the adults to finish in the main sanctuary. Someone had brought in candy, so we were all bouncing around on a sugat high.

At one point, I said, "Man, Laffy Taffy rules!"

And my youth pastor, serious as can be, says, "No, Shiu, Jesus rules." He was nit kidding.

Of course, a few years later that guy went on to be a media watchdog for the American Family Association, so res ipsa and all that junk.
posted by shiu mai baby at 7:17 PM on February 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


I hate the iPhone's auto-correct features. I hate posting on an iPhone, even though the MeFi mobile interface is excellent. I especially hate posting on an iPhone in a 1,000 comment thread. Sigh. Also: edit window.
posted by shiu mai baby at 7:21 PM on February 28, 2010


This is me, witnessing to all and sundry.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:50 PM on February 28, 2010


"I asked him if he thought it was amazing that all kinds of prophecies were fulfilled in Left Behind, but he didn't see the relevance."

Some guy came up to me on Tuesday, saying that gay marriage didn't matter because the world was ending in 2011. It was all proved in the Bible; he had a pamphlet.

"2011, huh? You guys taking bets?"
"No, no, but we've got this call in show. People are selling off all their stocks. Kids are dropping out of high school."
"Yeah," I said, "but where can I bet against it?"
"No, no, it's in the Bible."
"Ever read Millions Now Living Will Never Die?"
"No, but that's true. Is it about 2011?"
"It's the Witnesses."
"Oh, no, this isn't the Witnesses. You wanna know what their mistake was? See, the Bible never gives an exact date, but it says that all nations will be uprisen upon the earth! That's now!"
"Yeah, but where can I bet against it?"
"Call in!"

The call in show apparently runs from 8:30 to 10:00 ET, but I haven't yet had the desperation for lulz to call it. 1-800-322-5385. (familyradio.com)
posted by klangklangston at 8:48 PM on February 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


So what you're saying is that the Mayans will have a whole year to live it up without any Christians around?
posted by shakespeherian at 9:26 PM on February 28, 2010


I have it on authority that the world ended in 1977. We just haven't noticed it yet, kind of like those Warner Bros cartoons where Wile E Coyote doesn't actually fall until he notices he's stepped off the abyss.
posted by philip-random at 9:49 PM on February 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thread, meet Lazarus. Lazarus, meet Thread.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:16 PM on February 28, 2010


At one point, I said, "Man, Laffy Taffy rules!"

And my youth pastor, serious as can be, says, "No, Shiu, Jesus rules." He was nit kidding.


This is one of the funniest things I have heard in ages.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:08 PM on February 28, 2010


This is me, witnessing to all and sundry.

...Huh?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:25 AM on March 1, 2010


And I realize I forgot to address St. Alia:

I wasn't disagreeing with you at all. The human propensity to persecute that which is Other is what I was addressing.

No, I got that. I was just pointing out that the particular illustration you chose to use FOR that purpose could potentially backfire on you with this one specific audience.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:29 AM on March 1, 2010


Klangklangston, you want a good way to bet against it, maybe figure out a way to offer their listener base reverse mortgages on their houses with a really expensive contract buyout clause they can exercise if the world doesn't end on May 11th.

I was hoping that I could find evidence on their exempt tax return that they paid a lot into retirement benefits this year, but sadly no.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:43 PM on March 1, 2010


I have it on authority that the world ended in 1977.

Great, another Lost spoiler.
posted by gimonca at 9:01 PM on March 1, 2010


"You mean like implying that any restraint in the forms of criticism of religion available is tantamount to eliminating criticism of religion?"

Nope. I mean like posting the above, and pretending like this is a reasonable interpretation of my words. I sincerely doubt anyone here is trying to say this or believes anyone is trying to say this. Personally, I thought that the 'yay religion' comment was content-free and deleterious to the discussion and wouldn't have been upset to see it go on that basis. Some of the other comments originally called out I didn't think warranted it. There was a moment very early on when I was concerned about the actual policy discussion, but as usual the mods clarified an eminently sensible position.

The point I was trying to make is that I see the difference between enforcing civility on this topic and restricting rational discussion, or conversely being civil and rational versus making people feel unwelcome as a very fine line. A line that takes a great deal of effort not to cross, and that willfully misinterpreting people pretty much rubs out the distinction.

I appreciate that you made the effort to post a thoughtful response Klang, but it feels like you've been over this ground too much to see anything but the ruts. At any rate you totally missed on your characterization of my position and my main disagreement with you would be on the value of actually having genuine, nuanced discussions about the topic. Now isn't the time anyway, I think we'd all rather let this thread go to sleep.

The main thing I want to convey is that I respect the hell out of all of you, whatever creed you profess. If I seem to say otherwise, it might help to understand and respond knowing that it probably has more to do with the terminology or communication skills than any genuine desire to insult or proselytize. A little -- dare I say it -- tolerance to intolerance, or at least restraint in addressing it might actually advance the cause of tolerance and having good conversation.
posted by Manjusri at 12:01 AM on March 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Let a hundred delicate blossoms bloom.
posted by y2karl at 11:42 PM on March 2, 2010


You have to admit, that's pretty fucking metal.

Pretty fucking DOOM metal.
posted by ersatz at 2:43 AM on March 3, 2010


"He was, and I mention this only for a sense of scene, unfortunately stereotypical as a libertarian. He was about 25, too fat for his powder blue polo shirt, had a balding yet greasy pate, chipmunk cheeks and a wispy proto-moustache above his tiny pursed lips."

New Orleans is clearly a better place for the Ignatius' of the world.

Wondering lead me to the wiki entry where I read this:
A version adapted by Steven Soderbergh and Scott Kramer, and slated to be directed by David Gordon Green, was scheduled for release in 2005. The film was to star Will Ferrell as Ignatius and Lily Tomlin as Ignatius's mother. (...)
Various reasons are cited as to why the movie has yet to be filmed. They include: disorganization and lack of interest at Paramount Pictures, the head of the Louisiana State Film Commission being murdered, and the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans.[5] When asked why the film was never made, Will Ferrell has said it is a "mystery."
Let it ever be so.
posted by vapidave at 10:49 AM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Casting Will Ferrell as Ignatius is an abomination, a filmed abortion offending any criteria of taste and decency. Oh, my valve.
posted by applemeat at 1:45 PM on March 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Delicate Blossoms

That used to be my stage name!
posted by five fresh fish at 9:44 PM on March 3, 2010


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