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Moslems? Really?
January 1, 2011 11:07 PM   Subscribe

Why is this okay?

I know that there's room for a diverse range of political opinions on MetaFilter, but this link is pretty damn racist. Where is the line usually drawn with this kind of thing?
posted by OverlappingElvis to MetaFilter-Related at 11:07 PM (332 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

I flagged it. That's site has made the rounds many times over, and if I recall specific articles have been linked a few times on MeFi with the caveat that it was looney tunes. It would be nice not to drive traffic to it.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:09 PM on January 1, 2011


Also flagged it. I was surprised to see it on the front page. Not Best of the Web.
posted by mlis at 11:36 PM on January 1, 2011


Mods probably forgot to delete it since it didn't mention Wikileaks

I keed
posted by MattMangels at 11:41 PM on January 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


What about this one too? The commentariat seems to universally hate it.
posted by schmod at 11:57 PM on January 1, 2011


Complete load of rubbish.
posted by Wolof at 12:03 AM on January 2, 2011


Why is it ok for the mods to occasionally have a dang day off.
posted by boo_radley at 12:11 AM on January 2, 2011


Boo_radley, I didn't pay $5 whole bucks to read a site with YouTube-quality comments.
posted by MattMangels at 12:23 AM on January 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


There are few Islamic radicals left in Algeria, with most of them dead, or run off to Europe, or south into the desert and across the southern borders into Black Africa.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 12:35 AM on January 2, 2011


This may be an unpopular opinion, but I don't think that having a link to a racist loony website should, in itself, be reason for deletion. Is it an interesting link? Has it spurred interesting discussion? Yes on both counts. Are people going to go read it and think, "Gee, I used to be a liberal, but now that I've read that jokes page I think we should bomb the whole Middle East back to the stone age!"? No, no they are not. If anything I think the reverse is more likely: you may be nodding along to some of the less egregious stuff, realize that the author is a loon with some repellent beliefs, and then reconsider those opinions of yours that led you to agree with the guy at first.

But what makes me more uncomfortable is OverlappingElvis's framing of this MeTa: "Why is this okay?" and a post that seems to proceed from the belief that we should scrub Metafilter of any evidence of beliefs we do not agree with. That way lies echochamberdom.
posted by hattifattener at 2:46 AM on January 2, 2011 [29 favorites]


hattifattener: Are people going to go read it and think, "Gee, I used to be a liberal, but now that I've read that jokes page I think we should bomb the whole Middle East back to the stone age!"?.
Even if that was the case, it wouldn't be grounds for deletion.
I agree with you that Metafilter isn't, and should not be restricted to on-message links only. The very phrasing of the question "Why is this OK?" disturbs me, as to my ears it betrays a prescriptive and censorious outlook. You shouldn't need a reason to justify a post - the question around here always used to be "is there a reason to delete this?"

To the OP: there is a line; Matt has mentioned some sites which it is not OK to link to from MetaFilter, and they're a good deal worse than this.
posted by nowonmai at 2:57 AM on January 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


if the ffp stays up, it is ok.
comments are not a reflection of the ffp in and of itself nor the OP.
remember to smoke with care, esp around the holidays and children.
posted by clavdivs at 2:59 AM on January 2, 2011


I haven't looked at the site, but the framing of the post is not objective as it is editorialized.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 3:36 AM on January 2, 2011


Please explain to the unwashed why it ISN'T ok?
posted by gjc at 3:47 AM on January 2, 2011


the summary looked so useful (if poorly written, i thought it was aimed at soldiers about to go in country) it became the longest thing i've read on the internets for a while
posted by paradise at 4:21 AM on January 2, 2011


The mods are off, you say? Shame. I've just discovered a deep, dark secret:

Separated at birth?

Katy Perry/Jessamyn West
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:28 AM on January 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


Could you point us at some of the racism in that link? I skimmed it and while it certainly seems to be fairly right-wing looney-tune material I didn't spot any racism.
posted by Decani at 4:48 AM on January 2, 2011


According to the comments in the thread, Decani, you have to go and look in the jokes section to find the real racism.

I didn't look myself, but like you, I couldn't see anything obvious in the original article. Perhaps people are making the claim that there's a long-term bias in reporting that's only explicable by racism, but if that's the case, I think it's incumbent on one to cite examples so we don't all have to read everything they've ever posted or take your word for it.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:30 AM on January 2, 2011


I don't the post is all that great, but it doesn't seem to be delete-worthy.

Beyond that, this call-out is really weak.

If you're going to call out a post, cite specific examples of what's problematic.

Don't be vague.

Don't make the rest of us do your work for you.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:51 AM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Don't make the rest of us do your work for you.

Just go to the thread, Jesus. From TFA;

Part of this is the usual French arrogance, blindly believing that whatever methods they have developed must be the most efficient, and that any other approach is obviously second best and defective...

However, despite their smugness, the French are alarmed at the growing threat from among their own Arab and Moslem immigrant population. But this is a problem that has been growing for decades, and France has not been able to come up with a solution. Unlike the United States, France does not encourage assimilation as much...


Witless, stupid, arrogant, ignorant.
posted by Wolof at 6:11 AM on January 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


I gave it a quick skim last night and didn't like it but didn't give it a close read and didn't delete. Seemed wrongheaded but not Stormfrontish. Waiting for the other mods to get up to see if we feel like doing something different this morning.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:29 AM on January 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Well, Decani, my first comment quoted content that, if not technically racist, is definitely religious bigotry in my book.
posted by Mngo at 6:32 AM on January 2, 2011


Well, Decani, my first comment quoted content that, if not technically racist, is definitely religious bigotry in my book.
posted by Mngo at 2:32 PM on January 2


Yes, I was kinda expecting this.

Please do not conflate anti-religious sentiment with racism. To do so makes a person look either not very bright or else agenda-driven. There is, and must remain, a clear and readily-definable gap between criticism of a person's beliefs and criticism of a person's race. The difference is crucially important.
posted by Decani at 7:05 AM on January 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


Part of this is the usual French arrogance, blindly believing that whatever methods they have developed must be the most efficient, and that any other approach is obviously second best and defective...

Spot on, if my experience with French academics is any indication. They say the same about Americans of course. Bunch of racists, I tell ya.
posted by spitbull at 7:15 AM on January 2, 2011


Katy Perry/Jessamyn West

Moderator gal
She's unforgettable
Comfy shoes
I [+] MeFi on top
Whip smart mind
Badass
Deletes your self-link
GRARARRARARAR! GRARARARARAR!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:15 AM on January 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


I didn't really look at it last night because nothing really pointed me there; there wasn't any significant flagging action in the first few hours that it was up, nobody seemed to be flipping out in the thread, we didn't hear from anybody via email. Light flagging for a few hours followed by heavy flagging after a metatalk post is hard to suss meaning out of.

I can't see myself reading Strategy Page for pleasure; it also doesn't give me Stormfront heebiejeebies at a glance, and that's more of the level of WTF that puts something in our "basically don't ever link to this without a damned good reason" bucket. One post about is probably enough, but what I feel like I'm seeing here is more people being uncomfortable with the sites slant and attitude and apparent hawkishness/xenophobia than with some sort of nutso crazy racist diatribes or whatever.

So I guess I'm in the same place as Jessamyn on this. Not my kind of site, I can get why people think it's not good, but I'm not clear that this is an auto-delete sort of situation where the post must not stand or whatever.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:34 AM on January 2, 2011


Please do not conflate anti-religious sentiment with racism.

Oh, nonsense. That's like hearing antisemitism described as racism and recasting it as a religious critique. Antisemitism was racism, and still contains a racist element. Whether or not Jews or Muslims actually are another race is secondary that antisemitism and islamophobia functions in the same way as racism, and frequently treats Jews and Muslims as, in fact, being another race. Islamophobes don't use a phrase like "sand-nigger" inadvisedly.

The quoted paragraph makes a functionally racial assertion about Muslims (and, I would guess, deliberately uses an antiquated spelling of the word that has long been established to be offensive to Muslims): It paints Muslims as inherently aggressive, and inherently prone to terrorism. It's racist in the same way that cartoonist Thomas Nash's cartoons were racist against the Irish, despite the fact that we Irish are widely (although not universally) regarded as white -- it separates the despised into the other and affixes to them distinctive, inherent qualities. We now identify that as ethnicity, rather than race, but that's a relatively new distinction, and one that is lost on racists.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:34 AM on January 2, 2011 [28 favorites]


I don't know about all this racist stuff. There was a recent post about how Chinese fighter planes could pose a threat to the US's air dominance and I wanted to say "don't worry. If we look closely enough we'll find a chink in their armor". But I didn't say that, because I figured I'd be vilified for using a racially derogatory term. People have absolutely no sense of humor anymore when it comes to words associated with racial or ethnic identities, and even less when there is any threat from those identities.

If you look at old joke books, you see a lot of jokes about the Irish and the Italians and the Dutch and others - all adding a little spice to the melting pot, in my opinion. Maybe the melting pot is done simmering, maybe it's ready to serve, and we shouldn't make fun of the ingredients anymore, but damn, I think it's still funny to make fun of the Dutch.
posted by twoleftfeet at 7:37 AM on January 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


But I didn't say that, because I figured I'd be vilified for using a racially derogatory term.

You thought so correctly. If I thought you put that in there by accident, I would have politely pointed out that this may have been unintentional, but it's the sort of thing one should be cautious about. Had I thought it was meant as a joke, I would have flagged it. Unless you are Asian, it's a joke that could potentially be alienating to a lot of users. Even still, we can't know who you are from your user name. There are plenty of places on the web where any discussion of women or religious or ethnic minorities will bring a torrent of insensitive jokes, and they don't generally make those places bastions of great conversation. I prefer what we have here.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:44 AM on January 2, 2011 [13 favorites]


I could have sworn I left my ten foot pole in here somewhere.
posted by Sailormom at 7:48 AM on January 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Please do not conflate anti-religious sentiment with racism. To do so makes a person look either not very bright or else agenda-driven. There is, and must remain, a clear and readily-definable gap between criticism of a person's beliefs and criticism of a person's race. The difference is crucially important.

Every bigot has his excuse for why his particular brand of bigotry is morally acceptable. Then they go about reducing people to stereotypes and dismissing them off-hand with a sense of righteous indignation that's just about as unpleasant as the bigotry was to begin with.

I know it's really fun to assume that every religious person on the planet is an idiot — in high school I was all over that shit. I was a junior varsity religious bigot. But when a statement like this:

Past periods of conquest are regarded fondly by Moslems

is made, then it ignores that Islam is a belief system, not a genetic code, and that lots and lots of Muslims have beliefs that vary in lots and lots of ways, and that's pretty much what bigotry is.

This is completely tangential to whether or not threads to racist content should be instantly deleted, by the way.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:54 AM on January 2, 2011 [8 favorites]


But I didn't say that, because I figured I'd be vilified for using a racially derogatory term. People have absolutely no sense of humor anymore when it comes to words associated with racial or ethnic identities, and even less when there is any threat from those identities.

We made a conscious choice at some point that we were okay with the humorless "please avoid racist or racist-sounding tongue in cheek commentary if possible" request even if it meant missing out on a few jokes. There are a zillion other sites on the internet where you can make your lulzy racist/sexist/homophobic jokes and not be villified at all. I know this chafes some people, and there are a few jokes that either fly under the radar or otherwise make it in, but we feel that it helps many people feel more comfortable here even if it's at the expense of some people feeling it's unfun.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:57 AM on January 2, 2011 [17 favorites]


Astro Zombie writes "and, I would guess, deliberately uses an antiquated spelling of the word that has long been established to be offensive to Muslims"

I thought we talked about this recently and determined that while some whackadoodles in the states and elsewhere are using it as code it was still an acceptable spelling.
posted by Mitheral at 8:25 AM on January 2, 2011


Yes, but I'm guessing these are the whackadoodles.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:29 AM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


"even if it meant missing out on a few jokes".

Nice.
posted by smartypantz at 8:29 AM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


People have absolutely no sense of humor anymore when it comes to words associated with racial or ethnic identities, and even less when there is any threat from those identities.

If I'm in a small group of friends and one of them - a New York Jew - cracks a joke about New York Jews, I laugh (if it's funny, of course).

If I'm on a website with thousands of users and I don't know who you are - except perhaps you are someone who can't read an audience, or thinks that telling a race joke in front of thousands of people who don't know you is the same thing as telling it in front of a few good friends - I'm going to think you've got bad judgement and are possibly actually racist.

That's another side to your "everyone's too sensitive these days!" Take responsibility for the jokes you tell and where you choose to tell them.
posted by rtha at 8:31 AM on January 2, 2011 [12 favorites]


Nice.

I have no idea what your single-word comment means.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:36 AM on January 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh, nonsense. That's like hearing antisemitism described as racism and recasting it as a religious critique.

No, it is not like that at all. That is a straw man.

Here's what I said:

"Please do not conflate anti-religious sentiment with racism. To do so makes a person look either not very bright or else agenda-driven. There is, and must remain, a clear and readily-definable gap between criticism of a person's beliefs and criticism of a person's race. The difference is crucially important."

My point is that racism is different from anti-religious sentiment because one is criticising a facet of an individual that they can neither help nor change whereas the other is criticising an opinion of the individual that they most certainly can help, or change. This difference is very large, and very crucial, and I will always push back when people try to pretend it doesn't exist or is so small as to be unimportant. Such people are calling me a racist (or no better than a racist) and I will not stand for that.

My point is not, as you claim, saying that anti-semitism is purely based on opposition to the Judaic religion. Anti-semitism is generally understood to be attacking Jews for racial reasons. I do not, and did not, dispute that. I am no anti-semite, yet I oppose Judaism, the religion. I also oppose Christianity and Islam. This does not make me a racist.


Whether or not Jews or Muslims actually are another race is secondary that antisemitism and islamophobia functions in the same way as racism, and frequently treats Jews and Muslims as, in fact, being another race. Islamophobes don't use a phrase like "sand-nigger" inadvisedly.

Using the term "sand-nigger" is racist, yes. But it is not the same as being anti-Islam. Using the term "kike" is racist. But it is not the same as being anti-Zionist. And the difference is not, as you suggest, merely secondary; it is crucial. You are minimising a real and very important distinction in meaning and you are doing so in such a way that you are essentially suggesting that I and those who oppose religion on rational grounds are no better than racists. I'm not going to stand for that, dude.

Racism has a meaning. Anti-theism has a meaning. They are not the same. One is unjustifiable; the other is eminently justifiable. It is certainly true that some racists are also anti-theist but that does not mean that racism and anti-theism are essentially the same and should be treated as such. It is also true that some racists are white Christians; this does not justify suggesting that white Christians are essentially racists.

The quoted paragraph makes a functionally racial assertion about Muslims (and, I would guess, deliberately uses an antiquated spelling of the word that has long been established to be offensive to Muslims): It paints Muslims as inherently aggressive, and inherently prone to terrorism.

What "functionally racial assertion" are you referring to? I'm not sure which paragraph is under consideration here.
posted by Decani at 8:40 AM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is not about you, Decani. I don't care what your opinions are about Judaism or Islam, and I am not sure why you wish to make that the discussion. Had I known that was your objection -- that you have some issue with Islam as a religion, I would not have raised my objection to your comment, because you seem to be personalizing this to "I am not an antisemite, I am not an Islamophobe."

We're discussion the site in question, not you. As as to whether they have engaged in Islamophobia in a manner that is consistent with racism, I already mapped out my objection in my comment, and Rory likewise made the case.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:48 AM on January 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Nice.

I have no idea what your single-word comment means.
posted by jessamyn at 8:36 AM on January 2 [+] [!]


I was appalled by twoleftfeet's ignorance and thought your gentle reply

"We made a conscious choice at some point that we were okay with the humorless "please avoid racist or racist-sounding tongue in cheek commentary if possible" request even if it meant missing out on a few jokes."

was delightful because of the "missing out on a few jokes" part. The sincerity of the "missing out" part is what made me say "nice".
posted by smartypantz at 8:53 AM on January 2, 2011


Thanks for the explanation.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:54 AM on January 2, 2011


It is as hard to read a lack of sarcasm online as it is to read sarcasm.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:55 AM on January 2, 2011 [15 favorites]


Nice.
posted by nola at 9:13 AM on January 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


Part of this is the usual French arrogance

Nice.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 9:27 AM on January 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Moslem" is like the left's "USian". A cheap, dirty way to get people riled up, but oh so fun.
posted by planet at 9:31 AM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nice.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:45 AM on January 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


Strategy page has a reputation. The only positive aspect of the post was almost universal disdain in the comments.


It is as hard to read a lack of sarcasm online as it is to read sarcasm.

This sentence makes no sense
posted by clavdivs at 9:53 AM on January 2, 2011


One is unjustifiable; the other is eminently justifiable.

Did you ever notice how bigots feel so completely at home justifying their bigotry?
posted by Burhanistan at 9:59 AM on January 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


This sentence makes no sense

turtles all the way down
posted by found missing at 10:22 AM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


This sentence makes no sense

I'm pretty sure that was meant sarcastically.
posted by box at 10:28 AM on January 2, 2011


clavdivs making statements about what statements make sense is meta-recursive.
posted by Babblesort at 10:33 AM on January 2, 2011 [8 favorites]


Aye, clavdivs.
posted by heyho at 10:37 AM on January 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Huh. I liked the post. I totally didn't read....hardly any of it before clicking the link. Once there, I clicked on the most read stories link to see what it was all about. The top one was a really informative article about the new Chinese anti-aircraft carrier ballistic missile system. The comments were filled with what sounded like some really knowledgeable people talking maths and giving some detailed information with a respectful repartee.

Just goes to show that not all cesspools are without merit. War, violence, and racism aren't my bag, but maths and facts are kinda interesting.
posted by lazaruslong at 10:42 AM on January 2, 2011


Here's the thread over there I'm referring to, by the way. Poking around now, yeah.......pretty inflammatory shit.
posted by lazaruslong at 10:45 AM on January 2, 2011


I don't think it was meant sarcastically at all:
smartypantz commented "Nice."

jessamyn said "I have no idea what your single-word comment means."

smartypantz clarified that what they meant was they liked the sentiment and reasoning behind jessamyn's comment, and thought it was nice.
As I read that, it wasn't clear to jessamyn (or to me, or, apparently, to several others) whether "nice" meant "oh, I like that, it's nice" or "<sarcastic intonation>Oh, niiiice you idiot.</sarcastic intonation>"

IOW, it's not possible to look at the one-word comment "Nice" and be confident that it should be read with a sarcastic intonation, or without one.
posted by Lexica at 10:47 AM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I meant it both like this and this. I didn't even think about the fact that it could be perceived sarcastically (until after, obviously).
posted by smartypantz at 11:05 AM on January 2, 2011


Nice & Smooth.
posted by box at 11:12 AM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: nice.
posted by tzikeh at 11:42 AM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's right. Criticising a person's religion is exactly the same as calling them a "nigger", Burhanistan.
posted by rodgerd at 11:53 AM on January 2, 2011


> Criticising a person's religion is exactly the same as calling them a "nigger"

You're equivocating. I didn't say it was, but bias and prejudice is bias and prejudice.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:56 AM on January 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Criticising a person's religion is exactly the same as calling them a "nigger"

Nobody in this thread said anything like this, and I fail to see how you felt this would further the discussion.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:07 PM on January 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


What I like about Metafilter is the Signal to Nice ratio.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:21 PM on January 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


My point is that racism is different from anti-religious sentiment because one is criticising a facet of an individual that they can neither help nor change whereas the other is criticising an opinion of the individual that they most certainly can help, or change.

Well, to the extent that they are allowed to (see: Antisemitism and the 20th Century).
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:21 PM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's still racism if a black person person can pass for white but doesn't.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:25 PM on January 2, 2011


The Nice
posted by Grangousier at 12:27 PM on January 2, 2011


For the record here is a map of world Muslim population by percentage per nation. See what you want to.
My personal opinion is that people use religious identification as a semi-permeable screen.
Animals identify most with animals that look like them and that nice black Christian from Kenya is still black.
I think racism is selected for, easily understandable and harmful. Racism is useless but it is not some vague evil force.
posted by vapidave at 12:32 PM on January 2, 2011


That's right. Criticising a person's religion is exactly the same as calling them a "nigger", Burhanistan.

Painting a group as stupid and dangerous solely based on their identity and one's own xenophobia is identical whether it happens to be using ethnicity or religion.

Do note that this particular activity is not actually "criticism".

For example- when you think of the Khmer Rouge, was the problem of violence due to the extremist behavior or the fact that they were atheist?

The problem with violent extremists is that they are violent extremists, not whatever excuse or pretense they've used to justify their behavior.
posted by yeloson at 12:45 PM on January 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think the problem here is that we have all become so used to hearing attacks on Islam come from bigoted right-wingers that some of us come to believe that if someone is criticizing Islam that they must be some Republican meat head. Well, we need to keep in mind that even the most horribly broken of clocks are still right twice per day. Not all Muslims are bloodthirsty savages, duh; that's not even close to what this article is saying. But we need to recognize that Islam, like all religions, is not necessarily a benign thing. Most people will tell me, "Oh, MattMangels, come on, there are always a few bad apples you can't paint with such a broad brush. Think of all the good things religion does!" when in reality the situation is the precise opposite: we should think of religion as being on the whole a bad thing, even though it does some genuinely good things here and there.
posted by MattMangels at 1:11 PM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


turtles all the way down

That makes little sense.

clavdivs making statements about what statements make sense is meta-recursive.

Here is a quarter. Reverse recursivly a Ms. Pacman game.

Aye, clavdivs.

you should see my criminal record, piracy is for chumps.

I'm pretty sure that was meant sarcastically.
it was box, well to a some degree for which i apologize to AZ. so what does the sentence mean.

It's still racism if a black person person can pass for white but doesn't.

Is this effect a by-product of direct racism or implied racisms in-direct conclusion based on established criteria.

For example- when you think of the Khmer Rouge, was the problem of violence due to the extremist behavior or the fact that they were atheist?

niether, as this is a generalized historical qualifer to suit your argument which is invalid.
posted by clavdivs at 1:13 PM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nice.
posted by smartypantz at 8:29 AM on January 2 [+] [!]

I have no idea what your single-word comment means.
posted by jessamyn at 8:36 AM on January 2 [+] [!]

I was appalled by twoleftfeet's ignorance and thought your gentle reply...
posted by smartypantz at 8:53 AM on January 2 [+] [!]

Thanks for the explanation.
posted by jessamyn at 8:54 AM on January 2 [+] [!]

It is as hard to read a lack of sarcasm online as it is to read sarcasm.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:55 AM on January 2 [8 favorites +] [!]


This is why we can't have "nice" things!
posted by Atom Eyes at 1:20 PM on January 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Unless you are Asian, it's a joke that could potentially be alienating to a lot of users
So we're OK with racist remarks as long as they're made by people who are themselves often targets of racial slurs?
posted by dg at 1:33 PM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


So we're OK with racist remarks as long as they're made by people who are themselves often targets of racial slurs?

I do not think that is a charitable interpretation of what was being said.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:34 PM on January 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


So we're OK with racist remarks as long as they're made by people who are themselves often targets of racial slurs?

No. Not clear on how you arrived at that, but, since there seems to be some question: definitively no.

However, there is a difference between Jonathan Swift, who was Irish, satirically arguing that the Irish poor should sell their babies to rich people as food, and rich non-Irish people making the same case because they think the idea of eating Irish babies is funny.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:46 PM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I do not think that is a charitable interpretation of what was being said
Well, it wouldn't be the first time I've interpreted something wrongly. However, I've re-read it several times and the comment still seems to be saying that making a joke referring to Chinese people as chinks would alienate people unless the person making the joke was Asian. I can't see any other way to interpret those words. I'm the last person who should be criticising insensitivity in others, of course and Astro Zombie is not someone who I perceive to be likely to make casual racist comments, but the comment struck me as very odd for some reason.
posted by dg at 1:50 PM on January 2, 2011


That joke specifically probably wouldn't be well made by anybody. But I can see a Chinese person making use of Chink as self-reference in a way that somebody else couldn't. I don't use Mick or Kike to refer to myself, but I know other Irish-American and Jews who do, and it's quite different than when it comes from a non-Irish or non-Jew.

Although mick seems to have lost much of its sting, at least here in the States. Paddy still gets some people riled up.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:57 PM on January 2, 2011


In other words, while it may be possible to be racist against yourself, it's quite a feat to actually manage it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:00 PM on January 2, 2011


...and, on non-preview, I agree that the context of delivery matters a great deal. I don't agree that it's OK (for example) for an Asian person to make jokes about Asians just because the person making the joke is Asian. If it's clear to the audience that the comment is a joke and the audience is of a mind to take it that way, it's probably OK, but not because the joke-maker is Asian. It's OK because of the intention behind the joke and the environment it's delivered in.

Not sure I'm making myself clear here, but that that's the best way I can explain it at the moment.
posted by dg at 2:02 PM on January 2, 2011


I agree that intention matters a great deal as well. Within the context of a small group of friends who mutually understand that a joke is being told ironically, or without malice, a lot more is allowable than in a large, semi-anonymous online forum, where the intentions are very hard to read.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:08 PM on January 2, 2011


Of course, in that context it's also okay to eat Irish babies, because who is ever going to know?
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:11 PM on January 2, 2011


Katy Perry/Jessamyn West

I clicked a URL and I liked it.
posted by loquacious at 2:14 PM on January 2, 2011 [11 favorites]


This is not about you, Decani

posted by Astro Zombie at 4:48 PM on January 2


I know that. My comment was about your comment - which stated that my opinion that racism is not the same as anti-religionism - was nonsense. I felt it justifiable to defend my opinion in the face of that. I assure you I am determined to stick to the point, which is not to make this about me but to defend my view that racism is not the same as anti-theism; that the difference between the two is crucial, and that those who seek to obfuscate that vital distinction are in great and dangerous error.

One is unjustifiable; the other is eminently justifiable.

Did you ever notice how bigots feel so completely at home justifying their bigotry?
posted by Burhanistan at 5:59 PM on January 2


I do notice that. I also notice how you, Burhanistan, repeatedly and mysteriously seem to get a pass when you do things like calling other Mefites bigots without the slightest justification. I wonder how it is that you get given that pass so often.
posted by Decani at 2:15 PM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: missing out on a few jokes
posted by Joseph Gurl at 2:19 PM on January 2, 2011


Within the context of a small group of friends who mutually understand that a joke is being told ironically, or without malice, a lot more is allowable than in a large, semi-anonymous online forum, where the intentions are very hard to read.
Of course. While we can choose to ascribe malicious or otherwise intent to a person as we read their comments, it's important that the commenter not put the reader in the position of having to do so. What we say in this largely context-free environment must be able to be judged solely on the words themselves, which can be quite a feat.
posted by dg at 2:27 PM on January 2, 2011


Judged on the words themselves, a racist joke is racist.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:38 PM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I assure you I am determined to stick to the point, which is not to make this about me but to defend my view that racism is not the same as anti-theism; that the difference between the two is crucial, and that those who seek to obfuscate that vital distinction are in great and dangerous error.

Part of your problem, I think, is that you are not taking power into account at all here. Yes, religions perpetuate all sorts of evil, and there are plenty of places where religion is, arguably, the greatest driver of social ill, but there are also plenty of places where specific religions are persecuted and stigmatized (generally by other religions) much as there are plenty of places where specific races are persecuted and stigmatized (generally by other races). That Islam (for example) is a dominant religion in many countries does not magically erase the bigotry that Muslims experience elsewhere, much as the many non-persecuted Asians in, say, China do not somehow erase the experience of racism for Asian-Americans. "Go back where you came from" is, after all, not exactly a non-bigoted sentiment.

And I think you grossly underestimate the cost (and even the possibility) of changing your religion, especially when it's driven by outside pressures rather than your own convictions.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:42 PM on January 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Katy Perry/Jessamyn West

I clicked a URL and I liked it.


Vermont Girls are something special...
big snow boots and parkas on top...
posted by jonmc at 3:10 PM on January 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Personally, I appreciate knowing which MeFites think this kind of trash is worth both reading and linking to.
posted by EarBucket at 3:57 PM on January 2, 2011


I think there is a distinction to be made between anti-religionists like Decani (and myself) who oppose religion on intellectual grounds, and those who use crude names, crude jokes, and kneejerk reactions to practitioners of a religion. The site in question feels a lot more like the latter, which is a lot closer to racism, and deserves the comparison, than any sort of reasoned anti-religion analysis.
posted by mreleganza at 4:28 PM on January 2, 2011


I think there is a distinction to be made between anti-religionists like Decani (and myself) who oppose religion on intellectual grounds, and those who use crude names, crude jokes, and kneejerk reactions to practitioners of a religion. The site in question feels a lot more like the latter, which is a lot closer to racism, and deserves the comparison, than any sort of reasoned anti-religion analysis.

The question for me is: Where do you draw the line? When does a statement of anti-religion stop being thoughtful and informed and start being so vague and generic that it stops making sense to even say it?

I think that religion can be very harmful when abused; I think that people who buy into religions without thinking it through are as bad on average as people who don't think through just about anything. So you could say I'm pro-thought and anti-not-thinking. But it's pretty damn easy to move from criticizing certain aspects of religion to criticizing the entirety of religion, anything that calls itself "religion", anything that uses the word "God", and I think that even there religious criticism has begun to lose its meaning. And to go from there to criticizing the individuals who select any form of religion is pretty much always to be offensive, alienating, and, yes, intolerant.

I'd like a religious discussion that takes into account the extraordinary complexities and subtleties of religious belief; I think it's stupid to even bring up religion in a discussion unless you're willing to talk about it on a much deeper level than we usually talk about it here. "Opposing religion on intellectual grounds" is such a meaningless statement that even the people I think you'd support are dragging down the discussion and probably stopping people who have things to say from wanting to say them; and that kind of stance, in its own way, encourages the cruder and ruder people into thinking that their position is the right one, and their only crime is not being subtle enough about what they think.

I do notice that. I also notice how you, Burhanistan, repeatedly and mysteriously seem to get a pass when you do things like calling other Mefites bigots without the slightest justification. I wonder how it is that you get given that pass so often.

Does it make you feel better if I say you're bigoted too? Because I'm firmly in the "anti-theists are bigots" camp and I dunno if I've called anybody one yet, so my record is clean.
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:59 PM on January 2, 2011 [11 favorites]


"Moslem" is like the left's "USian". A cheap, dirty way to get people riled up, but oh so fun.
I had to go off and google this, but I never knew it was considered a pejorative. I saw it used in various contexts and thought it was just a useful shorthand way of specifying Americans, meaning US citizens. So I guess that means I had better stop using it then.
posted by Joh at 5:18 PM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


how come jess has a star and cortex doesnt ? is he wanting to be more low key kind of mod ? can i have a green one ?
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:33 PM on January 2, 2011


★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★
posted by cjorgensen at 6:10 PM on January 2, 2011


do you have Plutor's mark librarian contributions script running? b/c there is no longer a book next to jessamyn and I thought maybe the star had to do with that.
posted by mlis at 6:18 PM on January 2, 2011


★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★
posted by cjorgensen at 9:10 PM on January 2 [+] [!]


Nice.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 6:25 PM on January 2, 2011


It's my "five years as an employee" recognition. Some people get a pen set.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:26 PM on January 2, 2011 [17 favorites]


I saw it used in various contexts and thought it was just a useful shorthand way of specifying Americans, meaning US citizens. So I guess that means I had better stop using it then.

Do not stop using it--I have no idea what plutor was referring to, or why it would rile anyone up to be called a "USian" in a context where it added clarity or speed.

US citizens generally prefer "American" but sometimes that isn't ideal for clarity or speed. Context is all.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:38 PM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Please do not conflate anti-religious sentiment with racism.

In general, there are many racists (I mean, people who self-identify as racists) who are anti- all religions except Christianity. Because they are racists.

I don't see anything on this site that suggests that the people who write for it are not in this group. If there are anti-Christian comments that I missed, my apologies to the people who write for the site, but from where I sit they look a lot like Christian-identified white supremacists.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:41 PM on January 2, 2011


I prefer "Fuck Yeah American."
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:41 PM on January 2, 2011


Sidhedevil: Do not stop using it--I have no idea what plutor was referring to, or why it would rile anyone up to be called a "USian" in a context where it added clarity or speed."

plutor always sounded like a planet to me.
posted by gman at 6:57 PM on January 2, 2011


The one time I lasted five years in a job it was at a Greek restaurant. I was rewarded with a remorselessly incontinent hippie Sneetch and he Sneetchwrenched my NES so that I sucked at Super Mario Brothers. After some time I was able to conclusively prove that it was he that had sabotaged my NES and I was really angry. When I confronted him with the evidence at first he claimed it was to save the turtles. When I was midway through peeling his third toenail he admitted that he only did it because he was trying to impress a girl.
posted by vapidave at 7:03 PM on January 2, 2011


My brother told me that he heard someone at a party here in L.A. refer to her significant other as her "boyf" (pronounced "boif,"). That's worse than "USian," I guess.
posted by Bookhouse at 7:06 PM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Do not stop using it--I have no idea what plutor was referring to, or why it would rile anyone up to be called a "USian" in a context where it added clarity or speed.

You must have missed the many conversations we've had here where people do not like that term and find it pedantic and offensive.
posted by dead cousin ted at 7:09 PM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can someone explain to me why "Moslem" is no longer acceptable? I thought it was just another transliteration of the Arabic word. When and why did it become disrespectful?
posted by overeducated_alligator at 7:09 PM on January 2, 2011


When and why did it become disrespectful?

Answer is here.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 7:18 PM on January 2, 2011


> Can someone explain to me why "Moslem" is no longer acceptable? I thought it was just another transliteration of the Arabic word. When and why did it become disrespectful?

Speaking as a Muslim, I don't find it particularly offensive and I don't know any other Muslimes who take personal offense at it. However, it is curious to note that the "Moslem" spelling is used almost exclusively by biased sources such as the link in question in this post. It seems to be a kind of willful throwback to a time when anti-Muslim bias was more overt and acceptable, and any writer that uses it immediately is starting from a deficit, benefit of the doubt-wise. "Muslim" is a closer approximation of the Arabic sound.

Taking offense or expending much effort to see the "correct" spelling is a waste of time, though.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:18 PM on January 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


We got five years, stuck on my eyes
We got five years, what a surprise
We got five years, my brain hurts a lot
We got five years, that's all we've got
posted by Sailormom at 7:19 PM on January 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's my "five years as an employee" recognition. Some people get a pen set.

Ah, I assumed cortex was moping around his room wearing his Star Bellied Sneetches Get Stitches t-shirt, then tomorrow I figured he'd pony up his $5 and get his own special star. I'm an idiot.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:20 PM on January 2, 2011


> Answer is here.

As far as I know, that link gets it a bit wrong. "Mozlem" is not how you would pronounce الظَّالِمِينَ or even "mu-dzulm", but it can sound close enough to a non-Arabic speaker.

The whole thing is a maddening distraction.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:22 PM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Moslem" is like the left's "USian". A cheap, dirty way to get people riled up, but oh so fun.
I had to go off and google this, but I never knew it was considered a pejorative.

I didn't know that, either. I knew it started as a way to specifically cite US citizens, but always saw it as just a cutesy thing, not something mean. I shall stop using it, unless my intent is to criticise people from the US specifically.

I had also wondered about the Moslem/Muslim thing. I learned two new things today, which is good.
posted by dg at 7:29 PM on January 2, 2011


Not sure how it was popularized but "Moslem" is used frequently by people like the american right wing as a kind of code for "people I don't like/savages." The same goes for people that refer to americans as "USians". It's basically like "I have my own name for you and I'm not going to respect you by calling you want you want."
posted by dead cousin ted at 7:41 PM on January 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


I shall stop using it, unless my intent is to criticise people from the US specifically.

I'm the last person to stop telling anyone to stop using anything, but I would think it would be easy to not use USian even in this context. I would say especially in this context, since if some people see it a dickish word to use and you're using it while being critical...eh, whatever, but it seems "US citizens" or "people that live in the US" or in context people probably won't be confused. When people say, "Americans are assholes" most people know you're not talking about North Americans.

I'm all for using words in their most effective manner, and if you're going for the dick move, then by all means, go for it, just make sure that's what you're going after.

Personally I put USian on the same insult level as cracker. I can understand why some people are offended by them, but they just amuse me.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:44 PM on January 2, 2011


Sorry. "what you want." I think that's my quota for quote marks, btw.
posted by dead cousin ted at 7:44 PM on January 2, 2011


The whole thing is a maddening distraction.
Everyone up here in Canada pronounces it Mozlem, Burhanistan. That said, I just went next door to my neighbour's band practice to get some beer from the draft dispenser on the porch, and all three Muslims there said that they didn't find it offensive at all. A poll of the three asians present also produced loud laughs when I asked them if they thought that the expression "chink in the armour" was racist. I think one of the biggest problems in this area for citizens of Northern European extraction in the country North of Mexico and South Of Canada is that they over-think this stuff. To be honest, here in Vancouver anyway, we all just hang with each, and don't really give a ratz azz about all this PC tippy-toeing around.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 7:47 PM on January 2, 2011


insult level as cracker. I can understand why some people are offended by them, but they just amuse me.

use that word 'cracker' in the great state of Georgia and see how far it takes you.
posted by clavdivs at 7:50 PM on January 2, 2011


Yeah, patly my point. I have the privilege of finding it amusing. In Iowa you'd be hard pressed to find a person that had ever been called that in anything but jest.

You would also have to explain what a Paki is before you explained why people might not want to use it.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:58 PM on January 2, 2011


You would also have to explain what a Paki is before you explained why people might not want to use it.

In Boston, you have to explain to people what a "packie" is, and why it's not a Paki.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 8:05 PM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Being white.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 8:06 PM on January 2, 2011


No, seriously, what's up with the star?
posted by mlis at 8:07 PM on January 2, 2011


Everyone up here in Canada pronounces it Mozlem, Burhanistan.

No we don't. Old people and racists do, though.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:11 PM on January 2, 2011


What I told you is the truth.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:13 PM on January 2, 2011


How do you pronounce Moslem, then Sys Rq?
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 8:13 PM on January 2, 2011


The way I spell it. With a U and an I.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:14 PM on January 2, 2011


...but I would think it would be easy to not use USian even in this context ... it seems "US citizens" or "people that live in the US" or in context people probably won't be confused.
Fair point.

Personally I put USian on the same insult level as cracker. I can understand why some people are offended by them, but they just amuse me.
Yeah, I don't get upset at all by people referring to me using generic location/demographic/religious identifiers and, while I understand that people do get upset by them, I don't understand why. That's most likely caused by a deficit of empathy on my part, so perhaps I need to try harder to realise when I'm insulting people (and stop) even if I'm not really clear on why they're upset.
posted by dg at 8:21 PM on January 2, 2011


The way I spell it. With a U and an I.

Well, that would be "Muslim", which is a different word. The pronunciation we were were discussing though was Moslem. Read through the comments and this might become evident. It's probably my fault though, for not being more specific. Sorry about that.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 8:25 PM on January 2, 2011


Of course Canadians - or any other nationality - would pronounce Moslem as Moslem, if Moslem is the word being discussed.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:57 PM on January 2, 2011


Incredible as this may seem, Alvy, different people pronounce words differently. Cripes, those persons living in the country North of Mexico and South of Canada even pronounce the very letter Zed differently.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 9:19 PM on January 2, 2011


"Moslem" looks more to me like something that would be in the Monster Manual. Maybe because of it's vague resemblance to "Golem?"
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:38 PM on January 2, 2011


Incredible as this may seem, Alvy, different people pronounce words differently. Cripes, those persons living in the country North of Mexico and South of Canada even pronounce the very letter Zed differently.

You're awfully patronizing for someone whose tersely confident assertion on the Moslem vs. Muslim thing is the first google search result for 'muslim moslem'.

But please, continue to impart your wisdom. The polling results from your pal's porch are incredibly enlightening. Fascinating data.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:52 PM on January 2, 2011


I'd never refer to myself as a Moslem, because, as Burhanistan says, it sounds too different from the Arabic word. I had never heard of the objection being based on a perceived connection with zulm, until I read the link provided by PareidoliaticBoy. I don't know any Muslims who call themselves Moslems. And I guess that would be my primary objection to the word, if I could summon the energy to raise my mild irritation with the word to the "I must object" threshold. As it is, I kind of quirk a mental "how quaint" eyebrow at the use and am done with it.
posted by bardophile at 10:12 PM on January 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Not sure what your problem is, Alvy. Someone asked a question, I googled it, and posted the found answer. My anecdotal experiences with my neighbours, who happen to have some Muslims and Asians in their Balkan Band are hardly hysteria-worth. You seem determined to have a fight here. Not going to happen.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 10:29 PM on January 2, 2011


Transliterations are rife with changes and alterations in pronunciation, and spelling through time (is it Poly-NICEES, or Polyneices or Polyneíkes), far as I can tell, this is generally owing to it previously being BE, British English, that many conceptualizations were cross-translated with, to later becoming AE, American English, which were the most commonly transliterated; however, as Burhanistan notes, the whole thing a delineated distraction pattern from a belief system of much deeper rooted danger to freedom for all. Also yeah, the 'MO' version is pretty much exclusively used by the Angry-brigade. Coincidence? Or they are just running from playbooks written 40 years ago... currently unsure. But the same change occurred in transliteration of other words, for example, a 1997 phrasebook uses "Momkin tisae'idni/Can you help me", while a 2007 uses "Mumkin aakhud mikhadda/Can I have a Pillow".

So... transliterations have changed; but definitely not in some "bowing to Muslim demands" ("under pressure from Muslim groups") way like the "history news network" article linked above hints at. Unless Mumkin is a codeword for Tighty-Righties now too? This is simple translingual evolution, and fluid linguistics; not "response to pressure". Would anyone say that people were "bowing to pressure from Black groups" in not using antiquated nay offensive terminology? No, but the vileness of those terms is perhaps not as present in the thinking of all people, in the forethought of people who don't experience this vileness directed towards them in real life situations, owing to bearing, or not bearing one of the marks or symbols that humans have used to delineate ourselves as our divergent peoples have slowly come again together; things like bearing shovel shaped incisors.

The recent thread about Rickey Gervais explaining atheism brought out many comments that individuals felt discriminated against... it was established that there is a 'religious privilege'... and at the bottom 7 points were made, I do not dispute this privilege existing, I agree with the listed, and could likely add more (discrimination by some people, and some groups); however the "list" of ways made me sort of look sideways at things... the list, as I read it, would be remedied only by STRONGER laws and the force of legal protections implementing Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Thought (not to call Atheism a "Religion", and start that old herring, but it is a system of belief, and this is as "offensive" or reasonable a statement as one chooses to make of it. For just as atheism is judged, so too have many others, on the basis of their religion, and also on the basis of physical differentiation. It absolutely has the same effect as racism. It is why we can have light-hours of writing on abstruse topics such as the status of 'women in Islam' (in real world it is singularly individual responsibility, Islam is not person, Person is Islam), while topics such as the situation of Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan goes unnoticed, or disregarded by vast majorities in the West; despite being closely related the Civil Rights movement, what we see is that this lack of care for deep discrimination to them, owing, it would seem, solely to an "anti-Islam" position. Well, great, but once you have extended your hand, and in the same breath you oppose Millions of Muslims who find room for evolution, for spirituality, and for good works, and for science... on principle. They are left alone in the lions den with your anti's. Or are they not? I give Threat Down style scenarios, you decide. - or does that site already have that copyrighted?

Take an "anti-" position to its termination, where can it possibly lead?
For much of the nineteenth century, Catholics in America were the unassimilated, sometimes violent “religious other.” Often they did not speak English or attend public schools. Some of their religious women—nuns—wore distinctive clothing. Their religious practices and beliefs—from rosaries to tran- substantiation—seemed to many Americans superstitious nonsense. Most worrisome, Catholics seemed in- sufficiently grateful for their ability to build churches and worship in a democracy, rights sometimes denied to Protestants and Jews in Catholic countries, notably Italy.

In the 1840s and 1850s these anxieties about Catholicism in American society turned violent, resulting in mob attacks on priests and churches as well as the formation of a major political party, the American Party, dedicated to combating Catholic influence. This led to novel claims that the US Constitution imposed an absolute separation of church and state—claims that stem not from Thomas Jefferson and George Washington but from nineteenth-century politicians, ministers, and editors worried that adherents of a hierarchical Catholicism might destroy the hard-won achievements of American democracy. In 1875, a decade after accepting General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, President Ulysses S. Grant publicly warned that Catholicism might prove as divisive in American society as the Confederacy.

Like many American Muslims today, many American Catholics squirmed when their foreign-born religious leaders offered belligerent or tone-deaf pronouncements on the modern world. New York’s own Bishop John Hughes thundered in 1850 that the Church’s mission was to convert “the Officers of the Navy and the Marines, commander of the Army, the legislatures, the Senate, the Cabinet, the President and all.” The Syllabus of Errors, promulgated by Pope Pius IX in 1864, denied that the Church had any duty to reconcile itself with “progress, liberalism, and modern civilization.”
....
Quoted from last time I linked it.
Be NICE to people. And remember always to floss. And it is ALWAYS Zee, otherwise the Alphabet doesn't rhyme, and that would be weird.
posted by infinite intimation at 11:06 PM on January 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Not sure what your problem is, Alvy.

I said you were being patronizing and felt you were unnecessarily jerky when Sys Req and I both had trouble grokking what you were getting at. I probably was more than a little unnecessarily jerky in turn. That's about it.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:18 PM on January 2, 2011


"hmmm, deploy the jewish and irish joke."

"hard pressed sir, the linguists have flanked us and philiogy has overan the CP."

"deploy the joke private"

"but what about the gold...yessir"

"Yesterday morning you said you were Jewish," said the duty officer.
"Yes, but my mother is Irish," said Chayefsky.
"Okay, Paddy," said the officer, and the name became habitual'
posted by clavdivs at 12:18 AM on January 3, 2011


I was a Christion for a church-schooled while of days, until I with the sun rose one day free of it. I've never been a Moslim, but certainly could be, for a while of days (perhaps even one or two more), if the woman were pretty enough and could fix my sock(s).

(Darn it all, now I've gone and exposed my religion, haven't I?)
posted by Opus Dark at 4:05 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


infinite intimation: "And it is ALWAYS Zee, otherwise the Alphabet doesn't rhyme, and that would be weird."

Unless you hail from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in which case it is most certainly Zed, and anything else would be just obviously wrong.
posted by pharm at 5:57 AM on January 3, 2011


>But I didn't say that, because I figured I'd be vilified for using a racially derogatory term. People have absolutely no sense of humor anymore when it comes to words associated with racial or ethnic identities....
posted by twoleftfeet

>...and don't really give a ratz azz about all this PC tippy-toeing around.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy


Holy shit I hate people whining about how much "it sucks having to be PC". All you mean is "I'm so funny that I need to be allowed to make every single one of my funny jokes, even if it means other people feel uncomfortable and bullied and unwelcome around me. My need to pander for shitty laughs trumps other peoples' right to dignity or comfort."
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:49 AM on January 3, 2011 [11 favorites]


infinite intimation writes "And it is ALWAYS Zee, otherwise the Alphabet doesn't rhyme, and that would be weird."

You know what's weird? A Zee 28. Sounds like some bad french accent mocking the name of a car. Now Zed 28 sounds like something you'd want to own named after a fabled Viking warrior. You know that car practically has hair growning on the underside of its hood.

Even worse is the term Zee Car for the legendary 280Z. Sounds like a tiny child of a car yearning to break through into adult hood.

I honestly don't know how American advertising execs managed to talk about these cars with a straight face.

TL;DR: It's ZED
posted by Mitheral at 9:42 AM on January 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's a hood, not a bonnet, dammit.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:48 AM on January 3, 2011


> "Muslim" is a closer approximation of the Arabic sound.

But "Moslem" is a closer approximation of the Persian/Farsi sound. Are Iranians not as good Muslims as Arabic-speakers? Islam is not owned by Arabs, even though the Qur'an is in Arabic; it is a world religion, explicitly not reserved to any one group, and Arabs should not be held up as somehow more authentic. (It's an important issue; to this day, the forms of Islam used in places like Central Asia, Indonesia, and West Africa are seen as somehow less valuable than the Islam favored in the Arabian Peninsula, which is one factor in the spread of the Salafi version of the religion that's causing so much trouble nowadays.)

The reason to prefer Muslim over Moslem has nothing to do with authenticity; it is simply that the latter has come to be seen as both old-fashioned and tainted by association with bigots who deliberately choose it because it pisses off some people they enjoy pissing off. It is not inherently bigoted, and the idea that everyone who used it back before Muslim came to be preferred is a bigot is as absurd as the idea that everyone who used Negro before that became disfavored was a racist.
posted by languagehat at 10:14 AM on January 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


uncle, those socks, they come in pairs and by the dozen
if you but them.
bows deep
posted by clavdivs at 10:51 AM on January 3, 2011


I ran that through google translator, but I'm getting nowhere.
posted by found missing at 10:59 AM on January 3, 2011


It's still racism if a black person person can pass for white but doesn't.


All these comments down and I still don't know what this meant.
posted by norm at 11:16 AM on January 3, 2011


I read it as meaning that the distinction between choice and inherence (one which is often muddy in the first place) is an imperfect fulcrum by which to lever one's self up to the moral high ground.

E.g., the argument that racist and anti-religious positions are fundamentally different things, one bad and one not, could be considered in the light of a light-skinned mixed-race persons ability to pass as white: they have, at that point, the choice to not "be" black. So, then, what if there's social stigma attached to blackness? What's their culpability for those stigmatized things, or how that stigma manifests, if they choose not to suppress that aspect of their public persona? Etc.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:39 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


All these comments down and I still don't know what this meant.

It was in response to the suggestion that bigotry against the religious isn't really like bigotry against races, because you can choose not to be religious, but you can't choose your race. The truth is, some people can choose to pass as white, and they aren't at fault for hatred pointed there way just because they choose not to pass.

It's a bit off the subject we're on right now. And certainly there can be fair criticism leveled against specific aspects of specific religions. But when the criticism is unfair, it's just as much bigotry as racism is, and just as contemptible, and saying that religious people called it down on their own heads by choosing to believe nonsense is just victim blaming.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:57 PM on January 3, 2011


Does it make you feel better if I say you're bigoted too? Because I'm firmly in the "anti-theists are bigots" camp and I dunno if I've called anybody one yet, so my record is clean.
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:59 AM on January 3


I cannot imagine why or how you could even begin to imagine that your calling me a bigot too would make me feel better. What it makes me feel is that you are not worth taking seriously. To say that anti-theists are bigots without actually justifying that calumny is extremely bigoted - except using the actual dictionary definition of bigotry rather than the idiotic "people who criticise anything I don't feel ought to be criticised" definition of bigotry.
posted by Decani at 1:10 PM on January 3, 2011


saying that religious people called it down on their own heads by choosing to believe nonsense is just victim blaming.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:57 PM on January 3


No, Astro Zombie, it isn't. It is holding adults responsible for their choices. It is showing adults the respect of treating them like adults, no matter what race they are, what culture they are, and no matter what misfortunes they have undergone. As opposed to treating them like benighted victims who need to be shielded by well-meaning but unwittingly condescending "liberals" from valid and reasoned criticism.
posted by Decani at 1:20 PM on January 3, 2011


No, Astro Zombie, it isn't. It is holding adults responsible for their choices. It is showing adults the respect of treating them like adults, no matter what race they are, what culture they are, and no matter what misfortunes they have undergone.

Sorry, but this is horseshit. I have met so few atheist who actually know what religious people believe that I can count the total number on the hand of somebody who had been in a hideous pencil sharpener accident. If you're going to hold people accountable for what they believe, it behooves you to actually discover what they believe, and I have seen precious little evidence that this ever occurs. No, instead people are being held responsible for a cartoonish parody of what they believe, and if that's not bigotry, then pencils don't sharpen.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:23 PM on January 3, 2011 [12 favorites]


It was in response to the suggestion that bigotry against the religious isn't really like bigotry against races, because you can choose not to be religious, but you can't choose your race.

Ah, got it.

No, Astro Zombie, it isn't. It is holding adults responsible for their choices. It is showing adults the respect of treating them like adults, no matter what race they are, what culture they are, and no matter what misfortunes they have undergone.

I doubt the Islamophobes really care whether someone is a practicing Muslim. Or whether the Nazis cared whether a Jew was observant.
posted by norm at 1:32 PM on January 3, 2011


Astro Zombie. Please explain on what grounds you have concluded that I or many of the atheists who attack religion on rational grounds do not understand the beliefs of those we attack. When I attack a religious person I do so on the basis of specific claims they have made or things they have said. When I attack a religion I do so on the basis of specific things that have been done in the name of that religion. And I can count on the fingers of one hand the atheists I know that do not do this. Yeah, I can get anecdotal too. Are you impressed? Thought not. So why not knock that Fox News shit on the head yourself, eh?

You are using anecdotal personal experience of ignorant atheist attacks to try to suggest that all anti-theism is bigoted and, even more outrageously offensive, not significantly better than racism. And you say this is okay because "I have met so few atheist who actually know what religious people believe". That, Astro Zombie, is horseshit. Not what I said. It is the purest anecdotal horseshit and I will continue to call it out as long as you continue to use such ill-considered horseshit to back up your profoundly offensive suggestion that anti-theism is not significantly different to racism.
posted by Decani at 1:34 PM on January 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


"Anti-theists are bigots" makes little sense, unless you're also willing to assert that theists are "bigoted" against every religion but one (or two, or three, or all the "nice" ones, etc).

On preview: as for "people are being held responsible for a cartoonish parody of what they believe", see above. Anti-theists do not need to be oh-so-educated about every religion on Earth before they can dislike religion, any more than the religious need to be oh-so-educated about every religion on Earth before they can assert that their own religion is The Way. The double-standard here is painfully obvious.
posted by vorfeed at 1:39 PM on January 3, 2011


I'm actually basing it on every experience I have had here on MetaFilter. If you think atheist discussions regarding religion here have been based on careful, sophisticated analysis on belief systems and the varieties of human understanding of the divine, you're a victim of self-delusion as monumental as what you insist others believe.

Feel free to be offended. But know this: I am not FOX news. I am another atheist. I also happen to be somebody with an actual education in religion, from an academic background, so I am in a position to comfortably state when people think they know about religion and when they actually do. And a vast majority of atheists on this site -- at least the ones who pop up in threads like this -- are as educated in the subject as most FOX viewers are about Iraq, and just as certain that they, in fact, know more than they average bear. They don't. They poison conversation with ignorance, and insist they are on the side of angels, albeit angels without a god.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:49 PM on January 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


But once again we have gotten into an argument about whether you are a bigot or not, and, let's face it, that's what's really at the core of this discussion. You only are if the shoe fits; I'm not personally accusing you of anything, and this certainly wasn't what the thread was about. If it don't fit, it ain't about you, and I am not interested in debating whether you, personally, are a good or a bad atheist. And I'm really, really not interesting in masking that discussion as a generalized discussion about anti-theists. Not when you're lobbing FOX bombs at me.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:53 PM on January 3, 2011


Now I'm not a fancy big city atheist...
posted by found missing at 1:53 PM on January 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


any more than the religious need to be oh-so-educated about every religion on Earth before they can assert that their own religion is The Way

Most religions don't assert that. The actual double-standard is that you expect believers to abandon their nonsense, while you can continue to spout yours. The truth is, you do need need to know what you're talking about if you are to be critical of it, and, if you're speaking from ignorance, you're a bigot.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:56 PM on January 3, 2011


So Decani: Your argument is that you're not a bigot because you're simply "holding adults responsible" for being ignorant and deluded — which means you implicitly suggest all religious people are ignorant and deluded — or else you're holding them accountable for what their religion has done — implicitly suggesting all people in a religion are responsible for that religion's actions.

Sounds like bigotry.
posted by Rory Marinich at 1:58 PM on January 3, 2011


Sounds like bigotry.

That's out of line. When will someone put this nonsense to a halt?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:06 PM on January 3, 2011


Most religions don't assert that.

Most religions don't assert their own correctness? News to me.

Note that I didn't put "the only", "one true", or any such statement in there. I do, in fact, understand that many religions do not directly assert such... however, the things religions do assert are not always mutually compatible, which leads to the same problem.
posted by vorfeed at 2:08 PM on January 3, 2011


When will someone put this nonsense to a halt?

If you're talking to us, this is MetaTalk where people can talk about these things. People are encouraged to discuss these topics without being total assholes. No one is being a total asshole. There isn't anything to put a halt to.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:13 PM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yet, that is. Please continue not being assholes though.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:13 PM on January 3, 2011


It is not out of line, apparently, to call certain Mefi atheists bigots. Noted. And not for the first time.

I probably shouldn't post the reply I just wrote to Rory Marinich, so I'll let it go. Maybe I'll get back to this tomorrow when I've slept on it. Or maybe I'll finally realise just how futile it is trying to make this particular point in this particular place. I suppose that could happen. I can dream.
posted by Decani at 2:47 PM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's out of line. When will someone put this nonsense to a halt?

Seriously, people are throwing the word bigot around so much it's lost meaning. That's a really heavy charge and it shouldn't be used so lightly. Especially in the context it's been used here, which if that flies then you could say everyone here on metafilter is a bigot. And I don't think anyone believes that.
posted by dead cousin ted at 2:57 PM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


People are encouraged to discuss these topics without being total assholes

Calling people bigots (or doing the passive-agressive equivalent thereof) can be assholish, particularly if the target is discussing something in good faith and is clearly not a bigot.

The anti-atheist vibe here is irrational, and calling atheists bigots is emotionally manipulative, intending to end the discussion. It's unnecessary.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:12 PM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


bigot is the new bully
posted by found missing at 3:16 PM on January 3, 2011


calling atheists bigots is emotionally manipulative

Sure, but Rory didn't call atheists bigots. He said that suggesting that non-atheists are ignorant and deluded is bigotry.
posted by rocket88 at 3:55 PM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


We must be able to call a thing what it is. If something is bigotry, it is bigotry. The people here who assert it is have made their case, and the response doesn't seem to be a counter argument, but instead a how dare you.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:02 PM on January 3, 2011


I'm going to lay this flat-out, because I'm tired of having the same dumb argument every two weeks. Not that we won't have it again two weeks from now, but hey, I'm feeling Sisyphean today. So here it is:

There is no single objective standard for "good" and "evil". There is no single objective standard for "good" and "bad", either. There's not even a single objective standard for "beneficial" and "harmful". Objectively, as far as anyone can tell, these things depend on where you're standing and what yardstick you're using to measure.

(Note: if you wish to refute this and assert the existence of a universal moral standard, that's fine, but you'll need to prove it objectively. Good luck with that.)

That being so, what we're left with is a lot of people standing around holding yardsticks, and no way to prove which yardstick is the best. All we can do is make assertions -- assertions which, if they involve words like "good" and "bad", are naturally based on our own yardsticks, and are thus in potential conflict with the yardsticks that surround us.

When you tell me that I'm a "bigot" or a "dick" because I'm an anti-theist, you're telling me two things: a) my yardstick is bad, and so am I b) because I said other people's yardsticks are bad, and so are they.

The contradiction here should be entirely obvious.

"Religion is good" is a value (might as well abandon the metaphor and call 'em what they are) which is widely and commonly espoused, both implicitly and explicitly, despite the fact that there's no way to prove it; we can't prevent people from arguing the opposite, not if we're to talk about values with any sort of honesty. You can tell me that "religion is bad" is a generalization, you can tell me it's ignorant, you can tell me it's bigoted, prejudiced, etc, but if you're not willing to admit the very same about "religion is good", I'm going to laugh at you. When you apply words like these to just one side of a vast, unprovable argument like this one, they're obviously value-words, not statements of fact or reason... and surprise, surprise, your values aren't mine.

In short: if you can't handle the fact that other people don't see the world the way you do, that's your problem and nobody else's. You can't expect me to sit down and shut up just because I think religion is harmful, any more than I can expect others to sit down and shut up because they think it's beneficial. You can insult me all you like, but it'll only make you look all the more foolish when you're throwing a fit over "insults" to theists; as always, the argument over tone is a non-starter when the tone-brigade are the ones flinging personal insults left and right.
posted by vorfeed at 4:04 PM on January 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


On preview: We must be able to call a thing what it is. If something is bigotry, it is bigotry.

Of course. This why I keep saying that religion is harmful: because it is harmful.

Hint: this is the part that goes "...and Astro Zombie was enlightened".
posted by vorfeed at 4:09 PM on January 3, 2011


Astro Zombie, if you can call an "anti-theist" (atheist) a bigot, we're free to call you a bigot as well. Are you cool with that?
posted by dead cousin ted at 4:09 PM on January 3, 2011


A poll of the three asians present also produced loud laughs when I asked them if they thought that the expression "chink in the armour" was racist. I think one of the biggest problems in this area for citizens of Northern European extraction in the country North of Mexico and South Of Canada is that they over-think this stuff. To be honest, here in Vancouver anyway, we all just hang with each, and don't really give a ratz azz about all this PC tippy-toeing around.

Well.

Let me put it this way -- chink in the armor isn't racist, but "OMG CHINK IN THE ARMOR" in a discussion about the Chinese military is both racist and not particularly clever. Your neighbors know you and probably think you're an OK guy, and know that when you say something racist, it is probably a joke. But once you start putting it onto the Internet, well, I don't know you, and my first impression is that you're kind of racist.

Look, we all have little things that bother us and don't bother other people. If you're a white dude, you probably have no idea what being called ethnic slurs your entire life is like. It's not incredible. That doesn't mean that if the person who's being called an ethnic slur objects, he or she just needs to toughen up and suck it up.

And lest you think this is a problem particular to people in the United States of America, here's Stewart Lee on 'Political Correctness Gone Mad'.
posted by Comrade_robot at 4:20 PM on January 3, 2011


Astro Zombie, if you can call an "anti-theist" (atheist) a bigot, we're free to call you a bigot as well. Are you cool with that?

Of course. Please locate the moment when I called anti-theists bigots. I did say uniformed criticism of an entire group based on a cartoonish understanding of their belief system is bigotry. If I've committed that, please point out the moment to me, and it's true, I'm guilty.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:26 PM on January 3, 2011


Oops, wrong link. This is Stewart Lee.
posted by Comrade_robot at 4:36 PM on January 3, 2011


You seem to have a nasty habit of saying shit then denying you ever said that then admitting you you. You did it one time earlier in this thread with the whole "asian jokes aren't racist if asians say it" and got away pretty much scott-free. And now you say you didn't call an atheist a bigot then said that you did. If you're going to discuss in such a dishonest fashion, I see no point in trying to be civil with you.
posted by dead cousin ted at 4:41 PM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Of course. Please locate the moment when I called anti-theists bigots. I did say uniformed criticism of an entire group based on a cartoonish understanding of their belief system is bigotry. If I've committed that, please point out the moment to me, and it's true, I'm guilty.

Frankly, "Sorry, but this is horseshit. I have met so few atheist who actually know what religious people believe that I can count the total number on the hand of somebody who had been in a hideous pencil sharpener accident. If you're going to hold people accountable for what they believe, it behooves you to actually discover what they believe, and I have seen precious little evidence that this ever occurs" sure sounds like uniformed criticism of an entire group based on a cartoonish understanding of their belief system.
posted by vorfeed at 4:42 PM on January 3, 2011


Then you don't read so good.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:44 PM on January 3, 2011


The people here who assert it is have made their case

And not a very compelling one.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:47 PM on January 3, 2011


You did it one time earlier in this thread with the whole "asian jokes aren't racist if asians say it" and got away pretty much scott-free.

I got away scott free because that's not what I said. People were puzzled and I explained myself further. At length. I am interested in if you are accusing me of being deliberately deceptive in my later explanation, and, if so, my conversation with you is over.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:48 PM on January 3, 2011


You're the one that seems irrational right now.
posted by dead cousin ted at 4:49 PM on January 3, 2011


Well, you've put me in my place with your considered response. "No, you," is always such a dazzling retort.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:50 PM on January 3, 2011


Well, you seem to get a lot of joy up on your cross, so why should I disturb you?
posted by dead cousin ted at 4:53 PM on January 3, 2011


All right, I'm done here. My comments have been non-specific, to the point of explicitly refusing to address somebody directly, but instead to address behavior in the abstract. You seem to believe that the proper response to this is to make it about me specifically, with cherry picked misrepresentations of what I have said and insinuations of deception. This is not my game, and I won't play it, or get sucked into it.

Have a good evening, you titan of logic, you king of reason, you giant of unblinkered disbelief.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:57 PM on January 3, 2011


I hope you have a good night as well.
posted by dead cousin ted at 5:05 PM on January 3, 2011


You can't expect me to sit down and shut up just because I think religion is harmful


I expect you to sit down and shut up if you're cluttering this site with what basically constitutes a resentment rather than a well reasoned argument - much the same as I expect the anti religous blazecock pileon to continually attempt to have someone a different user crucified on mefi every few weeks.

Quite why he gets a free pass to do this is beyond me, presumably he's fed the mods a particularly moving sob story.
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:16 PM on January 3, 2011


Wow, that is incredibly fucked up to paint someone that way. You should be ashamed.
posted by dead cousin ted at 5:23 PM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Calling someone a bigot is serious charge and is completely inappropriate when they are trying to engage in good faith intellectual discussion. People are trying to use the dictionary definition of bigotry to justify their behaviour when they know full well it carries strong connotations of racism and ignorance.
posted by stp123 at 5:27 PM on January 3, 2011


Sorry, I just have to get out more of what I was thinking. Thinking that someone told some sob story to the mods and that's the only reason he's still here? Seriously, fuck you. That shit is gross.
posted by dead cousin ted at 5:32 PM on January 3, 2011


The main reasons people who are a pain in the ass on the site seem to get "a free pass", as far as I can tell:

1. We generally don't ban people just for being a pain in the ass, and failure to ban someone is perceived by some folks as a free pass.
2. When we talk to people about their behavior in public, other people don't necessarily see it, and their failure to see it is perceived as a free pass.
3. When we talk to people about their behavior in private, which we do a ton of, other people by definition don't see it, and so see previous.
4. People who we have had to talk to, in public or in private, about their own behavior sometimes respond to that by reacting extra poorly to any perceived failure on our part to publicly chastise someone who is not them for behavior that they dislike.

We spend a lot of time working with people whose behavior lands on the crappy side of the spectrum. Much of it in private. Some of it in public. A bunch of you are in this thread, being pains in the ass to each other and to us and wondering aloud how it is that we're not dealing appropriately with the people you dislike, and the unselfaware symmetry of that is pretty fucking tiring to behold, honestly.

If everyone here could actually manage to get their own shit together and worry only about how good of a community member they're actually being in practice rather than about how bad the people they dislike are being, there would be a huge net reduction in fighty bullshit around here. Absent that miracle occurring, people will continue be pains in the ass and will continue to annoy each other thereby, we'll keep trying to work with folks individually to minimize the worst of that, and people will no doubt keep chucking stones at one another and at us from within glass houses.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:43 PM on January 3, 2011 [19 favorites]


Of course. This why I keep saying that religion is harmful: because it is harmful.

Religion is a huge set of human institutions that have existed for as long as human civilization has existed, in cultures all around the world, and has done and stood for many, many different things.

To claim that all religion is harmful is just ludicrously ignorant. People do and have done harm to other people in the name of religion. People also do and have done good to other people in the name of religion.

I mean, seriously, I really just don't understand the basis of reasoning behind anti-theism. Religion is not inherently bad. It's just a very broad structure.
posted by girih knot at 5:51 PM on January 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


Astro Zombie didn't call anyone a bigot. He pointed out (by my reading) that criticising things you don't know anything about (ie criticising from a position of ignorance) is bigotry. He was speaking about specific actions, not about people (again, by my reading). The arguments he has put forward here have been polite, well-reasoned and articulate, whether you agree with them or not. Perhaps that's why some people seem to have such a problem with them - because they have no equally articulate opposing argument to put forward, so fall back on name-calling and baseless accusations?

dead cousin ted, don't feed the trolls
posted by dg at 5:57 PM on January 3, 2011


Some of us do indeed believe that all religion is inherently bad.
posted by dead cousin ted at 5:58 PM on January 3, 2011


Sorry, dg, I got worked up over pointless stuff. I should probably go to sleep as well.
posted by dead cousin ted at 5:59 PM on January 3, 2011


To be clear, I was only referring to your reaction to sgt.serenity.
posted by dg at 6:02 PM on January 3, 2011


Some of us do indeed believe that all religion is inherently bad.

That's fine, totally fine. You are on a website where people will not all agree with that perspective. You will, all of you, need to decide how to manage that situation.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:04 PM on January 3, 2011


Some of us do indeed believe that all religion is inherently bad.

And that's a pretty ignorant belief. Human beings, in general, want to understand the universe around them. Science doesn't cut it for everyone because there's a breadth of experiences that it doesn't quite explain, and a mechanical model of the universe doesn't work for them. Religion can be antiquated and wrong in a lot of ways, but it tries to explain the divine for people. If you really think that this is inherently bad, that's pretty ignorant and unempathetic towards other people's experiences and beliefs.
posted by girih knot at 6:06 PM on January 3, 2011


I'll drop it completely. Sorry for all the troubleness. I didn't mean to make hard on you, or cortex.
posted by dead cousin ted at 6:10 PM on January 3, 2011


What's inherently bad about giving poor folks free soup?
posted by philip-random at 6:12 PM on January 3, 2011


Religion is a huge set of human institutions that have existed for as long as human civilization has existed, in cultures all around the world, and has done and stood for many, many different things.

So has any number of human institutions. I don't see people up in arms in Jared Diamond threads because he dares to "insult" agriculture, though, nor do I see people howling at Mahatma Gandhi because he thinks war is inherently bad. Many big, old, complicated human institutions (like, for instance, sexism) are widely considered to be inherently bad, despite having done and stood for many, many different things.

When people speak of human institutions as being bad or good, we generally mean their overall effects, not every single cherry-picking case. And as I said above, we mean it with respect to our own values, which may or may not agree with anyone else's. That's where "other people's experiences and beliefs" come from, and you're being pretty damned "ignorant and unempathetic" toward me when you tell me that my values can be bad, but others' simply can't.

I think everyone here understands that religion is a big, complicated thing. However, it's not so big and complicated that it's impossible to say religion is inherently positive -- people do say so, constantly -- and the flip side of that seems obvious enough to me.
posted by vorfeed at 6:48 PM on January 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


However, it's not so big and complicated that it's impossible to say religion is inherently positive -- people do say so, constantly -- and the flip side of that seems obvious enough to me.

There's a problem with your logic here. Just because people find it OK to say the opposite doesn't mean you're right when you say all religion is bad. It's obviously not all good, and by that same token, it's obviously not all bad.

War? Kills people.
Sexism? Marginalizes half of humanity.

I don't recall saying your values are "bad." You don't follow religion? That's great! Don't believe in God? More power to you. You believe religion is bad? Well, that's just a silly generalization. And it becomes problematic because it implies that entire belief structures are wrong, instead of pointing out and isolating what about those structures is flawed.
posted by girih knot at 7:01 PM on January 3, 2011


The problem is that, when it comes to comparing belief systems, you always end up with a circular argument. I think it's OK for anyone to believe anything they want to. So you believe that all religion is inherently bad? Fine by me. The same applies to believing that all religion is inherently good. Both sides of that argument are, by dint of being beliefs, absolutely correct. If you try and put forward actual proof of either, you end up in an impossible position because there will always be proof of the opposite, no matter how peripheral to the overall argument. Where I have a problem is people insisting that I have to agree with their belief when clearly I don't have to do any such thing.

People acting on their beliefs can be a real problem, of course, but that doesn't take away their right to the belief in the first place. People voicing their beliefs, no matter how abhorrent, is useful because it tells us which people to stay away from.
posted by dg at 7:38 PM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's a problem with your logic here. Just because people find it OK to say the opposite doesn't mean you're right when you say all religion is bad. It's obviously not all good, and by that same token, it's obviously not all bad.

No, it doesn't mean I'm right. This is an unprovable moral argument; as I pointed out above, no one is "right" (or, perhaps, everyone is). It does, however, mean that I'm free to make my argument, just as others are free to make theirs. And, again, I never said anything was all bad.

I don't recall saying your values are "bad."

Oh, sorry, I must have extrapolated from "ludicrously ignorant".

You don't follow religion? That's great! Don't believe in God? More power to you. You believe religion is bad? Well, that's just a silly generalization. And it becomes problematic because it implies that entire belief structures are wrong, instead of pointing out and isolating what about those structures is flawed.

"Religion is inherently bad" is no more or less a "silly generalization" than what you said about war and sexism, both of which are much larger and more complicated than most of us are willing to admit. You feel comfortable dismissing some of the most powerful forces in human history as four-word sound bites, yet I'm not allowed to suggest that religion is negative? Come on.

Almost everything in the real world is stunningly complex, especially within the social realm, yet we constantly decide whether things are good, bad, or neutral; just because something is big and complex doesn't mean I have to absolve myself from generalizing about it, especially when it comes to moral judgment. If this were the way we treated other human institutions, we'd have very little to say about anything, and would most likely still be living in the Trees Which Cannot Be Questioned.
posted by vorfeed at 8:00 PM on January 3, 2011


Of course you're free to make your argument, and you're allowed to suggest whatever you want -- just as I'm allowed to suggest that calling all religion inherently bad is an ignorant statement. dg is right: this is entirely circular.

All I want to point out is that if you recognize that everything in the world is stunningly complex, why place any arbitrary judgements on religion as a whole?

I'm not saying religion is beyond criticism, but criticism needs to be focused on actual things wrong with religion. Saying that all religion is inherently bad seems intellectually lazy to me, and worse, sentiments like this will only make people who have religious beliefs defensive.
posted by girih knot at 8:45 PM on January 3, 2011


Also,

"Religion is inherently bad" is no more or less a "silly generalization" than what you said about war and sexism, both of which are much larger and more complicated than most of us are willing to admit.

The summaries I made about war and sexism are specifically and deliberately not saying "War is bad" and "Sexism is bad." I'm giving a broad generalization for WHY they're considered "bad." I can't do the same with religion. If you can, please do so.
posted by girih knot at 9:07 PM on January 3, 2011


languagehat: I don't speak Farsi, but I do speak, read, and write Urdu. I'm surprised to hear that Moslem is a closer equivalent to the Farsi pronunciation, because it isn't to the Urdu pronunciation. Urdu, as you are almost certainly aware, is generally pronounced closer to Farsi than Arabic. So as I say, I'm surprised, but I'm not knowledgeable enough about Farsi pronunciation to be anywhere close to disagreeing.

You're quite right that Arabic pronunciation doesn't automatically deserve to be privileged over others, and that there are serious problems associated with the idea that Arabs are somehow more authentically Muslim than non-Arabs. As a non-Arab Muslim resident of an Arab country, I'm all too aware of some of those problems, and would certainly never argue that Farsi speakers are somehow either less Muslim or lesser Muslims.

We seem to agree that the word appears old-fashioned. I'm less familiar with the use of "Moslem" as a choice made by bigots, but it makes sense to me that this association would also tend to "taint" the use of the word.
posted by bardophile at 11:37 PM on January 3, 2011


Holy Mother of Daffodils.

As you file out of this discussion, please donate what you can to help pay for the next significantly larger platinum edition of "MetaFilter's Big Book of Bigotry".

And for those of you who would not believe in a God the way most believers currently believe in their g(G)ods even if you knew for certain there was a God (or gods), there will be lemonade on the mezzanine at 4 o'clock, featuring Samantha's Pocket Universe singing the entire Alternate Universal Line, in toto, gloriously, on Sunday, over Hillsboro, Massachusetts.
posted by Opus Dark at 11:38 PM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


All I want to point out is that if you recognize that everything in the world is stunningly complex, why place any arbitrary judgements on religion as a whole?

Because that's what humans do. We make values. If all of us simply accept the idea that religion is too "stunningly complex" to be negative, forever, then it'll never be seen that way, and its place in society will never change. Meanwhile, those of us who believe that it is negative will be living a lie for no good reason.

Why should I pretend to love the things I hate, lest someone get "defensive"? If you won't do that with war or sexism or saying-that-all-religion-is-inherently-bad, then why do you expect me to do it with religion?

I can't do the same with religion. If you can, please do so.

Why? So you can reply with "nuh uh, you're wrong and ignorant"? Fine. I generally go out of my way not to do this, but have at it: religion kills people, just like war, often through war. It marginalizes even more than half the world into a massive circular firing squad, like sexism would if there were a hundred different sexes. It tells us that we're here to follow its values, not to create new ones for ourselves, and so it holds us back from what we might become without it. Then it tells us we're like this because we're broken, a problem only religion can fix; a circular argument if there ever was one. It keeps us from honestly confronting the Inconvenient Truths of the universe, among 'em: this is the life we've got, it doesn't mean anything unless we say so, at which point it can mean anything, and when it's gone, it's gone. In doing so, religion has done great harm to science, art, and society; it has lied to us, over and over in a thousand different ways. Admittedly, though, religion gives humanity comfort, guidance, and free soup in return -- comfort we could make for ourselves, guidance we could forge for ourselves, and soup we could buy for ourselves by the metric ton, if we weren't wasting an untold fortune in effort, lives, and treasure on religion.

Religion is, at best, a monumental waste. It doesn't give us a damn thing we couldn't (and don't, in reality) give to ourselves. It's Dumbo's Feather writ large, only it ain't like the crows ever asked for a temple; even if it were true it'd have to be a lie.
posted by vorfeed at 11:51 PM on January 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


Reminds me of a song I once heard.
posted by philip-random at 12:12 AM on January 4, 2011


The anti-atheist vibe here is irrational, and calling atheists bigots is emotionally manipulative, intending to end the discussion. It's unnecessary.

MetaFilter? Anti-atheist? METAFILTER?

Jesus shitting Christ, Blazecock! I don't know what drug you've found or what web site you've been accidentally reading, but I assure you that MetaFilter is largely composed of people who are either atheists or who decline to talk about their religious background entirely; it has far more posts mocking various stripes of religion and religious people than it has posts mocking atheists (I can only think of one possibly "lolatheist" thread ever, the one about Richard Dawkins's web site); casual contempt for religion is fairly common, while I don't think I've ever read a comment that casually suggested all atheists are idiots simply for what they've chosen to believe. There are places where atheism gets you mocked and derided; this is not one of those places.

I'm an atheist. So I'm allowed to give an atheist's opinion, right? I feel that MetaFilter is at its base such an areligious community that I'm actively bored with talking about my atheism. Which is how it should be, I feel; the idea of atheism is that there's nothing there to talk about. In places where Christianity is the norm and atheism is the exception, I talk about myself as if I were actively an atheist; it makes me uncomfortable. Here I don't know if I've ever outright said I was an atheist before just now. That's good. It means that here I'm so comfortable with my nonbelief that I don't feel the need to constantly mention it.

We have a lot more talk about how religion is bad than we do about how it's good. Probably that's because in society writ large the conversation is all about how religion is good for you, and it only becomes about religion's evils when it's not about the majority religion in question. It's not exactly news when XYZ religion does something good, because lots of religions do lots of good things for lots of people, and because traditionally mainstream media spends time talking about this. It's arguably newsworthy when a religion does something stupid, or evil, and will continue to be newsworthy until the default social assumption isn't that religion is inherently always benevolent. (Emphasis on "arguably". My personal opinion is that talking about that shit is frequently beating a dead horse, but that it's really fun to snark about and we should keep occasionally snarking about it.)

MetaFilter is not noticeably anti-atheist. It is, however, noticeably anti-theist. Not everybody is; there have been some wonderful discussions of religion on this site; but anti-theism is generally considered acceptable behavior on MetaFilter, and there are plenty of users who delight in being nasty towards religion for the sake of hating on religion. It's a tricky subject, for a bunch of reasons. Religious people aren't nearly as harmed by anti-theism as, say, women are hurt by sexism — we're talking several orders of magnitude less harm. And there is a place for religious criticism, and it is a BIG place.

It's not that all discussion of religion should be positive or even neutral; it's that certain methods of negativity are harmful. They attack, mock, or belittle people by making presumptions that are not at all correct. They shut down conversation by implying to others that this is a place where certain topics are simply not respected. They stop new people from joining who might expand the conversation on religion by suggesting that here religion is a thing to be mocked and mistrusted.

MetaFilter as a whole has certain complex biases that shut out certain kinds of discussion. We lack, for instance, empathy and tolerance for others' worldviews. We don't have many conversations wherein the hivemind collectively says, "Well, there are certain beliefs/opinions I've got that contrast with this subject matter, but let's ignore that for now and see what happens if we operate off this possibly faulty assumption anyway." We're not good at recognizing when our comments will turn an interesting, multifaceted discussion thread into a more repetitive, overblown topic. We're very unwilling to assume that we know less about a subject than we can possibly imagine; lots and lots of threads are essentially just individuals stating their opinions on something, and then favoriting the people who have similar opinions to theirs. Perhaps even the majority of threads. I wish more threads were full of people constantly asking other commenters to elaborate, or asking each other specific questions that might provoke a more comprehensive understanding. Those are the best conversations in my mind. We don't have them often.

This isn't just about anti-theism. This affects a lot of different topics, probably more than I notice in the threads I read here. I don't enter threads discussing art, for instance, because our hivemind is stuck in the 19th century as far as art theory is concerned and it's still considered tasteful and appropriate to act as if modern art is a complete and utter farce. I don't start threads about my favorite advertisers or favorite advertising campaigns because as a whole this site sucks at talking advertising. And I avoid even mentioning that company that makes the pretty tech products, even though it's directly connected to some of the best interface design and industrial design and art direction of the last twenty years, because on MetaFilter no discussion of that company will be about anything other than whether or not it's a fascist dictatorship whose users are all brainwashed. Overall MetaFilter is a very, very, very, intelligent and friendly community, and I love it to death, but there are absolutely things we can't effectively talk about, and it's a weakness that hurts our community.

This lack of empathy and humility affects religious conversation in particular, because religion is a very complex subject that unfortunately opens itself to very simplistic reductionism; because religion has harmed a lot of people in a lot of ways, and absolutely manifests itself in many dangerous ways; and because a lot of people who have been hurt by religion subscribe to these reductionist terms and so feel justified in their belief that religion is entirely an evil thing used to manipulate absolute idiots into making the world a worse place. There are plenty of people here who are completely okay with dismissing religion's beautiful subtleties and attacking religious people and religion itself as if this was a subject that deserved any amount of scathing or snarkiness. It's difficult because they have valid points to make buried beneath the assholishness, but it doesn't stop them from being assholes.

As I grow older I find myself more and more fascinated with religion. I don't believe in a literal God and I never will; but as I begin to think more and more about the nature of existence and consciousness and matter, I realize that a lot of very complex, sophisticated ideas have been neatly summed up as religious symbols and icons, and that religion is capable of teaching very sophisticated ideas masked as parables and stories. So I'm starting to realize that just because I don't subscribe to a religion's literal truth doesn't mean that its symbolic truth isn't powerful and worthwhile.

That's a discussion I'd like to have here, but it won't happen as long as anti-theists are loud enough and prickish enough to convince people it's not worth the debate. And that includes myself, by the way. I wish there was more religious conversation on this site, but I will absolutely not go to any lengths to start it myself. It's too exhausting. I'd like it to happen but right now I have no doubt in my mind that it would go horribly to shit if it was attempted.

And it's because of people like you, Blazecock. And like you, Decani. You and users like you ruin a fucking lot of things on MetaFilter. Not just anti-theism. I know that I've called both of you out on other instances where you were just being needless fuckwads. You both probably know better than I do how often people get pissed off at you for being condescending and demeaning. I'm sure both of you have convinced yourselves that you're in the right. You're not. Even when you have valid points to make — and I'd like to mention, by the way, that both of you are well-spoken and intelligent, and that I enjoy both of your presences here on MetaFilter more than I regret them — you make sure to shit on other people with valid opinions, people who are fucking taking a risk by sincerely saying the things that they believe with the hopes that their beliefs will be accepted or at the least not mocked, and you hurt them, and you convince them that they aren't welcome here, that they shouldn't dare to like the things they like or believe the things they believe or really put any effort into trying to express themselves.

I'm not talking about any abstract user here. I'm talking about myself. I've said things on MetaFilter and been hurt by the contempt that my comments received. Just today I wrote half a comment on a thread, paused, said "Fuck it", and closed the page, because I was so certain that writing down my thoughts would end up being exhausting and entirely unrewarding and possibly would lead to my getting unnecessarily upset. You, Decani, in particular have left certain comments which suggested that things I enjoy and ideas I have mean I am in some way a bad person; I've read them and spent more time than I ought to have wondering if maybe you were right. You're capable of being vicious and petty and immature. Worst of all you're capable of being all these things preemptively. You're willing to dismiss and mock people who haven't even spoken up yet by suggesting that because they think a certain thing or like a certain thing they are instantly not worth any more of your time.

That's what we mean when we call somebody a bigot, isn't it? That they're stereotyping somebody based on a piece of relatively useless information, dismissing them, reducing them to a word, denying them complexity and contradiction and individuality? Preventing them from further being understood? Showing intolerance towards those who hold different opinions from us? If we go by that last one (which is straight out of the New Oxford American Dictionary) then anti-theism is inherently a bigoted stance to take, just as much as anti-atheism would be.

By that definition of "bigot", you, Blazecock, and you, Decani, are bigots. You are not bad people, but you are bigots. Your bigotry makes this community a worse and less friendly place. I'll call you bigots when you're acting like bigots, and I hope others do the same, and I resent your suggesting that I'm out of line for calling you what you are.
posted by Rory Marinich at 1:05 AM on January 4, 2011 [20 favorites]


By that definition of "bigot", you, Blazecock, and you, Decani, are bigots. You are not bad people, but you are bigots.

You are insane.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:56 AM on January 4, 2011


And you are a bigot in denial of his own bigotry.
posted by Rory Marinich at 2:09 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Whatever, nut.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:13 AM on January 4, 2011


"You will, all of you, need to decide how to manage that situation."

I vote for freaking the fuck out.

Who's with me?
posted by bardic at 2:53 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and I've come to believe that religious identity has a lot of parallels with sexuality (here, I'm talking about sexual orientation, gender identity and kink as a unit) in how it manifests. That, for a variety of different reasons that we don't entirely understand, some genetic and some social, different people respond to and are attracted to different ideas. That some people are attracted to lots of different ideas and some people are attracted to very few, or none at all. That those ideas can change over time. And that, while those identities can be limited by a lack of information about all possible options, or brainwashed out of someone through malice, in a world of perfect information without coercion, over time people will identify what resonates with them and what doesn't.

There's lots of implications to tease out of that. I've had to abandon calling myself Catholic, mostly because I don't believe that evangelism can or should work in any traditional sense. I have friends who think basically the same things I do who haven't - mostly because the cultural and religious tradition means more to them than it does to me, which I interpret as an orientational difference. It's helped me understand why people like Rory say they'll likely never become theists. It's also helped me acknowledge the difference between a person with an individual religious identity and the institution they worship at. The only things that unite all people who call themselves Muslim are really a belief in the prophetic nature of Mohammad and the divine inspiration of the Koran (though, if I had a more nuanced understanding of Islam, I'm sure I'd learn that there's a level of complexity beyond that). The only thing that unites all people who call themselves Christian really is the belief in the humanity and divinity of Jesus of Nazareth - but, there again, we get to argue about what divinity means.

That being said, it seems legitimate topics of criticism that don't extend to bigotry are what religious organizations do in the world and how some subset of their beliefs might predispose them to do them. Suggesting all religious people are deluded goes beyond that - it suggests that what one person does in the privacy of their church or kitchen table or bedroom (or mind, for that matter) is any of your business, and has bearing on their legitimacy as a person. And while it doesn't hurt me, particularly (as a person with pretty much every kind of privilege there is), it is a little annoying - to extend the analogy above, it's a lot like the handful of polyamorists here who proclaim themselves as more enlightened and beyond a passe and outdated practice. It does, however, hurt religious people who have significantly less privilege than any of us here, and that is something we should all be conscious of.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 5:49 AM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm hungry. Let's go get a taco.
posted by norm at 6:38 AM on January 4, 2011


I just want to register in the strongest possible turns how much I abhor anti-anti-anti-anti-anti-anti-anti-anti-anti-anti-anti-anti-anti-anti-anti-anti-anti-anti-anti-anti-anti-anti-theists, and I basically reject them out of hand.
posted by mreleganza at 7:13 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Whatever, nut.

Stunningly well argued as usual, Blazecock.
posted by dersins at 8:46 AM on January 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Stunningly well argued as usual, Blazecock.

What's to argue? He's crazy. His rant is loony tunes.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:19 AM on January 4, 2011


If all of us simply accept the idea that religion is too "stunningly complex" to be negative, forever, then it'll never be seen that way, and its place in society will never change.

You can criticize parts of a whole without throwing every baby out with the bathwater. The bad things that happen in the name of religion can be changed without entirely considering religion a negative thing.

Why? So you can reply with "nuh uh, you're wrong and ignorant"?

There's really no point in continuing this if you're unable to argue your point without getting defensive. You go out of your way to not point out what's wrong with religion, and instead choose to call yourself anti-theist, religion is bad, etc? Why? If you're going to make sweeping points like that, you should be more than ready to back it up with why.

You say that religion does harm to science, art, and society, and I hate to keep implying ignorance here, but I think you need some historical perspective. Up until the last three or four hundred years, religion WAS science, art, and society. And we still managed to progress to the point we are today with that help! It's no longer necessary, of course. The church doesn't conduct the science, art exists outside of it, society in most places exists outside of it. And that's great! We no longer need the guiding force of a church, and religious beliefs DO stifle scientific and artistic exploration at this point. It still doesn't mean religion by itself is bad.

I said earlier that religion was a very broad structure, and it is. There are some churches that specifically tell people exactly how to live and what's right and wrong. But largely people become members of churches because they want to connect with people who share the same general beliefs about the divine. Ultimately, what God[s] is/are to people is very personal, and religion is just there to provide general guidelines. Of course there are ignorant religious people who are going to take whatever's given to them by a religious authority and promote it as the One Truth. But that sort of ignorance is NOT limited to theism, and is a problem with those people.

The structure you could probably most compare religion to is government. There are many different beliefs in how to govern properly, people disagree vehemently, and governments can do awful, nasty things to people in the name of ideals. But calling all governments inherently bad is disingenuous to the good they actually do for people. We have more freedom in the religions that we choose (at least in some places) and some people still feel a need for religion as a guide in their life.

vorfeed, really, I do respect your right to believe whatever you want. But please try to understand that I'm not saying religion is beyond criticism or is something that's always good. I just think it's too broad a structure to call good or bad, and that this distracts from fixing the real evils that are done by it.
posted by girih knot at 10:20 AM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


That being said, it seems legitimate topics of criticism that don't extend to bigotry are what religious organizations do in the world and how some subset of their beliefs might predispose them to do them. Suggesting all religious people are deluded goes beyond that - it suggests that what one person does in the privacy of their church or kitchen table or bedroom (or mind, for that matter) is any of your business, and has bearing on their legitimacy as a person.

That bit I highlighted happens to be one of the primary teachings of both Mohammed and Jesus of Nazareth... and I'm not talking about Leviticus nitpicks, either. Central to both religions is the idea that belief matters, and not just as a precursor to action. If this is a legitimate topic of criticism for religion, why not for anti-religion?

Religion prescribes thought, often from the very earliest age. It places limits on our morality, our ethics, our society, and our dreams, in ways we rarely question. It even determines what we see as religious or right-thinking, and what we don't -- what we think of as a "cult" or "perversion" or worse, freedom be damned. But the moment anyone suggests that religion might be delusion, they are jumping into someone else's bedroom, church, and mind? If so, they're likely to find it pretty crowded in there.

I'm quite aware that anti-theism may hurt "people who have significantly less privilege than any of us here". However, I'm also aware that religion may do the same... and frankly, the latter is much more of an actual problem right here and now than the former.
posted by vorfeed at 10:25 AM on January 4, 2011


vorfeed: "Religion prescribes thought, often from the very earliest age.

Having checked your profile, you live in the United States, which means religion prescribes your thought only as much as you let it. Seriously. What's more likely, given that you're an adult in a relatively free society, is that you picked the religious identity you most agree with - thought proscribed religion. What you choose to believe about morality or ethics once you get there is important, but it's yours ultimately to figure out. Once you step into the public square with that belief, then everybody gets to talk about it. But that's a big if.

There are literally billions of people on the planet Earth whose religious thoughts you and I will never ever know unless we ask. If, without having that conversation, you're willing to say that all of those people shouldn't think whatever the hell they want to, then you get to do that too. But painting a large group of people with a big brush is pretty much the textbook definition of what bigotry is.

The TL;DR version: Criticize churches however much you want, and I'll do it too. But people are not the places they go for an hour on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. People are far more complicated than that.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 10:34 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


What's to argue? He's crazy. His rant is loony tunes.

Then make a case for why anti-theism shouldn't be considered bigotry.

You're a big boy. Use your words.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:35 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


vorfeed, you're reminding me of an old Law + Order episode here, one where the "good guys" lost (ie: the perp walked free), because the way the case played out, they had to prove a negative. That is, they found themselves having to prove that something essential to their case didn't happen, didn't even exist, which is very hard to do in terms of providing evidence.

But keep on trying. Your logic is starting to remind of old Aleister Crowley, which is always good for a Monday morning eye opening.
posted by philip-random at 10:36 AM on January 4, 2011


There's really no point in continuing this if you're unable to argue your point without getting defensive. You go out of your way to not point out what's wrong with religion, and instead choose to call yourself anti-theist, religion is bad, etc? Why? If you're going to make sweeping points like that, you should be more than ready to back it up with why.

You told me earlier that "saying that all religion is inherently bad seems intellectually lazy to me, and worse, sentiments like this will only make people who have religious beliefs defensive". Well, perhaps telling others that their beliefs are ludicrously ignorant will only make them defensive.

I don't generally go into why because people react just as you did: by picking out one or two criticisms, declaring that they're not actually bad and/or don't apply to every single religion out there (even though I clearly stated that I'm speaking from my own values about overall effects, not making factual statements about every single cherry-picking case), and thus concluding that religion isn't bad.

You asked me why I believe religion to be bad, and I told you, in detail. You've decided to interpret that through a lens of "ignorance" -- the same lens you've been viewing me through from the very beginning, unsurprisingly -- and that's why I tend not to bother with this sort of discussion. It's pretty tiring to write The Vorfeed Manifesto over and over, only to have others sneer at it because it doesn't reflect their values, while religious people need only wave vaguely at the past to justify their own beliefs.

You say that religion does harm to science, art, and society, and I hate to keep implying ignorance here, but I think you need some historical perspective. Up until the last three or four hundred years, religion WAS science, art, and society.

Yes, I understand that. That's the harm. Again, "it keeps us from honestly confronting the Inconvenient Truths of the universe", and it does so partly by BEING science, art, and society even when those three things are, in reality, unimaginably vast.

There are many different beliefs in how to govern properly, people disagree vehemently, and governments can do awful, nasty things to people in the name of ideals. But calling all governments inherently bad is disingenuous to the good they actually do for people.

No, actually, it's called anarchism. And no one suggests that it's bigotry, either.
posted by vorfeed at 10:49 AM on January 4, 2011


I'm glad this is settled. See everyone in hell!
posted by Burhanistan at 10:50 AM on January 4, 2011


Moving through your comment backwards, vorfeed.

I'm quite aware that anti-theism may hurt "people who have significantly less privilege than any of us here". However, I'm also aware that religion may do the same... and frankly, the latter is much more of an actual problem right here and now than the former.

It depends on what you mean by "right here and now". If you were talking about, say, public discourse in America, yeah! Totally! Religion's fucking up way more shit than anti-theism on the national level.

But we're not talking about America. We're talking about MetaFilter. And the whole point of MetaFilter is not to enact vast, sweeping changes to public policy. The point of MetaFilter is to share links and then talk about them. That conversation is impeded if certain types of people feel unwelcome.

It's like the ongoing conversation about casual sexism. If you're in the privacy of your own home, say all the shit you want. But when you're talking on a public forum, and there's a possibility that your attitude is alienating or offending people, then you're having a negative impact on the community. That applies to anti-theists as much as it applies to certain members here who've used their religious beliefs to make members feel uncomfortable. Those members have been called out repeatedly. To my knowledge we've never had an explicit anti-theist callout yet. There's always a first time, yes?

It places limits on our morality, our ethics, our society, and our dreams, in ways we rarely question.

A bit hyperbolic — and a bit misleading. Yeah, it's possible for a religious upbringing to discourage certain thoughts and behaviors. But: The majority of the people I know who are religious were not raised in a way that limited their thoughts. Many of them abandoned their faith. Many more began developing their own unique interpretation of their beliefs, using their religion as a way of examining more secular ideas such as morality, responsibility, and purpose. I have a Christian friend who is a youth minister and I have a Christian friend who spends his time gleefully debating his pastor. I know people whose religion is closed-minded, but they are far from the only sorts.

Again, this is not about whether one is permitted to criticize aspects of religion or particular religious worshippers. This is about whether it is intolerant to blanket-criticize "religion" or "believers" without paying attention to those particulars. I've argued that the latter is a form of bigotry.

That bit I highlighted happens to be one of the primary teachings of both Mohammed and Jesus of Nazareth... and I'm not talking about Leviticus nitpicks, either. Central to both religions is the idea that belief matters, and not just as a precursor to action. If this is a legitimate topic of criticism for religion, why not for anti-religion?

Well, of course religion is about belief mattering. Religion is about the belief. It is specifically and explicitly about hunting for those things which cannot be logically proven yet still exist. I was reading my youth minister friend's handbook last night and there was a section saying that a warning sign of lost faith is that you begin feeling certain of your convictions, and that the world is neat and parceled up and perfectly understandable. To be faithful is to constantly test yourself and to doubt your own belief, and in the testing either prove to yourself that your beliefs are right or to somehow change your beliefs or your life so that you are living an honest existence.

And about that "logically proven yet still exist" part: Most of human consciousness and existence is somehow subjective or symbolic. We are not a purely mathematical species; we are messy and unformulaic. Religion is not about (or at least should not be about) that which can be proven. Its purpose should not be to obscure or deny objective reality. It goes hand in hand with science. Rather, it's about dealing with our symbolic existence. How do you define morality or purpose? Do you accept your animal instinct or do you attempt to live as a coldly logical being or do you exist somewhere in between? And how does every single action in our lives somehow reflect that morality, reflect that purpose?

This is not just something that religion deals with, of course. I sort of think of religion as a communal subset of philosophy anyway (which is why I don't really see myself becoming truly religious ever again). Fields like sociology and psychology — the "soft sciences" — approach these questions from another standpoint. I don't think it matters which approach you take. What matters is that these all exist to somehow bridge between the messy irrationality of consciousness and the sparse logic of reality. To somehow convey thoughts in symbols that other people will understand.

I mean, strictly speaking we don't exist except for as a collection of molecules playacting for a while. If you want to be purely scientific there's not much of a point to any part of human existence. But that's a boring and pointless way to look at things, so instead we accept that our point of view is subjective and attempt to describe and interpret the world around us in ways specifically intended for us. The subjective is good. It's how we define ourselves and our lives. The question is just how we go about those definitions.

Not all religion works like this. There's a lot of dogmatic religion, or religion which intends to deny the objective world, or which intends to control and manipulate its followers. But I think that at the core of all the major religions is this realization that we're all just playing with symbols, and that these specific systems just exist to give us some common language to discuss these things more readily.

So that's what I mean when I speak of a symbolic God. There's no literal man in the sky, or any force that exists outside of human understanding. But our own understanding is so multifaceted that explaining it essentially requires us to discuss it as if it were a separate entity that's not entirely under our control, yet still makes a sort of collective sense. You can call it the human psyche, or you can call it God. You're still talking about the same thing. And by those rules "attempting belief in God" is more like "trying to figure out what brings me joy, and what hurts me or others, and attempting to live my life in a way that brings me the one and avoids me the others". It's a poetic conceit, and a pretty beautiful one at that.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:11 AM on January 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


Having checked your profile, you live in the United States, which means religion prescribes your thought only as much as you let it.

This is a naive view of the way thought works. Like it or not, this society is deep-steeped in religion. Even though I was never taught to be religious, I was taught from a very young age to be a part of my culture, one which is deeply influenced by religion. That makes me influenced by religion, as well as capitalism, individualism, democratism, and any number of other things. Secular thought does not come out of nowhere, nor does the cultural context which allows people to undertake "thought prescribed religion"; as I said before, even our views on what-religion-is come from, natch, religion.

At some point, this is a chicken-and-egg problem... but I am not at all convinced that the choice of culture and thought comes before the prescription thereof. There's plenty of evidence that early experience "programs" the brain; in a way we are expressions of our culture, whether we like that culture or not.
posted by vorfeed at 11:13 AM on January 4, 2011


It would be nice if we could talk about bigotry without redefining it to suit one's ugly purposes, namely when Rory Marinch writes an ugly rant that culminates in a pretty shitty and unprovoked accusation directed at two Metafilter users.

It's not the only example, but a personal experience with the real hatred for atheists on Metafilter is on display in this particular MetaTalk thread, in which I was accused of being "shouty", among other things, for simply saying that I didn't think religious leaders should have control over public education (specifically through textbooks).

Myself and a few others were actually addressing points in a quite clear, calm and rational manner. But we were still treated badly, because we had the audacity to express an opinion unpopular with certain Metafilter theists. So when I read Rory's rant about how I am the one who stereotypes people, I just look back at that thread and realize that his screed is just another way that theists and their apologists try to be manipulative, for lack of a rational, coherent response.

There is an irrational hatred of atheists here. This real display of bigotry rears its head occasionally (usually when Richard Dawkins is discussed, but not always). I don't know or care what triggers it; whenever it happens, it's an ugly thing, as the mob behavior in this thread demonstrates.

If we want to really talk about bigotry, the kind of bigotry that doesn't get redefined by people with a nutty agenda, what we see when users go after atheists is a very real expression of irrational hatred. And we see it here on Metafilter far too often.

And so we return to this thread: I was tired of seeing Decani being thoughtful, while being painted with a pretty ugly brush, and I said so. In return for calling this out, I was attacked by being called a bigot, as well. The word has been so badly abused by Rory Marinich that it now has almost no meaning.

I understand why his crazed rant will be allowed to slide, but for the record, I wanted to express some thoughts about why it is disappointing that Rory Marinich should be allowed to get away with what he did here, and why people joining his mob only adds to the general disappointment. If you made it this far, I appreciate your time.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:13 AM on January 4, 2011


Yes, I understand that. That's the harm. Again, "it keeps us from honestly confronting the Inconvenient Truths of the universe", and it does so partly by BEING science, art, and society even when those three things are, in reality, unimaginably vast.

...apparently missed what I wrote earlier, which is...

It's no longer necessary, of course. The church doesn't conduct the science, art exists outside of it, society in most places exists outside of it. And that's great! We no longer need the guiding force of a church, and religious beliefs DO stifle scientific and artistic exploration at this point.

And
No, actually, it's called anarchism. And no one suggests that it's bigotry, either.

I have not once used the word bigotry or called anyone a bigot. Bigot is a loaded word. I'm arguing against ignorance.

I really feel at this point that you're just wringing your hands and yelling "That's just what I believe! You can't tell me what I can and can't believe!" But if your belief is going to cast an entire structure as large as religion as bad, the burden falls on you to justify that belief.

I don't generally go into why because people react just as you did: by picking out one or two criticisms, declaring that they're not actually bad and/or don't apply to every single religion out there (even though I clearly stated that I'm speaking from my own values about overall effects, not making factual statements about every single cherry-picking case), and thus concluding that religion isn't bad.

What this says to me is that you can't rationally justify your belief, and you seem to be arguing that you shouldn't have to, that it's just a value that's personal to you. Except, you know, it's a value that's against other people's values. If you're going to suggest that what a huge portion of humanity does is bad and wrong, you need some kind of evidence.

I'm leaving this thread now. Take care.
posted by girih knot at 11:15 AM on January 4, 2011


vorfeed: "No, actually, it's called anarchism. And no one suggests that it's bigotry, either."

The difference pretty clearly here is between calling governments bad and calling the people who live under them bad. One is the legitimate criticism of a public institution. The other is taking differences of human circumstance, fraternal ties and random chance and using them as a reason to call people not like you fucktards. Feel free to do the former, but doing the latter is in poor form.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 11:21 AM on January 4, 2011


Blazecock Pileon: "It's not the only example, but a personal experience with the real hatred for atheists on Metafilter is on display in this particular MetaTalk thread, in which I was accused of being "shouty", among other things, for simply saying that I didn't think religious leaders should have control over public education (specifically through textbooks). "

I understand where you're coming from, Blazecock, but looking back over the comment in question and the conversation that proceeded it, it looks like you referred to "theologians" as "those people" who spout "religious gobbledygook" and shouldn't teach in schools. And I see now that the context was in the frame of some pretty depressing child abuse going on in Texas, and that's understandably a very difficult topic. But using that incident as reason to blanket all people engaged in constructive dialogue about their faith as gobbledygook peddlers who shouldn't teach in schools is kind of shouty. It's the equivalent of religious folks using Stalin to make blanket criticism of atheists.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 11:30 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is an irrational hatred of atheists here.

No, but there's an entirely rational dislike of people being jerks here.
posted by Gator at 11:31 AM on January 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


My mob? Dude, I'm posting comments on the Internet and some people are agreeing with me. I'm kind of pissed off that instead of talking at me you're talking as if I'm not here and should be treated as a rhetorical device.

Even your original comment my way treated me like a neutral force rather than an active participant in this conversation:

"When will someone put this nonsense to a halt?"

Maybe I've hurt your feelings by calling you an asshole, Alex, but I'm making an effort not to rant or pander. I'm addressing you specifically. You keep ignoring my addresses, except once, to call me a nut. You asshole.

I mentioned that I was operating from a dictionary definition of bigotry earlier; let me restate that definition verbatim so that we know what I'm operating off of:
bigotry |ˈbigətrē|
noun
bigoted attitudes; intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself : the report reveals racism and right-wing bigotry.
So we begin the thread. Mngo quotes a particular statement on the page linked in the FPP:

"Past periods of conquest are regarded fondly by Moslems."

He says that the statement is "definitely religious bigotry in my book." Which Decani quotes and further responds responds:

"Please do not conflate anti-religious sentiment with racism. To do so makes a person look either not very bright or else agenda-driven."

So here he's suggesting that the FPP site's statement, which is a blanket generalization of Muslims, is not bigotry. Which is where I made my first comment, which was that all bigots have a moral justification for why their bigotry is acceptable.

So when I call Decani a bigot, it's because he said something that I think is bigoted and then attempted to defend his bigotry. When I called you a bigot, it was because you called my comment "nonsense" and then joined Decani in trying to defend your right to blanket-hate on religions.

For what it's worth I side with you in thinking that religious people printing stuff in educational textbooks like it's fact is completely wrong. But you are being an asshole in that thread you linked to, and you are being shouty. Shakespeherian, who was the one who used that word, was responding to you when you said:

"If the progress of the human species is worth anything, I think that's worth taking seriously."

...which is an unnecessarily conflation that changes "stupid people doing something stupid that shouldn't be done" into an issue that suddenly becomes about the entire fate of the human race. It's the technique Bill O'Reilly uses when he takes one point that would be worth a discussion on its on and insists that his one point is of the utmost importance, and then just repeats it OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER instead of actually engaging people in conversation.

Nobody in that thread is attacking atheists, Alex. They're attacking you. They're attacking you for being an asshole. And they think you're an asshole because instead of discussing things with people you insist on calling people names (like "nonsense" and "nut" and "manipulative" and "crazed"). I mean, I called you a fuckwad, but at least I backed up my accusation by explaining exactly why I thought you were a fuckwad. It's not like I'm throwing up words just to be fighty.

It's not like this is the first time you've gotten in trouble here for being an asshole.

Look, I'm willing to sit here all day and talk this out with you. My idea of a winter vacation is to sit on the Internet talking with people. If you'd rather not actually engage me in a discussion, you know what? You're allowed not to. But I've made my case for why I think anti-theists, specifically you and Decani, are guilty of bigotry as defined above, and I'd rather talk to you about what makes you think you're not a bigot — and, perhaps, why some of us think you're coming off as a bigot if you're not one — than get into discussions about whether or not I'm crazed.

If you don't want me calling you an asshole, then maybe you should try not to be the first person in the thread to call me names. You asshole.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:37 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Decani is on record for making several sweeping generalizations about Islam. As a Muslim, I don't really give a crap what some blatherer on the internet thinks, but it still smells of bias and ignorance, which is synonymous with bigotry all the same. Is he a "bigot"? Well, that's an ugly word and probably should be reserved for someone with actual power over others rather than some angry guy. He should maybe meet some actual Muslims, preferably some sufis.

Now, I have plenty of issues with Muslims and the way they practice Islam, but that's based in my own experience and studies, not just a kneejerk reaction to irrational desert skygod people or something. I don't wish to impugn Decani as a person, but as a poster here on this website his brand of intolerance is definitely an impediment to good discourse.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:38 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


This real display of bigotry rears its head occasionally (usually when Richard Dawkins is discussed, but not always).

And a noticeable chunk of comments in Dawkins-related discussions often begin with 'Y'know, I'm an atheist myself, but... ' One can be atheist and not care very much for Dawkins and his followers.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:40 AM on January 4, 2011


That applies to anti-theists as much as it applies to certain members here who've used their religious beliefs to make members feel uncomfortable. Those members have been called out repeatedly. To my knowledge we've never had an explicit anti-theist callout yet. There's always a first time, yes?

Actually, it has happened at least twice. Granted, the latter thread didn't start out as an explicit anti-theist callout, but it very quickly turned into one. There's a good deal of this here as well.

The majority of the people I know who are religious were not raised in a way that limited their thoughts.

Like I said in my last comment, I do not mean this in the sense of HA HA HA! YOU, PUNY THEISTS, HAVE LIMITED THOUGHTS! I mean it in the sense that religion, like all other cultural practices, shapes thought. We can decide not to be religious, but we cannot decide not to be influenced by it.

I do understand that a lot of religion isn't heavy on the THOU SHALTs, and leaves room for individual interpretation... but that isn't enough to escape the trap of "It tells us that we're here to follow its values, not to create new ones for ourselves, and so it holds us back from what we might become without it. Then it tells us we're like this because we're broken, a problem only religion can fix". All you need for that are core values which are to be followed rather than broken, for reasons other than one's own... and that's religion in a nutshell, even the progressive type.
posted by vorfeed at 11:43 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actually, it has happened at least twice. Granted, the latter thread didn't start out as an explicit anti-theist callout, but it very quickly turned into one. There's a good deal of this here as well.

Thanks for the links! Jeez, I forgot how long and ugly that first one was. But I was really grateful to see that one last year. I don't know if MetaFilter can overcome its biases; I'd love to see more thoughtful religious discussion here, in part because I don't know much about religion and would love to see discussion of the caliber we regularly get in other thread topics.

Like I said in my last comment, I do not mean this in the sense of HA HA HA! YOU, PUNY THEISTS, HAVE LIMITED THOUGHTS! I mean it in the sense that religion, like all other cultural practices, shapes thought. We can decide not to be religious, but we cannot decide not to be influenced by it.

I hadn't read your one comment before I posted mine. Sorry about that. I should have previewed.

I'm curious, though, where you draw the line. For instance, it's hard to be a philosopher without stating at some point your own sets of values, or your own thoughts on just how to interpret the world. Is it wrong of philosophers to write down and encode their worldviews? Or is the line drawn when you begin suggesting that somebody must follow a certain set of guidelines in order to be accepted?

If the latter's the case, I'm curious if you'd count Buddhism as a religion or a philosophy, since it doesn't really push a unilateral "solution" to finding one's values and it explicitly states that one should feel free to disagree with its teachings if there's a case to be made in disagreement. Or with Judaism — when I was young I loved reading the Torah along with its copious commentary, because every page of writing has another bunch of pages of people talking about what they think it means and arguing with each other, suggesting that it's not enough to read and blindly follow, one also has to think.

I'm genuinely interested in hearing your thoughts on this. Certainly I think that forcing values and discouraging thinking about them is bad. But I don't know where exactly you'd consider declaring one's values to start becoming forceful.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:58 AM on January 4, 2011


Blazecock, but looking back over the comment in question and the conversation that proceeded it, it looks like you referred to "theologians" as "those people" who spout "religious gobbledygook" and shouldn't teach in schools.

It's a real stretch to call criticism of adding creationism to textbooks "shouty", however. (Creationism in schools and teaching materials is the specific context of my comment, by the way. Your interpretation of what I wrote does not point to that, so I want to make that clear.)

If that's now the bar for "shouty", one might as well call the judge in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District "shouty", based on his conclusion that creationism isn't science, and that the school board's support of "intelligent design" in the curriculum was "inane" (his words), not to mention unconstitutional.

It has been argued, IMO reasonably (and correctly) that ID is religious gobbledygook, and in that rational context, it's not really "shouty" to make that observation. That observation becomes "shouty" on Metafilter, however, because some users cannot abide any rational criticism of religious extremism, and because of that, the response becomes a fair demonstration of the irrational intolerance for atheists and atheism on Metafilter.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:59 AM on January 4, 2011


The church doesn't conduct the science, art exists outside of it, society in most places exists outside of it. And that's great! We no longer need the guiding force of a church, and religious beliefs DO stifle scientific and artistic exploration at this point.

I'm assuming you meant to put a "NOT" after that "DO". If so, you are incorrect, as religion does indeed stifle artistic and scientific endeavor. Stem cells. Piss Christ. Blasphemy laws.

I really feel at this point that you're just wringing your hands and yelling "That's just what I believe! You can't tell me what I can and can't believe!" But if your belief is going to cast an entire structure as large as religion as bad, the burden falls on you to justify that belief.
[...]
What this says to me is that you can't rationally justify your belief, and you seem to be arguing that you shouldn't have to, that it's just a value that's personal to you. Except, you know, it's a value that's against other people's values. If you're going to suggest that what a huge portion of humanity does is bad and wrong, you need some kind of evidence.


Let me get this straight: you want me to "rationally justify" the fact that something is bad. With evidence. Evidence of bad, presumably.

As many here have pointed out, including myself, you cannot prove that something is bad. You can justify your belief that something is bad by telling others why you think it is bad -- and I already did that, at your behest -- but you can't prove it. Even if I can provide a rational argument which supports the idea that religion kills people (trivially easy), or marginalizes people (also easy), or prescribes thought (done above), or stifles scientific and artistic exploration (done above), that doesn't rationally justify the idea the religion is bad. There is no objective definition of "bad".

Let me know when you invent the badometer, friend, and I'll be the first to point it at religion. Until then, I think you just proved which of the two of us is ignorant.
posted by vorfeed at 12:00 PM on January 4, 2011


All you need for that are core values which are to be followed rather than broken, for reasons other than one's own... and that's religion in a nutshell, even the progressive type.

I'm not clear how that distinguishes religion from Republicanism. Or internationalism. Or cosmopolitanism. Or hipsterism. We are a people of core values, and we have repeatedly demonstrated an almost preternatural ability to reject those we disagree with and locate or invent values we agree with. This is certainly not an issue with religion -- a Jew who is uncomfortable with the values of Orthodoxy can easily join a Reform congregation, or stop identifying as a Jew, or become a Taoist, or an atheist. It's an issue with humanity.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:01 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Even if I can provide a rational argument which supports the idea that religion kills people (trivially easy), or marginalizes people (also easy), or prescribes thought (done above)

Actually, you have not managed to do that. You can cite examples of religions that have done that, but it doesn't follow that religion must necessarily do any of these things, and there are counter-examples. And your arguments might go better if you chose not to crow about who has shown their ignorance and who hasn't.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:02 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's a real stretch to call criticism of adding creationism to textbooks "shouty", however. (Creationism in schools and teaching materials is the specific context of my comment, by the way. Your interpretation of what I wrote does not point to that, so I want to make that clear.)

Howdy folks, I'm the guy who called you 'shouty,' and it was a long time ago so I'm trying to read back through that thread and find out why. I think-- and I could be wrong here, because remember: long time ago, poor memory, kinda dumb-- I think I called you shouty because after 300-odd comments of people talking about how to speak about religious people on Metafilter, and how to speak about the religious beliefs of other people on Metafilter, and where the boundaries of respect lie, you bouldered right past all that and started talking about crazy fundamentalists, implying that people with religious beliefs have less than a middle-school education, and generally steering the conversation away from the topic in a way that seemed like an effort to justify your earlier broad-brush comments by serious concerns about the progress of the human race. EmpressCallipygos said that the majority of religious people try their best to ignore the wackjobs, because they're wackjobs, and she specifically asked you why you regard them so seriously, in such a way that you allow their idiocy to supercede in your mind the dispositions of all the other non-wackjob religious folk, and you said 'If the progress of the human species is worth anything, I think that's worth taking seriously.' Maybe 'shouty' was the wrong word-- it's difficult to get myself back into the headspace of that thread. If so, I sincerely apologize. But you were certainly speaking off-topic, pressing buttons like crazy, and generally ignoring the giant conversation that was going on right above you. Please substitute whichever word you prefer for 'shouty.'
posted by shakespeherian at 12:44 PM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


That observation becomes "shouty" on Metafilter, however, because some users cannot abide any rational criticism of religious extremism, and because of that, the response becomes a fair demonstration of the irrational intolerance for atheists and atheism on Metafilter.

And this is either disingenuous or just stupid. Probably against my better judgement, I discuss theism and religion on Metafilter quite a bit, and I think you'd have a pretty difficult time trying to square my commenting history with the notion that I cannot abide 'any rational criticism of religious extremism.' I make all sorts of criticisms of religious extremism, from the rational sort to the vulgarity-laden all-caps sort. If you sincerely think that the only possible reason that I objected to your comments in that thread is that I cannot abide rational criticism of religious extremism, or that I have an irrational intolerance for atheists and atheism on Metafilter, I'm not sure how to help you.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:47 PM on January 4, 2011


What's to argue, shakespeherian? He's crazy. His rants are loony tunes.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:54 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


But you were certainly speaking off-topic, pressing buttons like crazy, and generally ignoring the giant conversation that was going on right above you.

I disagreed with your dishonest mischaracterization of my single comment back then, and I still disagree with you doing it again now.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:06 PM on January 4, 2011


You know, it's possible to be an atheist and NOT see religion as an evil. Trust me, I do it all the time. (I also know lots of religious folks who are neither delusional nor ignorant)
So to say that there's an "irrational intolerance for atheists and atheism on Metafilter" is just plain wrong. It's not atheism that's not tolerated here...it's anti-theism. And there's nothing irrational about it.
posted by rocket88 at 1:08 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I disagreed with your dishonest mischaracterization of my single comment back then, and I still disagree with you doing it again now.

No one distorted my statements. However, as I just indicated, you distorted EmpressCallipygos's statement. No one talked past me, but as I just indicated, you talked past the entire conversation that was going on in the thread. And, as I just said, I apologize if 'shouty' was the wrong word.

Here's a cupcake shaped like my heart. Do with it what you will.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:15 PM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm assuming you meant to put a "NOT" after that "DO". If so, you are incorrect,

Well, you know what they say about "assume." I did not mean to put a NOT after DO. Religion DOES stifle scientific and artistic exploration. You are not arguing in good faith. I'm going back to my original assertion of "ludicrously ignorant" — I don't understand the cognitive processes that lead to "There is no objective definition of "bad"." while maintaining that religion is bad. Your logic, sir, does not compute.
posted by girih knot at 1:17 PM on January 4, 2011


And, as I just said, I apologize if 'shouty' was the wrong word.

I re-read every one of comments in that thread, and at no time was I off-topic or ignoring conversation. I participated in good faith, in a rational manner, with any one there who felt like responding in kind. You are welcome to your opinion about pushing buttons, but, frankly, the thread was about criticizing atheists and pushing their buttons.

Instead of picking and choosing one word in one comment to mischaracterize, I invite people to actually read each comment in that thread in good faith.

Here's a cupcake shaped like my heart. Do with it what you will.

You mischaracterized my comment then, and you are doing it again here. At this point, I think I will just write you off as a liar.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:27 PM on January 4, 2011


> Here's a cupcake shaped like my heart. Do with it what you will.

He smushed it!
posted by Burhanistan at 1:36 PM on January 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


If the intent of your comment was other than how I read it, then I apologize for reading it incorrectly. I am not, however, lying when I express my reading of your comment. EmpressCallipygos said that the majority of theists think the wingnuts are wingnuts and that therefore she didn't understand why you were making wingnuts the basis for your in-thread discussions of theists: You used the word 'ignore' as a pivot to turn her statement around to make it sound like theists who ignore wingnuts must not care about the progress of the human species, and are complicit in allowing stupid shit to be printed in textbooks. I don't find that to be participating in good faith. If this was not your intent, then I am sorry for misreading you. I don't think I did.

Can you please respond to my incredulity at your notion that I am someone who 'cannot abide any rational criticism of religious extremism'? Because I'm not exactly sure why you think it makes sense.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:38 PM on January 4, 2011


Are you calling the cupcake a liar? I'm confused.
posted by neuromodulator at 1:42 PM on January 4, 2011


I am not, however, lying when I express my reading of your comment.

Yes, you are lying. Here is what you said above:

you bouldered right past all that and started talking about crazy fundamentalists, implying that people with religious beliefs have less than a middle-school education

Here is the comment you are mischaracterizing:

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.

People who believe in creationism can still have more than a middle-school education, while still being completely wrong. The point, a point which followed from the good faith conversation in that thread about what is falsifiable and not falsifiable, was that these things can be tested without having to argue from authority. This is clear from the discussion.

Either you are really, really bad at reading comprehension, or you are lying. So which is it?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:46 PM on January 4, 2011


He's being honest about the impression he got from the way you responded in the thread. Deciding that that's lying is kind of willfully participating in bad faith.

Man, this thread has really indicated to me that people who will readily malign an entire varied concept of belief structures are not really the most level-headed, rational debaters. Whoda thunk it.
posted by girih knot at 1:52 PM on January 4, 2011


Is there a reason you won't answer my question?

Maybe I'm really, really bad at reading comprehension. Like I said, I'm trying to go back through that thread and understand the headspace I was in. I used the word 'fighty' in response to this comment, which I was under the impression is what you were saying I mischaracterized. And, for the eleventeeth time, if I misunderstood you, I apologize.

You're certainly being shouty now, though, aren't you?
posted by shakespeherian at 1:57 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


here is an irrational hatred of atheists here.
This conversation has gone way over my head and, while it's incredibly interesting to me, I don't feel qualified to comment much more, but I have to say that this statement is absolute bullshit. If there is any group at all that is hated to an irrational degree here, it is anyone with an expressed religious belief, particularly when they have the fortitude to stand up for their beliefs against often overwhelming opposition.
posted by dg at 1:57 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


He's being honest about the impression he got from the way you responded in the thread

The problem is that the impression is based on something I have categorically demonstrated I did not write.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:57 PM on January 4, 2011


Is there a reason you won't answer my question?

Probably because you took the phrase "middle-school-level understanding" and invented a persona to rail against. You mischaracterized my words then and you did it again here. That's probably one reason why.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:01 PM on January 4, 2011


I'd say a bigger problem is that this thread has turned into an argument between two people about what they said to each other in another thread. There is something called MeMail.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:02 PM on January 4, 2011


Actually, you have not managed to do that. You can cite examples of religions that have done that, but it doesn't follow that religion must necessarily do any of these things, and there are counter-examples.

I didn't claim that religion must necessarily do these things in every case, nor that there aren't counter-examples. Again: I'm talking about the overall effects of religion as I see them. I've been more than up-front about this, over and over. Someone who claims that drinking is inherently harmful doesn't have to entertain the idea that the existence of little old ladies who only have half a glass of wine with Sunday brunch disproves it -- drinking can be harmful on the social level even though it is not always, or even usually, harmful on the personal level. Individuals can obviously disagree about whether or not drinking is harmful in this way, but the idea that someone mustn't even make the claim is ridiculous.

Again, you seem to want me to prove that religion is universally, entirely bad. I can't do that, nor am I going to try, any more than those who are pro-theism need to prove that religion is universally, entirely good. There's clearly a middle ground, here, and people who think religion is bad stand on it as firmly as people who think religion is good. I notice that you did not confront the "it's a social bond and explains the mysteries of the universe" posters above with "you can cite examples of religions that have done that, but it doesn't follow that religion must necessarily do any of these things, and there are counter-examples." Others are allowed to make statements about their beliefs without providing support forms in triplicate; I am sure you're capable of extending me the same courtesy.

And your arguments might go better if you chose not to crow about who has shown their ignorance and who hasn't.

Once again, the refrain is "you are ignorant, ignorant, ignorant", and then it's "OMG U CALLED SOMEONE IGNORANT" the moment I turn it around on someone. Surprising, that.

Your arguments might go better if you chose not to crow about how informed atheists are so rare on mefi you can "count the total number on the hand of somebody who had been in a hideous pencil sharpener accident", but I'm guessing you don't really mind.
posted by vorfeed at 2:08 PM on January 4, 2011


Ugh to the motherfucking Oof.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 2:10 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anti-theism is intolerance. Really, plain and simple. Claiming that all religion is bad is an intolerant view and that will strike other people as ignorant. Turning it around and trying to say, "Nuh-uh, YOU'RE ignorant," doesn't prove a thing.

Absolutely no one in this thread is maligning atheism. Atheism != anti-theism, and as many have said in this thread, it's perfectly possibly to be atheist without thinking that all religion is bad.

I hate to throw up a shitty strawman, vorfeed, but if people in the thread were claiming that all black people are bad, and they're reluctant to find cherry-picked examples, but they believe that as a whole, black people are harmful and do bad things, despite that sometimes some of them do good things and that they're a large and varied group of people, what would that sound like to you? Especially when they try to claim "that's just what I believe, of course you can't OBJECTIVELY prove anything is bad." That's how you sound to me, and that's why you need to provide some kind of real evidence of your beliefs, because your beliefs are intolerance.
posted by girih knot at 2:16 PM on January 4, 2011


I'm going back to my original assertion of "ludicrously ignorant" — I don't understand the cognitive processes that lead to "There is no objective definition of "bad"." while maintaining that religion is bad. Your logic, sir, does not compute.

The cognitive process in question is simple: I'm maintaining that religion is subjectively bad, according to my values. I've been up-front about this from the beginning; there is no tablet floating around Jupiter with RELIGION IS BAD, ATTEMPT NO LANDINGS HERE written on it, yet I'm sure we can still talk reasonably about whether or not religion is bad.
posted by vorfeed at 2:19 PM on January 4, 2011


Your arguments might go better if you chose not to crow about how informed atheists are so rare on mefi you can "count the total number on the hand of somebody who had been in a hideous pencil sharpener accident", but I'm guessing you don't really mind.

Perhaps. Although they'd be less funny.

I argue that most atheists on this site make their case from ignorance in part because they insist that this is the right approach to arguing. That you don't actually need to know any specifics about religion. And fine, fine, argue what you like. Maybe religion is, on the whole, a social ill. I don't think so, and I think history bears me out that, like all of human undertakings, it is a mix of great evil and great good, and that to insist it is one or the other is to ignore those bits of evidence that we don't like and embrace those that support our prejudice, and this is the very definition of bad theory. But to each their own.

For me the issue only really becomes significant when people insist on applying the broad argument to a specific instance, or apply it to the religious as individuals. A lot of threads here go that way -- hey, one specific religious person in one specific religious context did something awful, and therefore it is evidence of my broader thesis that religion is bad. Maybe so, maybe not. But it makes for bad, and alienating, discussion here on MeFi, because what else is there to say after that? And, if you are among the religious, it can be utterly alienating.

But the original question was whether or not somebody is a bigot if they make broad assumptions about massive groups of people based on ignorance. As far as I can tell, that's pretty much a textbook definition of bigotry. And, as an atheist, I get a little sick of people expressing bigotry under the cover of atheism. Is religion as a whole bad? Sort of an academic discussion. Is a specific example of religion bad? An interesting subject for discussion, but that discussion is impossible when it is rooted in ignorance.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:22 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anyway:

One issue, I think, is that the definition of "bigotry" that you are going by, Rory, is leaving out an aspect of prejudice that I think most of us recognize as part of the meaning. In fact, the Oxford dictionary (from which I think you got that definition) seems to sort of agree with that view, in that their definition of "bigoted" allows for that aspect:

"having or revealing an obstinate belief in the superiority of one's own opinions and a prejudiced intolerance of the opinions of others"

And I think Decani et al. are holding that their attitudes aren't prejudiced, because they're about specific facts of certain belief sets. They aren't saying, "People of faith X are violent" or whatever, which would be prejudiced, bigoted, etc. They are saying, "People of faith X supposedly hold belief Y, which I think is a very questionable assertion to make." That doesn't strike me as bigoted, as per the prejudice-including definition, because it's about distinct characteristics of that belief set.

The typical response I hear seems to be, "You're falsely characterizing the belief set," which is mainly perhaps brought on by flying spaghetti monster type parodies. But I'm not sure that's true - I think this actually might be the very straw man weirdness the theists are often complaining about, except that it's brought up in their favour. That is, "Oh, you're thinking of ridiculous bearded man in the sky beliefs, and those aren't my beliefs!" is actually not the case - at least for me. When I think "religious ideas are crazy", I don't have to picture some parody/middle-ages version of God to think so - I'm basing that on any concept of creator/higher power/unifying energy I can think of.

Also note, for me at least: I can hold a specific belief of an individual as "crazy" without it really reflecting my feelings towards the individual as a whole. I know I hold lots of beliefs that you could make a good, strong rational argument for as "crazy". We don't have to tear each other apart over it.
posted by neuromodulator at 2:34 PM on January 4, 2011


Oh, and as a perhaps unnecessary preemptive strike against a counter to my post: to say I am basing my objecting on any concept of creator etc. doesn't mean I don't know anything about specific faiths, like Astro Zombie seems to be saying is often the case above.

AZ, can you explain why you're making that assumption about atheists? That it's often based on ignorance, I mean. In my experience, atheists often seem better informed about the characteristics of many faiths than the people of those faiths. I'm not offering that anecdotal evidence as an argument, but because I'm curious as to why your observation seems at odds with mine.
posted by neuromodulator at 2:38 PM on January 4, 2011


And I think Decani et al. are holding that their attitudes aren't prejudiced, because they're about specific facts of certain belief sets. They aren't saying, "People of faith X are violent" or whatever, which would be prejudiced, bigoted, etc. They are saying, "People of faith X supposedly hold belief Y, which I think is a very questionable assertion to make."

That doesn't appear to be what they're saying.
posted by girih knot at 2:38 PM on January 4, 2011


AZ, can you explain why you're making that assumption about atheists?

Not an assumption, and it's not meant to be a critique of all atheists. If you go back and reread my comments, I'm pretty specific that it's about a specific type of argument that tends to show up in threads here. And that's based on experience, and one that a number people in this thread have testified to sharing.

I have a feeling the atheists who have the strongest education about religion tend not to say too much about atheism in threads about religion. It instead seems to be a few people with a chip on their shoulder and a certain braggadocio about their disbelief that barge repeatedly into threads about religion to trumpet their disdain.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:46 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have a feeling the atheists who have the strongest education about religion tend not to say too much about atheism in threads about religion.

in-direct conclusion based on established criteria.
posted by clavdivs at 3:00 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I hate to throw up a shitty strawman, vorfeed, but if people in the thread were claiming that all black people are bad, and they're reluctant to find cherry-picked examples, but they believe that as a whole, black people are harmful and do bad things, despite that sometimes some of them do good things and that they're a large and varied group of people, what would that sound like to you?

Blackness is not a belief. It's a biological (and/or, if you prefer, sociological) fact.

This is highly significant, as much of my argument rests on the fact that calling people bigots for disliking others' beliefs is, in itself, an act of disliking others' beliefs. The same goes for calling those who criticize others' beliefs "intolerant": if I'm intolerant because I'm against theism, then you're intolerant because you're against anti-theism, no?

There is no such self-contradiction in disliking racism: calling people bigots for disliking a biological/sociological fact is not, in itself, an act of disliking a biological/sociological fact.

People are allowed to be intolerant about all sorts of things. Even though I've hardly ever played it, I am intolerant of World of Warcraft, to the point where I've argued on mefi that it is inherently bad. That doesn't make me a bigot, despite the fact that there are tens of millions of people who play that game for hours every day, even to the point of making it part of their identity. The same goes for climate-change deniers: I'm against this widespread belief, I think it's inherently harmful, and that doesn't make me a bigot.

You need more than "it's ignorant" or "it's intolerant" to make something into bigotry, even if it is a broad assumption about massive groups of people. The mere fact that massive groups of people do or believe certain things does not absolve those things from criticism, even criticism which does not meet your personal standards of evidence, no matter how popular, cherished, or important these people or things are considered to be.
posted by vorfeed at 4:09 PM on January 4, 2011


neuromodulator, I think it's worth remembering that this whole discussion arose from discussion of a website which said, among other things, "The War on Terror has morphed into the War Against Islamic Radicalism. This religious radicalism has always been around, for Islam was born as an aggressive movement, that used violence and terror to expand. Past periods of conquest are regarded fondly by Moslems." Some people objected to this, calling it religious bigotry, to which another responded, "Please do not confuse anti-religious sentiment with racism."

The website in question doesn't contain anti-religious sentiment. It contains anti-Muslim sentiment. I have no problem with people objecting to religious teachings, beliefs, or practices. I have an ENORMOUS problem with people conflating a critical view of religion based in fact with prejudice against a religious group based in name-calling and accusation-slinging. It is prejudiced to make judgments about a person's view of history based solely on their religious affiliation, prejudiced to make sweeping statements about what the world's 1.6 billion Muslims believe in common other than the tenets of Islam. I am a religious person, but I can certainly understand objections to religious belief and practice. Those objections were not what began this discussion in this thread.
posted by epj at 4:11 PM on January 4, 2011


I am intolerant of World of Warcraft, to the point where I've argued on mefi that it is inherently bad. That doesn't make me a bigot,

True. It does seem to make you somebody with a propensity for pronouncing things to be inherently bad, though.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:12 PM on January 4, 2011


I've been following this thread since the beginning, and for the benefit of those who have not, I'd like to offer up some cliff notes.

No one has really said anything, if I may editorialize a bit, that terrible or shocking about the other group (athiest, theists, and each groups' loyal opposition). As Jessamyn said, no one is being an asshole. BUT:

*Each group, regardless of which side they're on, is apparently being shamefully mischaracterized by the other one.

*Each group, regardless of which side they're on, is apparently having to argue against flawed logic and incomplete arguments.

*Most importantly, each group is so very PERSECUTED and AGGRIEVED here on metafilter and in this thread. Woe is me!

*Each group can (and probably will) explain how THEY are not guilty of any of the above, but the other group, oh so very much!

*No one is going to come out of this with more respect for the other group. No one will try to shake off the perceived invective and really try to have an interesting discussion among intelligent people who disagree. Everyone will feel like an even greater martyr than they did before. We all lose.

(except shameless debased drama-lovers like me..and kudos to the exceptions who are trying to stay above the fray. It is noticed and appreciated).
posted by mreleganza at 4:33 PM on January 4, 2011


I just wanted to jump in here and do this:

Atheism, in a broad sense, is the rejection of belief in the existence of deities.[1] In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.[2] Most inclusively, atheism is simply the absence of belief that any deities exist.[3] Atheism is contrasted with theism,[4] which in its most general form is the belief that at least one deity exists.[5][6]

Yeah it's Wikipedia, but it's a good definition. And hate has nothing to do with it. FYI.
posted by Splunge at 4:51 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Blackness is not a belief. It's a biological (and/or, if you prefer, sociological) fact.

Yeah, which is why I prefaced that with saying it was a shitty strawman. My problem is with your argument, and I was using obvious racism as an example to help you see how your argument looks to me.

if I'm intolerant because I'm against theism, then you're intolerant because you're against anti-theism, no?

Yes, I will absolutely admit that I am entirely intolerant to intolerance.

The mere fact that massive groups of people do or believe certain things does not absolve those things from criticism, even criticism which does not meet your personal standards of evidence, no matter how popular, cherished, or important these people or things are considered to be.

You aren't listening to me. I have specifically said that religion is NOT exempt from criticism. "Religion is bad" is an intolerant, intellectually lazy viewpoint that is not valid criticism.

People are allowed to be intolerant about all sorts of things.

This is more hand-wringing. Of course you're allowed. If you're going to express very general beliefs that something is bad without providing any real evidence, expect people to call you on it. We're allowed, you know.
posted by girih knot at 4:59 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I argue that most atheists on this site make their case from ignorance in part because they insist that this is the right approach to arguing. That you don't actually need to know any specifics about religion.

Arguing that one does not need to know specifics about religion to be anti-theist does not necessarily imply that one doesn't know specifics about religion. You've argued with me before, and I don't doubt you've seen me serve up plenty of specifics about religion. Assuming that I'm (oh, excuse me, I meant the general "you're", since of course you weren't talking about me) too "ignorant" to do so would appear to be a case of ignoring those bits of evidence that we don't like and embracing those that support our prejudice.

True. It does seem to make you somebody with a propensity for pronouncing things to be inherently bad, though.

As opposed to someone with a propensity for believing that all actions and beliefs are neutral or equally good, and/or that human society is too complicated for value judgments? Yes. Like most people, I do indeed believe that some things are good, and others bad, if not universally so, and I enjoy discussing these concepts with others on mefi. The alternative, "World of Warcraft is maybe good and maybe bad and I'm not sure so would anyone like a taco, song, or recipe", would make for an extremely boring site.

Besides, you seem to be somebody with a propensity for pronouncing things to be inherently ignorant, and that doesn't seem to bother you, so a-propensity-for-pronouncing-things is probably not fatal. Guess we'll have to agree to disagree.
posted by vorfeed at 5:02 PM on January 4, 2011


things to be inherently bad

is not the same as intolerance. is intolerance inherently bad?
posted by clavdivs at 5:06 PM on January 4, 2011


The mere fact that massive groups of people do or believe certain things does not absolve those things from criticism, even criticism which does not meet your personal standards of evidence, no matter how popular, cherished, or important these people or things are considered to be.

You aren't listening to me. I have specifically said that religion is NOT exempt from criticism. "Religion is bad" is an intolerant, intellectually lazy viewpoint that is not valid criticism.


Again, I said "even criticism which does not meet your personal standards of evidence". Playing the no-true-Scotsman game with "valid criticism" isn't going to work, especially after I played along with you and provided a number of specific criticisms, one of which you yourself admitted was quite valid.

Yes, I will absolutely admit that I am entirely intolerant to intolerance. [...] If you're going to express very general beliefs that something is bad without providing any real evidence, expect people to call you on it. We're allowed, you know.

This'd be funny if it weren't so sad. Look at the post above this one: when our dear, stream-of-consciousness clavdivs is making more sense than you are, you have a problem.
posted by vorfeed at 5:14 PM on January 4, 2011


mreleganza, if I'm reading your comment correctly, and you're suggesting that this argument is atheists against theists, you need to re-read this thread more carefully.
posted by girih knot at 5:18 PM on January 4, 2011


"World of Warcraft is maybe good and maybe bad and I'm not sure so would anyone like a taco, song, or recipe",

It might make the site more boring to state something like this. I suppose it depends on the taco, song, or recipe.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:20 PM on January 4, 2011



mreleganza, if I'm reading your comment correctly, and you're suggesting that this argument is atheists against theists, you need to re-read this thread more carefully.


Sorry for the lazy shorthand. The "loyal opposition" remark was intended to cover that.
posted by mreleganza at 5:27 PM on January 4, 2011


vorfeed: If something I've said doesn't make sense to you, it falls on you to ask for clarification, not to make sniping remarks about how I have a problem.

I have no problem with your specific criticisms of religion. My problem is that you use those as a jumping board to call all religion bad. I'm done trying to get it across to you that you can criticize specific things about religion without maligning it as a whole.
posted by girih knot at 5:32 PM on January 4, 2011


you can criticize specific things about religion without maligning it as a whole

I think this is the crux of the issue. But I also think, vorfeed, if I'm reading you right, that you're saying exactly this: You're critical of the general idea of religion, but that's only because you have issues with so many specific religious things. Or am I wrong?

Restating it yet again: I don't think anybody here has a problem with criticizing religion when it's at fault, and that is frequently. The accusations of bigotry come when people make blanket statements that oversimplify religion and then attack that straw man rather than engaging others directly.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:06 PM on January 4, 2011


But one thing stands out. If you are a theist you believe in a god. Right? That being so, all the rest of your religion means nothing to a true atheist. The rest is just window dressing. The single point of the belief of any theistic based religion is, indeed, the god. Is it not?

If it is not please clarify. Because that is what this particular atheist understands to be true (to you and others who believe in a god/gods).

What might be considered bigotry to a believer, to an atheist, doesn't matter. We don't believe in the things that you want to argue about. And so, why argue? Ganesh, Jesus, Zeus all the same.

I as well do not understand the anti-theist crowd. Why not be an anti-Hollow Earth crowd? Or and anti-unicorn crowd? Why be angry at people who believe in these things?

OTOH I could be angry at people that want to teach children that scientific evidence is wrong. But people here have already explained that creationists are a fringe group, right? And as well, people that believe that things only happen because Allah or God wills it, are a fringe group as well, no? They must be. According to the majority of moderates in religion, right?

And so, there is no need for hate. On either side.

Moderate thought, moderate judgment, moderates of all stripes and forms, will prevail!
posted by Splunge at 6:18 PM on January 4, 2011


If you are a theist you believe in a god.

I suppose. "Theist" is awfully specific, though. There are religions without god, and there are people within specific religions who don't believe in god. So it's not quite as simple as you make it out to be.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:26 PM on January 4, 2011


I'm not talking about any religion that doesn't have a god or gods as the center.
posted by Splunge at 6:28 PM on January 4, 2011


Well, there are theistic religions where God is primarily understood metaphorically, or who have a plurality of members who understand it that way. I would say this is true of most liberal forms of American Christianity, and I know it to be true of most Reform Jews I grew up around.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:35 PM on January 4, 2011


So this isn't the 3 O god, right? Omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, right?
posted by Splunge at 6:38 PM on January 4, 2011


God is a metaphor - google search
About 2,140,000 results (0.10 seconds)
posted by philip-random at 6:47 PM on January 4, 2011


This isn't the man in the sky barking orders at you God, but a universal benevolent force which is by definition omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. At least, as per my understanding.
posted by girih knot at 6:50 PM on January 4, 2011


How can a force or a god be all those things and still you feel that (they/it) is a benevolent force? Have you felt this power? This all encompassing benevolence? And if you do, why do others, like myself not feel it?

How can a being that knows all, sees all and is everywhere allow us to be in pain and suffering? I would think, and of course this is only me asking, why suffering? When this same god or being can change the rules of reality to make us all happy?

Or why make us at all?

I am not being facetious or putting down your belief at all. But the answers might help me in my search for god. Or at least a reason for god. Which I do not see.

I may mot believe in a god, but it doesn't mean I wouldn't like one. See?
posted by Splunge at 7:24 PM on January 4, 2011


Sorry tired. Night all.
posted by Splunge at 7:24 PM on January 4, 2011


I'll leave it up to somebody who believes in God to answer your questions. I can talk about the history of religion, or the content of texts, or certain theological principals, but I have never found a reason, or need, to believe in God myself.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:35 PM on January 4, 2011


heh
honest and wise
and reason relates to belief how?

posted by clavdivs at 8:01 PM on January 4, 2011


But I also think, vorfeed, if I'm reading you right, that you're saying exactly this: You're critical of the general idea of religion, but that's only because you have issues with so many specific religious things.

I think this is a reasonable summary of my position, yes.

I suppose I could introduce myself as a person who has an objection to pepperoni, mushrooms, marinara sauce, parmesan, mozzarella, basil, and baked foods, metaphorically speaking, but I find that "I think pizza is bad" sums it up.
posted by vorfeed at 8:37 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, sure. Mushrooms. Jesus. It's like spreading the taste of death on your tongue.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:42 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


How can a force or a god be all those things and still you feel that (they/it) is a benevolent force? Have you felt this power? This all encompassing benevolence? And if you do, why do others, like myself not feel it?

How can a being that knows all, sees all and is everywhere allow us to be in pain and suffering? I would think, and of course this is only me asking, why suffering? When this same god or being can change the rules of reality to make us all happy?

Or why make us at all?

I am not being facetious or putting down your belief at all. But the answers might help me in my search for god. Or at least a reason for god. Which I do not see.

I may mot believe in a god, but it doesn't mean I wouldn't like one. See?


These are the questions that plague me, also. The thing is, for me, if there is no 'greater purpose', what's the point? I can't bring myself to accept that we are here purely and simply as an accident of evolution and that there is no point, but I can't truly believe in or perceive what that greater purpose might be.
posted by dg at 9:03 PM on January 4, 2011


If there's a point, I am not sure I want to know it. I might not like it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:19 PM on January 4, 2011


Hell, I might as well quote Shakespeare: As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport."
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:20 PM on January 4, 2011


I had to come back, because my wife snores. You have no idea how loud her snores are. Well, an example. I wear orange foam ear plugs to be able to sleep. Normally they work, but tonite I was awakened by the sound that should never be heard. She actually scared the bird. Who is on my shoulder right now, all fluffed up and sleeping. At least I think she is. She is fluffing and has just crapped on my shoulder, so I'll say yes.

Anyway, one thing I'd like to say is, AZ, I wasn't talking to you when you posted this:

Astro Zombie: "I'll leave it up to somebody who believes in God to answer your questions. I can talk about the history of religion, or the content of texts, or certain theological principals, but I have never found a reason, or need, to believe in God myself"

I really don't want or need your feedback here. It's not all about you.

I was speaking to dg and others who believe. I'm interested in what they think I'm interested in sincere people who don't have an agenda. What I am not interested in is a person who professes to be an atheist and seems to only want to fight. You are fighty. I have been fighty. I am not trying to be fighty now. OTOH I am wasted now, so this might all be a dream I had. A dream where atheists and believers have a conversation that doesn't have hate in it.In my stupid dream I talk to a person who actually BELIEVES and I try to understand why.

I believe in different ways of looking at the world. I think that a true dialog is the only way to make the fucking world better.

One world view is sad. Are they right? Am I right? Right now I don't care.

I may be right, dg, it may be a short life. And you might be right as well. Personally, I don't think so. I'm not expecting an afterlife. But if you are correct, I think I'll be there. Because I'm true to myself. And I think any god with a scrap of sense would give me a credit for that.

Otherwise, I don't need a god to see that the world that we live in is wonderful and scary.

My father is in a coma. I hope he is living in a wonderful world. My mother on the other hand goes to the home every day. She is killing herself slowly, sort of seeing him better every day. But he is not different every day. It's her hoping. Okay, I won't bust her bubble.

Me? I hope he dies already. And if there was a kind loving god he would be dead. Long ago. Somebody explain this to me.

No. Never mind. This is life and death in the big city. Ya'll that believe? I fucking envy you.
posted by Splunge at 9:40 PM on January 4, 2011


I think it's always better to know. The unknown scares the shit out of me.

As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport
As good a theory as any I've seen.
posted by dg at 9:41 PM on January 4, 2011


I can't bring myself to accept that we are here purely and simply as an accident of evolution and that there is no point, but I can't truly believe in or perceive what that greater purpose might be.

The conclusion I came to growing up was that I frankly had no belief in any of the notions of god or spirituality I'd encountered, and no sense of something unnamed or undescribed either. My atheism is as much a matter of being honest with my lack of anything other than an atheist feeling about the universe: to whatever extent I understand what others I've talked to about their faith mean by it, I do not share that faith.

Which leaves a pointless, accidental universe in which I have a short life which when it ends, ends. And that's terrifying and I don't much like contemplating it because it's the ultimate downer. But that terror at the fact of mortality hasn't made me a believer. I'm personally left to try and focus on what goodness exists in the world on its own merits; I try to be good to other people, I try to value the experiences I have, and on those occasions where I have reason to think about my inevitable death and that of those people I care about I try to be thankful for the time that we do have.

And differences in specific religious beliefs or nonbelief notwithstanding, I think that's what most other folks feel and do as well most of the time. As lonely beings struggling through life under the mantle of the human condition, we have more in common than not, much as the heat of ideological conflict can blind us to that fact if left unchecked.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:54 PM on January 4, 2011


I can't bring myself to accept that we are here purely and simply as an accident of evolution and that there is no point, but I can't truly believe in or perceive what that greater purpose might be.

The purpose, dear boy, is to transcend evolution by accepting that you are, indeed, its product, clean of supernatural infection, a flawed but marvelous product, much like a gopher, but unlike a gopher, free and able, at last, to improve upon imperfection.

Ave atque vale - and clavdivs' comments often make more sense than the blizzard of words surrounding them, even when, and often especially when, they are clearly intended to make no sense at all.
posted by Opus Dark at 9:56 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is lack of objective purpose really a terrifying thing?

I and my consciousness are not the universe. I don't need to understand the universe to know myself. What I do has meaning to myself, and since I am the only consciousness I will ever know then I will never have to wonder if my life means anything to anything else.

I am what I choose to be. I am the book I read at the same time as I write it. The director and the editor and the star and the audience. If I disapprove then I can change it all.

Either I mean something, in which case there is a purpose to my actions; or I mean nothing, in which case there is purpose: If nothing means anything then it is as futile to claim meaninglessness as it is to claim meaning, and so I am still meaningful.

And there is no ending, other than a subjective one, and that one I'll never experience. After that, I'm back to being what I was before — an orgy of horny atoms fucking everything in sight. I can't imagine a more fun thing to be than that.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:15 PM on January 4, 2011


Splunge, I've very, very sorry to hear about your father.

As for the broader issue of theodicy, of how a loving god can let stupid shit go on, I always remember C.S. Lewis, a guy who was probably too smart for his own good, who at a certain point in his writing career wrote a pat little book called The Problem of Pain, in which he breezily explains why Jesus allows bad things to happen, and Lewis ties up all the loose ends and then sits back, satisfied, with a cute little grin on his face.

And then, some years later, Lewis's wife died. The next year, Lewis published, under a pseudonym, a much, much better book called A Grief Observed, in which he is unable to believe in anything but a Sadist God, decides that the notion of an afterlife is a crutch and a lie. Lewis wrote:
When you are happy, so happy you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be — or so it feels— welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence.
I can identify with this pretty easily. So I guess my personal argument for how a loving god can let stupid, terrible, painful shit happen is: Sweet Jesus, I have no clue, and it fucking sucks, and I'm so, so, so sorry. But my experience and understanding of the universe involves a loving god of some kind, and I don't know how that makes any sense, but that's how I feel about it. And anyone who tries to tell you differently is selling something.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:16 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is lack of objective purpose really a terrifying thing?

I don't find the purposeless of the universe or my life terrifying; I'm fine with it being purposeless, I can find my own small purpose for my own life and I'm okay with it being a constructed artifact of my existence as a thinking being.

I find the fact that I don't want to die yet have no choice in the matter terrifying. The natural consequence of the system working as it does is that I will be, in the best case scenario, murdered gently by nature while asleep at a happy old age. I don't want to die, ergo that sucks.

I have no more investment in any imagined post-mortem bacchanalia for my constituent atoms than I do in any god or metaphysical explanation for the universe. That's me; what works for others is their business and if you have a religious belief or an existential philosophy that gives you comfort, more power to you.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:28 PM on January 4, 2011


'Life will be more fully lived insofar as it has no meaning. But maybe you should slow down just a skootch on that next turn.'

-Albert Camus, sort of.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:37 PM on January 4, 2011


... a pointless, accidental universe in which I have a short life which when it ends, ends. And that's terrifying and I don't much like contemplating it because it's the ultimate downer. But that terror at the fact of mortality hasn't made me a believer. I'm personally left to try and focus on what goodness exists in the world on its own merits; I try to be good to other people, I try to value the experiences I have, and on those occasions where I have reason to think about my inevitable death and that of those people I care about I try to be thankful for the time that we do have.

And differences in specific religious beliefs or nonbelief notwithstanding, I think that's what most other folks feel and do as well most of the time.

I have no problem with all of this, except that I can't quite come to terms with the idea that my life means nothing more than the sum of its parts. Perhaps it's a symptom of inflated ego to do so, perhaps it's just that it seems like such a waste to go through all that angst and to learn so much (even the dullest of people learn an amazing amount in a lifetime) and then have it disappear. I want to believe that there's more to it than that, but I just can't do that either. At the heart of all this is wanting to know why.

As lonely beings struggling through life under the mantle of the human condition, we have more in common than not, much as the heat of ideological conflict can blind us to that fact if left unchecked.
QFT
posted by dg at 10:51 PM on January 4, 2011


Cortex, just took a shower. back. and I'll give you a counter to your terrifying. Something i often think about when the great size of the universe gets so big that I want to curl up.

I am here. I am not supposed to be here. The odds of me, just me, being here is impossible times impossible to the power of impossible.

And the odds of you and I trading any kind, any fucking kind of information, is so ridiculous that it actually shouldn't and couldn't be happening.

I either should be a physicist or a mystic but I'm just me.

Talking to you.

Saying good night.

Kisses.
posted by Splunge at 10:54 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think I would ever share my motivations for adopting a religion on MeFi, at least not in a thread like this. Suffice to say that many religious people, self included, are the least bit concerned with having a belief to derive comfort from, but are instead seeking an active contextualization of something they are living with that has no opposites. It may only be a rough approximation sometimes.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:12 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


are notthe least bit, rather.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:14 PM on January 4, 2011


Happy is the moron. He doesn't give a damn. I wish I was a moron.

My God! Perhaps I am.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:17 PM on January 4, 2011


It means something that I stubbed my toe ten minutes ago. It means I should pay more fucking attention while walking around my mess of a home, or maybe clean up said mess.

The Universe, at least my experience of it, has meaning. To deny it is to deny the fucking pain I was feeling up until about three minutes ago. Nigh on impossible.
posted by philip-random at 11:18 PM on January 4, 2011


I believe that we have to create purpose for ourselves, assuming we want one. In fact, I think creation is pretty much what we've got: creation, destruction, and re-creation of meaning, value, art, science, love, hate, what have you. None of it matters in the long view, and that's half the joy of it. "The realization your throne is an illusion: a liberation and challenge"!

I'm not eager to go, but I find the thought of death sort of comforting. Even the stars go out, and that means I will, too. I'd take another couple hundred years if they were on offer, and sometimes it pisses me off that I'm not gonna get 'em (also: I can't see gamma rays or smell dark matter, what the frak is up with that), but so far, the thought of loved ones' deaths bothers me a lot more than the thought of my own. I'll miss them when they're gone, but I won't miss me.

There are methods of death which sound like pretty terrible experiences, in every meaning of the word... but comparatively, the bump at the end seems like the nice part.
posted by vorfeed at 11:31 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not religious. I think of myself as agnostic because I don't know whether or not I believe in a god and I don't think it really matters.

Lately, over the last few years, I've come to believe that there's some sort of unifying connection between all life, as though everything were part of one whole. But the way we experience the universe is separated from this, solipsistic, isolated. As though we were all part of some uranium core that was blown apart in an atomic explosion. So I suppose the idea of "god" to me is the entirety of existence, which is really the same as not having a god at all?

That will all probably sound absurd to most people and I can't really justify or rationalize it, or why I believe it, or really even explain it properly.

It makes more sense while tripping.

Related: Here's the reason I use the handle "girih knot":

Girih patterns gained popularity in Islamic art during the Abassid caliphate, in the Golden Age of Islam, when scholars were translating documents from ancient Greece. They came across the concept of Atomism, and adopted it to mean that the force that keeps all of these atoms together at all times is the sheer will of God. If God willed it, the structure of these atoms would dissolve, and you could see beyond reality into the true nature of God. So girih patterns (and muqarnas vaulting) were used to approximate that idea of dissolving surfaces and seeing beyond reality into the divine.

I learned about this in an Islamic Arts class the day after I'd had this really intense trip that had lasted for a full 30 hours. The bit about dissolving reality made a lot of sense to me.
posted by girih knot at 11:51 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


but comparatively, the bump at the end seems like the nice part.

I've recently experienced three deaths (from old age) of those close to me. You're absolutely right. In all three situations, it felt to me that, in the end, life was just too much trouble for them (too exhausting, too painful). You could almost hear the sigh of relief as they died.

But, of course, all this talk of meaning, gods, delusions etc isn't really for the old and dying. It's for the young (comparably) with decades still to go (of pain and heartbreak and frustration and fear and failure and loss) who just want to be able to somehow feel that it's worth the trouble enduring. I happened to be 12 when I first start worrying/wondering about stuff this like this, which makes almost 40 years I've been more or less considering the problem.

For what it's worth, the wisest thing I ever did was declare myself "agnostic and eternally open to argument" roundabout age 22. It's amazing how many free drinks you can get if you're willing to argue about God.
posted by philip-random at 11:55 PM on January 4, 2011


It's amazing how many free drinks you can get if you're willing to argue about God.

Yeah, but you have to spend a lot of time arguing with drunks about God.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:16 AM on January 5, 2011


Better than arguing with them about sports.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:02 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am here. I am not supposed to be here. The odds of me, just me, being here is impossible times impossible to the power of impossible.

But that's just bad math. The odds of each specific other hypothetical configuration of the universe, the infinitely crushing majority of which scenarios do not involve you or me existing, are also impossible times impossible to the power of impossible. There's billions of billions people who might exist but don't right now because of the long odds; unless you want to accuse the universe of mass murder for not going in the uncountable different directions that would have made it possible for them to exist instead of not exist, you can't really give it credit for your existence. I don't take any comfort in the numbers.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:22 AM on January 5, 2011


I find the fact that I don't want to die yet have no choice in the matter terrifying. The natural consequence of the system working as it does is that I will be, in the best case scenario, murdered gently by nature while asleep at a happy old age. I don't want to die, ergo that sucks.

I think it's just a matter of how you look at things. There are a lot of things you might want but can't have. Some people are terrified at being forced to pay taxes, or having to work for a living. I hate that I can't trespass on somebody's lawn if they have a really good view of something. But all the things that happen beyond my wants tend to have reasons for being that way.

Death's just the price of admission to living in the first place. So it seems like a fair exchange. And like Camus said, you have the option of ending early. Which isn't the same thing as being in complete control of the end, but it's comforting to know that death isn't a phenomenon completely beyond our control.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:33 AM on January 5, 2011


Besides, as you die and your senses stop reporting back to your brain, you kind of fall into a dream like state where time becomes massively expanded to the point where it might as well be eternity, even if it might just be a few seconds.

If you're not vaporized or something, that is.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:36 AM on January 5, 2011


Lately, over the last few years, I've come to believe that there's some sort of unifying connection between all life, as though everything were part of one whole. But the way we experience the universe is separated from this, solipsistic, isolated. As though we were all part of some uranium core that was blown apart in an atomic explosion. So I suppose the idea of "god" to me is the entirety of existence, which is really the same as not having a god at all?

FWIW, I am of exactly the same mind. There is a name for it, but I'll be damned if I can remember it.

Ooh! Pantheism! (Aw, crap. I guess it's brimstone sandwiches for lunch...)

It makes more sense while tripping.

This is the truth.


To learn how this relates, albeit somewhat tangentially, to Space Dinosaurs from the Future, click here. (P.S.)
posted by Sys Rq at 11:29 AM on January 5, 2011


Besides, as you die and your senses stop reporting back to your brain, you kind of fall into a dream like state where time becomes massively expanded to the point where it might as well be eternity, even if it might just be a few seconds.

A nice idea, that, but it's logically backwards. If signals to your brain become fewer in frequency, time would appear to speed up; essentially, in such a scenario, your senses are undercranked.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:36 AM on January 5, 2011


What I got out of LSD was the idea that we're a (teeny tiny) part of the universe capable of making sense of (teeny tiny) parts of the rest of the universe. So we're (at the very least) part of the mechanism by which the universe knows itself. That, to me, was a mystical insight that points to an obligatory commitment to rational enquiry and expanding the territory of human knowledge. If conceptualizing that teleologically means you need to call something "God", well, fine. But you can't stop there. All that does is foist the hard problems off on those least-equipped to find solutions: the mystics and the theologians and the philosophers.

Also, have you ever noticed how when you're smoking a cigarette while tripping that the cigarette is like the exact same temperature as the hand holding it? Dude.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:59 AM on January 5, 2011


> A nice idea, that, but it's logically backwards. If signals to your brain become fewer in frequency, time would appear to speed up; essentially, in such a scenario, your senses are undercranked.

Well, regardless of the mechanisms, there can be a radical change in the subjective experience of time. I'm basing that on both numerous anecdotes of people who "died on the table" and had some sort of long and intricate experience in the minute or so they were out as well as the more common experience of having a really long and drawn out dream that seemed to be hours actually taking place only a few moments before awakening.

Anyway, it would seem to me that some kind of mental journey is possibly in store as the lights go out, so it might be best to stock the brain with great memories--whether one thinks there is a membrane that can be dissolved and perceived as girih knot mentions or if it's all just contained in the mind/brain of the individual.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:13 PM on January 5, 2011


> What I got out of LSD was the idea that we're a (teeny tiny) part of the universe capable of making sense of (teeny tiny) parts of the rest of the universe.

I also had that sense of being a sort of brain cell for the biosphere, but I was reluctant to share that in a place where someone who hadn't had that experience would tear it down as some kind of anti-random evolution premise for the meaning for life.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:15 PM on January 5, 2011


'The universe’s otherwise inexplicable regularity will have an adequate explanation if it derives from the purposes of an agent. By definition, no natural agent could have made the universe, so the only possible explanation of its regularity is that the natural order has a transcendent cause outside of the universe, which introduces the idea of a creator God'
posted by clavdivs at 1:45 PM on January 5, 2011


Lately, over the last few years, I've come to believe that there's some sort of unifying connection between all life, as though everything were part of one whole. But the way we experience the universe is separated from this, solipsistic, isolated. As though we were all part of some uranium core that was blown apart in an atomic explosion. So I suppose the idea of "god" to me is the entirety of existence, which is really the same as not having a god at all?
I have often thought similar things - that there is no 'actual' god as such, kind of along the lines of the 'god is a metaphor' thing, but more that 'god' is in everything which, rather than not having a god at all, is more like everything is god. There's probably some similarity there with some aspects of various religions, except that it seems most of them have felt the need to invent a physical entity rather than try to explain to children in sunday school a concept that would likely be beyond them. I have the greatest trouble believing that there is some omnipotent being that built everything and that ordains everything that happens, but not so much with the idea that there is some kind of 'force' woven through everything.
posted by dg at 1:53 PM on January 5, 2011


The odds of me, just me, being here is impossible times impossible to the power of impossible.
I'm sure the book is scoffed at by serious scientists, but Bill Bryson talks about these odds a bit in A Short History of Nearly Everything:
'Not only have you been lucky enough to be attached since time immemorial to a favored evolutionary line, but you have also been extremely - make that miraculously - fortunate in your personal ancestry. Consider the fact that for 3.8 billion years, a period of time older than the Earth's mountains and rivers and oceans, every one of your forebears on both sides has been attractive enough to find a mate, healthy enough to reproduce, and sufficiently blessed by fate and circumstances to live long enough to do so. Not one of your pertinent ancestors was squashed, devoured, drowned, starved, stranded, stuck fast, untimely wounded or otherwise deflected from its life's quest of delivering a tiny charge of genetic material to the right partner at the right moment in order to perpetuate the only possible sequence of hereditary combinations that could result - eventually, astoundingly, and all too briefly - in you.'
posted by dg at 2:28 PM on January 5, 2011


Well, regardless of the mechanisms, there can be a radical change in the subjective experience of time.

Speaking of strong LSD crossed with a pretty much bottomless supply of nitros oxide ...

I won't bore you with the details of the actual "trip" (though it did peak with my finding myself at the leading edge of the Big Boom itself, tearing through the Universe at the speed of light). Rather I'll just focus on the "coming back" part.

It involved removing the nitros oxide supply from my mouth, breathing proper air again, at which point, everything started to slow down. So I was no longer way, way out there, but returning breath by breath to where I apparently actually was (flat on my back on a picnic table, gazing at the night sky). But the weirdest part was the sound. It was this heartbeat sort of thump but it kept getting faster, faster, faster, as I kept getting less and less high. And as it got faster, it picked up a greater richness of tonality; not just a bass heartbeat anymore but a fuller, more expanded sound.

It was music in a word, like a record slowly finding its correct pitch, acoustic guitar and a fiddle maybe with some bongos for percussion and even a bit of voice. It was Walk Don't Run, performed by the Penguin Cafe Orchestra, which Munroe had playing quietly on his ghetto blaster down by the fire pit. It occurred to me suddenly that wherever I'd just been, I hadn't been there very long at all (maybe a minute or two), even if it had felt like hours, maybe years, maybe centuries. Or more to the point, wherever I'd been was pretty much outside of time, or at that point where time ceases to be a measure.

At least, that's how I remember it
posted by philip-random at 7:09 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


final thought: the degree to which a thread that started out as a discussion about racism can end up allowing me to share maybe the weirdest drug-induced cosmic experience I've ever had, is the degree to which I love MetaFilter.
posted by philip-random at 11:21 AM on January 6, 2011


It would be arrogant and uncaring for me to say (or assert as truth) that our most lasting lessons come out of tragedy; but I do feel that an element of this is true from my perspective, and it does not depend on any belief in anything specific, I see this connection as evident in an event like remembrance day to honor those who died in great conflicts... and how we don't really remember the worst kind of pizza we ever had (sure someone will refute this, saying they care more about pizza than huge wars; they might change their vote in seriousness, and longer consideration of the meanings and value of freedom of thought, association, religion, belief and affiliation. I guess even in pizza disasters, there are small, or large lessons to an individual; ‘I enjoy topping x, topping y is terrible’.

The other thing to consider is that "lessons" are not necessarily just for those directly impacted (I may 'take' a lesson from the loss of someone I never connected to, but in seeing the wealth of connections they made, learn lessons which can live in me, which perhaps no one knows came from that other, but they live on nonetheless)... for those directly impacted in tragedy often the pain level is far too great to be able to pull any coherent lessons or personal realizations from a tragedy right away during tragic circumstances, but all people are witnesses to external suffering at some point in time, for example, those who are witness to how people comport themselves during tragedy may learn the value of strength, love, compassion, forgiveness, and how these trickle down to people a suffering person connects with (yes, these may ring of religious words, but these concepts are not owned by any group, these are potential human traits, which can be nurtured, or mocked and rejected, or embraced; I see great value in the nurture of these virtues). People who are witness to a person showing forgiveness, or compassion after tragedy, or violence, perhaps the journey of forgiving a person who murdered a family member... We are a product of what we learn, and we learn most when we fail at some aspect in the struggle of life, even in my greatest failure, there may be a deep lesson which will lead to success for another... I don't mean to make that like if you didn't have some grand epiphany during tragedy you have failed... very much the opposite... the lessons are tiny, are minute, and seem ridiculous, forgettable to the people ensconced in the pain, but the mixed emotion of love, and loss, eternally eating each others tails creates a space for a lot of new feelings, in every loss is something new. From Supernova Stars, to moving to a new home, to starting a new job, or so many other losses to new journeys. Out of every winter comes the life of spring, and all that.

We are eternal, no, no, we outlive our lives by these means (or rather, there is a field of study ripe for creation, one similar to Taphonomy [physical changes to life, which present themselves after death; Post-Mortem changes which occur with organisms] only in this suggestion, these ‘changes’ occur in the philosophical, or social realm, and not in the body of the dead, but in the minds of those left living), the changes in the memories passed on, the impacts we make upon the lives of others; the power that our words, actions, and human relations and connections have to outlast “our own” life. From the memories people have of us as infants, documents we leave behind, essays we write, poems, love letters, songs, pictures, home movies, emails, from our greatest most public triumphs (whether that is drawing a pretty picture put on the fridge by our parents, or winning the grade 3 speech competition, or winning a debate, or becoming president; also, this power to live post-mortem in our most public failures, whether we fall down, or lose control)… Was a time that this took the form of letters between lords… these days it is happening all the time every day… the internet is our book of the dead, the wisdom, or jokes, or lulzy hypothesis that we come up with, so many ways we have to impact each other, and they all live on, with the internet archive, and things like the Memento project, which aims to make a web that is not time sensitive, and to form a web that is able to preserve the massive changes that occur over time. "The web" is a nebulous 'concept', but really, it is just the canvas where people have begun to collate the ideas they have, and the connections they have made. It is not the real world, but it is where the real world is preserved (as well, if not better, than any documentation/communication tool of the past), hopefully to show people who are not entangled with the social implications of the time can return to, and learn the lessons that exist, which the people who were right there were too passionate about to critically examine, and gain insight, and lessons from. Not only does healing take time, but also the lessons of pain take time.
Peace, love, and my best hopes for all; take care.
posted by infinite intimation at 1:30 PM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


cortex: "I am here. I am not supposed to be here. The odds of me, just me, being here is impossible times impossible to the power of impossible.

But that's just bad math. The odds of each specific other hypothetical configuration of the universe, the infinitely crushing majority of which scenarios do not involve you or me existing, are also impossible times impossible to the power of impossible. There's billions of billions people who might exist but don't right now because of the long odds; unless you want to accuse the universe of mass murder for not going in the uncountable different directions that would have made it possible for them to exist instead of not exist, you can't really give it credit for your existence. I don't take any comfort in the numbers
"

No, no, no. I think you are getting me wrong here. You can't accuse anything of anything. You are here. I am here. We are here. Unless you are a perfect solipsist you must agree with that.

This being so, we have certain things that are a given. Emotion. Wonder. Sexual attraction. Anger. To me, how we got here is fascinating. My math may be wrong, but my wonder and my love for the world I live in and upon are not an issue of the math. I may be impossible. I may be just remotely possible, but I am here and so are you. What the fuck matters beyond that?

make it fun, pleasant and safe. Unfortunately there are billions of us here. And so billions of different decisions that may or may not affect you and me. And that may make us happy or sad or angry.

So you go macro, and wonder about the beginning of it all. Or you go micro and deal with what's in your head.

Or you moderate and maybe try to affect those around you. Like with music.

Or you go all solipsist and go fetal and wait for nothing.

I do not remember not existing. So I'm sure that it didn't hurt too bad.

Or if it did I don't remember it.

And when I die I expect it to be like when I wasn't here. That is, I expect nothing.

But either way, whatever I do here and now won't affect it.

So it's a push. And that's cool with me. Let's face it, we have no choice in one thing, that is not being. So do we worry about that? Really? While we're here and feeling and stuff? That would suck. Not for me man.

I will live until I die and that is it. Now I'm going to have a drink and a bit of the bud and maybe, if the wife agrees, a bit of the old... you know.

And if she doesn't, I have a movie to watch. Hey, dude. It's reality! Live it and love it.

Don't let the life get you down.

Email me if you want more obnoxious stuff like this. I'm an ordained minister.
posted by Splunge at 7:15 PM on January 6, 2011


"It takes energy to invest life with meaning and at present this energy was lacking."
(Paul Bowles, from The Sheltering Sky)
posted by philip-random at 8:27 PM on January 6, 2011


I am here and so are you. What the fuck matters beyond that?

On that I think we pretty much agree. I'm just unwilling to try and paint existence as something other than chance. A convenient sort of chance for me that I'm here to experience it, but that's it. I have, I guess, a pretty fundamentally bleak take on the specialness of the configuration of the universe: it's a big random emergent system, life is a probabilistically rather than metaphysically lucky break, we're here because we happen to be here and the universe does not have the capacity to, in any sense whatsoever, care about that fact.

I don't think that life itself is bleak; I think life is wonderful, at least when it's not terrible, and I'm glad to be alive and hope to be for a very long time. That I don't see something Other or Above in the universe doesn't make life less meaningful or valuable to me; if anything it makes it more so, because if life is the sum total of the experiences we have during it, there's no excuse to fuck about putting things off on the notion that some post-mortem existence will pay dividends on time wasted.

But it's not something I argue about for fun so much as something I argue about because the subject comes up, and it's been a sort of moody an introspective week in general for reasons that are more publicly obvious now than they were when I first started digging in here.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:17 PM on January 6, 2011


...if life is the sum total of the experiences we have during it, there's no excuse to fuck about putting things off on the notion that some post-mortem existence will pay dividends on time wasted
Words to live by, for sure.
posted by dg at 10:14 PM on January 6, 2011


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